updated 10/11/2005 11:49:51 AM ET 2005-10-11T15:49:51

Guests: Tony Blankley, Tom Oliphant, Ed Rogers, Michael Wolff, James Moore

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight, is special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald building a case against Karl Rove, the architect of the Bush administration?  And is the CIA leak case shaking the very political foundations of the White House? 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

Karl Rove, the president‘s political ramrod, has been called back to the grand jury probing the CIA leak case.  If you don‘t think this leak case matters, ask yourself, what was the most frightening case you heard for going to war with Iraq?  Probably it was that Saddam Hussein was buying uranium yellow cake in Africa to build nuclear weapons.  The president said it in his 2003 State of the Union address.  The vice president repeated it with military precision, almost like a Gatling gun, Saddam Hussein, nuclear weapons, Saddam Hussein, nuclear weapons, again and again. 

But it wasn‘t true.  There‘s no evidence even now that Saddam tried to by nuclear materials in Africa.  We know that now because the man the CIA sent down there to Niger to check it out, sent there after Vice President Cheney asked the CIA to check it out, wrote a “New York Times” article a few months after the war started that there was no deal.  Worse yet, the former ambassador, Joseph Wilson, wrote that the people around the president must have known there was no deal, even when the president and his people kept telling the country there was. 

How did the Bush people react to this unwelcome news?  This is what the CIA leak case, which could produce indictments any day now, is all about.  Did the people around the president actively try to discredit that man who came back from Africa, to say the yellow cake story was a phony?  Did they try and kill the messenger?  Did they use to enormous media power of the White House to discredit the ambassador, his mission and his wife at the CIA, who suggested him for the mission? 

And, in doing so, did they abuse the office and the power to which the president was elected?  Did they break the law?  Did they conspire to punish a critic of the war, even if their weapon was the destruction of his wife‘s undercover career by identifying her to the public?  Did they lie about their actions to government investigators to a grand jury or even to the president himself? 

We could get the answers any day now.  And you can bet you‘re going to hear them all right here on HARDBALL. 

Washington has been buzzing with rumors and speculation about possible criminal indictments, all this as the president‘s top adviser, Karl Rove, is summoned back yet again to the grand jury.  Only, this time, prosecutors say they can‘t promise he won‘t be indicted. 

David Shuster reports. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  According to lawyers close to Karl Rove, prosecutors have told the president‘s top adviser there are no guarantees the grand jury will not indict him.  “Newsweek” reports the panel now has e-mail proof Rove met with reporter Matt Cooper, a meeting Rove apparently failed to disclose to investigators in the grand jury two years ago. 

Rove‘s supporters say he will try to convince the grand jury that discrepancies in his testimony were the result of bad memory, not obstruction of justice. 

The CIA leak investigation stems from the administration‘s case for war with Iraq. 

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  But we now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. 

SHUSTER:  President Bush hyped the argument in his 2003 State of the Union. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:     The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. 

SHUSTER:  Six months later, after U.S. forces had invaded Iraq and found no WMD, a column appeared in “The New York Times” titled: “What I Didn‘t Find in Africa.” 

Joe Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador, wrote, he had been sent the previous fall based on an inquiry from Vice President Cheney.  And he reported the Iraq uranium claim was unfounded.  Following Wilson‘s column, the administration retracted that part of the president‘s State of the Union speech.  And the controversy over a false Iraqi uranium claim might have died down, except that, a week later, columnist Robert Novak, in an effort to discredit Joe Wilson, revealed—quote—“His wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative, two senior administration officials told me.”

In the midst of the ensuring uproar over the disclosure of a CIA officer, Novak told “Newsday”—quote—“I didn‘t dig it out.  It was given to me.”

BUSH:  I don‘t know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information.  If somebody did leak classified information, I would like to know it and we will take the appropriate action. 

SHUSTER:  Presidential Press Secretary Scott McClellan denied that Scooter Libby, the president‘s chief of staff, and Karl Rove, the president‘s top adviser, were vulnerable. 

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  ... made it very clear that it was a ridiculous suggestion in the first place.  I mean, it‘s public knowledge.  I have said that it‘s not true.  And I have spoken with Karl Rove. 

SHUSTER:  And Karl Rove spoke to President Bush that fall, according to “The National Journal,” personally reassuring the president he wasn‘t involved. 

But, from the beginning, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was intent on reconstructing conversations between White House officials and reporters.  And this summer, after exhausting their appeals, “The New York Times”‘ Judy Miller and “TIME” magazine‘s Matt Cooper were told they would be jailed if they continued to refuse to testify. 

MATT COOPER, “TIME”:  In what only can be described as a stunning set of developments.

SHUSTER:  Cooper said he received a last-minute waiver from his source, then testified that source, Karl Rove, was the one who told him Joe Wilson‘s wife worked for the CIA.

SHUSTER:  As for Judy Miller:

JUDITH MILLER, SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  I

was a journalist doing my job, protecting my source until my source freed me to perform my civic duty to testify. 

SHUSTER:  When she testified after 12 weeks in jail, Miller said her primary source was the vice president‘s chief of staff, Scooter Libby. 

(on camera):  The grand jury expires at the end of this month.  The question is, did anybody in the Bush inner circle break the law while trying to discredit a critic of their very foundation for war with Iraq? 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster.

James Moore is the co-author of a book called “Bush‘s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential.”  Michael Wolff is a columnist at “Vanity Fair” who has written about Rove‘s role in the CIA leak investigation in the new issue in November.  He writes about Vice President Cheney as well.  And Howard Fineman is chief political correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Howard, putting it all together, the war in Iraq, because we were afraid of nuclear weapons in the hands of Saddam Hussein, immense common sense on the part of the American people.  If you think the other guy is going to get nuclear weapons and you think he‘s a crazy man out to get us, you stop him.  The question is, did he have anywhere near the capability to get those nuclear weapons?  Did he cut a deal with the Nigerian government or didn‘t he?

Joe Wilson comes back and says, no, he didn‘t cut a deal and they should have known that because I reported that back, right?  Their—so, Joe Wilson is challenging the main element of this administration, which was going to war with Iraq and saying they did it under false premises.  It was a corrupt war, he‘s saying.  That‘s it, isn‘t it? 

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  That‘s the point of the lance of this whole thing.

Right now, my sense, in reporting this, Chris, is that the Bush family, political family, is at war with itself inside the White House.  My sense is, it‘s—it‘s—it‘s—it‘s Andy Card, the chief of staff, and his people against Karl Rove, the brain.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  And that runs through a whole lot of things, whether it‘s Harriet Miers or Katrina.  But it all starts with Iraq. 

And some submerged, but now emerging divisions within the administration over why we went into that war, how we went into that war and what was done to sell it.  There are people are out for Karl Rove inside that White House, which makes his situation even more perilous. 

My understanding, from talking to somebody quite close to this investigation, is that they think there are going to be indictments and possibly Karl Rove could be among them, if not for the act of the leaking information about Valerie Plame, then perhaps for perjury, because he‘s now testified four times. 

And there are conflicts between what Matt Cooper told the grand jury and what Rove evidently told the jury himself.  And Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, is an absolute stickler for detail who has no political axe to grind here, other than keeping his own credibility.  Having put Judy Miller in jail, having gone to the lengths he had, my understand is, he has got some people here, not only Rove, but perhaps Scooter Libby, the vice president‘s chief of staff.

MATTHEWS:  I also get the sense he reads the law book.  He doesn‘t care about the politics.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  That‘s what I meant.  That‘s what I meant.  He doesn‘t care about the politics. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, you just raised a curtain-raiser for me.  I didn‘t even know this. 

You believe that the fight between those who may be headed toward indictment, the vice president‘s chief of staff, Karl Rove, there is a war between them and the people who are going to survive them, Andy Card, etcetera. 

FINEMAN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  But is Andy Card saying now, here‘s his chance to prove the war was wrong?  Is that what this—it‘s a shadow fight over that?

FINEMAN:  I think it‘s possible.  I think it‘s possible. 

Look, when you are up, you‘re up big time.  Karl Rove was the boy genius.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  Karl Rove could do no wrong. 

But now Karl Rove seems to have been caught overstepping on this.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  And now people are questioning everything about it.  And it goes back.  If you have to have an organizing principle, it‘s the war in Iraq.  That‘s what it is.

MATTHEWS:  Let me—let me go to James Moore.

You have studied Karl Rove over the years. 

JAMES MOORE, CO-AUTHOR, “BUSH‘S BRAIN”:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Give us his M.O., his baseball card, if  you can.  Is he capable of really playing tough, really tough, and maybe doing something he didn‘t think was illegal, but turned out to be? 

MOORE:  Well, there‘s a bunch of people in this state who will tell you he can play tough, because he‘s ruined their careers, Chris. 

Every part of his entire career has been about vengeance, going after people who somehow crossed him or his candidates and destroying them from the battlefield.  So, the fact that he‘s accused of this surprises nobody down here who has watched him forever and ever.  What surprise me, though, is this whole notion of bad memory on the part of Karl. 

You‘re talking about a guy who can still recall precinct results from 1890 elections.  And to tell the grand jury or Fitzgerald or anyone that he doesn‘t recall meeting with Matt Cooper is just beyond the pale in terms of believability. 

MATTHEWS:  That strikes me as a fair criticism.  I have talked to him. 

He‘s a genius, close to it.

Let me go to—let me go to Michael Wolff. 

You wrote a great piece this week, a lot about the fight that is going on over this.  And it seems to me that, if the vice president‘s chief is—staff gets indicted this week or is the victim of a—or the target of a vicious report by the special prosecutor, what does that do to the Cheney partnership with Karl Rove, with the president? 

MICHAEL WOLFF, “VANITY FAIR”:  Well, I—I mean, I think the whole White House in is turmoil over this. 

And I would slightly disagree with Howard, that I‘m not sure it‘s so much of a division as lots of people running around and trying to protect themselves, because—because this could—this could wash over everyone.  I mean, one of the—one of the reasonable questions here is—is, what were the guys in the Oval Office thinking? 

I mean, Karl Rove comes in, theoretically, at least, we are given to understand, and says, oh, no, no, no, no, not me, not me.  And we‘re also given to understand—and this is apparently at least what “The National Journal” reported the president said in his grand jury testimony—that they accepted this on face value.  Karl said he didn‘t do anything. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

WOLFF:  Now, as we know, this is—I mean, when Karl Rove says, I didn‘t do anything, what you do immediately is say, what did you do, Karl? 

(LAUGHTER)

WOLFF:  Come clean, Karl. 

And I think that that‘s where—we‘re in this situation in which—in which everybody was either—either just way too passive about this or they went out of their way not to confront him. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, sometimes, I like to try to figure out what‘s really important by pulling back and say, suppose this were happening in some other country we are vaguely familiar with, like England maybe or, I don‘t know, Israel or something. 

And I go, what would it mean to me?  Is this—let me go back to—you are good at this, because you write these cover pieces.  Is this about the Iraq war and the case made to the middle-of-the-roader?  I don‘t mean the fanatical “Let‘s go to war” type or the dove, but person in the middle who said, yes, I guess we better go to war with Saddam Hussein, because, if he has got nuclear weapons, that‘s one thing can‘t let be in his hands. 

That person was convinced on Sunday television, in the newspapers by basically the vice president, his chief of staff.  Then, when—his chief of staff, Scooter Libby.  When the word gets back that there is a guy out there writing news articles and briefing the press, like you, and saying, it ain‘t true.  There never was any uranium deal.  There never was a nuclear threat.  This thing about a mushroom cloud being a smoking gun was all B.S.  It was really never there. 

Who acted quick?  Was it Karl Rove?  I‘m not talking breaking the law.  I mean the defense team.  Did Karl Rove and Scooter and the vice president go out there and say, we have got to squash this guy like a bug? 

FINEMAN:  Well, I don‘t know...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m not sure it‘s illegal, by the way, to squash a guy like a bug.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  No, of course.  Of course.  Nothing would ever happen—if it were illegal, nothing would ever go on around here. 

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  I—I—I don‘t know what Dick Cheney said, but I know, from the way Karl Rove operates and the way the Bush family, political family, operates, that Rove would have taken it upon himself, even if not directly asked, to go out and take care of that situation, the situation of course being Joe Wilson.  OK?

MATTHEWS:  Somebody mouth him off. 

FINEMAN:  Yes.  And the way he would do it is, he would talk to his—the people he deals with in the media.  He would talk to friends on the Hill.  He would talk to people in the conservative community, as, indeed, he was doing over Harriet Miers, trying to sell Harriet Miers to James Dobson.  It‘s all of a piece.  Karl is Mr. Fix-it.  Karl is the salesman, the political operative.

MATTHEWS:  So, you say he has a long leash. 

FINEMAN:  He has a very long leash.  But if the president asks him something, he better not—he better either keep his mouth shut or not lie to him. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  But—and not lie to him.  And that may be the problem here.  And we confirmed that “National Journal” story in Mike Isikoff‘s piece in “Newsweek” this week. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We got to come back.  This is—it couldn‘t be hotter stuff.

We will be right back with James Moore, Michael Wolff and Howard Fineman. 

And, later, President Bush is back in hurricane-ravaged Louisiana today.  But it‘s—what about his pick for Supreme Court?  That seems to be a bigger story than Louisiana right now, at least to people here in Washington. 

Are the Republicans split down the middle on whether Harriet Miers makes sense?  And now the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter, wants to know why a leading conservative is saying out front that the White House has privately assured him that Harriet Miers is against abortion rights.

These are—this is right out of the pages of “West Wing” here, this stuff.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, Karl Rove will testify again before the CIA leak case grand jury.  Will the White House shake if Rove is indicted?

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We are back talking about the CIA leak case that could break this week a series of indictments, maybe this week, with James Moore, author of the book about Karl Rove.  It‘s called “Bush‘s Brain,” Michael Wolff of “Vanity Fair,” who wrote a big piece this week about the vice president, and Howard Fineman of “Newsweek.”

Michael, you wrote a piece in this November issue.  I guess it‘s November issue.  Let‘s take a look at a quote from it on the reason why Cheney might not, by—keeping a low profile right now: “The outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame is reaching rather to close for comfort for the vice president.  Best just not to be available to anyone who might want to ask you what you knew and when you knew it.”

What are you getting at there, Michael?  The vice president is lying low.  I agree with you on that.  He‘s behaving differently and more passively and even more invisibly than—lately.  And I don‘t think he‘s pulling the strings.  So, what is he up to? 

WOLFF:  You know, I have—I—I have to answer.  I have written 4,000 words on this subject and I have absolutely no idea what he‘s up to. 

(LAUGHTER)

WOLFF:  Except, something‘s happening.  I mean, he‘s—it‘s an altogether different M.O. than he‘s had for the past—for the past five years. 

He‘s—is he hiding?  Is he sick?  Is he up to something, some other Cheney-like thing?  One can only speculate. 

MATTHEWS:  Has the president already made the—has he already, as they say in the stock market, discounted the calamity to come?  Has he already discounted the probability that, at best, the rosy scenario, if you will, is that the top aides that have been mentioned in all the press leaks about this in the leak case are going to get shot with a very vicious kind of indictment or some kind of public report that humiliates them publicly and politically, and, therefore, he‘s relying more on Andrew Card and Dan Bartlett than the vice president‘s office or the chief political man? 

FINEMAN:  Well, that‘s my sense of it, Chris. 

And I think, if you look—if you roll back the videotape of the days leading up to Katrina, if you look at the Harriet Miers nomination, Karl Rove is conspicuous by his absence. 

MATTHEWS:  As is the vice president.

FINEMAN:  As is the vice president.  So, I think that whole wing, so to speak, is one that Bush has been flying without for the last couple weeks. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Excuse me.

We always underestimate—let me go to James Moore.  We always—I will speak for the press in this—to underestimate the political moxie of this president.  Could he be aware of a lot more than people thinks he‘s aware, he wants us to think could be aware of, and knows that his vice president‘s office has had a problem—is going to have a problem here with the prosecutor, knows that Karl Rove is definitely going to have a problem, and he‘s already begun to allow for that, keep them out of the action?

I was struck, James.  You tell me what this means.  He had Scott McClellan, his press secretary, say that the way they decided and announced the Harriet Miers nomination for the Supreme Court, the press aide came out, the press secretary, Scott McClellan, and said, when the president made up his mind on picking Harriet Miers, his counsel, he told Andrew Card, his chief of staff, and had him tell the vice president. 

What happened to the interlocking president and vice president relationship that he had to have a staffer go off and tell him of a decision he had made on his own, without the vice president? 

MOORE:  Well, there is obviously some distancing going on between two.

But the Miers nomination is pretty telling to me, at least, because there was a relationship where she took lots of phone calls from Karl here in Texas and did his bidding.  And Bush is going to be very comfortable with that nomination precisely because of that. 

But, Chris, getting back to the grand jury thing, I—I suspect that the reason Karl has been brought back before the grand jury is that Judy Miller‘s testimony may have turned up something that gets back to this whole thing of contradicting Karl‘s previous testimony.  And maybe Fitzgerald now has to bring him in perhaps to build a better mousetrap against him or give him a chance to correct something that he may have said previously. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Or not said.  You said his bad memory is not to be believed, that he has a great memory.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE:  Not at all.  Not at all.  His memory is astounding, his historical ability to recall information.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MOORE:  And it‘s unlikely that he did not know what he did and when he did it. 

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  Can I make one other small point? 

The week, after Katrina, suddenly, the word materialized that Karl Rove would be overseeing the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast.  Remember that? 

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  Well, yesterday—yesterday, Scott McClellan specifically knocked down, I believe—it was Scott or somebody at the White House—knocked down the idea that Karl was going to be the czar of Gulf Coast. 

As a matter of fact, Karl would be great at that kind of thing.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Ramrodding something.

FINEMAN:  Ramrodding, detail man, knowing the politics, where to build the bridges and so forth.  Apparently, he‘s out of the loop on that now.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So, things are changing. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I think we are—go ahead, Michael.  Last thought.

WOLFF:  You know, one of the interesting things to remember here is that, is that, if these guys are out of the loop, if Cheney is out of the loop, if Karl is out of the loop, that really leaves the B team in charge. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

WOLFF:  I mean, Andy Card, Dan Bartlett, these are—you know, these are perfectly decent, I suppose, guys, but they have never been in charge. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  And they have got to play the second half of the season with the second team. 

Thank you very much, James Moore, Michael Wolff and Howard Fineman. 

Up next, President Bush revisits the hurricane zone, but the storm is still swirling here about the Supreme Court pick.  NBC‘s chief White House correspondent David Gregory is going to join us and tell us what the president is up to in what has become a very difficult nomination. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

While the White House tries to sell Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers to Republicans, conservative evangelical James Dobson says he supports Miers because of something he‘s been told, but can‘t discuss.  Those are his words. 

On his radio program last week, he said—quote—“When you know some of the things that I know that I probably shouldn‘t know, you will understand why I have said, with fear and trepidation, that I believe Harriet Miers will be a good justice.  If I have made a mistake here, I will never forget the blood of those babies that will die will be on my hands, to some degree.”

Now, Senator Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and several Democratic senators are wondering whether the White House made backroom assurances to conservatives on how Miers would vote on hot-button issues, like abortion. 

NBC White House correspondent, chief White House correspondent, David Gregory joins us now from the White House. 

This has become a really odd one here.  The Democrats are lying back, except to ask now, after a week of this talk, whether the president has some backroom deal, sort of a cigars and gentlemen backroom deal with James Dobson, to say, hey, she‘s going to lie low, but she‘s pro-life.

DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Right. 

And I actually think that this is something that‘s being missed here, in that the larger story may be that Democrats are going to be a lot more concerned about Harriet Miers than conservatives will be down the line.  Conservatives say she‘s a blank slate.  They don‘t want to find out over time whether she‘s got the goods that they want to see in a Supreme Court nominee. 

But if what Dobson is really suggesting, and as one source inside the White House told me today, they think this is really Dobson saying, look, she‘s pro-life.  Some of what‘s already been reported, her financial support for pro-life causes in—when she was on the city council in Dallas and throughout her career, makes her a surefire vote against Roe v.

Wade, the other question that has to be asked, because she‘s not a judge,

how does she feel about judicial precedent?  How does she feel about the

fact that Roe v. Wade has been on the books?  It may be something that will

that will come to haunt Democrats down the line, who like their dealings with her so far. 

MATTHEWS:  Never wanting to underestimate the president‘s political moxie, could it be that he has designed a Trojan horse, or, rather, a wolf in sheep‘s clothing?  She looks so modest and motherly and wonderful and unthreatening, and the liberals are presumed to be not smart enough to see that, deep down, she‘s an arch-conservative? 

GREGORY:  Right. 

And there‘s another aspect to this, that Bush, I‘m told, wanted to be convinced that he didn‘t have a Souter on his hands.  And by that, it was that he didn‘t want somebody who would change over time.  He knows these people who have been around him for so many years, what it‘s Karl Rove or Harriet Miers or Karen Hughes.  He really feels like he knows them. 

And so whether—as someone pointed out, this is not a constitutional scholar we have in the White House.  And few presidents are.  And even though he gets plenty of good advice, at the end of the day, if he wanted a woman, he wanted somebody that he could trust.  That list gets shorter and shorter. 

And, frankly, while I think many believe that his claim that she‘s the most qualified person to take this job is demonstrably false, what he perhaps wanted to say is that he‘s somebody that she could trust—rather, that he could trust, that made her the best—best candidate for the job. 

MATTHEWS:  The other point we were talking about today is Karl Rove.  Does he have a long leash in what he is allowed to do in terms of political hardball at the White House, in terms of going at the opponents, like, in this case, the ambassador who came back and challenged the whole president‘s case for war? 

GREGORY:  No question he does.  And he did.

I mean, we know that.  We know that he was intimately involved in taking on Joe Wilson at the time, who was criticizing the case for war.  And it‘s an understatement to say there was no love lost between Rove and Joe Wilson.  That‘s public knowledge.  But, yes, I mean, he was among those who was responsible for attempting to take on the guy who was discrediting the president and the case for war. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

Well, we will see more about that as the days go on.

GREGORY:  Yes.  

MATTHEWS:  I would like to have you back, because I think this case is getting hotter and hotter. 

Thank you very much, NBC‘s David Gregory.

And, a reminder, tomorrow on “The Today Show,” Matt Lauer will interview President Bush himself.  That‘s tomorrow on “The Today Show,” on NBC, of course.

Up next, nearly half of all Republicans in the Senate say they remain unconvinced that Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers is right for the job.  That‘s the Republicans.  Will the fight on the right derail the Miers nomination? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

A survey by “The Washington Times” reports that nearly half of the Senate Republicans—that‘s 27 senators—are unconvinced that Harriet Miers should be on the Supreme Court.  This chilly response is in marked contrast to the John Roberts nomination.  He won glowing comments from Republicans before heading into his hearings.

Here to shed light on his conservative split are Pat Buchanan and Republican strategist Ed Rogers.

Is this split for real among Republicans? 

ED ROGERS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT:  Well, it may be for real, but I think it‘s just temporary. 

I think, for the first time in a long time, the hearings are going to matter.  She is going to be asked questions that won‘t be just posturing and posing.  But people are going to ask questions where they want to hear the answers.  And the answers are going to matter.

So...

MATTHEWS:  Suppose she gets a dunce cap? 

ROGERS:  So, this is for real.  Well, if—then that‘s trouble and she is going to get—she is going to get lot of votes against her. 

But, having said that—I feel—I feel OK about this nomination.  I feel—I believe in the president.  And if you would have told me before...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why do you feel—do you think the stakes are low? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That if she doesn‘t quite show the right stuff out there, he can pull her or ask her to withdraw and they will put up another guy who is smarter or what?  

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why are you so calm about this?

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  Look, I think that, number one, I believe in the president. 

I will admit that.  I believe in this president.

I think, looking at his record on judicial appointees, looking at the record of what he‘s said about the Supreme Court during the campaign and in other speeches, he knows that this appointment is important. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

ROGERS:  And if you would have told me before the nomination, he‘s going to appoint an evangelical woman who carries a gun, I would have winced and Pat Buchanan would have celebrated.  Maybe she‘s Pat Buchanan in drag.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I don‘t know.  I don‘t think so.

ROGERS:  Could be.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this, Pat.  How can the same group that vetted and brilliantly produced a John Roberts, who was smarter than any senator that tried to interview him and tried to bring him down, produce another candidate who seems to have nothing of his style or his ability? 

PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think this was the president‘s own choice, Chris. 

I agree with Ed.  I think the hearings are critical.  I think we have sort of frozen the linebackers.  Nobody is going to commit to her until they see and hear her.  And she is going to have to show real depth of philosophy, I think...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  ... and some knowledge and strength of character to stand up toe to toe with Breyer and the others. 

MATTHEWS:  But you could have said that about Dan Quayle.  I mean, this seems—couldn‘t this be seen as a female Quayle?

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  People did say that about Dan Quayle.  And he had an election to resolve the issue. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

ROGERS:  People are making—have doubts about her.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  His image never—his reputation never beat the initial rap against him.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  And that was unfair. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  But, having said that, now we‘re going to have a confirmation process. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  President Bush Sr. wrote in his diary going into his second term, when he tried get reelected, I know I made a mistake about Quayle, but I can‘t admit it. 

It‘s not just the P.R. around the guy.  The president...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... he was a problem.

ROGERS:  Well, I don‘t know if any of that is analogous to this situation.

I mean, the fact of the matter now is, she is now going to have a hearing. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  And I think that‘s a good thing. 

And if people have expressed doubt, doubt is fair. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree.  I agree. 

ROGERS:  Right now, closing the door and suggesting that she‘s not credentialed is unfair. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Arlen Specter, who has been very sharp lately, said, I‘m going to let her tell me when she‘s ready. 

Isn‘t that brilliant?  In other words, no matter how long it takes, she has as long as it takes to get ready for these hearings.  But, once she‘s in there, it is going to be tough for her. 

BUCHANAN:  I think that‘s right.

Look, let me say, as one of the critics—and I agree with ed also.  The president‘s appointments have been phenomenal.  They‘re better than Reagan‘s in a lot of cases.  People that know these people tell me, Pat, these are the best we have ever seen.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re talking about the appellate judgeships.

BUCHANAN:  Yes. 

And what is inexplicable is, look, none of us wanted, the conservatives opposing her, wanted this fight.  We wanting to be standing beside and behind the president as he led the conservative movement and the whole conservative legal community in the great battle of our lifetime, because this is his last chance.  They‘re going to lose Senate seats in 2006, Chris. 

And here‘s our last chance for the Supreme Court.  So, there is a tremendous demoralization that is going on. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Let‘s talk about the intrigue here.  And this does sound like the plot last night on “West Wing,” the idea that somebody on behalf of the president, Karl Rove, may have cut a deal with James Dobson of Focus on the Family and said, no matter what is said public during these hearings, this woman is one of us.  She‘s pro-life.

And now Arlen Specter, the chairman of the committee, who is a Republican, a moderate, and the Democrats are now calling for—they want testimony from Karl Rove as to what kind of a deal he made. 

ROGERS:  Hey, good—good for Arlen Specter, good for Arlen Specter saying, if there is any suggestion of anything like that, we are going to clear it up in the hearings process. 

But here again, what we‘re headed for is hearings that really matter, where she is going to be asked questions.  Other people are going to ask questions.  And everybody should wait for that.  Everybody give her the benefit of the doubt and be fair until we get to those hearings. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What happens if she says things like—like they did—you know, Fifth Amendment communists used to do it with; they just repeat some sort of line?

Suppose she says, I haven‘t been a constitutional lawyer; I haven‘t been a constitutional appellate judge; I‘m not familiar with this case, but you will have to trust me? 

BUCHANAN:  She will lose.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, she‘s going to have to say that.

BUCHANAN:  She will lose.

ROGERS:  There will be some of that.  But she will some votes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  She‘ll lose if she does that?

BUCHANAN:  Oh, look, you can‘t...

ROGERS:  She will lose some votes.  I don‘t know if...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  With Roberts, he‘s got a Cy Young record up before the Supreme Court.  You don‘t say, do you know this?  Even if he said, I don‘t want to recall that case, they would say, OK, that‘s a surprise.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But he recalled every case...

BUCHANAN:  But, look, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... with nuance.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He knew every case and particular aspects of it. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  There may have been some rehearsal there as well.

BUCHANAN:  The president wanted an evangelical.  If he wanted an evangelical, you had one, attorney general of Missouri, governor of Missouri, senator from Missouri, attorney general of the United States, evangelical Christian.  Every conservative would have stood up.  John Ashcroft.  You would have had the fight of your life.  Why not Ashcroft?

ROGERS:  Well, we don‘t know...

MATTHEWS:  Well, what‘s the answer? 

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t know. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why did he go with someone and who didn‘t have the distinction Pat is talking about?

ROGERS:  And a lot—and we don‘t know.  And we don‘t know if there was a calculus to have a woman.  But the fact is, we don‘t know.  And Pat has...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You heard his line, didn‘t you?

ROGERS:  He—his...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  His selection process was to go down the hall looking for a woman. 

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS:  Well, and it could have been. 

And I‘m—I was for that, by the way.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  In terms of picking of women, I was for picking a woman, period.

MATTHEWS:  Per se?  Any woman?

ROGERS:  Pat has sat in the “West Wing”.  So have I. 

Sometimes, people who superficially appeal—sometimes people that have appealing credentials are not confirmable for private reasons. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are you betting on her confirmation? 

ROGERS:  Yes.  Yes, I will bet on it.  I will take all comers on confirmation.

MATTHEWS:  Are you betting for it or against it?

BUCHANAN:  My...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Not like it or not.  Are you betting for it?

BUCHANAN:  No, I don‘t think it‘s going to make it. 

MATTHEWS:  Interesting.  Divisions in the vision.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, Pat Buchanan.

And, thank you, Ed Rogers.

Up next, more on Supreme Court politics and the debate over Harriet Miers‘ nomination. 

and John McCain, is he considering another attempt to reach the White House?  Is the pope German? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  This is HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, with Karl Rove headed before the grand jury this week, will White House big shots face indictments soon?  HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL on Columbus Day. 

So, what could be more special—what could special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald be after by calling Karl Rove and Judy Miller back to the grand jury?

We turn to the two respected Washington journalists Thomas Oliphant, columnist with “The Boston Globe,” and Tony Blankley, editorial page editor of “The Washington Times” and author of the new book we will be talking about—and this is a scary book—“The West‘s Last Chance: Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations?”  It‘s obviously about terrorism—that in the next segment.

This segment, you have got to pay for your lunch here, Tony. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  And, Tommy, thank you.

This is big casino time in Washington.  We have a special prosecutor.  And one thing we have learned about special prosecutors, they complete their missions.  They get something done.  They don‘t go home and say, couldn‘t find anything.

TOM OLIPHANT, “THE BOSTON GLOBE”:  Almost always. 

MATTHEWS:  Almost always.

This time, the guy has got two people in his crosshairs, the president‘s top political kid, Karl Rove, and the vice president‘s office.  What is your bet about what is going to happen? 

OLIPHANT:  Maybe more. 

I mean, according to this developing theory of the case, you could even suggest that one of the reporters is technically exposed.  What I don‘t understand is why I don‘t hear more of my fellow lefties screaming to the heavens about a situation like this, where the power of the state is being used essentially, as near as I can tell, to criminalize the political transactions of Washington. 

I mean, we learned from Pat Buchanan in Watergate that that was an excess of...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So, you think may just be political hardball and not criminal, going out to destroy or discredit somebody like Joe Wilson? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That is the question.

OLIPHANT:  Exactly. 

But when you delegate the power of the attorney general of the United States to a guy, a special, you are giving up an awful loss.  And the checks on that prosecutor are very few.  And I was taught to always be suspicious of conspiracy charges, to always be suspicious of novel theories of crimes. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  The theory might be here, Tom, the—and Tony—that the people in the White House who are practicing what they call hardball politics, and I always thought was hardball politics, just rough play and knocking the other guy down, so he can‘t hurt you anymore, they may have seen this as a denial of his civil liberties, going after somebody like Joe Wilson. 

TONY BLANKLEY, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, “THE WASHINGTON TIMES”:  Look, if there is evidence of the underlying charge, then I think the prosecutor has every obligation to go forward with it. 

MATTHEWS:  Evidence being that they gave away the identity of an undercover agent on purpose. 

BLANKLEY:  If they actually did that, yes, on purpose.

But if are they getting into obstruction or perjury—I have been both a witness before a special prosecutor.  In my past, I was a prosecutor myself, not a special prosecutor.  And the idea of...

MATTHEWS:  You have been everything, haven‘t you?  Child star, author, prosecutor.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You are amazing, Tony. 

BLANKLEY:  But to try to catch Karl Rove in an inconsistency in four testimony—sessions of testimony about meetings that occurred years before, we are all going to make little changes.  And this is going to be where Fitzgerald is going to—are going to be able to judge him as a straight shooter or a guy who was looking to get another success, because this is his own—where he has got to use his judgment, whether the little inconsistencies that invariably occur honestly with people, the fact you don‘t remember every conversation with the same six people you‘ve been talking with for five years...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but a jury, even a grand jury, will expect some significance to these aberrations, won‘t they? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They won‘t just be playing gotcha.     

BLANKLEY:  Right.  Well, it depends. 

Sometimes, sometimes, special prosecutors go with a gotcha. 

Sometimes, they look for real, likely intentional misrepresentations.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me pose the possibility.  If the president of the United States was informed by Karl Rove and the others in the White House they had nothing to with leaking this person‘s identity, isn‘t it fair to believe that they said the same story to the special prosecutor in front of the grand jury? 

OLIPHANT:  Yes.

But the danger here is that you confuse the political with the criminal.  I mean, if—we know the White House spent two years telling us that Libby and Rove had nothing to do with this.  They weren‘t involved.  If that turns out not to be true, shame on them.  You shouldn‘t say things that are not so and all the rest of it. 

What I‘m not sure as a liberal is whether going on and criminalizing the conduct is the best thing for the country here. 

MATTHEWS:  I think that‘s a fair question.

Let me ask you about this V.P.—not the V.P., but the—this Supreme Court nomination.  Your paper, not the editorial page, but the front page, today said that half the Republican senators, 27 of the 55 -- I guess it‘s almost half...

BLANKLEY:  Yes. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Have a problem with this nomination, Harriet Miers.

BLANKLEY:  Yes.  Yes. 

I thought it was good reporting on our front page.  It‘s also the case that I have also talked with a number of Republican senators who have said that—basically, the same thing, that she came out of their courtesy meetings with—less impressive than going in. 

She has a problem at this point with making the sale.  Now, it‘s very early.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BLANKLEY:  These are just courtesy calls. 

But the early reaction is, gee, we would like to see more than what we‘re getting out of her.  So, I think she‘s got a real challenge, which maybe she can handle.  But she is going to have to perform extraordinarily well, I think, to win over.  I think there are a fair number of Republican senators who might conceivably—it seems almost impossible to imagine, but might conceivably cross over and say no. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me tell you, you know what is not here?  You know what I haven‘t heard yet, the dog that hasn‘t barked?  Bad metaphor.  Women have not come out for this nomination, because women of high educational status, who are the kinds of people who thought they might get to be—a Jamie Gorelick, for example, somebody who might have been thought of for Supreme Court under another administration—they don‘t seem to—in either party don‘t seem to rallying to this woman. 

(CROSSTALK)

OLIPHANT:  No.

And there‘s another issue that is looming that I think may energize some of the Democrats.  I don‘t think it‘s any accident that, in the 70-odd years of the history of this job, White House counsel, no president has ever picked one to be on the Supreme Court.

And the reason—whether it‘s Sam Rosenman for Roosevelt or Clark Clifford or  Len Garment for Nixon, the reason is the closeness, the intimate closeness in that office with the president. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

OLIPHANT:  And the question of, how can you have the independence...

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

OLIPHANT:  ... that you want from a jurist out of a White House counsel?

MATTHEWS:  That‘s in the Federalist Papers, by the way.

OLIPHANT:  Yes, sir.

MATTHEWS:  I read it today in “The New Yorker,” about you—they didn‘t want to pick insignificant, pliant people.  You want to pick strong people.

OLIPHANT:  Always.

MATTHEWS:  For this position. 

Anyway, we will be right back with Tony Blankley and Tom Oliphant.

Tony is going to tell us about his book. 

And a political reminder.  The debate is ongoing on Hardblogger, our political Web site.  Follow all the action of the hottest political stories each day.  Just go to our Web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We‘re facing a radical ideology with inalterable objectives, to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world.  No act of ours invited the rage of the killers.  And no concession, bribe or act of appeasement will change or limit their plans for murder. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Boy, that‘s it, isn‘t it?  That was President Bush last week outlining the threat of radical Islam. 

We‘re back with Tony Blankley of “The Washington Times” and “Boston Globe” columnist Tom Oliphant. 

Tony‘s new book is called “The West‘s Last Chance.”  It warns of the dangers of not confronting radical Islam.  And it outlines a hypothetical nightmare scenario. 

Catch this, because when I first read this, I thought was real: “On September 11, 2007, a string of simultaneous Islamic bomb blasts struck big suburban shopping malls in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and California.  Unlike the Spanish, in 2003, the American public in 2007 reacted sternly to the renewed violence.  Pollsters in both parties found widespread support for extreme measures to contain the Islamist threat.”

Thank you.  Well, it‘s scary, but it‘s also positive, because it suggests that, in the end, in extremis, America is going to react to Islamic terrorism the way the British did to the IRA.  We are going to stand firm. 

BLANKLEY:  Well, I think that, although I write a—I think a realistic assessment, that, in the long term, the Europeans, who I think must be our key allies in this struggle—they‘re half of Western civilization—are also going to respond. 

And when I actually wrote the book—I finished in about April of this year—I anticipated that this might be the year when Europe starts turning around.  I think there‘s some evidence of that.  My central point is that the danger to us is not merely bin Laden and al Qaeda, big as that problem is and unsolved as that problem is.  The greater problem is that we have Muslims in ferments (ph), a historic phenomena.  And an element of it and a growing element have become radicalized and believe in terrorism. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BLANKLEY:  And that‘s the danger, that when we catch—and let me give you just a couple quick things. 

This is not a—it‘s a cultural threat, but it‘s also the terrorist threat that faces us now.  The head of Interpol said this summer he thought that both Europe and the United States was vulnerable to a real threat of biological attack by Islamist terrorists, and neither is prepared. 

Senator Lugar, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, impaneled 80 of the leading weapons of mass destruction experts in the world.  Their consensus judgment was that there is a 70 percent chance we will get hit by a weapon of mass destruction, probably biological or radiological, less likely nuclear, in the next 10 years. 

All the experts—and I report on the leading credible experts, not the people who work for George Bush—they all believe that this is more likely than not.  If that‘s the case, I argue we are being complacent across the board in how we are preparing to defend ourselves.  And we also haven‘t begun to understand...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BLANKLEY:  ... the larger cultural challenge. 

In Europe, for instance, the “Guardian” newspaper, leading liberal paper in Britain, surveyed Britain‘s two million Muslims last year.  They found that 10 percent supported the idea of terrorism.  Another 30 percent didn‘t, but would not report a fellow Muslim who was involved.  And here‘s the number.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What is it about?

BLANKLEY:  Last statistic:  60 percent would prefer to live under Sharia law, Muslim law, than under British law.  That gives you some...

MATTHEWS:  Well, why did they move to Britain? 

BLANKLEY:  They moved to Britain for a number of reasons, they or their parents or, once in a while, their grandparents.  But they have become alienated to the culture to the point where most of them, at least in that poll, 60 percent didn‘t want to live under the law of the country they close to live. 

You see Tom Friedman‘s reporting from France.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.

BLANKLEY:  The cultural alienation...

MATTHEWS:  So, how do we fight it?  You got a minute. 

BLANKLEY:  Yes. 

I think we have to do a lot of things to start off with.  First, I believe we need to have a constitutional—a congregational declaration of war against radical Islamism. 

I was very encouraged by the president‘s statement last week.  For the time, he named the enemy.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me make my—let me ask you a question.  You can jump in here.

We beat the Nazis because we knew what—they had a war machine, not just an ideology.  And once we defeated that, we were in Berlin.  The war machine of Islamic terrorism in is here and in here.  How do you destroy it? 

BLANKLEY:  Well, look, part...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  There isn‘t a thing to destroy, is there?

(CROSSTALK)

BLANKLEY:  Unlike World War II, this is largely a war of information withheld and information sought. 

So, we have to be able to have the governmental powers to get information much better than we currently are. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You have a critic right here.

OLIPHANT:  No, not critic, because this is very important and much better than, say, Karen Hughes‘ public diplomacy these days, I might add.

But what I think you have to be careful about is, the best sources for terrorism information are the Muslim communities themselves.  We don‘t want to alienate what we need the most. 

BLANKLEY:  The challenge is that, while not wanting to alienate the majority of Muslims, we still have to take the actions necessary to try to protect ourselves. 

MATTHEWS:  The trick is not to build the hate. 

Anyway, Tony Blankley.

BLANKLEY:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Scary book.

And, Tom Oliphant, always.

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

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