updated 1/11/2007 12:01:30 PM ET 2007-01-11T17:01:30

Guests: Pat Buchanan, Lawrence O‘Donnell, Michael Crowley, Arianna Huffington, Jack Jacobs

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  We go right now to another NBC person at the White House, David Gregory. 

David, there are apparently already some demonstrations going on at the northwest gate. 

DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  There are.  It‘s a small but vocal group calling for the removal of U.S. troops.  So this is certainly a sentiment that is a physical manifestation of what the polling bears out, and that is that this troop increase is widely unpopular, not just in Congress, but around the country. 

And that‘s the backdrop for this president.  And you‘ve been talking about it over the past few minutes with Brian and Tim.  The job now that lays before this president and his team to try to justify and defend this new approach to Iraq, try to persuade the American people that it is a strategic shift that‘s worth taking, that it can work, and that the prospects, the mere prospects success is worth the effort, because of downside of even a phased withdrawal would be catastrophic.

That‘s why we‘re going to begin in the morning by hearing from the Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Rice here at the White House before they go up and testify on Capitol Hill. The president travels to Georgia tomorrow to begin to make the case more publicly that he laid out here before the American people.

And in the days and weeks to come this is a debate that‘s absolutely going to consume Washington.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you this, did the president fully explain the meaning of his Iranian remark tonight? Because Keith and I both were struck with the fact that in his speech about Iraq, he sort of opened up a new front of concern. In fact, announcing that he sent that battle, that carrier fleet, the strike force to that region with the idea of potentially intercepting any kind of military support by the government of Iran, of the trouble that‘s going on in Iraq. Is something up here?

GREGORY:  I think there‘s a couple of important messages that were sent that Americans need to pay attention to. The first is that it‘s well documented that Iran and Syria are up to no good within Iraq. And the United States, this government, is trying to put them on notice that they‘re going to stand up in some fashion.

There is another audience for this and that is Iraq‘s neighbors, who are worried that the United States will not succeed in Iraq, and are preparing to get into Iraq through their own proxies, with money and/or arms—and/or forces—should Iraq really implode.

And I think what the president was trying to signal is that there is a wider view of a kind of an umbrella of U.S. military interests in the region that he‘s going to fortify to stand up to a regional actor like Iran, that has designs not only to play an important role in Iraq but to be an even bigger presence that part of the world, in the Middle East, something that greatly concerns countries like Saudi Arabia, other Sunni countries like Egypt and Jordan as well.

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR:  David, do you know anything about the manufacture of this speech and whether to the subject of Iran somebody would have said to the president, you‘ve got a lot on the plate here for the American public, they are losing confidence in everything to do with Iraq.  You have to pull them back on Iraq, or at least get them to give you an extension on this.  Why introduce Iran into the equation now, just for domestic consumption? Was there a debate, to your knowledge about that within the White House, regarding this speech, in particular?

GREGORY:  I don‘t think it‘s that out of the realm or the context of this speech to speak in the way that he‘s speaking about Iran and Syria.  The debate has been about whether you engage them diplomatically, even when there is very little leverage the president has right now.  And that they‘re working at cross purposes with the U.S. in Iraq.

But the reality is these are big forces right now who are allied against the United States. So this is going to be an ongoing problem.  And the fact that Iran is pursuing a nuclear program, it‘s happening just as the United States is struggling to get it right in Iraq. So all of these things are connected. The president had to address it.  Where the debate will be is his tone, and how muscular his approach appears to be to Iran when a lot people think that there should be some back channeling going on to try to pull Iran back from working to undermine the U.S. in Iraq.

OLBERMANN:  NBC‘s Senior White House Correspondent David Gregory.

Great, thanks for being with us tonight, David.

GREGORY:  My pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  Chris, you suggested that those headlines would be perhaps not positive with the president—not truly apologizing, but assuming responsibility, as he put it, for any mistakes regarding Iraq. Is it going to be competing with the news about Iran for the analysis tomorrow for the headlines in the papers?

MATTHEWS:  Well, you and I have flagged that issue of Iran. We‘ll see if the other journalists in the print media have done as well. A lot of people are going to go to bed tonight terrified. The president of the United States admitted his mistakes in terms of implementing his policy over there.

But after listening to that briefing we just got from Tim and Brian, I am worried.  Well, I shouldn‘t say I‘m worried.  I am definitely interested in the fact that the president of the United States maintains that neoconservative aggressiveness, the same attitude that we have the business in this world of going into countries when we don‘t like they are weapons systems, and deciding where in the Middle East we are going to attack.

If we‘re going to take the same attitude towards Iran that we took for Iraq, and wait for them to do something we don‘t like in the weapons area, the nuclear weapons area and attack that country, that‘s serious business.

The American people should, by the way, get a hand in debating that sort of policy with all its ramifications. The idea that we can go in there and knock out the Iranian nuclear facilities, such as they are, and not pay an extraordinary price in terms of our relations where the Islamic world, for someone to think that now after what we‘ve been through for four years now is to ignore the message of history, which is it‘s always more complicated once you‘re in than it looks on your way in.

And I think for the president to espouse, as he apparently did in his briefing today, with the anchor people there who were privileged to get in the room with him, that he still thinks like that. He still thinks in terms of a hair trigger. We‘re going to go in there and knock it out. We‘re going to go in there the minute they do something. We‘re going to look and see if they‘re interacting in any way with Iraq, and then we‘re going to war with them. That‘s a serious bit of business we picked up on tonight. We‘ll see if the other journalists in the country are sensitive to what looks like another front in the Middle East.

OLBERMANN:  That phrase that Brian used, “if you knew what we knew,” was of course the basic—when you boil it right down to it—argument of going into Iraq. And we have heard it again tonight in another context.  Chris, a pleasure to—

MATTHEWS:  The possibility is that we know more than he knows, of course.

OLBERMANN:  Of course, that‘s always it. A pleasure as always, sir.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

We‘ll continue our MSNBC coverage of the president‘s speech and the reactions there to with SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY and Joe Scarborough.

Joe, good evening again.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR, SCORBOROUGH COUNTRY:  Good evening, Keith.  Thank you.

Welcome to our special coverage of the president‘s address on Iraq.  As you know, the commander-in-chief took his case to the nation tonight, announced his intension to send over 20,000 new troops to Iraq. Warned Americans that 2007 was going to be bloody and violent. He delivered a dramatic threat to Iran an Syria.

It was a grim message from a president who admitted he should have committed more troops before now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:   Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do.  Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

SCARBOROUGH:  And the Democrats‘ Dick Durbin delivered the Democratic response saying America had already given enough blood and money and put the president on notice that America would no longer be Iraq‘s 911. Let‘s bring in our all-star panel, Arianna Huffington, founding of the HuffingtonPost.com; Michael Crowley, senior editor for “The New Republic” and MSNBC Political Analyst Patrick Buchanan and Political Analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell.

Let me begin with you, Pat Buchanan, because really the political question tonight is did the president deliver the message to the American people that he deserves a second, or perhaps some would say a third, or fourth, chance on the issue of Iraq?

PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think the president succeeded to this extent, Joe, this was a very sober, even grim speech. The president laid out the case, the mistakes that had been made, and he said this is not any open-ended commitment we‘re making.

We‘ve got guidelines that these folks are going to have to meet, the Iraqis are going to have to produce, they‘re going to have to do battle with the sectarian violence, of their own, in other words, Muqtada al-Sadr.  The United States will be there to help.

My guess is that the president of the United States is going to succeed in this sense. Nobody on Capitol Hill is going to stop this surge.  It‘s going to continue, it‘s going to take place over six months. The Democrats and some Republicans will have their symbolic vote against it.  But in the last analysis, the president‘s going to get this last chance.

But do I think it is the last one.

SCARBOROUGH:  What about Republican senators like Sam Brownback?  Brownback‘s now saying he‘s going to oppose this surge, and yet, of course, you know the Republican base is going to most likely get behind their president, and it‘s going to be awfully hard for Sam Brownback to explain to the Republican base in Iowa and New Hampshire in 2008, why he didn‘t support the president and give him his last chance to win in Iraq. Do you think most Republicans back down?

BUCHANAN:  Look, I‘ve got a lot of respect for Sam Brownback, and there‘s a lot of sentiment in Iowa, quite frankly, which was an old isolationist state, it was anti-war to begin with; Jim Leach was out there.  And I think Brownback will be respected for his position he‘s taken.

In strict political terms, and I don‘t suggest that‘s what he‘s acting on, it‘s a smart thing to take an adversarial stance to McCain, Giuliani, Romney, who are 100 percent  behind the president.

I believe by 2008, because I don‘t think the surge is going to work, the I think the anti-war position is going to be the right position to be politically, and for the country, because, Joe, tonight the age of American empire is over.

SCARBOROUGH:  Arianna Huffington, that certainly would be the sentiment of a lot of Democrats on Capitol Hill, also. Do you think the Democrats are going to dare stand up to this president, and do all they can even after tonight, to stop this 20,000-plus troop surge in Iraq?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM:  Well, Joe, they‘re already standing up to the president.  With Ted Kennedy‘s speech yesterday, with Nancy Pelosi‘s statement after the president‘s speech.

But Pat Buchanan just made an extraordinary admission.  He said he believes the surge is not going to work, and yet he‘s supporting it. That‘s an amazing statement to say we are going to send more young Americans to their death, that we are going to spend more billions of taxpayer dollars for something that Pat Buchanan already believes is not going to work. And which most Americans believe is not going to work.

It‘s really a tragic admission. And something which I‘m sure the president would not be willing to admit.  Although it‘s clear from his speech that all the promises of a new way forward are really, in terms of policy, met with nothing but a stunning amount of banal statements that we‘ve all heard before. There was a terrible feeling of deja vu about the speech. There was absolutely nothing new except 20,000 more troops. And remember a year ago we had 160,000 troops in Iraq, and nothing was different.

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, did you make a tragic admission tonight?

Do you support a troop surge even though you don‘t think it will work?

BUCHANAN:  Well, I do for this reason—or if I were in the Senate, I would probably vote on this symbolic thing with the president for this reason, Joe. I think that the—the surge is the only possible way of saving a situation, which I believe is going to end or could end in a tremendous calamity for the Middle East and the United States, and a triumph and a victory for Al Qaeda.

I think there‘s a possibility it might work. But I notice the president himself said there is no guarantee of success here, McCain says that. So I think that you‘ve got to give the United States this chance to avert what I think could be a complete breakup—look, if the United States, when we pull out, the Maliki government goes down, and into the vacuum go the people who have thrown the Americans out of Iraq. 

I disagree with Obama to this extent, he says we all agree there‘s got to be a political solution. Nonsense. In Vietnam, it was a military solution.  In Cambodia it was a  military solution.

I think our enemies, if they drive us out of Iraq, are going to try to take over the country—will take it over—and revolution is going to spread all down through the Gulf. You‘ll have intervention by Shia and Sunni. The Iranians will have to intervene to save their side. The Americans could very well use that as a reason to go after Iran. So I think we‘re headed for a potential disaster.  And I think there‘s a long-shot chance it will work.

SCARBOROUGH:  Potential is—

HUFFINGTON:  Joe, Joe

(CROSS TALK) 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on one second.

(CROSS TALK) 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me bring in Lawrence O‘Donnell. I‘ll get back with you, Arianna.

Let me bring in Lawrence O‘Donnell.

Lawrence, obviously, you have two different—two different sides here with two radically different positions. George Bush is saying not only do I need 20,000 more troops, we may expand this war out to start going after Iran and Syria. You have the Democrats, you have Dick Durbin coming up and actually sounding very Republican, at least very Republican, circa 1996, when we used to always like running around in the Armed Services Committee saying we can‘t be the world‘s 911. Who wins that argument?

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL:  I think Dick Durbin won tonight, Joe.  He was very, very smart—very smart, too.  I mean, his argument, as Chris Matthews characterized earlier on this network was look, we won, let‘s go home. Dick Durbin recited a much—a very significant accomplishments, including getting rid of Saddam, and establishing this new government.  And basically saying to the president, look, you could have gone home on the basis of the accomplishments you have already.

And I think the president‘s position is a real losing position and will be a losing position very quickly because what we‘re going to see in the next 24 or 48 hours of the news cycle is we‘re going to get to some army logisticians who are going to be able to explain to us exactly how many troops this actually delivers. Let‘s just go through the numbers on this, let‘s just go through the math. When you‘re saying 21,000 additional troops to Iraq—Arianna is right—we‘ve already had more than that number in Iraq before, to no particular effect.

But let‘s remember what 21,000 is. Let‘s remember that every one of those soldiers gets to sleep once in a 24-hour period. You have no more—no more, at any given time, than 5,000 additional troops armed, patrolling the entire country of Iraq, 5,000 more is the maximum number you will have.

(CROSS TALK) 

SCARBOROUGH:  And Lawrence, of course, the president was talking about sending 4,000 of those troops to al-Anbar Province, and I guess the rest into Baghdad. And it certainly doesn‘t seem like it‘s enough.

O‘DONNELL:  I just need to—

(CROSS TALK) 

SCARBOROUGH:  And again, Dick Durbin—I thought Dick Durbin‘s arguments were smart. I thought his—we‘re not going to be the 911 of the world was a smart argument.

He also made an American-first argument, which is we‘ve got to worry about ourselves first. We‘ve given enough. And then finally, he said, and there are a lot of military officials that agree with the Democrats on this, 20,000 is not enough, and 20,000 is too much.

O‘DONNELL:  But let me just stress, Joe, I—

SCARBOROUGH:  It seems that the president is getting it from both sides.

O‘DONNELL:  I just want to stress the math on why 20,000 is such a tiny number. Everyone has to know this, in the audience, that when they say 20,000 troops what you need to do is divide it by four, to figure out how many actual troops does that put out on patrol, in addition to the ones we already have? It‘s a maximum, at the maximum point in the patrol day, of an additional 5,000 for the entire country.

And let‘s take another look at the number 21,000. In New York City, tonight, in New York there are 45,000 police officers, 45,000. On an indefinite commitment, by the way, to policing New York, OK?  And 21,000 divided by four, adding 5,000 on the ground actively patrolling in Iraq is nothing. Nothing happens to our effectiveness tonight.

SCARBOROUGH:  Thank you so much, Lawrence, for the math lessons, for a guy from the University of Alabama, I appreciate it very much.

Stay with us, we‘ll be back with a lot more right after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

BUSH:  There is no magic formula for success in Iraq.  And one message came through loud and clear, failure in Iraq would be a disaster for United States. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)  

SCARBOROUGH:  President George W. Bush tonight, talking about a battle plan that puts him in direct conflict with the public and with a new political climate in Washington, D.C., as well as many generals in his Pentagon.

Will the Democrats use their new-found strength in a test of wills with the White House? Still with us, Arianna Huffington, Michael Crowley, Pat Buchanan and Lawrence O‘Donnell.

Michael Crowley, I guess a question tonight is what do the Democrats do after this speech to try to stop the president‘s 20,000 troop surge in Iraq?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, “THE NEW REPUBLIC” :  Well, Joe, I think the best strategy I‘ve heard was first articulate by Joe Biden.  He said, this weekend, which is the key is to force the Republicans to show their hand.

And it‘s very interesting in a way because the tables have completely turned. I mean, it was only about 14 months ago, do you remember, after Jack Murtha came out and gave that impassioned plea for ending the war and redeploying, the Republicans forced that phony vote on the House floor to say, OK, we‘ll implement the Murtha plan right away, where do the Democrats really stand on it?  And they were trying to make the Democrats run for cover.

Now the tables have been turned.  What Democrats are going to do—this is what this Kennedy plan is—force Republicans to go on the record, and say, OK, what do you guys really think about this Bush plan? You can hem and haw a little bit, you can say conflicting things in the media, but vote up or down. And I think if there‘s anything that‘s going to stop Bush, in this bizarre situation we have, where he doesn‘t seem to be interested in the results of the election, he doesn‘t seem to be interested in public opinions, or what leaders in the Congress are saying. 

If there‘s anything that might finally stop him it would be to force members of his party to start deserting him. And I think you‘re beginning to see it happen. Sam Brownback, to me, is a really startling position for him to have taken tonight.  And you‘re seeing others like Hagel, Richard Lugar, said some things today.  Lugar is the guy who is very smart, but he has more or less stuck with Bush for a long time.  And Lugar now, I heard him say today, didn‘t understand the rationale for what Bush is doing.

And this is actually the best Democratic strategy, is force the Republicans away from Bush, and isolate him, so that he really looks like he‘s alone.  Other than that—

SCARBOROUGH:  I must say, though, if I were Sam Brownback‘s political consultant, I would tell him to release a statement after the president spoke.

Because it seems to me, Arianna, if these Republicans, if enough Republicans oppose the president, after making this dramatic last pitch to the American people, they are, in effect, offering a vote of no confidence, and the Bush presidency goes down the drain politically overnight.

He cannot lose four, five, six, seven Republicans, and lose this vote, or else he loses all credibility with the American people on the Iraq war. And again, in effect, it‘s a vote of no confidence that he can‘t survive politically.

HUFFINGTON:  But remember, Joe, that the president is not going to be on the ballot in 2008. That Sam Brownback is running for president. And many other Republicans are going to be on the ballot in 2008. And they are recognizing that supporting the president is a no-win proposition.

The surge—so-called surge—even if it goes ahead, even if Democrats fail to stop it, is not going to succeed. This is a foregone conclusion. And you don‘t have to listen to me, you can listen to any military expert who is not beholden for their job to the White House.

And that is really what Republicans have to face. And they‘re facing it. And I hope that this statement by Brownback—and by Lugar—is going to change the way the media are covering this, because it‘s been really tiresome to listen to Candy Crowley on CNN, and others, in the last 48 hours, presenting this in terms of Left and Right that Ted Kennedy is being pressured by the people on the Left of his party, by the base of the Democratic Party. And this way of presenting what‘s happening as a Left-Right battle is completely missing the point.

In fact, as Brownback has demonstrated, many America-firsters—as Pat Buchanan used to be—many who want to put America‘s national security at the top of the agenda are going to oppose the president.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, I‘ve got to go to Lawrence because we lose you after the break, but well be talking to the former American-firster in a little bit.

Lawrence O‘Donnell, as we‘ve been hearing this talk about Sam Brownback and Dick Lugar, possibly crossing their president, I started writing down some names. And you‘ll understand the point I‘m getting to—in a minute here.

In 1998, when you asked senators whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, whether he posed an imminent threat to the United States, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, and Al Gore, who was then vice president, all said he did have weapons of mass destruction, he posed an imminent threat to America.

In 2002, Sam Brownback, Dick Lugar and George Voinovich said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and posed an imminent threat to the United States. The difference?  Of course, you had a Democratic president in 1998, who was pushing that position, and a Republican president in 2002 that was pushing that position.

Explain to the American people tonight, as somebody that‘s worked in the Senate, just how difficult it is for a senator to cross the commander-in-chief in his own party, and how tough it‘s going to be for Sam Brownback, Dick Lugar and other Republican senators, tomorrow morning, when the White House starts calling.

O‘DONNELL:  It‘s tough when the president is popular. But when you‘re talking about a president, Joe, who has an approval rating on his handling of Iraq that is in the low 20s—and probably next week going down—it‘s easy.  This is not a difficult break, especially when you get, in an eight-year presidency, once you‘re into the seventh year, once you‘re into the last two years, they abandon their president, whenever they feel the need to do so. You‘re going to see over time a big, big departure from the president—

SCARBOROUGH:  And Lawrence, let me just—

(CROSS TALK) 

O‘DONNELL:  I think, Pat Buchanan is right.

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me break in for one second here.  Because we have some breaking news, Hillary Clinton has just released a statement. In that statement she‘s saying she cannot support the president‘s proposal of escalation of war in Iraq.

Lawrence, as somebody that‘s been very careful from the beginning, Hillary Clinton certainly seems to be moving, again, towards where the majority of Americans are right now in opposing this troop surge.  What‘s it mean?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, once you have over 60 percent opposition to the troop surge, which is what‘s out there in the public right now, it couldn‘t be easier to issue that statement. That‘s exactly where she should be politically. And this is the thing that the Democrats aren‘t leading the opposition anymore, the public is. Once you have an electorate that is 60 percent moving in a certain direction, they‘re not being led, they‘re going there on their own.

And that‘s a lot of people, a lot of voters, who have changed their minds. So when you talk about Hillary Clinton‘s past position on Iraq, and her current position, the voters don‘t care because a lot of those voters have changed their minds themselves. They care about where you are today.  And I think Pat Buchanan is right, even on the Republican front, when Pat says that the winning position on the Republican side, in the presidential campaign, is going to be the anti-war position.

SCARBOROUGH:  And if you follow the poll throughout this election year, you knew that Americans were, at least six to nine months ahead of many people in both parties.

Hey, Lawrence, thanks for being with us. I want to ask the rest of you to stay with us. We‘ll be right back. And when we come back, what do troops in Iraq think of the president‘s plan for a surge.  We‘ll head to Baghdad for the answer to that question coming up next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

BUSH:  On September 11, 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our own cities.  For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, the debate over President Bush‘s troop surge rages in Washington and around America, its impact obviously is going to be felt mostly on the ground in Iraq.  NBC‘s Middle East correspondent Richard Engel is in Baghdad tonight and he has the very latest for us.

Richard, what is the word over there?

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Joe, for the first time today Iraq‘s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told the biggest militia group in this country, the Mahdi Army, that unless it did I say arms, it will face a full U.S. and Iraqi military assault.  This gives American troops here a freer hand to tackle the militia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ENGEL (voice-over):  Soldiers from the 2-8 Cavalry clear the perimeter around their outpost north of Baghdad.  Asked if they need American reinforcements, they‘re divided.  Sergeant Steve Roy (ph) doesn‘t think so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think what we need, honestly, is to get the Iraqi army, we need more of them.

ENGEL:  But his commander wants more U.S. troops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think for right now probably just to gain the momentum back and let the Iraqis go ahead and continue on.

ENGEL:  But Iraqi forces are not ready yet.  The 2-8 Cavalry inspected crumbling Iraqi army outpost last week.  Some just wooden shacks.

Iraqi troops told us they don‘t have enough bullets.  And that their rifles are broken.  The troops wrote down every complaint.  They know the Iraqis are their way home.  Sergeant Chris Richardson (ph) served in the 3rd ID during the 2003 invasion.  Now he‘s back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s not like we can say that, you know, we‘re going to go out today and take this house and that will be the end of it.  So that‘s what‘s the most frustrating, it‘s just not being able to see the finish line.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ENGEL (on camera):  And U.S. officials say a small group of American soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division has already arrived here in Baghdad tonight to set up headquarters preparing for more troops to come.  Joe?

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, thank you so much.  Greatly appreciate that report, Richard Engel in Baghdad.

Now, when we come back, with a clear majority of Americans against a troop surge in Iraq, is the president standing alone against the world?  More with our panel right after the break.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict, it is the decisive ideological struggle of our time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  President George Bush said tonight he‘s going to send 20,000 new troops into Iraq but will that be enough to accomplish the goals of his Iraq plan?  And is it actually against the advice of some of his military top officials?  Of course that question has been asked for quite some time.

That‘s why you have a lot of Democrats who feel like they do have cover now going against the president‘s plan and of course we had brought breaking news to you a few minutes ago, Senator Hillary Clinton, certainly the Democrat to watch in 2008 has issued a statement.  She says that she cannot support the president‘s troop surge plan moving forward in Iraq.

Let‘s bring in Jack Jacobs, he is an MSNBC military analyst and he‘s of course, retired U.S. Army colonel, and a Congressional Medal of Honor winner.  Colonel, let‘s talk about the where the president stands tonight in relation to the Joint Chiefs, to the man that ran his war in Iraq for the past three years or so and in relation to a lot of other military officials.  Is the president swimming against the tide militarily speaking?

COL. JACK JACOBS, U.S. ARMY, (RET), MSNBC ANALYST:  Well, he‘s certainly painted himself into a corner, hasn‘t he?  I mean, all the options that were available for the use of the military instrument three years ago are no longer available.  It‘s not like we‘re going to stay there forever.  We aren‘t going to pull troops out tomorrow because that puts them at a tremendous risk.

What‘s happened here is that the president has set, I think under pressure from very high-ranking military officers who really have a say-so in this very limited objectives here.  A relatively small number of troops over a relatively short period of time for very, very small objectives.  With fewer than a 15 percent increase here.  It‘s not like large numbers of troops are going to go there, are going to sweep the country, kill all the bad guys, capture every one who isn‘t killed and turn over a completely pacified Iraq to the Iraqis.

Relatively small number of troops going into some neighborhoods in Baghdad, in parts of al Anbar Province, they‘re going to kill some bad guys, capture some bad guys, pacify some areas and turn those areas over to some Iraqi troops.  And I think that‘s what the military establishment has dragged out of the president, limited objectives.

You could look at this at a matter of fact, as what the military calls a detachment left in contact.  These people are there effectively to protect the rear and the flanks of the military already in Iraq that is eventually coming home.  Make no mistake about it, I think both sides of the aisle want troops to come home and they will be coming home.

SCARBOROUGH:  And of course the generals on the ground have said that they had a lot of concerns about this troop surge but it sounds like what you‘re saying is that the 20,000 troops may not be enough to effect great change over in Iraq and that this move may be more political, more based in politics than in military objectives.

JACOBS:  In my judgment, you can bet on it.  Because if really you were going to flood the zone, you wouldn‘t have a 15 percent increase in troop strength in Iraq, you would have a doubling or trebling of troop strength.  And we‘re not going to do that.  There is a huge political element to the insertion of these troops.  And the only way that the president was able to get the military establishment to support this is to severely limit the objectives and I think that‘s exactly what you have here.  I may be the only guy talking about it in this way but I think you‘ve got limited objectives, using limited number of troops and it‘s going to be for a limited amount of time.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Colonel Jack Jacobs, thank you and thanks so much for talking in those terms because you‘re saying publicly what a lot of military leaders are saying privately.  Thank you for being with us.

JACOBS:  Good to be with you.

SCARBOROUGH:  Contrary to the opinion of the military, Democrats, some Republicans, and most of the country believe that President Bush has made the wrong decision to send more troops into Iraq.  But after tonight, will anybody be standing with President Bush?  Let‘s listen to a clip of the president from earlier tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not.  Well, here are the differences.  In earlier operations, Iraqi and American forces cleared many neighborhoods of terrorists and insurgents.  But when our forces moved on to other targets, the killers returned.  This time well have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Will America buy that argument?  Let‘s bring our panel back in.  And I think it‘s time to go to America Firster, or former America Firster Pat Buchanan.  Pat, I remember following Ronald Reagan‘s career, and at some point in 1986, Americans seemed to turn the Great Communicator off, especially when he was talking about funding the Contras.  He just didn‘t have the same magic he had in 1982, 1983, 1984 with the American people.  Do you think Americans have turned this president off so much, with such a low approval rating, 26 percent on Iraq that no matter what he says, he will be tuned out?

BUCHANAN:  Yeah, Joe, I think the—I think the best the president can hope for tonight is that the—I think he gave a pretty good and effective speech and kept it in the proper terms that we need this one last chance and this is not ended.

But the president and the war have lost the country.  They have lost the Congress, they certainly have lost the punditocracy and the media.

But that to me makes this case.  I think the president genuinely believes that a pullout along the lines of the Baker commission will result in a calamity and a disaster, a strategic disaster for his country.  And if then he is going against public opinion, going against the media, going against his own party, I think it does not speak badly of him as a leader because I think he believes that.

I also think Jack Jacobs is exactly right.  You‘re talking about an increment of about 15 percent of the forces when you probably need 500,000 troops to really pacify Iraq and probably do it for two, three, four years the way Nixon did it in Vietnam.

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat, that‘s exactly what the generals said at the beginning of the war, a lot of generals said they needed 400,000 or so troops and now of course the president comes in asking for 20,000 troops.  And I agree with you, Pat, I think this is one of the president‘s better performances.  If it had come in 2003 or 2004, if he had turned earlier, if he had listened to the warnings from his generals and the troops on the ground and of course he wouldn‘t find himself where he is in 2007.  But he is standing alone, though, tonight, isn‘t he?

BUCHANAN:  Let me say this.  He‘s standing virtually alone.  And some

people will stand by him because they‘re loyal to him.  But I do think this

and the old Buchanan idea of America first, it was in our great victory in the Cold War we revise our treaties and start pulling the troops home in a time of peace with victory.  What‘s happening to us in Iraq now, the American imperium, if you will, is going to come down like the British Empire, where they‘re virtually running for the boats.

And I‘m afraid this is what‘s going to happen in Iraq, in the Middle East. 

And there‘s one real danger and it was alluded to by the president tonight.  I think there‘s one final card he and the neoconservatives can play and that is real escalation with regard to Iran and its nuclear program.

We‘re saying look, they‘re sending troops in, they‘re doing this, and in effect we‘ve got a new carrier group out there.  I think that is a message that I have one more card to play.

SCARBOROUGH:  And Michael Crowley, you know, I am going to be hearing and you‘re going to be hearing and many are going to be hearing the pundit class attack the president for suggesting that we act more aggressively towards Iran.

But I would just suggest here, and I‘d like to get your response, that Americans—most Americans still despise Iran because of what happened in 1979 and whether it‘s done for cynical purposes or military purposes, it may not be a bad political play for George W. Bush being more confrontational towards Iran.  What do you think the impact will be?

CROWLEY: Joe, I don‘t know if I entirely agree.  I think 1979 feels like a long time ago.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, sure, Michael, you were two years old in 1979.

CROWLEY:  I was seven.

SCARBOROUGH:  Buchanan and I were smoking cigars on street corners in Washington.  Of course I was 16.

CROWLEY:  But listen, Pat mentioned having one last card to play, Iran could be the last card he had to play.  Sure, like a gambler in Vegas who lost everything except, you know a few bucks and he says I‘m going to keep playing, I‘m going to win it back.  It‘s a card to play but that doesn‘t mean it‘s a good card to play.

And I think the danger is you get the sense—and I get the sense about this surge option as well, that Bush is like a guy who keeps doubling down.  He gets deeper and deeper in the hole.  You can give him credit, Pat, for saying he‘s got fortitude and he‘s pressing ahead and he‘s ignoring the pundit class.  I might be more willing to give him credit for that if there‘s any reason to think he had shown good judgment previously in the face of contrary public opinion.

The problem with that is I don‘t think he has.  He has bad cards, he keeps playing them to get out of this hole he‘s dug some of I‘m not inclined to give him credit for that and I don‘t think the Iran thing, to answer your question, will play very well.

BUCHANAN:  So you‘re getting back into politics, you‘re saying cards to play.  I think as a practical matter the president genuinely believes that if the Americans go out, Maliki goes down, and it will be a triumph for the terrorists, the insurgents, the anti-Americans in that region and that region will explode and Iraq will break up.

In other words I think it‘s the substance of it .

CROWLEY:  It‘s already happened.

HUFFINGTON:  It doesn‘t make any sense to keep saying the president genuinely believes something which is a blatant lie.  It‘s really like defining fanaticism.  Fanaticism is when you generally believe something which is clearly not true, which is contradicted by all evidence and all reality, the president is a fanatic.  And this speech proves that yet again and that is very .

BUCHANAN:  Arianna, if that is true, if the president is a fanatic, and it‘s an idiotic policy, why doesn‘t the Democratic Party from the courage to defund the war?

HUFFINGTON:  Well, absolutely.  It‘s not about defunding the troops that are there now.  It‘s exactly what Senator Kennedy said yesterday, not providing the funds for the additional troops.  And I think the Democratic Party is going to come together.

BUCHANAN:  But Arianna, let me tell you why that doesn‘t make any sense.  The president is going to surge 20,000 troops.  And Kennedy says we‘re not going to pay for them but we will pay for the troops that are there.

That means Kennedy is in favor of stay the course.  But Ariana and Pat Buchanan both agree stay the course is losing the war.  Why would the Democrats continue a policy we all agree is losing the war?  If the war ..

SCARBOROUGH:  And Arianna will give us that answer right after this break. 

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  America‘s engaged in a new struggle that will set the course for a new century.  We can and we will prevail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  President Bush tonight before a national audience on his last-ditch effort to win the war in Iraq.

We‘re back with Arianna Huffington, Michael Crowley and Patrick Buchanan, MSNBC political analysts.  I‘ll let you go ahead and answer.  Arianna, why not defund the troops now?

HUFFINGTON:  Well, obviously, Joe, you cannot defund the troops while they‘re in the field.  But both Nancy Pelosi today in her post-speech statement and Ted Kennedy in his speech yesterday made it clear that the troops need to be coming home in the next four to six months.  That is a specific policy.  That has a timeline.

When the president says our commitment is not open-ended, but does not provide a time line, he is saying it is open-ended.  That‘s one of the major contradictions in the speech.  Also, let me say clearly this is an acid test of leadership for the Democrats.  If they don‘t pass the test if they don‘t provide clear opposition to the president‘s plan, then they don‘t deserve to lead.  This is their test.

And for the moment, there are many indications they are going to pass it.

SCARBOROUGH:  Arianna, you‘ve been critical on the Huffington Post for quite some time of the Democrats backing down from the challenges that the president has presented to them.

Tonight, of course, we brought breaking news 20 minutes or 30 minutes ago about Hillary Clinton finally stepping up, opposing the president‘s plan to escalate the war in Iraq.  Do you believe Hillary Clinton is passing that acid test?

HUFFINGTON:  Well, it‘s hardly breaking news.  Please tell me who is the Democrat who is not opposing the president‘s plan.

Leadership is really to lead when it‘s actually not to follow everybody else.  I mean, I‘m glad Hillary Clinton made that statement, but she was the last one practically to call for Rumsfeld‘s resignation and she is one of the last to actually oppose publicly the president‘s plan to escalate.  That‘s not leadership.

SCARBOROUGH:  But is that—Go ahead, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  Well, I think what Hillary Clinton is afraid of is, frankly, that if she gets out too far on this let‘s get out of Iraq, and we get out, and that thing goes down, she doesn‘t want responsibility to that.  I think Hillary can basically move to her left.  She‘s got plenty of time left.

But Arianna, again, why - look, the Democrats could say, look, the president wants $100 billion.  We think you should start moving the troops out.  We‘ll give you $50 billion right now and half of that and we want to see the troops coming out.  And I think the—and they control the purse.  What would be wrong with that if they want to get us out of Iraq?

HUFFINGTON:  Nothing wrong.  In fact, when I talked to Jack Murtha in Washington .

BUCHANAN:  Why don‘t they do it?

HUFFINGTON:  Pat, when I talked to Jack Murtha last week in Washington he said that he‘s planning to start hearings next week, and part of the hearings is going to involve how to fence the funding, so it supports the troops on the ground now, but does not allow not just an escalation, but does not allow for any unlimited, indefinite commitment of those troops in Iraq.

CROWLEY:  But Pat I think you know the answer to your question, that the Democrats are in the maddening position of now being potentially the ones who have to end this catastrophe, who have to pull us out and who are going to be blamed for - that is what happened in Vietnam, when people say you cut it off too early, you micromanaged from Washington, you undermined the war effort and so they have a political imperative.

BUCHANAN:  Well, that‘s my fundamental point.  What the Democrats want is they want to be against the war publicly, right there with the American people, but they don‘t want responsibility for imposing a policy they say they believe in.

SCARBOROUGH:  And Michael Crowley .

BUCHANAN:  And Michael, it is immoral, if they believe the war is lost not to stop it and not to bring the troops home.

SCARBOROUGH:  And Michael Crowley, again, as you said, the Democrats helped move America out of Vietnam.  Most Americans supported that, but they‘ve been paying for that position politically for the past 30 years because Americans blame them for the chaos that occurred after that.  It could happen again, couldn‘t it?

CROWLEY:  It took them a generation to get past that, to win back the trust of the public on national security it only - it really took another disastrous war, unfortunately, to get them to that position.  It‘s a very complicated question, but I think that‘s the way they‘re looking at it right now.

HUFFINGTON:  But it‘s not at all complicated when you look at what the right thing is.  The fact is right now the president wants to put the American military as a traffic cop in the middle of a civil war.  That‘s not the role of the American military.

SCARBOROUGH:  And as republicans said throughout the 1990s when Bill Clinton was the president, American troops shouldn‘t be the 911 to the world.  That‘s what a lot of Democrats are saying right now.

Arianna Huffington with the Huffington Post, thank you so much for being with us.  Pat and Michael stay with us.  Because we have more of the special coverage of the president‘s prime time address right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

END   

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