updated 8/18/2006 11:39:46 AM ET 2006-08-18T15:39:46

Guests: John Murtha, Diana Irey, Wendy Murphy, Pat Korten, Thomas Kean, Lee Hamilton, Jenny Backus, G. Gordon Liddy

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  We‘re in the trenches in the political fight over Iraq.  Tonight, Jack Murtha, the most outspoken opponent of the war, versus his Republican challenger. 

Then the dangers of 9/11.  A federal judge rules that the government‘s warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional.  She said it today.  We‘ll talk to the chairman of the 9/11 Commission about that one.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

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

In this political season, the major issue at the top of the minds of most Americans is the war in Iraq.  Last week, Democratic voters in Connecticut made their opinion clear at the ballot box when they replaced Senator Joe Lieberman on the party ticket.  He‘s running as an independent now, and a new poll shows he‘s leading his Democratic challenger, Ned Lamont. 

The war in Iraq remains the defining issue in the upcoming elections, just 82 days away now.  The toughest anti-war critic is Pennsylvania Congressman Jack Murtha.  Tonight, an exclusive interview with Congressman Murtha and his Republican challenger. 

Plus the latest news in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case, and a HARDBALL debate—I think a good one—over whether America was wrong to rush to judgment. 

But first HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has this report on decision 2006 and the politics of the war in Iraq. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT:  In Baghdad, Iraqi and U.S.  officials say the violence against American troops and Iraqi civilians is now getting much worse.  According to U.S. military commanders, the number of roadside bombs in July was the highest monthly total since the war began, over 2,600 explosive devices compared to over 1,400 last January. 

U.S. troops are doing a better job than ever finding the bombs, and last months, they defused more than a thousand, but more bombs blew up in July than insurgents even tried to place six months ago. 

And when it comes to the sectarian violence in Iraq, Iraqi government officials say the war between Sunnis and Shiites last month took the lives of 3,438 civilians, an average of 110 Iraqis killed every day.  That‘s up from June and double the sectarian deaths recorded in January. 

With polls showing Iraq as the biggest concern on the minds American voters, it‘s more bad news for the Bush administration and pro-war candidates in the congressional elections this November. 

Last night, President Bush spoke in Pennsylvania, where half a dozen races are competitive, and could go either Republican or Democrat. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It‘s a different kind of conflict, and it‘s hard on the American people and I understand that.  But we shouldn‘t let the difficulties of facing this war force us to retreat from the world. 

SHUSTER:  The president took aim at Democrats pushing for the start of a troop withdrawal. 

BUSH:  If we cut and run, if we don‘t complete the mission, what would that say to those brave men and women who have volunteered to wear the uniform of the United States of America? 

SHUSTER:  But by focusing on those who have fought and died in Iraq, critics say the Bush administration is throwing away the lives of U.S.  troops who will get killed in the months ahead.  The latest polling shows a strong majority of Americans, 56 percent, believe Iraq has been given a chance and that the U.S. should set a timetable for withdrawal. 

As the violence in Iraq keeps getting worse, the president‘s approval numbers on the war keep sinking.  The latest CBS-“New York Times” poll found a record 66 percent of the public disapproves of the president‘s handling of the Iraq war.  So the president has been merging his rhetoric on Iraq with something that he fares better on in the polls—fighting terrorism. 

BUSH:  The war on terror is fought in many theaters, and the central front in the war on terror now is Iraq. 

SHUSTER:  And Vice President Cheney this week singled out Congressman John Murtha, arguing that his proposal for getting out of Iraq shared by other Democrats would harm American security. 

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If we follow Congressman Murtha‘s advice and withdraw from Iraq, the same way we withdrew from Beirut in 1983, or Mogadishu in 1993, we will simply validate the al Qaeda strategy and invite more terrorist attacks in the future. 

SHUSTER:  Voters though are not buying it.  When they were asked about Iraq‘s relationship to the war on terror, almost half said it was not even part of the war on terror at all. 

(on camera):  And the number of Americans he who see Iraq as separate from the war on terror is growing.  In other words, the violence in Iraq and public sentiments about the occupation are both moving in a direction that is increasingly dangerous politically for Republicans, now just 82 days until the congressional elections. 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David. 

We go now to Democratic Congressman Jack Murtha, arguably the leading voice in the anti-war movement now.  His calls for troop withdrawal have drawn fierce attacks from the vice president and the president, and certainly from his reelection opponent. 

Mr. Murtha, thank you for joining us.  Congressman, do you like the heat you‘re getting? 

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  Well, Chris, I try not to be distracted from the difference in policy.  I disagree with the open-ended policy that this administration is adhering to and just because he says it‘s cut and run, just because he says that if we withdraw it will be a disaster, doesn‘t necessarily mean it‘s true. 

For instance, he also said there are weapons of mass destruction.  He also said there‘s an al Qaeda connection.  We also sent inadequate troops in to do the transition to peace, so they‘ve made tremendous mistakes, and yet, they keep attacking the person that‘s trying to come up with a policy that‘s different. 

I don‘t agree with their policy at all.  I think they‘re making mistakes.  For instance, when Ambassador Bremer turned this government over to the interim government, there were 16 incidents a day.  That increased to 19 when Saddam Hussein was captured.  Then it went to 45, then 75. 

Now, imagine this.  There‘s over 100 incidents a day, the most lethal attacks that we‘ve ever had, more Iraqis killed than during the whole three-and-a-half years we‘ve been there, and in addition to that, none of the things that they predicted were going to happen.  So I don‘t necessarily believe what they predict is going to happen. 

And then you have the intensity of the American public.  The American public no longer supports the $8 billion that we‘re having to spend in this war throughout Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you saying, Congressman, that if we leave Iraq while we‘re getting 100 IED kills a day, we‘re getting 100 people killed a day over there, 3,000 this month, 17,000 this year, and we leave under fire, that the enemies out there aren‘t going to say we drove them out of Iraq?  How can you say that‘s not going to be their reaction? 

MURTHA:  Well, let me tell you, he mentioned Beirut.  I was in Beirut the day after the bombing—the marines were bombed.  I realized Hezbollah was responsible for that.  We‘d like to get rid of that terrorist organization.  President Reagan—now, here‘s one of our strongest presidents—recognized we couldn‘t solve that problem, so he redeployed his troops. 

That‘s what I‘m saying.  We cannot win this militarily, and our troops are caught in a civil war.  We have no accountability.  We‘re caught in a quagmire, and we get political rhetoric rather than solutions to the problem. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me show you, Congressman, what the president and the vice president are saying about you.  I‘m sure you‘ve heard this and other opponents of the Iraq war.  Here they are. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  If we follow Congressman Murtha‘s advice, and withdraw from Iraq, the same way we withdrew from Beirut in 1983, or Mogadishu in 1993, we will simply validate the al Qaeda strategy and invite more terrorist attacks in the future. 

BUSH:  If we cut and run, if we don‘t complete the mission, what would that say to those brave men and women who have volunteered to wear the uniform of the United States of America? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Can you respond to that, Congressman, to those charges that you‘re cut and run strategy, as they call it, will encourage the enemy? 

MURTHA:  Let me tell you, Chris, I served in the Marine Corps.  Three of my brothers did.  My dad and three of his brothers were in World War II.  One of them was shot down.  One of my uncles was shot down in World War II, so we‘re a patriotic family.  We want to support our president, but this president is going in the wrong direction.  He gives political rhetoric instead of solutions, and he holds nobody accountable. 

The first step in solving this problem is hold somebody accountable.  The secretary of defense has to go.  He sent inadequate forces in.  I‘m the guy that discovered the 44,000 troops without body armor.  I‘m the guy that discovered they didn‘t have up-armored Humvees.  I discovered they didn‘t have the jammers that they need in order to stop the IEDs.

So I do my job every day, I support the military 100 percent, but I‘m not in favor of open-ended policy that‘s not working.  We need to change direction.  President Reagan recognized that in Beirut.  President Clinton recognized that in Somalia.  There‘s times when you either get out now and you recognize that, or you continue on and just have more people killed and in the end you‘re forced out anyway. 

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s what Navy Captain Larry Bailey recently said about his group‘s plan for your campaign, Congressman.  Quote, “I will do my best to swift boat John Murtha.”  What do you make of that? 

MURTHA:  Well, again, I try not to be distracted from my mission.  My mission is to change the direction of this country.  I have been all over the country.  I get standing ovations.  I see the intensity.  People stop me in the airports, they stop me in the Wal-Marts, they stop me in the Home Depots, and they say to me, keep talking.  We want somebody to respond.  We want somebody held responsible and accountable in this administration. 

That‘s what‘s not happening.  We get political rhetoric instead of

accountability.  We get political solutions rather than real solutions to

the problem.  I‘m offering a real solution, and that solution is

real solutions to the problem. 

I‘m offering a real solution, and that solution is a responsible redeployment of our troops.  And they‘re offering open-ended and it—we‘ve got 130,000 troops there, Chris, 130,000 troops and it‘s gotten worse.  It gets worse every day.  More incidents every day, more Americans being killed. 

MATTHEWS:  OK...

MURTHA:  And here‘s one other thing.  We applaud the State Department for trying to work a cease-fire out in Lebanon, where you‘ve got Israelis fighting Lebanese.  And yet, you criticize a guy who wants to stop a war in Iraq, but where Americans are being killed. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you have any—do you want to modify any of the things you said on May 17th about the Haditha event where you talked about it‘s much worse than reported in “Time” magazine, those 24 Iraqis killed with a lot of American soldiers now being investigated for that situation there?

MURTHA:  Here‘s the problem with an incident like this.  When an incident like this happens, it not only hurts the military and their mission, it hurts this country.  And that‘s the reason I spoke out about it.  One, just a few people in the military hurt the rest of the military when they‘re involved in an incident like this. 

MATTHEWS:  So you stand by your statement? 

MURTHA:  I stand by my statement. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Congressman Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania. 

Up next, Jack Murtha‘s Republican opponent, Diana Irey.  And later, five years after 9-11, President Bush admits we‘re not safe yet.  Is he right?  The co-chairs of the 9-11 commission will be here.  Tom Kean, the former governor of New Jersey, and Lee Hamilton, the former congressman for Indiana. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We just heard from U.S.  Congressman Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania, perhaps the most vocal anti-war congressman in Washington. 

We now go to his Republican challenger in the November elections, Diana Irey. 

Diana, thank you for joining us.

What are you—I got a letter here.  I told you about it before we came on.  This is a press release apparently issued by your press secretary.  It was sent to me, with a list of 10 questions I‘m supposed to ask Murtha. 

Here‘s one.  The first one.  “How hard is it for you”—I‘m supposed to ask this to Murtha; your press guy told me to do this—“knowing that my brother Jim, the Republican nominee from the (INAUDIBLE) of Pennsylvania, just appeared two days ago with your opponent Diana Irey to cut the ribbon at her new volunteer headquarters in your hometown of Johnstown?”  Did you know about this letter coming to me, telling me what to ask Murtha and talking about my brother?

DIANA IREY ®, PA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE:  These are press releases that have been formally sent out.  And we put them all together to give you some questions for Mr. Murtha that he has not answered for...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, well, what—tell me why you want me to ask him about my brother running for lieutenant governor.  What relevance is that to anything here on this show? 

IREY:  I don‘t know it does have a relevance to what you‘re talking about at the moment.  I just listened to your interview with Mr. Murtha.  But these are just questions...

MATTHEWS:  Well, do you think I should ask him—do you think I should put this question to Murtha or I should have put this question to Murtha?

IREY:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the purpose of this question, to intimidate him or what? 

IREY:  No, I don‘t know what it was.  But I‘ll tell you that you have a wonderful brother and he‘s going to do a good job leading Pennsylvania. 

MATTHEWS:  That could be the case, but let me ask you—do you think it was it right to have your flack bring this up as part of a setup for an interview with you?

IREY:  I think what he was doing was just trying to give you some information so you‘d know what kind of questions we‘ve been asking Mr.  Murtha. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I think I don‘t need—one thing is—you know, I love my brother, I don‘t need to be reminded he‘s the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania.  Let‘s move on to the substance, grown-up stuff here. 

IREY:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s what you recently said about Congressman Murtha‘s remarks about the Haditha murders over there in Iraq.  Quote, “These inflammatory remarks read around the world not only put American lives at risk, but they will be used by—as a recruiting tool for terrorist organizations.”  Do you want to explain? 

IREY:  Yes.  I believe that is the case exactly.  You know, I‘ve been talking with so many of the military that have been overseas.  I receive e-mails and letters regularly from the soldiers on the ground in Iraq.  And they‘re saying that what Mr. Murtha has said has emboldened our enemy.  It has given the insurgents new energy in what they‘re doing against us. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the cover of “Time” magazine and other publications have been filled with stories about that horror over there.  Hasn‘t that also—if you‘re right about Murtha, you must be right about “Time” magazine and all the news publications.

IREY:  Well, I think what it is—you have to look, Chris, at all the comments that the made, that the army‘s broken, that I wouldn‘t join the military today.  In his comment that we had marines that killed innocent Iraqi civilians in cold blood, you know, that was such a devastating blow to our military.  What that did was—it was a rush to judgment.  It painted them all with a wide brush and it declared that they were guilty before innocent. And that‘s not the way we do things here in America. 

MATTHEWS:  Would it be all right for him to say that after they were condemned? 

IREY:  If he wants to make comments after they have already been tried...

MATTHEWS:  No, I know, but it is all right to say that after they‘re convicted?  Is it all right to say that?

IREY:  Well, you know, that‘s up to him.  But right now, what he‘s saying is wrong because he‘s not giving them the benefit of the doubt.  You know, here in America, you are innocent until proven guilty.  And by rushing to judgment, he prejudiced minds against those men. 

MATTHEWS:  Which minds did he prejudice? 

IREY:  Well, he prejudiced the minds of Americans.  You know, you‘re going to have people in every segment of society that may not act appropriately at all times.  We don‘t know if that‘s the case with these soldiers or not.  But what we have to do is realize that the majority of the soldiers that are defending us and serving overseas are good individuals.  They‘re good men and women with the best of intentions.  And we want to make sure that America realizes that. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think Murtha served in the military as a combat officer in Vietnam.  I don‘t have any complaints.  But you have a complaint, that‘s fine.  Let me ask you about the war.  Do you support the war in Iraq?  Do you think it was a god decision to go over there? 

IREY:  Well, I think we went to war with faulty intelligence.  But we‘re there now, and because we‘re there, I think that we have to support finishing the mission.  And I...

MATTHEWS:  Would you have supported going to war if there were no evidence of WMD? 

IREY:  I probably would not have, but you have to understand that everybody that voted for this, voted for this with the intelligence that there were weapons of mass destruction.  Had we known that there were not, then that might have been a different situation. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that the president‘s...

IREY:  But that‘s not what we have. 

MATTHEWS:  ... purpose in going into Iraq was to destroy weapons of mass destruction?  Do you believe that was his reason for launching this war? 

IREY:  I believe that was the largest reason.  You know, I‘ve read the resolution and there are a number of things that are mentioned in the resolution, also including the fact that, you know, he went after a former president of the United States.  That‘s why we went to Iraq.  That‘s another reason. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s count the reasons we went to Iraq.  WMD, but that turned out not to be true.  You said that was the largest reason.  The second one was that he tried to kill his—Saddam tried to kill his father.  Do you believe this effort to try to democratize Iraq was a smart decision on our part?  To try to create a democracy in the Arab world that would be stable and would be no trouble in that part of that world?  Do you think we‘re competent to do that kind of thing?

IREY:  Yes, I think we are competent.  And I think that the military is making great strides in Iraq.  And we don‘t always hear about what‘s going on over there.  But I‘ll tell you that I have soldiers on the ground in Iraq that are contributing to this campaign because they believe in the mission.  They go my Web site, which is irey.com...               IREY.com and they send me emails and they tell me of their struggles and they tell me of their successes and they are absolutely committed to finishing this war on terror.  I had a wonderful opportunity ...

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this.  I‘m sorry, go ahead.  Do you want to finish that sentence, I have a big question for you because we don‘t have time.  I want to give you a full chance here.  Your position on the war on Iraq is 180 from Jack Murtha‘s, he thinks, as a military guy, whatever, guys on the chairman of that committee, ranking member, he thinks we should get out of there, you say we should stay.  Is it fair for the voters to go to the voting booth and vote on that issue, if they had only one issue to vote on, it would be a fair vote on that one, you wouldn‘t mind that? 

IREY:  I think that the voters are going to the ballot box and vote for a variety of issues.  This is just the issue that seems to be getting everyone‘s attention.  But Jack Murtha and I differ on a whole lot of issues.

MATTHEWS:  Well shouldn‘t it be getting everyone‘s attention? 

IREY:  It is getting everyone‘s attention and I‘ll tell you that the voters back in the 12th district are very upset with this rush to judgment with our soldiers.  They‘re very upset about a number of these comments, but then when I have the opportunity to talk to them more and let them know who Jack Murtha really is, they realize they don‘t agree with him on a lot of issues.  They disagree with the fact that he voted against the marriage protection.  They disagree with him on the fact that he voted against protecting the pledge of allegiance. 

MATTHEWS:  A lot of people are hawkish on Iraq think we should go on and attack the nuclear facilities in Iran, do you accept that argument?  do you think that should be the case? 

IREY:  You know I‘m taking a look at that right now, I haven‘t made a decision on that.  But we have to do is make sure we go after the terrorists.  We have to complete our mission.  We have to make sure that the Iraqi government is well enough established and that their own military is equipped and trained and ready to defend them.  And I think we‘re making great strides and just by talking with the soldiers who are on the ground, who are with the military, I know that we‘re having many successes in Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  This war has lasted almost as long as World War II, it‘s only four months short of how long we were involved in World War II.  How long, since you‘re against what you call cut an run, other people will use that phrase, how long would you stay in Iraq?  If it just gets worse and worse, is there any limit that you would set on how long we stay there?  Any outside limit? 

IREY:  I don‘t think that we can put a date on it. 

MATTHEWS:  Any outside limit in your mind, your mind, not the United States military.  Is there any limit in your mind how long we should stay and fight in Iraq? 

IREY:  I don‘t think we can give a date because—

MATTHEWS:  I‘m asking if there‘s any limit.  Would you stay there 10 years, 20 years, 100 years?  Isn‘t there something in your mind that says hey, we‘re going to stay there for maybe five years, but we‘re not going to stay there forever.  What‘s the forever for you? 

IREY:  Look Chris, what we have to do is make sure they can defend themselves first and then we will start to limit the number of troops that are over there and we know that that‘s going to happen and we need to realize that this is a long term effect that we‘re having on the people of that country.  The children, the soldiers play with the children, they save their snacks and give them to the children.  Children run up to them daily and thank them for being there, thank them for protecting them and that‘s where you‘re going to see a difference.  You‘re going to see a huge difference in generations to come with the mind set of how people view Americans. 

MATTHEWS:  Well I appreciate you coming on and you‘re a very delightful challenger.  You‘re probably going to give Jack a run for his money.  Let me tell you something, 50,000 Iraqis have been dead, killed since we went in there.  I don‘t think there‘s going to be a lot of flowers for us when we leave.  I‘m watching that group we‘ve been supporting over there, the Shia, they are demonstrating for Hezbollah, the people we‘re supporting.  The president seems to have lost confidence in Maliki, the prime minister.  The people we thought were the good guys are rooting for Hezbollah, that‘s a very confounding development.  That‘s what I think.  But thanks for coming on.  Dianna Irey, I‘m sorry.

IREY:  That‘s OK.

MATTHEWS:  Irey, it‘s great to have you on.  Please come back. 

Republican candidate running against Jack Murtha. 

Up next, a decade later Colorado authorities have charged a man with murdering JonBenet Ramsey.  Was there a rush to judgment against the family of hers for all those years?  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARY LACY, BOULDER DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  There‘s a great deal of speculation and a desire for quick answers here.  We should all heed the poignant advice of John Ramsey yesterday.  He said do not jump to conclusions, do not jump to judgment, do not speculate.  Let the justice system take its course. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That was district attorney Mary Lacy today in Boulder, Colorado, announcing the arrest, not the indictment yet, of 41-year-old John Mark Karr in connection with the murder of JonBenet Ramsey.  Was there a rush to judgment against the family more than 10 years ago?  Is Karr‘s claim of being with Ramsey when she died credible?  On the phone now are Wendy Murphy, a former sex crimes prosecutor, and Pat Korten, a former director of public affairs for the Justice Department and former spokesman for the Ramsey family. 

Let‘s go to Wendy Murphy right now.  His legal situation is he‘s under arrest because of a warrant issued by this Colorado D.A., is that right? 

WENDY MURPHY, FMR. SEX CRIMES PROSECUTOR:  Yes.  You know, she declined to go into the details about what the specific charges were today.  Mary Lacy was asked and declined to answer, saying it was under seal.  But there had been prior reports that he‘s charged with both a count of murder and I believe a kidnapping charge, if not more than one of both of them. 

MATTHEWS:  But they were all related to JonBenet Ramsey, right? 

MURPHY:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  Now when you‘re a prosecutor, can you act on a confession alone or do you have to have some corroborative evidence regarding circumstances, location of the confessor, whatever, to make an indictment or to bring an arrest? 

MURPHY:  In virtually every state, as far as I know, in fact, in every state, a confession alone is always inadequate, because frankly, crazy people can confess and be falsely convicted on confessions alone, so we always require some level of corroboration and look, there are already so many holes in this guy‘s story, I can‘t believe that folks are actually biting and literally accepting at face value that just because this guy has been characterized as having confessed that means he must have done it. 

There are lots of holes, the most important one of which is that his wife says he was in Alabama on the night in question.  He wasn‘t even in Colorado, so I‘m not so sure the reason they‘re bringing him back is because they think he actually killed the child.  It may be that he knows important details about the case.  It remains to be seen why he‘s coming back. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Pat Korten.  Pat, you know, we had a lot of focus on the Ramsey case back 10 years ago, like everyone else, and I‘ve got to admit, I‘m trying to be honest here, you know, the Ramseys always behaved what I thought in a strange manner.  They were difficult to get interviewed.  They made a big cause of not being interviewed by the investigator, the police.  They seemed to be, they weren‘t driven, it seemed at the time to try to find out who did it.  Just, there was something unforthcoming about them, especially Mr. Ramsey.  Tell us what your view was, representing them at the time of these perceptions.

PAT KORTEN, FMR. RAMSEY FAMILY SPOKESMAN:  Well, in the first place you‘ve got it wrong in one important respect.  They did talk to investigators.

MATTHEWS:  Well why did it seem like they were evading them all the time?

KORTEN:  They insisted on talking to them together, rather than separately and that is certainly their prerogative.  They were not charged with any crime.  But the important point to realize here is that they are innocent.  They did not commit the crime.  And they were unfairly ...

MATTHEWS:  Well, what—OK.  Fair enough.  Well, you don‘t know. 

Nobody knows ...

KORTEN:  ...perceived from the very first moment this case began.

MATTHEWS:  Innocent until proven guilty, but so was this guy who was picked up over in the Far East.  Let me ask you ...

KORTEN:  I‘m giving you my personal judgment on it, my personal view on it, having known them, having spent time with them.  There has never been one bit of doubt in my mind that they were completely innocent.  This was a loving couple who loved their children dearly and could never have committed such a crime. 

MATTHEWS:  Why didn‘t they agree to separate interviews?  Why didn‘t they agree to separate interviews? 

KORTEN:  Because their lawyers advised them not to. 

MATTHEWS:  Why? 

KORTEN:  They did exactly what their lawyers recommended that they should do and that‘s what you and I both would do under the same circumstances. 

MATTHEWS:  Because why?

KORTEN:  We wouldn‘t say to our lawyers, no, I‘m going to do it differently.  You‘re the expert, but I‘m going to do it some other way would be ridiculous. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to Wendy.  What‘s your—what do you know about this case that we may not know?  You‘ve been involved in this case.  Does it—you say you don‘t believe that it adds up, the confession here. 

MURPHY:  Yes.  No, I mean, the guy may know something.  Remember, he‘s from Georgia, not far from where John and Patsy lived several years ago, so perhaps they do know each other.  This guy refused to answer, whether he knew John.  John claims he doesn‘t know the guy. 

I think there‘s more to that story but, look, the fact that this guy may be crazy and confessing falsely does not mean we should abandon focus on why we were so suspicious of the Ramseys from the beginning, including as you mentioned, Chris, right away they left Colorado.  They took a plane the day the child‘s body was discovered.  They took a plane to Georgia. 

Most parents facing such a situation would camp out at the police station, and they refused to be interviewed and they have to this day not taken an FBI-administered polygraph.  They hired their own gun to take one, to give them one some years later that most people pooh-pooh as, you know, what you get when you hire a gun to take a polygraph. 

You know, and experts that you pay have coming out of the woodwork on behalf of the Ramseys, cheerleaders that they‘ve hired have been coming out of the woodwork, pointing their fingers at boogeyman after boogeyman for years.  None of them have ever panned out. 

The Ramseys were under the umbrella of suspicion and remain so to this days because their behavior from the get-go was consistent with guilt.  They hired the highest-powered criminal defense attorneys in the state of Colorado on the day their child‘s body was discovered.  They hired a P.R.  firm, they clammed up and moved out of state.  That has not changed.  No matter what else is going on in the case.

MATTHEWS:  But it‘s all legal, right?  But it‘s all legal.

MURPHY:  That‘s fine, it‘s all legal, but that doesn‘t mean we can‘t draw negative inferences and be suspicious about them, and it doesn‘t mean all of that becomes irrelevant just because some guy who appears to be quite nutty, frankly, has decided to confess.  He has, by his own admission, obsessed about this case.  He has been communicating.

MATTHEWS:  Let me get a comment from—let‘s give Pat a chance here. 

Mr. Korten, why don‘t you respond to that, the ... 

KORTEN:  Well, Ms. Murphy has been leading a lynch mob against the Ramseys for many years.  I‘m really rather tired of listening to her and all of those who have drawn inferences based on perfectly legitimate employment of resources that John had in order to make sure he was not improperly charged with a crime.  There‘s nothing wrong with that, the same thing that we would do under the same circumstances. 

MATTHEWS:  What about this guy ...

KORTEN:  The Ramseys were innocent.  They did not commit the crime, and for ... 

MATTHEWS:  If you‘re sure about the innocence and you may well be—and you may be right, obviously.

KORTEN:  I have no doubt in my mind. 

MATTHEWS:  No doubt.  Well, let‘s go with this.  What do you know about this guy Karr that we‘re looking at right now, this character we‘re looking at with all the cameras and people around him. 

KORTEN:  I don‘t know an awful lot more about him than you do.  I do know that certainly Ms. Murphy is correct, that sometimes there are a lot of crazy people out there in the world.  Sometimes people confess to things they did not do. 

But I have to believe that because there are a wide variety of law enforcement officials who were involved in this case, because of the international nature of it and the necessity to provide the kind of information you have need for an extradition, that there was a lot of double checking, a lot of people looking over Mary Lacy‘s shoulders to make sure that there was enough here to justify extradition, bring him back for charge and trial. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, there‘s something in this guy—I‘m looking at him here, and I don‘t know if he‘s guilty or not, or he‘s just—whatever he is, but he does remind me of Tony Perkins in “Psycho” at the end when he‘s captured.  Strange situation.

KORTEN:  Well, I just know that if he turns out to be the one, if we turn out to get a conviction here and the evidence is finally up to Ms.  Murphy‘s standards, that she will apologize to the Ramseys.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you want to respond to that, Wendy?  Are you ready with your apology, that the Ramseys are clear? 

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY:  I‘m happy to apologize if I ever get proved wrong, but that‘s not going to happen.  Trust me.  You know, it‘s important to note too that this guy was communicating apparently for a long time with this man Michael Tracey, a journalism professor at the University of Boulder, who by the way, has done a documentary that was basically a puff piece for the Ramseys. 

He‘s trying to sell a book and all of a sudden because he‘s been communicating at length with this guy, presto, right around the time he‘s trying to sell a book, this guy makes a confession.  You know, we have to take a look at where the confession came from too, and it doesn‘t take a lot of cynicism to be highly skeptical about this guy. 

KORTEN:  Well, Ms. Murphy, perhaps you can switch from being a prosecutor to being his defense attorney. 

MURPHY:  I would be happy to take the case on.  Sign me up.  I can‘t wait to see the files for myself, and I‘ll make an objection. 

(CROSSTALK)

KORTEN:  You will take anything.

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Korten and Ms. Murphy, thank you for joining us. 

Shades of years ago, and I‘m not sure I like them. 

Up next, President Bush says we‘re safer, but not safe from terrorists.  Is he right?  We‘ll talk to the former chairman of the 9/11 Commission.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  The Bush administration and pro-Iraq candidates are fighting hard to make national security the focus of the midterm elections instead of Iraq. 

Former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean and former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton served as co-chairs of the 9-11 Commission.  They have written a new book together called “Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission.” 

Governor Kean, I want ask you to start off about how well you handled the issue of New York security.  How well the firefighters, the police worked together.  Are you confident you asked the right questions of the Giuliani administration? 

THOMAS KEAN, CO-CHAIR, 9-11 COMMISSION:  We asked the right questions of the administration, of the police and fire.  In fact, we had a very tough hearing in New York asking those questions.  We got a lot of trouble, a little raucous.  We‘ve got bad headlines in the press the next day, because they thought we were asking questions to demean heroes rather than the administration. 

The next day with Giuliani, he gave riveting testimony.  We probably didn‘t ask him hard enough questions in public.  We did in private, and we got the information we needed. 

MATTHEWS:  Why were you so deferential? 

KEAN:  I think we were sort of captured by the moment.  New York was -

the rounds were still raw, and probably still are at that point.  We had people in the audience who had lost brothers and sisters and husbands and wives, cheering and yelling.  And it just—we just were captured by the moment.  Now, we he got the information we needed.  But it wasn‘t Giuliani‘s fault.  He did everything we asked him to do.  But we thought that was the one—generally we were pretty tough questioners, you remember. 

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Hamilton, what would you like to know you couldn‘t get in the hearings about this local situation?  Because we‘re focusing on that now, because of the tapes coming out, these horrific tapes of people about to die in 9-11? 

LEE HAMILTON, CO-CHAIR, 9-11 COMMISSION:  Well, I think the difficulty there in New York was that we were focusing on what went wrong, what could we find that could be improved.  When we asked those tough questions, as we did in the first day of the hearings, it was interpreted by New Yorkers as an attack on the heroism of the firemen and policemen, which we admired like everybody else did.  So the environment was very raw. 

But the important point is, I think, that we understood the problem.  The problem was that the police and the fire and the Port Authority could not talk to one another at the scene.  The problem was that there was no unified incident commander at the scene.  So we analyzed, I think properly, the problems in New York City.  We just had a rough time bringing that out in the environment that existed there. 

MATTHEWS:  Are we better off today, Governor—in other words, if a high-rise, skyscraping iconic building; the Empire State Building, the Sears Tower, anything across the country were to be hit—are you sure we‘d do better job of getting people out?  They did a hell of a job getting them out this time...

KEAN:  Yes, they did.

MATTHEWS:  But below the place where the planes hit.

KEAN:  We should do a better job because, frankly, the private sector as well as the public sector is now working at evacuation plans, with more fire drills and more everything else.  And this incident command system is in a lot of cities, where we do know who‘s in charge.  We know now in New York.  We didn‘t know then.  But now it‘s the police in charge if anything happens.  So it should be better.  We don‘t think it‘s quite where it should be.

MATTHEWS:  Can we build a building that‘s safe against—that can protect itself because of an outer shell or because of special escape towers, that can be protecting of its people if it‘s hit again like this?  A building that can protect the people? 

KEAN:  Not without spending a hell of a lot of money, I don‘t think. 

HAMILTON:  We can do a better job than the World Trade towers.  We‘ve learned a lot from this incident.  But building a building to withstand this kind of an impact is a very difficult engineering feat.  The engineers and the architects have been studying this thing in very great detail.  They‘ve learned a lot from it.  A lot of people didn‘t get out of that building because the escape routes were not simple and direct.  They had to cross over. 

MATTHEWS:  And they were told to go to the roof in some cases, weren‘t they? 

HAMILTON:  Well, just flat out told the wrong thing to do.  And some people were told to stay in the building when they should have been told to evacuate.  So I think we‘ve learned a lot from the New York incident. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think...

HAMILTON:  But I‘ll tell you, you never know until the incident occurs. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure.  Do you think the firefighters should have been told not to go up the building at the point they were still streaming up the building courageously? 

KEAN:  No, the problem was not that they went in, but the problem was that communications didn‘t work, because people outside who knew the dangers of the building weren‘t able to communicate because the radios didn‘t work. 

MATTHEWS:  Maybe you disagree.  Did you think they shouldn‘t have been told to—this is an amazing story of the guy who—the woman‘s coming down and she looks at him and says, why are you doing this?  He said, it‘s my job.  I get teary-eyed thinking about this great guy.  But factually, should he have been still heading up that building when it was about to come down? 

HAMILTON:  Well, I think in retrospect, the answer would be no.  You really should not have sent those people into that kind of dangerous situation where the whole building was going to collapse.  But nobody really knew that at that time.  Nobody anticipated that these buildings were going to collapse.  So I don‘t fault anybody for that.  But looking back at it, you can say, my goodness, we lost, whatever it was, 300 or 400 firemen that we really should not have lost. 

MATTHEWS:  Where are we going in—like football season‘s coming and like all—competitors that were in this terrible game, fighting the bad guys, where do you see them hitting us next? 

KEAN:  It‘s hard to tell.  I mean, administration didn‘t seem to recognize that liquid bombs could be a problem on airplanes, I mean, even though they attacked us there in 1994, or tried to the same way in the Bojinka plot in the Philippines.  The thing we worry about most is when bin Laden attempts to get a hold of nuclear weapons.  I mean, nuclear weapon held by a terrorist is—you know, that‘s our nightmare. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about our constitutional rights and how they have to be protected as we fight the bad guys, the Islamic fascists, and we avoid becoming fascists ourself.  How—what did you think of the federal judge in Detroit today saying that the president‘s program of NSA surveillance is unconstitutional? 

HAMILTON:  Well, I think that‘s going to be challenged in the appellate courts and it will be challenged in the Congress.  But I do think the basic problem here is that as you fight the war on terror, you expand the intrusiveness of government in all kinds of ways.  And I think probably in most of those ways, the American people accept. 

From my point of view what‘s necessary is that power ought to be checked so that no one person, even the president, should have the power to make the decision unilaterally.  And therefore, action by the courts, by the Congress, to check the powers of the president on national surveillance makes sense to me.  You should put it in that framework.  Should they—should government have that power?  I think probably so. 

MATTHEWS:  Usually I say this to military guys, but thank you for your service, both of you guys. 

KEAN:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Governor Kean, Governor—and Congressman Lee Hamilton, an old pal.

Up next, the HARDBALLers fight over national security.  Nixon White House veteran and radio talk show host G. Gordon Liddy, he knows something about wiretaps.  And Democratic strategist Jenny Backus will be here.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  The HARDBALLers here—here are G. Gordon Liddy, he‘s a nationally syndicated radio talk show host and Jenny Backus, no relation to Jim, is a Democratic strategist. 

Remember Mr. Magoo? 

JENNY BACKUS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  I—he is.  He‘s a fourth cousin. 

MATTHEWS:  Is he really?

BACKUS:  Oh, yeah.

MATTHEWS:  Well, lucky you.  I always liked that guy.

OK, let‘s go.  “Gilligan‘s Island,” too, right?

BACKUS:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Gordon Liddy, wiretapping, that‘s why we brought you in, you‘re the go-to guy for wiretapping.  Do you think that the court ruling today by the judge—the federal judge in Detroit is going to stop the administration from surveillance of bad guys? 

G. GORDON LIDDY, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  No.  I think it will be appealed.  And I think that the decision had probably be overturned. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it‘s a good decision to overturn it? 

LIDDY:  Yes.  I would overturn it. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think wiretapping is important to catching terrorists? 

LIDDY:  Well, terrorists have to communicate just like everybody else, and if you can intercept their communications, and understand what they‘re trying to do, you can frustrate their efforts. 

BACKUS:  But you can still wiretap under FISA.  I mean, that‘s the whole gist of this case. 

MATTHEWS:  Explain.

BACKUS:  There‘s a law out there on the books that the Bush administration doesn‘t like.  And it says that if you want to go wiretap someone for national security, you can do that.  You have a special secret court to go into to get permission, and then you can go ahead and wiretap whoever you want if it‘s for national security.  So that‘s not going to stop and Democrats are for that.

The problem was the Bush administration said, it‘s a law on the books and we don‘t agree with it, we‘re going to go above it and beyond it. 

LIDDY:  The problem is time.  You know, you uncover something, you get a laptop computer, it‘s hot, you‘ve got information on it, but the time you go to FISA and get the permission, it‘s too late. 

BACKUS:  But isn‘t there things we can do within the law and within the system to make it more—you know...

MATTHEWS:  He‘s not going to agree with you. 

BACKUS:  Oh, he will. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re trying to get Gordon Liddy to agree with you that wiretapping is wrong. 

BACKUS:  Come on.  A girl has got to dream. 

LIDDY:  I actually wire tapped one of the prisons that I was in. 

MATTHEWS:  How did you do that? 

LIDDY:  It‘s easy.  In prisons, all labor is done by prison labor, and that includes maintaining the telephones, all I had to do was make a deal with the other guys. 

MATTHEWS:  Who were you bugging? 

LIDDY:  The warden. 

MATTHEWS:  What did you find out? 

LIDDY:  I found out who was calling the Bureau of Prisons headquarters and backstabbing who, who was making out with somebody else‘s wife.  All kinds of things.

MATTHEWS:  What did you get for this info, this intel? 

LIDDY:  Well I took that information...

BACKUS:  Five more years?

LIDDY:  I burglarized his office and I got papers which I Xeroxed on his own Xerox machine.  And then I went to the Yale law school people, they provided me with research, I sued the Federal Bureau of Prison, I got the permission of the court to try the case myself as a former prosecutor, I tried it, I won, and I defeated the Bureau of Prisons. 

MATTHEWS:  What are you the “Shawshank Redemption?”  We‘ll be right back with Gordon Liddy telling all about his escapades inside, and Jenny Backus, the young child learning how to do it.  You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.  What a show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN, ® VIRGINIA:  So welcome.  Let‘s give a welcome to macaca here.  Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That was Senator George Allen of Virginia calling a rival campaign worker a macaca. 

We‘re back with radio talk show host G. Gordon Liddy and Democratic stragetist Jenny Backus.

Gordon, you know a lot about the world, apparently macaca is a term, a racial slur, like old colonial people have, they always have one for the locals, and that‘s the one used in Tunisia in Northern Africa where George Allen‘s mother came from.

He doesn‘t want to give up his mother, apparently, as whoever taught him this word.

Is he going to get through this without cracking and giving away where he got the word?

LIDDY:  Oh, I think probably so.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it‘ll fade?

LIDDY:  You know, he made a mistake.  If he‘d just say, I made a mistake, it would probably be better than dancing around.  Dancing around never works.  And George Allen...

MATTHEWS:  But you never admitted to anything. 

LIDDY:  He‘s a good friend of mine.

MATTHEWS:  But you never admitted a mistake.

LIDDY:  I haven‘t admitted to anything.

MATTHEWS:  So now you‘re telling this guy to give up your mother, and you wouldn‘t give up Nixon. 

LIDDY:  No.  I didn‘t say give up your mother.  I said just say, hey, I made a mistake. 

BACKUS:  I think actually...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that‘s going to work?

BACKUS:  Oh, well...

(CROSSTALK)

BACKUS:  It would have worked in the beginning of the week. 

MATTHEWS:  The hounds are out there.

BACKUS:  Right.  It would have worked in the beginning of the week.  What you are seeing here is—I don‘t understand, it‘s so funny, these politicians come to Washington and they like forget every basic lesson that they‘ve ever learned, which is, if you make a mistake, admit it in the front. 

He‘s—it hasn‘t been—this is a good point for you.  It‘s not the crime, it‘s the cover-up.  That‘s the problem.

MATTHEWS:  Do you really think that‘s true?  How about when the crime is worse than the cover-up, that‘s why you cover it up.

BACKUS:  But—you know, I haven‘t had to deal in that realm yet.  But in George Allen‘s case, had he come out the day after and said that was a really stupid thing for me to say, I shouldn‘t have said it. 

He‘s changed his story five times.  He‘s leading HARDBALL on Thursday.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about Joe Lieberman.  I think the most interesting race in the country.  I used to think it was Santorum/Casey.  I don‘t know how that‘s going to turn out.  I think it‘s more interesting if the Democrats have a war within their own country—their own country—their own party. 

Democrats always put on a better show.  So Lieberman versus Lamont, what do you think?

LIDDY:  Oh, Lieberman.  And by more than people expect.

Lieberman just—although I disagree with him on so many issues, he comes off as such a decent man.  He practices his religion, you know.  He‘s not a fire brand.  And it‘s Connecticut, I think he‘s really going to do well. 

BACKUS:  I actually think that Lieberman is not acting like the Joe Lieberman that a lot of Democrats and even some moderate Republicans supported.  He has become the echo chamber of the Bush/Cheney White House, especially on this terrorism thing.  And I think the reason why you saw him beating Lamont in a poll today, although Lamont also moved up on the Democratic side, was because he is pulling all the Republicans because there‘s a nonentity in the race for the Republicans.  So the question is going to be...

MATTHEWS:  Yeah, I had him on.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ...a gambler.

BACKUS:  I saw you also asking Ken Mehlman some good questions about him, too. But...

MATTHEWS:  No, we had this guy who had a kind of wompom car from some Indian gambling resort in another name who is apparently getting banned from the black jack tables and has run up big debts he had to pay off.  Well, maybe that‘s not the ideal Republican candidate for 2006, Gordon.  You like—you‘re a Lieberman guy, you‘re Lamont.  Anyway, thank you both for joining us.  Love your expertise.

Gordon—G. Gordon Liddy on wiretapping, Jenny Backus on Democratic politics.

Play HARDBALL with us again Friday night.  Right now MSNBC special report on JonBenet Ramsey.

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

END   

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