updated 7/10/2006 11:17:49 AM ET 2006-07-10T15:17:49

Guests: Ben Ginsberg, Robert Watada, Paul Hackett

NORAH O‘DONNELL, GUEST HOST:  The FBI stops terrorists in their tracks, the CIA stops looking for Osama bin Laden, and President Bush stops in Chicago to play diplomat-in-chief.  Can he stop Republicans from worrying about the midterm elections?  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening and welcome to HARDBALL.  I‘m Norah O‘Donnell in tonight for Chris Matthews. 

While the country waits for the world to deal with the threat of North Korea, New Yorkers tonight are dealing with the all to familiar reality of terror threats here at home. 

It‘s been a week of rising tension between the United States and North Korea, but unlike the march to war with Iraq in 2003, this time it‘s a drumbeat for diplomacy.  Today, President Bush made his case on the road to Chicago where his plans to tout economic news were overshadowed by tough questions about a potential nuclear threat from North Korea.  The president put the pressure on Kim Jong-Il. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Part of our strategy, as you know, has been to have others at the table, to say as clearly as possible to the North Koreans, get rid of your weapons and there‘s a better way forward.  In other words, there‘s a choice for him to make.  He can verifiably get rid of his weapons programs and stop testing rockets, and there‘s a way forward for him to help his people. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  We‘ll have much more on North Korea later in the show, along with our favorite Friday feature, the “HARDBALL Hotshots.” 

While the president was in the heartland, though, the FBI announced that it had stopped a terrorist plot to attack New York City. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK MERSHON, FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR:  For most of the year, we have been focusing on a group of al Qaeda followers who have targeted the Hudson River tubes that connect New Jersey with lower Manhattan.  We believe we intercepted this group early in their plotting, and that in fact, the plan has largely been disrupted. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  NBC‘s Bob Windrem is with us now for more on how the FBI foiled the terrorist plans. 

Bob, let me ask you, how far along was the terrorist plot? 

BOB WINDREM, NBC NEWS - NEW YORK:  Well, this appears to have been nothing more than talk at this stage, but as U.S. officials will tell you, a year before 9/11, Mohammad Atta was just talk. 

That said, there was a large amount of data being passed back and forth between these men.  They had not yet reached the stage of casing a proposed target.  They had not yet attempted to purchase any materials, any equipment.

But still, there were a number of people involved in at least three countries: in Lebanon where there was an arrest, as well as in Canada, and Indonesia.  So it was a group that essentially got together on the Internet and began discussing and then ultimately planning this attack. 

O‘DONNELL:  And what specifically were they planning to do in New York City? 

WINDREM:  What they were specifically planning to do, Norah, was to take out the path tubes.  Now, path is a rapid transit line, not connected with the New York City subway.  It runs between stations in New York and lower Manhattan and midtown Manhattan, but the key line that they were focused on is a line that runs from Jersey City, New Jersey, to ground zero.

And the plan was to essentially blow up that tube, somehow let the Hudson River flow into the tube, and then into the footprint of the World Trade Center towers, the footprint essentially that is going to become the memorial to those who died on 9/11.

And since the walls of that footprint are not very stable, the fear was that all that water rushing in there might have even caused the collapse of the walls, and ultimately led to even more flooding beyond that area. 

O‘DONNELL:  So, Bob, the good news is, is that this plot was caught at its early stages, but do we know if this group that was caught would have had the experience, the intelligence, the wherewithal to carry out a plot as scary as this, essentially flooding the whole New York financial district? 

WINDREM:  Well, the key thing is this, Norah, is that those tubes are located under bedrock and it would be a very, very difficult thing requiring an enormous amount of explosives—not easy to get on a train—to breach the tube and to get—breach the bedrock above it before the water flowed in, so it‘s going to be a very difficult thing for them to do. 

But one of the things that U.S. officials will tell you is that very often, as in the case of 9/11, there is a larger plot that is then whittled down to something doable, and that‘s something that they feared in this case. 

O‘DONNELL:  All right.  NBC‘s Bob Windrem in New York.  Bob, thank you very much. 

WINDREM:  Thank you, Norah.

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s bring in HARDBALL political analyst Bob Shrum and former Bush-Cheney campaign counsel Ben Ginsberg.  Welcome to both of you.

Let‘s turn now to the president, who was in Chicago, trying to take the show on the road if you will today, in order to give this press conference outside of Washington to perhaps bypass the filter—that‘s us, the national media. 

Bob, why wouldn‘t you say that‘s a smart P.R. strategy? 

BOB SHRUM, HARDBALL POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, first, he gave, I think, the longest opening statement that I can remember in the history of a presidential press conference.  Wandered all over the lot, and ... 

O‘DONNELL:  I must say it was.  I thought of that myself, that, in fact, it was more of a speech, a 15 minute speech and then a couple of questions. 

SHRUM:  It was a speech without a team, but my point is he can‘t talk his way out of the problems that he has right now, and those problems are very real, they‘re very serious. 

This whole notion that you can somehow or other avoid the filter of the national press—I think it was Bill Clinton who tried this in 1993 and 1994, I would say to not very good effect, so I think they‘re taking a page from someone else‘s old playbook and it‘s probably not going to work. 

O‘DONNELL:  Ben, you know, there is this feeling—and as a reporter, I know that inside the White House, sometimes they feel that the reason that the president‘s approval ratings are low is because of their communications strategy, that they need to get better at that. 

So they‘re changing the communications strategy and they feel like maybe if they go talk to more local reporters, there will be different kinds of questions.  Well, lo and behold, we found out that the local reporters were also asking about North Korea and Iraq, so getting out of Washington, he didn‘t really escape what are these very tough issues facing his presidency. 

BEN GINSBERG, FMR. BUSH/CHENEY ‘04 COUNSEL:  Well, there was at least half of a filter there, because half of the audience, half of the reporters were at least national.

O‘DONNELL:  That‘s true.

GINSBERG:  But it‘s, I think, a good move to go out, see the country, I think it energizes them, happy 60th birthday, you get to go out and be around the country.  I actually thought it was pretty effective as a way to show something different.  The problems were going to be there wherever you are.

The obsession with this press conference being outside of Washington is, I think, important perhaps to Washington reporters, but to people watching at home, they‘re going to hear the president on his message about those issues, which are tough and he‘s dealing with. 

O‘DONNELL:  He was asked a great deal about Iraq—excuse me.  He was asked about rMD+IT_rMDNM_Iraq, but he was also asked specifically about North Korea, because that is the issue of the day. 

And one of the most stinging questions that the president faced today was this.  It has been four years since the president labeled North Korea a part of the axis of evil.  Since 2002, they have developed more nuclear weapons, they have decided to leave the six-party talks, and now they have launched missiles.  Ben, is the president‘s policy on North Korea a failure? 

GINSBERG:  Well, I think North Korea is a very difficult problem.  That is not the same as to say the president‘s policy is a failure.  The truth is he is now bringing in the international community to help with what is a difficult problem, and so far, the tests have failed, the he seems to be contained within the ambit of these are dangerous and slightly crazy people. 

O‘DONNELL:  You know, it‘s another thing because the president said today the problem is diplomacy takes a long time, but he also said—he also said, these problems take awhile to fester and grow, which his critics would say that he allowed this problem to fester and grow, Bob, by not paying close enough attention or not engaging perhaps more by bilaterally with North Korea in the last several years. 

SHRUM:  By the way, I look forward to the time when Ben cites or admits one failure on the part of the Bush administration. 

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM:  Listen, OK, I‘ll give you one.  It took a long time for the president to think about diplomacy.  They waited far too long on this.  They should have had direct talks with North Korea a long time ago from the beginning, and during that period of time, North Korea has developed, as a reporter told the president today, additional nuclear weapons.

Now, we have a problem here, because we don‘t have a credible threat of force.  If we use it, South Korea is held hostage, our troops in South Korea are held hostage, and sanctions are not supported in the U.N.  Security Council by either China or Russia, and Japan just dropped them from its U.N. Security council resolution.  So what‘s the president saying?  It‘s time for diplomacy.  It is.  It was time for diplomacy six years ago. 

O‘DONNELL:  Ben, isn‘t that the test now for the president, is that he may have to—in order to get the world to speak with one voice against North Korea, the president is going to have to accept a watered down resolution from the United Nations that would not call for sanctions, because the Chinese and the Russians won‘t go along with it? 

GINSBERG:  Well, it may not be the optimal resolution and the one we could write if we were operating in a unilateral fashion, but the notion of the world community getting on board to pass the resolution is an important step in the whole process. 

Which, just to give you one, Bob, I thought Madeleine Albright going into North Korea and presenting them with a signed Michael Jordan basketball back in ‘98 was a ...

SHRUM:  Well, you know, the nuclear threat was contained during the last few years that Clinton was in office, which is what we want to do.  It‘s not about what we give and what we don‘t give them.  You know what Bush really announced today, with respect to North Korea?  He announced the end of Dick Cheney‘s dominance in foreign policy.  We can‘t unilaterally go do whatever we want, using force without respect for the rest of the world, because that isn‘t an option here. 

I never, I‘ll bet you there is not one time, one speech or one press conference, where George Bush has used the word diplomacy as often as he used it today. 

O‘DONNELL:  As you know, I‘m a reporter and one of the things that Jim Miklaszewski, my colleague at the Pentagon, reported today is that one military official said to him today is that the policy of preemption is dead. 

SHRUM:  That‘s what I‘m saying. 

GINSBERG:  Perhaps an overstatement. 

O‘DONNELL:  Because the military, if we were to carry out some sort of strike in North Korea, they would launch missiles into the south that could kill a million people in South Korea, it would engage our 37,000 U.S.  troops that are in South Korea and it would be a bloody mess. 

GINSBURG:  So then you have no problems with the strategy that the president is employing here?

O‘DONNELL:  But he only has the diplomatic means, exactly.  We‘ll be back in a moment with Bob Shrum and Ben Ginsberg. 

And coming up later, my favorite thing on Friday, it‘s the “HARDBALL Hotshots,” with opinions and prognostications.  My MSNBC colleagues, Rita Cosby, Tucker Carlson and Joe Scarborough will be here to pick apart the big news of the week. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT:  Ned Lamont seems just to be running against me based on my stand on one issue, Iraq, and he is distorting who I am and what I have done.  So let me he tell you some things that may surprise at least Ned, but shouldn‘t.  I know George Bush.  I‘ve worked against George Bush.  I‘ve even run against George Bush.  But Ned, I‘m not George Bush. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was Senator Joe Lieberman in Thursday‘s debate with fellow Democrat Ned Lamont.  I‘m Norah O‘Donnell in for Chris Mathews.  We are back with our Bob and Ben segment.  Bob, I have to ask you about it, what has happened to Senator Joe Lieberman?  I mean, he was 500 votes away from being vice-president of the United States, but he has to say in a debate in Connecticut, I‘m not George Bush. 

SHRUM:  Well that line of course is a rewrite of the line Lloyd Benson delivered to Dan Quayle.  I think what‘s happened to him is he‘s tremendously out of step with his constituents in the Democratic party and in fact with the majority of Connecticut voters on the war.  If he loses, it‘s going to indicate the strength of the war issue, at least in the Democratic party, because he‘s one of the most senior and has been one of the most powerful senators in the country.  If he prevails, it‘s going to be because a lot of anti-war Democrats decided they were going to stick with him anyway. 

O‘DONNELL:  I was surprised that Ned Lamont, who has not held office for 10 years and he was a Greenwich councilman, essentially, was extremely well prepared as a candidate.  I used to cover lots of House and Senate candidates.  He held up pretty well he in the debate with Senator Lieberman, who held his own against Dick Cheney once in 2000. 

SHRUM:  Actually I wish Senator Lieberman had been as aggressive with Dick Cheney as he was last night with Ned Lamont.  I thought Ned Lamont handled himself well.  I think one of the real questions is when voters look at this, Joe Lieberman went out there with a hatchet in his hand, full of hard edged attacks.  The question is how are voters going to react to that.  Are they going to see that that‘s what they want in a senator or does it indicate a certain level of desperation. 

O‘DONNELL:  Ben, you know, everybody is watching this race because some people say it‘s a fight about the heart and soul of the Democratic party and whether someone who is an anti-war candidate, that‘s part of his platform, can beat Senator Joe Lieberman and what will that say about the Democratic party in 2006 and 2008. 

GINSBURG:  Well, at the risk of provoking a fight, I‘m not really sure I want you to change this, but really a litmus test on the man who is your vice-presidential candidate six short years ago, really as dedicated a president, it reminds me actually of what the Democratic party did with pro-life candidates like Governor Bob Casey from Pennsylvania back in the 1990‘s, which led to a pretty good run of Republican victories across the country.  This is an interesting factor for the Democratic party. 

SHRUM:  I worked for Bob Casey.  Bob Casey was a very good friend of mine, and it was ridiculous that he should have ever been excluded from speaking at the 1992 election.  But I reject utterly the notion that elections are not about voters making big statements about big issues.  Of course this is the voter‘s chance in Connecticut to speak on this war.  And if they feel strongly enough about the war, if they think he‘s far enough out of step, they have every right to go against him. 

GINSBURG:  Let‘s not overstate this.  If there is 15 percent turnout of the Democratic electorate on this beginning of August primary, it will be a lot, so let‘s not take this too far.

SHRUM:  But a majority of Americans think the war was wrong now and a majority of Americans in a number of polls favor setting a date for withdrawal, that‘s Ned Lamont‘s position. 

GINSBURG:  But Joe Lieberman has taken a principled position on an issue he firmly believes in and that still goes to the litmus test part of the Democratic party, predominating over everything. 

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Lieberman is to the right of most of his Democratic colleagues when it comes to the Iraq war, yes? 

SHRUM:  Absolutely.  I don‘t know whether right or wrong, right or left is the right phrase here, the right phrase here might be right or wrong.  I think Senator Lieberman is wrong on the war, but I have great respect for him and by the way, I do agree that it‘s a principled position but voters have the right, as they did for example during the Vietnam War, as they did during Watergate, as they did when Ronald Reagan said if you don‘t like what‘s going on in Iraq, or Iran, with the hostages, turn out the incumbent president, of course voters have the right to vote that way. 

O‘DONNELL:  Alright, well thank you to Ben Ginsburg and Bob Shrum in our Ben and Bob segment.  It sounds like an ice cream, right? 

Up next, should an army officer who thinks the war is wrong be jailed for refusing to go to Iraq?  We‘ll talk with the father of a man who‘s facing those charges, and Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett will tell us why he thinks the charges are justified.  And later the “HARDBALL Hotshots” and on “MEET THE PRESS” Sunday, at an early special time, 8:00 a.m. Eastern, Tim Russert hosts an in-depth discussion on North Korea.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. An army officer is facing serious charges for not deploying to Iraq with his Fort Lewis, Washington, combat team.  Lieutenant Ehren Watada believes the war in Iraq is illegal and is refusing to go, but he is willing to serve in Afghanistan or elsewhere.  If convicted, he could face almost eight years in prison. 

Lieutenant Watada‘s father, Robert, is defending his son‘s actions and joins us tonight from Honolulu.  This evening also with us is Iraq veteran Paul Hackett, who is critical of the war, but does believe Watada should lead his men honorably in Iraq. 

Let me first start with you, Robert.  Your son has refused to go to Iraq.  Let me ask you first, did he willingly and voluntarily join the United States Army? 

ROBERT WATADA, SON REFUSES TO SERVE IN IRAQ:  He willingly and voluntarily joined the United States Army. 

O‘DONNELL:  Then why is he not carrying out the orders of the commander-in-chief? 

WATADA:  Let‘s make a distinction here.  He joined the Army and he made an oath, he signed an oath to protect the United States Constitution, to support that Constitution, to defend that Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  And that‘s exactly what he‘s doing.  He may have a duty to obey orders, but he also has a duty to disobey orders which are wrongful, which are unlawful, and that‘s exactly what he has done. 

O‘DONNELL:  Paul, let me ask you to respond to Mr. Watada.  Can any soldier just choose not to go to war? 

PAUL HACKETT, IRAQ WAR VETERAN:  Well, I would disagree with his son‘s right to decide which wars he wants to serve in and where he wants to serve, and, you know, just simply say look, with you put on the uniform, with you sign up, you know what you‘re signing up for, and while officers and enlisted personnel certainly have the obligation to disobey unlawful orders, I think that that does not address or entitle any serviceman or woman to decide where they want to serve and how they want to serve.  And it really becomes a philosophical academic argument as to whether or not this is a lawful or unlawful war.

And I‘ve been an outspoken critic of the war, but with that, if he wanted my counsel, I would suggest that his voice and his opinions would be far more valid and heard across America if he served his soldiers and led them in Iraq, and came back and, if he still felt that way, chose to speak out against the war.  But I think now, he‘s doing himself really more than anybody else, a disservice. 

O‘DONNELL:  Mr. Watada, what about that?  I am sure you would say that your son did not go and join the service, or the Army, willy-nilly.  He knew well what he was getting into.  And now that he finds himself in this position, where he‘s refusing to go to Iraq—I spoke with Eugene Fidel today, who is considered one of the most preeminent military law experts here in Washington today, and he suggested that your son is probably whistling in the wind and doesn‘t have a leg to stand on.  Do you think and acknowledge that your son may go to jail for this?

WATADA:  He may go to jail, and he said that he‘s willing to go to jail, rather than killing millions—killing the Iraqi people.  They‘ve done nothing to us, our going to war over there is illegal, as I stated previously, we can talk about the Nuremberg—

O‘DONNELL:  How is the war illegal?  How is the war illegal?

WATADA:  If you look at the United Nations charter, if you look at the Geneva Convention, if you look at the Nuremberg Principles—Kofi Annan himself said that the United States invasion, by the United States of Iraq, is an aggressive act, and it is illegal.  And thousands of attorneys across the country have said the same thing, that it‘s illegal. 

O‘DONNELL:  Mr. Watada, let me also ask you, your son is also being charged with not showing up, essentially, conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman, and also of contempt toward officials and using contemptuous language against the president of the United States and the secretary of Defense.  What did he say about the president? 

WATADA:  I won‘t go into what he said exactly, because I can only use my own words, and those words are, is that the president lied to the people, all the administration people lied to the people, it‘s a betrayal and when my son went into the war, he gave this—

O‘DONNELL:  That‘s not contemptuous language.  What exactly—you‘re standing up for your son and you‘re saying everything that he has done is right.  So why won‘t you repeat what he said? 

WATADA:  As I said, what he said was that the president lied.  And in fact, that‘s true, the administration has lied, they continue to lie.  They continue to lie about what‘s going on in Iraq.  They don‘t let the American people see.  There‘s tremendous war crimes going on, we‘re massacring, we‘re slaughtering the Iraqi people, and that‘s not being told. 

O‘DONNELL:  Paul, you are a lawyer and you are a veteran of the Iraq war.  Is Mr. Watada going to have he any chance of proving that the Iraq war is illegal? 

HACKETT:  I think he‘s got some major problems.  That is a philosophical, academic and it‘s a legal question that‘s great to hash out in a law school class.  I again would come back to, I don‘t think he is the best voice to make that argument, and comments by Mr. Watada, Lieutenant Watada, that the president has lied is, in the military, considered contemptuous, disrespectful language of the president of the United States. 

I have been far more outspoken and critical of the president of the United States, using far more incendiary language than that, but not while wearing the uniform, not in my capacity as a serviceman and certainly not on active duty. 

O‘DONNELL:  Mr. Watada, what about that, that your son could have been respectful of the uniform, could have been respectful of the military and chose to criticize the commander-in-chief, the secretary of Defense while not an officer? 

WATADA:  He could have, but that‘s academic also.  The fact is that he is an officer and he stood up, as an officer, to say that I cannot continue to participate in this war which is illegal, I cannot participate in the massacre, in the slaughter of Iraqi citizens. 

HACKETT:  You know, Norah, if I could jump in, I would say that it‘s not simply academic.  When you sign up to serve in the military, and you put on those officer‘s bars, you know what the rules are.  You know that when you‘re in uniform on active duty, you don‘t cross that line and publicly criticize the president of the United States. 

And, you know, let‘s keep in mind something here and I don‘t really want to personally come out and attack Lieutenant Watada, but he made a decision to join the Army after we invaded Iraq.  He is an adult, he was 25 years old, by my math, at the time. 

He‘s made the decision not only to join the military, but also to be publicly critical of the president, which is his right.  But like Henry David Thoreau, when you make that decision, you have to take the punishment and there‘s no ambiguity within the culture of the military that when you cross that line, you‘re going to be punished. 

I would cite a wonderful example, if you will.  General Billy Mitchell, who was hammered and he was, I believe, a three or four star general at the time when he was critical of the president. 

O‘DONNELL:  Paul, let me just get—let me allow Mr. Watada a quick response to what Paul has just said.  Mr. Watada.

WATADA:  I disagree.  It‘s not academic.  When you are faced with killing people and you‘re ordered to kill people—let‘s talk about Haditha for a second.  These men were ordered to kill.  They also had the duty to disobey those orders, to say no, they wouldn‘t kill. 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, I‘m actually intimately familiar with the facts in Haditha.  I represent one of the Marines there.  Not to degenerate there, I would disagree with you.  I would simply disagree with you and it‘s somewhat offensive to those of us who have served honorably. 

Yes, war involves killing people, yes, war involves mistakes, but to paint with a broad brush those of us who have served in this war and other wars that we go about willy-nilly and intentionally kill innocent women and children and, therefore, your son is entitled not to serve where he doesn‘t want to serve I think is disingenuous.

And it‘s disingenuous given the facts that your son joined the Army as an officer, as an adult, knowing that he was stepping into this life, this culture, these rules. 

O‘DONNELL:  All right.  I want to thank you, Robert Watada, thank you very much and Paul Hackett. 

HACKETT:  Thank you, Norah.

WATADA:  Thank you very much, Norah.

O‘DONNELL:  And up next, your wait is over.  It‘s now time for the “HARDBALL Hotshots.”  MSNBC‘s Joe Scarborough, Tucker Carlson, and Rita Cosby will talk about the latest on North Korea and the midterm elections now only 123 days away. 

By the way, don‘t miss HARDBALL on Monday.  Chris Matthews is going to be right back here, and our guests will include a U.S. Army lieutenant who is accused and acquitted of premeditated murder in the shooting of two Iraqi civilians. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(STOCK MARKET REPORT)

O‘DONNELL:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

All week you‘ve soaked up the headlines, now let‘s put it all together and figure out what it means.  It‘s our rowdy, rough and tumble Friday feature, “HARDBALL Hotshots.”  This week, Joe Scarborough, Rita Cosby and Tucker Carlson.  Let‘s dig in.

First up is Kim Jong-Il.  This week the dictator of North Korea threatened the United States with nuclear war after the communist country tested ballistic missiles designed to hit the United States.  A Japanese newspaper reported that one of the missiles was aimed at waters right by Hawaii.  Let‘s take a close look at George Bush‘s words during the Iraq war, compared to his words on North Korea. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  There are some who feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there.  My answer is bring them on. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  We got to work in a diplomacy, and you‘re watching diplomacy work, not only in North Korea but in Iran.  It‘s got to—you know, it‘s painful in a way for some to watch because it takes awhile to get people on the same page.  Not everybody thinks the exact same way we think.  There are different—words mean different things to different people and the diplomatic process can be slow and cumbersome. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Tucker, three years ago, it was bring it on, now it‘s bring on the diplomacy.  Rate his report—performance and sort of the difference? 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION”:  Well, I mean, you know, we haven‘t been attacked by the North Korea, so bravo.  But, of course, the Bush administration is adopting a more realist and realistic foreign policy.  The problem with foreign policy based in moral concerns, as the Bush administration‘s foreign policy seems to be, is it‘s not very flexible. 

For instance, did you know he that over the past 10 years, we‘ve given over a billion dollars in aid to North Korea?  To North Korea?  Now how can you give aid to an evil country, to evil people, to an evil dictator, to Hitler, you know, embodied? 

You can‘t, of course, so I think the Bush administration has come to see North Korea as a problem that we must manage and we may have to do unattractive things in order to manage it, but it‘s worth doing them because we don‘t have to go to war.  That, I think, is an adult way to look at the problem and I‘m heartened that they‘re looking at it that way. 

O‘DONNELL:  Rita, is Kim Jong-Il a madman or is he a rational person that we should be having bilateral talks with? 

RITA COSBY, HOST, “MSNBC INVESTIGATES”:  He‘s certainly a baiter of the United States and I call him, like, the Liberace of Asia.  I mean, this guy with his bouffant hairdo, he‘s got 20,000 foreign films.  I think this guy is living in a whole other country other than North Korea, and a whole other world, and I think he‘s enjoying this baiting period. 

He knows the world is watching North Korea.  He knows Bush‘s poll numbers are down, that he can‘t necessarily do something that maybe he might have considered a few years ago.  I think he‘s enjoying his moment in the sun and baiting the heck out of us. 

O‘DONNELL:  Joe, four years ago, the president called North Korea part of the axis of evil.  Since then, North Korea has acquired more weapons, they have pulled out of the six party talks and now they‘re launching, ICBM‘s, although not well.  Is the president‘s policy a failure? 

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Of course not.  And you‘re right, they‘re not launching these weapons well.  We always have these top secret briefings of the armed services committee and Congress then says by such and such a date, North Korea is going to be able to hit Seattle or whatever.  I had fire crackers, I had bottle rockets that went further on the 4th of July than what North Korea had.  At the same time though, the president is doing what the president has to do. 

You‘ve had nimrod bloggers for three years, four years saying that George Bush attacked the wrong axis of evil, he should have gone after North Korea.  The bottom line is, you‘ve got China right there.  Whatever we do, whatever diplomatic solution, resolves this crisis, it will resolve it through Beijing.  That‘s the fact in 2006 and that was a fact in 2003.  There is no way we can ever invade or attack North Korea. 

CARLSON:  And that is, I think, you should always keep that in mind.  China could pull the plug on North Korea in the next 10 minutes, they supply the fuel oil that allows that country to exist and the food that feeds its people to the extent that they‘re fed and the reason China doesn‘t want North Korea to disintegrate is that then you have a massive refugee problem that they don‘t want at all.  China essentially runs North Korea. 

O‘DONNELL:  And china would rather have a nuclear North Korea than a chaotic North Korea. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But I don‘t think China is even going to allow them to go nuclear.  I think right now they like the fact that North Korea can tweak their nose at us.  But we‘ll see. 

O‘DONNELL:  Next up a rock star faces the music.  Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman should be coasting to an easy fourth term victory but he‘s not.  The Democratic incumbent faces a tough primary against fellow Democrat, Ned Lamont, and it‘s all because of Lieberman‘s adamant support for the Iraq war.  Here he is at the Democratic debate on Thursday. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NED LAMONT (D), FOR SENATE:  You have an open ended stay the course strategy.  I think it‘s important to look at the facts on the ground and we‘re not making the situation better by our front line presence there. 

JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT:  Absolutely untrue.  I have said the sooner we get out of Iraq, the better.  You want to turn Iraq over to the terrorist, follow the policy you‘ve annunciated, but at least, this is your fifth different policy on withdrawal, but at least you‘ve said something and I‘m going to hold you to it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Joe, this is the fight of Joe Lieberman‘s life.  He came out swinging last night.  Is he going to be defeated by an anti-war candidate? 

SCARBOROUGH:  No he‘s not.  I thought he was great but of course I am a Republican that thinks Joe Lieberman did great.  I always love these mainstream media types that will talk about how conservatives will never win the primary because they‘re to right wing.  I mean, maybe the fact that I was impressed by Joe Lieberman would hurt him in a Connecticut primary. 

I think though Connecticut is not Vermont, it‘s obviously a moderate state.  Joe Lieberman will be rewarded because he has a reasoned approach.  Democrats may disagree with it, but he‘s running against a one trick pony, a guy that‘s been all over the place and the line last night was, do you know who this Ned Lamont guy is, and of course, he voted like a Republican on, when he was on a city council, and now he‘s darting wildly left.  It‘s a disastrous policy for the Democratic party. 

O‘DONNELL:  It reminded me of how things changed.  Senator Lieberman, remember that debate back in 2000 with Dick Cheney and everyone said wow, they were so great together.  They should be the nominees.  They had this civil debate, and last night, he was on fire, saying to Ned Lamont, there you go again, saying I‘m not George Bush.  I mean Tucker, what‘s gone on? 

CARLSON:  Let me put it this way.  Three years and three months have passed since we invaded Iraq.  This is the first race at this level, congressional level, or the statewide level, I‘m aware of that has come down just to Iraq, with two candidates each with a clearly enunciated position, for, against.  Let‘s have the public debate.  We haven‘t had it until now.  No matter what side you‘re on, I‘m kind of agnostic in this race, because I like Lieberman but I disagree with his view of Iraq.  It doesn‘t matter, it‘s good for the country to have people talking about this in the open. 

O‘DONNELL:  Rita, do you think that it‘s a bellwether for 2006 and 2008 about where the Democratic party should be. 

COSBY:  I mean, we‘re going to be watching closely.  I will defend Ned Lamont for one thing, he‘s from Greenwich, Connecticut, my hometown.  Other than that I think he‘s in trouble.  I agree with Joe, I agree with Tucker, I think Lieberman is going to be doing OK.  But I do think people are going to be watching and I think it is fascinating to see how much Iraq is an issue.  I think it is going to be a bellwether.  We‘ll see August 8th when the voters decide. 

O‘DONNELL:  We‘ll be right back with much more.  You are watching the “HARDBALL Hotshots” only on HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Welcome back to “HARDBALL Hotshots” with Joe Scarborough, Rita Cosby and Tucker Carlson.  Next up, bin Laden been forgotten.  Are politics jeopardizing your national security.  This week we learned the CIA plans to shut down the unit charged with finding public enemy number one, Osama bin Laden.  Tonight we asked the one question Americans are asking, what gives?  Is the government giving up its hunt for the man George Bush pledged to catch, dead or alive?  Is the CIA downplaying bin Laden‘s importance because it doesn‘t think it can find him?  And should Americans be worried?  Rita?

COSBY:  There‘s a lot of questions there, Norah.  I think, you know, when I heard this, I was really surprised.  The other thing is the way we found out about it.  It‘s been closed down for a bit and it came out though N.P.R., it wasn‘t like this public announcement.  Sort of suddenly we got this leak that suddenly it had been closed down for a while.  I think it‘s disheartening on this day, because we look at what happened at the whole New York subway plot, that came out, that we just found out about a few hours ago. 

This guy from Lebanon, in Beirut, the one who was arrested, said I got my orders from bin Laden.  Whether we he can believe this guy, of course, is yet to be known, but the fact that they seem to be putting out that there‘s all these splinter groups out there, I agree with them.  I think al Qaeda is very complicated, I don‘t think bin Laden is the only one we have to after, but this is definitely public enemy number one, and I think we still have to be focused.  We could at least be dedicating two dozen guys to still be looking solely for him. 

O‘DONNELL:  Joe, the president was asked about this in Chicago today and he said the story is inaccurate, that they will continue to fight Osama bin Laden.  But it does appear that this specific unit created to hunt Osama bin Laden has been disbanded; it‘s now more dispersed. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right, no doubt about it.  And you know, the thing is, every time I ask people on my show, or talk to people in Congress, about half...

O‘DONNELL:  What‘s the name of your show again? 

SCARBOROUGH:  I forget.  “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”  Do I go around shamelessly plugging it? 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  But I just say this.  If on my show, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” weeknights at 9:00 on MSNBC, if I were to ask a counterterrorism expert like Roger Cressey—Roger, we just caught Osama bin Laden, does that mean we‘re winning the war on terror?  Roger and just about everybody else would say, well, it‘s great for morale, but we really don‘t know that Osama bin Laden has that much of an operational reach anymore, because he‘s been running around in caves since 2001, and you know, spoken on his cell phone two times in the past five years.  So how important is he right now?  Nobody knows.

But I can guarantee you, if he were arrested tomorrow, Democrats, George Bush‘s nemesis would say, well, it‘s not really that big of a deal anyway, because Americans are dying in Iraq. 

CARLSON:  No, I don‘t think they would dare say that.  I think the ones who are foolish enough to say that would be in trouble.  Howard Dean, remember, his comments after the capture of Saddam Hussein, he took a great deal of grief for that. 

I think, you know, it doesn‘t matter really if Osama bin Laden is in charge of anything.  Sitting at the back of a cave with his dialysis machine, you know, writing—getting involved with the United States, it doesn‘t matter.  His death will be a symbolic and moral victory, and symbols matter in some cases more than anything, particularly during a war. 

I think every American will rejoice when that guy suffers and goes to hell. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Except for the Democratic Party.

O‘DONNELL:  As some intelligence experts said, he specifically chose the replacement of Zarqawi in Iraq. 

Anyway, we‘ll be right back with much more.  You‘re watching HARDBALL Hotshots, HARDBALL only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Welcome back to HARDBALL Hotshots with Joe Scarborough, Rita Cosby and Tucker Carlson. 

Next up, Ken laid to rest.  Could be the work of cheap pulp fiction, the script to a made-for-TV movie, but it‘s not.  This week, in the midst of his preparations to live out the rest of his life in jail, former Enron Chairman Ken Lay died.  His passing raises heady questions of poetic justice, fate and deliverance.  So, tonight, Rita, we ask, did the Enron families get their justice?  Rita?

COSBY:  You know what, I don‘t think they will ever feel like they got their justice.  I mean, Ken Lay‘s estate (ph) is still up for questions—there are still so many questions, how much money did he really have between, you know, Goldman Sachs investments that he had and also all these apartments and all these homes all over the place.  And I think it‘s unclear.  I mean, these people have just been so devastated.

And we‘ll see what happens with Jeffrey Skilling.  He is still yet to be sentenced.  He is really the only guy.  I mean, if you think about Shakespeare, Norah, this is such—you could not have, you know, written a more bizarre tale.  The vice president commits suicide in this case.  Ken Lay suddenly has a heart attack.  Now, Jeffrey Skilling is setting up for sentencing.  We‘ll see what happens.  I think these poor families are jut devastated.  You know, it‘s just tragic all the way around. 

O‘DONNELL:  All right, I‘m going to go to the next segment. 

Next up, it‘s time for our new Hotshot blue plate special.  It‘s called “What‘d You Say?”  Words that echoed through the office, across the Internet and into the American consciousness. 

We have narrowed it down to two killer soundbites from this week.  In the first, Joe Biden suffers from a case of foot-in-the-mouth disease. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE:  In Delaware, the largest growth of population is Indian Americans, moving from India. 

You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.  I‘m not joking. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  And in the second, a hell of a confession from Cindy Sheehan here on HARDBALL earlier this week. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Would you rather live under Hugo Chavez than George Bush? 

CINDY SHEEHAN, ANTI-WAR PROTESTER:  Yes.  You know, Hugo Chavez is not a dictator like you introduced him.  He has been democratically elected eight times, and he is not anti-American. 

O‘DONNELL:  Saddam Hussein was democratically elected.

SHEEHAN:  Yes, hold on a second.  He is not anti-American.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Tucker, it‘s all yours. 

CARLSON:  You know, I actually have—you may be surprised by my views.  You know, Joe Biden is a bit of a dork, but the question is does Joe Biden have something against South Asians?  Of course not, and what he said is kind of true.  I mean, there are a lot of Indians working at Dunkin‘ Donuts in Delaware.  There is nothing wrong—I‘m serious, there‘s nothing wrong with that, with saying that.  I don‘t think Joe Biden is a bigot, and I don‘t think people should attack him as one. 

Cindy Sheehan, she‘s clearly slipped the rails.  I feel sorry for her. 

I would rather live in Venezuela?  I mean, she is like a pathetic figure.  It would be a hard moral call whether or not to have her on, because I mean, she is almost like a sideshow figure now. 

O‘DONNELL:  Joe?

SCARBOROUGH:  I think Tucker has been watching “The Simpsons” too much, he thinks everybody at 7-11 is...

CARLSON:  I‘m not saying that.  I‘m not saying that.  I‘m just saying

come on, the guy is not a bigot.

SCARBOROUGH:  But—no, he‘s not a bigot.  Joe Biden is not a bigot.  I mean, the sad thing is, as Ana Marie Cox said last night on “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY,” he is actually trying to pander to this guy...

CARLSON:  Exactly.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... which was—which was the saddest part of it that Joe just didn‘t get. 

I really like Joe Biden.  Really, I have got to apologize very quickly for my remark about Democrats wouldn‘t be happy about Osama bin Laden being caught.  I‘m cranky today.  I didn‘t mean it.   

CARLSON:  What time is your show on?

COSBY:  (inaudible) when are we going to see your show, Joe?

SCARBOROUGH:  “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY,” 9:00.

COSBY:  You know, Joe Biden has made these wild comments before.  What was his comment about I‘d rather be having sex with my wife when my kids are sleeping, rather than run for president?

CARLSON:  I bet his wife would rather he be running for president. 

COSBY:  Yeah, I think...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  No, I‘m just guessing.

COSBY:  And poor Cindy Sheehan.  You know, I agree with Tucker, I mean, about her comments.  Come on.  What is she—was Hitler a warm, fuzzy puppy?  Come on. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, she has also made remarks that are just clearly anti-Semitic, and I feel so sorry for her for a lot of different reasons. 

The outrage here is not against Cindy Sheehan.  It‘s mainstream media figures who still treat her seriously, and people like David Letterman...

O‘DONNELL:  You guys are great.  I really have to go.  Thank you so much...

SCARBOROUGH:  Are you pushing me off?

O‘DONNELL:  ... Joe Scarborough, Rita Cosby...

SCARBOROUGH:  I got my own show here.

O‘DONNELL:  ... Tucker Carlson.  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   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. (www.voxant.com) ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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