updated 5/4/2005 2:41:50 PM ET 2005-05-04T18:41:50

Guest: Ed Rogers, Steve McMahon, David Bossie, Jim Dean, Rob Biederman, Asheesh Siddique, Mark Green, C. Boyden Gray

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The fight over filibusters heats up, from the halls of Congress and special interest groups, all the way to college campuses. 

Plus, former colleagues come forward with new charges against President Bush‘s nominee for U.N. ambassador, John Bolton. 

And what‘s wrong with making everyone in America have an authentic I.D. card? 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.

New allegations that the president‘s pick to be U.N. ambassador, John Bolton, pressured intelligence analysts to produce—produce desired results. 

Meanwhile, the fight over filibusters has hit elite college campuses.  There‘s still no agreement tonight between Republicans and Democrats over President Bush‘s judicial nominations.  And the fate of the judicial filibuster still hangs in the balance.  But how did it all begin? 

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster takes a look back at how the Senate has used the filibuster over the years. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The majority leader is recognized. 

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  It‘s a debate that threatens to rip apart the Senate itself. 

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE:  This idea that the president gets, is entitled to who he wants on the court is the most bogus argument in American—modern American history. 

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: Justice is being denied.  The solution is simple.  Allow the senators to do their job and vote. 

SHUSTER:  But this argument did not start today.  It goes all the way back to our founding fathers. 

To break a logjam at the Constitutional Convention, their compromise was this.  The House of Representatives would be the popular body representing the will of the people, while the Senate, as the deliberative body, would protect small states and minority views. 

For the first 130 years of our nation, senators believed that meant giving each member an unlimited right to speak.  Ending debate to take a vote or conduct Senate business required the approval of everybody.  In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson, however, wanted to get around a few senators filibustering his efforts to bring America into World War I.

So, Wilson‘s supporters in the Senate adopted Rule 22, which allowed members to end debate if two-thirds of the Senate agreed.  The next change did not come until 1975, when the Senate reduced cloture from two-thirds to three-fifths, or 60 votes.  Since then, in order to avoid filibusters and keep Senate business going, issues or nominations that did not have the support of at least 60 senators were more often than not never brought to the floor. 

In the case of Supreme Court nominees, out of 26 rejected in our nation‘s history, only 12 received an up-or-down vote, like Robert Bork, who was defeated; 14 other rejected nominations did not get a vote, eight because they were bottled up or blocked by the Senate, six because their nominations were withdrawn.  One Supreme Court nominee, Abe Fortas, in 1968 was pulled by President Johnson following a four-day Senate filibuster. 

Historians note that‘s the only time a judicial nominee has ever been blocked by a filibuster on the Senate floor.  But historians also point out that, over the past 30 years, hundreds of other judicial nominations have been stopped by committee holds or indefinite delay.  And Senate blocks of all kinds, including filibusters, have stopped controversial ambassadors and Cabinet nominees. 

It goes back to the Constitution.  The president—quote—“shall nominate, and by and with advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and counsels, judges of the Supreme Court and all other officers of the United States.”

As the Constitution underscores, the founders of our nation did not make a special category or distinction for judicial nominees.  The question today is whether these nominees should now be treated differently and what differently means. 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  I can‘t believe the heat this issue has caused around the country. 

C. Boyden Gray served as White House counsel to the former President Bush.  He‘s also chairman of the Committee For Justice and he advises the group Progress For America, which just launched television ads to ban judicial filibusters.  And Mark Green is the former New York City public advocate.  He‘s now the president of the New Democracy Project. 

Mark, you first. 

Does the president, or does he not, enjoy the right to an up-or-down vote on his nominees for Supreme Court or any other court? 

MARK GREEN, PRESIDENT & FOUNDER, THE NEW DEMOCRACY PROJECT:  No president has for over 200 years. 

The way we‘ve done it is that there are numerous ways that senators opposing a nomination can delay, not have hearings, drag it out to the end of the term.  So, President Clinton was denied votes on 60 of his nominees to the Court of Appeals.  So that‘s the current rule.  The Republicans now want to change the rules and are engaged in an obvious hypocrisy, when Senator Frist filibustered Richard Paez to defeat.  Now he is complaining about it. 

I think they‘re whining and trying to change the rules in the middle of the game. 

MATTHEWS:  Boyden, is it your belief that the president of the United States holds the right to an up-or-down vote on any court nominee? 

C. BOYDEN GRAY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL:  Absolutely. 

And it is interesting.  The Paez nomination, he was confirmed.  He was not defeated.  He was confirmed.  The 60 people who are bottled up are part of a process that has happened over the last four decades, that the last year, towards the end of a four-year term, the out-party seeks to bottle things up, in the hopes that they will get the presidency and therefore the nominations for those spots. 

The interesting thing is, there were as many nominees bottled up at the end of Bush I after one term as there were at the end of Clinton after two terms.  And the net-net figure, the one that I think is the most relevant, is , there were significantly more vacancies left unfilled at the end of Bush 41 than there were at the end of Clinton, more vacancies left unfilled at the end of one Bush term than there were at the end of two Clinton terms. 

MATTHEWS:  Mark, is it your bottom line that it should take 60 senators out of 100 to approve a court nominee?  Because that‘s in effect what you‘re saying if you say the filibuster can be used to stop a nomination. 

GREEN:  Look, we have a filibuster of legislation and now of nominations. 

If you‘re going to use a filibuster and demand a supermajority, 60 votes, by Senate rules, which, of course, the Constitution permits, the best time to do it for lifetime appointment.  We‘re not talking about whether to trigger a price for a milk price supports a six, eight or a 10.  We are talking about potential radicals, right or left, being on the court for that long. 

And so I agree with Senator Collins of Maine, who is a swing vote on this, who said, when you have a 60-vote majority requirement, in effect, you force the moderates on both sides to come together.  I agree with Senator McCain, who said, we want to protect majorities and not have momentary majorities, which the Republicans currently have by small margins, determine lifetime appointments and stack the court in effect with radical right-wing extremists. 

MATTHEWS:  But the problem is, gentlemen, if the Constitution wanted a supermajority for court confirmation, it would have said so. 

GREEN:  No.

MATTHEWS:  The Constitution does not call for a supermajority.  It calls for advise and consent.

GREEN:  But the Constitution...

MATTHEWS:  Why doesn‘t it say a supermajority of 60 or 66 members or whatever, like they do on issues of constitutional amendment? 

GRAY:  Or treaties.

GREEN:  I‘m sorry.  The Constitution is not silent.  It says nothing about supermajority, but it allows the Senate to draft its own rules. 

So, of course, it has a supermajority for treaties, as Boyden just said.  So, it is permitted.  It‘s not required one way or the other.  But the key is, right now, Chris, the rules for 200 years, especially for the 13 judicial nominations, that were filibustered in the last couple of decades, permit judicial filibusters.

And the Republicans, because Democrats have only confirmed 200 out of 210, want to change the rule in the middle of the game.  And that is as undemocratic as when they try to changed the rules on the House Ethics Committee, Schiavo and Bush v. Gore. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go over after some of these Republicans.  It is not just a partisan issue, as you know.  Otherwise, Republicans would have the 51 votes they have right now, 50 votes, plus the vice president to break the tie.  They don‘t need any Democrats.

But you‘ve got John McCain, who has come on our program and said he will not vote with the Republicans on this.  He‘s voting with the Democrats against you.  He will not break the filibuster.  You‘ve got Lincoln Chafee, big question mark, Olympia Snowe, apparently going to vote are going to your position, a Republican from Maine, Susan Collins, question mark.  John Warner, he really seems like he‘s going to vote against your position. 

Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, John Sununu, New Hampshire, Mike DeWine, Chuck Hagel, Arlen Specter, very much an institutionalist from a state that is very purple.  Do you think you have got the 50 plus the vice president you need to do this? 

GRAY:  Well, I‘ve talked to a number of the senators.  I won‘t say which ones on your list.  And the ones I‘ve talked to are quite open and not necessarily against us.  So I think we have the votes.

MATTHEWS:  Well, not necessarily against you.  Do you have them locked for the 50 you need? 

GRAY:  Some of those I believe are locked.  And others that are not locked are not necessarily over on the other side. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you have people that will vote for you or people who will vote for you only if their vote is necessary? 

GRAY:  I think there are probably some who will only vote if their vote is necessary. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think this is a good constitutional—or, rather, institutional change to make with just 50 or so senators, plus the vice president?  A 50/50 vote should change the historic rules of the Senate?  Are you comfortable with that? 

GRAY:  It is the Democrats who made the change two years ago when they started this process.  No judge nominee with majority support has ever been blocked by filibuster. 

There have been occasional cloture votes and whatnot, but they‘ve all been confirmed.  Or they never would have made it anyway.  I don‘t see why this is a change.  This is simply a restoration, a restoration of what had been the status quo for 217 years. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you two questions, Mark.  You‘re a student of Congress.  You‘ve written about it for many, many years.  In fact, a long time ago, you started doing it. 

What‘s the institutional damage that would be done here if the Republicans get their way, get their 50 votes plus the vice president, and to get rid of the filibuster of judicial nominations?  What is so bad about that?  

GREEN:  Let me cite Robert A. Caro, leading biographer in the country, author of, of course, “Master of the Senate” on LBJ. 

He wrote that, if we change these rules, then you allow any passionate momentary majority in the House, Senate, and the presidency, which we currently have, to stack the courts with lifetime appointments for a long time.  What‘s going on now is C. Boyden Gray, for all his eloquence in “The Wall Street Journal,” splitting hairs with the Fortas case in ‘68, most people think Fortas had a majority, but he was clearly filibustered. 

But, beyond the filibuster, to demand an up-or-down vote is so naive.  Every senator knows that their job is to delay votes where they think they can lose.  Is it pretty?  It is democracy.  So, they want to change the rules.  And, finally, the context of this is rather ugly.  C. Boyden Gray‘s own group attacked Patrick Leahy and Ted Kennedy, Catholic senators, of being anti-Catholic because they were opposing anti-choice senators—I‘m sorry, anti-choice nominees. 

And, of course, Justice Sunday last week implied and said that Democrats are against people of faith.  It is those kinds of arguments that turn off Americans.  And that‘s why polls show a 10-point or greater majority against the Republicans‘ attempt to change this history. 

MATTHEWS:  Who is pushing this fight from the right?  Is it the members of the Senate or is it the interest groups? 

GRAY:  Oh, gosh, I think it is both. 

I mean, you have a situation where—just understand the backdrop.  The charge is, these are extremist right-wing judges.  But the leading consultant for the Democrats, an academic named Cass Sunstein, professor at Chicago, has said that there‘s extraordinary consistency between the nominations of Reagan, Bush I and Bush II.  These are the same, cut out of the same mold as previous nominations that have gone through Democratic Senates. 

President Bush 41 had a 54-46 Democratic majority against him.  And he got most of his appellate nominees through. 

MATTHEWS:  So they‘re all strict constructionists, in essence...

(CROSSTALK)

GRAY:  They‘re all the same.  They‘re all the same.  This president gets a 55-45 Senate in his favor and he can‘t get his nominees through.  He has by far the lowest appellate confirmation record in history. 

MATTHEWS:  Gentlemen, this has been a great discussion.  I hope we continue it.

Thank you very much, C. Boyden Gray.

And thank you very much.  Good to see you again, Mark Green. 

GREEN:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist‘s opposition to filibuster for judicial nominees has triggered a different kind of filibuster.  When we come back, we‘ll go to Princeton University, Frist‘s alma mater, where students are protesting his position with a ‘round-the-clock filibuster of their own.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, a filibuster to save the filibuster.  Students at Princeton University are holding a ‘round-the-clock protest of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist—when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  As the debate over the filibuster rages on in the U.S.  Senate, some Princeton students decided to take a stand.  Their plan, filibuster the man at the center of the debate, Senator Bill Frist at the campus center his family donated to Princeton University. 

Last Tuesday, the Frist filibuster began.  And today, it is still going so strong that they have speakers signed up for as far ahead as 6:00 Friday night. 

Asheesh Siddique is one of the organizers of the Frist filibuster.  Rob Biederman is a college Republican against the filibuster.  They join us from the site. 

Asheesh, what got you so riled up to actually have a filibuster of your own up there? 

ASHEESH SIDDIQUE, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY STUDENT:  Well, Chris, you know, we at Princeton are very civic minded.  We are really deeply steeped into the tradition of democratic orientations.

And we‘re very concerned about...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(CROSSTALK)

SIDDIQUE:  ... 200 years of...

(CROSSTALK)

SIDDIQUE:  ... traditional, but also about the fact that these nominees that President Bush has put forward will basically roll back every great thing that has happened in America, from environmental protection to civil rights legislation. 

MATTHEWS:  Are those people behind you on your side or against you? 

SIDDIQUE:  You know, I think, Chris, that those people who are beside me, behind me, are a mix of College Republicans and some of our supporters, yes.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, they‘re trying to drown you out.  I see. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s to go Rob Biederman. 

What is your view?  Why do you think the filibuster should be gotten rid of in judicial fight? 

ROB BIEDERMAN, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY STUDENT:  Well, the filibuster—this is a great protest.  Obviously, the College Republicans support the—support people‘s right to speak.  And we‘re fully supportive of this protest. 

But, unfortunately, the filibuster has no constitutional basis.  There‘s the right to speak, but the Democrats have been given the right to speak on this issue.  There is not an issue of check and balance.  The filibuster does not have a rich tradition.  It was used to prevent the—used to attempt to prevent the abolition of slavery.  It was used to prevent civil rights legislation from getting through. 

It was altered 30 years ago.  It‘s not a deep part of the United States‘ history.  And it shouldn‘t exist anymore.  All these judges that are up have been elected by a majority in their states, including one by 76 percent in California, which certainly doesn‘t sound like a radical right-wing judge. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BIEDERMAN:  And it‘s really—it‘s enough.  The Democrats in the Congress have had enough time.  And these judges need to be—need to be confirmed. 

MATTHEWS:  Asheesh, tell us about the guy who is filibustering behind you.  What is the all about?  Is he actually going to keep talking all day?

SIDDIQUE:  Yes.  He is.

In fact, we actually are not quite sure when this filibuster is going to end.  There‘s just been so much student enthusiasm in support of minority rights and American traditional in support of a 200-year-old institution.  And we‘re just thrilled.  And we think that the Republicans should also be thrilled about the levels of political activism here.  It is good for this country to know that people are—students are engaged. 

MATTHEWS:  Why is it so important to you, Rob, that the filibuster be eliminated in judicial fights?  What are the stakes here as far as you‘re concerned in terms of these judgeships as students?

BIEDERMAN:  What was that, Chris? 

MATTHEWS:  Why do you care so much about this issue?  I mean, it can‘t just be the procedure of the Senate you‘re arguing about.  Do you care about these judges getting confirmed?  Do you want these conservative judges confirmed? 

BIEDERMAN:  I don‘t care about this issue because I want to see the judges pushed through there, put together—for their particular brand of policy. 

I care about what is equitable, what is fair, what is in the Constitution, what is not in the Constitution.  And what you see here in this debate, where the Democrats, as usual, are resorting to standing around and talking.  And I don‘t see much happening.  The Republicans have passed all the rules.  This has never been the way that judges have been confirmed. 

And it is time for these judges to be confirmed.  There‘s nothing in the Constitution that says they need defeat a filibuster to be confirmed as judges.  It‘s about the American political system.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Asheesh, tell me about the visit by the U.S. congressman who came up there, Congressman Holt.  What was that about when he showed up? 

SIDDIQUE:  Yes. 

Congressman Holt came up.  He gave a wonderful speech.  He read from Aesop‘s Fables.  We also had Congressman Pallone up here.  And they both sort of affirmed the fact that today‘s majority could be tomorrow‘s minority.  And we believe that, in the interests of preserving minority rights, not making this a partisan issue, but making it a question of procedure, the filibuster is a good thing.  It protects minority rights.  It is a great check on the minority. 

And we hope that Bill Frist will back down. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe, Asheesh, that a president who nominates someone for the high court, the appellate court or the Supreme Court, has a right to expect an up-or-down vote from the Senate, yes or no, and send it back to him? 

SIDDIQUE:  Actually, I don‘t—I don‘t necessarily believe, because if he nominates somebody who has a record of hostility to the Constitution and a record over being overturned by higher courts, then, of course, he doesn‘t.  And many of these nominees do, including, for example, Janice Rogers Brown, who has been overturned by higher courts several times and been reprimanded for her really incompetent judicial decision-making.

MATTHEWS:  Rob, do you believe a president should have a right to an up-or-down vote on his court nominees? 

BIEDERMAN:  I definitely think that Bush has a right to—the president has the right to an up-or-down vote.  And 82 percent of Americans in a recent poll think that, too, including 81 percent of Democrats. 

This is not—it might be a partisan issue here on the Princeton campus and maybe on the floor of the Senate.  But the nation has spoken in these polls.  And it is clear that the nation wants to see a vote.  And it is not—the Democrats are on very weak ideological ice here.  Four of them, Kennedy, Leahy, Daschle and Harkin, are all very anti-filibuster, including Senator Harkin, saying the filibuster rule was unconstitutional.  So, this is not an ideological objection.  It‘s once again party politics.

MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘ll come right back. 

More from Princeton University and the filibuster protest going on up there, like a dueling banjo with the one going on in Washington.

And later, will the new ad war from special interest groups help the president‘s nominee for U.N. ambassador or hurt him?  We‘ll debate that with David Bossie, whose group put out the ad, and Jim Dean, brother of the former presidential candidate Howard Dean.  Howard‘s brother is coming here.

This his HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Princeton students Rob Biederman and Asheesh Siddique.

Asheesh, are you a Democrat? 

SIDDIQUE:  I‘m actually an independent.  I would consider myself a progressive.  But there are many Republicans who take very principled positions who I admire, including John McCain, who supports the right of the minority to filibuster in this situation. 

MATTHEWS:  I couldn‘t hear you.  Are you a Democrat? 

SIDDIQUE:  I‘m an independent.  I‘m actually registered as an independent.  I‘m not a member of any political party. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why are you so political on this issue and not political on registration?  If you‘re so interested in politics, why haven‘t you identified with one of the parties? 

SIDDIQUE:  Because I don‘t believe that politics necessarily should operate in terms of the sort of discourse of political parties. 

I think that politics is really sort of a vocation.  It‘s a way of certain engagements and certain ideals.  I come to it from a perspective of a more philosophical orientation, not one of necessarily...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.  Asheesh, who did you vote for, for president last November? 

SIDDIQUE:  I would rather not say. 

MATTHEWS:  Why? 

SIDDIQUE:  Because I—I—Chris, I just think that the whole issue of parties are quite—I‘m really sort of a...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s go—let‘s try to get some—let‘s try to get candor here on the other side.

Rob, what are you, a Democrat or Republican?

BIEDERMAN:  I‘m a Republican. 

MATTHEWS:  And did you vote for President Bush? 

BIEDERMAN:  I did vote for the president. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think...

(CROSSTALK)

BIEDERMAN:  I would consider myself—I would consider myself eclectic.  But, when I have to choose a party, I choose the Republicans. 

MATTHEWS:  The people behind you who are demonstrating, do they generally follow partisan lines, those opposed to the filibuster in judicial fights being Republicans? 

BIEDERMAN:  What—the people behind me, Chris?  MATTHEWS:  The ones who support your view, are they Republicans? 

BIEDERMAN:  The ones who are supporting directly behind me, those are all Republicans.  The ones running the protest are Democrats. 

MATTHEWS:  So, why is Asheesh...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Asheesh, do you deny that? 

SIDDIQUE:  Chris, I would like to correct that.  I would like to correct that, because that‘s a false statement. 

The ones running this protest are simply citizens who are very committed to their democracy.  We have Republicans who are very interested in what we‘re doing.  This is—this is really a bipartisan, multipartisan...

(CROSSTALK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  How many of the people—Asheesh, how many of the people who are supporting the filibuster behind you—I want to hear them applaud right now.  How many of them voted for President Bush in the last election?  Let‘s hear it.

SIDDIQUE:  The people behind me, Chris? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, the ones who support your view, how many of them support—how many of them voted for President Bush?

SIDDIQUE:  The ones who are supporting me?  Actually, Chris, you‘d be surprised. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, ask them right now.  Ask them to applaud if they did. 

(CROSSTALK)

SIDDIQUE:  If you supported President Bush in this last election, applaud. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

SIDDIQUE:  There you go.  There you go.  There you go, Chris.  

MATTHEWS:  OK.

(CROSSTALK)

SIDDIQUE:  It‘s not a partisan issue.  It‘s a question...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask the other side if you have supported President Bush.  Ask them, Rob. 

BIEDERMAN:  Who out here supported President Bush? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What?

BIEDERMAN:  How many of you supported President Bush? 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask the other side. 

Asheesh, ask the other side, how many of your people on your side supported John Kerry in the last election?

SIDDIQUE:  How many of you folks supported Senator Kerry in the last election? 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  I would say that that‘s largely along partisan lines, that fight there.  Anyway, that‘s just my judgment based on the voice vote. 

Hey, Rob, it‘s great to see you and Asheesh, both of you gentlemen being so passionate about your politics.  I think it is great for this country that Princeton is so involved. 

SIDDIQUE:  We thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you very much. 

BIEDERMAN:  Thank you, Chris.  Thank you very much. 

SIDDIQUE:  And we thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  When we come back, new charges against the president‘s nominee for U.N. ambassador.  That‘s coming up next on HARDBALL. 

And tomorrow on HARDBALL, the politics of gas prices.  Boy, they‘re getting high.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

John Bolton‘s nomination as U.N. ambassador has been bombarded with charges that he tried to pressure and punish intelligence officials who challenged his positions on Cuba and Syria.  Today, a conservative group called Citizens United has bought—bought ad time on a cable channel to support the Bolton nomination. 

Here‘s part of the ad. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CITIZENS UNITED AD)

NARRATOR:  Massive waste, fraudulent deals with Saddam Hussein, and repeated anti-American attacks, that‘s the U.N. President Bush is trying to reform.  A tough job demands a tough man like John Bolton.  One of America‘s top diplomats, Bolton is now under vicious attacks by partisan Democrats. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Jim Dean is chairman of Democracy For America, a group which opposes the Bolton nomination. 

And we begin with David Bossie, who is president of Citizens United, the group that made the ad supporting the Bolton nomination. 

Why is Colin Powell against this nomination? 

DAVID BOSSIE, PRESIDENT, CITIZENS UNITED:  I don‘t know that he is, Chris.  I think we‘ve heard plenty of rumors that he is, but we haven‘t heard Colin Powell out there. 

MATTHEWS:  Why is he telling Republican senators that he‘s opposed to the nomination? 

BOSSIE:  Chris, I think that that is all—this is Washington, D.C.

Obviously, there‘s a lot of backdoor politics.  We don‘t know what Colin Powell is saying.  I think if Colin Powell was out there—he needs to come out.  I want Colin Powell to come out for... 

MATTHEWS:  Would you go by his view on this case if Colin Powell were quoted in the next couple weeks? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You said you wanted him to come out. 

BOSSIE:  I would like to see him come out and support John Bolton. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he supports Bolton?

BOSSIE:  Just because Colin Powell wants or doesn‘t want John Bolton doesn‘t determine whether John Bolton would be a good U.N. ambassador.

MATTHEWS:  No, but I think your ad suggests this is a partisan issue.

BOSSIE:  It is a partisan issue. 

MATTHEWS:  And I wonder why his most recent employer has a problem with this nomination, has voiced it to Republican senators on the committee. 

BOSSIE:  Well, first of all, President Bush is his employer, not Colin Powell.  President Bush nominated him to be the—to the position. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  And he‘s assistant secretary of state under Colin Powell.

(CROSSTALK)

BOSSIE:  Right.  He‘s been nominated and confirmed by the Senate four time.  He‘s clearly qualified for this job.  This is partisan politics. 

MATTHEWS:  Why does Powell say he‘s not? 

BOSSIE:  We don‘t know that Powell is not—is not supporting him. 

We don‘t know, Chris. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He‘s been quoted repeatedly in the last couple weeks and has never taken back these comments, never taken back any assertion. 

(CROSSTALK)

BOSSIE:  He‘s not been quoted.  It‘s all been third-hand.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me tell you this.  Colin Powell, he‘s watching.  He‘s around.  He has never taken back these reports that he‘s opposed to this nomination. 

BOSSIE:  But that‘s third-hand.  You know that, Chris.  It is done all the time. 

MATTHEWS:  Colin Powell is opposed this nomination.  That‘s a fact. 

Let‘s go right now to Jim Dean. 

What do you make of this nomination fight?  Why do you think is—what—what is Bolton‘s vulnerability, do you believe, Jim?

JIM DEAN, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRACY FOR AMERICA:  Well, I really believe that we want just what every other American wants. 

We want to restore the credibility of our leadership in the world, so that we can effectively build a coalition to fight the global war on terror and take care of some of these problems like nuclear proliferation and economic imbalance and even the reform of the U.N.  I think the issue here is credibility. 

Mr. Bolton, fairly or unfairly, is really in many respects at the center of some of the biggest problems in our foreign policy, which is the link between our intelligence gathering and analysis and the way we conduct foreign policy.  It seems to me that we need somebody in there who can really demonstrate that we‘re prepared and able to lead by consensus.  And I think, if we have somebody in there like that, we‘ll get some of these problems address and we‘ll get some of these issues in the U.N. resolved. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the issue of arms, because, of course, he was under—he had arms control as his portfolio at the State Department.

Do you believe that, given the arguments that have been made against him by bureaucrats in the State Department, CIA, AID, that he will be credible before the world stage as a person, and when he says something about weapons of mass destruction, whether they be in Cuba or in Syria or in Iraq, that he will be believed in the world?  Will John Bolton be believed based upon his record? 

BOSSIE:  Absolutely. 

You look at his foreign policy record.  Look at his record when it comes to weapons of mass destruction.  He brought the Soviet Union, the former Soviet Union, got Russia to sign the Moscow treaty.  He got Libya to come to the table and disarm unilaterally.  John Bolton was the main negotiator in those negotiations with Libya, one of the Third World countries we were really most scared of when it came to the proliferation of weapons. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think these analysts are coming forward, these intelligence analysts, and saying, he either—he treated them—I don‘t mind the bullying fashion, but the bullying with regard to intelligence, saying, he didn‘t like their analysis, so he gave them hell for it.  Do you think that‘s healthy? 

BOSSIE:  Well, first of all, we‘ve heard plenty on both sides. 

Today, there were senior CIA officials who came out and said the exact opposite of what others said.  So, look, we hear a lot of rumors.  We‘re hearing a lot about his personal...

MATTHEWS:  No, I‘m talking about testimony before the committee.

BOSSIE:  I understand that. 

But there‘s also people that haven‘t testified before the committee that were on television just today on your network. 

MATTHEWS:  What brings them forward? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What brings them forward?  Why do you think these people are coming forward from the bowels of the State Department and AID and CIA...

BOSSIE:  Feelings.

MATTHEWS:  ... complaining about him?

BOSSIE:  It is all feelings.  Their personal—their feelings were hurt.  He didn‘t like them enough. 

Whatever it is, it doesn‘t matter.  Personal feelings, animosities, personal grudges, it has nothing to do with it.  This is a national security issue.  John Bolton is the right man for the right job at the right time.  Not since Jeane Kirkpatrick have we had to have a tough person like John Bolton at the United Nations. 

MATTHEWS:  Jim, what do you say to that, that we need a tough guy to do a tough job? 

DEAN:  Listen, I don‘t disagree that we need a tough guy to do a tough job. 

But there‘s a difference between being somebody who just can‘t work with anybody and somebody who is tough enough to be able to lead by consensus. 

BOSSIE:  Look, since 9/11 -- let me just say this.  And I agree...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you this.  You know, your brother has a temper.  Howard Dean has a temper.

DEAN:  I think that is a little overblown, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ve seen that in action. 

No, no, I think—I mean, people in politics have tempers.  I‘ve got one.  Is it his temper or is it—are you saying that he‘s manipulated intel to the detriment of the truth?  And if you make that charge, I think you have to stand up for it.  Do you think he‘s done that? 

DEAN:  Well, here‘s what I think. 

I think that we‘re in a climate right now where we‘re trying to address a real problem in our foreign policy.  And, again, that has to go back to the link between—and the president has talked about this.  This isn‘t just coming from us—about the link of our intelligence gathering and analysis to where we—how we conduct our foreign policy. 

And the fact of the matter is, is, if you have a person that‘s in the middle of that, frankly, it is just not the right time and the right place to be nominating somebody like that to be ambassador to the United Nations, particularly at a time when the intelligence gathering is a critical issue and the analysis is a critical issue, but our relationship with other our countries is a critical issue. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you do his role will be?  I think he‘s going to get confirmed, OK, because I think the president‘s push is behind this fellow.

If he goes to the U.N., do you think he‘ll be able to do the job, given all this static about his capability and his dealings with intelligence analysts?  Do you think he‘s going to be able to do the job? 

BOSSIE:  Oh, absolutely.

DEAN:  I don‘t think people are going to listen to him. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

BOSSIE:  Well, first of all, people are going to listen because he‘s the right guy in this job. 

He‘s the president‘s man.  President Bush wants John Bolton.  John Bolton is just like President Bush.  And that‘s one of the reasons why the Democrats don‘t like him.  He‘s a straight shooter, straight talker.  And he‘s a hard charger.  The Democrats don‘t like that about President Bush.  The American people voted overwhelmingly again for him in November. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, David Bossie. 

Thank you, Jim Dean.

DEAN:  Thanks for having me on, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s nice having you on the show, Jim.

Up next, what‘s wrong with having an authentic identification card in this country?  We‘ll ask political strategists Ed Rogers and Steve McMahon. 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, should states be allowed to issue driver‘s licenses to illegal immigrants? 

That fight when HARDBALL returns, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Congress is all but certain to pass a law this week for an authentic identification card.  It will require people who want driver‘s licenses to show proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residence. 

Ed Rogers is a Republican political strategist who worked for the White House under the first President Bush and during the Reagan administration.  And Steve McMahon is a Democratic strategist who most recently worked on Howard Dean‘s presidential campaign. 

Ed Rogers, why is it important to have a national I.D. card, in effect, in other words, driver‘s licenses that are really identifying you as the owner of that license?

ED ROGERS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT:  Well, I don‘t know that it really

is that.  I don‘t know that it is a national I.D. card.  But it is a good

thing.  And it is not offensive to anyone who is pro-immigration to have a

·         to have to show proof of residency and proof that you are here legally in order to get that benefit from the state. 

That‘s what a driver‘s license is.  It is a benefit from the state.  So, having to prove residency, it is good for immigration policy.  It‘s good for national security policy as well. 

MATTHEWS:  Any reason to oppose this? 

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  States‘ rights. 

I mean, I think my good friend Ed here, this is the first time you‘ve ever defended Big Brother, big government. 

ROGERS:  Not the first time.

MCMAHON:  Against the states.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why would states want to insist on their right to give driver‘s licenses to people who are not in the country legally?  Why would a state want to give a driver‘s license to an illegal alien?  Why would you want to do that?

MCMAHON:  I don‘t think it is a matter of wanting to give a driver‘s license to an illegal alien. 

I think it‘s a matter of states saying, look, the driver‘s license is for the privilege to drive.  And people who get driver‘s licenses in our state...

MATTHEWS:  No, it‘s more than that.  It‘s more than that. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, excuse me.  This is a matter of security, so I will take a position. 

When you get on an airplane, you show a driver‘s license. 

MCMAHON:  Or any other form of I.D. 

MATTHEWS:  If that is not authentic, if you are not the person that that driver‘s license‘s says you are, we have a security problem right here on that airplane.

MCMAHON:  That‘s right.  That‘s right. 

ROGERS:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  So, why would you want to defend such a system? 

MCMAHON:  Well, Chris, people have driver‘s licenses right now and they get on airplanes every single day.  And it‘s been since September...

MATTHEWS:  Why are you happy with a issue that permits people to use inauthentic driver‘s licenses to establish residence in this country when they‘re not really here legally? 

MCMAHON:  Chris, I just don‘t think it is a matter for the federal government to get involved in.  And I‘m surprised that the Republicans do. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Ed, isn‘t it because states have failed their duty here? 

States are issuing driver‘s licenses to people right now...

ROGERS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... who don‘t have to prove they‘re here legally. 

ROGERS:  Sure, some states are. 

But, now, the world we live in, let‘s face it.  Some national databases are not a bad thing, the no-fly list, the border watch list, Social Security numbers.  Some of the data that we need, yes, it is a common list.  And there is some common sharing among the states.  And that‘s not necessarily a bad thing.  That‘s a good thing and it‘s a reality of the world that we live in now. 

MATTHEWS:  How do we—how do we stop employers, whether they run golf courses or hotels or whatever, or restaurants, from hiring people who are in this country illegally?  How do you do that?  Without I.D. cards, how do you do that?

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  Enforce the law and make some examples. 

MATTHEWS:  How can you do that without an I.D. card to prove that a person is either here legally or not? 

ROGERS:  It makes it a lot tougher.  It makes it a lot tougher. 

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t you need an I.D. card to establish whether a person is in this country legally or not? 

MCMAHON:  Well, you need to establish whether a person is in this country legally or not.

MATTHEWS:  How do you do it?

MCMAHON:  But that‘s the job of the INS.

MATTHEWS:  How do you do it?

MCMAHON:  It‘s not the job of states.

MATTHEWS:  No, no.  It‘s the job of employers.  No, it‘s the job of employers. 

MCMAHON:  Well, Chris, look, I just happen to disagree with you on this one.

And, frankly, I think it is interesting that the Republican are willing to let illegal workers come into this country if they‘re going to work and clean their house, but they don‘t want them to have driver‘s licenses.

ROGERS:  That‘s not true at all.  That‘s not true.

MCMAHON:  So that they can drive to work to clean their house. 

ROGERS:  No, not true at all. 

Illegal worker being here, they‘ve broken the law.  They shouldn‘t be here.  There should be a lot of different mechanisms to stop that.  Legal immigration is a good thing.  Hard-working, ambitious people wanting to come here and fill some of the entry-level positions is a good thing. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  But you don‘t have to—you don‘t have to say, there‘s no such thing as illegal immigration.  There‘s no such thing as an illegal immigrant.  Once you‘re here, you‘re here.  That‘s not the case. 

MCMAHON:  If...

ROGERS:  And it shouldn‘t be the case. 

MCMAHON:  If the federal government and the INS is unable to do its job, then the president should come up with a plan or Sensenbrenner should come up with a plan that enables the INS to do its job. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  Not just push it off on the states. 

By the way, the other thing that‘s interesting is, the Republican, you know, some time ago, made a big to-do about no unfunded mandates.  Well, this is about the biggest unfunded mandate that you can imagine, because now suddenly the states have to become investigators to determine the validity of somebody‘s identification or birth certificate that they‘re bringing to a state driver‘s license facility?  I mean, it‘s ridiculous.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this.  If you hire somebody to help take care of your house, your kids, or anything, your business, to do work for you, how do you know they‘re here legally unless they have a legal document?  And that would have to be a driver‘s license.  We don‘t have anything else.

MCMAHON:  Or it could be a Social Security card.  There are a whole number...

MATTHEWS:  But you can get a Social Security without being here legally. 

MCMAHON:  Well, you can get a driver‘s license.  Look, Chris, the fact of the matter is, this is a matter for the Federal Immigration Service.  This is a failure of the Federal Immigration Service. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Why do states have to provide for—social welfare for people here illegally and, at the same time, have no right to ensure that they‘re here legally?  You can‘t give them responsibility without a duty. 

MCMAHON:  Well, look, that‘s—that‘s what the courts have required states to do.  Now, if the Republicans are going to remake the courts, so now I guess they‘re remake the Immigration and Naturalization Service. 

MATTHEWS:  Is this politics? 

MCMAHON:  Of course it is politics.  Of course it is politics. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are you playing for the Hispanic vote right now? 

ROGERS:  No, absolutely not.

MATTHEWS:  Well, is the president?    

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  There‘s politics on their side, not on our side.

MATTHEWS:  Is the president doing it?  Do Hispanic people who are here legally support the right of people to come here illegally?  I‘ve never seen that statistic.  Do they?

ROGERS:  I don‘t know that.  I don‘t know any math that says that.  I haven‘t seen any signs of it.

MATTHEWS:  I haven‘t seen either.  I haven‘t...

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  It is sort of common sense, Chris, but I don‘t know that. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  Chris, this is a country of immigrants.  We all came here. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  You can be pro-immigration and be against illegal immigration. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  This isn‘t about immigration.  It is about a law being broken or not. 

MCMAHON:  I think the president is right on this. 

The Republicans now are going to stand up against his guest worker program, which is just about humanity and people improving their lives. 

MATTHEWS:  Look, most of Latin America would be here tomorrow morning if they could get here legally.  The question is, how many people can we absorb?  And that‘s a question the country has to decide.  How many people can be assimilated?  How many people can be brought into this country economically and socially?

Most people are for liberal immigration laws, but they want the law enforced.  And I‘m saying the driver‘s licenses has been brought up as a way to do that.  If you have a better idea...

MCMAHON:  The INS...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, right.

Coming up, President Bush stumped today in Mississippi for his Social Security plan with a governor whose name, Haley Barbour, is generating some buzz for 2008. 

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Republican strategist Ed Rogers and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon. 

You‘re going to be on the hot seat again here, my friend.

MCMAHON:  Thanks, Chris. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the Democrats should come up with a plan on Social Security between now and the next election in 2006? 

MCMAHON:  We have a plan. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s that? 

MCMAHON:  We‘re going to stop the Republicans from taking away the benefits of two-thirds of Americans. 

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS:  That‘s your plan on everything else.

MCMAHON:  No, look, you know, we.,..

MATTHEWS:  In other words, it‘s defense.

ROGERS:  More of the same. 

MCMAHON:  Well, we‘re slow learners, maybe, but we did learn something from Lee Atwater. 

When your opponent is self-destructing, get out of the way.  I mean, the president came out with a plan the other day that took a program that 64 percent of the public disapprove of and will only make it worse.  So why in the world would we—I mean, look, the fact of the matter is...

MATTHEWS:  Well, how about responsibility?  How about a sense that—well, you make the case, Ed.  Why should the Democrats have a plan?

ROGERS:  Well, Lee Atwater also used to say, never kick a man when he is up. 

And, in this case, the Democrats ought to give Bush some of his due.  They shouldn‘t be gratuitous, mean-spirited opposition for opposition‘s sake on every single thing. 

MCMAHON:  They‘re not, Ed.

ROGERS:  Social Security, Social Security and fixing the real cancerous problem that is Social Security that is some 20, 30, whatever, how many years in the future, won‘t cost the Democrats any political capital to right now fix this problem, to acknowledge the obvious, to acknowledge the math and fix this problem. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  Ed, the Democrats have said, we will work with the president and we believe that there‘s some work to be done. 

ROGERS:  But then they don‘t.  They say that, and then they don‘t. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  And they don‘t on anything.  It‘s not just Social Security.

MCMAHON:  But we won‘t support private accounts or privatizing Social Security, which the president wants to do. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Can your party take the heat between now and next November, in 2006, basically saying, Mr. President, thank you for your suggestion; we‘re going to wait until after the election to think about it?  Can you take the heat from “The Washington Post” and other good government sources that are saying the Democrats have to respond?  They have to have a plan of their own. 

MCMAHON:  Well, listen,the Democrats, the Democrats have responded.  They‘ve said, let‘s have negotiations in good faith.  Let‘s take private accounts off the table. 

MATTHEWS:  Really?

MCMAHON:  Let‘s take benefit cuts off the table and let‘s take $2 trillion of additional debt off the table.  And let‘s really deal with solvency.  Let‘s really deal with protecting people‘s benefits.  You know, the Democrats have come up with a wide range of issues, beginning with raising the cap on the payroll tax.  The Republicans don‘t want to do it.

ROGERS:  We just had an election about this.  We just had an election about this. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  No, no.  We had an election about national security, Ed.  The president didn‘t talk one minute about cutting benefits for Social Security recipients? 

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  Every one of our Senate candidates, every one of our congressional candidates, the president talked about it a lot. 

MCMAHON:  They are running for the hills.

ROGERS:  We just had an election about this.  And there‘s no political capital in the Democrats gratuitously stalling this.  The math is indisputable. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  Do you think the president can pass his plan in the Republican Caucus?

ROGERS:  And you won‘t pay a political price.  You won‘t pay a political price for fixing the math that is Social Security right now. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  Do you think the president can get a majority of Republicans in Congress to vote for this plan? 

ROGERS:  Sure.  Yes.  The answer is yes, sure.   

MCMAHON:  That‘s good.  I hope they do and they can go out and defend it.

MATTHEWS:  Including the personal accounts?

ROGERS:  Yes. 

But the question is not, can you get a majority?  The question is, are you going to get the Democrats let it go in the Senate?  It will pass the House tomorrow, tomorrow. 

MCMAHON:  I don‘t think it will. 

ROGERS:  Sure it will. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask—I want to ask, how about the question that Steve just put? 

If you‘re asking seniors who are retiring in the near—in the—eventually, to give up the full cost of living they were getting before over time and then take less of an increase over time to pay for the cost of living going up, why can you justify borrowing $2 trillion from overseas basically to pay for this new personal account system? 

ROGERS:  Well, it‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If you have the money, why do you have to cut the benefits? 

ROGERS:  In some cases, it is the choice—it is the matter of picking the least worst option. 

And, by the way, if you were born prior to 1950, there is no waggle in the benefits whatsoever.  Hypothetically, if you were born after 1950, if you are more affluent, you could get less in the hypothetical benefit that is out there in the future. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  But, if nothing happens, but, if nothing happens, the benefit won‘t be there anyway. 

MATTHEWS:  But, Ed, that‘s not the full truth. 

MCMAHON:  That‘s just not true.

ROGERS:  It is the truth.

MATTHEWS:  The full truth is that president has admitted, in order to transit to this new system of personal accounts, for the next 10 years, we‘re going to have borrow a lot of money. 

ROGERS:  Sure.  There‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.

So, the checks that we‘re getting when we retire over the next 10, 15 years, are checks that are going to be money drawn from abroad.  And I think the American people have a right to get American money and not borrowed from overseas money.  I think you ought to just get—if I were Democrats, I would run an ad showing yen in people‘s envelopes every month, because the United States government is now admitting it has to borrow from overseas to pay current benefits for Social Security, because it‘s got this new scheme?

ROGERS:  Well, it‘s not new that we sell Treasury bills to anybody that will buy them.  A lot of people that buy them...

MATTHEWS:  Who is buying them?

ROGERS:  ... are people that have foreign currency overseas.  But that‘s a big economic discussion.

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t you think it is odd to get—your grandmother to get her check from China? 

MCMAHON:  You know what the Democrats ought to do?

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  No, it is the question of paying the transition costs now or paying a much bigger bill with big-time increased taxes later. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Is Haley Barbour running for president?

ROGERS:  Hey, I hope so.  He‘s dismissive of it right now.

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  That would be good for business, wouldn‘t it, Ed?

ROGERS:  He‘s dismissive of it right now.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s the governor of Mississippi. 

ROGERS:  He won‘t even talk about it. 

MATTHEWS:  Good old boy.

ROGERS:  But he doesn‘t have to have decide for 15 months.  Nobody does.

MATTHEWS:  A real red stater.  You can‘t be more red state than Mississippi. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, Ed Rogers and Steve McMahon. 

Tomorrow on HARDBALL, the politics of gas prices.  Boy, they‘re hot.  Does Washington really understand the problem?  And what can President Bush do to fix it?  That‘s tomorrow.

Now it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.

END

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