updated 7/29/2005 12:42:59 PM ET 2005-07-29T16:42:59

Guests: Bob Herbert, Susan Molinari, Hilary Rosen, Paul Hackett, Frank Lautenberg, Sam Brownback

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Will the fight come from the right on Roe v. Wade in the upcoming Senate confirmation hearings?  And the first Iraq veteran runs for Congress, but is he in the battle for his life? Let‘s play HARDBALL.  Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

Senate Democrats are on a collision course with the White House over access to John Roberts‘ documents when he was deputy solicitor general during the first Bush administration.  And while most Republicans have fallen in line behind Roberts, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, a pro-life member of the Judiciary Committee, has expressed reservations about where Roberts stands on abortion and Roe v. Wade.  Senator Brownback, thank you.   You met with him, the nominee, earlier this week.  Do you think he is sound on—on abortion rights?  Where is he? 

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK ®, KANSAS:  I think that is yet to be seen.  I‘m in a trust-but-verify stage. 

He doesn‘t have a long written record on this topic.  The history has been typically that people, once they go on the courts, they frequently have moved left, if they‘re not well established on where they are on the positions on some of these key and core issues. 

Our meeting was good.  I think he sounds quite good.  He talks about being more of a strict constructionist on the Constitution, which is something I‘m certainly looking for.  He talks about an appropriately modest court.  But I think we need to see. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator, would you like to see Roe v. Wade reversed? 

BROWNBACK:  Yes, I would.  And I think you will find that there are a number of legal scholars in this country, from the left and the right, that believe this to be poorly decided, that this was a bad decision.  It was poorly decided, not based upon what‘s in the Constitution and it is something that should be overturned. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you concerned that John Roberts, the nominee for the Supreme Court, has said that he respects precedent in this regard, that he would, according to the testimony he gave when he was up for the appellate court, that he would consider that settled law? 

BROWNBACK:  That was a fully appropriate decision for somebody going to the circuit court or the lower federal court, because, in those courts, it is fully settled law. 

But when you go on the Supreme Court, cases come up in front of you.  And he cannot make a similar position going on to the Supreme Court.  There have been over 200 cases that the Supreme Court has overruled a prior opinion upon, Plessy vs. Ferguson.  What about Dred Scott?  Would we still there be if the court didn‘t go back and look and say, you know, really, this wasn‘t appropriate; it was wrong?  And they overturned it.  That should be reviewed as well in Roe v. Wade. 

MATTHEWS:  If the Supreme Court were to reverse itself on Roe v. Wade, what would happen? 

BROWNBACK:  Well, that‘s the whole point.  The beauty of the issue is, it goes back to the states.  Then the states take the issue over and then they look at it.  And then you‘re back into a political process where people can look and decide and say, OK, we don‘t want partial-birth abortion, but we do want to allow it in this circumstance. 

We don‘t want this unborn victims of violence, but we will allow this.  And you get it into a system where the people can decide and discuss and it is really where it should be. 

MATTHEWS:  Could the Congress pass a law supporting the right of a woman to choose an abortion nationwide and have the Supreme Court review that?  Could that be another option?

BROWNBACK:  That would be another option that could come up.  Or people could find and push forward to say, you know, the right to life is inherent as soon as there is conception and that we are going to stand by people and we are going to stand by life and the beauty of life.  That could happen as well. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what would you do?  I mean, we‘ve had experience with prohibition with alcohol.  Unless you punish people for drinking it, it‘s never going to work, because someone will always sell it if it is legal to drink it.  Don‘t you have to punish abortion itself in order to stop people from having them? 

BROWNBACK:  I don‘t think...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know how do you stop somebody from doing something if they can get away with doing it at no cost to them.

BROWNBACK:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  If there‘s a doctor who flunks out of medical school who wants to perform abortions in some downtown area, or whatever, you go to him, what is the risk?  Why wouldn‘t a woman get an abortion, if she wanted one, in those—in those cases? 

BROWNBACK:  Well, maybe that is something that you have to look at. 

But here‘s what I think you have got to do.  You have got to establish a common thought in the country.  And that is, is this a life or isn‘t it?  Is it a person or a piece of property?  And I think you move on forward from that.  And you move this back into the political system at the state level and let the states be able to decide it. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If you‘re going to criminalize...

BROWNBACK:  Some states might do that.

MATTHEWS:  If you‘re going to criminalize abortion, you‘re going to put people in jail for having them or for performing them, right, one or the other. 

BROWNBACK:  Will that happen in California?  If you remove Roe v.  Wade, then California decides its own abortion law.  Are they going to criminalize this?  I doubt that that would take place.  There may be other states, say, Louisiana, in the country...

MATTHEWS:  How about Kansas?  What would your state do? 

BROWNBACK:  I think they would probably put some limits on abortion. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Would they criminalize the performance of an abortion? 

BROWNBACK:  They may well do that.  But that would be up for the state legislature to decide and the political process, which is where it was prior to 1973.  And people were relatively satisfied prior to that period of time.  And that‘s where it should be.  That‘s the whole issue about having a modest court that doesn‘t go in to everything.

MATTHEWS:  But the implications, the reason the court went toward Roe v. Wade—and I don‘t have any position here.  I‘m just asking consequences. 

If you reverse that decision about a woman‘s right to an abortion under the federal law, you go back to the states, and then states have to make up their mind.  And I‘m just wondering how states would prevent people from having abortions.  You punish the doctor?  Well, the doctors take a risk in performing the abortion, because the patient can still get the abortion.  They choose either to go in state to an illegal doctor or out of state to a legal doctor.  Isn‘t that a choice that‘s almost frivolous? 

BROWNBACK:  I don‘t think it is frivolous at all.  And this is—you‘re talking about the political system of the United States.  And that‘s exactly where it should be. 

It should be in a place where people can decide, and if they agree with their state legislature, fine.  If they don‘t, then vote them out of office, instead of...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNBACK:  ... of it.

MATTHEWS:  What would stop a person from going to another state? 

BROWNBACK:  What stopped it prior to 1973?  And were people complaining about it forever at that point in time?  I don‘t think so. 

And they were far more satisfied and feel like that they had a part in the system than what is taking place today. 

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t the liberals agree with you?  Why don‘t they want to have it as part of a—of a democratic process and a voting process? 

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNBACK:  You are seeing more and more liberal commentators, liberal legal scholars, saying, look, it was poorly decided.  This notion of a right to privacy weaved out of three constitutional amendments that create a penumbra right.  Many legal scholars are saying this is just not here in the Constitution. 

A number of legal—or liberal political commentators are saying this has been bad for the liberal movement, because it federalized an issue and caused a lot of push of conservatism into the federal system that would not have been there had this not been in place. 

MATTHEWS:  I think you‘re putting a lot of pressure on the Supreme Court.  I agree with you.  And let me ask you.  Do you think you will vote for John Roberts? 

BROWNBACK:  Probably.  But, as I say, I‘m going to trust but verify.  I want to see how he comments.  I want to see how he testifies and what does he say about some of these key issues of the day.

I don‘t think he‘s going to comment on the issues, but he should comment about what is the role of the courts in the culture and the society today.  And the Constitution, is it a living document or is it a textual document? 

MATTHEWS:  Hillary Clinton has been saying nice things about this fellow.  Is there any chance you would both vote for the same nominee for the Supreme Court, you and Hillary Clinton?

BROWNBACK:  I think there is a chance of that.  But I—I find it doubtful.  I think you‘re going to find a number of hard-core people, particularly on the left, will end up maybe saying good things because he‘s highly qualified, but not vote for him.

MATTHEWS:  So, it will be probably, what, 70/30 for a confirmation? 

BROWNBACK:  Let‘s see.  Let‘s see.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I think so.

Anyway, thank you, Senator Sam Brownback.

BROWNBACK:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  We like to debate here.

Coming up, Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. 

And in case you missed it, our HARDBALL special report, “Boots on the Ground: Untold Stories From the Front Line,” will re-air this coming Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern and again at 11:00 p.m.  We talk to top field commanders in Iraq.  And you‘ll hear their real-life stories of war this Sunday night. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL now, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey says his Republican colleagues are dropping the ball on the White House-CIA leak investigation.  Senator Lautenberg joins us when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey says it‘s time for Congress to begin an investigation into who leaked the name of the CIA agent to reporters.  He says this Congress has given the Bush White House a free pass.  He‘s with me now.

Senator Lautenberg, why have the Democrats and the Republican put up so far with letting this be an executive branch or a judiciary operation here? 

SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG (D), NEW JERSEY:  Well, because we have complained.  And we‘ve expressed ourselves. 

We had 25 United States senators in July join me in a press commitment that we would investigate this thoroughly.  But nothing moves.  And the questions are, what happened along the way here?  What happened with Novak?  What happened with others?  And what about the promise that Scott McClellan refused to deal with that had been made that said anybody who leaks classified information, anything about the CIA, is out of here? 

But yet, when he was asked frontally by a reporter, he refused to talk about it.  And that‘s where the problem lies.  It is in the executive.  And the White House ought to come forward and say what they intend to do about this and not play the doublespeak game. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you trust the special prosecutor here, Patrick Fitzgerald?  He looks like a tough guy to me. 

LAUTENBERG:  Well, he looks pretty tough to me, too.  And, frankly, I think that if he was—had this assignment, I think we could say that he would be pretty much on target.  We looked at his history and he is a guy that doesn‘t flinch when it comes to responsibility. 

But I would prefer it was someone else, if it could be.  But I would be happy to accept a Fitzgerald review of this. 

MATTHEWS:  But I‘m saying that—I‘m asking you.  Since the Justice Department is looking into this through the prosecutor out of Chicago, Fitzgerald...

LAUTENBERG:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Why does Congress have to jump in and piggyback on this thing? 

LAUTENBERG:  Well, because it is moving at a snail‘s pace, Chris.  Remember, this whole business opened up more than two years ago.  We‘re—we‘re over 740 days now since the revelation came about.  And nothing is happening.  And when—again, when there is a White House press conference there and the question is asked by Gregory, refused an answer by Scott McClellan. 

This is hide and seek, as we know it down here.  And, so, it is not moving rapidly enough.  But, in order to stimulate it, we want a congressional investigation, a serious...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you want these people, including the president and the vice president and the top people, Scooter Libby and Karl Rove, to testify under oath on Capitol Hill? 

LAUTENBERG:  Well, I think—I don‘t think that, under any of the rules, that we would bring the president to testify on this.  But, certainly, there‘s—Scooter Libby ought to be able to talk there and Karl Rove.  He ought to—first of all, they ought to remove him from any security classification right now and show that they intend to do this seriously.  So far, they haven‘t.  They‘ve tried to pass it. 

The president made a pledge sometime ago that anybody who revealed classified information would not be at the White House.  But it‘s all empty air.  And that‘s why we‘re so impatient about it.  It is time.  Tell the American public the truth.  It is a terrible example, I think, for young people and others, to see that the White House is fabricating stories about a serious leak, a breach in security, and not doing anything about it. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that Democrats, or, rather, Republicans on Capitol Hill, the Senate majority leader, Senator Frist, Dr. Frist, and the others are afraid of Karl Rove, because he is seen as a presidential king-maker down the road and, if you mess with him, he won‘t run your campaign for you? 

(LAUGHTER)

LAUTENBERG:  Well, I think there‘s a lot of worry there. 

We just saw a vote on the floor of the Senate in which a matter of gross negligence under a gun immunity protection for gun manufacturers could not pass muster, even for gross negligence.  And that‘s by the majority.  So, we—listen, they‘re trying to cover their bases very adeptly. 

And so far, they‘re saying to the public, public, be darned.  We‘re not going to—we‘re not going to let anything happen that tells the truth about what is going on. 

MATTHEWS:  You say you didn‘t think you would be calling the president or the vice president, if you were to have hearings about the leak case.  Do you believe that people like Libby, the chief of staff to the vice president, and Karl Rove would be operating as rogues, that they would be leaking stuff, hurting—or violating the confidence of the CIA, outing an agent, without the approval or the wink of the V.P. or the president? 

LAUTENBERG:  Chris, I don‘t want to call names here. 

I just want the process to work.  If there‘s nothing to hide, then they should be willing to stand up there and say, OK, here‘s what happened on such and such a date.  But, as we look now at this situation, with Judith Miller in jail and Karl Rove accused generally and reviewed by a grand jury, not willing to come forward, and, for the president not to say, hey, you‘re out of here, at least even on a temporary basis, indicate that there is some seriousness to them about this. 

But we don‘t find it.  We find the secretary—the press secretary flustering and blustering and unwilling to answer questions.  And that was an outrageous display.  And you saw it and so did everybody else in the press.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about a political question.  And it‘s partisan to some extent, obviously.  George Pataki, who served all these terms as governor of New York, three terms, he is he running for—well, is he running for president?  And do you think he‘s good candidate? 

LAUTENBERG:  I think he is a nice guy.  I know him well.  He doesn‘t confide in me and I can‘t tell you where he‘s running.  But he‘s someone that I would think that, if he chose to enter the race, he would have to be considered. 

But he—I don‘t think he is hard enough right for the party to take him seriously. 

MATTHEWS:  Would he run well in the Northeast, in cities like New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania? 

LAUTENBERG:  Well, I...

MATTHEWS:  I mean, he‘s—he‘s Catholic.  He‘s got a nice ethnic name.  I think he‘s part Hungarian, part Italian.  He seems like a typical suburbanite who has made it.  He‘s a Yale grad.

LAUTENBERG:  Yes, he has got—he has got a great pedigree.  He‘s got a good look.  He‘s a nice guy. 

But I don‘t think that George Pataki, in all fairness, realizes how tough a game that is to play.  When you get in the roller-derby campaign for president, a lot of things happen that you‘re not prepared for.  And he may choose to run, but I don‘t see any enthusiasm so far on his part or don‘t hear anything from good friends of his either. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I guess he forgot what happened to John McCain down in South Carolina, huh? 

LAUTENBERG:  Yes.  Well, John McCain didn‘t forget it. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think so either, Senator.

Thank you very much, Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Up next, the Bush administration is changing its language, no longer talking about—and this is a big change—the war on terrorism.  That‘s out.  Instead, they‘re calling it the global struggle against extremists. 

HARDBALL‘s David Shuster comes up in just a moment to tell us why they‘re shifting language when HARDBALL returns, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Ever since 9/11, nearly every American has been painfully aware of the war on terror.  But now the term for that struggle, war on terror, is being changed by the administration.  The change is part of a new effort to refocus Americans on the broader battle against ideologies, like al Qaeda. 

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reports. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  This week, it was General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who said the appropriate term is global struggle against violent extremism, not war on terror. 

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN:  I think I‘ve objected to the use of the term war on terrorism before, because, one, if you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution.  And it‘s more than terrorism.  I think it‘s violent extremists is the real enemy here and terror is the method they use. 

SHUSTER:  Pentagon officials say the new terminology reflects the evolution of the administration‘s thinking.  And, in the battle against al Qaeda, it is one of the most public changes in administration strategy. 

On September 11, President Bush declared:

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and security in the world.  And we stand together to win the war against terrorism. 

SHUSTER:  The president used the same term when U.S. forces attacked Afghanistan and then Iraq. 

BUSH:  The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. 

SHUSTER:  And, just a month ago, when the president addressed the nation in front of U.S. troops at Fort Bragg, he mentioned terrorism and said:

BUSH:  We will take the fight to the enemy.  Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war. 

SHUSTER:  But, for several weeks now, over at the Pentagon, the language has been changing. 

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Italy has shown a great deal of courage and vision in the war against violent extremists.  The American people have greatly appreciated Poland‘s support in the global struggle against extremists. 

Our two countries are solid partners in the global struggle against extremism. 

SHUSTER:  The shift comes as Karen Hughes, one of the president‘s most trusted aides, has been appointed to help bolster administration efforts at public diplomacy.  Even Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has had difficulty on occasion adjusting. 

RUMSFELD:  ... and assistance in the global war on terror. 

SHUSTER:  But by emphasizing that the struggle is not only a military one, the administration may soothe those in uniform complaining that only members of the armed forces are being asked to sacrifice. 

And by talking about a global struggle against extremism, America‘s focus on the military situation in Iraq could shift. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER:  General Richard Myers says that, by reminding the public of the bigger picture, the daily mayhem in Iraq will be put into perspective.  The problem, according to analysts, is that the language shift could also reflect that America‘s patience may be running out with how the war has described and led—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  David, give us an update on that Bolton nomination. 

SHUSTER:  Well, Chris, Senate Democrats opposed to this nomination for the U.N. continue pounding away at John Bolton‘s credibility.  They are focusing on a questionnaire he answered as part of his confirmation hearings.  Bolton was asked in an affidavit—quote—“Interviews.  Have you been interviewed or asked to supply any information in connection with any administrative, including inspector general, congressional or grand jury investigation within the past five years, except routine congressional testimony?  If so, provide details.”

Bolton wrote down no.  Today, Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee sent this letter to Secretary of State Rice in which they say Bolton did sit down for a one-on-one interview on July 18, 2003, with the State Department inspector general.  The I.G. was surrounding the policies surrounding administration claims that Iraq had sought uranium from Africa. 

Joe Biden today, in a letter to Secretary Rice, asked to secretary to review the matter.  And the senator suggested Bolton‘s answer to the affidavit may not have been true and accurate.  At this hour, the State Department and John Bolton are not commenting on Biden‘s letter or the substance of his allegation about Bolton‘s questionnaire. 

MATTHEWS:  David, last Thursday, a week ago, you reported that John Bolton, the president‘s nominee for the U.N., had testified in the CIA leak investigation. 

Well, the State Department today stood by John Bolton‘s assertion on that issue that he did not.  What do you have for us today? 

SHUSTER:  Well, Chris, we‘ve gone back to our original sources to clarify, and we now believe it was inaccurate to list John Bolton‘s name along with State Department officials who did give testimony. 

We‘ll continue to report this story and we will let you know what we find—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster.

Coming up, he‘s the first veteran of the war in Iraq to run for the U.S. Congress.  We‘ll meet Paul Hackett, a Democratic candidate from Ohio who is running against the war.  And he‘s called President Bush a chicken hawk. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

If Paul Hackett has his way, he‘ll be the first veteran of the Iraq war to win a House seat.  A Marine major, he‘s been in a tough battle right now with Republican incumbent Jean Schmidt for an Ohio congressional seat that has been held by the Republicans for the past 20 years.  A special election is slated for next Tuesday to fill the vacancy in that seat left by Rob Portman, who has become the president‘s special trade rep.  Paul, thanks for joining us.  Mr. Hackett, I have to ask you, why are you running in this race? 

PAUL HACKETT (D), OHIO CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE:  Thank—thank you, Chris. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why are you running?

HACKETT:  I‘m running—I see this as a natural extension of the service that I gave my country in Iraq. 

I‘m running because I actually want to go to Washington and fight for regular Americans.  I feel that our voice has been lost in Washington.  And I think that I can contribute there.  And I want to help—to be honest, I just want to help the economy.  And it seems like that‘s not what I hear being discussed in Washington these days.  And it should be, because it‘s hitting us down here in the 2nd District. 

MATTHEWS:  If you had been in Congress back in 2002, right before that election that year, would you have voted to authorize the war in Iraq or voted against it? 

HACKETT:  I would have voted against it. 

MATTHEWS:  Why? 

HACKETT:  Well, I thought it was a misuse of the military.  And I think time has demonstrated that. 

I mean, what we‘re doing in Iraq right now is nation-building.  And, if you remember, back in 2000, President Bush ran his campaign in part on the premise that he would not use the military to nation-build.  And that‘s exactly what the military is doing in Iraq.  We‘re asking the military to paint schools.  I frankly think that‘s an inappropriate use or misuse of our great fighting forces in Iraq.  We shouldn‘t be painting schools over there and just simply shouldn‘t be nation-building.  That‘s what we‘re doing over there. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  If you went the election next Tuesday, Mr. Hackett—and it looks like it is going to be quite a race—can you give us now a sense of what you would do about the war?  We‘re over there.  We‘ve got 150,000 people over there.  We‘re engaged in keeping that government up.  What happens if we split? 

HACKETT:  I‘m sorry.  What do you mean by, if we split?

MATTHEWS:  What happens if American forces come home? 

HACKETT:  Oh, you mean leave?

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HACKETT:  Well, first of all, let me highlight. 

This is a point that I happen to agree and have for some time with the president.  We should not leave Iraq at this point.  And I also agree, we should not set a date by which we intend to leave.  What we need to do is focus all of our attention on training the Iraqi security forces. 

Now, I have a disagreement with the way the military is being mandated by the civilian administration on how to train the Iraqi security forces.  Right now, the way Iraqi secure forces, as you and your listener know, are being trained, is, they send out three or four advisers, a couple of interpreters.  And they are challenged with training a battalion-sized Iraqi security force unit, say, 200, 300, 400 sometimes Iraqi security forces. 

Guess what?  That‘s not working.  It didn‘t work in Vietnam.  It‘s not working in Iraq.  My simple, straightforward solution, which I happen to have, in effect, thrust on me when I was in Fallujah, was, a unit-to-unit match, as much as that can happen.  In other words, if you are a Marine battalion, guess what?  Today, you‘ve got an Iraqi security force battalion.  You sleep together.  You eat together.  You shower in the same showers, the whole nine yards.  You train together.  And you fight together, 24/7. 

That will allow us to impart our great skills on the Iraqi security forces, so that, in a year-and-a-half to two-years time, they will be capable of defending their judicial system, their government, on their own.  And then we can begin to reduce our military forces in substantial numbers.  I think that‘s the only solution.  We‘ve got to fix the numbers ratio for the military. 

And I want to highlight that the military folks that are over there training—and I was a part of that when I was in Fallujah and, to a far lesser degree, when I was in Ramadi, and, indirectly, when I was in Ramadi.  That is not a unique thought, if you were able to get a candid answer from the troops on the ground over there training them. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of President Bush as a commander? 

HACKETT:  Here‘s my response to that. 

He‘s my president.  What I think of him, whether I like him or dislike him, you know, I did not vote for him, but when I signed up in the Marine Corps, I didn‘t have to take an oath of love to the president.  I had to swear my allegiance to the office of the presidency, which I obviously have tremendous respect for.  And I‘m willing to go lay my life down on the line for what he wants the military to accomplish. 

And I‘ve got no problem with that.  And I‘ve demonstrated that.  After all, I was the guy who called up the Marine Corps about a year-and-a-half ago.  I‘d been out of the Marine Corps for many years.  And I said, hey, if you need me, I‘m here.  I want to serve.  I may disagree the president‘s policies, but this is my country and I‘m willing to fight for it. 

MATTHEWS:  What is a chicken hawk? 

HACKETT:  Chicken hawk is somebody who is not willing to fight the fight of their age, their generation, and speaks brashly and with unnecessary bravado when they‘re sending other kids and other sons and daughters, other folks‘ sons and daughters, off to war. 

It is—encompasses language like, bring it on.  It encompasses language like, you‘re with us or you‘re against us and we‘re going to take it to you.  And I think that‘s dangerous.  And I‘ve got to tell you, you know, when we‘re over there fighting in Iraq, Marines and soldiers, and we hear language like, bring it on coming from the Oval Office, that‘s a danger.  We don‘t need that.  That‘s encouraging an...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Paul, why did you call the president—why did you call the president of the United States, whose office you respect, a chicken hawk? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HACKETT:  I respect the office of the president of the United States.  I said those words.  I meant them.  I stand by them.  I would say them again. 

And I‘m—look, I‘m not a career politician.  I‘m a tough-talking, straight-shooting, forward guy.  What you see is what you get.  And one of my heroes, Harry Truman, said, if you can‘t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.  I‘m taking some heat for it.  I‘m OK with it.  The hits are easy compared to some of things that I‘ve seen in the last year or so. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HACKETT:  And I stand by it. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you—you said you‘re a straight shooter.  Do you carry a gun? 

HACKETT:  I actually have a concealed carry.  I don‘t carry...

MATTHEWS:  Do you carry?  Do you carry yourself?  Right now, are you carrying?

HACKETT:  No.  No.  No, I‘m not carrying.

MATTHEWS:  But do you have a—why do you have a concealed licensed? 

HACKETT:  I‘ve got the license to carry.

MATTHEWS:  Why do you have a license to carry a gun? 

HACKETT:  I suppose—actually, there‘s a pretty rational reason for it.  As an attorney, every now and then, I‘ve had issues with clients.  Clients have called me up.  You know, I guess I just wanted to have a concealed carry permit. 

MATTHEWS:  How often do you carry? 

HACKETT:  Never, never have. 

MATTHEWS:  You never have.  But you have—when did you last apply for a permit to carry? 

HACKETT:  I actually applied for the permit about two weeks after I got back from Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Why? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s unusual to have a politician with a right-to-carry permit.  I‘m just asking because it‘s interesting. 

(LAUGHTER)

HACKETT:  I don‘t know.  I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Especially when you say you‘re a straight shooter.  I begin to wonder what exactly you mean. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I want to know how serious you are about that.  Is that a metaphor or is that a reality here? 

HACKETT:  No.  No.  No.  I think it‘s a metaphor. 

Hey, actually, I am a pretty good shooter with a pistol on the Marine pistol range.  I don‘t carry.  I supposed one day, I may decide to.  And if I decide to, I want to be able to do it legally. 

MATTHEWS:  Will you need that permit when you‘re a congressman, if you get elected?  Will you need that right-to-carry permit then?  Will you keep it?

HACKETT:  Oh, sure, I‘ll keep it.  But I think the laws don‘t permit that in Washington. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think you can walk into the Capitol Building armed and dangerous. 

HACKETT:  Yes.  Yes.  Yes, that‘s what they tell me, yes.

MATTHEWS:  You might have to not use that permit down in D.C.

But—well, good luck in your race, Mr. Hackett. 

HACKETT:  Yes.  I think that‘s good advice.

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s always great for an American to run for office.  I‘m a deep believer in public service.  And I think it‘s great that we‘re having a contested race in that district.  And I wish you the best of luck in getting your case across.  And let‘s see what happens Tuesday night.  And, if you win, we want you back. 

HACKETT:  Hey, thanks very much, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  We definitely want you back on Wednesday.

HACKETT:  Hey, I‘ll be back.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

HACKETT:  Hey, be nice to me next time, Chris.  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, now that I know you‘re armed and dangerous, I‘ll be especially nice. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you very much, Paul Hackett. 

HACKETT:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  When we return—just kidding. 

When we come back, can American troops start coming home from Iraq by next spring?  Former Republican Congresswoman Susan Molinari, Democratic activist Hilary Rosen from New York, and “New York Times” columnist Bob Herbert will be here.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, America‘s top general in Iraq says U.S. troops could start coming home by next spring.  What does that say about the American mission in Iraq?

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

As Iraqi insurgents continue their attacks us on and the Bush administration refuses to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, General George Casey, suggested there could be a significant troop reduction next spring if the political process stays on course and the insurgency doesn‘t worsen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. GEORGE CASEY, ARMY VICE CHIEF OF STAFF:  I do believe that, if the political process continues to go positively and if the development of the security forces continues to go as it is going, I do believe we‘ll still be able to take some fairly substantial reductions after these elections in the spring and summer next year. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Bob Herbert is a “New York Times” columnist.  Susan Molinari is a former Republican member of Congress from Staten Island.  And Hilary Rosen is a Democratic consultant and activist. 

Let me ask you, Bob, starting with you.  And this is a big development, isn‘t it?  I know—it sounds like the ice is cracking in terms of our long-term commitment there. 

BOB HERBERT, COLUMNIST, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  It is a significant development, but I wouldn‘t make too much of it. 

I think that this is along the lines of a tease by the government for political purposes.  I would not expect a big drawdown of U.S. troops next spring.  But next year is an election year.  And a lot of Republicans in the House and Senate are concerned about this issue. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Susan, isn‘t it a mistake to promise you‘re going to do something that people would like you to do, like reduce our number of troops over there, and then not do it? 

SUSAN MOLINARI, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t this risky business? 

MOLINARI:  Well, they did make it clear that, you know, that it was contingent on improvements in the country and improvements in the security forces, the Iraqi security forces. 

But, generally speaking, with regard to the overall political scene in the United States, it is risky business.  Bob is absolutely right.  There‘s two things that this announcement can do and—for truth and in seriousness.  It can help to unite the forces over in Iraq if you say, if you play nice and get your act together, the U.S. is withdrawing.  And it also helps to unite Republicans, who are afraid if this war continues without any substantial progress of going back into reelection.

But it‘s not the first time that this has been said.  U.S. military said as early as march that they are looking at an early timetable of next year, if all goes well, in starting to withdraw troops. 

MATTHEWS:  Next spring is the spring of an election year for Congress. 

Do you think they‘re doing this for political reasons, this announcement?

HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, I...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think General George Casey is part of the political team or he is simply saying what he‘s been told by the commander in chief; we‘re pulling out slowly?

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  I believe Casey is generally wishful thinking here.  I think he believes that they have, should have reason for optimism.  Susan might be right, that it helps the morale of the troops over there and it helps the political process over there. 

But I don‘t think that there‘s any reason to assume that the White House or the Defense Department feels obliged to stick to this statement or any numbers.  They said this last year before the election, that they expected troops to come home.  And I think it is very suspicious.  They tie it to political improvements.  The politics over there are a disaster. 

They‘re creating a constitution in Iraq right now based on overwhelming U.S. support that will essentially create a constitution for the Iraqi people based on the laws of Islam, with, right off, 50 percent of the population at the outset, in terms of women‘s rights and anything.  Those aren‘t American principles.  We‘re essentially paying for the support of this political process.  It is not freedom.  It makes no sense to me. 

MATTHEWS:  What are you afraid of? 

ROSEN:  I‘m afraid that we are caught in a place right now in Iraq where they‘re going to develop a country and a government based on who they want as a people, that the U.S. investment and involvement will have cost lives, wounded soldiers, and money.  We won‘t have a democratic Iraq.  We won‘t have a significant stronghold in the Middle East. 

We won‘t have anything that George Bush promised us.  And so, what we‘re stuck is an ill-conceived war with—with a bad result.  And it just makes no sense to me that that is not what the administration is focusing on. 

MATTHEWS:  Susan, you‘re a feminist Republican.  How do you live with this?  I mean, guys getting killed, a few women getting killed as well, of course, several.  And they‘re getting killed to build a democracy in Iraq, always a tricky challenge.  And now we find out that their idea over there of a democracy is Sharia law, which is the rule by the Muslim—by the mullahs, which means women back in the headdresses again, and you don‘t get to pick your husbands and all that sort of thing. 

MOLINARI:  Well, look, this is just the ongoing debate.  Nothing has been settled at this point in time.  One can only hope, because I am concerned about that. 

And, look, there‘s overall pictures that we have to go back to, where we were when Saddam Hussein was in power.  And while I know the law might have protected women, certainly, the certainty and the reality of life on the ground in Iraq did not protect women and children, nor men. 

So, I think, you know, we can look and say that progress has been made and at least that people can walk down the street.  One can only hope, however, based on your concerns—and I share them—that there is some negotiation that‘s going on behind the scenes that says this cannot be tolerated.  But I want to get back to...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But, by the way, it‘s their country. 

MOLINARI:  It is their country.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So, if they want to do it this way, we have got to live with it. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the whole problem with this thing from the beginning. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  The notion, Bob—I want you in here, Bob—the notion that we could confect something like something we like over there.  And, in fact, isn‘t that the fundamental delusion, that we could make these people over there, the Shia and the Sunni, put together a government after all these years, the way—isn‘t this just as delusional as the Brits going there in the 19th century, the 20th century, saying, why don‘t you have a monarchy, just like ours?

(CROSSTALK)

HERBERT:  That‘s the delusion inherent in this idea—in this idea of imposing democracy at gunpoint.  I mean, you can‘t.  Democracy has to develop from within in a society that wants a particular kind of democracy. 

And it is interesting that you mention Great Britain, because I think the United States wants something similar to what Britain wanted back in the early part of the 20th century.  And that is an Iraqi government that the United States would say is not only democratic, just like the British were talking about a monarchy, but a government that is so weak that it is dependent upon the United States.  And that is the way the U.S. would be able to continue to influence—to exercise its influence in Iraq. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know, I wonder about—I wonder if anybody...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And this is a fair statement.  Did anybody on either side of this fight about this war think it would end up—well, I thought it would—but with Ahmad Chalabi, some guy with a suit on, amid all these guys in robes?  He‘s supposedly the deputy over there.  People say he is really the boss. 

ROSEN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s—the neocons loved him.  They put him in there. 

ROSEN:  You and Judy Miller thought this. 

MATTHEWS:  Whatever.  I saw it was coming.  Maybe she liked it.  I didn‘t. 

And I‘ve got to tell you something.  It is a real question, what we‘re fighting for. 

ROSEN:  Well, that‘s exactly the point, Chris. 

We went in there originally because there were weapons of mass destruction.  We did not have them.  Then the president said, we‘re staying in Iraq because we have to create a democratic stronghold in the Middle East.  None of those things are going to prove to be true. 

MOLINARI:  Well, we don‘t know—we don‘t know that at this point in time.  And I think, for to us sort of suppose in the midst of what is still an ongoing war against terrorism, or how—whatever we‘re calling it today, the fact remains that we are—we are on the ground.  The fact remain that we have not been attacked in the United States.  The fact remains that we are taking the war...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s that got to do with Iraq?

MOLINARI:  Well, it has to do with the fact that we are taking war outside of the United States, that we are trying to create a democracy.

(CROSSTALK)

MOLINARI:  And you know what?  To say that we‘re taking democracy at gunpoint...

(CROSSTALK)

MOLINARI:  ... we‘re taking the democracy at gunpoint, there are people on the streets of Iraq who are happy that Saddam Hussein is gone...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MOLINARI:  ... and that they are given an opportunity to create a democracy.  It is not like the people in Iraq thought this was a good thing. 

(CROSSTALK)

MOLINARI:  The insurgents are called insurgents because they came from someplace else and are trying to cause trouble. 

MATTHEWS:  So, you believe the war in Iraq is between the people of Iraq and outsiders? 

MOLINARI:  At this point in time, absolutely, people who want to cause trouble. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  I don‘t believe that. 

I think—insurgents—insurgents right now, I think the other word for them is residents.  And I think one of the problems that you have is...

(CROSSTALK)

MOLINARI:  The residents of Iraq are blowing up the residents of Iraq? 

ROSEN:  The people of Iraq who are protected are protected based on American military rule.  Now, if the United States government pulls out its military rule, what‘s left?  What‘s left is the same thing that was there...

MOLINARI:  Well, hopefully, an Iraqi police force that we‘re working very hard with other countries to create. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  By the way, the word insurgents is what the British called us in the American revolution. 

We‘re coming back with our guests. 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

That‘s true.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with former Republican Congresswoman Susan Molinari of New York, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, and “The New York Times” columnist Bob Herbert. 

Bob, I want to start with you on this. 

It seems to me that the liberals are a bit desperate right now.  They‘re looking around for paper.  They‘re trying to—they‘re basically going on witch-hunts, or, rather, what do you call them?  Fishing expeditions is the political term, trying to find some dirt on this pristine, apparently pristine, nominee of the president for the Supreme Court, John Roberts. 

HERBERT:  The desperation started on the last election night, the presidential election.

The big lesson I think to be learned here, because Roberts, unless we find out something we don‘t know now, should be confirmed easily to the court, I think the big lesson here is for Democratic voters, that the president gets to pick the Supreme Court justices.  This president is conservative.  You can‘t stop a candidate for the court simply because he‘s conservative. 

And I think the Democrats have never been able to explain to voters the importance of this when they‘re in the course of their presidential campaigns.  And now the chickens are coming home to roost. 

MATTHEWS:  Hilary, what do you tell—you‘re an activist.  What do you tell people who complain about the—the nominee here?  Do you say, wait, did you vote?  Did you vote enough? 

ROSEN:  Well, Bob is right, to a certain extent.  These hearings are going to be a huge teaching moment for the country. 

And if Democrats are smart—and I think they will be—they will make sure that they are.  One of the things that the Democrats are now doing, though, is learning a lot more about this guy and the country is going to learn a lot more about him.  There wasn‘t much from the court cases.  But, you know, when you tear apart memos that people have written to their bosses over the years, you—you learn attitudes.  You learn philosophies.  You learn...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  To what effect?  They‘ll learn he‘s a conservative. 

ROSEN:  They‘ll learn he‘s a conservative.  And so, the—the White House spin that this guy won‘t undo significant strides over the years is not going to fly. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  Will the answer ultimately be that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t that what the president—I‘m sorry.  Isn‘t that what the president has a right to do, pick somebody who thinks like he does? 

MOLINARI:  Sure, absolutely, and supply, you know, who he thinks is the best. 

And so, so far, you‘ve heard the Democrats say, he‘s brilliant.  And he‘s given opinions based on the positions that he‘s been hired to within the U.S. government.  It‘s kind of hard to lay a glove on him, which is why, today, we‘re having fights over pages of papers, you know, delivered when he was solicitor general, which was a fight we had, you know, a year ago.  So, there‘s a desperation that... 

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  I think that there was a very deliberate attempt by the White House and by their spin-meisters the day of the nomination and since then to try and paint this guy as not so conservative, as not really part of a kind of the right, hard right wing of the party and of the judicial philosophy. 

What we‘re going to learn is that he is.  What the country can do with it and whether the Democrats can stop it or not, I don‘t know.  But I think that that‘s an important thing, and to—to take the mask off that the White House tried very hard to put on. 

MOLINARI:  But you can‘t say that some—that advice somebody gave in several different jobs, trying to give a legal opinion based on the law, is how someone would react under different circumstances and that that is his overall philosophy.  There‘s been so much that‘s been taken out of context, that you don‘t know.  All you know is that he is brilliant and that he respects the U.S. Constitution. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, can we vote?  Can we vote right now?  How many votes will vote against this of the 100 senators?  How many will vote against this confirmation at the end of September? 

ROSEN:  I actually don‘t know. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  I think there will be a filibuster attempt, though. 

MATTHEWS:  You think a filibuster.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  There will be a...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Bob, how many you figure?  I figure 20, 25 against.  This thing is a lock.  What do you...

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  Oh, there will be more than that.

HERBERT:  I think it is a lock.  I would be reluctant to take a guess on the votes against him, but I think it is very hard for the Democrats to filibuster this guy. 

I mean, what the Democrats will be talking about with a filibuster would be someone who is shown to be a right-wing extremist.  And unless they‘re able to show that this guy fits that category, I don‘t think they can mount a successful filibuster.  And I don‘t think they will.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, even Hillary Clinton is playing around the idea of voting for guy, though she won‘t in the end vote for this fellow.

ROSEN:  I don‘t think...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But she‘ll say so many nice things about him, you‘ll think she will.

MOLINARI:  That‘s exactly right.

MATTHEWS:  Anyway—right?  You know it, right?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  She will love him to death, as they say.

Anyway, Bob Herbert, thank you, sir.

Thank you, Susan Molinari.

HERBERT:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Your Honor, Hilary Rosen, strategist.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. 

And this Sunday, catch a special encore presentation of our HARDBALL special report, “Boots on the Ground: Untold Stories”—what a great show this is—“From the Front Line,” real soldiers talking about real fighting.  We‘re going to hear from the Army‘s top field commanders in Iraq about what is really going on in that war.  And now it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith. 

Watch Hardball with Chris Matthews each weeknight at 7 p.m. ET

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