Guests: Jim Pederson, Tom Reynolds, Darrell West, Jonathon Tasini
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Did the president exploit the fifth-year observance of 9/11 to sell his Iraq policy? Having admitted mistakes, the lack of WMD, the lack of a link to 9/11, the unpredicted resistance to our occupation, when it is three strikes, you‘re out?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. And welcome to HARDBALL.
And tonight, from campaign politics, in a matter of hours, poll starts closing for primary voters in Arizona, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, and here in Washington, D.C.—at stake, power in the Senate and power in the House.
After more than a decade waiting in the wings, Democrats now have a real shot at grabbing the stage. In the House, Democrats need to pick up 15 seats. In the Senate, they need to pick up six.
The biggest race today comes from the smallest state, Rhode Island. President Bush and Republicans are laying it all on the line there, throwing their support behind the moderate Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee. The incumbent senator faces a lethal challenge from the right. If Chafee loses today‘s primary to Steve Laffey, Republicans say they will concede Rhode Island in November.
Could tonight bring a defeat for George Bush and his mastermind, Karl Rove? A Democratic victory in the House would mean a real power shift, the speakership, the majority leadership, committee chairmen, and subpoena power.
We start tonight with our HARDBALLERS, Pat Buchanan and Bob Shrum.
Pat Buchanan—I want to start to go to Bob Shrum. I want to start this in a virulent fashion.
MATTHEWS: Bob, last night, the president...
BOB SHRUM, HARDBALL POLITICAL ANALYST: Pat and I usually get there anyway.
MATTHEWS: Well, and we will get there fast tonight in our 7:00 edition, right now.
MATTHEWS: You are first.
Bob, I watched the president‘s performance for two days. I thought he was a wonderful head of state for most of those two days. I thought he was magnificent representing us and our great sentiments about the victims of 9/11.
Then he popped on the screen last night at 9:00, and gave a political speech. That‘s my belief. He was selling Iraq. What did you think?
SHRUM: Well, you will be surprised. I don‘t disagree with you.
I think he was not only political. I think he lied. I think he wrapped the whole Iraq war in 9/11, when every piece of evidence we have—and they keep coming out—says that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11.
And, frankly, I think it is obscene for the president of the United States, on what should be a sacred and nonpartisan day, to wrap an Iraq war that is a disaster in the shrouds of the victims of 9/11.
MATTHEWS: Pat Buchanan.
PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that is a little overdone on Mr. Shrum‘s part.
MATTHEWS: Give me a medium rare on this thing.
BUCHANAN: Well, let me tell you, the president of the United States does believe it is all one ball of wax against Islamofascism and all that. We may very much, well, disagree with that.
But he makes one point, Chris, beyond all this, which is very important, when he says, whatever mistakes have been made, if this thing goes down the tube, it is going to be a calamity for this country. And that is a compelling theme.
I don‘t think the war on terror and the war in Iraq are the one and the same at all. He believes it. I think, frankly, he‘s sincere.
Let me ask you, for the people out there fighting the war, and their parents and loved ones right now, who are we actually fighting in Iraq? Let‘s get it straight. He says we are fighting terrorism, Islamofascism. And, then, during the speech last night, he shifted gears and said, no, we are fighting for democracy in the Middle East.
He is not quite saying we are fighting terrorists, is he?
BUCHANAN: Well, see...
MATTHEWS: Who are we fighting over there?
BUCHANAN: Look what “The Washington Post” said. Anbar Province is pretty much given up politically to al Qaeda. In the city of Baghdad, which he says that is a Sunni-Shia war, quite frankly. That is religious civil war.
There are Baathists and others who want the American imperialists out of there. There are Iranians who say, well, we don‘t want the Americans to go yet, because they got to finish.
So, there‘s a lot of forces in there. The president turns around and says, we are fighting for a democratic, pro-Western, anti-terrorist Iraq. And I don‘t fault him for that.
MATTHEWS: Well, Muqtada al-Sadr comes out, Bob, the other day—it‘s in the paper this morning—saying, we are going to have a civil war whenever the United States leaves. In fact, there will be less bloodshed, because it will be over with sooner or later.
If we keep staying there, he says—and he is one of the bad guys over there, as far as most of us are concerned—there is going to be bloodshed anyway. So, are we just holding off the inevitable civil war by staying over there?
SHRUM: Well, I think there is a civil war. I think it‘s going on all the time.
I think, when Pat talks about Anbar Province, when he talks about the Sunni-Shiite split, not just in Baghdad, by the way, but in other places around Iraq, you are looking at a situation that can only be described, by anybody except George Bush, as a civil war.
What we‘re hearing from the president, and what we‘re hearing from Pat, who is trying, I think, to come for a reason, is a rhetoric of redemption for a war that is a disaster and a war that is not going to be won.
SHRUM: But I will say this to you, Pat. You are saying the same thing about staying in Iraq that you said about staying in Vietnam.
SHRUM: In the end, we left Vietnam and communism fell. It didn‘t expand around the world.
BUCHANAN: Yes. Yes. Well, you can tell it to the people under Pol Pot, how wonderful it was. That‘s what I fear, Chris, is the people in Iraq will suffer the same fate...
SHRUM: Pat, you should have told Richard Nixon not to invade Cambodia and drag it into that war.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, Pol Pot was—Cambodia—I don‘t know what Cambodia has to do with this. What does it have to do with this?
BUCHANAN: What I‘m saying is, every single person that cast his lot with us, went out front with us, we walk out of there, and there is a real possibility they will get their throats cut on Al-Jazeera. That bothers me.
MATTHEWS: How do we deal with it? How do we deal with it?
BUCHANAN: This is just it. You can‘t say, well, we‘re going to walk out.
BUCHANAN: You can‘t say, Chris, three strikes, you are out.
MATTHEWS: You can change the subject, if you want.
The issue I raised is, did the president of the United States use this solemn day yesterday of 9/11 to sell his Iraq policy?
BUCHANAN: He sold his policy as commander in chief, yes. Is it strictly political? No. Are there politics to it? Anything in September is political.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look, Bob, Pat. Let‘s let the people at home who didn‘t see last night take a look at some of what the president said last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am often asked why we‘re in Iraq, when Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The answer is that the regime of Saddam Hussein was a clear threat. My administration, the Congress and the United Nations saw the threat.
And, after 9/11, Saddam‘s regime posed a risk that the world could not afford to take.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Two points in that. He says that Saddam Hussein was a clear threat to the United States.
Do you believe that was true, Pat?
BUCHANAN: No. I was against the war.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe the world went in there to fight Saddam Hussein, or we went in there?
BUCHANAN: We went in there to fight Saddam Hussein.
MATTHEWS: Why is not saying the truth on a night, on a night he should unite us?
BUCHANAN: Because he believes that, Chris. The Turks didn‘t believe us. They wouldn‘t even let us come in. If he wasn‘t a threat to the Turks, how is he a threat to the United States of America?
MATTHEWS: Why does he go back over his old arguments that cause
division on a day he is supposed to unify us? Why doesn‘t he move ahead
and say, OK, we can disagree whether we should have gone to Iraq or night -
or not; let‘s try to figure out what we do to save the lives of people who have invested in our democratic effort over there?
Why doesn‘t he say that?
MATTHEWS: Because he would unite the country if he did that, maybe.
BUCHANAN: Well, because he believes that it was a genuine threat, and we are not in there on a lark, simply to make democracy, but it was a threat. He believes that. And he feels he has got to say it to make his case.
SHRUM: He may believe in the Tooth Fairy. That doesn‘t mean there is one.
The fact is, Saddam Hussein was contained. Everyone now agrees with that. Even Dick Cheney half-conceded that on television last weekend.
MATTHEWS: When did he do that?
SHRUM: What this was, was a war of choice.
MATTHEWS: No, Bob. Bob, no, he didn‘t. Give me the wording where he said that Saddam Hussein was not a threat to America, Dick Cheney.
SHRUM: No, no. He sort of—he backed off all of the claims that he had anything to do...
MATTHEWS: He backed off on linkage.
SHRUM: Right. He backed off on all the claims about 9/11.
MATTHEWS: He backed off on there wouldn‘t be a resistance. He‘s never backed off on the fact that he didn‘t like Saddam Hussein.
SHRUM: But he can‘t present—he can‘t present any evidence that he was a threat to America.
MATTHEWS: OK. That‘s an argument.
SHRUM: He didn‘t present any evidence that he was a threat to America, and he was challenged to do it.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me move on now.
The Democrats have asked for a response time. They have—once again have written something in language which is inscrutable. It‘s not clear whether they‘re asking—Bob, you have been involved in this, you have been involved, as communications director for President Reagan.
MATTHEWS: Are the Democrats asking to give the Democrats 60 minutes on prime time to match the president?
BUCHANAN: What they‘re asking for...
MATTHEWS: What are they asking for?
BUCHANAN: Here is what they‘re asking for.
They have had these four or five presidential speeches where he‘s wrapping himself in national security. It‘s his issue. He‘s saying to the net—they are saying to the networks, give us time, equal time, for our case for national security, to show we are not weaklings.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to NBC‘s Mike Viqueira up on Capitol Hill.
Can you clarify, Mike, what the Democrats want?
MIKE VIQUEIRA, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Sure.
Democrats had been sore in the days leading up to it. Once the speech had been announced for Monday night, they said, what is this? Are you just going to give him the time? I had a number of calls from Democratic communications staffers to that effect.
Now, what the president—what the Democrats did today is—the upshot is, they have written this letter. They said that national security has regularly been politicized and exploited for partisan gain. They see last night, of course, as no exception, as many Democrats throughout Capitol Hill and around the country would tend to agree.
Harry Reid took to the floor today. He said, five days after 9/11, the president was at ground zero with a bullhorn that changed the direction of his presidency and brought the country together. Last night, he had the bully pulpit.
That is what Democrats are afraid of. Kennedy took to the—Ted Kennedy took the floor today, said the president commandeered the national airwaves last night.
So, what do Democrats want to do about it? They have written a letter to the heads of the five major news networks. They: “We write to you today to request that if you continue to devote extensive live coverage to the president‘s national security speeches over the next few weeks”—and, of course, there are 55 days left until Election Day, November 7 -- “you similarly provide substantial coverage to the national security events and statements of House and Senate Democrats”—Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK. So, they want equal time.
VIQUEIRA: In a nutshell.
BUCHANAN: They want basically—they want equal time.
MATTHEWS: They seem to also—if you listen to the wording there that Mike just gave us in that letter, they want—if you are going to give the president 15 minutes, you got to give the Democrats response time.
BUCHANAN: Yes. If you‘re going to let the president talk about national security, cover us on national security.
MATTHEWS: What does that mean? How do you cover the Democrats? They don‘t have the presidency.
BUCHANAN: Well, just like you do. You generally get Republicans and Democrats in here. That‘s what they want.
MATTHEWS: Bob, if you were running one of the networks, you were Steve Capus or one of the others running the news divisions, how would you read that demand or request?
MATTHEWS: What does it actually say they want? Does it mean, when you are doing the nightly news or doing news roundups, you let both sides be heard?
Or does it mean, when the president comes on at 4:00 in the afternoon, and you give him a half-hour of time, you give a subsequent half-hour of time to the Democrats?
MATTHEWS: How particular do you read that?
SHRUM: I think it means the latter. I think it means that there ought to be some balance in the unmediated presentation of the cases.
But you know what struck me last night? I was watching it, and I thought to myself, the contrast between this and Ronald Reagan on the 40th anniversary of D-Day, when he spoke for America, he spoke for Democrats, he spoke for Republicans, as few presidents ever have, was striking.
That speech last night—and the reason he gave it, Chris, was because he is in deep trouble on Iraq. They are trying to play the shell game of concealing Iraq inside 9/11. They‘re worried about the elections.
MATTHEWS: It was interesting, the way they weaved.
You are a speechwriter, Pat. Every other paragraph is weaved in and out, the war against the terrorists, like al Qaeda, to why we are in Iraq, which is not against those terrorists generally; 90 percent of the people we are fighting over there are fighting with each other.
BUCHANAN: You‘re right. The president was making his case.
I would contrast it with the Challenger speech. When that went down, the president got there and he just spoke as—for all of us about these folks who are our people...
MATTHEWS: With the wonderful help of Margaret Newman—Margaret Noonan.
BUCHANAN: Exactly. Noonan.
MATTHEWS: And you were in charge. It wasn‘t Margaret Newman. It was Margaret...
BUCHANAN: Yes. I made sure they didn‘t edit it.
MATTHEWS: One of the great speeches of all times.
Anyway, thank you.
MATTHEWS: What are you laughing at, Bob?
SHRUM: No. I mean, the fact that Pat protected the speech.
MATTHEWS: You never wrote...
MATTHEWS: Bob, you never wrote a speech as good as the one that Peggy Noonan wrote.
SHRUM: Pat and I have both—Pat and I have both been there when the speeches have not been protected. It was good that he protected that speech.
Peggy Noonan‘s speech that night did speak for all America. And Reagan did set an example of how to do that. Other presidents have done it, too—Bill Clinton after Oklahoma City, John Kennedy in the ‘60s.
MATTHEWS: I love the way that Teddy Kennedy always let you get a little credit for these speeches, too, Bob.
We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mike Viqueira. Thank you, Pat Buchanan and Bob Shrum.
They are staying with us.
And, when we come back, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster will report on that hot Senate race up in little old Rhode Island.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: Can Lincoln Chafee survive his primary? Even if he does, can he win in November?
More with Pat Buchanan and Bob Shrum—when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Nine states and Washington, D.C., right here, are holding primaries today. But the main event is that Republican Senate fight up in Rhode Island for the U.S. Senate seat of Lincoln Chafee. He is under heavy fire from a conservative.
HARDBALL‘s David Shuster reports.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In little old Democratic Rhode Island, it‘s a big, bruising Republican primary battle between the moderate GOP incumbent, Lincoln Chafee, and the hard-line conservative, Steve Laffey.
STEVE LAFFEY, RHODE ISLAND SENATE CANDIDATE: He is an irrelevant senator. He has accomplished almost nothing down there.
SEN. LINCOLN CHAFEE ®, RHODE ISLAND: How can you claim to be a reformer, when your candidacy has been paid for by a questionable organization?
SHUSTER: Top Republican pollsters say that, in a general election against Democratic nominee Sheldon Whitehouse, Laffey, the mayor of Cranston and an anti-abortion crusader, would get trounced.
So, national Republicans, eager to keep control of the U.S. Senate, have lined up behind Chafee.
JOHN HARWOOD, SENIOR CONTRIBUTING WRITER, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”:
In an adverse environment, like Republicans are facing this year, they‘ve got to cut every corner they can to try to preserve their numbers.
SHUSTER: The result has been one of the most bizarre Republican primaries in the country, because, even though Chafee voted against the war in Iraq, the Bush tax cuts, and most restrictions on abortion, national Republicans, led by presidential strategist Karl Rove, have given Chafee more than $1.5 million, and are helping him smear his opponent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
NARRATOR: To cover up a charge that he stole confidential material from a former employer, Steve Laffey doctored his resume.
Steve Laffey, untrustworthy, unpredictable, unreliable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: One Chafee ad borrows a line used in countless attacks against Democrats, mocking Laffey as tax-and-spend Steve Laffey.
And, then, there is the brutal Chafee attack ad based on one memorable city council meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
NARRATOR: The file on Steve Laffey? Police document, he talked down to the wife of a firefighter, and then had to be restrained. On radio, he said, luckily, people who didn‘t support his campaign were “older” and “dying.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: For his part, Laffey has gotten a boost from the conservative tax cut organization Club For Growth, which has been blasting Chafee as a Washington insider.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
NARRATOR: Who‘s so hypocritical, he opposed a tax cut for you, while he backed a pay raise for politicians?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: And Laffey himself has repeatedly hammered Chafee‘s bipartisanship on issues like immigration.
STEPHEN LAFFEY ®, RHODE ISLAND SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I watch on TV
a bunch of U.S. senators trying to hand out amnesty for illegal aliens and
trying to allow foreign workers to make more money than Americans. That‘s
wrong. The bill we need down in the United States Senate and Congress is -
is to secure our borders first, and then enforce the—the—the laws against employers.
SHUSTER: Today, anti-abortion groups from Ohio launched tough phone calls against Chafee, and more than a dozen voter turnout specialists from the Republican National Committee worked to help Chafee and hurt Laffey.
It was the final exclamation point in a race whose tone shocked Republican voters in Rhode Island—intrigued independents were allowed to vote in today‘s primary—and delighted Democrats.
(on camera): The polls in Rhode Island closed tonight at 9:00. The question is, will Republicans vote for pragmatism or ideology in a race that political junkies across the country are watching?
I‘m David Shuster, for HARDBALL, in Washington.
MATTHEWS: We are back with MSNBC analyst political Pat Buchanan, author of “State of Emergency,” and HARDBALL political analyst Bob Shrum.
Your book is up there still, right?
BUCHANAN: Yes, number three on “The New York Times”‘ this last week, this coming week, also.
MATTHEWS: What is that harbor—what does that augur for the future of the Republican Party? Is somebody like Laffey going to win tonight, because he agrees with you on immigration?
BUCHANAN: It‘s a tiny party. I think and hope Laffey will win, because this is between—this is principle. And that is what Laffey stands for. He is a principled conservative. And Chafee is not even a Republican or a conservative.
MATTHEWS: What is he, a reed shaken by the wind?
BUCHANAN: Well, basically, he‘s a liberal—he‘s a liberal Republican who ought to be in your party.
MATTHEWS: He is a rhino. He is a rhino.
BUCHANAN: Well, he is. He didn‘t even vote for Sam Alito, for heaven‘s sake. He is weak on the border. You know, he‘s—he is not our kind of conservative, Chris. You know that.
MATTHEWS: My party is taking on the president, whatever his name is.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Shrummy.
MATTHEWS: Pat just put the old political label on me again. Let me tell you, I take it off.
SHRUM: I know.
MATTHEWS: This is my label. I voted today, OK?
Let me ask you, Shrum, if Chafee goes down tonight, an old Yankee, the old-line type, Northeastern Republican, who used to be—used to be typical of the Republican Party in the Northeast, old Yankee types, good government types, Episcopalian congressional—congregational, whatever, that old New England thing, if he goes down, is this the end of the moderate Republican Party in the Northeast?
SHRUM: I think you‘re going to see the moderate or it‘s—they‘re not so moderate, in—in many places—Republicans do have great damage this year.
I think, in New York, they‘re going to get wiped out. I think it doesn‘t matter who wins this Republican primary in Rhode Island. I think Sheldon Whitehouse is going to win the Senate seat. I think people want to send a message to George Bush. And I think Sheldon Whitehouse is a very—very strong candidate.
By the way, Chris, he has the best slogan I have heard all year: “one Whitehouse in Washington you can trust.”
I have to add to Pat, that was the only time, when you were citing the bestseller list, I have ever heard you say anything favorable about “The New York Times.”
MATTHEWS: You know, I just love the fact, Shrummy...
MATTHEWS: ... that the Democratic Party, the party of the working people, has come up with candidates like—what is that guy‘s name, Ned Lamont...
MATTHEWS: ... from the Greenwich Country Club.
MATTHEWS: And they got this new guy, Sheldon Whitehouse. Now, there‘s a regular fellow with a lunch bucket.
MATTHEWS: I mean, why does your party go to these old, elite families for the lifeblood of your party these days?
SHRUM: You know, I‘m a—I‘m proud that we went to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
MATTHEWS: Oh, here we go.
SHRUM: I don‘t think...
SHRUM: I don‘t think it matters where people come from. I think it matters what they stand for.
SHRUM: I think Sheldon Whitehouse, for example, will go down there and fight to increase the minimum wage.
Chafee, if he is reelected, will say he is for the minimum wage, but he will then vote to put in power a Republican Senate leadership that will prevent it from coming for a vote on the floor.
BUCHANAN: This is why—Chris, your point is exactly why Laffey should win. At least you have got a guy who is—who is a grassroots guy, who can help build the party for the future, who is principled. We‘re going to be a conservative party.
It would be better to lose, although I will say this. If he does win, it will be a very exciting thing. Conservatives will go up there. And let me tell you, Liddy Dole will send money up to him, despite what she says, because they will raise holy hell if they abandon this guy when he wins a primary fight.
MATTHEWS: That is what Pat Toomey said in the early edition of HARDBALL tonight.
You really believe that the Republican Party will get behind an outsider like Laffey, the mayor of Cranston...
BUCHANAN: They got to get...
MATTHEWS: ... who knocks down their guy?
BUCHANAN: If they don‘t get behind the nominee of the Republican Party—look at the Democrats. At least they all got behind Lamont.
BUCHANAN: If the Republicans don‘t get behind Laffey, who, frankly, will get a tremendous boost, because everybody will say, look at this kid, knocked him off...
MATTHEWS: So, you‘re arguing that they got behind Lamont, so they got to get behind Cranston?
BUCHANAN: Well, I‘m saying...
BUCHANAN: ... Laffey would be better for the Republican Party.
MATTHEWS: Do you know who Lamont Cranston was?
BUCHANAN: I know who he was. He was the Shadow.
MATTHEWS: The Shadow.
I couldn‘t resist that one.
MATTHEWS: Shrummy, appreciate the old days of radio here.
Thank you, gentlemen, Pat Buchanan, Bob Shrum.
MATTHEWS: I hope we aren‘t living—outliving our audience here.
Up next, we‘re going to go to Arizona, where Democrat Jim Pederson is looking to take on Senator Jon Kyl. It‘s the last big decision 2006 primary today—and it‘s today—before November.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to this special primary day edition of
Arizona is one of the nine states holding primaries today. Retail developer Jim Pederson, who served as the Democratic Party state chairman out there, is unopposed for the Democratic nomination to face two-term Republican U.S. Senator Jon Kyl.
Mr. Pederson, thank you for joining us.
You are taking on someone I wouldn‘t have thought was beatable on the Republican side in a Republican state. Why do you think you can win?
JIM PEDERSON (D), ARIZONA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Jon Kyl has really never had a challenge in 20 years. I really don‘t think his positions on the issues are really in line with a majority of Arizonans.
MATTHEWS: OK. He‘s a hawk on the war in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: Is that out of line with Arizona?
PEDERSON: Not necessarily out of line.
And we have to use be careful, Chris, in terms of what kinds of words we use, whether it‘s hawk or whether it‘s dove, or whatever. The Iraqi war is not being conducted in a way that is going to provide an end game, you know, for the people of this country. So, we can—we can hold the Bush administration accountable for the conduct of this war and—and the lack of that end game.
MATTHEWS: OK. What is your position on Iraq?
PEDERSON: My position on Iraq is, let‘s stop killing our young men and women.
Let‘s get them—let‘s get them located, or concentrated, in forward operating bases. They can‘t serve as the nation‘s police chief over there. They can‘t serve as a referee, in terms of a cultural war, a political war, a religious war, or a civil war. That can‘t happen. Let‘s start winning the war on terror, and let‘s be a deterrent in Iraq. But let‘s protect the U.S. interests. That‘s the main thing.
MATTHEWS: Well, what is their role over there, positively? You say get them out of the line of fire. But what role do they actually play? They are in uniform. They‘re equipped. They‘re fed. They‘re paid. What is their job as soldiers, if you want to keep them in Iraq?
PEDERSON: Their role is to protect the interests of the United States. Their role is to protect the safety and security of the United States.
Their role is not a referee on the streets. Their role is not a policeman.
MATTHEWS: What is their role, though?
PEDERSON: That‘s where our people...
MATTHEWS: What is their role in Iraq? Why do you want to keep them in Iraq, if you can‘t define their day-to-day job?
What should be the job, day to day? When a soldier gets up in the morning, what should he or she be doing that day in Iraq?
PEDERSON: To serve as a deterrent, to make sure that this tragic conflict doesn‘t get beyond the borders of Iraq.
If this turns into a regional conflict, if we have a regional conflict in that—in that region that really threatens the security of the United States, that is when the military should be called upon, not in the—not as a role—not in the role as a—as a policeman.
MATTHEWS: Well, who would be their enemy in that case? Are they supposed to fight Syrians, Iranians, Jordanians? Who are they using their rifles to shoot at or to hold back?
I mean, I just—I don‘t know get a—I know what the Democrats are doing, candidates like yourself. They‘re saying: I don‘t support the president‘s policies.
And then they support a kind of a Jack Murtha pullback, a redeployment, over the hillside or whatever, over the horizon.
And, yet, I have been asked by—you know, Rich Engel was on, who has been reporting from that part of the world for years for NBC, says, if you do that, the soldiers fighting on our side over there for the Iraqi army will look behind them and say: Wait a minute. Look at all those well-equipped guys, well-fed guys, well-paid soldiers sitting in a bunker or sitting in a barracks, while we are doing the fighting. He says it won‘t work.
What do you say?
PEDERSON: Well, the current situation certainly isn‘t working, Chris.
You know, I don‘t come from the political world. I come from the business world. This is the first time that I have run for public office. You know, I look for results. If I don‘t see results, if I don‘t see bottom-line results, then, we have to question what the policy is. We have to question the people in charge.
Chris, Donald Rumsfeld wouldn‘t last two...
MATTHEWS: Well, what is—yes, but that is not enough. That is to say, I don‘t like the way the president is running this war. Elect me your U.S. senator, and I will find out how to fight this war.
Don‘t you have to go to the people with a proposal for an alternative?
PEDERSON: How about the three goals that we started out with? How about the three goals that President Bush said he would—he would deliver to the American people, an established government in Iraq, a strong security force, infrastructure improvements for the people of Iraq to get them on our side?
None of those three goals, despite what he said last night, have been met.
PEDERSON: We have to hold this administration accountable and go after those goals. How about that as a start?
MATTHEWS: Right, except the person who pulls the lever for you won‘t know what they are getting.
PEDERSON: They are going to be getting someone...
PEDERSON: They are going to be getting someone that takes a hard-nosed, practical, non-ideological, non-political approach to a situation where over 2,500 of our young men and women have been killed, billions and billions of dollars expended, and no results, nothing.
This administration has a deer-in-the-headlights look when it comes to a plan in—in Iraq. We should demand—we should demand a detailed plan as to what our end game is in Iraq. That hasn‘t come up.
You know, I think I could do a much better job of doing that.
MATTHEWS: When would be your—how long are you willing to keep troops in Iraq?
PEDERSON: That‘s impossible to say today. That is impossible to say.
Again, it depends on the...
MATTHEWS: Well, the president says he will keep them there—the president says he will keep troops in Iraq, in force, until after his presidency. As long as he is president, he made it very clear, he will keep them there.
How long do you think we should keep them there? You have to offer some estimate.
PEDERSON: That has to be determined by measurable goals in accordance with a plan, that plan that I mentioned. The plan isn‘t there, Chris. The plan is not there. So let‘s come up with a plan. Let‘s take our troops out of harm‘s way and make sure that our safety and security is being protected.
MATTHEWS: If Donald Rumsfeld gets bumped as Secretary of Defense, as Pentagon chief, in the next two years, can you give me some names of people that you would recommend as a senator—if you get the job as senator—for his replacement? Can you think of some names you can give us now so we‘d know who you‘d recommend at that time?
PEDERSON: You know, the best information, the best guidance that I received on this war—and I‘ve tried to really analyze it and really study it—has come from the military. It‘s come from the military.
I mean, they called the situation exactly right when we went into Iraq, that they didn‘t have enough troops, that we weren‘t meant to be an occupier. Somebody along the lines of Colin Powell, I think, would be a good, hard-nosed person, take a realistic look at that situation, and come up with a realistic solution.
MATTHEWS: So Colin Powell for Department of Defense?
PEDERSON: Well, somebody like that. A well-reasoned person. A well-reasoned person with a military background, I think, would be a great choice.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much. Jim Pederson running for the Senate in Arizona. He‘s probably going to win the nomination tonight. In fact, I think he‘s won it already. Good luck in the general, sir.
PEDERSON: Thank you, sir.
MATTHEWS: Up next, New York Congressman Tom Reynolds, the chairman of the Republican House committee, trying to elect Republicans again. He‘ll talk about why he thinks Republicans can win this November, keep control, win that magic number of 218, keep the Democrats out of the speaker‘s chair. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL tonight. There are 231 Republicans in the House of Representatives right now. There‘s one man who‘s in charge of making sure that number doesn‘t dip below 218. Look at that right now. And that‘s the congressman in charge of the Republican Campaign Committee, Tom Reynolds of upstate New York. Thank you, Congressman.
Let‘s talk a little politics, a little numbers, here. I‘ve had enough fighting tonight for everything, and I don‘t want to talk about Lincoln Chafee one more minute tonight until we find out whether he‘s gone or not.
But you look at this fight. It seems to me Republicans—and the people who are watching now who vote Republican know what I‘m talking about -- that your party strength may be lately about terrorism, but it‘s always been about taxes. People vote Republican who basically believe, “These guys in politics use our money for stupid things. We‘re better off having lower taxes, all things considered, so I‘m going to vote Republican.” Isn‘t that the bulwark of your party‘s existence, lower taxes?
REP. TOM REYNOLDS ®, NEW YORK: Well, I believe that that is certainly the issue of my district, jobs and taxes. And I hear that a lot around the country. Certainly, we‘re a party that wants lower taxes, and it resonates pretty much in any circles I see.
MATTHEWS: Is it your ace in the hole?
REYNOLDS: Well, I don‘t know if there‘s an ace in the hole.
MATTHEWS: What is your ace? The Democrats‘ ace in the hole is probably, you know, minimum wage—they talk against trade; they sound like they‘re more for the working person. And maybe they are. But clearly, you guys have a very clear issue, which is, “I will vote to cut taxes and the other guy won‘t,” right?
REYNOLDS: All politics is local is our message. And if taxes are the number one issue in your district, you better be talking about it is the advice I give my colleagues and candidates.
MATTHEWS: Well, the president—the reason I bring this up—I‘m not a clairvoyant. The president of the United States, who is advised by one of the smartest people around, Karl Rove—and they‘re both damn smart politicians—remember what he said? “Well, if you want to know what I really think”—remember that at the press conference—“I‘d say run against taxes.”
REYNOLDS: All I can tell you, I was home over the weekend, on a Labor Day weekend, and sat down at a tent to have a little strawberry pie with some of the local officials. What we started talking about were jobs and the economy, which is the number one issue in our district. And then on the fact of taxes. That‘s what I hear when I‘m on the stump at home. And that‘s what many of my colleagues are saying. There are others that say it‘s border security, such as what we saw in California 50 in that special Brian Bilbray won.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk sex. Let‘s talk gender. This country has been run by men since it began. We look at the founding fathers; ain‘t no founding mothers there. You look at the president of the United States, he‘s always been a male. Most of the big state governors always been male.
You look at the speaker of the house, always been male. The vice president‘s always been male. Do you think there is an iconic fear among traditional men and maybe some traditional women of power emerging into the hands of women? I imagine Nancy Pelosi sitting behind the president of the United States at the next State of the Union address.
Is that a scare tactic on your party‘s part, or what? Because you guys are talking—Boehner‘s doing it, John Boehner. He‘s always talking about Nancy Pelosi from San Francisco. “Aren‘t we afraid of her.” And this “Who‘s afraid of Nancy Pelosi” thing, what‘s that about?
REYNOLDS: Well, I think...
MATTHEWS: You‘re laughing. Why is it that you guys think “Who‘s afraid of Nancy Pelosi” is going to win as a campaign issue?
REYNOLDS: First of all, you have to know that Nancy Pelosi exists and that she‘s the minority leader. She‘s very liberal, she‘s from San Francisco. If you want a liberal Democrat from San Francisco to lead the House and be the third in line for the president, then she‘s your person.
But when you look at mainstream, I don‘t think that‘s the sense. But again, I think it‘s a choice of two people in a campaign back home in the district. It‘s Tom Reynolds and his opponent. It‘s other candidates‘ choice between two candidates within the district. That‘s how we‘re going to hold the House and keep 218 is a choice between two candidates locally in a congressional district. All politics is local.
MATTHEWS: But you‘re laughing because you know that bringing up the name of a Nancy Pelosi from San Francisco—remember Jeanne Kirkpatrick, San Francisco Democrats? We all know what that meant. A gay city is going to have a gay party running the country. That‘s what you guys are saying.
REYNOLDS: Chris, when I look at it, I want and hope that my colleagues are talking about the issues in their district. If Nancy Pelosi is the largest single issue in that district, they ought to be talking about it. But I don‘t think it is. I think it‘s jobs, taxes...
MATTHEWS: Well, why is John Boehner out there warning us about the Republican—he‘s one of your leaders. Why is he ought there waving the Pelosi flag like a scare tactic?
REYNOLDS: Well, out of fairness, if you take a look at Nancy Pelosi, she‘s fairly liberal as the speaker. Take a look at who the committee chairs are. My good friend Charlie Rangel becomes the chair of the Ways and Means Committee.
MATTHEWS: What‘s wrong with that?
REYNOLDS: It‘s certainly a lot contrast from what Bill Thomas is.
When you look at Conyers, he is a contrast from Sensenbrenner.
REYNOLDS: When you look at Engel, he‘s a contrast from Joe Barton.
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t you bring up these regular guys like—why don‘t you bring up guys like Murtha? Does it always have to be a black guy, or it has to be a woman?
REYNOLDS: The chairman is going be Obey.
MATTHEWS: Dave Obey. He‘s all right.
REYNOLDS: He‘s a fine individual.
MATTHEWS: He‘s no lefty.
REYNOLDS: Well, he‘s a pretty good liberal for Wisconsin.
MATTHEWS: You think so?
MATTHEWS: Well, what are your odds of holding that 218?
REYNOLDS: I believe we hold the House. And I think you have to go one seat at a time.
MATTHEWS: Do you got the money to beat the money the Democrats in the end?
REYNOLDS: I think we‘ll have more money than the Democrats. I think our people...
MATTHEWS: Here‘s my theory of what you guys are going to do. You‘re the cavalry and the fort. And you‘re going to save as much money as you can in that fort, enough cavalry as you‘ve got. And then, two weeks out, you‘re going to look around and see where the weaknesses are, the little towns about to be overrun by the bad guys.
And all of a sudden, all your money is going to go pouring into about dozen districts, and you‘re going to save the dozen you need. Is that your strategy? Hold the money, and throw it where you need it?
REYNOLDS: I‘m going to elect a majority by doing the House seats that are going to need help. The Democrats have laid down about $47 million, $54 million, somewhere in that range. We‘re probably reserving that amount of time. I‘ve always said, it‘s going to be three dozen seats that are going to determine the House.
MATTHEWS: You‘re the chairman of the campaign committee for the Republican Party. Who would you vote for in Connecticut? Would you vote for Alan Schlesinger, the Republican candidate for the Senate, or Joe Lieberman, the independent candidate? Who would you for?
REYNOLDS: If I were voting in Connecticut, I would vote for Lieberman.
MATTHEWS: So you‘d vote for a Democrat? You‘d vote against your party nominee? Why?
REYNOLDS: I think that Lieberman is the guy that will end up in the final photo finish between he and Lamont. I think the Republican candidate, as many of my colleagues in Connecticut have said...
MATTHEWS: You‘re openly abandoning the guy that won the Republican nomination in Connecticut. You guys are all doing this.
REYNOLDS: I haven‘t seen any Connecticut member of Congress that are supporting him.
MATTHEWS: That‘s what I mean. You‘re making my point. You‘re laughing. You‘ve dumped this guy Schlesinger who won your party nomination because of his gambling habits? What is it?
REYNOLDS: The reality is, I can‘t vote for him. I‘ll have to make a decision for my New York senator.
MATTHEWS: I know. Thank you very much. You‘re a good guy. Thank you, Tom Reynolds, chairman of the Republican Campaign Committee.
Up next, much more from Rhode Island. Can Lincoln Chafee hold on tonight? It is tonight.
And later, the man who‘s against the Iraq war and running against Senator Hillary Clinton. Democrat Jonathan Tasini will be here. He‘s running against Hillary in New York tonight. (inaudible) this November. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The fight is on in Rhode Island tonight already. Can Senator Lincoln Chafee win his primary tonight when all the votes are counted? Does Steve Laffey have any shot of winning in November if he does beat Chafee tonight?
Tom Curry is the national affairs reporter for MSNBC.com. He is on the ground tonight in Mayor Laffey‘s town of Cranston, Rhode Island. And Darrell West is a professor of political science at Brown University in Providence. Tom Curry, what‘s the turnout like up there?
TOM CURRY, MSNBC.COM: I was at one precinct in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, this afternoon at about 5:30, 6:00. They had about 20 percent of the registered voters who turned out. I think it‘s going to be a moderately good turnout, from what I‘m hearing. Earlier in the day it wasn‘t very good. But by 5:30, it seemed to be pretty good for a primary.
MATTHEWS: Do you know how that splits? Is it a lot of affiliate voters coming out, or is it all Republicans?
CURRY: A lot of unaffiliated voters, but there is some confusion. Some of these unaffiliated voters want to take part in the Democratic primary for some of their local races but in the Republican Senate primary. And you can‘t do that. You have to choose one ballot or another. So there has been some voter confusion about...
MATTHEWS: And that could hurt Chafee.
CURRY: It could.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to the professor. Go ahead, Tom. I‘m sorry. Go ahead.
CURRY: I think there‘s a tremendous interest in the Senate race, and some Democrats and some independents want to vote for Chafee, but they just weren‘t sure of the procedure that they had to get a Republican ballot.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go to Darrell West. Professor, thank you for joining us tonight. You know that state better than anybody. How do we know at this time of the day if the unaffiliated voters who have voted who might vote for Chafee because he‘s a more moderate guy than Laffey?
DARRELL WEST, PROFESSOR, BROWN UNIVERSITY: Well, Chafee has to have a really good turnout among independents because Laffey has really run a send-him-a-message type of campaign; he‘s really mobilized that conservative base. If only conservatives show up, Laffey‘s going to win. Chafee really has to have a big turnout in order to turn this race around.
MATTHEWS: Who are the people—if you could size up the kind of people voting for Laffey, the mayor of Cranston against the incumbent, the sort of establishment figure Chafee, who are they?
WEST: They‘re basically the anti-establishment elements within the party. Laffey has campaigned to cut taxes. He supports the president‘s position on Iraq, and he advocates a very tough stance on immigration. So it‘s basically an interesting combination of the conservative elements within the party. But Laffey also has added a populous element of, “Send them a message.” He‘s running against Washington special interest groups. And so that has been an interesting angle on that race.
MATTHEWS: Is it also a class distinction between the old money, if you will, the old Yankee family of John Chafee, now his son Lincoln Chafee, sort of the old-line Republican Yankees, if you will, of that part of the country against these new arrivals, these arrivistes in the Republican world of conservative people who were once Democrats?
WEST: Yes. It‘s very much the old breed versus the new breed. The Chafee family name, basically, they have been very successful in politics going back over 40 years. And so Chafee has the older elements, the mainstream part of the party.
Laffey is a street fighter. He‘s basically trying to take over the party, move the Rhode Island Republican Party more in sync with the national Republican Party, which of course, even if he wins, that‘s going to be a mighty hard sell in November.
MATTHEWS: Tom Curry, do you agree with that? If the challenger Laffey runs, the mayor of Cranston runs and wins tonight, effectively knocking out Chafee, he doesn‘t have a prayer in the general?
CURRY: No. Chris, I don‘t agree with that. That is the conventional wisdom. Elizabeth Dole and the National Republican leadership are saying that to urge voters to vote for Lincoln Chafee.
But, you know, if Laffey wins, especially by a decent margin, it‘ll be very exciting. And he‘s a volatile, unpredictable candidate. Sheldon Whitehouse, the Democratic candidate, is pretty stayed, and kind of low voltage. It would be an exciting race for November, a really exciting race.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, I had Laffey on the show, Tom, you know. He reminded me—and at the same time, I want you to respond to this—he seemed like a gung ho sort of a Steve Irwin kind of guy, and I mean that with greatest possible reverence to the late Steve Irwin. A guy who‘s really a gung-ho paw (ph) who runs door to door, literally, shaking every hand, saying, “If the other guy shows up, vote for him. But he won‘t.”
Professor West, is that the kind of politics you can do in a small state, running door-to-door and winning?
WEST: You can. I mean, it‘s like running for mayor, which is his current job. But as you‘ve pointed out, he‘s actually an interesting combination of Steve Irwin and Ross Perot because it‘s that down home kind of ordinary flavor, even though he‘s a multimillionaire, combined with the pro send-them-a-message, “The establishment is hurting us, is not really not responding to the ordinary guy.” So that does give him power.
But his problem is, right now, in three different polls, he‘s running 30 points down behind Sheldon Whitehouse. So if he wins, he, of course, would get a bounce, probably 10 or 15 points. But Rhode Island would never have elected a statewide office holder as conservative as Steve Laffey.
MATTHEWS: Tom Curry, you‘re new to this state, but you say otherwise, right?
CURRY: I think there is a potential for Laffey to make it into a race if he wins tonight. But it‘s very much an uphill battle. I mean, there are three times as many Democrats in this state as there are Republicans. So he would have to become more of a populist and probably would de-emphasize the Republican label.
But he‘s conservative on issues like school vouchers and tax cuts. He compares himself to Ronald Reagan. And the question is, does the public here in this very Democratic state want a Ronald Reagan Republican? It would be an uphill battle, but it would be fascinating to watch. It really would.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s not forget that Ronald Reagan carried Rhode Island.
WEST: He did. But, of course, what Democrats will do is to turn Steve Laffey and George Bush into Siamese twins. Bush has a 20 percent job approval rating in Rhode Island. That‘s what will make Laffey such a tough sell.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but the thing about Laffey is he doesn‘t seem like a guy who will become a Siamese twin to anybody. But thank you Darrell West of Brown University and Tom Curry of MSNBC.COM.
Coming up, Senator Hillary Clinton was in an anti-war Democrat primary challenge. She‘s got one today. Do New Yorkers care that she still supports the war in Iraq? And she does. Will Democrats care in 2008? You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Now to today‘s Democratic
primary in New York where Senator Hillary Clinton is up for reelection and
re-nomination tonight. Her challenger for re-nomination is anti-war
activist Jonathon Tasini, who based on a recent Quinnipiac poll of likely primary voters trails the senator 85 percent to 9 percent. Mr. Tasini joins us right now.
Why did you make this run, Mr. Tasini?
JONATHON TASINI (D), NY SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, Chris, I think that because of Senator Clinton‘s votes—she voted for this illegal and immoral war, which killed tens of thousands of people, destroyed a country, left our country with at least a trillion-dollar bill that every single American, certainly New Yorkers, will have to pay for.
Everybody wanted somebody to vote for, and I think, as I‘ve gone and been in the streets over the last few months and certainly today, people have come up to me, shaken my hands, and said, “Thank God you ran. Thank God you gave us a real option to vote for.”
MATTHEWS: Well, what are your politics? Are you a Democrat? Did you support the president‘s invasion of Afghanistan?
TASINI: I believe we should have gone after Osama bin Laden. I would have captured him. And believe me, he should have been brought to justice. I‘m a Paul Wellstone Democrat, a proud Paul Wellstone Democrat. I think our party mustered up Wellstone‘s views, philosophy and the beautiful sense that he had about the world, both economically and foreign policy. Otherwise, the Democrats will continue to be Republican-like and never take power again.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you your positions. Did you support the first Persian Gulf war that George Bush Sr. supported?
TASINI: I did not. In fact, I helped organize at that time Labor Against the War, which even at that time in ‘91 was very small. Thank God the Labor movement, again, was much more mobilized against this war.
MATTHEWS: How do you think our policy should have been towards Saddam Hussein and his government in Iraq, his Baathist regime? What should have been our policy?
TASINI: Well, look. Saddam Hussein was an awful dictator. Nobody wants to defend Saddam Hussein. But as Jay Rockefeller, senator from West Virginia, just said over the weekend, I think the argument is very clear, that we are less safe having removed Saddam Hussein.
A vote by Hillary Clinton, and certainly George Bush‘s war, has made this country less safe, not more safe. We are more open now to terrorism. We have destabilized Iraq, made it a haven for terrorists. And anybody who voted for this war, including Hillary Clinton, made this country less safe.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think she voted for the war?
TASINI: Well, you‘ll have to ask her that question. Lots of people have tried to find out her position. In fact, Charlie Rangel can‘t even tell you what his position. I recently saw him and he said, you know, he doesn‘t know what her position is. I believe that whatever her reason for it, she does not deserve reelection. There‘s still an hour left. I urge New Yorkers...
MATTHEWS: Is she positioning herself for a presidential run by taking a safe, hawkish position like her husband did back in ‘91 on the first Gulf War?
TASINI: I‘m sorry. I didn‘t hear the question.
MATTHEWS: Is she positioning herself politically like her husband did back in ‘91 in the first Persian Gulf War?
TASINI: Well, look. If she did that, I find that to be despicable. This of this. To position yourself to get power and vote for a war that kills tens of thousands of people and destroys a country, I could not wake up in the morning and face myself any day thinking that I had done something like that to accumulate power. Shame on her if that was the reason.
MATTHEWS: OK. You‘re a voter as well as a Democrat as well as a challenger. If you had to vote right now in a presidential election in 2008 and the vote were now, would you support Hillary or John McCain in the general?
TASINI: I‘ll pass on that one.
MATTHEWS: What do you mean? You can‘t pass. It‘s HARDBALL.
TASINI: No, I‘m allowed to pass.
MATTHEWS: You‘re not allowed. You have to vote, sir.
TASINI: No, sir. This is America. It‘s a democracy. But let‘s focus...
MATTHEWS: You‘re the courageous crusader running against the establishment, and you won‘t tell me if you‘d vote for Hillary?
TASINI: And let‘s talk about the establishment. Let‘s talk about why this primary did not debate the war, and why she—listen, it‘s more important to talk about what happened in this primary because of money...
MATTHEWS: I like Don Quixotes, sir. And you‘re one of them. And congratulations on the courage to run against an unbeatable foe. Thank you very much, Jonathon Tasini, running against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary tonight. Watch HARDBALL tomorrow night for all the results of today‘s primaries. I‘ll be in early to on MS (ph). “COUNTDOWN” starts right now.
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