Guest: Ted Haggard, Mikey Weinstein, Melinda Morton, Alexandra Pelosi, Dan Lungren, Anna Eshoo, Michael Deaver
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A political pressure cooker this week in Washington. Senator John McCain leads a bipartisan group of 14, shoving aside Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, cutting a deal in the filibuster fight. Democrats delay the vote on President Bush‘s pick for ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton. The House passes a stem cell bill over the president‘s threat of a veto. And Senate Leader Bill Frist comes under intense criticism for his leadership and even his ability to count votes. Sounds like a great time to get out of town for Memorial Day holiday.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews.
This was the week Congress roared. We‘ll find out what the major power plays on Capitol Hill this week really mean with two members of Congress, California‘s Anna Eshoo and Dan Lungren.
And, later, a Pentagon investigation into religious pressure at the U.S. Air Force Academy. We‘ll talk to a chaplain who says she was dismissed for speaking out against what she calls evangelical pressure.
Plus, longtime Reagan aide Michael Deaver on what it means to be a conservative today.
But we begin with the lingering political fallout over the Senate votes to delay John Bolton‘s confirmation as U.N. ambassador.
We‘re joined now by NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell.
Is this Bolton nomination dead or is it on intensive care or what?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Intensive care, certainly.
I mean, they do need only a majority. And there is going to be some pressure on Joe Biden and the other Democrats when they come back on June 7 not to do a filibuster in fact, even though it is a de facto filibuster.
But it is just pretty much a disaster. Yesterday, you were talking about how the president of the United States has not drawn John Bolton into him. He has not produced him in the Rose Garden and not said, this is my man. I‘m embracing him. Even though we don‘t sense that the president is backing off from him, there‘s no sign of a real campaign. And, in fact, he went off for the Memorial Day recess himself. He went off to Camp David and I‘ve been told that the radio address on Saturday morning will not have anything to do with John Bolton.
MATTHEWS: You have got to wonder about a man he says he needs at the U.N. to represent the United States, but doesn‘t want to be seen with.
MATTHEWS: Is that too hard a statement for me to make? I just think it is odd.
MATTHEWS: Usually, you would expect to have his arm around the fellow or woman and say, look, this is my person. They‘re the best person. They‘re my personal representative to the United Nations. Let me have them.
MITCHELL: I was really struck by that last night, because that was your immediate reaction.
And it was right on, Chris, because this is not what you would call a concentrated White House campaign to get this guy confirmed. And, as you know, the support for him in the Senate among Republicans, other than the hard-line Republican, but the Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee who are leading this battle for him, is Dick Lugar, who, the best he could say for John Bolton when he was nominated was, well, I guess this is what the president wants.
MATTHEWS: What about the seat of the hurricane himself, Dick Cheney? Is he gung-ho in this nomination or is he fading as well? Or is he fading, I should say? Open question.
MITCHELL: No. He‘s not fading at all. He is gung-ho about this nomination. And I‘m not trying to suggest that the president is either. I‘m just suggesting that the legislative arm of the White House has not been terribly aggressive.
MATTHEWS: Nor has the public relations arm been manifest at all, it seems, in terms of a P.R. campaign to run the man for president.
MATTHEWS: So let‘s talk about Bolton. Will the president order the Department of State, which you covered all these years, to release these documents that Joe Biden, the ranking Democrat on Foreign Relations, and Chris Dodd say they need?
MITCHELL: This may be a game of chicken, as many of these are. But so far, no. We‘ve talked to people in the State Department. And once again today, the secretary of state in San Francisco addressing the Commonwealth Club was hard-line on that point. They‘re not going to release those documents.
MATTHEWS: Does that create a standoff between the State Department, the administration on the one side and the Democrats and the Senate on the other, which may yield another failure to get cloture?
MITCHELL: Well, interestingly, Bill Frist also called on the State Department to release the documents. Some of the documents do come from the National Security Agency.
The State Department was trying to spin it by saying today that the documents had been turned over, the security related documents had been turned over to Jay Rockefeller and to Pat Roberts, the two—the chairman and the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee. But, in fact, that is not true. The documents were turned over, but they were redacted.
So, even Jay Rockefeller and Pat Roberts were not permitted to see the names. And what they want to see are the American names. Who are the Americans that were caught on these intercepts and why did John Bolton want to see those—those names?
MATTHEWS: OK. We‘ll see what kind of compromise they work out.
Thank you very much, Andrea Mitchell. Have a nice Memorial weekend.
MITCHELL: You, too.
MATTHEWS: What a week to be a lawmaker in Washington. I‘m with two members of the House of Representatives, both representing California districts, Democratic Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and Republican Congressman Dan Lungren.
Dan, you‘re here.
This fight on the Senate side, what do you make of this, this fight over whether we have a U.N. ambassador right now?
REP. DAN LUNGREN ®, CALIFORNIA: Well, two things. One is, it is a manifestation of what we‘ve seen over a number of years, where there‘s this distrust between different White Houses and the Senate delaying nominations to crucial positions, number one.
Number two, John Bolton is not the kind of guy that is going to slap you on the back and have a beer with you and watch a ball game with. He doesn‘t have those kind of relationships with members of the Senate.
MATTHEWS: Is he a diplomat?
LUNGREN: For this time, for this place, for the need that we have to change the United Nations, yes, he is.
MATTHEWS: Will he be good as a public diplomat, a person who could go on television or go to world and speak to the world community and say, here‘s our side of this fight with this Islamic terrorism? Can he do that?
LUNGREN: I‘ve known John for probably 25 years in different functions. I‘ve found him to be very bright, to be very persuasive, to always know his subject. And to the extent that that means anything—and I think it does in these days—he can do a very, very good job. If you‘re asking for the guy who is going to be the darling of the press or the darling of even other member of Congress.
MATTHEWS: You mean like McCain is.
LUNGREN: Well, he‘s not the guy.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Anna Eshoo.
Congresswoman, thank you.
REP. ANNA ESHOO (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: You‘re a Democrat, obviously. And I want to ask you about this fight. Do you think the Democrats should hold off on accepting this guy, let him have an up-or-down vote, until they get these documents? Or is there a point where you simply say to yourself, you know, the president of the United States has to make this call; if he‘s comfortable with this guy, we got to live with him?
ESHOO: I think it is absolutely legitimate for senators, whether they‘re Republicans or Democrats, to be able to have all the information they need in order to cast an informed vote.
I think the White House ultimately is really stalling or being very stubborn about this. And I think that Mr. Bolton has cast a shadow on himself by how he has conducted himself and raised a lot of questions. And you heard that in Senator Voinovich‘s speech on the floor of the House yesterday—floor of the Senate—I‘m sorry—yesterday.
So, I think that information should be forthcoming. And then he will go to—his name will be sent to the floor for a vote of the full Senate. And, if that doesn‘t happen, we‘ll see what happens. But I don‘t think this is simply a stalling tactic. I think it is the 11th hour. But I do think that regardless of what party you‘re in, the information that‘s been requested is absolutely legitimate and will speak pretty clearly to senators about how sensitive information may have been used by him.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about another minority rights situation on the issue of John Bolton. The Democrats are in the minority, obviously. That‘s the number they have. They don‘t have enough senators elected. They keep losing elections, the Democrats. But on the issue of stem cells...
LUNGREN: That should mean something.
MATTHEWS: It should.
Well, let‘s talk about stem cell, because there you have a case where some Republicans are joining the Democratic majority and saying the federal government should use taxpayer dollars to experiment with embryos, fertilized human eggs that are available, I guess, from these fertility clinics, where people have extra ones.
Your brother, Parkinson‘s. My mom, Alzheimer‘s, died of it. How do you deal with these questions of end justifying the means? And what do you look at? Where do you go here?
LUNGREN: It is an awfully tough issue.
I mean, I talked about my brother. I‘ve talked with my brother since then. He is just two years older than I. We grew up together, went to school together, grade school, high school. We were roommates together at Notre Dame for one year. One of the things he always taught me was—as a philosophy major, which he was at Notre Dame, never forget the moral dimension.
And that is why I was proud of the House this week. We actually debated on floor for several hours this issue. I came down on one side. Others came down on the other. It seems to me, here‘s the fundamental question. If you have what is known as a human life form—and I think an embryo is part of the human family. You can argue about when ensoulment takes place or when it is a true human being, but, in terms of biology, it is part of the human family.
Do we use taxpayer moneys to destroy that in order to do some other good? That‘s a very basic question that we have to answer. I don‘t think we should do that. I don‘t think we should cross that Rubicon. We ought to put a lot of money, a lot of effort into every other alternative, whether it is adult stem research, umbilical cord blood cell research, and also, four different types of approaches to get us embryonic stem cells without destroying the embryo.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Congresswoman, your position on this, because there is another side.
ESHOO: And I think that I represent the other side. I respect what Dan just said.
Number one, if you support in vitro fertilization, then that leads to you supporting embryonic stem cell research. Why? Because these embryos are always, always invariably, invariably left over after in vitro fertilization. So, what the bill that was passed on a bipartisan basis, which I think was an historic step for the House of Representatives to take this week, I think represents both the ethical standards that we need and also speaks to the hope that we‘re responsible for in terms of the American people.
Over 3,000 die every day from a variety of diseases. So this spans from the earliest of life in terms of juvenile diabetes all the way to Alzheimer‘s. I think it is a balanced bill. Parents have to give consent for these embryonic stem cells to be used. And these are all of the leftovers that are now frozen and kept in clinics.
So, I think it is a very balanced bill. But I agree with Dan. It was a very important debate. And I think that, on a bipartisan basis, there are a lot of Republicans, pro—so-called pro-life that chose both sides of this.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Congresswoman. I‘ll tell you, I agree with both of you. I‘m so glad we have a country with a conscience to argue about the end justifying the means. And when we ever stop doing that, we got a problem.
Anyway, when we come back, the relationship between politicians and the media.
And, later, accusations that evangelical Christians are proselytizing at the Air Force Academy and discriminating against cadets of other faiths.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, politics vs. the media.
And, later, longtime Reagan aide Michael Deaver gives us a progress report on the Reagan legacy.
HARDBALL returns after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
According to the polls, the key issue in the 2004 presidential election was security. Did the American press corps did a good enough job reporting on that issue? And are there other issues that should have been addressed that could have changed the results of the election of 2004?
Two people who have covered politics, MSNBC‘s contributor and “Congressional Quarterly‘ columnist Craig Crawford and documentarian Alexandra Pelosi, take on the role of the press in their new books. Alexandra is the author of “Sneaking Into the Flying Circus.” And she is also the daughter of political royalty. Her mother is the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi of California. And her grandfather served for years as mayor of Baltimore, as they say up there, Bal‘more. And Craig wrote “Attack the Messenger,” which shares his views on the relationship between politicians and the media.
I want to start with Craig.
I was stunned by one poll that came out of the election last time. After all the personality, who was the nicer guy, who would stop his car if you had a flat and fix it for you and all that, who? It was that the people only trusted one candidate to protect them. And that was the president. And the other guy never really got in the race on that one. Do you think there‘s something we could have covered that would have changed the results of the way people thought about that?
CRAIG CRAWFORD, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, because I think that‘s a -
· I think the press does a good job of covering what is there.
To blame the media for what happens in these campaigns is like blaming the weatherman for the weather. I think John Kerry did a very poor job of getting his message out. And that was his problem, not the media‘s problem.
MATTHEWS: But was security the issue that we should have been thinking about and was it the issue where the president enjoyed an advantage and that‘s just an objective fact?
CRAWFORD: There are always issues that the public ought to know, but maybe doesn‘t want to listen to or isn‘t interested in. And, sometimes, the media does tend more toward the things people want to hear about candidates and maybe not the things they should hear.
But it‘s not our job always to tell them what they ought to know if they are not going to listen to us.
MATTHEWS: Alexandra, in the post-9/11 world, it seems like the American people kept thinking of the president as the guy that stood on the rubble and said I‘m going to knock down—or I‘m going to get the people who knocked down these walls.
And that reality, that iconic reality, held through right through Election Day. Is there any way the press could have improved on that knowledge they had or changed it?
ALEXANDRA PELOSI, AUTHOR, “SNEAKING INTO THE FLYING CIRCUS”: Well, I think that the reason why people chose George Bush was because he had some joy. People like that. He made people feel good about themselves. They wanted to have him over for a barbecue.
It‘s just a feeling that they got from him. I don‘t think it had anything to do with how 9/11 was covered. And I don‘t think it had anything to do with the media. I think it really had to do with the feeling that they got from the press. I‘m not blaming the press for electing George Bush.
MATTHEWS: Are you saying it wasn‘t security the issue; it was personality?
PELOSI: I think it is always personality.
MATTHEWS: Not security.
Let me ask you about the George Bush you covered, because you were right on his tail in the first election. And then again you watched him pretty close up in the second election. Is the George Bush we vote for and see on TV, is he the guy you know?
PELOSI: Well, I had a different...
MATTHEWS: Watching him close up, as you did, doing your documentaries?
PELOSI: I had a different experience with President Bush when I was on the campaign trail with him in 2000. He was totally different in real life than he was on TV. But I think everybody is. I think everybody has a different persona. It‘s like they‘re their best perfect self when they‘re on television or something. Well, in George Bush‘s case, maybe it‘s their worst self. Who knows.
MATTHEWS: Who do you like better? Do you like the Bush on the screen or the Bush on the bus?
PELOSI: Well, I like the Bush on the bus.
But, again, I think the media filtered out some of his charm. Some of that charm didn‘t really work on television. Nobody really understood it when they saw it on TV. They thought it didn‘t really come across. It‘s hard. This is a hard game you‘re playing, this hardball.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, let‘s talk about another guy. Let me start on Al Gore. Al Gore, does he suffer from the media screen?
CRAWFORD: To some extent.
I think the major failing in the media in the coverage of Al Gore, I believe, is this—and this is a fault of ours. We get a storyline, we get a narrative and we don‘t like to change it. We get used to it.
MATTHEWS: Al Gore is a dork.
CRAWFORD: Well, I was thinking—that‘s true, too. But I was thinking of, Al Gore‘s a serial exaggerator, a liar.
MATTHEWS: OK. I invented the Internet.
CRAWFORD: That became a narrative in the coverage that was overplayed.
PELOSI: Basically, the media makes a caricature of someone. And they have to try to overcome that caricature. Kerry was aloof. Bush was dumb. These are just one-word caricatures that the media places on people and then they have to try to overcome it. And whether they can or not is the challenge of the campaign.
MATTHEWS: How did the media portray—well, just give me method, because you‘ve written this book about it. And I think it‘s a great question. How did the media actively create the cartoon notion of the president, the one we have now and we elected twice, as a dunce?
PELOSI: Well, you know, you do it every day on your show. There‘s this lowering of the...
MATTHEWS: How do I do it?
PELOSI: OK, I‘m not blaming you personally. I‘m just saying, media is a lot of things. There isn‘t any such thing as the media. It is all the comedians that make jokes about him. It‘s all the...
MATTHEWS: I make this president look like—you don‘t watch this program, Alexandra. That has never been the case with me. And anybody watching knows right now, we treat this guy with respect. I happen to like him. I voted for him at least once. I‘m not going to go any further on that.
But the idea that we treat him like a dunce is just inaccurate.
PELOSI: OK, but...
MATTHEWS: Why you did you say that?
PELOSI: OK. Don‘t take it personally. This isn‘t about you.
MATTHEWS: No, I do think—well, when you say you, I guess I take it personally. Why? Because I think we really trying to be personally fair.
PELOSI: You basically represent all the...
MATTHEWS: And, by the way, ask Al Gore if we were nicer to him than we were to the president. Ask John Kerry if we‘re nicer to him than we were to the president.
Every candidate feels that you weren‘t nice to them, because they have an almost godlike notion of themselves and they want to see that reflected.
Craig, do you think I make—do you think I make George Bush look like a dunce on this show?
CRAWFORD: I think, to the extent George Bush may look like a dunce...
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know this imagery. I‘m not familiar with it.
CRAWFORD: It‘s in the viewer‘s own minds. And I don‘t think the media fuels that at all. I think this is part of the problem, is, these politicians, either they tightly control how they present themselves to us in very strict circumstances.
PELOSI: Now, Alexandra, your access to George Bush, for example, for your documentary, you had very unusual access.
Plenty of others covering that campaign would have wanted that access.
What did you give up for that access?
PELOSI: Oh, well, that‘s a really good question. Well, I think that it was—it‘s a very complicated conversation we‘re trying to have in 30 seconds.
Basically, the point of why we were invited to be on the show is to talk about the subject that we both care about. And that is this idea that the media in this country has a real problem and there‘s something that the media is filtering.
PELOSI: When you know the candidates like you guys know the candidates...
CRAWFORD: I don‘t see how anybody can filter anything when we...
MATTHEWS: Well, I think that‘s always fair to criticize any other professional. But I guess you got to be real careful here.
We‘ll be right back with Craig Crawford And Alexandra Pelosi. When we come back, we‘ll talk more about this media thing.
And still ahead, longtime Reagan aide Michael Deaver is going to join us. He‘s a media expert.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Craig Crawford and Alexandra Pelosi.
Just to straighten the record out, Alexandra, back in the 2000 race, I was one of the few journalists that pointed out that George W. Bush did extremely well in those debates against Al Gore. In fact, I said he won in terms of personality, in terms of likability and fairness and on other grounds. I was the one who took a lot of heat for taking that position.
From the beginning, I‘ve defended him on issues like saying Jesus Christ is his personal philosopher. I‘ve defended him against the liberal elitists who did put him down. So, I don‘t think it‘s fair to say that I have in any way abused him. Do you want to take that back or do you want start over or what here?
PELOSI: I think the moral of the story is, I have to watch—start watching more HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: I think so. Thank you.
Let me go—you get into a fight here, because I‘m in the stupid fight here.
CRAWFORD: Well, Alexandra, you do make a point that the media filters information from the public and that they need—you had unfiltered access to George Bush in that 2000 campaign and made a great documentary.
But I‘m curious, what were the terms of that? Were you able to air any of that during the campaign or Hollywood—what kind of agreement did you make there?
It was basically, I said all along I was making a documentary that wasn‘t going to come out until after the election.
CRAWFORD: So you got unfiltered access, but it did no good for the public in that campaign. And other reporters didn‘t have that kind of access. And my only point is, politicians do that. This is why we can‘t get unfiltered information.
MATTHEWS: Can I take Alexandra‘s side now that we got a minute, less?
MATTHEWS: Alexandra, you know where I think you are dead right? I think, in the buildup to something really important, the fact we went to war with Iraq, I think too many people on my side of the table here, in business, the journalism business, were establishment.
They thought establishment. If Cheney said something about weapons of mass destruction, they figured, oh, this is Dick Cheney, the inestimable Dick Cheney. He must be right. You know what I‘m saying?
MATTHEWS: Talk about it. Is that your view?
PELOSI: Well, I think that it is really hard to explain the problem but—in this sort of context, but OK.
What I observed from covering the campaigns that I covered was that every candidate was one way in person and another way when the television camera turned on. It is just the nature of the business.
PELOSI: It is a really tough game that we‘re playing.
MATTHEWS: So, how do we get around that? How do we get around that?
PELOSI: Well, I don‘t know. Maybe we have to look for better candidates.
CRAWFORD: Well, because that‘s not the media‘s fault, is it?
PELOSI: No, I‘m not blaming the media. I have always said all along, it is this dance between them that is the problem. It is not the media‘s fault and it is not the politician‘s fault.
MATTHEWS: Sometimes I think—I think some people—you know Robert Kennedy Jr. in person is very calm. He gets on television, he gets very nervous. I know so many people who are terrible on television.
MATTHEWS: And I—and I can‘t explain it.
CRAWFORD: I mean, you take Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton was the same person on camera and off camera. John Edwards wasn‘t. He was very different, a much quieter guy off camera. And it made him look phony.
MATTHEWS: Please come back. Thank you.
Alexandra Pelosi, good luck with your book.
MATTHEWS: And when we come back, evangelical Christians pushing their faith on candidates—on cadets at the Air Force Academy. We‘ll talk to a former academy chaplain who says she was fired after speaking out against what she calls a systemic and pervasive problem there.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The Pentagon is investigating whether an Air Force Academy chaplain was dismissed for speaking out against what she calls evangelical pressure at the academy. Captain Melinda Morton says there is a systematic and pervasive atmosphere of proselytizing on campus at the Air Force Academy and that a religious tolerance program she helped implement was altered.
Captain Melinda Morton is here, along with Mikey Weinstein, a graduate from the Air Force Academy who has a son there now. And, in a minute, we‘ll walk the Reverend Ted Haggard, founder of New Life Ministries, which is based in the Colorado Springs, and retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, who is an MSNBC military analyst.
Captain Morton, I want to start with you.
CAPT. MELINDA MORTON, U.S. AIR FORCE: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Is it true that, at the Air Force Academy of late, there are proselytizing ministers who are telling young cadets to go out and proselytize back in their bunk houses, back in their dormitories, or else they will burn in hell?
MORTON: We have had chaplains of the United States Air Force Academy engage in rhetoric such as that at denominationally based services on the campus. Yes, we have.
MATTHEWS: And what do you make of that in terms of the rules that you helped set out there for religious tolerance?
MORTON: Well, I think that, as observers from Yale commented in their report on that particular incident, that‘s very unhelpful in terms of pastoral care. But more perhaps to our point here, it is a violation of the Constitution of the United States.
MATTHEWS: What part of it, Captain? What part of it? Because we know we have chaplains. You‘re one.
MATTHEWS: We know that we give religious counselling and we hold religious serves and give sacraments in those cases where people, as they serve in the military, because you need the consolation of religion, oftentimes, to fight a war or to face combat.
MATTHEWS: Of course, that‘s always been part of military life.
What goes beyond that limit here? What has broken the rules here as you see it?
At the Air Force Academy, we are all about developing young men and women of character. And a part of that development has to do with researching spirituality. We cross the line constitutionally when we develop an atmosphere at the academy where the only option for resourcing that spirituality is evangelical Christianity or the approved source for resourcing that character building that you‘re doing is evangelical spirituality.
And that very much is the case at the Air Force Academy.
MATTHEWS: Well, what happens out there where you have kids who are Jewish or Roman Catholic or mainstream Protestant, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, who don‘t feel comfortable in that very evangelical environment, that kind of liturgy? What do they do?
MORTON: Well, I think that there you see our problem is that the young people attending the academy from those other perspective may feel that the area that they‘re resourcing their spirituality from is somehow second-class or is somehow not approved by the Air Force, or, worse, that you can‘t be a true Air Force officer you‘re a Jewish student or if you‘re a Lutheran student or if you‘re a Presbyterian student.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s go to Mikey Weinstein, because he was an academy cadet. He served in the military. He served in the Air Force. And his son is there now.
Mr. Weinstein, what is your view—in fact, what is your experience as what‘s going on out there at the academy?
MIKEY WEINSTEIN, AIR FORCE ACADEMY GRADUATE: Well, Chris, let me make it clear. I have one son who is there now. My eldest son graduated 11-and-a-half months ago. His fiancee—they‘re getting married in three weeks—also graduated three-and-a-half weeks ago—rather, 11-and-a-half months.
What you have here is a situation. If you go back to those 16 special words in the First Amendment, Congress shall make no law with respect to establishing religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Most of the America, including right there in Washington, where you live, people live in that happy land between the free exercise clause and the no establishment clause.
But, in Colorado Springs, at the Air Force Academy, that happy land has been brutalized, assaulted, tortured and bludgeoned and poisoned by the evangelical intrusion there. This is HARDBALL, so that‘s what the HARDBALL answer is.
MATTHEWS: Well, how did they get intrusion? How did they get in there?
MATTHEWS: How did this super-proselytizing religious atmosphere get into a secular service academy?
WEINSTEIN: Chris, I don‘t know.
WEINSTEIN: I can tell you that, I can tell you that, 12 years ago, the famous Air Force Academy parachute team, the Wings of Blue, was sanctioned by some idiot prince at the academy to parachute out of the azure blue Colorado skies carrying—quote—“the keys of heaven” on the same day that James Dobson opened up his campus for Focus on the Family across the highway.
And they landed down on the lawn and they walked over and handed him the keys of heaven. Hello? Does anyone see a problem here? Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, hello?
MATTHEWS: Is this because the academy is located in that same part of the country where you have so much religious activism in the evangelical church? Colorado? Colorado Springs?
WEINSTEIN: Look, it would be counterintuitive in the extremist—it would be counterintuitive in the extremist to presume that there isn‘t a strong nexus between the incredible amount—there‘s over 100 of the nation‘s largest evangelical organizations in Colorado Springs.
And that‘s perfectly fine. They‘re private. They‘re by themselves. The problem is, is when the tentacles reach out and they try to use—listen carefully—the machinery of the state to force their God over someone else‘s God. Fifteen months ago, there was a brown bag lunch at the academy that was entitled why we cannot let you have your God, Chris, while we have ours.
MATTHEWS: Captain, you‘re a chaplain. You‘re sworn to duty at the Air Force Academy. When did you begin to speak like you‘re speaking now against this influence? When did you start talking out?
MORTON: I—I—I think that, certainly, we can go back from the time I have been at the academy. And to say that I...
MATTHEWS: When did you first get called—when did you first get called to account for this? When did you first realize that you were offending people by talking like this?
MORTON: Well, I don‘t know when I was offending people when I was talking like this. But I think that the issue is, I have been working very hard within the system at the academy to try to improve things.
MATTHEWS: But you‘re getting—excuse me, Captain. You‘re getting -
· you‘ve been bounced from the Air Force Academy, in effect, for this, sent out way ahead of rotation because of speaking out like this. Is that your contention?
MORTON: Yes. That‘s true. That‘s true.
MATTHEWS: Any other reason?
MATTHEWS: ... have any other reason, in terms of your fitness, aptitude report, or anything to suggest they had a better reason?
MATTHEWS: Than they don‘t like you mouthing off about what you don‘t like going on out there?
MORTON: I think that the issue here is that—yes.
My concern is that, within the leadership of the academy and within the leadership of the chaplaincy, there‘s an unwillingness to address this problem.
MORTON: There‘s an unwillingness to address the systemic nature of the problem at the Air Force Academy.
MATTHEWS: And for you saying that, you‘ve been bounced, right?
MORTON: For me saying that, I—I certainly was removed from my position as executive officer.
Well, let‘s go to the Reverend Ted Haggard. We‘re going to have another segment on this. But you start, sir.
What‘s your response to what you have just heard?
REV. TED HAGGARD, NEW LIFE MINISTRIES: Well, I think they have a point. I think it is very important for any faith organization not to use the power of the state to intimidate others or embarrass others or use the tools of the state in order to advance a religious causer.
MATTHEWS: What about proselytizing, saying to young cadets in their teens, many of them, go out there and sell the word of the lord and go back and do it or else you face the fires of hell?
HAGGARD: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: Is that extreme language or is that a bad thing to be urging in the first place?
HAGGARD: Well, it is not a bad thing to be urging. It is extreme.
But advocacy is fundamental to a pluralistic society. I mean, Ford advocates against Chevy.
HAGGARD: Coke advocates against Pepsi.
And so, the idea is that we‘re training fine young men and women at the Air Force Academy in order to promote freedom, not only here in the United States, but in other places around the world.
MATTHEWS: How aggressive—how aggressive should it be, though? If a person is asked by a roommate, why don‘t you come to church with me, nobody can complain about that I know of. If they ask 10 times, is that a problem?
HAGGARD: Nobody would complain about that. Nobody would complain about that. And that‘s a wonderful thing.
The idea is to make it so a Jewish person and an Islamic person and a Christian person can stand on the street corner and have a wonderful conversation about their own faith position and even try to convince one another about their faith position, without the involvement of the state.
HAGGARD: All different groups have people that go over the line. And the Air Force has an intricate system to determine how chaplains minister.
HAGGARD: And how they promote their own faith tradition. And that needs to operate in an atmosphere of respect and tolerance. But respect and tolerance does not mean don‘t advocate and it doesn‘t mean you just say bland things.
MATTHEWS: Well, we‘ll continue on that question, because that‘s the heart of the issue here.
And we‘ll be right back with Chaplain—Captain Melinda Morton, Mikey Weinstein and the Reverend Ted Haggard. And, in a moment, MSNBC analyst Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, himself an Air Force man, will join the conversation.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, allegations that officials at the Air Force Academy are proselytizing and pushing evangelical Christian beliefs on cadets. HARDBALL returns after this.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Chaplain Melinda Morton, Mikey Weinstein, the Reverend Ted Haggard. And we‘re joined right now by Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, who is an MSNBC analyst and an Air Force guy.
By the way, just to make it clear, we invited a representative from the Air Force Academy to join us tonight. They declined, but issued this statement to us: “We at the Air Force Academy readily admit that we have problems with religious respect issues. We discovered them ourselves and have created and executed the first phase of a mandatory education program to deal with them. Follow-on long-term education and training efforts are under development. We take the situation seriously and we are tackling it head on and very publicly.”
For the full statement, by the way, from the Air Force, please check our Web site HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
Colonel Francona, what‘s your assessment of this? Is there in fact crossing of the line in terms of proselytization out in Colorado Springs?
RET. LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, NBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it appears there was at one time. I don‘t know if it continues to go on.
I mean, the captain is out there, so she probably has a better read on that. I spoke to a lot of officers today, many of them graduates of the academy. And I spoke to the Air Force Public Affairs Office. And they gave me pretty much the same statement that you just read. They were adamant that the issues that they have are being addressed and that they were raised by the Air Force itself.
This was not an outside group that brought this to their attention. So, they‘re handling this internally. And they think they‘ve got a handle on it. Now, of course, that‘s what you would expect them to say. But...
MATTHEWS: But, as I said, the big question is, is this the happy hunting ground, the Air Force Academy campus, for all those Christian conservative groups that are also in Colorado Springs? Would you be getting this kind of aggressive proselytization going on at West Point or in Annapolis?
FRANCONA: Well, I would assume so.
But let‘s look at—if that‘s true, let‘s assume that all this is happening. Why isn‘t this translating into the bigger Air Force? All of us that have served in the Air Force for many years—and I talked to a lot of people today still on active duty—you know, virtually none of this has transferred from the Air Force Academy out to the real Air Force. No one I know...
WEINSTEIN: That‘s not true. Chris, that‘s not true.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to Mikey Weinstein.
Mikey, where does it affect...
WEINSTEIN: That‘s not true.
MATTHEWS: ... the Air Force itself when it is out in the field doing the service of our country?
WEINSTEIN: There‘s a serious problem in the Air Force that—listen to me. This is such a hot issue. It is like Terri Schiavo 2.0 to the 40th power.
First of all, the academy did not discover this themselves. When I first find out about it was the summer of 2004. They were referring to this as—quote—“an apparent insensitivity to my non-Christian beliefs when after my son told me he was being called an F-ing Jew and being accused of Jesus in numerous places by numerous cadets numerous times?
MATTHEWS: By whom? By whom? By other cadets?
WEINSTEIN: By other cadets all over the place.
You don‘t think there‘s a connection between this institutional incredible bias and what‘s happening on the day-to-day life for a cadet?
And, by the way, it is not a cadet problem. It is a leadership problem. The Air Force regulation for core values at the academy succinctly states with regard to religion, commanders and professional military people must not take it upon themselves to try to coerce or try to even change the religious beliefs of individual members. This is exactly what is happening. That statement is nice, but it is crap and it‘s garbage. It‘s not the truth.
MATTHEWS: Well, who is pushing—who is—who is pushing this at the academy? Give me some names. Which organizations are using the campus of the Air Force Academy to push a certain brand of Christianity?
WEINSTEIN: Look, the guy in charge is John Rosa, lieutenant general.
I last spoke to him at 4:15 p.m. on Friday March 11, 2005.
I said John, why do you continue to tell the media that this is a nonsystemic problem? How paused and I said, all right, then, how would you describe it? I wrote it in my Palm Pilot, Chris. He wrote down, you know what, Mikey? It is inbred and it permeates everything.
Well, that‘s systemic. Just say it. But they won‘t say it, because they won‘t indicate how serious it is.
HAGGARD: Chris. Chris.
WEINSTEIN: And of course it bleeds out into the Air Force.
HAGGARD: We have got to balance this just a little bit. Can we do that?
MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Go ahead, Reverend.
HAGGARD: OK. Two things.
Number one, evangelicalism is a strong supportive—supporter of Jewish people and Jewish concerns, not only here in the United States, but all over the world. We‘re the strongest supporters of the state of Israel. There is no organized evangelical group that I am aware of that would endorse what was said to this man‘s son.
And so, if that was said, it is horrible and we would condemn it equally.
HAGGARD: Number two, the SPIRE program is an open hour that‘s on Monday night that any religious group that‘s legitimate can have a class and then the students are free to come.
WEINSTEIN: What does that mean? What does legitimate mean? What does legitimate mean, Ted?
HAGGARD: And so, there is a process—there is a process at the chaplain‘s office where you can go through.
WEINSTEIN: They declined the atheists...
WEINSTEIN: ... Freethinkers.
HAGGARD: You have to have leadership. You have to have a creed. You have to have some things like that. That SPIRE program was put in place 20 years ago or something like that.
WEINSTEIN: It turned down cadets that wanted...
HAGGARD: There can be Jewish groups. There can be pagan groups.
WEINSTEIN: That‘s wrong. That‘s wrong.
MATTHEWS: Mikey, do you have any evidence...
WEINSTEIN: Chris, let me talk.
HAGGARD: Yes, he‘s been talking for the last 10 minutes.
MATTHEWS: I just want Mikey...
MATTHEWS: Mikey made a charge here there‘s a connection between these religious groups and the anti-Semitic comments made to his son as a cadet. Do you have any evidence there‘s a connection, Mikey?
HAGGARD: Listen, I have evidence.
WEINSTEIN: I think the evidence is incredibly intuitive.
HAGGARD: Chris, I‘m the leader of the largest evangelical group in America. And I can guarantee you, there is not one well-respected evangelical group that would endorse what was said to that man‘s son.
MORTON: Well, I think the problem is that...
MATTHEWS: Mikey‘s turn. I want Mikey to respond to this.
HAGGARD: Nor would they teach such a thing.
WEINSTEIN: OK, listen to me.
HAGGARD: I mean, there hasn‘t been an organized evangelical group that is well respected who believes that sort of thing or says it.
WEINSTEIN: Ted, my daughter-in-law, during much of her cadet career, went to New Life. So, she went to your church. My daughter-in-law did. She had a good time down there. I have no problem with that. You run a fine program. That‘s private and it‘s great.
But here is my problem. My problem is when what is being preached in the face of Jewish cadets or even—remember, it is mostly the mainline Christian cadets that are being preyed upon, P-R-A-Y and P-R-E-Y, when they‘re being told that they‘re going to burn eternally in hell and that all their ancestors, going back to protoplasm, but then you don‘t believe in that because there‘s no evolution, or until the Earth falls into the sun, which won‘t happen because the Rapture will occur, that‘s perfectly fine.
My argument is, is that when you use the machinery of the state—there was a young—a young cadet that tried to start a Freethinkers group based on the concept of atheism. And he was turned down for his SPIRE. He couldn‘t have it.
HAGGARD: OK. Now, I‘m 100 percent with you on that. And I agree with you 100 percent on that. But, in the process of this, don‘t generalize about evangelicals and say all evangelicals do this. Deal with the structure at the Air Force Academy, which, by the way...
WEINSTEIN: No, I‘m not saying they do that, Ted. I‘m not saying they do that. What I‘m trying to say is that...
MATTHEWS: Thank you, gentlemen.
And I do know evangelicals are very supportive of the state of Israel.
That‘s pretty well obvious in this country.
Anyway, thank you very much, Chaplain Morton, Mikey Weinstein.
MORTON: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Weinstein—I‘m sorry—the Reverend Ted Haggard and Colonel Rick Francona.
When we come back, longtime Reagan aide Michael Deaver tells us why he‘s a Reagan conservative.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Michael Deaver was a longtime confidante to President Ronald Reagan. He was the editor of a newly released compilation of essays entitled “Why I Am a Reagan Conservative.” He recently served—currently serves as vice chairman international for Edelman Worldwide.
Michael, thank you.
MATTHEWS: You are one great guy. You are a great public relations expert. You know all about this stuff. Why have people now become—like, they were Roosevelt Democrats for 40 years, or Kennedy Democrats. How do you become a Reagan Republican, Reagan conservative?
MICHAEL DEAVER, FORMER REAGAN DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: I think he was the only guy in the last 50 years who ran for office with a philosophy. He didn‘t run because he wanted to be president. He ran because he had a whole set of things he believed in and wanted to do for America.
And that‘s a totally different way than what we see people running for office today.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Mrs. Reagan. How is she doing? I say that because it is coming up on that first anniversary of the loss of Ronald Reagan .
DEAVER: That‘s right.
Well, I think she‘s doing pretty well, all things considered. I mean, it was a long 10 years. But, you know, I think the next week, the next 10 days, are going to be kind of a tough time for her. But I think...
MATTHEWS: She looked pretty resilient at that wonderful party you guys had over at the Reagan Building. That was quite a night with Tony Bennett.
DEAVER: I think she‘s doing fine. It was a great night.
MATTHEWS: Hell of a night.
Let me ask you about this book. And when you go around and you ask these people to tell you their personal thoughts about the president, President Reagan, P.J. O‘Rourke...
DEAVER: P.J. O‘Rourke.
Well, let me just tell you that a lot of these essays in here are something about Reagan. But they‘re really mainly about their own philosophy and why they‘re a conservative. Now, P.J. O‘Rourke, of course, has such a terrific sense of humor. And he does an essay about what history would have been like if the liberals had really—had really been running the world. What would have happened to Jesus Christ?
DEAVER: I mean, he probably would have been pardoned or hadn‘t been entombed, put into some sort of a rehab, rather than what happened to him.
MATTHEWS: Well, that might have been better.
MATTHEWS: Study the theology of that one.
DEAVER: But there are some wonderful essays.
DEAVER: And I just thought it was—would be a lot of fun to ask people, both in office and out of office, what Reagan meant to them and to their conservatism and their philosophy and their lives in politics and other places.
MATTHEWS: Would Ronald Reagan have invaded Iraq?
DEAVER: I don‘t know. He probably would have, I think.
MATTHEWS: Why? What would have been his motivation?
DEAVER: I think.
MATTHEWS: He would have checked the WMD a little better, I guess.
DEAVER: Well, yes, I suppose. But everybody thought that the—that was true. Maybe he would have dealt better with the allies. I can‘t tell you.
But I think he would have agreed that this was necessary to change the equation in the Middle East. And I think...
MATTHEWS: He would have been that aggressive and that forward-leaning?
MATTHEWS: I always think of him as a traditional conservative, a guy who believes or a woman who believes that, you know, the primary responsibility of the Defense Department is to defend America and don‘t tread on me, the rattlesnake thing. Don‘t tread on me. If you tread on me, we‘ll get you back. But Iraq didn‘t attack us. The al Qaeda crowd did.
It is extremely hard to say what he would do. But I think he probably would have supported this president.
MATTHEWS: How about this Social Security fight that‘s going on now?
Would he have gone for personal...
DEAVER: Well, we went through our own, as you know very well.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I was on the other side of that baby.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. What do you think? Would he have gone for these personal accounts, do you think?
DEAVER: Probably. Sure.
But, you know, if you remember Reagan and Social Security and tax reform and some of those other things, he wasn‘t really specific. He always thought it was better to sort of put params out there for everybody to follow.
DEAVER: And let the answers come from someplace else.
MATTHEWS: What are you writing next, Michael?
DEAVER: I don‘t know. I‘m going to write about—I think I may write about communications for a change.
MATTHEWS: You are—you should write a book on how to do P.R.
DEAVER: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, you are a hell of a P.R. guy. You made Ronald Reagan what he was. No, I‘m just teasing.
DEAVER: Oh, all did I was light him. All did I was light him.
MATTHEWS: You did not. Nancy will be listening to this and saying, no, you didn‘t. The great communicator was a great client, wasn‘t he?
DEAVER: Yes, he was.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Michael Deaver.
DEAVER: The best.
MATTHEWS: To read an excerpt of “Why I Am a Reagan Conservative,” log on to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
Join us again Monday night at 7:00 Eastern for a live Memorial Day edition of HARDBALL—yes, I‘m working—as General Barry McCaffrey joins us to pay tribute to the troops. And that is what we should be doing.
And, coming up, it‘s Keith‘s favorite five stories of the next week next on “COUNTDOWN.”
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