updated 10/20/2006 12:49:49 PM ET 2006-10-20T16:49:49

Guests: Joe Biden, Mark McKinnon, Bob Shrum, Pat Buchanan, John Harris, Noah Oppenheim

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  President Bush says the bloody fighting in Iraq is like Vietnam back in ‘69.  That is when a priest now says he had a relationship with former Congressman Mark Foley.  Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews, and welcome to HARDBALL.  The violence in Iraq keeps getting worse.  Today, police said suicide bombers in the northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk killed at least 24 people and wounded 72, according to the Associated Press. 

Two U.S. soldiers were killed Wednesday, raising the total to 73 U.S.  troops killed this month.  If this pace continues, October will be the deadliest month for U.S. forces since the battle of Falluja two years ago. 

Today, the “Washington Post” reports that senior U.S. military and intelligence officials say there are at least 23 different militias fighting in the sectarian strife over there.  President Bush told ABC News that he sees a possible parallel, in fact, between the current Iraq violence and the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam. 

In a moment, we will hear from Democratic Senator Joe Biden, who‘s proposing a plan to federalize Iraq into three governing regions. 

Plus, can former President Bill Clinton help Democrats deliver the punch the party needs to win this election?  Tonight, we will catch up with him on the campaign trail. 

And in the Foley scandal, a priest now stationed in Italy comes forward and says he had a relationship with the former congressman when Foley was 12 years ago. 

But each night we will bring you, as we promised, the latest from Iraq.  And tonight, we begin with NBC‘s Jane Arraf in Baghdad. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JANE ARRAF, NBC NEWS:  The U.S. military spokesman in Iraq says he is disheartened by the levels of violence in Baghdad.  Major General William Caldwell told reporters that attacks in Baghdad were up 22 percent in these last few weeks of the holy month of Ramadan.  And that is despite a sweep by U.S. and Iraqi forces. 

He says that as forces have gone in clearing neighborhoods and going out again, insurgents have gone back into those neighborhoods.  Part of it, he believes, is to make an impact during the run up to U.S. congressional elections. 

And it is not just Baghdad where the violence is having an impact.  In car bombs and suicide bombs in several key cities that have been flashpoints of violence, at least 30 Iraqis have been killed and more than 100 wounded, according to police.  One of those, the city of Mosul in the north, had six suicide car bombs, one of them targeting a police station near a lineup where people were waiting for fuel. 

For HARDBALL, I am Jane Arraf, in Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s Jane Arraf in Baghdad.

We have joining us right now Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, who is ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. 

Senator Biden, you have put forth a plan to divide Iraq under kind of a federal system among the Kurds, the Shia and the Sunni.  Tony Snow, the White House press person, said today that that‘s non-starter, speaking for the president.  You reaction?

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE:  Well, I don‘t call for dividing Iraq.  What I call for is a strong start with three regions, and Tony should read what the Iraqi Parliament already did.  Last week, the Iraqi Parliament voted to implement a procedure by which the regions under their constitution could join together to form regions under a strong, central government that control the army, the oil, and the borders. 

And so Tony does not understand what is going on.  But then again, not being a wise guy, this administration is totally divorced from reality, the vice president a couple of days ago saying—and I quote—“things are going remarkably well,” he told Rush Limbaugh.  He may be the only guy in the world who would think that was true. 

I mean, this is bizarre.  You have General Caldwell announcing today, the spokesperson for the United States military, that this Operation Forward Together has been failure, that it is not working and that they have got to change.  I mean, we need a political solution here, Chris, or there is no possibility of us salvaging a very bad situation. 

MATTHEWS:  Just to get it straight then, you say you want a federalized system over there? 

BIDEN:  Correct. 

MATTHEWS:  How would you describe the three regions?

BIDEN:  I would describe the three regions like we describe the United States of America under the Articles of Confederation, or what we did in the Dayton Accords, but make it clear.  This is what the Iraqi constitution calls for, the one the president hailed as a great breakthrough in democracy. 

It provides for any of three groups—there is 18 governates, 18 entities within Iraq, little states.  Any three, under their constitution, can say we want to form a region like the Southwest region of the United States where they can have their own police force, they can have their own laws relating to education, et cetera.  You have got to give these guys breathing room, Chris, or they‘re going to blow apart. 

MATTHEWS:  We had Senator John McCain on our College Tour out in Iowa State last night, and he said we need 100,000 more troops in order to win this war in Iraq.  General McCaffrey, Barry McCaffrey—I talked to him on the phone and he said that we don‘t have that capability.  We only have 19 operating brigades and 17 of them are committed, two of them to Afghanistan and 15 to Iraq already.  He said it cannot be done.  What do you think? 

BIDEN:  I call for 100,000 more troops four years ago when we could have used them and could have needed them and we—I mean, and they would have made a difference.  A hundred thousand troops now, McCaffrey is right.  We don‘t have them. 

And secondly, even if we put them in without a political solution, all the king‘s horses and all the king‘s men are not going to stop a civil war.  The only thing that stops a civil war, Chris, is you have got give the Sunnis a piece of the oil.  You‘ve got to give these groups the ability to have their own states like the state of Massachusetts and the state of California, and you have got keep the neighbors out. 

If you don‘t do those three things, Chris, this government that exists now is incapable—incapable—of holding Iraq together. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator, the president of the United States is up in your old hometown of Scranton where you were born today, blasting the Democrats.  Hear what he said to all you people in the Democratic Party.  “There‘s only one position in the Democratic Party that everybody seems to agree on.  If you want to be a Democrat these days, you can be for almost anything but victory in Iraq is not an option.”  Your reaction?

BIDEN:  He is absolutely not telling the truth.  The plan that I have put forward that a significant number of Democrats have embraced, and a number of Republicans, is the only plan for victory.  His plan is a plan for defeat.  His own generals on the ground today said Operation Forward in Baghdad has been a failure—his own generals. 

I have been there seven times on the ground, think this is a civil war that he refuses to acknowledge exists.  Everyone, including his ambassador, says there‘s a need for a political solution, and he is sitting on his hands playing politics, not addressing the problem. 

How do you get the Sunnis to buy in, the Shia to stay in the deal and provide for a united Iraq keeping neighbors out?  He is dead, flat wrong.  In all due respect, there has not been one thing about Iraq his administration has been right about yet. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you hear his statement today that he thinks that it may well be that the situation of the higher violence level—we have lost, you know, 73 G.I.s over there since the beginning of the month.

BIDEN:  I know.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s the bloodiest month since Falluja.  He said that it may be like, it could be like, the Tet Offensive.  What do you make of that agreement with critics?  He says it could be like the Tet Offensive back in ‘68. 

BIDEN:  Well, you know, it is like the Tet Offensive in one sense, and that is that there is no policy for victory.  It is not the Tet Offensive in that somehow there is a coordinated effort by a single group in Iraq to get us out.  These guys are killing each other all by themselves whatever the impact on the United States. 

This is not just the al Qaeda types out there.  They make up a small percentage, Chris.  These are Shia killing Sunnis, Sunnis killing Shia, Sunnis killing Kurds.  The president does not seem to get that, and this administration, as I said, has been an abject failure on ever single prediction they have made about Iraq thus far. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of this Baker study?  You mentioned it might be buying into your idea of federalization of the country over there, where each of the communities have a right to their own sort of autonomy.  What do you make of Jim Baker and what he‘s up to? 

Because there‘s a couple of reports out there, Senator, not just that he might buy into yours, which is your assessment here, but also that we might be backing some sort of military coup over there or some coup to knock off Maliki, the elected president over there, the elected prime minister, so that we have a tougher guy going after the other side. 

BIDEN:  Well, I am afraid that may happen unrelated to us.  I think you‘re going to see the—by the way, Chris, there is 400,000 armed Iraqis now.  We have helped arm 400,000 of them.  So much for the idea when they stand up, we‘ll stand down.  The issue is how do you get them to stand together. 

What I predict—and I don‘t know.  I have testified before the Baker-Hamilton Commission.  I am not saying they will adopt exactly what I‘ve suggested, but I promise you if they come out with anything, it‘s going to be something that allows for a strong federal government in Baghdad controlling the borders and the resources, letting the states internally have much more autonomy relating to the local police forces that they have, because nobody is going to trust anybody coming into their territory. 

If they are Shia, they‘re not going to let Sunni in, and so on and so forth.  That will have to be part of it, and I am convinced Baker will buy on to the idea that we need to get the neighbors from Iran to Turkey to Syria to the Saudis in on the deal as to how they are going to honor whatever judgment is made internally in Iraq in a political settlement. 

And we have one chance here, Chris.  One of my senior colleagues, a guy you know—I don‘t want to identify him right now, but he‘ll identify right after this election is over—came to me, before we left for these elections, and said, Joe, the day after the elections, I want to sit down with you.  A dozen of my colleagues agree on the Republican side agree with what you are talking about.  We need a bipartisan approach.  He‘s right.  Hopefully Baker will provide the vehicle to allow president to dismiss the ideas of Cheney and Rumsfeld and get on with a real plan.  Otherwise, we‘re in real, real, real trouble. 

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re—and this is the last question—you‘re expressing at least a hope here that we can begin to resolve the situation in Iraq politically, before we have another presidential election, that you can begin that process right away? 

BIDEN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  After these elections?

BIDEN:  That is my hope.  That is my hope.  I think that is the message—look, the wake up call for Cheney and company is going be November the 7th.  They‘re going to find out that the vast majority of the American people do not buy on to this war the way it‘s being conducted. 

I believe that will free up an awful lot of Republicans, from John Warner, with whom I have not spoken, to other senior Republicans with whom I have spoken, who know there‘s a need for a fundamental change in policy. 

If we form a joint bipartisan effort, that may put enough pressure on the president to begin to do the right thing.  If that doesn‘t work the, Chris, the president will have started and completed the single most significant foreign policy debacle in American history. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much for joining us.  Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Coming up we will have a report on former President Clinton‘s campaign stops for Democrats with just a few weeks to go before the election day.  We‘ll also talk with Clinton‘s former press secretary Joe Lockhart and Republican strategist Mark McKinnon, who have together launched a new political on-line community website.  We‘ll talk about what that means. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

With the elections just three weeks away, are Democrats poised for a big win?  And could former President Bill Clinton help Democrats to make it happen?  We go now to NBC‘s Kevin Corke, who‘s been following President Clinton for the past two days—Kevin. 

KEVIN CORKE, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, let me tell you, it was vintage Clinton today here at the Ben Cardin for Senate rally, here in Baltimore.  Of course, Cardin is in a absolute dogfight with the Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele of the Republican party.  And yet, Mr. Clinton today really seemed to fire up and inspire the crowd once again.  He‘s been doing that, getting them out and getting them excited about the campaign, telling them how they should get out and vote and bring other people along. 

And by the way, you mentioned it.  We‘ve been following him and, we‘re going to see more of this as we get closer to election day.  In fact, Clinton staffers tell us, he‘s going to make some 40 stops between now and election day.  One of those stops, by the way, coming yesterday, at Georgetown University.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over):  It was as if Moses himself had returned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  President Clinton.

(APPLAUSE)

CORKE:  Former President Bill Clinton, the man some believe could figure prominently in helping to lead Democrats back to the political promised land, was back at his alma mater, Georgetown, for a major speech this week.  Mr. Clinton‘s appearance was sponsored by the left-leaning Center for American Progress. 

And though relatively brief, lasting less than an hour, Mr. Clinton wasted little time criticizing the Bush administration‘s policies on tax cuts. 

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, I‘m a millionaire.  I get more help from the federal government than anybody.  But I think it was inconsistent with the common good to give me five tax cuts and cut college aid at a time when the cost of college education‘s going through the roof. 

CORKE:  On dealing with a growing nuclear threat:

CLINTON:  There is legitimate concern about the North Korean nuclear tests, about what Iran‘s nuclear ambitions are.  Neither of these problems have easy solutions now.  But our position has been weakened. 

CORKE:  Even the administration‘s lack of international cooperation. 

CLINTON:  We believe in striving at least to cooperate with others because we think that there are very few problems in the world we can solve on our own.  They favor unilateralism whenever possible, and cooperation when it‘s unavoidable. 

CORKE:  While his remarks were wide ranging and even personal at times, Mr. Clinton did hit on one familiar refrain, the common good.  In fact 30 times during his comments at Georgetown, he used that expression to draw a clear distinction between the way his administration ran the country and the way it‘s been run the last few years. 

CLINTON:  Us common good folks favor equal opportunity and empowerment. They believe the country is best served by the maximum concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the right people.  Right, in both senses. 

CORKE:  Mr. Clinton framing his remarks around the idea of a common good as a goal the founding fathers set up for our nation.  And if it sounds familiar, it‘s because Democrats have used it plenty this political season.

From Connecticut‘s Ned Lamont:

NED LAMONT, SENATORIAL CANDIDATE, (D-CT):  Let‘s send some leaders to Washington, DC to start fighting for the common interests, to start fighting for the common good.  It‘s time to fix Congress.

CORKE:  To Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Pennsylvania Senate candidate Bob Casey, all extolling the virtue of the common good.  Meanwhile, back at Georgetown, the Democrat‘s Pied Piper was doing his part.

CLINTON:  The relentless search for the common good, to devise policies that promote equal opportunity, shared responsibility, and inclusive community is still relevant to the present day. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CORKE  (on-camera):  And we saw more of the same today, Chris.  Mr.  Clinton was fired up, extolling the crowd to think about what‘s at stake here.  And we should expect to see a lot more of that.  By the way, Clinton staffers say he‘s going continue his stops for other candidates in the area.  He‘s heading over to Virginia to campaign for Webb, who‘s also in a tough battle with George Allen right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Hey, Kevin, thank you very much for that report on the travelling Bill Clinton.

In other big political news today, some of Washington‘s top insiders who‘ve run presidential campaigns for both parties have launched hotsoup.com, a brand-new online bipartisan political community site.  They‘re looking to bring Republicans and Democrats together to change the way politics is debated and discussed. 

We go now to two of its co-founders, former Clinton Press Secretary Joe Lockhart, you know him, and former Bush media adviser Mark McKinnon, a behind-the-scenes fellow.

Both of you guys, thank you. 

You know, when I go online I check something on the left, for example, it‘s all this sort of, out of it, people on the far left talking to each other in kind of a shorthand anger.  How‘s this going to be better? Because you put both parties together?

MARK MCKINNON, HOTSOUP.COM:  Well, that‘s exactly why we started hotsoup, is because there‘s millions of Americans out there, Chris, who want to participate, they‘re online.  But what the options right now, they‘re angry, they‘re loud, and they‘re not civil.  Now we expect to have engaging debate, and expect it to be lively, but people want a discourse that does not question each other‘s motives.  We can question each others positions, but not their motives. 

MATTHEWS:  Joe, what part of the country—there‘s say 100 percent—

What percent of people are actually open to hearing the other sides discussion points?   

JOE LOCKHART, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  We this there are 30, 40 percent. 

MATTHEWS:  Who are willing to talk. 

LOCKHART:  Who are willing to talk.  And what they think they are missing is that are missing their voice.  They don‘t think they are being heard by anyone unless they shout, unless they take an extreme position.  And we think that this is a community that can come together, that gives them that voice, and that ultimately, when you put the people in power together with the people who are actually out there voting and living, that they will get the influence and they will become much more connected to the system. 

The people in power want to know what those people are thinking about. 

We can get outside the beltway. 

Why the name? 

It is a great name because it pulls together good ingredients.  And nobody forgets the name. 

MCKINNON:  And the interesting thing is that the people in power, who are smart, really want to know what those people are thinking about.  So, this is a way to get outside the beltway and there‘s lots of people that we‘ve heard from that are interested in hearing what this community is talking about outside of Washington.

MATTHEWS:  Mark, why Hot Soup, the name?

LOCKHART:  It‘s a great name because it puts together diverse ingredients.  It‘s good for you and it‘s a name that nobody forgets.  Nobody‘s come up to me and said what‘s your name again. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about—this is what I confront in life, including me.  Not everybody likes the blue plate special, to use another food term.  Somebody could be tough on illegal immigration, also against the way, just a shear nationalist person.  Maybe that‘s Pat Buchanan, someone like that.  There is another person who may have a position on abortion rights.  They may be libertarian on that. 

They don‘t consider themselves left, just libertarian.  And they are also against the war, but the party‘s size up and they chose sides and you‘ve got to take the whole plate.  You‘ve got to be anti-war and pro-Abortion rights and you‘ve got to be this.  Most people --  or a lot of people, I‘m contending, don‘t fit these patterns very well.  What do you think?

MCKINNON:  There is a lot of gray out there.  It‘s not just black and white.

MATTHEWS:  In other words, people also don‘t want (INAUDIBLE)

MCKINNON:  Yes, they don‘t want to be shoved in one extreme position or the other.  There is a lot of room in the middle, and that‘s where Hot Soup is.  It‘s for the folks in the middle. 

LOCKHART:  But they do feel like, as a community, that nobody listens to them.  And the people who I think will come to this computer, who will benefit and will benefit each other are people who want to learn more to make up their mind.  They might have a position that is left, a position that‘s right.  For the people who have made up their mind, there is plenty of things out on the Internet. 

There are communities and they are well served.  It is these people in the middle who feel like they have lost their voice that something like Hot Soup should provide for. 

MATTHEWS:  You worked for Clinton for a long time.  What could he do for the Democrats and what are the dangers of him being out there so obviously, on television tonight?  Has he got anything, good or bad, give me both, the good and the bad of Bill Clinton, and the ugly. 

LOCKHART:  The good is he is the Democratic equivalent of a rock star.  He fires up the Democratic base voters.  He fires up a lot of people in the middle.  Right now, I don‘t really think there is much bad.  I think he evokes a time where the country was in a better mood. It‘s not more complicated than that.

MATTHEWS:  But, didn‘t he also evoke a nice, sort of pleasant partisan anger when he went after Chris Wallace of Fox the other day, a couple weeks ago.  It looked to me like he was telling the Democrats how do it.  Here‘s what you do, challenge the media? 

LOCKHART:  Listen, I think he had had enough and he stood up and said I have had enough from you, I‘ve had enough from a lot of other people.  And, you know, he has not come back to it.  The speeches he gave today—you know, the speech he gave yesterday, and it wasn‘t so much in the piece, but most of that speech was about how we need to change our politics.  You know, the former president, Senator Clinton, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama, they are all contributors to Hot Soup and the people who are going to be successful in politics, like I think this site is, are the ones who are saying politics, as it is now, doesn‘t work.  We need to change.   

MATTHEWS:  Mark, you just ran through a list of the people that are front runners.  I mean, on the Republican side it is McCain and Romney.  On the Democratic side it is Edwards and Mrs. Clinton, Senator Clinton.  That is the quartet right now.  Isn‘t it?  Unless Barack gets in it and shakes everything up with a big, bad grenade in the Democratic primary process. 

MCKINNON:  Yes, but, you know, it‘s going to be the first election in decades where we haven‘t had a sitting vice president running.  So, I think it‘s going to be a wide open affair.  I think it‘s going to be really exciting.

MATTHEWS:  It think it would be interesting to watch this sitting vice president run, see how well he would do.  I don‘t think he would do too well in a public discussion.

MCKINNON:  You might be surprised.  He fires up the base, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  He does.  People like Cheney. 

MCKINNON:  They do.  The base loves him. 

LOCKHART:  If we can decide that right here, I will take that. 

MATTHEWS:  We will be right back with Joe Lockhart and Mark Mckinnon.  Later Pat Buchanan and Bob Shrum are going to be here.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We are back with HotSoup.com co-founders Joe Lockhart and Mark Mckinnon.  OK, now we‘ve advertised your website.  I know I‘m going to use it.  It‘s not one of these partisan, you know, shout outs.  Look here, Mark Mckinnon, you‘re really smart, aren‘t you?  

MCKINNON:  I‘m just an average Joe.  I am an average Joe. 

MATTHEWS:  Which way is the wind blowing right now?  Politically? 

MCKINNON:  It‘s a tough wind.  You know, it‘s always darkest just before the dawn, or before it goes completely black, but -- 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a bed time story.  Come on.  Which way is the wind blowing right now?   

MCKINNON: It‘s blowing a bad way right now, but three weeks ago it was blowing a good way.  Today it‘s blowing a bad way, but the election is three weeks away, so, you know, we‘ve seen huge swings happen in three weeks, between three weeks ago and nor.  Big swings could happen between now and election day. 

MATTHEWS:  You have got the president out there.  This is bad news for the Republicans.  You‘ve got the Iraq war getting bloodier than hell.  It is terrible.  You have got Mark Foley.  The priest has now shown up.  This thing has got legs.  You have got three bad stories and nothing about 9/11 or taxes right now.  Nothing about taxes right now.  The Democrats have all their baloons popping, right?  Everything is going right for you guys. 

LOCKHART:  The wind is going in the right direction.  The Republicans have control of all the levers of power in town, the House and the Senate and the White House.  And the country, again, is in a bad mood.  They do not like the Iraq policy.  And these stories that are coming out on Congressman being indicted and now a priest and Congressman Foley, it goes not so much to the particulars of the case, it is this idea that government lacks accountability right now.  When that happens, people just say, indiscriminately, let‘s make a change. 

MATTHEWS:  Can you run with a Brand X strategy, which is Nancy Pelosi is not on TV much.  You bring your old guy, Clinton out, former president.  Can you win just as being the alternative to a bunch of people that seem too complacent and corrupt? 

LOCKHART:  I think Democrats have been slowly and methodically and effectively making the case that they are a credible alternative.  The next three weeks will see if we can close the deal as a party.  But, I think, if you look at the numbers, the NBC poll from last night.  The generic now is so broad.  And what that reflects—

MATTHEWS:  That means the number of people that want the Democrats to win. 

LOCKHART:  Yes, and a lot of it is because they don‘t want the Republicans, but they are getting more comfortable with—and if you look at 2004, the country was in a bad mood, what we didn‘t do in 2004 was make that sale.  They were not comfortable enough with Democrats to elect John Kerry.  They reelected George Bush.  I think we are in a different place now in 2006. 

MCKINNON:  Chris, they have got to stand for something on Iraq, which they haven‘t and today the Dow broke 12,000.  We have got a nut job in North Korea, who is talking about war.  This could shift the dynamic dramatically and quickly.

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t this also the 12,000 points on the Dow going to anger the working people that feel that they have been cut out of the action? 

MCKINNON:  I don‘t think so.  No, I think it testifies to the economy coming around.  If you look at the unemployment figures, the growth rate, they are better than they have been in three decades.

MATTHEWS:  I smell a lot of populous fervor out there and I see your party pushing it.  It might work.  We‘ll see you on election night.  Thank you Joe Lockhart.  Thank you Mark Mckinnon. 

Up next HARBALLers Bob Shrum and Pat Buchanan battle it out over who has the best strategy to win in these closing days of the campaign.  The countdown has begun, 19 days.  Taxes and terrorism keep the Republicans in power.  What about corruption and that other C, casualties?  Will that hurt the Republicans?  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  With the election now just 19 days away are Democrats poised for a big win?  Will Iraq and Mark Foley sweep them to victory. 

We go now to the HARDBALLers, MSNBC political analyst Patrick Buchanan and HARDBALL political analyst Bob Shrum.  Welcome both gentlemen. 

Let‘s roll the numbers right now.  The MSNBC, or the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll asked, is this country headed in the right direction or the wrong direction?  Twenty six percent of the country, one in four, believe we are headed in the right direction.  That is not a good sign for the incumbents, Pat Buchanan. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  No it‘s not and the president is down to 37, whereas in 2002 he was over 60 percent.  You have got the Democrats, I think, by 15 points preferred over the Republicans.  It looks like a Democratic win and that is why you are seeing Bill Clinton step out in front right now. 

MATTHEWS:  To claim the garlands? 

BUCHANAN:  No, what he wants to do—he wants to be the band leader, but he also wants to re-frame it as a Clinton versus Bush contest.  Very smart.  He is crowding out Kerry and Gore, the so-called titular leaders of the party and putting himself out there.  It is a very smart move. 

MATTHEWS:  He is doing what Nixon did in 1956. 

BUCHANAN:  But Nixon went out and worked. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go to Bob Shrum.  I want to move ahead with these numbers.  We have got an approval rating for the president‘s handling of the war in Iraq now, down to 1/3, 33 percent.  We have a congressional job approval now, and I have never seen anything like this ever, ever, ever, on any poll, hold that number.  Congressional job approval, the Republicans control Congress, it‘s down—I thought there was a floor to how low it could go.  This is down to 16, one in six voters has trust in the Congress of the United States, the first branch of government.  What do you make of that Bob Shrum? 

BOB SHRUM, HARDBALL POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think there is a political tsunami coming.  I don‘t think it‘s just going to be the Republicans losing this election, I think they are going to lose in places where people aren‘t even anticipating there‘s a contest.  I mean, what we have with Foley and the Foley cover-up is the party of moral values has become the party of moral bankruptcy.  With this Tet Offensive, as you characterized it earlier in Iraq, Chris—

MATTHEWS:  No, I think the president did.  President Bush said it was like the Tet Offensive.

SHRUM:  One difference is we are not winning it.  I think people are seeing that every day.  We have a bankrupt policy there. 

And on the economy, I mean Mark Mckinnon is just whispering past the political graveyard.  We have two economies in America, the economy of the stock market and statistics, and the economy of job stagnation and wage stagnation and outsourcing and if you looked at the “New York Times” the other morning, when they did a survey in Ohio, this used to be a fairly reliably Republican state, Republicans are going to get killed there in November. 

BUCHANAN:  They are going to get killed because of the economy and—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- arguments you always make about trade and hollowing out of our industrial centers.   

BUCHANAN:  It is Michigan and Ohio where we are really being hammered in those areas and Western Pennsylvania.  And, frankly, I don‘t disagree with much of what Bob Shrum had to say.  I think it could be—

SHRUM:  That is a first, Pat. 

MATTHEWS:  No it‘s not.  on the issue of trade, it‘s not. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, on the issue of trade—let me say this about foreign policy, Chris, the whole foreign policy is collapsing in this sense.  Iraq and Afghanistan look bad.  The Bush doctrine of look, we are not going to let the world‘s worst regimes get the world‘s worse weapon.  That‘s being defied by North Korea and Iran successfully.  The Democrat Project has collapsed in Ukraine. 

It is collapsing in Georgia.  I wouldn‘t be surprised to see Putin knock that government over.  It is collapsing in Kurdistan.  It has collapsed in Lebanon.  The whole neo-conservative foreign policy of Bush—now look, the is not good for America, but the whole foreign policy of this country is coming down. 

MATTHEWS:  How do you—You say that with confidence, except that I see John McCain running ahead in the polls, and he, you know, has embraced Bill Krystol, over the top, these neo-conservatives.  What gives you the confidence that you traditional conservatives can knock out this ill-considered, if you will, neo-conservative foreign policy? 

BUCHANAN:  What I‘m saying is not whether you can knock something out.  What I am saying is American foreign policy is collapsing.  And clearly what you are going to have in 2008 is a brand new debate on where America goes from here.  Now I think if McCain told you last night that he is going put 100,00 troops into Iraq, let me tell you this, speaking as a conservative, I could not support that and most of the conservatives I know wouldn‘t support that.  Believe me, maybe some do.  Maybe the neo-cons do, but the other conservatives do not believe in that.

MATTHEWS:  Bob, are the Democratic party for sure going to offer an alternative to what‘s going in Iraq.  If that‘s how they get into office this Fall.  It‘s how they get into office, perhaps, in two years, will they actually change the policy of this administration, which is so forward leaning, in terms of engagement in the Middle East? 

SHRUM:  Well I actually think the administration is in the process of changing its own policy and not necessarily in Iraq, but elsewhere.  I mean, the president said North Korea would never be permitted, never to have nuclear weapons.  It does.  The president said Iran would never be permitted to go ahead with its nuclear program.  It is going full speed ahead.  I think what we have come up against is the limits of American power from a president who proclaimed a global democracy project, enforced unilaterally by force of arms. 

And I agree with Pat, by the way.  I think what is popular in this country right now in those polls is the memory of John McCain 2000, not the reality of John McCain 2006.  Somebody running for office in 2008 who says we have to send 100,000 more Americans to Iraq is not going win. 

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t—I mean, I don‘t see how Republicans can support that policy.  If they do support it and McCain runs in 2008 on putting 100,000 troops in Iraq, I think he would lose the election.  You‘d have a third party or a fourth party, because that is an insane idea. 

The policy has failed.  I think the war was one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.  Which it‘s quite clear, Bush has been given four years.  It has failed, and you‘re going to have to do something new.  And that‘s what Baker‘s talking about.  McCain says the new thing is 100,000 troops.  Others say break the place up.  But I‘ll tell you, we are headed for a time of troubles, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  You have been unleashed, Pat Buchanan unleashed. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, no, it‘s not unleashed.

MATTHEWS:  The conservative coalition with the neocons and the warriors has now broken down, I can hear.

BUCHANAN:  This election is going be a referendum on neoconservatism. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that is clearly branded.  We‘ll be right back with Bob Shrum and Pat Buchanan.  Boy, they are agreeing tonight. 

SHRUM:  I know.  I guess we‘re not supposed to.

MATTHEWS:  I guess you‘re not going away, I should say.

Up next, John Harris of the “Washington Post” will be here to talk about the next battle for the White House.

And tomorrow on COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN, Keith interviews Senator Barack Obama.  This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The midterm battle for control of Congress is just days away now, 19 to be exact, but the next fight for the White House is also well underway.  John Harris is national political editor for the “Washington Post” and co-author of a new book called “The Way To Win: Taking the White House in 2008.”

You write about—let me ask you—let‘s take a look at a clip from last night on HARDBALL.  We had John McCain on.  Many people believe he is the frontrunner on the Republican side.  Let‘s take a look at what he said about gay marriage. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Should gay marriage be allowed? 

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  I think that gay marriage should be allowed if there is a ceremony kind of thing, if you want to call it that.  I done have any problem with that.  But I do believe in preserving the sanctity of a union between man and woman.  Could I just mention one other thing?  On the issue of the gay marriage, I believe that if people want to have private ceremonies that‘s fine.  I do not believe that gay marriage should be legal.   

MATTHEWS:  OK, next question. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, I thought that was the difference between John McCain and sort of Goldwater libertarian talking there a bit about.  Yes, if they want to have their own ceremony, if they really believe in love and togetherness and a permanent relationship, gay people fine.  And then he came back afterwards and said, but let‘s not get me wrong here.  I‘m not talking about a legal bond here.  How did you read that? 

JOHN HARRIS, AUTHOR, “THE WAY TO WIN”:  rMD+IN_rMDNM_Well, I saw that yesterday, and it was so fascinating, Chris. 

But I think John McCain—and he is a formidable politician which we write about in this book.  He may be among the best-positioned, certainly in the Republican Party.  But he has got his foot in both camps.  We described Clinton politics. 

He tries to blur the differences, find the center and hold it.  Bush politics is happy to divide people over divisive issues like gay marriage.  John McCain cannot quite decide is he going run on a Clinton-style unifying politics, or is he going to basically take Karl Rove‘s playbook and ... 

MATTHEWS:  Will the Republicans accept the unifier?  Will the Republicans accept the unifier?  Do they still want to have the ramparts up?

HARRIS:  You know, I think the 2006 election we‘re going to have in 19 days from now are really going to answer that question.  Karl Rove‘s brand of politics, which is divide, clarify, make sure you‘re on the winning side of that divide, has been incredibly effective for five years through the last two elections, 2002 and 2004.  It flattened.  Democrats caught them by surprise. 

It may be running out its rope.  If so, you‘re going to be looking at Republicans saying maybe we ought to borrow a page from Bill Clinton‘s playbook. 

MATTHEWS:  I thought it was all—you respond.  I‘ll just ask you the

question.  I saw in the NBC poll the other day that—it may not have been

our poll but one of the other big polls, Gallup I think—that only 15

percent of the people think moral issues, the way we usually describe them

you know, sexual morays, things like that, abortion rights, gay marriage

only 15 percent think those are top issues coming up into these elections next month. 

HARRIS:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  What does that tell you?  That we‘re tired of all those discussions, the divisive kind of discussion we‘ve had on these issues? 

HARRIS:  It tells me that the war is a huge issue in American politics.  It is bigger, and this election might be Karl Rove‘s Waterloo in one sense if Republicans get beat in this.  But Karl Rove is still among the most influential strategists.  Look how his techniques are actually start to predominate in the Democratic Party. 

MATTHEWS:  What has he got up his sleeve?  What has he got up his sleeve? 

HARRIS:  We will find out.  I guarantee you that he‘s got something up his sleeve.  He‘s incredibly ...

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s go to the usual suspects.  Republicans know from the polls they have got two strengths right now.  One is terrorism.  Anything that reminds us of 9/11 reminds us of Bush‘s leadership back them and since then.  Taxes—Republicans are good at cutting taxes.  Democrats are notorious for not cutting them, whether the current polls back that up or not. 

Democrats want to talk about Iraq—as you say, it‘s good for them 00 and Bush, and of course, Foley.  Now we have this priest popping out of nowhere in Italy saying I was the one that had the relationship with him.  What is Karl Rove going to do?  Talk about it?  Is he going to have another Cuban Missile Crisis in the next three weeks.

HARRIS:  Let‘s find out.  There is so much almost paranoia within Democratic circles because they believe Rove, in their view, the evil genius ...

MATTHEWS:  He‘s cooking up something.

HARRIS:  ...has got something up his sleeve.  He—I don‘t think it is really that complicated.  We talked to him at length for this book.  We talked to Bill Clinton at length about their political tactics.  One thing they both agree—and you‘re going to see Rove in this.  He believes that politics is all about psychology. 

Bill Clinton believes that too.  He says, look, politics is a head game.  And even as bad as things are going for the Republicans right now, Rove is still winning the head game with Democrats because they—precisely what you were saying. 

What does he got up his sleeve?  I think probably what he has got up his sleeve is he is going try to divide this electorate on the ways that have worked for him in the past if he can get all this other stuff off the table. 

MATTHEWS:  How can we create a terrorist situation that creates this psychology you‘re talking about between now and Election Day? 

HARRIS:  Well, he was doing it.  It was working in September.  It is just a question of whether they can get the agenda back.  He is incredibly confident, and a lot of people around him think he might be almost delusionally confident.  You know, we‘ll find out if that‘s true.

MATTHEWS:  Can the Democrats play defense on that and say here‘s a wag the dog situation?

HARRIS:  I don‘ think—I think that they certainly would that if there if there is some incident on that. 

But, you know, what you‘re seeing right now is Bill Clinton is for (INAUDIBLE) the ascendancy.  We talked to Bill Clinton for couple of hours... 

MATTHEWS:  Is this going to be another Clinton/Bush election in 2008? 

Are we back to another battle?

HARRIS:  I think we might well be.  I mean, there‘s not going to be a Bush on the ticket, but you‘re going to see basically a Rove-style tactics, I think.  Somebody will run on the Rove model because it worked twice in a row. 

MATTHEWS:  So a Clinton replaced the senior Bush, another Clinton will replace the junior Bush?  Do you see that pattern?

HARRIS:  Right.  I think that—look that‘s what this whole book is about.  Bush, Clinton, Bush, possibly Clinton, who knows after that, possibly another Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  That reminds you of the Lazy Susan, it keeps spinning around the table, pass me that, you spin it around, we got a Clinton again.  Pass me that, we got a Bush again.

HARRIS:  Here‘s what you—it‘s not just an accident, it‘s not kind of historical fluke.  The reason these families dominate is they‘ve been closely watching each other over the course of a generation, borrowing from each other‘s strategies. 

Bill Clinton, he made it clear in the interview with us, he‘s obsessed

with Rove, and Hillary Clinton has learned—she‘s been watching Rove too

she hates his policies, but she‘s more than prepared to use his political techniques where they‘ve worked. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much.  The more things change, the less they change.  Thank you, John Harris.  The name of the book is “The Way to Win: Taking Back the White House in 2008”. 

Up next, former HARDBALL producer, now best-selling author, Noah Oppenheim talks about how to know the difference between—this is a big one now—a Shia and Sunni, and what that says about the war we‘re fighting right now.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

What the heck is the difference between a Sunni and a Shia, and what does that tell us about the war we‘re in over there in Iraq?  Noah Oppenheim, now a senior producer for the “Today Show”, and as of today he‘s the “New York Times” best-selling author of “The Intellectual Devotional: 

Revive Your Mind, Complete Your Education, and Roam Confidently with the Cultured Class”.

You know, I have this recurring dream that I‘m supposed to some test somewhere in some building somewhere, and I don‘t know where the building is...

NOAH OPPENHEIM, “TODAY SHOW” SENIOR PRODUCER:  Are you clothed or not for this test?

MATTHEWS:  The pants are gone.  I can never figure that part out, either.  And I can‘t find the room, and I can‘t find the registrar‘s office to find out where the room meets, because I haven‘t been to the class since the beginning of the semester.  Now I understand everybody has the dream. 

OPPENHEIM:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  In this book answer?  Because it catches you up on all the classes you haven‘t been keeping up with?

OPPENHEIM:  Sure.  Listen, we‘ve all been part of conversations where someone makes a reference that we don‘t catch.  We‘ve all read article where they reference some historical event, some writer, and, you know, we kind of vaguely recall it, and this is sort of a primer to get you caught up on all of those essential pieces of knowledge. 

MATTHEWS:  Philosophy, music, and history, everything, right? 

Everything you haven‘t kept up with.

OPPENHEIM:  History, literature, art, religion, yes.  Exactly.  All the sort of seven major fields of knowledge.  We‘ve heard about these things before, they play an important rule, and even drive world events to this day.  Ideas play a big role in driving world events, and this is kind of a, take five minutes out of your day, read one of these passages each day, and you‘ll catch yourself up on all those important bits. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s out a couple things.

You know, we are in a war in Iraq now, and our guys are getting killed over there, and women, and it goes on and on and on, and we keep hearing about the sectarian struggle over there between Shia and Sunni.  What‘s their historic complaint, between those two groups?

OPPENHEIM:  Sure, well, I mean, it began—I mean, Sunnis and Shiites are different sects of Islam.  Protestants and Catholics fought in Northern Ireland for decades.  Sunnis and Shiites have been fighting for almost 1400 years.  And basically when Muhammad died, there was a disagreement over who his heir should be.  The Shiites thought it should be his son-in-law Ali, the Sunnis went with another guy, and ever since they‘ve split off. 

Sunnis are the vast majority of Muslims in the world.  Shiites make up a much smaller percentage.  And over time, their rituals, their beliefs, have changed, have sort of split a bit, and there‘s also been socio-economic divides that have sprung up between them.  And you know, these groups have hated each other for 1400 years.  And you see that playing out right now in the streets of Baghdad, and our guys are caught in the middle of it now. 

MATTHEWS:  So the Sunnis have generally been the big shots? 

OPPENHEIM:  Well, Sunnis, you know, represent about 80 percent of the Muslims in the world.  You know, they‘re the majority in places like Saudi Arabia.  Shiites are the majorities in Iraq and Iran, right next to each other.  But basically what happened was, you had the Baathist party, an Arab nationalist party, which took over in places like Syria and Iraq, and Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, ruled over the country that‘s majority is Shiite, and repressed them and brutalized them.  And so now they‘re kind of getting their moment in the sun, and you have people who are an ethnic majority, but were being ruled over by an ethnic minority.  And now that‘s been overturned... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If we leave now, cut and run, if you will, if we leave in ten years, what‘s going to change to stop that rivalry between the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq? 

OPPENHEIM:  Well, the vast—it depends on whether you believe in the possibility of reconciliation for groups like this.  And also, I mean...

MATTHEWS:  Has there been any reconciliation in these 1400 years you‘re talking about? 

OPPENHEIM:  Well, it depends on where you look.  You know, within middle-class society inside Iraq, during the era of Saddam Hussein, you had intermarriage between Sunnis And Shiites, you had commerce between them, you had a certain modus vivendi, they lived side by side.  Now granted, some of that, was based upon the fact that Saddam had, you know, his iron boot on the neck of the people. 

But there is a history of some co-existence.  And I think...

MATTHEWS:  Is there any history of peaceful co-existence without a tyranny on top of it, like Saddam Hussein?

OPPENHEIM:  Well, yes, I mean, most of the countries in the Arab world do have both Sunni and Shiite populations and they manage to get along.  And at a certain point, it becomes a question, can you live with this amount of bloodshed?  If you‘re a Sunni, if you‘re a Shiite, you have to look out your , and say, can I tolerate it? 

MATTHEWS:  Just to cause you trouble, Brown University today is talking about reparations in terms of affirmative action, in terms of studying the history of slavery, reparations—of course, the big question, when African-Americans were freed back after the Civil War, the African-American male never had much of a future, a lot of the women went to work, but the male was sort of set out there alone, and never really had a chance to sort of get started as an equal in this country.  He never got never not the 40 acres and the mule.  He never got reparations back then.  What is a reasonable approach—I know you talk about reconstruction in here—what is a reasonable approach right now to evening things out after all of these decades? 

OPPENHEIM:  Evening the educational opportunities for all.  I mean, if everybody went to the same quality of public high schools and people had access to private school through vouchers, and basically, in elementary school and high school, everyone had the same chances, then you wouldn‘t need even to make racial distinctions. 

MATTHEWS:  So you are a liberal on this issue?  Just teasing. 

“The Intellectual Devotional.”  I‘ve been reading it on the plane today from Iowa State.  I got to tell you, it does make you feel like you‘re catching up to all those dreams you‘re having—the nightmares about not being on top of things.  It‘s already on the list, it‘s a hot book.

Thank, Noah Oppenheim.

OPPENHEIM:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  The book‘s called, “The Intellectual Devotional”.

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.

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