updated 5/26/2005 2:22:05 PM ET 2005-05-26T18:22:05

Guest:  David Ignatius, Deborah Orin, Tony Blankley, Chuck Schumer, John Warner, Tim Robbins

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Judgment day in the Senate.  After four years, the Senate confirms Priscilla Owen, the first of President Bush‘s disputed nominees, as a federal appellate judge by a vote of 56-43 and immediately begins debate on the confirmation of John Bolton as ambassador to the U.N.  Will the bipartisan truce prove a treaty or just a truce? 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

President Bush gets his nominee.  Senators who feuded for weeks came together today to confirm Priscilla Owen for a federal appellate judgeship.  And that fight may pave the way for John Bolton to be confirmed as ambassador to the United Nations.  We‘ll take you behind the scenes for the real story with our journalist roundtable. 

Plus, Oscar-winning actor Tim Robbins, he was an outspoken opponent of the Iraq war.  And his new movie, “Embedded Live,” makes no bones about that.  But has Hollywood star—this Hollywood star has gone outside the Hollywood system to get his movie out, distributing it online. 

But, first, the man who brought the Senate back from the brink, Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia. 

Sir.

SEN. JOHN WARNER ®, VIRGINIA:  You‘re wrong. 

I‘m not the man.  It was a group of 14 of us and we were but one senator among equals.  Now, we did have good leadership from John McCain, Ben Nelson.  And our framework was built on a foundation laid by, frankly, Bill Frist and Harry Reid, as they tried for so long to resolve it. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, if people were to ask me, what is the United States Senate, what was it like back 50 years ago, when I was a kid? 

WARNER:  I was not there. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.  But you were what it was like.  You were what it was like, Humphrey and Goldwater and Everett Dirksen, gentlemen who knew how to agree with each other and disagree and agree to disagree and get things done.  What happened?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why is the Senate so unlike that today? 

WARNER:  Well, when I came, Goldwater was still very active.  And he was one of my great leaders and teachers in the Senate.  And John Stennis.  And I could go on and talk about the names.  But, believe me, you—our political system is based on the two-party system, two strong parties.  It is fractious by nature.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

WARNER:  And it ebbs and flows from time to time. 

MATTHEWS:  Why did we have—I just went back over the records. 

WARNER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I had somebody go over the records.  When Earl Warren was confirmed—you won‘t believe this—as chief justice of the Supreme Court in ‘53.

WARNER:  Yes.  I remember.

MATTHEWS:  By voice vote. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They didn‘t even have a roll call.

WARNER:  That is interesting. 

MATTHEWS:  When Warren Burger came in, he won—I think there were three votes against him.  And when Rehnquist came in, the most recent chief justice who sits now, 33 votes against him. 

Why has this acrimony grown, so, instead of a voice vote and a minimal opposition, we have substantial opposition?  And the next time around, if you fill the seat, the chief justice seat at the end of this year, perhaps, if Rehnquist steps down, you know it is going to be 40 votes against-plus. 

WARNER:  Now, wait a minute.  Let‘s hold on a minute.  If you go back and look at those situations, I‘ll bet you‘ll find that the president quietly did some, let‘s say, consultation. 

And Senator Byrd and I drew up a provision that is in this framework.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

WARNER:  Which recited that the founding fathers put the word advice and consent—I repeat—advice and consent in the Constitution for the purpose that presidents usually sought the advice.  And, in those days where they went through like that, the chances are, there was that advice. 

And I think our president has been—certainly with this senator, I‘ve had the opportunity to consult with him on judicial nominations.  And I think perhaps it will broaden and in such a way that the—if there is a nominee for the Supreme Court, it is my hope and it would be good for the nation it would be a strong bipartisan vote. 

MATTHEWS:  Is that critical to your bipartisan arrangement, that there be advice, as well as consent?

WARNER:  That‘s what the Constitution says.  It is very clean.  Here it is right in the English language.

MATTHEWS:  What about that other very important word in your agreement between the seven Republicans and the seven Democrats, extraordinary?

WARNER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  How did you—when you were arguing backstage over that—

I shouldn‘t say backstage—in the rooms of the Capitol—did anybody come up with a definition of when a case would be extraordinary and it would justify a Democratic—a Democratic or any minority filibuster? 

WARNER:  It is interesting you say that. 

And I have, in my lifetime, 27 years in the Senate and a lot of other experiences, I‘ve never seen senators so often go to the dictionary and check words very carefully. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

WARNER:  And we‘re going to rely on the dictionary interpretation of the word extraordinary. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, does it mean freakish? 

WARNER:  It draws on each senator‘s—senator‘s experience, his—voting your conscience has always been a part of the United States Senate.  And that‘s an acceptable and understandable term in the English language.  And those of us that have been privileged to serve in the institution, we really know when it is a matter of conscience. 

I just debated with Joe Biden today on the floor of the Senate the Bolton nomination.  I‘m for.  He‘s against.  But we turned to each other and we said we respect one another‘s vote of conscience. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the pressure groups, left and right.  We‘ve had pressure groups sit in this chair last night at this table saying that anyone who is pro-life is outside the mainstream, therefore extraordinary, therefore will fought with every—with tooth and nail by the left-wing groups, by the pro-choice groups.  What do you make of that? 

WARNER:  Look, everybody...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think senators in the group will agree with that definition? 

WARNER:  Everybody has the opportunity to speak and say what they want in this great country.  That‘s what these brave men are fighting for in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere. 

Listen, Chris, we understand in the Senate that the Senate runs on mutual trust, respect, mutual respect, comity.  Otherwise, unanimous consent, which is our fundamental rule, wouldn‘t work.  We‘ll be able to quickly, not quickly, but we‘ll get together, the group of 14, if necessary, and analyze any situation which we feel pushes up against a determination of what is extraordinary. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you—are you opt—gauge how—give me an estimate of your confidence level.  Are you confident, optimistic, hopeful that this will hold and you will be able to have an up-or-down vote on any Supreme Court nominee this summer? 

WARNER:  I would say that I‘m optimistic.  No one can be absolutely confident, because I think the institution went through a wrenching experience, beginning in the 108th Congress, where the Democrats, under their leadership, had a series of clear filibusters, a precedent never before in the United States in 214 years at that time. 

And prior to that, in the committee structure, when Clinton was president, we, the Republicans, put aside quite a few nominees that never saw the light of day on the floor.  So, both hands don‘t come to this debate clean.  And yet, in the period of the last few weeks, when this has been debated, I think the Senate got to the point.  It is time that we settled down and go back to business and give the institution a chance to run on the rails, as it has for these many years. 

And therefore, I‘m reasonably optimistic that this framework agreement will help guide the Senate toward more comity, more mutual trust, more mutual respect.  And that in turn would enable our president to get through the nominee of his choice. 

MATTHEWS:  Behind this argument over procedure, over the filibuster, over unlimited debate, is this lurking question of abortion rights.  It seems to be driving the passions of both sides, left and right. 

Do you believe that your party, the majority of your party, truly believes that you can ban abortion in this country and not have a situation just like we had with prohibition, where the legal simply becomes the illegal? 

WARNER:  Well, you‘re jumping around pretty fast.  That means Roe v.

Wade is stricken at some point by the Supreme Court. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

WARNER:  And I don‘t predict that at this point in time. 

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think that will happen with a conservative judge coming in?

WARNER:  Now, wait a minute.  I‘m not going to predict the type of person or who might come in. 

But I will say this.  You know, I‘m neither fixed on pro-life, nor pro-choice.  It is not that I‘m a fence-rider, but I have voted on both sides of this issue.  But I do observe that Roe v. Wade has been a part of the law of the land, whether you like it or not as to how it came on to the books of the law of the Supreme Court.  And it seems to me that the Supreme Court would think long and hard before that decision is reversed. 

And then people must recognize, if reversed, it simply goes back where it‘s then 50 state legislatures.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

WARNER:  And the framework of laws in 50 states have to control it. 

So...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  A lot of Republicans would like to ban it at the state level, if it does go back there. 

WARNER:  Well, you know, that‘s what America is all about. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

WARNER:  You know, states have the right to make decisions for themselves. 

MATTHEWS:  We only have a minute.  I want to ask you about a troubling issue in the war. 

WARNER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  This Abu Ghraib.  As chairman of the Armed Services Committee, is it your sense that those enlisted people, men and women who committed the—the crimes there, embarrassing crimes to the world of humiliating those prisoners sexually or whatever, do you think they were operating without the guidance of officers, that they were creative in those—in that mischief? 

WARNER:  No.  No, Chris.  You‘ve got to be patient. 

I‘m proud of the record of our committee.  We‘ve had seven to eight hearings on this.  And the officers immediately in charge in the supervisory chain of command are now just going through the various steps under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  And they are being examined. 

Now, the Schlesinger group and other groups that looked at this independently, they seem to think that that problem of responsibility and                  accountability went up the chain of command.  And that has not been fully, I repeat, fully resolved yet.  The Army more or less has indicated that only, at this time, only one general officer bears a degree of...

MATTHEWS:  Karpinski.

WARNER:  Bears a degree of culpability.  But the matter is still before the secretary of defense.

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve gotten an open mind on this, then? 

WARNER:  Yes, I do.  I think it‘s important.

This did more really damage to the image of America than anything contemporaneous.  And military men and women are very proud of their service.  And they want their service to viewed as one that complies with the law of the land and international law as they go about the arduous task of fighting terrorism wherever it is in the world. 

MATTHEWS:  Coming off this big victory—and that‘s your role in this compromise.  I know you don‘t want to take credit.

WARNER:  My modest role.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve been very modest.  I accept your modesty. 

WARNER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Not your definition of it, because I think you played a bigger role, you and Senator Byrd in West Virginia. 

WARNER:  And John McCain and Ben Nelson. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Can we make some news here?  Do you want to run for another term? 

WARNER:  Well, I certainly have it in mind. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, good.

WARNER:  And it is a matter that‘s up to the good lord and myself and the people of Virginia.  And we‘ll counsel together. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you have kept your hair.  You look great.

WARNER:  Well, that‘s my mother‘s hair. 

(LAUGHTER)

WARNER:  And, you know, after this show, I‘m likely to get a call, as we do regularly.  Senator, where do you get your wig? 

MATTHEWS:  No.

WARNER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  No.

WARNER:  People call in all the time. 

MATTHEWS:  These skeptics, these cynics.  It‘s the real thing.

WARNER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Hey, you‘re the real thing.  Thank you, Senator.  It‘s great.

WARNER:  Well, thank you very much.  So are you. 

MATTHEWS:  I shake your hand, sir.

WARNER:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  I appreciate a man of the Senate.  And that is what you are, Senator John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, one of the leaders of the compromise. 

In a moment, will the Republicans deal-makers stand for a Democratic filibuster against another court nominee?  And will the Democrats resist filibustering a Supreme Court pro-life nominee? 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Who should sit on the Supreme Court?  Senator Chuck Schumer of New York will be here when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York wrote a letter to President Bush yesterday urging him to consult with senators of both parties before submitting future judicial nominations.  Senator Schumer is a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Senator, it sounds like you‘re very much in sync with your very senior Republican colleague from Virginia.  Senator Warner was just on and he said the president should follow the Constitution and seek the advice of the Senate, not just its consent, on judgeships. 

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  Yes.  You‘re exactly right. 

This advice is not just fluff, the advice part of advise and consent.  It really makes a big difference.  Let me give you two instances.  One, when President Clinton had to nominate two Supreme Court nominees, he regularly consulted a number of Republicans, including Orrin Hatch.  He gave some names to Orrin Hatch and Orrin Hatch said, you‘re going to have trouble with those names.  He gave others and Orrin Hatch vetted them and said, choose them.  And Orrin Hatch actually ahead of time said that Breyer and Ginsburg would be acceptable choices to the Republican-controlled Senate.

A second example, on district court judges, the White House has consulted me.  And we filled every one in New York with judges.  I might not agree with them on everything, but they‘re mainstream judges.  And if the president would consult on the upcoming Supreme Court nomination, it would do two things.  He would get a good idea of the reception that that nominee might get.

And, second, it just lowers the temperature.  It is not the president being like Zeus up on Mount Olympus throwing judicial thunderbolts and saying, this is the way it has to be.  That doesn‘t work in any walk of life, even in the Senate. 

MATTHEWS:  Does the president risk, if he sends a name up and does follow the spirit of the Constitution, that you fellows on the other side of the aisle will shoot down just about anyone? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Or does that—maybe that‘s a stupid question.  I don‘t know. 

SCHUMER:  No, it‘s not a stupid question.  But if we shoot down anyone, then he can say he tried to consult and he failed and at least we‘ll realize that he‘s been consulting us. 

But I truly don‘t think that‘s the case.  If you look at some of the people we‘ve approved to the Courts of Appeals, they‘re people who are much closer in line with the president‘s philosophy than with our philosophy.  If we had blocked 150 out of 218 judges, you might say we‘re going to shoot down virtually everybody.  But we haven‘t.  And that is not our goal. 

Our goal is simply to knock out the people who might be way, way over, so far out of the mainstream that what they really want to do is make law and turn the clocks back to the 1930s or the 1890s.  They will be—those are the people who are sort of outside any recognized field of jurisprudence. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me turn the clock back to the 1950s, Senator.  In 1953, when President Eisenhower sent up the name of Earl Warren, the governor of California, there was a voice vote in your body, the Senate.  It‘s hard to imagine that, a voice vote. 

SCHUMER:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  On chief justice.  And then, when Warren Burger was sent up by Nixon, that was a three-vote opposition, just three votes in opposition.  The others were all for the confirmation. 

And then, as recently as Rehnquist, the sitting chief justice, when his name was sent up, 33 votes against him.  Why is there this exponential growth of opposition over time to names? 

SCHUMER:  Good question. 

Here‘s what‘s happened.  It used to be that presidents would send up people who were approved by the Bar Association, really without much regard for ideology.  And what happened in the ‘60s—and this, I agree with the conservatives in a certain sense—the judges on the court were very liberal and began to reach and sort of make law, not interpret law.  The conservative movement said, oh, that‘s no good.  We have to stop it.  And they really did begin to stop it. 

And what‘s happened is that they—it has become now that judges are nominated for ideology, because, once they stopped it, they went further.  And now they want to nominate judges who would do the same thing on the right side that the liberal judges did on the left side.  When the liberal judges did it, it wasn‘t necessarily liberals who were nominated.  Earl Warren, no one thought he would be a big liberal judge.  He was a Republican governor of California. 

But what has happened now is that the president, this president, George Bush, has nominated judges through an ideological prism more than any other president has.  We can go back to the old way.  That‘s what we would like to do.  And you would have a court that might have one justice, Brennan, a very liberal judge, one justice, Scalia, a very conservative judge, but not five of each.  President Bush is trying to get five Scalias on the court.  And that is not going to wash.

MATTHEWS:  How about a Scalia as chief justice?  Would you advise him not to do that? 

SCHUMER:  Well, I think it is too early to tell that.  And if Scalia is going to be chief justice, I think part of the question would be, who would be nominated for his seat?  Certainly, we do not want to see judges who will try to change the law, in the sense that they want their own ideas imposed.  We want judges who will interpret law, as the founding fathers said, not make law, even if they‘re judges who don‘t share our judicial philosophy. 

MATTHEWS:  How important is it to you as a pro-choice senator—I mean, that‘s part of your definition—you‘re pro-choice—you have other features, obviously—of the 6-3 balance right now on the court?  If, for example, Rehnquist were to retire and open up a seat and you were to have the president select, nominate, for example, Scalia to replace him and then replace Scalia‘s associate justiceship with an Alberto Gonzales, would that keep the balance for a pro-choice court?  Would that satisfy you or would you... 

SCHUMER:  I don‘t think—well, Chris, you don‘t look at it through any one single issue. 

I only have one test.  And that is, as I mentioned, it is a judge who will interpret law, not make it.  People at the extremes, ideologues, far right or far left, for that matter, tend to believe so passionately that they are right that they tend to make law.  And I don‘t want judges like that.  That‘s what the interpretation would be. 

But if you look at pro-life, pro-choice, I mean, we have voted, we Democrats, for a large number of judges who are clearly pro-life.  But we thought, they understand the traditions of the country.  They understand 30 years of jurisprudence since Roe v. Wade.  And they wouldn‘t try to impose their own views. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s been another extraordinary day here in the U.S.  capital.  Washington, D.C. is still buzzing over that filibuster compromise worked out by those 14 senators.  And the anger is building on the right toward the Republican leader of the Senate, Bill Frist. 

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reports. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER:  As soon as we possibly can. 

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Today, Senate Majority Leader Frist was in full-damage control mode, bad-mouthing Senate Democrats. 

FRIST:  The nuclear option is what they did.  It‘s what they did when they detonated this filibuster power grab in the last Congress. 

SHUSTER:  But the religious right is still infuriated at him.  Pressure group leaders are threatening to abandon Frist.  They believe he could have done more to rein all Republicans and convince them a deal with Democrats was not needed. 

TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL:  An hour before the compromise was announced, the reports we had from the leader‘s office was, they had the votes. 

SHUSTER:  The setback for the religious right is particularly embarrassing, given that Christian conservatives have worked for decades to get to this point where Republicans control both the White House and Congress.  The religious right‘s political movement began with the 1964 presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARRY GOLDWATER ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The good lord raised this mighty Republican—republic to be a home for the brave and to flourish as the land of the free. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  While Goldwater went on to lose the general election, a group of his strategists stayed together and formulated a family values agenda.  In the 1970s, televangelist Jerry Falwell joined them, turning the moral majority into a political organization.  And then, in 1980, the moral majority helped fuel the campaign of Ronald Reagan. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Can we begin our crusade?  Join together in a moment of silent prayer. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  While Reagan‘s election and presidency were successes for the religious right, there have also been some notable failures, Pat Robertson‘s campaign in 1988, Pat Buchanan‘s in 1992.  At the Republican Convention, he thrilled the religious right, but drove moderate voters away from the GOP by throwing down the gauntlet. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT BUCHANAN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  There is a religious war going on in this country.  It is a cultural war as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as the Cold War itself.  But this war is for the soul of America. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  In the 1996 presidential election, the religious right comprised 17 percent of the entire electorate.  In 2000, with the organization overcome by infighting, that figure dropped to 14 percent.  But it was back up to 16 percent last year.  And religious groups played a crucial role in banning gay marriage in 11 states and delivering Ohio to President Bush. 

And just a few weeks ago, Christian conservatives gathered at an event called Justice Sunday, thought they heard Bill Frist promise the Senate would deliver. 

FRIST:  If the nominees are rejected, fine.  That‘s fair.  At least rejection is a vote. 

SHUSTER (on camera):  Has Bill Frist now lost the faith of the religious right?  And, if so, who will Christian conservative turn to?  It‘s a story that is still developing in the wake of a deal that has left many conservatives perplexed and infuriated. 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster. 

Still ahead, how long will the power gained by the centrists in the Senate last?  David Ignatius, Deborah Orin and Tony Blankley will be joining us. 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Today, the four-year stalemate over the nomination of Priscilla Owen to sit on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ended with her 56-43 confirmation.  This vote was made possible by the compromise deal crafted late Monday by a bipartisan group of 14 senators. 

David Ignatius is associate editor and columnist with “The Washington Post.”  Tony Blankley is the editorial page editor of “The Washington Times.”  And Deborah Orin is the Washington bureau chief of “The New York Post,” heavy group here.  Let‘s talk heavy about its significance. 

When history is written and this deal holds, if it does, what does it mean?  Is there a center now in American politics? 

DEBORAH ORIN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “THE NEW YORK POST”:  Well, the center has more power than it did before, yes. 

But I would argue that the deal actually lightly favors the Republicans at the moment.  You have to wait and see how it plays out.  But I think the Republicans, contrary to a lot of the media spin, come out slightly better than the Democrats do. 

MATTHEWS:  Because they will get a vote? 

ORIN:  They get a vote on three judges who they absolutely wanted and the Democrats absolutely did not want. 

And I just think the mood is going to make it harder for there to be filibusters down the road.  And that means that, if there are filibusters down the road, and Republicans do say, OK, that‘s it, we‘re going to step in and cut off debate, it will, in a way, be easier for them because they will have given it the extra chance.  I think the kicking the can down the road, ironically enough, favors the Republicans. 

MATTHEWS:  Tony Blankley, that sounds like the Irish peace talks in Northern Ireland.  The more—once you have a truce, it is harder to throw a bomb.  Do you believe that? 

TONY BLANKLEY, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, “THE WASHINGTON TIMES”:  Well, I mean, it is possible.  But I think—we don‘t have a lot of time.  But you have to take a bit little of look at the history of how we got where we are. 

And what happened was that, in the last 20 or 30 years, both parties have been ideologizing the selection of justices more and more, because the judiciary becomes a more important role in our lives.  As a result, substance has been increasingly trumping procedure.  And that‘s why you had the Republicans when they—under Clinton holding—using dormant procedures to hold up nominations in committee and you‘ve had the Democrats use an unprecedented amount of filibusters to block them, because both parties wanted the substance more than procedure. 

Now, what we had this week was an opportunity, if Republicans could have marshaled 51 votes, for substance to prevail for the Republicans for at least the next three-and-a-half years.  They lost that on this deal.  Now, what is going to come out in the future remains to be seen.  But, unambiguously, had they had 51 votes, the president would have been able to have nominated more original intent and conservative justices.

And there could be as many as four Supreme Court justices in the next three-and-a-half years.  So, he could have shaped the entire next 30 years of our judicial history.  My guess is, he is going to be ending up nominating more moderates.  And we won‘t be able to shift the court to original intentists, as he had hoped. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think, David, as a man of the middle, that this is going to be one of those epics in America, epos, where “Who lost China?” will be the rallying cry?  Who threw it away?  Because I talked to Trent Lott here last night.  Hell of a vote counter.  They had the votes. 

DAVID IGNATIUS, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  You know, I—I—I...

MATTHEWS:  They had the votes to win, to beat the Democrats.  And people, you know, decided not to let that happen. 

IGNATIUS:  You know, because they had Republican defections, because, in the end, there were seven Republicans who thought, it is bad politics to be playing this partisan game. 

And I don‘t know how long this moment of compromise and this spirit of conciliation is going to last.  But what I do know that it is that is politically popular for these 14 and I think in the country as a whole.  And the truth is, the country is fed up with the partisanship.  The polls show that.  The president is slipping in the polls.  The Republican leadership is really in trouble in the polls. 

The public doesn‘t want this.  And I think people are finally wising up to that.  So, you know, as I look toward 2008 -- and we all are—we see Frist thinking, gosh, got to appeal to the base, got to move right, got to do this, got to do that.  And that ended up being a dumb strategy, I think, for Frist.  I think McCain helped himself a lot, McCain, a man of the center.  Frist, trying to be a man of the right, hurt himself. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he might be better off now headed towards 2008? 

IGNATIUS:  McCain?  I think he‘s absolutely better off. 

I mean, he‘s defined more clearly for everybody, for the whole country, who he is.  He is a man of the center.  He did something very bold.  He broke from his leadership and he won.  I mean, people like somebody who stands up for what he believes, is in the center, I think, and who wins. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I hate to be the skunk at the picnic with all this Pollyanna here.  But let me tell you, when I go around and watch people who work in campaigns—and I‘ve worked in some—you‘re either pro-life or pro-choice. 

And the women especially in every headquarters in every campaign for House, Senate, whatever, have a strong opinion on that issue.  They just do.  And the Republican fund-raising to a large extent is based on cultural conservatism, opposition to abortion.  The Democratic Party is most assuredly based on pro-choice points of view among women and men. 

How do you avoid a real grudge fight late this summer over the Supreme Court, no matter what deal is there, Deborah? 

ORIN:  Well, you know, I wanted to go back to something Tony said, because he thinks the president is going to back off and nominate more moderate judges.  I think that‘s not true.  I don‘t think that is how President Bush operates. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘ll feed the base. 

(CROSSTALK)

ORIN:  No.  It‘s not he‘ll feed the base.  He‘ll do—I don‘t think -

·         I think whoever he was going to nominate before this is the same person he was going to nominate after this.  He‘s going to nominate the person he thinks is the right person. 

MATTHEWS:  But isn‘t his big fear to name another Souter, to pick somebody who ends up being on the other side, like his father did? 

ORIN:  I don‘t think the names—yes, but the names you see floating around are not Souters.  They are mainstream conservatives.  And, again, that‘s part of the reason I think this is not such a great deal for Democrats, because most of the judges you hear talked about are people who will get good ratings from the Bar Association.  And they will be mainstream conservatives.  And it be hard to filibuster those. 

MATTHEWS:  It raises the question raised by Senator Warner tonight on the program at the beginning of the show.  His idea and his demand is that the president of the United States, before he sends up a judgeship for appellate court or Supreme Court, that they run the name around the Senate a bit at least and get some advice from the—from the lions of the Senate. 

Tony, do you think this president, as tough and independent man as he is, is willing to play that game? 

BLANKLEY:  Well, I thought that was a very important piece of this, because, obviously, these 14 are feeling their oats.  And they‘re asserting some, they claim, ancient interpretation of the advise and consent provision, which basically would mean that the president has somewhat less power if they‘re expanded advice definition means anything at all. 

Certainly, that hasn‘t been the practice in the recent past, that Clinton did not seek out our Republican support for Ginsburg before he nominated her, nor did we think he was obliged to.  But this is my—why I do believe that Bush is a little bit in the box, that at least seven Republicans are now going to insist on the advise provision, which would suggest to me, since they‘re moderates, that they will advise them against a hard original intentist.  So, I think there‘s a lot of danger involved. 

MATTHEWS:  There would have been a lot of judges on the Supreme Court who never would have gotten there had their names been floated beforehand, Clarence Thomas, perhaps, Robert Bork.  Well, he never made it.

But do you think this president is willing to risk the kind of shattering negativity that could hit a nominee before he even puts his name up by floating it ahead of time? 

IGNATIUS:  Well, I mean, I think—I think President Bush has shown that, when he is tested, he tends to double his bets.  I agree with Deborah.  I don‘t see him backing down.

MATTHEWS:  So he...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... strong, strong nominee. 

IGNATIUS:  I think what Tony said a moment ago really is the centerpiece of what happened Monday night.  I think Senator Warner, who you had on the show, Senator Byrd, who is 87 years old, got together with the Senate historian, went sitting there with the U.S. couple , the Federalist Papers, going back... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Federalist 67 or something, yes.

IGNATIUS:  The amazing thing, Chris, is, they ended up coming up with pieces of history that suddenly made sense to them.  And they said, you know, advice and consent is not a one-way street.  It is not an up-or-down vote.  It is a two-way street.  That‘s the way the country was supposed to work. 

They went back to their colleagues.  And everybody said, yes, that‘s what we want to do.  We want to—and I think that‘s powerful.  And so I think that, you know, Tony is...

MATTHEWS:  Boy, it argues for a nomination of, say, an Orrin Hatch or a Justice Scalia, someone who we know is OK with the establishment, right? 

IGNATIUS:  Well, you know, Supreme Court, if there was only people in the soft center, it might not have the spark, the intellectual firepower. 

(CROSSTALK)

IGNATIUS:  But, right now, this is a very divided country.  And moving back toward the center obviously is something that is in everybody‘s interests. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s talk about that when we come back. 

Coming up, under threat of a veto, a stem cell research bill passed the House and is now on its way to the Senate.  Will Senator Frist try to kill it before it reaches the president‘s desk? 

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:  Oscar-winning actor Tim Robbins on his anti-war movie when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Deborah Orin of “The New York Post,” Tony Blankley of “The Washington Times” and David Ignation of “The Washington” - - David Ignatius of “The Washington Post.” 

Tony, I want you to have one last shot at this.  If the Senate is given an advise role in the selection of Supreme Court nominees, what will that do to the president‘s selection? 

BLANKLEY:  Well, assuming that the advice is going to be asserted particularly by these centrist 14, it would suggest to me that they‘re going to wave off a solid conservative.  Otherwise, why would—if they were going to be perfectly satisfied with the hard conservatives that Bush was going to feed up, why would they now be asserting the right to an expanded advice power? 

So, if it means anything, it is going to put more pressure on Bush to be practical, which means he is less likely to be able to dominate the shaping and the changing of trajectory of the Supreme Court over the next few years. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me to go to Deborah on an issue that has recurred again, stem cell, now a bill that has passed the House with not a veto-proof amount.  It doesn‘t have the 290 votes needed to override a veto, should there be one.  It calls for pretty broad experimentation and medical research with regard to these embryos that we harvest from all these—these clinics around the country. 

What do you think the Senate is going to do?  Are they going to take up the bill and pass it as such and send it to the president? 

ORIN:  Well, that would put the president in a difficult situation, because... 

MATTHEWS:  How so? 

ORIN:  Well, because he would be the one person vetoing stem cell research.  And that is a difficult position. 

I have the feeling that, in the Senate, they will try and pass an alternative bill, send it to conference and come up with something that the president can sign that might—for example, the White House is supporting research using umbilical cord blood that takes you a step further. 

I know it doesn‘t—it doesn‘t...

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m wincing because—we also want to get to the politics.  I mean, the people who have Alzheimer‘s in their family, which is almost everybody, Parkinson‘s—everybody has a friend, it seems, who has had it and is suffering from it or dead from it—they will have a name for their pain, George Bush.

IGNATIUS:  I think that‘s been the president‘s problem on these social issues all year.  I mean, when people looked at Terri Schiavo, tragic person, in that bed, they thought, my gosh, that could be me.  You know, some politician could be trying to keep me alive in that terrible state. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, some people might like that. 

IGNATIUS:  Well, maybe some, but the polls showed not as many as you might think. 

And, as you say, everybody knows somebody who might be affected by this stem cell issue.  And they just don‘t like the idea of politicians keeping these technologies from them.  You know, it‘s sort of later for the ethical debate.  But this is important now.  And I think the Democrats on this one really have Bush in a tough position. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It has nothing to do with sexual or cultural morality either.

IGNATIUS:  They can say, this is so important.  You cannot not let us vote on this one, Mr. President, Mr. Frist. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I completely—I think it is very hard to find that compromise, don‘t you?

ORIN:  Yes.  No, I think it is going to be very hard, but I think that‘s what he‘s going to look for. 

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s a tough one for the president.  He‘s having a tough time.

Anyway, thank you, David Ignatius of “The Washington Post,” Deborah Orin of “The New York Post,” Tony Blankley of “The Washington Times.”

In a moment, actor and activist Tim Robbins is going to be here to talk about his new movie, the movie he wrote and stars in.  It is about the Iraq war.  He is passionate on this topic, the war in Iraq.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Oscar-winning actor Tim Robbins opposes the Iraq war.  He‘s got a new DVD of his off-Broadway show available for purchase online called “Embedded Live” that makes his case. 

Here is a clip of Tim Robbins playing a U.S. soldier about to leave home for Iraq. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “EMBEDDED LIVE”)

TIM ROBBINS, ACTOR:  And make sure to kiss the kids every night for me. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  Oh, I will. 

ROBBINS:  And be sure to throw the ball around with the boys.  They are going to need someone do dad things with them. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  Well, I don‘t know how my arm is. 

(LAUGHTER)

ROBBINS:  You don‘t need a curve ball, honey. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  You‘re so handsome in that uniform. 

ROBBINS:  I were? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  Well, I fell in love with that picture.  

(HORN HONKING)

ROBBINS:  I‘m coming!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re on with Tim Robbins. 

Thanks for coming on, Tim.

Let me ask you about a tough question, because I get asked it.  What‘s good fighting about a war we‘re already stuck in? 

ROBBINS:  Well, I—I—part of—the answer to that is—is kind of what I wish would happen right now. 

There seems to be no accountability for anything.  We seem to be holding “Newsweek”‘s feet to the fire, but we‘re not holding anyone else‘s feet to the fire.  And that‘s like kind of blaming the messenger.  “Embedded” is out there because I want to stimulate more discussion about what should have been discussed previous to this war.  And I hope that, through that discussion, we can come to some kind of plan on how to proceed. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the beauty of the way this war was brought about—and it‘s not—obviously an ugly war, like most wars—is, the way it was suggested was that the Congress was asked to approve the concept of the president‘s right to wage a war in that part of the world against Saddam Hussein.  Then, after the election of, what, ‘02, the president did wage that war.  And there was never really a period of national debate or analysis. 

So, when do you debate a war? 

ROBBINS:  Well, I would—I would hope that, in the future, there was more media—less media compliance and more debate in the media. 

I saw many talking heads advocating the war and highly-paid military experts—quote, unquote—who were actually on boards of military companies that provide weapons and bombs to the military acting as experts that were advocating for the war, and very, very few peace activists, very few people that were opposed to the war.  In fact, it wasn‘t even just the peace activists. 

There were a lot of people in the intelligence community that were very opposed to the war and had huge doubts about the intelligence that was being presented to the American public. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why do you think we fought this war? 

ROBBINS:  To get a foothold in the Mideast, my suspicion. 

MATTHEWS:  So we could stay there? 

ROBBINS:  Yes.  Well, we‘re building permanent bases there, so it seems like that was the plan. 

MATTHEWS:  The president argued that they posed a strategic threat to us through their weapons of mass destruction.  Do you think he believed that at the time?  Do you think he was duped into believing that?  Do you think he just got the same bad intel that the other world leaders got? 

ROBBINS:  I think there should be more discussion about the Downing Street memo and less about “Newsweek.”  I think that that story seemed to be buried.  And there seems to be a lot of questions that the Downing Street memo raises. 

MATTHEWS:  Tell me about that. 

ROBBINS:  Well, it suggests that the administration knew full well T.  hey were being duplicitous and were operating with weak intelligence. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, they—well, they did tell us at the time, Tim, that the best argument for getting the Europeans to join us in the war was using the WMD argument, but it wasn‘t their primary purpose.  The primary purpose apparently was democratization in the Middle East, nation building. 

ROBBINS:  And I think they didn‘t mention that until much later, Chris.  I think that the original—original reason was that he was an imminent threat. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about Hollywood.  Do you think Hollywood, in its critique of this president, has been effective?  Somebody put up a sign recently to Hollywood:  “Thank you, Hollywood, for getting Bush reelected.”

ROBBINS:  I think they were very—first of all, talking about Hollywood as something that operates in lockstep on any issue is kind of ludicrous, because, especially during that period of time, I remember being one of the few voices that was opposed to the war. 

So, I don‘t know—Hollywood is many different entities, many different kinds of opinions, many different kinds of people. 

MATTHEWS:  Why does it come across as monolithic and anti-war? 

ROBBINS:  I guess it‘s presented that way by the media.

But if you look at it, there‘s an awful lot of conservative people making movies that have nothing to do with social issues.  And that‘s OK.

That‘s what the business is.  And it should be about entertainment and it should be about finding what the public wants to see.  And once in a while, things like “Embedded Live” can find their niche.  We‘re going out through Netflix.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

ROBBINS:  Which is an Internet company.  And I don‘t expect major distribution with it.  But that‘s where we are and that‘s not major Hollywood.  That‘s a small Internet company. 

And we‘re very happy about that.  But the idea that Hollywood is behind “Embedded Live” is—is ridiculous. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.  Well, most people now, in the latest polling, say they don‘t think the war was worth it. 

But you don‘t hear people speaking up.  I always thought it would be more successful, people like yourself who have strong views, to not do them at big rallies where everybody agrees, to sort of go home to your hometown, talk to people you knew, who you grew up with, and talk to the local papers and embed yourselves in American culture, so that people would think, you‘re one of us. 

ROBBINS:  I completely agree.  Unfortunately, I grew up and my hometown is New York City.  So...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Where is your hometown? 

ROBBINS:  New York City. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re right on—right in the heart of—right in the action there. 

Anyway, well, it‘s great having you on.  Thank you. 

Do you think—do you think this president has learned that this is one war enough, that we‘re not going to—for a while there, it looked like we were going to be very aggressive with regard to Syria and Iran and we were going to go into other countries.  Do you think this might be it? 

ROBBINS:  Well, I hope so.

But, at the same time, I think part of the tragedy of this is that the credibility is not there.  And if there is a real threat, there‘s going to be an awful lot of resistance to the same intelligence sources, because we‘ve been deceived in the past.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

ROBBINS:  So, hopefully, that won‘t happen.  Hopefully, we can...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

ROBBINS:  ... concentrate our efforts towards protecting America.

MATTHEWS:  Are you mad at Colin Powell for bringing that briefing to the U.N., for making that case for WMD to the U.N. and making the war justifiable to a lot of moderates in the middle? 

ROBBINS:  I think that that—he served that purpose.  And I think that that was not healthy for the country. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  It‘s great having you, Tim Robbins, a great actor.

“Shawshank,” I loved it.  I loved “The Player.”  And he was so good in “Mystic River.”  I don‘t how that bad guy, Sean Penn, could have done what he did to him.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, tomorrow, we‘re going to bring you the latest in the fight over John Bolton‘s nomination for U.S. ambassador.

And on “COUNTDOWN” tonight, Keith and Pat Buchanan take a look at how politicians today are jockeying to run in 2008 for president—“COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” tonight at 8:00 Eastern on MSNBC.

END

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