Guest: E.J. Dionne, Elsa Walsh, Wissam Nasr, Howard Safir, Rosemary
Palmer, Paul Schroeder
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist has been taken by ambulance to the hospital after developing a fever.
Let's play HARDBALL.
As I just said, Chief Justice William Rehnquist has been taken to the hospital with a fever.
NBC News chief justice correspondent Pete Williams joins us now from here in Washington.
Pete, is this serious?
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We don't know, Chris.
The last time—well, I should say, this is the third time he's been taken to the hospital that we know of this year. We're told by the cancer doctors, not his, but other experts, that any time a cancer patient develops a fever, you immediately want to know what is causing the fever. You want to try to figure out the cause. You want to find what is the best way to treat it.
It could be unrelated to the cancer. It could be related to the cancer. Lots of people get fever who don't have cancer, of course. And so, you want to try to draw the distinction.
What do we know? We know that he was at work today. You're looking at pictures from earlier from his house. But we know that he was at work at the Supreme Court today, that, at some point, he developed this fever and was taken to the Virginia Hospital Center, the same hospital that's near his house where his doctors are, where he was treated before. The most recent time was last month, you may recall, when he was taken one night from his house to the hospital and then he ended up staying there a couple of nights for evaluation and treatment.
Today, we're told that he was taken to the hospital for evaluation. We were not told, as of early this evening, whether or not the hospital was going to admit him. I don't think they've made that decision yet. So, it is premature to say that he's—quote, unquote—“hospitalized,” but we know he's gone out to see his doctors and they'll decide what the next course of action is here.
MATTHEWS: Pete, do you know why a hospital visit would be indicated
WILLIAMS: Yes, because you want to know what is causing the fever when you have a cancer patient. Is it the cancer itself? Is—that's always a warning sign for a cancer patient. Has something happened with the cancer that has caused the sudden rise in temperature? You know, if so, it is a warning sign. You might want to go look at what's going on with the cancer. That's what the doctors tell us.
And, of course, he's had this before.
MATTHEWS: OK, Pete, thank you very much for that report on the condition of the chief justice.
MATTHEWS: Tonight, we begin with the parents of Lance Corporal Edward Schroeder, who was among the 14 Marines who lost their lives in yesterday's attack in Iraq. His parents, Rosemary Palmer and Paul Schroeder, join me now from their home outside Cleveland.
Well, it's a terrible thing to do, but I want to talk to you both about the war in Iraq and the loss of your son.
Ms. Palmer, did you sense that this war was very dangerous for your son, even before yesterday?
ROSEMARY PALMER, MOTHER OF KILLED U.S. MARINE: Well, war is always dangerous. And there were so many deaths that it was starting to mount to the point where I was actually thinking yesterday that if Auggie (ph) were not among the 14 killed, I was almost to the point of calling the Department of Defense and just saying, for mental health reasons, he had to come home, that I couldn't handle it anymore. It was just too much.
MATTHEWS: What made you feel that the danger was growing?
PALMER: Well, it's the old game of the fewer. And the 325 unit that he's in has been having more and more casualties. And if you have fewer guys and the same number of people, well, then, the other—the chances are growing that your person is going to be the one that's hit.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Mr. Schroeder, why do you think we're in this war? What do you think is the real reason for this war in Iraq?
PAUL SCHROEDER, FATHER OF KILLED U.S. MARINE: Well, I really don't know why. I could guess, which might be unfair. But I would guess it has to do with oil. It has to do with deposing a dictator that we used to love and came to hate.
SCHROEDER: That goes on repeatedly.
MATTHEWS: What did your son say was his motivation for fighting? Was it just patriotism to our country or a belief in the mission?
SCHROEDER: He did not have a motivation to fight. He had a motivation to do his duty to the Marine Corps and to be part of the Marines. His entire life was devoted to doing what he promised he would do.
MATTHEWS: What did he tell you...
MATTHEWS: What did he say about how the war was going?
SCHROEDER: Well, early on, when his unit arrived there in March, he was talking about the friendly Iraqi people. After May and June, he stopped talking about the friendly people, not that they weren't friendly. But he stopped talking about it.
Two weeks ago, in the last conversation I had with him, he simply said, the closer we get to coming home, the less worth it this is.
MATTHEWS: How did you interpret that?
SCHROEDER: I took that to mean that his participation in Operation Matador, Operation New Market, Operation Sword, Operation Spear, and a couple others that I don't know the names of were failing. And that's, basically, the operations were intended to go into these towns, kick out the insurgents, take their weapons, arrest whoever they could, and then they would withdraw.
They only had to go back and find more insurgents in the same places. The fact that these 14 fellows were blown up indicates to me, logic would say, that this policy, this strategy, this tactic has failed.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Rosemary...
SCHROEDER: If it was successful, if it was successful, then he would still be alive, as would all those other kids.
MATTHEWS: Rosemary, let me ask you about the—what is your feeling about this war and the goal of trying to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people? And do you think that was a smart thing for us to try to do?
PALMER: It was a very naive thing for us to do.
You don't go to another culture and try to impose yours and expect it to work. We're not Iraqis. We don't have the same culture. And while I understand that we're a multicultural nation, we don't act like it sometimes. We act like the whole world thinks exactly the way we do.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that the war is going to get any better now that your son—I mean, you have paid the ultimate price? And, by the way, thank you. I don't know what it means to say thank you for your service, except I mean it. The courage of these young guys and some women over there is unbelievable. And I guess everybody wonders about the conduct of the war, whether they're being—these lives are being wasted or these lives are being put to good purpose.
What is your feeling about that now?
PALMER: Well, I personally believe that, since it is not working, then we have to make a change, that it is not worth the sacrifice if it is just more bodies on to the heap.
Like President Bush said, he wanted to stay the course and honor the memory of the ones who died by continuing to fight. If it didn't work before, why does fighting more—you know, you do the same thing over and over, that's—expecting a different result is, I think, the explanation of insanity.
Well, the way you describe it, it is like pouring water into a sand hole on the beach and having it drain right through and start over again. It seems like a repetitive process that doesn't seem to be getting anywhere.
SCHROEDER: Well, the repetitive process has been going on for 27 months, since the active invasion phase ended, 27 months of doing the same thing over and over and over again, with no evidence that it is getting better.
If there were evidence it was getting better—and I have yet to see it—and I—frankly, if it was getting better, these fellows would still be alive after all of this strenuous effort. Then it is time to make a change. Either put the number of troops on the ground that you need to really do the job or get the heck out.
MATTHEWS: Do you have a sense...
SCHROEDER: We have a saying—we have a saying in the Midwest, piss or get off the pot.
MATTHEWS: Do you have a sense, because of your son's tremendous, permanent, total sacrifice of his life and his experience in these months fighting this war, that the middle-level officers, the majors, the captains, do they have a sense of a clear vision of what they're getting done over there?
SCHROEDER: I can't speak to those fellows. I have great respect for the Marine officers at that level and the sergeants who made these troops, great respect.
I would tell you that they probably are frustrated, just like a lot of the ground troops, the lance corporals and the privates are. I would say that one thing that we have to make crystal clear, which is why we agreed to talk today, is that there is a—you cannot equate. There is a clear difference between supporting the troops on the ground and supporting the policies that put them there.
The president likes to make those—to equate those two things. If you don't support the war, you don't support the troops. And too many American people are buying into that. I don't buy into that. Rosemary doesn't buy into that. It is time that we say, look, we can support the troops all until the cows come home.
SCHROEDER: We don't support the policies that put them there.
MATTHEWS: You two have more right to answer this question than anybody else in the country today. After reading those headline—and to most of us, they're just headlines. They're American G.I.s, Marines in this case, giving their lives for their country, 20-some this week, in that one part of the country in Iraq.
What should be the reaction of the American people who pick up their newspapers, watch television, and learn of these horrors? What should they do as a result of seeing that news, Mr. Schroeder?
SCHROEDER: They should stand up and tell President Bush, enough is enough. You've had your chance. Now let somebody else come up with a different plan. If you can't come up with a different plan that is going to work, in my view, that is more troops, then get out.
MATTHEWS: Rosemary, is that your view? Is that how we, all of us, not in the news business, regular Americans from your part of the country, across the country, getting this horrible news, how should they react to it?
PALMER: Well, I think most people are just saying, you know, the latter, just get out, because it is clearly—well, it is obvious that the politicians are not going to institute a draft. And with the number of deaths and the dangers being what they are, they are not going to get the recruits.
So, therefore, if you can't—you can't get enough guys to do the fighting, well, then you have to get out. Do it or get out of the game.
MATTHEWS: I got you. I heard your views and they sound similar.
Thank you very much for this hour of—this time of anguish, to be giving this information. I think the public needs to hear from folks like you.
Thank you very much, Rosemary Palmer and Paul Schroeder, who lost their son, Lance Corporal Edward Schroeder, just today, last 24 hours.
We'll be right back with HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, a deadly period for U.S. forces in Iraq, more than 30 service members killed since Sunday. Is it time for the troops to come home or do we need more troops over there?
When HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Retired Army Colonel Ken Allard is an MSNBC military analyst.
Colonel, thanks for coming on. It is a tough time to come on. We just heard from the Schroeder family. They lost their lance corporal son, killed over there in Iraq. They have strong feelings about it. I think the Midwestern expression was something I don't want to repeat right exactly.
COL. KEN ALLARD, NBC MILITARY ANALYST: Yes.
MATTHEWS: But he said, either do it right or get out of there.
ALLARD: Look, I cannot agree more with that.
And I would tell you, there's nothing tougher in the world than facing people who have just lost a loved one, whether it's a son or a daughter or a husband. Having given the supreme sacrifice for their country, they have an absolute God-given right to do exactly what you heard them do, which is simply say, hey, was it worth it?
And that same conversation is going on all across this country. And, as we get these casualty numbers, you're going to see a lot more, rather than a lot less of this.
MATTHEWS: We're getting two or three of these messages right now. See if you can sift them together or decomplicate them. The president says he doesn't want to set a deadline for leaving Iraq, which I can understand. We all can.
At the same time, George Casey, the military commander is saying we may well be pulling out large numbers of troops next spring, after the elections over there in Iraq. And then we're hearing talk of more troops, that maybe we were wrong. We didn't have enough troops over there, certainly, from the Schroeders. If we're going to go in, go in right.
Are those options on the table or how do they fit together?
ALLARD: Yes, they absolutely are.
And they have been placed on the table by the sheer force of events. And so those options, as you've very, very correctly expressed, are, hey, more, less, or are we doing about right?
The key question, I think, is going to be, how long can we maintain this? Because the real target were not those Marines taken out in that blast in Iraq. The real target was the people who sent them there, the American people. That is the real impact for everything which is happening right now in Iraq, because they understand, they cannot defeat our forces in the field, but they can defeat our will. And they remember Somalia and they remember Vietnam.
MATTHEWS: Here's what I think. I think the president and his political advisers have decided, we don't know what it is going to look like over there in Iraq next year. But we need the American people to feel a little better about the outlook. So we're going to let that idea put out there by General Casey float for a while, which is, we will be cutting back on our troop complement sometime next year. We can always readdress that next year. Does that sound like what they're doing?
ALLARD: Well, I'm not politically sophisticated enough to say if that is or is not their strategy.
I will simply say that, if you remember this time a year ago, we had a thing called an election. And, unlike the red state/blue state horse race that we wound up talking about, the proper time and the proper place to have this discussion was way back then. We may have no choice except for right now than to begin to have that discussion yet again.
We have got to begin to figure out what we're going to do in Iraq and with how many forces and whether it makes sense to keep on going, to increase them or simply to pull them out.
MATTHEWS: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld faced a question on troop levels today at an event in Los Angeles this afternoon. It was inspired by a discussion we had here on HARDBALL on Monday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A Monday's HARDBALL, Chris Matthews said that there are two stories when he interviews troops in the field, one for the camera and the other that questions your strategy. What is your comment on the need for more troops in Iraq?
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The question of the number of troops in Iraq has been one that has been up for public discussion from the very outset. I didn't hear the remark on MSNBC, but I know the debate. I wish there were a perfect answer to it, but all I can tell you is that the number of troops there are the number of troops that the senior military leadership are absolutely convinced is the right number.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That's the question, Colonel Allard. Do we get on television an unalloyed, honest answer when we ask, do you have enough troops over there?
ALLARD: I'll give you an unalloyed answer. No, we do not right now.
And I will tell you that I've heard those kinds of comments from Mr. Rumsfeld before, because we've probably had more meaningful discussions on MSNBC about the right level of troops than on anyplace else. I remember specifically a comment the vice president made about retired military officers embedded in TV studios, going back two more years. So, it is a long overdue discussion.
But I have got to tell you that, when you're involved in an insurgency, you have literally no choice but to make sure that you've got enough manpower to control that situation, because, if you don't, you're going to see lots more stories like we've been covering in the last 72 hour.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that the military commanders throughout this campaign in Iraq have been able to tell honestly the civilian leadership if they need more troops?
ALLARD: I'm not really sure, because I've not been privy, obviously, to those discussions.
But there's an enormous presumption that when the former Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki stood up and said, look, it's going to take a couple hundred thousand troops to control that situation, and he was shouted down, because the deputy secretary of defense said, it's unimaginable that we're going to require more people to secure that country than it does to take it down.
That's in fact turned out to be precisely the case. What we have not done is to figure out how we're going to sustain that commitment over the long term. And even more than that, Chris, if you take a look right now, most of that burden is being born by a disproportionate few in American society today.
MATTHEWS: We heard from the Schroeders that what we do over there is, go into a village or an area and cleaning it out of al Qaeda—not of al Qaeda, mainly of insurgents, sometimes al Qaeda. Then we go back in there a few weeks or months later and do the same darn thing over again, that it is a war that never seems to end. Is that the process over there, cleaning it out, then cleaning it out again, area after area?
ALLARD: Chris, that's what it seems to be, unfortunately.
I mean, I realize that there's a certain irreducible minimum that you have got to do in terms of those kinds of operations in an insurgency kind of context. But, more than anything else, the thing that you have to do is, once you clear an area, you have to secure it, or else there is simply no point in going. You can talk about Haditha. You can talk about various other areas, like the airport road south of Baghdad.
ALLARD: And it is the same problem over and over again. And we also saw that in Vietnam.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Colonel Ken Allard.
Still to come on HARDBALL, Supreme Court nominee John Roberts is in the headlines because of new reports of his work as a registered lobbyist for the cosmetic industry, and also the behind-the-scenes work for gay activist groups. Is that going to affect his image before the confirmation?
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, should Middle Easterners be targeted for searches on city subways in order to prevent terrorism or is that crossing the line of civil liberties?
You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Since those terrifying London subway attacks of July 7, law enforcement here in New York has begun random bag searches on the subway in order to ferret out would-be bomber, a policy now being challenged by the New York Civil Liberties Union. Recently, however, a New York state assemblyman, Dov Hikind, and City Councilman James Oddo have proposed legislation to make racially profiling Middle Easterners who fit a young Arab fundamentalist profile legal.
Both Hikind and Oddo declined HARDBALL's invitation to join our discussion tonight.
Former City New York Police Commissioner Howard Safir, however, is a proponent of this kind of profiling.
How do you—how do regular beat patrolmen do this, look for the most obvious suspects in these kinds of cases?
HOWARD SAFIR, FORMER NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, first you have to distinguish.
You talked about racial profiling. I don't consider this racial profiling. This is terrorist profiling. We know what the 19 hijackers looked like on 9/11. We know what the London hijackers looked like. We know what the embassy bombers looked like in Africa. We know what the Cole bombers looked like.
So, using information on the profile of what a terrorist looks like is smart and intelligent anti-terrorism work.
MATTHEWS: You know, when you go to the airport here at National Airport in Washington, if you sneak around, like a reporter does, I do, you look around the counter at the podium or the lectern of the person checking your driver's license and your ticket, and you see about nine or 10 faces of people they are looking out for. They're all Middle Eastern-looking. They all have the ethnic aspect, the garb, whatever, the head covering.
So, they do it. So, how do the police in New York do it differently?
SAFIR: Well, the police in New York are doing it totally randomly.
And what Assemblyman Hikind is proposing is that they be allowed to be much more efficient and to look like the profile the same way they do in Israel. In Israel, they know what the bombers look like and that's who they look for. They have watchers in restaurants. They have watchers in movie theaters. They have people who are trained. When they search people, they do it with dignity. They do it in a professional manner.
And that's exactly the way it should be done here in the states. But, you know, my view is, if a 6'3“ white man robs a bank, you don't look for a 5-foot black person.
MATTHEWS: Well, I could argue the same way. If you're looking for an IRA member, you would go after an Irishman, right?
SAFIR: Well, I think there are also ways to profile IRA terrorists as well. So, you know, you have to use the best information that is available to you and use it efficiently.
And let's face it, we have not had 75-year-old grandmothers carrying shopping bags blowing up subway trains or embassies. That doesn't mean it can't happen.
MATTHEWS: Well, let's just try this the way it may work. Suppose you have a 30-year-old woman carrying a big bag on—maybe a school book bag, the kind of bag that schoolkids carry, grad students carry in New York City. You see a lot of them. They're carrying bags around with four or five books in there. That could be anything.
You have somebody who is black or white or whatever, but clearly is not Arab. You leave them alone if they're carrying a bag. Is that how you on it?
MATTHEWS: But you look at the Middle Eastern person who has the same exact bag?
SAFIR: No. You use common sense. You see a Caucasian wearing a winter coat and carrying a knapsack in the subway, you don't give them a pass. You search them. But, on the other hand, stopping people who are clearly not threats is not a guarantee, but it is certainly a much more efficient use of resources.
MATTHEWS: Let's talk about that phenomenon. When you are checking the person who may look particularly Western and clearly not from that part of the world, the Middle East part of the world, are you checking them just to make it look fair or are you actually checking them for a possible bomb? What's really going on in that process?
SAFIR: Well, right now...
MATTHEWS: P.R. or police work?
SAFIR: Right now, P.R. is going on because New York state has laws against racial profiling. And the fact is that they are doing it totally random.
And what Assemblyman Hikind is saying, and I agree with him, is, that is not the most efficient way to do it.
SAFIR: You know, the Israelis have decreased their bombings and their deaths by over 50 percent by using profiling.
SAFIR: I like it when the guy at the airport says to me, I love your show; take your shoes off.
SAFIR: Yes. Well, you're...
MATTHEWS: But I consider that sort of part of the everybody-gets-treated-the-same-way philosophy. And, by the way, you keep referring to Israel. When you get on an El-Al plane—and there's certainly a good historic reason for this—an Israeli airliner, they'll spend 50 minutes with you, an hour with you, or 45 minutes at least, going through your political point of view, who you are politically, what your attitudes are. You can't adapt the Israeli method here in the United States, can you?
SAFIR: Well, that's an airport. Mass transit is very different.
Mass transit, you have to have layering. You have to have searches. You have to have technology. You have to have personnel. You have to have procedures and you have to have public vigilance.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the Middle Eastern people who have lived in this country a couple of generations are going to feel like they're being beaten up by being grabbed every time they come to a subway?
SAFIR: This is a politically sensitive issue, but the reality is, we are at war. We know what the enemy looks like. And to ignore that is ignoring good policy on dealing with terrorists.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. It is great having you on, former New Yorker Police Commissioner Howard Safir.
And joining me now is Wissam Nasr. He's with the American-Islamic Relations Council. He opposes this kind of profiling, I guess is the right word for it, but I'm not sure.
Mr. Nasr, what is wrong with what the former commissioner just suggested?
WISSAM NASR, AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS COUNCIL: Well, I wouldn't even know where to start, actually.
MATTHEWS: Well, start. Try it.
Well, first of all, the subway structures are fundamentally flawed. You are not going to find a terrorist doing random searches. You find terrorists doing focused searches. Another thing is that racial profiling is illegal. So, everything we even talk about on the show is about an illegal practice. The fact of the matter is, is that we don't know what a Middle Eastern person looks like. You can ask that Brazilian man who was shot to death in the train station because he looked Middle Eastern.
NASR: Is that what we want here in New York City's stations, people being shot in the head in front of hundreds of people because some police officers may have gotten it wrong or abused their power?
Well, let me bring you a more particular case. Suppose the British police down there in the subway, in the British underground, had, for whatever reason, been very alert that day. They got a tip and they caught these people, these young people, before they planted those bombs in July. Wouldn't we be better off because they caught them knowing what to look for, than being politically correct and not going after them because it might have offended them?
NASR: Well, I agree that we need to know what we're...
MATTHEWS: No, I'm asking a particular case. Wouldn't we be better off if those young men had been caught using smart, shrewd, even tough police tactics?
NASR: I think so, definitely. But those police tactics are what is in question right now.
MATTHEWS: What is wrong with—let's go back to the other—I know how sensitive this is, sir, and I'm not going to play the butcher man here and say I agree with the police commissioner, who just spoke.
But if you're looking for someone who meets a certain description, what is wrong with following that description?
NASR: Well, I don't know. I don't know what the description is. If you're looking for Middle Eastern men, then, in reality, those bombers over there in London were from Pakistani origin and from East African origin. So, actually, terrorists come from every stripe and not just Islamic extremists. There are left-wing, right-wing, special interest groups.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but they—but the focus has been—let's face it. It is a culturally based war we're in right now. You know, you could argue we're against—we're against Basque terrorists in Spain or whatever. But the fact is, this is a war between Islamist fundamentalists and the West, us particularly, and this is being fought with explosives and with whatever and bombs. And how do you fight the war if you play dumb?
NASR: Well, I think you have to play smart.
What you have to do is, you have to utilize existing and developing technology, like those smoke alarms that could detect bomb components in the air. You get canine units that could be mobile, instead of at the checkpoints, staying static at checkpoints. That's the smart way to do it. That's the kind much way that can avoid racial profile. Take out those discretionary powers and let technology do its work.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a question. Suppose you knew there was a bomb going off tomorrow morning in New York and you knew it was five Middle Eastern men who were involved in it. Would it be OK then to go looking for people who met that description?
NASR: No, definitely—I mean, listen.
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. I think you may have a different answer if you think about it. If you get a police—we get a police scoop here, somebody calls up with a tip and says, there's five guys. I know their names. They're all from Jordan and they're going to blow up the A-train tomorrow at 42nd Street, would you not go looking for four guys that met that description?
NASR: With a specific description like that, sure.
MATTHEWS: OK. Right.
NASR: But random searches with millions of people.
MATTHEWS: Right. So, you're not against looking for suspects. You're not—looking for perps who have already been identified with a crime that is about to be committed. You're against a general use of physical description as a way to decide where to search.
NASR: I would say that I'm for more intelligent law enforcement tactics to really catch a terrorist and the bombs.
MATTHEWS: Well, how would you do it?
NASR: Well, like I said before, you utilize existing technology and you increase patrols. You increase what the police have been doing so far.
The reality of it is, is that we have not had a subway bombing here in New York City. We have not had a terrorist attack here since 9/11. The police are—seem to be doing their job. You need to emphasize what they're doing right and avoid any possible pitfalls that might lead them down the wrong road.
MATTHEWS: Commissioner Safir, former New York Commissioner Safir, kept talking the Israeli example. They're very tough in Israel. I've been there. They don't have exactly the same world situation we do, obviously. We're trying to be popular in the world. Israel is tougher because they have got a tougher situation in that region.
Do you think we could ever adopt the Israeli methods of strong, tough, intensive interrogations of people, visual identification, like they do in movie theaters and places like that?
NASR: I don't know. That's a good question.
The reality of it is, though, is, when Mr. Safir was referring to those particular examples, he neglected to say that Israel—that America and New York City in particular is a much more multiethnic area than Israel.
NASR: It is too difficult to run around saying, oh, everyone that looks Middle Eastern. Do you know what that means? That means Greek people, Italian people, Dominican people. They're all dark.
NASR: They all—quote, unquote—look like us. You can't do that here. And I don't support it being done in Israel the way that it's being done. They've been known to have harsher tactics than here in America.
MATTHEWS: When you're Middle Eastern and you see this going on, what you look to—what you observe to be profiling, do you sense it is racist or ethnic or it's just self-protection? Is there any sympathy at all for these strong measures among the
Middle Eastern community in this country?
NASR: I think, to a certain degree, there is a level of sympathy among groups of Muslims, because they have nothing to hide. They certainly don't feel that anything is wrong with it.
But there are other people—and this is the wider part of America—that do object on civil rights grounds. And we personally object on law enforcement grounds. It's just not a smart tactic.
MATTHEWS: It's great having you on. Thank you very much, sir.
NASR: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: For taking on this tough topic, Wissam—Wissam Nasr.
When we come back, should Judge John Roberts' Catholic faith be an issue that's examined during these confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court? Should he be asked about what he believe regarding God?
You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, Supreme Court nominee John Roberts worked behind the scenes for gay rights activists in '96, helping them to win a landmark anti-discrimination ruling. Can he expect their support in return?
When HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
As we reported earlier, Supreme Court nominee John Roberts worked pro bono on a case for gay rights activists which resulted in a landmark Supreme Court ruling in their favor. How will this work figure into his legal record, as Democrats and Republicans prepare for his confirmation hearing?
E.J. Dionne is a syndicated columnist. He appears here in “The Washington Post.” In his most recent column, he argued that Roberts should be questioned on how his Catholic faith might influence his vote as a Supreme Court justice. And Elsa Walsh is a writer for “The New Yorker” magazine. She profiled Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid for this week's edition and got his impression of John Roberts.
I want to start with this news flash. We all discovered this week, today, rather, that, among the pro bono, the free work that John Roberts, the Supreme Court nominee, has done as a lawyer, a top lawyer in Washington, was for gay rights activists. Is this going to help him with the left, with the Democrats?
E.J. DIONNE, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: I think this is the strangest story.
On the one hand, I think a lot of liberals, me included, are going to say God bless him
for fighting employment discrimination against gays.
MATTHEWS: It's employment and housing, I think.
MATTHEWS: So, it wasn't for gay marriage.
MATTHEWS: It was for basic human rights.
DIONNE: It was for basic human rights.
DIONNE: I think the second point is, why didn't he include this when he reported, when he filled out this form? He may have an explanation. But I think it is a good question to ask him.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he might have been hiding it from the conservatives who were putting him up for the job?
DIONNE: Exactly. That's one of the questions you ask. And I think what it suggests is, there are a lot of questions to ask this guy, because he is kind of a blank slate. He is an appealing person in many ways, but I think this open up questions. But I think it also explains why a lot of liberals are not really fighting him hard.
My impression is, liberals are split. Half really want to have a fight against him. The other half say, is George Bush really going to name anybody better from a liberal point of view? And that's why I think, right now, the advantage is to Roberts.
MATTHEWS: The big question is what the Democrats think of this fellow. Harry Reid, you've done a big profile on the Senate minority leader, the Democratic leader. Does he like the cut of the jib of this guy?
ELSA WALSH, “THE NEW YORKER”: He does. You know, I spent a month with Harry Reid. And John Roberts went to go visit Harry Reid a few days after he was nominated, I guess a day after, and really impressed Senator Reid, who is not a pushover by any accounts. And what Senator Reid said to me was that, you know, I'm hoping this guy is going to be another David Souter.
WALSH: Meaning David Souter is the boogeyman for conservatives. And through their...
MATTHEWS: A mole, a secret liberal.
WALSH: Who is detested by conservatives because he votes most often with the liberal bloc. And Harry Reid, who is somebody who has never sort of shied from a fight himself, came away with the impression, after speaking with him for half-an-hour, that this guy was a moderate, a mainstream conservative.
MATTHEWS: I love this. Could he be a mood...
DIONNE: Maybe he's Bill Clinton, you know?
MATTHEWS: Could he be a mood ring?
MATTHEWS: You walk in the room and, if you're a conservative, he looks
conservative, if you're a Democrat, he looks like a liberal?
DIONNE: No, I think that's exactly who he is so far.
MATTHEWS: A mood ring.
DIONNE: I think the real question is, is he Rehnquist or is he Scalia? And at least some of the liberals I know who really would prefer not to have either Rehnquist or Scalia, could live with a moderate conservative and really don't want a Scalia. And I'm not sure we're never going to...
WALSH: He's definitely not a Scalia.
MATTHEWS: How so? Explain that to people who are not lawyers.
WALSH: Because he has said over and over again, and particularly said to Senator Reid—Senator Reid said to him, tell me what your view is of precedent. And precedent, he said, is so important to me.
And Roberts said, I would be very, very, very reluctant to ever overturn precedent, in fact, listed seven different factors in which—would have to be met to overturn a precedent, including, he said, even if a president is of dubious standing, you shouldn't overturn it if society has come to rely on it and it creates stability in the society.
People like Scalia, who are—follow what is called the originalist point of view...
WALSH: ... which is that you should interpret the Constitution according to what the founding fathers want, believe that, in fact, if a precedent does not conform with that view, you shouldn't care. You should overturn it. That's where the big fight over Roe v. Wade and many of these privacy cases center on.
MATTHEWS: But, Elsa, if you take those two concerns, does it keep the people, does it keep society stable, you could argue that the Dred Scott decision before the Civil War, which basically confirmed the fugitive slave law and allowed you to bring people back as chattel, as property.
WALSH: Which is exactly the case that John Roberts brought up to Harry Reid in their meeting, when he said, in fact, there are cases in which a law is—causes instability and is of dubious value. Then you must, like in Dred Scott, overturn it.
MATTHEWS: Speaking of the first Catholic chief justice, Roger Taney, who rendered the Dred...
DIONNE: Doesn't make us feel good as Catholics.
MATTHEWS: No, it doesn't, me neither, obviously, the Dred Scott decision.
What do you think? You have ventured into this very tricky area of saying it is OK to vet a Supreme Court nominee on his or her religious beliefs as they pertain to the future judgments. Defend that position.
DIONNE: Well, the reason I wrote that colonel is because Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois asked Roberts the direct question, how would your Catholic faith affect your decisions? And he was blasted by Senator Cornyn, who said, there are no religious tests in this country.
And then it turned out, four days earlier, Senator Tom Coburn, a Christian conservative, had also talked to Roberts about his faith and then afterwards said very candidly, the fact that he might be a Christian and this might influence his view actually made him, Senator Coburn, feel better about him.
And so, the reason I wrote that column is to say, how can it be wrong for Durbin to ask this question, but right for Coburn to ask this question?
MATTHEWS: Because one is submitted as a test. We are not to have any religious tests for public office in this country.
DIONNE: But one is...
MATTHEWS: If you vet a person looking for some problem because of their religious belief, aren't you vetting them, aren't you testing them, aren't you submitting them to a religious test?
DIONNE: Well, the other thing I said in this column is, I have...
MATTHEWS: Aren't you?
DIONNE: No, I don't think so.
The other thing I said in this column is, conservatives have rightly argued, for a long time, that religious people have a legitimate voice in the public square. What I said is, that's true. And, if you enter the public square, religious people, believers, have to defend their views in public. You can't have it both ways. The Republicans are relying on the one hand on Christian conservatives to help push Roberts through.
And, on the other hand, they're saying, but, no, no, no, no, you can't raise the religious issue. I didn't hear a single Republican complain when John Kerry was denied communion by the Catholic Church. This became a big public issue. You didn't see legions of Republicans saying, no, no, we shouldn't be discussing this publicly.
MATTHEWS: If you're going to start asking about people's religion, you better damn well ask everybody about theirs, everybody's religion. You can't just ask Catholics.
DIONNE: No, I think that's right.
And that is—I said in the piece, there's a risk to this. The risk is, it looks like bigotry. And I don't want bigotry.
DIONNE: But I think, if you're going to have religion in the public square, we have got to figure out a way to be honest and talk about it.
E.J. Dionne, you just heard him, tough guy, Elsa Walsh, “The New Yorker” magazine, are staying with us.
We'll be right back. You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We're back with syndicated columnist E.J. Dionne and Elsa Walsh from “The New Yorker” magazine.
Elsa, you had a long talk with Harry Reid, the Democratic leader of the Senate. You—
I know don't want to do too much projection, but you did a lot of insight here and I want to benefit from it. Is it your sense, after your long interview with him and long piece for “The New Yorker,” that he is likely not to lead a filibuster against Judge Roberts?
WALSH: Oh, he doesn't want to lead a filibuster at all. The experience that he and the Democrats had during that fight two months ago was a really arduous sort of...
MATTHEWS: Over the appellate judges.
And they fought tooth and nail on that and successfully sort of were able to thwart that. And the reason they did that was because they didn't want to have one. They wanted to force Bush into nominating somebody more like a Roberts, a more mainstream, who would require sort of 60 votes, rather than 50. But Harry Reid is a fighter, but he didn't want this fight.
And, as he said to me, there may be some day when we're crying for a John Roberts.
MATTHEWS: Do you have a sense that this nomination will be confirmed?
WALSH: I do. I think the only question is by how wide a margin.
MATTHEWS: Could it get up to 70?
WALSH: I think it could.
MATTHEWS: E.J., is that your sense, it might be that good a victory for the president?
DIONNE: I think, if nothing happens, it gets there. I think you've got a lot of questions right now.
I think there are a lot of Democrats who suspect he's a lot more conservative than he looks, but can't prove it.
MATTHEWS: So, what can they do about that?
DIONNE: Well, that's right.
So, what you are going to have is lots of document requests and—to try to find out more about who he is. You're going to have some very pointed questions in the hearings. And I think Roberts is walking a very interesting line, that the conventional wisdom is, if a nominee can evade a lot of questions, he can get through. I think, if he looks too evasive, that hurts him. And if he answers too many questions...
DIONNE: And proves himself he's a conservative, that messes him up.
Now, he's a brilliant guy.
DIONNE: By all accounts. Maybe he's one guy who can walk that line between being evasive, but not too evasive.
MATTHEWS: And also charming at the same time.
MATTHEWS: It reminds me of the old thing in the movies where the guy gets picked up by the Nazis or the Japanese and he just keeps repeating name, rank and serial number over and over again, you know?
DIONNE: Right. And I don't think that quite will work with Roberts, because I think, because he doesn't have a big record on there and because there are a lot of Democrats who, in their heart of hearts, think he's more conservative than he looks...
DIONNE: ... they're going to press him.
MATTHEWS: E.J., I've got to move over here to Elsa exclusively now for a minute, with no...
DIONNE: Please. I would, too, if I were you.
MATTHEWS: All due deference. All due deference.
You're the wife of Bob Woodward, one of our favorite guests on this program. And he of course wrote the new book “The Secret Man,” about Deep Throat.
MATTHEWS: What was it like keeping the secret of Deep Throat, because you and Carl Bernstein and I guess Ben Bradlee and, of course, your husband were the only ones who knew that secret?
WALSH: Well, it wouldn't have been very good for my marriage had I blown the secret.
WALSH: So, it wasn't so hard.
MATTHEWS: How long did you know it in years?
WALSH: Probably about 23 years.
MATTHEWS: You knew it for 23 years?
WALSH: Twenty, 23 years.
MATTHEWS: Whoa. How did he tell you? Was this like a—well, how did he tell you? How did he bring it up?
WALSH: Well, we have—we have a different remembrance of it. I remember him telling me one place and he remembers telling me...
MATTHEWS: OK, what was your memory?
WALSH: Well, I won't go into where I remember it.
WALSH: But he remembers telling me in a restaurant. And...
DIONNE: But she won't disclose the restaurant.
WALSH: It was a little Vietnamese restaurant in Georgetown. And we -
I was asking him questions, grilling him about it, and he told me. And it wasn't—you know, as he's always said, it's not a surprise once you know who it is.
MATTHEWS: Because it's the FBI and they knew all this stuff.
MATTHEWS: What did—what struck you about the relationship between him and this sort of avuncular figure, Mark Felt? This older man, further along in his career, became almost his mentor.
WALSH: Well, what was really—Bob actually wrote a draft of the book several years ago, because he wanted to get the story down. And he had me read it. And I read it in a day.
And the thing that struck me at that time was exactly what you are sort of picking up on, which is this—you know, here was this young guy.
He was in the Navy, didn't want to go to law school, which is—which is -
he had been accepted there. His father was a lawyer, was really sort of searching. And Mark Felt became this person who was this father figure.
Bob would call him, sort of pester him. And it was—it was very sort of sweet.
MATTHEWS: Yes. It seems like it.
Let me ask you, why did you encourage Bob to go out that time, five years or so ago, to go out and visit him out in California, in Santa Rosa?
WALSH: Because we talked about—this was something we talked about all the time. I always had lots of questions for him about it.
And Bob had stopped trying to contact him at some point, because Mark Felt had been quite distant to him. And I said, you need—you need—you need to, like—you need to get this story down. You need to—you need to figure out what you are going to do with it.
And he called him up one day, had a short conversation with him, and then flew out to California and was giving a speech, sort of drove by and stopped to see him.
MATTHEWS: Is Bob Woodward a good secret keeper?
WALSH: Well, you would know the answer to that.
MATTHEWS: He's very good.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, E.J., thanks for coming on.
MATTHEWS: Thanks for putting you—having you put aside for a while there, while
we heard this story.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Elsa. Great stuff. We love it.
Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.
Right now, it's time for “COUNTDOWN” with Alison Stewart, in tonight for Keith.
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