updated 10/12/2005 9:24:53 AM ET 2005-10-12T13:24:53

Guests: Jim Warren, Michael Isikoff, Margaret Carlson, John Fund

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  A special prosecutor sniffs the paper trail to Bush‘s top partners, political ram rod Karl Rove, and the vice president‘s office.  How big a bang is this going to be?  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Tonight, West Wing worries.  The special prosecutor works to trace both the president‘s top political gun, Karl Rove, and the vice president‘s office to the outing of an undercover CIA operative.  Will the Bush team hang together or hang separately? 

Today, a new development reported by the “National Journal,” the vice president‘s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, never disclosed to the grand jury or the FBI a crucial conversation he had in June of 2003 with “New York Times” reporter Judith Miller about the identity of the undercover CIA operative. 

Meanwhile, another division in the Bush camp.  The same best and brightest who championed Bush‘s war with Iraq are now stomping to death his choice for the Supreme Court.  The question looms. 

With the prosecutor making his list of White House targets with conservatives like George Will, Bill Kristol, and Charles Krauthammer jumping from the Good Ship Bush, who will be left aboard to help fight the good fight? 

Mike Isikoff is an investigative correspondent with “Newsweek” magazine.  Andrea Mitchell is chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News and author of the booming book “Talking Back to Presidents, Dictators and Assorted Scoundrels.”  And Jim Warren is deputy managing editor of “The Chicago Tribune.”

Let me go to Mike Isikoff.  You‘ve been owning this story for years now.  After two years of investigation, what do we really know that might incriminate the people around the president? 

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, “NEWSWEEK”:  Well, it‘s all influential and circumstantial.  We are coming down to crunch time.  As one lawyer in the case told me today, look, the grand jury expires October 28th.  Everybody expects that Fitzgerald is going to wrap it up by then and either bring indictments or perhaps ...

MATTHEWS:  By when?

ISIKOFF:  October 28th, the end of this month.  We have gotten a lot of new information in the last week or so.  Rove going back before the grand jury fourth time—that‘s extraordinary.  That‘s supposed to happen on Friday.  It relates, at least in part, to, as we‘ve reported this week, as discrepancies between him and Matt Cooper about their conversation on July 11 in which he tells them that Wilson‘s wife works at the agency on WMD and arranged this trip to Africa. 

We do know that Rove didn‘t disclose this conversation to the FBI, didn‘t disclose it in the first appearance before the grand jury.  Then this e-mail that we reported this week is located by his lawyer, we are told.  That is the e-mail he sent to Steve Hadley, deputy national security adviser, telling him he did talk to Cooper. 

Rove amends the conversation, testimony, suggests that the conversation was primarily about welfare reform.  Then Cooper comes in.  His e-mail is disclosed.  His testimony says it was nothing about welfare. 

It was all about Wilson, Niger, Africa. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, just stop for a second.  So we now know, as non-lawyers and people who don‘t know how to prosecute cases like this, that there is at least a prima facie case there now, that Karl Rove, the president‘s top kick politically, did talk to a reporter about the identity of this undercover agent? 

ISIKOFF:  Right.  The way you put it, yes.  There was ...

MATTHEWS:  Despite all the denials beforehand.  And the second part of this story breaking today—you noted it up at the top of the show—the “National Journal” has reported this afternoon—this Tuesday afternoon, late today—that there is in fact now the prosecutor does know there was, in fact, a meeting between the chief of staff of the vice president and Judith Miller of the “New York Times” ...

ISIKOFF:  Right, right, right.

MATTHEWS:  ... about this same topic.  So we know the two top people were talking about the identity of this undercover agent and had been denying it all along?  Is that all true?

ISIKOFF:  Well, actually, we don‘t know that in this earlier June conversation that Wilson‘s wife came up.  My understand is that there was no ...

MATTHEWS:  It was spoken (ph) to Joe Wilson ...

ISIKOFF:  Wilson ...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

ISIKOFF:  And that‘s interesting because Wilson‘s identity was not yet public as the person who took the trip, although it was known to journalists in Washington.  Wilson had been talking on background at that point.

MATTHEWS:  But we still don‘t know—when we talked in the dressing room before we went on the air—and I want to nail this down—the original charge was two administration high officials were identified by Bob Novak, the prince of darkness, in his syndicated column as having told him about the undercover agent‘s identity. 

ISIKOFF:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  We don‘t know who those two people were? 

ISIKOFF:  No, no, no.  We do know that Rove was one of them.  Rove confirmed what Novak had heard from somebody else ...

MATTHEWS:  Saying, yes I heard that.

ISIKOFF:  ... saying yes, I heard that, too. 

MATTHEWS:  But that‘s not exactly incriminating yet.  We don‘t think nobody‘s going to go to jail for saying ...

ISIKOFF:  Right, no, no.  The real—you know, the real missing piece, the dog that hasn‘t barked, is the identity of the original leaker, that is the guy who started all this and we have yet to identify who that person is which is going to be crucial to this case.

MATTHEWS:  All right.  Let‘s go to Andrea.  Andrea, you‘ve been listening to this conversation.  It looks like we are getting close to the end here in terms of being able to establish at least the special prosecutor from all the evidence we have seen, who is Karl Rove for the fourth time.

The leaking of this fact that he did now find out about this conversation between the chief of staff and the vice president, talking to Judith Miller of the “New York Times” who went to jail for all those months, about this topic.  How close do you think we are getting to something really big here in terms of a major set of indictments? 

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I don‘t know that we‘re getting close to a major set of indictments, because he could still decide not to indict.  When Karl Rove goes before the grand jury again, it‘s his opportunity to persuade the grand jury and the prosecutor, presumably, that he forgot the conversation, that there is an innocent explanation or the prosecutor could decide that this is not warranting a indictment.  If these are ...

MATTHEWS:  If he forgot the conversation, why did he tell Stephen Hadley, deputy national security director, about the conversation?  He remembered it when Stephen Hadley—when he wanted to talk to Stephen Hadley.  He forgot it when he was asked by the special prosecutor?  Are we to believe that?

MITCHELL:  Well, we are taking several leaps here beyond what we now know. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MITCHELL:  But Rove will have an opportunity, when he goes before the grand jury, to make whatever exit explanations he wants to make.  And lawyers tell me that it‘s very unusual for someone to go back before the before the grand jury after being warned not that he is a target, but that they can‘t promise—the prosecutor can‘t promise that he won‘t be indicted. 

But we shouldn‘t make that next leap.  We don‘t know what the next stage is going to be.  And we don‘t know what you were just discussing with Michael, is who is that other person?  Who is that original leaker?  Is it someone else that we have not yet heard of?  Most likely, yes.

MATTHEWS:  Well, then let‘s talk about the president‘s role in this.  I want to show this clip here from “The Today Show” this morning where Matt Lauer talks to the president about this very topic.  And then I want Jim Warren to react to it.  Let‘s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, “THE TODAY SHOW”:  You political guru Karl Rove is scheduled to testify before the grand jury for a fourth time, this coming week it seems, looking into the leak of a CIA‘s agent name.  And you‘ve said if someone on your staff had anything to do with that leak, you will take care of that person.  Has Karl Rove looked you in the eye, Mr.  President, and said I in no ways bent or broke the rules or the law when it comes to this case? 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Matt, I have also consistently said I‘m not going to talk about the case.  It‘s under review. 

And so I‘m not going to talk about it.  Thank you for asking, but on the

other hand, the special prosecutor has made it clear—has made it clear -

that he doesn‘t want anybody speculating or talking about the case, so I‘m not going to talk about it. 

LAUER:  But does it worry you that they seem to have such an interest in Mr. Rove? 

G. BUSH:  I‘m not going to talk about the case.  I have been asked this a lot.  My answer is consistent.  And the special prosecutor is conducting a very serious investigation.  He‘s doing it in a dignified way, by the way.  And we will see what he says. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Jim, the question is, why hasn‘t the president who promised to clean house on this two years ago not cleaned house?  Why hasn‘t he at least asked the number one suspect did you or did you not talk about the identity of this undercover agent to the press?  Why didn‘t he just ask him that?

JIM WARREN, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE:  Well, a translation of what we‘ve just heard this morning on the “Today Show” is yes, I am very worried that some of my folks are involved in all of this.  But, you know, we don‘t know. 

He probably was counseled by lawyers in the White House as soon as they made the decision on Patrick Fitzgerald for everybody to keep mum, shut up publicly for sure.  But I do think one can also easily infer from a lot that is going on—and Mike and Andrea probably agree—that the White House clearly underestimated both the breadth and ferocity of Patrick Fitzgerald‘s investigation starting early on when he started asking them for all of their phone record. 

So I don‘t doubt that they are rather taken aback, as he is doing what his track record suggest he—from the beginning that he would have done.  He is doubling back, doubling back, doubling back, looking at every single little inconsistency. 

Now, all of that ultimately may be benign.  Maybe there is nothing to the interaction in 2003 between Libby and Judith Miller.  But maybe there is something more there.  Is it possible that Patrick Fitzgerald, in a arguably very unduly, expansive definition of that underlying 1982 statute about identifying covert agents, is it possible he thinks Judith Miller might be in trouble too?  At this point, we simply do not know. 

MITCHELL:  And, Chris, can I just interject ...

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

MITCHELL:  ... that this prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, is the same prosecutor in New York who ended up convicting the blind sheik and also indicting Osama bin Laden in absentia for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.  This is a very tough customer and he plays it by the book. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Jim, I think we know more than you say.

WARREN:  But if I might also add—can I also add ...

MATTHEWS:  Jim, let me just ask you to use your nose on this one, not just your brain.  Here is what I think.  I think from the beginning, this prosecutor has been wise to this problem and said these people I‘m dealing with in the White House are very smart people. 

If they did something wrong—and that‘s a big if—they would not have done themselves.  They would have had somebody else do the dirty work up front.  But, occasionally, they would trust certain reporters and they would let them know what they were up to. 

In fact, they would use them perhaps, maybe using Judy Miller.  It seems to be that he is looking behind the scenes and saying wait a minute, I‘m not stupid.  These guys are smart.  What they may have done, whether it‘s Rove, whether it‘s Scooter Libby the chief of staff of the vice president, of the vice president could be involved—they could all be involved --  in using staff to do dirty work. 

I mean, I worked on Capitol Hill for 15 years.  I watched it happen all the time.  People had underlings do the dirty work for them, and then they deny any knowledge of it.  I—My hunch is that is what we are looking at. 

MITCHELL:  Chris, there is a difference though between—

WARRErMDNM_N:  All four of us, I think, Andrea, all four of us will stipulate to that.  But this may be completing the statement I cut off Andrea as she was about to make, but there may well be a difference between political hardball, which clearly was what was going on here, and in retrospect, the White House must be --  have great second thoughts about the way they went after Joe Wilson initially. 

They clearly underestimated the impact of Joe Wilson‘s comments on Meet the Press and in “The New York Times” op-ed page.  And instead of going after him on the facts, they went after him for his politics and or the identity of his wife.  And that may have been a real big mistaken their part. 

But, I also have to parenthetically amend the characterization of Patrick Fitzgerald.  He has been a marvelous, intrepid prosecutor, whether it‘s on Iraq, whether it‘s on gun cases, terrorism cases... 

MATTHEWS:  Is he ever wrong, Jim? 

WARREN:  ...or organized crime.  But, also there is one big case here, a post 9/11 case, in which arguably he went way too far. 

A judge through out the key piece of evidence as he went after a Muslim charity, which he tried to link to Osama Bin laden and though it hasn‘t gotten much national attention, if you ask defense lawyers in the city of Chicago, they will bring up the case of one Enam Arno (ph), as a case of arguable Pat Fitzgerald zealotry. 

MITCHELL:  Now, what I was going to say.

MATTHEWS:  Now, this is two years of zealotry and a reporter in jail and maybe two reporters would have been in jail.  That‘s one the arguments, Andrea, people are making, is he must have had something in that sealed envelope to justify getting Judge Hogan to put this person away. 

MITCHELL:  Absolutely.  But, Chris, we should point out that there is a difference between playing political hardball, which people in Washington play and people in this White House play, and anything that approaches a crime. 

I don‘t think they knew about this statute and were probably as shocked as anyone when this whole statute came up of disclosing the identity of a covert operative. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m not sure you are right.  Because I think this guy, Fitzgerald, may see what we call political hardball, misuse of public authority because the people who are accused here, perhaps, are people who are getting government salaries to work for the interest of the whole country. 

And they go after a person to defame and discredit him and hurt his family to the point of what they did, then he could argue, I don‘t care if this hasn‘t been enforced before, I‘m going to enforce it, this is breaking the spirit of the country. 

WARREN:  Well, one key here is how they...

ISIKOFF:  And Chris, if I can also add.  Chris, I have to add.—

MATTHEWS:  Let Michael go because Michael is leaving.. 

ISIKOFF:  How they learned about Wilson‘s wives identity, we do know there was this classified state department report that was circulated in that time period and that the paragraph that had the information about Wilson‘s wife at the agency was marked not just secret but N.F., no foreign. 

So, that it was so sensitive that it could not be disclosed, it would be harmful to national security, if it was...

WARREN:  That could be the case...

ISIKOFF:  ...and I think if they can prove it, and we don‘t know this, if they can prove that was the source of knowledge, then that can make a serious matter. 

MITCHELL:  And we do know...

MATTHEWS:  I know one person won‘t like this kind of business, that‘s President Bush senior, the first President Bush would be stunned to hear that anybody in the White House today was involved in outing an agent.  He was once head of the CIA.

Go ahead, Andrea, last thought.

MITCHELL:  We also know that, that paragraph, that document was circulated on Air Force One as the president was flying to Africa, that Ari Fletcher saw it, Colin Powell testified to that.  And that could be one of the key facts in this. 

MATTHEWS:  And we‘re still waiting to see who was the other person who talked to Bob Novak. 

MITCHELL:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  Prince of Darkness himself has that secret, we think.  Thank you, Mike (INAUDIBLE) you have to run.  Andrea Mitchell, you are sticking with us, the great author. 

And Jim Warren, you‘re also staying with us to talk about the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers. Which right now seems mired in the right wing cause of whatever, I don‘t know.   Lots of fighting going on.  We are going to talk about her personal ties to the president, which apparently are quite tight. 

And later on in the program, how serious is the threat of the avian flu?  We are going to take a closer look at this bird virus that has attacked in so many parts of the world what the Bush administration is doing to keep it out of this place, this country. 

You are watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We are back with NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell and Jim Warren of “The Chicago Tribune.”  Before we go to Harriet Miers,  I want to give you all a chance because we were jammed up there. 

Andrea, you‘re sense of this story as it‘s moving this week in terms of the investigation by the special prosecutor of the leak story.

MITCHELL:  I think he is wrapping up loose ends and is getting ready to either shut it all down or indict.  And I find it very hard to believe that he wouldn‘t be indicting, given the fact that he took the extraordinary step of putting Judy Miller, a journalist, in jail, which is something that the attorney general says is very unusual and not to be done lightly. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think we are looking at something.  What do you think, Jim?  What do you know, actually?  If you know something to sum this up, if you had to write a weekend catchup piece on this, what would be the lead? 

WARREN:  Well, what I might suggest for Andrea and for others, to look

at some recent criminal indictments he has made here, city of Chicago

officials tied to Richard Daley, on the personnel hiring front, political

hiring front, where he has taken some statutes and in the minds of some

defense lawyers been bending them  rather interestingly to make a claim

that what many of us would consider good old fashioned political hiring.  I

In the way that, I think, some of us might think that what went on in the White House was good old fashioned political hardball, can indeed be interpreted as a criminal act. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m totally in synch with your thinking because I think watching this guy‘s record, he is willing to throw the book at people, a book that hasn‘t been thrown at anybody before. 

And, I think when we say in Washington well that‘s the way the game is played.  He will say yes, but these are public officials and they have a particular responsibility to the public to protect peoples‘ civil liberties and reputations and they can‘t simply use their offices to destroy somebody.  I do agree, I do think that‘s a pattern in his past. 

MITCHELL:  And I do agree, really quickly, with what Jim Warren said.  The way I interpreted the president‘s comments to Matt Lauer when he asked that god question, are you worried about it?  That hesitation on the part of the president, he‘s worried. 

MATTHEWS:  If he wasn‘t worried, he would have asked Karl Rove, are you clean on this, if he thought he was clean, he must think he‘s not. 

Let me ask you about this Harriet Miers‘ thing.  Is it really mired down?  Is she really faced trouble when she goes before the committee, Andrea?

MITCHELL:  I think so.  The “Washington Times,” which usually is a cheerleader for this administration, reported yesterday that almost half the Republicans don‘t say yet how they would vote on Miers.  They have released from Texas these adoring conversations or letters, which are, frankly, a little bit embarrassing.  Here they are trying to shore up her intellectual credibility.  The best argument for her came today from the first lady, who as always is the best politician in this White House, when she said there is more than a little hint of sexism, in response again, to Matt Lauer.  That is a good shot across the bow.  But other than that, they have a hard way to go.  And she has a very tough standard against John Roberts, who is terrific.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of the politics of this?  I find it interesting that the real best and brightest around the president—I mentioned at the top of the show, the people like George Will, who have been supportive of Bush—certainly Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol, and people like David Frum, the former speechwriter—the real Ivy League types, the ones with the great educations.   They are the ones bouncing this woman around like she is some sort of inferior.  Is that what is going on?  Is this an intellectual class thing going against this woman? 

WARREN:  I think there is as much class going on as gender.  And at the risk, Chris, of sending your self image to new and Olympian heights, I have to refer to your very fine self portrayal the other night on the NBC show “West Wing” which I think, an interesting scene there, is relevant to what‘s going on here.  The Republican presidential candidate, played by Alan Alda, confronts a top Christian right official who insists on a public pledge that Alan Alda, if elected president, will only pick anti-abortion judges to the federal court.  And Alan Alda, seeing the world is much more complicated, declines to do that.  Why is that relevant?  I think it‘s relevant because, just like Bill Clinton could never satisfy his left, it seems that Bush can never satisfy a group for whom he has cut taxes, delivered Saddam Hussein on a platter, done what they want on late-term abortion and stem cell research, come out against gay marriage and picked a whole lot of conservative judges. 

But you‘ve got the likes of Pat Buchanan, who is still bashing him.

MITCHELL:  I don‘t want to play TV critic here, but I think Alan Alda did cave in and did give him that secret assurance. 

MATTHEWS:  Best-selling author—

WARREN:  No, he lied to him.  The point was, he lied.

MATTHEWS:  Andrea, the name of the book is “Talking Back,” right?

MITCHELL:  “Talking Back.”

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much.

Jim Warren, thank you—from the “Chicago Tribune.”

Up next, the politics of the bird flu:  why some say the Bush administration is not doing enough to keep America safe in the event of a global pandemic. 

You are watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Tonight, the networks of NBC are tracking the deadly bird flu virus.  Here on HARDBALL, a political fight is brewing over that virus and the pandemic that so many fear.  And there are questions about President Bush‘s plans to contain an outbreak.  HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reports. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice over):  It‘s a disease that has already killed millions of birds in Southeast Asia and is spreading to humans across Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia.  And health officials fear the contagious and deadly Asian flu may be mutating, making it immune to antidotes, creating an international catastrophe.

DR. FREDERICK LEUNG, UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG:  You would be surprised how fast that virus can travel from a Third World backward country farm into New York City. 

SHUSTER:  The flu spreads easily from birds to humans, like by eating infected chicken, and there are worries that it could spread human to human, through something as simple as kissing.  Airline passengers in places like Hong Kong are being scanned for the fever, but officials, including some in the United States, warn the Asian flu could end up killing tens of millions of people. 

SECRETARY MIKE LEAVITT, HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES:  The world is obviously unprepared, or inadequately prepared, for the potential of a pandemic.

SHUSTER:  One reason is because of poor monitoring overseas.  Another is because there are not enough doses available of the main anti-virus drug known as Tamiflu.  President Bush recently brought CEOs of six vaccine companies to the White House to address expanding the American stockpile. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The people of the country ought to rest assured that we are doing everything we can. 

SHUSTER:  But in the United States, experts say there are less than 10 million doses of the vaccine and manufacturing millions more will take time.  Democrats argue the administration is moving too late.  They say the administration should relax patent issues, so dozens of companies can make the drug.  Something the pharmaceutical industry and the Bush administration oppose.

The other political flash point is over government plans for containing an outbreak.  The president suggests using U.S. troops, one of the first times they‘ve ever been proposed for domestic health crisis.

G. BUSH:  Who best to be able to effect a quarantine?  One option is the use of a military that‘s able to plan and move.  That‘s why I put it on the table. 

SHUSTER:  The military was dispatched to help keep people out of cities along the Gulf following Hurricane Katrina, but the potential reliance on trained warriors in a fully-populated city instead of police startles some on the political right. 

GENE HEALY, CATO INSTITUTE:  When you put them in a role that is more appropriate to domestic peace officers, who ideally are trained to respect the constitutional rights of the citizens they‘re protecting—if you put soldiers in that role, if you put the 82nd Airborne in that role, you run the risk of collateral damage to civil life and liberty. 

SHUSTER (on camera):  It‘s a debate in part between scenarios.  Imagine being kept in your hometown and forced at gunpoint to stay in a quarantine.  But also imagine the chaos if you and millions of other Americans in the face of a pandemic are on your own.  As one observer noted, While the political fight over the Asian flu may be getting intense, just wait. 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Scary stuff.  Thank you, David Shuster.  We will get back with more answers about the bird flu and how to contain it a little later in the hour. 

Up next, President Bush defends his Supreme Court nominee, who continues to be a target for conservatives. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

G. BUSH:  I would remind those, one, that Harriet is an extraordinarily accomplished woman who has done a lot.  As a matter of fact, she is consistently ranked as one of the top 50 women lawyers in the United States.  She has broken the glass ceiling.  She‘s served as a great example.  She is a brilliant person. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  As conservatives pound away at Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, new documents shed light on her very close relationship with then-Governor George Bush and reveal her to be an unabashed supporter of the president‘s.  More on that in a moment, but first, Matt Lauer asked the president and First Lady Laura Bush about whether sexism is playing into the criticism of Harriet Miers.  Let‘s take a look at the “Today Show” this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY:  I know Harriet well, I know how accomplished she is, I know how many times she has broken the glass ceiling herself.  She is a role model for young women around our country. 

LAUER:  Some are suggesting there‘s ...

L. BUSH:  Not only that, she is very deliberate and thoughtful and will bring dignity wherever she goes, but certainly to the Supreme Court.  She‘ll be really excellent. 

LAUER:  Some are suggesting there is a little possible sexism in the criticism of Judge Miers.

L. BUSH:  That‘s possible.

LAUER:  How would you feel about that? 

L. BUSH:  I think that‘s possible.  I think she is so accomplished.  And I think people are not looking at her accomplishments and not realizing she was the first elected woman to be the head of the Texas Bar Association, for instance, and all the other things.  She was the first woman managing partner of a major law firm.  She was the first woman hired by a major law firm, her law firm. 

G. BUSH:  My attitude, Matt, is when people get to know her, they will see why I picked her. 

L. BUSH:  They will.  In the confirmation hearings along they‘ll see what she‘s like.

LAUER:  I think “The Washington Times” had a story this morning that said they had—about 27 Republican senators have serious questions about Judge Miers—about Harriet Miers. 

G. BUSH:  Well, Judge Miers is well-spoken.

LAUER:  I was getting ahead of myself here, but—so you are convinced that she will be confirmed. 

G. BUSH:  Absolutely.  I‘m not only am I convinced that she will be confirmed, I‘m convinced that she‘ll be a fine—great judge.  And I‘m convinced that she will be—she won‘t change.  I mean, the person I know is not the kind of person who is going to change her philosophy. 

And her philosophy is, is that she is not going to legislate from the bench.  And so I told the American people when I campaigned for president the type of judge I would pick.  I picked that type of person in John Roberts and I picked that type of person in Harriet Miers.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We are joined now by Margaret Carlson, “The Week” magazine

of “The Week” magazine,  and John Fund of opinionjournal.com.  Margaret

boy, she‘s a tough salesman.  I wonder whether she is the one who made the pick.  It wasn‘t like she was reading talking points.  The first lady read—hit it by point by point by point why this woman should be on the court. 

MARGARET CARLSON, “THE WEEK” MAGAZINE:  I disagree.  I think Laura Bush said she wanted a woman after George Bush told her it was going to be a woman.  She doesn‘t freelance, but she‘s on board now and she gave a defense, and remember ...

MATTHEWS:  But didn‘t she a couple of weeks ago say, after he had picked John rMD+IN_rMDNM_Roberts for the chief justice position, she wanted a—she wished he had picked a woman?  Isn‘t she on board already with the idea of a woman before he got there?

CARLSON:  Well, knowing that when—the next one would be a woman and it is. 

MATTHEWS:  She anticipates his every move? 

CARLSON:  Yes, she does. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to John Fund.  John, Fundy (ph), in your world out there in the world of opinion and conservative opinion, there seems to be a breakout here between the intellectuals—I call them the best and the brightest—the people like George Will and not only neo-conservatives either—George Will, Krauthammer, Fund—not Fund—Frum, and people like Laura Ingraham on radio are all blasting this thing from day one, Rush Limbaugh has been blasting it.  What makes them so quick to attack an appointment? 

JOHN FUND, WWW.OPINIONJOURNAL.COM:  Well, just remember, in the last 50 years we have had Republican presidents nominate people to the Supreme Court a lot.  And from Earl Warren all the way through David Souter, every Republican president has nominated someone who has deeply disappointed conservatives, and that they expected a lot more from. 

Given that background, having a mystery woman like Harriet Miers—and I grant her all of her accomplishments.  She is a very, very good lawyer, but that doesn‘t necessarily qualify you for the Supreme Court.  Therefore, I think a lot of these conservatives have questions and some have gone into outright opposition. 

MATTHEWS:  Are they against her because they think she is not heavy enough for the job, doesn‘t have the gravitas or the history, or because they think she‘ll be turned—her head will be turned by her liberal company when she gets to Washington? 

FUND:  Well, she is in Washington already.  I mean, there‘s a track record there.  We don‘t know very much about that record because, of course, being counsel to the president, we are not going see any of those memos. 

But, Chris, the real problem here is the total package.  It‘s not just the complete lack of constitutional law background, it‘s also the fact that she is a mystery woman.  Beyond her Nathan Hecht, her good friend in Texas, George W. Bush and maybe Karl Rove, I defy you to deliver a single, living human being who says that he has had a substantive political and philosophical conversation with her. 

I talked to one of her former law partners who said she is unrevealing to the point of a personal obsession, she doesn‘t like to talk about things, much less her jurisprudential philosophy. 

MATTHEWS:  What is she?  Are you saying is she a Stepford wife? 

FUND:  No, I‘m simply saying she is someone who plays her cards so close to her chest they could be plastered to her. 

MATTHEWS:  Does she have cards?

FUND:  Yes, she is accomplished.  But remember, this is the Supreme Court ...

MATTHEWS:  No, I mean, in terms of an agenda, in terms of a judicial philosophy, does she have a reason to want to be on the Supreme Court besides the honor of it? 

FUND:  These are questions we have to ask.  The Supreme Court of the United States has great power in this country and it is unappealable.  Once they make a decision, it‘s set. 

MATTHEWS:  Margaret, I want you to respond to these letters.  We pulled a cache of letters between—actually, all from Harriet Miers to the former governor of Texas, the man who just appointed her to the Supreme Court.  Quote—here‘s one on July of 1997.  “You are the best governor ever—deserving of great respect.”

In a thank you note to Governor Bush in 1996, Miers wrote, “Texas has a very popular governor and first lady!  I was struck by the tremendous impact you have on the children whose lives you touch.”

In October of ‘97, she wrote another thank you card to President Bush, or Governor Bush at the time.  “Hopefully Jenna and Barbara recognize that their parents are ‘cool‘”—that‘s in quotes—“as do the rest of us.”

I don‘t know.  I think that‘s harmless stuff.  Does that suggest that she‘s just a pliant, insignificant sort of, you know, Stepford wife.

CARLSON:  Well, I agree with you, it‘s harmless.  It‘s all there is. 

We wouldn‘t be discussing it if Harriet Miers...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It got her on the Supreme Court, those letters.

CARLSON:  Well, not yet.

It‘s—those notes we‘re discussing because there are no op-ed pieces, there are no opinions, as John said.

MATTHEWS:  There are journal entries...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  There‘s nothing. 

All we have is a Texas Supreme Court judge, Nathan Hecht, who is a sometime walker and an organist at her church saying she‘s pro-life, and then James Dobson, who had a secret conversation with Karl Rove, saying, “She‘s one of us, trust me.” 

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s like applying to law school and saying, “I didn‘t take the LSATs, the law boards, and I didn‘t go to college, but trust me, I got a great reference here”? 

CARLSON:  Yes.  Exactly.

Also, the anomaly—going back to what John said about the disappointments on the court, they are judges and scholars and intellects who disappointed Republicans who appointed them by moving leftward. 

Now, the thing about Harriet Miers is she is not like them.  She is a, I would agree with you, somewhat pliant, almost Stepford office wife, where her loyalty is entirely to George Bush and her opinions flow from George Bush. 

So she might be the most reliable vote, the way conservatives want her to vote, that there could possibly be.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... he won‘t tell us how, that she‘s going to be a reliable anti-abortion vote. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  You have to admire the intellectual conservatives for wanting an intellectual as opposed to somebody that‘s a surer vote than any of these other ones. 

MATTHEWS:  John, we‘ll have to get back to you after this break. 

We‘ll be back with John Fund and Margaret Carlson after this break.

And a reminder, the political debate is ongoing on Hardblogger, or our political blog Web site.  Just go to hardball.MSNBC.com. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Margaret Carlson of “The Week” magazine, and Opinionjournal.com‘s John Fund. 

Attorneys for Congressman Tom DeLay have subpoenaed Travis County prosecutor Ronnie Earle in an effort to show that the prosecutor has acted improperly in his dealings with grand jurors. 

So the beat goes on there, John.  What do you make of this latest whiplash back from the accused? 

FUND:  You are going to have a great Texas shootout on this case.  You‘ve got Tom DeLay and his six guns and you‘ve got Ronnie Earle and his six guns—only one of them is going to be left standing, Chris. 

I think Ronnie Earle has a track record over the past few years of being often off base in his prosecutions.  He had two great failures with the Texas attorney general, a Democrat, and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican. 

On the other hand, with Tom DeLay, you have all of the allegations trailing behind him, and including the admonishments from the House. 

So I have to tell you, one of them is going down and one of them is going to be left standing. 

MATTHEWS:  And the problem is that even if the odds are in favor of Tom DeLay getting off, nobody wants to play Russian roulette.  I mean, if there‘s one chance in six, you‘re going to jail for a long time—that‘s a pretty scary situation.

FUND:  Chris, Tom DeLay can win the legal case but lose his political post. 

MATTHEWS:  Exactly.

Let me ask you about this latest about—Margaret, you‘re first here, and then John. 

You know, in Washington we‘re used to trivial matters and then all of a sudden a big one comes along—the outing of a CIA agent, perhaps the cover up of for the reason we went to war.  It centers around the vice president‘s office with Scooter Libby now because that‘s where the prosecutor is looking.  It centers equally well around this question of whether Karl Rove played a part as the president‘s top political kick.

And the question is did they try to destroy someone who tried to unearth the real story behind why we went to war, the WMD argument? 

CARLSON:  Well, yes, they tried to destroy this person.  But the question is whether they did it in a way that‘s not allowed, and that‘s what Fitzgerald is looking at. 

I mean, people are always trying to destroy each other in Washington, but there are good ways to do it and illegal ways to do it, and that‘s what he‘s looking at. 

I don‘t believe Fitzgerald, who is a respected prosecutor, is going to go this far and put a journalist in jail and threaten to put another one in jail if he doesn‘t have something very serious... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s also the human factor, John.  If he feels that he has been BS‘d to, or lied to, or he sees something that smacks of a very clever dealing by the other side he‘s looking at, and they may have gotten something done through second people, like they used agents to do this uncovering of this undercover operative with the CIA, he might say, “These guys are smart guys; I‘m going to catch them.” 

FUND:  Chris, I predicted...

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s an ego thing.

FUND:  Chris, I predicted on this show a long time ago that this wasn‘t about outing a CIA operative—that was never prosecutable. 

What it is here is an obstruction of justice possible charge or a perjury possible charge.  And right now, I think he‘s got probably at least one White House aide in his sights. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you know which one? 

FUND:  Scooter Libby. 

MATTHEWS:  Because?  Because this latest development that there were, in fact—there was, in fact, a conversation between Scooter Libby and Judy Miller of the “New York Times” in June that he never admitted under questioning by either the FBI or the grand jury? 

FUND:  I think today‘s news is bad news for the chief of staff to the vice president. 

MATTHEWS:  How about the vice president? 

FUND:  No.

MATTHEWS:  Can we reasonably believe that he wasn‘t in the room when all this was discussed?  Can we?  I mean, it‘s an open question.

FUND:  I think this is below his pay grade, this whole operation. 

MATTHEWS:  You believe he wasn‘t concerned by Joseph Wilson‘s claim that the vice president knew there was no WMD case from Africa and let the president make that case in the State of the Union; you don‘t believe he was concerned about that story out there when Joe Wilson put it out in the “New York Times,” enough to do something about it?  Or do you think he just stood there and let that happen?

FUND:  Not concerned to worry about talking to reporters or having others talk to reporters, no. 

And by the way, if it is true...

MATTHEWS:  So you believe that the vice president just took the incoming charge that he had deceived the president of the United States, let him say in the State of the Union that there was, in fact, a deal between Saddam Hussein and an African government to buy uranium materials, the yellow cake, and let somebody said that, that was all untrue because someone had gone down there to check it, and the man who went down there to check it and came back and said there was nothing to it, and the vice president of the United States did nothing about that, you‘re saying? 

FUND:  First of all, Chris, we know that a lot of it was untrue and we know that Joe Wilson did not tell the truth on many important parts of his story.  There are no heroes in this story, none whatsoever.

But if I know how Washington works, Chris, the vice president or the president of the United States do not get down into the weeds on that.  They don‘t.

MATTHEWS:  You know, it‘s my experience that people get things done by other people when they want them done.  Anyway, thank you, Margaret Carlson.  Thank you, John Fund.  I don‘t know what happened here.  We are going to learn that out I think in about a week, we‘re going to know.  Up next, how deadly would a bird flu pandemic be?  And is enough being done to make sure Americans are kept safe?  We will get some answers.  This is HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Tonight with a series of in-depth reports from NBC News and MSNBC, we are taking a close look at the possible avian flu pandemic.  Health experts say that the threat of the bird flu is real, and today the Bush administration warned that no country in the world is ready for it, not even the United States. 

So far, 65 people have died from this flu, but experts warn that it could kill millions worldwide if left unchecked.  For more on this possible avian flu outbreak, CNBC‘s Rob Reynolds has this report from a chicken processing plant in Maryland. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROB REYNOLDS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT (on camera):  Chris, here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, chicken is king, and these giant poultry houses like the ones you see behind me, dot the landscape everywhere.  Now, if avian influenza were to break out in a place like this, it would be a disaster for the $29 billion a year U.S. poultry industry.

(voice-over):  Doug Green raises 500,000 broiler chickens every year on his farm in Princes Anne, Maryland.  To stay in business, he has to make sure his chickens stay healthy.  So Green‘s chicken houses are strictly off limits to all outsiders, either human or animal, who might be carrying the disease.

DOUG GREEN, POULTRY GROWER:  We limit access to the farm.  That is our main defense, one of probably the best defenses we have as an industry.  The fact that birds are not exposed to the outside environment or outside people. 

REYNOLDS:  So far, no trace of the lethal bird flu virus has been found in the United States, and the poultry industry wants to keep it that way. 

Here on the Delmarva Peninsula, an avian flu outbreak would wreck the local economy. 

BILL SATTERFIELD, DELMARVA POULTRY INDUSTRY, INC.:  We produce more than 500 million birds a year, and they are valued at more than $3 billion.  So when you have a small geographic area like this peninsula, and a small population area, that‘s a significant amount of money that‘s spent many times over in the communities.  If we were to lose the chicken industry, this peninsula would be devastated. 

REYNOLDS:  To prevent that devastation, chicken growers, state health services and corporations like Perdue and Tyson‘s Foods have a contingency plan that will go into effect at the first sign of infection.

GREEN:  If one bird here had been confirmed with AI, this whole farm would be depopulated within 24 hours.  The birds would be composted and disposed of.  So the industry takes it quite seriously. 

REYNOLDS (on camera):  Farmers here say it‘s important not only to keep their chickens separate from people, but from wild birds as well, because wild ducks and geese can also spread the virus.  Chris, back to you. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Rob.

For some more details on the avian flu, we turn to MSNBC analyst Bernadette Healy, who is the former director of the National Institutes of Health.  Thank you, doctor.

BERNADETTE HEALY, MSNBC ANALYST:  Hi, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Boy, I like the way he said composted.  There‘s an euphemism.  I think underground and dead is the first thing that goes on.

Let me ask you, are you worried about this? 

HEALY:  Well, I think I‘m worried.  I don‘t think this is a time to be fearful or a time to worry about being scared, or to say that anybody talking about this is scare...

MATTHEWS:  How does something jump from, say, Southeast Asia, where we were talking about the countries in that report, in Vietnam and Cambodia, Thailand, how would it jump from there to here? 

HEALY:  Well, two ways.  One, you have migratory birds, but if it infects humans, then it‘s going to be through another kind of bird, called airplanes.  

MATTHEWS:  OK, so it gets into us, and it can be contacted through kissing or very easily contagious, right?

HEALY:  We are not likely to see this unless it becomes human to human.  Right now, it‘s a bird virus.  When it becomes a human virus, which means I can give it to you, you can give it to me, that‘s when you see worldwide transmission. 

MATTHEWS:  So nobody has been killed yet? 

HEALY:  Well, we know that 65 people have been killed, but they have gotten it directly from—mostly from the poultry, or in some cases, close family contact. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, so it wasn‘t person to person.  Let me ask about the danger the president talked about today, and this is kind of a civil question more than a medical question, but I want you to tell me why this would be the case.  Imagine a town that it breaks out in a town somewhere, small city somewhere.  And the word gets out that this has struck somebody, and people are dying of it.  And all of a sudden, a unit of the United States military is sent in to surround that town and say, nobody gets out.  How in the world can you hold people at gunpoint in a town where they know they‘re going to be infected sooner or later and die?

HEALY:  Chris, I...

MATTHEWS:  They‘re going to try to get out.

HEALY:  Chris, I think that this is a big mistake to say this.  I‘ve heard it.  I‘ve heard it again and I‘ve heard it last week.  And I‘ll tell you why.  I think that what we need to do is communicate to the public exactly what we would do—not to scare the public, but to say this is the worst case scenario, this is how we are going to prepare.  (INAUDIBLE) people is only one part of it.  You need to address surge capacity.  We‘d have to have enough hospital beds.  There—vaccines...

MATTHEWS:  OK, what‘s the vaccine story?  Why doesn‘t the United States stockpile vaccine like other countries do for this particular disease? 

HEALY:  Well, we‘ve stockpiled a few million experimental units, but the fact is, we do not have anywhere in the world a human vaccine that‘s ready for widespread use.

MATTHEWS:  Doesn‘t exist?

HEALY:  Does not exist.  We have experimental vaccines.  We don‘t have ones in humans.  And what you ideally would want would be the vaccine made on the human-to-human transmission...

MATHEWS:  OK, we got 30 seconds.  What do we do about this, right now? 

HEALY:  Well, we need to communicate to the public...

MATTHEWS:  If you were the president, what would you do?

HEALY:  Communicate with the public.  If we‘re going to quarantine, we better explain it.  We have to have public dialogue.  We don‘t want to scare people, but we want them to be smart, and we have to decide, are we going to prepare for the worst or not?  And preparing for the worst is going to be expensive and it‘s going to be talking about things people don‘t want to talk about, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Like people at gunpoint being told you‘re not getting out of this village.

HEALY:  Yes, right.

MATTHEWS:  That is a scary story I‘ve heard.  Anyway, thank you very much, Dr. Bernadette Healy.

For more on the bird flu, check out our NBC News Web site—flu—f-l-u -- .msnbc.com.

Tomorrow on HARDBALL, a new NBC-“Wall Street Journal” poll on what Americans think about the CIA leak case and the Harriet Miers nomination for the Supreme Court.  That‘s HARDBALL at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern tomorrow night.

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

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant,Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Watch Hardball with Chris Matthews each weeknight at 5 & 7 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,