updated 9/6/2006 11:49:02 AM ET 2006-09-06T15:49:02

Guests: Joe Biden, Tony Snow, Norm Ornstein, Charlie Cook, Malachy McCourt

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  The big question tonight, when he stood at the site of one of the 9/11 attacks, the president said we would get the people who did it.  Then why is the bulk of the U.S. army today stuck in a country that he said had nothing to do with 9/11?  Why, if our enemy is al Qaeda as the president said today, why isn‘t the U.S. army out there chasing al Qaeda?  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

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

The Bush administration is kicking off the countdown to Election Day by bringing out the big guns.  Today, President Bush delivered his second in a series of speeches designed to cast the war in Iraq as part of the larger war on terrorism.  And once again, the president spoke to a friendly audience, this time a group of military officers and diplomats representing countries that have been attacked by terrorists. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If we don‘t uphold our duty to support those who are desirous to live in liberty, 50 years from now, history will look back on our time with unforgiving clarity and demand to know why we did not act.  I‘m not going to allow this to happen. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  But here‘s what is happening just weeks before the elections.  Polls show most Americans don‘t support the war in Iraq and a majority do not see Iraq as part of the war on terror.  Will President Bush‘s strategy to run again on national security work one more time?  Have Democrats figured out how to counterattack him?  Later we‘ll talk politics with White House press secretary Tony Snow here on HARDBALL, and also NBC News political analyst Charlie Cook. 

But first, Senator Joe Biden is the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  He is running for president ‘08. 

Senator Biden, your response to the president‘s speech? 

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE:  Well, the president has acknowledged his policy hasn‘t worked so far, Chris.  He said we‘re changing our policy.  It sounds like a Democratic prescription.  He uses the phrase, if I have it right here, “our strategy recognizes the war on terror is a different kind of war involving both the battle of arms and the battle of ideas.”  Well, we have been losing both of those, measured by the president‘s own standards. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think the Democratic Party—of which you are a member and I believe you‘re part of this—is focusing on the secretary of defense, a number two person, a person appointed by the president?  Why not direct your fire at the commander in chief who sets the policy to go into Iraq? 

BIDEN:  Well, that‘s what I‘m doing.  My disagreements are with the president.  As my mother would say, God love him.  Look at the measure by which he said we were going to win the war, the axis of evil he was going to take care of.  It‘s much worse off.  He talked about the need for us to Democratize.  He confused elections with democracy. 

He does none of the hard democracy building.  When Abu Mazen won the election, we did virtually nothing to prop him up and give him some means by which he could gain a constituency.  When we got the Syrians out of Lebanon, we virtually did nothing for a year to fill the vacuum, bring down the Lebanese army.  And so what happened?  Hezbollah metastasized. 

And look, the elections have produced extremes in all the countries where they have had them.  Just go down the list of the things that he‘s measured.  Terror attacks are up, Osama bin Laden is alive and well, 9/11 Commission has demonstrated that this administration thus far has failed to do what‘s necessary to protect the homeland. 

So, you know, I—but I take some comfort from the fact that the president is fundamentally changing his rhetoric here.  If you read this plan, saying we have to engage in the war on ideas, then, in fact, you‘d say wait a minute, who just said that? 

And so I think there is maybe some hope here that they may very well fundamentally change their approach.  But so far, the strategy—look, we have no energy policy.  We are not in a position where we have done anything materially.  We have Afghanistan on the brink of losing it.  We have Iraq in the state of chaos.  We need a plan, Chris, and the president didn‘t put forward one. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, just a few months ago if you even said that the American people need to try understand our enemy, you had your block knocked of.  You were considered an appeaser, a chamberlain. 

BIDEN:  Exactly right.  Exactly right.

MATTHEWS:  Is the president changing on that point and saying we must figure out why these people want to kill themselves to get us? 

BIDEN:  Well, I hope he is.  I hope he is.  I know all the really smart guys around him think he does.  The military thinks they have to do that.  The CIA thinks we have to do that.  Everybody understands that there is more than one war here. 

If you look at John Lehman—you know John as well as I do, conservative, Reagan appointee, secretary of the Navy—in a piece he just wrote saying we require a fundamental change in strategy.  Anybody things we‘re winning these wars is just mistaken.  We can win them, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  OK, how would you change policy?  If you begin to understand they are not just the evil ones, that‘s too simple, you want to try to figure out their motive and how they got to being killers, because you don‘t want any more killers.  How do you change your policy if you recognize that need? 

BIDEN:  I think you do three things.  One, the first thing you do, is you go into places like the Palestinian areas, you go into Lebanon, and you don‘t allow Hezbollah to metastasize.  You go in there and you unite the world in rebuilding Lebanon instead of allowing Hezbollah, through Iranian money, to rebuild Lebanon.  You are proactive. 

You have a significant outreach to the one billion Muslims by a fundamental change in our diplomacy by reaching out and making our case, which we don‘t do.  You talk—for example, our greatest ally against the theocracy in Tehran are the Iranian people.  They don‘t like them. 

Look at the Pew poll six months ago.  The place where we‘re most popular is in Iran.  What do we do?  We don‘t talk.  We never get our side of the argument into Iran with the people who we could change their minds.  It requires a very fundamentally different approach. 

And look, Chris, I know I‘m a broken record on this, but in Iraq, there‘s no possibility of us succeeding without a political solution.  You got to get the Sunnis to buy in, you got to deal with the militia, and you got to keep the neighbors out.  There is no plan that this administration has to do those things. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, the president would say that you can‘t negotiate with our enemy.  They‘re Hitler.  The president says you don‘t deal with Nazis, basically, with Islamic fascists.  What are you saying?  We can negotiate with the enemy or what? 

BIDEN:  What I say is what John Kennedy said.  We should never negotiate out of fear.  We should never fear to negotiate.  Our overwhelming weapon are our ideas.  How can we communicate to the rest of the billion Muslims in the world that we, in fact, have better ideas and offer hope if we don‘t expose by direct contact with the Iranian theocracy, if we don‘t expose by having direct talks with the North Koreans that we are offering hope, that we are offering something that is concrete, and these guys are the bad guys? 

You know, I mean, you don‘t do that by allowing yourself to become a punching bag.  And just imagine, Chris, where we would have been in 1955, ‘60, ‘65 if we said, you know, those communists are no good.  When Kruschev beat his shoe on the table and we will do—what did we do?  We talked, we won the war of ideas, defeated the Soviet Union.  Our military was necessary, but not sufficient. 

And the president, by the way, in his own statement says that.  He says our strategy recognized the war on terror is a different kind involving the battle for ideas.  You got to get in the game.  You‘ve got to battle.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about politics.  Do you believe the president‘s series of speeches right now are aimed at saving his party‘s control of the Congress? 

BIDEN:  Absolutely, positively. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that he‘s saying what he believes? 

BIDEN:  Probably.  When I say probably, I believe he believes this, but I believe he is using it more as a weapon.  And he has realized, in my view, that the comments of Rumsfeld, of appeasers, is over the top.  So this is another.  If you notice the president made a very good speech today outlining al Qaeda‘s aims.  I don‘t disagree with that. 

But then he was very short on the list of outlining how we‘re going to deal with taking care of al Qaeda.  And we—look, he mentioned Afghanistan.  Major, major piece in the “New York Times” today, two whole pages, laying out the president and the secretary of state and secretary of defense rejecting the recommendation of the military. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Senator, who would be a better secretary of defense than Don Rumsfeld? 

BIDEN:  Anybody. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, name a couple. 

BIDEN:  Anybody with experience. 

MATTHEWS:  Anybody? 

BIDEN:  For example, Armitage would be a great secretary of defense, strong Republican, very good, very strong.  There are people who have—you can go back to the whole—I would take ...

MATTHEWS:  Would ridge be better?  Would Tom Ridge be better? 

BIDEN:  Who?  I‘m sorry. 

MATTHEWS:  Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania, would he be better? 

BIDEN:  Tom Ridge.  Well I think he might, but he doesn‘t have any experience in that area, so I‘m not sure he would be better.  But I know there are a number of people out there in the Republican ranks who are very, very serious people who would be better. 

Look, and this is not about picking on Don Rumsfeld.  God love him.  Look, this is about communicating to the rest of the world.  We are ready to engage in the war of ideas.  That‘s clearly not something Don Rumsfeld is ready to engage in, nor is the vice president.  We can‘t do anything about the vice president.  You can do something about the secretary of defense. 

MATTHEWS:  Can I ask you a political question?  Senator, have you raised enough money or are you on the road to raising enough money to run for president? 

BIDEN:  I‘m in the process of doing that.  I believe I can do that.  And we have raised about the same amount of money, everybody but Hillary Clinton has raised, which is a different league completely.

MATTHEWS:  What is the ante to run for president on the Democratic side?  You need like $30 million?  What do you need to get in the game?

BIDEN:  Thirty billion.  I think you need a billion.  No, I think in order to be able to compete through the first four contests, you need somewhere between $30-$35 million by the end of that process.

MATTHEWS:  Keep those cards and letters coming.  Thank you very much, Senator Joe Biden.  That will get you to Nevada, that will get you to South Carolina.  Thank you very much, sir, for being on.

Coming up, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.  This is going to be a great interview.  And coming up tomorrow on MSNBC, a whole day on politics, decision 2006, battleground America.  All day we‘re gearing up for the big midterm elections.  You‘re going to get a good look at election night tomorrow.  That‘s an early look.  NBC‘s Tim Russert kicks off our coverage at 9 a.m. and NBC‘s Brian Williams, David Gregory, Campbell Brown, Lester Holt, Joe Scarborough, Tucker Carlson and myself will all be bringing the biggest races and the hottest political stories.  We‘re going to own this election.  It‘s all part of this huge day, tomorrow, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re joined right now by White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.

Tony, thank you for coming on tonight.  I haven‘t talked to you on the air since you‘re taken that position.  Does it look different on the inside?

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN:  I suppose it looks different.  You know what‘s interesting, Chris, is having been in the press—and you know how this works—for many years, one of the things of being the White House press secretary is that you continue working with a lot of your old colleagues. 

So what‘s interesting is, being on the inside, you do get a better view of what‘s going on in the White House.  That‘s always the case.  But at the same time, it‘s still good to maintain contacts with my old friends and colleagues in the press.

MATTHEWS:  OK, well, let‘s have lunch some day, but in the meantime, let‘s play HARDBALL.  Now that you‘ve had a good look inside, is Social Security reform dead?

SNOW:  No, I don‘t think so.  Look, the president understands when it comes to Social Security and, for that matter, Medicare and Medicaid, when you talk about entitlements, we‘ve got a problem.

And the problem is, we can‘t afford the system as it is into the future, so what you need to do is you need to come up with a system that‘s going to honor promises that have been made in the past to seniors but at the same time, is not going to tell your kids and my kids, “Guess what?  You get to hold the bag.”

So the president realizes that.  Members of Congress didn‘t want to deal with it this year.  Someone‘s going to have to deal with it, and the president certainly hopes that Congress is going to be able to take it up before he leaves office.

MATTHEWS:  Does he still like the idea, the president, of having personal accounts, rather than just the—the general fund?

SNOW:  Think about it this way.  The virtue of personal accounts, and you take a look through the long history of the stock market and of Social Security, for that matter.  You end up accruing more wealth in any five-year period by holding onto a fairly safe portfolio of stocks and bonds than you do of sticking it in Social Security.

What the president is hoping for is going to let people make a choice.  You can stay in the present system, or if you want to go ahead and get a personal account and start building a nest egg, that is going to be possible, too.

As you know, younger Americans, by and large, are investors already.  They want to get invested in the marketplace.  But this is one of these issues where the president‘s made his position clear.  And members of Congress know that sooner or later, they‘re going to have to act.  And history tells us it‘s always better when you do it sooner rather than later.

MATTHEWS:  So the president‘s program for reform of Social Security, which has been pulled back a bit, is still fair game for political debate this fall?

SNOW:  You know, it‘s—I don‘t think that Congress is going to be acting on Social Security.  Somebody wants to raise it as an issue, they‘re certainly free to do so.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about immigration reform.  It seems like the House Republicans do not want to touch that hot potato.  Is that the case?  We‘re not going to have immigration reform before the election?

SNOW:  Don‘t know.  I talked to the president about it today.  His position‘s real simple.  He wants it, and he wants it done right.  And he wants it done as soon as possible.  This is something that legislative leaders are going to have to make up their minds about.

As you know, Chris, a number of members of Congress did a series of border visits and did a series of events around immigration reform.  Many people say for them it is one of the most important, if not the most important domestic issue.  The president wants to deal with it, and he wants to deal with it in a comprehensive way.

MATTHEWS:  He wants to keep the road open for—create a road that‘s open to legalization for people in the country without papers.  Is that right?

SNOW:  Well, that‘s sort of creating a caricature.  What the president has said is what you need to do is you need to create a temporary worker program that‘s going to make it possible for people to come here on a temporary basis and then go back.

What he‘s also said is that you have to come up with some way of dealing with millions of people who came here illegally, especially those who have been here for an extended period of time and have established a way of life or have children who are paying taxes and so on.

But the president also understands that being an American citizen is no squatter‘s right.  It is something that bears certain responsibility.  He talks about paying taxes, paying fines, going to the back of the line when it comes to—to being eligible for citizenship.

The members of Congress, quite sensibly, have said you‘ve got to keep your nose clean.  You can‘t be committing crimes.  You need to remain continuously employed.  So all of those are parts of the mix.

But at this point, the president has already made it clear.  His approach is to be comprehensive.  Now the ball is in Congress‘ court.

MATTHEWS:  Perhaps the president‘s finest moment as president was standing on 9/14 at the site of the World Trade Center horror and saying that we‘re going to get the people who knocked down these buildings.  Why, then, did he go to a country that he said had nothing to do with knocking down those buildings, Iraq?

SNOW:  Well, wait a minute.  The first thing he did is he went to Afghanistan.  The second thing is the United States—and this was a long process, Chris, as you know.  It also included U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, which among other things was a 15 to nothing vote by the Security Council saying to Saddam Hussein, look, you now have violated well more than a dozen U.N. Security Council resolutions -- 16 or 17 -- it‘s time now for you to go ahead and act.  He didn‘t do it.

Furthermore, if you take a look at the authorizing resolution passed by the House and Senate—I believe 72 or 73 members of the Senate voted for it—it doesn‘t stress simply going into Iraq on weapons of mass destruction and other things, but the fact is, Saddam Hussein—ask yourself a simple question:  if Saddam Hussein were in power today, and if you had al Qaeda, and you had Iran busy developing—at least, threatening to develop its own nuclear sources, you had a dangerous North Korea—do you think the world would be a safer place?

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you—I guess the question I‘m asking is, if the president said we‘re going to get the people who knocked down our buildings—and we‘re going to mark that horror again this weekend, the five-year anniversary—why do we have—why don‘t we have the 140,000 forces -- 140,000 men and women—we have in Iraq right now chasing al Qaeda?  Why aren‘t they going after the president‘s number one priority?

SNOW:  Because, as you well know, Chris, the war on terror is not simply in Waziristan, but there is something—and the president said this on September 20, 2001 -- it‘s dispersed over 50 or 60 countries.  And what‘s happened over the last five years is that that enemy has learned from some of its mistakes.  It has adjusted to our tactics and strategy.  What the president‘s doing is trying to win a war on terror that does not begin and end with Osama bin Laden, but in fact bin Laden has played an important part.  And since September 11, 2001, bin Laden has still remained target number one. 

But the other thing that‘s happened is, we have seriously degraded al Qaeda‘s ability to operate, we have killed thousands of terrorists around the world, we have engaged the cooperation of Arab states that in the past have not been actively involved.  You have a democracy—struggling, yes, but struggling to stand on its own in Iraq.  You have a democracy—struggling, yes, but struggling to stand on its own in Afghanistan.  You have a movement toward democracy—the president today meeting with the Emir of Kuwait—Kuwaiti women voted for the first time in a free election this year.

There are important changes taking place, and the war on terror is not simply chasing after bin Laden.  There‘s a military component and much more.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ve got to come right back, Tony.  You know how it works.  We‘ll be right back in a moment with Tony Snow, White House press secretary.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with White House press secretary Tony Snow.

Tony, thank you for holding on there.  A while back, we had Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on the program, on HARDBALL, and I asked him what I thought was an obvious question, and I got a very surprising answer.

I said, “Did the president ever ask you for advice on whether to attack and invade and occupy Iraq?”

And he said, strangely enough, “He never asked for my counsel or advice on that point, never asked me the question.”

And now Rumsfeld‘s become the lightning rod of the Democrats and some Republicans.  Is it fair for him to take the heat for a decision he didn‘t make and didn‘t have a part in, going into Iraq?

SNOW:  Well, I think it‘s also unfair for him to take to take the heat for things over which he had no control, like Abu Ghraib.  It‘s interesting.  Don Rumsfeld‘s critics tend to point toward things that really don‘t have very—do not reflect the general operation of the United States and the military establishment in the war on terror or, for that matter, seem to have any larger bearing.

What they seem to have done is decided, “You know what?  We don‘t like Rumsfeld.  We‘re going to put him—we‘re going to make him the enemy.”  The enemy, as you pointed out in the previous segment, Chris, is the terrorists.  It‘s al Qaeda.  It‘s not Don Rumsfeld. 

Here‘s a guy who‘s done more to transform the defense establishment than any—than any secretary of defense in history.  He is somebody who has tried to be innovative and at the same time ruthlessly honest about the kind of threats we face and to try to respond to them in a swift and responsible manner.

We‘re fighting a war unlike any in which we have ever fought.  There aren‘t a lot of textbook—textbook manuals for this.  But I think you and I both recall one of the very early stories about Rumsfeld when he was asking a series of brutally honest questions at the beginning of the conflict, such as are we creating more enemies than we‘re killing?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

SNOW:  Those are the signs of somebody who is trying to win a war on terror and not somebody who‘s simply trying to make a point.

MATTHEWS:  And to continue that thought, he said we didn‘t have the metrics to be able to determine whether we were winning or losing that—by that account.

SNOW:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  But let me ask you one last question, and that is, do you think, putting your old political hat on, before you were a public servant, do you think that the Democrats are stupid to be focusing on one of the president‘s cabinet members rather than the commander in chief himself, in political terms?

SNOW:  Well, I think in political terms, it‘s interesting.  Everybody wants to say politics is a dirty word, but it‘s not.  We‘re in a season now where an important election is coming up in nine weeks.  Nine weeks from today.  And the central question for many people is the conduct of the war and the conduct of the war on terror.

I think it‘s perfectly legitimate to ask questions.  If certain politicians want to focus on Don Rumsfeld, OK, let them do it.  Let them take it to it; let them have a vote.  But the fact is, as we‘ve seen this week, perhaps you‘ve seen this.  I just brought this along today.  The president today bringing out the counterterrorism strategy.  Tomorrow there‘s going to be a discussion by the president about how the United States deals with the Hamdan decision handed down by the Supreme Court.

In this political season, there is an opportunity for members of both political parties to demonstrate that they‘re serious and willing to cooperate on important issues, such as how do you detain, how do you deal with people that you‘ve detained on the battlefield.  That‘s the Hamdan decision, and the Supreme Court said you‘ve got to talk to Congress about it.

There are conversations ongoing, as you know, about how to deal with proper ways of doing surveillance.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

SNOW:  These are chances for both political parties to go ahead and assume some responsibility, because you know what?  The one thing the American people want is to win this war on terror.

MATTHEWS:  Will the president call for a legislation to—remedial legislation to get by that court decision?

SNOW:  Well, I‘m going to let the president do his own speaking, but stay tuned.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much for coming on HARDBALL, Tony Snow, White House press secretary.

Up next, with the fifth anniversary of 9/11 just days away, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster begins a series of reports on the five unanswered questions that still remain.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Some breaking news to report now about the Supreme Court, the Justice Anthony Kennedy.  NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams joins us now with the news—Pete. 

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Chris, we learned this afternoon that Justice Kennedy had a stint on a coronary artery after experiencing some mild chest pain.  He went into the Washington Hospital Center just this past Saturday, had the procedure done, and was out by Sunday morning, back at work this morning at 6:00 a.m., the court says, and is feeling fine, and in fact, is scheduled to play golf later this week. 

What‘s interesting here, Chris, is that we learned today that he had this done once before, last fall in November of 2005, and we were not told about that at the time.  The court, obviously, apparently considered that not a very minor matter.  But today, this was a supplemental stint they said, suggesting that it was to go after the same area in the artery, although they weren‘t that specific. 

But it‘s the first indication that we have had that he had this procedure not only once, but twice.  They also emphasized that when the doctors were examining him over the weekend, they found no evidence of heart damage.  Justice Kennedy just turned 70 in July.  He‘s the third-longest serving member of the U.S. supreme court, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Does the justices on the Supreme Court, do they enjoy a kind of a penumbra of privacy with regard to their health that the president does not? 

WILLIAMS:  Oh, without question.  Now, I guess one exception would be the chief justice, and you may recall we heard lots and lots about Chief Justice Rehnquist with all of his battles and throat cancer, when he was in the hospital, when he was out, when he went in for treatment.  So I think it‘s a little bit different if you are the chief justice.  And, obviously, this is a very relatively minor matter, but it is the first time we have heard anything about it with Justice Kennedy. 

Several members of the court over previous years have had heart issues or even cancer issues, and we‘ve been told about that, but clearly we don‘t hear about every single thing that goes wrong with them. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Pete Williams, for that update. 

Monday, by the way, will mark, as everyone knows now, the five-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks on this country.  Tonight on HARDBALL, we are beginning the first of our in-depth reports examining the top unanswered questions about the 9/11 plot. 

Despite the 9/11 Commission investigation and millions of pages of documents and evidence that have been collected, there are still some important mysteries about the attacks, including one intriguing question about 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta.  HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reports. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MOHAMMED ATTA, 9/11 RINGLEADER:  We have some planes.  Just stay quiet and you‘ll be OK.  We‘re returning to the airport.

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  We know his voice.  We even know his face.  What we don‘t know is why Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the 19 terrorists, spent the night before 9/11 in Portland, Maine.  Atta flew from Portland to Boston on 9/11, and out of Boston and took control of the first hijacked aircraft, American Airlines Flight 11. 

ATTA:  Nobody move, everything will be OK.  If you try to make any moves you‘ll endanger yourself and the airplane.  Just stay quiet. 

SHUSTER:  Twenty-three minutes later, Atta flew that plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We now we are getting information that it was a small commuter plane.  And, of course, we‘ll let people know as soon as we have more information. 

SHUSTER:  Atta‘s night before 9/11 is a mystery that has puzzled terrorism experts for five years.  Roger Cressey was director of transnational threats for President Bush‘s National Security Council. 

ROGER CRESSEY, NBC COUNTER-TERRORISM ANALYST:  There is a real question there because he took a tremendous risk in going to Portland the night before and then having to catch a commuter flight to Boston in order to catch the main flight that he ultimately hijacked.  Given the vagaries of traveling on the East Coast, a tremendous risk to take.  And so we still don‘t know what he was doing there. 

SHUSTER:  Mohammed Atta grew up in Egypt and studied urban planning in Germany.  He lived in Hamburg in the 1990s and is now believed to have trained in 1999 at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan.  In the spring of 2000, Atta entered the United States and enrolled in an aviation school in Venice, Florida. 

On September 10, 2001, Atta picked up one of the other 9/11, Abdulaziz Alomari, at the Milner hotel in Boston.  They drove a rented Nissan to Portland, Maine, arriving at the Comfort Inn Hotel at 5:43 p.m.  At the time, Tyler Drumheller was a top official at the CIA, responsible, among other things, for all European operations. 

TYLER DRUMHELLER, FMR. CIA EUROPEAN OPS CHIEF:  He might have been just doing, you know, surveillance detection to see if anybody was following him up in that area. 

SHUSTER:  Financial records and videos show Atta and the other Alomari made two ATM withdrawals in Portland, and the men were reportedly spotted at an area Wal-Mart and in the parking lot of a Pizza Hut. 

On the morning of 9/11, Atta and Alomari drove to the Portland International Jetport and boarded a 6:00 a.m. flight from Portland to Boston‘s Logan International Airport. 

STEVE EMERSON, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  It is possible that he calculated that security would be less stringent in Portland, Maine, than it would be in Boston, Massachusetts. 

SHUSTER:  Another theory is that the 9/11 ringleader was concerned about a last-minute weather glitch or traffic jam in Boston. 

DRUMHELLER:  I suspect they were casing a fallback position to launch from—either Boston became either for weather or security of some reason.  They couldn‘t get out of Boston, or they had to fallback from their first position.  Usually in these type of things, you have your initial plan.  Then you have your fallback plan, and that may have been what he was doing.  

SHUSTER:  And the other possibility is that Atta went to Portland for a final meeting with a still-unknown supporter. 

DRUMHELLER:  To sort of, you know, make the final arrangements to sort of close out everything that they were doing to wrap up their time here in the states.  That‘s a possibility.  And Portland, Maine, would certainly be an out of the way kind of place you would do a meeting like that. 

SHUSTER:  Once Atta‘s commuter flight from Portland landed in Boston on 9/11, phone records show he took a call from another 9/11 hijacker, Marwan Alshehhi.  Investigators believe the call was to confirm the attacks were ready to begin.  On American Airlines Flight 11, Atta joined four other hijackers.  That aircraft hit the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We are told that a plane crashed into the upper floors of the western most tower. 

SHUSTER:  United Flight 175, which also left from Boston, hit the South Tower at approximately 9:03 a.m. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You have to move from talk about a possible accident to talk about something deliberate. 

CRESSEY:  In the aftermath of the attacks, one of the things we did at the White House was push the FBI to focus on Portland to determine whether or not there were people there that they might have met with.  So we went through the logs of the ferries leaving Maine.  We went through logs of airlines and everything associated with any potential for a terrorist cell there to support Atta, and we came up empty. 

SHUSTER (on camera):  So did Mohammed Atta go to Portland, Maine because of security concerns?  Did he meet with anybody there who has never been identified?  That raises an even larger issue, and that is, was there anybody in the United States who knowingly help the 9/11 terrorists prepare for the attacks?  We will examine that unanswered question in our next report.

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL, in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David.  That next report is going to go on the air Thursday evening, part of our series of reports on the top five unanswered questions about 9/11.

With the fifth anniversary of 9/11 coming up this weekend, President Bush focused again today on national security and word from Capitol Hill is that immigration won‘t be dealt with this fall so that Congress can focus on security. 

Norm Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.  He‘s author of a new book, “The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How To Get It Back on Track.”

The thing I‘m focused on in this campaign, maybe because I just think it‘s so fascinating, is that instrument that Congress has called the subpoena, the ability to call witnesses, jam them in a chair under oath and find out the facts.  If the Democrats had power of the Hill the last four or five years, had control of one of the houses, would we have seen a different development from 9/11?

NORM ORNSTEIN, AUTHOR:  Well I think you would have seen an awful lot of very tough hearings.  There are two elements here.  The subpoena where you force people to come in and they don‘t want to come in.  The other is just simply good oversight where you bring people in to look at what happened and why and then to look ahead.

We haven‘t had either of those in the last four years.  We had 1,000 subpoenas issued over Christmas cards in the White House during the Clinton years by the Republican Congress and we haven‘t had any in the last six.  We would have seen a very different picture I think in terms of examining what happened before 9/11, what happened in the aftermath of it than we have at this point.  And if Democrats recapture the majority, subpoena is the magic word.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s your image of—suppose the Democrats carry the House now, they have to pick up 15 seats this November and everybody I hope goes out and votes on both sides of this argument and come next State of the Union when we‘re watching on television with 100 million Americans watching and they see a woman sitting behind the president of the United States, Nancy Pelosi.  For the first time, a woman‘s either been vice president or speaker of the House.  What will be the impact on the country socially, politically, et cetera?

ORNSTEIN:  You know, it is not quite having a woman president.  But the speaker of the House is the first officer of the United States mentioned in the Constitution.  It‘s a big deal.  The first woman speaker is a big deal.  You‘ve got to believe it‘s going to be inspirational in different ways.  It will attract more women into public life very possibly.  But of course there‘s also going to be a large burden on Speaker Pelosi because she‘s going to be dealing with a president of the opposite party and in a very difficult and hostile environment.  So how she performs in that role had a lot to do with it as well.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think this country—here‘s a value judgment.  I know you‘re a professor and an intellect, sort of an academic, as well as a hell of a speaker in public, I‘ve seen you so many times—do you think that the country is better off having divided government, like we had in the ‘90s, where you had a Republican-led House under Newt Gingrich and a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, than we are with a united government with both houses as the same party of the president.

ORNSTEIN:  You know, if you look at the last several experiences we have had under divided and united government, the first two years of the Clinton administration with united Democrats followed by...

MATTHEWS:  ... Well that was a disaster.

ORNSTEIN:  It was a disaster and then with divided government, we actually got some things accomplished.  There was reform in balancing the budget, among other things.  And then you look at the last six years, brief period where the Democrats had the Senate.  You almost inescapably come to the conclusion that given our tribal politics right now, that divided government, very close margins, divided government has to got to be better in terms of forcing the two parties to deal with one another, because each has a piece of governing.

MATTHEWS:  And they could trump each other?

ORNSTEIN:  They could.  The difficulty we have, Chris, is that under any scenario we could work out for 2007, we‘re going to have extremely close margins in both houses, one or two or three in the House, one or two in the Senate, and that‘s going to make it difficult, whether it‘s divided or united to come together on any of these big issues.  Social Security I think is out of the question.

MATTHEWS:  Well I think you‘re with the majority, that most people say they want to see a divided government because they want to see some checking on power.  They want the checks and balances to work and they haven‘t been.  Anyway, Norm Ornstein staying with us.  Up next, 63 days to go now.  We like to keep count until Election Day.  Will the focus on security, as the president has attempted today, help the Republicans stay in power?  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  The “National Journal‘s” Charlie Cook writes the “Cook Political Report,” which is hot stuff on who‘s going to win elections and he‘s also an NBC News political analyst.  And we‘re back with Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. 

I saw a great poll number today in the “Associated Press” poll, always looking for negativity.  It said that by 2-1 people, the American people out to vote against incumbents.  Do they have the cahones to go out there and walk into that voting booth and vote against the most familiar name and say I‘m not going to vote for that person one more time?

ORNSTEIN:  Sixty-seven percent of incumbents are not going to lose this time, but it‘s a measure...

MATTHEWS:  Why do people say that?

ORNSTEIN:  ... of the anger and unhappiness that the people feel right now and a lot of is directed at the do-nothing Congress, which is what this book is all about.

MATTHEWS:  We just talked to Tony Snow.  The Social Security thing the president put forward and good for him, he tried something new, but nobody liked it.  The personal accounts didn‘t sell.  He has got an immigration bill, which his own party that basically up chucked.  They can‘t stand it.  Has the party in control of Congress done anything this year?

CHARLIE COOK, NATIONAL JOURNAL:  No, this has not been—although frankly, the margins are so narrow, it would be hard for any party to do anything with these—but the thing is, I think an incumbent‘s that‘s got a real reservoir of goodwill, even if they‘re in a party getting punished in an election, you can survive.  But if you‘re roots aren‘t that deep—but a fascinating number to me was the Gallup organization has found that when Congress has an approval rating of over 40 percent, the average net change of the House in the midterm election is five.  When it‘s under 40, the average net change is 29 seats.  In the last FOX News poll, Congress‘s approval, the over/under is 40, 24 approve, 61 disapprove.

MATTHEWS:  But I also saw the numbers—you‘re right, people think this Congress is lousy.  But then you ask them what they think of the Democrats in Congress and it‘s almost as .

COOK:  If Democrats win, it will be because of who they‘re not, not because of who they are.  But midterm elections tend to be a lot more negative than positive.

MATTHEWS:  Norm, you studied politics.  Do people go into voting booths with a conscious—ever a conscious decision to vote against the most familiar name, the guy who‘s been in there, the woman who‘s been in there?

ORNSTEIN:  Almost never.  But you know, what happens in an election of this sort, as much as anything, is you get a different range of turnout.  The people who are angry turn out and that‘s going to be Democrats this time and the people who are disillusioned and unhappy with what their own party has done are not going to turn out in substantial numbers.

MATTHEWS:  So the Republicans will tend to have a low turnout this time.

ORNSTEIN:  And that‘s what happened in ‘94 and Republicans didn‘t do much before that and they benefited...

MATTHEWS:  ... Let‘s talk about the Pennsylvania race, it‘s fascinating.  All those state senators that got beaten, the leadership over the pay raise, is there still a bubbling anger against politicians who seem to exploit their position regardless of party now?

COOK:  Well, I would never say that Pennsylvania is a state known for electing hacks, but if one was, and the Pennsylvania legislature has more than its share, and so I think it was probably a matter of time before voters in Pennsylvania were going to lash out.  And they lashed out at incumbents of both parties over the pay raise and the way it was done. 

Have we had a disproportionate number of incumbents lose this year?   No, but there has been a healthy number, and where it has been it has been an interesting circumstance. 

MATTHEWS:  Pick an upset.

ORNSTEIN:  You know, it‘s hard for me to pick an upset this time.  I think if we could call it that, I think Harold Ford has a real chance of pulling out the Senate seat in Tennessee.  For a Democrat to win in Tennessee, for an African-American one to win, I‘d call it an upset. 

MATTHEWS:  There is no track record for him doing it.  I think it might be Kean in New Jersey beating Menendez. 

COOK:  If Democrats lose a seat anywhere in the U.S. Senate, that‘s it.  Norm stole the one I had.  Would I give Corker still an edge?  Yes.  But I think Harold Ford‘s chances are a lot better than...

MATTHEWS:  Who won the debate on “Meet the Press?”  I saw it this Sunday.  It was a lively effort by both guys, Santorum, Rick Santorum, who has been mocked by even Tony Soprano as Senator Sanatorium, you know, who won that debate?  The first of the year on “Meet the Press.”

ORNSTEIN:  You know, I would say that Casey won by getting a draw, in effect.  And that‘s all he needed when he‘s ahead. 

MATTHEWS: All he needed to do was clinch, as they used to do in the old days.  What do you think? 

COOK:  I think Casey didn‘t lose and he needed to lose.  He was ahead. 

He needed to lose...

MATTHEWS:  For Santorum to win. 

COOK:  Right, right, right.

MATTHEWS:  I just looked at the numbers today, Santorum is down by 18 points in Pennsylvania.  Is that possible? 

COOK:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think that‘s—it‘s not that bad?

COOK:  No.  But the thing is, Santorum, you have to admire the guy‘s principle.  He hasn‘t trimmed a bit in the face of heavy winds. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘ve got Malachy McCourt coming up here.  You have to make way for that guy. 

Anyway, thank you, Charlie Cook.  Good luck with the book, Norm Ornstein.  You know Congress as well...

ORNSTEIN:  “The Broken Branch.”

MATTHEWS:  “The Broken Branch.”  Knows it as well as anybody around.

When we come back, we‘ll talk New York politics—New York—with the Green Party‘s candidate for governor, Malachy McCourt.  And a reminder, tomorrow on MSNBC all day, coverage of “Decision 2006: Battleground America,” perfect day for junkies to stay home and watch MSNBC.  Join me along with MSNBC‘s—or NBC‘s Tim Russert, Brian Williams, David Gregory, Campbell Brown, Lester Holt, plus MSNBC‘s Joe Scarborough, Tucker Carlson and me, as we preview the big election showdown this fall.  That‘s all day tomorrow.  It‘s politics tomorrow.  We own this election on MSNBC, right here on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  The New York state governors race has gotten green.  Malachy McCourt, an Irishman if there ever was one, will run for New York state governor on the Green Party ticket.  If that name sounds familiar, you might remember a little book called “Angela‘s Ashes” by Malachy‘s brother Frank.  Malachy is the author as well, an activist, an actor, and now a candidate.  Welcome.

Is this one of these old William F. Buckley/Jimmy Breslin numbers you‘re pulling here in New York?  

MALACHY MCCOURT (GREEN), NEW YORK GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, Buckley said—well, hello, Chris.  Buckley said that if he were elected, he would demand a recount, and some people asked me if this some kind of a joke?  Well, if you are looking for jokes, try the White House or try the mansion house in Albany. 

Although I don‘t take myself seriously, I take what I do seriously. 

And...

MATTHEWS:  OK, why aren‘t you a Democrat?  Why are you a Green? 

MCCOURT:  Why am I a Green?  Because I was a Democrat for years, and I was one of those lesser of two evil kind of types, but then came all these sort of wishy-washy, on one hand, on the other hand, like Hillary Clinton and they‘re for the war, they‘re not for the war... 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s not have any wishy-washy.  Where are you on gay marriage? 

MCCOURT:  What‘s that? 

MATTHEWS:  Where are you on gay marriage? 

MCCOURT:  Gay marriage, there is no such thing.  There‘s only marriage of people.  Look, Adam—these fundamentalists, if they only knew that Adam when God took one of his ribs, it had the same DNA as him.  So when he made Eve out of the rib, that‘s exactly same DNA, so Adam was sleeping with himself.  So he must have loved himself.  So I don‘t care—look, Mark Twain said, “I don‘t care what you do, so long as you don‘t frighten the horses.” 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... make bad comments about people who are gay, as somebody did on this show a couple of weeks ago.  Look, let me ask you this.  Where are you on capital punishment? 

MCCOURT:  Capital punishment?  I think that if—I have got to find that guy in Spain who indicted Pinochet and get him for war crimes, and I get him to do the same thing for Bush.  And in that case, I would be for capital punishment.  Otherwise, I am against it. 

Spitzer, who is the other guy running here, he is for capital punishment for those who kill policemen.  Well, my son is a cop in New York, and if somebody killed my son, and it wouldn‘t do me any good or give me any satisfaction to sit there in some death house in Singh-Singh and watch them put another person to death because they killed my son.  That would not cheer me up one bit, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  You just sound like a liberal Democrat, Malachy. 

MCCOURT:  I‘m not liberal.  I am a human being, because I grew up in poverty and misery, desperation.  And all I want to see is that I want to see a government of the people, by the people, for the people, not over the people.  This is the Empire State, and we don‘t need an emperor, we need a governor. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  How much love do you have for Hillary Clinton?  On the scale of one to 10?

MCCOURT:  It‘s not love.  She‘s OK.  I don‘t love her. 

MATTHEWS:  On a scale of one to 10, Hillary Clinton? 

MCCOURT:  Hillary Clinton, one.  Not one up top. 

MATTHEWS:  What is your beef?

MCCOURT:  We have got a great guy, Howie Hawkins, running on the Green Party line.  They should vote for him. 

MATTHEWS:  The Green Party seems to have candidates all over the country.  Are you really a Naderite, is it connected to Ralph Nader anymore?  Is this—is he gone now?

MCCOURT:  No, no, Ralph is sort of out of the picture right now.  People—a lot of people are very angry at him because they felt he lost the elections for the Democrats, but...

MATTHEWS:  Well, he did cost them Florida. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a mathematical fact.  Ninety thousand votes, and we are screwing around here, looking at chads?  Anyway.

MCCOURT:  Well, I am not getting into that, Chris, because I just joined. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I had to tell you, I hereby make my stand, I like you already.  Malachy McCourt, Green Party candidate...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And tomorrow on MSNBC, a full day of political coverage.  It‘s “Decision 2006: Battleground America.”  I‘ll be here along with Tim Russert, Brian Williams, David Gregory, Campbell Brown, Lester Holt, Joe Scarborough, Tucker Carlson.  What a murderers row we are.  We‘ll be here all day tomorrow to cover politics.  It‘s all for the junkies.  Take the day off. 

Right now, it‘s time for “TUCKER.”

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.

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