updated 9/16/2004 10:41:16 AM ET 2004-09-16T14:41:16

Guests: Cornel West, Christopher Buckley, Kitty Kelley, Ed Rogers, Bob Zelnick, James Warren, Emily Will

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight a top aide to the senior President Bush takes on allegations made about the Bush family in Kitty Kelley‘s new book, “The Family.” 

Plus the political insights from the brightest lights on right and the left, authors Christopher Buckley and Cornell West. 

And Republicans in Congress call for a probe of CBS News for its use of disputed documents regarding the president‘s national guard service. 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews. 

Kitty Kelley‘s new book, “The Family,” the real story of the Bush dynasty, contains assertions by unnamed sources about George W. Bush‘s personal life before he became president.  The White House has dismissed Kelley‘s book as a series of trashy fabrications.  And in my interview with Kelley on Tuesday, she admitted she could not produce any eyewitnesses to any wrongdoing by either president or the first lady. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What about the accusation in your book that George Bush, the president of the United States now, snorted coke at Camp David when his father was president? 

Who was your firsthand source on that? 

KITTY KELLEY, AUTHOR:  The firsthand source is unnamed.  I confirmed it with his former sister-in-law. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of the pattern in your book of citing sources that don‘t have firsthand experience by name—now, listen.  And then making statements about sources whose names can‘t be used? 

What good is it getting the name throughout this book of people who don‘t know what they‘re talking about in terms of firsthand experience and then not citing the one you claim or say as an author do have first has not experience? 

What good does it do to the reader to constantly come across names that don‘t know what they‘re talking about in term of firsthand experience and then be told by you, the author, that there‘s a plethora of people you there who are on the record with you but don‘t wish to go on the record in terms of publication? 

I understand how journalism works.  I‘ve been dealing with this for years myself.  I know how tricky it is to try to get people to come forward. 

Could you get anyone to come forward and say that any of the Bush family, let‘s start with the president and first lady broke the law? 

Did anyone come forward and say, I‘m willing to go on the record and say, I was with him, I saw him, I did it with him, I know he did it, anybody? 

KELLEY:  No. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Ed Rogers is a Republican strategist who worked as the deputy assistant to the first President Bush.  He also worked closely with George W. Bush in 1987 for Bush 41‘s election. 

ED ROGERS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Obviously, I was Lee Atwater‘s deputy and he was at the campaign.  And he was an intense, focused, deliberate, good colleague, good pal, good defender of his father, and a good operative, a good ear.  He and Lee Atwater were sympatico on their instincts about a lot—on politics.  They were much sync.  I think there was originally some thinking he would be there to keep an eye on Lee Atwater, when in fact, they became fast allies and fast friends.

MATTHEWS:  I went over the interview with Lee Atwater (UNINTELLIGIBLE) late—late Republican strategist.  He was running the Bush campaign in 1988.  I remember (UNINTELLIGIBLE) interview him back on 15th Street over there. 

Was Lee the boss? 

ROGERS:  Oh yes, Lee was the boss, no question. 

MATTHEWS:  How much swagger factor was there with Bush W., George W.  back then?

ROGERS:  Swagger factor?

MATTHEWS:  Yes, was he acting like the rich kid son or the rich mans son or the presidents son?

ROGERS:  No at all.  In fact, was almost to much the other way.  I mean, there is a certain amount of difference that comes with being a family for the candidate, family member of the vice president of the United States.  But he made it a point to dispel that, to diminish that, to fit in.  His offices wasn‘t big.  He didn‘t have any perks.  He was—he was irreverent.  He was a good fun mix part of the office and didn‘t appear to be an overseer.  Didn‘t appear to be a heavy hand.  He was a great colleague.  He was a lot of fun to be around—he was a lot of fun. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the book.  You watched Kitty Kelley on this program last night. 

What did you make of her? 

She pointed out a couple of things, let‘s go with the theme. 

ROGERS:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  The Bush family is not what it seems. 

ROGERS:  I thought her interview with you—there were times where I was almost pulling for her.  It was so awkward and so clumsy and so contrived.  I thought there were times where I asked the question to myself, did she write this book? 

Because she clearly doesn‘t appear to be well versed in the details.  She doesn‘t appear to be ready to handle some of the scrutiny that it‘s getting now.  So I thought that the whole exercise and the whole encounter with you showed it for what it is.  A clumsy attempt at sensationalism that probably exposes and is a product of some of her political biases.  I think this is a puff of smoke.  I don‘t think it‘s going to amount to anything, because there‘s no substance there. 

And the notion...

MATTHEWS:  What I pointed out, and I want to continue with that.  What I noticed was that those people who spoke badly of the Bush‘s, didn‘t actually know what they were talking about.  They were dealing in hearsay, secondhand.  They were dealing in their own speculations, which is pretty clearly stated in the book.  And those people who had particular character witnesses against the Bush‘s, said they had done things that were either illegal or definitely improper weren‘t on the record. 

Do you have a sense when dealing with the Bush family, that they‘re powerful is overwhelming that people would be afraid to go on the record?

ROGERS:  I don‘t think the Bush family is that way at all.  I think the Bush family, and again working for Bush 41, he made it a point to accommodate.  He made it a point to listen to the other side. 

Where is George Mitchell, let‘s talk to him.  Too bad Tip O‘Neill is not around.  But respect for the other side, patience with the other side.  Never being a sore loser nor an overblown winner.  I mean, everything we know about the Bush family can‘t be contrived after all these years.  And that‘s what she wants to suggest. 

She wants to success—suggest that there‘s some sort of dark underbelly in all of this public service and honorable, decent behavior and role modeling that the Bush‘s have done for much of America is somehow contrived and insincere and a product of a sinister motive.  How ridiculous is that?  She‘s not going to—She not going to convince anybody of her point of view. 

MATTHEWS:  What is the word among the Republicans circles about Kitty Kelley‘s book? 

What are they saying inside in term of the campaign, in terms of the general Bush family politically? 

ROGERS:  Everything that is just being dismissed with a shrug to it is over the top.  That it is so outrageous that it diminishes itself.  Two, that there is a part of a left wing conspiracy out there from Michael Moore to Whoopi Goldberg to forged documents. 

MATTHEWS:  Did Kitty Kelley have much (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with each other.

ROGERS:  Well, I think they probably applaud each other. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me try to be bipartisan here, as I always do.

There‘s so much search and destroy crap going on from both sides there time.  It is not just...

ROGERS:  From both sides? 

MATTHEWS:  Swift boat guys.  All that stuff.  You can say it‘s not coordinated.  But there‘s so much attempt to destroying the character of both these candidates.  I have never seen anything like it.  There‘s a major enterprise in these so called 527‘s and in documentaries.  You‘re right, Michael Moore is a brutal piece on President Bush.  But isn‘t it going on on both sides?  Don‘t you read, the top book right now isn‘t Kitty Kelley‘s book. 

The top book is the swift boat guys going after the Democratic candidate.  Number one book. 

ROGERS:  To come fair swift boat guys to Whoopi Goldberg and Michael Moore,and that crowd, I think is unfair.  These are not partisan combatant liars, they‘re not.  That‘s not what they look like.  That‘s why they‘re credible.  That‘s why they have so much currency in the political debate right now.  But When You look at the other side, they are what they are.  Michael Moore is what he is.  Kitty Kelley is a poison pin, scandal, gossip mongerer.  Whoopi Goldberg is sort of an outrageous weird character.  Now they have weird forged documents and things trying to slander Bush personally.  What is the message coming from the left in America right now?  Are they trying to win a policy argument?  Are they doing all this weird mean stuff? 

MATTHEWS:  Fair enough.  Thank you very much.  Ed Rogers, thanks for joining us. 

ROGERS:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, 48 days now until the election.  HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster will be here with the latest strategies on both sides. 

And later, Republicans in Congress call for an investigation into whether CBS News used fake documents in a report about President Bush‘s military service record during the Vietnam era. 

And coming up this Friday at 7:00 eastern, the debut of HARDBALL: THE HORSE RACE.  With all the biggest stories, the latest polls and the hottest thinking in this week‘s electioneering.  If you care about the election, you won‘t want to miss the HORSE RACE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Forty-eight days to go before the election now.  And the talk from both sides is getting tougher.  HARDBALL correspondent, David Shuster, is here with me to give me a score card on whose being the toughest—David.

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well Christ, at a time when both campaigns have become especially aggressive, John Kerry today introduced a new line of attack.  He challenged the president‘s credibility and blasted Mr. Bush for being the first president in 80 years to preside over an economy that has lost more jobs than has created.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  His is the excuse presidency, never wrong, never responsible, never to blame.  President Bush‘s desk isn‘t where the buck stops, it‘s where the blame begins.  He‘s blamed just about everybody but himself and his administration for America‘s economic problems, as well as other problems like Abu Ghraib and other things that have taken place.  And if he has missed you in that process, don‘t worry folks, he‘s got 48 days left until the election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Now no matter what you think of the Kerry delivery there, that economic message is important in the Midwest, because it‘s a part of the country that have seen a lot of high paying manufacturing jobs disappear.  But it‘s also an area of the country that may be receptive to the charge, whether it‘s fair or not, that John Kerry stands for higher taxes and bigger government.  And the president has been making that charge every day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m running against a fellow who has had a history of voting for higher taxes, and thus far in the campaign, he‘s proposed over $2 trillion in new federal spending.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  That‘s a pretty good line.  And even some Democrats say they admire the president‘s chutzpah.  Because when you look at what the president outlined at his own Republican convention, at the Republican agenda, the president‘s agenda would cost the federal treasury not $2 trillion, but $3 trillion. 

Nonetheless, it does appear that the Republicans are landing more punches than the Democrats.  And you can really see that, Chris, when you look at where the campaigns are putting their advertising money right now.  The president‘s campaign has decided to pull their ads in Arkansas and Missouri.  These are 2 states that were supposed to be close, but where the president has widened his lead.

The president is adding television commercial in states where the race is tightening: Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Michigan.  As a result, John Kerry has been forced to ad commercials in Michigan and Minnesota, 2 states that are must win states, according to the Democrats. 

And then, of course Chris, you have the bit 3: Ohio, Florida and Pennsylania, it is an all out ad war in those 3 states.  Both campaigns agree, whoever wins 2 of 3 of those states is going to win this elections.

One other note, John Kerry, he hasn‘t had a news conference in more than a month.  He‘s accepted an invitation to go on David Letterman on Monday—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  You know, it looks to me like if you‘re not an interested voter, in other words, you‘re an undecided voter and you haven‘t really gotten involved passionately in this elections yet, which is what, 10 percent of the people?

SHUSTER:  Yes.  10 percent or less.

MATTHEWS:  Why would a person who shows so little interest in the government, at this point, not to have a favorite in this race, give a damn about the deficit?  So it seems to me, the only person whose likely to switch now, is the tax sensitive person.  The person doesn‘t care about government, politics, or any of the stuff we talk about here, all they care about is their personal situation, which is understandable.  They‘re going to vote against a guy that‘s going to raise taxes.

SHUSTER:  Well, Chris, the Democrats...

MATTHEWS:  So, why do we think the undecideds are going to go for Kerry?

SHUSTER:  Because for Kerry, and the Democrats to acknowledge, for Kerry to make this argument work, he‘s got to portray the president as having been reckless with how he‘s handled the government‘s finances.  That if Kerry can say, look, Republicans ought to stand for paying their bills, I‘m the one whose being honest, saying we‘ve got to bring the budget into balanced.  If he can make that argument, and not confuse it, than the Democrats feel they have a chance to make inroads.  And deflect against the charges that Kerry would stand for higher taxes.

MATTHEWS:  Thanks a lot.  David Shuster.

Up next, the accuracy of “60 Minutes” report on President Bush‘s National Guard service during the Vietnam error has come into question.  Did CBS use fake military documents?  Bob Zelnick and Jim Warren, and forensic document examiner, Emily Will, are all going to be joining us to talk about this hot one.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

CBS News, as everyone knows, is in the hot seat over the authenticity of some documents that raised questions about President Bush‘s National Guard service during the Vietnam War.  Today, Republican Congressman Chris Cox of California called for a congressional probe into whether CBS News used fake documents.  And House Majority Whip Roy Blunt wrote a letter to the president of CBS News which reads, quote, “To date, CBS‘s response to the specific and devastating criticisms of the accuracy of its reporting has been to question the motives of its critics, to offer half-truths in its own defense, to refuse to disclose crucial evidence and to circle the wagons.  We urge CBS to retract its story, and to disclose the identities of the people who have used your network to deceive your viewers in the final weeks of a presidential election.”

Bob Zelnick is a former Pentagon correspondent for ABC News.  He‘s currently the acting chair of Boston University‘s journalism department.  And Jim Warren is deputy managing editor of the “Chicago Tribune.”

Let me go to Bob first of all.  You‘ve worked in a network for years.  You know about its culture, its betting processes.  What did you make of this and why did it happen? 

BOB ZELNICK, FMR. ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  First of all, I think CBS got excited about this story.  Second of all, they invested their reputation in it.  They paraded it on “60 Minutes.”  Third of all, they succumbed to the basic instinct of every news organization, particularly networks.  And that is to stand tough.  To get behind the story, to say you‘re sticking with the story, to fight it out and not to concede anything.  And fourth of all, it has now become a point of honor with CBS and I think it is misplaced honor but I think that‘s what it counts for their stonewalling so far. 

MATTHEWS:  Why would they invest so much and it has become more and more each hour we talk about this, of CBS‘s reputation, the Tiffany network, the network of Walter Cronkite, why did they invest so much into a piece of paper, rather, two pieces of paper? 

ZELNICK:  Four pieces of paper.  Whatever it was.  I think they didn‘t make that kind of investment initially.  They were fighting for a piece of a story that‘s been covered and covered and covered some more.  And they felt they had a new angle of approach on it, something that resolved critical differences in testimony about the years that George W. Bush was in the Texas Air National Guard. 

So I can see them getting excited about it at first.  But as their authenticators have gone south, one at a time, as people who worked in the office of the Air National Guard have disowned the story, as the secretary of Colonel Killian has said, if there were memos like that, she would have typed them and her typewriters did not make those kinds of insignia, I think there‘s no choice left for CBS but to reevaluate its editorial product and perhaps retract it or revise it as the circumstances in fact dictate. 

And I think one other point, I think it is a very easy thing.  The issue is not were there any typewriters on God‘s good earth that could have made these kinds of imprints.  The issue is what about the specific typewriters in that particular office, at that particular time? 

It is very easy to get back into those files and see what other memos were typed at that time and what kind of typewriter was used.  That‘s all there is to this investigation. 

MATTHEWS:  By the way, Bob, you look awful healthy.  It must be good for you to be away from the networks.  Let‘s to go Jim Warren right now. 

Jim, and this reminds me of the Woodstock typewriter back in

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) days, back in the Nixon days.  Why didn‘t somebody who was given these magical pieces of paper that completely nailed the president, if you wanted to nail the president, not think, these look too damn good to be true. 

JAMES WARREN, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  Or perhaps, Chris, examination of grainy bits of the Zapruder film.  I think at this point, I think Bob does have the institutional dynamic correctly, the seeming penchant to hunker down.  In fairness to CBS, they may be hunkering down and defending themselves because they still firmly believe they‘re correct.  I‘m not sure how at this point, any of us is convinced and one gets a fair resolution other than their outing, their source, whoever he or she may be at this point. 

I mean, the irony to this, for me, Chris, is simply that I think generally speaking, it has been asked and answered whether the president got preferential treatment.  We asked in the year 2000.  I think the American public heard, yes, he probably did.  And then made their decision. 

I‘m not sure how we‘re moving the ball forward here.  And also lost is the fact that regardless of what you think of his motives, Ben Barns on camera, former lieutenant governor said, hey, the guy got preferential treatment. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s go to Emily Will right now.  She‘s the forensic document examiner who was asked by CBS to analyze the documents before this story aired.  Emily, when you looked at the documents, were you surprised by that little superscript “th” that appeared a number of times? 

EMILY WILL, FORENSIC DOCUMENT EXAMINER:  I only saw it one time on the two documents that I was examining.  And it‘s not exactly a matter of being surprised.  It was something I noted as being a potential problem for a document that was allegedly typed in June of 1973. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you ever, knowingly what you know of the type script back then, did you ever come across those little “th‘s” in any document of that era? 

WILL:  No, I didn‘t. 

MATTHEWS:  So that—what were the things that made you wonder whether this was an authentic piece of evidence to be used by CBS when you first looked at it? 

WILL:  In addition to the “th,” there was the fact that—I was looking at two questions, documents.  One of which was on air on the CBS program.  And one of which was not.  And I have the two side by side.  One of them had a three-line header at the top.  One of them only had two lines.  It was missing the Houston, Texas part of a line.  And since I was looking at copies, I wasn‘t able to tell whether these were some kind of a preprinted header or not.  But the fact that one had the third line and one didn‘t was leading me away from thinking that it was some kind of military header on some kind of military stationery with a preprinted header for that squadron. 

I also noticed that on the June 24, 1973 document, there‘s a comma after June and none of the other military documents I looked at had a comma in the date.  So I wanted to consider whether that was a problem.  Could that possibly be an indicator that a person not familiar completely with the military documents had done the typing or was it just, you know, somebody sometimes putting the comma and sometimes not?  It was just a question. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Very quickly, Emily.  What was the reaction to you when you raised these questions at CBS? 

WILL:  At first, I was told I would get more documents.  That more known and questioned documents had become available.  But that didn‘t happen. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why do you think they didn‘t act on your concerns? 

WILL:  I can‘t answer to why they did or didn‘t do anything. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We‘re coming back to talk more with Emily Will who looked at these documents before any of us did.  Bob Zelnick as well and also Jim Warren of the “Chicago Tribune.”

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on HARDBALL, much more on the questions and criticism over CBS News and its use of disputed documents in its reporting about President Bush‘s National Guard service record during the Vietnam era, plus, political insights from both sides, from Cornel West and Christopher Buckley. 

But, first, let‘s check in with the MSNBC News Desk. 

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

We‘re back with former ABC News correspondent Bob Zelnick, “The Chicago Tribune”‘s Jim Warren, and forensic document examiner Emily Will.

Emily, what is CBS saying to you now? 

WILL:  I have no idea. 

MATTHEWS:  Have you had any contact with them since you raised your concerns? 

(CROSSTALK)

WILL:  I‘m not talking.  We‘re not—I haven‘t had any contact with them. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you about what you were struck with. 

Were you struck at the time with the fact that they were satisfied thoroughly with the authenticity of these documents, despite your objections?  Is that your sense of where you left it when you gave them the advice not to use these? 

WILL:  When I talked to them Tuesday night, they indicated that they

were going forward with the story, that they had some support at least for

·         I know they had some support for at least the signature on one of the documents.  And it is not a document that I had looked at. 

And I reiterated all the concerns that I had already stated, and said that, Tuesday night, I have all these concerns and questions.  If you run the story tomorrow, Wednesday, then, on Thursday, you‘re going to get hit with the same questions from 100 document examiners. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

Did any other—did they mention that they had employed or sought the counsel of any other document examiner besides yourself on the issue of typescript, not the significant.

WILL:  My understanding was that—I had thought that all of the document examiners they retained were looking at everything.  But I only thought that because that was what they asked me.  So I really don‘t know what they asked other examiners to look at.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

Let me go to Bob Zelnick. 

Would the providence of this kind of a document be important to you as a news editor, where it came from, if it came from an interested party, for example?

ZELNICK:  Yes, it would be important to me, particularly if there was some ambiguity as to its authenticity. 

But, again, I think this is a very easy factual case to resolve.  And if Congress wants to play a role in it, rather than calling executives of broadcast networks on the carpet, which I think is not a very wise course to follow, gain access to the personnel files of the officer in question and see how those files of that period were typed.  That‘s the beginning and the end of it.  If the typing is consistent, then it speaks to the authenticity of these documents. 

If the typing is inconsistent, then the CBS report is dead wrong.  And it doesn‘t matter what CBS says. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.  Go ahead, Jim.

WARREN:  And the reality also is that you had other supposedly respected document analysts now engaging this rather arcane, somewhat obscure conversation on fonts and type size, and other things, IBM Selectrics, you name it.

And, Chris Matthews, I will bet you, say, a state dinner at the Palm that CBS will surface, say, tonight or tomorrow night with one of these folks recanting a previous recantation of the first statement.  And we will proceed no further until, and nobody will be content until they will essentially out their original source.  I think it is more complicated than just delving into those old files, as Bob suggests.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I want to tell you something.  My sense of this is that CBS is the issue now. 

Anyway, thank you, Bob Zelnick, Jim Warren and Emily Will.

When we come back, Professor Cornel West on his new book, “Democracy Matters.”

And don‘t forget, you can keep up with the presidential race on HardBlogger, our election blog Web site.  Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.  And while you‘re there, sign up for HARDBALL‘s free daily e-mail briefing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, Princeton University Professor Cornel West on why democracy matters.  Plus, Christopher Buckley with his new novel—catch this title—“Florence of Arabia.”

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Cornel west is a Princeton University professor of religion.  He is the author of numerous books.  His latest is entitled “Democracy Matters:

Winning the Fight Against Imperialism.”

Professor West, what side are we on in that fight? 

CORNEL WEST, PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY:  Well, I think we have got a long way to go, though, Chris.

I think all of us who care deeply about democracy know that we are in a very dark moment, a very difficult moment.  And it‘s not a matter of just ranting against the Bush administration.  We have to raise some deeper issues.  We have got to raise issues of corruption becoming normal in the system.  We‘ve got to talk about the mediocrity and the timidity of too many of our political leaders and call for what I would say is a democratic awakening. 

We need ordinary citizens to begin to think more critically, to care, and also to engage in hope, as opposed to the kind of trite optimism that we hear from our leaders. 

MATTHEWS:  Draw a distinction, if you can, Professor, between the campaign we‘re watching right now for president and what you write about as sort of the deep democratic feeling in this country. 

WEST:  Well, one is I think that we have a truncated agenda. 

That is, you see, on the one hand, we have George Bush, who will try to appeal to a conservative social base and also play footsie with the center.  And, on the other hand, you have John Kerry, who is coming out of a Milquetoast Democratic Party trying to come alive, thanks to Howard Dean and others, but, yet, has yet to really discover who he really is. 

Now, the deeper issue has to do with the ways in which corporate power, the ways in which lobbyists shape the very framework and of course support both candidates, and ordinary citizens feeling distrustful, feeling disaffected, feeling disillusioned vis-a-vis the political process as a whole.  And it is both those citizens on the one hand, as well as acknowledging that there is a difference between Kerry and Bush. 

I want to be very clear about that.  Of course, I think Nader has got profound insight, but I pray for Nader, not vote for him.  I think we need an anti-Bush united front, because I think Bush actually needs to become a private citizen. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the two big issues right now that the polls show people do care about.  One is the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism, if you accept that formulation.  I have questions about what that means exactly in the context of anything.  But defeating terrorism is a fan—in the good way of any—saying, let‘s stop people from shooting at us and trying to kill us. 

WEST:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  And the other question is, how can you create an economy where more middle-class and working-class people can move up the ladder? 

WEST:  Absolutely.

But I think there‘s two things to keep in mind, Chris.  One is that I think the American people for the most part want honesty from their leaders.  They want the Bush administration to be honest, not mendacious.  And they want Kerry to be straightforward, not waffling. 

And, in addition, I think it is also clear that though there‘s always be some persons who hate Americans and threaten to kill us and so forth, that the Israeli-Palestinian issue is a very important one.  And to the degree to which the United States is viewed as not being even-handed and fair on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, it is going to be very difficult to minimize some of the causes. 

We‘ll never eliminate the causes.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

WEST:  But minimize some of the causes.  To the degree which America is viewed as being excessively biased, then we‘re in trouble.  And this is a question of fairness.  Security of Israel, precious.  Justice for Palestinians, indispensable. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, if you read the 9/11 report, which is beautifully written, I must say, they point out that the people who killed us on 9/11 do use the political arguments against our obvious support for Israel and our support for the Saudi government.  But they say that their fight against us is much more deeply felt.  It has to do with a fundamental challenge to our way of life in this part of the world, the West, I guess you would call it.

Do you accept that or do you believe that real reason they‘re fighting us is that we take Israel‘s side and we back the Saudi Arabian monarchy?

WEST:  Well, I think, keep in mind, there is always going to be some persons, though, brother Chris, who are going to be threatening against the United States and any other country.  You can never minimize that.  And part of that has to do with just the complexity of human nature and persons having insecurities generating certain kind of hatred.

But I think another crucial cause is certainly the United States being unfair.  You see, it is not a question of being pro-Israel.  It is a question of being pro-justice.  When Israel is just, one is pro-Israel.  When Israel is unjust, one is critical of Israel.  Now, the security of Israel is crucial.  And, of course, you saw my chapter on the call for democratic identities. 

And there‘s many prophetic, progressive Jews in America and around the world who agree with me.  But we don‘t have a real robust debate about this.  And to the degree to which we don‘t have a robust debate, America is perceived as being unpromoting in justice when it is pro-Israel.  We want pro-justice, security for Israel, pro-justice, justice for Palestinians. 

MATTHEWS:  Professor, do you believe there‘s any border that the Israelis could set, no matter where you put the Green Line, no matter how close you put it to the Mediterranean, that would stop the attacks? 

WEST:  I think it would stop most attacks.  I think when you take seriously the Geneva Accord, when you take seriously even the presence of an international force between the two states, you minimize the possibility. 

But, most importantly, what Palestinians need is a sense that persons are concerned about their suffering. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

WEST:  There‘s always going to be a slice of gangsters who attack innocent Israelis, just like there‘s always a slice of Israelis who are going to be hating and even promoting the attack on Palestinians.  There‘s always that minority.  We‘re calling for the silent democratic majority of ordinary Israeli brothers and sisters and Palestinians brothers and sisters. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, imagine for a second you‘re an Israeli citizen and you‘re a political moderate.  Most Israelis are not Likudniks there. 

WEST:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  They may vote that way out of desperation.

WEST:  Out of fear. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  There‘s a lot of moderates and progressives.  I‘ve been over there.  You can argue, by the way, your side of the argument over there, as well as the other side.  It‘s a pretty liberal society about argument.  Everybody is a prime minister. 

But if you were an Israeli and you just wanted to raise your family there and stay there and maybe have your kids stay, your grandkids grow up there, would you choose a smaller Israel, I mean a dramatically smaller Israel in exchange for, say, a little less terrorism?  That‘s not much of an argument, is it, not much of a deal if you‘re an Israeli?

WEST:  Well, it is not so much just a smaller Israel, but it‘s an Israel that takes seriously the claims of justice of the Israeli prophets, of the Hebrew prophets, of the Hebrew scripture. 

That is to say that there‘s no doubt that when you are occupying a people, that‘s why tend of the occupation is crucial.  Of course, Sharon is tightening the occupation in the West Bank as he withdraws on the Gaza Strip. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

WEST:  You can‘t occupy a people and think that somehow your security will be stable.  It doesn‘t happen. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Except, you know, you know, let me tell you, Professor, the one problem with your argument is that Yasser Arafat, who had the front table to cut a deal, proposed a right of return for Palestinians to Israel proper.  And no Israeli government can ever accept such a deal, because, if that happens, then every Palestinian family with any roots in Israel today, going back to 1948, would be able to come back, bring their cousins with them, their nephews, anybody who has born since and all the people to be born in the future and overrun Israel demographically. 

They can‘t let that happen.  Therefore, why did Yasser Arafat ask for it if he wanted a deal? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s all I put to you.  If he wanted a deal, why did he propose a deal-breaker? 

WEST:  Well, you got—not, there‘s two things in place.  Arafat refused to sign partly because it was a moment of finality.  It meant that Israel, Palestinians would no longer ever in human history have any claims against the Israeli state. 

Now, see, you need to have some conditions fairly tight to sign that kind of agreement.  No Palestinian leader who has any integrity would sign such an agreement.  But, on the other hand, you‘re absolutely right.  Compromise is crucial.  Negotiation is crucial, and the fact that we‘re going to have to raise the question, when you have a Jewish state that is in some ways democratic and secular, but also set up in such a way that it preserves the majority being Jewish, then you‘re going to have a tension between democracy and Zionism.  Now, you can be Zionist and progressive.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Professor, I‘ve been reading about that tension since 1971.  And you don‘t relieve that tension by allowing all the Arabs to come back to Israel proper, because there won‘t be an Israel very soon.  There wouldn‘t be one.

WEST:  But if fact, if the return of the Palestinian means the annihilation of Jewish brothers and sisters, then the Jewish state is thoroughly justified and so forth and so on.  But it depends on what the dynamics is going to be between those.

If you occupy a people for 30, 40, 50, 60 years, then they think about

returning, then, of course, you‘re going to have very deep fears, and

understandably so.  But all I‘m saying is, let‘s have a debate about this

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  The problem is, it begins to look, the more you look at it, like a zero-sum gain. 

WEST:  No, no, no, because there‘s always hope.  There‘s always hope. 

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s the toughest part of that.

Let‘s talk about—I want to talk to you about reparations sometime, because I think 40 acres and a mule is something we have got figure out what that means in the 21st century someday. 

Professor, thank you very much for coming on. 

WEST:  Thank you so very much.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Cornel West of Princeton, thank you. 

Coming up, the other side of the coin, Christopher Buckley on his new book, “Florence of Arabia,” and the prospects for democracy in Iraq and the Middle East. 

And don‘t forget, this Friday at 7:00 Eastern, join me for “The Horse Race” for all the hottest stories and trends in this week‘s political campaigning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

This is going to be fun.  Christopher Buckley is the editor of “Forbes FYI” magazine.  He is also the author of 10 books.  He also served as a speechwriter for the first President Bush.  His latest book is called “Florence of Arabia.”  It is the fictional tale of the State Department bureaucrat intent on liberating the women of the Middle East. 

A flight of fancy, perhaps. 

CHRISTOPHER BUCKLEY, AUTHOR, “FLORENCE OF ARABIA”:  Well, who knows?  The truth is often stranger than fiction.  I think it would be a jolly good idea. 

The whole idea is that this woman, she is a friend of a—sort of the wife of the Saudi ambassador, although, in the book, they‘re called the Wasabis, and who tries to defect.  She finally has had it.  And she doesn‘t want to move back to Saudi Arabia.  And she is—and we, of course, turn her over.  And she is beheaded.  So Florence decides that the only way to achieve lasting peace in the Middle East is to empower 800 Muslim women—maybe not a bad idea. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the way you‘ve grown up looking at this.  I love “Lawrence of Arabia.”  I think it‘s, with Casablanca, probably my favorite movie.

BUCKLEY:  Oh, it‘s the greatest, yes.

MATTHEWS:  And we rooted for Lawrence and we rooted for Anthony Quinn and all the others, Alec Guinness and all the other Arabs to win the war. 

BUCKLEY:  The title of this, the epigraph of “Florence of Arabia” is a quote by Noel Coward.  Noel Coward said to Peter O‘Toole, “If you were any better looking, you would be Florence of Arabia.”

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, we‘ll move on from Noel Coward. 

But let me ask you about this whole notion of East meets West.  There‘s a great line in “Lawrence of Arabia” the movie where one of the Arabs says to one of Brits, you English have a love of desolate places. 

BUCKLEY:  “I think you must be one of these desert-loving English.”

MATTHEWS:  Right.  No one loves the desert.  We hate it, right? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But the problem is, here we are again.  And I‘ll get dead serious here. 

BUCKLEY:  Please.  Please do.

MATTHEWS:  We are trying as a country now to change Arabia.  We‘re trying to go about it in a way that‘s almost anthropological.  We‘re going into the questions of whether women should be treated as equal, and we‘re saying they should.  And we‘re trying to put together a government in Iraq that will recognize Western values about beheadings, of course, and everything else. 

And is that a reasonable—based upon your research, is that a reasonable prospect? 

BUCKLEY:  I would be fairly pessimistic about the outcome. 

While I was finishing writing this book, a young woman named Fern Holland, who was a very attractive, blond, 34-year-old American who was a civilian contractor for the Army, was assassinated 30 miles from Baghdad.  She was over there to set up a woman‘s center.  She was over there to accomplish exactly what we‘re talking about. 

If I were—we talk about adding Cabinet-level secretaries. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BUCKLEY:  Now we need a new national intelligence director. 

MATTHEWS:  National intelligence director.

BUCKLEY:  My modest proposal was that the Cabinet secretary that we most need is a secretary of history, who, when someone—when it comes up in the Roosevelt Room, let‘s invade Iraq, the president could then turn to the secretary of history and say, what do you think?  What do you think? 

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s great.  We wouldn‘t have gone. 

BUCKLEY:  And the secretary of history would say, well, Mr. President, in 1922, the British created and essentially occupied Iraq, and they lost 18,000 people.  And they left with their tails between their legs in 1953.  So...

MATTHEWS:  Let me put to you a more local case, when the British tried to take over America in 1777.  Their major killing plot, which was to come down the Hudson River, led by Burgoyne, guess what happened?  They encountered—guess what? -- local militia.  And they discovered American nationalism, and they lost the Battle of Saratoga.  And they lost Bennington first. 

And so why are we surprised that nationalism erupts when another country invades a country?  Isn‘t it natural to expect it?  The president says he miscalculated.  Who didn‘t know that there would be Arabs in Arabia that would try to stop us from taking over a government?

BUCKLEY:  You would—you would only have to have seen the movie “Lawrence of Arabia.”  You would have had to do no other study to know that this would be the result of occupying a country in that region. 

MATTHEWS:  Why did you decide—this is a very personal question. 

Your father is great, William F. Buckley Jr. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCKLEY:  Thank you. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCKLEY:  He is great.

MATTHEWS:  I owe him a lot of my tutelage as a young guy.

BUCKLEY:  But my mother is also great.  And she is probably watching. 

She likes your show.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you come from both.  And I have to say that a lot of us my age became interested in politics because of “National Review.”  And although our politics goes in different directions, it was in fact that. 

BUCKLEY:  You turned out OK.

MATTHEWS:  Why did you decide to—why did you decide to not be Bill Buckley Jr., to try to become—to try to be a great novelist?  Because you‘ve been so successful.  And you‘re a very great humorist in “The New Yorker,” too.  Why didn‘t you try to become another pundit? 

(LAUGHTER)

BUCKLEY:  Well, I think the job was already taken.  And...

MATTHEWS:  Well said. 

BUCKLEY:  I‘ll just leave it at that. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, now a tougher question.  Do you think your father‘s brand of traditional American conservatism, which is based on U.S.  interests, has been served well by the sort of neoconservative push toward trying to democratize the world, trying to force U.S. values if we have at the muzzle a gun? 

BUCKLEY:  No.  No, I don‘t think it has at all. 

I think he‘s—I‘ll let him speak for himself on this subject of Iraq.  And he is very well able to do that.  But I would suspect that he is a little bit worried about the result and about the thrust of all this. 

MATTHEWS:  Because he believes in nationalism. 

BUCKLEY:  Well, yes.  Yes, he does. 

MATTHEWS:  He at least recognizes it. 

BUCKLEY:  Well, he was for the war in Vietnam. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BUCKLEY:  And although they‘re—I suppose the parallels between Vietnam and Iraq grow more preponderant every day, I think he would have viewed that more in terms of the struggle against global communism. 

MATTHEWS:  That was Christopher Buckley, who, of course, is the son of William F. Buckley, the founder of “The National Review.”  Christopher Buckley has become one of the great political satirists and humorists, not just in the pages of “The New Yorker” magazine,” but all these great books he keeps turning out every couple years, “Florence of Arabia.”

Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  And, don‘t forget, “The Horse Race.”  You‘re going to love it, you political junkies out there—I‘m one of you—this Friday on our regular time. 

Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media Inc. (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,