Guests: Jim Webb, Hilary Rosen, Susan Molinari, Trent Lott, Chaka Fattah, A.B. Stoddard, Chris Cillizza
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Today, Nancy Pelosi‘s elected the first woman Speaker of the House in history. Will she stop Bush‘s war?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews and welcome to HARDBALL direct from Capitol Hill.
An historic day in Congress as the Democrats take the gavels of power in both the House and Senate for the first time in 12 years. California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi‘s elected the first woman Speaker of the House ever, making her second in line to the American presidency.
Well, leaders of the 110th Congress were sworn in with pomp and circumstance. But behind all the pageantry, the war issue looms.
John Negroponte, the first director of National Intelligence, quits his post today to become Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice‘s deputy.
And Harriet Miers, the president‘s legal counsel and his failed Supreme Court nominee, is leaving the White House.
But the issue that matters most with voters is the war in Iraq. American voters threw the Republicans out of power on Capitol Hill and now look to the Democrats to stop the killing.
Anti-war candidate Jim Webb made national headlines as the underdog story of the November elections. After ousting Senator George Allen in a tough, often brutal campaign, he made even more waves by confronting the president head-on right inside the White House.
MSNBC‘s Mike Barnicle has this story.
MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jim Webb campaigned wearing his Marine son‘s combat boots from Iraq. He was running behind Republican George Allen until the contest tilted on one word:
GEORGE ALLEN, ® FMR. VIRGINIA SENATOR: ... macaca or whatever his name is.
BARNICLE: Webb won.
At a White House reception, the president and Webb had a verbal exchange about his son and an Iraq policy Webb opposes. It made for big headlines.
SEN. JAMES WEBB, (D) VIRGINIA: What it shows is I think how—still how hot the emotions are in this country.
I think that Peggy Noonan wrote a very fine piece on that whole incident in which she basically said, we really do need more courtesy in the political process, but that the discourtesy in this situation was not mine.
BARNICLE: (on camera): And today Jim Webb arrives here at the Capitol, a symbol of our politics.
But Jim Webb‘s universe is a whole lot broader.
(voice-over): As a young combat Marine, Webb was awarded the Navy Cross in Vietnam, worked on Capitol Hill, served as Navy Secretary under Ronald Reagan, became a best selling novelist and a father of five children, ages ranging from 36 to the youngest, Georgia, three weeks old with his wife Hong, who fled Vietnam at age seven.
HONG WEBB, WIFE OF SEN. WEBB: He has a strong sense of patriotism and family values. (INAUDIBLE) regardless of race or class. I think that‘s always driven him in his public life.
BARNICLE: And the inequity of wages and class drives him still.
WEBB: If you go back to the time when I was 24 years old, the average CEO of a corporation made 20 times what the average worker makes. Today, the average CEO makes 400 times what the average worker makes. And no offense, but they‘re not that good. They‘re not 400 times better than their workers.
BARNICLE: Webb takes office as the war in Iraq takes a new direction, one he opposes.
WEBB: There was no justification, in my view as someone who supported the Vietnam War, no justification strategically or otherwise, for us to invade Iraq, decapitate a government and take over the responsibility to try to rebuild a society in that part of the world. None.
BARNICLE: Jim Webb knows war and its consequence. He is from a family of warriors, including his dad, and often walks Arlington National Cemetery nears his home.
WEBB: I go down to the area where these young men and women have been buried from Iraq and Afghanistan, and it‘ll tear your guts out. And I visit my dad‘s grave a lot.
BARNICLE: But Senator Webb hopes the Senate will be about progress, not combat.
WEBB: I think that there are some people who are going to be rather pleasantly surprised. You know, I think we‘ve got a chance here, the Democratic leadership coming into place, to show that there can be affirmative leadership in the country. I want to be a part of that.
BARNICLE: Now Jim Webb, warrior, husband, father, unlikely politician, is in Senate, where words are the weapons of choice and the casualties are quite public.
MATTHEWS: Senator Jim Webb, thank you for joining us on HARDBALL.
You are both on the Foreign Relations Committee and on the Armed Services Committee. How‘s that going to matter to the people of this country?
WEBB: Well, in terms of—not only Iraq, but issues of national strategy and national diplomacy, those are the two committees. I‘m very happy to be on them. And beginning next week, we‘re going to have hearings -- begin hearings on both of those committees on the situation in Iraq and the Middle East. So I think, in terms of the issues that you were talking about when you opened the show, these are the vital committees.
MATTHEWS: Can Congress stop the surge or the escalation in troops going to Iraq?
WEBB: Well, I‘ll tell you what I‘ve been looking at with that issue is—the problem that I‘ve had for five years with respect to Iraq is the lack of a strategic vision. And we‘ve been looking for an articulation of national strategy from this administration. And you don‘t have a national strategy unless you can tell the American people very clearly what your end point is.
So when we‘re talking about this issue of the surge, the first thing to remember is that over the past couple of years, we‘ve seen the troop levels oscillate up and down a bit little bit along a basic line of about 120,000 to 140,000 people. So in a sense, we may be arguing about the wrong issue, in terms of trying to find a solution. The issue we need to be focusing on is what is this administration‘s view of a strategy and what is the end point of that strategy in clearly understandable terms.
Now, I have some misgivings about a long-term escalation of the force levels just because of what it‘s going to do to the troop rotations with the Army and Marine Corps that are stretched very thin.
But really, in terms of trying to address this issue in a way where we can find a solution, the starting point is to ask this administration to give us a clear through-line on their strategy to the end point.
MATTHEWS: Well, what would justify sending 30,000, 40,000 more G.I.‘s into the streets of Baghdad to kick down doors and kill Sunnis? What would convince you that was the right policy?
WEBB: You know, what I‘m trying to do here is to not pre-judge what we‘re going to be hearing next week. But if, in fact, there were the justification, I would be pretty skeptical about it. Baghdad‘s a big city. The Iraqis have been able to maintain order in their own country prior to our occupation. There‘s a point where we have to say that our troops have done their job in that respect. So at the same time, you know, I want to give the administration the courtesy of hearing what their proposals are and I intend, as I said, to have a pretty scrutinizing eye and to ask that they clearly articulate to us and to the country what are they doing strategically. Because as you know, my question at the very beginning, before—five months before we even went into Iraq was, “What‘s the strategic vision? Why are we doing this?”
MATTHEWS: Well, right now you‘ve got some power.
Let me ask you about your meeting with the president at the White House during the Christmas break. What did you make of the president asking you casually about how your boy was doing over there, in the military capacity‘s over in Iraq right now? What did you make of that?
WEBB: My feeling about that—first of all, it‘s been kind of a bit overblown. But I think when people are now seeing how John McCain is handling the situation with his son being in the Marine Corps, perhaps they can understand a little bit more what I was having to go through during the entire campaign. I greatly respect my son‘s service and all of the people who are serving. At the same time, I have not commented, even to many of my friends, about the operational side. That‘s personal to me in terms of my feelings about it. And it was not a casual comment. As I said in the piece that you just ran, I think the best article that was written on that was by Peggy Noonan in the “Wall Street Journal” when...
WEBB: ... she basically said that the lack of civility was not mine and I feel that way.
MATTHEWS: No, she sided with you, Senator.
But let me ask you, just think about this—I know you do think about this every day of your life now—but the people that voted for you to make you a U.S. senator, the people that voted the way they did this past November to bring about a change, do you think they‘re going to be happy to see an escalation in the U.S. role in Iraq that the president‘s talking about?
WEBB: Well, first of all, the issues that propelled us in the campaign were affirmative issues. I know that my predecessor did make mistakes. You might ask yourself how that occurred in a situation where he‘d been an incumbent for 25 years. But we ran on affirmative issues. And just as big as the foreign policy issue were the issues of economic fairness in this country. I just wanted to make that clear.
Now, with respect to the Iraq, I think what the people who supported me are looking for is an affirmation of what I‘ve said over and over again in this campaign, and that is we need to start with a diplomatic solution that will allow us to withdraw our combat troops and maintain stability in the region and continue to be able to fight the international terrorism and enable us to address our broader strategic vision around the world.
Now, I happen to believe—and I‘ve been saying this for two-and-a-half years, since the speech I made at the University of Kansas in early ‘04 -- that we can, with a diplomatic approach that involves all the countries in that region that have historic ties to Iraq and who have a stake in its future, we can bring those countries to the table.
WEBB: It doesn‘t mean we have to kowtow to Iran and Syria, as some people on the other side are saying. We can bring them to the table in a way that will allow us, in fairly good measure, fairly good course, to withdraw our combat troops, but we need to do it in a way, unfortunately, because of this invasion, that will not further destabilize the region.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but if you must imagine—well, let me ask you this. When you imagine being King Abdullah of Jordan or Mubarak of Egypt watching that hanging of the Sunni leader, Saddam Hussein, by a bunch of crazed, angry, bitter Shia, you must figure they would love to put that noose around my neck. Did you feel happy about our role in turning our—turning Saddam Hussein over to those people, that lynch mob?
WEBB: In my personal view, that was really a blunder, and as much influence as we say that we have over this present Iraqi government, I think it was a blunder that could have consequences that would be regrettable to our own troops.
And I just think it was totally inappropriate for us to turn someone like Saddam Hussein into a martyr in the eyes of people who are involved in an insurgency against our own people. I think it was a terrible thing to do.
MATTHEWS: Senator Webb, congratulations on your swearing in today.
Good luck on the Armed Services Committee...
WEBB: Thank you very much.
MATTHEWS: ... and on the Foreign Relations Committee, two wonderful opportunities to influence American policy.
Coming up, will Democrats block Bush‘s surge, 30,000 to 40,000 more troops headed to Iraq? Senator Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Armed Services Committee, says he‘s really open to the idea of putting more troops in Iraq. Is he or is he playing an interesting political game here?
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC from Capitol Hill.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re right here on Capitol Hill. It‘s all about camaraderie, but with a U.S. troop surge coming in Iraq, this Congress has some very serious business ahead. Are they up to it?
Susan Molinari is a former Republican Congresswoman from New York who now heads the Washington Group—what kind of Washington Group? Hilary Rosen is a Democratic strategist and an MSNBC political analyst.
Let me ask you, Hilary, will the Democrats do what they promised to do in the campaign, or will they let the voters down again and not stop this war?
HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I don‘t think we have to wait very long for that answer. John Murtha, who is the chair of the subcommittee on—the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, he controls the purse strings.
He said, yes, he‘s going to hold hearings. He‘s going to put their feet to the fire. And he publicly acknowledged the way to get the administration to do what they want is to control the money.
MATTHEWS: And you believe he‘s committed now to stopping funding of the war unless it‘s fought under some kind of new terms?
ROSEN: No, I don‘t think he‘s gone that far. I think he‘s committed to evaluating where we were.
MATTHEWS: Words, words, words. I mean, excuses...
ROSEN: They‘re going to give the administration a chance.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe the Democrats have the clout to stop this war? If they try, if they really put their heads on the line and say we want to stop this war or change it or deescalate it, whatever they will, will they be able to do it under the rules of Congress?
SUSAN MOLINARI ®, FMR. U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: Well, I think what they‘ll be able to do is to keep the argument focused. If the Democrats have the debate, if they‘re united—and that‘s really what we want to wait and see, how strongly united are they going to be around that goal.
Then the media is going to cover it every day and you‘re going to have this argument front and center in the American public. And that can actually change the course of this war, I think, at some point. We‘ve seen, as a result of the election, the president has already made some pretty dramatic changes.
MATTHEWS: Hilary, you‘re a skilled legislative tactician. If you were the Democrats, would you try to fight this battle over the war out in the open, on television, on these kinds of programs, HARDBALL, or would you try to do it in the back room?
There‘s an issue, apparently, at large right now. The Democrats are trying to figure out should Murtha go public or stay in the back room and try to squeeze off the money quietly or should he come public with that strategy.
ROSEN: I don‘t think there‘s such a thing anymore as a public-private strategy when it comes to something that people care about as much as this war. And 70 percent of the people have already said no more troops. That‘s the first test, what Congress does with the president‘s request to send additional troops.
MATTHEWS: But the people in the Democratic Party with clout, the big contributors, the businesspeople, they‘re not as randy against this war as the regular rank and file Democrat.
ROSEN: No, but they want Democrats to succeed. And Democrats won on an anti-war platform, and for them to stay in office, they have to do what the people want.
MATTHEWS: Do they know this? Do they know what you‘re saying? I get the feeling they‘re changing the subject. Every time I talk to one of these new Democrats about the Iraq issue, they say, oh, we‘re busy raising the minimum wage or we‘re going to do something on stem cells. They‘re all quick to change the topic, I noticed.
ROSEN: Well I...
MATTHEWS: Even Jim Webb who did it now.
ROSEN: Yes, I saw.
MATTHEWS: He was great. I mean, he said what he said but he also said oh, but I ran on other things besides the war. But why is he changing the subject now? He never did during the campaign.
ROSEN: I think the players now are very focused. Every member of Congress can‘t do it.
MATTHEWS: You mean, they got what they wanted, and it wasn‘t to end the war, it was to get elected. That‘s all they wanted.
ROSEN: No. That—the subcommittees are going to have to do their work. The president‘s going to come out with a plan in the next few weeks. The committees are going to react to it. I don‘t think this is going to go away and I don‘t think the Democratic leadership thinks it‘s going away. Nancy Pelosi is not going to let this go away.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it‘s possible, Susan, that the Democrats used the war issue to get elected, and once they got the power and the perks and the airplanes for travel and everything else they want, that they‘re really going to let this war slide another couple of years?
MOLINARI: I think it‘s very difficult once you‘re in the majority and now you have to figure out how you get out of this war, which was the question the Republicans kept asking before the election and they didn‘t have the answer to, in fact, figure out how to do that.
To your point, how do you make this deal in the back room? You have families throughout this country who are worried about their sons and daughters who are fighting over there. This has to be a conversation that takes place on HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: OK, simple question. Why don‘t they just have a meeting over here—the Democrats? They don‘t have to call the Republicans, they don‘t have to have committee meetings or anything. Have a vote. We think this war was a mistake, we want to end it as soon as possible. Why don‘t they pass that resolution right now so we know where they stand?
ROSEN: Well, the Democrats have already passed that resolution.
MATTHEWS: Because they‘re afraid to. When are they going to do this?
ROSEN: They passed that resolution last October before their adjourned. They said we want a troop withdrawal; we want a timetable; we want to move this strategy. And the president—the ball‘s in the president‘s court right now, and he‘s going to come back and say something. Democrats will react.
MATTHEWS: This is the iron fist of the Democratic Party you‘re describing. How come I missed it?
ROSEN: You didn‘t miss that. Chris, you know that was the vote they took. They rejected a vote to give a specific date, but they voted to withdraw the troops. The president heard that vote.
ROSEN: They had the election.
MATTHEWS: When did they vote—when are they calling about—for an end to the war? In five years, 10 years?
ROSEN: Well, they didn‘t have—they didn‘t do that.
MATTHEWS: Of course, they didn‘t say, because they‘re—did the Democrats have the guts to oppose this war?
MOLINARI: They obviously had the guts to say they opposed it. Now do they have the courage to do...
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. I don‘t mind playing the role of agent provocateur. I want to see a decision on this, so a vote one way or the other. I want to see these people stand up and say clearly where they stand on this war. Because we went into this war without a real debate. We had phony intel. A lot of scared Democrats voted for the war, not really believing in it.
MOLINARI: Well, I...
MATTHEWS: People like Hillary Clinton said, “I didn‘t vote for the war. I voted to authorize the president to have the option to maybe some day go to war if he doesn‘t get what he wants.” This is B.S.
MOLINARI: And what we should be doing is we should be applauding the Democrats for saying they‘re going to be...
MATTHEWS: OK. There are a lot of voters out there right now who are wondering why we‘re having all this celebration up here and we‘re not having votes. They wonder why they went to the voting booth and campaigned hard for these candidates and now they‘re all congratulating themselves with their new jobs and perks.
MOLINARI: This is a very serious decision they have to make.
MATTHEWS: My job‘s not to be fair. My job‘s to try to get some truth out of these guys.
By the way, we‘re going to talk about an Italian-American speaker of the House with Susan Molinari, right in a moment. And Hilary Rosen will be staying with us.
And later, how many Republicans will back Bush‘s surge in Iraq? Are the Republicans going to break ranks on this baby? We‘ve got the new Senate minority whip. That‘s No. 2 Republican in the United States Senate. He‘s back. Trent Lott.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on Capitol Hill on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re up on Capitol Hill at HARDBALL land up here.
The 110th Congress is taking office. Lots of pomp and circumstance, and celebration. Self celebration, appropriately. These people all got elected by you out there. The question is, are they going to deliver for what you asked them to do?
I‘ve got Susan Molinari here to my left and Hilary Rosen to her left.
I guess this is a big day for you Italian-Americans, isn‘t it? I mean, let me give you your chance to celebrate.
MOLINARI: You know, Chris, I do have to say that...
ROSEN: There has to be something that Susan‘s happy about today.
MOLINARI: ... I‘m a Republican, but obviously, it‘s a female. You‘re very excited for Nancy Pelosi. I served with the speaker and she‘s a wonderful woman.
MATTHEWS: You like that “I” at the end, don‘t you? Molinari?
MOLINARI: The fact—well, it‘s not just the speaker now. As I said to you before, you know, there‘s been two women who have made history in politics, big history, and one is Geri Ferraro, and one is Nancy Pelosi. And I think there‘s no coincidence that they‘re both Italian.
MATTHEWS: OK. Here‘s the scene. Hillary Rosen, Democrat, president of the United States comes up here to this Hill, this Capitol behind us, this beautiful Capitol, in two or three weeks to give the State of the Union address. For the first time in history we‘re going to see these two people behind them. For the first time in history they‘re not going to be all men.
MATTHEWS: There‘s going to be, you know, crotchety old Dick Cheney up there with the snarl and next to him, this wonderfully turned out, Italo-American woman from San Francisco. What‘s that going to mean to the country?
ROSEN: You know, I think for the next month or two, this country is just going to look in awe at what‘s going on. The true change today was not just about Democrats—Republicans going to Democrats. The true change today is really power sharing with women that men have been...
MOLINARI: And I—I have to say, I love that...
ROSEN: ... that they haven‘t for years.
MOLINARI: She wasn‘t afraid to be a woman and brought all the kids up that were out there on the day that‘s with her.
MATTHEWS: If that Mark Cohen, and he had them all come up, it would be a different.
MOLINARI: That‘s not what I meant, Chris.
ROSEN: A record number of women are elected in the House, you know.
When you have that many women elected in the House...
MATTHEWS: How many you got now?
ROSEN: It‘s just going to be 90.
MATTHEWS: Ninety women?
ROSEN: There‘s a...
MATTHEWS: There‘s 90 women in the House now?
ROSEN: Ninety women in the Congress.
MATTHEWS: Really? That is a record. It used to be in all the old...
MOLINARI: Between the—between the House and the Senate.
MATTHEWS: ... political novels, there‘s always like one woman in the Senate, like Margaret Chase Smith from Maine.
MOLINARI: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: So what‘s it going to mean to the average—I mean, it‘s great that—I guess it‘s great to share power.
MATTHEWS: I‘m just kidding. Is that going to change something?
MOLINARI: I think what it is going to change, first of all, is the fact that there‘s people like my daughter, who is sitting out there watching TV at 10 years old and seeing Nancy Pelosi in a place where Speaker Hastert was...
MATTHEWS: Incredible. That‘s got nothing to do with politics.
MOLINARI: No, no, no. That has to do with inspiration.
MATTHEWS: It‘s like women seeing doctors on “Grey‘s Anatomy” at night, you know.
ROSEN: I don‘t think that women care more about family issues than men do here. But I do think that...
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes, they do. You ask any guy what shots the kids have had, and the guys looks at you, like, “Why would I know that?” Most women, mothers, you know, really know the kids‘ health situation.
ROSEN: I‘m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt. But in fact, when you look...
MATTHEWS: I don‘t. How about teachers? You think the average father knows the names of the teachers?
ROSEN: ... daycare, when you look at working family issues, when you look at...
MOLINARI: Yes, and abortion is a big issue that needs to be decided.
MATTHEWS: So what do men—men lock the door at night. If anybody tries to get in and you hear a noise downstairs, it‘s always the guy that says, “I‘ll go check.”
My wife always said, “Did you hear that?”
MOLINARI: No, no. I‘m the one that pays bills. If there‘s somebody downstairs, absolutely—yes.
MATTHEWS: “You better go check.”
You never hear a woman say, “I heard a noise. Let me go check.”
ROSEN: If someone‘s lurking around this House, Nancy Pelosi is going to go check.
MATTHEWS: Oh, well, that settles it. That‘s pretty fresh (ph). OK, for criticism on art (ph), thank you, my buddy, Hilary Rosen.
Up next, how long will Democrats take to do something about Iraq? That‘s my question. And have Republicans had enough of this war? I‘m talking about Republicans. We‘re going to ask Senator Trent Lott, the once and future great man in the United States Senate.
And this Sunday on “MEET THE PRESS”, Senator Joe Biden is the new chairman of the foreign relations committee, is starting hearings this week on the war in Iraq. And Lindsay Graham, I think, is back and McCain again.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Today marks the first day for the new Congress here on Capitol Hill. Republicans are out of power in the House and the U.S. Senate. But one Republican made a big comeback this year. That‘s our old pal, HARDBALL‘s own Trent Lott. The former majority leader is back in the leadership as No. 2 in his party.
You know, I always thought that when you lost the leadership job, because the White House screwed you—but that‘s all right. That‘s just my opinion. When you got dumped, it was liberating for you. You got to be Trent Lott again, instead of carrying the water for 50 some Republicans, people you didn‘t necessarily agree with.
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY WHIP: Being in the leadership, particularly in the Senate, is a tough job. And as majority leader, you‘ve got to try to move the agenda.
And sometime you get in a position of where if you‘re really trying to get things done you‘re being hit from the left and the right, or you wind up sometime advancing a position that you really don‘t in your heart believe in.
LOTT: And when I left the leadership it was liberating. You know, you get hammered; you get knocked down. You kind of—your ego, you know, kind of—hopefully you get it under control. It humbles you a little bit.
But you also return to your roots and start being—look, I‘m a little bit of a populist. A lot of people didn‘t realize that. I always was. I‘m the son of a blue collar shipyard worker and a schoolteacher.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I used to hear you in the old days.
LOTT: Yes. So I went—kind of went back to my roots.
LOTT: I think that people in my state like that, and frankly, a lot of my colleagues like that.
MATTHEWS: They seemed to like you more down there more after you lost the leadership job. What‘s that about?
LOTT: Well, it was about the fact that I—you know, I could be truthful, and I could be a little bit of a rebel, if you will.
LOTT: They kind of liked that. But also, you know, when Katrina came along, my wife and I suffered and bled like all the rest...
MATTHEWS: Lost your house.
LOTT: Yes, lost our house. And we were hurt by seeing other people hurt. And I think a lot of people think—and maybe it‘s true. All that, it changes you, hopefully in a positive way.
MATTHEWS: I have a theory, and you can challenge it, that regular Republicans, conservative Republicans like you, wouldn‘t have taken us into Iraq, that it was a neo conservative, it was an ideological struggle we got involved in. Normal people like you and Ronald Reagan wouldn‘t have gotten involved in it.
My latest evidence for that is the reported and recorded comments of Gerald Ford, saying that he thought the war was a mistake. And that‘s come out now on tape.
Gordon Smith has come out and said it. Lugar has got big questions about the war, in addition to Hagel from Nebraska.
Are you still in line with the president on this war? You think like he does about this war, like it‘s, quote, “winnable”? There‘s victory over there? We should have gone in?
LOTT: It‘s tough now, Chris, and you have to acknowledge that. But let me go back to the beginning.
We didn‘t just sign up for that. We asked a lot of questions. And I was on the intelligence committee, and before that I was in the leadership. I was getting these briefings from the CIA, you know. I heard some of the Tenet briefings actually in the Oval Office with the president. And you know, then of course, there were the issues that came out, you know, the unmanned aerial vehicle. Could it have capabilities to disperse...
MATTHEWS: You mean, they were going to—that Saddam Hussein was going to send a nuclear bomb over to the continental United States and drop a nuclear weapon on us in this balsa wood plane he had?
LOTT: No. But he could have done with a...
MATTHEWS: You believe that?
LOTT: ... very small unmanned vehicle, they could put a canister of biological or chemical weapons which could be sprayed on other countries in the Middle East. That was just one example. But the cumulative effect...
MATTHEWS: That‘s a cause for war in another country, a cause to invade and occupy?
LOTT: No. No, not that alone. But the combination. It wasn‘t just we were told one thing...
MATTHEWS: So you don‘t think you were sold a bill of goods? You don‘t think they put it all together just to get you to say yes?
LOTT: I do think that the intelligence was faulty. I went on—when I went on the intelligence committee I was shocked at what I found. I was very alarmed. I was a part of the reforms we put in place, including trying to put somebody over all these disparate, you know, intelligence agencies. But here‘s the point.
MATTHEWS: I think Cheney had his thump on the scale. Do you agree? That they were pushing this war so hard they were willing to look at any evidence that backed the war and ignore any evidence that didn‘t back the war?
LOTT: They were pushing the evidence that justified going to the war. A lot of us, Republicans and Democrats, were concerned about what we were told, and we bought the package. But here—let‘s fast forward to where we are, Chris. We‘re there.
MATTHEWS: I understand.
LOTT: We‘ve expended very important lives and treasure...
MATTHEWS: So what do we do?
LOTT: We‘ve got to change the status quo. The current situation is not good enough. A lot of people that are being critical of the president, but what do you think may be proposing or getting read to propose? If you say, “OK, what do you want to do? If not this, what? Do you want to just leave?”
“No, no, no.”
MATTHEWS: Well, a lot of people are saying, is slow the escalation.
LOTT: Well, I think...
MATTHEWS: This gradual—gradually puts the pressure on the Iraqis themselves over a space of a couple years to take control of the war. Do you think—and you‘ve got a lot of G.I.‘s.
LOTT: Well, that‘s...
MATTHEWS: Now you come from a state in the South...
LOTT: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: That historically provides a big chunk of our troops.
LOTT: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: People down there volunteered for life. They joined. They become lifers.
LOTT: Right. National Guard unit went.
MATTHEWS: Do you want to send 30,000 or 40,000 young G.I.‘s, 19-year-old guys who don‘t speak Arabic, into the streets of Baghdad to basically kick down doors and suppress the Sunni insurgency?
LOTT: OK, first of all...
MATTHEWS: You think that‘s a good mission for Americans?
LOTT: First of all, I want to see the whole package. If it‘s just that, they way you described it, I probably would not like that.
But how do you get a surge and a change in number of troops? How do you accelerate other things? How do you get a more effective result from the training that we‘re doing?
When do you make clear to the Iraqi government, you have got to do some things? You‘ve got to get these insurgencies under control. You‘re got to get these militias under control. And if you don‘t do it, we‘re not going to stay here and provide you cover indefinitely.
What is in the package with regard to the infrastructure?
It‘s got to be the whole package. I‘m not going to just endorse one part of it. I want to know what it all is.
But here‘s my main point. We‘ve got to change the status quo. At some point we‘ve got to say to the Iraqis, “Congratulations. Saddam is dead. We‘ve given you an opportunity for peace and freedom. It‘s yours.”
MATTHEWS: Would you do that here on this show some night?
LOTT: Well, at some point, I might, yes.
MATTHEWS: By the way, Bob Novak, the Prince of Darkness, the great columnist—and he is a great columnist—says the Republicans only have 12 senators right now out of 49 that believe in this surge. Is that the right count? You‘re the expert.
LOTT: I don‘t know how he could know what that count would be, because he doesn‘t even know what my position would be. He‘s assumed it.
MATTHEWS: He is the Prince of Darkness, you know.
LOTT: But—but I do think we need to have—that Congress does have to have—need to have more impact like...
LOTT: ... or input like Lugar, Senator Lugar suggested. And I think once we know what the package is, that number will grow.
MATTHEWS: Is there a chance you‘ll say no to the surge?
REID: There is.
MATTHEWS: Thanks for making news here...
MATTHEWS: ... Mr. Whip.
REID: All right.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Senator Trent Lott.
Up next, will any House Democrat support a surge in Iraq—any Democrat? Will Speaker Pelosi block what President Bush wants?
Philadelphia Congressman Chaka Fattah is coming here.
This is HARDBALL on Capitol Hill, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We‘re back here where I‘ve spent a good part of my life, Capitol Hill in Washington, with Philadelphia Congressman Chaka Fattah. He‘s running for mayor of my city.
But first we‘re joined by NBC‘s Mike Viqueira, who covers Congress.
Mike, a lot of pageantry and excitement and family stuff tonight here.
MIKE VIQUEIRA, NBC CORRESPONDENT: A lot of ceremony. It took 110
Congresses and 218 years for a woman to become Speaker of the House of
Representatives. And Nancy Pelosi and her friends, pulling out all the
stops with the ceremony. First, that touch at the end of the speech, where
you know, Opening Day we do have this tradition of civility on Opening Day, when people bring their children, their grandchildren, their nieces and nephews into the chamber. More Democrats than Republicans, I have to say. I was in the chamber watching the speech. At the end of the swearing-in, at the end of all of the proceedings and at the end of her speech, she invited all of those children up. And what a money shot, as we might say in the business...
MATTHEWS: A good money shot.
VIQUEIRA: Yes. And, you know, surrounded by her grandchildren and other people in the chamber...
MATTHEWS: There it is.
VIQUEIRA: Yes. Well, ones of her up at the rostrum, even better.
This is John Boehner, the minority leader, congratulating her after she had been elected officially as Speaker of the House of Representatives. And there she is walking in afterwards up to the rostrum, followed by her rival and now number two, Steny Hoyer.
MATTHEWS: Well, is she going to be tough?
VIQUEIRA: I think so...
MATTHEWS: Is she going to be a Baltimore politician...
VIQUEIRA: ... she has already told a lot of the committees—people talk about, there‘s going to be investigations all over the place, Henry Waxman, John Dingell. And that may well end up being the case. But until they get through this 100 powers, this six row six (ph) campaign platform, some of these committees have been told to keep it on hold.
And there‘s a little resentment of that. They don‘t want the message
stepped on. They don‘t want the manpower sacrificed. They want to get
through the month of January. Talk about Iraq, investigations, oversight -
that‘s not going to start until February when the president‘s budget comes up here.
And Pelosi in her speech today, she said Iraq policy is the responsibility of the president to articulate a plan. And that‘s what we‘ve heard subtly and unsubtly all along...
MATTHEWS: Except the Democrats ran on the issue and now they‘re saying it‘s the other guy‘s issue.
Let‘s bring in a real congressman, Chaka Fattah, United States congressman from Pennsylvania.
VIQUEIRA: All right.
MATTHEWS: Sir, do you buy the idea that the Democrats should only do the bread and butter issues like minimum wage and put off action on investigating this administration, on how we got into this war, and trying to end the war?
REP. CHAKA FATTAH (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I think oversight‘s going to be a very important part of the work of the 110th Congress. But we promised, first and foremost, over these first 100 hours, that we would raise the minimum wage, that we would make the availability of stem cells available for medical research, that we would lower the interest rate on college loans.
So it‘s important that we keep our word, keep our promise. The Democratic Party now has the majority. And we also have the moral compass to understand that the country doesn‘t want to see a lot of partisan back and forth, but they do want answers and they do want a new direction in Iraq.
And I think what the speaker laid out today—and I think she‘s going to be the greatest speaker the House has ever had. And I know you worked for a great speaker...
FATTAH: ... who was the man of the House. Well this now is the woman of the House. And I think she‘s going to do a great job.
She laid it out today: We‘re going to let the president lay out a plan where we are insisting that there be a new direction and that we, in a responsible way, be able to re-deploy our young people from Iraq.
MATTHEWS: OK. Congressman, you come back here in three months, four months before the primary when you get elected mayor of Philly, but sometime in the meantime, if you come back in three months and this war is still going on and we have 30,000 more soldiers over there in Iraq, will you say the Democrats delivered on their promise to the American people?
FATTAH: No. I think we have to see a major re-deployment program put into place. Now what the timeline is...
MATTHEWS: Like Murtha wants to do?
FATTAH: Absolutely. The Democrats wouldn‘t be in the majority without Jack Murtha, without Murtha‘s courageous leadership on this issue.
People like me who voted against the war in the first place, you know, we were heard but over in a corner. When Murtha stood up and said, “We need to re-deploy these troops out of Iraq,” now you see Republicans and Democrats alike—the country‘s united.
So I think that what the speaker laid out is an opportunity for the president to step forward and to say: Look, he‘s got the message, he‘s prepared to lead our young people home.
And I think that‘s what we need. We need a bipartisan effort around this and we need to give room for the president to join what is a national consensus that we need to bring our people home.
MATTHEWS: OK. Those words are great: consensus, bipartisan. But if the president of the United States comes up here three weeks from now in the State of the Union and calls for 30,000, 40,000 more troops to go to Iraq, will you cheer?
FATTAH: No. We have to use the power that‘s available to the Congress to ask the tough questions.
The generals on the ground—this president has said for four years...
MATTHEWS: Excuse me, Congressman. The generals on the ground have said they don‘t want more troops.
FATTAH: Right. That‘s what I‘m saying. For four years, he‘s said he‘s listening to the commanders on the ground. So General Abizaid has saying newer American troops will not be helpful; the Iraqis have to stand up and take responsibility for their own defense. Jack Murtha has said we need to re-deploy our young people out of a kill zone in which, no matter the fact that Iraqis are fighting with each other, any opportunity for either side to kill an American soldier is fair game in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: Why are you giving up a seat in Congress to be mayor of Philly?
FATTAH: Because I love my city. I love my work in Congress, too. But I think I can do more at home. I‘m a candidate for mayor. And, you know, I think that the opportunity to lead one‘s home town, no matter how grand your work may be away from home, you know, coming home and doing the things that I know need to be done to give opportunities to Philadelphians some of the same opportunities like people like you and me have had, that they deserve the opportunity for and we‘re going to do it.
MATTHEWS: Eagles-Giants, call it—this weekend.
FATTAH: Eagles, 24-7.
MATTHEWS: Can you pronounce it the Philly way, “Iggles”?
MATTHEWS: Iggles. OK. Anyway, thank you very much.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Chaka Fattah, running for mayor of Philly.
FATTAH: Happy New Year.
MATTHEWS: My college, Mike Viqueira, I want to thank you both for being here.
And we‘re going to be coming right back with more about this Democratic control of the Hill, and it‘s happening right now, a lot of pomp and circumstance.
Well, let‘s see what A.B. Stoddard of “The Hill” and our other colleague, Chris Cillizza of WashingtonPost.com have to say about what‘s going to count to you. What‘s going to happen up here that matters? Minimum wage, stem cell, prescription drugs? Let‘s talk turkey. We‘ll be right back with more HARDBALL from Capitol Hill, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It is the responsibility of the president to articulate a new plan for Iraq that makes it clear to the Iraqis that they must defend their own streets and their own security, a plan that makes—promotes stability in the region, and a plan that allows us to responsibly redeploy our troops.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That was Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and that‘s what she is, as of today, sending President Bush a message about Iraq. So will the Democratic-controlled Congress that just took office agree that President Bush‘s expected call next Tuesday for more troops in Iraq, or will they stand up against him?
Let‘s turn to two HARDBALLers, A.B. Stoddard of “The Hill” newspaper, and Chris Cillizza of WashingtonPost.com.
A.B., that‘s a pretty good question. Will they stand up and fight or will they just go along and finesse this thing? More war, more bipartisan support for a war that has got total unpopularity in the country now?
A.B. STODDARD, “THE HILL”: No, they‘re going to stand up and fight but they cannot stand up and stop it. I mean, if you ask the members who are dealing with these committees that are going to be looking into the budget, the money that funds the war, they planned a very, very strong attack on all—on the funding for a war.
They are not going to stop it, but they are going to interrogate the administration. But when you ask them, can you stop a surge, even if you‘re opposed to it, what they say is no.
MATTHEWS: They don‘t—they don‘t have the authorizing authority to stop spending?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM: No, do the—do they have the authorizing authority, yes, but...
STODDARD: But they won‘t do it.
CILLIZZA: ... they will not do it.
STODDARD: They won‘t do it.
CILLIZZA: Harry Reid...
MATTHEWS: Why won‘t they?
MATTHEWS: Well, they can‘t and won‘t are two different things here.
CILLIZZA: Because I think that they view it as it would be seen as defunding the troops as opposed to opposing the war which is just...
MATTHEWS: OK, so let‘s get down to it. They have the Constitutional power to stop this war. They won‘t do it for political reasons, is that right?
STODDARD: Right, and they can...
MATTHEWS: They have the Constitutional power right now to throw the president out of the White House if they wanted to.
MATTHEWS: They can just simply say the president cannot stay in the White House anymore. They have a lot of power if they want to use it.
CILLIZZA: The one thing I thought that was interesting, Harry Reid came out today, the new Senate majority leader, and he talked about a lot of things. He was asked about Iraq. He didn‘t volunteer it. He was asked about Iraq. He said Iraq is what it is, the country is where it is.
MATTHEWS: Why did we have an election, Senator?
CILLIZZA: I mean, so...
MATTHEWS: By the way, have you noticed the difference in the rhetoric between the day before the November elections when they‘re all at the ramparts, we‘re going to stop this war electives, and now it‘s, well, you know, we have other issues on the table.
CILLIZZA: And that‘s the difference between governing and campaigning. I mean, you know, a lot of Democrats would have told you this privately in the run-up to the election.
MATTHEWS: You know, it‘s the difference between bragging and doing.
CILLIZZA: It‘s a good thing—and that‘s a very—that‘s a—there is a big gap though, Chris.
STODDARD: I disagree. I don‘t think that they bragged and made false promises about what they could do to change the war in Iraq. They complained about it, and they did it loudly. But they did not promise us that they were going to do anything.
MATTHEWS: So why did people vote for Jim Webb?
STODDARD: They voted against Republicans, Republicans who had failed, for a number of reasons, and their governing style—not so much in their core principles, but in their governing style.
CILLIZZA: And I actually think that you will see on Iraq—I‘m not sure, but I do think there will be real, legitimate changes between what a Democratic-controlled Congress, and what a Republican-controlled...
MATTHEWS: Go through them.
CILLIZZA: Minimum wage—we‘re going to see the minimum wage go up.
CILLIZZA: We‘re going to see something happen on cell stems, clearly.
There were a bunch of ballot initiatives. Most of them passed.
MATTHEWS: So now we‘ll be able to use at the federal level federally-financed research in any of the materials that are left over from these fertility clinics, right?
CILLIZZA: Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit—I think we‘re going to see things at least be adjusted on that front. Will we see something on immigration, potentially, some kind of comprehensive reform? The reality is, there are major differences. This Congress will be very different from the Republican Congress that preceded it. It won‘t be necessarily all that different on Iraq, at least not yet.
STODDARD: And I think that once Bush feels the pressure on Iraq, he will make some changes. I mean, he is going—they just took power today. He is going to feel the pressure. He cannot proceed in this war, ultimately, without the support of the American public, and the Congress is going to make him beg for every penny to fund this war and it‘s going to be very hard on him.
MATTHEWS: Will they slam a subpoena on people like the Dick Cheney, the vice president, and make him say under oath what he told and what he knew about the war in Iraq before we went in?
CILLIZZA: They might. But I don‘t—I mean, Dick Cheney has said before and I think he will say again is that, you know, he will exercise executive privilege and will not testify if subpoena. So they may do it, but may do it but it would large, I think, be more of a political ploy than anything else. I don‘t think you‘re going to see Dick Cheney being questioned by Henry Waxman.
MATTHEWS: How about the other people in the White House? The Steve Hadleys, the Scooter Libbys, the Wolfowitzs—can they all be hauled in and said what did you tell the president? What did you really know at the time?
STODDARD: Oh, they certainly can, I imagine.
MATTHEWS: George Tenet, the CIA former CIA director, can they get information on him and say didn‘t you know better than you said?
CILLIZZA: I think they can try, and I think in some case, they will try. I think Nancy Pelosi has been very clear with her caucus though, we don‘t want to overstep it. And it‘s a dangerous line.
MATTHEWS: What‘s the fear?
CILLIZZA: I think the fear...
STODDARD: The fear is—they have their eyes on the prize, and they want the White House in ‘08. They‘re straddling. They‘re straddling.
MATTHEWS: In other words, their strategy is to win the White House by not doing anything between now and 2006.
STODDARD: Not making huge mistakes.
CILLIZZA: And that also means...
STODDARD: They‘re trying to govern constructively, but they don‘t want to overreach politically. It‘s a huge balance.
MATTHEWS: Why should the voters who voted for the Democrats this fall trust them to do something once they get the presidency if they won‘t do something once they get the Congress?
STODDARD: They are going to do a lot. And, Chris, just—both of you have just mentioned all the things they are going to do legislatively. On the Iraq war, I don‘t think they ever made promises that they cannot keep. Voters who voted solely on the Iraq war, who wanted to make a protest vote against the president in this election are going to find if they read their civic books that the Congress is not short of defunding the troops. That able...
MATTHEWS: Well, as Will Ferrell said in “Anchorman,” the movie, “let‘s agree to disagree.”
It‘s great having you on, A.B.
Thank you, Chris Cillizza. Thank you both.
Play HARDBALL with us again on Friday. That‘s tomorrow. We‘ll have all the news and plans for the new Congress by then. When will we do something about Iraq? That‘s my question. Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
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