updated 11/3/2005 10:30:23 AM ET 2005-11-03T15:30:23

Guests: Dan Bartlett, Jay Rockefeller, Jimmy Carter

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The question lurks, how did we get ourselves in Iraq?

With 2,000 Americans dead and three times that many seriously wounded, will we finally get the answer to how the case for war in Iraq was built and sold to us? 

Will the U.S. Senate deliver a long-promised report on how the Bush administration used intelligence to stir the imminent fear of Iraq, the urgent need for attack? 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. 

I‘m Chris Matthews. 

The fight over prewar intelligence continues here in Washington.  Today, a new chapter not regarding Iraq but rather how this administration is trying to squeeze al Qaeda in the war on terror.  The “Washington Post” reported this morning that the CIA has been interrogating suspected terrorists in secret prisons around the world. 

Dan Bartlett is counselor to President Bush. 

Dan, it‘s great to have you back on the show. 

Let me ask you, was this story good for America, getting it out there that we have these camps and places in democracies such as those in Eastern Europe? 

DAN BARTLETT, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT BUSH:  Well, Chris, as you know, it‘s going to be difficult for me to go on live TV and talk about classified information.

But what I can say, in a post-9/11 world, the American people expect their government within the confines of the law and the Constitution and the treaties that we follow to do everything we can to protect our country. 

As you know, there are people as we speak tonight that are planning, plotting and attempting to attack America, to kill American lives.  And what we have is a very determined war right now against a very determined enemy, and it‘s critical that we do everything we can within the confines of the law to make sure we are getting information to prevent these attacks. 

That‘s exactly what our government is doing.  We are doing it with the legal advice of the Justice Department.  We are doing everything we can to protect the American people, and we are doing it under the values and the laws and principles that guide us. 

Now, if there are bad acts, if there are Abu Ghraib or other acts where people went outside the regulations and the law, they are going to be punished to the full extent.

But we are at war, Chris, and it‘s very important that we do everything we can within our abilities and our powers to protect the American people. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a sound argument. 

We have a tape we‘re going to show later of an interview I just did with former President Carter where he challenged the advantages of using any kind of torture on prisoners.  Now, his argument is moral, of course, but he also says you can‘t trust any information you get from someone under torture. 

Is that a valid argument or is that just idealistic talking? 

BARTLETT:  No, absolutely, and that‘s why we don‘t torture. 

We do not torture in the United States of America.  Our government is very clear about that.  The laws that we follow are very clear about that.

And if there is ever evidence to suggest that we do, they will be aggressively investigated, Chris.

So there is not a disagreement in this regard, but what we do is follow the law and we make sure that we are consistent with our legal obligations, both of the Constitution as well as our treaty obligations.

But Jimmy Carter makes a very good point—we shouldn‘t torture, and we don‘t. 

MATTHEWS:  If we are doing everything above board; in other words, if we‘re practicing our philosophy overseas even in the treatment of suspected terrorists, or real terrorists, we know are terrorists, why can‘t we do it above board?  Why do we have to have these camps located in secret places around the world?  Why not bring them right home here?  Is it to avoid having to obey the law? 

BARTLETT:  No, it‘s not to—again, I am not here to acknowledge or to discuss anything about a classified program, if it exists, where it exists. 

I can‘t speak to the contents of the “Washington Post” story.

But I will say, Chris, whatever conduct is taking place with U.S.  government officials, it is being done within the guidelines of the law, and it‘s very important that we understand that. 

There‘s—also important to understand is that when we do conduct the war on terror, this is an unconventional war.  We have people who are hiding in civilian clothes, you know, hiding within our own communities and our own cities and our own country that are plotting and planning to attack the American people, and we have to make sure that—just take, for example, what‘s going on in Iraq right now. 

We see a very sophisticated enemy that adapts to our tactics when it comes to IED attacks, for example.  It‘s very important that when we go about our intelligence gathering, we go about doing things to protect our country, that we also not send signals to the enemy about what we‘re doing.  I think that makes logical sense to most Americans. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 

Yesterday on this program, HARDBALL, Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, the former majority leader, questioned whether Karl Rove, the president‘s top political adviser, should be in a policy role. 

Let‘s listen for a second, Dan. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR TRENT LOTT ®, MISSISSIPPI:  Look, he has been very successful, very effective in the political arena. 

The question is, should he be the deputy chief of staff for policy under the current circumstances? 

I don‘t know all that‘s going on so I can‘t make that final conclusion.

But, you know, how many times has the top political person become also the top policy adviser?  Maybe you can make that transition, but it‘s a real challenge. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there‘s Senator Lott questioning whether Karl should have a policy role. 

Do you think that‘s appropriate criticism or not? 

BARTLETT:  Well, Chris, one thing we are not lacking in this town is advice.  We get plenty of it, from Capitol Hill, from others.

But it‘s going to be the president and the chief of staff who determines the best way to manage the White House. 

Karl is incredibly gifted.  He‘s very smart when it comes to the public policy issues of the day.  He is serving this president and this country well.

And again, that‘s what happens in this town.  There‘s going to be plenty of opinions, plenty of advice.  It‘s one thing we are not lacking here at the White House.

So it‘s just part of the commentary that‘s going to happen right now, and we just kind of chalk that up to typical Washington gossip. 

MATTHEWS:  So you think he should continue to have a security clearance even though he was apparently Official A in the indictment; in other words, he‘s identified as somebody who‘s talked to the press about the identity of Valerie Wilson? 

(CROSSTALK)

BARTLETT:  Chris, you‘re making judgments. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I am.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I am admittedly...

BARTLETT:  You‘re making an assumption.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... that Official A is Karl Rove.  If you don‘t agree with that, fine, but I think he is. 

BARTLETT:  Well, I‘m glad.  And you‘re—just like Senator Lott has an opinion, you are allowed to have your opinion, and that‘s fine. 

But I think it‘s important that we make very clear that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald still has an active investigation under way.

And it wouldn‘t be appropriate for me standing here on the North Lawn or for anybody else to speculate within the White House or the government about the nature of the conversations or the developments of the investigation, who the focus of the investigation is on.  We clearly don‘t know all of the details that the special prosecutor knows, and it would be presumptuous for me to stand out here and pass judgment on facts that I don‘t have. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I‘ll come back and ask you afterwards.  I agree it‘s kind of murky and spooky to have a guy referred to as Official A at the White House.  I don‘t know why the special prosecutor talks like that either, Dan. 

Let me ask you about Judge Alito. 

The Democrats have been circulating a little fact sheet—it might be a hit sheet, you might call it—on Alito‘s nomination saying—first thing they mention in this little document is that he lost a big mob case in New Jersey back in ‘88.  It suggested that—in fact, it said he embarrassed the U.S. government, it suggested it was an easy case, he blew it.  It ignored the fact of his record of putting away the Genevese (ph) family in New Jersey, made him look soft on the mob. 

What do you make of this?

BARTLETT:  Well, I think it‘s completely outrageous.

And I heard these talking points didn‘t even have their name accompanied to it, the D.N.C., and that‘s just the type of politics we are trying to get rid of in this town.  It‘s the reason why a good person like Harriet Miers wasn‘t able to go through this process in a fair way. 

We need to stop the kind of personal destruction during this modern-day confirmation process and focus on the facts.

The fact is that Sam Alito is one of the most qualified justices we have seen appointed to the court in 70 years.  He has a very credentialed and stellar record of fighting crime as a U.S. attorney, and as well as serving 15 years on the bench in the 3rd Circuit.

So it‘s this type of politics that kind of stains the process.  We need to have a very important debate about the qualifications of Sam Alito.  That‘s what the confirmation process is for.

But it‘s this type of demagoguery and attacks that doesn‘t do anybody any service. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the—it‘s great to have you back. 

Let me ask you about Ken Duberstein, former chief of staff to President Reagan in his last year.  He says you need new blood. 

Do you feel around you iron deficiency, anemia?  Do you need some kind of new drug of people there?  Do you need better folks, sharper folks? 

Is there a second-term letdown that has affected the president‘s performance? 

BARTLETT:  Well, Chris, I think one thing we all recognize when we step through these gates every day is that we serve at the pleasure of the president.

And if he ever determined that he wants to have fresh blood, that he wants to change, he‘ll do that.  If he wants to pursue new policy proposals, he will do that.  And he is always constantly challenging us to come up with new ideas, to continue to push the envelope. 

And if it feels like we are not satisfying his needs or the needs of the American people, we‘ll be out this door and we will be honored to have served as long as we have.

But at the same time, I mean, sometimes in Washington gets this kind of precipitous action to say, oh, you know, have a black Friday and fire everybody.  And that‘s not the type of way that you manage a White House either.

So I think the president, as he always has done, is he‘s going to manage his White House in a way that he thinks best serves the American people.  He will surround himself with the people he thinks can help achieve that goal, and we‘ll be happy to serve as long as he wishes us to. 

MATTHEWS:  God, you‘re the first person to mention a black Friday where he fires everybody—it must be jittery down there. 

Hey, thank you very much, Dan Bartlett for coming back on HARDBALL. 

We welcome you back regularly, sir. 

BARTLETT:  No jitters here, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, what did Democrats hope to achieve by forcing a secret session of the Senate yesterday? 

Senator Jay Rockefeller, ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, will be with us.

And later, former President Jimmy Carter, as I said, on the leak investigation, the nomination of Judge Sam Alito to the Supreme Court, and what President Carter knows now, he wished he knew back when he was president.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Things seemed to have quieted down today on Capitol Hill after yesterday‘s explosive rare closed door meeting called by the Democrats. 

Within two hours, Republicans agreed to appoint a bipartisan panel of six senators that will report on the progress of the Senate Intelligence Committee‘s investigation of pre-war intelligence. 

Let me get to this with Senator Jay Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat. 

Senator Rockefeller, a lot of people are dismayed by the way the war is going, and they are looking back a couple of years ago to how we got in it. 

And what I remember is the front pages of “The New York Times” saying Saddam‘s got nuclear weapons.  We have seen the aluminum tubes.  You made a deal with Africa. 

Sunday television program after Sunday television program, with the administration people, Condi, the vice president, everybody pushing the nuclear case for war. 

Did he have any nuclear weapons?  If he didn‘t, who cooked up the idea that he did?  Are we going to find that out? 

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA:  That‘s the whole point.  No, he didn‘t, and he didn‘t have the possibility of it.  And the outside range was many years if he tried, which he wasn‘t. 

Yes, we are going to find out about it, and that‘s what phase two is all about. 

You know, phase one was all about weapons of mass destruction.  That was proved to be false. 

Phase two is different, because phase two says, did policy-makers in the White House or anywhere else , did they use or misuse intelligence to shape the result in policy that they wanted the American people to buy, i.e., to go to war against Iraq? 

I believe that, but we have had not had the investigation which shows that.  That is what we have got before us. 

MATTHEWS:  Can you dig into how “The New York Times” would be double teamed by Chalabi and Scooter Libby, come up with a Sunday story that everybody sees and believes it comes from God? 

ROCKEFELLER:  Well, isn‘t that interesting. 

MATTHEWS:  And then the next day, it just happens that five administration officials show up on television and all point to that article?  I mean this is alley-oop play in the NBA. 

ROCKEFELLER:  That‘s right.  But, look, if they can get away with it, they get away with it.  And that‘s part of the oversight, you know.

The deal in America is accountability, whether you are White House or Congress, or wherever.  Nobody has been fired, even from phase one, and all of the mess-ups on the weapons of mass destruction. 

But this is where it‘s going to get very tender, and that‘s why I think the Republicans were really caught by surprise.  I think they were shocked by what we did.  That was the point of it.  And what was interesting is that they were furious, took it all very personally, when, in fact, it was a totally professional matter. 

What I had not been able to do over 20 months, we got accomplished in two hours, which was an agreement that in 14 days or by november 14, that I and Pat Roberts, each of us with two of the members on our side would come to agreement on a work plan on phase two. 

Now, if Pat Roberts wants to have—suddenly he has called two meetings on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of next week.  Well, this is something of a change.  We have had one meeting, one business meeting on phase two in the last 20 months.  So, you know, it‘s not a pretty picture. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of Vice President Cheney naming Addington as his new top kick.  Addington was reported by “The National Journal” last week as being the guy who held back the papers that were supposed to go to your intelligence committee about the vice president had produced and Libby as chief of staff had produced that were rejected by Colin Powell. 

These were the over the top, apparently, cases for war.  You never got those documents? 

ROCKEFELLER:  No, and we not only didn‘t get the documents, but it‘s my understanding that some of the lawyers in the White House, etc., were saying, nothing wrong with doing that, making those available. 

It‘s a very difficult, dangerous game which is being played.  And on the subject of intelligence, which is the forefront of war or not going to war, you can‘t fool with the American people.  It‘s got to be straight.  It‘s got to be accountable. 

Nobody has been fired, Chris.  Tell me, you explain that to me. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I can‘t. 

Well, let me ask you about the war in Iraq and the war in Vietnam, which you went through as well.  The war in Vietnam was run in the beginning, you could argue, by Ike and then by Kennedy, and then it got built up under Johnson. 

But, while the war was going on, Johnson got this Gulf of Tonkin Resolution through the Senate with 92-0, something like that.  But then it was a Democratic senator from ArKansas, Bill Fulbright, William Fulbright, who began an investigation of the war.  And it was helpful to the country to understand how we had gotten into Vietnam. 

How come the Republicans aren‘t playing it the same way?  Why aren‘t they investigating a war, just because it was Republican president who initiated it, Democrats did. 

ROCKEFELLER:  Do you want my honest view? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

ROCKEFELLER:  I think it‘s because anything in the way of an investigation that gets close to touching the White House or the vice president‘s office or DOD, or whatever, they say, we want no part of this. 

The word goes down to the Republican members of Congress, the committee chairman, etc., and everybody falls in line.  And so we have been waiting around for 20 months to do phase two. 

That‘s why we did yesterday.  We exploded a little bomb yesterday.  They didn‘t like it.  Some friendships were frayed.  So what?  The point is, we got a result, and now we will see if they live up to the result. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator Lott, the former Republican leader on this program last night, Senator Rockefeller, said that he thought it was questionable why the White House would keep Karl Rove in a policy-making role given the fact that he is a hard-nosed political operative. 

Do you agree with that, or do you want to go further? 

ROCKEFELLER:  No, I am not going to go further, but I do agree with it.  Sorry for the short answer. 

MATTHEWS:  All right.

Ok.  I was not ready for that one. 

Thank you very much, Senator Jay Rockefeller, ranking Democrat on intelligence. 

Up next, the latest on the CIA leak case.  On the eve of Scooter Libby‘s indictment, well, it‘s his arraignment tomorrow.  He‘s been indicted.

Plus, former President Jimmy Carter is going to be with us to talk about what he has learned since he was president.  He left the office at the age of 56.  Do you believe that?  And he‘s been around all these years later thinking about it.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Scooter Libby, vice president Cheney‘s former chief of staff, will be formally arraigned tomorrow at the federal courthouse here in Washington, D.C., on charges, he lied to investigators and obstructed the CIA leak case. 

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster joins us now. 

David?

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Chris, this will be Scooter Libby‘s first courthouse appearance since he was charged. 

While White House officials are trying to get the Patrick Fitzgerald investigation off of the front pages of the newspapers and off of television, for the office of the vice president, it will not be easy. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER (voice-over):  As Scooter Libby prepares to plead not guilty to charges he lied under oath and obstructed the CIA leak investigation, legal experts say that because Libby was Dick Cheney‘s chief operative, the case will put a focus on the vice president‘s tactics, pushing the case for war based on weapons of mass destruction. 

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

SHUSTER:  And with expectations the vice president will have to take the witness stand if Libby‘s obstruction case goes to trial, analysts point out there are many questions about Dick Cheney that remain unanswered. 

The indictment says the vice president, independent of Libby, learned that the wife of administration critic Joe Wilson worked at the CIA and told Libby this on June 12, 2003. 

What motivated Cheney to seek out information about the Wilsons and pass it along to Libby?  The indictment does not say.  On June 23, 2003, the indictment states that Libby spoke about Wilson‘s wife with New York Times reporter Judy Miller. 

On July 12, 2003, the indictment says the vice president and Libby flew on board Air Force Two and discussed how to deal with the media.  The indictment states it was later that same day when Libby discussed Wilson‘s CIA wife again with reporter Judy Miller and for the first time with TIME magazine‘s Matt Cooper. 

What did vice president Cheney say to his chief of staff?  And did they talk about Libby‘s later statements to investigators that led to charges of perjury and obstruction of justice? 

In response to all questions about this case, the White House offers this. 

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  There is an ongoing investigation.  We need to let that investigation continue. 

SHUSTER:  But the no comment flies in the face of George W. Bush‘s personal pledge for open government made to the American people. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  In my administration, we will ask not only what is legal, but what is right. 

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH:  Not just what the lawyers allow, but what the public deserves. 

SHUSTER:  The latest issue of Newsweek cites the White House aide and reports the influence of vice president Cheney in the administration has been eroding over the past year and in the wake of the Fitzgerald case, has now hit rock bottom. 

Even on issues of foreign policy, according to Newsweek, the vice president‘s power has been eclipsed by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and National Security Adviser, Steven Hadley. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER (on camera):  And this is on top of the fears already spreading among Republicans that the prosecution and defense of Scooter Libby, which will take a formal step tomorrow, could eventually make the office of the vice president radioactive. 

Chris?

MATTHEWS:  Will Dick Cheney have to testify in this trial?  Will we get to hear his views and his defense of what he‘s done over these last several months?

SHUSTER:  Chris, every legal expert says that Cheney—if this goes to trial, will have to take the stand. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘ll be there physically. 

SHUSTER:  He will be there in some fashion, either on videotape or on the witness stand.  He will be there.

MATTHEWS:  Under wide questioning or narrow questioning? 

SHUSTER:  That will be up to the judge to determine.

MATTHEWS:  Fascinating.  I would like to have him sitting there sometime, right there, even not under oath. 

That you, David Shuster.  David will be at the courthouse tomorrow for Libby‘s arraignment. 

Up next, former President Jimmy Carter says America is in a moral crisis and our values are in danger.  He also talks about the things he‘s learned since being president would have helped him back then.  He‘s going to join us after this.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Jimmy Carter served as America‘s 39th president from 1977 to 1981.  Since leaving office, he has worked tirelessly around the world on issues such as international conflict resolution, poverty, health care and social justice, earning him a Nobel Peace Prize in the year 2002.  His latest book is entitled, “Our Endangered Values:  America‘s Moral Crisis.” 

Mr. President, thank you. 

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Thank you, Chris.  Good to be with you. 

MATTHEWS:  “Our Endangered Values”—are they endangered to some extent because of this new story we read in the paper today, that the United States, the CIA has been setting up these prison camps unknown to the world, around the world, to keep the terrorists hostage? 

CARTER:  Yes.  That‘s one of the many values that this administration has changed dramatically and profoundly compared to all previous presidents who‘s ever served, including Ronald Reagan and including George Bush Sr.  and including Gerald Ford and all the way back to Dwight Eisenhower. 

I never even considered the fact that our country would be debating whether or not we could continue to torture prisoners around the world in secret prisons.  This is something that‘s inconceivable.

But I notice that the administration now is pushing hard to get Congress not to approve the John McCain proposal, supported by 90 out of 100 senators, that we not resort to torture.  This administration is insisting that we resort to torture, which I think is a profound change in our basic moral values, just one of many. 

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t that Dick Cheney, the vice president‘s position? 

He‘s basically taken the ramrod position in defending it? 

CARTER:  Well, he has. 

I think that‘s an open fact that everybody knows.  He‘s been to senators and they have made it public that he has urged them to permit the CIA to continue torturing prisoners. 

MATTHEWS:  Why are you opposed to torturing prisoners? 

CARTER:  Well, first of all, it‘s against a basic human rights commitment that was made 50 years ago when the United Nations were first formed, and every country has agreed to abide by this restraint, including every president who served for the last 50 years. 

It also besmirches America‘s position as the so-called former champion of human rights.  There‘s not a single major human rights organization in the world that‘s not now condemning America as one of the foremost violators of basic human rights.

And it‘s not only just overseas in prisons for torture, but we have also done the same thing at home in doing away with civil liberties and incarcerating about 1,200 people after 9/11 who were not ever accused of a crime, who couldn‘t have access to a lawyer, who couldn‘t see their own family.  They were finally—some of them secretly released. 

But these kind of secret things that have been, I guess, excluded from the knowledge of even the overwhelming members of the Congress has now been revealed, and I think it brings about a lot of knowledge about what this administration has done that we didn‘t know before. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the case of the guy who was picked up right before 9/11 up in Minnesota, asking to take flying lessons in the most sophisticated commercial aircraft—not how to take off, not how to land, but how to fly the plane.  Had we had him in custody, or you had, had him in custody as president and commander-in-chief, wouldn‘t you have liked to interrogate him pretty harshly to find out what was coming? 

Wouldn‘t it be justified—if he knew the story and what was coming to those people in the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon, wouldn‘t we be better off torturing this guy to find out what was coming? 

CARTER:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  Why? 

CARTER:  Well, I think as Senator John McCain has explained very well, in the first place, when you torture somebody—and I think I would be the same way—you would probably confess to your interrogators‘ allegations just so they would quit torturing you. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure. 

CARTER:  So, therefore, in any trial court in the civilized world, testimony given by a person being tortured is prohibited as testimony, because they know that it‘s under duress and you say something just so they quit beating you over the head, or whatever, twisting your arm. 

Also, it brings about discredit for the reputation of America as a country that believes in justice and fairness and abides by international structures that have been put forward. 

I have a personal feeling about this because my favorite uncle was captured by the Japanese less than a month after Pearl Harbor, Tom Gordy (ph).  He was in the Navy, on Guam, and he was tortured for four years and finally released at the end of the war.

And it was only at the end of the Second World War that people assembled in Geneva and confirmed in writing with the whole world agreeing, we agree not to torture prisoners who are taken in wartime. 

And so this not only protects enemy prisoners who we have captured, but it also sets down a marker that if you capture one of our prisoners, you don‘t torture them. 

MATTHEWS:  The reason I bring this up is because Professor Alan Dershowitz up at Harvard has said that when there are extreme cases, when there‘s about to be something coming down, a major terrorist attack, we‘ve got to take extreme measures to stop it from happening, including this kind of thing. 

You can‘t foresee a problem as commander-in-chief where you really just have to say, “Damn it, I don‘t like doing this, it‘s awful, it‘s un-American, but we got to stop this from coming, we got to find out what‘s coming up here”? 

CARTER:  No, I don‘t agree that that‘s a good premise because, as I said before—I don‘t mean to repeat myself—under torture, you will confess to almost anything that your torturers want you to say. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this.  There‘s a great quote in your book, and I don‘t know if it‘s true or not.  It‘s up on the screen now. 

Your new book, “Our Endangered Values”:  “This sharp and growing difference over the issue of whether international disputes can be better resolved by diplomacy or by military action is now the most accurate predictor of party affiliation—more important than gay marriage, homosexuality or abortion.”

In other words, you can tell if a person is a Democrat or a Republican, where they tend to think, let‘s go in, let‘s use force, or Democrats, let‘s try diplomacy. 

CARTER:  That‘s exactly right.  And that‘s confirmed by all the major public opinion polls, which I studied for a couple of months before I wrote that paragraph. 

That‘s absolutely right.  And it‘s an honest different of opinion. 

Most of these departures from basic moral values are held by very deeply committed people who believe they are absolutely right.

And a lot of people believe in the Republican Party that if you have a strong military, the best way to meet America‘s needs or to implement our influence around the world is to take military action. 

Most Democrats believe that it‘s better to use military action only if our security is directly threatened, but to use negotiation, mediation and forming alliances as a best approach.

And that difference is the major single difference that distinguishes Democrats from Republicans. 

MATTHEWS:  If the current crowd running the country now, President Bush and Vice President Cheney and all the ideologues they have working with them were in power during the Cuban missile crisis, what do you think they would have done based upon what you just said? 

CARTER:  I think they would probably have gone to war. 

And I think...

MATTHEWS:  Instead of handling it diplomatically the way Kennedy did.

CARTER:  I think John Kennedy did it perfectly well, by being diplomatic about it.  But one of the...

MATTHEWS:  You think they would have just invaded Cuba? 

CARTER:  That‘s just conjecture. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you just said that‘s the way they go about things. 

CARTER:  But I am talking about the modern-day Republicans. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARTER:  But you have to remember too that this is something that has been mirrored in public statements by the president. 

We have known for 200 -- well, at least for 100 years, I wouldn‘t say all the way back to the Indian times, that the United States government had the policy under Democratic and Republican presidents, we will go to war as approved by the international agreements if our own security is directly threatened.  That particular premise concerning peace has been abandoned. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure. 

CARTER:  We now have preemptive war, which means we will go to war, we will bomb people, we will send missiles in to attack people, we‘ll invade countries if we disagree with their leader and think he ought to be removed or if we think that someday in the future they might pose a military threat to us. 

That‘s a complete and unprecedented and dramatic change in basic values of America. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think if we had 50 hostages taken in Iran today, what do you think this administration would do?  Use diplomatic means—it was kind of embarrassing, to put it lightly, for a year for you. 

CARTER:  It was. 

MATTHEWS:  You may have lost the presidency over this.  Most people think you did. 

CARTER:  But every hostage came home. 

MATTHEWS:  This administration—right. 

Would this administration have put up with that, or would they have gone into Iran?

CARTER:  That‘s just conjecture. 

I think they would probably have gone in, because that‘s now a new policy—let‘s take military action in effect first, not wait until our security is threatened. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the exception of genocide? 

Shouldn‘t we invade if we see situations like Rwanda or even in Kosovo, where you have situations where one ethnic group is destroying another group, killing them all?  Shouldn‘t there be exceptions to this non-intervention policy? 

CARTER:  Well, I think that may be true.

But there again, there is a reticence here in international circles that I think is very wise, and that is that you go before the United Nations Security Council—and the United Nations is condemned by a lot of the people who disagree with my book—and you put this forward and say, look, there is likely to be genocide in this country.  Let‘s marshal an international attempt to correct it. 

And that‘s what George Bush did when Iraq went into Kuwait.  He didn‘t go in unilaterally.  He got the whole world to help. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think President Bush, Sr., the first President Bush was pretty good at diplomatic efforts? 

CARTER:  Absolutely.

I think he was one of the best presidents I have ever known in international affairs. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much.

We‘ll be right back with President Jimmy Carter.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We are back with former President Jimmy Carter.  President Carter, we are having a new fight.  It always begins again with a new nominee, Judge Sam Alito, for justice, to fill Sandra Day O‘connor‘s Position.

And once again, it gets back to an abortion issue, and whether he believes in notification of the husband and all that.  But it‘s really about the pro-choice versus pro-life issue. 

We had Howard Dean on the other night, sitting there.  And he basically said the Democratic party should no longer be considered, quote, “the pro-choice party.” 

In other words, they are softening something in the debate.  What is going on?  I know you say in your book, here, you think abortion is wrong. 

CARTER:  Yes, I do.

MATTHEWS:  This is a moral issue. 

CARTER:  Well, I happen to be a Christian and a Democrat.  I have never believed that Jesus Christ, whom I worship, would approve abortions, unless the mother‘s life or health was in danger, or perhaps unless the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest. 

But with those exceptions, I am not in favor of abortions, and I think the Democratic party would make a serious mistake.  I am not a Democrat anymore if it became strictly pro-choice party. 

And as I describe in the book, there are extremes, you know, and there‘s some people believe that every time a male ejaculation takes place and sperm begin to move toward a female ovum, that‘s the start of life.  I don‘t agree with that.  And some women believe...

MATTHEWS:  You have a way with words Mr. Carter. 

CARTER:  And some Democrats believe that when the woman has a right to her own body, without any regard to the fetus. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.

CARTER:  I don‘t agree with that.  But there is a balance between it, and when I was president, I had to uphold the Supreme Court ruling on abortion.  I did everything I possibly could to minimize a need for abortions. 

One of the key things that I describe in my book is how you prevent or reduce abortions.  Two-thirds of the women who have abortions claim that they cannot afford another child. 

So we established, as you remember, a women‘s and infant children program, WIC program to give women more help.  And we improved the ease with which people could have adoptions. 

And we also approved the education of young fertile men and women about how you prevent abortions if you—how you prevent pregnancy if you want to have sexual intercourse anyway. 

MATTHEWS:  So, you think we can reduce dramatically the number of abortions by reducing the situations that lead to unwanted pregnancies? 

CARTER:  Of course, I do. 

We have about three times more abortions per 1,000 people than, say, many European countries, where they do give the pregnant woman good medical care and hope for the future, on the one hand, and teach them how to prevent abortions if they have sex.

Yes, we can do that, and that‘s the kind of thing that we ought to do. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of this debate?  Because we are fighting— we are in a values front here.

Your book is called, “Our Endangered Values.”  How about our endangered politics?  Because every time there‘s a fight over Supreme Court nominee, it‘s as if every other issue disappears. 

I was listening to Congressman Patrick Kennedy the other night.  He says, there‘s a lot of issues involving this guy‘s record without giving the gist.  And all anybody wants to talk about is abortion. 

I asked Ken Mehlman, who was sitting there the other night, the chairman of the Republican party, wouldn‘t we be better off if we didn‘t have the pro-life crazies and the pro-choice crazies?  And  what I mean by crazies, means they won‘t vote for a guy under any circumstances who disagrees with them. 

Get them out of Washington.  Let these senators decide this.  He said, no, it‘s a good thing to have them here.  Do you think it‘s a good thing to have these pressure groups that are absolutists about this thing? 

CARTER:  No. 

I would hate to see the whole decision made on any Supreme Court nominee based on just abortion. 

You know, I don‘t know much about Mr. Alito, Judge Alito.  I have been traveling since his name was put forth.  I don‘t know much about him.  But I would like to know if he would approve, for instance, the continued torture of prisoners under American control. 

I would like to know if he is going to protect the basic environmental quality of our country, things of that kind.  That‘s what really concerns me. 

And not whether he voted a pregnant woman who wanted to have an abortion had to inform her husband.  That‘s not very important to me. 

MATTHEWS:  You have been writing, Mr. President, for all these years.  You spent a lot of time, obviously, working around the world, Habitat for Humanity.  I saw you down, years ago, down in Tijuana.  You are out there with a nail, apron.  And you and Mrs. Carter with the two by fours.  You really do this stuff. 

CARTER:  We do. 

MATTHEWS:  You really do it.

But, you also you must have been thinking a lot.  I mean, you have had a tremendous life since the presidency.  It‘s been exuberant.  It‘s been active.  It‘s been helpful to the world.  But you must have thought a lot about your four years as president of the United States. 

As a young man, you were president of the United States.  How old were you?  Fifty?

CARTER:  I left when I was 56. 

MATTHEWS:  You left the presidency when you were 56, halfway through your life.  What do you think you have learned since then that you might have been able to apply back then? 

If you could write a letter to yourself right now, back when you first went into office, two or three points to make, what would they be? 

CARTER:  I made a speech at the beginning of this century that epitomizes what I am going to say. 

That is the greatest challenge that the world faces today is the growing chasm between rich people and poor people.  Rose and I have visited more than 120 nations since I left the White House.  We have programs now in 65 countries, 35 in Africa. 

And what I didn‘t know as president was how destitute and needy are the people around the world who we almost always ignore.  And so the help for them, I think, would also help America in every possible way. 

It would reduce disease, obviously, that sometimes affect our country, like AIDs, and maybe avian flu, fowl flu.  It would also help us to reduce the possibility that those disaffected people, who now are much more aware of what‘s going on in the world, might be susceptible to conviction on terrorism. 

And it would reduce a number of wars in the world, and it would give people a better life.  And I think it would epitomize what the American people feel, and that is, we want to be generous to people in need.  It‘s part of our religious values, whether you are Jewish or whether your Islamic or whether you happen to be Christian. 

So the destitute plight of people in the world is so severe.  Two weeks ago, I was in Liberia helping to conduct an election, which will bring peace, I hope, and democracy to that troubled country.  That‘s our 61st election in which my wife and I have been directly involved.

Over half of the people in Liberia live on less than 50 cents a day and have no way for education or health care or adequate housing. 

No way to feel self-respect for themselves or hope for the future.  That‘s where America should make at least a part of its investment.  At this time, our government, out of every $100 in national income, we give 16 cents, which is the lowest.

MATTHEWS:  But people think we give a lot.  People think we give a ton of money.

CARTER:  People say we give 100 times more than that, 15 percent. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, foreign aid gets bad P.R., unfortunately.

CARTER:  It does, but it‘s good investment for our country, at least in moderate terms. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Mr. President, thanks for giving me a job back in those days.

I was a speech writer, you didn‘t need a speech writer.  He writes his books.  Anyway, the book is, Our Endangered Values, he‘s always a bestseller, America‘s moral crisis, it‘s obviously very contemporary with everything going on right now.

This is HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

More now on the fallout over yesterday‘s closed Senate session.  What it means for the Bush White House, with Nick Calio, the president‘s top lobbyist on Capitol Hill for years, from 2001 to 2003.

And Dee Dee Myers, White House press secretary under Mr. Bill Clinton.

Thank you, Dee Dee, there you are.

Nick, I‘ve got to ask you about the Republican party and the Democratic party.  The minute Judge Alito, Samuel Alito from Philadelphia from the Third Circuit.  The minute his name was announced, within 17 minutes, the Democrats put out a hit sheet saying he was soft on the mob, the first thing that he did.

What do you make of that?

NICK CALIO, FORMER LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BUSH:  I have a hard time figuring out what they thought they were doing.  First of all, it was very old-timed.  It‘s a ridiculous charge.  He wasn‘t even the U.S.  attorney when the case started. 

Beyond that, why would you have to stoop to that level?  He‘s got years and years of a distinguished career.  I think where this debate may go, I hope it doesn‘t, but I think people need to exercise some control, and that control really has to start with the senators. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, he made a big hit against a mob.  New Jersey‘s got problems, obviously, there Dee Dee.  But, he made a big kill the next year.  He got three big indictments, including the chief hoodlum in one of the big families up there. 

Do you think the Democrats are a little bit stupid to be making that an issue, when there‘s so many things to go after?  To lead with that, this was the No. 1 item on their hit sheet. 

DEE DEE MYERS, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY FOR PRESIDENT CLINTON:  I

thought that was a little hard to understand, as well.  You heard Governor Cuomo put a weigh in on that and say that he hoped it didn‘t involve other issues as well, since Alito is a name of Italian descent, I guess. 

I think what‘s interesting is that one of the things that a lot of Democrats who know Judge Alito have praised him for is his even-handedness on criminal justice issues more broadly.

So, I think there needs to be a vigorous debate about Judge Alito, I think Democrats need to look carefully at his record, as to Republicans.  I think there ought to be a very serious hearing process, but I think we ought not to jump to conclusions about some of these issues before we know the facts. 

MATTHEWS:  Dee Dee, are you surprised, on another part, are you surprised that the Democrats are jumping on Alito for voting in dissent on the Pennsylvania Casey matter, where he voted to support the state law signed by the governor, passed by the legislature.

And both bodies up there saying that a husband ought to be at least notified when a woman who‘s married to him wants to get an abortion? 

That‘s being treated as some awful thing.  Yet the Democrats are running, it looks like Bobby Casey, Jr., for the United States Senate up there, and he, I assume, completely supports that position. 

MYERS:  Yes, Bobby Casey is not pro-choice, he‘s a pro-life Democrat.  There are many pro-life Democrats in the party.  I think it doesn‘t surprise me that a bit that a lot of Democrats who are vigorously pro-choice see any restrictions on abortion as an infringement on a woman‘s right. 

I think there are other people in the party who disagree with that and we‘ll see where the debate comes out and where the Senate comes out.  I think there‘s a lot of misinformation in the early hours. 

I think a lot of people thought it was, a woman needed to get her husband‘s consent.  So, I think that fueled people.  But again, I think there needs to be more thoughtful debate about all these issues.  This is a very important lifetime appointment, Judge Alito has a long record.  Let‘s take a look at it.

MATTHEWS:  I thought it was interesting, sitting right there last night, or two nights ago, Howard Dean was here, the Democratic party chair and he said we‘re not the pro-choice party anymore.  I thought that was very interesting.  He‘s kind of mucking it up a little bit.  Democrats are uncomfortable with that position, I think. 

CALIO:  I think they are, but you know, I think they‘ve got a problem, too, because they‘re talking about how Alito is outside the mainstream. 

In saying that and you look at these cases, the one that Dee Dee was just talking about with you.  If he‘s outside the mainstream on that, I think they‘ve got a problem, because by stating that case, they show that they are outside the mainstream. 

MATTHEWS:  Fair enough.  Let me ask you about inside the White House right now.  Your contraries there, you‘ve served there, you‘re one of the few guys that have left there.  And you‘re whole, you‘re in good shape and you have the Scooter Libby arraignment tomorrow. 

What is the situation?  Are they going to bring in new people, bring you back, bring in Fred Thompson, bring back Don Evans, somebody like that, some heavyweights back in there? 

CALIO:  I think change is inevitable.  I think they‘re standing put right now, but people who have been there for a long time, Chris.

And I think turnover will start to happen naturally.  Those are hard jobs to stand for that long a period of time.  I don‘t think the president will react to what some people perceive as the current crisis.  That is not his style.  He‘ll be steady, he‘ll move forward, and he‘ll most forward to get his agenda done. 

I think they‘re doing things the right way right now.  They know that they can‘t change things in a day.  There‘s been some problems and they‘re going to work at it bit by bit.  Move forward on the domestic agenda, try to handle the foreign problems, try to focus on Iraq and rather than try to get everything back at once, they realize it‘s a process to win back the confidence.

MATTHEWS:  How does the vice president win the president‘s confidence that he knew nothing what Scooter was up to? 

CALIO:  I‘d be surprised...

MATTHEWS: ... It‘s a hard argument to make, isn‘t it?

CALIO:  It maybe a hard argument.

MATTHEWS:  Not thinking about what your office is up to? 

CALIO:  I‘m not going to speak for the vice president.  But, I think the vice president has the president‘s confidence.  I see it very hard for the president to lose confidence in the vice president.

They have a very close working relationship, they‘ve done a lot of different things together to move their agenda forward in terms of lower taxes, the economy, everything.  It‘s probably the closest relationship between a president and a vice president.

MATTHEWS:  You think it‘s holding.

CALIO:  I do.

MATTHEWS:  Dee Dee, is the vice president a target of the Democrats now?

MYERS:  Well,  I there are a lot of unanswered questions that surround the vice president.  What did he know?  What was his role?  Was he part of a larger process meant to discredit people who are critical of the administration‘s use of intelligence on the way to war in Iraq? I think the Democrats are doing a good job of keeping those questions alive right now.

MATTHEWS:  OK, Dee Dee, thank you very much.

Dee Dee Myers, thank you for joining us, Nick Calio.

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

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