updated 3/3/2005 12:06:38 PM ET 2005-03-03T17:06:38

Guest: Stacy Bannerman, Karen Houppert, Tom Oliphant, John Fund, Jeff Lambert, Feisal Al-Istrabadi, Frank Main, Eugene Sullivan

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  A Chicago judge‘s husband and mother are murdered in America.  And another judge and his son are killed in Iraq.  Justice itself is being assassinated. 

Plus, is that the death knell we hear on President Bush‘s Social Security plan? 

And Jackie Robinson brings old rivals Bush and John Kerry together in the batter‘s box. 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.  

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.

Two brutal murders in Iraq and at home show evil killing justice.  In Chicago, a federal judge‘s mother and husband were shot in their home execution-style.  In Iraq, a judge working on the War Crimes Tribunal trying Saddam Hussein was murdered.  In a moment, we‘re going to meet a federal judge whose life was threatened.  

But, first, a report from HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT involve In Chicago today, police continued to look for the clues in the killings of Judge Joan Lefkow‘s family members.  The judge‘s husband and mother were both found in the family‘s basement shot in the head. 

While attacks on a judge‘s family are rare, they‘re not unheard of.  And over the years, several judges have themselves been murdered.  In 1999, when Los Angeles County Court Commissioner George Taylor returned home to his driveway, somebody was waiting with a shotgun.  Taylor and then his wife were both killed.  And the case remains unsolved. 

In 1989, Federal Judge Robert Vance was killed when he opened a package containing a pipe bomb.  In 1988, Federal Judge Richard Daronco was murdered in his home by a man seeking revenge over the dismissal of a lawsuit.

In 1983, Illinois Judge Henry Gentile was shot to death in his courtroom during a divorce case.  And then there is the 1979 assassination of a U.S. district judge.  Judge John Wood was presiding over a drug smuggling case.  Out of desperation, the defendants hired Charlie Harrelson, who shot and killed the judge.  Harrelson was sentenced to life in prison.  He was also the father of actor Woody Harrelson.

WOODY HARRELSON, ACTOR:  Truth is stranger than fiction.

SHUSTER:  The case was the first assassination in the 20th century of a U.S. federal judge.

And that same sense of national anger over a type of violence that is in fact extremely rare is now playing out this week in, all of places, Baghdad.  Bullets homes mark the home where a judge working on Saddam‘s tribunal was shot and killed.  This was the first murder of a judge since Saddam capture.  And the gunmen also killed the judge‘s son before driving off. 

Despite the heavy presence of U.S. and Iraqi forces in Baghdad, many parts of the city remain lawless.  And because of safety concerns, many of the judges working in the court system haven‘t been identified.  Back in Chicago, it seemed everybody knew Judge Joan Lefkow, in part because a white supremacist last year had been found guilty of plotting to kill her. 

SHUSTER:  Judge Lefkow had been given extra security precautions.  But that stopped.  And now people in Chicago like others who have considered the judiciary to be sacrosanct, are wondering what, if anything, society can do to keep even a few judges from having to fear for their lives. 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Eugene Sullivan was a federal judge for 16 years.  And twice, his life was threatened.  His new novel, “The Majority Rules,” is about the murder of a federal judge. 

But we begin with Frank Main, a crime reporter with “The Chicago Sun-Times.” 

Frank, tell us what you can about the police work so far in this horrendous case of the judge‘s husband and the other relative being killed. 

FRANK MAIN, “THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES”:  Well, Chris, of course, the...

MATTHEWS:  The mother.

MAIN:  Yes. 

The police are trying to keep a lid on most of the evidence that they have found so far.  But there are a few things that have come out that are very interesting and disturbing, especially because Matthew Hale is in prison or is in jail right now awaiting sentencing in April.  So, what we found is a police report that says Judge Lefkow was interviewed shortly after the murder—murders. 

And what she told the police was that she received several telephone calls on Sunday night, the day before the murders.  The first call she picked up, but didn‘t hear anything.  Then she started looking at her caller I.D. and it seemed as though the calls were coming from—quote, unquote—“prison” or a correctional facility. 

We‘re not privy what‘s happened since then and whether the feds and the police have traced that call back to a specific facility.  But like I said, Matthew Hale is sitting here in downtown Chicago, awaiting sentencing.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So the calls came from not the jail, but from a prison?  Or could it have been the jail itself? 

MAIN:  I have not interviewed Judge Lefkow myself yet.  And so I know is that she may have been using shorthand to describe a correctional facility. 

It could come in a number of different ways on caller I.D.  And I‘m not sure how it actually came in on the I.D.  The other thing is that, Monday morning, a church administrator who works across the street and over a couple of houses across from the Lefkows saw two men. with military-style haircuts and a red car.  And they were smoking cigarettes and they were in a no-parking zone.  And the administrator said it was really weird for people to be parked there.

They were smoking cigarettes and just drinking Cokes.  And he asked them to leave.  And they did.  They didn‘t give him a fight or anything.  But these are just disparate pieces of evidence that may or may not point to some sort of a white supremacy group. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the papers today said that there was some evidence that was interesting to the police.  We don‘t know what that is, right? 

MAIN:  Yes.  I mean, there are..

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Besides what you‘re telling us, something about the crime scene that looked interesting to the cops.  What was it?  Do you know? 

MAIN:  There‘s a broken window in the basement, where Mr. Lefkow and Judge Lefkow‘s mother were found.  There were 22 shell casings that were found in the basement, things like that.

It‘s been reported—I haven‘t confirmed this—that there was a bloody footprint that was found in the basement.  So, there are other things that are also coming out, too, but like I said...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It was an execution-style killing, though, right?  They were told to lay down on the floor and then they were shot? 

MAIN:  It appears that way. 

I mean, both of them were shot in the head and multiple gunshot wounds; .22-caliber bullet wounds are typical of assassination-type killings. 

MATTHEWS:  You mean they missed? 

MAIN:  No. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You said there were multiple shots? 

MAIN:  They hit them in the head, multiple shots.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you this.  When was the security on the judge‘s family dropped?  When did they become exposed to this kind of attack, the family?

MAIN:  It was last year after the murder-for-hire case started.  And Judge Lefkow received protection from both the U.S. Marshal Service and from Chicago Police, who were driving by her house to check on her. 

The protection from what we were told ended last April and has not been given to the family since.  U.S. Marshal service said that they just didn‘t see a need for it. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, hold on there, Frank.  It‘s great, your reporting.

Let‘s go to Judge Sullivan.

Judge, you were threatened twice.  What was the circumstances?  Do they sound familiar?

EUGENE SULLIVAN, FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE:  It sounds very familiar.  You don‘t know he when the threat Is going to come.  In one instance, the intelligence arm of the U.S. Marshal Service notified me that there was a death threat on my life, or a threat on my life.  And...

MATTHEWS:  Was it taken seriously by them?

SULLIVAN:  It was taken seriously by them.  I was put under protection for a couple of days until they did further analysis.  They came back to me and gave me their estimate.  At that time, I balanced the threat against the invasion of my privacy.  And I made the decision, unfortunately, Judge Lefkow made.  And that‘s to drop the protection. 

MATTHEWS:  Do we know, Frank, if it was the judge herself who dropped the protection?

SULLIVAN:  We were told yesterday by a spokesman for the Marshal Service that the Marshal Service determined that she didn‘t need the protection and it was dropped.  But, again, I‘ve not talked to her, so I don‘t know. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go back to you, Judge. 

Is there a problem with getting protection.  Or does a federal judge have a right to it. 

SULLIVAN:  I think that a federal judge who receives a credible threat against his life or family life has the right. 

MATTHEWS:  For how long?

SULLIVAN:  That‘s the issue. 

MATTHEWS:  We keep Secret Service protection, I think appropriately, for first families all the way until perhaps the death of an aging widow, like Harry Truman‘s wife, Bess Truman, because they can always be used as hostages in a horrendous kind of a situation.

And certainly this president is going to need it, with the heroic stuff he‘s done in office.  And so it‘s a credible thing.  But federal judges, I mean, there are millions of trials a year in the United States for all kinds of crimes.  We have a million people in incarceration in all kinds of jails and prisons in the United States who hate the guy that put them there, probably hate the prosecutor for being so zealous, probably blame the judge, because criminal type people always blame somebody else. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How do we know when we‘re facing a problem?

Frank, how do we know when problems are facing us?

MAIN:  Well, I was going to say, there‘s already a reaction in Illinois in the legislature here.  They‘re looking for ways to protect judges on I guess the state level and the federal level by making sure that their names and addresses are stricken from the public record, so people can‘t get to them.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But can‘t you still get the names through the Internet?

(CROSSTALK)

MAIN:  ... Internet.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  You said what I said.

MAIN:  Right.  I was going to say, there are all sorts of ways. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You just ask around, first of all.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You ask around the neighborhood, if you know what the neighborhood is.  Where does the judge live?

MAIN:  Right.  It will—it will—this is obviously going to prompt a big debate about protecting public officials, especially judges, though.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, shouldn‘t they be protected?

SULLIVAN:  Judges should be protected.  Sometimes they don‘t know.  In the book, my novel, “The Majority Rules,” a judge is killed without any notice. 

MATTHEWS:  I see. 

SULLIVAN:  And...

MATTHEWS:  How often a time when you were a judge—and, Frank, if you hear of any other stories, jump in here—where somebody is going to the jail, to prison for 20 or 30 years, hard time, guilty as hell, whatever, and they yell back, you‘ll remember this; I‘m going to get you for this?  How often does that happen? 

SULLIVAN:  It happens infrequently.

MATTHEWS:  Infrequently? 

SULLIVAN:  But—infrequently.  But when it happens, it‘s taken very seriously.  And one time, the second instance in my life, a...

MATTHEWS:  Different guy? 

SULLIVAN:  A different guy.  He said, I‘m going to get Judge Sullivan.  And a police officer overheard him in court.  And the FBI violent crimes unit contacted me.  And the next day, he was free.  And so they went to his home with a psychologist and made a clinical evaluation of that person and came back and reported to me and then asked me, do you want to drop the protection?  I made the decision. 

MATTHEWS:  Clinical evaluation told you the person was sane or insane? 

SULLIVAN:  To say whether that—they had a behavioral scientist of working for the FBI tell them whether this person is a credible threat. 

They gave me their analysis.  I accepted it, dropped the protection. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much for joining us. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We need protection...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, Frank go ahead.  Frank.

MAIN:  Judge Lefkow had the same thing happen to her about a year ago.  A robber was in her courtroom.  He was leaving.  He says, you‘ll get yours, you “blank blank expletive” and was taken out of the courtroom.  So, I mean, she‘s also been exposed to threats before.  This wasn‘t the first time. 

MATTHEWS:  Courageous judges.

Thank you, sir. 

And thank you, Frank, for that great report, Frank Main of “The Chicago Sun-Times.”

Coming up, judges are rarely targeted in this country.  But Tuesday in Iraq, an administrative judge working on Iraq‘s War Crimes Tribunal was assassinated.  Coming up, we‘ll talk about what effect that judge‘s murder could have on Iraq‘s democracy. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, how will the killing of a judge in Iraq affect that country‘s morale? 

When HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

The judge who worked on Iraq‘s War Crimes Tribunal was murdered a day after this special tribunal announced the first set of charges against officials in Saddam Hussein‘s regime.  Will this revenge killing affect Iraq?

Feisal Al-Istrabadi is Iraq‘s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations.  And Major General Jeff Lambert served as commander of U.S.  special forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He‘s since retired and has written a fictional book about the war on terrorism.  His title is “The Singleton.”

Let me go first to Mr. Istrabadi.

Thank you very much for joining us last night when this story first broke. 

What have you learned since about the motive for this killing of this judge involved in the war crimes trials over there, the trials of the former regime? 

FEISAL AL-ISTRABADI, IRAQI DEPUTY PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE TO UNITED

NATIONS:  Well, this is clearly a part and parcel of the effort to intimidate current officials in the government.  He—although I think he‘s the first member of the judiciary to have been targeted, that is to say, successful targeted. 

This is a part of a pattern of intimidation and targeting which began with the Governing Council, when Aquila al-Hashemi, who was a member of the Governing Council, was assassinated. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How come and he his son were killed and the bodyguards, if there were any, if they were on site, were not?  Where were the bodyguards? 

ISTRABADI:  I mean, I don‘t know the details. 

But I can tell you that the—they—I know people who have barely escaped.  Unfortunately, I also know other people who have been felled by these assassins and terrorists.  They have a very sophisticated modus operandi.  And one of the things they try to do is to that show they‘re targeting specific individuals and their families.  This is a very sophisticated operation very often.  And it‘s not haphazard.  And they just don‘t spray a hail of bullets. 

They very often come in sufficient numbers to be able very specifically to target the people they‘re after and to cause very targeted damage.  Of course, sometimes, it‘s more crude.  But, in particular, this sounds like something that members of the previous regime would have carried out. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, how do you stop it if you can‘t stop this one?  What is going to change? 

ISTRABADI:  It‘s extremely difficult.  We‘re not the first country to have been subjected to this.  Your other segment was on Judge Lefkow, a judge before whom before I practiced when I practiced law in the Chicago area.  So these things happen. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

ISTRABADI:  You‘ll recall what happened to Italian judges.  I‘ll tell you how you stop it, by making it clear that it is—No. 1, by continuing to fight them, and, No. 2, by making it clear that the transition to democracy in Iraq will not be interrupted. 

What happened in the Foreign Ministry is that our—that the deputy foreign minister was targeted by name.  He was, in fact, assassinated.  His replacement has himself been targeted by name.  But he continues every single day to show up to work and to go on about his business.  And that I think is part and parcel of how you defeat this. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to General Jeff Lambert.

Sir, what do you make the situation?  Is there any way to protect those people who‘ve chosen the route of democracy in Iraq from those who have opposed it? 

RETIRED MAJ. GEN. JEFF LAMBERT, FORMER SPECIAL FORCES COMMANDER:  Yes, you can, but it‘s so extremely difficult. 

I agree with the—the other—with our compatriot here today.  Exactly what he said was that, if it‘s a professional team and they do reconnaissance first, they do detailed planning and targeting, then they‘re going to—it‘s going to be almost impossible to stop, and that this is a normal tactic.

In Peru, the Sendero Luminoso went after the judiciary trying to make exactly the same statements.  And I agree once again with our other guest here that perseverance on the Iraqis‘ part is the way to defeat it and show that they will not be deterred from bringing these men to justice, establishing law and order and developing their own system. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

If you had the job or you had a detail to assign, to protect a judge in Iraq, what would you do to make sure this didn‘t happen to them?  Or could you do that?  Could you promise the guy his life at the end of his term? 

LAMBERT:  What I would do is, I would work on denial.  Even though there‘s penetration of all the governmental systems and things, hidden lists, keeping everything under cloak, times, locations of the trials, etcetera, etcetera.  I‘m afraid you just about have to go underground, which doesn‘t sound like democracy in action.  But I‘d have to take some severe measures to try to protect those brave enough to come forward and do their duty.

MATTHEWS:  Can you hold a judge incommunicado, Mr. Istrabadi?  Do you think it‘s possible to hide a judge involved in a big-name trial like the trial of the former regime? 

ISTRABADI:  Well, I think it‘s very difficult to sort of sequester the judge for how long trials in a civil code system such as Iraq has. 

MATTHEWS:  Put them in the Green Zone.  How‘s that for an idea? 

ISTRABADI:  Well, the Green Zone, I always...

MATTHEWS:  Give them American protection. 

ISTRABADI:  I always regarded the Green Zone as the center of the bullseye, actually.  Whenever I‘m in Baghdad, I‘m never very comfortable going in and out of the Green Zone. 

No, I think part of what have to do—and all of us who are officials in the current government are targeted to different extents, obviously, depending on what we do.  I think part of what we have to do, with all respect to the general, but speaking as an ambassador from Iraq, one of the things that I think we have to do is, to the extent possible, go on with our lives, not doing things that are stupid, to take sensible precautions, but to go on with our lives and to live our lives as fully as possible.

And I think that that‘s what most Iraqi officials attempt to do within reasonable—within reasonable guidelines. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just thinking about a football game in which you‘ve got five offensive linemen and 35,000 defensive linemen coming at you. 

Anyway, more with General Jeff Lambert and Feisal Al-Istrabadi.  When we come back, we‘re going to talk about security in Iraq and if we can stop these assassinations.

And, later, how will the assassination of a judge affect Iraq itself? 

Tom Oliphant and John Fund join us.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Major General Jeff Lambert and Ambassador Feisal Al-Istrabadi, Iraqi‘s permanent, or deputy permanent representative to the United Nations.

Let me go to General Lambert. 

Sir, General Abizaid, in charge of our forces over there, predicts, by the end of the year, we‘ll have the situation under control.  We‘ll be able to have an insurgency that has been quelled.  Do you buy that? 

LAMBERT:  Well, I think that we could—it‘s a question of mobilizing their resources.  We can make a heck of a lot of progress by the end of the year.  I‘d go that far. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think we could have our allies over there, the people who are forming a democratic government, in the dominant position over the insurgency? 

LAMBERT:  I think that they would be in a dominant position over a large geographic area of the country and be able to start working on the problematic areas that are residual. 

MATTHEWS:  What about a war in which I—I used a football analogy.  And I think it works.  What happens when you have people trying to play defense, trying to build a country up?  You don‘t have fanatics on your side.  You have reasonable people on your side who‘d like to have a democracy, but aren‘t car bombers.  They‘re not zealots.  They‘re not willing to give their lives randomly or ridiculously.  They want a life on this planet.  How do you beat the zealots on the other side, who are willing to blow up 125 people at a recruiting station, General? 

LAMBERT:  Sooner or later, the population gets energized and becomes tired of the instability, the damage, and the slaughter and the loss of innocent life.  And population the will stand up and it will take care of the fellows like al-Zarqawi eventually. 

MATTHEWS:  How to do reasonable people, Mr. Ambassador, defeat zealots willing to give their lives? 

ISTRABADI:  Well, I think that, in part, they need to be defeated militarily.  They have to be defeated in that sense. 

As far as the population of Iraq, these people are in fact hated by the population of Iraq, because we understand that the civilian population is, in fact, the target of these people.  They‘ve killed far more Iraqis, on the order of 15 to 20 Iraqis per American that they‘ve killed.  We are their targets.  And they are hated.  And they will have to be rooted out in a fairly mechanical process and defeated, killed or convinced to leave the country. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, well-stated. 

Thank you very much, Major General Jeff Lambert and Ambassador Feisal Al-Istrabadi. 

When we come back, the top political stories with “The Boston Globe”‘s Tom Oliphant.  He‘s joining us, and “The Wall Street Journal”‘s John Fund.

And later, how are the wives of the soldiers serving in Iraq coping with it all?  I‘m going to talk to a military wife who opposes the war in Iraq.  She‘ an interesting case.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on HARDBALL, what‘s brought President Bush and Senator John Kerry together today in Washington?  Plus, is the president‘s Social Security plan now dead? 

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

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Treasury, Secretary John Snow indicated that the White House would accept a Social Security overhaul that does not, does not divert the program‘s payroll taxes into personal investment accounts, a major shift in the president‘s position. 

Tom Oliphant is a columnist with “The Boston Globe” and John Fund is with “The Wall Street Journal”‘s OpinionJournal.com.

John Fund, how do you explain the secretary of treasury saying the president will not fight to divert payroll tax money to these personal accounts as part of his bill? 

JOHN FUND, COLUMNIST, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”:  Well, about one-third of House Republicans and Senate Republicans, Chris, had town-hall meetings.  And they were AARPed.  They were flooded with seniors and other people from MoveOn.org and a lot of liberal groups.  A bunch of members came back spooked. 

And the president through his treasury secretary is responding to that.  The president‘s original plan is in trouble.  But there‘s still plenty of time for course corrections to save a lot of it.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

FUND:  And to improve—and to improve Social Security. 

MATTHEWS:  What happened, from your view, Tom Oliphant? 

TOM OLIPHANT, “THE BOSTON GLOBE”:  Well, the word that the treasury secretary was really saying at the White House, Chris, was uncle. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

OLIPHANT:  But I have a little...

MATTHEWS:  But why?  John is right?  It was Republicans who buckled? 

OLIPHANT:  This has always been a Republican story. 

Those guys who went home to their districts could have organized support something if there was support for this.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They didn‘t want their name on it, even preliminarily, did they?

OLIPHANT:  Nobody wants to stick their chin out.  This is a Republican story right now.  If there can be a consensus within the Republican Party, perhaps, it could go forward. 

The significance of what Snow said, though, is when you talk about adding on, you‘re really talking about Democrats now. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

OLIPHANT:  Because...

MATTHEWS:  Right.  So, let‘s go back to the question. 

John, let‘s talk fiscal policy.  I know nobody cares about deficits, according to the vice president.  But a lot of people do worry about the funding of Social Security.  My hunch was the concern was among seniors, who really do vote in next year‘s congressional elections.  They‘re worried about the fact that under this Bush plan, and it‘s came out in a vague form, the federal government in the short term the next 10 years will have to borrow from abroad basically to pay their checks.

Is that what killed the plan, that part of it, that we‘re going to have personal accounts? 

FUND:  Well, Chris, the irony is, of course, that Social Security benefits are going to have to be cut.  But nobody wants to confront that reality.  So, rather than confronting it now and thinking about what the solution will be 30 years from now, we have decided to defer it, because nobody wants the pain now. 

That‘s the bottom line.  I think there‘s been a book called “Demosclerosis,” which talks about the inability of a democracy to plan for the future. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FUND:  The borrowing was a concern.  But, ultimately, this Social Security system is unsustainable. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FUND:  It‘s either going to have to have payroll taxes through the roof or benefit cuts. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  There‘s two questions here.  Let‘s divide them.  There‘s the question of whether the federal government helps people save money, in addition to the Social Security benefits, which is now on the table.  Instead of delving into, or siphoning off, if you‘re a Democrat talking, the 6.2 percent people kick into the payroll tax every year out of their income, we‘re talking now about maybe saying to the people, how about you throw in an extra 2 percent and you get to save that and have a savings‘ account by the time you‘re 65, in addition to Social Security? 

Will that plan sell? 

OLIPHANT:  Chris, now, you‘re talking about Democrats.  Your old friend Daniel Patrick Moynihan had always said that giving working families an opportunity to accumulate wealth is really the last piece of social insurance that this country needed.

(CROSSTALK) 

OLIPHANT:  However—and here‘s the catch that even with what Snow did today, you still have a problem—there‘s so much resistance on Capitol Hill among Republicans to the idea of borrowing money, either for a Social Security—for anything.  And I don‘t see right now how the Republican Party gets over the hump of advocating the taking on of additional $1 trillion—trillions of dollars...

(CROSSTALK)

FUND:  Well, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Why would there be an additional cost to the government if we have this savings account?  It‘s just people kicking in and getting back the interest rates.

(CROSSTALK)

OLIPHANT:  ... do anything about our budget situation, we‘re going to just keep borrowing. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I see.

FUND:  Chris, watch...

MATTHEWS:  John.

FUND:  Watch Social Security reform morph into tax reform in July or even earlier, when the Tax Reform Commission headed by John Breaux and Connie Mack report. 

I think what you‘re going to see is a blending of Social Security reform and tax reform, for example, exempting a lot more savings from taxation, getting to a system in which, if you save money, you don‘t pay tax on it.  If you consume money, you do pay tax on it, sort of an indirect consumption tax.  So, I think what we‘re looking at is a marriage of the two issues. 

MATTHEWS:  But don‘t we already have those taxes? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We have systems where you can borrow from the government. 

You borrow money...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... save money and...

(CROSSTALK)

FUND:  I‘m talking about integrating them, integrating them, making them more comprehensible, making it, rather than a patchwork of 401(k)s here and thrift plans here, putting them all together under one roof. 

OLIPHANT:  You‘ll note that, from the beginning, Bill Thomas, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has advocated this marriage.  I mean, he did it even before the cave-ins that we‘re seeing this week. 

Again, though, moving away from taxation of income toward the taxation, in effect, of consumption, value-added or something like that...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that‘s where we‘re going? 

OLIPHANT:  Well, I think...

FUND:  No, no, no. 

(CROSSTALK)

OLIPHANT:  Well, I think that‘s where what a lot of conservatives thought it‘s going. 

(CROSSTALK)

FUND:  Value-added tax is dead, Chris. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... president to go to a regressive tax. 

FUND:  No. 

OLIPHANT:  But if you—but you cannot eliminate...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

OLIPHANT:  .... or essentially eliminate the income tax or the corporate income tax, as some would like to do in Congress, without substituting something else. 

But I think it sounds to me as if this whole system is spinning its wheels in order to avoid looking at the 800-pound gorilla of the budget deficit. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s true, I think.

But let me ask you about the generational dispute that‘s at the heart of this.  If you poll people in this country by age, they‘re very transparent in their self-interests.  Younger people say, yes, an option might be interesting, because they don‘t exactly feel the pressure of retirement and what it means to them.

Older people, who are already on Social Security, John Fund, are quick to say, the solution is, raise the taxes on the workers, so that we‘re guaranteed—are guaranteed our benefits.  They‘re quite cold-hearted about it.  Who wins now that the president has lost on the heart of his plan, which was to basically reduce the taxes paid by younger people, so that they could put money into their savings account, at the expense of the money going towards the fund which funds older people? 

FUND:  Well, I say we all lose.

MATTHEWS:  Looks like the older people win.

FUND:  Well, I say we—we all lose, because these systems have been tried now in about 20 countries around the world with varying degrees of success.  But, in general, they have helped those systems sustain themselves over time, because the pay-as-you-go system doesn‘t work.  But, in the end, Chris...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You mean the Santiago effort has succeeded in Chile.

FUND:  Well, Poland, Britain, you name the countries.  They‘re all over the world.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FUND:  That have moved to this system. 

And, secondly, Chris, the older people, I think, do have some reservoir of understanding that young people are simply going to be caught holding the short end of the stick here.  So, yes, they‘re very resistant to wholesale change in Social Security.

(CROSSTALK)

FUND:  But I think they will talk about savings instruments and other things that are going to let their children save for themselves. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me venture into the political sphere.  Could this be one of the great cosmic ironies?  The president took a chance in a way that might have hurt older people.  He fails because of Democratic opposition, no matter that we know it‘s Republicans.  He will blame it on the Democrats.  He will be able to go into the campaign next year and the congressional races and wave the bloody shirt...

FUND:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  ... like the unionists did after the war, after the Civil War, and say, those darn Democrats, those damn Democrats have stopped me from securing the future of Social Security. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Vote for more Republicans.

FUND:  Chris, the Democrats didn‘t cover themselves in glory. 

They certainly were able to mount an incredibly effective opposition.  But, remember, they didn‘t put anything on the table.  There was no plan from the Democrats.  There were no constructive solutions, with the exception of Rahm Emanuel, who at least talked about add-ons. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FUND:  Almost all of them were silent on the subject.  They didn‘t cover themselves in glory.  If you‘re an opposition party that is supposed to both oppose and also propose, they only did half of the bargain. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Tom, Tom, Tom, Tom, let me ask you this question. 

Is it possible the president won by losing? 

OLIPHANT:  No.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s protected himself against attack next year?

OLIPHANT:  It depends on the condition of the economy next year.

But haven‘t we heard about this before, Chris?  Don‘t you remember the Republicans saying—we would say this about them 10 years ago. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

OLIPHANT:  They don‘t have anything to offer as a counterweight to Bill Clinton.

(CROSSTALK)

FUND:  They had medical savings accounts.

(CROSSTALK)

FUND:  Medical savings accounts.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  The party in power inevitably gets judged the party in power. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It ain‘t fair.

OLIPHANT:  You govern.  You‘ve got the responsibility.

MATTHEWS:  It ain‘t fair, but it tends to be, the guy in charge tends to be the guy in charge.  As Ronald Reagan once said, I‘ll admit I‘m irresponsible when they admit they‘re responsible. 

When we return, what brought old rivals George Bush and John Kerry together today on the same stage?  We‘ll be back with the Kerry-Bush act, and, of course, the memories of Jackie Robinson. 

And don‘t forget, sign up for HARDBALL‘s daily e-mail briefing.  Just log on to our Web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, how is a military wife who opposes the war in Iraq getting along? 

HARDBALL returns after this. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with “Boston Globe” columnist Tom Oliphant and “The Wall Street Journal”‘s John Fund. 

So, tell me about Jackie Robinson and how he brought the president together with his old rival John Kerry.

OLIPHANT:  A long overdue moment, actually.

But Senator Kerry, on behalf of the Red Sox, actually, who were one of the old racist offenders in the bad old days of baseball.

MATTHEWS:  Meaning they were the last to integrate.

OLIPHANT:  They gave him a phony tryout during World War II.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

OLIPHANT:  And they‘re trying to make amends in the black community in Boston now.  And so the idea came to have the Congressional Gold Medal go, many years later than it should have, to Jackie Robinson. 

MATTHEWS:  So, Boston felt responsible for having held this guy‘s career up for about 10 years? 

OLIPHANT:  Well, they were certainly a metaphor for racism. 

MATTHEWS:  What year was the tryout? 

OLIPHANT:  The tryout ‘44, ‘45. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And Branch Rickey put him on the team when, on the Dodgers?

OLIPHANT:  End of ‘45 was the signing, ‘46 with the Montreal Royals;

‘47 is the debut. 

MATTHEWS:  That was the farm club, yes.

OLIPHANT:  And first...

MATTHEWS:  First black player in the majors.  Who was the first black player in the American League?

OLIPHANT:  Larry Doby. 

MATTHEWS:  Larry Doby, of course, with the Indians. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s go back.

John Fund, what do you think of the day?  This brings these guys together.

FUND:  Well, Jackie Robinson was one of the great uniters in the precursor to the civil rights struggle of the 1960s. 

By the way, it‘s an interesting thing.  Jackie Robinson, before the Republican Party went one way and the Democratic Party went the other way over the issues in the South, Jackie Robinson was a Republican.

MATTHEWS:  You know what happened on the train.  You know, Jackie left the Nixon train in 1960 because Richard Nixon wouldn‘t stand up for Martin Luther King and his wife. 

FUND:  Well, I know, but he was a loyal Republican until that point. 

And only now is the Republican Party trying to repair that damage.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re looking at Jackie Robinson now.

Yes.  Well, Jackie Robinson couldn‘t believe Nixon couldn‘t understand.  Nixon thought it would be grandstanding to make a phone call to Coretta King.  Jack Kennedy had the instinct.  And he did it. 

OLIPHANT:  All these years later, Chris, that story still works in the schools as one of the great parables of courage.  He had to shut up and take this abuse for two years...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Can you imagine the catcalls?

OLIPHANT:  You try to imagine what it took to take it and not fight back overtly. 

MATTHEWS:  Imagine being the only black player on the Dodgers playing the Phillies, playing the other teams, and what you‘re getting from the other fans. 

OLIPHANT:  The moment when it was all over was when Pee Wee Reese walked up to him one day while the catcalls were coming from the stands in Cincinnati and simply put his arm around him.  And it said, this is my guy. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

OLIPHANT:  He‘s on our team.  Lay off. 

MATTHEWS:  It didn‘t hurt that he was a hell of a player either. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway...

OLIPHANT:  It sort of helped.

MATTHEWS:  Tom Oliphant, John Fund, thanks, both of you, for joining us. 

When we return, I‘ll talk to a military wife whose husband is fighting in the Iraq war.  And she doesn‘t like the war.  This is HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

As American troops continue to be shipped off to Iraq and to Afghanistan, the wives of soldiers are left behind to take care of business at home. 

Karen Houppert is a freelance journalist who spent two years profiling military wives and is the author of the new book “Home Fires Burning:

Married to the Military for Better or Worse.”  Also with us is Stacy Bannerman, whose husband, Lorin, is a reservist serving now in Iraq. 

Thank you, ladies, both for joining us. 

I want to start with Karen. 

What surprised you about the military wife experience in these wars? 

KAREN HOUPPERT, AUTHOR, “HOME FIRES BURNING”:  I think the most surprising thing I learned in the course of reporting for this book was how many wives actually were opposed to the U.S. presence in Iraq, the U.S.  invasion there.  That actually came as quite a surprise to me. 

But, also, I was surprised to discover that, while the military on paper has a lot of support programs out there for wives, when it comes to the actual execution, they don‘t do so well.  And...

Let me go right now to Stacy Bannerman, because I think we‘ve got exhibit A here. 

Stacy, where do you stand on whether the United States should have gone into Iraq? 

STACY BANNERMAN, WIFE OF U.S. SOLDIER SERVING IN IRAQ:  Well, I believe that we shouldn‘t have.  Clearly, we shouldn‘t have, because we didn‘t have the facts right and the rationale presented to go to war was based on lies. 

MATTHEWS:  What did you make of the elections over there a couple weeks back? 

BANNERMAN:  Well, they conducted them and now they‘re over.  That was the third reason given for the troop presence being in Iraq.  But yet we haven‘t brought an exit strategy together to bring them home. 

MATTHEWS:  Among the other wives in your situation whose husbands or friends who are males whose wives are serving over there, to keep it equal here, is there a lot of dissidence—dissent on this policy of going into Iraq, even though you have spouses over there? 

BANNERMAN:  Well, I think that there‘s an increasing number of military wives, whether they be married to men in the regular Army enlisted or in the Army National Guard and Reserves, such as I am, that have really begun to question why it is the troops are over there and certainly why they‘re there after all of this time. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you anti-war? 

BANNERMAN:  I believe that we‘ve got other options available to us, and we certainly did in Iraq.  We didn‘t need to launch an attack on this country. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BANNERMAN:  There were other things that could have been pursued, and that wasn‘t done.  I think that was a real mistake. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s a common argument, but are you anti-war?  Are you a pacifist? 

BANNERMAN:  Oh, yes, I am. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why did you marry a guy in uniform? 

BANNERMAN:  My husband is in the Army National Guard.  The Army National Guard is not intended as being primarily overseas combat troops.  That‘s not what they were about.

MATTHEWS:  But they do wear uniforms and they carry weapons.  And the purpose for their existence is fighting wars when the democratic government that we all have to live under chooses to fight those wars.  Didn‘t you see all that coming? 

BANNERMAN:  Chris, the primary purpose of the National Guard is actually as a state-based force to provide assistance to their state and local communities.  That‘s what they‘re recruiting the National Guard for and that is what those ads still say, even though those troops are now being sent overseas and are 42 percent of the boots on the ground. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to Karen.

HOUPPERT:  Oh, sorry.  I was just going to...

MATTHEWS:  Karen Houppert, your thoughts on this.  Is this a common view, that spouses of people who serve in the guard don‘t think of themselves as G.I. wives or spouses; they think of themselves as having a husband who is involved with the home guard, more or less? 

HOUPPERT:  Yes, I think that‘s true.  And I also think it‘s interesting to note that about 40 percent of the soldiers that are stationed over—or that have served in Iraq or Afghanistan also think it‘s a mistake for the U.S. to be over there.  And about 42 percent of them think that we are at greater risk of terrorist attack now than we were before this.  That‘s...

MATTHEWS:  How can they express that view?  Is there any way they can legitimately express that view while their husbands or wife is in uniform? 

HOUPPERT:  It‘s very difficult, I think.  There‘s a lot of overt and covert pressure to not speak out against the administration‘s views. 

And, for soldiers, that‘s particularly difficult.  For wives, it shouldn‘t be so difficult, but it is.  And many of them fear that it jeopardizes their husband‘s job if they speak out. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, we‘ve been to Pendleton and we‘ve met the young Marines and their wives, in some cases, who were totally supportive of the effort they have to pursue as military active members. 

They are a different category than National Guardsmen.  They want to fight the war because they are trained to fight it, and they believe this cause is justified, in most cases.  But in either case, whether you‘re a Guardsman or Reservist or a regular Army or Marine, you come home with a couple of legs or limbs missing, a couple of arms missing, you come home with brain damage, losing your sight, all kinds of damage, but you survive. 

What did you learn about that experience for the spouse, Karen? 

HOUPPERT:  I think it‘s a very, very difficult recovery process when the soldiers come home wounded, obviously.  But also even if there aren‘t physical wounds, there‘s post-traumatic stress syndrome that a lot of them struggle with. 

And it‘s very hard for families.  Also, another issue that comes up quite often is that the wife has been independent on her own, making decisions on her own for a year.  And it‘s sometimes difficult for the husband to squeeze back into family life that has gone on without him.  And those are the issues that the Army is really not so good at helping families address. 

MATTHEWS:  Karen, what are your views about the general—or, Stacy, your views about the general situation of the military and how it treats spouses and family life? 

BANNERMAN:  Well, I believe that, again, especially with the Army National Guard spouses, we have not been provided really with any kind of preparation for deployment.  We do not have access to the same level of support and resources that regular military wives do. 

For example, the gentleman who was sent to kind of work with a—the group of military wives, National Guard wives, was ex-Marine.  Now, that‘s not really conducive to developing good, strong bonds, that emotional support that these women need when their husbands are called to serve and sometimes given less than 30 days notice, pulling them out of homes and out of jobs and out of families that they weren‘t prepared for. 

I think the military has really fallen short in meeting the needs of the wives.  And that‘s one of the reasons, honestly, that we‘re seeing the diminished return rate, reenlistment rate of National Guard and Reserves. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you angry, Stacy, about this whole situation, this war? 

BANNERMAN:  I am—I am greatly concerned about it.  I do have some anger about it, because I think a gross violation of the national trust has happened with this. 

MATTHEWS:  So, you believe it‘s been misused by the president? 

BANNERMAN:  Unquestionably. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  It‘s great having you on. 

BANNERMAN:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  We don‘t hear many voices like yours.  And I‘m glad you came on. 

BANNERMAN:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Stacy Bannerman, whose husband is serving in the Guard in Iraq right now.

And, of course, Karen Houppert, who has written this new book “Home

Fires Burning,” which contains a lot of stories like this, “Married to the

Military For Better or Worse.‘

Thank you, ladies, for coming on. 

HOUPPERT:  Thank you for having us.

BANNERMAN:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Tomorrow on HARDBALL, former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore on the battle over the Ten Commandments being fought now before the Supreme Court.  Plus, Tom Fenton, longtime top foreign correspondent for CBS News, has a new book about the decline of the TV news business. 

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

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