updated 12/12/2005 1:28:21 PM ET 2005-12-12T18:28:21

Guest: Paul McCarthy, Mary Schiavo, Chuck Todd, Stephen Hayes

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  New information tonight about a jetliner that slid off a runway in Chicago‘s Midway Airport. 

Let‘s turn to MSNBC‘s Norah O‘Donnell—Norah. 

NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  All right, Chris.  Thank you very much.

We are awaiting a news conference by the National Transportation Safety Board about Southwest Airline Flight 1248, which slid off a runway at Midway Airport in Chicago last night crashing into a highway and into two cars. 

And late today the Chicago Medical Examiner‘s office confirms that 6-year-old Joshua Woods died as a result of compression injuries and asphyxiation. 

We are going to go live now to the scene.  And first talk with Mary Schiavo a former inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation. 

Mary, thank you for joining us. 

We understand at this hour that investigators are behind closed doors.  They have been meeting for several hours this afternoon.  What can they learn within the first 24 hours? 

MARY SCHIAVO, FMR. DOT INSPECTOR GENERAL:  Well, actually, they can learn quite a lot.  The weather, of course, played a major rule in this tragedy, but also did the length of the runway, and the fact that we do not have rest or a safety overrun area at the end of the airport. 

That has been a huge issue in the aviation community for the last few years and particularly after the accident in August in Toronto, Canada where the same kind of scenario occurred and there was no safety margin at the end of the runway. 

And we have had several in the U.S. just in the last few years.  That is going to be an issue here.  There simply was not enough runway for the conditions. 

O‘DONNELL:  I think that is a huge issue, Mary.  One that many people are going to be focused on with all of these different crashes, whether it was several months ago in Toronto, 2000 crash in Burbank. Also some people may remember that corporate jet that slid off the runway in Teterboro, New Jersey raising questions about whether these runways are long enough. 

We are going to go now to Michelle Hofland, who is live on the scene at Midway Airport. 

Michelle, what is the very latest there?

MICHELLE HOFLAND, NBC NEWS-CHICAGO:  Well, if you can look behind me you can see this plane where it skidded off the runway yesterday.  You will notice that the nose of the plane is pointed down.  That is because the landing gear collapsed. 

They are not quite sure at what point the landing gear collapsed.  If it collapsed as it touched down and that‘s what caused the plane to skid off the runway.  Or if the gear collapsed perhaps later after it ran through the barricades and into this busy street. 

What happened is once it skidded off the runway, through the barrier and into the street, which surrounds Chicago Midway‘s Airport, it slammed into two different cars pinning them beneath the plane. 

There were nine people in those two cars.  One the little boy, the 6-year-old boy, he was killed inside.  The other eight were taken to the hospital.  Two, at last check, remain hospitalized tonight. 

Today aviation officials spent the entire day here at the scene looking at the plane and trying to determine exactly what caused this deadly landing here today. 

They took the data voice recorder and the other information.  And they sent it off to Washington in hopes of trying to figure out exactly what caused this. 

What they are looking into, of course, is could the weather conditions—the pilot did circle the airport for 30 minutes waiting for the conditions to clear up before he landed.  There was about seven inches of snow on the ground at the time of this deadly landing here at Midway Airport.  Could it have been caused by that? 

Did it have something to do with the plane?  But this Southwest Airline‘s plane is just three years old.  It went through a routine maintenance check the day before this happened. 

And then also as they were just mentioning, the length of this runway.  This is one of the shorter runways.  It was made initially for propeller planes that would fly in and out of this airport.  And so they are looking into that as well. 

Ironically, I want to mention to you that 33 years to the day before this deadly landing yesterday there was another similar case just like this.  It was United Airlines flight, and the plane came in here on the same runway, skidded off the runway, and it killed 45 people—Norah. 

O‘DONNELL:  Michelle, let me ask you that neighborhood you are standing there, I imagine if you drive through that on that street whether to work or back home or to take your kids to school it has got to be scary realizing that planes are coming in there that close. 

What is the mood of people there, and certainly this controversy about whether those runways at Midway are long enough? 

HOFLAND:  You know, I have to tell you I flew into this runway just a couple of hours ago, and as we were flying in, I mean, you notice that there are homes and businesses just packed in around this airport. 

And as we touched down everyone was looking out the window.  And it was, frankly, quite eerie to look and see the plane, the Southwest plane, where it had slammed through the barricades and into the street. 

Around here today we see a lot of people are walking up and snapping pictures and looking at it.  It just is so hard to believe that—I mean, look at that.  It is an airplane in the middle of a street and knowing that there were two cars, eight people pinned beneath that. 

There are a lot of people wondering what will is going to be done and what can be done.  We do know that President Bush did sign a bill requiring that the airplanes improve the safety margin at the end of the runways, and that is supposed to be complete by 2015. 

O‘DONNELL:  Michelle, that‘s an interesting point, and I want to—if you would stand by, and I want to bring in Paul McCarthy, here is also on the phone, a former pilot. 

This bill that the president has signed into law, which will call for longer one runways, safety precautions.  It won‘t take effect until 2015 but will that help with situations like this, Paul? 

PAUL MCCARTHY, FMR. AIRLINE PILOT:  It has actually been an international standard for quite a few years.  Having what they call a runway safety area at the end of a runway supposedly 1,000 feet long and designed to do just this.  The airplane has nothing to hit and there‘s nobody it can damage if it goes off the runway. 

Because this is not only a fairly common type of mishap, but also something at the end of the day can really never be completely prevented and eliminated.  So giving a bit of a safety buffer is probably the best technique for reducing or eliminating the risk of both people in the airplane and people on the ground. 

O‘DONNELL:  Paul, but why isn‘t that law going to take effect in 2006 rather than in 2015?  Isn‘t that too long to wait? 

MCCARTHY:  Well, as they say, this has been a standard that has already been out there for many years.  And Midway gives you a classic example.  It—the airport was there long before jet airplanes presented a problem.  The neighborhood was there around the airport. 

And so we had to wait for technology that will come up that will replace the ability to put a great strip of grass in there to keep things safe.  And those technologies now are in use at airports like John F.  Kennedy. 

I think they are planned to go into Teterboro, and they are arresting systems, basically and they may just provide the answer if we can figure out how to install them in the confines that are available to us.  That‘s why it is going to take time. 

O‘DONNELL:  I also want to bring in Mary Schiavo, the former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation, once again. 

You know, skidding off this runway or overshooting the runway is not just a problem in this particular instance.  It happened in Toronto several months ago.  It happened in Burbank in 2000.  It happened in Teterboro, New Jersey, with a corporate jet. 

You know, if you overshoot the runway here at Washington Reagan National you may end up in the Potomac. 

Mary, how big of a deal of this—how big of a concern has it been for pilots and others involved in the airline industry? 

SCHIAVO:  Well, it has been a very big concern.  And that is why, as the previous pilot just mentioned, that the FAA and even the president have a planned act. 

The problem is that the plan is so, so very slow because statistics show that these arrester systems that Mr. McCarthy referred to will actually stop, depending on whose study you look at, would eliminate between 85 percent and 90 percent of these kind of accidents. 

The problem is buying the real estate at the ends of some of these congested runways to put the systems in.  We have, for example, Little Rock, Arkansas too, which is very similar to this except it was rain.

And what people have to understand is when the runways are slick it can extend your time or extend your distance needed to stop your aircraft from—in the case of the Toronto tragedy, which I‘m working on, between 1, 000 and 3,000 extra feet you need just in the rain.  They didn‘t have this in Midway and they don‘t have this at many other airports. 

So it is absolutely effective technology.  It is just too slow to get it.

O‘DONNELL:  All right, at this hour we are awaiting a press conference from the NTSB and officials who have remained behind closed doors for the last several hours, all this afternoon, the investigators involved in this crash.  And we are expecting a press briefing shortly from them.

I want to return now to Michelle Hofland, who is on the scene. 

Michelle, let‘s talk about the weather.  I noticed that “The Chicago Tribune” reported this morning that landing in snowy weather at Midway is challenging even for the most veteran pilots.  There were seven inches on the ground. 

You noted that the plane had circled for some 30 minutes.  Is there a concern that weather may have been the deciding factor in this crash? 

MICHELLE HOFLAND:  That is one of the things that they are looking into with seven inches of snow on the ground.  I understand that he was waiting for the snow plows to finish plowing the runways before he landed. 

There were several other planes, according to aviation officials, that landed prior to this Southwest flight from Baltimore landing here, and apparently they said that the conditions were OK, that they were not too bad when they landed. 

The question is was there ice underneath the snow on the runway, just how much snow is on runway?  How much weight was on the plane?  So there are a lot of different factors that play into it.  And this is what the aviation officials will be looking into.

You know, exactly how slick was it?  How dangerous was it?  How much snow?  All that is going to play into their decision in trying to figure out exactly what caused this deadly landing here. 

O‘DONNELL:  Michelle, we are watching right now some NBC News animation of what it was probably like for this Southwest Airlines flight, Boeing 757, as it skidded of the runway and into that intersection there in Chicago.  I know that plane is behind you.  It is an amazing picture.  It did crash into two cars.  Are those cars still underneath that plane? 

HOFLAND:  I believe that they do remain beneath the plane right now.  And by the way, the noises you‘re hearing, we‘re about to have a train go past us behind us right now.  Yes, I believe that those cars remain beneath the plane, one underneath the nose of the plane.  I believe the other is beneath the wing of the plane. 

And we understand that they are going to keep the plane here in this busy road that has been barricaded off through the weekend while the aviation officials continue their investigation here.  So they need it here so they can look at the scene and get a good idea exactly what happened and that this plane will remain here. 

O‘DONNELL:  Late today, as you know, Michelle, the Chicago Medical Examiner‘s Office confirmed that the 6-year-old who was killed—and it was inside that car who was pinned, Joshua Woods died from asphyxiation and compression injuries.  I understand some other victims are still in hospitals.  Can you update us on their conditions? 

HOFLAND:  The latest information is that two people remain in the hospital, one of the people that was in the car with that boy.  The boy was in the car with his family, his mom and his dad and other siblings of his.  So, one of the people in that car and they have not released the condition of that person. 

And then another person in the other car, the one that was under the wing—there were four people in a car.  That person is doing better tonight, in stable condition.  And we are not exactly sure of the condition of that person.  But those two people remain hospitalized. 

There were two other people that were injured that were inside the plane but we believe that those injuries were only minor from perhaps sliding off the inflatable slide that most of them got off the plane. 

Some people got off that as the wind was blowing and it was snowy.  It was late last night and it was dark and they slid off this inflatable slide.  Some of the other people took stairs at the back end of the airplane but we understand that everyone else has been treated and released from area hospitals. 

O‘DONNELL:  Paul McCarthy is a former airline pilot and I must ask you, Paul, because a lot of Americans will be looking at this particular crash and asking the questions is it safe for me to fly particularly in snowy conditions?  And a lot of us fly and lots of planes land all the time, but, you know, last night the conditions at Midway were classified as fair to good. 

What does a pilot need to know, someone who‘s on a plane need to know, when these conditions, when the airport says it is fine to land?  How can you know?

PAUL MCCARTHY, MSNBC AVIATION ANALYST:  That‘s the great conundrum. 

You really can‘t.  And what you said is fair to good.  There are criteria. 

When you have a contaminated runway, it goes from good, fair, poor and nil. 

Nil there‘s no decision.  You don‘t land.  Poor typically you don‘t land.  If you have a good you probably are going to be landing no problem, and fair you will land and it will be a little bit slick. 

And now, if that is an accurate representation, you don‘t have a problem.  However, if it is not an accurate representation, if the situation has changed since the last time somebody made an evaluation, if the report is just not really where it should be, you are going to make a decision based on faulty information, and that decision is going to be faulty. 

O‘DONNELL:  Paul, the NTSB spokesperson said this morning that they don‘t want to guess about what the cause of this crash was.  They are going to focus on the facts.  But clearly it seems that weather could have been a factor in this and some of the witnesses who were on the plane said that they felt the pilot sort of pumping the brakes if you will and they did feel a sort of skidding effect and that there was some screaming on board the plane. 

Is that probably why the front gear fell off and why the plane is now sitting on its nose in that street?  Do you think it just skidded out and that the front wheels broke off? 

MCCARTHY:  Well, the front wheel is going to collapse once you depart the paved surface.  You‘re probably going to have a collapse of the nose gear.  More importantly, going back to that pilot pumping the brakes, if you have a modern automobile, you have an antiskid system or an ABS, they call it.  And that is a computer that cycles the brakes so you don‘t skid. 

Airplanes have had that for years and it feels just like you are pumping the brakes.  In fact, the pedal is fully depressed and that is an indicator that it may be slippery.  But if I can, when the NTSB reads out the flight data recorder—this is a very modern airplane with a state-of-the-art flight data recorder—they are going to survey where the airplane is and they can go backwards to figure out exactly where it touched down and how fast it was. 

Then they can look at the test data from Boeing and determine how much runway it should have needed to stop.  And if you look at that against what it actually took, you will know what the real condition of the runway was and then we will know whether or not weather played a factor, if you can follow that train of thought.  It is kind of going to be a math exercise done back in Washington and it will give a very clear picture of just what happened. 

O‘DONNELL:  And we are in the middle of breaking news right now and we are awaiting a press conference and an update from the NTSB about this crash, this Southwest flight 1248 which was from Baltimore into Chicago.  It crashed last night, killing a 6-year-old boy.  Our guests are going to stay with us.  We are going to take a break and we‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We are back with NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell, “The Hotline‘s” Chuck Todd, and Stephen Hayes of the “Weekly Standard.”  Well, the new CBS/”New York Times” poll finds that 70 percent of Americans think that the president doesn‘t have a plan to bring the troops home. 

And 68 percent—about the same—believe the president has no plan for victory in Iraq.  Of course, he‘s been talking a lot about victory the last couple of speeches.  Fifty-two percent, a small but serious majority of the people, think the administration intentionally misled us in making the case for war. 

Let me to go Chuck Todd.  Put all those together, it suggests to me—well, let me ask you the question.  Do people see light at the end of the tunnel?

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, “THE HOTLINE”:  No, they don‘t right now.

And I think that that‘s—I think the administration actually knows that.  That‘s why the president is out doing these things and that‘s why you hear all of a sudden everybody‘s talking about withdrawal or redeployment—it depends I think on which side of the aisle, whether you use the word withdrawal or redeployment. 

But everybody is talking about some sort of troop withdrawal of some form, but of course it all depends on these elections. 

I think the administration—you know, we have seen this over and over and over again with Iraq, some event in Iraq that is somehow supposed to change public opinion here in this country, and I think they‘re desperately hoping that somehow these elections on December 15th do that. 

History has proven that it‘s yet to do it—any of these events have yet to do it, and I can‘t imagine that this is going to either. 

MATTHEWS:  Same question to you, Stephen. 

Light at the end of the tunnel—even beginning next week will we begin to see some sense of closure over there for us? 

STEPHEN HAYES, “THE WEEKLY STANDARD”:  Yes, I don‘t think the administration is looking for a sense of closure. 

I agree with Chuck 95 percent of the time in his analysis on these things.  I actually don‘t agree with him this time. 

I think the administration is not looking at these elections as sort of the watershed or a breakthrough moment and that‘s in part because they‘ve learned their lessons from the past two elections. 

It seems that the political side and the security side operate on a different track—different tracks.  And what‘s most important I think is making sure that the security side gets taken care of, that people can travel the streets of Baghdad. 

You know, the one goal I think that military and diplomatic folks are focusing on in Iraq is securing Baghdad, making sure that Baghdad is secure in the coming months, six months, a year from now so that people can conduct commerce, people can live their lives without being worried about being blown up by a terrorist bomb. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, go ahead, Andrea. 

ANDREA MITCHELL, CHIEF MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, I just don‘t think they‘ve got that much time because of the mid-term elections.

I think that is really the clock that‘s running and that John Murtha‘s statement may turn out to be a tipping point in terms of American public opinion, even though a lot of Democrats are very uncomfortable—Rahm Emanuel, Steny Hoyer—uncomfortable with what Murtha said.

However you parse the phrase, he was talking about redeployment, withdrawal, perhaps not immediate, but that‘s what he‘s talking about. 

Pelosi then endorsing it.  A lot of Democrats are uncomfortable with that, but that certainly changed the whole discussion because now we are talking about, quote, “withdrawal” under some timetable.

And the bottom line is that you‘ve got a lot of House Republicans and

they are in the House, they are in the Senate—really unhappy about those mid-term elections and they want to see something not a year from now in terms of dealing with the insurgency, but a lot sooner. 

MATTHEWS:  Stephen, it seems like every time the president gets jammed on this and somebody starts talking like Jack Murtha about how they don‘t want to stay there forever, he says, “OK, let‘s get out right now.” 

It‘s almost like he‘s saying, “Go ahead, guys.  You say we‘re all going to get out right away.  I can beat you on that one.” But every time he beats the Democrats tactically and says, “I dare you to push for me to pull out,” and people like Rahm Emanuel pull back, the public is left with this sense of we‘re going to be there a long time, I think. 

You don‘t see it that way?

HAYES:  No, I don‘t necessarily disagree with you. 

I mean, I think one of the things that he is doing now, and I think doing quite effectively, is this was a two-part strategy.  He‘s fighting back against charges that were, I think, unchallenged for eight months, maybe longer, that he lied the country into war.

So I expect that we‘ll see some of the “New York Times” numbers that you cited move in the president‘s directions.  We‘ve seen some movement in other polls in the president‘s direction.

But I also think he is now making this affirmative case of what victory looks like, what winning means.  And people are going to be able to call him on this in six months or in a year.  They‘re going to be able to say...

MATTHEWS:  Can he talk about victory without talking about coming home at some point? 

HAYES:  Well, I mean, I think everybody assumes that we‘ll come home at some point. 

I mean, I think he can talk about victory, outline victory or describe what victory looks like by describing the situations in Iraq that would make him happy, that would allow him to say we‘ve won. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get back and talk to Andrea Mitchell and Chuck Todd and Stephen Hayes again. 

And a Web site note, we‘re putting together our list of the best HARDBALL moments of 2005.  We‘re producing a year-end special on these moments and we want to hear from you.  You must remember someone. 

Anyway, vote for the biggest HARDBALL moment of the year you can remember on your Web site, our Web site.  Just go to hardblogger.msnbc.com.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON IMUS, HOST, “IMUS IN THE MORNING”:  Knowing what you know now, today, December 9 or whatever it is, 2005, would you still vote to authorize the president‘s use of force?

U.S. SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Absolutely not.  Not a possibility. 

IMUS:  What‘s changed your mind from the last time? 

KERRY:  Everything. 

Well, the intelligence above all.  We have learned the ways in which we really were misled about the intelligence.  The intelligence—if you had that knowledge today, we wouldn‘t even have a vote. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell, Chuck Todd of “The Hotline” and Stephen Hayes of “The Weekly Standard.” 

Andrea, what did you make of that?  That was pretty clear. 

MITCHELL:  It was pretty clear except I still wonder why only six senators read that national intelligence estimate in October of ‘02, why more senators didn‘t make it their business to try to learn. 

It‘s true they were lied to, misled, however you want to characterize it.  There was a lot of cherry picking going on and the reports that were given to them were pretty darn selective. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

What‘s going on now with Rumsfeld?  Lots of buzz about Rumsfeld. 

What‘s he saying about all this talk of redeployment and removal of troops, withdrawing the troops? 

MITCHELL:  His most recent statement was to Jim Lehrer last night and he basically said conditions will determine what our troops are.

So we‘ll go back down after the election, hopefully successfully, after the election go back down to 135,000 or 137,000, whatever that baseline number is, and then begin to take it down depending on the conditions. 

Clearly setting the stage for what some people would call withdrawal, some would call redeployment, if things get safer, quieter, once Iraq has a real government and they can start taking responsibility for their own affairs. 

MATTHEWS:  Stephen Hayes, let me offer another possibility.  You check me on this.

Is it possible there‘s a thinking within the administration that we have to stay there a lot longer than a year or two; that if we‘re going to win this one, not just make a good effort but actually establish a defensible democracy in the Middle East, right in the middle of Arabia, that we better damn well not get into a position where we‘re talking about leaving in strength; we have to leave behind a substantial strong force of American power in that country? 

HAYES:  Well, I certainly hope that‘s the thinking in the administration.  I‘m not sure that it is. 

I think, you know, this drawdown, this conditions-based drawdown is not necessarily anything new. 

I think what‘s new is that they‘re talking about it more openly.  But, you know, this is something that when you sat down with administration officials behind the scenes or on background briefings for reporters, this is something that they were saying six, eight months ago.

So it‘s not necessarily anything new.  It‘s just that they‘re talking about it.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  You mean going from the 160 to 138, that thing? 

HAYES:  Yes, and potentially further draw downs based on the conditions.  I worry though that because they are talking about in this fashion that people are receiving the information as if it means they are looking to get out, and I don‘t think it means that. 

MITCHELL:  I don‘t think it means that, Stephen, but I think that it is within the context of Murtha and all the other discussions and the political problems that they are suffering.  I think that they have to respond, and that this is the exit strategy, if you will. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m with Stephen.  I think that the influence of this administration on its own policy is stronger than the influence of the polls on the administrations policy. 

Anyway, thank you Andrea Mitchell. 

Thank you Chuck Todd.

Thank you Stephen Hayes. 

Up next, who are we fighting in Iraq? 

NBC‘s senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers has a special new report on the foreign fighters and suicide bombers who continue to track U.S. troops.

Plus General Barry McCaffrey on the Bush vs. Murtha debate.  Stay the course or get out?  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Lisa Myers is NBC‘s senior investigative reporter.  She has been all over the Middle East tracking down the big story we have all wondered about.  Where do these terrorists come from?  The name of her report is “On the Trail of Terror...”

O‘DONNELL:  Let me interrupt HARDBALL to bring you an NTSB briefing. 

Now, here is NTSB spokesperson Ellen Connors. 

ELLEN CONNORS, SPOKESPERSON OF NTSB:  Thank you all for being here.  The media is a significant part of the process of public education, and the NTSB truly appreciates all of your good work.  We have all been in this together for over 24 hours now, and it is very appreciated. 

My name is Ellen Engleman Connors, no hyphen, member of the National Transportation Safety Board. 

I‘m going to give you an update of our first full day of investigation activities.  I have got a fairly lengthy amount of information for you, and I will do my best to get it to you.  And then I will answer as many question as I can.

Please with your understanding that today is still day one of the investigation. 

Now, we just held Bob Benson (ph), the investigator in charge—just held his first full organizational meeting.  This meeting is one where the parties and their representatives come together. 

The NTSB, as I have mentioned, operates under party system where the folks who can participate and give us qualified technical support in the investigation are brought in. 

We anticipate that we are going to be on scene here with this lead team probably for about five or six days of intensive work and then some may stay longer.  We will continue to be interviewing, researching, data collection, fact gathering, etc. for some time. 

This entire process will probably take a year.  It may take a little bit less.  It may take more.  But we will be very thorough in the investigation. 

The parties have been identified as follows, Southwest Airlines, Southwest Pilots Association, Southwest Mechanics, Southwest flight attendants, Boeing, G.E. Engines, the Dispatchers Union, the city of Chicago Airport, the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. 

I‘m going to—I mentioned earlier the core areas we are looking at.  I am going to remind you of those and share a little bit of what they are working on now. 

Weather is one of the working groups that we have, and they are going to be focusing on the following:  radar data, forecast data, and satellite data information. 

Our operations group will begin interviewing the pilots tomorrow, and also the initial witness interview that we have identified.  Other crew members who have flown with this pilot team will also be interviewed later. 

Power plant, we will be looking at the engine development, and we will talk about that in a minute.  Structures, we are going to try to recover the airplane to the airport.  In other words, get it back on to airport property tomorrow. 

Aircraft performance is one of the larger issues.  Survival factors, be working with the flight attendants, the airport personnel and the emergency responders.  The CVR group is being formed, and we have pristine data from both the CVR and FDR, the flight data reporter and the cock pit voice recorder.  And I am going to give you a summary of that data in just a few minutes. 

The structures group today surveyed the runway environment and have been able to pretty much place everything in object form relationship from one to the other, i.e. the plane, the perimeter, the cars, the airplane, the debris, etc. and so forth.

The strike marks from the vertical posts on the airplane have been identified and marked.  We will be getting the mapping process tomorrow that‘s putting everything in its appropriate place. 

All the luggage has been inventoried by Southwest Airlines and the police.  Each piece has been tagged and marked as its placement within the vessel.  And each piece will be individually weighed tomorrow.  And that helps us with the whole issue of weight and center of gravity issues.

The airplane has been successfully secured and is now safe.  The tires were deflated.  There was some issue of making sure that it was safe to be able to have you looking at and working in, and so that has secured and safe. 

Again, we hope to move the airplane back to the airport tomorrow into one of the hangars, the ATA hangar.  We anticipate that will be mid to late morning tomorrow.  OK.  The way we are going to do that, is there is going to be sling put under the forward fuselage or the nose of the plane.  Basically the plane will be pulled back into the property and go to the ATA hangar. 

The loose debris is being removed and we hope it will be possible to open both streets by Sunday if not before.  We also hope that we can release the runway by Sunday if not before so that the airport can be back in service with both runways. 

On the power plant, those are the engines, there‘s no fire damage.  The engines are both still intact and attached.  Photo documentation has been taking place today and will continue through tomorrow and also we are physically identifying any pieces that may have come off of the engines themselves, in other words, in identifying any parts that are not there, are found elsewhere.  The Air Traffic Control Group begins ...

O‘DONNELL:  And we are listening to NTSB spokesperson Ellen Connors with an update on the investigation into flight 1238 which was -- 1248 I should say, which has crashed in Chicago, Midway Airport, crashing into two cars, killing a 6-year-old boy.  Late today the Chicago Medical Examiner‘s Office announced that the 6-year-old boy died of a result of compression injuries and asphyxiation. 

Now, Ellen Connors and the NTSB said this investigation could take a year or longer.  They are just beginning the process now.  They are going to look at weather factors, they‘re going to look at weight factors.  They have weighed every piece of luggage. 

The people that were on that plane have not gotten their luggage back.  They‘re going to weigh those to see if weight was in issue.  They‘re going to look at the plane, they are going to look at the pilots.  All sorts of things. 

Tomorrow also they are finally going to move this plane out of the middle of the road.  She said they are going to put a sling under the fuselage and essentially pull back that 737 back into the airport territory, put it in a hangar, in the ATA hangar, and begin more of that investigation which, again, may take a year or longer. 

This crash in particular, however, is renewing the call for buffer zones or other measures that could provide sort of a safety zone if you will for big planes like this.  They have such a thing at Kennedy Airport in New York.  That has helped dangerous overruns three times since May 1999. 

That‘s not the case this hundreds of other airports.  In fact, there are 300 other airports across this country that do not have a 1,000-foot buffer zone. 

Let‘s bring in Michelle Hofland now who is on the scene there in Chicago.  Michelle, what is the very latest? 

HOFLAND:  Well, as you‘re looking behind me right now—you can barely see because it‘s getting dark here, that the plane still located on this busy street here outside Chicago Midway Airport.  You can see that there‘s some snow covering the top of this blue plane.  That is the snow that fell obviously after the plane crashed landed into the street here. 

So, there‘s about seven inches of snow when the plane landed and you can tell by looking at the plane that another few inches fell after the plane skidded into this busy street here, killing the boy and injuring 10 other people. 

Some information also is also coming in tonight in regards to Southwest Airlines.  According to the CEO, Gary Kelly, in his 35 years Southwest has only—this is the first time that Southwest Airlines has had a fatality and they say that they have actually a very good safety record here.  And that is the latest that we have for you now.  Back to you. 

O‘DONNELL:  All right, Michelle Hofland live in Chicago.  Thank you very much.  I‘m Norah O‘Donnell.  Thank you for watching this MSNBC special report. 

Right now we rejoin Chris Matthews who continues the rest of the HARDBALL.  Thanks very much. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  While President Bush continues to sell the war to the American public with a series of speeches—the next one is Monday in Philadelphia—the antiwar movement is gaining traction with Congressman John Murtha‘s plan for the removal of troops from Iraq altogether. 

For a military reality check on ending this war, we turn to retired four star Army General Barry McCaffrey.  He‘s not an MSNBC military analyst. 

General McCaffrey, the toughest question of all where do the troops stand in this debate?  What‘s the reaction to it?

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, NBC NEWS MILITARY ANALYST:  Well, I think that typically those who are in combat right now have a complete dedication to the mission at hand.  They think they are doing pretty well.  They are taking substantial casualties, a battalion a month killed and wounded. 

But I think—you know, Chris, the bottom line is most of them think we‘re going to pull this off.  By next summer we will be withdrawing U.S.  forces and Iraqi security units will be in the lead on this effort and I share that view. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, when I hear from journalists over there, is it so dangerous over there in the streets that it is almost—it‘s not suicidal but it‘s very, very risky if not suicidal to go wandering around the streets unless you are with an army unit.  If we are close to getting the job done, why is it so scary to be a civilian in Iraq? 

MCCAFFREY:  Well, I think you‘ve got it entirely right.  You know, if you are a diplomat or a contractor or a journalist, clearly Baghdad is one of the most dangerous cities on the face of the earth, far more so than Saigon when I was there during the Vietnam conflict.  So that is a correct assessment. 

If you try and take on a Third Infantry Division Bradley Fighting Platoon, you‘re going to get killed so mostly this danger is directed at the civilian population, at the Iraqi police.  But, you know, there‘s an argument that the jihadist suicide bombers are almost creating an environment that makes it more likely that the Shia and the Kurds are going to come together in some form of government. 

MATTHEWS:  The reason I ask that is if—to leave that country it has to be in a situation where civilians walking around in the street who don‘t have a tank next to them don‘t feel like they are risking their lives.  Do the military people over there saying we are reaching such a condition? 

MCCAFFREY:  Oh, no, I don‘t think so.  I think half the population of Iraq lives in an environment of enormous violence.  You know, the old canard about, you know, all but four provinces are under pretty good control.  Half the population lives in places like Baghdad with mixed populations. 

So, I think, you know, by next fall what we would hope to see would be an operative political system, a quarter of a million Iraqi security forces, largely conditions of mostly peace in much of the land area of the country, and then an ongoing insurgency in the Sunni areas and some continuing severe difficulties in the mixed areas:  Kirkuk, Mosul, Baghdad, et cetera. 

MATTHEWS:  How important is the political front of this war?  Because the president has been getting very candid lately and saying it isn‘t just a case of fighting terrorists or terrorism even.  It is a question of fighting largely Iraqis that don‘t want us in their country and they have some legitimacy, obviously, as Iraqis to say who they don‘t want in their country. 

He said it is a small percentage, although a very lethal percentage of

the people we are up against, who are either Saddammist or outside

jihadists.  Does the military need to have a political deal cut by the

people working for the president—Khalilzad, the ambassador, for example

before they can really finish the job?  In other words, is it important to bring in those Sunnis who are on the other side politically into the government or we will never win the military fighting? 

MCCAFFREY:  Maybe.  But I listen to this guy Tom Friedman, “New York Times,” very carefully.  You know, there‘s a good argument to be made that what we will see in January is a government that mostly has legitimacy among the Shia and the Kurds and has partial participation by the Sunnis, and that that‘s the way we will leave it when we are largely out of the urban areas in the next two to three years. 

I think that maybe the Sunnis are going to have to make their own choice, do they fight and do politics or do they stop fighting and do politics?  Hopefully it will be the latter.  But one way or another, Chris, by next fall we have got to start coming out of there.  The Marine Corps and army can‘t sustain the current rate of deployment. 

MATTHEWS:  Try to get into the head now, because I know you‘re a fighting man and you know fighting men and women over there, into what a—a rosy scenario, if you will, a good scenario for this war, where guys and women come home in a couple of years, it‘s the end of this decade.  Perhaps it‘s 2007 or 2008, and they look back on this campaign, what do they see if they are optimistic? 

MCCAFFREY:  Well, we darn sure better have a good outcome because the consequence is not just we‘ve alienated another generation of soldiers and marines, but also, you know, putting our own political and economic international affairs at risk are enormous.  So, you know, my argument, Chris, has been this isn‘t President Bush‘s war. 

This is America‘s war now, like it or not.  Likely that we will end up with a stable Iraqi state, not a threat to its six neighbors, not making weapons of mass destruction, not slaughtering its own people by the hundreds of thousands.  And one in which we may have a continuing military presence outside of the urban areas for another decade.  That would...

MATTHEWS:  You mean Americans in country for another decade after we are done the main fighting? 

MCCAFFREY:  Yes, I wouldn‘t be surprised. 

I think that the notion that there may be a requirement to have a couple of U.S. Army divisions there outside, you know, down in the south and, you know, west toward the Syrian border.  It might be that the Iraqis ask us to stay under those conditions for an indeterminate length of time. 

But the actual direct counterinsurgency effort, Chris, the clock is ticking.  We have got to be stop doing that within 24 to 36 months. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s exactly the vision I have.  I think we are going be in there a long time.  I think we are going to have a big force of U.S.  military people in there in perpetuity.  I think that‘s the vice president‘s view. 

The president doesn‘t say it the way you say it.  He talks about our boys coming home.  It sounds like we are going to be there forever. 

Anyway, thank you General Barry McCaffrey. 

When we return more activity in the CIA leak case this week.  We are going to sort out that and what it means and where the case could be heading.  Obviously, we are talking about Karl Rove.

And a reminder check out our special series on exit strategies from Iraq on Hard Blogger, HARDBALL‘s political blog web site.  Read what the experts are saying, and tell us what you think about ending the war in Iraq.  We could use that info.  Just go to our web site: 

hardblogger.msnbc.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Six weeks ago Presidential Adviser Karl Rove was in the crosshairs of the prosecutor in the CIA leak case and was facing indictment. 

Tonight, there are signs that Rove is back in legal jeopardy because part of an 11th hour defense offered by his lawyer six weeks ago is apparently not panning out. 

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster joins us now with the latest—

David. 

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, the issue involves Rove‘s misleading statements early in this investigation.  Prosecutors have been trying to decide whether Rove deliberately misled the grand jury and should be charged with perjury and obstruction of justice.  Or whether Rove honestly couldn‘t remember some things and should be cleared. 

Six weeks ago with prosecutors preparing to indict Rove and convinced he only told the truth when it was clear that Cooper was going to be forced to testify, Rove‘s attorney told prosecutors he had proof Rove did not intend to conceal information about the Cooper phone call.  And therefore prosecutors held off.

Bob Luskin spoke about a 2004 conversation he had with “Time Magazine” reporter Viveca Novak.  Luskin said Novak told him Cooper‘s suspected source was Luskin‘s own client, Karl Rove. 

Luskin told prosecutors, he and Rove began looking for information that might refresh Rove‘s memory.  Luskin said they found an email that helped Rove remember the Cooper conversation, and Rove immediately, according to Luskin, went to the grand jury to correct his earlier testimony. 

The problem now, according to legal sources, is that Bob Luskin and Viveca Novak are in conflict over the date of their chat.  Luskin told prosecutors the conversation was in the fall of 2004 just before Rove‘s third appearance in the grand jury.  The first when he acknowledged telling Cooper about the Wilsons. 

But legal sources say that Viveca Novak told prosecutors her conversation with Luskin happened in the winter or spring of 2004, several months before Rove corrected his testimony. 

The question is, what or who the prosecutors believe.  Because remember, this gets right to the heart of whether Karl Rove corrected his testimony the moment his memory was refreshed or whether he corrected his testimony only once it was clear that Matt Cooper was going to be forced to testify. 

And the latter, of course, Chris, would bolster a case that Rove deliberately misled the investigation at the beginning.  And intent, intent is a crucial part of any perjury or obstruction charge—Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I think you have to have embroil a little bit so people out there who are completely up to date on this. 

It seems to me the question about Karl Rove is did he leak any information?  Was he asked about whether he leaked any information?  And we are now to the level whether he told the truth when he was asked whether he leaked any information or talked to reporters.

You are telling us the latest testimony is in conflict here as to when he was given a heads up that might have led him to correct his testimony.  If the heads up was given at one point, it would suggest one thing.  If it was given at another time it would suggest something else.  Explain that again, please. 

SHUSTER:  Well, Chris, remember going into the Libby indictment, the operational theory that prosecutors had about Karl Rove was that he deliberately lied early in this investigation and that he only started telling the truth when he realized that Matt Cooper was not going to be able to use any sort of reporter shield, that Matt Cooper was going to be forced to testify. 

All of a sudden, just perhaps hours before Karl Rove expects to be indicted, his lawyer says, wait a second, I can prove that Karl Rove intended to cooperate all along. 

I can prove that Karl Rove had a faulty memory and he is here.  Here is a conversation with Viveca Novak.  She tips me off about Karl Rove.  I am Karl Rove‘s search for an e-mail.  We find it.  Karl Rove‘s memory is refreshed, and he immediately goes to the grand jury and corrects his testimony. 

That‘s fine.  Except if that conversation between Viveca Novak and Bob Luskin doesn‘t happen right before Karl Rove corrects his testimony, but say happens six months earlier then you get right back to the prosecution idea that wait a second, Rove was not motivated by having his memory refreshed perhaps by Viveca Novak. 

He was motivated by the timing associated with when Matt Cooper testified.  And that is what is at issue here.  Prosecutors have to make a choice.

MATTHEWS:  Karl Rove‘s lawyer, in other words, is trying to use this “Time Magazine” reporter, Viveca Novak, to cover his butt when, in fact, she had no real role in his decision to finally come clean.

SHUSTER:  Well, that‘s the question that prosecutors have to make a judgment on.  If in fact they believe Luskin then perhaps Karl Rove is going to get cleared because it would suggest that, in fact, as soon as Rove learned this information he went to the grand jury and tried to correct the testimony.

If, however...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Tell us about Sunday night.

SHUSTER:  All right.  The special about Sunday night, Chris, is going to look not only at the latest information about the CIA leak case, the stuff about Viveca Novak, and Bob Luskin, and Karl Rove status.

But beyond the investigation we are going to get into some of the issues transiently related to the investigation.  And that is specifically pre-war intelligence claims.  Because as you have been reporting and we have been talking about this show it all involves per-war claims.  We are going to get into all of that on Sunday night.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Important stuff.

Thank you very much, David Shuster.

Be sure to watch our special report, “Unraveling the CIA Leak Case,” this Sunday night at 7:00 Eastern and then again at 11:00 Eastern right here on MSNBC.  We are the only people doing this with this much intensity.

And then join us again Monday night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more

HARDBALL.

Right now it is 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.

END   

Watch Hardball with Chris Matthews each weeknight at 5 & 7 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,