updated 8/4/2005 10:41:35 AM ET 2005-08-04T14:41:35

Guest: Ed Rogers, Stephen Lynch, Mike Allen, Kenneth Blackwell, Sherrod

Brown, Jean Schmidt

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  A Democrat who is a veteran of the war in Iraq almost carries a heavy GOP congressional district, after calling President Bush a chicken hawk.  We'll talk to the Republican who beat him. 

Plus, 14 Marines from the same Ohio battalion are killed in the deadliest roadside bombing against U.S. troops so far in Iraq. 

Let's play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I'm Chris Matthews. 

It is the single deadliest roadside bombing attack against Americans since the war began.  More than a dozen Marines were killed in Iraq today when a roadside bomb blew up their vehicle.  Speaking about the attack, President Bush said today that a way to honor their sacrifice is to continue our mission in Iraq and put no timetable on the work to be done. 

NBC's Mike Boettcher has more on this deadly attack. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE BOETTCHER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, U.S. military authorities in Baghdad say it was a powerful roadside bomb that ripped through the Marines' vehicle. 

They were on patrol near Haditha, which is located 150 miles northwest of Baghdad, near the Syrian border.  They were on patrol in what is called an amphibious assault vehicle, which the Marines prefer to call an Amtrak.  Those vehicles, which are armored, can house up to 25 Marines.  This time, there were 15 inside the AAV; 14 died and one civilian translator was also killed. 

Now, this occurred in basically the same area where six Marines were killed yesterday in an ambush launched by insurgents.  The six Marines were snipers located on a roof looking for insurgents traveling down a smuggling route when they themselves were surrounded and killed by insurgent snipers. 

Now, all of this violence has been located in an area known as the Euphrates River Valley.  This is the main smuggling route for insurgents from the Syrian border into central Iraq.  There have been several Marine operations in that area since May to try to shut down those smuggling routes.  But today's and yesterday's attacks show that the insurgents are still very resilient—Chris.  

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Mike.

Now to politics in Iraq. 

A war vet who called President Bush a chicken hawk and worst lost his bid to become a U.S. congressman from Ohio last night.  But it was close.  And because it was, in a heavily GOP district, it flashes a code red for Republicans. 

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reports. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Tuesday night, in an Ohio district President Bush carried by 30 points, it was a victory for Republican anti-abortion advocate Jean Schmidt. 

JEAN SCHMIDT ®, OHIO CONGRESSWOMAN-ELECT:  Well, ladies and gentlemen, we passed the test. 

SHUSTER:  But the GOP did not pass by much.  Schmidt won by only 4 percentage points over Democrat Paul Hackett.  Hackett is a political newcomer and a veteran of the Iraq war. 

PAUL HACKETT (D), OHIO CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE:  Knock off the crying. 

There's nothing to cry about here.  This was a success. 

SHUSTER:  This was the closest any Democratic congressional candidate has come to beating a Republican here in more than 20 years.  And today, “The Cincinnati Enquirer” called the narrow margin—quote—“nothing short of astounding.”

The central issue was Iraq.  Hackett, a lawyer and a Marine Reservist who saw combat during a seven-month tour, bluntly bashed President Bush, calling him—quote—“a chicken hawk” and, worse—quote—“a son of a bitch.” 

HACKETT:  ... who says bring it on is a cheerleader for the insurgents.  That's dangerous.

SHUSTER:  Schmidt, a state lawmaker who believes schools should display the Ten Commandments, urged voters to punish Hackett for his criticism of the president.  And the national GOP poured in half a million dollars in anti-Hackett television ads. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

NARRATOR:  He supports raising Social Security taxes. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  The effort, according to Republicans, was to help Schmidt—quote—“bury him.”  It was an extremely shallow grave.  And political analysts say the closer-than-expected outcome offers several lessons.  First of all, voters now appear to be more receptive to criticism of the administration's approach to Iraq and skeptical of blanket support like Schmidt's. 

JEAN SCHMIDT ®, OHIO CONGRESSWOMAN-ELECT:  We know that we're on the right track in Iraq.  And we need to stay the course. 

SHUSTER:  One analyst says that, if the 14 Marines from Ohio killed today had been ambushed last week, the election results might have been reversed.  Secondly, Schmidt's close call may suggest that aligning with the administration on immigration and Social Security is precarious.  And, finally, there is an advantage to campaigning as a political outsider. 

HACKETT:  I'm running because I actually want to go to Washington and fight for regular Americans. 

SHUSTER:  While campaigning, Hackett repeatedly criticized the leadership of the Republican Party and argued that power brokers, including Tom DeLay, must be replaced. 

(on camera):  When lawmakers come back in September, though, it is a Republican who will be joining them in Congress and a Democrat who will be staying home.  The question is, was the anti-war sentiment in Ohio's 2nd Congressional District a national bellwether signaling things to come?

I'm David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Joining me now is the winner of yesterday's Ohio election, Republican congresswoman-elect Jean Schmidt.

Congresswoman-elect, thank you for coming on here on HARDBALL right away. 

SCHMIDT:  Thank you so much.  I've been up 48 hours, which proves that I still have the stamina of a 20-year-old. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you'll love being in the House of Representatives, as we've been talking.  I worked up there for a long time.  It is a wonderful place.  It's a very, I should democratic with a lower-case D.  It's a very wonderful place to work.

Let me ask you this.  What did you make of your opponent, Paul Hackett?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He was out there calling the president phrases—I have never heard anybody call the president a son of a bitch.  That's quite a phrase.  He called him a chicken hawk.  And he still got 48 percent. 

SCHMIDT:  Well, he did that with the national media, when he was trying to paint himself in the Cincinnati-based market.  He was painting himself as a Republican.  If you looked at his ads, he aligned himself with the president, because he caught on rather quick when he won the primary election and he had gone on a radio station and said that the worst threat to the United States was not Osama bin Laden, but the president, that people didn't like that. 

And so, suddenly, he decided to cloak himself as a supporter of the president in his TV ads. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the horror of the last couple days in Iraq, a battalion based in Ohio, the Buckeye State, your state, 20 people dead. 

Do you think this war is going to end up, in a sense, here at home, much less popular, say, a year from now, the way it's going?  Or where do you it's going in terms of public support? 

SCHMIDT:  Well, I think that the public—first off, my heartfelt condolences to the families that have been left behind. 

I—I will continue to pray for them, because I can't imagine what it is like to wake up and realize that your loved one is never coming back.  But I honor their sacrifice that these men and women have made, because our freedom is not free.  There is a cost to it.  And—and we realized that when we woke up this morning. 

Having said that, the people really want us to stay the course and finish the job.  We've planted the seeds of democracy and it would be irresponsible for us to leave now.  The insurgents are trying to do this to whip the public sentiment into a frenzy to leave when it is too soon, so that they can once again take over that country.  We're on the right track.  We're on the right course. 

I think that the finish line is in sight and we just have to stay the course. 

MATTHEWS:  President Bush won your district, your congressional district, by a wide margin, something like 2-1.  Could he do that today? 

SCHMIDT:  I think he still could.  If you look at the way my opponent painted himself in this election, with his literature and his TV and radio commercials, he wrapped himself around the president. 

And the public, in this very short election cycle, was rather confused as to who the real Republican was.  And, once the mask was taken off, and they realized that he was different, then they were more solid in my camp.  But, with a very short election and a very special election cycle, I caution anybody to use this as a bellwether for where the Republican Party is going in Ohio, because very unique elections make outcomes very, very different. 

MATTHEWS:  Let's take a look at something you said here on this program last week and see if you still think this way right now. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHMIDT:  They're not solely focused on this war.  Maybe the national media is, but the people right here in southern Ohio are talking about issues that affect them.  They're talking about having tax cuts that are permanent, because they want to spend their own money.  They don't want government to. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Issues that affect them.  Do you think that the loss of the 20 guys over there, servicemen fighting for their country over in Iraq, that Ohio-based unit, is going to bring this war home to people? 

SCHMIDT:  I don't think it is going to bring the war home any more differently than the button that I wear on my lapel.  And that's for Matt Maupin, the only missing soldier in Iraq. 

The people in Ohio are very smart.  They understand the sacrifice that these men and women are making on our behalf.  But they also want to talk about other issues, issues like taxes and tax reform, like a strong energy policy.  They want to talk about national issues, including Iraq, but also border patrol and border security. 

And yesterday, as I stood outside the polls for 13 hours, I never heard people talking about the war.  They talked about issues that were more important and more local to them. 

MATTHEWS:  What's your number one thing you would like to get done in the next year or so? 

SCHMIDT:  My number one thing is to address the needs of the beautiful 2nd Congressional District.  It's very diverse.  There are very many needs.  I want to follow Rob Portman's style of continued leadership.  And I am going to do that and answer and address their needs in the same manner that Rob Portman did. 

MATTHEWS:  But what's the one specific thing you would like to do, the one bill you would like to pass, the one policy you would like to see enacted? 

SCHMIDT:  There are two.  Actually, I would like to address sexual  predators in a much better fashion.  I would also like to address eminent domain.  I think that there are bills already in place for that, and I would be proud to sign on and sponsor those bills. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Jean Schmidt.  Congratulations, a member of the United States House of Representatives, as soon as she is sworn in. 

When we come back, what does the narrow Republican victory in Ohio mean for the president and what does it say about the public support for the war right now? 

And later, the congressional committee where baseball star Rafael Palmeiro testified he was steroid-free will investigate his positive steroid test.

You're watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, Democrats are framing that Ohio election results as a win, even though their candidate lost yesterday.  How politically valuable is this strong showing?

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

More on that congressional race in Ohio and what it means for the rest of the country. 

We're joined right now by Ohio Democratic Congressman Sherrod Brown and Ohio's Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who is also a candidate for governor, who is in fact a candidate for governor. 

Mr. Secretary, thank you very much, Ken, for coming on the show. 

You're running for governor.  Are you worried that this strongly Republican district barely came through for the Republican candidate against an anti-war Democrat? 

KENNETH BLACKWELL, OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE:  You know, I think it was a wakeup call, particularly for those Republicans that campaign like Ronald Reagan and then govern like Mike Dukakis. 

What the base is saying is that we expect to you get up every morning and be who you say you are and do what you say you're going to do.  And I think that is a wakeup call.  And if the Republican Party grasps that, then we will go about the business of reestablishing the line of distinction between Republicans and Democrats, particularly on fiscal matters, because the Democrats don't represent change. 

They're not saying they want to cut taxes and grow our economy and create jobs.  They're not saying they want a right-size government to make sure that we check runaway state government spending and put more emphasis on the private sector.  So, they don't represent any change but the change of being from the outside to the inside. 

And so, Republicans that are going to be successful next year are Republicans that show a real distinction between the status quo and getting our economy moving again by cutting taxes and right size in government. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let's go to Sherrod Brown.

Thank you, Congressman. 

I think—I think the secretary of state of your state seems like he's trashing George Bush, who is running a half-billion-dollar, half-trillion-dollar deficit, not being a real conservative. 

REP. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO:  Yes.  I look at who conservatives really are.  They thought—what I always learned is, they wanted smaller government, not—no national debt.  And they wanted to stay out of foreign entanglements.  And we're seeing exactly the opposite.

But what happened in Southwest Ohio—Secretary Blackwell is right—is—it's a wakeup call.  But the message—I don't know what Mike Dukakis has to do with it, but the message clearly is that the ethical problems in Columbus, the ties of this candidate that barely squeaked through this election, when George Bush carried that district 2-1 and the former congressmen carried it almost 3-1, the tie she had to Secretary Blackwell, to Governor Taft, to President Bush.

President Bush made robo-calls in to every Republican voter in that district.  And she barely won.  I think that's the message, that—what does that mean in Ohio?  I wouldn't want to be on the ballot next year running for governor if I were Ken Blackwell or anyone else.  And I'm not sure nationally. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Congressman, do you associate with the remarks of Paul Hackett, the fellow who lost the race last night, but who used terms like son of a bitch and chicken hawk?  Do you think those are appropriate terms to refer to the president of the United States with?

BROWN:  Well, I think that Mr. Hackett, considering he was in Iraq—he didn't think the war was a good idea to begin with.  He stood with his commander in chief.  He has heard the president and the vice president accuse people who disagree with this war policy, like Paul Hackett, has accused them of not being patriotic. 

I think whatever Mr. Hackett said was understandable.  But the issue is that Paul Hackett ran incredibly well, when George Bush put his name on the line and Bob Taft put his name on the line in that district.  And that tells you that, in both the national and the state, problems—the problems that both national and state Republicans have. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go to Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Secretary, do you—are you happy, as a candidate for governor in Ohio, with the way this war in Iraq has been fought by the United States?

BLACKWELL:  I...

MATTHEWS:  Are you happy with the progress and prosecution of this war? 

BLACKWELL:  First, Chris, let me say that my—my heart aches for the 20 families that lost loved ones in the last 48 hours.  Marines are from the state of Ohio. 

What I am for is firm resolution and a strategy that will lead us to victory.  I think the president, I think the secretary of defense and all others who are responsible for offering that sort of leadership in this country has—have the same objectives.  And I think to try to undercut that resolve and to second-guess the commander in chief is—is a mistake. 

Let me just say to you, Chris, that what I said was that Ronald Reagan and George Bush cut taxes and they started to restrain state government spending.  What has happened in the state of Ohio is that Bob Taft had increased spending and he had in fact raised taxes.  And I think that anybody that runs on a tax-raising, runaway-spending platform is going to lose, because they're going to undercut our base. 

And let me say to the—to the congressmen that the oversight committee of the Bureau of Workers' Comp, where all the scandal has taken place, has five members.  Two of those members are Democrats.  Two are Republicans, and one is the independent.  Do you know one of the Democrats is? 

It is Bill Burga, who is the vice president—excuse me—is the president of the whole house AFL-CIO.  He is a member of the DNC.  He is a member of the Ohio Democratic Party.  This is a bipartisan scandal that is going to take responsible and bipartisan leadership to get involved.  And I think the first step towards getting to the bottom of the scandal in Columbus is to have guys like Bill Burga resign. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, Ken Blackwell, secretary of state of Ohio, and U.S. Congressman Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

When we come back, “Washington”—“The Washington Post”'s Mike Allen will be here to tell us about his visit to Gitmo.  He's just been to Guantanamo.  He's going to tell us what it smells like down there.

And later in the program, former slugger Jose Canseco speaks up about steroids in baseball.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

With several Republican senators pushing to regulate the military's treatment of detainees, the Pentagon has launched a major P.R. offensive and is inviting U.S. congressmen to spend a day touring the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. 

“Washington Post” reporter Mike Allen visited Gitmo with a congressional delegation this Monday and is writing about the experience for tomorrow's paper.

Mike, I want you to give me the kind of report you give to your mother, your friends.  I want the richness, the smell, the color, the whole thing.  What is it like down in Guantanamo for our guys watching those prisoners and interrogating them?  What is it like for the prisoners? 

MIKE ALLEN, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, for the prisoners, I can't really tell you.  We saw a very sanitized version of it. 

I went down with five lawmakers.  They spent six hours on the ground at Gitmo.  And they only saw the lawmakers from a distance.  It's appropriate, maybe, that they saw the prisoners from a distance.  One of the things that they got to do was, they visited an exercise cage with a concrete floor, chain-link walls and ceilings. 

Through the distance, you could see like one detainee, as they call it.  There was a soccer ball there that they could kick around.  They sort of get a feel for what recreation is like.  Now, we're told that they do that for an hour every day.  We come back.  We ask the defense lawyers.  They say, yes, but that hour comes at night, when it is dark and they can't see anything. 

But, as you suggested, there's a bunch of these tours.  There have been more than 50 in the last three months, more than 30 in the last month.  It's such a regular thing down there now that we went into the maximum security unit.  And one of the doors was open.  And I'm like, why is the door open?  And you walk up to it and there's a sign on it that says tour cell.  So, they're used to having people come through. 

You go into a sample cell, where they have the prisoners' basic items, comfort items, laid out.  And, on the wall, hanging on the wall, there's a book.  And it says “The Holy Koran.”  So, the idea is to show lawmakers the better part of what's happening there.  Each of the guys pointed out to us the black arrows that you see everywhere showing where Mecca is.  They point out to us that five times a day, they—the call to prayer is piped in.  They're free to join, no matter what else they're doing. 

MATTHEWS:  What did you like that—what did you want to see that you couldn't, Mike? 

ALLEN:  I would have liked to have seen a detainee, as they're called. 

We didn't talk to any detainees. 

The congressmen who had security clearances did see a brief interrogation.  And the military said it was authentic.  Basically, it was an inmate who was arguing that he wanted to get back.  He had fought or something.  He had been moved into one of the stiffer areas and he was arguing to get back into the lower ones. 

But they make a big deal about how much negotiating has been doing—they say they use a lot of positive reinforcement, offer these guys pizza, offer these guys ice cream in return for information.  Now, what the congressmen are asking, after three years, how much really useful information do these guys have?  And that's one of the problems, that a new general, Jay Hood, who is down there, clearly wants to shape this place up, doesn't want an Abu Ghraib on his hands. 

There are cameras everywhere.  The command staff works inside the wire.  But a separate question, beyond the guys who are working down there, is, what is going to be done with these people?  And the military will admit to you, at the moment, it looks like the 500 people that are currently there are going to be there indefinitely.  And they don't have any charges against them.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Mike Allen of “The Washington Post.” 

Up next, is it time for Congress to step in and straighten out steroid use in professional baseball?  How about getting rid of it?

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Back in March, some of baseball's most well-known superstars were called to Congress to testify on steroid use in Major League Baseball.  One of those in the hot seat, denying he ever used steroids, was Rafael Palmeiro of the Baltimore Orioles. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAFAEL PALMEIRO, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER:  My name is Rafael Palmeiro and I am a professional baseball player. 

I'll be brief in my remarks today.  Let me start by telling you this.  I have never used steroids.  Period.  I do not know how to say it any more clearly than that.  Never. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Major League Baseball doesn't agree.  The league suspended Palmeiro for 10 days this week for flunking a drug test. 

“The New York Times” today is reporting he had a potent steroid in his system, the same that caused Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson to lose his Olympic gold medal back in '88. 

Yesterday, on HARDBALL, former Major Leaguer Jose Canseco, who wrote about injecting Palmeiro with steroids in his book “Juiced,” responded to this suspension. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSE CANSECO, FORMER MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER:  You have to be careful now, because these sanctions may be too extreme.  For example, if Palmeiro is abiding by the rules, if Palmeiro is not using steroids right now and a metabolite has been found in his system, he's found guilty, which makes—which makes no sense.       

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But that's his fault.  Isn't that his fault, Jose?  If he said before he never, ever used steroids, then he tests positive, and then he says, oh, that's from a previous drug use, that's his contradiction that he created, isn't it?

CANSECO:  Well, it's a contradiction on one subject matter, on one time frame and not on another.  There are going to be many athletes who, once this drug testing program was instituted, are going to be found guilty.  Their urine sample is going to come out positive, because there will be strong metabolites.

MATTHEWS:  But why don't they just say...

(CROSSTALK)

CANSECO:  But that doesn't mean they're not abiding by the rules.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I don't want to interrupt you again.

(CROSSTALK)

CANSECO:  But that doesn't mean they're not abiding by the rules.

MATTHEWS:  But why don't they admit they broke the rules before, so the new drug test will be found to be positive because of previous use?  Then they won't be nailed again.

CANSECO:  It's very simple.  They don't have enough information, enough knowledge on how long a metabolite lasts in an athlete's system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, and now the House Government Reform Committee, which held those hearings back in March, is requesting from Major League Baseball that documents relating to Palmeiro's drug tests.  They want the drug test results on paper.  And Palmeiro says he will cooperate with the committee. 

Congressman Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts is a member of the committee and is now with us from Boston. 

Congressman Lynch, are you—you want to get ahold of those documents, those drug test results, right, from Palmeiro? 

REP. STEPHEN LYNCH (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Certainly.  It would—it would answer the question that Mr. Canseco has raised about how long it was in his system and whether or not it is from a residual use. 

MATTHEWS:  What difference does it make whether he lied before and was using before and is found out now or he's been using lately? 

LYNCH:  Well, if he was using steroids during his testimony or prior to his testimony, obviously, he has committed perjury and has tried to mislead the Congress in an ongoing investigation. 

MATTHEWS:  I see.

LYNCH:  So, it has a lot to do about what happens next. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you like to see him charged with perjury if he did—if there is evidence now, hard evidence, through a drug test, that he was in fact using steroids back then, before the testimony? 

LYNCH:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Because there's only two options here, as you point out.  And you elucidate this.  If he has used the drugs, and never used them before since the hearings, that's almost insane, to think he did that. 

LYNCH:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  So, his defense—or the defense that Canseco offered on this show last night was that he may have used them a while ago, in other words, before he testified that he never had.  Therefore, he is guilty of perjury. 

LYNCH:  Right. 

I'm not sure if Canseco was just offering his opinion.  Certainly, Palmeiro never contested the positive result on the test.  So, we haven't actually got him in.  He's agreed today to—verbally—to release all the documents.  However, I believe that the committee needs to get a similar release from the union, because the confidentiality agreement is part of a collective bargaining agreement. 

So, we need to go to that—that step as well. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but assuming you get by that step, do you think this guy should be hit with a perjury charge? 

LYNCH:  Well, if he meets the requirements, yes. 

We're trying to protect the process.  When people come before Congress and they are sworn to testify truthfully, there have to be consequences when they do not do so.  So, this is about the integrity of the congressional process.  It's not about going after Mr. Palmeiro. 

MATTHEWS:  We had Ray Garibaldi on last night, who lost his son to steroid use.  He's an athlete and he was trying to make it.  As a young man, he was using steroids to get ahead in that baseball career.

There are a young people out there now watching this program right now, probably, who may be in their 18-year-old eras, 18 to 21.  They're thinking about how they can break into the big leagues.  Is this 10-day suspension enough to turn them off to drugs? 

LYNCH:  It's really a joke, when you think about it. 

If a person—if a nonathlete or noncelebrity is convicted of simple possession of a schedule three substance, like these steroids, there's a potential for a year in jail.  This—in this case, Palmeiro is looking at a 10-day suspension.  He still makes over $2.8 million a year.  He is rumored to be considered for the Hall of Fame.  So, it really—the penalty in baseball is really an incentive to take the chance. 

I mean, there's very little consequences, other than his reputation, of course, for Mr. Palmeiro. 

MATTHEWS:  You're not at all prejudiced, being a Sox fan, are you here? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I'm serious. 

LYNCH:  Well, I'll take the...

MATTHEWS:  I mean, you might be tougher on it.  Would you be just as tough on a Sox player? 

LYNCH:  Oh, of course.  Of course.

MATTHEWS:  And let's take a look at something that Jose Canseco said here last night. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CANSECO:  I want people to understand—I have said this many times -

·         my attack was never on these athletes.  I respect these athletes greatly.

What I needed was one of these athletes who I named in the actual book who are well-known individuals to come forth and say, you know what, what Jose is saying is 100 percent true.  My major attack and my only attack was on Major League Baseball and the Players Association.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

CANSECO:  Because I think that they ought to be, you know, exploited and found out for the corrupt methods they use, for letting steroids in the game, for endorsing steroids in the game of baseball.

Now, all of a sudden, you know, Bud Selig says:  I don't know anything about it.  I never saw anything. 

That's ridiculous.  It's the biggest ongoing joke on the planet right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Lynch, you're concerned about the rights of labor and collective bargaining agreements.  And, certainly, many of us here as well in this country generally, it seems.  I respect unions.

Let me ask you, though.  Do you the unions have done the job here?  Is it fair to say that Canseco has got it right by saying the Players Association has not been aggressive in getting rid of steroids? 

LYNCH:  Well, I don't think it is a union problem. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why not a union?  Why isn't it a union problem?

LYNCH:  Well—well...

MATTHEWS:  If they're protecting the players' rights and saying...

LYNCH:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... they shouldn't be tested—you watched those lawyers in your committee.  They were up there.  They were all over the place trying to defend the players. 

LYNCH:  Hey, I'm a former union president myself and also an attorney that represented a lot of unions. 

I always thought a very strong anti-drug policy was a good thing for my union members.  This is one case where they have turned a blind eye to what's going on in professional sports.  But that's—that's not the typical position of unions. 

(CROSSTALK)  

LYNCH:  They usually want a strong anti-drug policy to make a better work force. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, of course it is also for safety reasons at the workplace. 

But about—but let's get back to MLB, Major League Baseball.  Do you think Bud Selig, do you believe the whole Major League establishment has been benefiting from all these home runs all these years and big muscles that produced these home runs? 

(CROSSTALK)

LYNCH:  Absolutely. 

Following the strike, I think the thing that brought people back to baseball was the big home run contest between Sosa and McGwire.  And, in a very real way, steroid use, if those two gentlemen were guilty of it—and there's some evidence that they were—they put people back into the seats.  So, baseball is benefiting by—by the performance enhancement of the individual players, which makes it even more troublesome in terms of eradicating steroid use. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

Congressmen, when you and I were growing up in the '50s and '60s, baseball players were skinny, wiry guys.  They weighed under 200 pounds.  Do you think it was drug use or weight training that got them so strong and big? 

LYNCH:  I think that it's a combination of both. 

I think that there's some steroid use out there now.  I think we probably have it moving in the right direction.  And I think, if we come up with serious penalties, like the International Olympic Commission has, that we can do this.  I know that Tom Davis, a Republican from Virginia, and Henry Waxman from California have the Clean Sports Act, that we're—we're trying to put through Congress. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

LYNCH:  So, so, I think—I think this—this may help us, this recent revelation about a player who had everything to lose, but who still apparently put steroids in his body. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

LYNCH:  You know, he had the Hall of Fame and the 3,000 hits and the endorsements and, really, the respect and admiration of the entire country. 

MATTHEWS:  Is Rafael Palmeiro in trouble with your committee, sir? 

LYNCH:  He may be.  I think it's too early to say.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, Congressman Stephen Lynch, Democrat of Massachusetts.

Coming up, a new Gallup poll shows a big lead for both John McCain and Rudy Giuliani in presidential matchups with, guess who, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, Hillary Clinton trails both Rudy Giuliani and John McCain in presidential matchups for 2008.  And John Kerry's favorables are outmatched by his unfavorables. 

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL; 14 American troops were killed today in Iraq when a roadside bomb ripped through their lightly armored vehicle. 

And, earlier today, President Bush again rejected calls for a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The violence in recent days in Iraq is a grim reminder of the enemies we face.  These terrorists and insurgents will use brutal tactics, because they're trying to shake the will of the United States of America.  That's what they're trying to do.  They want us to retreat.  They want us, in our compassion for the innocent, say, we're through.  That's what they want.  They will fail. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Democratic political strategist Bob Shrum is now a senior fellow at New York University's Graduate School of Public Service.  Ed Rogers is a Republican political consultant who served in the first Bush White House. 

What do you make of that, Ed, the president's speech today?  Because, everywhere in Washington, we're hearing that, although there is not a timetable set, that we are beginning to pull out our troops come next spring, after the elections over there.

ED ROGERS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT:  Well, you're hearing that in bits and pieces. 

MATTHEWS:  From a top general. 

ROGERS:  And you can believe that or you can believe what the president said, that he won't be shaken.  His resolve is there.  And there is no timetable. 

And you've got to think that's right.  There is no timetable.  And if we were to telegraph that, it would only be encouragement and only be aiding the people that want us to get out, and the terrorists and the killers that want us to leave.

MATTHEWS:  It is not exactly inconsistent.

Bob Shrum, the president did not shoot down the notion that we are going to begin to remove large numbers of troops back home after the elections next year.  How do you read what he is saying? 

BOB SHRUM, HARDBALL POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, they're two-timing this timetable issue. 

The fact is that we have major generals who are sending out the very signals that Ed says we can't afford to send out, because there's so much dissatisfaction in the country with the course of the war.  The answer to failure is not to perpetuate it.  And either the Iraqis, as Senator Biden has said, as Senator Kerry has said, are going to get the capacity in a serious way to defend themselves or they're not. 

And if they don't, we can't have an indefinite American presence in Iraq.  It won't work and the country won't accept it. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this election we just had.

ROGERS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  We all love bi-elections, because we try to find something in the tea leaves. 

ROGERS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Fifty-two/forty-eight, the Republican won in a Republican district, narrower victory than usual.  But what's interesting is, this guy, Paul Hackett, who was on this show last night, used the most amazing language in describing the president of the United States. 

He called him—I don't use this phrase often, son of a bitch. 

ROGERS:  I understand.

MATTHEWS:  He called him a chicken hawk.  We know what that means. 

And he still got 48 percent, Ed Rogers.

ROGERS:  Well, there was a lot about this race that was an aberration. 

He was a good, articulate candidate.  He used some harsh language that I would disagree with, but, nonetheless, he had a legitimate point of view.  And—and he was the darling of the media and of the left.  He had a lot of resources in a special election, where there was turnout that was less than half of what would normally turn out in a normal election, in a regular scheduled election. 

And the Democrats shouldn't take too much comfort in an election where they just got beat vs. an election where they got slaughtered. 

SHRUM:  Oh.

MATTHEWS:  Shrum, Bob Shrum, what do you make of this? 

(LAUGHTER)

SHRUM:  That was a nice piece of spin, Ed, but the fact is...

ROGERS:  But it was all true. 

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM:  It's a nice piece of spin. 

ROGERS:  Thanks.

SHRUM:  The fact is, that district is normally won by Republicans by 40 points.  They won by four points. 

If you see that kind of shift or anything approaching that next year or something much less than that, you're going to see 1994 in reverse.  And what I think it really reflects is not any language that Paul Hackett used.  He might have actually done better had he not said some of those things.  What it really reflects is dissatisfaction with the war, a failed privatization plan on Social Security, and a sense that the president has put no priority on health care and education. 

And I think people want some action on those things. 

MATTHEWS:  Let's talk Republicans.  I love the new Gallup poll.  It just came out today.  It shows that Rudy Giuliani has got a 64 percent—

64 percent favorable, in this environment, when everybody is tough on politicians.  And McCain is down at 51. 

But, you know, you know, I got—I want to ask you this.  I have been pushing this.  Maybe I feel like I'm campaign-managing for Giuliani. 

ROGERS:  Maybe you should be.

MATTHEWS:  No, I'm just telling you, he is the best speaker in the country today, now that Jesse Jackson is not active.  He is the best orator in the country.  And I think he looks great. 

What do you think, Ed?

ROGERS:  Hey, and he's a Republican.  And, if he runs, he's going to be a contender. 

You know, Republicans are very hierarchal.  We tend to nominate a front-runner.  And, right now, I think, by any standard, McCain is a front-runner.  And behind him...

MATTHEWS:  Not in most polls.  Most polls show Giuliani number one. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  OK, well, give or take.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  

ROGERS:  But, nonetheless, he would be a contender for our nomination, no question.  He would ultimately have some ideological problems, but right now...

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  He's a front-runner.

MATTHEWS:  Bob, you're laughing because you know he has them.  But isn't parties that are in trouble and need to win—and if Hillary is the nominee, they are going to need to win.  They're going to need the strongest possible opponent.  Won't they resort to a Giuliani? 

SHRUM:  No.  He's—look, he can be a contender.  He can't be the nominee. 

And I'll tell you one thing.  Ed Rogers is not going to run his campaign.  So, you might as well, Chris. 

(LAUGHTER)

SHRUM:  This is—this is somebody who is explicitly pro-choice, who has been for gay rights, who, while you might disagree with him on a whole set of other issues, is, on those issues, more like a Democrat than a Republican. 

And the fact of the matter is that, when the right wing of the

Republican Party takes a look at him and takes a look at his positions on

values issue, they're going to reject him.  They don't want him appointed -

·         they don't want him appointed.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I hate to be an old man here.  But, in 1952, the Republicans looked at probable defeat.  They thought they were going to run against maybe Truman again.  They didn't know by then.  They ran Dwight Eisenhower.  They ran a moderate.  How do you know the Republicans won't be smart enough to do the same thing to beat Hillary?

SHRUM:  We weren't—we weren't a company fractured along these social issues, in the way that we are now.

Look at what's happening this weekend.  Bill Frist, because he's changed his position on stem cell research, has been disinvited by the Family Research Council to what they're calling their Second Justice Sunday.  Instead, they're going to have Tom DeLay.  I mean, you have a Republican Party where certain lines just aren't going to be crossed.  And I don't believe a pro-choice and even mildly pro-gay-rights candidate can be nominated by the Republicans. 

ROGERS:  I know better than to try to forecast a race three years out, particularly in the primaries, Republican primaries. 

However, I am a Republican that tends to underestimate Hillary Clinton.  We know what a winning Democrat nominee looks like.  It looks like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.  It doesn't look like a liberal senator from New York. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We're going to come back and look at Hillary's numbers, which I find fascinating.  And they're probably bad news for Hillary supporters.

We'll be right back with Ed Rogers and Bob Shrum.  Stay with us. 

When we return, could there be a unity ticket in the presidential race of 2008?  We've heard a little buzz about that today.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We're back with Republican strategist Ed Rogers and HARDBALL political analyst Bob Shrum. 

Let's look at these Hillary numbers.  I find them fascinating.  Favorability, 53 percent in our latest Gallup poll.  Unfavorable, 43.  In other words, she starts the race, Bob, with a pretty high negative. 

SHRUM:  Oh, yes.

But I think, for her to have a 10-point advantage favorable/unfavorable, and the fact that she's running a race with McCain as close as she is in this poll—I think it is 50-45 -- tells you that she is actually a very strong candidate. 

Now, I don't think that she probably appreciates Ed Rogers' quasi-endorsement. 

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS:  I'm pulling for her.

SHRUM:  It kind of reminds me of when—it kind of reminds me of when John McCain said to me in 2000, please stop saying nice things about me.  It's hurting me in the Republican primaries. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SHRUM:  But she—but, look...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think she's the strongest Democratic candidate for 2008, Bob Shrum?

ROGERS:  No.

SHRUM:  I think we don't know the answer to that yet.

But I know this, that—and you'll remember this, Chris.  There were a lot of people in the Carter campaign in 1980 who, when they thought Ronald Reagan was going to be the nominee, were popping champagne corks.

MATTHEWS:  I know.

SHRUM:  Because they thought he was easy to beat.  The truth is, he wasn't easy to beat. 

She is a tough, smart, resourceful politician with a sense of where she would like to take the country.  And I think she would be very strong candidate. 

MATTHEWS:  Ed Rogers...

ROGERS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Hillary Clinton can take the beefier industrial states, where the men have boats and guns and tend to like traditional women, like Michigan, like Illinois, like Pennsylvania?  Do you think they would like Hillary Clinton, the cut of her jib, out there? 

ROGERS:  I can't think of a red state...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I mean some of the blue states, I'm talking about. 

ROGERS:  Probably not.  She would have a headwind in this campaign.  Again, we know what a winning Democrat looks like.  And it doesn't look like a liberal senator from the Northeast. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I just wonder whether the same people that—Bob, the same people that vote for John Dingell in Michigan do you think are going to vote for Hillary? 

ROGERS:  No. 

SHRUM:  Oh, I think—I think if—if—if we have the situation we have on the war, if our foreign policy is in this kind of disarray...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, that helps everybody.  You're right.  Right. 

SHRUM:  If there is—if no progress is being made on health care and education, I think a lot of those red states could become blue states. 

ROGERS:  If things go as bad as...

MATTHEWS:  Well, if this war continues the way it's going, Pee Wee Herman could win.  You make your point, Bob.

SHRUM:  No.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let's take a look.  Here's Senator Joe Biden last night on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.”  We're talking about a possible unity ticket here. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE:  John McCain is a personal friend, a great friend.  And I would be honored to run with or against John McCain, because I think the country would be better off, be well off no matter who.  And I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART:  Did I hear—did I hear with? 

BIDEN:  You know, John McCain and I think...

STEWART:  Don't become cottage cheese, my friend.  Say it. 

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN:  The answer is yes.  I hoped John—I wanted John to run with John Kerry last time out.  And I asked him to do that. 

STEWART:  Boy, I would love to see politics be shaken up in a way that just completely blew out the ramparts of partisanship.  That would be a wonderful situation. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I don't know if “The Daily Show” is calling the shots, Bob Shrum, but do you think that's even possible, the idea of a fusion ticket between a Biden and a McCain? 

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM:  What would Ed and I do if they blew up the ramparts of partisanship? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I don't know, but the country might do better.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  I mean, civilization as we know it would be over.

SHRUM:  It is not going to happen.  There are real differences between the parties here. 

ROGERS:  That's right. 

SHRUM:  There are real differences on some big issues.  And you notice Joe Biden would like John McCain to run with him. 

I think John McCain is running for president in the Republican Party. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  

SHRUM:  And I don't think he's going to pick Joe Biden as his vice presidential nominee, if he gets nominated.  And I don't think the convention would go along with him. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Ed, since you're the Republican of this duo...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... do you think your party will become pragmatic when it becomes closer and closer to the prospect of not only confronting Hillary Clinton in the general election in 2008, but possibly losing to her?  Will your party straighten up and say, damn it, we have to drop some of our ideological baggage; we've got to run the best possible candidate?

ROGERS:  You know, in February and March of 2008, pragmatism and a calculating, a collective calculus, on behalf of Republican primary voters will not be what carries the day. 

I mean, our voters will probably go with a stylistic contrast to Bush somewhat.

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

ROGERS:  Voters usually do.

MATTHEWS:  A little change.

ROGERS:  We tend to nominate a front-runner.  So, a front-runner in our party has to really falter before we'll go back into the pack.  But is there going to be some sort of collective calculus?  No.

MATTHEWS:  Whose turn is it? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Whose turn is it?  Party—is it McCain's turn, having lost last night or not? 

ROGERS:  Historically speaking, yes.  If he were to tend to it, if he were to listen to his advisers and try...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

ROGERS:  He would be hard to beat. 

MATTHEWS:  Is he the hardest party—party—Republican candidate for the Democrats to beat, Bob, McCain? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Given his...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... record and everything?

SHRUM:  To be honest, I think he probably is.  But, of course, my saying it may in fact convey the opposite impression to people, or people may think I'm trying to convey the opposite impression. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But you're a professor now, Bob. 

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM:  He's someone who reaches across party lines.

MATTHEWS:  Bob, you're a professor.  They believe you as a professor. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You speak from the academic chair now. 

By the way, what is it, the Shrum chair?  What do you call your...

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS:  Does he wear a robe?

SHRUM:  No, it's the—it's the—it's the Matthews chair. 

And, by the way, I have one last question for Ed. 

ROGERS:  Please.

SHRUM:  Ed, if turnout was the problem in Ohio, what happened to Karl Rove's vaunted turnout operation? 

ROGERS:  Well, again...

SHRUM:  Did he just to go sleep? 

ROGERS:  Good question, Bob.  Keep in mind, what happened was, the Democrat lost.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Got to go.

(LAUGHTER) 

ROGERS:  And be careful not to... 

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  ... inspiration from another losing campaign.

MATTHEWS:  More on this—more on this insider stuff as the campaign proceeds over the next three years.   

Anyway, thank you, Ed Rogers.

Thank you, Bob Shrum.

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

Right now, it's time for “COUNTDOWN” with Alison Stewart, who is in tonight for Keith Olbermann, and the latest on that risky space walk to fix the space shuttle Discovery.

END

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