updated 5/11/2005 3:32:24 PM ET 2005-05-11T19:32:24

Guest: Tony Blankley, Margaret Carlson, Robert Stevenson, Terry McDermott, Ben Ginsberg, Julian Bond

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  An unexploded hand grenade was lobbed toward President Bush in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. 

Plus, both sides in the Senate edge towards a showdown over the filibuster.  Will the battle end with the nuclear option? 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  And Welcome to HARDBALL. 

We‘ll get to the fight over the filibuster in just a moment. 

But, first, the Secret Service is investigating a hand grenade that was thrown towards President Bush as he was giving a speech in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.  The unexploded grenade landed in the crowd and was carried away without incident by Georgian security personnel. 

NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams joins us now with more—

Pete.

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Chris, the critical question tonight is, was the president in any danger?  Was he even the target? 

There were Georgian officials on this stage, although the grenade was thrown while he was speaking.  It happened roughly 12 hours ago in  Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia.  While the president was speaking, someone threw a grenade.  It landed, the Secret Service says, within 100 feet of the stage.  It actually hit somebody in the head and a Georgian security official was right nearby, picked it up and ran off with it. 

And then it was, according to the Georgian officials, rendered safe.  Now, we don‘t know what that means.  That‘s sometimes law enforcement code for, they blew it up.  So, we don‘t know whether it was disarmed or what.  And we don‘t even know whether it was a live device.  We‘re told that, tonight, the U.S. Secret Service hasn‘t even seen it.  So, we don‘t know whether it was a real hand grenade or what, though it apparently was like a hand grenade, because we‘re told by one senior administration official that the safety pin in the hand grenade had been pulled out. 

And then, of course, as you know, you throw a grenade.  That little arm kicks out.  That starts the timer and it goes off.  So, the Secret Service agent—the Secret Service is sending additional agents to go over and investigate.  But, Chris, the U.S. didn‘t even know about this incident until two hour after the president had left the country. 

MATTHEWS:  Thanks for that report, Pete Williams. 

WILLIAMS:  You bet.

MATTHEWS:  The hottest front-burner issue on Washington is the fight over the filibuster.  But are the voters going nuclear against Congress?  A new Gallup poll shows that only 35 percent of American approve of the way Congress is doing its job.  That dismal report card, by the way, is for Republicans and Democrats, the lowest approval rating for Congress in eight years. 

The hot-button issues, unethical behavior on the Hill, the battle over the Bolton nomination and the fight over the filibuster.  How are the politicians going to talk their way out of this one? 

Julian Bond is chairman of the NAACP and today at a news conference denouncing Republican tactics in the nominee fight.  Ben Ginsberg is an adviser to Progress For America, a conservative grassroots organization that supports Bush‘s judicial nominees and says they deserve an up-or-down vote. 

Is that your strongest argument, Ben, that these judicial nominees deserve an up-or-down vote? 

BEN GINSBERG, FORMER BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY:  They deserve an

up-or-down vote.  They all have demonstrated majority support in the United

States Senate.  And the fair thing to do and the thing that the president -

·         precedent of the Senate is an up-or-down vote. 

MATTHEWS:  Julian Bond, what‘s the best case for continuing the filibuster in judicial nomination fights? 

JULIAN BOND, CHAIRMAN, NAACP:  We‘ve had it for 200 years.  It is part of the protection of minority rights in the Senate.  It was good when the Republicans were in the minority.  It was good when the Democrats were in the minority today.  It is time-tested. 

And we see no reason why, having achieved success with over 200 of his judges -- 95 percent of his judicial nominees have been certified by the Senate—why he wants to change the rules at the very last minute.  Why can‘t he play by the same rules that he played for with the first 95? 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe, Ben Ginsberg, that the Senate will vote by majority, if necessary, 50-50, with the vice president breaking the tie, to kill the filibuster in judicial nominations?  Will this happen?  Will the nuclear option obtain—will it happen?

GINSBERG:  Yes, I believe, if it comes to that, it will...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If.  Will it happen.  But will it happen? 

GINSBERG:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  When will it happen?  Some time—we‘re hearing today sometimes—perhaps they might vote as early as before Memorial Day break, some time in the next two weeks. 

GINSBERG:  I would guess some time in the next two weeks, yes, possibly as early as next week. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you confident you have the 50 votes to break it, to kill the filibuster? 

GINSBERG:  I think only Senator Frist knows that for certain, but, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Why? 

GINSBERG:  Why am I confident we have the 50 votes? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But you said you don‘t know, but you say you‘re confident.

(CROSSTALK)

GINSBERG:  This is a crucial issue to the rights of the chamber and the way it operates.  And no nominee who has evidenced majority support, as all these nominees have, have ever been denied an up-or-down vote. 

The abuse of the 214-year traditions of the Senate is filibustering these nominees in this fashion, who have majority support in the chamber.

MATTHEWS:  Do you concur, Julian Bond?  Do you believe that there is going to be a nuclear option that is going to be ignited by the majority Republicans? 

BOND:  I think they‘re going to try.  I have no idea how it is going to turn out.  I can‘t think that there are enough votes in the Senate to overturn these 200-plus years of tradition. 

This is a time-tested rule in the United States Senate.  It‘s been there forever.  Now, all of a sudden, because they can‘t get more than 95 percent of their nominees confirmed, they want to change the rules.  We think that these nominees ought to face the same rules and the same standards and the same procedures that other nominees have done and let them rise or fall as they may. 

(CROSSTALK)

BOND:  I think what‘s happening here is, they know they can‘t win under the rules.  And so they want to change the rules. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the rules would require to break the filibuster would take 60 votes, 61 votes, or 60 votes.  Do you that‘s the way it should go? 

BOND:  Of course.  That‘s the way it always has been. 

You know, back in the civil rights days, when conservatives and racists were arguing for the filibuster to maintain, keep the Senate from voting on these civil rights bills, the civil rights movement persevered and tried and tried.  We knew we were right.  We knew we would win in the end.  And playing under the same rules as prevailed today, we won in the end. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you fearful that there—conditions could change again, where the conservatives would be in the minority and they would use the option, the filibuster, they way they used it back in the ‘50s and ‘60s against civil rights? 

BOND:  If they did, if they did, I wouldn‘t like it and I would raise holy heck.  But I wouldn‘t suggest changing the rules.  We changed the votes.  We didn‘t change the rules. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this.  What is the—I guess I‘m asking this because I‘m not sure.  You first, Ben, then Julian Bond.

What‘s the worst thing that could happen here if your five or so judges, or 10 at the most, don‘t get confirmed?  Just come up with some more confirmations—more nominations.  Pick some other guys.  What‘s the difference? 

GINSBERG:  Well, the problem...

MATTHEWS:  Who cares whether there‘s five or 10 federal judges somewhere who are on the wrong side of an issue? 

GINSBERG:  Because the principle that individuals should get up-or-down votes if they have majority support in the chamber would be violated. 

And, Mr. Bond, I don‘t think you can name me any nominee who has shown evidence of majority support who has been denied an up-or-down vote by the United States Senate.  It‘s not there.  That‘s the precedent of the Senate.

BOND:  The precedent in the Senate is, they have operated by the same rules and the same standard for all these many years. 

And President Bush has enjoyed unusual success.  He‘s had more of his judges confirmed than his last three predecessors.  Now, all a sudden, because they can‘t win under these old rules, under the present rules, they want to change the rules.  Why don‘t they work on changing the votes?

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me get to the consequence question, because there‘s a lot of people watching say, this is an political interesting fight between—an interesting game of chicken.  Two guys, hot-rodder are going against each other, going to ram into each other.  Let‘s see who chickens out. 

But the consequential question, Julian Bond.  Let me ask you this.  Civil rights.  Can you think of a serious civil rights feature we have in the law now that‘s carried out by our courts and executed by the government that would be jeopardized by some appellate court judges you don‘t like getting confirmed? 

BOND:  I can think of the whole apparatus of civil rights law being jeopardized. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, but the Supreme Court makes the final call.

BOND:  Of course.  And many of these nominees, if successful, are going to be in line to be elevated to the Supreme Court.  And if this rule is changed, then they‘ll be on that court, not under the same old rules as the present nine members of the court got there, but under brand new rules.  This is changing the rules after the game has started.  And it‘s just unfair.

MATTHEWS:  But they won‘t change the rules if the Democrats and the liberals allow these judges to be approved. 

BOND:  I‘m not so sure. 

I think this is an act of faith for the people who want these rules changed.  I think they want them changed as long as the present balance is maintained.  And if it doesn‘t change, they‘re going to insist on changing it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is that your position?  I know you can‘t speak entirely for the Republican Party.  But is it your sense that conservatives wouldn‘t be happy simply to have the Democrats say, OK, we‘re going to have an up-or-down vote on these nominees, get it over with and stop this logjam?

GINSBERG:  Well, I think the Democrats...

MATTHEWS:  Would that not be enough for you?  Would it or not? 

(CROSSTALK)

GINSBERG:  Yes.  I think so. 

But the Democrats are making a mistake here, because by forcing the rules to come under scrutiny, at this point, they—you‘re going to end up losing the constitutional option.  That means a Supreme Court nominee could be subject to 50 votes, not subject to filibuster.  Why pick the fight now?  A very interesting, very interesting strategic... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a good question.

BOND:  The Democrats didn‘t—Democrats didn‘t pick the fight. 

(CROSSTALK)

BOND:  The Democrats didn‘t pick the fight.  The Democrats wanted, under the rules as they are today and as they have been for 200 years in the past, wanted to go forward, as they are today, as they are today. 

And the Republicans are saying, no, no, no, no, we can‘t win under the rules as they are today.  So, let‘s change the rules.  It‘s like they did in the House with the Ethics Committee.  They were fearful that the present ethics set up would—might hurt Tom DeLay.  And so they changed the rules.  And then the country rose up and said, no, no, no, you can‘t do that. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

BOND:  So they changed them back. 

MATTHEWS:  We thank you, Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP, and Ben Ginsberg, free-firing conservative.

Coming up, three and a half years after 9/11, with the plans to redevelop ground zero hitting new snags, should the World Trade Center in New York be rebuilt the way it was? 

Plus, tracking the terrorists.  We‘ll go inside the minds of the 9/11 hijackers with the author of a great new book about what they were really like. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, the debate over ground zero.  With three development plans hitting new hurdles, is it time for New York to rebuild the World Trade Center as it once was?

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  More than three-and-a-half years after 9/11, the New York City skyline remain a victory for al Qaeda.  There continues to be a gaping hole in Lower Manhattan, where the Twin Towers once stood.  And plans to build a new Freedom Tower are now in serious trouble because the proposed location would expose it to truck bombings from the nearby West Side Highway. 

The problems have become so severe that developer Donald Trump is now calling for the Freedom Tower to be ditched and that the Twin Towers themselves be rebuilt with an extra floor to show America‘s defiance against terrorism. 

You‘ll hear from ordinary New Yorkers in just a moment. 

But, first, here‘s HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  When the Twin Towers were completed in the early 1970s, some architects called them too simple.  But the public grew to love them and the buildings fast became worldwide icons of American strength and freedom. 

It‘s why al Qaeda first target the Twin Towers in 1993 and then destroyed them on 9/11.  In the aftermath and with rescue workers still looking for survivors, some politicians spoke about American defiance and resolve and said the Twin Towers, just like the Pentagon, should be immediately rebuilt.  New York Governor George Pataki had another idea.  He named a commission to consider a modern architectural replacement. 

The final six designs were all described by media critics as disappointments.  And they bore no resemblance to the Twin Towers.  But the commission went forward, deliberating in secret, and then publicly announcing they had chosen a twisting windmill-topped building by architect Daniel Libeskind.  It was called the Freedom Tower. 

As the commission worked on building plans, New Yorkers were soon captivated by a display at ground zero, two bright lights in place for months that reminded everybody of the icons knocked down.  Meanwhile, the Freedom Tower began to run into problems.  Critics, including Donald Trump, said it looked like a skeleton.  Engineers said the top of the structure was impossible.  And reporters noted the occupied space would only go up to about the 75th floor. 

In other words, even if antenna technically made the tower the world‘s tallest building, New Yorkers would have a better view from a dozen other Manhattan buildings.  A year ago, members of the New York Fire and Police Departments began to weigh in, calling the Freedom Tower design an embarrassment. 

(MUSIC)

SHUSTER:  And, at last summer‘s groundbreaking, several New York politicians were notably absent, including former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. 

And, lastly, Governor Pataki announced the entire project would have to be redone, because the tower as envisioned, would be too close to major thoroughfares and thereby vulnerable to truck bombs. 

The bureaucratic fumbling has enraged New Yorkers, many of whom believe the Freedom Tower was a bad idea to start with and that the Twin Towers should be rebuilt.  One group recently unveiled this 9-foot-tall, half-a-million-dollar architectural model.  These Twin Towers, offset from the original footprints, include a complete memorial site plan with streets and nearby buildings to illustrate the structural possibilities. 

KEN GARDNER, MAKENYNYAGAIN.COM:  It‘s something that we had to really show was actually doable and was also acceptable.  And I believe that has been demonstrated by the response from the public. 

SHUSTER:  Gardner‘s Web site, makenynyagain.com, has been flooded with tens of thousand of e-mails, some noting that his Twin Tower building plans and blueprints are more detailed than anything publicly released by the group behind the Freedom Tower. 

(on camera):  But putting aside the argument over which project could be built sooner, there is the larger debate.  What is it that America stands for?  And now, three-and-a-half-years after the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, what is America‘s message to the world? 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Well, some say rebuild and some say you‘re just putting back the target. 

When we come back, who were the 19 hijackers behind the terrible events of September 11?  And why did they do what they did?  I‘ll talk to “Los Angeles Times” reporter Terry McDermott, who took an in-depth look at the men behind the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

The recent capture of al Qaeda‘s third in command may yield new information on the terrorist network.  But, over three years after 9/11, the lives of the 19 hijackers themselves remain in large part a mystery.  That is until now. 

“Los Angeles Times” national correspondent Terry McDermott has traced the lives of the hijackers in a book entitled “Perfect Soldiers: The Hijackers, Who They Were, Why They Did It.” 

Terry McDermott, welcome to the show.

TERRY MCDERMOTT, AUTHOR, “PERFECT SOLDIERS”:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  So, who were they?  Who were these 19 guys that we see as mystery men? 

MCDERMOTT:  Well, they were pretty—when I first started this project, reporting on the project, which was September 11, my idea, like a lot of other people‘s, I think was that these—in order to do this, these guys had to be somehow extraordinary individuals, that they had to be sort of evil geniuses or wild-eyed fanatics or some cross of those two. 

And—and what I found out was exactly almost the opposite, that, rather than being extraordinary, they were—they were all too common.  They were like another million guys.  And, if it weren‘t these 19, it would have been 19 others. 

MATTHEWS:  How do you get regular people, as you describe them, to kill themselves? 

MCDERMOTT:  You know, I don‘t think that committing the suicide was the hard part for these people.  I think Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has told his interrogations that they‘re—al Qaeda was oversubscribed for suicide operations, for what they call martyrdom operations, that they had more—more people who would be martyrs than they had plots to put them in. 

I think the harder thing for some of these guys was committing to kill sort of randomly, the idea that you could kill children, women, people who weren‘t evident—who weren‘t obvious soldiers in opposition to you. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, how much did their religion play a part in that conviction that it was OK to knock off civilians? 

MCDERMOTT:  I think the religion, the combination of religion and political belief is the thing that fueled this.  I don‘t—I‘m not sure one or the other could have done it by itself. 

But you combine the two of them and you have a political movement that takes its orders from God.  And, so if you decide to disagree with it, you‘re not just disagreeing with some party boss.  You‘re disagreeing with your conception of the almighty.  So one or the other by itself wouldn‘t be sufficient.  But together, it is just extraordinarily powerful. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about second thoughts. 

Mohamed Atta, he‘s the guy with the—I love the way he is described by his roommates, his face somewhere between hangdog and menacing.  Well, he certainly looks menacing in all the pictures we‘ve seen of him.  In fact, he‘s probably the poster boy for these guys.  Did he ever have second thoughts or was he just a hardened dead-ender? 

MCDERMOTT:  No, I don‘t think so.  I think he did have second thoughts.  I don‘t think he was that hardened. 

When he—just before he went to Afghanistan in late ‘99 to—which is where he accepted the mission, and he had been sort of going in that direction for several years.  He and a small group of friends in Hamburg, Germany, had been talking about this forever.  I mean, day after day after day for year after year after year, they talked about what they should do, what—you know, how they could fight, what their responsibility was. 

And when he went home to Cairo, just before going to Afghanistan, and spent time with his mother—his mother was ill.  She had diabetes.  And he asked her then if could stay and take care of her, that he would give up his career and just stay there.  And this is at a point after he had already made the decision that he was going to go fight the jihad.  So, it seemed to indicate that he was looking for a way to not do it, a reason to not do it. 

MATTHEWS:  So, his mother gave him the go-ahead. 

MCDERMOTT:  His mother said—his father, as I think most people remember, was a very didactic, sort of overwhelming force in the household.  And he insisted that his son go get a doctorate. 

And his mother said, no, your father is right.  You should continue your studies.  You should go to America. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, the thing about these guys, I guess some of the guys, the thugs, the tough guys, may have not had much education.  But what is so impressive to me, negatively, is that a guy like him could have gone on for a doctorate.  He could have been one of the people graduating perhaps from an American university with a Ph.D. in engineering or something and had a good life here or back at home, and yet chose to do what he did, chose to kill us. 

MCDERMOTT:  Yes.

But, as I said, it‘s not that unusual.  There is, within Islam today, and this still exists, this—what amounts to a pretty large cult.  And, in the cult, this sort of radical fundamentalism, this militant interpretation of Islam, is widespread.  I mean, people think that they are literally at war with the West.  They‘re at war with the Israelis.  They‘re at war with their own societies. 

And they think it‘s a literal war.  It‘s not a metaphor.  They think that their duty is to kill.  These guys went to a mosque in Hamburg, where one of the frequent preachers, I mean, told them that literally.  Your job is to kill the infidels, be it man, woman, or child, every one of them. 

MATTHEWS:  Check me on this, Terry.  It seems like they came to America and hung out in sort of the underworld.  They hung out at the fast-food places, the strip bars, not that a fast-food place is sleazy.

But it seems like they found the sleazy side of American life, especially toward the end, before they were—they went into the 9/11 mode.  Is it possible that they met their expectations by looking for them, the negative aspects of American life? 

MCDERMOTT:  Yes, I understand what you‘re saying. 

I don‘t think it‘s true to say that most of these guys did that.  I mean, Atta, for instance, never went in a strip club in his life.  This guy was so repressed that I don‘t think he ever had an impure thought. 

MATTHEWS:  Really.

MCDERMOTT:  A couple—a few of the—a few of the Saudis did that.  And a couple of the Saudis on the night before September 11, September 10, tried to hire prostitutes in their hotel room in Boston, but wouldn‘t pay the price. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What were they saving for? 

(LAUGHTER)

MCDERMOTT:  Exactly.  Well, they sent money back, you know.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MCDERMOTT:  Thousands of dollar back...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you question.  You‘re going to take some heat on this, but I want to hear it now.  You call these guys soldiers.  I remember when Bill Maher got in trouble for suggesting courage on the part of these guys, because they did such an evil thing.  How do you come to the word soldier?

MCDERMOTT:  Well, you know, the title “Perfect Soldiers” comes from a Dashiell Hammett description of a man who it was said—of whom it was said that he would—he was the perfect soldier.  He went where you sent him.  He stayed where you put him and he had no thought of his own to do except what you told him. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MCDERMOTT:  And that‘s what these guys did.  It was this—the discipline of carrying through with the thing. 

You know, and I understand that people don‘t like to hear that or might not like to hear it.  And they think somehow it is praising or glorifying them.  And it‘s not.  It not intended to whatsoever.  But I also think that, until we understand what motivates these people, then we‘ll never have a chance of stopping it. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MCDERMOTT:  If we think that they‘re all crazy, then what do you do? 

Then what you do is you go out—well, I guess you have to kill them all. 

Well, where do you stop?  You know, you can‘t kill them all.  I think we‘re finding that out now.  I think we‘re finding that out in Iraq, that it draws more people to the flame.  We‘ve run stories in “The Los Angeles Times” about 14-year-olds leaving the suburbs of Paris to join the jihad in Iraq.  You know, in my reporter for this book, guys went on their summer vacations from high school in Yemen to go to the camps. 

You can‘t possibly stop them by brute force.  We‘ve got to make an attempt to know who they are. 

MATTHEWS:  A powerful education you‘re giving us. 

Thank you very much, Terry McDermott.  His book is called “Perfect Soldiers.”

When we come back, the story of a man‘s fight to keep his sister‘s killer behind bars.

And be sure to tune in tomorrow, when Tim Russert stops by with his analysis of the fight over the filibuster and John Bolton‘s nomination to be the next U.N. ambassador.  Lots of politics with Tim tomorrow.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Few murder cases still command headlines 35 years after the crime.  This one does. 

On February 17, 1970, Colette MacDonald and her daughters Kimberly, 5, and Kristen, age 2, were butchered.  Colette was 26 and pregnant at the time.  Her husband, Jeffrey MacDonald, a Princeton-educated Green Beret doctor with no previous criminal record, was a prime suspect.  MacDonald said he was innocent, insisting his family was murdered by a group of intruders. 

An Army hearing initially cleared MacDonald of the crime.  But a 1979 federal jury convicted him.  And he received three consecutive life sentences.  An appeal freed MacDonald for a time.  But that was overturned in 1982.  And he has been in prison for this crime ever since.  The case has held America‘s attention for 35 years and has been the subject of a miniseries and several books. 

And this morning, yet another chapter.  Today, in Cumberland, Maryland, Jeffrey MacDonald had his first parole hearing.  Parole was denied.  And his former brother-in-law, Robert Stevenson, was there to fight against his release. 

Mr. Stevenson, thank you for joining us. 

What happened at the hearing today, the parole hearing? 

ROBERT STEVENSON, SISTER KILLED BY JEFFREY MACDONALD:  Basically, Mr.

MacDonald hid behind the skirts of his new wife. 

From what we could see, though we were closed out of the meeting room during the time that he spoke, which gave us both the inability to know what the basis was of his request for leaving.  It seemed that she did all of the talking as we watched.  I was only called in afterwards to give my portion of the speech, so I did not have benefit of hearing what they would claim, though I believe the probability was that it was merely that he hadn‘t been a bad guy in prison, since he had about 100 guards to watch him and keep him out of trouble, that he may have...

MATTHEWS:  Has he—excuse me, sir.  Has he denied in this hearing today his guilt? 

STEVENSON:  He continues to remain an unremorseful, unrepentant murderer.  And he will not ever, ever accept his guilt or speak to it, no.  That‘s because he is a sociopath by definition and by diagnosis. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the law.  He was given three consecutive life sentences. 

STEVENSON:  That‘s correct. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, one of the things juries want to know when they give a person a life sentence, rather than execution, is the person is going to stay in prison.  Why is there a parole hearing for a guy who is getting three consecutive life sentences? 

STEVENSON:  That‘s a very good question, because the fact is that I have never heard anyone suggest there was a possibility of a parole unless there was some form of redemption, by saying, I did it and I won‘t do it again.  And people have repeatedly...

MATTHEWS:  Well, he can‘t do it again.  They‘re already dead. 

STEVENSON:  Yes.  But, I mean, he can‘t—he can‘t show any remorse.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

STEVENSON:  And he can‘t do any of this.  So, the fact is, by applying for parole, what was he really trying to do?  Get a pardon?  He‘s not—you can‘t get a pardon from a parole board. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this.  Jeffrey MacDonald, Princeton graduate, Green Beret, medical doctor, all the attributes of a successful American. 

STEVENSON:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  It sounds great on paper.  Why would a man like that butcher his family? 

STEVENSON:  Jeffrey was...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I mean cut them to pieces, puncture them, mutilate them in a way that suggested horror.  In fact, it was horror.  Why would a man do that, as you understand it? 

STEVENSON:  First of all, if you read even the book “Fatal Vision,” you‘ll see...

MATTHEWS:  Joe McGinniss‘ book.

STEVENSON:  Yes. 

You‘ll see that Jeffrey MacDonald was a womanizer.  He was a womanizer, starting to sleep with—the first woman was his mother‘s best friend.  He continued it throughout his life and throughout his marriage.  The fact was that our family --  Fred Kassab came up with a theory as to how this happened and why.  It was easy for him to solve the case in the sense that...

MATTHEWS:  Frank is the father of the wife. 

STEVENSON:  Fred Kassab was the stepfather of the...

MATTHEWS:  The murdered woman. 

STEVENSON:  Yes, and my stepfather. 

He saw that, basically, when he compared the testimony from the Article 32 and the various different things that were had, they had total and major inconsistencies.  When he then looked at the blood evidence, which was very unique, since each person in the house had a different type of blood, it started to come all to fruition.  And it could be seen that there were only two possibilities.  MacDonald was either the murderer or knew who the murderer was and was covering.  That wasn‘t much of an option. 

MATTHEWS:  Because his evidence, as given under testimony under oath, did not square with the blood evidence.

STEVENSON:  Exactly.  Now...

MATTHEWS:  And the way it didn‘t square was the sequence of events or how... 

STEVENSON:  Yes.  It was the sequence of events.  It was where the blood spots were found.  It was where the blood was on the clothing, how the blood was mixed and things. 

And you could, from that, basically assemble a probable cause of actions, movements of all of the people.  And that is what got him convicted, along with the fact that he could not shut his mouth, because he is an arrogant, self-centered man. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

His defense was—his theory, I guess, was that a bunch of—quote -

·         “hippies”—close quote—had come into his house and killed his family. 

STEVENSON:  Yes.  And then he—copying the Manson crime, he put on a pair of rubber gloves and wrote “Pig” on the headboard to make it look very similar to the Sharon Tate thing. 

As to the actuality, Freddy always believed that the reason it happened and the way it happened was that my sister, who had been out at a class, came back to find the father molesting the oldest child and then, at that point, in a maniacal rage, seeing everything that he stood for and everything that he was going down the drain, that he killed the two of them.  OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How did your father-in-law, just to keep this sequential and chronological...

STEVENSON:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  How did your stepfather, the stepfather of the murdered woman, the wife of Jeffrey MacDonald, how did he figure out that there was a molestation here? 

STEVENSON:  The fact is that the—with each of them having a different blood type, that means that by analyzing the urine, you can determine whose urine it was. 

MacDonald had lied about whose urine was in the bed and said it was the urine of Kristen, the youngest child.  It turned out to be the urine of the oldest child. 

MATTHEWS:  He had claimed in his testimony that she had come to bed to sleep with the parents, had wet the bed and therefore he had to leave the bed and go sleep elsewhere on the couch. 

STEVENSON:  That‘s correct.

MATTHEWS:  And, in fact, you said it was the urine of the oldest girl. 

STEVENSON:  That‘s correct.  Then, in addition...

MATTHEWS:  In the parents‘ bed or in some other bed? 

STEVENSON:  In the parents‘ bed in the master bedroom. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

STEVENSON:  And the initial blows that were struck were struck to two people, Colette and the oldest child.

MATTHEWS:  And it could not have been a bed-wetting on the part of the oldest child, you believe, your father-in-law believes, your father?

STEVENSON:  No. 

It would have been more like a bed-wetting that happens because you‘re frightened because of what has happened already to your mother.  I don‘t know.  Maybe it is possible that a child, an immature child that is stimulated sexually, urinates.  I don‘t know personally. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

STEVENSON:  We only know that it was the oldest child‘s urine.  There was no reason to lie about that.  And we can find that, in a pathological rage, if you were to look at—there was a certain Dr. Hirsch Lazaar Silverman, who wrote a scathing analysis of him psychosexually.  And you can see that it was within his makeup to behave that way. 

MATTHEWS:  You said in the parole hearing today, although you weren‘t allowed to attend, that the main testimony was from this man‘s new wife.  He married—Jeffrey MacDonald in prison married somebody three years ago. 

What is her role in it?  Does she believe he‘s innocent? 

STEVENSON:  I‘m certain she believes he‘s innocent, because just as there are—there are groupies who fall in love with men.  They have a nurturing nature.  They achieve a moment of fame.  I‘m sure that she probably believes it.  There are only a couple of possibilities.  She‘s really stupid, she believes in his innocence and has never tried to do it, or she‘s as big a liar as he is. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Last question.  Is Jeffrey MacDonald in prison for the rest of his life? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is there any chance he‘ll get out now, as far as you understand the law? 

STEVENSON:  No. 

He‘s been told that he cannot apply for parole again for 25 years.  My only fear is that if, someday, his sociopathic nature or his intelligence allows him to say, I committed the crime and I‘m sorry for it, he might have something to go in front of a parole board that might frighten me. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  As long as he denies his guilt, he is not going to get parole, is your understanding.

STEVENSON:  That is my belief, that he will be there the rest of his life. 

And, as I told him to his face when I was in that hearing room, I delight in your sociopathic nature, because it is going to keep you here for the rest of your life. 

MATTHEWS:  You told him that today? 

STEVENSON:  Yes.  I got to look—the way it was seated, I got to look at him, to point at him, to look into his eyes and to vilify him to the full extent that I‘m able to do verbally. 

MATTHEWS:  Did he respond? 

STEVENSON:  No.  He sat there mutely weak. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Robert Stevenson.  Thank you for coming on HARDBALL. 

STEVENSON:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  One final note.  Requests for interviews with Jeffrey MacDonald, which are permissible, his wife, Kathryn, and his attorneys were turned down. 

When we come back, a former fund raiser for Hillary Clinton‘s Senate campaign goes on trial.  What will the case mean for Hillary‘s presidential hopes? 

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, how soon will the fight over filibusters go nuclear?

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Today, a former finance director for Hillary Clinton‘s Senate campaign goes on trial for allegations of lying about the cost of a fund-raiser put together on her behalf.  David Rosen is charged with three counts of making false statements to the Federal Election Commission in connection with the August 2000 star-studded Hollywood event. 

In an added twist, the Associated Press is reporting that Ted Kennedy‘s brother-in-law, Raymond Reggie, a prominent political consultant, is a cooperating witness who wore a wire on behalf of the government in conversation with Rosen.  Senator Clinton is not expected to testify at the trial, but what about the fallout? 

Tony Blankley is the editorial page editor of “The Washington Times.”  And Margaret Carlson is a contributing editor with “TIME” magazine and editor at large at the magazine “This Week.”

Margaret, it‘s the long road that has no turn, the guy said in “The Verdict.”  It‘s a long way from here to 2008 and Hillary running for president, having a major investigation of a fund-raiser where it looks like somebody gave her an extra $800,000 secretly.  And, sure, her claim is that she didn‘t know about it.  And this guy is on trial for knowing about it.  Where does it put her? 

MARGARET CARLSON, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, “TIME”:  Well, it would put any other politician perhaps in some trouble, even though, when you get into FEC regs, people, their eyes glaze over. 

But this is Hillary.  She withstood overnights in the Lincoln Bedroom, coffees, Marc Rich, furniture in and out of the White House.  For her, this is like turning right on red when you‘re not supposed to.  I don‘t know that this is really going to nail her, the way it might nail somebody else.  Also, Ray Reggie, if it were Ray Kennedy, if we could get a Kennedy name in there, I think it would grab people‘s attention a little bit more. 

MATTHEWS:  This is close enough for government work, though, isn‘t it? 

(LAUGHTER)

TONY BLANKLEY, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, “THE WASHINGTON TIMES”:  Well, yes.  But I assume...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, this guy is wired like Donnie Brasco.  He‘s sitting there.  Literally, he is there with a federal wire on him.  And he‘s sitting there chatting away with Hillary‘s finance director, knowing exactly what he‘s up to.  That cuts pretty close. 

BLANKLEY:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And, by the way, we don‘t know who else he was talking to. 

We don‘t know that yet, Margaret. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... he was wired.

BLANKLEY:  We don‘t know anything.  But I would assume he‘s talking with staffers.  He‘s not talking with principals.  It would amaze me. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s funny how staffers in Washington get to look like principals after they‘re on television a few times. 

BLANKLEY:  But it would amaze—it would amaze me if Hillary personally got on the phone and transacted any of these deals or if she personally e-mailed any comments about the $800,000. 

Whatever this town may suspect, because she‘s a micromanager, she might know, I would be amazed if there‘s any evidence directly.  And, at the worst, it would be her word against Rosen‘s.  And tie goes to the big shot. 

MATTHEWS:  So, it‘s not—you‘re saying—and I‘m asking this open-mindedly—it‘s unfair to suspect that, when she goes to a fund-raiser that costs over $1 million to put on, to think it was done for well less than half than that?  She could reasonably assume it was just an economy evening?

BLANKLEY:  Well, look, what you can reasonably assume.  The point is, in law, you have to have evidence.  I would be amazed if there‘s any evidence.  Therefore, politically, I don‘t think this is a big deal.  Now, if there‘s evidence, that‘s another matter. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why does Tom DeLay get in trouble because somebody used the wrong credit card on some trip he went on and he wasn‘t aware of whose credit card paid for the trip? 

(CROSSTALK)

BLANKLEY:  As you understand, that‘s the way—that‘s the way this town works.  A conservative Republican is going to get it from the media.  And a Hillary is not.  We know that. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You really mean it‘s that bad?

BLANKLEY:  I really mean that.  Yes.   

CARLSON:  Oh, no.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Margaret, is it that bad?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  No.  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s a pretty strong accusation.  In other words, the Democrats walk.  The Republicans go to jail. 

CARLSON:  No.  Trips are easier for the public and the press to understand than arcane provisions of FEC rules. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not arcane when somebody contributes $800,000 and doesn‘t write it up. 

CARLSON:  Underreporting on a fund-raiser of in-kind contributions doesn‘t grab people the way $1,000 a night at Claridges on Jack Abramoff‘s credit card does. 

BLANKLEY:  Scandals about Hillary doesn‘t grab the media the way scandals about DeLay grab the... 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Oh, no.  I think scandals about Hillary really grab the media.  I just think it‘s—when it is campaign finance reform, it doesn‘t work as well as a trip on a golf course. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry, lady and gentlemen.  This involves a guy being wire by the FBI, having a conversation in which he elicited information from a guy that is apparently damaging enough to be used in court.  It seems to me like we‘re on the trail of a serious story here.  This isn‘t just some FEC violation.  This is a criminal matter, right?

BLANKLEY:  Oh, it is a serious matter.  And whoever gets implicated in it is going to be in big trouble. 

MATTHEWS:  I mean, if David Rosen has to go to the can for a couple years, I think he might have an attitude about this. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  If David Rosen slips...

BLANKLEY:  He‘s been cooperating with the Clinton lawyers, I‘ve been told. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

BLANKLEY:  He‘s been cooperating with them.  He said—he called himself a guinea pig, letting the Clinton lawyers make his pleading as any way.  So, the chance of him not rolling over for the Clintons, like Webster Hubbell and all the rest, to me, is de minimus.

MATTHEWS:  So, he‘s going down for them? 

BLANKLEY:  Sure.

CARLSON:  Well, if he gets 15 years, I think he flips. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s squeeze time. 

Anyway, coming up, more on the Republican effort to end the filibuster.  And new allegations about President Bush‘s nominees for the U.N., they‘re surfacing as well.

Don‘t forget to check out Hardblogger, our political blog Web site. 

Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back for more with Margaret Carlson and Tony Blankley.

You know, we talk a lot about the nuclear option here in Washington.  I hope some people don‘t get the mistake it‘s not a metaphor.  It is a metaphor.  We‘re not talking about a nuclear device going off.  What we‘re talking about is an historic decision by the majority in the Republican-controlled Senate to basically get rid of the filibuster as an option for the minority during a fight over a judicial nomination. 

Tony, the word we‘re getting tonight is that it probably will happen in the next two weeks, that it will happen before the Memorial Day break.  In the Senate, there will be a vote on killing the filibuster.  What‘s your thought about it?

BLANKLEY:  Well, I mean, I think it‘s going to be next week, I think. 

And I—my sources tell me the Republicans have the votes.

MATTHEWS:  They have 50 votes.

BLANKLEY:  At least 50.  It will happen.  And the Republicans will win this round.  Whatever the political consequences, they‘re going to have the authority and they‘re going to have three-and-three-quarter years to appoint up to four Supreme Court justices. 

MATTHEWS:  And they‘re going to use this option now that they‘re got it.

BLANKLEY:  And, most importantly, and, secondly in the court of appeals, they are going to be probably dozens of circuit court appointments.

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

BLANKLEY:  And it is going to be an historic legacy...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We learned in the war on Iraq that the first war, the first battle is not the war. 

If the Republicans win and they get the 50 votes, plus the vice president they needed to get rid of the filibuster, what do Democrats do to stop this from becoming a complete power play by the Republicans to pick any Supreme Court they want? 

CARLSON:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  What do they do?  What are their final options here? 

CARLSON:  I mean, they‘ll try to convince the public that the Republicans changed the rules in the middle of the game and then stall legislation they want and blame Republicans for gridlocking the Senate. 

MATTHEWS:  Won‘t they be blamed for that? 

CARLSON:  Well, the Republicans were brilliant in getting this up-and-down vote phrase, because that seems to work with the public. 

But government shutdown, I think, works for the Democrats, because people understand, you don‘t change the rules in the middle of the game. 

BLANKLEY:  What is—by the way, what is the middle of the game? 

We‘ve been in business for 228 years.

(CROSSTALK) 

CARLSON:  In the middle of the 200 years. 

BLANKLEY:  And we change filibuster years episodically.  In the ‘70s, Senator Byrd changed them.

CARLSON:  You got from 67 to 60.

(CROSSTALK)

BLANKLEY:  And the phrase don‘t change rules in mid-game may make some small point. 

The larger event is going to be that they have the authority.  And then the larger event is going to be, do the Democrats try to shut it down by denying unanimous consent requests, which is how they would shut down the Senate?  And exactly why the Republican are going to get blamed for the Democrats shutting down Senate is beyond me. 

CARLSON:  Well, the Republicans at one time seemed to be worried that they might get blamed for that. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Then , out there polling, they seemed to think oh, well, listen, it is better for us not to compromise and get this, no minority protections for the next few years. 

MATTHEWS:  What happens if you win?  There‘s the old Chinese curse.  Suppose you are able to jam through, with your majority, which you won in the Congress, because you won the elections.  I think the Democrats have to keep reminding themselves, you lost.  You lost the majority in both houses because the people didn‘t like what they were seeing.  They didn‘t like Hillary‘s health care plan.  They didn‘t like the Democrats.  So they got in the Republicans.

What happens if you win and you start to pick pro-life judges for the Supreme Court and you get your change in the balance and you outlaw abortion or you end the federal government‘s promise of the right of a woman to choose an abortion?  Where are we at politically then?  What‘s the end game here? 

(CROSSTALK)

BLANKLEY:  I don‘t know that there is an end game. 

But, obviously, if the public judges that the appointment that Bush makes are not to their liking, then Republicans will pay a price.  I don‘t think that is going to happen, because, on most issues, the Republicans are on the right side of the social issues, not by a big number.

MATTHEWS:  No, but let‘s come back to the issue everybody is really talking about.  Hedged behind everything is abortion rights.  If you eliminate abortion rights at the federal level by changing the Supreme Court, do you think that‘s good for the Republican Party politically, electorally? 

BLANKLEY:  At best, a split for them. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What do you think, Margaret?

CARLSON:  I think...

MATTHEWS:  Suppose the Republicans actually remove from our history the constitutional right of a woman to choose an abortion, get rid of it and say it‘s up to the states?  What happens politically?

CARLSON:  I don‘t think it is equal. 

And Republicans have had the great advantage of having it both ways all these years, which is, you can argue the point without having to deliver on making abortion illegal. 

MATTHEWS:  Because the point is protecting a woman‘s right to choose.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Exactly. 

(CROSSTALK)

BLANKLEY:  I think you‘re going somewhere unlikely, because the principal historic decisis and precedent is going to be governing an awful lot of even conservative judges. 

The fact that we‘ve had the law on the books now for 40 years, 30 years, it means that, even a conservative judge is going to look at the fact we have had all these years of precedent.  So...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You mean, in other words, you‘re promising the Christian right you‘re going to get rid of abortion, but you‘re not going to do it. 

BLANKLEY:  No.  No, they‘re not promising that.  They‘re promising they are going to get strict constructionists on the court.  And the public...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Strict construction of Roe vs. Wade or the original Constitution? 

BLANKLEY:  The Constitution and the body of law.  That is what a strict constructionist is.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  ... have always argued that a strict construction of the Constitution would overturn Roe vs. Wade. 

(CROSSTALK)

BLANKLEY:  You are not going to see a revolutionary reversal, no matter how many people you put on the bench. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I wish everybody was..

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  So, they‘re still going to have it both ways. 

MATTHEWS:  ... was that confident we weren‘t going to have radical change on that issue.  We wouldn‘t be having all these fights, because I think that‘s what the fight are really all about, aren‘t they?  Abortion? 

BLANKLEY:  It‘s in part.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

And, Margaret Carlson, thank you very much.  Tony Blankley.

Tomorrow on HARDBALL, we‘ll talk about the nuclear option and other hot-button issues with NBC News Washington bureau chief and moderator of “Meet the Press,” Timothy Russert.

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

END

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