updated 4/4/2006 11:20:33 AM ET 2006-04-04T15:20:33

Guests: Adam Zagorin, Anthony Zinni, Steve McMahon, Barry McCaffrey, Gordon Mansfield

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Tonight, Hillary wants a list of dangerous gun owners.  Does this finish her in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and other gun-owning states? 

Meanwhile, John McCain agrees to give the commencement address at Jerry Falwell‘s Liberty University.  Will this make the country‘s favorite maverick a made man of the religious right?  Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.

Is Senator John McCain‘s straight talking express tilting right?  White House bound John McCain is budding up to the Bush base by giving the commencement speech at Liberty University, home of the Reverend Jerry Falwell.  That is the very same Jerry Falwell who McCain called an agent of intolerance back in 2000. 

Of course that attitude may have cost McCain the South Carolina primary back then and maybe the presidency in 2000.  But is the maverick McCain at risk of looking like just another party man, another main street Republican regular?  More on this in a minute. 

And later, we‘ll delve deep into the psychological trauma of combat and how it can follow a soldier home.

But first breaking news tonight, the jury in the first phase of the Zacarias Moussaoui sentencing trial has reached a verdict.  “Time Magazine‘s” Adam Zagorin has been covering the Moussaoui case and joins us now. 

Adam thank you.  What‘s it mean now, this jury decision today and what is the decision? 

ADAM ZAGORIN, TIME MAGAZINE:  Well, the decision by the 12-member panel—and it had had to be unanimous.  It was unanimous that he, Moussaoui, is eligible for the death penalty.  The next phase is they decide whether he‘ll actually receive that penalty. 

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s one, two, three.  First he‘s guilty, then he is eligible and then they decide whether to execute him or not? 

ZAGORIN:  That‘s it. 

MATTHEWS:  And what if you had to explain this to the history books 20 or 30 years from now in a sentence or two, explaining to an objective world, what crime did this man commit to justify his extinction? 

ZAGORIN:  Well, the thing that had to be proved was whether by lying to FBI agents who took him into custody in Minnesota a month or more before 9-11 -- he lied to them—and whether if he had told them the truth, the 9-11 plot could have been essentially stopped or prevented.  And the jury seemed to believe that was the case and that was legal justification for the action they took. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think if he is found guilty—and he‘s already been found guilty on the facts—found eligible as he was today for the death penalty and he is in fact sentenced to the death penalty, that kind of conviction will hold up? 

ZAGORIN:  Well, there is no doubt that the trial itself was riddled with legal mistakes committed in part by the prosecution and others.  And any time you have a death penalty imposed, it opens up the door for additional appeals just on that basis alone because no one wants to put somebody to death, if there‘s been any error in the law. 

So I think that there will certainly be challenges to this.  The trial went on for a long time and there‘s a great deal of material that people might—defense counsel might feel they have to work with, but we‘ll just have to see. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the dunderhead who was working for court who started coaching the jury? 

ZAGORIN:  Right.  Well, that‘s the TSA lawyer Carla Martin, and I haven‘t spoken to her about this verdict today.  But I would think that she would feel a great sense of relief in the sense that a jury did not void the death penalty because of some error that, you know, her coaching witnesses and so forth, that she apparently did.  You know, they didn‘t step back from the death penalty on account of her and her actions. 

MATTHEWS:  But that doesn‘t stop the appellate court or this appellate attorneys from nailing that flaw in the case, does it? 

ZAGORIN:  Some people would argue that the judge, Leonie Brinkema, fixed that flaw in the way that she handled it, but, yes, that could be a cause for arguing on appeal.  And there‘s probably a lot of other things.  And, I mean, Moussaoui‘s own testimony was so all over the map.  At one point he admitted to being the so-called 20th hijacker.  Then later he said that was a joke.

Testimony from the government‘s own interrogations was introduced by the defense, various al Qaeda figures.  One guy said of Moussaoui that he wasn‘t right in the head, which is of course different than legally insane.  But there‘s no doubt that Mr. Moussaoui is a rather odd gentleman. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, we‘ve got him, and we‘ve got the guy with the happy shoes, Richard Reid.  We have got two of the strangest customers.  They are the only guys we seem to have our hands on who are still alive to nail here.  It is an unsavory and unsatisfactory conclusion, I think, to the trial system here.

Anyway, thank you, Adam Zagorin.  Thank you for joining us from “Time Magazine.” 

President Bush was in Cincinnati today to throw out the first pitch of the baseball season, but one of his critics would like to see him throw out Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.  Retired General Anthony Zinni, who served as commander-in-chief of U.S. central command in the late 1990‘s, has called on Donald Rumsfeld to resign for failing to plan for a post- Saddam Iraq attack. 

General Zinni has also written a new book called “The Battle for Peace.”  Welcome General Zinni.

GEN. ANTHONY ZINNI, FMR. CENTCOM COMMANDER:  Thank you Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Well, you made news on “Meet the Press” yesterday, and you called for the resignation of the secretary of defense.  First question, how did he get his job at his age?  He was secretary of defense back in the Ford administration.  I mean, what is this twilight zone?  I mean, how did he come back 20 some years later?  It was the V.P.  Cheney who did this, right? 

ZINNI:  Well, I think if you go back to when they were trying to look at Senator Coats and others, I think, they were strapped to get a nomination in.  They were behind in the process.  There was criticism.  And I think reached back to someone they felt was safe that had experience. 

I think one difference is he was the secretary of defense before Goldwater-Nichols and things had changed significantly.  He came into a much different department of defense. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why didn‘t they go back to McNamara?  I mean they are going back so far.  I‘m serious.  Why did they go back this far?  Is it really a personal tie between Dick Cheney, the vice president, and him?  He was once Cheney‘s boss at the Ford White House.  Is that personal connection the historic explanation for him getting this job? 

ZINNI:  Frankly, I don‘t know.  I mean, I have no idea how that was made and wouldn‘t attempt to say it is based on personal relationships. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  The reason I‘m raising this is because you called for this man to resign for what? 

ZINNI:  Well, first of all, I didn‘t make any calls.  I was asked who I thought...

MATTHEWS:  Tim asked you yesterday should he resign, and you said yes. 

ZINNI:  He asked me who I thought should resign and I said the secretary to begin with.  He‘s the mastermind behind this operation Iraqi freedom.  He elected to go away from 10 years worth of planning.  He chose to do it against the advice of others with insufficient troops.  He promoted and pushed intelligence that turned out not to be correct. 

He oversaw a series of horrible decisions, disbanding the Army.  He promoted the use of the exiles as the beam-in leaders of this country.  And I think there were just a number of strategic and policy mistakes that we‘re still paying for today. 

MATTHEWS: But so much of it, general—I‘m not going to defend—I don‘t have any personal attitude toward almost any of these guys, but it seems to me that the Intel was pushed by Chalabi, the neo-conservatives, Scooter Libby, the vice president, Wolfowitz.  All those guys were pushing, pushing, pushing the people on the outside like Bill Kristol, pushing, and pushing and pushing us into this war starting around 1998. 

You know, Bill Cohen said the other day, defense secretary, that he was told back in 2000 when they lost the election in the Supreme Court that the first thing Cheney wanted to do was go after Iraq.  He wanted all the Intel on Iraq, nowhere else in the country.  So to blame—is it fair to blame Rumsfeld for carrying out a widely held mission? 

ZINNI:  Well, he was the secretary of defense.  He oversaw not only the military side of this but the reconstruction part, if you recall.  So I mean, it was passed to him.  It was his responsibility for the planning, the execution, the decisions that were made.  Clearly, it was beyond the role normally expected of the secretary of defense, but that‘s the decision that was made within the administration. 

MATTHEWS:  Who made the decision that we faced an imminent threat of attack by nuclear weapons in Iraq to this country? 

ZINNI:  I don‘t know where that came from. 

MATTHEWS:  The mushroom stuff.

ZINNI:  Yes, I saw the intelligence right up to the day of the war.  I did not see evidence of that kind of threat.  The greatest possibility existed of leftover stuff from before the Gulf War, artillery rounds, rocket rounds, something like that. 

No evidence of an existing program that was credible, and the strong possibility that I would certainly admit to that he could restart a program.  That‘s why the inspectors wanted to get those scientists out.  But to say there was an existing program that presented an imminent, grave and gathering threat was a big exaggeration. 

MATTHEWS:  So let‘s move on to the second point you make, which is the failure to provide for what would happen next.  The idea that we wouldn‘t have any problem defeating the Iraqi army was not there.  We were going to defeat the Iraqi army.  They said it would be a cakewalk.  It wasn‘t a cakewalk.

ZINNI:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  But then the question came, what do you expect of a third world country once a bunch of Americans show up?  Who believed there would not be resistance?  What fool thought that a third world country would let us march into their country and start calling the shots without resistance?  I mean, I am just saying.  Who believes that? 

ZINNI:  Well, I can tell you, the planners at the Pentagon seemed to adopt these very naive expectations and assumptions.  Certainly in my time Centcom the planning was based on much different assumptions.  We assumed the reconstruction of Iraq would be a very difficult and long-term process, political reconstruction, economic reconstruction, security reconstruction, social reconstruction.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Chalabi, the head of the National Congress, who had sup good relations with Cheney and Scooter Libby, was running around town here telling everybody, don‘t worry, the minute we get this guy knocked off, Saddam Hussein, we‘re going to have a government of people there who are pro-Israeli, pro-Western, aren‘t going to cause any trouble in the region.  They‘re going to be swell guys to deal with and there is not going to be any resistance. 

What kind of a chowder head would believe that in the middle of the Arab world we were going to face this magical situation where everybody is going to be giving us flowers, the girls are going to be kissing us, they‘ll be jumping on our tanks, in love with our G.I.‘s.  Who sold that picture? 

ZINNI:  Nobody in the Arab world believed it.  I talked to all the leaders there.  They tried to counsel against us placing too much faith—

MATTHEWS:  Was Chalabi the initial liar there? 

ZINNI:  He managed to convinced a number of people here that that was the course.  Chalabi sent someone down to my headquarters to convince me that if we supported just 1,000 of his people that they could march like The Pied Piper into Baghdad. 

MATTHEWS:  Cheney said we would be greeted as liberators.  We were while the cameras were on.  For about a day or two, I was saluting it.  It looked like, it was like a P.R. stunt, the whole country was tearing down statues and loving our guys and somehow that faded in reality.  That part wasn‘t real two days later and the reality was there‘s going to be resistance.  Apparently there‘s been guns going of in that country since we got there. 

ZINNI:  Well I think we had a moment there where we were in charge, we owned the country.  The problem is we had insufficient forces and a plan to thank charge. 

MATTHEWS:  Third question.  Bad intel or dishonest intel, bad intel or dishonest planning for the insurgency?  As you say, the failure to recognize it was coming, and now this de-Baathfication.  The decision to take every guy in the Iraqi military and say go home with your gun, with your military training, with your attitude, go home and see your wife and tell her that you‘re finished in life and that‘s what we did to these guys, right? 

ZINNI:  Yes.  And one my predecessors who started a psychological operations program to communicate back into the 1990‘s with the regular Iraqi army.  We dropped leaflets on them when we bombed, we communicated through other channels we had out there, on the news media.  We were saying, when the time comes, if you don‘t fight, we‘ll take care of you.  That was the message. 

MATTHEWS:  Why did we drop them?  We drop kicked them back to their houses with all their weaponry, their ammo, their attitude, knowing they would—instead of giving them a paycheck, we could have sent every one of these guys to Harvard, it would have been cheaper than this war. 

ZINNI:  But we could have used them.  The regular army was recruited from all the factions, we would have had to vet the leadership. 

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s fault was that?  Bremer? 

ZINNI:  Bremer made the decision.  Who‘s he working for.

MATTHEWS:  He was working for the secretary of defense. 

MATTHEWS:  Unbelievable.  We‘ll be right back with General Anthony Zinni.  Later, has President Bush lost control of his own party.  Plus an often unseen cost of war, post-traumatic stress disorder.  general Barry McCaffrey will join us to talk about whether American soldiers are getting the help they need right now when they get home. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Back with retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, author of the new book “The Battle for Peace.”  

I just looked, General, at some focus group information.  Among Democratic primary voters who want to win an election for their own party next time around are not looking for a Bush bashing, they are not looking for negativity.  What they want is a future, a sense of hope in the world.  A plan.  In your book, tell me what is a reasonable bipartisan, whatever, plan for peace with the Arab world. 

ZINNI:  I think first of all we have to come to grips with the world we have today.  There are parts of the world that are unstable to generate all the problems we have, whether it has to do with illegal immigration, drugs, terrorism, whatever.  We‘ve got to take our role as a leader in the world, energize the rest of the world to deal with these, to try to stabilize these parts of the world. 

I think it‘s important to look at what we have back here to do that.  We have an archaic system of governance, we have an organization of government that has bloated bureaucracy, patronage, pork, it needs to be revamped totally.  We need a new strategy. 

The watershed event was not 9/11, that was a tragic outcome.  The watershed event was 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union.  The rise of globalism, the information age, the access to technology, the ability to move around the world.  It generated and unleashed all this sort of confluence of events, the perfect storm, that‘s what the book is about. 

We need a new strategy for a new world, we need to understand it different and we have to get rid of this old bloated bureaucracy that we have.  We saw the effects of this in Katrina and elsewhere.  It isn‘t integrated, it doesn‘t cross-communicate, it‘s too structured, has too many layers and levels.  Can‘t make the right kinds of decisions.  The president can‘t get the right kind of information. 

MATTHEWS:  If you were commander-in-chief and you had to direct the country in a new direction, what would it be? 

ZINNI:  The first thing I would do is do what Harry Truman did with the National Security Act of 1947.  We need to look at some kind of Goldwater-Nichols integrating change of our structure.  I would get rid of the patronage system.  I would convince Congress to crack down on the pork and the waste that goes on.  I would build a set of programs and build partnerships with international agencies, the United Nations, NATO, European Union, the first world countries, to deal with the unstable third world countries. 

I would put an effort in to empowering and building capacity in the countries and the regions to help themselves, so we don‘t pay the big price in intervention.  That‘s the answer to the future.  Building capacity, building institutions, in unstable parts of the world, places where they‘re growing poppies and cocoa leaves and they‘re destroying the environment, where the hatred and the political and economic conditions are giving rise to angry young men that want to go off and blow themselves up. 

If we don‘t cure it there, it‘s going to come and wash up on our shores.  We cannot defend ourselves here.  It‘s not a matter of larger walls on our border and a greater homeland security and checking more containers.  It‘s going to the source of the problem and fixing it. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the Arab world will ever be on our side? 

ZINNI:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  When?  Or will we be on their side? 

ZINNI:  I think what‘s going to happen is you‘re going to see a decade or more of turmoil in this part of the world as they adjust to modernity, the 21st Century, as they begin a process of reforms that in some cases will be difficult to accept or mold around their culture. 

You‘re going to see some success stories, some are already out there.  They definitely want a good relationship with us, even those that hate us, that are opposed to us, value our education system. 

MATTHEWS:  They sure do. 

ZINNI:  And they want to be parts and elements of our society. 

MATTHEWS:  Should we have accepted the Dubai deal instead of making a big deal out of it? 

ZINNI:  The Dubai deal was handled badly. 

MATTHEWS:  Should in the end, people just told me today, we have a lot of friends in Dubai, a lot of people who are American educated, they have their Phd‘s here.  They want to be on our side and we trashed them.

ZINNI:  I agree with that.  The United Arab Emirates were a good ally.  They were with us in Somalia.  They were with us in Afghanistan, with us in the Balkans, let us use their bases, let our ships dock there, let our troops go on liberty there.  If you have been to Dubai, you would know that‘s not the kind of place that wants to see fundamentalism succeed.  It‘s the antithesis of what Osama bin Laden would preach.

We bruised them badly on this and I think to make political points in some cases and in some cases, it was handled badly.  I believe Congress had had a right to look at the security issues.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Dick Cheney shares in the responsibility for the mistakes that were made by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld?

ZINNI:  I don‘t know that.  I mean, I would not make an accusation I don‘t know.  I know the man given the responsibility for this operation and I know he had the responsibility for the planning and the execution, the responsibility to the president of the United States and to the country.  And I just think that there needs to be some accountability.  Look, I‘m on no crusade, I‘m on no campaign.  Like I said, I was asked a question.

MATTHEWS:  Well you‘re right, the war was pushed out of the Defense Department, the failure to provide for the insurgency was out of the Defense Department and the decide to de-Baathisize the government over there rather than keep that army together the way we could use them, were all Defense Department decisions, apparently.

ZINNI:  Right, and going in with too few troops and not really taking seriously the level of planning and the other elements needed in there.  You know, who was going to do the political reconstruction?  Look at these pickup teams they had, like the CPA.  Those were not teams that had thought through and planned and been organized and had the capacity or the size to deal with the...

MATTHEWS:  ... Are you ever going to run for anything?

ZINNI:  No way, never ever.

MATTHEWS:  You‘d do well in Pennsylvania.  Anyway, thank you.

ZINNI:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  General Anthony Zinni, the book is called “The Battle for Peace.”  Up next, has President Bush lost control of the Republican Party over the issues of immigration and spending?  Pat Buchanan is coming here and Steve McMahon, he‘s also coming here.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back.  Republicans are facing some tough times right now, split over budget cuts and what to do or not to do about illegal immigration.  “The New York Times” poll shows the president low—it‘s a new “Time” magazine poll, at his lowest job approval numbers ever. 

Now check these numbers, just 37 percent approve of the president‘s job he‘s doing right now.  It was 39 percent, two points higher just a week ago.  It was 41 a couple months ago in January, it was 42 percent in September.  It was 46 in May of last year.  It was 53 at the beginning of last year. 

So you can see that trend downward.  His disapproval numbers have increased steadily, as you can see as well.  Is it all downhill from here?  Pat Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst and Steve McMahon is a Democratic analyst.  Pat, you first.  If you‘re Dr. Buchanan today, what‘s your prognosis and what‘s your prescription?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well the prognosis is not good.  I think Iraq is the main reason for it and it‘s the events in Iraq that‘s dragging the president down, and it affects his performance on the economy, which fundamentally in the macroeconomic terms, is very good.

I don‘t think there is a good prognosis because I don‘t know how you change this, Chris.  I see the president‘s trade policy, is failing him.  We‘ve got an $800 billion trade deficit.  I see the Iraq policy is failing him.  I think the immigration policy, he‘s failed to protect the borders, it is a disaster.  It is tearing his party apart.  You know, I don‘t have any magic bullet.  The Supreme Court is a plus for him, if he had a great battle, it would be good.

MATTHEWS:  But the way—Steve, the way we‘ve always looked at politics, most us, is almost like—not that we‘d believe in Marx, but the believe in the way politics works, that economics drives politics generally.

If we have a big depression, Hoover‘s out, Roosevelt‘s in.  If you have the high misery index under President Carter, Reagan‘s in.  Economics tends to predict most elections.  If you‘re doing badly, we throws the in‘s out and the in‘s in or whatever, we switch parties.  Can you explain why the economy is doing OK now?  Certainly the stock market I think went up again today and yet the president gets no benefit politically from that?

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well I think it goes back to something Pat alluded to earlier.  Macroeconomically, things look like they‘re in pretty good shape.  But if you ask people whether or not they feel like they‘re in better shape, it‘s the old question Ronald Reagan asked, are you better off today than you were four years ago?

MATTHEWS:  Why is there a difference?

MCMAHON:  Well people don‘t see a hopeful future for the United States of America.  They know the jobs are leaving in droves to other countries.  They know that Mexican immigrants are driving the wages in this country down.  They know that big companies are not keeping faith with the workers and they‘re dumping pension plans.  And so as they look at the economy, it‘s their personal economy that matters to them, not so much how the stock market is doing.  It‘s been very good people like you and for me.

MATTHEWS:  But then you‘re saying that‘s bad.  For the average person it‘s bad?

MCMAHON:  Absolutely.  They feel like...

MATTHEWS:  ... By the way, I saw a poll in Pennsylvania, you know what the biggest issue is, among regular voters in Pennsylvania, which is an older state?  Older in terms of history, also in terms of the people who live there.  Their personal finances.  It seems so obvious, but we never think of that. 

In other words, how you‘re doing with retirement planning, how you‘re doing in retirement.  People sit down with the numbers, with whatever investments they have, whatever costs they have and the health costs and they‘re trying to figure out how they‘re doing.  We don‘t consider that a political question, but that is the reality of life.

BUCHANAN:  Look at the number, Chris.  The American people, for the first time since 1933, are spending more than they save.  That means they‘re borrowing to consume, they‘re borrowing to spend.  They‘re taking money out of the equity on their house to maintain their standard of living. 

Steve‘s got three or four good points.  Illegal immigration presses down on black working class folk.  You‘ve got the outsourcing of jobs, you‘ve got the sale of factories to China and all the rest of it.  And you‘ve got H1B‘s coming into the country, is a very able, young people who are replacing middle-aged computer and other technicians.

MATTHEWS:  These are the Indians and South Asians.

BUCHANAN:  They‘re South Asians, Indians.

MATTHEWS:  Highly educated, smart people.

BUCHANAN:  Highly educated, they get out of college in Princeton, they bring them in, hire them and get rid of your middle-aged guy.  And the insecurity of all that is striking home.

MATTHEWS:  And you‘re seeing—well, you‘re an expert on this because you campaign.  Do you actually find cases where middle-aged guys are getting yanked and replaced by a South Asian?

BUCHANAN:  Sure you do.  I‘ve gone to factory after factory and talked to guys.  One of them will tell me, Pat, you know where the guy who worked next to me is now?  He‘s in Mexico training his replacement because that‘s where the factory is going. 

Go to California, a lot of those folks in the defense industry, they‘re middle-aged, forties, fifties, early sixties, they‘re not getting jobs.  They want the young people they can get at far less.  The top 20 percent, which is doing fine—middle America in my judgment is being sold out by the transnational corporation and both political parties.

MCMAHON:  Pat, you sound like a Democrat, come on over.

MATTHEWS:  What do you sound like?  Do you agree with that?

MCMAHON:  Oh listen, I do agree with that.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be right back with two guys that agree on the economic reality of this country.  And they seem to be more important than the issues we fight about here.

And later, one in three American troops returning from war in Iraq faces post-traumatic stress disorder.  Are they getting the help they need?  Let‘s talk about it.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As the 2008 race for president heats up, John McCain is appealing to conservatives, and Hillary Clinton is playing to liberals.  McCain called Jerry Falwell an agent of intolerance way back in 2000.  Now he says he no longer feels that way. 

And Hillary Clinton while hawkish on Iraq is appealing to the left on guns, advocating public release of a database of guns used in crimes.  The NRA won‘t like it one bit. 

We‘re back with Pat Buchanan and Steve McMahon. 

If everybody could hear what we talk about between these breaks, it‘s astounding.  And we will try to bring it to you right now.

Steve McMahon, why is Hillary Clinton going for gun control? 

MCMAHON:  Primary politics.  Primary politics.  Although I have got to tell you, you know, the Clintons are very smart about this, and she takes a position on gun control where she‘s leading a fight on gun control.  It‘s a position that‘s going to be kind of hard on the merits for the NRA to object to.  Guns that are used in crimes should be traceable.  I mean, it‘s not really a radical proposition for most people. 

MATTHEWS:  But the biggest fear that most gun people have, and that includes most of Pennsylvania and Michigan are gun owners, is the guns are going to be rounded up, but the first step they are going to take is they are going to get a list of all of them.  And this looks like...

MCMAHON:  And everybody who goes out to shoot quail is going to get their gun taken away.  I don‘t buy it. 

BUCHANAN:  I am going into the database after the criminals.  That is what they are concerned about.  But I agree with you, initially, it looks like a nothing measure, but these folks look at that wedge coming in and they‘re rightly afraid.  They‘re going to get a database of all the gun owners in the country. 

MATTHEWS:  Because in other countries, that has been the progress of gun control. 

BUCHANAN:  That‘s been the way to get rid of the guns, to confiscate them. 

MCMAHON:   But, you know what?  The second amendment here is too firmly embedded.  It is never going to happen here.  And I just think that what you‘re seeing with both Senator McCain and Senator Clinton is primary politics. 

MATTHEWS:  Except there are people around Hillary Clinton who would love to confiscate all of the guns and they know it. 

MCMAHON:  Oh, come on, Chris. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So the West side of New York would like to get rid of all guns in America then maybe they have a case. 

MCMAHON:  Maybe the west side of New York City would perhaps.

BUCHANAN:  They have got the Sullivan Law up there.  You‘re not allowed to own a handgun in New York City, are you? 

MCMAHON:  You‘re not allowed.

BUCHANAN:  I had friends used to have to park them at the airport. 

MATTHEWS:  Every minute we talk about guns by the way, Michigan fades from possibility in the general election.  You say she‘s willing to risk all the anger of the gun people to win those primaries? 

MCMAHON:  I don‘t think there‘s going to be that much anger from gun

people.  And, you‘re talking about the general election anyway.  She‘s got

if she runs for president, she has a primary.  And even though she is the prohibitive favorite, it is not a walk in the park. 

MATTHEWS:  Look at her right now.  That woman is not going to get voted for with guys who own guns or boats.  She‘s not going to get a vote from these guys. 

BUCHANAN:  Chris that‘s right. Her job right now is to block out the right and make sure Feingold, who is an uncharismatic figure, carries the banner for the anti-war left and not some Gene McCarthy, who can light the country on fire. 

MATTHEWS:  So she‘s better off.  He‘s the dog in the manger.

BUCHANAN:  Oh, he is perfect for her.

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  There is no dog in a manger.

MATTHEWS:  The dog in the manger is the guy—is the term that means the person who fills the hole that could be filled by somebody more impressive.  Are these too hard to master the terms?

MCMAHON:  No, no.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to John McCain, an easier concept.  And there is a high concept.  Here‘s a guy who is known as Mr. Maverick, now he wants to be the made man of the religious right.  Is he going to get away with it? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, I think—well, first, Jerry Falwell I know he is not acceptable to liberal.  He is a very nice guy.  I did a graduation speech...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re a nice guy, Pat.  That‘s not the issue.  The issue is...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Liberty University is a mainstream university.  They‘re good folks.  There are 7,000 people in that hall.  McCain is helping himself.  He is in politics, Chris.  He wants to be president. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you remember the Clinton chronicles?  Remember the Clinton chronicles, Pat, that said that Clinton was a killer? 

BUCHANAN:  I‘m having a memory lapse on this one, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  That‘s too hard.  If you were Bill Clinton, you would remember them.

BUCHANAN:  I know what they are.  I used to get tapes of them. 

MATTHEWS:  So what do you think?  Do you think John McCain should be concerned with a guy who said Clinton was a murderer? 

BUCHANAN:  I think the chronicles were around the bend. 

MCMAHON:  OK.  Primary politics.  For some reason, calling Bill Clinton a murderer doesn‘t hurt you in the Republican Party, and frankly I think it should.  Pat, you would not subscribe to that, would you? 

BUCHANAN:  I do not subscribe to that.  I think that whole thing, the idea that Clinton deliberately killed somebody was around the bend.  I always did.  I always did.  I think it was beyond it, the pale in politics and it should have been rejected. 

(CROSSTALK)    

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me get a bottom line here.  Do you both think that Hillary‘s tilt to the left on listing gun owners, the bad gun owners, the killers—even though it is minimal—is going to help her with the left?

MCMAHON:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that John McCain‘s moving to the religious right is going to help him win that South Carolina primary? 

BUCHANAN:  Sure.  It is going to demonize him.  It will help him down there.  As long as though folks—he just want to get rid of the animosity toward himself and this will go a long way toward doing that.  These folks are a forgiving crowd, Chris. 

MCMAHON:  He also wants to get some of their money is my guess. 

MATTHEWS:  No, I think that‘s cynical. 

BUCHANAN:  I think he wants their votes not their money. 

MATTHEWS:  So you both think Hillary will be the nominee and McCain will be the nominee? 

BUCHANAN:  You know, I am less sure about McCain when you were down there in Memphis, watching how the foot faults down there in Memphis.  And secondly too much of the political maneuvering and too much getting close to Bush.  What McCain has got going for him is there is no, as I can see it, no passionate credible conservative alternative as of now. 

MATTHEWS:  To him?

BUCHANAN:  To him.

MATTHEWS:  Is there a liberal alternative to Hillary? 

MCMAHON:  Yes.  There are going to—listen, I think she is the prohibitive favorite.  But I think as in Democratic politics all the time, somebody will emerge.  There will be an alternative. 

BUCHANAN:  Maybe Edwards.

MCMAHON:  Maybe it‘s Mark Warner.  Maybe it is somebody on the left.  I don‘t know, but, you know, she‘s going to be a very formidable candidate if she runs.  And she will be a formidable candidate both in the primaries and the general, I assure you. 

MATTHEWS:  Her problem is being formidable and likable at the same time.  That‘s the challenge.  You‘re laughing.

(CROSSTALK)    

BUCHANAN:  She‘ll be formidable, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Formidable is not nice.  Anyway, thank you Pat Buchanan. 

Thank you Steve McMahon.  A great team actually. 

Up next, the mental cost of the war in Iraq.  This is going to be serious.  One in three American troops is home from Iraq right now and suffers post traumatic stress disorder.  Is enough being done to help these guys and these women?  This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  For many American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, getting home is only half the battle.  Once back with their family and friends, they face the new challenge of coping with their sometimes traumatizing memories of war, the condition known as post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.  MSNBC‘s Norah O‘Donnell has more. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 

Remember this picture?  It is one of the most iconic images from the Iraq war.  Marine Lance Corporal Blake Miller went from Fallujah to the front pages of newspapers and was called The Marlboro Man.  Now, almost two years later, Miller is at home in Kentucky a changed man. 

BLAKE MILLER, ‘MARLBORO MARINE‘:  You can put something aside, but as far as trying to forget it, it doesn‘t work. 

O‘DONNELL:  Miller now suffers from post traumatic stress disorder or

PTSD. 

MILLER:  A lot of people like to ask the questions if you‘ve ever killed anybody.  And it‘s just—it‘s something that‘s really hard to talk about.  Anybody who‘s been there and done that doesn‘t want to speak about it. 

O‘DONNELL:  Miller was honorably discharged from the military and now, at 21 years old, is out of work. 

MILLER:  There was times that I maybe slept three hours and maybe a couple days I‘d go and sleep only an hour.  Things just - it just got to the point where I felt restless, I had no energy.  I can‘t stand being in big crowds.  I have nervous habits.  I bite my nails. 

O‘DONNELL:  He is not alone.  In fact, a groundbreaking study by the military shows one out of three U.S. troops who served in Iraq during the first year of the war sought mental health treatment.  More than one in 10 werrMDNM_e later diagnosed with a mental illness like anxiety, depression, and PTSrMD+IN_rMDNM_D. 

COL. CHARLES ENGEL, WALTER REED PSYCHIATRIST:  The classical symptoms are difficulties with sleep, including nightmares.  There could be daytime flashbacks, there can be a lot of irritability in men sometimes aggressiveness. 

O‘DONNELL:  PTSD was not recognized clinically until 1980, long after Vietnam War troops came home.  Back then, it was called shell shock, and the effects can be lifelong.  The Department of Veterans Affairs today says 161,000 Vietnam vets are still receiving disability benefits for mental health problems. 

JAY NICHOLSON, SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS:  Anybody that would say we‘re downplaying the mental health effects on soldiers today is wrong. 

O‘DONNELL:  Secretary Jim Nicholson says Veterans Affairs spent $2.9 billion this year on mental health.  Next year it‘s going up to $3.2 billion. 

NICHOLSON:  We have a PTSD expert now in one out of every one of our 154 major medical centers throughout the United States. 

O‘DONNELL:  As for Blake Miller, he is getting therapy, hoping to recover from what he calls the terrible costs of war. 

MILLER:  I‘m 21 years old.  I‘m far too young to lay down and let this rule my life. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  Now military experts point out that it is this exposure to direct combat that leads many of our troops to develop PTSD.  In fact, 80 percent of those that have been diagnosed with PTSD have witnessed someone being wounded or killed and, Chris, it is important to point out that some critics believe that the numbers of PTSD are being overestimated, but others, many others, argue that, listen, we want to respond to our soldiers and not to would be to repeat some of the failures of the Vietnam War. 

MATTHEWS:  Norah, is there any deniers out there who say there‘s no such thing as PTSD? 

O‘DONNELL:  I did not speak to any who believe there is, because in every war from the Civil War, it was called soldier‘s heart, after Vietnam, it was called shell shock, and now we have this more clinical term called post traumatic stress disorder.  So we know many our soldiers throughout America‘s history have suffered from some sort of mental illness, but of course all mental illness has been difficult to talk about until recently.

Blake Miller spoke to us, this very heroic soldier, because he says that by speaking out he hopes that other troops will feel more comfortable talking about some of the problems they‘re experiencing and there is help available from Veterans Affairs. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Washington correspondent for MSNBC, Norah O‘Donnell.  Gordon Mansfield is the deputy secretary for Veterans Affairs and General Barry McCaffrey is an NBC News military analyst.  Mr.  Secretary, thank you for joining us.

Just to repeat the question, there‘s no doubt this exists? 

GORDON MANSFIELD, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS:  There‘s no doubt in my mind or in the V.A.‘s mind that it does exist. 

MATTHEWS:  How many people have suffered from it right now watching television out there now, how many people in the country have it? 

MANSFIELD:  The V.A. is treating today about 250,000 individuals, all the way from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the current war. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s more people we have in country in Iraq. 

MANSFIELD:  That‘s true. 

MATTHEWS:  And how many people of the 250,000 are being kept from being able to work and take care of their families? 

MANSFIELD:  There‘s different degrees of the debilitating conditions.  It depends exactly what the individual is being affected with and how it affects their life.  Some people, as you heard here in the example, withdraw and don‘t participate in life at all.  Some may have minor cases.  Some may be restricted to how they interact with family or with society in general, so it depends on exactly what the situation is with the individual.  And probably part of it depends on the timing of how long ago the event happened. 

MATTHEWS:  General McCaffrey, I was struck by the difficulty that soldier had, The Marlboro Man they called him, who appeared with the cigarette in that famous picture, talking about the casualties he inflicted.  You‘ve been in a lot of combat.  Is that something you‘ve seen from your fellow troops? 

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET):  Well, you know, first of all, let me start off by saying, there‘s no question that this PTSD is real.  We‘ve always known you can take soldiers, Marines, push them over the edge. 

A lot of artillery mortar fire, extreme cold, malnutrition, extreme heat.  Don‘t tell them when they‘re going to come home from combat.  There‘s all sorts of reasons why any combat soldier can reach his limit.

This young Marine obviously saw a lot of heavy combat.  Having said that, Chris, let me just offer a balancing viewpoint.  Most young soldiers and Marines that fought in heavy combat like Fallujah, as much fighting as we‘ve done since for God‘s sakes Aurora Pocket.  That was high intensity battle.  Most of them come home strengthened by it, not weakened.  They‘re grateful for the comradeship, the valor of their fellow soldiers and Marines.  They are grateful for hot water at night, grateful for freedom and safety here in America.  Most of them aren‘t damaged by this experience. 

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Secretary, can you be that positive? 

MANSFIELD:  I would...

MATTHEWS:  That combat doesn‘t generally hurt a person‘s psyche. 

GORDON:  Well, combat is not the ordinary way of life.  It‘s an uncommon situation.  So the question is what happens in that uncommon situation?  What happens with the camaraderie of the unit that person serves in?  And how that person is returned to the United States and how they can adapt to being back in the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  But all the guys that came back from World War II—you know, you talk about Tom Brokaw and the greatest generation.  All of these guys came back, and I grew up with them as friends of mine—or father‘s of friends of mine.  You know, Knights of Columbus guys, regular guys.  And only later did I realize that these guys had been to hell and back, so many of them.

And they seem to be totally normal.  They had a beer and a cigarette.  They raised a family.  They seemed to enjoy life, turned on the tube at night, watch Phil Silvers.  You know, they seem to enjoy life, so many of them.

MANSFIELD:  Your correspondent referred though to the term of shell shock and combat fatigue, and those two terms come out of basically World War I and World War II.  And really I think they mean almost the same thing as PTSD means. 

MATTHEWS:  But they‘re the odd case or the familiar case? 

MANSFIELD:  Well, right now if you look at the total number of troops that have been in Iraq, that total is around 500,000.  Out of that 500,000, we in the V.A. have seen about 145,000. 

MATTHEWS:  A third. 

MANSFIELD:  And out of those, 20,638 are being treated right now for PTSD or mental health problems.  So that‘s 14 percent or 15 percent of the lesser number. 

MATTHEWS:  Serious problems.  So one in five or six are having serious problems readjusting? 

MANSFIELD:  One in five or six of the ones that we‘re seeing. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, we‘ll be right back with General Barry McCaffrey and Deputy Secretary for Veterans Affairs Gordon Mansfield.  This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We are back with General Barry McCaffrey and Deputy Secretary for Veteran‘s Affairs Gordon Mansfield.

Mr. Secretary, are we doing enough for the tens of thousands of guys and women involved in this post-traumatic stress disorder back from Iraq and Afghanistan? 

MANSFIELD:  Well, I‘ll tell you, when you see one individual like that trooper that was on earlier in his situation, you want to say we need to do a little more.  But we are talking to every troop that comes back from Iraq and Afghanistan, those that are being discharged, those that are on active duty, those in the reserve units and those in the national guard units. 

And DOD has started a process where they‘re doing an assessment of mental health capacity when they return and then six months later.  And the effort there is to try and identify those folks that need help, those troops that have come back that we think need help and try and get them in for treatment, so that we can identify the needs early and treat it.  And we hope, and Jim Nicholson made this point, that we can cure these folks. 

MATTHEWS:  Can you? 

MANSFIELD:  Well, we have psychiatrists and psychologists.  We have research centers and we have years of experience.  We have the V.A.  identified as the best place in the world for PTSD treatment, and we are going to do everything we can to make that happen.  And we are trying to do that. 

MATTHEWS:  General, what‘s your view about how well we‘re doing here with these terrible cases of people coming back with what used to be called battle fatigue and shell shock?  And they haven‘t been able to adjust to life, and they are certainly unhappy people.

MCCAFFREY:  You know, a lot of these kids have been in a real combat operation, one tour, two tours, three tours, you name it.  Gordon Mansfield, our deputy secretary there, is very highly decorated combat veteran himself, very badly wounded.  So I think all of us out of that background want to be sensitive to the mental health needs of these returning veterans. 

However, we have got to remind ourselves, one of the things the V.A.  does unbelievably well is we‘ve had 19,000 of these kids killed or wounded with massive traumatic injuries and that part of the program is absolutely superb.  You know, multiple amputations, brain damage, so the V.A. gets young soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen, back to their families, back into a job training program.  It is a great gift to our returning veterans and their families. 

MATTHEWS:  I want to ask you a general question about the war.  We were over at Walter Reid not enough times, but we were over there several times.  And if you look at it, there is 8,000 men mainly who came back from that war in Iraq already with enough serious damage to them that they are not able to get back into combat again.  And there are of course 2,500 or so dead now because of the war. 

Of the injuries, are these going to be different kinds of injuries than we suffered in Vietnam and earlier wars? 

MANSFIELD:  Yes, they are in many cases because of the applicability of the body armor and also the health care treatment on the field of battle.  We‘re bringing kids home that are seriously wounded now that would have died before. 

A good example is traumatic brain injury, where we now are able to get those folks to an aid station, to a field hospital and within weeks, they‘re back here from Germany to Walter Reid or Bethesda Naval Hospital and then they come into the V.A. center for our treatment.  but there are some seriously wounded individuals that we are going to have to take care of for a long time. 

MATTHEWS:  More so than other wars because their lives were protected. 

MANSFIELD:  Well, their lives were protected with the armor but also in addition to that, it is the advances in medical care that allows us to bring people home that would have been dead on the battlefield in Vietnam or World War II. 

MATTHEWS:  General McCaffrey, when you were in Vietnam, could you see these people‘s problems coming when you were over there in combat that certain fellows were going to get really hurt mentally or emotionally for the rest of their lives? 

MCCAFFREY:  Well, again, I think all of us who have seen a lot of combat realize that, you know, particularly if you‘ve go into to battle with underlying mental health care problems, if you subsequently have a substance abuse problem, alcohol or illegal drugs, then the Veterans Administration and the Army have always said we‘ll care for you because you are a casualty of the conflict.

But having said that, my company, you know—I commanded a company...

MATTHEWS:  General, I am sorry.  General, we are going to have to get back with you.  We are out of time.  Generals Barry McCaffrey and Deputy Secretary Gordon Mansfield.

Right now it is time for “THE ABRAM‘S REPORT” with Dan.

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. (www.voxant.com) ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Transcript

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

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,