Guest: Jon Meacham, William Donohue, Joe McIlhaney, Drew Pinsky, Harold Ford, Dan Burton, Jay Carney
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Tonight a HARDBALL-“Newsweek” special report:
“The Birth of Jesus.” A look at the faith and the history behind the story of Christmas.
Plus, America gets itself a boost in the battle against terrorism.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. And welcome to this HARDBALL-“Newsweek” special report.
A new poll in this week‘s “Newsweek” magazine shows the enormous power of faith here in America. Four out of five Americans are Christians. They believe that Jesus is God, or the Son of God, and they believe in the virgin birth. That‘s four out of five Americans. And almost as many believe in the Christmas story from the star of Bethlehem, to the shepherds and the wisemen as told literally in the Gospels.
Jon Meacham wrote “Newsweek‘s” cover story this week. He‘s the managing editor of “Newsweek.” We‘re also joined by William Donohue, president of the Catholic League.
Let me start with Jon Meacham. It‘s a very arresting cover. I read the long piece in your magazine this week. What were you trying to tell us that we, a largely Christian country, did not know before?
JON MEACHAM, NEWSWEEK MANAGING EDITOR: Trying to make it clear that faith and reason aren‘t always at war. That faith and history aren‘t always at war. And that these stories that are so familiar to us, they‘re like the air we breathe, the Easter story and the Christmas story, have a more complicated textual history than you often appreciate. Or at least most people often appreciate.
I think it was fascinating—I think it‘s important for people to understand both how the Gospel messages were brought together in time and place, and time and space, and as the Vatican has taught us and as John Paul II has said, faith and reason are like two wings that lift us to a contemplation of truth. So that you don‘t have to be like “The Da Vinci Code” and think the whole thing is kind of manufactured and of conspiracy. Nor does one have to be like Mel Gibson and “The Passion of the Christ,” and take everything literally. In fact, it is a product of human hands and human hearts, but divinely inspired.
MATTHEWS: Let me to go Bill Donohue. Does it bother you, Bill, to know that journalists, people in the secular world, are doing their best to try to take apart—to try to understand—I mean take apart in the sense of scientific study—the history of Jesus?
WILLIAM DONOHUE, CATHOLIC LEAGUE PRESIDENT: No. Not if it‘s done with the astute hands of what Jon did. I mean, I read his piece. It‘s excellent. It‘s a complicated story. And I think he does the best job you can expect from a journalist. In fact, some of the professoriat would be dancing on a theological nail trying to figure out how to explain this. I think as a matter of fact, I‘d prefer to have an informed journalist explain this, as opposed to somebody in the Academy.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this thing, because you‘re wrestling with it. I know, Jon, you‘re a Christian and you‘re trying to wrestle with this thing. It seems to me that people live on very many levels. I mean, I could be a doctor, a medical doctor, a true believing Christian—in fact, I could be a traditionalist, a fundamentalist person who believed in God creating the Earth pretty much the way it was in Genesis, if it a little more metaphorically than some other people, and still believe in all the scientific study that has gone into my profession. People live on different levels. Don‘t they? Yeah, they can say, yeah, Jesus was probably not born at Christmastime. It wasn‘t like Bing Crosby was singing in the background. And you know, these are Middle Eastern people. We don‘t even know what they looked like or what they talked like. And still say, you know, I still like that sort of Westernized version, because I like it.
MEACHAM: Well, I think absolutely people live on different levels. The leap of faith many people make is that there was a physical resurrection at the end of the story. That that was the central event. Not necessarily the beginning, the birth, but the resurrection after the passion was the thing that upended the world. It turned the world upside down, and it created a very challenging religious message, that out of darkness comes light, out of death, life, and out of a kind of really the death of a criminal is a king.
And what the true challenge, I think, of the Christian message, and it really is the Judeo-Christian message, because early Christians were Jews. They were trying to make their case to Jews. They were trying to make their case to gentiles. But they really wanted to try to make people understand that the world as we know it, the fallen world that we had so bollocksed up, was redeemable. And that to do that, we had to do the opposite of what our nature, our fallen nature would lead us to do.
And in that sense, we had to love one another as we love ourselves.
Which is if we‘re honest with ourselves, probably the hardest thing to do.
MATTHEWS: What do you think, Bill, as a traditional Catholic, looking through this article by “Newsweek,” and I think it‘s a hell of an article, but—why do I talk like that, hell of an article? It was a good article about the Christmas story, what I am saying, hell of an article? Anyway, this language of ours has dropped downhill.
Let me ask you. How does it hit you when you grew up like I did, basically learning the Christmas story through the Gospel of Matthew and Luke, and basically, it‘s the story of the shepherds and the story of Jesus‘ family having to take him, you know, for the enrollment or whatever, the official enrollment by the emperor and being born in a stable and all that. Does it bother you that somebody would be writing about, well, maybe that story is not really true?
DONOHUE: I spent 20 years as a teacher, 16 as a college professor, and I don‘t have any animus against those people who are trying to make—have an honest interpretation of this sacred event. I do have a problem with some theologians who have an agenda, quite frankly, and what they‘re trying to do is to contribute to this dumbing down of Christmas. I don‘t see that with Jon Meacham. So I make a distinction based on whether I think there‘s an agenda there which has a political edge to it, or whether somebody has an honest inquiry.
At the end of the day, though, I as a Catholic, I‘m looking at what is the meaning of Christ, the meaning of truth? The idea that there‘s a transcendent, that there‘s something beyond the here and now. There‘s an awful lot that it can teach us in our society, which is precisely why I think this—the contribution of “Newsweek” and what Jon has done is going to go over very well with people. Instead of being disrespectful, it is respectful of our religion.
MATTHEWS: You know, Jon, I think, I always wonder why we have such ferocious fights within a country which is so—as your poll shows, four out of five people are Christians. The amazing amount of competition among the various denominations and affiliations, when if you believe that a man 2,000 years ago, a Jewish guy born of humble circumstances, a carpenter, was in fact the God of the universe, once you agree on that, what are you arguing about? That is such a profound leap of faith, literally, so profound it gives me chills to think about it. And then to argue about all the doctrinal arguments and wars we‘ve fought and of course all the other things. That‘s the profound question, whether there is in fact divinity here. But I think Bill has a point. Isn‘t a lot of this historical work aimed at trying to debunk that and say, well, he was just a good philosopher with a sort of a lucky hand and people were listening to him for a while...
DONOHUE: He was a carpenter. He worked at a Home Depot, that‘s what he was. Home Depot.
MATTHEWS: No, but the idea—I think Bill has got a point. That some scholarship is aimed at proving he wasn‘t anything more that we can account for in the normal course of history.
MEACHAM: There is of course a scholarly trend toward presenting him as a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) philosopher, a rabbi who happened to have a particularly good following. The most charismatic rabbi you could imagine in the first century.
But I think you have to step back—and one of the reasons we wanted to do this, look at the theology and the history and the tradition, was to try to figure out how exactly these stories, these particular deeds, and reports of things came together. I mean, one of my favorite ways to think about this, and Chris in particular, you‘ll appreciate this, is remember the earliest believers, St. Peter, St. Paul, believed that the apocalypse was coming back right then.
MATTHEWS: Right, very soon. Yeah, very soon. In their lifetimes.
MEACHAM: Mark, which is the earliest Gospel, about year 60, says, “truly I say Jesus”—“truly I say to you, this generation shall not pass away, but I‘ll be back.” And you‘re going to have this Davidic messiah.
So it‘s interesting to me. My sort of unprofessional guess is that nobody really bothered to write a whole lot down, because why write it down if the kingdom of God is about to show up?
And then as they started dying off, you‘re about 25 years into it, this is sort of like if President Kennedy had been seen as the Savior. If in 1990, Ted Sorensen and Arthur Schlesinger had decided, you know, he may not be coming back, we‘d better start writing this down.
And so therefore, you‘re at a slight remove. You‘re dealing with some eyewitnesses, you‘re dealing with some traditions. And remember, remember the people they were preaching this to. They were preaching it to three audiences. I think this is very, very important. They were preaching it to non-Christian Jews. So therefore, Old Testament prophecy—well, Biblical prophecy then was very, very important, particularly Isaiah.
They were preaching it to pagans, people who were familiar with Virgil
and familiar with Augustus, and they were preaching it to gentiles. And so
· and preaching it to fellow Christians, who—the gnostics in particular, who thought, as Bill was just saying a second ago, gnostic Christians, sort of heretical Christians, the non-Pauline mainstream guys, thought this was—Jesus was not necessarily divine. And it was very important for the early church, for that first core, with St. Peter and St. Paul, that this man was incarnate of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, was made man, was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and rose again from the dead, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
MATTHEWS: Four out of five Americans believe in the virgin birth.
That‘s a powerful fact about American life.
I‘m going to come back and share with you and the audience my only really good Christmas joke. I learned it from Archbishop Tutu. I‘ll be right back. We‘re coming back with Jon Meacham and Bill Donohue, talking about Christmas and the story behind Christmas. Interesting angle tonight, interesting subject matter.
And later this week, two big guests to tell you about. On Wednesday, I am going to sit down with King Abdullah of Jordan. He‘s going to be here. He‘ll be in Washington to meet with President Bush, and on the side he‘s meeting with me, about the prospects of peace in the Middle East. And he knows his stuff.
And then on Friday, former President Jimmy Carter is going to be right here at this table.
MATTHEWS: We‘re coming back with Jon Meacham and William Donohue. Our HARDBALL-“Newsweek” special report on the birth of Jesus continues when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back on this HARDBALL-“Newsweek” special report on the birth of Jesus. Jon Meacham and William Donohue are still with us. So here promised, so, St. Joseph goes to the inn. It is the real Christmas Eve. I mean, the real one, 2000 years ago. And he knocks on the door and the inn keeper comes out, and he says, I need a room, I really need a room. And the inn keeper says, no rooms. He says, my wife is pregnant. And the inn keeper says, well, it‘s not my fault! And he says, St. Joseph, well, that‘s not my fault either.
So, Jon, that is the heart of it, isn‘t it? The divinity of Christ. And that‘s what Christmas is about. Let me ask you—talk about your piece, because I can‘t believe we‘re talking about this on this secular television show, but we are. And let‘s talk about it.
MEACHAM: OK. Well, basically, what I wanted to do was go back to the
· as close as we could get to the history of the nativity story. Where did the incidents come from? The passion we know, because that was late, there were eyewitnesses still around. Obviously, they were ideologically charged documents because gospel doesn‘t mean history or biography in the way you and I use the word. It means good news. There was a message to preach. There was a point there.
MATTHEWS: An argument to be made.
MEACHAM: An argument to be made. There‘s a wonderful document in the second Vatican—from the second Vatican Council about the—how to read the scriptures. It is called “On Divine Revelation,” which says that the scriptures can be true without being accurate. I‘m paraphrasing, but they talk about how you have to pay attention to literary forms within scripture.
And the nativity stories, when you take that teaching of the church, the Catholic Church, and you look at the nativity stories, you begin to understand that they are much more symbolic than they are an Associated Press report that we would rip off the wires and read. Because there are details there that can‘t be confirmed, but that are signs that are theologically true about what this man was in the eyes of believers, and the mission he was there for, being born in Bethlehem itself, which is rather complicated. Matthew just writes around the problem and puts Mary and Joseph there. Luke has them in Nazareth and has to bring them there with a census for which there‘s no historical record.
All this is—it‘s a literary detective story in many ways. And talking about how they built the faith. They built the case for Christ, you know, using the life of Jesus. Remember, Jesus is a name and Christ is a title, which is a very important distinction.
MATTHEWS: I know. The Christ. I know. Let me go to Bill Donohue about this Christmas. I mean, I‘m feeling it more than ever. I don‘t know whether it‘s 9/11 afterglow or something, but I sense that this Christmas is powerful in this country. And I think we‘ve all learned a lesson.
Let me ask you, Bill, about Christianity and a free society where we don‘t establish a church. How do you think it all fits together?
DONOHUE: Well, I think it fits together in our society very well, because we basically, we teach tolerance, which we should, and diversity. But I am concerned about this invidious concept of inclusion. I say it is invidious because you cannot have diversity and inclusion at the same time. Even though this has become the multicultural mantra. If you really believe in pluralism, believe in Hanukkah and believe in Christmas, don‘t believe in Christmaka, which some Catholics and some Protestants and some Jews are inventing.
I put a joint statement today with the New York Board of Rabbis—
Catholic League and the New York Board of Rabbis—against this concept of Christmaka. You either...
MATTHEWS: What is Christmaka? I‘m missing this?
DONOHUE: Christmaka is a conflation, a hybrid holiday of Hanukkah and Christmas, because of the large inter-marriage between Christians and Jews.
MATTHEWS: I understand.
DONOHUE: But it has no religious significance, and I am concerned, and so was Rabbi Potasnik of the New York Board of Rabbis, of attenuating the significance, and diluting the significance of Hanukkah and Christmas.
MATTHEWS: I understand. Either the messiah has come or he has not come. That‘s the central question.
DONOHUE: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Jon, a Jewish person or a person like a Muslim or any other religion is not a Christian or an agnostic or anyone else who is reading your piece today, what do they get out of it?
MEACHAM: I think what they get out of it is that Christianity is a work in progress. It has been a work in progress. Our understanding of what the man we‘ve chosen to believe to be the messiah is always evolving. It evolves every generation. We‘re all on a journey toward fullness, to use St. Augustine‘s image. And we‘re all attempting to use St. Paul‘s image, to get to a place where we‘re no longer seeing through a glass darkly, but then face to face.
I think it is central, in my view, to the Christian message, to be humble, to walk humbly before God and man, and to realize that as Shakespeare said, there are more things in heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy. And so we don‘t have a monopoly on truth, but we‘re trying to get there. And while we‘re on that journey, we have to reach out, we have to be kind. We have to follow the great commandment of loving one another as we love ourselves, no matter who they are.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think now more than ever. Let me just tell you, I think the reasons for the election returns and a lot of other things is that the best time of anyone‘s week is coming out of church or services that Sunday.
Anyway, thank you very much, Jon Meacham. Thank you, Bill Donohue.
DONOHUE: Thank you.
MEACHAM: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next, a new report finds some federally funded abstinence-only programs are giving misleading information to teenagers. We‘ll debate abstinence-only education programs when we come back, with Dr. Drew Pinsky of “Loveline” and Dr. Joe McIlhaney of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. As any parent will tell you talking to your son or daughter about sex can be awkward. A recent report found that some of the most widely used abstinence only sex education programs are filled with misinformation. All this at a time that TV, movies, and magazines promote sex relentlessly. HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reports.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over)” Last week, “Desperate Housewives” was the number one show in America. The audience watching this scene included more than three million teenagers. In fact American teens are getting bombarded about sex nearly everywhere they turn. From MTV‘s “Real World” to Monday night football.
To Britney Spears.
Over the last five years, to help teens protect themselves against venereal disease and unwanted pregnancies, the U.S. government, led by the Bush administration, has spent more than $900 million on abstinence only education programs. But a new report by Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman found that 11 of the 13 most widely used programs contain outright lies, including, touching a person‘s genitals can result in pregnancy. HIV/AIDS can be spread via sweat and tears. And half of all gay male teenagers have tested positive for AIDS.
SEN. BILL FRIST ®, MAJORITY LEADER: I think of course it should be reviewed. That‘s in part our responsibility to make sure that all of these programs are reviewed.
SHUSTER: The programs also teach kids that women who have an abortion are more prone to suicide, a 43-day old fetus is a thinking person, and heterosexual intercourse, condoms fail 31 percent of the time, though the actual number is 3 percent. America‘s public education system has long been squeamish about sex ed. In many public schools, it wasn‘t taught at all until the 1960s. In this day and age, providing misinformation is a new twist to the argument about teaching kids just to say no.
According to the CDC, 61 percent of teenagers are having sex anyway by the time they finish high school. And when it comes to virginity pledges, nonpartisan researchers at Columbia University found that 88 percent of the teens, just like Britney Spears, eventually break their vow and have premarital sex.
So even if abstinence only program are changed to reflect accurate science and facts, the question is are these programs by themselves enough? Or should teenagers hear everything? I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. Joining me to talk about this is Dr. Drew Pinsky, co-host of the nationally syndicated show “Loveline.” And Dr. Joe McIlhaney, he‘s president and founder of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health. Welcome both of you gentlemen. Let me go to Dr. Drew. Do you believe that this just say no approach to youthful sex works?
DR. DREW PINSKY, CO-HOST, “LOVELINE”: I wish it were that simple. When you use fear and coercion to try to shape young people‘s behavior, whether it‘s using drugs or sexual behaviors, whatever it is, it tends to work for a short period of time. What you see is them rebounding past their baseline. Kids aren‘t stupid. They figure things out. If you overstate your case, you lose them for good once they figure out you‘ve been lying and distorting the facts.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that they work or not? Do they work for some kids and not for others?
DR. JOE MCILHANEY, MEDICAL INST. FOR SEXUAL HEALTH: In the first place, that‘s a distortion of what the abstinence programs are that we‘ve been associated with. We have looked at a number of these and they don‘t focus on fear. Certainly, my work is in in vitro fertilization and micro surgery. And when I see a patient that‘s infertile from sexually transmitted disease she got back when she was in high school or college, that is something to be worried about.
MATTHEWS: What about with this use of condoms? The argument by some of these programs that it fails a third of the time to prevent the transmittal of sexual diseases?
MCILHANEY: Well, the actual data from the National Institutes of Health show that condoms only reduce a risk of sexual transmission of the most common diseases, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, by about 50 percent of the time. Even when they‘re used 100 percent of the time. And I think that parents often don‘t realize...
MATTHEWS: So Congressman Waxman is wrong then.
MCILHANEY: There were two points about our materials which is not a curriculum. The first one, they actually lied about. I think, I doubt that he lied. I think he was ill served by his staff. The first element that you talked about a minute ago, about touching would pass STD and pregnancy. They were referring to our materials where we said mutual masturbation can transmit disease and pregnancy. We didn‘t say it happened a lot. But almost every obstetrician has seen some woman whose guy ejaculated near her (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and she became pregnant. STDs are passed by the secretions...
PINSKY: I have to tell you something. We have the strangest attitude as it pertains to sexual health and behavior in young people. There‘s no disagreement amongst all experts that abstinence is the goal. That adolescence intercourse is an unhealthy behavior. And abstinence should be normative. The problem is though why is it that we reserve sexual health as the place we‘re afraid to talk about? If that logic were correct, that we shouldn‘t talk about risk behaviors then sure as heck we shouldn‘t talk about drugs and alcohol. We shouldn‘t talk about cigarette smoking because god knows, if we talked about that, that would make them want to do those things. Why do we have that kind of attitude toward sexual behavior, especially when there‘s nothing in the literature that suggests that‘s the case.
MATTHEWS: You‘re saying that they want to be risky.
PINSKY: No, no. What I‘m saying is, if the logic held that we shouldn‘t discuss behaviors that we don‘t want them to do, we shouldn‘t discuss drugs and alcohol. We shouldn‘t discuss cigarettes because if we discussed it, it would make them want to do it. And that‘s not the case. The fact is when we show them consequences, they turn away from those things. The reality is with reproductive health, we need to make it normative. But that doesn‘t mean we have to censor other material and make it impossible for us to discuss when kids do break their abstinence pledges. They need to be prepared for the fact that 60 percent of them are having sex. It‘s a real problem. We have to get together and look at the clinical research and use what works and make it normative for them, Dr. McIlhaney, I completely agree with you.
MATTHEWS: But you don‘t agree though. You don‘t basically agree. Because Dr. McIlhaney would probably say that the scare information is true information, as he sees it. It is one way to get kids to practice abstinence. That‘s what he wants them to do. You say you can‘t succeed at that front so you‘d better recognize that wall will fall.
MCILHANEY: Don‘t misinterpret what I said, Chris. What I was saying was that young people need to know these issues. But I would not be in favor of a curriculum if all they did was talk about the dangers. And none of the abstinence programs are comprehensive programs, I know of, do that. Let me tell you why the Waxman report is so sad. Because it is really the dying gasp of people trying to push so-called comprehensive curriculum that‘s failed. There are no programs in the country that are comprehensive sex ed programs that have actually lowered pregnancy rates, lowered STD rates or lowered HIV rates. Few of them even measured that. It is out of the ashes of the failed comprehensive programs that the abstinence programs have had to come. And in contrast to what you just said, the programs we‘ve looked at have been very sophisticated programs. They did start being funded by president Clinton in 1986. They have been able to hire good curriculum writers and professional teachers.
MATTHEWS: I‘m going to let Dr. Drew Pinsky respond to that when we come back. Dr. Drew Pinsky, I want you to respond to the idea of teaching a comprehensive program of possibly including abstinence and other alternatives. If that encourages nothing, which is what Dr. McIlhaney is saying, it doesn‘t work. We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re back in Doctors Drew rMDNM_Pinsky and Dr. Joe McIlhaney.
Dr. Pinsky, it seems to me,the argument on the other side is, if you teach people sex education, generally without encouraging, making a dramatic case for abstinence, the young people simply engage in sex.
PINSKY: That‘s actually the case.
You should be making a strong case for abstinence and you should be making a strong case for the consequences of sexual acting out in adolescence. And I think Dr. rMDNM_McIlhaney—actually, in fact, agree on many more fronts than we actually disagree.
But the reality is to blame reproductive health and education on the problems we‘re having today—we‘ve been through a period of a biological paradigm shift with the advent of hormonal contraceptives and antibiotics. Our sexual mores were cut adrift. It had a profound effect on young people and we‘ve not been able to reel it back yet. Things are improving in spite of comprehensive sexual education. Things got worse in spite of comprehensive sexual education.
I think we need to look at merely the science and do what works for kids and not get hunkered down into ideologies. We need to look at what helps kids and go out and help kids.
MATTHEWS: What‘s happening right now, Doctor? I want to start with Dr. rMDNM_McIlhaney first.
What is happening with teen pregnancy right now? What are the rates like? Up or down? Going up, going down? Where is it now?
MCILHANEY: The pregnancy race, the teen pregnancy rate is the lowest it‘s been in years.
And there was a report in “The Journal of Adolescent Family Medicine” that showed that that was—for the unmarried teens was because of their choosing abstinence. This report came out about a year ago.
PINSKY: Now, wait a minute.
PINSKY: They also reported that it was the long-acting contraceptives had a significant effect on teen pregnancy as well, right?
MCILHANEY: The percentage of teens using Depo-Provera is pretty small. But the teens that weren‘t getting pregnant that were using contraceptives in that study were primarily married teens.
But I would like to emphasize one thing, Chris.
MCILHANEY: We‘ve seen the failure of these comprehensive sex ed programs for years. They had the dominant amount of money and attention and so for the.
And so regardless of the ideology, what is going to work? That‘s what parents want. They don‘t want their kids pregnant. They don‘t want their kids to get STD. They don‘t want them sterile and get cervical cancer. What they want is something that works.
And what we‘re beginning to see with the abstinence programs, and Waxman‘s report was not honest about this, but there are peer-reviewed journal articles about abstinence programs. Monroe County, New York, is an example where pregnancy rates actually went down, something that no comprehensive program has actually accomplished in all these years.
And there are some other reports like that. And so I think what—I totally agree with Dr. Pinsky. And that is that we want something that works. That‘s what parents want.
MATTHEWS: To be blunt about it, aren‘t a lot of young kids engaging in nonsexuality—nonsexual behavior by Clinton‘s definition?
MCILHANEY: Well, sure, they are.
PINSKY: Oh, absolutely. There‘s a lot of that going on.
PINSKY: And, ultimately, Chris, the problem here...
PINSKY: The fact is, though, that sex has become a drug in our culture.
We have destroyed family systems. We have kids trying to regulate their feeling states. They‘re trying to grapple for self-esteem. And what they reach for is what they see in the media, which is sex and drugs and extreme experiences. And they work for them. That‘s why they do them. The fact is, they get locked into these destructive behaviors and it becomes the only way that they can gain esteem. And they come out of it with guilt and lower esteem in the long run.
MCILHANEY: Yes, the same way that they smoke for different reasons.
But we as a society, it is crazy to say that kids can‘t be influenced by us adults. We‘ve influenced them about smoking and we‘ve influenced them about a number of other things. And we can influence them about sexual activity, because sexual activity for adolescents is risky behavior. As a matter of fact, for an adolescent, sexual activity is more risky while they‘re an adolescent than smoking is.
And I agree with Dr. Pinsky. We as a whole community in this country need to come together to give the very best message and guidance.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. I‘m glad the adults are talking to the kids.
That‘s the important thing.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Dr. Drew Pinsky. And thank you, Dr. Joe rMDNM_McIlhaney.
Congress reaches a deal on intelligence reform, but is the compromise bill tough enough, I wonder? We‘ll talk with two House members, Republican Dan Burton and Democrat Harold Ford Jr.
You‘re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, Congress reaches a deal on intelligence reform, but is the compromise bill tough enough? We‘ll get the latest on that fight when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Congressional negotiators reached a last-minute breakthrough today with one of the Republican holdouts of the intelligence reform bill. Congressman Duncan Hunter of California, who opposed how a national intelligence director could interfere with the military chain of command, agreed to compromise language that would remove his objections to the bill.
Will this breakthrough pave the way for a vote on the intelligence bill itself?
Republican Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana is a member of the International Relations Committee and the Government Reform Committee. And Harold Burton (sic) of Tennessee—Harold Burton? Harold Ford Jr.
MATTHEWS: He‘s from Tennessee.
You get to start.
Are you confident that this bill will do the job? Everybody has agreed now to it. And what will it do to people watching right now?
REP. HAROLD FORD (D), TENNESSEE: Well, it is important to know that even before Duncan Hunter agreed to the compromise language, had the bill been brought to a vote on the floor, it would have passed.
MATTHEWS: But with a split Republican vote.
FORD: Well, no, I think you would have still had 300 hundred votes for it. You will now have 350, 375, maybe even 400 votes, because all Democrats will support it. And it‘s safe to say that you‘ll have a huge number of Republicans supporting it.
MATTHEWS: Why—this is a tricky question.
Congressman Burton, you handle this. Why are all the Democrats backing a bill that was written by a Republican committee?
REP. DAN BURTON ®, INDIANA: Well, I think the bill had a lot of Democrat input.
Congressman rMD-BO_Menendez was a conferee on the bill. And I think he got a lot of the things he wanted in the bill. And it—it—I don‘t think they objected to two of the clauses that bill that we objected to. The battlefield information that soldiers get immediately that will protect them and help them in the fight to defeat the terrorists in places like Fallujah was not adequate. And that‘s why Duncan Hunter held out. He finally got I think...
MATTHEWS: He wanted to make sure there wasn‘t any break in the chain of command...
BURTON: That‘s right. That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: ... and his G2, his intelligence officer, right?
BURTON: That‘s right. He wanted to make sure that satellite information got to those guys as quick as possible.
BURTON: But the other thing that was very, very important, and I still think is important, is making sure that illegal aliens, terrorists coming into this country, don‘t get access to driver‘s licenses, like the terrorists did on 9/11.
MATTHEWS: OK. Why aren‘t you—why aren‘t you putting that in the bill? Because the 9/11 Commission said put that in the bill.
BURTON: It should be in the bill.
MATTHEWS: Why isn‘t it?
BURTON: It was in the House bill. But when it went to the Senate, the senators and the conferees took it out. And I don‘t know why they took it out.
MATTHEWS: Well, why did Susan Collins take it out? She‘s a Republican from Maine. Why did she yank it?
BURTON: It wasn‘t just Susan Collins.
MATTHEWS: It was Lieberman, too.
BURTON: Yes, Lieberman as well. And I don‘t know why they took it out. They shouldn‘t have, in my opinion.
MATTHEWS: What‘s the danger of having people in this country illegally—let me ask the obvious question—getting driver‘s licenses which they can use to get airplanes?
MATTHEWS: I‘m asking you the easy question. What‘s the answer?
BURTON: Well, the terrorists that attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and crashed the plane in Pennsylvania, 19 terrorists had 63 driver‘s licenses that they were not entitled to get. Now, if we don‘t have...
MATTHEWS: Where are they getting from? Virginia? Falls Church?
BURTON: They were getting them from 11 different states, 11 different states.
MATTHEWS: That‘s what I heard, they were getting them from Virginia.
BURTON: They might have.
But the point is, we need a mechanism to stop that from happening so that we can make sure these guys don‘t get on these planes and cause this kind of problem.
FORD: Two things.
No. 1, this bill enjoys Democrat support, because, remember, everybody supports this bill.
FORD: The president, the bipartisan commission, the 9/11 Commission.
MATTHEWS: Except the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
FORD: But Bill Frist, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Dennis Hastert all supported this bill. So this is a bill that enjoyed support because it was the right thing to do and the 9/11 Commission supported it.
When it comes to the driver‘s license issue, I tend to agree with a lot of what Dan has said. The only problem is, even if you allowed for some of these illegal immigrants to get the driver‘s licenses—and my state is the one that does that because we want people to work and be able to support their families—if these airlines had had access to the information that the FBI and CIA may have had about those terrorists, we would have nabbed them.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but if a driver‘s license is useless in proving your right to be in the country, why ask us to show it? We all have to ask—we all have to show driver‘s licenses.
MATTHEWS: What is the purpose of asking for a document that doesn‘t mean anything because anybody can get one? That‘s all I‘m asking.
FORD: But it‘s not anybody can get one. You still have to pass it. You can‘t show up and say I‘m a criminal, I‘m a crook, I want a driver‘s license.
MATTHEWS: Well, how are these people getting them in Virginia and states like yours? How are they getting them? They‘re illegally in the country.
FORD: Well, they‘re not getting them in my state. Let‘s be clear.
MATTHEWS: Well, yes. I thought you just said that.
FORD: All right, but there‘s a difference between terrorists and people who should not be—who have some legality issues in being here. What we‘re trying to do is keep track of these folks. If they‘re working for an employer who should not employ them, we should know these things. And I think that‘s part of what we‘re trying to get at.
MATTHEWS: But what is the purpose, Congressman?
FORD: But his concern is about being a terrorist.
MATTHEWS: Every time I go on an airplane—remember, they used to ask you those two stupid questions? Have you had your—they still ask those questions. But if everybody knows that a driver‘s license is something you can buy in certain states and get illegally or even get legally because some states are being liberal about it and saying, well, even though you‘re here illegally, we‘re going to give you a driver‘s license, then all these driver‘s licenses are a joke.
FORD: It‘s almost better to have it done that way. At least you have it on the books. Now, I‘m not—I happen to agree with what Dan is saying.
MATTHEWS: This isn‘t a case of pandering, isn‘t it?
MATTHEWS: This isn‘t a case of a group, the Latinos scaring—the organization scaring the hell out of the congressmen, so neither party wants to fight on this?
FORD: I tend to think we should have standards. But even—the concern that Dan expresses is a legitimate one about terrorism. And I think that concern is still addressed in this bill. And that‘s why Democrats and Republicans...
MATTHEWS: Why didn‘t you hold out? Why didn‘t you hold out until they settled the driver‘s license issue, Congressman?
BURTON: You know, the bill probably, it‘s 95 percent what we want. I still think the driver‘s license issue is very, very important. But to hold up the bill...
MATTHEWS: I‘ll tell you one example. You raised it, Congressman, the fact that these guys who blew up the World Trade Center, blew up the Pentagon, tried to blow up the Capitol, probably, thought it was important for them to get these phony driver‘s licenses.
MATTHEWS: They went to the trouble of getting them, so they must be useful to a terrorist to have these documents. And we‘re giving them out.
BURTON: You‘re absolutely correct.
FORD: I guess President Bush is wrong, too.
MATTHEWS: No. He‘s not infallible.
MATTHEWS: He may also just want a bill, so he gets credit for it, like every other politician does, a bill you can say, I‘m with the—here are all the pens. Pass out the pens. And the next day, somebody comes through with an illegal driver‘s license.
BURTON: If terrorists take driver‘s licenses and get on planes and kill a bunch of U.S. citizens in the future, people are going to say, why in the heck didn‘t you take care of this problem when you had that intelligence reform bill before you?
And that‘s a legitimate question. The other side of that coin is this.
FORD: There‘s a lot of things that we‘re going to do in this bill that is going to help with homeland security and to defend this country against terrorism. But that one thing needs to be addressed. If we don‘t address it in this bill, we have got to do it early in the next session of Congress.
MATTHEWS: See, I have a problem. I don‘t understand, Congressman, how a person who gets on an airplane who they think, for whatever reason, they look like one of the people on the list or whatever...
BURTON: Well, you can‘t do that.
MATTHEWS: ... looks like trouble. And the guy just give his driver‘s license.
The minute that person gives the driver‘s license to the transportation security person at the airport, they have got no right to ask any more questions, right? They have got to let him on.
FORD: No. No.
If you show a driver‘s license and the person‘s name is Osama bin Laden, they‘re going to stop you at the airport. They‘re going to make you go for special screening.
MATTHEWS: No terrorist is that stupid.
FORD: But, Chris, my point is this. You still have to go through security. And if you raise a flag, they‘re going to check you.
FORD: The way you—now, I agree. I happen to agree with Dan. I think that this...
MATTHEWS: Would you vote for a bill that came up separately that said no more phony driver‘s licenses issued to people who aren‘t citizens?
MATTHEWS: I thought you said, in your state, they do it to let them drive their cars around.
FORD: No. No. They don‘t give people phony driver‘s licenses.
MATTHEWS: Well, they give them real driver‘s licenses, but they‘re in the country illegally.
FORD: Right. But those—we have a standard in our state that works well.
Democrats and Republican supported it. The concern here is not people
· illegal immigrants coming in this country to work. The concern here are terrorists getting on planes or finding entry into our country and bringing harm to the country. This bill will do more to prevent that. And if we‘re able to vote on this separately, I think we can address what I think is an important issue, but not big enough to prevent us from streamlining the intelligence community, providing them with more resources, and having one person accountable to the American people and the president when it comes to providing intelligence.
MATTHEWS: The only thing I know is, everybody who wants to do us harm knows they can get a driver‘s license in this country illegally—legally. They get a legal piece of paper that says they‘re a driver in this country, even if they just got off the plane from some other country.
MATTHEWS: And that shouldn‘t be, should it?
BURTON: No, it should not be. And that‘s why this...
MATTHEWS: But that‘s not what this...
BURTON: But, Harold, this issue has to be addressed very quickly. If we don‘t address it in this bill, then we have got to do it as one of the first things when we come back in January.
MATTHEWS: You‘ll never get it through. The liberals won‘t let you get it through.
FORD: Well, I‘ll join you.
MATTHEWS: You know they‘ll kill it. They‘re going to kill it. You know they‘re going to kill it.
BURTON: Should we kill the whole bill with a new national intelligence director that is going to...
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s the question you have to...
MATTHEWS: You‘re elected to do it.
BURTON: That‘s one of the problems. That‘s the problem that I have right now.
I was going to vote against the bill because of Duncan Hunter‘s objections, as well as Sensenbrenner‘s. Now Hunter‘s has been solved.
MATTHEWS: Remember, Ross Perot says measure twice, cut once.
FORD: But, Chris, the last thing, with regard to those who got on the plane on 9/11, remember, the CIA didn‘t communicate with the FBI, letting them know that those folks were in country.
MATTHEWS: I know.
FORD: This bill will allow that to happen. That‘s why it should pass and that‘s why it will pass tomorrow when we vote on it.
MATTHEWS: It could be a better bill, though.
Anyway, thank you.
BURTON: It could be a lot better bill, yes. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Do you agree?
FORD: And I will vote—and I will join him in trying to pass the immigration part, make sure...
MATTHEWS: U.S. Congressman Dan Burton, U.S. Congressman Harold Ford Jr., thank you, sir.
FORD: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll have more on the intelligence bill, plus the latest on Iraq with Dana Priest of the—Dana Priest of “The Washington Post” and Jay Carney of “TIME” magazine when we come back.
And don‘t forget to check out Hardblogger, our political blog Web site. Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Dana Priest is the national security correspondent for “The Washington Post.” She‘s also an MSNBC military and intelligence analyst. And Jay Carney is the deputy Washington bureau chief for “TIME” magazine.
Dana, let me ask about this latest act of terrorism against the United States. We all wondering when the next shoe is going to drop and, lo and behold, they attacked us at our consulate in Saudi Arabia, killing a bunch of people. How do you put that into the picture of attacking the United States?
DANA PRIEST, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: On the scale of violence, it‘s small because seven people were killed, not 3,000.
But whenever there‘s an attack in Saudi Arabia these days, people who know that country gasp. And the reason is, Saudi Arabia, its security services, they are basically a police state that for many years had total control over what people like this were doing. And now it really does appear they have lost control. And many say this is the new al Qaeda, that al Qaeda is not going to be able to mount these spectacular attacks anymore or they would have, but they are going to keep attacking the Saudi state and European interests and U.S. interests in Saudi Arabia, where there are many of these.
Remember, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed said 70 percent of the people who went through the training camps in Afghanistan were Saudis. So they clearly don‘t have the type of control that everyone assume they used to have. And that‘s very worrisome to counterterrorism experts.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you this. We are about to pass a counterterrorism bill, the intelligence that is coming in before both houses tomorrow. It‘s going to include a counterintelligence, a counterintelligence—or counterterrorism center. Will that do any good to stop these sort of offshore attacks, outpost attacks on U.S.—U.S. bases, basically, the consulate in Jeddah?
PRIEST: You know, what the bill will do is going to do is give somebody, somebody to grab by the collar when that happens and say, you are accountable.
It won‘t really, according to experts, help this tougher problem, which is getting agents on the ground, foreign agents who can tell us things, and recruiting and training more American spies who can go into Saudi Arabia and other places and make these kind of liaisons. This bill really is top-heavy in that regard. And it soothes a lot of complaints by legislators and the public that the 9/11 people were still not held accountable.
And, in that regard, yes, there will be a national director, but it won‘t necessarily matter to the next Saudi attack. And that‘s the concern many terrorism experts who have looked at it and then have seen the train sort of barrel down the tracks without paying attention to a lot of the really tough problems that exist.
MATTHEWS: Tomorrow, there is going to be the beginning of a drumbeat for a big signing ceremony. It will happen some time probably after Christmas or whenever.
JAY CARNEY, DEPUTY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “TIME”: Yes.
MATTHEWS: All the pens will be handed out. The president will be smiling. Everybody will be around him. That‘s fine. Will we be safer with this intelligence bill?
PRIEST: I don‘t think that‘s clear.
MATTHEWS: Let Jay go.
Let me go to Jay now.
CARNEY: Chris, I don‘t think—I think, on the margin, safer.
I think it is important because you had a CIA director who everyone thought was in charge of intelligence, and yet he controlled only a small portion of the intelligence budget. If this new national intelligence director really is at the pinnacle of the entire intelligence system...
MATTHEWS: How would he stop or she stop an attack on an American consulate somewhere in the world?
CARNEY: Well, you can‘t—obviously, he‘s not going to pick up the phone and stop it.
But if you have a more streamline system, where everyone is reporting to one place and where heads roll, in theory, hopefully, if there‘s not cooperation between the different branches of intelligence, you have better intelligence. You have better systems. And, hopefully, that would then lead to prevention of attacks.
But Dana is right. The ultimate problem we have is, we haven‘t got agents on the ground who can infiltrate in these Middle Eastern countries where the terrorists are breeding.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe, Jay Carney, that the war in Iraq is helping or hurting our war on terrorism?
CARNEY: I think it is pretty clear that it is certainly creating terrorists.
Now, you can‘t lie back and do nothing. But you have got—it is a great al Qaeda recruiting tool. And Iraq has become the great battle with the United States. Now, there‘s some merit to the argument, I suppose, that the Bush administration puts out that says, better to fight them there than on our shores.
MATTHEWS: Who is them?
CARNEY: But they‘re—in Iraq, rather than on our shores.
MATTHEWS: Well, who are we fighting in Iraq? Are we fighting terrorists or are we fighting the...
CARNEY: The terrorists, but, in fact, what—they make that point, but, in fact, 90 percent of the people who fighting in Iraq are Sunni Iraqis and not foreign jihadists.
MATTHEWS: Dana, once again, the president conflated the two people. He said the people that attacked our consulate in Saudi Arabia, who are al Qaeda terrorists, he conflated them with the people, the Sunni holdouts for Saddam Hussein in Baghdad in the Sunni areas attacking the Kurds and the Shia, as terrorists. Why does he keep conflating the two, who are very much opposed to each other?
PRIEST: Well, because the central mission, as he has defined it rhetorically, is to go after terrorists and terrorism in Iraq.
And he, I think, needs to maintain that, so that people believe that that is what we are going after, terrorists, not people who don‘t like the U.S. troops being there and who are Iraqis and want their country back.
On the issue of does it make us safer, I attended a conference recently with a lot of world renowned terrorist experts. And they talked about Iraq as the new safe haven, in a perverted way, like Afghanistan, in that the chaos has allowed a lot of foreign terrorists to come in and operate against the United States right there in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Dana Priest. More to come from you on this issue.
And thank you, Jay Carney.
Join again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. And on Wednesday, I am going to sit down with his majesty King Abdullah of Jordan to talk about the future of the Arab world and what needs to be done to achieve peace in the Middle East. And then, on Friday, former President Jimmy Carter will be here at this table right here.
Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.
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