updated 8/17/2005 10:16:00 AM ET 2005-08-17T14:16:00

Guest: Vernon Grose, Paul McCarthy, Melanie Morgan, Patrick Murphy, Corinne Magee, Patrick O‘Connor, Ed Rogers

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Big worries after a jetliner crashes in Venezuela.  Are airliners from smaller countries up to U.S. standards?  Plus, a Virginia judge lets suspected drunk drivers back on the road.  And the war in Iraq and the political fight over it here at home.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews up in Boston.  Cindy Sheehan‘s protest continues outside President Bush‘s Texas ranch.  But supporters of the president are making their voices heard as well, and some veterans of the Iraq War are trying to turn their military experience into political power by running for the U.S. Congress.  We‘ll get to both those stories later in the show.  But first, today‘s crash of a West Caribbean jet liner is the third major jetliner accident in just two weeks.  160 people were killed when the plane went down in Venezuela.  On Sunday, a Cypriot Boeing 737 crashed north of Athens killing 121 people and an investigation into that crash is ongoing right now.

Two weeks ago, 302 people survived an Air France Airbus slide as it slid off the runway and into a ravine in Toronto, Canada.  So as million of Americans prepare for end of summer flights, are airliners from other countries up to the same standards as those at home?  Vernon Grose is a former National Transportation Safety Board member and an MSNBC aviation analyst, Paul McCarthy served as the Airline Pilots‘ Association safety representative.

Let me go to Vernon first of all.  Vernon, answer that question.  When you fly on a Cypriot airline or an airline coming out of Colombia or any third world country, do they have to match our safety standards?

VERNON GROSE, FORMER NTSB MEMBER:  They do not.  There are standards set by the International Air Transport association that separate out those of a certain category.  Right now the scheduled airlines, of course, in the free world and around the world for that matter meet a different standard than these start-up airlines.  Actually, Cypriot Airlines started in 1998 and the one that crashed today started up in 1999.  So they are very young airlines, have very few airplanes.

MATTHEWS:  You have to wonder when you visit third world countries, they don‘t paint everything every other year.  The buildings aren‘t up to snuff.  The places aren‘t as clean as ours.  You just wonder, are the airplane kept up to snuff?  Is that a fair shot?  That third world countries are natty and as careful as first world airlines?

GROSE:  I don‘t think it is so much nattiness, but I think what it is.

MATTHEWS:  You know what I mean.  Carefulness.

GROSE:  I think that the standards that they expect out of the airlines are not as high as they are in the international arena.

MATTHEWS:  So when we‘re watching television, some informer famous TV star, whatever, gets on the air and says I have a deal for you.  A cheap way to get from here to Australia and it is going to be on Brand X Air from Nowheresville and it is $5 less a mile, there‘s a reason for that.  Right?

GROSE:  No doubt about it.

MATTHEWS:  It is cheaper because it is not as safe.

GROSE:  That‘s true.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re being very blunt, sir.  I appreciate it.  Paul McCarthy, what do you think about it?  Going in these airliners that aren‘t American airlines, that aren‘t recognizable brand names, pose dangers for the flier?  For the passenger.

PAUL MCCARTHY, MSNBC AVIATION EXPERT:  One of the things .

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the answer?  Yes or no?

MCCARTHY:  It depends on the airline.  It depends on the country.

MATTHEWS:  All things equal, is it safer to fly U.S.?

MCCARTHY:  No.  Not necessarily.

MATTHEWS:  You mean you have just as good a shot flying with a Cypriot airplane or a Colombian airplane or a Zimbabwe airline or whatever?

MCCARTHY:  Or a German airline or a French airline or whatever.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m talking third world.

MCCARTHY:  It depends on the regulatory authority.  And how hard they want to watch after what‘s going on.  I hate to throw some good operators into a basket with some operators who quite frankly are very marginal.  But to make a categorical statement might go a little bit too far.

MATTHEWS:  What about those countries when you visit them, everything is run down.  You walk up and down the streets.  Everything is run down.  Nothing is painted.  The buildings are falling apart.  Nothing is being rebuilt or fixed, painted, cleaned up.  Why would we think their airlines are any better managed than their buildings are, their cities are?  If you go travel around the world, which do you in airplanes, you see exactly what I‘m talking about.

MCCARTHY: You do.  But you can see that in a first world country as well.  It has to do with the people and how much money they‘re willing to spend on maintenance, on training, and on following international standards.  And some first world countries don‘t do a very good job.  And some third world countries .

MATTHEWS:  How can a traveler know when he or she books a flight to go to, say, anywhere in Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, if you‘re going to travel for a long distance over water, for example, where there‘s no plan b, as we learned in this plane recently over the Caribbean, wouldn‘t you want to know which plane is the safest and how do you fine that out?

MCCARTHY:  You have to look at, as Mr. Gross indicated, IATA does audits, the FAA Does audits.  We try to look at airlines that are acceptable.  We try to manage them by adherence to international standard.

MATTHEWS:  How do you know?  When you travel, when you want to get on a plane, Paul, how do you decide which planes are safe?  When you yourself put you or your family on a plane.

MCCARTHY:  I go on a an airplane generally without reservation.  I only worry when I am up against an airline that has been flagged as unable to comply with international standards.

MATTHEWS:  How about Western Caribbean?  Would you get on Western Caribbean?  Now they lost a couple planes recently?  Would you get on that Cypriot airline Helios?  Apparently had some decompression problems with that plane and they flew it anyway?

MCCARTHY:  Well, Helios has been grounded, as I understand.  And Western Caribbean is from Colombia and Colombia until very recently was on the FAA‘s bad list, if you will for inability to confirm to international standards on the part of the regulatory authority.  So in both of those cases, the answer would probably be no.

MATTHEWS:  They‘re not going to get on the dean‘s list after these disasters, are they?

MCCARTHY:  Probably not.  But remember, there are some U.S. carriers in the past that have had equivalent type of problems.

MATTHEWS:  Give me the name.  Tell me worst airliners in terms of safety in the country?

MCCARTHY:  You can‘t say that.

MATTHEWS:  Why not?

MCCARTHY:  Well, we fly what?  4,000, 5000 flights a day?  It‘s been three and a half years since we‘ve had an accident.

MATTHEWS:  Paul, you just said there are some airplanes that don‘t meet standards even that the third world airlines do.  I think we ought to know who we are.  Shouldn‘t we?

MCCARTHY:  No, I didn‘t say that.  I said that just having an accident is not an indication that an airline is or is not safe.  You have to look well beyond the happening of an accident, which is so statistically rare as to be inconsequential.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to Vernon Grose.  Vernon, you know, when you buy a car, if you‘re a smart car buyer, which most people are because it costs $20,000 plus at least to buy a car.  You usually look at “Consumer Reports” and you check out—You kick the tires.  How do you kick the tires of an airplane you are about to get on?

GROSE:  First, it is not a free for all like it sounds like it is right now.  It is not a free for all.  There‘s an International Air Transport Association, IATA, that ranks all airlines.  It is not American only.  There are good—Air France, for example, that went into Toronto is a class one airline.  I think the pilots made a very bad error, I would say that.

MATTHEWS:  By coming in too high?

GROSE:  First, the airport had been classified red alert for two hours and they had 65 lightning strikes before the airplane came in.  And he circled for 20 minutes.  I think he had getthere-itis.  He was going in regardless.  And they were very skilled pilot.  Both the pilots were captains and they had over 50,000 hours between them.  And yet they came in.  They landed too long, too fast.  And ran off the runway.

So that will happen with a class one airline.  But these other two that have just recently happened, Helios and West Caribbean, they are start-up airlines.  Both of them are chartered.  They were not a scheduled airline.

MATTHEWS:  Vernon, is there anyway—everyone is getting nervous watching this show right now.  Who should they check with before they get on an airplane?  Vernon?

GROSE:  Pardon me?

MATTHEWS:  Who should you check with for safety records?

GROSE:  You can easily get onto IATA and they have .

MATTHEWS:  How do you spell that?

GROSE:  I-A-T-A.

MATTHEWS:  On the Website.

GROSE:  On the Website, you can go there and you can find out what airlines are in the class one category.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s all do it.

That‘s all we have time for.  IATA.  I‘m glad you gave that to us.  Paul, thank you for joining us.  Do you want to say anything in response to that?  Is that a good idea?

MCCARTHY:  That‘s a great idea.  The FAA also has don‘t fly lists for a particular country.  That can be got at faa.gov.  Either of them, we‘re doing what you‘re asking.

MATTHEWS:  IATA.org?  And the other one?

MCCARTHY:  FAA.gov.

MATTHEWS:  Do you know anything about getthere-itis?  Is that the pilot‘s fault or is that the owner‘s fault?

GROSE:  That‘s the pilot‘s fault in my opinion.

MATTHEWS:  Paul, whose fault is it when the pilot does something under pressure?

MCCARTHY:  Yeah.  Getthere-itis.  There‘s never any one cause, as Vernon well knows.  So it is pilot‘s fault but it may be something else as well.  That‘s why we do the investigations with good quality investigators.

MATTHEWS:  You both have tough jobs, Paul especially.  Thank you very much.  Thank you for being on this show.  Paul McCarthy and Vernon Grose.

Coming up, Cindy Sheehan, the mother who is camping out outside that Crawford ranch of the president‘s is drawing attention with those who disagree with her.  We‘ll talk to a grad a radio talk show host who is leading what she calls, “You don‘t speak for me, Cindy” campaign.  You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

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MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Last night we talked to have Cindy Sheehan and her sister who are camped out in front of President Bush‘s Texas ranch, demanding the president meet with her.  Cindy‘s son Casey was killed in combat in Iraq.

Well, now radio talk show host Melanie Morgan is leading her own protest against Sheehan, along with her group Move America Forward, she‘s organizing a bus caravan next week from California to Crawford.  It entitled, “You don‘t speak for me, Cindy.”  Melanie Morgan join us now from California.  Melanie, do you expect the president will meet with you?

MELANIE MORGAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Absolutely not.  Nor would I expect him to meet with me.  I do have some criticisms of the war that I would like to share with him but I think he has a little more on his plate than to listen to me or Mrs. Sheehan.

MATTHEWS:  But he‘s on a five-week vacation.  Not to make Cindy‘s case for her but doesn‘t he have an hour to spare between the two of you?

MORGAN:  Come on, Chris.  That‘s not fair.

MATTHEWS:  Serious.  Why isn‘t it fair?

MORGAN:  I‘m serious.  The president of the United States is entitled to some down time.  He has already met with Cindy Sheehan once.  Her stories have changed dramatically from the first time she met with him until she hooked one the moveon.org crowd.  So I don‘t think she needs another meeting with the president of the United States.  1,800 members of military families who have had people who have died in the war, sons and daughters, have not all had a meeting with the president, although he has tried to meet with everyone of them.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re a news analyst as well as an advocate and a commentator.  Do you think that since the time this war began, back in 2002 when, during the run-up of the actual fighting since 2003, do you believe we‘ve gotten the straight story from this administration as to the cause and the reason for the war and the goals and how well we‘re doing?

MORGAN:  Yes, I absolutely do.  I think the president from the very beginning, the run-up to the war articulated why we were there.  Because we were battling a fanatical network of terrorists.  He has me made weapons of mass destruction the only criteria.  That‘s only what the left has redefined and revised the war as.  By the way, we‘re still going to find weapons of mass destruction.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that he made the case that adequately, do you think it was a fair case, a truthful case that the Iraqi people would greet with us celebration?  That they would be happy to have us there?  Is that a full statement of the truth?

MORGAN:  Do you not remember the video?  Does America not remember the video of the statue of Saddam Hussein coming down and the cheering, the flowers?  And when I was in Iraq, three weeks ago, we continued to see children greeting us and waving hello to us.  This is a country that still appreciates the sacrifice that we have made for them.  And I‘m sorry if the left finds that difficult to believe.  But it is the truth.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re saying the president is ultimately going to be proven correct on the issue of WMD as a part of the reason for the war.  He‘s been proven already correct as to the fact that they have received us as a welcoming country.  They want us there.  What about the argument that was made that there was a connection to 9/11?  At least some connection?  Do you think that‘s been made?  That case?  Between Iraq and 9/11 or between Iraq and al Qaeda, I should say?

MORGAN:  Yes.  There‘s a connection there.  The reason we‘re in Iraq is because the planes flying into the World Trade Towers, and al Qaeda was definitely connected to a bunch of terrorists who are operating out of Iraq under the direct of Saddam Hussein and his general at the time, General Kasan (ph) who confirmed to me that 4,000 terrorists who were related to al Qaeda involved in al Qaeda, were working within the Iraqi country.  The country of Iraq.

MATTHEWS:  I think this will be a hard one to make.  We were told at the beginning of the war that it would be financed by Iraqi oil.

MORGAN:  I never .

MATTHEWS:  Check the Google on that.  I heard that a lot by people like, the people in the administration.  Like the vice president said this would be paid for.  A lot of the advocates of the war said the Iraqi oil was so abundant, second only to Saudi oil.  That the war would actually pay for itself because Iraqi oil would finance it ultimately.

MORGAN:  I never remember hearing that.  And besides, the, what the government has said as far as I‘m concerned is that the Iraqi oil belongs to the people of Iraq.  They need that money from the oil to govern their own country.  I think that‘s the most important and most effective use of that oil.

MATTHEWS:  So we should pay for their liberation and they should get the oil.

MORGAN:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  Here‘s part of a letter from Cindy Sheehan.  It was sent to me actually late today. Quote, I want you to respond to this, Melanie, “The accusation that Melanie Morgan has slung in my direction,” this is from Cindy Sheehan, who is out demonstrating at the president‘s ranch, “is an example of the disgraceful way in which some people have treated me as a mother whose son paid the ultimate price in Iraq.  Furthermore, Ms. Morgan‘s accusations are a lie.  I never attended this rally.”  I guess she is talking about this rally with Lynne Stewart who is a lawyer for the Blind Sheikh, “In May 2005 I was a speaker at an anti-recruitment rally meant to protect moms and their sons from the fate of my family and Lynne Stewart was also in attendance.”

Your response?

MORGAN:  Well, I cannot say for sure what she‘s talking about because I haven‘t made that accusation.  What I have said on the air today, most recently, is quoting Cindy Sheehan‘s words.  Let me use some of the quotes.  She was speaking at San Francisco State University.  A rally, according to opinionjournal.com today.  And her quotes include, America has been killing people since we first stopped—stepped on this continent.  This country is not worth dying for.  We‘re waging a nuclear war in Iraq right now.  The country is contaminated.  And then earlier, she was reported as—according to opinionjournal.com written by James Taranto (ph).

She said that “Paul Wolfowitz makes her skin crawl.  He is a murderous liar and George W. Bush is a terrorist.”  Are those the kind of words we should be using when we‘re at war?  Let me tell you my personal experience with Cindy Sheehan.  I met her at a rally.  It was a counter demonstration that we organized.  A pro America rally.  Taking place—oops!  Almost out of time.

MATTHEWS:  You know what the business is.  Thank you very much.  It‘s great to hear from you.  Melanie Morgan is going to be down in Crawford in the caravan.  Up next more people are running for office now, U.S. Congress especially.  In a moment, we‘ll talk to a former paratrooper and Bronze Star winner running for the House in Pennsylvania.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

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MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  This year, several Iraq War veterans are returning from the front lines and running for Congress.  Earlier this month, Democrat Paul Hackett narrowly lost a special congressional election in a heavily Republican district in Ohio.

Patrick Murphy is an Iraq War veteran who served in the 82nd Airborne and earn the Bronze Star.  He is currently running in Pennsylvania‘s eighth district which includes my old stamping grounds in Philadelphia, namely (ph) Bucks County.  Patrick, did you vote for Kerry or Bush for president last time?

PATRICK MURPHY, IRAQ WAR VET RUNNING FOR CONGRESS:  I voted for John Kerry.

MATTHEWS:  Did you think he would be a better commander in chief over there right now leading our men and women in battle?

MURPHY:  Absolutely.  Without a doubt.

MATTHEWS:  Why would Kerry be a better commander in chief than President Bush?

MURPHY:  Because John Kerry would spore the troops.  Under John Kerry‘s watch, we wouldn‘t cut veterans benefits by $155 million which we‘re doing under this president.

MATTHEWS:  If you were in Congress back in 2002, right before that last congressional election before, when they decided to go to war or not, would you have voted authorizing going to war in Iraq?  Not the war on terrorism.  The war in Iraq.

MURPHY:  That‘s a tough question.  It is hard to play Monday morning quarterback.  But I taught constitutional law at West Point and I can tell you, I wouldn‘t have punted my constitutional responsibility.  Congress declares war.  They gave a blank check to this president and that was the wrong thing to do.  That‘s why we have checks and balances.

MATTHEWS:  Patrick, you would have voted nay then?

MURPHY:  I would have made sure .

MATTHEWS:  You have to vote—let me tell you how Congress.  I‘m not going to talk to you like this.  I was going to be sarcastic but I thank you for your service so I‘ll treat you with respect.  You have to vote aye or nay.  Would you have voted aye to go to war or nay not to?

MURPHY:  It‘s a hard call, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  That‘s why you run for congress.  You shouldn‘t run for congress if you don‘t want to make that call.  You have two years.  You can look back and decide whether at this time right way to vote.  Those guys who had vote then had to look ahead.  You‘re looking back.  Was at this time right or wrong vote to authorize going into Iraq?

MURPHY:  Chris, it was a decision that was rushed into and they didn‘t do their job.

MATTHEWS:  Would you have voted aye or nay?

MURPHY:  It is hard to say.

MATTHEWS:  No, it‘s not hard to day.  You have three years of looking back.

MURPHY:  Chris, I‘m not pro war or anti-war.  I am pro troops.  I‘m adamant about that.

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re running for congress and you‘re running on the war issue, but you‘re not saying whether you would have voted for authorizing the war or not.

MURPHY:  Chris, you‘ve got to understand, I served where 19 guys lost their lives.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  That‘s why I thought you would have a strong opinion.

MURPHY:  Well, I don‘t want to dishonor the guys I served with over there.  So I am not going to say that.

MATTHEWS:  I understand that.  Let me ask but Cindy Sheehan.  She was on the program yesterday.  She‘s an extremely articulate spokesperson for her point of view.  Do you share it?

MURPHY:  It‘s a tragic situation, Chris.  That‘s another example where people are polarizing this issue and getting involved and sticking their nose into their family‘s business.  She lost a son in the war.  It‘s hard to say she‘s right or she‘s wrong.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think she‘s right that the president hasn‘t given us a straight answer as to why we‘re fighting?  Is she right on that point?

MURPHY:  Absolutely.  Our administration—this administration—when FDR.  Was present, he gave weekly fire side chats and gave the people of America a briefing on what‘s going on over World War II in Japan and Germany.  The fact is we don‘t get these weekly briefings.  We don‘t get hardly any briefings and people want to know what‘s going on.  Why are men and women, why did we lose seven people this week in Pennsylvania alone?  That‘s tough.  And our president hasn‘t given us that answer.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m going to ask you about the president.  He made four claims at the beginning of the war.  That somehow Iraq was involved with the al Qaeda organization that attacked us on 9/11.  Was that true?

MURPHY:  The CIA said that‘s not true.  Our own government said that‘s not true.

MATTHEWS:  Did Saddam Hussein possess nuclear weapons or a potential to build nuclear weapon?  Or a program to do it?

MURPHY:  Our CIA said that we didn‘t have—that yellowcake was a falsity and that that was also not true.

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe the Iraqi oil will pay for the cost of this war?  From the day we got in to when we leave, that‘s what they said in the beginning.  Iraqi oil would pay for this war.  We taxpayers wouldn‘t to have pay for it.

MURPHY:  I think that‘s the third strike that is not true, Chris, yeah.

MATTHEWS:  The tricky one.  They said that all we had to do was decapitate the leaders over there.  It would be like overturning the communists over in Eastern Europe.  The minute we got rid of the bad guys in the top, the people would be on our side and rushing to our side.  Do you believe the Iraqi people overwhelmingly support the U.S. occupation?

MURPHY:  I think that they supported the beginning and now they‘re saying, this is America.  Why aren‘t we having energy more than three hours an hour?  Why are our kids still getting blown up in the streets by those IEDs?  When you say we, it was this administration.  It wasn‘t military leaders.  General Shinseki testified under oath in Congress and said we need several hundred thousand troops.  We never got those troops.  We never got the body armor, we never got the armored vehicles.  We don‘t have the anti-detonation devices on our vehicles right now.  We have the technology here in America two years later.  Why isn‘t every vehicle there protecting our soldiers truly supporting the troops?

The fact is we‘re not supporting the troops as much as we can.  And when we‘re coming home and not supporting the veterans.  That‘s why they‘re cutting veteran benefits right now.  They need people with the moral courage.  Their leadership that will stand up and say I fought owe there.  I saw with my own eyes.  I walked in my own boots oh there.  I don‘t need a briefing on Capitol Hill to know what‘s going on over there.  I see.  And the fact is, as I did see the truth and I‘m here and running for the truth.  And I‘m running as a proud Democrat.

MATTHEWS:  I couldn‘t be prouder of you, Patrick.  I wish you well on this campaign.  I hope, you give a good fight to Michael Fitzpatrick and you make him defend his seat or you beat him.  Good luck in that race.

Anyway, when we return, a new challenge to drunken driving laws could lead to the dismissal of these DWI cases all around the country.  It is a hot fight and it is happening next right here on HARDBALL.  You‘re watching it only on MSNBC.

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MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Most Americans know in this day and age you don‘t drink and drive.  And if you do, the strong arm of the law will come down hard on you.  Or will it?  A Virginia judge recently dismissed charge on three alleged drunk drivers, ruling that Virginia‘s law is unconstitutional in a decision that some fear could prompt similar challenges nationwide.  Corinne Magee is the attorney who successfully challenged the Virginia law.  And Patrick O‘Connor is the president of the Northern Virginia driver chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. 

Corinne, what was the case you won with? 

CORINNE MAGEE, ATTORNEY CHALLENGED DRUNK DRIVING LAW:  It was a case involving an individual who had a very high blood alcohol level.  And the judge agreed that the prosecution has to prove that he was under the influence, that he doesn‘t have any burden to prove that he was not under the influence. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, was he drunk? 

MAGEE:  I—the dexterity tests.

MATTHEWS:  No, client—was your client drunk?  Was your client drunk? 

MAGEE:  Not according to the testimony of the police officer. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what other tests were administered besides the drunk test?  The—a blood alcohol test? 

MAGEE:  ABCs, walking heel to toe, one-legged stand. 

MATTHEWS:  How did he do on that?  How did he do on the heel to toe? 

MAGEE:  Pretty well, actually, pretty well. 

MATTHEWS:  Was he sober by the standards of the commonwealth? 

MAGEE:  According to the judge, he was.  That was the second part of the issue.  The first part was whether the prosecution could rely on the blood alcohol content.  The second part of the issue was whether the other evidence was sufficient to prove that he was under the influence. 

MATTHEWS:  So the other evidence wasn‘t sufficient according to the judge? 

MAGEE:  According to the judge, it was not. 

MATTHEWS:  Was your—how many drinks did your client have according to his testimony?  Or did you ask him? 

MAGEE:  I don‘t make a point—well, he actually.

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t ask him how much.

MAGEE:  . had two drinks. 

MATTHEWS:  . he drank?

MAGEE:  Well, I knew how much he drank.  He had two large cups of wine. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  He drinks it by the cup? 

MAGEE:  Well, the circumstances is that‘s what he had to pour it into. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.  Let me go to Patrick O‘Connor.  You‘re a member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and you lost a son to a drunken driver. 

PATRICK O‘CONNOR, N.VA. CHAPTER, MOTHERS AGAINST DRUNK DRIVING: 

That‘s right, Chris.  My son was killed three years ago. 

MATTHEWS:  Tell me that circumstance.  What happened? 

O‘CONNOR:  He was out with a friend that night.  He trusted his friend to drive him home.  His friend was going 85 miles an hour down a local Northern Virginia street with a blood alcohol level of about 0.18.  He rolled the car and my son was killed. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you think of what Corinne accomplished here in court by overturning this blood alcohol test? 

O‘CONNOR:  Well, one, I think the judge‘s decision is terrible.  I think it has sent shock waves through Northern Virginia.  We are concerned that it undermines the work of law enforcement in trying to enforce these laws.  And more importantly, we‘re concern and I‘m concerned that it has put drunk drivers back behind the wheel of the car. 

MATTHEWS:  What would you have done if your son‘s killer had not been convicted of a crime?  By the way, what punishment did this kid get for driving drunk and killing your son? 

O‘CONNOR:  Two years in prison. 

MATTHEWS:  Did he get it?  Did he serve it? 

O‘CONNOR:  Yes, yes, he did. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you satisfied that‘s a reasonable punishment for what he did? 

O‘CONNOR:  Yes, I am, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  So you don‘t feel any more additional vengeance in your heart against this kid? 

O‘CONNOR:  No.  I do not. 

MATTHEWS:  Suppose he had been allowed to walk, what would you have felt? 

O‘CONNOR:  I do not know how I would have been able to cope with my emotions at that time.  I don‘t know how my family would have dealt with it. 

MATTHEWS:  It would have been a total injustice. 

O‘CONNOR:  It would have been an injustice to my family and it would have been an injustice to my son. 

MATTHEWS:  Corinne, if you were defending this kid who drove drunk and killed this man‘s son, what would you have done in his defense?  Would you have said the kid should walk because he didn‘t—because the blood alcohol test isn‘t sufficient to prove he was a drunk—or drunk at that time? 

MAGEE:  That may have been my duty in the case.  I have defended several of these kinds of cases.  They‘re always a great tragedy.  Most often they are best friends and the one who is prosecuted would rather put himself in the position of the one who died. 

MATTHEWS:  Why are they such recidivists, these drunken drivers?  Why do they keep going back and doing it again and again? 

MAGEE:  They‘re alcoholics.  And frankly. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, shouldn‘t they have their driver‘s license yanked and.

MAGEE:  . that‘s only a very small percentage.

MATTHEWS:  Shouldn‘t they be really punished so they can‘t do it again? 

MAGEE:  The true recidivists do have their driver‘s license yanked, sometimes that doesn‘t stop them which is why Virginia has made it a felony now for a third offense. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think should be an adequate, fair test.  You stop, a state trooper sees a guy weaving or sees him driving incredibly slow and sees the same—you can usually tell a person is drunk because they‘re driving too slow.  You stop them.  What do you think they do to decide whether they should arrest him? 

MAGEE:  Well, what they‘re doing now.

MATTHEWS:  No.  What should they do? 

(CROSSTALK)

MAGEE:  . appropriate.

MATTHEWS:  No.  What should they—OK, I‘m sorry.  Go ahead.  What should they do? 

MAGEE:  What they‘re doing now is absolutely appropriate.  The only disagreement I have with the current Virginia laws is that they put a burden on the defendant that the defendant shouldn‘t have. 

MATTHEWS:  Which is? 

MAGEE:  Having to prove that they‘re not drunk.  And proving the negative is always extremely difficult. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why is it any more unfair or unconstitutional to tell a guy to walk a straight line or to touch his nose by bringing his arms together like this or something like that, which is a mechanical test.  How is that any different than to tell the guy, breathe into this bag? 

MAGEE:  There‘s nothing different about that.  What is wrong about it.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what test would you use? 

MAGEE:  What is wrong about it is, it says, if you have a certain level of alcohol, you‘re presumed to be intoxicated unless you prove you weren‘t.  That‘s the part that‘s wrong. 

MATTHEWS:  But that‘s an objective test.  What other objective tests could we employ that could not be fought by a clever lawyer? 

MAGEE:  Every time Mothers Against Drunk Drivers get together with the General Assembly, they write new provisions into the law and the clever attorneys are always finding little holes in them. 

O‘CONNOR:  Let me go to Patrick.  Mr. O‘Connor, what do you think should be the test?  When you say a blood alcohol level of 0.08, we‘ve been trying to check it today.  That means like three beers in an hour, while it seems to me that could mean different things to different people.  A big hefty guy, three beers, he has been drinking a good part of his life, probably wouldn‘t have much effect on him.  A kid, 18, guzzles three beers in an hour, it could have a lot of effect on him.  How to we set an objective standard and say, for everybody? 

O‘CONNOR:  Well, Chris, I think we do have an objective standard, the 0.08 per se law is a law in all 50 states, it is supported by medical evidence, scientific evidence.  It is supported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the American Medical Association, Centers for Disease Control.  It is a fair standard.  It‘s a fair standard.

MATTHEWS:  What do you have to do if you go to a party or a cocktail party after work or somebody‘s house party—and you‘re the driver, what do you have to do to avoid flunking that test, have no more than one drink an hour?  What do you believe is the actual behavior you‘re supposed to follow, basically being illegal? 

O‘CONNOR:  Chris, my understanding is that in my case, if I were to

drink four beers in the course of two hours with nothing in my stomach, at

the end of those two hours, I might be at a 0.08.  The per se 0.08 does not, is not unfair to a social drinker.  It is not true that an individual who has two drinks in the course of an hour would blow 0.08. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask Corinne, do you have any view?  Do you want out, or are you going to stay out of that one?  What is drunk and what is not drunk? 

MAGEE:  I think the definition of intoxication in Virginia that is always been applied in terms of their affect, their mannerisms and so forth, is a proper standard. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, let me tell what you I think.  Virginia gives driver‘s licenses right now to illegal aliens in this country.  And if you have your way, they‘ll be able to drive drunk and be illegal.  That‘s a hell of a comment about the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Anyway, thank Corinne Magee; and thank you, Patrick O‘Connor for joining us on HARDBALL. 

Coming up, the deadline has passed for Israeli settlers to get out of the Gaza Strip.  We‘ll get the latest on that one. 

Plus, polls show Americans increasingly disapprove of President Bush‘s handling of the war in Iraq.  Political strategist Bob Shrum and Ed Rogers will be here to duke that one out. 

This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Iraqis keep working on their constitution after missing yesterday‘s deadline.  How does this reflect on the president and the war effort over there?  And the Gaza pullout, is it really the first step toward peace in the Middle East?  I‘m joined by the Democratic strategist and HARDBALL political analyst Bob Shrum; and Republican strategist Ed Rogers. 

Let‘s go right to real quickly through these.  We‘re no experts here, I don‘t think, on the Middle East, we‘re political people here joining us now.  Bob, the Gaza pullout, necessary reality of a peace deal? 

BOB SHRUM, HARDBALL POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes.  Look.  I was in Israel in 1999, when the Labor Party won the election.  I was there in 2001 when Sharon beat the Labor Party in the election.  This is an almost unimaginable moment from that perspective.  This is Nixon going to China, Clinton reforming welfare.  It is as if George W. Bush told the religious right to stop attacking the truth of evolution and the rights of gay people. 

Ariel Sharon is a hard-liner.  He hasn‘t gone soft.  He has just decided that had the facts on the ground require that Israel leave Gaza. 

MATTHEWS:  Is he in danger, personally? 

SHRUM:  Well, I.

MATTHEWS:  He has got to be, he has got to be. 

SHRUM:  Yes.  I think that‘s possible.  But I also think that he and Ehud Barak, his predecessor, have both demonstrated something that is very rare in politics, they‘ve put their political career on the line because they think that there are objective facts that require that Israel move in a different direction. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask Ed Rogers to take some credit for president here.  I read today in one of the column that the reason that Sharon is doing something he never would have done otherwise is because he trusts President Bush. 

ED ROGERS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Yes.  I think that‘s a big piece of it.  But, hey, in Gaza, in the relationship with Israel and Palestine, more of the same for both sides was undesirable.  So for Sharon to break out and to do something as bold and dramatic and as courageous as this, and yes, he had the president‘s backing.  He had the president‘s reassurance that he‘ll be there for them.  But good for Sharon.  He‘s doing the right thing. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s come home here to America.  Patrick Murphy, we just saw him on the show here.  A young guy.  He looks barely old enough to run for Congress.  He is in his late 20s, I guess.  A bronze medal winner, paratrooper, Airborne, 82nd, the whole routine, lost 19 of his guys over there, his colleagues, his mates over there in Iraq.  He has got the khaki election, it seems to me. 

Bob, Bob Shrum, is he the guy the Democrats ought to be looking for to run for office this coming year? 

SHRUM:  Well, he looked to me like a very good candidate.  Look, he reminds us, and so did Paul Hackett, that when we talk about this and the political impact of it, we‘re talking about American kids who are putting their lives on the line every day and who in too many cases are losing their lives.  And the answer to failure is not more of the same. 

If we don‘t straighten things out on the ground, if we don‘t establish security in that country, if you can‘t drive from the Baghdad airport into central Baghdad, then we‘re not going to succeed in Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Ed Rogers.  And I don‘t want to be partisan here because a lot of good men, certainly Winston Churchill, Jack Kennedy, all kinds of people started their careers coming back from a war basically in uniform.  Is this is a good thing for our democracy, to have guys back from the front going after and facing the voters? 

ROGERS:  Sure.  On its face, hey, the more the Democrats—the more that the candidates like that young guy you had on before, the more they can get, the better it is for them.  Part of the reason is because it looks so unlike what the Democrats have been offering.  But yes, somebody that has been credentialed by serving in the military, by serving in the war in Iraq, more of that is a good thing on both parties.  True.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think—let me ask you this.  Is this election, Bob, going to like—remember that election of 1966?   Even more so than 1968, it was really a referendum on the war in Vietnam.  Are we going to face an election coming up this year, already in the spring with these people being picked right now, by the way, right now is when they decide to run, this fall.  Are we going to see an election which is basically going to be a referendum on the conduct of the war? 

SHRUM:  I think if we don‘t make progress, if we keep setting these artificial benchmarks and we don‘t meet them, and even when we do meet them, they don‘t matter, that the war will be a very big issue.  You know, I‘ll tell you one thing, though, I suspect that there‘s someone over at the RNC right now doing some research to see if they can smear Patrick Murphy‘s Bronze Star record, because it‘s what they did to John Kerry and it is what they‘re going to try to do to all these guys. 

MATTHEWS:  Well.

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM:  I don‘t know why you‘re laughing at it, it‘s clearly the truth (ph)... 

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  I‘m laughing because John Kerry set himself up in such a clumsy way.  Surely, no one would repeat that disaster. 

SHRUM:  Oh, you mean—now wait a minute.  Wait a minute.  I think George Bush set himself up in a clumsy way. 

ROGERS:  Well, it turns out that Kerry.

SHRUM:  He got influence to get into a National Guard unit. 

ROGERS:  . lost the election in.

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM:  He didn‘t show up.  He may have won but he didn‘t show up for his National Guard.

ROGERS:  Hey, you had a year to make that argument and it didn‘t work.

SHRUM:  But wait a minute.  Wait a minute.

ROGERS:  Bob, Bush won, Kerry lost. 

SHRUM:  You want to say winning is the only thing that matters.  Well, let me tell you, it is important to win, because.

ROGERS:  What I want to say is.

SHRUM:  . when you lose, you‘re in a mess.

ROGERS:  . it‘s illustrative of who had the most.

SHRUM:  . of a war like we are in Iraq right now. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  .in the general election.

MATTHEWS:  Last word to Ed Rogers before we go to break. 

ROGERS:  Well, like I said, it is certainly illustrative of who had the most compelling argument during the campaign was who is winner is.  Yes, and Bush won the election.  And you all ought to get over it and move on. 

SHRUM:  I think you ought to remember the role.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  . Bob Shrum and Ed Rogers.  We‘re not getting over it because we‘re coming back.  You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.  Fighting here with HARDBALL political analyst Bob Shrum and Republican strategist Ed Rogers.  Let me try to suggest to you guys a middle case on how this war is running in America.  A lot of these polls say, do you like the way things are going and most people say no, who would?  But here‘s a poll that was asked by the Council of Foreign Relations.  Would you give the president A, B, C, a D or an F for his handling of the war?  Most people don‘t give him an A, only 13 percent, or an F, only 16 percent.  Most people give the president somewhere above a C and below a B.  It‘s about, you know, 26 percent say B, 24 percent say C, 17 say D. 

It seems like the American people, Bob Shrum, are reasonably unhappy with this war but they‘re not ready to just pull the plug nor do they think it‘s a disaster.  What do you think they think it is? 

SHRUM:  I think there‘s increasing disillusionment of the war.  I think when you see number in the range of 40 percent approving of what the president is doing, 60 percent disapproving, you might average those out to some kind of C, although not in the school I went to.  But I think people are very worried about this and they want the president to give them some sense of where we‘re headed. 

You know, stealing one election and barely winning another doesn‘t justify all these kids getting killed and one of the biggest foreign policy disasters in American history. 

MATTHEWS:  How come Democrats say that Sandra Day O‘Connor is one of the greatest justices of all time and also accused her of stealing a presidential election.  Would you explain that, Bob Shrum? 

SHRUM:  Well, I‘ve never said she was one of the greatest justices of all time. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, a lot of Dems are out there saying...

SHRUM:  I think she is a moderate justice who on a number of.

MATTHEWS:  Who stole an election. 

SHRUM:  . issues like Roe v. Wade, has decided that settled law should stay settled law.  And we all know that.

MATTHEWS:  But also stole a presidential election.

SHRUM:  But, look, I think the Supreme Court shouldn‘t have decided the 2000 election.  The voter should have. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s different than saying it was stolen.  Let me go to Ed Rogers.  Ed, what do you think.

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM:  Yes, well, I think it was stolen. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  The president‘s view—the people‘s view, everybody is saying the public thinks, the public thinks.  Do you think it is a fair estimate, somewhere between a B and a C?  I mean, the war is going—it is a difficult, brutal war that nobody likes. 

ROGERS:  Hey, based on the news of the last six weeks and the images, the pictures, the reality coming out of Iraq, based on the protests going on down in Texas, yes, I can‘t argue with that grade.  Hey, I wish it was a little higher.  I mean, I wish we were having better results out of Iraq.  But right now, the images people are getting of the war are not good.  And nobody is for—as I said before, nobody is for more of the same. 

And so the fact that the president does have a reservoir of good will, a reservoir of people willing to stick with him, hey, I think that‘s a good thing moving into September, moving into the fall, where everybody is on notice: from a political point of view, we‘ve got to manage expectations better.  We‘ve got to tell the truth better.  We‘ve got to talk more about the realities of what to expect better. 

And so, yes.  I feel OK about those numbers. 

MATTHEWS:  If the casualty rates are the same as they are right now, guys getting killed every day, a few, three, five, six every couple days, and we‘re having the IEDs going off up there, all the hell going on with the politics over there, a year from now, will the Republicans take a beating in the congressional elections?  Ed Rogers. 

ROGERS:  Well, more bad news for the next 15 months between now and the elections will not be good for Republican at the elections.  I‘ll acknowledge that.  Having said that, I don‘t expect that.  And could this war produce a downdraft in the elections 15 months from now?  Nobody knows.  But the answer historically is probably not. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you like to be a Republican candidate who says, I‘m proud of the role the president has played in the world?  I like his foreign policy.  I like his decision to go to Iraq.  I like the goals he set over there.  Could you say that running for office? 

ROGERS:  I‘ll bet that will be a safe position 15 months from now. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Bob Shrum.

ROGERS:  Right now, yes, it‘s tough.  It‘s a tough time.  And that‘s why the president has got to get out there.  He has got to raise his profile.  He has got to speak with more clarity.  And I think you‘re going to see that as well. 

SHRUM:  I think the president does have to speak with a lot more clarity.  Look, from—the Iraqis right now are not able to finish writing this constitution.  We‘ve set that up as a benchmark.  We haven‘t met it.  Maybe they‘ll meet it.  But that‘s not the measure of success. “Constitution Accomplished” isn‘t going to get us any further than “Mission Accomplished” did if people are dying every day, if Iraq is still a terrorist battleground, and if the president hasn‘t given us a sense of two things, one, what he is going to do, what the plan is, how things are going to be different, and two, how long is this going to go on? 

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t the Democrats give us the same clarity you‘re demanding of the president?  Are they for or against this war in Iraq, Bob Shrum? 

ROGERS:  Boy, that‘s a good point.

MATTHEWS:  I‘ve never been clear on this.  I‘ve never been clear on this.

SHRUM:  I think a lot of Democrats are increasingly against this war.  I‘m against this war.  I think we ought to try.

ROGERS:  As it gets worse.

SHRUM:  I think we ought to try—I think we are in a very difficult situation because we‘ve created a terrorist haven that wasn‘t there before in Iraq.  So I think people are trying to figure out, is there a way to get out over time that leaves that place at least better than it is today? 

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM:  We can‘t do that if we hold.

ROGERS:  Let me take issue with one thing you said.  We haven‘t created a terrorist haven.  That‘s unfair.  We have created a terrorist battleground where we have to win, period. 

SHRUM:  I think the president‘s own CIA, Ed, said that Iraq has now become the number one terrorist training ground in the world.  Terrorists were not being trained there before.

ROGERS:  Training ground or battleground, there‘s a big difference. 

MATTHEWS:  Final word, Ed Rogers.  Thank you, Ed Rogers.  Thank you, Bob Shrum. 

ROGERS:  Thanks.

MATTHEWS:  Join us again tomorrow night at 7 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now it‘s time for “COUNTDOWN” with Keith and much more on that plane crash in Venezuela and the one in Greece—Keith.

END

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