updated 12/9/2005 6:38:35 AM ET 2005-12-09T11:38:35

Guest: Chaka Fattah, Kay Granger, Dana Milbank, Tom DeFrank

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Push on or pull out?  Keep our troops leading the fight in Iraq until it‘s decided or get American troops out of Iraq and let them settle it?  And who decides?  If it‘s up to the president, we‘re in for the duration.  If we get out, it will take the Congress to demand it.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews and welcome to the national debate over Iraq.  Here‘s where it stands.  Only a quarter of the American people believe the president has a plan for victory in Iraq and for bringing the troops home. 
Overwhelmingly, the American people don‘t think Bush has a plan, either for victory or for bringing the troops home.  This is despite the speeches and all the plan for victory signs.  A majority of the people believe that the Bush administration intentionally misled us in making its case for the Iraq war. 
But when will Congress act?  Jack Murtha is standing against the president in demanding the troops leave Iraq.  But when will congressional Democrats gather their strength and act to end the U.S. engagement in Iraq? 
Later, is the latest news in the CIA leak case, bad news for presidential adviser Karl Rove.
But first, an Islamic terrorist group is claimed to have killed an American hostage held in Iraq.  NBC‘s Bob Windrem is with us now.  Bob, we‘re getting reports all day.  What do you think‘s happened?
BOB WIND rem, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER:  Well, I spoke recently to a senior U.S. intelligence official, Chris, who said there is little reason for optimism right now.  After that claim of responsibility, which was this morning New York time, there has been no further communications. 
However, the group, the Islamic army of Iraq, did say a video of the killing would be made public sometime soon.  We have yet to see that particular video.  We have yet to hear anything else.  But, this is something that the U.S. intelligence community and the national security community have expected for a long time, killings of the hostages who are being held in Iraq, as we get closer and closer to the December 15th election in that country.
MATTHEWS:  Bob, yesterday and last week at the Naval Academy, the president was very particular in how he delineated who we‘re fighting over there.  He said we‘re fighting the largest group, which is the Sunni people who simply don‘t want Shia rule.  They don‘t want us in that country, they don‘t want the Shias to take over after their many years of rule.
Then there‘s the Baathist, the holdovers from the Saddam regime, a smaller group, and then a still smaller group, the outside terrorists.  This group, the Islamic army of Iraq, which group do they fit in?
WINDREM:  Well, this is a group that is essentially Iraqis.  This is not a group that is made up of foreign fighters, from what we can tell.  This is a group that is aligned in some way with al-Zarqawi, but it is an Iraqi group.  And it‘s hard to determine specifically what goes on, because it‘s a very—it‘s a very defuse group.
Some of the people who have been arrested from this group, who have said that they don‘t really know anything beyond their own cell structure.  They don‘t know the hierarchy, they don‘t know the names of the next people up in the hierarchy.  So it‘s difficult to determine. 
What we do know about this group, however, is that it has focused on foreigners.  You remember, Chris, last March or a year ago March, when the four American contractors were killed at a bridge in Fallujah.  And then their charred bodies strung up.  This is that same group. 
They‘ve also killed an Italian journalist.  They‘ve kidnapped French journalists, ultimately releasing them.  But also killed Pakistani contractors and others.  So this is a group that doesn‘t neatly fit into the definitions that the president laid out.
MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much for the grim report, Bob Windrem, our expert.
The debate over the war in Iraq is still raging in the U.S. Congress.  Congressman Chaka Fattah is a Pennsylvania Democrat and Congresswoman Kay Granger is a Republican of Texas.  Congresswoman Granger met with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld just today.  What word do you have for us from the secretary of defense? 
REP. KAY GRANGER ®, TEXAS:  The word is, we stay the course.  That we are making progress, certainly.  I don‘t think that anyone can deny that two good elections and one coming up, where we expect more voters, even than the last. 
But the word was, we have trained more Iraqis, 214,000.  That is part
of the plan.  We can‘t leave until the country is secure and it‘s secured
by Iraqis.  So I think that‘s good work.

MATTHEWS:  Did you have a sense, talking one-to-one with the secretary of defense that he has some kind of ballpark notion in his head, if it‘s two or five or 10 years over there, for us?
GRANGER:  No.  No, we did not discuss a timetable.  What we discussed is the accountability and how we determine success.  Part of it was just the safety of communities.  What we have done with rebuilding.  But also, 120,000 have been trained in the police force, Iraqi police force.  That‘s very important.
MATTHEWS:  Did he say anything about a scenario for leaving?
GRANGER:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  What it would look like?  When it might come?  What would be the circumstances of our leaving?  Will it come in this administration?
GRANGER:  It was primarily the good work that we‘ve done and making sure that the Congress has the information about what‘s been done there.  That we—those of us certainly, who are support, have the information and take it back to our communities.
MATTHEWS:  So if Congressman Fatah, if the war is to end sooner, if we are to come home sooner than the president would like, it‘s going to have to take the Democrats in Congress to stop this war.  Is there any way you can stop it? 
REP. CHAKA FATTAH, (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  Well, you know, the president and the president‘s party in the majority and they‘re in control.  Bush is the power of this plane.  It doesn‘t matter what the Democrats say, how unified they may be in saying it.
We are in the minority in the House and in the Senate.  So in part, the majority party has decided a course of action.  It may not be the right course of action. 
And until they decide that they‘re going down the highway in the wrong direction, and that in order to get to the destination, you‘ve got to go the other way, that they just said we‘re going to stay the course and keep going.  Unfortunately, we‘re along for that ride.  Now, I opposed this war at the beginning, I oppose it today.  I think that...
MATTHEWS:  ... but, so what?  You haven‘t been able to stop it.
FATTAH:  Absolutely.  Because when you‘re in the minority, the
majority rules, in the House and the Senate.  And when President Bush was
re-elected, he said he was going to continue to prosecute this war.  This
war was a bad idea.  It‘s costed us $6 billion a month. 
I‘ve been to Walter Reed to visit these soldiers.  One young lady from San Antonio, Texas, lost both her legs, Cassandra O‘Brien (ph).  This the reality of the decisions that have been made.  And what the Republicans are trying to do is say, “well, if one Democrat said this, one Democrat said that.”
It wouldn‘t matter if we were all saying it from the same page book.  Until the majority party decides that this course of action needs to change, it‘s not going to change.
MATTHEWS:  Did you—when you look back on the Vietnam War, if you remember—they used to have votes all the time in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House.  They‘d have the Cooper-Church Amendment, there would be another amendment being offered at different times.  You know, Mark Hathid (ph) always had an amendment to try to return the troops.
How come we‘re not saying these test votes?  I don‘t understand it.  If there‘s a dispute over whether to come relatively soon, like Murtha said so, and the president says, “stay until the job gets done,” how come we don‘t see this coming to a vote ever?
FATTAH:  Well because the voices in the Republican Party, like Senator Chuck Hagel, who I think‘s been very responsible in this matter.  And Walter Jones in the House and others.  They really—the party has decided that for party discipline purposes, they need to stay together and stay behind their president. 
And I think at some point we will get to, and probably sometime next year.  I think Jack Murtha is right.  At some point they will change course, because the Pentagon says there is no military victory to be won. 
I mean, you‘ve got 135 million people there.  If the majority of them don‘t want us there, as occupiers as they view us, we want to be viewed as liberators.  But if the majority of people in Iraq don‘t want us there, 150,000 troops are never going to be able to tame 130 million people.  It‘s just not going to happen. 
MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman?
GRANGER:  It‘s not standing behind our president, it is standing behind the troops.
MATTHEWS:  Well, the troops are under orders, though.
GRANGER:  Well those votes that occurred when Vietnam, were very demoralizing to our troops.  You talk—Sam Johnson spoke on the floor of the House eloquently, what it do to him, when he heard the lack of support that seemed to be coming from the Congress.  So that‘s one of the most important things, that we‘re standing behind our men and women.  And the young woman he was talking about, very important, we‘re doing it for her.
MATTHEWS:  Let me read you—I‘m sorry, Congresswoman.  Let me read you the latest numbers.
And I read them in the beginning, I didn‘t read them all in detail. 
I‘m going to give them in detail right now.  These are stunning numbers.  The president‘s doing a little better in the polls, as we all know because of the economy and because of a little better, a little jump up in terms of the war.  He‘s up to about 40 percent in approval and about 36 percent approval on the war.  Counting out the war, nothing great, but a little better. 
But when you look at the profound question affecting the American people out there watching this program right now, does President Bush have a plan for victory in Iraq?  Twenty-five percent say yes.  This is after all these speeches.
Does the president have a plan for bringing the troops home?  A plan, 25 percent.  Did President Bush, the Bush administration actually, intentionally mislead the public in making the case of the Iraq war?  Yes, 52 percent.  These are terrible numbers. 
And yet, the president controls the platform.  He gives the speeches.  There isn‘t a unified Democrat Party, in all due respect.  You know there isn‘t.  So how come if the president and the vice president, they demand—they come on our air, we stop the works on MSNBC.  And we show the whole speech.  The vice president, the president, anytime they give a speech now, full coverage.
John Kerry can‘t get a TV camera in the room, OK?  So it‘s not that you‘re not making your points, it‘s that the public watching it and reading about it in the papers say, “I don‘t hear a plan or a vision, a light at the end of the tunnel.”
GRANGER:  And there is a plan, and there is a vision, and there‘s always been a plan.  The plan is, we bring out troops home when that country is secure, secured by the Iraqis, not by us. 
MATTHEWS:  But Rumsfeld didn‘t tell you that today, did he?
GRANGER:  Oh, yes he did.  Yes.
MATTHEWS:  You told me—I asked you if he gave you any vision or scenario for eventually bringing the troops home. 
GRANGER:  I‘m sorry.  I thought you meant a date certain. 
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS:  Well, tell me what he did say. 
GRANGER:  The plan is, is what it has always been.
MATTHEWS:  Was is it?
GRANGER:  The president has said when we have—after they have elections, and when that country ...
MATTHEWS:  That‘s December 15th, next Thursday. 
GRANGER:  ... right—that country has security that they can depend on provided by them not by us.  That is why it is so important, as I said, that we‘ve trained 214,000 Iraqis. 
MATTHEWS:  Well, isn‘t 214,000 troops enough to keep order if the people support the government? 
GRANGER:  They are trained and they‘re becoming more effective.  We are still, literally daily, turning over more control. 
MATTHEWS:  But they have more troops, according to that number, than we have.  Why are we necessary if you have 214 Iraqi troops that have been trained, and you say the Democratic process is proceeding.  Why do you need 160,000 American troops there? 
GRANGER:  Because the training is still continuing.  We started with nothing; they started with nothing.  The Iraqis—and they are—you provide security if you could pay for it.  I mean, it was not the kind of justice we have.  It wasn‘t the kind of security that we depend on, for instance, for our police and our court system.  So we are starting with zero. 
MATTHEWS:  You have confidence that in a couple of years—I mean, you must have in your own mind some notion of how long this is going to take.  How long do you think it will take? 
GRANGER:  I think that we‘ll be—have less troops there certainly in a couple of years, no doubt about it. 
MATTHEWS:  When will we be able to come home, do you think, and let the Iraqis run their own country? 
GRANGER:  I can‘t tell you that. 
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS:  Well, give me a rough estimate.  The next five years?  The next ten years? 
GRANGER:  I‘ll throw in a better estimate after this vote.
MATTHEWS:  Well, how about—I‘m going to just ask you a ballpark question.  Pretend I‘m one of your constituents.  Will we be home by the end of this administration? 
GRANGER:  My constituents, first of all, don‘t ask that question. 
What they say is, Kay, is there a plan?  What is the plan?  And I ...
MATTHEWS:  OK, is the plan to end this American war in Iraq before the year 2010? 
GRANGER:  Oh, I should certainly think so. 
MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, that is definitely going to half within five years then? 
GRANGER:  Yes.
MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I was asking.
GRANGER:  Right. 
MATTHEWS:  I know it seems like a long way off.  But, in other words, you don‘t think we‘ll be over there fighting a war over in five years from now? 
GRANGER:  No. 
MATTHEWS:  Will we be fighting a war when we have the next presidential election in ‘08? 
GRANGER:  I‘m not going to answer those questions, because I really don‘t have the answers to those questions.  What I am saying is we are making progress every day.  And it is measurable progress.  We have got schools that are open.  We have got hospitals that are open.  You know, the economy is doing better.  We have got newspapers and we have got television. 
MATTHEWS:  Well, the problem is, the press can‘t get outside of the green zone.  That‘s the problem over there.  We are hearing reports it is very hard to—look at these guys getting beheaded and killed.  Anybody that doesn‘t have an armored unit around them is in danger over there.  So how can it be so great if it is so scary for everybody?  That‘s what I‘m asking.
REP. CHAKA FATTAH (D), PENNSYLVANIA:The point is.
GRANGER:  I have been to Iraq. 
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS:  Well, you went in force.
GRANGER:  We have members of Congress over there and they‘re outside.
MATTHEWS:  You went with a tank column around you.  That‘s different.
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS:  Of course, with all due respect you are protected. 
FATTAH:  Kay is a great member and she is right ...
MATTHEWS:  She sounds like it.  But would you have the nerve to ...
FATTAH:  ... there is progress being made. 
MATTHEWS:  ... OK, let me ask you this.
(CROSSTALK)
FATTAH:  The question is what is the cost?  For the young people—go right ahead.
MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to come back but I think you have got a very strong position here. 
FATTAH:  I do. 
MATTHEWS:  The opposite of hers and I want you to Lay it out. 
FATTAH:  I will.
MATTHEWS:  Because she has laid it out pretty well.  We will be right back with congressman Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania, and Congresswoman Kay Granger of Texas after the break. 
And a programming note, this Sunday watch a “HARDBALL SPECIAL REPORT:
UNRAVELING THE CIA LEAK CASE.”  You ought to watch this for a catch-up on all that‘s happened all this week.  For a full hour, some of our best reporting on this CIA case.  That‘s right here on MSNBC at 7:00 and 11:00 p.m. Eastern.  Both times this Sunday night.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MATTHEWS:  We‘re back on HARDBALL with Congressman Chaka Fattah, Democrat of Pennsylvania, and Congresswoman Kay Granger, a Republican from Texas.  Boy, I was caught off guard there.
Let me ask you this.  Congressman, I want to put you on the grill for a second here.  A quick pullout—Congressman Murtha has been saying this week within six months we get out of Iraq.  Do you think that would leave that country in any good shape at all, us just yanking ourselves out of there in six months? 
FATTAH:  Well, I think that the administration‘s position is you can‘t leave because there is not enough security on the ground and, therefore, we would be blamed for the chaos in the aftermath.  And there position is so therefore we have to train Iraqis. 
I think that there is a second position you could take.  The only actual rationale for this war that still stands today, as a legitimate rationale, was that Saddam‘s regime was destabilizing our friendly Arab allies in the region. 
If we spend a billion dollars plus we jointly trained with the Egyptian army, if there is a need for tens of thousands of troops there, let troops who are Arab, who are Muslim, go in and do some peacekeeping.  Let‘s get our young people out.  Our own Pentagon and experts say that the insurgency in part is fed by our presence.  How can you kill and stop an insurgency that your mere presence ignites? 
MATTHEWS:  Right, but we tried to get the Arab League to help us in this campaign. 
FATTAH:  We have never really approached this in this way.  The regime is gone.  You‘ve got a peacekeeping, stabilization situation now.  And what Jack Murtha says is our young people are just targets now.  They are not fighting a military.  They‘re not conquering a territory.  You know, they got to Baghdad.  They have gotten rid of Saddam.  They should have a chance to come home. 
MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you Congresswoman Granger—you know, from the beginning of this war, the buildup toward the war in 2002 and 2003, a lot of statements were made by the administration that Saddam Hussein was building nuclear weapons, that we would be received as liberators in that country, that there was a connections to 9/11. 
It was some kind of payback going in there, that the war would be paid for—paid for—by Iraqi oil.  In fact, we would get cheaper gasoline out of it.  Every one of those have turned out to be not true.  Why do you trust the administration now after batting 0-4? 
GRANGER:  First of all, the issue about weapons of mass destruction came long before President Bush was president.  President Clinton ... 
MATTHEWS:  But nobody went to war over it until Bush did. 
GRANGER:  Yes, but we knew that.  In fact, he had weapons of mass destruction at one time.  He used them against his own people. 
MATTHEWS:  Right, but we went to war over this. 
GRANGER:  That‘s right.
MATTHEWS:  You have to have a standard of judgment.  It can‘t just be everybody else thought so.  They didn‘t go to war; this president did. 
GRANGER:  Absolutely.  I am just saying that that was an understanding before we went to war.  We went to war, and my colleague talked about the cost of the war.  There is a cost, but I think that the cost is if we leave, the opportunity to have freedom in a form of Democracy in that part of the world to change that part of the world.  Think what that would mean.  It‘s just a huge opportunity.
MATTHEWS:  Sure, it‘s a dream, but do you believe it? 
GRANGER:  I believe it.
MATTHEWS:  You believe we are going to turn Iraq into a democracy?  A functioning democracy?
(CROSSTALK)
GRANGER:  Well, we have a free and open election.  People ran for—I chair the Iraqi Women‘s Caucus, and I work with the women who ran for office.  They ran for office in a country where they‘ve never voted. 
MATTHEWS:  So you think you are winning over there; and you think we are losing.
GRANGER:  Absolutely.
FATTAH:  No, I think—
MATTHEWS:  You think you are winning, you think we are losing.
FATTAH:  It‘s not losing.  I think it‘s the wrong war at the wrong time and we should redeploy.
MATTHEWS:  But if you say we‘re winning over there, why wouldn‘t we stay there if we‘re accomplishing our goals?
FATTAH:  There is no military victory.  No Pentagon expert will say there is a military victory.  What you have now is, you have a defeated regime—they‘re out—you have a new regime that has to win the support of its own people and build a security for its own government.
MATTHEWS:  You stick with the president—you‘re with the president on this?
GRANGER:  Yes, sir. 
MATTHEWS:  And you‘re with John Murtha? 
FATTAH:  And I‘m not.  Absolutely. 
MATTHEWS:  It‘s good to have clarity here.  I hope the debate proceeds because I think we‘re going to end up somewhere in the middle.  Six months will pass.  Your proposal will be irrelevant.  We will still be there, then we have to come up with something in between because we are not getting out in six months, not with this administration.
FATTAH:  The Republican party is flying this plane.  Until they decide to turn around, we are headed in a bad direction. 
MATTHEWS:  Most of the public is still looking for the Democrats to get organized, to have a clear alternative to the president and nobody has seen that yet, Congressman. 
FATTAH:  The party in charge has to be held accountable for their actions.  We want to hold the minority party responsible for their (INAUDIBLE).
MATTHEWS:  As long as Joe Lieberman is making more noise than Murtha -
is nobody knows what the Democrats stand for. 

CAFFERTY:  Until we give Chuck Hagel and his views a decent hearing, you would see that there is three (ph) good people on their side.
MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Congressman Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia, as well as Pennsylvania, and Congresswoman Kay Granger of Texas.
Up next, the latest on the CIA leak investigation, as “Time” magazine‘s Vivica Novak testifies before the grand jury. 
And a website note:  we‘re putting together our list of the best HARDBALL moments of 2005, producing a year-end special on those moments.  We want to hear from you.  Vote for the biggest HARDBALL moment of the year, if you think there was one, on our website.  Just go to hardblogger.msnbc.com.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  If you thought the CIA leak investigation was over, think again.  For the first time since Vice President Cheney‘s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, was indicted, the prosecutor leading the investigation is now presenting more information to a new grand jury.  The panel met yesterday and is scheduled to meet again tomorrow.  This surge of activity heralds a new and perhaps troubling stage in this case for the White House. 
HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reports. 
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  It was the first time in six weeks that Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald presented information in the CIA leak case to a grand jury.  Courthouse sources tell MSNBC Fitzgerald did not use any witnesses.  Former prosecutors say that means Fitzgerald likely used his own staff to read transcripts outloud, summarize the case and prepare the new grand jury for a potential indictment. 
SCOTT FREDERICKSEN, FMR INDEPENDENT COUNSEL:  There is not a federal prosecutor around who doesn‘t impanel a new grand jury, if he isn‘t the most serious about pursuing possible criminal charges.  It is not a step you take lightly. 
SHUSTER:  Lawyers familiar with the investigation say the biggest danger for the White House right now involves Karl Rove.  Rove‘s own attorney says the president‘s top advisor remains under investigation because of his early inaccurate testimony.  Two years and under oath Rove denied providing information about the CIA‘s Valerie Wilson, the wife of administration critic, to “Time” magazine reporter Matt Cooper.  Later when Cooper was subpoenaed to testify and was fighting the order in the courts, Rove began a series of rolling disclosures. 
The first came after “Time” magazine‘s Vivica Novak—no relation to Bob Novak—had a conversation with Rove‘s lawyer and reportedly tipped him off that Cooper‘s testimony would put Rove in legal jeopardy.  According to legal sources, Rove then went back to the grand jury and testified he had briefly discussed the Wilsons with Matt Cooper while talking about welfare reform.
But this summer Matt Cooper testified the entire conversation was about the Wilsons and that Rove ended the call by saying, “I‘ve already said too much.”
MATT COOPER, “TIME” MAGAZINE:  I thought maybe he meant, I‘ve been indiscreet.  As I thought about it, I thought it might be just more benign, like, “I‘ve said too much, I‘ve got to get to a meeting.”  I don‘t know exactly what he meant, but do I know the memory of that line has been in my head for two years. 
SHUSTER:  Cooper‘s testimony prompted Rove to volunteer to go back to the grand jury yet again.  And this fall, Rove testified for a fourth time, answering questions about his self-described memory problems and about the lingering conflicts with Cooper. 
Legal sources say Fitzgerald decided to hold off indicting Rove after meeting with Rove‘s lawyer, Bob Luskin, and hearing about Luskin‘s conversations with Vivica Novak. 
Today, Novak gave prosecutors a deposition about her talks with Luskin.  It‘s a potentially crucial development in Fitzgerald‘s evaluation of Rove.
FREDERICKSEN:  He already decided, apparently, not to indict at the last minute.  Is he going to go ahead and indict if the evidence remains the same?  It will depend on what Ms. Novak says.  It will depend the timing of what she says and what happened there.
SHUSTER:  The other issue still unresolved involves information from “Washington Post” reporter Bob Woodward.  When Vice President Cheney‘s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, was indicted on charges of lying under oath, prosecutors suggested Libby was the first administration official to talk about the Wilsons with reporters. 
However, a few weeks ago, Woodward came forward and said he had heard about the Wilsons from another administration official even earlier. 
(on camera):  Woodward has already spoke to investigators.  It is not clear though what the status is of the official he was referring to.  But at the moment, the investigation appears to be focused not on who leaked, but rather on whether White House officials were truthful when they testified in this case.  And with Patrick Fitzgerald using a grand jury again, this is a serious time.  And as one lawyer put it, it may be a difficult time for Karl Rove, and perhaps others. 
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL, in Washington. 
MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David.  Again, it is not the crime, it is the coverup. 
Coming up:  We go farther inside the leak case and where it is heading with two great reporters—the “Washington Post”‘s Dana Milbank and Tom DeFrank of the “New York Daily News.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(STOCK MARKET REPORT)
MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  For more on the latest on the CIA leak probe and the debate on ending the Iraq war, we are joined by Tom DeFrank—he‘s the Washington bureau chief of the “New York Daily News”—and Dana Milbank of the “Washington Post.”  Thank you, Dana.  Thank you, Tom. 
There are a lot of rumblings, and I think some of them are coming out of your reporting, Tom, about something wrong with this war, the way it‘s being run over there.  Despite the president‘s strong stand, we‘re going to stay until we get the job done, is Rumsfeld in trouble? 
TOM DEFRANK, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”:  Well, I think he‘s in trouble, but I think he has been in trouble for well over a year, Chris.  The real question is ...
MATTHEWS:  With the president? 
DEFRANK:  Yes, I think the president—but the president, as we all know, is a very loyal guy.  He—with rare exceptions he doesn‘t like to get rid of people when they are under duress. 
And I think that had Rumsfeld not been under such criticism a year or so ago, if the Abu Ghraib prison riot—prison scandal had not broken, I think Rumsfeld would have been gone long ago.  But I think now it appears that he is on the glide path waiting for a graceful retirement after the first of the year. 
MATTHEWS:  Who‘s fault is it, Dana Milbank, that we had no plan to fight a war and we had no idea there was going to be a war when we got to Iraq?  Absolute blinders on.  We were going to have a mission accomplished, there was going to be the happy Iraqi scenario.  We heard it from the vice president on down.  Who gets the blame for the fact that we are fighting a war we thought we‘d never started? 
DANA MILBANK, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, nobody is very eager to accept it.  Paul Wolfowitz now safely ensconced at the World Bank gave a speech yesterday at the Press Club and was more or less washing his hands of that.  Rumsfeld has been doing a lot of the same.  I think ...
MATTHEWS:  Scooter is too busy to think about it right now.  Feith is out to lunch somewhere.  Is anybody taking responsibility for saying we were going to be greeted as liberators? 
MILBANK:  Well, the vice-president certainly hasn‘t.  I mean, that is not what anybody is doing.  I mean, what is happening here, is they are hoping for an improvement, an uptick in Iraq.  That is the sort of thing that could allow Rumsfeld to get out gracefully. 
You hear the president making a few things, saying OK, maybe we didn‘t do the redevelopment efforts in Iraq just right, but that is, in part, of getting at saying this overall victory approach.  Nobody is really going to go down that road.  What is to be gained by doing a big mea culpa here? 
MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you this.  Everybody knows the definition of an addiction.  It‘s doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.  What is new about the war in Iraq to suggest it‘s working now or that our leaders have the facts?
Dana, you are laughing, but this is a problem.  I have said before to the Congresswoman from Texas, they are batting 0-4.  They said there was WMD, there was nuclear weapons, there aren‘t.  They said we would be greeted as liberators.  There aren‘t. 
s They said the war would be paid for by Iraqi oil.  It isn‘t.  We‘re paying for it.  And they also said we‘d get keeper gasoline.  I mean, every time they make a promise or a prediction or a statement of fact, it has been wrong. 
MILBANK:  That is true and that has certainly harmed the credibility. 
And we‘ve seen that in another poll today.  What‘s really happening is ...
MATTHEWS:  And by the way, that poll shows that most people now believe that the administration deliberately lied to us about the war.  Go ahead. 
MILBANK:  They‘re definitely—their credibility is shot when it comes to what the administration has been saying about Iraq.  The president has gotten a little bit of a bump here.  What you have to realize is, it‘s not so much the rhetoric that‘s coming out of the president‘s mouth or anybody else.  It‘s what‘s happening on the ground in Iraq. 
If they have some good days there, if things are quiet, the poll numbers can move up a little bit.  It‘s basically the president‘s rhetoric, the vice president‘s rhetoric and others, versus what you‘re seeing on the ground there, how many American troops are being killed, how violent it is on any particular day. 
MATTHEWS:  I think Napoleon once said, when he was out of troops and out of cavalry, he said send in more flags.  Is that what we‘re going to get here now, more flags, more speeches?  The president is giving a speech in my hometown on Monday, in Philly.  Instead of winning the war are we just going to get another speech every other day by the president and vice president?  Is that where we‘re going now.
DEFRANK:  Well, we‘re going to get a lot of those, Chris, but we have had a lot of those over the last 18 months already.  What we are going to get, I believe, is fewer troops on the ground in Iraq. 
MATTHEWS:  When? 
DEFRANK:  Next year.  Barry McCaffrey said on your network yesterday below 100,000 by next summer.  That presupposes, of course, that everything is going well enough that we can pull troops—we, the U.S. government—can pull the troops out. 
MATTHEWS:  Explain the math.  By the way, we had the Congresswoman from Texas on tape, Granger, and she said we‘ve got 214,000 trained Iraqi troops now.  We have 160,000 American troops.  I can do the math.  There are more Iraqis than there are Americans.  If there are that many troops in uniform, why do we have to stay there?  That‘s a huge army.
DEFRANK:  Because they are not up to it.  And generals, classmates of mine from Texas A&M, generals, others who, obviously, are not going to go public will tell up that the Iraqi army is nowhere near up to it. 
MATTHEWS:  Who is paying their salaries?  Who is paying these soldiers.
DEFRANK:  Well, I suspect we‘re paying some of that, the fair amount of it for sure.  And we‘re certainly spending the lion‘s share on training them as well.  The training of the Iraqi troops has some very capable U.S.  generals running the program, but it‘s going a lot slower than anybody at the Pentagon and the White House would like to believe. 
MATTHEWS:  Dana, you are reporting at the “Post” so far about the condition of the chain of command.  Is Rumsfeld in trouble? 
MILBANK:  Well, he should be by any normal standard, but I think as Tom correctly points out, that this president is not one to push somebody out when he is in a difficult spot, that‘s why they are just waiting for something to make a little bit of a turn here, whereby he could be eased out. 
Nobody really knows.  And people have been speculating about Rumsfeld for an awfully long time.  His response to Tom‘s report today was to say that he has to plans to leave.  But, if you recall that President Bush had no plans to attack Iraq right up until March of 2003, so he certainly is not ruling it out. 
MATTHEWS:  Well, he did have intentions though.  Let me ask you—all the intellectuals behind this war.  I guess I kindly refer to them as the pencil necks,  Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, Richard Perle.  These people are all gone now.  Scooter Libby is gone now.
The vice president is still there, nobody ever thought of him as a particularly an intellectual, more as a politician.  Is there an intellectual framework or undergurting to what we‘re doing in Iraq now, like there was when we went in?
MILBANK:  Well, the idea of going in...
MATTHEWS:  ... is there a best and brightest team still around, in other words?
MILBANK:  Well, not necessarily but this is not—this is the mopping up phase of this.  It‘s not as if, I mean, the whole idea of some sort of a preemptive war, the grand plan was put into place by these folks.  We‘re not into that enforcing some sort of a Bush doctrine now.  They‘re trying to figure out how to extricate themselves from this.  The whole debate about withdrawing, stay the course victory, is really just a debate about do the troops come out in 18 months or do they come out in six months.
MATTHEWS:  Oh, good.  Do you believe that, Tom.
DEFRANK:  Yes, I do.
MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I thought for a long time, that the 50-yard—that it‘s really a 45-yard-line vs. 45-yard-line.  So it‘s basically—what did you say, six months or 18 months?
DEFRANK:  Right.
MATTHEWS:  So when we get to the end of the Jack Murtha proposal—six months, when it‘s six months from now, in other words, we‘re basically within a year of getting our troops out.
DEFRANK:  They‘ll have to have some, longer than that. 
MATTHEWS:  So are we going to end up being like the French in West Africa?  When anything goes the wrong way over there, we send our troops back in?
DEFRANK:  I don‘t think to.  I think once we‘re out, we‘re out, with the exception of a few thousand troops.
MATTHEWS:  Dana, do you believe that once we‘re out of Iraq, we stay out?
MILBANK:  Well even the Murtha plan talks about keeping troops in Kuwait.  In the case that a nuclear power plant is being built, that sort of thing.
MATTHEWS:  No, but I mean, going back in and trying to run the show again.  So we got one bite at the apple, if we can‘t put that government together, if we can‘t nation-build this time around, we‘re not going to try to do it again in a year or two, and go back again.
MILBANK:  I don‘t think even Paul Wolfowitz or Richard Perle would have that in mind right now.
MATTHEWS:  Don‘t sell them short.  More with Tom DeFrank and Dana Milbank when we return.  I want to talk about what‘s happening with this leak case and whether Karl Rove is going to face indictment and whether Tom DeLay is going to come back like Freddy Krueger. 
And a programming note.  This Sunday, watch a HARDBALL special report, “Unraveling the CIA leak Case.”  That‘s this Sunday night.  You can see it two times if you want, 7:00 and 11:00 Eastern. 
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Tom DeFrank of the “New York Daily News” and Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post.”
Let‘s talk to Dana.  You guys have been great on covering the leak story and figuring it out.  There was, sort of a interruptus I should say, back when only Scooter Libby was indicted for those five counts. 
Is the wording of the information we are getting from the grand jury, from Fitzgerald‘s office, to the extent we have any indication watching the movements over there in the last 48 hours.  Is there something happening there with regard to the Karl Rove case?
MILBANK:  Well clearly he has not assembled a new grand jury here, just to talk about them about the Washington Nationals.  I mean, when we—originally a lot of people assumed that because it was just Scooter there, that Karl Rove was completely exonerated from this. 
But when you‘re identified as official A, as opposed to everybody else in the indictment who‘s mentioned by title, you have to have some suspicion.  If you listen very carefully to what Fitzgerald was saying, that he wasn‘t ruling that out.  Then in the middle of all this, we have the revelation by my very senior colleague Bob Woodward.  We don‘t know exactly what to do with that.  But clearly, there‘s a lot of activity going on right now.  That much we know for sure.
MATTHEWS:  You know, Tom, we‘ve let our minds drift from this a bit.  And I think it‘s a major story.  Well, let me try it by you.  You‘re the pro in this, do you think—on this beat.
If Karl Rove gets indicted, on top of the Libby indictment, is this really a box office event?  Is this going to be a news shaker for the year in terms of this administration?
DEFRANK:  If that were to happen, Chris, it would be a seismic event, no question about it.  If for no other reason then, I happen to think Rove is probably more capable than the next three most capable people in the Bush West Wing.
MATTHEWS:  Is he calling the shots day to day now?  The speeches they‘re giving in Annapolis and around the country?  The Council of Foreign Relations?
DEFRANK:  I don‘t know if he‘s calling the shots, but he‘s heavily engaged.  And the president—this president needs Karl Rove to be heavily engaged. 
MATTHEWS:  Who‘s giving the president the wording of these speeches lately?  I‘ve noticed, he‘s been much more candid.  And as I said earlier in the program, and I absolutely salute him for this, because I think this use of the word terrorism has been promiscuous.
We‘re fighting insurgents, we‘re fighting people that don‘t want us in the country, like we wouldn‘t want somebody else in our country.  Alongside the really awful people, the terrorists, the Saddamites.  There are also some, just Shiites who don‘t want the Shia‘s to rule the country, like we wouldn‘t want.  The North—the South didn‘t want the North to rule the South.  The South wasn‘t evil in the Civil War.  They were other side.
The president has been so honest about that.  But at the same time, I wonder where this word victory keeps being used over and over again as if it means something. 
DEFRANK:  Well, I think that‘s coming from something on the NSC who studied this, a former professor from Duke.  “The Washington Post” has done a terrific story on that.
MATTHEWS:  Just say the word victory over and over and over again, if people think of victory.
DEFRANK:  Well, because people need to feel like there‘s a chance that victory is around the corner in Iraq.  It‘s better for the president.  I mean, a month ago, or during his August vacation, he made a speech on the war in Idaho.  He mentioned the word victory three times. 
In Annapolis he mentioned the word victory 15 times.  And in the preamble to his white paper last week, I think it‘s—the word victory is used 36 times.  That‘s not a coincidence.
MATTHEWS:  Yes, in the old days, Gene McCarthy, one of my heroes, used to say, Dana, “if you want to be seen as an issues candidate, just keep saying the word issues.  I‘m here to speak to the issues.  I‘m running on the issues.  This is an issues campaign.”
But will word victory stick there or will it be like paint thinner after awhile?  Will people say, “yes, I‘ve heard that word victory for three months now and I haven‘t seen any victory?”
MILBANK:  No, I don‘t think so.  I think it‘s actually quite clever.  And when you‘re talking about victory, it doesn‘t mean the ultimate victory.  Victory can be whatever you say it is when you pull the troops out.  But what they‘re doing, and I don‘t think people realize this, is say, “OK, we‘re for victory.”  The other guys, the Democrats, are there for defeat.  And Howard Dean just walked into that. 
MATTHEWS:  Boy, didn‘t he?
MILBANK:  You can see that mousetrap set up with the cheese there and he just went right for it.  And so now they are able to say we are for victory, they are for defeat, even though as we were just discussing, they‘re all having this rather narrow debate about when you yank the troops. 
DEFRANK:  Chris, even Republicans who are ringing their hands in private about the president‘s situation still believe very strongly that the three best things the president has going for him are Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. 
MATTHEWS:  I completely buy the genuine belief they have, too, by the way.  Thank you very much, Tom DeFrank and Dana Milbank. 
When we come back, what do the troops make about the debate over the war?  What are they saying over there about this kind of debate?  We‘ll talk to a former marine intelligence officer who served in Iraq and in Afghanistan. 
And a reminder, hardblogger, HARDBALL‘s political blog Web site is the place to be all week long with our special series on exit strategies from Iraq.  We‘ve been talking about them, six months, 18 months, the duration. 
Today, the HARDBALL war council, top generals and foreign policy experts tell us what they would do in the war.  And we want to know what you think about ending the war in Iraq, if you do.  Send in your thoughts.  Just go to our Web site, hardblogger.msnbc.com. 
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.  After leading a marine platoon that helped rid Afghanistan and Pakistan of the Taliban, Nathaniel Fick went into Iraq to lead an elite marine special operations force that faced heavy combat during the early months of Operation Iraqi Freedom. 
He writes about his training and war experiences in “One Bullet Away: 
The Making of a Marine Officer.”  Nathaniel knows firsthand how this war in Iraq is going.  He keeps in touch with his outfit.  Nathaniel, what are you hearing from your outfit over there? 
NATHANIEL FICK, FMR. MARINE OFFICER:  You know, I hear a mixed story, Chris, but generally I hear that the political dissent at home simply isn‘t a factor there.  We hear all the time that dissenter here are having this pernicious effect on the troops and I don‘t think that‘s the case. 
MATTHEWS:  What do they hear?  How do they hear it?  What are they getting in terms of the debate?  Are they hearing that the president‘s winning or he‘s losing or Rumsfeld‘s in trouble?  What are they hearing?  How particular is it? 
FICK:  I think they hear all of that.  They heard Congressman Murtha last week, and that resonated with my guys, because Murtha obviously is a Marine colonel.  And they saw the tears in his eyes, and they said, you know, this is a leader.
MATTHEWS:  And what do you think of a guy, a working class guy who used to run a car wash, not some intellectual from where you go to school, Harvard, Harvard Business.  I mean, no, but it isn‘t that kind of a—it‘s not Cambridge or San Francisco talking, it‘s western Pennsylvania. 
FICK:  I think that‘s true.  And it‘s important to remember, you know, those of us on the coasts tend to have—we are provincial in our own ways, like it‘s forgotten. 
MATTHEWS:  Do the soldiers and the marines—the marines—do the marines argue the war themselves? 
FICK:  All the time.  All the time.  My marines used to sit around the fire at night and—you know, my platoon we had the full spectrum of opinion, from this war is immoral and wrong to the only problem is we should have done this a dozen years ago. 
MATTHEWS:  How does that affect fighting?
FICK:  It doesn‘t.
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS:  Even—I mean, when you tell a guy he‘s got to go out and check around the corner or you‘ve got to tell a guy to go into a situation where the odds aren‘t great for him, and he‘s got in his head this war may be a joke, this war is not going anywhere.  You don‘t think that affects him? 
FICK:  The marines behind him and to the left and right aren‘t a joke, and that‘s why he‘s doing it. 
MATTHEWS:  It‘s for the unit. 
FICK:  That‘s right. 
MATTHEWS:  It‘s powerful stuff.  Why do we keep hearing from this administration that this debate at home is hurting the morale? 
FICK:  The same reason we didn‘t see the photos of flag-draped caskets coming back to Dover.  We were told it was disrespectful.  You know, I look at those images and they look a lot like Rosa Parks‘ casket in the Capitol rotunda.  It‘s the ultimate sign of respect. 
MATTHEWS:  So it‘s for home consumption, not for concern about the front? 
FICK:  That‘s my opinion. 
MATTHEWS:  Whoa.  What it‘s like to go from being at the front, surrounding by fellow gyrenes (ph) in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, and then going to Harvard with a bunch of civilians at business school? 
FICK:  You know, one of the ...
MATTHEWS:  Is the culture different?
FICK:  The culture is very different.  I‘ve got a group of marines up there and we stay back to back and take care of one another but ...
MATTHEWS:  Do you sit at the same table at lunchtime? 
FICK:  That‘s right. 
MATTHEWS:  OK.
FICK:  But my classmates come from a wide range of backgrounds.  They have been journalists and working at NGOs and the military, and so everybody ... 
MATTHEWS:  Are they less patriotic than your unit was or is?
FICK:  No, I don‘t think patriotism is linked to the military quite that way.  That‘s not how I see it.  There are 100 ways to serve. 
MATTHEWS:  What‘s the message of your military experience to you?  If you had to tell somebody in a class what you know that they don‘t know, as an 18-year-old kid, what would you tell them?  What did you learn?
FICK:  That our country needs good people in the military.  And we have this schism between the civilian society and the military today, where ROTC units, for example, are being kicked off of college campuses. 
MATTHEWS:  But you know why.
FICK:  I do know why, but ...
MATTHEWS:  Because they don‘t have an open policy towards gays. 
FICK:  That‘s right. 
MATTHEWS:  Do you think that‘s the real reason or it‘s politics?  They just—they‘re left wing schools and they‘re left wing faculties and boards of trustees and they just don‘t want the military connected to them. 
FICK:  I think it‘s a red herring. 
MATTHEWS:  Which part is the red herring, the gays ...
FICK:  The gays in the military is a separate issue—an important issue, but a separate issue. 
MATTHEWS:  So in other words, these ROTC units are being kept off campus for political reasons? 
FICK:  I think so.  That‘s a statement, but the net effect ...
MATTHEWS:  Right.  I had them on my campus, I always thought the military training was relevant and if somebody wanted, they should be allowed to get it. 
FICK:  That‘s right.  And the net effect of keeping military off campus is to keep these supposedly thoughtful, progressive, tolerant people out of the military, which is precisely the wrong path to take. 
MATTHEWS:  Which is what? 
FICK:  Precisely the wrong path to take.  We should embrace the military.  We should want the military to represent every corner of American opinion and represent our values and our ideals at large.  That‘s the only way it is going to represent America well overseas. 
MATTHEWS:  So in other words, the left wing influences on our universities is hurting the military, because it‘s keeping liberal kids and middle of the road kids from joining up. 
FICK:  Without doubt, and in turn, hurting the whole country. 
MATTHEWS:  So we‘re creating kind of a civil war between the military people and the non-military? 
FICK:  Well, we‘re isolating the military and we‘re making it easier in a war like this one to put the military on a shelf and say hey, it‘s over there.  It‘s them, it‘s not us, and this war doesn‘t effect me. 
MATTHEWS:  What‘s the reaction to your unit in the field right now in Iraq to the idea of Murtha, which is to bring them home in six months? 
FICK:  Not workable, unfortunately.  We have a lot invested and I don‘t like to stay the course rhetoric.  What we need to do though is learn from our mistakes and achieve some workable outcome, and it‘s going to take more than six months. 
MATTHEWS:  A couple years? 
FICK:  At least. 
MATTHEWS:  At least.  Five years?
FICK:  That‘s my ballpark, but ...
MATTHEWS:  I think you‘re right.  Thank you.  Thank you, Nathaniel Fick.
The book is called—your book is called “One Bullet Away.”  Good Christmas book for people who want to know what‘s going on.
Right now, it‘s time for the “ABRAMS REPORT.”
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
END   

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