updated 10/9/2005 9:12:40 PM ET 2005-10-10T01:12:40

Guests: Jonathan Weisman, Terry Jeffrey, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Alan Alda, Jane Harman

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight, more arrests in New York City subway threat and Karl Rove is heading back to the grand jury.  Will big shots be indicted? 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.     

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.

New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg defends his decision to warn of terror threats against the city‘s subways. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG ®, MAYOR OF NEW YORK:  It is very different being an analyst in Washington looking at data, as opposed to being here in New York, where you have to take responsibility to protect people‘s lives.

We believe that there is some credibility to this.  And if I‘m going to make a mistake, you can rest assured it‘s going to be on the side of being cautious. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  But officials down here in Washington say they remain skeptical about the credibility of that source behind the terror threats, who‘s warned of terror threats before which never occurred.

In a moment, we will ask Congresswoman Jane Harman of California, a member of both the Homeland Security Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence, if this threat justifies the high alert in New York. 

We begin now in New York, where it has been a tense day. 

NBC‘s Michelle Kosinski joins us—Michelle.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  It has been a tense day here. 

People were telling us they were worried about getting on the subways this morning.  But I can tell you right now, it is rush hour right now and the subway system is packed.  We took a ride on it ourselves about a half-hour ago.  And it was as crowded as ever.  In fact, the Transit Authority tells us that ridership does not seem to have changed at all. 

But this is on people‘s minds and in their conversations.  A lot of it has to do with the mixed feelings.  On the one hand, we have sources telling us that the person who provided this information to authorities also gave them information that led to a raid in Iraq this week, some arrests of terror suspects.

And then you have Homeland Security saying they don‘t think that this is necessarily a credible threat.  The mayor and the FBI since yesterday have insisted that the threat is credible.  It‘s specific and detailed like nothing else ever has been against the subway system here.  And that caused enough alarm.  They said it involved several people overseas, threats involving explosives possibly carried in the next few days in things like backpacks, similar to what we saw just a few months ago in London. 

So, all of those instances together made the city and the FBI nervous enough to alert the public.  And people, while people they‘re feel some jitters, they were telling us they felt a whole lot better about it once they got on the subway. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I feel like the security in New York City is probably top in the country.  And I feel like the city of New York has everything under control, with all the different measures and all the different measures that they‘re taking to increase safety due to threats.  I feel like we‘re safe.  I was a little shaken up at first, but I had to keep going.  I can‘t let it stop my day. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSINSKI:  A few riders did tell us that, this morning, they were jittery enough, with relatives calling them, worried about them, that they took a cab. 

But then, throughout the day, as they saw it on the news, they read a little bit more about the nature of the threat, ambiguous though it might be, they also heard from friends saying that they had taken the subway system and it seemed extremely secure, that, by later in the day, they said they, too, were riding the subway as usual and they felt good about it. 

That extended police presence, the bag searches, the search dogs that they see down there are making them feel that the city and the police department is taking this seriously and providing another layer of protection underground—back to you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Michelle Kosinski, in New York City.

Let‘s go now to the Pentagon for the latest on the source behind this threat. 

NBC‘s Jim Miklaszewski joins us now.

Mik, it sounds like there is a distinction between the people down here in Washington and the people in the mayor‘s office in New York about how serious this threat really is. 

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Chris, nobody is arguing that—against the steps that the New York City officials took in the name of prudence and just good judgment on their part, that, even if there was the slightest possibility, they had to do this. 

But this is a very good example of why this world of intelligence and the kind of information they get is often very imprecise.  This informant sat down with U.S. military and other officials in Baghdad last weekend and started spewing forth information.  They gave him lie-detector tests, which indicated that he passed part of those tests and some of his information was credible. 

That information was where this informant fingered at least three potential bomb suspects, bomb makers, just south of Baghdad.  Raids were conducted on Wednesday night using U.S. special forces, Iraqi special forces.  And the CIA even contributed to that.  And, in those raids, they rounded up about a dozen people and, in fact, found three al Qaeda suspected bombmakers in that group. 

Now, here is where it may get a little bit sticky for the U.S.  intelligence agencies and, in fact, in their relationship with a place like New York.  The U.S. government actually asked New York to hold off on issuing any warnings about a potential bomb plot against the New York City subways until they could conduct those raids and grab these three suspects.

And the reason being that nobody felt the information about the bomb plots against the subway were credible enough to issue a warning early—so early that it could have thwarted any efforts to grab those suspects, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon.

Let‘s go right now to my colleague Joe Scarborough, the host of

“SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”

Joe, thanks for joining us this early tonight.  You have got a long night ahead of you.  But I got to start you off right now.

Terror in New York, but terror of a high alert in Washington of a political kind.  The grand jury, the CIA leak investigation, this incredible Patrick Fitzgerald, the investigator, the chief prosecutor, calling Karl Rove back before the grand jury, apparently calling Judy Miller of “The New York Times” back before the grand jury.  What is going to happen?

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”:  I‘ll tell you what.  It gets no worse than this for the White House. 

I don‘t know what‘s going to happen as far as indictments go.  I‘m sure you‘ve heard around Washington, like I have, that indictments are probably going to be coming down, possibly Rove, possibly Scooter Libby and one or two other people, the White House right now, though, obviously extremely concerned.

You know, Chris, Karl Rove has been the president‘s go-to guy since he first got into politics, helped him all the way back in 1994 in the Texas gubernatorial campaign.  And anybody who has tried to get business done at the White House knows, you get business done at the White House not necessarily going to a chief of staff, like you may have in the Clinton administration or the first Bush administration or the Reagan administration.  You go to Karl Rove.  All roads lead to Rove. 

And this is just terrible news at a terrible time for a president who is facing a lot of problems.  Chris, I think the biggest problem right now in what I‘m hearing from conservatives and Republicans on the Hill and across America really has more to do with the Supreme Court nomination, instead of the Karl Rove mess. 

They are just absolutely outraged at this selection.  And he risks losing a good chunk of his base if he doesn‘t clean it up.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I used to think or I began to think over the years, Joe—and you too, probably—that these columnists don‘t matter.  You know, they write columns.  They‘re very well-educated people, like George Will and Charles Krauthammer and people like that.

And, in this fight, I got a sense, it matters, when you have George Will, probably the most distinguished of the conservative columnists, coming out and blasting this, Charles Krauthammer, a younger version, but just as smart.  You have got these people, Bill Kristol of “The Weekly Standard,” all the intellectual crowd on the right, the sophisticated right, nailing this nomination. 

Is some of this just elitism? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know...

MATTHEWS:  I mean, Ivy Leaguers just saying, we don‘t want somebody from below our cut? 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  I—I have got to admit, as a Southern state school guy, that‘s what I first suspected.  And then I got my head knocked off. 

I know Ed Gillespie went behind closed door, used the elitist line and had conservatives jump on him.  No, I really don‘t think it‘s that, so much as it is conservatives have seen the Supreme Court really as the crown jewel in their effort.  They want to change the Supreme Court.  They believe all things bad that have happened in American society, whether it has to do with abortion or whether it has to do with prayer in school or whether it has to do with the federalization of just about everything in American life, starts and ends at the United States Supreme Court.

And they‘re just very angry right now that the president of the United States has reduced himself, really lowered himself, to what they consider to be cronyism.  And I think, Chris, that really is the biggest problem. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Joe, is the problem here that she might be too light for the job or not too right enough for it? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I think—you know, actually—and this is the interesting thing, Chris.  Nobody doubts that she‘s not going to vote the way they want her to vote. 

Nobody is saying that she‘s going to be a moderate or a liberal.  Some people are talking about Souter.  But, again, conservatives want somebody of William Rehnquist stature.  They want somebody like Scalia, like who not only shows up and votes, but is a voice inside the proceedings, can dominate the court, can dominate the debate, can shape the way that the court is going in the future. 

And most people think that she is just too light for the job.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And most of the conservatives that I have spoken with on the Senate and the House side, who are very angry, most of them say, hey, listen, she may vote our way, but we are not just concerned with the outcome.

And they will always say, that is what liberals are concerned—with the way the outcome is.  We want to go with the rule of law.  We want to go step by step by step.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And have somebody smart enough to dismantle Roe, have somebody smart enough to dismantle, again, a lot of these other cases over the past 30 years that have really torn apart the 10th Amendment.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Has the right raised the bar, because Clarence Thomas has voted almost like a synchronized swimmer with Antonin Scalia?  And nobody has complained about that.  If you look at that box, those boxes that “The New York Times” and other papers put together showing the voting patterns, he‘s over there, always—always over there safely to the right in that box before with Rehnquist and now with just Scalia.

What is wrong with her joining that three, threesome, and being a predictable, perhaps with Roberts joining them, a predictable right-wing bloc of votes on the courts?  What is wrong with that.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, I think the conservative movement has changed. 

You brought up Krauthammer.  You brought up Bill Kristol.  You brought up George Will.  You know, there was a time when George Will was really the only well-read conservative columnist in America.  And, right now, you have people like Chris Dolan (ph), people like Krauthammer, who are demanding more. 

I did think it was very interesting that—that this President Bush made the same mistake that the first President Bush made in 1991, when he appointed Clarence Thomas and said, hey, this is the most qualified person in America.  This is the best we can do.  And I think that enraged conservatives also. 

They don‘t think she‘s up for the job.  And, quite frankly, they‘re insulted that the White House is sending people to the Capitol Hill, saying, hey, she‘s a Christian, just like you.  She‘s an evangelical.  She went through this midlife crises and filled it with Jesus, so you have got to support her.  They‘re not buying it.

You know, the Republican Party is not only the party of James Dobson.  It‘s the party of Ayn Rand.  There are some hard-core conservatives who don‘t necessarily share the same views as the evangelical right. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And they‘re just simply not swayed by the president‘s assurance that we should all just trust him.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re talking to an Ayn Rand fan, surprisingly.  I love her.  I love “Fountainhead.”

But let me ask you, is Pat Buchanan right?  And he said it so caustically, as he often does on issues.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  He said, when the president was looking for somebody to replace Sandra Day O‘Connor, he went down the hall looking for a woman. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  That is what he said.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I think—is it that bad?  He just wanted to meet a quota in the worst kind of quota politics, the worst kind of affirmative action, simply finding a body that meets a category?  Is that what‘s going on here? 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, therein lies one of the great ironies of the Republican Party.  I remember, you go to every Republican Convention.  I remember, in ‘96, I was in San Diego.  I think it was the third day before a white male was allowed to speak on the stage.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Republicans always blast affirmative action, but they‘re always holding up women and African-Americans and Hispanics, saying, look at us.  Look how inclusive we are.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I think that‘s part of it.

But, Chris, at the end of the day, I think the president was too clever by half.  He knew Harriet Miers, knew she was a conservative, knew she would vote the way he wanted her to vote.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And when Harry Reid put her name on the list, it was too much for him to pass up and said, OK, you want her, you got her.  And he thought he was going to get away with it.

And you know what?  In the end, he will.  She‘s going to probably pass.  But, at the same time, he‘s caused a lot more scar tissue from conservatives at a time, especially with the Karl Rove possibility of indictment and Tom DeLay indictment and Iraq and Katrina and all these other things blowing up all around  him—this is the time he needs his base, like Reagan needed his base in ‘87 and ‘88 during Iran Contra.  This isn‘t going to help the president at all.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a great feel.  Thanks a lot, Joe Scarborough.

Tonight, we will all be watching Joe, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”

We are getting right now that a suspicious package, a bag on the tracks, has been found at the 50th Street and Broadway subway station in New York City.  That‘s in Manhattan.

Some subway service has been suspended and police are checking that package, too.  Beware.  I think there are lot of people messing around with this story, so some of these may be just people causing trouble and making people more scared than they should be already.

When we return, the terror threat in New York.  What‘s behind the disconnect between—which we are talking about—between the feds down here and the locals up there?  And why are they not scared here, but they‘re scared up there and worrying more out loud?  The credibility of the threat is the big question.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, should the public be informed of a terror threat, even if the government thinks the source lacks credibility? 

When HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

New York City police stepped up their presence throughout the city‘s subway system today after that threat came in from Iraq.  Mayor Bloomberg says it was specific enough in terms of time and location to warrant heightened security measures. 

But the Department of Homeland Security calls the threat right now noncredible. 

Richard Holbrooke served as ambassador to the U.N. during the Clinton administration.  And U.S. Congresswoman Jane Harman of California is the ranking member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as a member of the Homeland Security Committee.  Together, they formed, by the way, Mr.  Holbrooke and Congresswoman Harman, formed a new political action committee recently, this week, in fact, called Secure U.S., which is designed to strength the Democratic Party‘s voice on national security issues. 

I want to get to that in a minute.

But, first, Mr. Ambassador, you‘re up there.  What is the feeling in New York about this threat? 

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS:  New Yorkers are used to challenges.  It is a completely common, ordinary situation. 

Your own footage shows that.  I talked to Mike Bloomberg, who, by the way, sent his regards to you, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 

HOLBROOKE:  ... just before I came on the show.

And he did the only thing he could do.  I have been in that position as an ambassador.  You get a threat, you take action.  I think the Department of Homeland Security, which has covered itself with ignominy from the day it was established, under both Ridge and Chertoff, is wrong to criticize Bloomberg, who was protecting people in the streets of New York. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you, Congresswoman, I‘m not sure they‘re criticizing, as much as they‘re taking a different position, which is, I have talked to people who have talked to them.  On the inside, they believe that this—this source has been wrong three times before.  He‘s warned before and nothing has happened.  They‘re not going to believe him until something shows more evidence than he has. 

REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA:  Well, a lot of this is classified, Chris.  But I think the threat is credible and I support what Mayor Bloomberg did.  He has responsibility for his city.  As he put it, he‘s not some analyst sitting in Washington.  He‘s—he‘s on the job protecting millions of people. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You‘re a U.S. congresswoman.  I‘m going to ask you a question.  If you‘re riding a subway of New York right now.  It‘s 5:19, East Coast time, middle of rush hour.  Would you ride it any differently knowing there was this threat out there than you would if there wasn‘t? 

HARMAN:  I...

MATTHEWS:  What are you supposed to do?

HARMAN:  I‘d think twice about riding the subway.  And, if I had to ride it, I‘d ride it. 

A lot of people depend on subways for transportation.  In fact, I have crossed swords with Bloomberg in the past for saying subways are soft targets, which they are.  But, nonetheless,, people are now warned.  They won‘t bring big packages.  They will be more aware.  And they see the increased security.  They would ask questions anyway. 

I think it‘s a good call.  I hope it amounts to nothing.  But they had times and places and millions of people to protect.  And our cities have to act that way in this very dangerous era. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

We just noted, by the way.  We get these words.   We are giving it to you as we are hearing it.  The NYPD said this evening that that—a package that was left on the track earlier tonight was a book bag. 

So, there‘s going to be a lot of people, I think, playing awful games, which they tend to do. 

(CROSSTALK)

HARMAN:  Well, the Washington Monument was evacuated earlier today. 

And so was the office building in which my office is. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, these warnings bring out the sickos, to be honest about it, that like to play games and scare people.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Mr. Ambassador, you have got a lot of experience in this field on the international level. 

This warning came from Iraq.  It did not come from some vague place in the world.  I know it may be classified somewhere, but I got it.  It‘s coming from Iraq, somebody who was picked up—a couple people.  It‘s up to three people arrested now over there, according to the AP.  Somebody is squealing, talking about a group of people coming over here, perhaps looking like pharmacists, meeting some people over here when they get over here, just like they did on 9/11, getting together into a cabal and then dropping these satchels of dynamite or whatever, black powder, whatever they‘re using as explosives, plastiques, in the city, in the city‘s subways. 

HOLBROOKE:  I‘m sorry.  Was that a question, Chris? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, it was a long question. 

(CROSSTALK)

HOLBROOKE:  You‘re just—that‘s such a nice movie script. 

I don‘t see anything we can add to this.  We‘re hyping the very story you just said a second ago.  We ought to not hype.  Mayor Bloomberg has done the right thing.  Homeland Security should not have taken the shot at him.  And it was a shot.  And I think we ought to move on. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But what was the danger in my—what is the danger in my lying out what we know about this threat? 

HOLBROOKE:  Because we don‘t know anything.  We—we don‘t know.  We still don‘t even know what happened on 9/11 adequately. 

(CROSSTALK)

HOLBROOKE:  We certainly don‘t know about this.  This is over—this is overkill. 

The New York police, who are just terrific, Ray Kelly, Mike Bloomberg, are doing the right thing.  Let‘s just let the New York City people go about their business.  They‘re very calm up here in New York.  It sounds to me like it‘s Washington, D.C. that is hyperventilating. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s not hyperventilating when you get these hard reports that there‘s a particular, specific threat. 

HARMAN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And the reason why Mike Bloomberg did what he did, as he said, is because of the specificity. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  The particular details, which I have tried to lay out here. 

HOLBROOKE:  I agree with you, Chris.  But he‘s doing what he can and we know nothing more than you just said.

And he is doing the right thing.  And Congresswoman Harman and I, who formed a PAC yesterday, to deal with this kind of thing better than the administration are both saying, Bloomberg is right. The Homeland Security Department in Washington is wrong to take this shot at him. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

HARMAN:  But I think we have good intelligence, not all the time, but sometimes, in Iraq.  And I think this threat was credible. 

What worries me even more than this is that these suicide bombers could be next door.  We could have the London plot unfold in any subway in America, where homegrown Americans are radicalized.  And they—they don‘t come from or are trained by people in Iraq.  And they have these dangerous explosives, which they learn how to make on the Internet.  And they walk on a subway someplace that—with a police force less good than the NYPD.  And they cause harm to America.  That‘s a realistic threat.

MATTHEWS:  More with Richard Holbrooke and Congresswoman Jane Harman in a moment.

HARDBALL decided to get together, by the way, with “The Washington Post” to investigate where exactly the money is being spent in the wake of Katrina on those relief efforts.  We are going to talk about that when we come back.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with California Congresswoman Jane Harman and Richard Holbrooke. 

Let me ask you about the PAC you two have formed, Secure U.S.  What is the goal?

HARMAN:  The goal is to train Democratic challengers and incumbents to think about and talk about security issues. 

I absolutely believe we lost the 2004 presidential election on the security issue, security writ big, not just Iraq, but energy security, Homeland Security.  Democrats have a legacy here.  Our—our—our best war presidents, Wilson and Roosevelt and Truman, were also able to construct an international order...

(CROSSTALK)

HARMAN:  ... build a safety net for Americans.  They could do the whole job.  It‘s not just about military power. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  What is the difference between Democrats and Republicans on security, as you see it? 

HARMAN:  I think the difference is, we have a bigger toolkit.  We know it‘s just not military force. 

Look where military force has gotten us in Iraq.  One of the ironies is, now we have a political strategy to—to get our way out of this.

And I want to thank Dick Holbrooke, who is one of advisory committee members to PAC.  Former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry is on this.  Former Senator Bob Graham, Former Senator Gary Hart, Graham Allison of Harvard, and others are the advisers to this PAC. 

We‘re going to figure out the best messages for Democrats. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

HARMAN:  I have a clue what they are.  This is what I do 24/7.  And train candidates to be credible and connect with voters on these issues. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, how—how partisan is this, Dick?  Is this to make a lot of these formers futures? 

HOLBROOKE:  The Democratic Party is the party that has created...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLBROOKE:  ... the modern American national security system, from Woodrow Wilson right straight through. 

The Republicans have now adopted a lot of old Democratic rhetoric about values, democracy, freedom, human rights, while continuing to argue for a large defense budget.  That is where the Democrats always were.  The Republicans were more isolationists, or, in the Nixon-Kissinger period, realpolitik people.

Now, Chris, some Democrats are veering into positions which the—which the Republicans demonize and mischaracterize.  What Jane Harman is leading is a terribly important effort to remind the American voters that Democrats stand for a strong national security policy, including both values and a strong defense, in the lines of—of Kennedy and Roosevelt and Truman. 

This has always been true.  But the Republicans were far more successful than us last year in mischaracterizing John Kerry and the Democrats.  And I believe, as Jane does, that the variable issue that cost the Democrats of the presidential election was not values, because value-driven voters decide years in advance.  It was their perception that Republicans and Bush would do better in Iraq and in terror than the Democrats would. 

That isn‘t true.  But it was an undeniable perception.

MATTHEWS:  I know.

HOLBROOKE:  Your poll showed it.

MATTHEWS:  I know.

HOLBROOKE:  And what we‘re trying to do is start the process now, early, so that Democrats are perceived as standing for the things they really perceive in. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I know that poll, Dick.  And I know that poll, Congresswoman.  I know the poll, particular poll, which is a stunning poll that came out after the election.

HARMAN:  Yes, to back up what you‘re saying about Secure U.S. as a need to have this PAC, because 49 percent of the American people said they believed that only the president, George W. Bush, could protect this country.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I have never seen a number like that, only him.  The other guy didn‘t—couldn‘t protect the country.

Anyway, thank you, Richard Holbrooke. 

Thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Jane Harman. 

Up next, some conservatives are calling for Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers to withdraw her own nomination.  The fight in the right continues. 

Plus, actor Alan Alda plays HARDBALL on this weekend‘s episode of “The West Wing.”  And he‘s coming here tonight.

This is HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Despite increasing rancor from President Bush‘s political base on the right concerning Harriet Miers, the president was confident today, or said he was, of her ultimate confirmation. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  She is going to be on the bench.  She‘ll be confirmed.  And, when she‘s on the bench, people will see a fantastic woman who is honest, open, humble and capable of being a great Supreme Court judge. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, she may be on the bench some day, but she‘s on the torture rack right now. 

Terry Jeffrey is editor “Human Events” magazine.  And Katrina Vanden Heuvel is editor of “The Nation.”

Thank you both for joining us.  I just—we only have a little time. 

Terry and then Katrina, your thoughts on Justice Miers. 

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, “HUMAN EVENTS”:  Well, look, I think that the most consequential decision on a domestic policy basis for President Bush is who he is going to name to the Supreme Court.  It is going to affect more things in the future of this country than anything else, Chris, and I think he completely, absolutely, utterly blew it. 

I think he had an opportunity to appoint an outstanding appellate court judge with an established record as a constitutionalist with the clear intellectual credentials to serve on the Supreme Court.  There are many people out there that fit that description.  He passed them over for someone who—his only knowledge of her, it seems, was as an aide or staffer or lawyer to him. 

His only means of evaluating this woman was when she worked for him, and, oftentimes, when he was paying her as a lawyer to advocate his position.  You know, when John Roberts was put up, we were told that some of the suspect cases that seemed to conservatives to be unjust causes that Roberts pursued as a lawyer, we cannot impute that viewpoint to him because he was being paid by his client to do it. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

JEFFREY:  Well, much of the time that President Bush has known Harriet Miers, he was paying her as his lawyer to advocate his point of view.  And now we know, because of his press conference, that he didn‘t even discuss some serious issues with her.  So, I‘d like to know...

MATTHEWS:  Because he wasn‘t interested in her positions on those issues.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go right now to Katrina Vanden Heuvel. 

The argument from Terry, from the conservative side of things...

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, “THE NATION”:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... is, she‘s a lightweight.  They needed a heavyweight. 

The president didn‘t deliver. 

What‘s the view from your side? 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  It‘s one of those rare moments, Chris, where I think I‘m in agreement with Terry Jeffrey. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What, she‘s a lightweight? 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Well, I think that he—this is a sign of Bush‘s weakness, between debacle in Iraq, the Katrina disaster, the divisions in his GOP rank, a divided country because of his policies. 

He picked a crony constitutionalist.  I mean, he—she is his private lawyer.  She‘s been there to clean up his messes, from the National Guard issue to lottery problems.  And I think he missed an opportunity, because of his weakness, to either appoint someone with the right wing‘s imprimatur or a person of true legal distinction, whether a political leader or someone of constitutional legal scholarship. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If he put up an appellate justice of a female gender, would you have been whacking that person just as hard? 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  I don‘t—you know, Chris, I would judge the person on the merits of the appointment, not the gender. 

I am all for a woman president very soon.  I am all for another woman Supreme Court judge.  But you look at the merits of the person in question, not the gender. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Pat Buchanan was right when he said the president went down the hall looking for a woman? 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  I think he went down the hall looking for someone who would support him and he could support. 

Listen, you know what‘s interesting listening to Terry?  What Bush did

maybe Karl Rove is on the hot seat in a way, so his masterful paws aren‘t all over this.

(CROSSTALK)

VANDEN HEUVEL:  But this is a woman.  This is an appointee with no constituency, with no base.  She‘s out there on a tightrope hanging out there.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK, I have to say, Katrina, you‘re looking very healthy.  And you look very good.  I haven‘t seen you since the hurricane.  I think the hurricane has been very good for you, Katrina.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, let‘s go to David Letterman. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He picked on something Howard Dean said here on HARDBALL this week.  Here is a clip from “The Late Show” last night. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST:  Ladies and gentlemen, time now for a message from Democratic Chairman Howard Dean, a message from Democratic chairman Howard Dean. 

HOWARD DEAN (D), DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN:  Well, certainly the president can claim executive privilege.   But, in this case, I think with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, you can‘t play, you know, hide the salami, or whatever it‘s called. 

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

LETTERMAN:  What?  Can‘t play hide the salami. 

(APPLAUSE)

LETTERMAN:  What is he talking about? 

PAUL SHAFFER, BAND LEADER:  I don‘t know. 

(LAUGHTER)

SHAFFER:  I don‘t know what...

(CROSSTALK)

LETTERMAN:  He‘s talking about a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court...

SHAFFER:  Yes. 

LETTERMAN:  ... and reminding us that, with that appointment, you can‘t play hide the salami.  I thought you could play hide the salami. 

SHAFFER:  You would have thought you could.  Really, no, I don‘t think you can. 

LETTERMAN:  I guess not.

SHAFFER:  He‘s here to remind us. 

LETTERMAN:  Our founding forefathers guaranteed that you couldn‘t play hide the salami. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I think we will leave that where it lays right now.

Katrina, your sense, watching the politics of this, as an editor of a magazine.  Do you think that this is going to whither and die or the president is going to stay behind this nomination for Supreme Court? 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  I think a lot depends on what goes on around this appointment. 

If Karl Rove, if there are indictments of people in this administration, as there may well be, if Karl Rove is one of those, if there‘s more crony indictments...

(CROSSTALK)

VANDEN HEUVEL:  ... I think Bush‘s capital is spent in so many areas, that he may pull back.  That is not his pattern, as we have talked about, Chris.  But that may be the case. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s great to have you back, Katrina.  I do miss you. 

Thank you. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And I want to thank Terry. 

Yes or no, does she die on the vine? 

JEFFREY:  I think that Republican senators have a duty to make sure that she proves that she can be a constitutionalist justice or ask the president to withdraw her and appoint a new person.

MATTHEWS:  So, the onus is on her to prove herself? 

JEFFREY:  Absolutely.  The burden of proof is on her.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you. 

Once again, thank you both for coming back, Terry Jeffrey and Katrina Vanden Heuvel.

Tonight, at 11:00 Eastern, join Tucker Carlson and special guest Robert Bork—and he‘s been through the wringer—as they discuss the Miers nomination.  That‘s “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON.” 

Coming up here, rebuilding the Gulf Coast after Katrina—Hurricane Katrina, I should say.  We will find the money and find out who is in charge of monitoring all that money and billions of dollars going in contracts and see if your tax dollars and the borrowed federal money is being spent well. 

This is HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, HARDBALL and “The Washington Post,” beginning tonight, we will track how your tax dollars are being spent in the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort.  Following the money when HARDBALL returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Tonight is the first in the series of reports HARDBALL has put together with our partners at “The Washington Post.”  We‘re calling the feature “Follow the Money,” and for good reason.  We‘re taking an in-depth look at where your tax dollars and borrowed federal money—let‘s be honest—is going in the rebuilding efforts after the destruction of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. 

Our first report tonight, no-bid contracts.  In his testimony on Capitol Hill Thursday—that‘s yesterday—FEMA Chief R. David Paulison said that FEMA is going back to seek bids on some of those no-bid contracts that received so much criticism. 

Later, a FEMA spokesperson clarified, saying there will only be rebidding on four, the four largest, no-bid contracts. 

So, what‘s really going on here? 

“The Washington Post”‘s Jonathan Weisman has been following this story. 

Jonathan, are we going to be able to see real bidding for contracts with real competition to save the federal tax dollar? 

JONATHAN WEISMAN, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  I think you will going forward.

But don‘t expect a huge amount of rebidding of these contracts.  Remember, look, a lot of these contracts were let and a lot of this money has been spent.  It‘s not exactly—you can‘t get that money back.  And a whole bunch of these contracts just will not be rebid.  These four major contracts might be.  I wouldn‘t be surprised if the—the ones who got the first bids in the first place will get it again. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it the same old procurement business, where you just show cost-plus? 

WEISMAN:  Pretty much. 

And—and, in this case, you know, basically, the big guys always win, because FEMA is trying to turn these contracts around so fast, that they‘re just going out and calling the people that usually bid on these contracts and saying, hey, we got another big contract.  Why don‘t you put in a bid?

And they‘re going out the door so fast that the little guys, the guys who haven‘t been involved, the guys down in Louisiana and Mississippi, who don‘t have a lot of contacts up in Washington and don‘t have a lot of lobbyists up here, they don‘t even know that the contracts are even available. 

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t they flash them over the Internet and give everybody a shot, like an eBay situation? 

WEISMAN:  You know, they do put them up on their Web site.  But, if you have ever tried to find like the FEMA contracting Web site, you better know what you‘re looking for.  It ain‘t easy. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the role of lobbyists, people like Joseph Allbaugh, the former FEMA director?  Are they the guys that grease the skids for the big corporations? 

WEISMAN:  Oh, absolutely. 

Absolutely.  You saw it in things like this Carnival Cruise Line contract for $238 million.  Carnival is extremely well-placed in Washington.  It‘s got—its—the leaders of that company have spent millions of dollars giving maybe not only to Republicans, but to Democrats as well.  And they‘re very, very savvy and...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Jonathan, I hear, a lot of those rooms on those ships are dead empty.  They‘re getting the full amount of money, as if the ships are filled up, fully, fully occupied, in fact, lots of money being made by those cruise lines by getting a per-room basis, rather than a per-passenger basis.

WEISMAN:  That‘s right.  They got a six-month contract.  Doesn‘t say how—I mean, it‘s for six months, but it doesn‘t say whether you‘re going to pay the same amount for a half-filled ship or a fully-filled ship. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

WEISMAN:  Yesterday, Paulison, the head of—the new head of FEMA, said that the ships are now filling up.  But for much of a month, they were half-full, if that.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you.  Please come back again.  It‘s great stuff.

Thank you, Jonathan Weisman.

WEISMAN:  You‘re welcome. 

MATTHEWS:  Weisman of “The Washington Post.”

And for more in-depth information on where the money is going—and it‘s borrowed money and your tax money—check out our Web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

When we return, one of the stars of “The West Wing,” Alan Alda—he is the Republican candidate for president—he is going to be with us. 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

This season, NBC‘s “The West Wing” heats up with a tough presidential campaign between Jimmy Smits‘s character, Matt Santos, who is the Democrat, and Alan Alda‘s character, Arnold Vinick, who is the Republican senator running for president.

This Sunday, on “West Wing,” I get into the middle of the fray by playing HARDBALL with the Republican candidate. 

Let‘s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE WEST WING”)

MATTHEWS:  Why haven‘t you come up with a guest worker program before?  Aren‘t you suddenly leaning on these Mexican border issues because your opponent is Latino and you figure, he can‘t talk about the Border Patrol or risk saying anything that sounds like amnesty for illegals? 

BRADLEY WHITFORD, ACTOR:  Yes!  Welcome to HARDBALL, Arnie.

ALAN ALDA, ACTOR:  I think I counted five questions that time, Chris. 

WHITFORD:  Vinick is on the run.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Come on, Senator.  You are trying to jam Santos, right? 

ALDA:  Chris, I‘m from California. 

MATTHEWS:  Keep slugging.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, what did you think of HARDBALL, Alan Alda? 

ALDA:  I think that this—this clip that you just showed that is going to be on the air Sunday night really shows you to be the most knowledgeable, quick-on-your-feet person in your spot in America. 

There I was trying to get out of a tough spot.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

ALDA:  And you picked up on exactly what was—we had been strategizing.  We...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

ALDA:  We fictional characters had been strategizing how to get out of a tough spot, and you saw right through it. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

ALDA:  And, for the rest of the story, I have to make up for lost time.  Look how smart you were. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the script was written for me, but I thought it was really smart.  Basically, what I am doing is, the commentator or the guy on the show saying, I know what you are up to.  The other guy is an Hispanic.  You want to remind everybody of that.

So, what you do is, you go—you go leaning on—or go tough on the border issues with Mexico and then you go leaning on amnesty.  Either way, you get the guy hooked.  You get him talking like a Mexican American.  And that is all you wanted to do, right, tactically?

ALDA:  Yes.  Yes. 

And then you figure out that he is—you corner him on the question of whether or not he is going to do a litmus test, or worse than a litmus test, let the—let a separate group of people pick his Supreme Court justices for him. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s right.

Who is going to win, Alan Alda? 

ALDA:  You know, it is very interesting.  The people who write the show, and John Wells, who is the head of it, are telling people that they don‘t know who is going to win.  And I don‘t know whether that is a good disinformation technique or they actually don‘t know. 

MATTHEWS:  I love the characters.  I think Jimmy Smits playing this very charismatic young—the only clue to me was, I can‘t see a congressman getting elected president. 

If they made him a senator from Texas, I would, well, maybe he can pull this thing off.  You come off as kind of a Giuliani guy.  You‘re against—you‘re for abortion rights, but you don‘t like the idea of partial birth.  You are kind of a maverick Republican.  You‘re from California.  You shine your own shoes.  What an interesting guy you are.  Do you like the guy you are playing? 

ALDA:  Yes.  I think—I think he is a really interesting character, because one of the things I admire about this character, the way they are writing him, is that he not only wants to bring his whole party together.  He wants to bring the whole country together once he gets elected to the presidency.

And he really has an eye on that while he is running.  So, he is trying not to cut off people who he wants to do business with later.  He doesn‘t want to do attack ads.  He doesn‘t want to destroy, doesn‘t want to have the kind of, you know, a march through the South and destroy everything in his path.  He wants to—he wants to keep talking to the people and keep—and keep working with them.  I think that is an admirable idea. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

Well, there is a fight in the Republican Party right now.  It‘s going to come to head, obviously, in 2008 between the sort of suburban secular Republicans who want lower taxes and less government in their face, sort of the libertarians, and then the church people.  And I was just amazed by your character this last season that he had studied the Bible, your character had studied the Bible, the New Testament, and you just could not go along with having people die because they did not go to church or didn‘t honor the Sabbath, but yet slavery was OK in the Bible back in those days.

And, God, it is a very thoughtful sort of inquiry.  But do you think a guy like that could ever be elected president in this churchgoing country of ours? 

ALDA:  I don‘t know, because I think he—he—this character himself is religious, has religious beliefs. 

But I think he‘s—I think he tries to make the point that people‘s private religious beliefs are separate from and ought to be separate from their political moorings. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

ALDA:  But the other point of view, the other side of the argument—one of the reasons I‘m proud of “West Wing” and the people who write it is, the other argument, the argument against, against that, was presented, I thought, very well, very convincingly.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

ALDA:  Oddly enough, by the Democrat, who is a very religious Catholic and feels that there is—there is no—you don‘t have to be too worried about people expressing their religious views. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about your upbringing, because you grew up on a trunk.  You grew up in a show-business family, pretty tough.  For a guy that seems so calm and debonair in all the roles we have seen you in, you had it tough.

You are laughing, but this book is not laughing in the beginning.  You tell some real raw stories about having parents who have had troubles. 

(CROSSTALK)

ALDA:  Yes. 

What I—what is fun for me is that the book gets down into some very tough things, but it is also—it also is funny.  When I—I love it when people—I am able to make people laugh at some of the most harrowing parts of in my life.  And some of them were harrowing.

It‘s—I had such a bizarre childhood that Carl Reiner read this book and he said, you know something?  You are entitled to be a lot crazier than you are. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

ALDA:  And that is a good way to say it, because he—it‘s a funny way to put it.  And it‘s—and some of the things are so awful that they are funny. 

MATTHEWS:  So many people in Hollywood are always having shrinks for years and all this psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.  And it‘s because something—their parents were not very nice to them.  Their parents were bad for them. 

And you, you don‘t seem to bear any scars to a pretty tough situation you came through. 

ALDA:  Well, I love my parents, loved—they are dead now.  I loved -

I still love them. 

They‘re—they did the best they could.  My poor mother was schizophrenic and paranoid.  And she was psychotic.  Nevertheless, she was a loving mother.  And my father, I adored him.  And I learned—I learned about acting from standing in the wings when I was 2 years old in burlesque watching him do comedy sketches and watching the strippers and the chorus girls who were half-naked. 

(LAUGHTER)

ALDA:  So, I learned more than about acting. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You learned about life.

(CROSSTALK)

ALDA:  I learned about a lot of life, you know?

MATTHEWS:  You said something great in the book.  I can‘t—I like—

I was going through like reading the Bible, looking for little passages.  

The one I read just a few minutes ago...

(CROSSTALK)

ALDA:  This is the best quote.  Wait a minute.  Wait a minute.  I want to write that down.

(LAUGHTER)

ALDA:  I was reading Alan Alda‘s book like reading the Bible.  I think that‘s great.

MATTHEWS:  I came across a citation, Mr. Alda, that said:  Since I spent my whole life with children, actors, show business people, they don‘t know what a child is.

I thought that was great. 

ALDA:  Yes, well, that was true.  In those days, they were children themselves. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

ALDA:  I mean, they why naked like babies and their humor was flatulence and things like that. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me—let me welcome you—I want everybody to read this book.  It is so—it has such a nice touch to it, no ghost here, what a great writer.  “Never Have Your Dog Stuffed.”  And you can figure out what that—but, most of all, this Sunday night, in addition to buying the guy‘s book, watch “West Wing,” because I am in it. 

Anyway, thank you, Alan Alda.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s great having you on. 

ALDA:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  The next president of the United States, and he‘s a maverick Republican.  He‘s the real stalking-horse for Rudy Giuliani.  You watch.

Join us again Monday at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.

Right now, it is time for “THE ABRAMS REPORT” with Dan. 

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