updated 9/19/2006 11:17:07 AM ET 2006-09-19T15:17:07

Guests: Karen Hughes, John Fund, Margaret Carlson, Howard Fineman, Charlie Cook, Christopher Hitchens, Jerry Brown

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Is President Bush creating more terrorists than we‘re killing?  Are we winning or losing the battle for the world?  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews.  President Bush is in New York tonight to address the world at the U.N.  Meanwhile, in Washington, there is a Republican revolt against the president.  Senators John McCain, John Warner, Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins are opposing the president on his push for harsh treatment of terrorist suspects. 

We begin tonight with top Bush advisor Karen Hughes. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Madame Ambassador, former President Jimmy Carter this afternoon took a shot at the administration, saying our position in Iraq and our treatment of terrorist suspects has, quote, lost the support and trust and confidence and admiration that this country has had for generations.  Your response? 

KAREN HUGHES, TOP BUSH ADVISOR:  Well, I think that‘s unfortunate that he would say something like that because I think what‘s happened instead, Chris, is that we‘ve had to make a series of very hard decisions, faced with unprecedented threats against our country and against our freedom.  In the case of Iraq, the president had to make a difficult decision that in the light of September 11, we could not afford the possibility that terrorists might be able to access weapons of mass destruction that we thought Saddam Hussein had. 

In the case of detainees, we are faced with the situation of a very serious, tough group of terrorists, who are determined to kill Americans and to kill Europeans and to kill people across the world who don‘t agree with them and it‘s been very difficult to try to, and we‘ve worked very hard.  I say that one of the last meetings that I had when I left the White House in 2002 was about the detainee issue.  One of the first meetings I had when I came back in 2005 was about the detainee issue.  As we tried to basically apply law, apply international standards to a group of people who don‘t wear the uniform of a state and don‘t respect the law of war and aren‘t signatories to any international treaties and so it‘s been a very difficult process and one that I think we‘ve tried to work through. 

We have tried to, the president several weeks ago announced his going to Congress to try to come up with legislation to bring these individuals to trial and also to set out clearer standards for questioning for our interrogators, who have to be involved in questioning these very difficult terrorists.  I mean, you know that the questions that you‘re asking, the answers may help you save American lives and may help you save the lives of people across the world. 

MATTHEWS:  General Colin Powell knows everything you just said and he‘s also come out and said the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism because of our treatment of terror suspects.  How do you respond to General Powell? 

HUGHES:  Well I haven‘t talked with him recently about this issue, but the president believes that this CIA program, that the CIA‘s ability to interrogate very senior level al Qaeda prisoners and remember, there are no more prisoners in CIA control.  They‘re now all in Guantanamo.  But should we capture tomorrow a senior al Qaeda leader and should that leader have information that might prevent an attack on America, the president feels it‘s very important that we be able to question that person and that the rules be clear for those who are involved in the questioning. 

And what he is proposing are the very same standards that Senator McCain championed last year, that the Geneva Convention, Common Article III, which is right now very vague.  It basically says (INAUDIBLE) affront against personal dignity.  Well, you know, some criminals, some terrorists, might say being handcuffed is an affront against their personal dignity. 

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HUGHES:  Certainly put in jail is an affront against.  So what the president is trying to do is define what that means, using the standards that Senator McCain championed last year, which are a prohibition on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.  What that does is that gives you a clear body of case law, so that you know what your people can and can‘t do, rather than some vague standard.  And there is widespread international precedent for this, for the United States to, in our own courts, clearly define, more clearly define our obligations under international law. 

MATTHEWS:  But the president, according to reports, has already approved the water boarding of Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, KSM as he calls him.  Why go to Congress now, after you‘ve used this rough treatment of detainees, to get approval for that kind of method? 

HUGHES:  Well Chris, what the president has said is that we do not torture, that we have not tortured, that, yes, we have had to use some techniques and he did not specify which ones and said he would not, because it would help the terrorists know what to train against.  That‘s one of the reasons they‘ve had to use techniques, is because they clearly have training that helps them resist normal interrogation. 

The president has said that he believes at this point in the process it‘s important that we clearly define for our own people, now that the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court decision made an important, I‘m not a lawyer Chris, but I‘ve talked to the lawyers about this.  It made a very important legal distinction.  It held that this Common Article III of the Geneva Convention applies to our war against al Qaeda and therefore the questioners, our CIA operatives who are questioning these terrorists, could be subject to being found guilty of war crimes if they did not comply with the standards.  Well the standards aren‘t clear. 

So they have to know the rules.  They have to know what they‘re complying with and that‘s why the president went to Congress to try to clarify this.  We‘re not trying to, I‘ve seen it reported that we‘re trying to redefine.  We‘re not redefining anything.  We‘re trying to define it and clarify it and make it clear what the rules are, so that our people won‘t violate those rules. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about Iraq for a couple of minutes.  I know you‘re in hurry.  Let me ask you about Iraq.  The president has put out the word he‘s frustrated with the United Nations as an institution.  It doesn‘t get the job done.  But the United Nations, the Security Counsel particularly, opposed our action in Iraq.  But so now do most Americans.  Most Americans in all the polls say we shouldn‘t have gone to Iraq.  The American people are, OK, go ahead.

HUGHES:  Well, let me make a point about that.  The United Nations Security Counsel actually voted unanimously to tell Saddam Hussein you have to do certain things or else.  And at that point at which it came time to enforce the or else, that‘s when the United Nations Security Counsel didn‘t really want to do that and the president, when he went into Iraq, felt that he was helping to uphold the credibility of the international community because they had said, not only once, but over a period of 12 years and some 17 resolutions, including the one in the Fall of 2002, that Saddam Hussein had to meet certain conditions or the international community was going to have to act. 

MATTHEWS:  But the countries that have had the worst experience in dealing in the Arab world with insurgencies, like the French, they know how bad it was going to get because they‘ve been there in Algeria.  We even used the battle of Algiers in our military as a training film.  And yet when the French said we were not smart to go into Iraq in a military campaign, we rebuffed them and the president‘s still frustrated.  But most Americans say, they don‘t like to say it this way, the French were right? 

HUGHES:  Well Chris, I think what Americans are reacting to is that no one likes war.  And no one likes the violence, no one likes the bloodshed, no one likes the scenes of Iraqis being killed, but we have to remember, and I think it‘s very important that we take the words of our enemies very seriously, al Qaeda has said that Iraq is now the central front in the war against terror.  They believe Iraq is very important.  And so I think that reminds us that we ought to also believe that prevailing in Iraq is very important. 

The president acted there because he thought it was in our security interest.  We think defeating the terrorists there is absolutely in our security interests. 

MATTHEWS:  Does the president have a special problem with the world now in going to the U.N. after claiming to the U.N., through the secretary of state at that time, Colin Powell, that we believed there were nuclear weapons in the hands of Saddam Hussein, to now go back and say, well we thought he had a program, but I guess he didn‘t, but now we‘re right on this issue, right, any issue that you name.  Do we have a credibility problem at the U.N. after our record going into Iraq? 

HUGHES:  Well Chris, I think you have to go back to the time that the president and Colin Powell made those statements and remember that everyone in the world thought, that‘s what all the intelligence showed.  That‘s what the French intelligence thought, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.  The British intelligence service thought that.  I think virtually every credible intelligence agency in the world thought that. 

After all, he had previously used weapons of mass destruction against his own people, in the case of gassing that he engaged in Iraq, killing thousands of his own people.  And so I think the president tomorrow is going to be talking about his comprehensive vision for a Middle East that is a different kind of place, a place of greater hope, a place of greater opportunity, a place where people are more free to express themselves, a place where people can participate in the political lives of their country. 

And I think the president is going to make his personal commitment to an issue that I know affects people across the world because as I travel, everywhere I grow people bring up this issue.  And that is the issue of a two-state solution, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.  And the president is going to speak about that.  He‘s going to give his very personal commitment to achieving that goal. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I wish you the best of luck and the president best of luck.  We all, everybody in America, wants peace in the Middle East.  Thank you very much, ambassador Karen Hughes for joining us tonight. 

HUGHES:  Thanks so much Chris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, who will win the fight over detainee rights, President Bush or Republican senators led by John McCain?  And is there room for compromise?  “Bloomberg News‘” Margaret Carlson and “OpinionJournal.com‘s” John Fund are going to be here.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Is the debate over torture helping or hurting the Republican Party on the eve of the mid term elections?

We‘ve joined by “Bloomberg” columnist Margaret Carlson and John Fund from OpinionJournal.com. 

Well, that‘s the question.  Let‘s go with our tease, as we say in television, our tease question is, is this fight between the president on one side and his administration, John McCain, John Warner, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, Olympia Snow on the other, who is winning this?  Is this good for the party, this November? 

MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG COLUMNIST:  Well, if Democrats end up looking soft, if they take the bait, it‘s bad for Democrats.  But luckily for Democrats, they have John McCain and John Warner and Lindsey Graham, not to mention the Maine senators.

But it confuses the fight, especially if you have people like McCain and Warner who are totally strong, and then you have Lindsey Graham, who is a JAG lawyer.  It‘s hard for the president to paint them as soft on terror. 

MATTHEWS:  So this is ruining the president? 

CARLSON:  If you were to figure today, I would say yes, but he hasn‘t lost yet. 

MATTHEWS:  John Fund, intramurals, do they help in the intercollegiate battle?  

JOHN FUND, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM:  I think the president has lost points so far.  But I think the longer this debate goes on, the closer we‘re going to get to a compromise.  Chris, this is not Abu Ghraib.  There has never been a credible allegation of torture at Guantanamo, which is where all of these prisoners are now being kept. 

The question is, do we keep the Uniform Code of Military Justice just as it‘s written, which is normally used to handle soldiers, enemy combatants, or do we write a new set of rules which also cover the people who aren‘t combatants, the people who are terrorists. 

And I think there is a compromise there, and frankly, staffers to John McCain and Lindsey Graham and to Stephen Hadley, the National Security Advisor, are already working behind the scenes on that. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what I hear is that, according to Senate Armed Services Committee, which is led by John Warner, they‘re getting late today a proposal from the White House.  They will respond to it tomorrow. 

Is water boarding OK with you, John Fund? 

FUND:  The most important thing here is that we need to protect our soldiers and our interrogators from being hauled into court as military war criminals.  I think if you try to make it too specific, you get into trouble.  If you make it too broad, you get into trouble. 

MATTHEWS:  But the president wants it specific. 

FUND:  Well, the president is going to have to compromise some. 

That‘s what we‘re leaning towards.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I don‘t get this.  Why did the president go on international television a week or so ago, and talk to the world about our torture techniques and how he was tough on some prisoners, why is he having this public debate. 

FUND:  It‘s not torture.  Let me repeat.  This is not Abu Ghraib.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s an definitional argument the world doesn‘t agree with him on.  

FUND:  No.  There is no credible allegation of torture from Guantanamo.  Name one if you have one. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I will name this.  The fact that John McCain, John Warner, Lindsey Graham don‘t trust this president on this issue and they are publicly challenging him.  They want to make sure that the Geneva Conventions are honored.  Am I right on that? 

FUND:  And the Geneva Convention is vague on Article III.  It doesn‘t specify.  It simply says that which is degrading.  Frankly, Chris, there are some things we need to get out of these terrorists where we might have to degrade them.  It doesn‘t mean torture, it doesn‘t mean specific things. 

MATTHEWS:  All right.  Let me ask you decision, is water boarding which, apparently, according to reports, is what we did to get information out of KSM as the president calls him, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. 

Is that torture in your definition? 

FUND:  Chris, that‘s going to be off the table from now on. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, but it is torture. 

FUND:  No.  I don‘t agree.  I‘m simply saying it‘s off the table because I think there has been a general understanding that, clearly whatever advantages we got from that, and we certainly extracted information that was valuable, there has been enormous political cost to our credibility around the world. 

So you‘re going to see that off the table. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Margaret, do you want to refine this further?  I think I‘m making my point, but John‘s making it differently, the same point. 

CARLSON:  Well, I think you, are one point he got wrong is the 14 who

were moved to Guantanamo certainly were tortured when they were in the

custody of the CIA

MATTHEWS:  How do you know that, Margaret? 

CARLSON:  Because the president alluded to as much.  He needs the tactics that were used by the CIA.  He must continue with those tactics, and that‘s part of what this fight is about.  And by the way, the 14 had information that was useful that might be tormented out of them for a couple of weeks, not for that long. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, John. 

FUND:  Chris, you have a shifting definition here.  On September 12, 2001, I think almost anything that was done at the time would not have been viewed as torture by the American people.  Now it‘s September 12, 2006, it‘s five years difference.  And I think now that there is a shifting definition.  The bottom line is that John McCain and the president are going to agree how we meet The Geneva Convention standards. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me just point out the facts.  These are not definitional facts.  These are public facts that the former secretary of state Colin Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell, the same fellow, former National Security Advisor to President Bush, Sr., the same fellow, said he‘s opposed to what the administration is doing here. 

He says we‘re losing our moral basis in our war against terrorism by these interrogation tactics.  He is saying that it‘s not just Jimmy Carter saying that today, it‘s Colin Powell, John Warner, John McCain, and you‘re more comfortable on the administration position on this than you are with them? 

FUND:  We‘re going to have a compromise, Chris, but notice Colin Powell, never said we used torture at Guantanamo.  He never said that.  He never meant to imply it.  What he did say is that we are losing credibility, we are losing the war of public opinion.  That‘s why we‘re going to have to a reasonable compromise here which will satisfy everyone, John McCain and the president. 

CARLSON:  Chris, everyone is as at disadvantage to the president.  The members of the intelligence committees on the Hill can‘t reveal what they know.  The president, in his press conference, is revealing what he knows, saying that their tactics work, whether or not you call them torture. 

MATTHEWS:  You know what?  I don‘t know what they‘ve done to these guys.  And I don‘t know if it‘s justified or not, and it‘s probably justified in the case of imminent danger, in the case of if someone is going to attack us tomorrow. 

I‘m pretty liberal like most Americans are about what could be done to stop that.  But I‘ll tell you this, we won‘t know probably unless these people are acquitted at trial.  Because if they‘re convicted, I wonder if we‘re going to ever hear from them.

Isn‘t that right, John?  Are we ever going to hear from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed about what was done to him or Bin al-Shibh or any of those guys? 

FUND:  I think in the next few months, we‘re going to hear how the British extracted information from the people that were planning to blow up those airliners in Britain.  And we‘re going to have a very interesting debate as to whether or not that will be viewed as a torture. 

MATTHEWS:  But that‘s a change of the subject.

FUND:  The vast majority of the people are going to say, we needed to do whatever we have to do. 

MATTHEWS:  You have a shifting position.  You say they‘re not doing anything wrong, and then they‘re caught doing it, then you say, it‘s OK because of extreme circumstances. 

(CROSSTALK)

FUND:  We did something wrong at Abu Ghraib.  We have not done so at Guantanamo.  Period.  That‘s not shifting, that‘s firm.

MATTHEWS:  When we come back, we won‘t find out, but we will find out, one of these times we come back.

Anyway, John and Margaret. Stay here.  And later, MSNBC‘s Norah O‘Donnell will have here first report—this is going to be great stuff—on HARDBALL‘s “Senate Six Pack”, that‘s what we‘re calling it.  Those are the six seats the Democrats need to win the Senate.

We‘ll be right back.  She‘s going to start with Virginia. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re back with “Bloomberg” columnist Margaret Carlson and John Fund of opinionjournal.com.  I guess the question starts here with the president and the way that this war against terrorism, the part not to do with Iraq, I should say, just the general war against the bad guys over there, which we all agree is pretty much good guy/bad guy. 

Taking the high ground, John Fund, did set up us for a higher standard of behavior and I think it has played into a higher standard with regard to prisoners.

FUND:  We always must meet a higher standard.  And the fact that Abu Ghraib showed that so many people went off the rails is to our enduring shame.  That‘s why we‘re going to have to have this compromise.  That‘s why the Supreme Court is going to force us to codify.  But remember Chris, the Geneva Convention is not the Ten Commandments.  It‘s a very vaguely worded document in some parts.  We have to write it specifically enough to protect our personnel from being tried as war criminals somewhere in some international court.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think fear of death qualifies as torture, though.  If you‘re water boarding person, you‘re scaring them to death that they‘re drowning.  They feel like they‘re in the act of drowning.  I think most people would call that torture, John.  You don‘t agree, right?

FUND:  If the person has information and everyone agrees that hundreds of people‘s of lives are at stake, I think there are exceptions even to that.

MATTHEWS:  I agree, me too.  And I call it torture.  But I agree there should be exceptions, yes.

FUND:  But the airlines plot in Britain was darn close to that in some cases and we‘ll find out what the British did.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re agreed, we just have to get those definitions straight.  Margaret?

CARLSON:  And a couple weeks after 9/11, probably true that you should do anything to extract the information and Americans would tolerate it even if they thought it was the moral low ground.

MATTHEWS:  OK, interesting shift of job.  A couple of years ago, Colin Powell was up selling the president‘s case at the U.N., I think to his shame at this point by those who know him.  And now he‘s up there saying the president is wrong about torture.  Interesting change of job description isn‘t it, in just three years?

CARLSON:  Well, it‘s good to finally hear from him and maybe he thinks this is more of a military discussion and he feels like he can come out of his garage.

MATTHEWS:  Doesn‘t have to salute this one.

CARLSON:  Right.  And he has great moral authority.

MATTHEWS:  I think he looks better not saluting when he doesn‘t think he should be.  Some day we‘re going to hear from him, I hope.  John, do you think this former secretary of state is right in opposing the president on this, or should he have kept quiet?

FUND:  He‘s a private citizen now.  He‘d no longer bound by the duty of loyalty.  If he wishes to speak out, We need every voice to speak out.  I don‘t have a problem with him joining the debate at all.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much Margaret Carlson and John Fund, thank you for joining us.  Up next, we‘re going to check in on the hottest Senate race.  MSNBC‘s Norah O‘Donnell is going to have her first report in a series.  We‘re calling it the Senate six-pack, the six hot races the Democrats need to win to take control.  Will Virginia be one of them?  We‘re going to do that one, coming up in about a minute.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re exactly 50 days now until the midterm elections.  Democrats are happy over the possibility that they have at least an outside chance to take control, not just of the House, but of the Senate.  They need six seats to do that.  It once seemed impossible but not any more.  Some Republicans who once seemed unbeatable are now in real races to keep their job.  MSNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent Norah O‘Donnell has this first report of hers in an ongoing series on the HARDBALL Senate six-pack. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 

Virginia Senator George Allen was once the Republican party‘s golden boy, predicted to easily win re-election and even campaign for president in 2008.  But then this campaign gaffe exploded on the web, with a posting on YouTube. 

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN ®, VIRGINIA:  Let‘s give a welcome to Macaca here. 

Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia. 

ROGER SIMON, “BLOOMBERG” POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  It‘s one of those nightmare moments which transforms a race into a race where the incumbent had a double digit lead, to where he has a single digit lead and it also raises the bigger question for Allen in the minds of the voter, is this a guy who is ready for prime time.  It certainly raises questions if he wants to run for president. 

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Allen has apologized. 

TIM RUSSERT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  Where did it come from, it must have been inner consciousness? 

ALLEN:  It was just made up, just made up. 

RUSSERT:  Made up?

O‘DONNELL:  But the so-called Macaca moment, gave Senator Allen‘s Democratic opponent Jim Webb the opening he wanted.  Webb is a highly decorated Vietnam veteran and a former Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan.  He endorsed Senator Allen in 2000.  The reason he says he entered the race is the Iraq war, which he calls an incredible strategic blunder. 

JAMES WEBB (D), VA SENATE CANDIDATE:  Very few people who have brought us this war have served and very, very few of the children of these people who have brought us this war have served. 

O‘DONNELL:  Allen defends the president and wants to stay the course in Iraq. 

ALLEN:  Staying the course is meaning that we don‘t tuck tail and run. 

O‘DONNELL:  The race is now neck and neck, with Allen in a narrow lead.  And because of that both sides have turned negative.  Webb has been asked to explain a 1979 magazine article titled “Women Can‘t Fight,” in which he argued that women are unfit for combat.  The Allen campaign arranged a press conference with female Navel Academy graduates, who said Webb‘s comments had an effect. 

KATHLEEN MURRAY, 1984 NAVAL ACADEMY GRADUATE:  There is no question that James Webb‘s attitudes and philosophy were major factors behind the unnecessary abuse and hazing received by me and my fellow women Midshipmen. 

O‘DONNELL:  On “Meet the Press” Webb said he regrets, but did not apologize for his comments. 

RUSSERT:  When you say being at a Naval Academy is a horny women‘s dream, you regret that? 

WEBB:  Well I do regret that. 

O‘DONNELL:  The differences between the two candidates is stark even down to their wardrobe.   

SIMON:   These are candidates that who don‘t on anything.  James Webb is wearing his son‘s combat boots.  His son is a combat soldier in Iraq right now.  And Webb says he‘s wearing combat boots because George Allen wears cowboy boots and there are no cowboys in Virginia. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  In the end this race is likely to boil down to resources and money and in the latest report Senator Allen had 16 times more money than his opponent.  But Jim Webbs‘ campaign says that they‘ve had a heavy influx of funds since Senator Allen made the Macaca comment.  For HARDBALL, I‘m Norah O‘Donnell.

Let‘s talk politics.  That was Norah O‘Donnell‘s great report.  We‘re going to have five more of this, of the six-pack, at least, although the six pack keeps changing, where the races might be open to a victory by the Democrats. 

Charlie Cook‘s an NBC NEWS political analyst and publisher of the “Cook Report.”  He‘s doing this for years, picking victors in these elections.  You are going to do it again tonight.  Howard Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst and chief political correspondent for “Newsweek Magazine.” 

Charlie, is this or is this not a close race?  Is it really a close race or am I right that Allen is ahead, significantly ahead?

CHARLIE COOK, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”:  Oh, I don‘t think he‘s significantly ahead.  The four points poll you show, maybe it‘s four, maybe it‘s five, maybe it‘s six.  It has gotten close but I think Allen has to make one more big mistake before it goes even. 

MATTHEWS:  Another Macaca.  A Macaca Deux, what do you make it?  Does he have to make a mistake to lose this thing?

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  Well, I think Jim Webb, who has been coming on like gang busters, in a state that has -- 

MATTHEWS:  That was gang busters? 

FINEMAN:  Now wait a minute, had been coming on.  I used the past tens. 

MATTHEWS:  I thought on “Meet the Press” he missed a few things.

FINEMAN:  Wait a minute, in the past tense, OK.  Northern Virginia has changed a lot, lots of Democrats, different state, but for him to get in trouble with women voters is deadly because it‘s the women voters, especially in northern Virginia, that he is appealing to.

MATTHEWS:  A lot of single woman who go to work in Washington.

FINEMAN:  A lot of single and professional woman in the Washington Metropolitan area.  That takes the momentum away right from him and it causes a big problem and takes the offense away from Allen. 

MATTHEWS:  But aren‘t those women more anti-Iraq, are they really susceptible to that issue? 

FINEMAN:  Yes, but anything that slows down what had been the on-rushing Webb, in this situation, I think has got to help George Allen, if for no other reason than it takes attention away from him.

MATTHEWS:  But let‘s get through the definitions.  When we talked about before this show, the definition right now, women in American military services can play very dangerous roles.  I mean, it‘s not against women taking dangerous parts, they fly planes, they fly helicopters, they‘re up and attacked to front line outfits, but they‘re not given an M-16 and say get out there and hit the trench and go over the top.  So there is still a distinction as to what roles they get assigned to. 

So, what is the problem with him saying 20 or 30 years ago, I‘ve got a problem with women in combat, if it‘s narrowly defined to meaning frontline infantry? 

FINEMAN:  Well I just didn‘t think he, he didn‘t seem to appreciate, Webb didn‘t seem to appreciate on “Meet the Press” the gravity of the political situation he was in there.  He was a little too casual about his apologies, about his explanations, about saying what the current situation within combat is. 

COOK:  I think the answer to your question is because he hasn‘t totally changed his mind.  Only a little bit, but somewhat. 

FINEMAN:  He can‘t say that though, Charlie.  He can‘t say that.

MATTHEWS:  But the military hasn‘t changed its mind either. 

COOK:  You show me a woman, whether she‘s a secretary, a doctor, a lawyer, a manager, a vice president of a company, whatever, and they hear those women at the academy—

MATTHEWS:  Well that hurts.

COOK: And they‘re thinking ooh. 

MATTHEWS:  Because it hurt, it caused hazing.  They‘re suggesting it caused hazing.  It made their lives more difficult.

FINEMAN:  And you‘re moving over from definitions of who can be in combat to sexual harassment in the workplace and in school and so forth. 

MATTHEWS:  So professional opportunity is one thing we all applaud these days for everybody.  Secondly there is the issue of narrowly defined combat infantry, which nobody is really pushing for right now.  Is that right, can we agree on that? 

FINEMAN:  Yes. 

COOK:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  OK, so let‘s go.  He‘s going to have to go out and defend himself and say I‘m just talking about narrowly defined infantry role.  I‘m not saying women shouldn‘t be able to be generals.

COOK:  He needs to do something more than what he did on the show yesterday. 

FINEMAN:  This is a close race but it needs another click or two before it becomes even. 

MATTHEWS:  I just feel that Virginia is a conservative state, it‘s a pro-military state.  It‘s state that is susceptible to someone who is almost totally a Bushy, which he is, a total Bushy, right? 

FINEMAN:  Yes, he is and I‘m not sure I completely agree with you on that.  I think Virginia has changed an awful lot, but it‘s going to take a perfect Democratic candidate, which Webb seemed to be until the last few days. 

MATTHEWS:  How come this argument that guys who fought and who‘s children are fighting now, when they run against conservative Republicans doesn‘t seem to work?  Do the people still prefer the ideology or the Republicans over the military record?  You know the argument, chicken hawks, all these guys who pushed the war didn‘t serve.  But it doesn‘t seem to win with the public.  They still seem to say I like the person who‘s philosophy I agree with, not whether they have a military record or not. 

COOK:  No, I think it was working fine.

MATTHEWS:  Otherwise, by the way, they would have killed Bill Clinton, not having a military record.

COOK:  No, I think it was working fine.  I mean, Webb was coming on strong, I mean, helped by the Macaca thing, but he was coming on strong and then the Naval Academy thing just stopped him in his tracks. 

FINEMAN:  But I think there‘s something else here.  I think the president spending the last ten days talking about the war on terrorism, I think it‘s a plus, I think the controversy between the Pope and the Vatican in the world of Islam is background noise here that‘s getting loud, is going to help the president because it underlines this clash of civilization idea and anything that divides the world, in terms of light and darkness in that way helps George Bush and George Allen make their argument. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree with all of that.  Internal to that, I think the biggest knock against the president, ironically wasn‘t on the field in Iraq, it was Katrina.  The sense that he was out to lunch, he wasn‘t paying attention.  He didn‘t care.  The minute that kicked in a year or so ago, people began to question his Iraq policy.  Because they were taking it on faith until then.  And they couldn‘t take on faith the performance of a person who seemed to be unaware of what was going on. 

Now he‘s back on point.  He‘s out there every night giving half hour speeches and every time this president gives a half-hour speech or any longer, or a press conference of half our longer, he‘s on the front page the next day.  It‘s automatic.

FINEMAN:  He‘s shifted attention from competence back to the -- 

MATTHEWS:  Pennsylvania, my home state, is there in fact a chance that Santorum can win at this point?  Has he got a chance?  I‘d like a 25 percent chance of winning, does he have that good a chance? 

COOK:  I‘d say it‘s 20 or 25.  I think he‘s 10 points down right now. 

MATHEWS:  Can he break Paul Pegalow (ph), the expert on that campaign, he‘s working for Casey now.  I think he was a volunteer of whatever.  He says that Santorum can‘t get past 40 percent, therefore he can‘t win, is that true? 

COOK:  I think that‘s probably about right, 40, 41, but I think the key thing is Casey has got to make a mistake.  I mean, Casey has got to screw up, I think, to lose that last ten point. 

MATTHEWS:  So he‘s just, and I love the way you think because it‘s crystal clear, because in other words he‘s in the same position as George Allen, they have got to make a mistake, do you agree with that?  Is it Casey‘s to lose, I mean Santorum‘s to lose?

FINEMAN:  Santorum‘s to lose, I‘m not sure.

MATTHEWS:  No, no Casey to lose?

FINEMAN:  Yes, it‘s Casey to lose.  Having been in eastern Pennsylvania last week, in those districts, I think that George Bush is in a bad shape there, although I was surprised by recent poll numbers that are out today, showing the Republicans with pretty substantial leads. 

MATTHEWS:  Who wins, Murphy or Fitzpatrick in that all Irish fight card up there?

FINEMAN:  I don‘t know about that, in the two other districts you have the Republicans ahead by surprisingly large margins post George Bush.

MATTHEWS:  Weldon is ahead?

FINEMAN:  Weldon is ahead and Sestak is ahead.  No, so that‘s the Democrat, but Weldon is still ahead.

MATTHEWS:  Gerlach is ahead.

FINEMAN:  Gerlach is ahead, right.

MATTHEWS:  I love knowing all this stuff.  Anyway thank you Howard Fineman, thank you Charlie Cook.  We have some junkies here.

Up next, President Bush and the president of Iran are both in the U.N.  this week.  That‘s going to be kissing cousins.  Will they cross paths?  What kind of reception will each of them?  It will be pretty bad if the other guy got the better applause.  “Vanity Fair‘s” Christopher Hitchens is coming here and Mayor Jerry Brown, now the Democratic nominee for attorney general in California.  He‘s going to be here.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Back in 2002, President Bush said the U.N. risked irrelevancy if it failed to deal with Iraq.  Now the president‘s back to address the entire world tomorrow at the U.N.  HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has the report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  As the president left today for his sixth visit to the United Nations, White House officials and diplomats acknowledged the Bush administration remains isolated over the Iraq war and something of a lone ranger when it comes to the nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea.  The problem is not about personalities.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  My personal relationship with Kofi Annan is good.  I like him and we‘ve got a good relationship, personal relationship.

SHUSTER:  The U.N. secretary general agrees, as do other world leaders, who say their personal relationship with President Bush is very good.  However, on policy issues, the U.S. continues to have difficulty convincing the world to follow his lead, prompting the president himself to voice his disapproval.

BUSH:  I think a lot of Americans are frustrated with the United Nations, to be frank with you.

SHUSTER:  The tensions between America and nations around globe ratcheted up at the beginning of the Bush presidency.  Right from the starts, the United States said it would not ratify the global Kyoto anti-pollution treaty or agree to an international criminal court. 

After 9/11, much of the world condemned the al Qaeda terror attacks and supported the U.S. led war in Afghanistan.  But a year later in 2002, the Bush administration‘s focus was on Iraq.

BUSH:  Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding or will it be irrelevant?

SHUSTER:  Six months later after failing to get international approval for war with Iraq, the Bush administration went to war anyway.

BUSH:  The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours.

SHUSTER:  In the fall of 2003, with Iraq‘s insurgency beginning to grow, President Bush was unapologetic about the war, even as he asked for international help with Iraq‘s reconstruction.

BUSH:  Now the nation of Iraq needs and deserves our aid and all nations of goodwill should step forward and provide that support.

SHUSTER:  But violence in Iraq has stopped most governments and organizations from trying to distribute aid and the assistance is largely confined to whatever is delivered by U.S. troops.  The Bush administration has also found itself isolated diplomatically on issues related to Israel‘s war in Lebanon against Hezbollah.  This summer the U.S. refused a call for a cease-fire until Israel itself was ready.  Against all of this, the Bush administration has been quick to criticize the international community‘s response to the crisis in Darfur.

BUSH:  The problem is that the United Nations hasn‘t acted.

SHUSTER:  And Bush administration frustrations are growing over Iran‘s nuclear ambitions and international divisions over whether Iran should face economic sanctions.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER:  Part of the problem, diplomats say is that U.S. credibility has been eroded by Iraq and so in Iran, President Bush is underscoring the importance of allies and consensus, even as administration officials consider possibly bypassing the world community again.  I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you David Shuster.  We go now to Mayor Jerry Brown of Oakland who is the Democratic candidate for California attorney general and to “Vanity Fair‘s” Christopher Hitchens.  I guess the most exciting, and that‘s a bad use of the world, but it‘s appropriate, issue on the table right now is the role of the United States as it takes suspects. 

When we pick up people who we believe to be terrorists with good reason, bad people we believe with good reason, should we have a limitation on what we will do to them to get info out of them in important circumstances like the possibility of another attack—Christopher Hitchens?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, VANITY FAIR:  Well yes, because the United States isn‘t just itself a signature to the Geneva Conventions, but it is the reason why many other countries are signatures too.  We didn‘t just sign it ourselves.  We asked, as with Eleanor Roosevelt and the universal declaration of human rights, we tried to make it a condition that other signed up too.  So it‘s not something we can resign from.  We‘re stuck with it.

MATTHEWS:  But you believe we should adhere to the Geneva Conventions? 

So you‘re with McCain and Warner and the others?

HITCHENS:  Well I would defend it as a responsibility, first in the way I just did, but I think it‘s a good thing also because everybody knows that there is a terrible temptation to use extreme methods and that the reason for that temptation is that they in the short-term can produce results.

That‘s the worst thing about it and that immediately starts to degrade the whole process.  Now people don‘t need to use as good intelligence or good questioning techniques, they shortcut it and go for the cattle prod.  Then you‘re sunk.  Then your intelligence system is destroyed and depraved and you‘ve also degraded yourself as a human being.  So there is only one ruling you can possibly make on this.

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Brown?

JERRY BROWN, MAYOR, OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA:  What‘s so unusual, I think this is the first time in American history where at the level of principal there are actual politicians including our president saying torture or something very close to it is something America ought to stand for. 

And I think this is not whether it works or not.  There is an inherent right and wrongness that underguards our Western legal tradition and torture, from time in memorial, has been condemned.  So I think we have to recognize it out of own self-represent and to keep faith with our traditions.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s try to find a ground here we can appreciate.  We can imagine torture being really horrendous.  We can also imagine it being somewhere on the cusp of what we accept in dire circumstances.  Water boarding is a term I never knew until a few months ago.  It means basically putting a person, having water rushing up to their nose in a way that suggests their drowning.  It convinces a person they are going to die from drowning.  Is that torture?

BROWN:  It sounds like torture to me.

HITCHENS:  Apparently, as I‘ve read...

BROWN:  It works, apparently, too. 

HITCHENS:  We have Mr. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who we have to thank for so many of our woes. 

MATTHEWS:  9/11.

HITCHENS:  Yes.  He lasted about ten seconds of that.  It‘s really frightening.  You get this choking, panicky sensation. 

If we have to stay on this subject, I guess I would say that if ten seconds of that would make him crack and talk, then probably a proper interrogation would have done the same, would have just taken a little bit longer. 

And what was the hurry?  This was not a ticking bomb case.  Its wasn‘t, you got to tell us now because the bomb is inside the school.  That‘s the nightmare point.

But you know, there was a German policeman the other day who said—to a defendant who he knew had kidnapped this girl and he knew he knew where the girl was—if you don‘t tell me, you may think you live under the law, but I can beat you to a pulp.  He didn‘t do it, but it was enough to make the guy crack. 

MATTHEWS:  So?

HITCHENS:  Well, he then surrendered.  He said, look, I used illegal methods but I did find the girl, and I submit myself to be prosecuted, which he was.  He took responsibility for it.  He‘s a national hero in Germany, but he didn‘t try and shield himself. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what the president is trying to do right now, is shield our agents, our officials who do conduct these interrogations from prosecution later in world courts. 

HITCHENS:  See, and then that‘s also happened to the French in Algeria, you start to have little bits of secrecy, little prisons that no one quite knows about, and it degrades and corrupts the whole process. 

BROWN:  A slippery slope, a slippery slope where you‘re saying is what is wrong is now right.  And that just intensifies the fall from grace, from our tradition, from what is it—the heart of America is all about. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what General Powell just said, too.

HITCHENS:  Well, it‘s not an accident that our Constitution forbids all forms of the medieval punishments, like Governor Brown‘s old church‘s that we came from Europe to escape from. 

MATTHEWS:  I think it still is Church.  We‘ll be right back with Jerry Brown and Christopher Hitchens.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We are back with Jerry Brown, the Democratic candidate for attorney general of California, and Vanity Fair‘s Christopher Hitchens. 

We just had a chat, I didn‘t think we have to talk about this, but I think we have to.  The Holy Father, the pope, the head of the Catholic Church, I guess the largest religion out there, or the largest  or organized religion in this world, has had to more or less apologize. 

He did it in a way that people do in politics, I must say, he said, if I offended anybody, I am sorry that they were offended, but he did not actually retreat. 

BROWN:  The conditional exculpatory...

MATTHEWS:  What did you make of it, because what he‘d done—you‘re pretty learned on this subject.  He went back to some very early 600 year ago conversation and said something that offended the Arab world—the Islamic world. 

HITCHENS:  The fourteenth-century Byzantine emperor Manuel, who had said the Koran was wicked because it preached spreading faith by the sword. 

And I can‘t imagine who advised the pope to do this.  The Muslim world is always saying, falsely, that it‘s being attacked by a Crusade, a Zionist conspiracy and all this nonsense.  And now you have somebody invoking and reviving the idea of the Crusader period and talking as if only Islam has ever spread its faith by violence. 

BROWN:  You know, when the church went after the Cathars, which were a fairly enlightened group, the cardinal in charge said, kill them all, and god will find his own.  That sounds pretty brutal, and you will find that even Constantine was using the sword and pressure. 

So all these churches have their own flaws, and I think it would have been a lot better for the pope to have said, you know, there are some issues here with Islam, and we have similar issues and we have to learn and try to get along together and recognize our flaws in the midst of it all.  He did not say that... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... he was saying in one of the discussions with someone was that it was wrong for the pope to show weakness by apologizing, do you agree? 

HITCHENS:  You could see it coming from the moment he made the speech.  It will be like this, the Muslims will react, there will be attacks on churches and random nuns and so on, fatwas will be issued.  And then after a few days the Vatican will make the statement.  And after another day the pope will.  you could see it all coming. 

BROWN:  What he said was absolutely untrue.  He said the only thing new in Islam was evil.  That‘s a proposition that I don‘t believe any theologian could defend.  This was an emperor saying that, not a theologian.

MATTHEWS:  Howard Fineman was just here, and he said that the mere fact of this debate that we are having now, which is very unexpected for me, between the leader of my church and the leader in the Islamic world, is going to build a backdrop for the president that proves to the voter out there, we in a clash of civilizations.  Is that an accurate assessment of what this is going to do?  One more argument we are in this...

HITCHENS:  That‘s different from a clash between two kinds of religions, two kinds of revelation.  That‘s not a difference of civilizations, that‘s of the pope—theologically, it could be a Muslim with any very small change, he believes in revelation, he believes in the final one, and he certainly has known his what it is to coerce...

MATTHEWS:  But my question is, politically, this is this one more backdrop to make the president‘s case? 

HITCHENS:  It shows secularism is our only friend.  And what we‘re fighting for is the secular enlightenment against all forms of unreason and theocracy. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s just shift this a little to the secular world.

The president of the United States, our president, is going to the United Nations tomorrow.  He has had a difficult record with the United Nations.  They did not go with him on invading Iraq.  They were betrayed, you could argue, a lot of the members, by Colin Powell‘s work as Secretary of State, in saying we had a case to go to war in Iraq.  How does he go back and mend fences? 

BROWN:  Why doesn‘t he go back and open up the participation in what he is trying to do? 

I mean, I think it‘s pretty tough, because the statement about the weapons of mass destruction, the exaggeration or the distortion of the evidence, he should show some candor.  He is going to have to get some allies. 

America, I believe, is very over-extended.  We have a lot of problems right here at home, we need allies abroad.  And I think his first mission, his first obligation, as an American president is to start building bridges to enough allies that we could get a handle on what is a very dangerous situation. 

HITCHENS:  Well, look, it was left to the United States to make the case that Iraq was in violation of the resolutions on WMD.  But that‘s not the case now. 

The Iranians have been caught lying by the International Atomic Energy Authority. They‘ve been caught lying by the European Union, which has been doing most of the negotiations with them, and concealing, as well.  And they‘ve been caught by the U.N. and all its inspectors lying and cheating.  So the case is made before the president has to open his mouth. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Our president goes to the U.N. tomorrow.  It‘s going to be a hot issue, it always will be.  Tomorrow night.  Thank you, Jerry Brown.  Thank you, Christopher Hitchens. 

Play HARDBALL with us again Tuesday.  Our guests will include actor Alan Alda, he‘s coming tomorrow and “New York Times” correspondent Frank Rich is coming here.  Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”

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

END   

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