updated 11/24/2004 10:35:01 AM ET 2004-11-24T15:35:01

Guest: Linda Stasi, David Blum, Andrea Lafferty, Martin Kaplan, Susan Collins, Byron York, Dana Milbank

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Dan Rather has announced he will step down as anchor and managing editor of “The CBS Evening News” in March, after 24 years in that position. 

Plus, President Bush won reelection to protect America from terrorism, but there‘s still a debate within the Republican Party on how to do it. 

And if voters are so concerned about values, how come so many American tune in to “Desperate Housewives?”  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  With an investigation on his “60 Minutes” story on the president‘s National Guard service ongoing, Dan Rather announced today he‘ll step down as anchor of “The CBS Evening News” this spring.  Here‘s what he told the viewers tonight. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS:  A few words now about “The CBS Evening News” and your reporter.  After nearly a quarter of a century as the anchor of this broadcast, I‘ve decided it‘s time to move on.  I‘ll be leaving the “Evening News” next March.  I will not be leaving CBS News, however.  I will continue to report to you, working full time on both editions of “60 Minutes” and on other assignments for CBS News.  It has been and remains an honor to be welcomed into your home each evening.  And I thank you for the trust you‘ve given me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  It was no secret that Dan Rather would give up the anchor chair at some point in the near future, but why now?  Joining me is Linda Stasi, “New York Post” columnist and TV critic, and David Blum, author of “Tick, Tick, Tick: The Long Life and Turbulent Times of ‘60 Minutes‘.”

Let‘s go to Linda first.  You know, let me ask you as an open question.  Will there be seen to be a connection between the disaster of this past September in terms of the story about the president that turns out to be based on bogus documents, and Dan Rather‘s departure? 

LINDA STASI, NEW YORK POST:  I don‘t see how the two can ever not be related.  Unfortunately, what is unfortunate is that his career is going to be judged by that, because he‘s leaving at this point.  And of course, it is interconnected.  To think it is not would—is naive.  Of course it‘s connected. 

MATTHEWS:  Is that your view, David Blum, that it is not just the end of his expected career, termination, I should say—he‘s 70 something years old, 73.  Do we have to assume a connection? 

DAVID BLUM, AUTHOR, “TICK, TICK, TICK”:  Absolutely.  I mean, he announced this today because this report, it‘s probably going to be very devastating to him and to CBS News.  It is going to come out imminently.  It will probably come out at halftime during the Lions‘ game on Thursday, to avoid anymore publicity.

MATTHEWS:  How do we know that?  How do you know that?  Can you report that the report by Thornburgh and the others, the commission report that is studying how bad CBS did in that report on the president, do we know it‘s really coming out in the next few hours? 

BLUM:  Well, I‘m assuming—obviously Rather‘s announcement was timed to precede it, because he doesn‘t want people to assume that he‘s leaving directly because of it.  But obviously, it is going to contain damaging information about him.  We already know a lot of that. 

MATTHEWS:  Can I ask you a Dan Rather question?  How do you know that? 

BLUM:  It has to.  We already know a lot of damaging information about this story, and while...

MATTHEWS:  We know what‘s in the Thornburgh report? 

BLUM:  No, we don‘t know what‘s in the report, but we know... 

MATTHEWS:  Do we know when the Thornburgh report is coming out? 

BLUM:  Well, at one point, Les Moonves told everybody it was coming out in a few weeks.  And that was back at the beginning of October.  So unless they‘ve suddenly expanded their purview dramatically, it probably should have been out by now.  And it‘s being held for timing purposes, I think.  Today‘s announcement shows that CBS News is a little bit more careful about its timing now than they were back in September during the initial phase of this whole thing. 

MATTHEWS:  Linda, back him up.  Is there any evidence that this report is coming out fairly soon? 

STASI:  I think that the word is that it is coming out very soon.  CBS probably has more information than we know about.  And I think that they wanted to jump ahead of the story.  They needed to be ahead of the story.  Because they‘ve always—they‘ve been too much behind the story.  And you know, the news business is a funny business. 

When I first got into it, somebody said, be very careful, this is an industry that likes to eat their young.  And we really kind of do.  And I don‘t know whether the actual public is that interested in what happens in our slip-ups and what not, as we think they are, but we‘re going to report it and report it to death, no matter what happens.  And I feel terribly that this man has to leave on this note, because he‘s been a great newsman.  He‘s had a couple of slip-ups...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about corporate brain power, if there is much, at CBS or any other corporation.  If you want to reduce the impact of bad news, and they‘ve got bad news to handle, why attach such a large sanction to it?  Encouraging Dan Rather to step down or announce his stepping down at this point creates a huge price tag for the mistake they made in September in that report.  It‘s almost like Watergate.  If Nixon had to resign, he must have done something really bad.  And when you think through it, he really didn‘t do anything that would be explainable to people later on.  He covered up a break-in. 

But once he—once he stepped down, he said to the world, this is so horrific that a president of the United States has to be the first and perhaps only president in history ever to have to resign, looking into the future even.  Does his getting bumped out or pushed out add to the CBS calamity is what I‘m asking?  In other words, is it one more mistake? 

STASI:  I don‘t think it‘s a great PR move. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.

STASI:  I think they think they‘ll get ahead of it and then everyone will just forget about it, rather than having Dan in the mix of it when this report comes out and so forth and so on. 

And I think they‘re being cowardly about it.  I think they probably want a younger, fresher face.  They want somebody who is going to do their bidding more—more than Dan has been willing to do.  And I think they want to get ahead of it and look like, we‘re just pure news people and we have no other agenda. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, follow my thought there.  Disagree with me, David.  Is this going to make—if this goes down, that Rather quit over this, or was forced out on this, this is a major black mark against CBS for all history, isn‘t it?

BLUM:  I think so. 

MATTHEWS:  Their major anchorman, their chief managing editor of “The Evening News” was forced out because the network blew a major story attacking the president, which was groundless, apparently. 

BLUM:  Exactly.  And it‘s hard to really feel that sorry for him.  I mean, in fact, this whole thing was sort of born of Rather‘s hubris...

MATTHEWS:  Do you feel sorry for CBS the corporation?

BLUM:  No, or Dan Rather, for that matter.  I mean, yes, he‘s had a fabulous career, but he‘s 73 years old.  He probably should have left that job years ago.  And the whole reason this story blew up in his face was because he was busy anchoring the news five nights a week. 

Another correspondent on that story, working full time on it all day long, would have questioned Mary Mapes‘ reporting a little bit more thoroughly.  But he was really reading the words off a TelePrompTer.  He wasn‘t deeply involved.

STASI:  But I think that‘s what he‘s been doing forever.

(CROSSTALK)

STASI:  ... but he has been doing that forever.  I mean, all of a sudden, that‘s not going to change.

I think what happened here was a slip-up on everybody‘s part.  Because people like that have tremendous back-up.  That story was passed around like a French hooker.  You know what I mean?  Everybody had seen that story and passed on it.  The fact that he didn‘t, the fact that his back-up wasn‘t there, was—was terrible.

MATTHEWS:  Linda, the most obvious problem with that story was the document contained those little, you know, those little date marks, like 25th, with a ‘th‘ little thing at the top. 

STASI:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Military typewriters that sergeant what‘s his name had to punch out back in the ‘70s didn‘t have those little things, obviously. 

STASI:  But it was so clearly not a document from that time.  It was -

·         I mean, look.  I‘m saying that in retrospect, having looked at them.  I mean, it seems to me that any geek—and CBS has plenty of geeks on staff

·         could have looked at that immediately and said, what, are you kidding me?  This is not an IBM Selectric. 

BLUM:  We can‘t forget also that Dan Rather stood for two weeks and kept saying, we have an unimpeachable source, this is a solid story.  I mean, this has been one PR bungle after another, and...

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think he did that?  Why did he ride the horse in?

BLUM:  Standard reporter hubris.  He wouldn‘t want to admit to a story and also loyalty to his producer.  He loves Mary Mapes. 

STASI:  Oh, I don‘t think...

BLUM:  He thinks she‘s terrific.  And you know, he didn‘t have the time or the inclination to necessarily question his reporting.  And initially, they attacked the Internet bloggers who were attacking them.  It took weeks for them to ever acknowledge it.  And his apology didn‘t address that.

STASI:  I don‘t think it was—I don‘t think it was reporter hubris.  I think that these people have a tremendous back-up.  Not like a street reporter at a newspaper, where you have to rely on your sources and you don‘t have back-up.  They have tremendous back-up.  And I think he believed that his back-up was solid.  That they weren‘t going to take this silly story that regular newspaper people passed on. 

MATTHEWS:  You make it sound, David, like an anchorman or an anchorwoman, if we have one someday, of a nightly news program has—is almost like a British presenter, someone presenting the news, something—reading good copy someone else wrote.  The main responsibility of an anchor person in the networks is to be the editor, to say, wait a minute, check this out.  Wait a minute, this doesn‘t smell right.  Wait a minute, who did the work on this?  Who reported this story?  They‘re supposed to be the chief, you know, the gatekeepers of truth.  They‘re not just supposed to be good-looking guys with good voices and good hair, reading somebody else‘s work.  You make it sound like Rather isn‘t a reporter.  I think even his worst critics would say he‘s a reporter.

(CROSSTALK)

STASI:  ... very much a reporter, too, and I think that a reporter, like you say, he is the editor in chief.  My editor in chief knows if something stinks.  He‘s going to say—he‘s going to smell it.  That‘s why he‘s the editor in chief, and everybody else is the reporter.  So it should have been up to Dan to know that that stunk like six-day old fish.  He didn‘t, but he really also relied on a very big back-up, which he didn‘t apparently have. 

MATTHEWS:  I mean, go ahead, David.  Is that your theory?  That he didn‘t do his work or he had a prejudice?  Which is it?

BLUM:  I don‘t think he had a prejudice.  I mean, Dan Rather‘s prejudice is for himself.  And it‘s one of the reasons he spread himself too thin.  He loves being on television.  He is infatuated with the red light of the camera. 

MATTHEWS:  But wait a minute.  You‘re just making these ad hominem shots at him.  What do you know...  

BLUM:  I‘m not.  I‘ve spent a lot of time reporting on Dan Rather. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think he spends eight hours a day trying to get the news right that night, you‘re saying?

BLUM:  Not personally.  I mean, he‘s not a—he would be the first to tell you, he‘s not reporting the news every day.  He‘s got, as Linda said, a full team ...

MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s editing.  His job is to edit the news.

BLUM:  He‘s the managing editor, but he‘s not sitting there with a pencil.

MATTHEWS:  OK, so you‘re saying he didn‘t edit the news that night. 

BLUM:  He‘s not...

MATTHEWS:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BLUM:  He‘s not sitting there with a pencil every day going over the

copy.      I mean, maybe he is line editing what he has to say, but as Linda

                said, there‘s a huge team of producers and correspondents out there

                gathering the news on a day in basis.  Now, he‘s out there, of course,

                interviewing Saddam Hussein. 

MATTHEWS:  If you have a piece.  If you have a piece destroying the reputation of the president of the United States involved in a very close presidential election campaign, don‘t you think that Dan Rather dug into that store and at least convinced himself? 

BLUM:  He trusted his producers.

STASI:  I know that they dug into it, because the story—we thought the story was supposed to appear the previous Sunday night.  I called the producers on that story and I talked to them endlessly about it.  And they kept saying to me, no, it‘s going to run.  It‘s going to run.  We just need to check this out, we need to check that out.  As soon as we get everything solid, I promise you, they did not scrap the story.  It is going to run.  So they really did check it or so they kept saying to me.  Because I was calling them for four or five or six days.  And they kept telling to me, there was one more thing they had to verify and one more thing they had to verify.  And they apparently thought they had verified it.  I don‘t think they would have had the nerve to go on. 

MATTHEWS:  This is going be—this will be the stuff of the American

·         the Columbia Journalism Review and everybody, editor and publisher. 

People are writing about this, because the story was so much reminded me of “Tail wind.”  So much like it.  Anyway, nobody really was there and said, wait a minute.  This isn‘t right.  Nobody can step back, they‘re so proud of the story.  I think you may have a piece of this, David.  It is not just maybe the failure of someone to do their job as much as pride in something.  Some kind of hubris here about a story.  Anyway.

BLUM:  I think so.  They‘re good journalists.  But you know, everybody wants a scoop.  Everybody wants to be out front.

STASI:  Everybody wants to break a story. 

MATTHEWS:  There needs to be a conflict between editor and reporter.  The editor must say my job is to fight with the reporter to prevent a bad story from getting by, not to sell it to myself. 

Anyway, thank you very much, Linda Stasi.  Not a great day in journalism.  And David Blum, thank you. 

When we come back, we‘ll have much more on Dan Rather‘s resignation, announced today. 

Plus a debate over whether popular culture has gone to far and why some many Americans are tuning into shows like “Desperate House Wives” and then going and voting moral values. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, Dan Rather‘s resignation and the debate over culture values.  HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Whether it‘s the questionable report on President Bush by Dan Rather and CBS in September, a racy “Monday Night Football” promo of a couple weeks ago or even a new movie on the life of sex investigator Alfred Kinsey, there are those who believe that news and pop culture have gone too far in this country. 

For an assessment of moral values and media, we turn to Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition.  She‘s with me here.

And Marty Kaplan, he‘s associate dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication.  He‘s out there in L.A. 

Let me start with Andrea first of all.  I want to start—there‘s a lot happening in our culture.  A lot of our politics now is cultural related, Why. 

ANDREA LAFFERTY, TRADITIONAL VALUES COALITION:  Why? 

MATTHEWS:  Why is all of a sudden everything seems to be a hot issue.

LAFFERTY:  Well, it‘s no longer the 1960‘s and people are growing up and they‘re realizing certain things are appropriate and certain things aren‘t. 

MATTHEWS:  But this stuff didn‘t happen in the 1960‘s. 

LAFFERTY:  Kinsey.  We come back to, Kinsey in a minute. 

MATTHEWS:  “Desperate House Wives” is new.  Let me talk to you...

LAFFERTY:  The point is—we‘re no longer saying, anything goes.  We want some standards.  We want some morals.  And I think it is a great thing.  Maybe it‘s time for a revival in this country, cultural and others. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take the issues.  Lets take them one at a time. 

Marty, you first.  Dan Rather, it is hard not to see the connection between his announcement today fairly or not, connecting with what happened in September, with regards to that somewhat, lets be nice, questionable document that he used to nail President Bush for his delinquency in his national guard service. 

MARTIN KAPLAN, USC ANNENBERG SCHOOL FOR COMMUNICATION:  That‘s right.  The question is where this will fit into what story.  The right wing is already nailed his scalp to the wall and dance a victory dance, saying that they brought him down because he was biased.  There‘s another story to tell, which is about the murderous pressures for ratings, ego, and the nature of journalism today.  Those two stories are now in play.  And the question is, which one is going to triumph? 

MATTHEWS:  Which one do you, as a professor at USC in communications, do you think is the apt lesson of the downfall of Dan? 

KAPLAN:  I think it is about the drive to be first, to get big number.  That story he did on “60 Minutes” would have been terrific without any use of those phony documents.  He had plenty of material to go after the president on the Texas National Guard story without ever relying on stuff which wasn‘t vetted properly. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s your view?  What did we learn from tonight‘s news? 

LAFFERTY:  It was interesting that he tried to say the right wing, trying blame people and use it in a negative way.  American people aren‘t watching regular television anymore.  They‘re watching cable news because they don‘t trust those guys. 

MATTHEWS:  Lets talk about Dan Rather.  What did you learn from today‘s events.

LAFFERTY:  I think it is great.  I think it is...

MATTHEWS:  What have we learned? 

LAFFERTY:  We‘ve learned that you have to be responsible.  You cannot speak before you think.  You‘ve got to document your facts. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that CBS blew it or do you think CBS had a left wing agenda? 

Do you think CBS was out to get the president? 

What was the motivation behind the mishap? 

LAFFERTY:  This isn‘t the only first time...

MATTHEWS:  What is the motivation here? 

LAFFERTY:  I think it is malicious.  I think that...

MATTHEWS:  What was the malice intent? 

LAFFERTY:  It was meant to take down the president, absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Why?  Why CBS—why does Dan Rather want to bring down the president? 

LAFFERTY:  Because he doesn‘t believe in what the president supported.  He didn‘t like the president.  He doesn‘t like conservatives.  I don‘t even think he likes Americans.  So I think...

MATTHEWS:  Dan Rather doesn‘t like American? 

LAFFERTY:  I don‘t think so.

KAPLAN:  Andrea, you just made my point about the right wing, as well as I could ever possibly make it. 

LAFFERTY:  But also—but also the American people are they—is Dan Rather number one in news, no.  People aren‘t watching CBS.  Their number are in the tank, too.  So there‘s a lot of reasons to get rid of this old guy.  He can‘t—he‘s not trusted by the American people.  They don‘t have the ratings.  They want a younger face who is not going to screw up.  And Dan Rather has brought the problem over and over again. 

MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t like America.  Go back to that.  Because that

was a selling point you make.  I‘m not knocking you.  Tell me what you mean

by it. 

LAFFERTY:  He‘s a grumpy old time.

MATTHEWS:  What do you mean by he doesn‘t like America? 

LAFFERTY:  What I mean, he has become—Americans. 

MATTHEWS:  Why doesn‘t he like Americans?

LAFFERTY:  He‘s become so arrogant and so removed in his own little world, he doesn‘t have to be responsible. 

KAPLAN:  Chris, there is a right wing, as we just heard, wants to demonize and criminalize anything which they regard as not consistent with their story of what the majority of Americans believe.  Dan Rather had a long and distinguished career as a journalist.  And it is completely outrageous to talk about him as an old hat who needs to be thrown away... 

LAFFERTY:  He is an old hat. 

KAPLAN:  ... because they are in the toilet for ratings.

LAFFERTY:  He is an old guy.  They want somebody younger. 

MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t like America.  Tell me something, do you want to take that back or stick to that point? 

I don‘t want to rub it in. 

Do you really believe Dan Rather doesn‘t like Americans? 

LAFFERTY:  I believe he is detached.  I believe he has not connected to people.  He lives way up here somewhere.  And that‘s what made him...

(CROSSTALK)

KAPLAN:  Why don‘t you give up to what you just said about him.  You did say he doesn‘t like America. 

LAFFERTY:  Americans. 

KAPLAN:  Why are you hesitant to own that.   

LAFFERTY:  I am not hesitant.  I responded to it. 

KAPLAN:  Well, then take it that Dan Rather doesn‘t like American and real what you really believe.

LAFFERTY:  I said, Americans.  He is detached from normal people. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I want to run through some of the anchors so we get to spread around.  Tom Brokaw is resigning next week, he‘s not resigning, he‘s stepping down as anchor, the network of NBC. 

Do you think he is like Rather? 

LAFFERTY:  I don‘t think that he has been—drawn as much negative fire. 

MATTHEWS:  But is he like Rather? 

LAFFERTY:  I think there‘s a little bit of bias in all these guys, particularly Jennings. 

MATTHEWS:  What is his bias? 

LAFFERTY:  Just in general. 

MATTHEWS:  What is his bias toward and against? 

LAFFERTY:  The liberal elite.  There‘s a liberal elite in the media. 

KAPLAN:  A liberal elite that you‘re trying to tell.  It‘s not the story of American journalism.  It is not a story about different competing values.  It is the story of this big bad bully liberal elite.  Let me tell you something.  If the liberal elite were so powerful, George Bush wouldn‘t be president today. 

LAFFERTY:  Hey, wait a minute.  Cbs, Dan Rather did their best to take him down. 

MATTHEWS:  There‘s a lot of people on your list obviously.  Does Tom Brokaw hate Americans?

LAFFERTY:  I don‘t think he is detached from Americans like Dan Rather. 

MATTHEWS:  How about Peter Jennings?  Does he hate Americans? 

LAFFERTY:  Is he an American?  I think he is Canadian. 

(CROSSTALK)

KAPLAN:  I think Bill O‘Reilly left America. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Does Sean hate Americans?

KAPLAN:  Joe Scarborough loves America. 

LAFFERTY:  Joe Scarborough is a great American. 

MATTHEWS:  But he loves Americans. 

KAPLAN:  Exactly.  He loves America. 

(CROSSTALK)

LAFFERTY:  These guys are detached.  There‘s a liberal elite.  And they‘ve been found out. 

MATTHEWS:  Just do me a favor.  Don‘t put me on any of these lists.  Marty, we‘ve got to come back to you.  This was an interesting argument here.  Because some strong words have been spoken here and I‘m just listening. 

LAFFERTY:  You‘re an honest broker, Chris.  People trust you. 

MATTHEWS:  I am trying to be honest.  But I like you.  Please stay with us.  It‘s good.  We‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.  This is America‘s culture war right here to a large extent.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re back with Marty Kaplan and Andrea Lafferty.  Let‘s change the dial here.  Marty, I love your sense of humor about this.  If the country is divided between blue and red and we see it on the map all the time, the more culturally conservative within the heartland of the country and the more liberal on the coasts, why is it do you see shows like “Desperate Housewives,” I haven‘t seen it but I hear it is pretty raunchy, doing so well in Salt Lake City, for example.  Why are the rural areas that vote down the line Republican and vote blue, red, rather, why do they watch TV that is blue material, to be literal about it. 

KAPLAN:  It is because we‘re hypocrites.  We love this stuff.  If we didn‘t love it, Hollywood wouldn‘t put it out there.  The entertainment industry is exquisitely sensitive to the market.  If we lapped up G-rated fare, that‘s all they would give us.  But the truth is that we like lots of different stuff and we like it in equal measure, red state or blue state. 

MATTHEWS:  What is the hypocrisy about here, Andrea?

LAFFERTY:  The flip slide also is look at how well “The Passion” did. 

People...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re so right. 

Not only that, but it made money for Mel.  $270 million domestic gross.  Or $370. 

LAFFERTY:  It made lots of money. 

MATTHEWS:  The same people going to “The Passion,” I have to wonder, are not probably watching “Desperate Housewives,” are they? 

LAFFERTY:  I don‘t know.  Maybe, maybe not.  It could be kids watching it.  Sneaking on the TV.  Mom and dad are watching.  But Hollywood is good at creating stuff...

KAPLAN:  But Chris, “Desperate Housewives” is like “Peyton Place.”  It‘s like daytime soap opera.  There‘s nothing new in that.  We think, oh, god, “Desperate Housewives.”  The truth is there‘s been programming on like this.  “Dynasty,” “Dallas,” this is the flavor of this month. 

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s just titillating.  It is not really raunchy you‘re saying.

Give me an Annenberg School adjective for “Desperate Housewives” so I can develop more thinking in this area. 

KAPLAN:  Hilarious.  It is very funny. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you ever watch this show?

LAFFERTY:  I have seen because I watch culture.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s it like?

LAFFERTY:  I think it‘s really...

MATTHEWS:  Is it funny?

LAFFERTY:  It is flat.  It‘s kind of stupid.  It is campy.  It‘s a lot of different things.  There‘s some stuff that‘s a little bit, push the envelope, particularly for the time that it is on television. 

MATTHEWS:  Number one show. 

Let me ask you this.  Was ABC right to run that “Desperate Housewives” commercial in the middle of the football game? 

LAFFERTY:  I do not think so.  No.  The woman is—it‘s very sexually suggestive. 

MATTHEWS:  Suggestive?  It is obvious. 

KAPLAN:  It is stupid. 

MATTHEWS:  She wants this guy, he wants her.  It is about as raw as it gets. 

Marty, is that a case where Hollywood doesn‘t get it? 

KAPLAN:  No.  I don‘t think so.  You said the word culture wars.  I don‘t think this is a culture war.  That makes it sound like it is a battle between people with two different sets—two different camps about taste.  It is not about taste.  It is about values.  I‘ve got my values.  My values are tolerance, diversity, the first amendment and the separation of church and state.  The other side has values of obedience, orthodoxy and theocracy.  The two sides are fighting.

LAFFERTY:  Well, there is no separation of church and state in the constitution by the way.

KAPLAN:  Excuse me.  I‘m sure that if it were, you would still not like it. 

Are you saying that the separation of church and state is a kind of a urban legend?  Is that the idea?

LAFFERTY:  It is not in the constitution.  I will give you $1 million if you can show the phrase.  It is not in the constitution. 

MATTHEWS:  We know the establishment clause.  You cannot establish a church. 

(CROSSTALK)

KAPLAN:  Andrea, where do you go with that?  It is not in the constitution. 

LAFFERTY:  Wait a second. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Last question.  Last question I have to ask you.  Is this movie “Kinsey” a good movie to go see? 

LAFFERTY: Absolutely not.  It doesn‘t tell the truth.  This guy was a pedophile.  He was a pervert. 

KAPLAN:  That is a total lie. 

(CROSSTALK)

LAFFERTY:  You‘re being rude, Marty.  Take off your Norman Lear liberal extreme...

MATTHEWS:  I want to say happy Thanksgiving to both of you.  And I want to thank Marty.  What a great guy.  Thank you, Andrea for this counterpoint.

Coming up, the Republicans win big in the year‘s election helped along by the issue of protecting America from terrorism.  Why is there still a big debate within the Republican party on how to protect us from terrorism?  That‘s going on right now in Washington.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on HARDBALL, the president won the election to protect America from terrorism.  There‘s still an argument in the Republican Party about how to do it.  Senator Susan Collins of Maine will join us. 

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

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

We‘re back with Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition and Martin Kaplan of the Annenberg School For Communication out at USC.

Marty, we just watched two little news items there which tell you about the strangeness of our country.  One is about this incredible mayhem at a Pistons game with Indianapolis—I forget the name, the team they are.  The Pacers, that‘s right.  Fighting and the mayhem in the benches, followed by a little item about this hunter out there, this Asian-American hunter who was shooting at guys, or being shot at. 

Is this the blood and red states?  Like, we see the blue states in the stands and then we see the red states out there in the field shooting at each other?  Is this where we‘re at now? 

KAPLAN:  I don‘t think so.  I don‘t think so.  But it was a nice try. 

I think in the case of the basketball story, it‘s about the wall between fans and stars coming down.  People kind of believe that we‘re all sort of the same.  And they‘re sort of sad when it turns out not to be the case.  In the Wisconsin story, at least based on early reports, there were racial epithets.  The guy was Hmong.  He said he was shot at.  Nothing justifies the kind of shooting which he did. 

But it sounds as though, deep in the heart of rural Wisconsin, there was also some deep-set hatred. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what he said. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what he said. 

KAPLAN:  Yes.  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

What do you think of those two little portraits of America there, the shooting out in the woods of Wisconsin and the mayhem in the stands outside Detroit?

LAFFERTY:  There were also reports that this guy did not honor property rights and didn‘t want people on his property.  So we don‘t know quite what happened. 

But there were a number of people that were killed and it was horrible.  As far as this whole thing with the basketball, this is—it‘s ridiculous.  I think we‘re seeing more and more that our athletes are a little bit out of control.  We‘re seeing it.  We‘re having increased problems with drugs. 

MATTHEWS:  So you think it is the athletes‘ problems.  It‘s not the fans. 

LAFFERTY:  Well, it is both. 

But why would—I think it is a problem on both sides.  We are seeing athletes are doing drugs and misbehaving and that kind of thing. 

MATTHEWS:  Have you ever been to a sporting event where you saw somebody poor beer on the head of an athlete? 

LAFFERTY:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Where does this happen?  I‘ve never seen anything like it. 

(CROSSTALK)  

KAPLAN:  Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, Marty.  I think these fans are over the top.  I think they‘re confused about where they are.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I know these athletes are going to get fined and lose everything.  But the fans in this case, I think there is going to be some action here legally.  We‘ll see.  What do you think? 

KAPLAN:  Sure enough. 

Chris, Saint Augustine said that when he went to the gladiators, he couldn‘t help but root for more blood and more carnage.  There‘s something about people.  We‘ve got lizard brains.  You put us in these arenas.  You give us hot action.  We can‘t control ourselves.  We should.  We have higher brains.  We ought to exercise personal responsibility.  But these things are set up for maximum heat, maximum excitement, and shame on us if we think mayhem can‘t break out. 

MATTHEWS:  I just think that a civilized fan yells and screams, keeps it within limits, enjoys the game.  And the players are taught to put up with some of the worst kind of heckling in the world.  That‘s their job. 

They‘re not paid to have people poor beer on their heads and humiliate them.  And I think we just got a situation.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And I also think the days of the foul shot—it used to be a clean shot.  You get a foul, you get to shoot a foul shot.  Now a foul shot has become like a combat zone. 

LAFFERTY:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  You have got to shoot a foul ball with 500 people jumping. 

(CROSSTALK)

KAPLAN:  Chris, how long have you been waiting to make that point about the foul shot in your career? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  A long time.  I am really mad about it, because I think a foul shot should be a clean shot. 

KAPLAN:  I‘m so glad you finally got...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And these pencil necks out there who can‘t play basketball, their idea of participating is to screw up another guy‘s foul shot.  That‘s what I think.  That‘s just my opinion. 

KAPLAN:  I‘m glad you got that off your chest. 

(CROSSTALK)

LAFFERTY:  So it‘s OK—so it‘s OK for the athletes, then, to engage in this kind of behavior as well?

MATTHEWS:  No. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who is saying that?  Who is saying that? 

LAFFERTY:  I thought that‘s what you were trying to say. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No.  Let me explain something to you, Andrea.  When I want to say something, I say it.  I don‘t try to say it.  And I have never excused behavior by the athletes.

LAFFERTY:  Well, thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  I just need—you need some help here in understanding what‘s being said here.  No one is defending the athletes.  But anybody who thinks a bunch of drunken fans pouring beer all over a bunch of guys are somehow innocent is missing the picture they‘re looking at.  It takes two to tangle.  Both sides were tangling. 

LAFFERTY:  Oh, that‘s true.

MATTHEWS:  They wanted that fight.  These guys, the fans, wanted to enrage those athletes.  And guess what?  They succeeded. 

LAFFERTY:  And then we come back and what kind of messages are both sides giving our kids? 

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t get drunk at basketball games and pick on somebody your own size.  And if they‘re twice as big as you, don‘t start a fight with them.

LAFFERTY:  Maybe we ought to stop selling booze at the games.

MATTHEWS:  Good point.

(CROSSTALK)

LAFFERTY:  Maybe there‘s no more alcohol. 

(CROSSTALK)

KAPLAN:  On the other hand, the footage of this, the footage of that melee has been grist for every cable news station and for network news and for radio talk show demagoguery. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

KAPLAN:  That stuff gets played and played over again.  It would be one thing if it happened once and we could deplore it.

Instead, it becomes the grist, the fodder for entertainment.  People are getting big numbers in television by replaying that stuff.  Shame on us for doing that. 

LAFFERTY:  Well, there‘s no more Scott Peterson.  So now they‘ve got to put on stuff... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry for bringing it up.  I shouldn‘t have brought it up.  But we had a senator just cancel on us and we had to bring it up again.

(CROSSTALK)

KAPLAN:  I‘m glad you did.

MATTHEWS:  Let me tell you something.  Let me tell you, Marty.  It was because you just went on about it that we showed the picture again.  So you‘re guilty, too. 

(LAUGHTER)

KAPLAN:  There you go. 

LAFFERTY:  See, it‘s always the liberals‘ fault.  I told you, Marty.

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, all right, I want to thank you all again.  And maybe this time, it will work. 

Thank you very much, Andrea Lafferty and Marty Kaplan.

Up next, new polls show a deepening divide in this country—I think you saw it here—and a cautious optimism about President Bush‘s second-term agenda.  We‘re going to hear that, too.  “The Washington Post”‘s Dana Milbank and “The National Review”‘s Byron York will be here.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, a new poll shows Americans are cautiously optimistic about President Bush‘s second term.  “The Washington Post”‘s Dana Milbank stand “National Review”‘s Byron York will be here when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Mixed news for President Bush coming out of today‘s “New York Times”/CBS News poll.  While 56 percent of Americans, a majority, are optimistic about the next four years, the country is lukewarm about some of the president‘s policy proposals.  For example, only half of the respondents in the poll think allowing private investment of Social Security taxes is a good idea.  And less than half of Americans believe the United States will able to create a stable democracy in Iraq. 

Joining us to talk about a number of these issues are two reporters who cover the Bush White House, Byron York for “National Review” and Dana Milbank for “The Washington Post.”

Dana, I want to start with you about the relative optimism about the next four years.  What do you make of that? 

DANA MILBANK, STAFF WRITER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, it is kind of confusing, because, on the one hand, Americans are optimistic.  And they are optimistic as a rule generally. 

But in this same poll, we‘re seeing a majority of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, which is the same thing we were getting during the election.  So, as you say, it is a mixed message indeed.  Support for Bush is moving up.  A small majority think he is doing a good job.  They think that he is keeping them safe.  But they‘re really not where he is on taxes, on Social Security, and on all the big things he wants to do right now.  So it is hard to see where he can convert that favorability into concrete actions. 

MATTHEWS:  I see.

Byron, I sense a good mood about the country.  I think what people really liked was to see their president push around those security guards down in Santiago the other day. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I thought we were—I liked that sort of calm confidence.  He went in there and said, look, I need my Secret Service detail.  Let these guys alone.  And people love to see that. 

(CROSSTALK)

BYRON YORK, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “THE NATIONAL REVIEW”:  It was a kind of a stand-up guy thing to do.  And you could tell that.

Look, people are optimistic, I think, for a couple of reasons.  One, I think there was a sense of relief that the election worked.  There wasn‘t what happened in 2000. 

MATTHEWS:  Clear result.

YORK:  You ask people, did Bush win fair and square, a huge majority says, yes, they‘ve accepted the results for the election.

The other thing is, I don‘t think would you expect that people‘s opinions about Social Security reform would just change overnight.  If Social Security reform happens, it is going to be the result of a huge campaign by the president.  Every member of Congress will have his say on it.  It‘s not something that‘s done overnight.  And...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And, also, we went through a campaign where the Democratic candidate spent months trashing the idea and scaring people. 

YORK:  Right.  So you are not going to see that.

By the way, “The New York Times” poll could have been headlined, Bush approval rating at highest in eight months.  It wasn‘t.  But—and it is 51 percent.  It is not huge, but it is higher than it‘s been since March. 

MATTHEWS:  So you see it as good news. 

What about the particulars of things like the war?  Let‘s go to the war in Iraq. 

Dana, the war in Iraq, is it possible for the United States to create a stable democracy in Iraq?  Forty-six, yes, 45, no, obviously a wash there.  Nobody knows right now.  You basically go with your instincts.  If you think nation building is nonsense or you think Third World countries will always reject outside influence, you say no.

If you‘re think gung-ho for the president, you‘ll probably say yes.  What do we know as Americans right now to even answer a poll question like that? 

MILBANK:  Well, not much more than we knew before.  And what we‘re seeing in this poll again and again is the constant split on these issues and a lack of any sort of a decisive majority for just about anything. 

We‘re still not convinced that it was the right thing to do to go into Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Most Americans think it was not at this point.  They think it was a mistake, according to the CBS poll. 

MILBANK:  Right, by a very small majority.  That fluctuates back and forth.  It‘s gone up for a couple of months.  It‘s gone down for a couple of months.  It continues to feed the impression that the best thing the president can do and this White House can do is get out of there as gracefully as possible. 

YORK:  But the big—look, the one thing that the poll shows very decisively is people‘s high confidence in Bush‘s ability to fight war on terrorism.  

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What does that mean, though?  Does that mean protect us from al Qaeda mainly or does that mean the war in Iraq? 

YORK:  I think it means—for some people, it means protecting us from al Qaeda.  Some people—clearly, the president‘s most enthusiastic supporters believe that it is both. 

But, clearly, the one thing—and it is true.  When you look at this poll and you look at the polls before the election, they showed people about split on economic proposals, on Social Security, whatever.  But they showed what they‘re showing now, which is a 60-35 split on who—do you have confidence in the president‘s ability to protect us?  I think it is 59 percent in this latest poll.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to you about the Republican Party.  And, oftentimes, if a party wins, it begins to grow.  The weird thing happens.  It begins to divide.  It‘s almost like nuclear physics or something.  It gets bigger and bigger and then it divides. 

Is the Republican Party at the size now where it can afford to divide over the issue of how to deal with homeland security?  We‘re arguing about whether we have a national intelligence director or not who has purview over the Defense Department and we‘re getting a kind of a punch back from Republican on the Hill, Byron. 

YORK:  I‘m not sure it is at the size where it can afford to divide, but it is dividing.  I mean, that is what happening.

MATTHEWS:  Where? 

YORK:  Well, it is dividing right now between Duncan Hunter and the...

MATTHEWS:  Chairman of Armed Services.

YORK:  ... pro-Pentagon people and the people who supported the bill calling for a national director of intelligence. 

And it seems to me that this can be worked out at some point.  But, right now, Bush is going to have to crack a few heads on this and get a settlement going.  And so far he hasn‘t done it. 

MATTHEWS:  A question to you, Dana. 

You‘re out on the field.  You‘re a commander in the field.  You have got an intelligence officer, a G-2, at your side.  You say, I need some intel on what they have got on the other side, what the order of battle is or whatever.  Wait a minute, General, I have to got to check with my man back with the national intelligence department.  Is that going to happen? 

MILBANK:  No, of course, it‘s not going to happen.  And the president isn‘t going to allow it to happen. 

What I think you‘re seeing happening here is, as Byron is pointing out, everybody in the Republican Party is feeling free to go their own ways.  And there‘s really no sense of very strong presidential leadership up on the Hill.  As we‘ve seen time and again, however fractious the Republican Party may want to be, when the president really wants something to happen, bang, it happens.  So a lot of what‘s happening here is an absence of presidential leadership. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are we going to get a national intelligence director by Christmas, Dana? 

MILBANK:  A terrible place to be in to make predictions, but it doesn‘t appear that way right now to me. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Do you think so?

YORK:  No, I don‘t think so.

MATTHEWS:  We won‘t have this resolved until next year? 

YORK:  I think so. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you, Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post,” Byron York of “National Review.” 

When we come back, why can‘t the Republican Party agree on how to protect America from terrorism?  Senator Susan Collins of Maine—she‘s a Republican—will join us.

And don‘t forget to check out Hardblogger, our political blog Web site.  Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Legislation to create a national intelligence director is being held up after House Republicans opposed plans that would make military intelligence officers report to civilians outside the chain of command.  And one of the bill‘s main opponents, Senator James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, said that it would be even more difficult to reach a last-minute deal in December because of personal criticism directed at him.

He said—quote—“It will be tougher now because we will have gotten even more poisoned by the senators and their supporters criticizing Duncan Hunter and myself by name on the talking head shows.”

Democratic senator—it‘s actually Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine chairs the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and is chief Senate conferee in this battle.

So what is the fight about, Senator, about how we put together a national intelligence organization? 

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS ®, MAINE:  Well, the 9/11 Commission found significant flaws in how our intelligence structure is organized.  It was really designed for a different enemy in a different time.  It is a Cold War structure. 

What they found is, there was a lot of evidence of the 9/11 plot, but it was scattered across 15 agencies in the federal government.  No one was responsible for putting together the pieces of the puzzle.  So, the commission recommended the establishment of a director of national intelligence. 

But I want to make clear that our legislation keeps within the Pentagon control over tactical, that‘s the battlefield intelligence, and joint military intelligence.  Nothing in our bill changes that.  So the idea that somehow this would affect the flow of intelligence to our troops in Iraq or Afghanistan is just not supported by the plain language of the bill. 

MATTHEWS:  If you work for Naval intelligence, where do you end up reporting in this bill? 

COLLINS:  You‘re still going to report up the chain of command, just as do you now.  Nothing in this bill would change the chain of command.  Nothing in this bill would in any way hinder military readiness or operations. 

What this bill would do is make sure that we have what Secretary of State Powell, who was a professional soldier all of his life, called an empowered quarterback, someone who is accountable, someone who can marshal the budgetary and other resources necessary to counter the threats that we face. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you how it would work.  Most of the problems, I guess you‘ve suggested, with regard to 9/11 and not being able to catch the bad guys before they act, if that was possible, was the fact that there wasn‘t one boss who could basically move the resources around and basically get the job done using Defense intelligence, all the intelligence wings of the various services, plus the CIA, plus the FBI, plus everything else. 

If you‘re the boss of national intelligence in this country and a woman or man gets that job, how can they make people perform more effectively within all those agencies that have the intelligence responsibility? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How do you promote a good spook and say, look, this guy is a really good spy or this woman is really doing a good job, I‘m going to promote this person—or if this person is sloughing off and blows it out at the Phoenix office or the Philadelphia office, how do you get to that person and say, you‘re out there, buddy, you‘re not doing the job?  How can a boss operate if he can‘t reach down and say, I‘m going to promote you, I‘m going to demote you, I‘m going to give you a raise, I‘m going to get you out of there?

COLLINS:  Well, one of the provisions of this bill creates a national counterterrorism center.  And it would bring together analysts from all different agencies who can work together. 

The legislation is modeled in some ways on the historic Goldwater-Nichols Act, which introduced the idea of jointness into our military operations.  So one of the things we would do is reward individuals who cross agency lines, develop expertise, and help to put together the intelligence picture that we need. 

What we know is, the status quo failed us.  It has failed us repeatedly.  It failed us in predicting the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  It failed us prior to 9/11.  And that is why we need these reforms.  These reforms will help make us safer.  They will do nothing to interfere with our military operations, other than improve the quality of intelligence. 

MATTHEWS:  If you‘re president of the United States and you‘re elected to protect this country under the Constitution, who do you call if you have got some suspicions about something out there you‘ve heard about or have a smell of and you say, I have got to find out what‘s going on out there?  Who do you call?

COLLINS:  Well, that‘s the problem under the current system.  There‘s no one person.

MATTHEWS:  Well, under this law, under this reform, who would you call? 

COLLINS:  Under the new law, the director of national intelligence would be the principal adviser to the president.  So we would have one person in charge.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Senator, he would know about some meeting in Jakarta?  He would know about something where there was whiff of smell about it or some sort of cargo found on a plane?  He would know or she would know how to respond right away for the president in the middle of the night? 

COLLINS:  Well, he certainly would have a greater chance of this individual knowing, because we would have a counterterrorism center where you would have the analysts from all different agencies working together, analyzing these reports, putting them together and also drawing up plans for operations against al Qaeda and other terrorist threats. 

So that‘s very different from the ad hoc, scattered approach that we have now that has not served us well.  And that is exactly why the 9/11 9/11 Commission and the president, our commander in chief, wants these reforms. 

MATTHEWS:  Great for you.  Thank you for waiting around for us tonight, Senator Susan Collins, a Republican of Maine.

Join us again tomorrow at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  General Barry McCaffrey is going to be here to talk about whether we need more troops in Iraq.  I think he believes we do.

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

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