updated 4/25/2005 8:33:25 AM ET 2005-04-25T12:33:25

Guest: David Saperstein, Albert Mohler, Tony Perkins

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist comes under fire from liberal church leaders for his intended role in the simulcast Justice Sunday: Stopping the Filibuster Against People of Faith.”  What is the role of religion in politics?  And should the pulpit stay out of politics? 

Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

There‘s fire and brimstone in Washington tonight and Senator Bill Frist is in the hot seat, as Republicans and Democrats fight over the values voters.  But are both sides playing politics with religion?  The Senate majority leader is taking major heat from liberals over his plan to participate in a conservative Christian simulcast—quote—known as—quote—“Justice Sunday: Stopping the Filibuster Against People of Faith,” scheduled to air this Sunday evening. 

Let‘s look at an ad promoting the telecast. 



NARRATOR:  President Bush nominates a well qualified judge for the appellate court.  Why do a few senators filibuster the nominee?  It‘s because that judge has our faith and our values.  Filibustering people of faith needs to stop now.  Join Dr. James Dobson, Tony Perkins and Dr. Al Mohler for a live simulcast on this station, “Justice Sunday.”  Together, let‘s tell the Senate to stop filibustering people of faith. 


MATTHEWS:  The Family Research Council is producing this show.  And its president is Tony Perkins.  He comes here today.

Thank you.  It‘s very timely to have you. 


Do you think this is a battle over faith? 

PERKINS:  I think it‘s part of it.  I think the Senate Democrats who are filibustering these candidates have interjected into this debate the beliefs of these individuals. 

MATTHEWS:  Examples. 

PERKINS:  Well, the wording, the code word, the buzz word that is being used now to talk about a particular candidate, deeply held personal beliefs, which raise questions of whether or not they‘ll be good jurists.  Let‘s talk about Charles Pickering, who, as the head of the Southern Baptist in Mississippi, made the statement one time that the Bible should be a guidepost for life, or Bill Pryor, who is a strong Catholic, who believes that abortion is wrong.  Those issues and their faith has been called into question.  And that‘s not right.

MATTHEWS:  Have these justices shown that they have used their faith, their deep beliefs in terms of interpreting the law, which is the job of a judge?

PERKINS:  Absolutely.  They have not shown a pattern of being activist, where they‘re trying to impose their view of the law because of their faith. 

MATTHEWS:  So, why do you think these liberals are opposing these judges, if they‘re not doing what you said? 


PERKINS:  But I think, number one, these are not just any judges.  They‘re judges to the appellate court level, an important level of the court, right under the Supreme Court, dealing with constitutional issues. 

But there has been a pattern of activism from our courts over the last 40 years that people of faith that are very concerned about whether it‘s school prayer, whether it‘s the abortion issue, whether it is the issue of same-sex marriage. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think we should have prayer in public school? 

PERKINS:  I think students should be allowed to pray. 

MATTHEWS:  No, I mean organized prayers.  It‘s like the King James Bible readings they used to have in the South. 

PERKINS:  I don‘t think—I think a nonsectarian prayer is fine.  I think students should be free to pray.  For instance, I mean..


MATTHEWS:  No, not free to pray.  We always can pray.  We pray before exams.  We pray all the time.


MATTHEWS:  You can pray at lunchtime.  But should the school administer prayers, give kids prayers to kids to read every day; now, stand up, kids, and read this prayer? 

PERKINS:  No.  But I think students should be free to lead in student-led prayer, like they‘re not allowed to do it at football games anymore because... 


MATTHEWS:  No, but I‘m talking about in classrooms.  Do you think it‘s OK for a kid to just stand up and say, before we take up this lesson in geography, let‘s all pray together, the teacher letting them do that?

PERKINS:  You know, when I was a kid in school...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just asking. 

PERKINS:  Well, but let me put in it context.  There was a recognition of a god, not a particular denominational view, not even a recognition of Jesus Christ from a Christian standpoint, but simply a god. 

I don‘t think there‘s a problem with our kids recognizing that there is a higher authority, to whom they‘re accountable. 

MATTHEWS:  Should the teachers lead them in that thinking? 

PERKINS:  No.  I don‘t think it should be something that the teachers lead in. 


PERKINS:  But I think random prayer that students would lead in from time to time, I don‘t think it‘s a problem. 

MATTHEWS:  It doesn‘t bother the other kids in any serious way?

PERKINS:  No.  I don‘t think so. 


Let me ask you about the fight today in the Senate over the filibuster.  Do you think it‘s fair for the Democrats to say, you have to have 60 votes to get a justice approved? 

PERKINS:  Well, I don‘t think it is an issue of—Well, I guess you could say it‘s an issue of fairness, but I think it is also an issue of the Constitution.  The Constitution says the role of the Senate is to provide advice and consent and that a majority vote of the United States is required to confirm a nominee. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s in the Constitution, right.

PERKINS:  That‘s not 60.  That‘s 51.  And what is being done is unprecedented in using the filibuster.  Now, we‘re not opposed to the filibuster, nor are the Republicans opposed to the filibuster on legislative issues. 

It is just the unprecedented use of blocking these judicial nominees all out of an attempt, I think and many think, to protect the court and the activism that is taking place in the courts. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think this is all preliminary to a really big fight this summer, when Justice Rehnquist, it‘s presumed, will at some point leave the court and open that seat, the chief justice seat, that there is really going to be a battle royal coming up over this issue? 

PERKINS:  Chris, nothing gets by you.  That‘s exactly what this is about.  This is about beginning to establish the parameters for that big debate, which is going to be a massive... 


MATTHEWS:  Do you think the Democrats might filibuster that one?  They have never done this before, filibuster a Supreme Court nominee.

PERKINS:  Well, they have never done what they‘re doing today for the last... 


MATTHEWS:  Do you think they might be up to it? 

PERKINS:  I think they could, absolutely.  The stakes are high.  If the president is consistent with what he has been doing in putting forth nominees that are strict constructionists, not conservative activists, not liberal activists, but strict constructionists, if that‘s the type of candidate he puts forth for the United States Supreme Court, I believe they will filibuster. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  What do you think of the nuclear option?

PERKINS:  The constitutional option.

MATTHEWS:  Well, but it‘s called the nuclear option, which is to say no more filibusters.  We have a majority rule.  We are going to change the rules, 51 Republican senators, or 50 with the vice president, and say no, we are not going to have the filibuster when it comes to judicial appointments anymore.  Will that work? 

PERKINS:  I think it will. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you encourage them to do that if they have to? 

PERKINS:  I would, absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  What about the Democrats retaliating and slowing down everything else and saying, this isn‘t going to stand?

PERKINS:  They have threatened to slow down government.  I‘ve never known government to work fast. 

They‘ve threatened to shut everything down.  That backfired in the ‘90s when that happened in Congress when the Republicans were working there and Newt Gingrich and his crew were working on things.  I don‘t think they‘ll follow through on the threat.  But if they do, you know...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the Senate will operate at the greatest deliberative body if it has no more unanimous consent agreements, no more comity, no more getting along with each other, no respect for the filibuster? 

PERKINS:  I do not think that, with all of these issues, many of them bipartisan in their implications, the highway measures, transportation issues, that Democratic senators are going to have to come to the table to deal with these issues. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s been raised by David Brooks in his column today that it will kill the difference between the Senate and the House.  Once you get simple majority rule in the Senate, you will have stuff jammed through there by insistent, passionate majorities, 51 senators, and there will no longer be debate.  It will just get jammed through like it does through the House.

PERKINS:  If we were talking about eliminating filibusters for legislation, that‘s true.  That‘s not what is on the table, never been discussed.  We‘re simply talking about the unprecedented use of filibusters for judicial nominations. 


If you were a United States senator, and could you well be someday, and the liberals controlled the Senate...


MATTHEWS:  The liberals controlled the Senate and they were trying to jam through some liberal turkey, somebody they just wanted to be the next Earl Warren and do it all the time, come up with creative interpretations of the Constitution, inherent powers, inherent rights, wouldn‘t you do everything you could to stop that person from getting on the court?  Would you filibuster? 


PERKINS:  If you go historically by what the Republicans have done in the Senate, they have not.  They‘ve not only not filibustered, unfortunately.  I don‘t think they‘ve taken a strong enough stand against the president‘s nominees. 

But they need to make the case on the floor of the United States Senate.  And if there are enough votes on the United States Senate to give that candidate an up-or-down vote, and it is a liberal activist judge, which we have many of that get confirmed by the Senate, then shame on us for putting the wrong people in the United States Senate. 

MATTHEWS:  Can I ask you a political question?  I got to cut you off right here.  Do you think the Democrats, even the liberals, even Schumer, have the stuff, the guts, to filibuster Antonin Scalia for chief justice? 


MATTHEWS:  Who has already passed with 98-0 the last time?

PERKINS:  I wouldn‘t call it guts.  But, yes, I think that Charles Schumer... 

MATTHEWS:  Would try—would the Democrats try to come up with 41 votes to stop him from being Supreme Court justice, even though he was confirmed for associate overwhelmingly?

PERKINS:  They‘ve lost everyplace else.  The only thing they have to hold some liberal agendas...


PERKINS:  ... the court.

MATTHEWS:  In other words, you think they would try to stop Scalia?

PERKINS:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Would they try stop Orrin Hatch if he got the nomination? 

PERKINS:  I don‘t know. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s why I think he‘d be clever.  I‘m just thinking this through. 

Thank you, Tony Perkins

PERKINS:  All right.  Thanks.

MATTHEWS:  Thanks for being on.

When we come back, what‘s wrong with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist taking part in Sunday‘s Christian telecast?  We‘ll debate that one with Rabbi David Saperstein and the Reverend Albert Mohler.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, a debate over Senator Frist‘s upcoming appearance in a Christian telecast with two religious leaders, Rabbi David Saperstein and the Reverend Albert Mohler—when HARDBALL returns.




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

For more on “Justice Sunday,” we turn to one of the chief organizers, Dr. Albert Mohler, who is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Rabbi David Saperstein who is the director of religious action at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and a member of the Interfaith Coalition, opposing Senator Frist‘s involvement in “Justice Sunday.” 

This evening, by the way, being the onset of the Jewish Sabbath, even though you‘re seeing it after sundown, we‘re taping this before sundown for the benefit of Rabbi Saperstein.

Let me go right now to one of the organizers of this big event, Dr.


Why is it necessary to bring in Senator Frist and what do you want him to say to your group?  This is a religion meeting.  Why are you bringing in Senator Frist? 

REV. ALBERT MOHLER, SOUTHERN BAPTIST SEMINARY:  Well, it is a Christian meeting, Chris.  And we feel it is appropriate to invite the majority leader of the Senate, who holds responsibility for so much of the Senate‘s work and progress, to come and just give us a word, a report on where we are on the judiciary, because that‘s our main concern, educating Christians, helping responsible citizens and to understand the importance of the judiciary and the urgency of getting President Bush‘s nominees to the bench, to the Senate for an up-or-down vote. 

The majority leader is a major part of that and we want to hear from him. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s your major concern about the judiciary, Doctor? 

MOHLER:  Well, to tell you the truth, Chris, the background of this is that we have a major culture war in America over issues ranging all across the board, but certainly including abortion, euthanasia, marriage, you name it. 

And the courts have been leading a social revolution in this country for some time.  And that‘s why many of us feel that we need a judiciary that is held to the interpretation, that sees their role as judges as that of interpreting the text of the Constitution, not bringing their own moral and social agenda to the federal bench.  And we look forward to seeing these judges, these nominees, get confirmed. 


Let me go to Rabbi Saperstein.

Your view of this “Justice Sunday” coordinating effort to try to affect the selection of judges. 


The Family Research Council, organizing it, has a constitutional right to say and do whatever they want.  We defend that. 

But you have a right to be wrong in America.  And when they make their centerpiece that people who are in favor of maintaining the 200-year-old tradition of the filibuster are filibustering against people of faith, they‘re attacking people of faith, there‘s something wrong about that.  It politicizes religion in a deep and profound way.  And Senator Frist should not put his stamp of approval on that. 


Let me ask you, Dr. Mohler, do you believe that the people who want to keep the filibuster, mostly Democrats, maybe a handful of Republicans, are they not people of faith for that reason? 


I assume, actually, that all of us have a world view.  And I can‘t read the heart.  What I can understand is that, in the Judiciary hearings, you had a fully qualified candidate such as former Attorney General William Pryor of Alabama, rated well qualified from the American Bar Association, who was opposed because of the code language of—quote—“deeply held personal beliefs”—end quote—on issues like abortion.  That‘s religious discrimination. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe, Dr. Mohler, that the Democrats—and that‘s who we‘re talking about here—are keeping people from getting judgeships because of their personal religious commitments? 

MOHLER:  I think that‘s what is underling this, Chris.  And I think this is why this is a healthy discussion, because, quite frankly, if you‘re looking at these issues like abortion and marriage and homosexuality, and all this, and these are all in play in the courts.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MOHLER:  We understand that many of us form our convictions about these issues and our basic understanding and world view from, for instance, for me, a deeply evangelical understanding of a world view established in scripture. 

There are conservative Roman Catholics whose beliefs are allied with the official teachings of the church.  There are Orthodox Jews whose beliefs are formed by the tradition of Judaism.  And, quite frankly, I want to see these persons have the opportunity for an up-or-down vote in the Senate. 

And, by the way, the 200-year-old filibuster rule has never been used in the way it is being used right now.  And so, clearly, it‘s up for debate.

MATTHEWS:  You made a good point.  You made a good point. 

MOHLER:  But this is not entirely new. 

SAPERSTEIN:  You made a good point that there are conservative Catholics.  They‘re evangelical Christians, Protestants, but they‘re also liberal Catholics and they‘re reformed Jews and they‘re mainstream Protestants.  Why are they not considered by your lexicon people of faith? 

MOHLER:  Well, number one, the statement people of faith to me is simply an objective realization that people claim and operate out of whatever beliefs they so choose. 

And the statement from the Family Research Council about our event Sunday night did not say it is discrimination against all persons of faith.  We didn‘t make any statement whatsoever about the faith status of those who are doing the discrimination.  You know, it‘s one thing to jump to the ad and say it mentions discrimination against people of faith.  But it is not fair to jump from that and say that it assumes that that just means that the people doing this have no faith whatsoever.  That‘s between themselves and God.  And we can speak about that in a different context. 

But I would have to be able to have a much deeper conversation with them to make such a statement. 


SAPERSTEIN:  It very hard to justify such a claim, that these people are being targeted because of their faith; 215 judges were nominated by President Bush; 205 were overwhelmingly supported and passed, or at least had their day, supported by people in both parties. 

MATTHEWS:  What about William Pryor?  What about the case raised?

SAPERSTEIN:  Do we think that those 205 were not people of faith?  Many of them held as a matter of their faith and political combination, they were opposed to abortion, opposed to gay marriage, just like these people.

But Pryor and Justice Owen, and Judge Owen, and the others, are these 10 -- and only 10 -- are being held up because of their extreme views.  You asked about Judge Pryor. 


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the—is it the views you don‘t like or the probability that that will disable them from reading the Constitution accurately? 

SAPERSTEIN:  Well, I agree with the current attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, who, serving on the court with Judge Owen, said that this is a view that is a view that she took almost alone of activist judges you can‘t base it in the law. 

Yes, I think she and Justice—Judge—Justice Pryor, if they got put on the court, they would ignore precedent and they would do exactly what Dr. Mohler thinks judges shouldn‘t do.  There‘s every indication from the past that was what happened.  And that‘s the reason that they‘re being opposed. 


MATTHEWS:  Rabbi David Saperstein, we‘ll let the Reverend—rather, the Reverend Dr. Albert Mohler respond when we come back. 

Later, will John Bolton be confirmed as U.S. ambassador now that Colin Powell has expressed reservations about him?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Rabbi David Saperstein and Dr. Albert Mohler.

Dr. Mohler, do you have a sense—in the New Testament, Christ said, render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar‘s and to God the things that are God‘s.  What does that mean to you?

MOHLER:  Well, it means that my first priority is of course the Gospel ministry.  And that‘s what I am about.  And my full-time job is preparing young leaders to be ministers and preachers of the Gospel.  And that‘s my passion. 

But the Gospel itself has political consequences.  And a part of what we must render unto Caesar in a democratic form of government is our political participation.  We‘re accountable for that.  And what we‘re doing Sunday night with “Justice Sunday” is helping Christians to understand how to fulfill that responsibility. 

MATTHEWS:  Rabbi, how do you see that? 


MATTHEWS:  Not that you‘re a New Testament kind of guy, but how would you read something like that?

SAPERSTEIN:  It‘s something—it‘s something we share.  We both share the idea of a prophetic witness, that we should be a moral goad to the conscience of the country. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SAPERSTEIN:  But it doesn‘t always make what we say right. 

The Bible has been used in this country to justify the horrific institution of slavery, oppression of women, anti-Semitism.

MATTHEWS:  Sure.  Good things.

SAPERSTEIN:  And when repugnant things are said in the name of religion, it is the role and responsibility of public leaders, like the Senate majority leader, to say, that‘s wrong. 

American senators should not have their faith impugned because they hole a view on the filibuster different from the organizers of this event. 

MATTHEWS:  He denies that—you stand by that, Dr. Mohler, that you‘re not saying in your ad or anywhere else that people who oppose your position on the filibuster, which is a pretty secular argument, if we get down to it, whether we have this procedure or that—obviously, it would depend on the context of the debate at the time—have a less significant faith. 

MOHLER:  No.  That‘s between themselves and God.  And, quite honestly, we just don‘t know that. 


MATTHEWS:  But you know your side has faith. 

MOHLER:  Well, I‘m right up front.  I am operating out of a deeply convictional Christian world view as an evangelical Christian. 

And yet, I want to say, I respect the Constitution.  I respect our form of religious liberty.  And that‘s why I‘m on this program today contending for the nomination of a Judge William Pryor, who is a Roman Catholic.  And I think that‘s what this country is all about.  And, by the way...


SAPERSTEIN:  ... Mohler...

MOHLER:  Yes. 

SAPERSTEIN:  Senator Frist should not justify and give his stamp of legitimacy to this notion that, somehow, this is a filibuster against people of faith, either all people of faith or these people because of their faith. 

MOHLER:  But it is.

SAPERSTEIN:  It has to do with their competency and positions. 

And it is no more true that way than if you oppose a liberal judge who said, as a Catholic, I believe I‘m against the death penalty and you thought they were wrong.  You oppose them on that.  That isn‘t because of their faith.  It is because of their views.  And it is a subterfuge when people make that claim.

SAPERSTEIN:  Well, Rabbi, there‘s one problem on that. 

And I—I really appreciate this respectful discussion, Rabbi.  And yet, the issue here is that we didn‘t make this up.  In the judiciary hearings, some of these candidates were presented with articles they had written in their own denominational periodicals.  And when you have this kind of language about opposing these candidates because of—quote—

“deeply held personal beliefs” about abortion, well, how in the world can we read that, but that this is anti-religious discrimination? 

SAPERSTEIN:  So would it be OK if they opposed these people if those deeply held beliefs were secular?  That would be all right?

MOHLER:  But they‘re not. 

SAPERSTEIN:  But because they‘re religious, they‘re—it has to do with the position, that they think these are extreme interpretives of the Constitution.  That‘s why they‘re opposed. 

But the Senate majority leader should not endorse this notion that opposing a filibuster is filibustering against people of faith.  Good, moral people of faith can differ on the judges and the filibuster.  And I really would hope that you would not give sanction to that notion either, Dr. Mohler. 


MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Dr. Mohler—Mohler a question.  And it‘s pretty strong.  And I don‘t mind saying it might be loaded. 

But didn‘t we come to this country to get away from religious wars, where one prince was a Protestant and the other was a Catholic and you fought wars over it and every time there was an issue of policy or leadership, it always came down to what side are you on?  Shouldn‘t we keep religion out of procedural matters on the Senate floor? 

MOHLER:  Well, you know, it would be convenient if that could be possible.  But we all operate out of our deepest convictions. 

And, in the case of believing Christians and faithful Jewish elected officials and Roman Catholics, we have the freedom to remain Christian, Roman Catholic, Jewish, whatever, in all of our roles.  Now, we have to respect this constitutional republic.  And I deeply respect our constitutional order.  I‘m not calling for an imposition or an institution of Christianity as a national church.  I‘m not putting a religious test for office. 

I‘m complaining that there are others who are trying to do that.  And I‘m saying, let‘s just keep these kinds of questions out in terms of disqualifications.  Let them get to the Senate or an up-or-down vote.  If the Senate votes them down, the people will have spoken through their elected officials.  It is just not fair to oppose them even having the right to have a vote by a minority of senators saying, we won‘t even let them get to the floor. 

SAPERSTEIN:  What the filibuster does is prevent one party from so dominating the political scene, all the different branches of government, that they can ram through what they want.

It forces compromise.  It says, you have got 205 of your appointments in.  Ten are so extreme that they‘re so utterly acceptable on issues of basic principle, find other conservatives who we can reach common support for.  That‘s a fair thing to do on both sides.  And we ought not to abandon this important weapon and instrument against extremism in America. 

MATTHEWS:  Rabbi, thank you very much for coming.  Happy Passover.

And thank you, Reverend Albert Mohler.


MATTHEWS:  When we come back, U.S. Congressman David Dreier and former U.S. Congressman, former head of the NAACP, Kweisi Mfume—he is running for the Senate, I believe—on the political battle over John Bolton‘s nomination to represent this country at the U.N. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

John Bolton‘s former boss Colin Powell has weighed in on his nomination to be ambassador of the United Nations, speaking privately with Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, two Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee.  And the former secretary of state reportedly said he was troubled by the way Bolton treated State Department officials who disagreed with him. 

Kweisi Mfume is running for the U.S. Senate in Maryland on the Democratic side, a former congressman.  He most recently ran the NAACP.  And Republican U.S. Congressman David Dreier of California served as co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in California. 

Congressman Dreier, you‘re first. 

REP. DAVID DREIER ®, CALIFORNIA:  Well, let me tell you...

MATTHEWS:  The Bolton nomination, is it alive or dead? 

DREIER:  Oh, it‘s very much alive.  John Bolton is a tough, no-nonsense guy. 

And, I mean, I think back to Jeane Kirkpatrick and your old guy Pat Moynihan.  People served in that capacity as our ambassador to the United Nations.  And it‘s a very important role.  There are a lot of problems that exist in the U.N., the food-for-oil deal, all kinds of corruption, all kinds of—in Africa, look what has taken place there. 

We need to have somebody who is going to be strong and tough and go to the United Nations and deal with this—with these issues.  And I‘ll tell you, Chris, there is always a clash of ideas in this town.  There‘s a clash of ideas at the HARDBALL table here.  And you know what?  I‘m sure that John Bolton—I haven‘t seen it myself.  I‘ve known the guy for two decades.  We‘ve agreed on a wide range of things.  I‘ve never worked for him.

But people do argue in this town. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  We argue here.


MATTHEWS:  And people do have disagreements.  Yes, exactly.  And I just think we have got to remember that. 

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Mfume.

KWEISI MFUME (D), MARYLAND SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, would love to see John Bolton in the position if John Bolton believed in the U.N.

But this is a guy, philosophically, who really didn‘t think the U.N.  was very necessary at all.  So, it was ironic to me that, of all the people to put forward, you put somebody who is going to be the face of America who really doesn‘t necessarily believe in the institution, its history or its future. 

The other issue is Colin Powell.  When Colin Powell stands up and says he has reservations...

MATTHEWS:  He hasn‘t stood up yet. 

DREIER:  No, he hasn‘t.

MFUME:  Well, when he has made inference over inference after inference about he has severe reservations about somebody‘s temperament, I think it is time to slow down and back up, which is why the distinguished senator from Ohio I think did what he did and why I think that his temperament is in question, maybe his management style, but his temperament and certainly his philosophy. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the former secretary of state, who is immensely respected worldwide, do you think he should come out and stand up and say he has a problem with Bolton or stop having people speak for him? 

MFUME:  Well, I think he needs to be on the record.  And I don‘t know, “The New York Times,” whether that was second person or not.  But I think he needs to...


MATTHEWS:  Oh, all that person did, his staffer, all she said was, he has spoken with these senators. 


MATTHEWS:  It doesn‘t say on the record anywhere.  He has not come forward and said he has a problem here. 


MATTHEWS:  You think he should?

MFUME:  He should.

DREIER:  These are people who sought him out. 

First, let me say, John Bolton very much believes in the United Nations.  Sure, he‘s been a critic of the United Nations.  We‘ve all been critical of the United Nations.  We should be critical of the United Nations itself because of the things that I just mentioned, the problems in Africa, food for oil, these kinds of things that need to be addressed.

But we know that using the United Nations for our leadership, like the passage of Resolution 1559 that was just used to get the Syrians out of Lebanon, that‘s the very kind of—we played a leadership role in the Security Council doing that.  John Bolton will be perfect. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a major success.  I agree with...


MATTHEWS:  ... success.  Explain that.  Explain that again.  What did the president achieve through the U.N.? 

DREIER:  What we‘ve seen—and this is really in the wake of what took place in Iraq in the elections.  People told me this when I was just, a couple weeks ago, in Beirut, Lebanon. 

What we found is, through the United Nations, the establishment of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, we were able to get the international community encouraging the Syrians to extricate themselves.  And, right now, nearly 95 percent of the Syrian forces are outside of Lebanon.  The people of Lebanon by May 31 are going to be able to see free and fair elections.  It is an incredible success. 


DREIER:  And John Bolton, John Bolton, John Bolton...

MFUME:  John Bolton had nothing... 


DREIER:  John Bolton had nothing to do with that?  He is assistant secretary of state. 

MFUME:  No, no, no, no, no. 

DREIER:  And I will tell you something. 


MFUME:  He is the assistant secretary.  I understand.  But...


DREIER:  But let me just tell you something.


DREIER:  John Bolton has supported the policy, Kweisi, which has brought this kind of thing about.  And that‘s the message that he is going to carry to the United Nations.  And I think he is going to be a phenomenally—everybody still remembers Jeane Kirkpatrick very well, right? 


MFUME:  The Senate has a right, Senate has a right...

DREIER:  Of course they do.

MFUME:  ... to talk about his temperament and his management style. 

DREIER:  Of course.  And they‘re doing it.

MFUME:  If he is throwing things at people, if he is putting his hands in people‘s faces, if he is cursing out employees, that‘s a real issue. 

But I have to go back to this issue of philosophy.  John Bolton was more than just a critic of the U.N.  He didn‘t even think it ought to be in existence.  He thought it ought to be abolished.  So he‘s going to be the face of the United States?

DREIER:  John Bolton believes in the United Nations.

MFUME:  Well, he does now because he‘s the nominee. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about a matter neither of you have brought up.  And that‘s the question of intel.  Of course, there‘s a lot of dispute about how the world got it wrong with regard to Iraq. 

But Cuba, now, when John Bolton spoke back in 2002, in May, he said that Cuba should be on this list of axis of evil.  In fact, he had his longer list than the president.  He had six countries on it, Libya, Syria and Cuba especially, in addition to the three the president mentioned, which are Iran, Iraq and North Korea.  He said it should be on because Cuba, as he said on the record, has a limited offensive biological weapons capability. 

That‘s not the case, according to the experts he relied upon.  Isn‘t that a problem, that he put out a statement that wasn‘t backed up by the analysis of his own department?  Isn‘t that a problem?

DREIER:  Fidel Castro is a menace. 

MATTHEWS:  Of course.

DREIER:  This is obviously an issue that is going to be addressed. 

And I‘m not in a position...

MATTHEWS:  Aren‘t you troubled by the fact he put out a statement that wasn‘t backed up by his own analysts? 


MATTHEWS:  ... Christian Westerman.

DREIER:  We can bring up the entire weapons of mass destruction argument in Iraq again. 

Obviously, we‘ve had difficulty with intelligence.  That‘s something that has been problematic.


DREIER:  And we‘ve got now—we‘ve got John Negroponte.  And we‘ve got Porter Goss.  And I hope very much that we will able to put this issue behind us. 

MATTHEWS:  If you bring in your top person and you ask them, does this guy have these—these biological weapons and the top guy says he doesn‘t and then you go out and give a speech that says he does, how do you trust a guy like that? 

MFUME:  This is exactly what happened in Iraq.  I mean, we‘re at the same point all over again.

MATTHEWS:  Exactly what happened?  Well, we don‘t know if anybody lied about that. 

MFUME:  Well, let me say, it was bad intelligence.  You would agree with that, right?

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s objectively true, but we don‘t have any idea if there is a motive.


MFUME:  But if he says that they exist and they don‘t exist, now, there‘s a breakdown somewhere. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s different, because I think Cuba is more problematic. 

MFUME:  Yes.  But his statement was not that it was more problematic.  It‘s they had this capability, which the experts say it doesn‘t have.  Now, either it does or it doesn‘t.  But when you put yourself out and you say that, I think you‘ve got to prove it or stand by it.

DREIER:  These are all fair questions to raise.  But I‘ll tell you, at the end of the day, John Bolton is going to be a great ambassador to the United Nations. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he‘ll get by the Senate committee?

DREIER:  Yes, I do.

MATTHEWS:  Will he get the Linc Chafee and Hagel and Voinovich?

DREIER:  I think he will.  I do think—I do think that he will.

And I will tell you, again, everyone brings Colin Powell.  I have the utmost respect for Colin Powell.  He‘s a terrific person.  But, I mean, these guys actually place calls to him.  And, frankly, he basically said what has come out already in the testimony that has been there.


MFUME:  David, we could have had a better nominee.  That‘s the bottom line.  The president could have put forth a better nominee. 

DREIER:  I think he is a phenomenal nominee. 

MFUME:  But he is not the best out there.

DREIER:  I think he is the best.

And I‘ll tell you, having worked with him for many, many years, I‘m convinced he is going to be just what the United States of America needs in the United Nations. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think this was the president‘s idea, to put Bolton at the U.N.? 

DREIER:  Well, I will—of course it‘s the president‘s idea.

MATTHEWS:  It was his idea?  No, his idea?


DREIER:  Listen, I think the president is convinced that he is the best choice for the job or he wouldn‘t have selected him. 

MFUME:  Well, that doesn‘t say much about the intelligence community. 


MFUME:  I think that there are far more better choices that could have been put forward that Democrats and Republicans could both say, hey, this is our person, man or woman. 


MATTHEWS:  Do you think the president—you work in Washington.  You have an executive position.  You are on the Rules Committee.  You have people working for you.  Did you know all this about John Bolton before he was nominated, all these problems? 

DREIER:  I already answered.  I brought that up.  I said no.  I‘ve known him for 20 years. 

MATTHEWS:  And you didn‘t know about all these problems?

DREIER:  I‘ve not known about these... 


MATTHEWS:  The door banging and chasing people down hallways?

DREIER:  Let me just tell you, I see it every—I‘ve seen it on this set before, Chris, OK?

MATTHEWS:  I have never seen anybody chase anybody down a hallway.


MATTHEWS:  Fighting here.

DREIER:  Let me tell you, I remember colleagues of mine who threw lamps.  And I‘ve heard stories like this.

MATTHEWS:  Hillary Clinton was accused of doing that. 

DREIER:  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  This is not—this is not something that is new.

MATTHEWS:  You know what?  I think it is going to come down to the intel issue, but I may be wrong. 

DREIER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 


MATTHEWS:  Good luck in your race. 

MFUME:  I appreciate it.


MATTHEWS:  Good luck in your race. 

I don‘t have to give you good luck in your race.

DREIER:  I need luck.  I need luck. 


MATTHEWS:  You‘re a good—you‘re an incumbent. 




MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, David Dreier of California, a great guy.


DREIER:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  House Rules Committee.  He is one of the leaders of the House. 

Still ahead, will Senator Frist experience any political fallout from his appearance on Sunday‘s religious telecast?  We‘ll have that debate.

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


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, Democrat Jenny Backus and Republican Barbara Comstock battle it out over Senator Frist‘s planned appearance on a Christian telecast.  Will it hurt him politically?

When HARDBALL returns.



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In a rare televised appearance, three Supreme Court justices, Sandra Day O‘Connor, Stephen Breyer and Antonin Scalia talked candidly about the court.  The event was organized by the National Constitution Center, moderated by NBC‘s Tim Russert and carried on C-SPAN.  Justice Scalia, who was appointed to the court by Ronald Reagan, talked about judicial nominations. 


JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA, U.S. SUPREME COURT:  Well, I think what is going on is unprecedented in the difficulty of getting judicial nominations confirmed.  I just—I was nominated almost 20 years ago.  I was known to be conservative in my policy views.  But I was known to be a good lawyer, an honest man, and somebody who could be fair and write an intelligent...


SCALIA:  I was confirmed unanimously by the Senate. 


MATTHEWS:  Jenny Backus is a Democratic media consultant, working with many Democrats, including John Kerry.  Barbara Comstock was a senior official in the Bush Department of Justice and is a media strategist working very hard for Tom DeLay. 

Let me ask you, Barbara, do you believe that Antonin Scalia, were he up right now for chief justice or associate justice or appellate, would he pass muster with the Democratic—with the Democrats in the Senate? 

BARBARA COMSTOCK, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON:  I do think he would, but I think he is right that it would be a lot more difficult, because this process has gotten very contentious and ugly these days.

And these filibusters are unprecedented.  In 1995, Barbara Boxer said, a quote, it is not the role of the Senate to obstruct the process and prevent numbers of highly qualified nominees. 

MATTHEWS:  Would he be filibustered today, do you believe, by the Democrats?

COMSTOCK:  I believe he would be.  And it would be wrong if they had done it before.  It would be wrong now.

But I think he would be a great candidate to be chief justice if that position ever opens up.  And I would love to have a few more. 

MATTHEWS:  I think so, too, for what it‘s worth.


MATTHEWS:  Jenny, would he be filibustered by the Democratic Party, your party, if he were put up today? 

JENNY BACKUS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  I don‘t know.  I mean, I think...


MATTHEWS:  You don‘t know? 

BACKUS:  I‘m not sure.  I mean, I—probably.

MATTHEWS:  Why would you filibuster a man that smart? 

BACKUS:  But hold on one second.

MATTHEWS:  No, really.  Why would you filibuster Scalia?  Everybody knows he‘s great.  He‘s smart; he‘s very human; he‘s very connected; he‘s very practical. 

BACKUS:  Well, I will actually tell you why I would personally filibuster Scalia.  I think he‘s had some serious conflicts of interests. 

He‘s gone and gone hunting with some people who had business in front of his case with the redistricting case in Mississippi.


BACKUS:  There are some questions about him that I think my party would filibuster. 

But only in Washington would a 95 percent approval rating be criticized by the Republicans.  There have more—with all due respect to Justice Scalia, he was wrong about confirmations.  George Bush has had more judges confirmed than anybody since Reagan, when Scalia was first put up. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  But do you think the filibuster is a healthy tool to use against nominations? 

BACKUS:  Absolutely, when the case is right.  And Barbara is going to quote—she will put Boxer out, but...


MATTHEWS:  This is the bottom-line question. 


MATTHEWS:  Under our Constitution, if Congress passes a bill, the president gets to veto it.  He only gets a certain amount of time to do that and then it becomes law.  Under the system of back and forth of division of powers, if the president sets up a judicial nomination, shouldn‘t it have to come back to him with a yes or no on it?

BACKUS:  I don‘t...


MATTHEWS:  Why not?  Why shouldn‘t it have to come back to him as a yes or no? 

BACKUS:  Because it is the historic advise and consent rule of the Senate.  The president has an immense amount of power in the bully pulpit.  The president selects people and the Senate has a responsibility to ask...


COMSTOCK:  But it unprecedented right now.

BACKUS:  It‘s not unprecedented.


COMSTOCK:  And Justice Scalia is right.

BACKUS:  How can you say it‘s unprecedented? 


COMSTOCK:  Right now, we‘ve had 25 percent of the circuit court judges have been filibustered.          

BACKUS:  There are 46 vacancies right now. 


MATTHEWS:  Who was the first judge ever filibustered in history?  When did it start? 

BACKUS:  That‘s a really good question.

MATTHEWS:  I heard it started recently. 

BACKUS:  No.  No.  Look back to the Republican Congress. 


COMSTOCK:  Until just a few years ago, they...


BACKUS:  Look back to the Republican Congress.  They filibustered a huge percentage.


COMSTOCK:  No.  We allowed them to go to the floor. 

BACKUS:  You did not. 

COMSTOCK:  If they got out of committee.


BACKUS:  ... Dennis that...


MATTHEWS:  If you were up for a court nomination...

BACKUS:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  If you were nominated for court and your nomination was sent over to the Senate, wouldn‘t you think your entitled to a yes or no? 

BACKUS:  I would hope I would be entitled to a yes or no.  But that—ask those Republicans when the Clinton judges were sent over.  And they never gave them an up-or-down vote. 


MATTHEWS:  And I‘m allowed to say this.  I think we need to have an active Senate that says yes or no and doesn‘t just go to sleep on nominations. 


BACKUS:  I think you have to have a president that doesn‘t send people down that the Senate objected to. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, wait a minute.  If the Senate objected to them, there would be no problem.

BACKUS:  They filibustered them last time.  The president is killing the courts. 


MATTHEWS:  If you get 51 percent, 51 senators will give you a judge. 

BACKUS:  He is killing the court.


BACKUS:  He‘s sending people back. 


MATTHEWS:  You don‘t believe the president is entitled to an up-or-down vote on each judge nominee? 

BACKUS:  I‘m a strong believe in the Constitution and the Senate‘s advise and consent role. 

MATTHEWS:  But you don‘t believe he‘s entitled to an up-or-down vote? 

BACKUS:  I think if he sends a good candidate. 

COMSTOCK:  No, and the American people understand that we should have an up-or-down vote.

BACKUS:  No, they don‘t.  Look at the polling.

COMSTOCK:  It is unprecedented.  We had a number of Clinton judges that had votes that were in the 50s because we did not filibuster the...


COMSTOCK:  And we allowed them to go to the floor.  And there were situations where they didn‘t get out of the committee. 


MATTHEWS:  ... get an up-or-down vote in traffic court.


MATTHEWS:  When we come back, the battle over the Bolton nomination. 

It‘s even hotter than this one.

We‘ll be right back.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Jenny Backus and Barbara Comstock.

Will John “Joltin” Bolton make it as U.N. ambassador or not? 

Barbara, yes or no.


COMSTOCK:  I think he will.  Yes, I do think he will.  And I think the president has come out strongly for him.  And I think he will continue to.  This is a smear campaign, because people don‘t agree with him. 

MATTHEWS:  Being led by Colin Powell? 

COMSTOCK:  No, it isn‘t.  You had Biden and Dodd come out here and talk about this temperament, like you have all these sensitive souls in the Senate.  These are the places where we hear about senators throwing...

MATTHEWS:  Sensitive about intel being accurate or not?

COMSTOCK:  No.  Well, if they wanted to fight on that and vote against him on that, that‘s one thing.  But they‘re smearing him on this innuendo and old personal things that are nutty that have come out of nowhere from Russia. 


MATTHEWS:  Have you ever been chased down a hall and have somebody bang their way into your room? 


COMSTOCK:  Well, and her colleagues said that that did not happen. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, it didn‘t?

COMSTOCK:  And that kind of thing to come...


MATTHEWS:  Oh, so this woman is lying?


MATTHEWS:  OK.  That‘s a good point.  If she is, I want to know that, too. 

BACKUS:  But I think that here‘s the deal, is that...


COMSTOCK:  I think that‘s probably happened in the Senate, though. 

I‘ve heard stories about people throwing things in the Senate. 

BACKUS:  John Bolton‘s worst enemy is John Bolton.  John Bolton has had huge problems with intelligence.  I think George Bush is in a world of hurt. 

I think this is going to be the first major defeat for the president and I think it is a sign that he is turning into a lame duck and no one seems to be driving the truck, driving the car. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you—I want to ask you the same question I asked the earlier people on the—do you think it‘s important that Secretary of State, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose name has been all over the papers this weekend, coming up, and saying he doesn‘t like Bolton, should he be forced by the White House to come out and say what he believes publicly? 


MATTHEWS:  Don‘t you think the White House should say—why do we let him—why are you letting Colin Powell leak this guy of death? 

COMSTOCK:  I think they should address this on the issues on John Bolton. 

MATTHEWS:  Colin Powell, don‘t you want to hear what he has to say?

COMSTOCK:  John Bolton wants to go in and reform the U.N. 


MATTHEWS:  Bolton worked for Powell.  Shouldn‘t Powell speak? 

COMSTOCK:  But this isn‘t about Powell.  This is about...

MATTHEWS:  It isn‘t? 


MATTHEWS:  When you hire somebody, don‘t you ask for references from a previous employer? 

COMSTOCK:  Sure.  If he wants to come in and...


MATTHEWS:  OK.  And the previous employer is Colin Powell.

BACKUS:  But every day that goes by, more information comes out from anybody who worked for John Bolton.  And, again, this is a sign that Republican have lost control. 


COMSTOCK:  No.  And the Democrats want to be the cheerleaders for a flawed U.N.


MATTHEWS:  I‘m being pushed here.

Is Dr. Frist, the Senate Republican leader, locking up the Christian conservatives by backing this big push on people of faith this weekend, to push for the end of the filibuster? 

COMSTOCK:  What Senator Frist is locking up is a strong mainstream majority that wants to see an up-or-down vote on the Senate.  And that involves a lot of people who just respect having the laws, have the justices deciding the law and not based upon their own personal views. 

BACKUS:  Barbara, can I ask you a question on mainstream? 


COMSTOCK:  It‘s a broad consensus.

BACKUS:  Can I ask you a question on mainstream? 

Dr. Mohler calling the Roman Catholic Church the popish religion, saying it is not a real religion, that‘s who...

MATTHEWS:  Well, it is the popish religion.

BACKUS:  I know, but that‘s not...


MATTHEWS:  I‘m a member of it.  That‘s what we believe in.


BACKUS:  He‘s trash...


BACKUS:  ... Catholic Church. 

MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t trash it, just disagrees with its basis. 


COMSTOCK:  We‘re talking about Senator Frist.  And Senator Frist is getting an up-or-down vote.  Your party is the one that was attacking people who are Catholic because they actually happen to believe in their Catholic faith and they don‘t want to give them a vote. 

BACKUS:  No.  Where? 

COMSTOCK:  That has happened time and again.


MATTHEWS:  OK.  How does DeLay look this week?

BACKUS:  Where?

COMSTOCK:  He looks good.  He looks strong.  And I think the Democrats...


MATTHEWS:  He‘s a tough—I bet on DeLay.  I say he survives.  DeLay is tough.


BACKUS:  Every day—every day that—every day we get DeLay and Frist doing what they‘re doing, every day we watch the president‘s nominations...


MATTHEWS:  When they do the movie of Tom DeLay, will Chris Cooper play him?  I just want to know.  Will Chris Cooper play him?


BACKUS:  Joe Pesci.  Joe Pesci.  Joe Pesci will play Tom DeLay.


COMSTOCK:  ... is the most effective leader.  That‘s why they want to get rid of him.  And he‘s doing fine. 

MATTHEWS:  Joe Pesci has never played a good guy in his life. 

BACKUS:  There you go.

MATTHEWS:  Tom DeLay is an interesting guy.

Anyway, what do you think is going to happen to DeLay?  You‘re working for him. 

COMSTOCK:  I know.

Well, he has the strong support of the conference.  And he is—the Democrats have no message.  Carville and Begala came out this week and said, you know what?  Democrats don‘t stand for anything. 

BACKUS:  Democrats do have a message.

COMSTOCK:  They go after Tom DeLay because Tom DeLay gets things done. 

Just this week, he passed the energy bill with 41 Democrats.


BACKUS:  With a giveaway to oil...


COMSTOCK:  So, Alan Mollohan and Sheila Jackson Lee, who voted for that, those people are corrupt people, right?  They all vote -- 41 Democrats.

MATTHEWS:  Can I ask you a question, Jenny? 

BACKUS:  You certainly can.

MATTHEWS:  I want to ask you one big question.


BACKUS:  Go for it.

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t it the secret purpose and strategy of the Democratic Party to put Tom DeLay on a rotisserie and turn him around and baste him and broil him all the way up until the next election?  There‘s no sense getting rid of him now.  Keep him broiling until next November.  That way, you can blame everything on him.


BACKUS:  Well, there‘s no better metaphor.  Well, look, there‘s no better metaphor than what is happening in Washington than this guy, who actually has the perfect name, DeLay.  Every day, the Republicans who run Washington aren‘t doing things for voters out there. 


COMSTOCK:  ... class-action reform, the energy bill, the highway bill.


BACKUS:  Gas, gas prices, military, security, health care insurance. 


COMSTOCK:  They have no agenda. 


MATTHEWS:  Do you know what‘s scary?  I can actually hear you both at once. 


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, Jenny Backus and Barbara Comstock. 

On Monday, be sure to tune in for a HARDBALL special report, a look at the power—and we know about it—of religious values in the voting booth. 

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



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