updated 11/22/2005 4:27:35 PM ET 2005-11-22T21:27:35

Guests: J.D. Hayworth, Harold Ford, Charlie Cook, Stu Rothenberg, Micah Garen, Marie Helen Carleton, Tony Blankley, Howard Fineman

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  The battle of Washington rages on: Dick Cheney pokes at his critics who agree with the public that President Bush deliberately misled the country into war.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews.  Vice President Dick Cheney continued his attack against critics of the Iraq war with a speech today at the American Enterprise Institute.  While saying he was fine with Americans, quote, “debating whether the United States and its allies should have liberated Iraq in the first place,” Cheney blasted some Senate critics who say the administration lied about prewar intelligence.  But the vice president held back from swinging at Congressman John Murtha whose call for a withdrawal of troops heated Congress to a boil Friday night. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I disagree with Jack, and believe his proposal would not serve the best interest of this nation.  But he‘s a good man, a marine, a patriot. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll talk to two U.S. Congressmen at the center of the hot debate over the war in a minute.  Plus, we‘ll check out the latest news on the CIA leak case. 

But first HARDBALL‘s David Shuster on the vice president‘s speech today. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  While the vice president said today it‘s not wrong to criticize the war in Iraq...

CHENEY:  Disagreement, argument and debate are the essence of democracy. 

SHUSTER:  Cheney still shot back at critics who allege the administration deliberately hyped prewar claims. 

CHENEY:  What is not legitimate and what I will again say is dishonest and reprehensible is the suggestion by some U.S. senators that the president of the United States or any member of his administration purposely misled the American people on prewar intelligence. 

SHUSTER:  Both Cheney and President Bush have underscored words like purposely or deliberately, because that‘s what a growing number of Americans believe was done. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  When Democrats say that I deliberately misled the Congress and the people, that‘s irresponsible.

SHUSTER:  But many of the administration‘s prewar claims turned out to be wrong. 

BUSH:  The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. 

CHENEY:  We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. 

BUSH:  And it was Vice President Cheney who alleged a link between Iraq and the 9/11 hijacker, then denied having made the allegation. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You have said in the past that it was pretty well confirmed.

CHENEY:  No, I never said that. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK.  I think that is...

CHENEY:  Never said that, absolutely not. 

It‘s been pretty well confirmed that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service. 

SHUSTER:  In reason days, the debate over Iraq has intensified largely thanks to Democratic Congressman John Murtha.  Murtha is a Vietnam combat veteran and a Pentagon hawk. 

REP. JOHN MURTHA, (D) PENNSYLVANIA:  The U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily.  It‘s time to bring the troops home. 

SHUSTER:  This weekend, Murtha was asked...

TIM RUSSERT, MEET THE PRESS HOST:  In hindsight, do you now believe your vote for the war in Iraq in 2002 was a mistake? 

MURTHA:  Obviously it was a mistake.  I mean, all of us were misled by the information we had. 

SHUSTER:  On a different Sunday show, Donald Rumsfeld was asked if he as secretary of defense owes the American people an apology.  Rumsfeld shifted the blame to the CIA.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Why would the Defense Department, it‘s the intelligence community that made the intelligence, it was CIA.

SHUSTER:  The fact remains, however, that Rumsfeld himself set up a Pentagon office special plans that collected its own intelligence.  The group was led by neocon hawk Douglas Fife who passed some of the intelligence, including wild claims from Ahmed Chalabi directly to the office of the vice president. 

(on camera):  And that brings us back to Vice President Cheney who today seemed to tone down the hot rhetoric in at least one respect.  Mr.  Cheney said he disagreed with John Murtha but said that Murtha is a good man and a patriot, and that a discussion about Iraq is legitimate. 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL, in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster. 

Joining me now is U.S. Congressman Harold Ford, a Democrat from Tennessee and Congressman J.D. Hayworth, a Republican from Arizona.  Congressman Hayworth is the fellow who came up with the idea to hold a vote on the House this last week on whether to withdraw troops from Iraq immediately.  Let me ask you both, how—Congressman Ford, how would you summarize the vice president‘s statements of today? 

REP. HAROLD FORD, JR, (D) TENNESSEE:  I‘m more confused.  I recall Vice President Cheney coming before the country and even small groups of members of Congress, reinforcing the notion that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.  It was administration‘s belief that both Iraq and Iraq and bin Laden would marry and it was important for us to do this.  I was amongst a group, the first group of Democrats to pledge my support for the resolution authorizing the use of force. 

Now to hear the vice president back track a bit, I would respect, and I think the country would respect their position, the White House‘s position more if they would just say a mistake was made with regard to the intelligence.  But we are where we are now, and we need some new ideas and strategies to squash or suppress this insurgency in Iraq so we can plant the seeds for democracy, and most important bring our troops home.  Instead, they‘ve chosen to do the opposite. 

And I think at a minimum it has to be maddening for partisans in this country and at best for those of us who are looking for answers in the Congress, it‘s totally confusing. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s the same question to you Congressman Hayworth.  What do you think the vice president was saying today at the American Enterprise institute? 

REP. J.D. HAYWORTH, ® ARIZONA:  What he was saying today quite clearly, Chris, was that the scene in Iraq is what it is.  And we intercepted communications between the to al Zawahiri and al Zarqawi.  And the fact is, the question today in Iraq is, would we be safer—for those who advocate withdrawal and stopping and cutting and running, the vice president asks this question, which has not been highlighted thus far on the program, would we be better off with the likes of bin Laden and al Zawahiri and al Zarqawi using Iraq as the central front and terror base against others in the Middle East to set up modern caliphates, and to continue fighting the United States?  I don‘t believe we‘d be better off. 

And there‘s a simple phrase for Harold‘s confusion.  What do you do with the insurgency?  You cut it off and kill it.  You win in Iraq.  That‘s the way you deal with it. 

(CROSSTALK)

FORD:  Wait a second.  I‘m as committed as you are, J.D., to winning.  I voted for this effort in Iraq, I voted for the money, I‘ve been to Iraq several times like you, and you and I are friends.  I wouldn‘t question your resolve or your patriotism. 

All I question right now is the logic behind our approach.  Should we be trying something different?  Put the withdrawal aside, that failed 403-3.  The question now is, where do we go? 

I would agree with you, cutting off the insurgency should be the priority.  But it doesn‘t appear to me that the staying the course strategy that President Bush and Vice President Cheney have espoused for some time is working. 

It‘s incumbent upon you and I, and really are charged with not only holding the administration accountable to the legislative branch, but working with them to find new ideas and new strategies, winning approaches on the ground in Iraq. 

You and I have to admit the insurgents are doing a fairly good job.  And I might add, Iraq has become an incubator and a terrorist training haven for al Qaeda already.  So the second question—the second question would be, are they not already doing what you suggested that our presence was going to stop them from doing? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you both...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Congressman, I have to get it straightened out a little here.  The average person watching this program, regardless of their politics, is trying to figure out a couple things.  How is it going in Iraq?  Are we getting something done over the next, if we stay an extra two or three years, an extra three years, maybe four years?  How will things be different after that period of time than they are now?  And can we look at a horizon like that?  Or do we have to go back to a horizon like General Casey is talking about, something like nine years. 

I want to go to Congressman Ford on that.  What do you think now is the reasonable horizon for getting the job done.  Do you still see to get done over there? 

FORD:  I heard General Casey say nine years.  The American people don‘t have that kind of patience, especially if the strategy will remain staying the course for nine years. 

I think John Murtha is right on a couple of fronts.  I‘m not certain if I agree with his entire resolution, but I do agree with something he said on this network or your sister network NBC yesterday.  He said by election day next year, we will have either withdrawn substantially or completely from Iraq.  I think he‘s right. 

The appetite for what we‘re doing right now will change, has to change.  If it doesn‘t, I think the American people will demand the troops be brought home much sooner.  If, however, we change the strategy.  And we offer a different kind after purchase, one that involves the world, one that involves partnering with Arab nations, one that involves reducing our dependence on Middle East oil, I think the appetite and the hunger in this country to stay a little longer in Iraq may surface. 

But what we‘re doing now, this appetite won‘t last much longer.  Where I‘m from we like to say that dog ain‘t going to hunt much longer than it‘s hunting right now, and this administration is going to have to make some changes. 

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Hayworth, how long—well, let me ask you the open the question and be honest about it, what do you see us accomplishing over there in the next three or four years if we‘re there that long? 

HAYWORTH:  I think you will see the fruition of a constitutional republic.  We will have elections within the month in Iraq.  They‘ve already gone to the polls twice.  And despite all the naysayers and despite the doom and gloom, and yes despite the fact that we have paid a price in terms of lives in Iraq, we are seeing a new republic emerge.

And it begs the question as was expressed by Bill Young on the floor during the debate Friday night, this new approach, negotiation—negotiate with whom?  The terrorists?  The insurgents?  No, you get rid of them and that way the democracy can flourish. 

But it‘s fair to point out, we‘ve spent a decade in the Bosnian theater when we were told by a previous regime, a previous administration, we would be out before Christmas of a year‘s duration. 

So it‘s real interesting, we‘re willing to stay in Bosnia, but now in this war we‘re going to leave?  I think we need to get the job done. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you.  When do you think...

(INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  Gentlemen, OK, you first Congressman Ford. 

When do you think—well, you‘ve already stated this, I‘ll try it again.  When do you think—the American people would like to know not when we‘re going to leave.  They‘d like to know that, but they know we can‘t leave right now.  That‘s been established by your vote this weekend, Mr.  Hayworth. 

We can‘t jump out of there now, and also we can‘t set a deadline.  We‘ve heard an argument against that.  But when can we begin to decide publicly, because it‘s going to have to be done in public, when we should leave? 

Both of you, Mr. Ford first, when can we begin to sit down as a country and say, you know what, we‘ve got a new government in place over there, they‘ve had their constitution ratified, there‘s a new prime minister or president, there‘s a parliament, there‘s a constabulary force of some kind. 

When can we say, OK, now we‘ve got to look at a horizon, two more years, 18 more months, how do we do it? 

FORD:  I think we do it after the next round of votes in Iraq.  These people want freedom.  They want a different way of life.  The question is separate from that, though.  I think, is how do you stop the insurgency and how do you stop the casualties limit the casualties on our side. 

Our men and women are not dying in combat.  They‘re dying being transported to patrol areas.  There‘s a big difference, as J.D. knows than this in Bosnia.  We‘re not suffering casualties night in and night out, and watching them on all the major networks. 

I think what we need to is after the election to have a serious discussion.  The Murtha or should say the withdrawal resolution that J.D.  Was a part of bringing was the first time in more than three years that we‘ve had an open, honest and essential debate about Iraq.  We should have had one right after the election, and let that discussion lead us to a conclusion.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Mr. Hayworth, we only have a minute.  Do you agree with that?  When do you think we should begin debating our future plan there with some clarity.  So people can say, yes, I can see us in there a couple more years.  I can see us building down our troops as that government stands up. 

When are people going to get a vision of what the future looks like, Mr. Hayworth? 

HAYWORTH:  Chris, I don‘t have a crystal ball, but what I can tell you is you laid it out in the question in terms of establishment of the government, in terms of bringing up to par the constabulary, in terms of a defense force.

And, quite frankly, with the elimination of al-Zarqawi and all of the insurgents or a good bit of the insurgency, then we can have that debate.  But nobody should put a time limit on it, because you, yourself said, it‘s harmful to try to say, OK, by this magic date we‘re going to be gone. 

MATTHEWS:  I accept that.  I accept that.  But, the—you‘re saying we have to destroy the insurgency before we turn over the government, before we leave?

HAYWORTH:  I think we have to make a major gain against the insurgency, and I think we‘re making those gains despite some real tough times. 

The fact is our men and women in uniform are getting the job done. 

Let‘s let them get that job done. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Gentlemen, thank you.  Happy Thanksgiving to both of you gentlemen. 

FORD:  Happy Thanksgiving J.D.  And to you Mr. Matthews. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you for coming on.  Harold Ford in Tennessee and thank you very much Congressman Hayworth as well. 

Coming up, the politics of the war in Iraq, we‘re going to talk about that.  Will the intensifying debate over the war reshape Congress in next year‘s mid terms?  That‘s an interesting question a lot of people are thinking about.

Plus, an American taken hostage in Iraq tells his personal harrowing story of abduction and liberation.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

For more on the political fallout over the Iraqi war, the Iraq war, and the fight in Congress we‘ve been seeing the last couple days we turn to Charlie Cook, editor of “The Cook Report” and Stu Rothenberg, editor and publisher of “The Rothenberg Report.”

You guys know politics.  Explain Cheney today, because he seems like he‘s talking in two screens.  One screen is let‘s have peace, smoke the peace pipe. The other one is screw you, for the Democrats.  And Teddy, by the way, came right back at him. 

CHARLIE COOK, COOK POLITICAL REPORT:  Which one do you think he felt was more strongly about? 

MATTHEWS:  You tell me.

COOK:  Well, he‘s delivering the message, and the thing is Cheney is more invested than anybody else in this administration. 

MATTHEWS:  In the WMD and all that stuff.

COOK:  Right.  Because he‘s the one that sold it, and his rear end is more on the line even more than the president‘s is. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator Ted Kennedy put out a statement today.  He said, you‘ll notice that the vice president today said the president wasn‘t telling a lie about getting us into the war, but that he didn‘t say whether he or someone else distorted, hyped or fabricated. 

He‘s saying the vice president, himself, this is how hot it‘s getting-

the vice president, himself, has lied to the boss. 

STU ROTHENBERG, THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT:  Well, I think that‘s the problem now, Chris, is that both parties are terribly frustrated.  And the Republicans feel that the Democrats have ratcheted up the rhetoric and the hostility.  And they‘re accusing the White House Republicans of lying. 

And the Democrats feel that the Republicans have crossed the line.  That they, in fact, have lied.  And the Democrats are frustrated going all the way back, I think you‘d agree, Charlie, to the last presidential race and before. 

Democrats are still trying to convince people that they‘re tough on national security. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  That‘s the problem.  They can‘t—they‘re afraid to be in the war.  Tell me why.  Why don‘t they just say this war was a mistake.  It wasn‘t smart U.S. policy.  It wasn‘t in our interests.  We were led the wrong direction.  Why don‘t they—they don‘t say that. 

COOK:  Well, the fact is that the Democrats didn‘t have a position on the war.  I mean, half of them were for it.  Half of them were against it.  And the more visible half, the Hillary Clintons and John Kerrys all cast votes in favor of the war. 

ROTHENBERG:  But they want to have it both ways. 

(CROSSTALK)    

MATTHEWS:  And, by the way, let me ask you a question.  Let‘s talk about the Democrats, because they‘re all split up.  I agree, they are 50/50. 

But everybody that wants to be president, whether it‘s Evan Bayh or it‘s Hillary Clinton or it‘s Joe Biden or—all voted for the war. 

COOK:  Except for Russ Feingold.  He‘s the only one...

MATTHEWS:  Why did so many of the big name bold print Democrats go with the war, if they are supposedly have a different policy than the president? 

COOK:  Because they were afraid to take a risk.  They saw it as the safer vote, and they didn‘t want to take a risk. 

MATTHEWS:  Is that leadership? 

COOK:  No, of course not, but they‘re Democrats. 

ROTHENBERG:  They concluded that they lost the 2004 presidential election on the war in Iraq, and that the president was regarded as a strong leader, that Iraq was part of the larger war against terror. 

They don‘t want to be seen as against the war against terror, and they‘re in an awkward position. 

MATTHEWS:  Does the president win that argument by saying Iraq is part of the war on terror?

ROTHENBERG:  Well, if he could convince the American public of that now, that would be to his advantage.  But he‘s been losing that argument.

MATTHEWS:  What about this number that keeps coming out.  And I think we were fair tonight, although we‘re, as always, tough.  Fifty-eight percent, and I think the number is rising, of Americans across the board believe that there was deliberate misleading on the WMD argument before the war.

COOK:  Fifty-seven, but who is counting.

But the thing is...

MATTHEWS:  It is going up.

COOK:  ...the only thing that may save Democrats is the fact that this election is going to be more about George Bush and the Republican party as the end party and not about Democrats.  If it was about Democrats they would lose, but if it is about Republicans, if it is about the president than they have some chance.

MATTHEWS:  Our polling at Wall Street Journal/NBC says that nine percent of the public has a very positive view of the Republican party.  You know what the positive view of the Democratic party is?  Eight percent, they‘re even lower.  Have you ever seen a weaker opposition? 

ROTHENBERG:  No, I mean, they‘re divided.  When you listen to Harold Ford and compare that to Ted Kennedy or something, how many parties do we have here?  Their problem is that they don‘t have a single message.  Now, at the moment, Chris, that‘s not a huge problem.  Because at the moment, it‘s all about George W. Bush, it‘s all about the White House. 

Come next year, they‘re going to need a message.  I think they will have a message.  But they have so many people who have to check, who have to OK the message.  The Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate, whether the DNC has to, whether interest groups have to.  They‘re not very well-structured. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I hear.  I hear everything they come up with sounds like it‘s written by a committee.  There‘s no thrust to it.

COOK:  What‘s the old thing about a camel is a horse designed by committee.  That‘s exactly how Democrats get their message. 

ROTHENBERG:  You have some people that are super aggressive.  He wants to have a message, today or yesterday, already.  But others are saying, let‘s wait. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the president as the leader of his party.  This is the sixth year of a presidency, always the toughest time to play defense. 

President Bush, I believe, and I think you will agree, sold this war.  It was his personal credibility coming after 9/11, especially his performance at the World Trade Center, the couple of days afterwards where he was such a Henry V, a leader.  And he said we got to go to war in Iraq.  And everybody said, he says so, I think a lot of Republicans.  Do you buy that, that any other president would have had a hard time selling that war?  With two Republicans.

ROTHENBERG:  No, I think a strong president, I think the president has the institution behind him to sell a war. 

MATTHEWS:  You think Clinton could have taken us into Iraq with that kind of Republican support? 

ROTHENBERG:  Yes, I do. 

MATTHEWS:  You really believe that?

ROTHENBERG:  Yes, I do.  I think he could have taken us into Iraq, yes.

COOK:  Coming out of 9/11, the president just had this enormous reservoir of goodwill. 

MATTHEWS:  The reason I‘m asking that is because, he‘s down in the numbers now, for whatever reason.  And that‘s why the war may not be sellable, because he can‘t be the salesman. 

ROTHENBERG:  I agree.  I think you‘re absolutely right.  It‘s all about credibility.  And if you try to get in front of the American public and make the case, and suddenly you‘re not as good a salesman.

MATTHEWS:  What hurt him, was it New Orleans?  What is the, I mean, it‘s a bad season for him, but what has been the cause of the losing record the last three or four months? 

COOK:  Iraq.  The decline started in March, it accelerated in June, and then it just accelerated further after Katrina. 

MATTHEWS:  Casualties.

COOK:  Yes.  It was just sort of as this feeling of we have not...

MATTHEWS:  ... what about what we‘re just arguing about, with the two members.  This open-endedness.  My hunch is that every time you say, get out now, the Republicans win, because it sounds irresponsible to get out now.  But every time they win that daily battle, they send out this signal to the country, we‘re in there for a long time. 

ROTHENBERG:  I think you‘re right.  I think the open ended hurts anybody to say, we‘ve got to get out tomorrow.  That‘s good for the Republicans.  But the people don‘t like to...

MATTHEWS:  ... let‘s go back to talk about politics.  I want to talk about what‘s in the air right now.  People are starting to talk about these candidates for president.

We‘ll be right back with Charlie Cook and Stu Rothenberg.  And later we‘ll be joined by American filmmaker who was taken hostage in Iraq.  What a story.  You‘ll hear about how he got out alive.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  These guys are great, Charlie Cook and Stu Rothenberg.  Let‘s go inside the White House right now.  It‘s tougher in there, its darker in there.  What‘s going on—who‘s in the room with the president right now, advising him on these tough political calls?

COOK:  You have two groups of people in the White House.  One group, a group of very smart, talented people who are fried, absolutely burnt in the cinders.  And then you‘ve got a bunch of younger, bright people, but they‘re not ready yet.  And as a result...

MATTHEWS: ... you‘re the president of the United States, do I listen to the older guys like Karl and the vice president.  Scooter, I can‘t talk to anymore.  Who are the younger crowd he‘s got in his hear?

COOK:  Well, you‘ve got guys, the Bartletts.

MATTHEWS:  Dan Bartlett. 

COOK:  You know, Sara Taylor‘s the political director, all these people. 

MATTHEWS:  Aren‘t they the ones, Andy Card, aren‘t those the ones that brought us Harriet Miers?  No, seriously.  Didn‘t he go away that weekend and Andy was telling him...

COOK:  ... the thing is, what they need to do is turn the place upside down and bring in a bunch of gray hairs and no hairs who are here under dad, who are here under the second Bush administration.

MATTHEWS:  Stu, you know them better, or no?

ROTHENBERG:  I don‘t know.  I think he needs to make some changes just to convey a sense of new direction.  He needs to re-launch this presidency.  But, you know, there‘s only so much he can do. 

MATTHEWS:  Can he put Vice President Cheney back in the normal role of a vice president, and say, “I‘m going to run this White House, you will go to funerals for now on?”

ROTHENBERG:  Well, obviously he needs the vice president today, he just brought him out there to defend the policy. 

MATTHEWS:  No, what I mean, in the inner council.  Not just as a spokesperson, but as an inner council adviser.  The strong vice president he‘s been all these month. 

Do you think he can separate himself from the vice president? 

ROTHENBERG:  I think he doesn‘t do that well.  I think once he is comfortable with people, he tends to react that way.  But times may be so difficult that he decides he has to. 

COOK:  I suspect it‘s already happened. 

MATTHEWS:  I think you just said something important.  Could it be that he has to do, sort of what Lyndon Johnson did back in ‘68 and say, “I‘m not running again?”  And his way of saying that is—the vice president—he can‘t say it like this, but “I‘ve got a new team here,” and show up with two or three new people and the vice president is not in the room? 

ROTHENBERG:  I think a new team couldn‘t come up with a strategy next week to suddenly change the White House‘s opinions and policy.  It wouldn‘t suddenly mean that...

MATTHEWS:  OK, Fred Thompson and Ken Duberstein, a former lobbyist, walk in the door and stand next to him, and he says, “This is my new team.”

ROTHENBERG:  Well, Chris, it would get your attention, it would get Charlie‘s attention, and people would say, wow, he‘s doing something, he‘s trying to be a leader again.

MATTHEWS:  Would Fred Thompson bring law and order back to the White House?  Just a little double entendre there.

COOK:  The thing is, it would buy him a couple months.  It would get everybody of their backs for a couple months. 

MATTHEWS:  I think the vice president is big-footing him again.  I think he‘s out there in a bigger role than the vice president ought to be.  It confuses us, doesn‘t it?

COOK:  Particularly when you‘ve got a president who is new—new to foreign policy, new to Washington. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, No. 1 vulnerability they‘ve got according to polls is, people don‘t trust him on the W.M.D.  Who‘s Mr. W.M.D.?  The vice president.  And he‘s right in our face again today, and where‘s the president?  rMD+UL_rMDNM_rMD+UL_rMDNM_Up on the dew line again?  Remember 9/11?  The vice president was here, and the president was gone.  I don‘t get the imagery.  Yes, but, Cheney‘s got control over Rummy. 

Anyway, thank you Charlie Cook and Stu Rothenberg.  Great team, great adversaries.

Up next, an American journalist who was held captive in Iraq says the war has put the U.S. in a no-win situation. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  For ten days last year, journalist Micah Garen was held captive by Iraqi insurgents, not knowing if he‘d be the next victim of a kidnapped execution.  He was working on a documentary about the looting of Iraqi antiquities when he and his translator Amir Doshi were taken hostage.  Mike and his fiancee Marie Helene Carleton tell of his life and death struggle, and their behind the scenes efforts to win his release in their new book—what a great book—

“American Hostage.”

Both Micah and Marie Helene are with me this evening from New York. 

Micah, thank you very much for joining us.  Oh, there you are, Marie Helene—thank you for joining us as well, Marie Helene. 

You must be very happy.  I mean, you got a book, you‘re alive, Micah.  You got this beautiful girlfriend you‘re going to marry.  I mean, things are looking up, aren‘t they? 

MICAH GAREN, AUTHOR: Yeah.  I mean, it‘s been an incredible year.  And I‘m just so grateful that it all worked out well. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you this, because I always wonder what it‘s like over there, and I worry about car accidents and muggings.  What‘s it like in the minutes before it happened compared to the minutes after it happens?  Was there any intimation you had that you were going to be grabbed? 

GAREN:  No.  I mean, we were going around doing our work.  We were there for five months.  And it happens in a split second.  Suddenly—this type of thing happens a lot in Iraq, where a situation will just evolve in a few minutes.  And it was one minute we‘re filming, the next minute it‘s life and death, and instantly you go into survival mode. 

And for the next ten days, I didn‘t switch out of survival mode.  It‘s instant adrenaline.  And everything you think about is just life or death, and any way that you can live.  So it was terrifying from the moment it started to the end. 

MATTHEWS:  Give us a hint Marie Helene, it‘s in the book—but give us a hint what was it was like to get that phone call from Micah‘s mother? 

MARIE HELENE CARLETON, MICAH GAREN‘S FIANCEE:  It‘s the same thing he was describing, you go from expecting him to come home in a day or two to suddenly he‘s kidnapped in southern Iraq and you have to find out who it is, and you have to do anything that you can to help him. 

I think what‘s really unique about our story is this amazing grass roots team that came together—Micah‘s family immediately coming together, journalists, colleagues, people around the world immediately when they heard the news or when they read the news off the wires immediately sprang into action. 

MATTHEWS:  What was it like to wake up each morning as he was captive and realize, my God, my friend, my boyfriend, my partner, is captive by people who may behead him? 

CARLETON:  That was, it was really difficult.  There really wasn‘t much waking up because there wasn‘t much sleeping.  It really became for us in New York and everywhere around the world a 24-hour effort to do everything that we could.  And until the video execution threat came out, we were very, very hopeful that he would be released. 

MATTHEWS:  What was it like, Micah, walking into the video room where they—it seemed like they had done it before and they might do it to you? 

GAREN:  Well, the terror there is really hard to describe, because it is so complete.  I mean, as soon as I walked into that scene, it was, there was no indication at all that this is what they were going to do.  It had been five days into the captivity, and suddenly out of the blue it was about midday, they came in, blindfolded me, tied me up and then led me into a room for the first time.  And the scene was exactly the same scene we‘ve seen over and over again. 

MATTHEWS:  With Nick Berg.

GAREN:  With Nick Berg, with Daniel Pearl before that. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘re looking at it right now.  And when did you think you were in the clear?  We‘re looking at you—you look all white, I don‘t know if that‘s because of your condition or your fear.  But you look white as a ghost. 

GAREN:  I was sweating, you know, every second I was thinking what can I do, can I jump them?  I didn‘t want to be killed on the spot, I wanted to somehow fight back.  And I never really felt in the clear.  As soon as it ended and I wasn‘t killed, I knew that it had probably been some sort of a threat.  So the next question, was, well am I going to be killed in 48 hours? 

MATTHEWS:  Tell me about Muqtada al Sadr?  What do you think of him? 

GAREN:  What do I think of him personally?

MATTHEWS:  Yeah.

GAREN:  Well, he‘s taken advantage of the situation in Iraq following the 2003 war.  I mean, he‘s risen to power—he‘s from a very prominent Shiite family, very well respected.  But he really was not well-known at all before the 2003 war.  And with the dissolution of the government and with the disenfranchisement of Shiites in the south, poor Shiites, they look up to him, as somebody who fights the occupation forces.  So he‘s somebody who has really taken advantage of the situation. 

MATTHEWS:  But he got you free, right? 

GAREN:  He was the person who made the statement to the followers in the south Shiite militants who were holding me, and he made a clear statement saying that journalists should not be taken captive.  And this man should be released.  And eventually that led to my release, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me about going to Marie Helene.  You know, I saw a movie a couple years ago called “Return to Paradise.”  You know that movie? 

CARLETON: No.  No.  But I‘ll put it on...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s very much like this, where a woman, you know, Ann Heche, went back and it was Vince Vaughn who was also in the movie, he‘s become quite the comedian, but it was about a person who was caught and this woman it was her brother and she did everything she could to free him, but he eventually got hanged in this southeast Asia country because of drug dealing.  He was really not guilty at all it seems. 

But let me ask you about this.  What lessons did you learn about dealing in these tricky situations? 

CARLETON:  Well, you know, whenever you‘re working in a conflict zone you‘re always aware of the dangers, you‘re always prepared, you‘re really ready for anything to happen.  And I think in Micah‘s kidnapping, we were very lucky that the group that took him was a Shiite militia.  And as Micah was explaining earlier, we could really reach out to Muqtada al-Sadr and different people in the Shiite political or religious leadership who could make appeals on his behalf. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think, Micah, this was personal with you or anything like it?  Were they after you for any particular reason?  Or were you just an American they could grab?

GAREN:  No.  It was complete opportunity.  Sometimes they target people, but in my case it was just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

MATTHEWS:  Did you ever try to—I know this sounds trivial, but I haven‘t read the whole book.  Did you ever try to charm them?  Or is that ridiculous? 

GAREN:  No, no, it‘s not ridiculous.  I mean, this is part of what you do.  You know, immediately when you‘re in this position you use every tool at your disposal to try to fight your way out. 

And part of that is trying to reach out to them, on a humane level, and trying to convince them that you‘re not somebody they should do harm to. 

And at the same time as you‘re doing this, you‘re also thinking, you know, is this man somebody that I can jump.  You know, is there some way to fight my way out?  Or is there a way to escape?  And, fortunately, for me it was diplomacy that won the day. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you have a weapon? 

GAREN:  I did not have—I created what I called a shiv about a couple days into captivity, which is a—I used palm fronds that I found in the enclosure, and I tied them together.  And I kept it in my pocket the whole time.

And I thought to myself, you know, if I really think that I‘m going to be killed I‘m going to try to use this, but in essence it was really more of a mosquito bite scratcher. 

MATTHEWS:  Could it have broken open someone‘s stomach?  Could it have done some damage to a person? 

GAREN:  Theoretically, you know, thank God it didn‘t come to that. 

CARLETON:  They didn‘t seem too scared when you showed it to them. 

GAREN:  No, no.

MATTHEWS:  Can I ask you a global, a macro economic or macro political question to both you.  Where do you think we should be headed in Iraq?  Micah first. 

GAREN:  Well, I think that we should eventually be headed out of Iraq, you know, and the big question, of course the million dollar question, is how soon that should be. 

And I think, you know, the situation is not improving there right now.  It‘s significantly worse than when I was taken captive.  The security situation is far worse. 

MATTHEWS:  How much of it is just a natural tissue rejection of an outside force, especially a western force into a third world country?  It could have been predicted in other words. 

GAREN:  That‘s a major part of it.  I mean, absolutely, people always fight against occupation.  People who otherwise would not be fighting are now fighting against occupation. 

MATTHEWS:  Marie Helene, your view on where we are right now. 

CARLETON:  You see the security situation getting worse by the month.  You do see progress on the political situation, and I think that‘s what we need to focus on.  We need to focus on milestones like the constitution, bringing Sunnis into the political process, reconstruction. 

Those are the things that we need to focus on.  And the presence of foreign troops is something that sometimes makes that difficult. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I got to say you two make me happy, all right?  You make me happy just looking at you right now.  You seem happy and I‘m very happy to have you.  We have so much argument on this show, and it‘s great to see two people together like you, and out and free in America. 

Micah Garen, good luck with the book.  Marie-Helene Carleton, the name of the book is, appropriately enough, “American Hostage.”  Good luck to you both. 

GAREN:  Thank you.

CARLETON:  Thank you so much.

MATTHEWS:  When we return, the latest with the CIA leak investigation, as Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald seeks a new grand jury.  Who revealed Valerie Wilson‘s identity to Bob Woodward?

This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Howard Fineman is chief political correspondent for “Newsweek Magazine,” of course, and NBC news analyst as well. 

Tony Blankley is the editorial page editor and columnist of “The Washington Times.”

Howard, here we are again.  Once again, together, trying to figure out where the leak case goes.  Your magazine, I read it this weekend, I was also got a little help from Jonathan Alter listening to Imus this morning. 

Apparently Armitage, the number two guy at the state department, may well be the chief suspect for the leak to Bob Woodward and to Bob Novak. 

HOWARD FINEMAN, NEWSWEEK:  Yes.  We don‘t say in so many words that that‘s the case.  But we do take note of the fact that many other people, prominent people in the administration, either in their own voice or through spokesmen, said, it wasn‘t me who talked to Bob Woodward. 

And Richard Armitage, who is close to Woodward and who talks to

Woodward all the time, we know, was one of the people who was conspicuous

by his absence. 

MATTHEWS:  Why would a non-neocon, a war critic who didn‘t like the war at all, he shared that believe, I believe, with Colin Powell, why would he leak the name of an undercover agent in the CIA as some sort of punishment for whatever? 

FINEMAN:  Well, I don‘t know that it was for punishment.  I think that‘s Bob Woodward‘s point that he‘s making obliquely in his television appearances.  Because Woodward has kind of pooh poohed the notion that there was a big conspiracy here at all. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.         

FINEMAN:  Woodward‘s notion, I think, is that it was just sort in the air, that is in the private air that Bob Woodward breathes, that this was around. 

MATTHEWS:  I think Bob‘s wrong on that.  From everything I know and you know, there was an antagonism toward Wilson and his wife that was manifest. 

FINEMAN:  We‘re not necessarily disagreeing here.  It could have been put into the blood stream, so to speak, into circulation without the kind of intent that it was later shaped into by the people around Dick Cheney and, ultimately, by Bob Novak. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re the little engine that could in Washington.  You‘re “The Washington Times” up against the mammoth powers of “The Washington Post.”

Their ombudsman, who wrote a piece the other day, took down Bob Woodward this is the first time, said he should have told the paper what he was getting from the Cheney operation. 

TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES:  Yes.  Well, I think Woodward‘s bigger problem...

MATTHEWS:  Or I should say, from that atmosphere of the Cheney operation. 

BLANKLEY:  You know, I mean, that‘s sort of the generalist view.  But I think the bigger problem for him as a public personality was he was on TV so much and not being, as it turns out forthcoming.

And so I think just for the general viewer, there‘s a question, well, if he was keeping so much in while he was choosing to talk about a particular event, he loses some credibility. 

I mean, the journalistic question, is should he have reported to his editors.  That‘s stuff for journalists to haggle over.

MATTHEWS:  Is this the old problem you have in journalism, especially real reporters, like you, sir, that all the time you‘ve got to balance skepticism with access.  You can‘t keep trashing your sources or you won‘t get any access. 

FINEMAN:  That‘s true.  That‘s true.  But Woodward operates on a different time table for most of the rest of us.  I‘m a weekly, but I write for the web and so forth.  The demands are always there. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you can make new friends each week.

FINEMAN:  Well, no, no.  I can‘t. 

MATTHEWS:  He has to have the same friends, right?

FINEMAN:  He has to have the same, and he has made himself into sort of the court reporter of Washington. 

MATTHEWS:  And of the national security apparatus in this industry.

FINEMAN:  And I don‘t mean that in a bad way.

MATTHEWS:  No no, but he is the war...

FINEMAN:  ... he is the unofficial, official historian of this case.

MATTHEWS:  Especially of the commanders, of the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan.

FINEMAN:  The other thing here though, is Chris, I think he was saving whatever revelation he was going to have about this situation for his next book.  And he was meanwhile, people were going to jail.

MATTHEWS:  You sure we thought it was not important, the fact that Valerie Wilson...

FINEMAN:  By the time he was remaining silent, it had become important, it had become a huge story around here.

BLANKLEY:  Let me put in half a defense for Woodward, regarding being too close to sources.  Because of his high level, where he is, he can gain instant access.  When I was Newt Gingrich‘s guy, I didn‘t know Woodward particularly.  He called me, I took his call.  I mean, who isn‘t going to take Bob Woodward‘s call?

MATTHEWS:  I‘ll tell you who.  The vice president apparently insisted on all the questions from Bob being listed before he‘d give him an interview. 

BLANKLEY:  I understand that.  I didn‘t take his line of questioning.  My point is that it‘s not that he needs a source.  He can get to any source.  The question is, whether they‘re going to chat with him on this particular issue. 

So I don‘t know that he is incumbent, relying just on Powell.  The day that Rumsfeld wanted to talk to him, he could have if he wished to.  I agree with Howard regarding the book part of his business, which is the larger part of his business, probably undercutting his daily journalism. 

MATTHEWS:  I think there‘s still a lot of incoming in this White House.  If I were the vice president right now, talking to a very friendly audience, I‘d be thinking about the poll numbers crashing, the poll numbers for the war crashing, the continued growing questions about W.M.D.  And there‘s Ted Kennedy saying, who says the vice president is telling the truth.  And of course the attitude we have about the president.  These are bad times. 

We‘ll be right back with Howard Fineman and Tony Blankley.  And a reminder, the political debate is ongoing on Hardblogger, our political blog Web site.  Now you can download Pod casts of HARDBALL.  Just go to our Web site, hardball.MSNBC.com. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Newsweek‘s Howard Fineman and Tony Blankley of “The Washington Times.”

Ted Kennedy‘s working today, as is the vice president.  Everybody‘s working this week.  Vice President Cheney says, this is Kennedy‘s statement, quote, any suggests that pre-war information was distorted, hyped or fabricated—this is your phrase, you love—by the leader of the free world, is utterly false.

But the vice president carefully doesn‘t say whether he or someone else distorted, hyped or fabricated that information and fed it to the president.  Here‘s Kennedy, the most well-known liberal in the country, accusing the vice president, who he must know personally, of feeding lies to the president. 

BLANKLEY:  Ted Kennedy‘s rhetoric has been extremely harsh, for quite a long time now.  So, I mean, it doesn‘t surprise me he does that.  I think it was unambiguous what Cheney was saying.  He wasn‘t just talking about the president, the leader of the nation.  He was talking about the president‘s administration. 

And Kennedy came back, because he understood he could.  Because Cheney is vulnerable on the issue, because of the image that Kennedy, among others, has crafted of him.  So yes, Cheney is not the best messenger, because his image has been somewhat damaged.  But, I don‘t think there was any sincerity in Kennedy.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think we‘re on a roll in terms of the political boisterousness of this country, and the city, it‘s going to continue until we deal with the Iraq issue?  That somehow there‘s a decision made, is this going to be like Vietnam, it underlines everything? 

FINEMAN:  I think so.  I felt that sense building around here for a long time.  I was watching from the gallery in the House on Friday night, when the Democrats and the Republicans really went after it over Jack Murtha‘s resolution and the character of Jack Murtha.

MATTHEWS:  And Harold Ford, who was on the program earlier, yelling at, you mentioned.

FINEMAN:  Well, he went charging across—it didn‘t look like America to me.

MATTHEWS:  It looked more like South Korea to me.  But this kind of fighting is physical, and kind of menace each other.

FINEMAN:  To me, the House is always an expression of raw emotions in the country.

MATTHEWS:  OK, I love your piece. I want you to hear this.  All politics is local, as Tip O‘Neill once said.  And whenever a guy, or a member of Congress changes radically on something, I always want to know what‘s going on at home.

You‘ve covered Murtha at home.  Is his public passion for an immediate pull-out driven, to some extent, by the changing attitudes of the people back in his working class district? 

FINEMAN:  No question.  I spent a lot of time around there in his hometown of Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  Extraordinarily high percentage of people from the Reserves, the National Guard, signing up or being taken over to Afghanistan and Iraq.  Gung-ho place, Western Pennsylvania, deer-hunter country.  They love the military and so does Murtha.  And his concern about the war in Iraq comes out of his love of and understanding of the military culture.  A lot of generals that he‘s close to think the war is unwinnable at this point.

MATTHEWS:  Is this a national thing?  In the South, for example, where there‘s a tremendous military tradition.  Is there the same kind of turning against this campaign in Iraq?

BLANKLEY:  I wouldn‘t be so definitive as that.  With Murtha, keep in mind, back in September of 2003, he was quoted in “Roll Call” as saying the war was unwinnable. 

MATTHEWS:  I know that.  So why is this so public now?

BLANKLEY:  My point is, this isn‘t a new revelation for him.  The media has over characterized that.

MATTHEWS:  I agree with that.       That criticism was made by somebody today.  I don‘t know if it was you or not, I read it in the paper when I got up at dawn.  I agree with that.  But why was he so dramatic now?

BLANKLEY:  I don‘t know.  Look, he‘s an honorable man. Any time, anyone who spends a lot of time with wounded G.I.‘s is likely to get pretty emotional about it.  And also, he cares about the military—he also cares about the military, a nose is being ground down by this war.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s Thursday.  We‘re all lucky enough to be at home with our families.  Uncle Ralph will be there, whoever Uncle Ralph happens to be.  Maybe it‘s one of us, who will be defending the president.  Somebody else will challenge it.  Will anybody change sides from last year in the family discussions on this war?

BLANKLEY:  Yes.  I‘m sure.  Obviously, the country has moved substantially from being in favor to being doubting.  I wouldn‘t say they‘re against it, they‘re doubting.  I think they need to hear a lot more.

FINEMAN:  The big stopper question is, what‘s your alternative?  This is where the Democrats get stuck.  You can‘t leave tomorrow.  This is what the discussion is going to be at Thanksgiving.

MATTHEWS:  The tactical argument will be won by the Republicans.  The strategic question, are we stuck.

Howard Fineman, you‘re always brilliant.  Thank you.  Tony Blankley. 

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

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

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