updated 4/27/2005 8:59:38 AM ET 2005-04-27T12:59:38

Guest: Jim Lehrer, Dennis Richardson, Andrew McDonald, Christopher Hitchens, Deborah Orin, Lawrence Eagleburger

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Did John Bolton use false intel to stir up war fever prior to the American invasion of Iraq?  Has the insurgency in Iraq forced American top officials to grab control of that government? 

Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

Tonight, we look at the broiling fight over John Bolton, the man President Bush wants to represent us at the United Nations.  Today, another ambassador says that Bolton would—quote—“destroy the U.N.”  And is Bolton guilty of hyping intel that showed countries like Cuba and Syria threatened with us mass weapons in order to stir up America before the Iraq war?

Later, Jim Lehrer, host of “The NewsHour” on PBS.  Does public television need to notch to the right? 

But we begin with MSNBC‘s Tucker Carlson on the Bolton nomination. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC (voice-over):  Sometimes it takes more than Mr.

Nice guy to get job done. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Take John Bolton, the good man I nominated to represent our country at the United Nations.  John‘s distinguished career and service to our nation demonstrates that he is the right man at the right time for this important assignment. 

CARLSON:  When it comes to John Bolton, his supporters say he‘s the perfect man to shake up the status quo at the U.N.

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN ®, VIRGINIA:  I think John Bolton has an outstanding record of performance, the fact that he is straight-talking, that he doesn‘t hold punches in dealing with the United Nations and wanting to advocate the United States‘ interests first and bringing accountability to the United Nations. 

CARLSON:  But his detractors disagree, saying the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security could use a lesson in anger management and diplomacy before representing the U.S. on the world stage. 

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER:  Now, we knew going into this that Bolton didn‘t like the United Nations.  He said that you could have 10 floors of the United Nations building gone tomorrow and it wouldn‘t matter and a lot of other derogatory statements toward the United Nations.  But when you add to this his personal animosity, not toward the United Nations, but to other human beings, it creates a problem. 

CARLSON:  In foreign policy circles, Bolton has long been a lightning rod for controversy.  His opponents accuse him of trying to exaggerate a 2002 intelligence assessment of Cuba‘s biological weapons program. 

The following year, he referred to North Korea‘s president for life, Kim Jong Il, as—quote—“a tyrannical dictator,” pointing out that the country‘s population lives in—quote—“a hellish nightmare.”  The North Koreans replied by calling Bolton “human scum.”

Some U.S. diplomats feared the exchange might cause North Korea to pull out of international talks on its nuclear weapons program.  Also in 2003, Bolton clashed with the CIA, claiming that Syria was a threat to the Middle East because of its efforts to acquire unconventional weapons.  It was a position considered too aggressive and provocative by some in the diplomatic community. 

Recently, former Secretary of State Colin Powell reportedly shared his concerns about Bolton with at least two Republican senators. 

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE:  In the next two years, we‘re going to have a crisis, God knows, in Korea.  We‘re going to have a crisis relative to Iraq.  We‘re going to have a crisis relative to possibly Syria.  We‘re going to have crises about what these guys are doing, what weapons they have, don‘t have, and what their intentions are.  And Mr. Bolton is our spokesperson up there? 

REP. JOHN THUNE ®, SOUTH DAKOTA:  What we need today I think at the U.N. is somebody who is reform-minded, somebody who isn‘t afraid to ruffle a few feathers.  There have been problems at the U.N.

CARLSON:  So far, the debate over Bolton hasn‘t been primarily a debate about ideas or even about foreign policy, but instead about the personal temperament of a man, plainspoken truth-teller or bullying ideologue?  Those are the competing caricatures of John Bolton.  In the Senate, only one will prevail.  We‘ll find out on May 12.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Tucker Carlson.

Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger issued a staunch defense of John Bolton in Sunday‘s “Washington Post.”  He wrote—quote—

“I recognize that John‘s willingness to speak bluntly has raised questions. 

Perhaps there was a time when those concerns had merit—but not now.  Given what we all know about the current state of the United Nations, it‘s time we were represented by someone with the guts to demand reform and to see that whatever changes result are more than window dressing.”

Secretary Eagleburger, welcome.

LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Secretary, why is Colin Powell against this nomination of Bolton for the U.N.? 

EAGLEBURGER:  Well, basically, you‘re going to have to ask Colin Powell about that.  I assume and I gather from what I‘ve read that he did not like the way Bolton treated some subordinates in the intelligence research area, but I don‘t know that for certain. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you concerned at all about the Bolton nomination?  Anything bother you about it that might go wrong in the next couple years if he serves as our ambassador? 

EAGLEBURGER:  No.  That‘s why when—I wrote what I did.

My view is, I‘ve known him for a long, long time.  He worked for me in the State Department.  I never saw, by the way, any of these indications of his being tough on subordinates.  That doesn‘t mean it didn‘t happen.  It‘s just, I never saw any of it.  And the thing I admire most about him and the thing I think that‘s most important now is he had the guts to argue with me when he thought I was wrong. 

Now, most of the time, I ended up deciding what I wanted anyway.  And he was loyal and went ahead and did what I said.  But the fact of the matter is, one of the things in government that lacks, very much lacks enough of is this issue of being able to talk to your boss and tell him what you think. 

MATTHEWS:  How about when the analysts say something?  If you look at the three countries, he was rounding up more than three additional countries in his axis of evil extended.  He had three countries in addition to the three the president mentioned so dramatically, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea.  He had three of them, Cuba, Syria and Libya. 

In all three cases, as you just in Tucker Carlson‘s report, there are disputes there about whether they really did have weapons threatening us.  You talked about it being OK for a subordinate to challenge you.  But what about someone who is a political appointment or a policy appointment continuing to challenge the analysts who are there for objective fact-finding? 

EAGLEBURGER:  Well, first of all, you have to go back and take a look at the fact that, as we have seen of late, analysts are not always right. 

MATTHEWS:  But are they always wrong?  EAGLEBURGER:  What? 

MATTHEWS:  Are they always wrong?  It seems like he‘s in continual dispute with the fact-finders.

(CROSSTALK)

EAGLEBURGER:  No.  Of course, they‘re not always—they‘re not always wrong either. 

But my point is that I think the analysts have a right to give their analysis.  Those who receive that analysis have a right to question it.  Now, how tough they get in the questioning is another issue.  And I‘m not good to go try defend Bolton if he got too tough with these people, although I must tell you, I‘ve worked for some people who were very tough on me.  And I didn‘t end up weeping or going to someone else to get support for myself. 

But the fact of the matter is, a lot of people are tougher with their subordinates than other people are.  And that is often resented.  So, I can‘t argue whether he was in fact too tough on these subordinates.  But I can tell you, I think he had every right to question what the analysts were saying to him to make sure that he understood what they had—why they had come to these conclusions and to argue with him if he thought they were wrong. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to some political appointments. 

Frederick Vreeland I believe served as an ambassador to Burma and also Morocco, he said in a statement today to a member of the committee—he said that Bolton has no diplomatic bone in his body.  We talked about that.  “He is unworthy of your trust.”  He said, “If it is now U.S. policy not to reform the U.N., but to destroy it, Bolton is our man.”

Pretty strong language for an ambassador. 

EAGLEBURGER:  Well, yes, I suppose it is for an ambassador who is no longer ambassador. 

But the fact of the matter is, on these, he‘s touched on the right point, fundamentally, which is the U.N. and the U.S. role within it are now in serious question in terms of where do we go from here, what the U.N. is like in the future.  And it seems to me it is more than time that we have somebody who is gutsy enough in that institution to tell it what must be done to reform it if the United States is going to stay in it and stay in it actively. 

I‘m not saying we should withdraw from the U.N., but I am saying to you that if the corruption that we have seen of late goes on, our role within it is going to certainly diminish.  And if the U.N. is important, then it is important that it get reformed.  And if it is important that it get reformed, you need somebody like John Bolton to get it done. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about facts. 

We have got a guy, Ambassador Thomas Hubbard, who said that the testimony by John Bolton before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee inaccurately portrayed him as approving of language used by Bolton, when in fact he had simply said, I liked the way you changed that one part of it. 

We have a problem in the world, Mr. Secretary.  This is an objective fact, that the world doesn‘t trust us on WMD.  Is it smart to send someone to the U.N. who has questions about the veracity about charges they‘ve made about WMD against the advice of analysts?  I‘m talking about Cuba.  I‘m talking about Syria. 

(CROSSTALK)

EAGLEBURGER:  Well, again, how can I argue the question of what it is he did or did not say about WMD, other than to say, once again, in all the time I have known him and saw him at work in the State Department, I thought did he an excellent job.  I thought he was tough.  Yes, I thought he was abrasive on occasion.  Yes, but I also admired both of those qualities. 

Now, as far as the rest of the world not liking us much, I think that is as much the fault of the rest of the world as it is of us.  And I‘m getting tired of our rolling over and playing dead every time somebody says they don‘t like us anymore. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, I just want to talk about Colin Powell.  You said your suspicion, your hunch is that the reason he‘s leaked out word that he opposes this nomination is because he doesn‘t like the way in which Mr. Bolton dealt with senior nonpolitical people. 

EAGLEBURGER:  Well, that‘s a guess.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it has anything to do with rutilant sort of anger or contempt about the way in which the WMD issue was handled during the time before the war with Iraq and that Colin Powell feels used? 

EAGLEBURGER:  I don‘t know.  I can‘t answer the question, Chris. 

Again, I think there‘s some evidence—and it doesn‘t have much to do with Bolton, I don‘t think.  There‘s some evidence that he does feel used and probably with some reason for that in the run-up to the war. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

EAGLEBURGER:  But that‘s a different matter.  I don‘t know about Bolton‘s role in that. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you a really tough question. 

EAGLEBURGER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  In Iraq right now, the vice president of the United States, who is one tough cookie, and Condi Rice are over there trying to settle the fish of that new government.  Should we be playing such a micromanaging role in terms of trying to correct or meet the concerns of the Kurdish present that the prime minister is the right guy or the wrong guy? 

EAGLEBURGER:  Chris, I think, if I could, I would ask the question differently.  Should we be so obvious about what it is we‘re trying to accomplish? 

I think there‘s no question that we have an important role to play in making the Iraqis, different Iraqi groups understand that the future of their country is at stake and they have to mature and get this thing done.  But I would far prefer that these were quiet words whispered over telephones or whatever, rather than having the people there themselves, so obviously intent on making it clear what the U.S. thinks. 

I think they have to know what we think, but I would rather they did it in private. 

MATTHEWS:  Well said.  Thank you very much, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger.  And thanks for joining us on HARDBALL. 

When we come back, what is the role of Christian conservatives in the Republican Party?  Christopher Hitchens and Deborah Orin go at it. 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, how dangerous is the mixing of religion in politics?  I‘ll ask Christopher Hitchens and Deborah Orin when HARDBALL comes back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Senator Frist‘s involvement with Justice Sunday earlier this week has raised the issue of how much the pulpit should mix with politics.  In the latest “Washington Post”/ABC News poll, 55 percent of Americans, a majority, believe that politicians should not rely on their faith to make policy decisions. 

However, break it down by party affiliation and over six in 10 Republicans agree that a politician should rely on his or her faith, while a nearly identical number of Democrats believe just the opposite. 

Here to discuss it are Deborah Orin, Washington bureau chief of “The New York Post,” and writer Christopher Hitchens, whose work regularly appears and beautifully so in “Vanity Fair” magazine and Slate.com.

Men first.  What do you make of that dichotomy? 

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, “VANITY FAIR”:  Faith is one of the seven deadly virtues.  And it is probably the most overrated of those deadly virtues, too. 

What we need in politicians is reason and conviction and calm.  We don‘t want people channeling the deity.  And we don‘t want them claiming to speak for the supernatural.  It‘s a very sinister business.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So, you don‘t like John Kennedy saying that, here on Earth, God‘s word should—must clearly be our own?  You don‘t accept that.

HITCHENS:  I don‘t accept that. 

In fact, I‘ve even looked at the notes for the Gettysburg Address, where the words “under God” don‘t appear on the back of the envelope.  I think they were put in later perhaps to please the crowd or manage some constituency.  Lincoln was an atheist.  I think Jefferson was certainly an atheist. 

Our founding fathers were very decisive in excluding the word God from the Constitution and only invoking a very vague belief in a creator in the Declaration.  And they set up for us, to our eternal gratitude, a secular, a secular, a secular Republic.

MATTHEWS:  Who was the creator in the Declaration of Independence? 

HITCHENS:  Well, the deist view, which was common at the time, was that there may have been a prime cause for the universe and for the cosmos, but that whoever had done this took no further part in human affairs. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

HITCHENS:  Was not an intervener. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  God is in his heaven.  All is right with the world, that theme.

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  Very important distinction. 

And the absurd claim that this is a Christian country that‘s being made now is a direct negation of the Constitution, to which these people do and should take their oath and stick to it. 

MATTHEWS:  In an official capacity, Deborah Orin, is that a correct statement?  I‘ve never heard anybody actually say it exactly that way.  We are a Christian country, in the way that Spain was once Roman Catholic. 

DEBORAH ORIN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “THE NEW YORK POST”:  No.  I don‘t think...

MATTHEWS:  We don‘t have an official religion.

ORIN:  I don‘t think we say it that way. 

I think it is sort of fascinating, though, that, in this country, we have a certain amount of party hypocrisy on religion, because Democrats regard it as perfectly appropriate to campaign in black churches, to have black ministers run for office.  And yet, when Republicans do the same thing in, say, evangelical churches, they‘re shocked, shocked. 

I tend to agree with Chris that they should...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me give you a list here.  Let me give you a liberal causes...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Chris, check me on this, Christopher.  Check me on this.  These are liberal causes in which the deity, the church, a lot of ministers with collars on show up to protest, capital punishment.  They‘re always there with the candles and they‘re religious in the context there.  They show up as religious people.

They show up to oppose war, William Sloane Coffin.  We went through this whole thing in the ‘60s.  Foreign aid.  They‘re for generally foreign aid for debt relief even.  The churches get involved in that.  On the other side, the conservatives get involved with abortion, with end-of-life, Schiavo-type issues and with gay marriage.  Doesn‘t both sides play this game? 

HITCHENS:  Yes. 

ORIN:  Yes. 

HITCHENS:  And it is rebarbative in both cases.  I mean, I don‘t like to see the Reverend Al Sharpton, let alone the Reverend Jesse Jackson. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think they should take the collar off before they run?

HITCHENS:  Most people would I think still bow the head a bit with an inclination of respect to Dr. rather than Reverend, Martin Luther King.  The fact is that you don‘t need to the Old or the New Testament to say that racism is wrong.  And it‘s—the religious rhetoric isn‘t necessary there. 

I think that the disapproval should be genuine and general and persistent. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s talk about Frist. 

Senator Frist, it is well known, has ambitions to leave the Senate and run for the presidency.  Was this a political gambit and was it smart to appear out there in Kentucky, Louisville, with all the religious conservatives around him, and make a pitch against the filibuster and judicial nominations, Deborah? 

ORIN:  I don‘t think it was smart, because I think, in the current context, and given the built-in hypocrisy on the issue and given the particular hypocrisy in the media, which tends to regard Democratic religious actions as acceptable and Republican as unacceptable. 

MATTHEWS:  You are so right.  You are so right. 

ORIN:  Then he knew he was going to walk into a buzz saw and he just walked right into it. 

On the other hand, if you are looking at it from the narrow political interest, was he trying to make proof to conservative evangelicals that he could be one of them looking ahead to 2008, it might have been smarter in that narrow personal interest for his own future. 

HITCHENS:  Could I just add, though, that—or not—but object slightly, in that I agree that Democrat liberal religiosity is sickly and boring and annoying and hypocritical. 

But there are some alarming things being said on the Christian right that I think deserve to be considered as menacing on their own.  We had Falwell and Robertson both saying that 9/11 was God‘s punishment on the United States.  I can‘t believe that they‘re still taken seriously by anybody after that.  We have people saying that Jesus is coming back real soon.  And, thus, there‘s no need to worry about the environment or the natural order, that it‘s all going...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Give me a name to that thought.  Give me a name to that thought.

HITCHENS:  It is called premillenarian dispensationalism. 

James Watt, for example, was an advocate of it.  So is Jerry Falwell. 

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  They say there will be a rapture.  It will all be over.  Jesus will gather in his own.  Those Jews who don‘t convert will go straight to hell and so on.  We don‘t have to bother about global warming or the environment. 

MATTHEWS:  But none of those voices were harmonizing with Bill Frist, to be fair.  Frist wasn‘t hanging around with Falwell and Robertson.

HITCHENS:  Frist should take a bit more care about putting some distance between himself and people like that.  And so should the Republican Party in general.

MATTHEWS:  When we come back, we‘re going to ask if—our guests—the White House has done a good job managing the nomination of John Bolton.  That is a hot one.  It‘s going to be decided in about three weeks in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Will he be confirmed?

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  More revelations today from “The New York Times” about John Bolton, President Bush‘s nominee for U.N. ambassador.  Will it make—will he make it? 

Christopher Hitchens and Deborah Orin are back with us again.

Let me ask you, will Bolton be confirmed, Christopher? 

HITCHENS:  Well, I think it is increasingly unlikely.  And it is not because of his politics.  And it is not because he isn‘t that tightly wrapped, I think.  And it is not because he isn‘t all that tightly wrapped, I think.

MATTHEWS:  I love that phrase.

HITCHENS:  And it‘s not because he doesn‘t mind kicking the old bureaucrat, because everybody should be in favor of that, especially intelligence bureaucrats. 

It‘s because he seems to have overstated a lot of things, in that—because his—particularly about Cuba, but I think also about Syria.

MATTHEWS:  And also about—what about North Korea, when he said that the ambassador there had approved of his lingo in a speech he had given, when, in fact, the ambassador had simply said, well, one part of it was OK?  And then, afterwards, he made it sound like he had got complete agreement from the guy. 

HITCHENS:  But the nice about Bolton, you have to say, is that he‘s been described by the North Koreans as a beast in human shape.  That‘s all right.  It‘s just that his...

MATTHEWS:  Scum.  They called him scum. 

HITCHENS:  His anger seems to be a sign of insecurity, rather than of overconfidence. 

MATTHEWS:  Do they know you up in North Korea?  You snuck through there once.  Do they know you?  Are you on their list of fame up there? 

HITCHENS:  I‘ve now been in Iraq, Iran and North Korea since 2000.  I think I‘m the only person who has done the whole axis. 

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  And, by the way, that‘s a real solid axis.  The one that is proposed by Mr. Bolton, the...

MATTHEWS:  It was Cuba, Syria and Libya. 

HITCHENS:  Cuba, Syria and someone else.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He had a second trio.

HITCHENS:  And I have to bring it up because it is important.  He was pro-Serb.  He was against the intervention in Kosovo.

MATTHEWS:  And you were.  You were for it.

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  Absolutely not.  Milosevic absolutely had to go to where he is now, to the dock.  And Bolton was against that. 

So, he seems to me to be a very odd duck politically.  And how can the president come and say, this is the best I can do?  I never forgave his father—did you? -- for saying with Dan Quayle and Clarence Thomas both, I can‘t do any better than this.  I‘ve looked everywhere else.  These are the best. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  His secret diaries allow the fact he made a mistake in picking Quayle.

But let me ask you this, Deborah.  Do you remember those war movies where, like, there would be a column of well-uniformed troops going through the woods or the jungle, and then there would be the people—the snipers would shoot the last guy in the column?  Is John Bolton simply the last neoconservative in the column and the easiest to shoot? 

ORIN:  He isn‘t even a neoconservative. 

MATTHEWS:  What is he? 

ORIN:  But he‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He‘s a hawk. 

ORIN:  No.  He‘s a target—he‘s a proxy target for Bush. 

This is Democrats going after Bush‘s policy. 

MATTHEWS:  Why this guy?  Why now? 

ORIN:  Because this guy is a tough guy and because they think they can make a case against him.  Most of the case against him—I happen to disagree with Christopher on this.  I think most of the case against him is total crap.  Some of the ambassadors...

MATTHEWS:  Why are Republicans biting on that crap, as you call it? 

ORIN:  Because I think people get scared. 

MATTHEWS:  Voinovich, Chafee, people like that.

ORIN:  I think they—I think people get scared.  They have issues with their own reelections and so on. 

But, you know, we had stuff coming out from a former ambassador, Ambassador Vreeland, who is against him. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

ORIN:  It turns out Ambassador Vreeland is a classic Arabist at the State Department, the kind of guy who thinks we ought to slam Israel over the head to give...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why would he be mad at Bolton? 

ORIN:  Because Bolton doesn‘t see things that way.  Bolton is—a much tougher view.  He is against the traditional Arabist view in the State Department. 

HITCHENS:  Meanwhile, General Sharon is in the process of ruining America‘s regime change policy in the Middle East by his continued confiscation of land and his appalling bullying of the Palestinians.  It is high time the hammer was brought down on this stuff. 

MATTHEWS:  So, where are you on Bolton?  Do you want him? 

HITCHENS:  No, not a bit. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you want him?

ORIN:  I think he looks a lot like to me like Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was one of the great U.N. ambassadors of all time. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he has Moynihan‘s wit and charm? 

ORIN:  He probably doesn‘t have Moynihan‘s wit and charm, although, having said that, apparently during the Florida fiasco, the vote recount, he was charming and delightful to both sides. 

MATTHEWS:  Bolton was? 

ORIN:  Yes.  Bolton was. 

And, you know, what I think is amazing is how the White House has mismanaged this, so that it is about Bolton, instead of about need to crack down on oil for food. 

MATTHEWS:  They seem to be dropping some of the people like Feith and Bolton from their list of people they‘re looking out for.  I just noticed that.  There‘s some people they look out for.  Wolfy is going to get World Bank.  He‘s playing it rather well, in fact. 

The other guys seemed to be dropped from the list.  Anyway, I‘m not sure Bush is looking out for everybody. 

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  It‘s not true that there‘s a Jewish cabal, by the way. 

MATTHEWS:  What does...

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  That—the reactionary allegation that there‘s a sort sinister Jewish neocon cable is disproved by the disappearance of Richard Perle, the resignation of Feith. 

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  The wobbliness of Bolton and the excellent news that Wolfowitz is getting a promotion. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think Wolfowitz will be good at the World Bank.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, Christopher Hitchens and Deborah Orin.

The battle over civil unions is hitting state side, as more state governments take up that hot issue.  We‘ll have a debate when we return. 

And, remember, this moment?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZELL MILLER, FORMER U.S. SENATOR:  I don‘t know why I even came on this program. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m glad you did.  Let me ask you this about...

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER:  Are you going to shut up after you ask me?  Or are you going to give me a chance to answer it? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, sir.  I‘m going to give you a chance to answer. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That was former Senator Zell Miller during his last appearance on HARDBALL.  Be sure to tune in tomorrow when we‘ll revisit that evening at the Republican National Convention.

This is HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Gay marriage continues at the forefront of the culture wars.  And the fight over judicial appointments has blown up into a full-fledged war on Capitol Hill.  But in the states, on the legislative side, another victory for gay rights advocates.  Last week, the Connecticut legislature passed civil unions, granting most rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples in the state; 3,000 people protested the legislation in Hartford on Sunday.

Connecticut Democratic State Senator Andrew McDonald supports the civil union bill.  Oregon State Representative Dennis Richardson, a Republican, is fighting similar legislation in his home state. 

Senator, why is this important to have? 

ANDREW MCDONALD (D), CONNECTICUT STATE SENATOR:  Well, it is important to have because the will of the people and the state of Connecticut have determined that it is in the best interests of all of us to eliminate discrimination in whatever form it takes. 

The fact is that we‘ve passed landmark legislation that debunks the myth that only activist judges know how to eliminate discrimination.  And, frankly, on a bipartisan basis, half of the Republican caucus in my chamber voted for this.  And we had a Republican governor who signed it.  And that‘s pretty good stuff. 

MATTHEWS:  Is this the first step toward gay marriage? 

MCDONALD:  Well, I don‘t know.  It‘s the first step toward...

MATTHEWS:  Are you for gay marriage? 

MCDONALD:  It is the first step towards equality.  And the fact is that the only thing that we have to fear in this whole situation is why people want to deny equal rights to same-sex couples. 

The couples that we are talking about are just ordinary folks who are living their lives.

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

MCDONALD:  And trying to be productive citizens.  And why the state would deny them equal opportunity under the law and responsibilities is beyond me. 

MATTHEWS:  I just want to get to the point of fact here.  Is this the first step toward gay marriage in Connecticut? 

MCDONALD:  Well, I think the issue of gay marriage is really going to be one that is going to be addressed in the future sessions of the General Assembly.  We have a changing tide in our state.

And the fact is that many people, almost a majority of people in polls, are in favor of gay marriage in Connecticut.  So, I‘m pretty certain we are on a path that is going to lead to that vote, whether it is a vote in the General Assembly or by decision by a court. 

MATTHEWS:  Representative Richardson, your view on gay marriage and civil unions.  Are you opposed to both? 

DENNIS RICHARDSON ®, OREGON STATE REPRESENTATIVE:  Well, yes, actually, I am. 

Oregon had a vote, along with 18 states across the country, that defined traditional marriage as between one man and one woman.  Civil unions is essentially marriage by a different name.  What we really need is to focus on, if there‘s benefits that would apply for couples, it should apply regardless of sexual orientation. 

Two elderly sisters who never marry ought to have the same benefits as two lesbians. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

RICHARDSON:  And so we have a bill that is coming out in the House for reciprocal benefits, which focus on benefits that would be fair for any couple regardless of sexual orientation. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the issue here—Well, it isn‘t with you, obviously, but do you think the issue with a lot of people is the word marriage?  They don‘t like what they take to be their traditional marital relationship, which certainly has its role in history, and have that applied to gay people, when it is not been done before? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is it the word marriage?  Is the word marriage the key conundrum here? 

MCDONALD:  Chris, the...

RICHARDSON:  No, it is not.  It is the institute of marriage—the institution of marriage that I think is most important to the people across America. 

MCDONALD:  The fact of the matter is that we have to deal with both the religious institution of marriage and the civil institution of marriage.  And too easily, people collapse the two to serve their own purposes. 

Nobody is suggesting that we are trying to diminish the sacrament of marriage as it is practiced by many religions. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know, I think this may be a red herring.  I don‘t know anybody that is confusing the two.  I‘m talking about the law here.  This is a political show.  I‘m not interested in political—I mean, Christian or Jewish or whatever rituals.  I‘m talking about the law here. 

Why do you keep taking us off into this direction of religious ceremonies?  I‘m not talking about that.  I‘m talking about the law and where people in a democracy have a right to decide what kind of a society they want to live in.  Do they want to live in a society where there‘s gay marriage or not?  Isn‘t that their right to decide that? 

MCDONALD:  I think you would be welcome in Connecticut, then, Chris.  The fact is that we‘ve been trying to talk about the rights, responsibilities and obligations of people in social and economic and legal ways.

And many people who are on the other side of this issue have tried to drag us into the weeds of religious doctrine. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MCDONALD:  And that‘s not what this is about. 

MATTHEWS:  No, I can‘t do that, because every religion has its rights to do it. 

Let me ask you this.  Do you believe that people, majorities of people in states or in this country as a whole, have a right to decide whether gay people get married, same-sex people get married, or is it a constitutional right that hasn‘t been fully explored yet?  How do you see it? 

MCDONALD:  Oh, I certainly think that there is a role for courts to determine whether equal protection is going to prevent the...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re not answering me the question.  Should the people decide whether we have gay marriage or the courts? 

MCDONALD:  We just did it in Connecticut.  The will of the people has decided... 

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re all for that?

MCDONALD:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re all for that?

MCDONALD:  I thought it was a great thing that the legislature, on a bipartisan basis, voted for this.

MATTHEWS:  So, you wouldn‘t have a problem—if the American people voted against gay marriage, you would just say them‘s the breaks, right?  You wouldn‘t go to the courts, then, would you?

MCDONALD:  I think that the first and foremost obligation is to have elected representatives do this.  And, frankly, if it rises to an issue of constitutional proportions, the courts have a role there, too. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to mr.—Representative Richardson.  If the people of Oregon or any other state vote for gay marriage, would you be able to live with it? 

RICHARDSON:  If it is the majority will of the people, then that‘s the representative democracy that we have. 

(CROSSTALK)

RICHARDSON:  Vermont five years ago today passed civil unions.  And in the election that occurred right after that, 17 of those legislators lost their positions because they were doing something that was not in conjunction or in harmony with the will of the people.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I agree.

But let me ask you this, Mr. Richardson.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No.  You‘ve talked more than him.  Please, I have to get Mr. Richardson.

Mr. Richardson, one of the problems that your side has in this is that young people my kids‘ age are totally against discrimination.  When you talk to kids in their teens now, they say, what‘s the problem with gay people getting married?  They don‘t even get what you‘re talking about.  Do you know that? 

RICHARDSON:  I understand, because, at their age, they don‘t have the experience that older people do as far as what is good for society and what is not. 

We have in Oregon reciprocal benefits, a bill that will give benefits to couples regardless of their sexual orientation.  Why should there be additional benefits given based on what people do and just carving out additional benefits based on their sexuality?  That doesn‘t make any sense.  If it‘s fair, it‘s fair for couples regardless.

MATTHEWS:  So, in other words, if two brothers live together, two brothers live together in perpetuity, they never get married and they stay together, two sisters stay together, they would have the same rights as two same-sex lovers, in other words?

RICHARDSON:  Absolutely. 

If it is fair for two people, why should it be based on their sexual orientation? 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s wrong with that, having that as a compromise, Senator, just the whole country agree to that kind of a relationship?  If you‘re living together, you‘re sharing economics, you‘re sharing food and housing, why not just let anybody who wants to do that have a certificate that says they can share rights as well?

MCDONALD:  Well, the fact is that we have to deal with workers‘ comp benefits, family and medical leave, tax benefits.

If the representative is suggesting that we‘re going to completely eliminate the legal recognition of relationships in our states, I guess that‘s a theory.  But I don‘t think that that acknowledges the deeply held beliefs that people want to form sustaining relationships over time. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Representative, is that a way of avoiding and countenancing gay relationships?  It sounds like your proposal is a way of not getting your hands involved in saying, yes, we agree with this kind of relationship. 

RICHARDSON:  Well, the majority of Americans have said what traditional marriage is.  Those that are in favor of civil unions are saying, we want marriage by a different name.  And you‘re not going to convince either side that they ought to give in to the other side. 

The reciprocal benefits merely focuses on those things, those items that are fundamental fairness, issues like decisions at the end of life or inheritance or ownership of property, visitation in the hospital.  These are issues that should be provided for couples regardless of sexual orientation. 

MATTHEWS:  All right, Senator McDonald, you‘re a strong advocate.  I think you‘re stronger on this show than the issue is in the public.  But if this was the only debate, you would be winning it. 

Anyway, thank you, Senator Andrew McDonald of Connecticut and Representative Dennis Richardson of Oregon. 

When we come back, is PBS getting pressure to become more conservative or less liberal?  I‘ll ask longtime PBS anchor Jim Lehrer.  He‘s coming here.

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, longtime anchor Jim Lehrer on why PBS needs an ombudsman.  Are they getting pressure or it just good business? 

When HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Power plays, accusations, secret deals and backstabbing, it sounds a lot like Washington right now.  It is also in Jim Lehrer‘s new novel, “The Franklin Affair.” 

Jim, welcome. 

JIM LEHRER, HOST, “THE NEWSHOUR”:  Hey, thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I was wondering—just beginning to read your novel, the 15th.  Is this “The Da Vinci Code” for American founding fathers?  I mean, did Franklin really not say, a stitch in time saves nine and haste makes waste? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  By the way, they‘re contradictory.  A stitch in time saves time and haste makes waste.  What are you supposed to do, slow down or hurry up? 

(LAUGHTER)

LEHRER:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t know.  But there were an awful lot of things happening back then, 220 years ago, real things and also some things I made up to fit my story. 

But Benjamin Franklin was a very interesting man, a lot of allegations made about him.  And my novel has to do with some of the worst. 

MATTHEWS:  Are we to believe all his aphorisms were his own creation? 

LEHRER:  No.  No.  He has said they weren‘t his own creation.  He said he picked them up wherever he went.  And he just—he was a collector of these aphorisms.  He didn‘t actually invent them all himself.  He was very straight about it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Just think if he was working for one of our newspapers today and he got caught. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  He would have been out of business. 

LEHRER:  Yes, yes, I know.  I know.  But he said it.  He admitted it right at the top, that that is what he was doing. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you today in politics.  You‘ve been here at least as long as I have, if not longer.

LEHRER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And I‘m wondering about things like this filibuster.  Most of us in romantic terms think of the filibuster like Mr. Smith, Jimmy Stewart standing up all alone against a corrupt project in his state against all odds and it being kind of a heroic, solitary, gutsy thing to do. 

Do we need the filibuster in court appointments?  Do we need it in general legislative debate?  Is it a good thing to fight for? 

LEHRER:  Well, Chris, as you know, those are the kinds of questions I ask, too, rather than answer.  I think you‘re probably as on top of this or more so... 

MATTHEWS:  OK, who is winning, then?  I‘ll ask you a journalist question.  Which way is it heading? 

(CROSSTALK)

LEHRER:  I think they‘re headed for a collision.  And I think both sides now realize that.  And I think both of them are beginning to back off and say, hey, wait a minute.  There could be a situation here where there are no winners, because the United States Senate and thus the U.S.  government comes to a screeching halt. 

And I think it has probably come to, the folks on both sides are realizing, hey, that may not go down very well with the United States, to the people of the United States.  And so I think both sides are beginning to try to figure out a way to avoid this.  Now, do you agree with me? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I think there‘s two kinds of senators, like there are two kinds of everything.  There are senators that come there for a couple terms and see it as part of their career move. 

Then there are true lovers of the place, people who read advise and consent, who read all the great books about the Senate, not just Bobby Byrd.  They love the institution of the Senate.  They love walking into that chamber.  And people like Biden, I think, and Durbin, and I think especially Arlen Specter, they don‘t want to see it messed up.  They want to see it the way it was, where there was that consensus, the notion of unanimous consensus on the way they do business.  And people could filibuster in extreme circumstances. 

I wonder if they want to see this collision that you describe. 

LEHRER:  Well, I think the people you‘re talking about is one group. 

But I think the other group are the people who are ambitious, who do not care that much about the institution and want to be president or want to be something else other than what they are. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

LEHRER:  And they don‘t want to be able to—they don‘t want to be put in a position of defending shutting down the U.S. government, when no effort, no serious effort was made to avoid it.  And I think that that is probably what is driving these new drives to avoid this collision. 

MATTHEWS:  The name of the book is “The Franklin Affair,” the 15th novel of Jim Lehrer.  This guy works all night.

LEHRER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  When we come back, Jim Lehrer on the big three anchors and changing network news.  And what about the charges—well, let‘s—is PBS going too conservative?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m back with Jim Lehrer, author of the new novel “The Franklin Affair.”

Jim, I just read that Google, the service that tells you what is being said about different people, different topics on the Net, gets more money in advertising than either “The Washington Post” or “The New York Times.”  How does that bode for the future of the way we get our news? 

LEHRER:  Well, I think, on the surface, it sounds bad.  But I think, in the long run, it is a good thing. 

Here‘s what I believe is going to happen.  There‘s all this information coming at everybody from the Internet, from iPods, from cable television news, from talk radio and whatever.  And there‘s going to be an increasing need.  There‘s already evidence of this, of people wanting somebody to come, people they trust.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

LEHRER:  That they can to go once every 24 hours and kind of put it all together.  Most people are working.  Most people are going to school.  And they‘re not watching the news, not even the Google news all day. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

LEHRER:  And I think the old gatekeeper, a straight news gatekeeper, is going to have a huge return. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree.  I mean, whenever we do a show, we try to check the—you know, it is getting harder to find that gatekeeper, though, Jim.

LEHRER:  I know.

MATTHEWS:  I‘ll tell you, we look at—we look at AP and there‘s no more UPI.  And you wonder, how old is the kid working on the weekend desk on AP and you wonder if he even heard of Alger Hiss or anybody before last year. 

The networks rely on—they‘ve got the best editors.  You do.  It is tough.

LEHRER:  It is tough.

MATTHEWS:  To find fact checkers, I‘m telling you. 

Let me ask you about the time we live in.  Most people get up around 7:00.  I make coffee, try to start to read “The Post” and “The Times.”  A lot of people—I have just talked to somebody who knows the research on this.  Most men are out of the house by 7:30, women, too. 

LEHRER:  I know.

MATTHEWS:  They‘re racing out the door.  How can you rely on people to pick up a paper, stop, make breakfast for the kids, probably, get them dressed or even if you don‘t have kids, just get something done mentally before you have to race off to work and worry about the boss?

LEHRER:  I know.

But I think what—I think maybe the mechanics of it may go through -

·         continue to go through a revolution.  But the need for that straight kind of report...

MATTHEWS:  I know.

LEHRER:  The straight kind of, hey, don‘t give me your opinions.  Give me just—I‘ll arrive at the truth on my own, if you‘ll tell me what happened and what other opinions are.  I think that‘s what—I think we may be getting it in different ways and different methods.  But the basic return to the old-fashioned journalism I think is just over the hill. 

MATTHEWS:  Why is there a criticism of—well, I grew up with Cronkite.  And my brother always said, Cronkite may be a liberal, but he gets the facts straight and I watch him. 

LEHRER:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Can we rely on that sort of sophistication, where people say, yes, maybe a guy like Walter Cronkite was more—he may have voted Democrat.  He may have thought liberal.  He may have had a different view of things than some conservatives out in the middle of the country, but we generally trust him on the facts.  Is that too subtle? 

LEHRER:  I don‘t think it is too subtle at all. 

I think there‘s a longing for that.  I think there‘s—and I‘m not talking about old people who are longing for Walter Cronkite. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

LEHRER:  I‘m talking about young people who are just so—so much stuff coming at them.  They‘re looking for some people just to say, hey, look, here‘s what happened. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But how do you get an editor at “The Washington Post,” for example, or any newspaper, who has—most of the women reporters tend to be pro-choice.  I think that‘s just—maybe Ivy League educations, whatever, urban backgrounds.  I don‘t know what it is. 

How do they constantly edit to make sure that the other view, which is the minority view in many cases, is represented in the editing? 

LEHRER:  Chris, that is not hard to do.  It is a matter of function. 

It‘s what you decide to do professionally. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

LEHRER:  You know, David Brinkley used to say, OK, it may be impossible for people to be—a human being to be completely objective. 

But it is not hard for a professional journalist to be fair and balanced and all.  We know what fairness is. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

LEHRER:  We know what both sides are.  That‘s an easy thing to do, if you decide to make it your function. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about PBS. 

LEHRER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  What is the new role of these ombudsmen, like the great Ken Bode, who is apparently going to be reading copy and—what is his job?  Is he going to be talking to people who complain or what?  What is his role?

LEHRER:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t know. 

(LAUGHTER)

LEHRER:  If it‘s a standard ombudsman, I think it is a terrific thing. 

And so I think I—transparency, particularly in public broadcasting, and accountability, particularly in public broadcasting, is extremely important.  If it is more than that, it will come out in the wash and it will go right down the tubes.  But if it a straight, professional ombudsman on the...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

LEHRER:  Follows the pattern of other ombudsmen in journalism, we‘re in fine shape.  If it‘s something more than that, forget it.

MATTHEWS:  But an objective journalist—I think you‘re making a good point here.  An objective fact doesn‘t have to have two sides to it.  There can be a point of view that is not happy with an objective fact.  What does he do then? 

LEHRER:  I don‘t know.  We‘re going to find out. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know the old line, some people can‘t stand the truth?  

LEHRER:  Absolutely right. 

What is it Pat Moynihan said?  Everybody has a right to their opinion, but they don‘t have a right to their own facts. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

LEHRER:  And I don‘t know.  I don‘t know how this ombudsman—the thing hasn‘t even begun to operate yet.

(CROSSTALK)

LEHRER:  But I welcome it if it is—as I say, if it‘s a straight operation.  And we‘ll see. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Jim Lehrer, the author of the new book, the latest novel by him, “The Franklin Affair.” 

And to read an excerpt of the book, go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

And be sure to tune in tomorrow here, when we relive former Senator Zell Miller‘s appearance right here on HARDBALL during last summer‘s Republican National Convention. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Jim Jeffords of Vermont switched parties after getting elected.

MILLER:  If you‘re going to ask a question...

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s a tough question.  It takes a few words.

MILLER:  Get out of my face.  If you‘re going to ask me a question, step back and let me answer. 

(LAUGHTER)

MILLER:  You know, I wish we lived in the day where you could challenge a person to a duel.  Now, that would be pretty good.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll have that memorable moment and so much more tomorrow on HARDBALL.

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

END

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