updated 5/19/2009 12:04:17 PM ET 2009-05-19T16:04:17

Guests: Rep. Tim Ryan, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, James Carroll, Chris Cillizza, Roger Simon, Joan Walsh, Lois Romano, Michael Eric Dyson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  President Obama seeks common ground on abortion.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Leading off tonight:

Fighting Irish.  Can Barack Obama, who spoke at Notre Dame yesterday, umpire the culture wars?  Can he find an honest, real area of common ground between those who want to outlaw abortion and those who don‘t?  Can he champion and achieve a dramatic reduction in the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country, and with that a historic reduction in the estimated million abortions a year?

And how do we tell whether he‘s serious about this effort or simply talking about reducing abortions as a way to get the pro-life heat off?  Two members of Congress from both sides of the constitutional divide are here with us to find the reality in Obama‘s position.

And how many presidential rivals can Obama remove by giving them jobs?  Last fall, he convinced Hillary Clinton to join the team, removing her as a threat in the next Democratic nomination fight.  Last Friday, he did the same to Republican governor Jon Huntsman of Utah, appointing him the new U.S. ambassador to China.  Is Obama shanghaiing his potential rival, shipping Huntsman off to far-off China to get him out of the way?

Plus, what a story “GQ” magazine broke this weekend, that Donald Rumsfeld used biblical passages on military briefings he gave to President Bush apparently to convince him, the president, of the crusade.  Here‘s just one example.  Quote, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed.”  Did the secretary of defense exploit President Bush‘s religiousness to manipulate him and help sell the Iraq war?  It‘s a remarkable charge, and we‘ll get to it tonight.

And Republican leader John Boehner of the House says Nancy Pelosi should either show us evidence that the CIA lied to her about waterboarding or apologize to the agency.  That‘s coming up in the “Politics Fix” tonight.

And George Bush made a triumphant return to “Saturday Night Live” this weekend in the person of Will Farrell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILL FARRELL, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”:  Yes, well, here‘s my regret, that I didn‘t have me a vice president like Joe Biden.  I mean, look at those two, going out for burgers, laughing it up.  I needed that kind of VP, the kind that did dumb stuff to make me look smarter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll have more Will Farrell in the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight.

But we begin with President Obama at Notre Dame and the debate over abortion.  Author James Carroll‘s new book is called “Practicing Catholic.”  He‘s a great novelist, of course.  And U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro‘s a Democrat from Connecticut who supports abortion rights, and U.S.  Congressman Tim Ryan is a Democrat from Ohio who opposes abortion rights.  They‘re working together, however, on legislation to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and thereby reduce the number of abortions.

I want to start with Congressman Tim Ryan.  First of all, let‘s look at what the president said at Notre Dame on this very important question, looking for common ground on this very important issue.  Here he is at Notre Dame yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions.  Let‘s reduce unintended pregnancies.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think, Congressman, and I think, Congressman, we‘d all agree—and certainly, I think James Carroll—that it‘d be nice—in fact, I don‘t even want to underestimate the moral importance of it.  It would be good—good, period—to have a lot less abortion in this country.  I think that‘s a general commentary without making a moral statement.  We just would like to see that happen, most people.  Most people.  And the question, is it doable without outlawing abortion?  Do you believe that‘s possible, Congressman Ryan?

REP. TIM RYAN (D), OHIO:  Oh, I sure do.  I think if we focus on the kind of common sense measures, prevent unintended pregnancies—most abortions are performed on women who live within 200 percent of the poverty level, so this is really about access to prevention.  So I think if we focus on that, we fund those programs that will provide that kind of access, and at the same time, incentivize adoption and those social service programs, that if a woman does get pregnant, she has the wherewithal to bring the baby to term, know that the baby will have health care, make sure that if she‘s in college, that there are child care centers at the college campus, all of those things, nurses for newborns, those programs that would encourage the woman to bring the baby to term.

So prevent it as much as you possibly can, and then if you still have a situation, adoption and those social programs to incentivize them to bring the baby to term.  I think it is completely doable, and quite frankly, I think Barack Obama is the leader, the transformational leader that could make it happen.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I was looking for numbers today, Congresswoman DeLauro, about the number of abortions in this country.  We‘ve got an estimate from the CDC of over 800,000.  That was four or five years ago.  Let‘s say it‘s up to about a million now.  The question is, how do we deal with it?  Four out of five people, apparently, who have abortions are not married, so they‘re people that I assume are not intending to get pregnant.  I assume.  And therefore, the question is, how do we help them not get pregnant?  And then it brings into the question of birth control, as well as abstinence.  How do you bridge the gap between pro-life and pro-choice people, to use those shorthand terms, on this issue?

REP. ROSA DELAURO (D), CONNECTICUT:  Well, I think that Congressman Ryan, my colleague, together, what we‘ve tried to put together is a piece of legislation that deals both with prevention and contraception and the kinds of economic programs that will allow, you know, a family to bring a child to term and to have the economic wherewithal to be able to do it.  But it is a combination, as Tim Ryan pointed out, of prevention, and if you don‘t want to deal with the issue of prevention or with contraception, then you may not be serious about wanting to reduce that need for abortions or unintended pregnancies.

And I think—I think that the president‘s speech was really historic in the sense that it—for those of us who care a lot about Catholic education and the whole position of being—bringing unity and respect to very, very divergent opinions on a volatile issue.  You know, he demonstrated his ability to address very, very tough issues.  He did it in the campaign when he took head on the issue of race, and now he‘s taking on another very, very contentious issue in this nation, divisive, and that is abortion.

But in fact, you can find common ground.  Tim Ryan and I and others who support this legislation have worked very, very hard over the last couple of years to look at how, in fact, we can...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  This is...

DELAURO:  ... move the dialogue forward, get beyond the constitutionality issue, move the debate forward, find that common ground and try to...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s—let‘s talk...

DELAURO:  ... bring some sense to this.

MATTHEWS:  This is HARDBALL, so let‘s talk turkey.  The problem is trying to find common ground here on an issue which is so morally consequential to so many people.  Without generalizing, it‘s so consequential to so many people.  Some would like to outlaw it.  There‘s some people out there would like to criminalize abortion out there, somewhere.  Certainly, people would like to criminalize...

DELAURO:  But that‘s not...

MATTHEWS:  ... doctors who perform it...

DELAURO:  ... the majority, Chris.  It‘s not the majority, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  I‘m saying there are people who disagree on this issue.

DELAURO:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s so hot.  I want to ask you—you can go first on this.  It seems to me one way to reduce unwanted pregnancies is birth control.  The Catholic church is against birth control.  I don‘t think they hold it with the same degree of gravity or severity morally as abortion.  But I don‘t want to speak as a cleric because I‘m not one, I‘m a layman.  But is there any way that we can get past this issue of unwanted pregnancies without some resort at some level to birth control?

RYAN:  To me, Chris?

MATTHEWS:  You can answer, Congressman Ryan, because I think you...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... you‘re pro-life and I think you may have a problem on your side with birth control.  But if we don‘t have people practicing birth control or abstinence, they‘re going to have pregnancies, in the cases we‘re looking at statistically, unwanted pregnancies, which leads to abortion in so many cases, up to a million a year.  What are we going to do to stop it?

RYAN:  Without any question, you can‘t have this conversation and deal in reality and not talk about birth control.  We have to have birth control and contraception offered to these poor women who don‘t have access to contraception, period, dot.  There‘s no other way that we‘re going to be able...

MATTHEWS:  Who pays for it?

RYAN:  ... to reduce it.

MATTHEWS:  How does it get done?  How do you get people to, A, use it

one, to use it, and buy it?

RYAN:  Well, I think you...

MATTHEWS:  They have to pay for it and they have to want to use it. 

How do you make that happen?

RYAN:  Well, I think...

MATTHEWS:  In a free society.

RYAN:  You can fund it through Title X.  You can fund it through a lot of public health organizations, and I think it‘s important that we do that.  I mean, there‘s no way we can...

MATTHEWS:  Well, why isn‘t it getting done now?  Why doesn‘t this—why are we arguing about it in a country that has a million abortions a year and everybody says it‘s a big problem...

RYAN:  Because we have...

MATTHEWS:  ... and yet nobody‘s doing anything, it seems, on this issue?

RYAN:  Because the debate has always consisted of pro-choice, pro-life.  One side doesn‘t want anything to change, and the other side wants to put doctors and women in prison.  And I think the transformational effect of our legislation that Rosa and I have put together over the past three or four years, the speech that Barack Obama gave yesterday, puts us into a new...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

RYAN:  ... a new realm.  And the discussion now is going to be, Are you for reducing...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

RYAN:  ... the number of abortions, or are you for having the same bitter fight that we had over the last 35 years?

MATTHEWS:  OK, well...

(CROSSTALK)

DELAURO:  Chris, you cannot be serious!

MATTHEWS:  I want to get the numbers here...

DELAURO:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... like we do with everything else, numbers.  First of all, Congresswoman...

DELAURO:  Chris, you cannot be...

MATTHEWS:  ... I want to get the numbers...

DELAURO:  You cannot be serious about wanting to reduce the need for abortion without dealing with contraception.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

DELAURO:  And your public, the public, the American people understand that very well.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go to James Carroll...

RYAN:  And Chris, may I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I got to talk to James Carroll here.  James, it seems to me

you‘re a novelist and a writer and a thinker on these issues.  And you were a priest for a number of years.  Let me ask you this question.  We have to have metrics here.  If we‘re going to talk to a third way to the issue of pro-choice, pro-life arguments that never end, and maybe should never end, we have to get to some vast reduction in the number of abortions as a reality.

It seems to me that that ought to be tested.  If the president‘s serious about this, we ought to hold his feet to the fire—Let‘s see you do it.  There‘s about a million abortions a year.  You cut them.  You say you can do it, do it.  It seems to me that‘s a reasonable demand.  Is it credible?  Is it going to work?  Is anybody going to keep this guy‘s feet on the fire?

JAMES CARROLL, AUTHOR, “PRACTICING CATHOLIC”:  That‘s what‘s so wonderful about his having gone to Notre Dame yesterday because he was speaking to and for and about the Catholic people.  And the Catholic people have made a profound decision against the bishops to embrace contraception and birth control.  We understand that the answer to abortion has to be the reduction of unwanted pregnancies, and birth control is a crucial part of that.

And that is, in a sense, the crucial Catholic problem.  As long as the bishops conflate birth control and abortion as grave moral failings, the Catholic church is not going to be helping to resolve this problem.

The great thing about President Obama‘s appearance yesterday was it was the Catholic church visible in this country as it really is.  The people have already moved away from the teaching of the bishops on this question.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you say the bishops, but the “Humanae Vitae” by Pope Paul VI basically said abortion‘s—I mean, birth control is wrong, contraception is wrong.  So how do the bishops get independent of that?

CARROLL:  Well, “Humanae Vitae” in 1968 was a disastrous mistake by the Vatican.  It was, as one cardinal of the Second Vatican Council called it, a new Galileo affair.  And it‘s obvious that the church has to step back from “Humanae Vitae.”

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s easy for you...

CARROLL:  The Catholic people already have.

MATTHEWS:  James, that‘s easy for you to say.  You‘re not wearing a collar right now.  And I just...

CARROLL:  Well, it‘s true.  It‘s true, but...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... because this is not—I‘m not going to have a facile discussion here.  This is real.  You have a church/state issue here.  You can argue it, but it seems to me, logically, if people believe that abortion is worse morally—and I think most people who have a problem with this issue and believe this who are Catholics, certainly—than birth control, they got to choose something here—or not, or just step back and have this debate for the rest of our lives.  I don‘t know what the answer is.

You‘re the politician, Rosa.

DELAURO:  The future is—on this issue was in that audience at Notre Dame, the thunderous applause when the president talked about trying to find that common ground, when he talked about, you know, understanding that women come to this decision with very—difficulty, with a lot of reflection, and that we have to take those things into consideration and that we need to be able to look at how we do reduce that need.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

DELAURO:  And we have legislation that addresses that.  We‘ve tried to move forward beyond that debate.  And James Carroll was right, the American people—American Catholics have moved forward on this issue with regard to birth control and contraception.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Congresswoman first and then—or Congressman Ryan first.  Is it fair to judge your program by its success?   Can you reduce the number of abortions down from about a million a year dramatically by this third way?

RYAN:  I think...

MATTHEWS:  Can you do it, and should you be judged by your success, not by your intentions?

RYAN:  I totally think we can do it and I totally believe we will have a dramatic reduction.  I don‘t know if you can pinpoint exactly the number, but most abortions are performed on women that live within 200 percent of the poverty.  This is about access to birth control, and if we can join together and fund these programs that take care of that, we will see a dramatic reduction.

And then the other decision that women base whether or not they‘ll have an abortion is on economics.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

RYAN:  And if we say that, If you bring this baby to term, we will increase the incentives for adoption.  We will make sure that there are a program called Nurses for Newborns, so if you‘re a first-time mother, you‘ll know how to deal with it, the SCHIP program, Medicaid, all of these health care programs, child care centers on college campuses, encourage the woman to bring the baby to term.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

RYAN:  We can do this.  This is totally doable, but it‘s going to take the kind of leadership...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

RYAN:  ... that Barack‘s providing.

MATTHEWS:  I have never—I really support the efforts of both of you, pro-life and pro-choice politicians.  I worry about this being a case of Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins and “Words, words, words.”  I think we all agree it‘s time for something besides this debate, which never ends.  And it‘s a worthwhile debate, but it never ends between pro-life...

DELAURO:  This is what we‘ve intended...

MATTHEWS:  ... and pro-choice.

DELAURO:  ... to do, Chris.

(CROSSTALK)

DELAURO:  This is precisely what we intended to do with this legislation.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll come back on this in a couple months...

DELAURO:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  ... and see how it‘s going.  Rosa DeLauro, U.S.  Congresswoman from Connecticut, and Tim Ryan, U.S. Congressman from Ohio, a Republican (SIC).  Ms. DeLauro is a Democrat.  The book, by the way, by James Carroll, one of the great writers of our time, is called “Practicing Catholic.”  You know what it‘s about.  Can‘t miss the title of that book.  I like books that explain what they‘re about.  Thank you very much, James Carroll, for joining us from Boston.

Coming up: A swift political move by President Obama.  Once again, he takes a political opponent out of the way.  He got rid of Hillary Clinton politically, made her secretary of state.  Now he‘s got a guy who everybody thinks is the hottest Republican candidate next time around, and he‘s made him—well, he‘s sent him off to Shanghai.  That‘s one way to get rid of a guy.  What does this say about the president‘s political moves?  Do we have a politician in the White House or what?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I knew that because Jon is not only a Republican but a Republican who co-chaired my opponent‘s campaign for the presidency, this wouldn‘t be the easiest decision to explain to some members of his party.

GOV. JON HUNTSMAN ®, UTAH:  When the president of the United States asks you to step up and serve in a capacity like this, that to me is the end of the conversation and the beginning of the obligation to rise to the challenge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, welcome back to HARDBALL and to solid ground.  We‘re back to secular issues, sheer politics.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  That was President Obama on Saturday nominating Utah Republican governor Jon Huntsman to be ambassador to China.  He‘s, of course, a Republican, hotly talked about as a potential 2012 rival.

Chris Cillizza‘s a columnist with “The Washington Post” and Roger Simon is with “The Politico.”  I got the two hottest hands here.  Cillizza, you‘re chuckling.  I like it when you chuckle...

(LAUGHTER)

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM:  Well, I‘m glad.  I like...

MATTHEWS:  ... because I think you know how...

CILLIZZA:  ... to make you happy.

MATTHEWS:  ... swift a move—first of all, he made Hillary Clinton secretary of state, the highest honor of appointment there is, I guess.  It‘s up there, certainly, with Supreme Court, and to me a lot more fun.  He gave her the greatest job of the century and also got her out of the way next time.  Nothing wrong with that.  Did he just dump the Republican Party‘s prime hope for 2012 by sending him off to Shanghai?

CILLIZZA:  Well, certainly one of its prime hopes.  I think Huntsman was getting a lot of attention as a fresh face.  He was a guy who was talking more moderate, progressive, call it what you will, on the environment, on health care, saying that, We need to find areas of agreement with Democrats.  So yes, he was getting a lot of attention.  He was moving forward very swiftly.  He was going to open a political action committee.  He was going to make a trip to New Hampshire.  He was already talking to staff in these states.  So yes, this was a guy, make no...

MATTHEWS:  So can he get to New Hampshire by going through Shanghai?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Roger with this.  It seems like—you know that old term, to “shanghai” crew people, you know, just to go somewhere, grab a guy and send him off to Shanghai.  It was an old reference point.

But, literally, that‘s where he‘s going. 

ROGER SIMON, CHIEF POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THEPOLITICO.COM:  No.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He‘s going far away. 

SIMON:  Well, he‘s going to Beijing, but I get your point. 

Yes, but, sometimes, even in the news analysis business, a cigar is just a cigar. 

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON:  As hard as it is to believe, here is a guy who speaks Mandarin Chinese fluently...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SIMON:  ... who is...

MATTHEWS:  From that—from his Mormon mission?  How did he learn that?

SIMON:  Right. 

(CROSSTALK)  

SIMON:  ... interest in the subject—who actually lived in Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan, the republic of China, who was ambassador to Singapore...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SIMON:  ... who adopted a—he and his wife adopted a Chinese daughter. 

It has got to be—it has to be domestic U.S. politics for this guy to be ambassador to China.  I mean, come on. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, let‘s talk about how...

(CROSSTALK)

SIMON:  This guy is actually qualified for this job. 

MATTHEWS:  How is the—how is the Hillary Clinton appointment doing?  I have seen a more—a coalition between Barack Obama, the president, and the Clintons as a very impressive coalition, not just on foreign policy, Mideast especially, but, because the Clintons are so pro-Israeli, I thought it was helpful to bring them aboard, bring her aboard, and him aboard inferentially.

And how is that working out, by the way, Chris?  Can you tell if that‘s a healthy coalition, as per the last three or four months? 

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA:  You know, I think, generally, as it relates certainly to Bill Clinton, not necessarily to Hillary Clinton, from Barack Obama‘s perspective, no news is good news. 

And you have not seeing Bill Clinton doing that extended interview with Charlie Rose or some—some outlet, sort of offering what could be taken as a veiled criticism of the Obama administration.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CILLIZZA:  He‘s been very disciplined. 

I think we expect her to be disciplined.  I don‘t think we would ever think Hillary Clinton is going to come out and question things Barack Obama is doing.  Everything looks good on the surface.

But, again, with two politicians at that level, it‘s so hard to know what‘s actually going on behind the scenes. 

One quick thing, though, Chris, the—the president, I do believe, does consult with Senator Clinton, rightfully so, about health care, as he prepares to try and pass a health care plan through Congress.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  So, it is a real coalition.  I‘m building it up here. 

I think it‘s more than just an appointment. 

SIMON:  I think everybody in the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, has very quickly fallen into the role of second banana.  They know what their role is.  Their role is to help the president.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How many second bananas does he have? 

SIMON:  A lot, you know, but they—but remember, when Hillary Clinton was first appointed and even before she was appointed, there was a little buzz and consternation, oh, could she really play a secondary role?  Wouldn‘t she try to dominate the news? 

She doesn‘t try to dominate the room—news.  I mean, she doesn‘t usually dominate the news cycle at all, even on her foreign trips.

MATTHEWS:  Well, this week, it‘s going to be very tricky because of the Netanyahu visit to the United States.  He‘s a man of the right in Israeli politics.  He‘s Likud.  He‘s got a partnership, to some extent, with the Labor leader, Ehud Barak.

But, generally, he‘s a man of the right, who opposes our foreign policy on two-state solution.  Hillary will play a role here.  What will it be?  Because it seems like she‘s a real coalition partner now.

SIMON:  She is deeply backgrounded on the politics of the Mideast.  And Netanyahu is—you‘re correct—a figure of the right, but there is no Israeli prime minister who at any time in the country‘s history, from 1948 until now, who can risk a breach with the United States.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, sure.  But he can—it‘s interesting, by bringing Hillary in—and I didn‘t get into depth here as I much—I‘m getting into deeper than I want to here, but it seems to me, Chris Cillizza, that there‘s no alternative to—to Bibi Netanyahu within the Democratic Party. 

If the Clintons are aboard, the Democratic Party is united with the president. 

CILLIZZA:  Oh...

MATTHEWS:  And Bibi has a deal with a united Democratic Party in terms of U.S. negotiations.

CILLIZZA:  And, look, I think Senator Clinton, Secretary of State Clinton now, understands that, as does her husband. 

I think, to Roger‘s point, Senator Clinton, Secretary of State Clinton now, she knows that, when she says something, it‘s going to get big news.  When—if she says anything that‘s taken as a perceived break on anything...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CILLIZZA:  ... particularly Israel policy, it‘s going to be big news. 

She‘s been very measured, very careful not to do that. 

And while we know she‘s a part of this conversation—it would be ridiculous for her not to be...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well...

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA:  ... I think she‘s been smart not to paint herself as sort of the top banana, to use your phrase. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, it will be interesting to see Huntsman and how he does in Beijing, because he has to be the president‘s man.  He‘s not just the U.S. ambassador.  He‘s Barack Obama‘s ambassador to a very tricky situation. 

SIMON:  And—but it‘s very significant, I think, more—there is politics to that decision, but it‘s Chinese politics.  It‘s very significant...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SIMON:  ... that a guy deeply backgrounded on the politics of Taiwan...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

SIMON:  ... is now going to be ambassador to Beijing.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s going to be so great to have a political appointment in Beijing who can talk the language of the Chinese people, especially the leadership. 

It‘s going to be great.  Smart move again. 

Roger Simon, Chris Cillizza, we all agree.  Interesting to watch the president.  He‘s a great beat. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Up next: the “Sideshow,” the HARDBALL “Sideshow,” on what

President Bush thinks about Dick Cheney‘s media blitz.  We‘re going to have

Will Ferrell is back.  This guy does a great job on W.  And Darrell Hammond is Dick Cheney. 

We will be back with the “Sideshow.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Sideshow.”

First up: substitute in for B-Rod.  Indicted Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich could have been a contender, a reality show star, glittering with name I.D.  He could have been down in beautiful Costa Rica this summer shooting NBC‘s “I‘m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!” the “Survivor”-style reality series.

Then here came the judge saying he couldn‘t be such a hotshot, given the charges against him.  But guess what?  It looks like B-Rod‘s wife, the feisty Patti Blagojevich, is heading there to take his place on the show.  That‘s what her lawyer is saying, also that he urged her not to do it. 

And here is Will Ferrell back on stage at “SNL,” doing his Broadway take on George W. Bush ambushing a media-happy Dick Cheney in the makeup room of “Meet the Press.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)   

DARRELL HAMMOND, ACTOR:  If you‘re referring to our interrogation policies, Mr. President, I have no regrets. 

WILL FERRELL, ACTOR:  Yes, well, here is my regret, that I didn‘t have me a vice president like Joe Biden. 

I mean, look at those two, going out for burgers...

(LAUGHTER)

FERRELL:  ... laughing it up. 

(LAUGHTER)

FERRELL:  I needed that kind of V.P., the kind that did dumb stuff to make me look smarter. 

(LAUGHTER)

FERRELL:  Instead, I got the one guy that scares me more than my dad. 

(LAUGHTER)

FERRELL:  Dick, it‘s over.  We need to move on. 

HAMMOND:  We have a legacy to protect.  What would you have me do, Mr.

President? 

FERRELL:  Just stick to our plan.  Let‘s let—let‘s let history be the judge, OK?  It‘s an awesome plan, because history takes forever. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I think these guys do a better job than the guys they‘re playing.  No wonder Cheney is out there on rear guard. 

Anyway, speaking of Cheney, it‘s time for tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

On yesterday‘s talk show circuit, the top three Republican leaders, Party Chairman Michael Steele, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, House Republican leader John Boehner, were all asked to comment on the former V.P.‘s media blitz attacking President Obama. 

So, how many backed up Cheney?  Let‘s listen. 

(BELL RINGING)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS”)

DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”:  Dick Cheney out there, does it hurt that effort?  Would you like him to tone down the rhetoric? 

MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE:  No, no, Dick

I‘m not in the business of suppressing someone‘s opinion and their thoughts. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BELL RINGING)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER:  I think the administration has responded to the critique of the vice president and others that it might have had the—might be drifting off in the wrong direction on national security issues. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BELL RINGING)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “STATE OF THE UNION WITH JOHN KING”)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER:  Dick Cheney is a private citizen entitled to his opinion, big—big member... 

JOHN KING, HOST:  Would you rather he not speak it so publicly?

BOEHNER:  ... big member in our party.  And, frankly, having—having these voices out there, it doesn‘t hurt us.  It helps us. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I used to have a bell like that on my bicycle.

Anyway, all three, Steele, Boehner, McConnell, the top three leaders of the party give Cheney the good housekeeping seal of approval, or at least his right to do his own cooking—tonight‘s “Big Number.”

Up next:  Get this.  When Donald Rumsfeld briefed then President Bush on the Iraq war, his top-secret briefing reports were headlined by quotes from the Bible, as if the war in Iraq was some sort of crusade.  Was Rumsfeld using religion to justify the war, or was he just manipulating George W. Bush? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks rallying strongly, following last week‘s losses, with the Dow Jones industrial average surging 235 points on Monday.  The S&P 500 gained just 26, but closed back above that key 900 level.  The Nasdaq climbed 52 points, thanks to strength in technology shares. 

The world‘s second largest home improvement chain, Lowe‘s, beat earnings estimates.  It reported a smaller-than-expected drop in first-quarter profits as it reined in costs.  Lowe‘s also raised its outlook for the year.  And shares were up 7 percent today.  Home Depot reports its earnings tomorrow. 

Home builders are growing more optimistic about the state of the housing industry.  An index of builders‘ confidence rose for a second straight month in May. 

And oil prices shot up to a six-month high.  Crude gained $2.69, closing at $59.03 a barrel. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to Chris and HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL—HARDBALL

A new article in “GQ” magazine reports that some classified briefings from the DOD, the Department of Defense, that went to President Bush as the Iraq war was unfolding had cover sheets with quotes from the Bible. 

Here are some examples.  This cover sheet with the picture of Saddam Hussein has the following passage from the Bible: “It is God‘s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.”  That‘s 1 Peter 2:15. 

This one with a picture of a kneeling soldier has a passage from Proverbs—quote—“Commit to the lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed,” Proverbs 16:3. 

This one with crossed towards and a tank has a passage from Isaiah—quote—“Open the gates, that the righteous nation may enter the nation that keeps faith.”

So, what was going on here? 

Joining me is MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and “The Salon”‘s Joan Walsh. 

Joan, what do you make of the fact that these things are turning up that show some kind of strange means of communication with the president by the DOD secretary, who, by the way, once told me he was never asked by the president whether we should invade Iraq. 

JOAN WALSH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, SALON.COM:  I—I remember that.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it sounds like he did like the idea. 

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH:  I think he liked the idea very much, and I‘m sure he loved this imagery and this symbolism. 

I mean, Chris, we knew that they were not terribly well-informed about that area of the world going back to the beginning of the war.  They were using Crusade imagery.  In the early conversations, I think they wanted to call it Operation Smite the Infidels, but they decided that was a bad move. 

This particular set of slides, I mean, it‘s fascinating, but I think that the—the—the part of the Draper story that really got to me was all the evidence that Bush knew so early that Rumsfeld was really in over his head, did not know how to—how to win this war, ultimately, knew how to topple Saddam, obviously, but that was the easy part, tried to grab the reconstruction, then, when he blew it, threw it aside, wasn‘t interested in it anymore, gave it back to State, and then finally all the revelations about Hurricane Katrina, where, out of kind of a—kind of feeling of pique—he thought that there would be questions about chain of command—he would not deploy regular troops to secure New Orleans. 

So, you see how this lineup...

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s get to that.  That‘s right.  It‘s a fascinating bit of...

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH:  Anyway, you have this lineup of—of—of misdeeds.  And it takes—and it still takes Bush a year-and-a-half after Katrina to fire him. 

I mean, it‘s just—it‘s just shocking. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at what he wrote, Robert Draper, in

“GQ” magazine—quote—“Over the past three years, several of Bush‘s

former advisers have described their boss‘ worst mistake as keeping

Rumsfeld around as long as he did.  Quote: ‘Don did not like to play well

with other people‘ -- close quote.  One Cabinet official told me, stating a

grievance that he nearly—that nearly everyone into the White House

seemed to share, except for Bush himself.  ‘There was exasperation,‘

recalled a senior aide.  ‘How much more are we going to have to endure from

him?  Why are we keeping this guy?‘”

What struck me Pat Buchanan is this, that—that Rumsfeld didn‘t want to help with Katrina, that he had the president, himself, who was grossly criticized on this program, as—as well as elsewhere, for not paying attention to the horror of—of Katrina as the—as the city went under water, saying to Rumsfeld, don‘t you watch television?  This country looks like a Third World country, the way we‘re handling this. 

So, here was the president, who only saw what was happening through a DVD that was put together for him about Thursday of that week, blasting his DOD chief for not even being aware.  Rumsfeld didn‘t want to help save people down there, apparently. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I think the—that‘s a devastating story, the Katrina story. 

But the president of the United States is saying that on the Friday. 

Katrina hit on Monday.  He was behind the loop. 

WALSH:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  One guy was five days behind.  The other guy was four days behind. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes, all right.

But let me just say this about these Christian messages.  Look, Chris, anybody that has worked with an evangelical Christian knows, if you‘re ever in times of trouble, you get messages from them.  They cite the Bible, the chapter and verse.  The fact that some Christian at the Pentagon on the cover of a super-secret memo to the president of the United States used these biblical verses to encourage the president of the United States, a fellow evangelical Christian, there‘s nothing at all wrong with that. 

And I have real trouble with the mockery tone of a lot of people about that.

On Rumsfeld, let me say this.  This whole thing is a big hit piece.  I don‘t like the anonymity of people all through it trashing him. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  But you‘re right.  That‘s the one thing, that and the Putin thing, which are really of concern, because it suggests that all of these guys were really out of touch with what was happening, because of the cable was down there Tuesday and Wednesday. 

And here was a guy that had the 82nd Airborne, and all you have got to say is, “Mr. President, the 82nd Airborne can be down there in 12 hours.”  We can‘t do any fighting work, but they can do the logistics.  I suggest they go. 

And the president should have thought of that.  Rumsfeld should have thought of that.  Staff should have thought of it.  They all fell down. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go back to the biblical quotes.  I have a concern here.  I want to let Joan do the talking, if you haven‘t, your thought, that there was a religious overtone to this war, some sort of righteous cause.  There‘s phrases like Operation Righteous this and Righteous that.  You don‘t have to analyze the cause of the war.  You don‘t have to justify it to mankind.  You have some sort of higher authority you‘re listening to. 

In fact, President Bush did refer to that at one point, that he was listening to another father.  So, he did this sort of messianic—that‘s not the right word—religious notion behind the war.  I don‘t know whether that‘s scary to a lot of people, but unless he had some special knowledge theologically of why that war was better—he ought to tell us why it was theologically necessary and whatever.  If you have some rationale for the war besides WMD and some 9/11 connection or Anthrax or anything else the neo-cons cooked up to justify that war, tell us. 

(CROSS TALK)

WALSH:  I don‘t share Pat‘s equanimity about this.  Certainly, I think people should be entitled to pray privately, pray in small groups if they want to, as we‘re on the verge of going to war.  But we are a secular country and this is a region of the world in which religious differences played a hugely debilitating role.  So it‘s especially important there to keep our messaging free—

BUCHANAN:  Joan—

WALSH:  And nothing is ever secret, Pat.  It was inevitable it will—

BUCHANAN:  This is a cover memo on an intelligence memo to the president of the United States.  Have you ever read the Second Inaugural of Abraham Lincoln, talking about—if we have one drop of blood drawn by the lash has to be drawn by the sword, then God is a rightful judge—

(CROSS TALK) 

BUCHANAN:  All through wars—FDR has used religious statements—

WALSH:  Many presidents have done that, probably all. 

BUCHANAN:  What we‘re getting out of Joan I think is really this attitude of hostility to any mention of religion.  But the president is a deeply religious man.  I‘m sure he prayed before he went to war—

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  But Donald Rumsfeld is not a religious man, according to this article.

BUCHANAN:  He didn‘t think—

MATTHEWS:  Wasn‘t it his memo? 

BUCHANAN:  Sure.  But it‘s put on an intelligence memo, which goes from the Department of Defense.  It was written by this Evangelical Christian, or he put the covers on there.   

WALSH:  A junior officer did it, it‘s true. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s God‘s will that by doing good—and then we have opened the gates that the righteous nation may enter.  Is this biblical prophecy that justifies the war? 

(CROSS TALK)

WALSH:  I think prayer is one thing; prophecy is another. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s encouraging a war.  Let me ask you this, there‘s one thing about Lincoln; he did give the best speech ever given in American history in his Second Inaugural.  He tried to explain to the American people that just saw 600,000 people killed in a Civil War, brother against brother, that somehow this was expiation for slavery.  He tried to find in the horror of the war some understanding, human understanding of the war through our background and our belief in the Bible. 

He didn‘t try to sell the war.  He tried to give some sense to it. 

That‘s different. 

BUCHANAN:  Chris, that is a—

MATTHEWS:  It wasn‘t a sales pitch. 

WALSH:  I think it‘s very different. 

BUCHANAN:  In his memo to the president is a memo which a handful of people read and there‘s a cover letter on a memo. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re not concerned that the people around the president sold him on this war? 

BUCHANAN:  You‘re talking about Feith and Wolfowitz and guys like that. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m asking, do you think the people around the president had a stronger ideological commitment to the war than he did? 

BUCHANAN:  I think they did.  I think the Feith, Wolfowitz, that whole gang did.  But this guy is—he‘s not even a general, I think, putting this together, sending a Christian a message of affirmation and support.  There‘s nothing wrong with that. 

MATTHEWS:  There‘s a lot of right wing—

WALSH:  But we have non-Christians in our military.  Muslim analysts who saw this were offended by it.  We‘re living in a different time. 

BUCHANAN:  For God‘s sake.  Some Muslim at the Pentagon didn‘t like a Biblical quote? 

MATTHEWS:  We‘re fighting a side that uses religion to justify horror. 

I wonder if we should get into the same business. 

WALSH:  I‘m with you, Chris. 

BUCHANAN:  What are you thinking?  The United States has always tried to believe that God was on our side when—

MATTHEWS:  Maybe we should be on his side.  Thank you, Pat Buchanan. 

Thank you, Joan Walsh. 

Up next, Republicans continue to make hay of Speaker Pelosi‘s accusation that the CIA misled her about the use of water boarding.  And they will continue to do so if I know anything about politics.  Can Speaker Pelosi weather this storm?  The politics fix is next.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the politics fix with Lois Romano of the “Washington Post” and Michael Eric Dyson of Georgetown University.  He‘s a professor at Georgetown.  He‘s also the author of the new book, “Can You Hear Me Now?”  Thank you, Michael, for joining us, professor.  Thank you, Lois, my friend.

let me ask you, Lois, about this question.  As a reporter, you know all about this issue of abortion rights.  Certainly it got all the ink over the weekend.  Some of the networks, especially Fox, was wallowing in this issue all weekend.  This fight has been with us since we were born, since ‘73.  It will continue. 

The president is trying to find some common ground.  Fairly or not, I think fairly, he‘s trying to find ways where people who think we‘ve had—we have just too much resort to abortion in this country; we have to radically deal with that question itself. 

Can he do it?  Can he achieve a focus now on unwanted pregnancies, on

birth control, if you will, on other steps to avoid this almost million a

year abortion rate?  ~

LOIS ROMANO, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Yes, and I think that‘s what he wants to do.  He wants to take the discussion away from the actual fight over abortion, because nobody likes abortion.  I mean, some people are for the right to choose and some people are against it.  Nobody says, oh, abortion is great. 

So I think he does want to put the emphasis on, you know, trying to stop it through all of the various agencies.  However, you know, one thing that we have to keep in mind is that it‘s not—it‘s not a hot issue when other things are really important.  And the economy is a really hot issue right now.  So issues like abortion tend to recede.  So I don‘t know how much traction he‘ll get on it or his opponents will get on it.

MATTHEWS:  Michael, your thoughts on this?  As a cultural issue and moral issue, it‘s very hot, I can tell you.  Looking at the faces on both sides of this issue, and being involved in discussions like this, you can‘t say it doesn‘t matter a lot to some people.  A lot. 

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY:  No doubt.  I think that, look—and I agree with my colleague.  Obviously it‘s a very difficult subject.  Nobody likes it.  Nobody is trying to engage in abortion as a form of birth control.  Nobody is trying to resort to it as easily as one would drink a cup of water. 

At the same time, I think there are some deep and profound economic and social issues that lie behind this.  The president has acknowledged—he said fundamentally, we‘re probably going to be irreconcilable, but can we deal with some things we can control.  That is to say, how we treat those who have unwanted pregnancies.  Can we deal with a society that provides more opportunity, so we can tap down on, if you will, the escalating, and the ratcheting up of the numbers of people who have abortions?  And can we deal, quite frankly, with other broader issues that perhaps the Catholic church has to contend with? 

For instance, if you want to talk about abortion being controlled, on the one hand, on the other hand, can we talk about birth control?  But if you prohibit birth control, as a direct repudiation of the Catholic teaching, and then you see the escalation of abortion, perhaps there has to be weighing out theologically, and I think in terms of doctrine as to what will be a priority. 

At the end of the day, though, I think what is important is that Obama stepped up into the lines den.  The president of Notre Dame, to his credit, said, look, let‘s flip a script.  This man has come here knowing that we disagree with his policies.  But perhaps we can find some common ground in wanting to deal with people, not only in terms of abortion, but what happens when the children get here and how can we take care of them? 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to Lois one more time around.  It seems to me that what struck me in this statistics today—four out of five unwanted pregnancies—abortions occur where there‘s no marriage involved.  They are not married, the people involved.  The husband, the father, if you will, not the husband—he‘s not a husband.  That‘s the point, I guess.  Poor people, too, minorities, too.  Something like half the abortions are among non-whites, if you will. 

So it is in many ways an economic issue.  The question is, can the Democratic president we have right now, with all his access to social policy, really encourage the use of some kind of a way of avoiding these unwanted pregnancies?  Birth control, education, put it all together, can he really change the situation for people who really don‘t pay attention for the need to avoid an unwanted pregnancy?  Because they don‘t do it? 

ROMANO:  Well, I think that‘s his intent.  But I think as Michael said, he‘s a little bit hamstrung because he‘s got conservatives saying that they will only accept abstinence, where he might want to do more with sex education.  So what he‘s trying to say, as you said, is let‘s get all of these issues out there, so we can thwart it before it begins. 

I don‘t know the answer to that.  I think it‘s a very tough fight because he‘s fighting it on a lot of different funds. 

MATTHEWS:  It seems to me if a daughter tells her father that I‘m using birth control, it‘s a whole lot different in the way it strikes a family than I just had an abortion.  I think these are different levels to most people.  We‘ll talk about the theology in perhaps a different environment than this one.  We‘re in a secular environment here, not a theological one.

Thank you very much.  We‘ll be right back with Lois Romano and Michael Eric Dyson to talk about another hot issue.  That issue is very interesting.  We‘ll be right back with that.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the politics fix.  Lois, it seems like Nancy Pelosi, who I always thought was one tough customer, has got herself in a situation.  Here‘s the Republican leader, her opposite number, John Boehner, sticking it to her today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, MINORITY LEADER:  Lying to the Congress of the United States is a crime.  And if the speaker is accusing the CIA and other intelligence of lying or misleading the Congress, she should come forward with evidence and turn that over to the Justice Department, so they can be prosecuted. 

And if that‘s not the case.  I think that she ought to apologize to our intelligence professionals around the world. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That was yesterday.  Lois, it seems like Nancy Pelosi has a winning streak for many months now.  These guys who have been on the losing side of those battles see their opportunity now to nail her. 

ROMANO:  Well, she gave them something.  And this is the first break that they‘ve had in months and months and months.  And they just won‘t let it go.  They are just keeping their foot on her neck.  I mean, one of the things I was thinking about is that Panetta came to the agency‘s defense, which I think probably surprised her, because they are very close.  The one thing Panetta can do for her is not release the minutes of those meetings. 

This thing has to go away at some point.  And I think it‘s a nightmare for her and it‘s also a nightmare for the White House.  They don‘t want to be anywhere near this thing. 

MATTHEWS:  Michael, this is the first time that the president has been upstaged.  There‘s more talk about Pelosi now.  First time since he got elected.  She‘s taking a show away from him.  And she‘s in trouble on this issue.  And Panetta could release those records, those memoranda for the records that could show her in a bad light, show that she was briefed on the issue of water boarding, if she was.  It could be trouble here. 

DYSON:  There‘s no question that it could be trouble.  As Lois said, obviously the difficulty is that they have been handed something on a silver platter, because she‘s been so formidable in her rhetorical skills of using the bully pulpit of her office to keep the president‘s agenda, but more especially the agenda of the Democratic Congress going, and in line.  And now with this kind of loose, undisciplined action and behavior, it‘s suggesting she could be subverted. 

But I think the bigger problem here is not what Nancy Pelosi did or did not know, but it‘s a brilliant strategy of using that energy to deflect the energy off of torture and water boarding, and how wrong it was, and how problematic it was. 

MATTHEWS:  Michael, well said.  Thank you, Lois Romano.  Thank you, Michael Eric Dyson.  Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.

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

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