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Senator, presidential candidate, naval officer, Vietnam Vet, POW, campaign finance reformer, contrarian... There aren’t many battles this guy hasn’t fought and he took on perhaps one of his greatest challenges: An hour with Chris Matthews. He was at Fordham University for a stop on the College Tour.

JOHN MCCAIN was at Fordham University for the Oct. 16th stop of the Hardball College Tour. McCain has been a thorn in the side of the Bush administration from day one but on the biggest issue, Iraq, he seems to be falling in line.

That didn’t stop him however, from criticizing the recent round of intelligence briefings on Iraq the administration has been giving on Capitol Hill. “It was a joke,” said McCain, according to the Washington Post.

In his latest book, “Worth the Fighting For,” McCain hints at the possibility of retiring from public life when his term expires in 2004.

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McCain official homepage

His biography

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READ A TRANSCRIPT TO THE SHOW

Guests: David Albright, Howard Fineman, David Kay, Tony Blankley, Carl Jeffers

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Hi, I’m Chris Matthews. Let’s play HARDBALL.

One big story tonight, new challenges for the Bush foreign policy team. Secretary of State Colin Powell is speaking in New York tonight. We’ll go there live in a moment.

Powell speaks in the aftermath of North Korea’s stunning revelation that they have an active program to develop nuclear weapons. North Korean officials acknowledged the program 12 days ago in talks with U.S. officials, who kept the news was kept secret until last night.

North Korea said their weapons development was well advanced and said a 1994 treaty with the U.S. was now nullified. In the meantime, negotiations continued today at the U.N. where the U.S. is clashing with France over the language of the Iraq resolution.

And in a campaign stop today President Bush reminded the audience in the background of it all, the war with al Qaeda is far from over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We’re making progress. We’re hauling them on one at a time. We’ve got over a couple of thousand of them. And maybe that log number wasn’t quite so lucky. Sometimes you’ll see us making progress, and sometimes you won’t. Sometimes those chatter-people who chatter on the cables will be talking about it. Sometimes you’re just not going to hear. It’s a manhunt, one at a time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: For reaction tonight, we’re joined by “Newsweek’s” Howard Fineman and David Albright of the Institute for Science & International whatever. Also the “Washington Times” Tony Blankley and the “Seattle Times” Carl Jeffers are standing by for the Powell speech, which we’re going to cover in a few moments.

And later, basketball great Charles Barkley is going to be here. But first, the new threat posed by North Korea. Today, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said he believes that North Korea already has several weapons.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The U.S. has been concerned about North Korea’s desire for nuclear weapons, and has assessed, since the early 1990s that the north may have one or two weapons. That is the assessment of the intelligence community. I have not touched them. They have not touched them. No one that I would have any confidence in their judgment has touched them.

(CROSSTALK)

RUMSFELD: But I believe they have a small number of nuclear weapons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And this afternoon Secretary Powell had this reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: North Korea has some explaining to do to the international community. North Korea has to make a choice as to whether it will move forward and try to provide a better life for its people or waste what limited resources it has developing weapons of mass destruction that will not feed one North Korean child.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let’s go to David Albright for an assessment. David, how many weapons do you think they have of nuclear quality, nuclear weapons in North Korea and so what?

DAVID ALBRIGHT, PRES. INST. FOR SCIENCE & INT’L SECURITY: It’s hard

to say. I mean not everyone agrees with that CIA assessment. I mean it’s

I mean you could say it’s 50/50 chance they have nuclear weapons, or maybe a little more, but it’s still to be shown. But...

MATTHEWS: Why would the secretary of defense say I believe they have a small number of nuclear weapons if he doesn’t have evidence to that effect?

ALBRIGHT: Well that’s what the CIA assesses, and I think you have to understand that word. And that it could be true; it may not be true. The main thing, though, is that North Korea certainly knows how to build nuclear weapons. And if they have plutonium that’s in separated form they could turn that into weapons.

And if they finish this gas centrifuge plant that they’re building, they could make even more nuclear weapons. And so, the new revelations-in fact I would say the intelligence success of U.S. government to uncover evidence of this centrifuge plant is very important, and it does show that the situation needs to be dealt with very quickly, and before North Korea can finish that plant, which could be as soon as a year.

MATTHEWS: The new few minutes we hope to go to New York to the Al Smith Dinner and hear Secretary of State Colin Powell and we expect he’ll talk about this very topic of U.S. security in regard to the recent development that the North Koreans have a nuclear weapon capability.

Let me ask you David, again, the point again, what possible use could the North Koreans have for such a weapon? They live on the north-on the Korean Peninsula. They share it with South Korea. Could they use a weapon against South Korea on their own peninsula?

ALBRIGHT: Yes they could. I mean they-I-they continue to seek these nuclear weapons because they are scared of the United States. And I think...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What is it, the 48th Parallel (sic) sits there right next to Seoul. How could they drop a weapon on Seoul when it’s so close to North Korea?

ALBRIGHT: Well they could. I mean these aren’t huge nuclear weapons, and they may get some fallout, but I mean they would do immense destruction in Seoul and it-there wouldn’t be that much destruction in the north. And so I do think that it’s-you know North Korea’s very worried at this point in time, and I think that’s part of why they admitted to the U.S. that they have this secret program. And I think that it’s very important that we continue to try to engage North Korea.

And also I want to say that we should really not consider war as an option. I mean I think the Clinton administration went through that struggle in 1994 and backed away from war as an option because it’s so immensely destructive in the Korean Peninsula. And I think-I hope the Bush administration has gotten that lesson now, and it does appear to do so. I mean it does appear that it’s thinking of a diplomatic or peaceful solution for this problem.

MATTHEWS: I’m surprised to hear you say that there’s any thought at all of a second Korean war involving the United States. Do you think any U.S. president would ever send American troops to advance above the DMZ into North Korea?

ALBRIGHT: I think we got very close to war in 1994. And I think that if this situation isn’t handled carefully, that it could end up in a military confrontation. I mean North Korea is tough to deal with. I mean they mislead people. They’re very bellicose.

I mean they announce to the United States they plan to withdraw from the agreed framework or it’s nullified. I doubt if that’s really what they think. And so they’re very prone to bellicose statements that can escalate the situation, and we have another case of it. They admit they have a uranium enrichment plant under construction.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Bill Arkin right now, MSNBC military expert. Let me ask you Bill, why do we fear North Korea? Do we think that they are going to blackmail the south to get a better economic deal with them, or what would they be after here?

BILL ARKIN, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well I think it’s really surprising the Korean announcement, but more surprising is the fact that they’re willing to throw away the agreement with the United States from 1994. And I think that that’s more indicative, frankly, of President Bush’s axis of evil speech.

I don’t think we can just look at this as a nuclear proliferation problem, or as a confrontation issue. Chris, the fact of the matter is that the United States has put North Korea on the enemy’s list, and yet at the same time, it expects to conduct some sort of regular diplomacy with this country. I don’t think the two are possible, and as war looms in Iraq, I can’t imagine that Pyongyang is looking out from their country and not saying to themselves, war is imminent or war is...

MATTHEWS: Right.

ARKIN: ... coming in the future here...

MATTHEWS: Because you’re putting-you’re connecting the dots that they might be connecting, which is here is a president who says if you have weapons of mass destruction, that’s a casus belli. That’s an excuse for us to come in and preemptively take you out, and if you’re this character or this obscurity who’s head of North Korea, you must be wondering how to interpret that.

ARKIN: I think not only how to interpret it, but also in their case, how to make the state survive. I mean North Korea is hardly a country that can produce a domestic toaster. They have a nuclear weapon, and that is where all of their energy and all of their effort has gone. But the people are starving. The economy is in ruins.

And I think like East Germany, North Korea is ultimately destined to be integrated into South Korea and to become one nation again. But that would take deaf diplomacy. If we make nuclear weapons, if we make North Korean military capabilities, the one issue that is going to impede the development of a peaceful solution between the north and south, then it seems to me we are going to create a war and a confrontation.

I think what North Korea is doing here may, in fact, be to say to the Bush administration, hey, we’re resigning from the axis of evil. We’re not particularly interested. The truth is they have nuclear weapons. Clearly the Bush administration presented them with intelligence information, which indicated that we knew more than when, in fact, we knew a year ago or two years ago, or certainly in 1994.

But rather than the north stonewalling, which is what it normally does, what it said was yes, you know, this is true. We can’t really abide by the 1994 agreement anymore, and what’s more, we want to have a different framework for discussion. I think this is an essentially-this is a resignation from the axis of evil.

MATTHEWS: Well you know, Howard-Howard Fineman here with me-here now. It seems to me nothing is more stunning in Washington than a confession of the truth. So you always wonder why anybody would ever tell the truth in this city. Here you have Pyongyang, a North Korean dictatorship admitting the truth.

Now here’s the question. Why did it take 12 days for our guys to transfer this information to the public?

HOWARD FINEMAN, NEWSWEEK: That is a very good question, Chris. And I think it’s probably because the White House didn’t want to get in the way of the crucial days and hours of the debate and vote on the Iraq resolution.

MATTHEWS: Because?

FINEMAN: Well that’s what they were focusing on.

MATTHEWS: But, why are they afraid-what would that information do to the debate?

FINEMAN: Well it, could-it was an unpredictable variable, and it might lead some people to argue, as in fact they’re arguing today, now wait a minute, if these guys already have the nuclear weapons, how come we’re not...

MATTHEWS: And they’re a rogue state.

FINEMAN: And they’re a rogue state, and they’re on the axis of evil, why aren’t they at the top of the list? It got in the way of the menu of action that Bush is pursuing. But I think that the president-people who are criticizing him need to back off a little bit here, because it is true that he put North Korea on the axis of evil originally...

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: ... and people were wondering why that happened and exactly why it made sense. Here essentially the North Koreans are sort of admitting that they deserve to be on that list because they were lying through their teeth for years, and only a few days after Jimmy Carter got the Nobel Prize for all of his great...

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: ... peacemaking activities, including helping to broker the deal with the North Koreans, the North Koreans were admitting that they were lying, that they, in fact, were more dangerous than they thought we were. So in that sense it’s a plus for George Bush’s political standing. It makes him look like...

ARKIN: You know I disagree a little bit...

FINEMAN: ... he’s talking about.

ARKIN: ... I disagree a little bit with Howard in one regard, Chris. And that is that look, the truth of the matter is there are a whole bunch of countries on the planet that could be on the axis of evil list and they’re not. Choices were made as to what countries to put there. And the justification was that their weapons of mass destruction, in some way threatened the United States or threatened the United States and its allies.

You know, Syria, Libya, other countries are not on the axis of evil, and so I think that before we say that the Bush administration has somehow succeeded here, it seems that we have to understand the world as it is seen from the inside of Pyongyang to the outside. The country is crumbling; the economy is in at that timers. The fact of the matter is that they are increasingly dependent upon Japan and South Korea for their own survival.

And I think that maybe to some degree this is a statement that says look, you know, these three countries, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, we are-they’re all very different. Iraq is not Iran. They’re not North Korea. And I think-I think when Vice President Gore stands up-Vice President Gore stands up and says, you know, let’s finish the war on terrorism. Let’s finish Afghanistan before we go to Iraq, I think that resonates in other parts of the world far more than it does in Washington.

FINEMAN: Well, all that may be true, but the fact is that the president of the United States put North Korea on the list, and they’ve shown themselves to be bald-faced liars. They’ve run by a desperate dictator. That translates the danger in some respect.

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: So I think it does give some...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: ... from the American political perspective, it gives Bush a little added credibility here.

MATTHEWS: As I said...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Gentlemen, hold on for a second. We’re going...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... to be hearing from General Colin Powell throughout the evening and we’re going to-you’re going to be seeing him in a few moments, and then we’re going to go to him when he gets to the content of his remarks at the Alfred Smith Dinner in New York. We’re hoping he’s going to be talking about this very topic very much tonight when he gets to his remarks.

Let me ask you, David, about something that Bill Arkin mentioned, which is the question of why a country like North Korea, which has nothing going for it, which has hardly enough food to feed its people with-in fact not enough-would want to venture into something like building a nuclear weapon.

Could it be for prestige? Could it be to impress the people, like winning the Olympics or something like that? What is the real reason why a weird character like the head of North Korea would want to have this weapon?

ALBRIGHT: I think prestige certainly plays a role in it. I mean their program started a long time ago, probably back in the ’60s or ’70s, and so there is prestige. There’s also, you know, fear. I mean they’re fearful of a war with the south, and so they wanted nuclear weapons...

MATTHEWS: But the South would never invade the North.

ALBRIGHT: Well, but they are a very paranoid people, and they are prepared for war all the time, and there’s another thing that’s developed, and I think we should keep this in mind. North Korea may be pursuing a strategy of negotiation, and revealing this...

MATTHEWS: Right.

ALBRIGHT: ... plan in order to try to get concessions from the U.S. It may-I mean, you can call them liars and everything. They feel very strongly that the United States has not paid attention to them for the last two years. And they may be playing a card which they’ve played in the past, which is make a lot of trouble, because that seems to be what gets the United States’ attention. And so I think the United States should pay close attention to that because there may be a way out of this through some fairly straightforward negotiations.

MATTHEWS: David, I want to ask you first, then we’ll go to Bill, then to Howard. It seems to me the question that looms is we’re talking about going to war with Iraq in the near future because they have weapons of mass destruction and they are a rogue state. Under the new Bush doctrine or preemption against countries that have such weapons, and in fact have a hostile attitude towards us and a history of hostility. North Korea meets all those standards. Is there any chance, do you think the president of the United States would go to war, this president would lead our country in the war against North Korea as he has committed himself to do against Iraq?

ALBRIGHT: No, I don’t think so, and I think he said he won’t. I think the...

MATTHEWS: Bill, do you accept that? Do you...

ARKIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... agree with that? We’re not going to war in Korea again. No more Korean wars-Bill.

ARKIN: Well I guess my answer, Chris, would be the planes aren’t turning around to go to North Korea, and I think it shows to some degree how the Bush administration’s articulation of why were going to war in Iraq is completely incoherent. The fact of the matter is that Iraq is contained, fully contained, and that the same justifications and arguments could be used in Iraq, that is being used tonight for North Korea, which is to say that what is wrong with diplomacy, what is wrong with those measures, that people are now suggesting we do in a go-slow policy with North Korea.

MATTHEWS: And-by the way, we’re watching the secretary of state here in New York, at the Alfred Smith Dinner, getting through, probably his introductory remarks. As soon as he gets to his text, we’ll join him.

Howard, do you agree politically, right? You don’t think this president is ready to turn around and hit all three axis of evil countries.

FINEMAN: No. No...

MATTHEWS: What about the additional three of Syria...

FINEMAN: Syria...

MATTHEWS: ... Libya and Cuba and then they...

FINEMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... threw in Sudan later on after a while.

FINEMAN: We can keep working way down the list.

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: But my point was that political-looking at this from the perspective of the American voter...

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: ... they want to know if this guy knows what he’s doing...

MATTHEWS: The president.

FINEMAN: That is George W. Bush.

MATTHEWS: Let’s go to Secretary of State Colin Powell in New York.

(INTERRUPTED BY MSNBC COVERAGE OF LIVE EVENT)

MATTHEWS: We’re going to resume our coverage of Colin Powell’s speech when he gets to the substance of his remarks, which we expect to be on foreign policy.

HARDBALL will be back in a moment. We’re going to talk about who’s winning this battle between Colin Powell and Secretary Rumsfeld.

Back with more HARDBALL in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Arnold Schwarzenegger, this guy made it in sports, in Hollywood and real estate. We’ll see if he’s got what it takes to make it in politics on the next HARDBALL “College Tour”.

ANNOUNCER: Wednesday at 9:00 on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We’ve been talking about the role that Secretary Powell continues to play in U.S. foreign policy and of course, he’s become much more of a team player in recent weeks.

Let’s go to David Kay, who’s a U.N. arms inspector. Let’s-do you have any thoughts about why Colin Powell has seemed to be, in one of these recent weeks, one of the boys in the Bush administration, certainly no distance at all between him and Rumsfeld lately.

DAVID KAY, FRM. U.N. INSPECTOR: Well, Chris, I actually think Colin Powell has always been a team player. Doesn’t mean he doesn’t express his views very strongly. But once the team has reached the game, and clearly you’ve your game face on with regard to Iraq, I think his record is really of always being a team player.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Bill Arkin. Bill, this question of-there has been a lot of reportage of Rumsfeld’s role in kicking butt in the Pentagon and challenging the old regime of the power of the joint chiefs and their huge staff at the Pentagon. Is that a story of any importance?

ARKIN: I think it’s a story in the sense, Chris, that Secretary Rumsfeld has decided that every three and four star appointment in the U.S. military is now going to be under his direct control and that’s really significant.

And in some ways you hear three and four star generals now beginning to complain that, in fact, the political litmus test of the Bush administration is worst than the political litmus test of the Clinton administration. There’s nothing...

MATTHEWS: Let’s go right back to Secretary Powell who’s apparently passing that litmus test. Here he is again in New York at the Al Smith dinner.

(INTERRUPTED BY MSNBC COVERAGE OF LIVE EVENT)

MATTHEWS: That’s Colin Powell wrapping up his remarks in New York. We’re going to go now for some analysis. Howard Fineman, it seems to me the big story was we’re going to Iraq with or without the U.N.

HOWARD FINEMAN, NEWSWEEK: Sure. This is the kid from Kelly Street, as he just said, the dove in the administration, the moderate on a scale of one to five as a moderate, he’s a five, basically being pretty tough and telling the U.N., which is meeting just down the street from the Waldorf Astoria where he was speaking tonight.

MATTHEWS: ... with the French as recalcitrant tonight.

FINEMAN: The French resisting, the Russians being skeptical, Chinese not necessarily cooperative, telling an audience that was not wildly enthusiastic about this war message here. I thought (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was pretty tepid, saying, look, we’ll go with the U.N. or without the U.N.

This is the Secretary of State whose job it is to try to get a U.N. resolution. Now, maybe it’s tough bargaining stance by the Bush administration, but Powell is in the tough outsider’s role, the war drum role, which is really not what he’s playing lately.

MATTHEWS: Tony, why would the U.N. go along with the war if we say we’re going to war without them?

TONY BLANKLEY, “THE WASHINGTON TIMES”: Well, it’s a question of whether they think they need to be involved or avoid being considered irrelevant. The same reason that France and Russia have to calculate whether they want to be excluded from the process that is seemingly, inevitably going on.

I thought, by the way, the secretary’s speech was really not particularly newsworthy. It was somewhat less tough than the president himself at the signing ceremony on the resolution of war where he had repeated all of those ultimata that he had presented to the U.N. on September 12. But this was a sort of standard I think Powell inspirational speech.

MATTHEWS: We’re watching the secretary sit down right now. He’s completed his remarks. That, of course, is Cardinal Egan of New York.

FINEMAN: Chris, can I say, I’ve got to disagree with Tony a little bit here. The words were similar to the president’s and that’s what makes it news worthy, because it was Colin Powell who was uttering them here, in New York, in the midst of a very conscientious debate at the United Nations and really laying down a hard line, even though it’s Powell’s shop, the State Department, that’s in charge of trying to woo the French and the Russians and Chinese into making a deal.

MATTHEWS: Carl Jeffers join in here. It seems to me that you’re putting the soft side of the administration, you might say the dovish side as (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to show the world the United States is united behind the president on this issue and it’s going to be a tough phalanx for them to contend with if they don’t break and support us.

CARL JEFFERS, “SEATTLE TIMES”: Yes, but you know Chris, I have to disagree a little bit with both Tony and Howard because Howard’s being a bit too charitable and what Tony needs to do is to go a bit further. The fact is Chris, we are not presenting to the world a unified phalanx of support for the president’s position here.

And Powell is clearly on the outside. It was actually Colin Powell who was the person who suggested that we continue negotiations with North Korea when Madeleine Albright reached the end of the Clinton administration, the Bush administration told her your time’s run out.

And that’s one of the reasons that North Korea’s upset. There are two things I took from that speech. One, Powell referred to, on 9/11, 90 countries came together. We had the immense support of the entire world on 9/11. In the year since, we have proceeded to essentially destroy much of that support because of Iraq.

And number two, Powell said it is not Iraq that determines the policy of the U.N., it’s the U.N., but in fact, it’s not Iraq that’s creating the problem for us in the U.N. It’s China, Russia, Germany and France.

And today we’ve learned that the U.S. is close to agreeing to a two-phase resolution concession, which would be a significant concession, and defeat for the administration’s rather bellicose policy in that area.

MATTHEWS: Bill, what do you, Bill Arkin, what do you think of what the secretary had to say about North Korea?

ARKIN: Well, he didn’t have to say much.

MATTHEWS: Did he say anything?

ARKIN: He didn’t say much.

MATTHEWS: I’m being sarcastic. He didn’t say anything.

ARKIN: I think it basically represents the fact that the Bush administration doesn’t want to muddy the waters in Iraq, especially because the U.N. is deliberating this question.

But I think I would have a different interpretation as well of what the U.N. is up to. Look, now that Colin Powell has made it clear that he is on board, that there isn’t really a split within the administration, that in fact war is imminent and in fact is going to take place regardless of whether the U.N. gives its approval or not, what I think we will see is the U.N. as an institution deciding that it wants to play an institutional role. After all, the justification, if there is one for going to war legally, is to implement United Nations Security Council resolution that Iraq is in violation of.

So just like in Kosovo, where the U.N. didn’t say we support the U.S. bombing or the NATO action against Yugoslavia, what they said was, in essence, was the Russians introduced a resolution in the Security Council condemning the U.S. bombing. It lost 12-3. Ergo, the U.N. supported the bombing campaign.

And I think what we’re going to see in the case of Iraq is probably the French and other nations continuing to say we don’t support the U.S. use of force, but also at the same time giving some kind of tacit approval for the United States to take action in order to implement U.N. Security Council resolution. That keeps the U.N. involved in the war, and ultimately I think as an institution the U.N. is fearful that it will be cut out.

MATTHEWS: Tony, do you think the speech was written by the White House speech writers, and given that just like the assignment by Karl Rove to go give the speech tonight, that Secretary Powell was on a mission tonight to sing the administration’s song book and to make the case that we’re not thinking about North Korea tonight, because we don’t want to talk about North Korea.

We’re talking about Iraq and we’re talking about the great success we’ve had in Afghanistan. This is the administration line. It worked in Afghanistan, our occupation worked there (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We’re going to do the same thing in Iraq. Isn’t that the message?

BLANKLEY: At a literal level I don’t think they wrote it but I’m sure it was vetted and the general message, as you understand it, a form of White House speech writers, not inconceivable that he would write it.

MATTHEWS: I just wonder how Rumsfeld gets to say what he feels like (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what he’s told to say.

BLANKLEY: The business about North Korea is fascinating, because one of the reasons-contrary to one of your previous guests that they held it for a little while before letting the information get out was they wanted the administration.

Our administration wanted to get their ducks in a row more about what they were going to say about North Korea and I don’t think they have in practice (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at the State Department has admitted or asserted today that they don’t yet have their policy lined up. And they wanted to wait and be able to have something more concrete.

MATTHEWS: David Albright, the secretary of State had nothing to say about the stunning news that North Korea has a nuclear program underway?

ALBRIGHT: I think they are having trouble getting their policy together although I do believe that they didn’t want a debate on North Korea to muddy the waters on a debate on Iraq. I think there is some anger about that. If the United States is being asked to face a risk in Iraq, the decision makers would also like to know what other risk they’re facing. I think it’s too bad that he didn’t talk about North Korea.

MATTHEWS: Your turn go ahead.

KAY: I think the remarkable thing of not talking about North Korea is he’s proved what in fact was proven during the Gulf war. Remember the Indian chief of staff who was asked what he learned out of the Gulf war, don’t go to war with the United States unless you have a nuclear weapon.

I think the administration is hung right now as to what do you do with a country that is already-that has already made the transition to having nuclear weapons? I think we’re teaching the Iranians and teaching the Iraqis, have the weapon and you’ll be treated differently. I thought that was an unfortunate side of an eloquent speech.

MATTHEWS: Could it also be that we’ve been to Korea before and we don’t want to go back again? We carry that heavy baggage.

JEFFERS: Chris, let me just add one other point there. Everyone so far has talked about why the administration has not had its ducks in a row and has not been able to formulate it opinion. But what they did say today in terms of their response was listen very carefully, one, we are fervently consulting with our allies, and two...

MATTHEWS: Carl, back to you first when we come back. More about Secretary Powell’s speech in New York in just a moment. And by the way, a program note, because of the Secretary of State’s speech in New York, the HARDBALL “Hot Seat” and my interview with Charles Barkley we were planning to do tonight, we’ll do tomorrow night. You’re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let’s go back to Howard Fineman to get some capsulization tonight on this speech tonight. We’re looking for tea leaves here but clearly this is in fact the eve of war with Iraq. We keep forgetting, or I do. We talked about North Korea tonight. What’s more important, what Powell had to say today or what we heard about North Korea, in terms of the war coming with Iraq?

FINEMAN: In terms of the global picture, North Korea because it does pose problems, conceptual problems and practical problems for the administration. If we’re worried about weapons of mass destruction, what about North Korea?

So it gets in the way of the clear, consistent focus on Iraq the administration wanted. That’s what all of the headlines were about today, North Korea. There are going to be more of them because they’ve got the weapons and what do we do about it?

MATTHEWS: Tony?

BLANKLEY: Look, I think the problems this country faces and the world faces is so huge the calculations of how we’re going to manage the presentation one or the other is relatively small.

We have to deal with the Korean problem some way other than saying, gee, we don’t want to deal with it. We have to deal with Iraq, to deal with the problems of Iran. These are the brutal realities we face and we all try to manage and calculate this within a much smaller scope than in fact the problems deserve. So this is a beginning of a long bitter period, I think, of calculation policy, implementation.

MATTHEWS: Bill Arkin.

ARKIN: I think that Korea’s going to be a blip on the screen, Chris. We’re going to be back into the Iraq war very quickly. And the reality is that what we should learn from the lesson of the Korean revelations of the last day is that quiet diplomacy is sometimes superior to the march towards war, and I think that it will be a credit to the Bush administration if they can quietly deal with Korea, and it will be, I think, a contrast to the fact that is not what they’ve been able to be do with Iraq.

MATTHEWS: But doesn’t this give the lie to the argument that the reason we’re going to war with Iraq is to get rid of their weapons of mass destruction?

ARKIN: I think the reason we’re going to war with Iraq Chris is a wide variety of reason that’s extends from the failure of 1991 to get rid of Saddam Hussein, all way through September 11. It’s not one reason.

MATTHEWS: Carl Jeffers.

JEFFERS: Chris, I want to pick up on Howard’s point because what Howard asserted is that North Korea right now is more important than Iraq in terms of how it’s perceived politically and he’s absolutely right.

But that gets back to the point where I started on. If that’s true, why is it that engaging with our allies and consulting with them and using the U.N. is more appropriate for a more serious problem than it is for Iraq? The new Bush doctrine seems to be, the countries that pose the least amount of threat to the U.S. are the countries that are subject to the most likely pre-emptive military strike.

And the only difference that anyone can come up with between Iraq and North Korea, because they both are in violation of international law, they both have nuclear weapons or will soon them have them, is two things-one, the 1991 Gulf war, where there’s still a feeling that there’s personal vengeance that needs to be atoned and secondly, oil and the realignment of boundaries in the middle east. And we must be aware of the political ramifications of that fact.

MATTHEWS: David, David Albright.

ALBRIGHT: Yes, I think one thing, the Bush administration is realizing that Iraq, Iran and North Korea are tough problems and actually require different solutions. And it’s hard to reduce this to rhetoric. And I think they’ll understand as this progresses that they’re going to have to use different strategies in each case.

MATTHEWS: Apparently so. Let’s go to David Kay for the last word.

I’m sorry. David Kay.

KAY: Well, I think Iraq is first in line to deal with. I don’t think North Korea has blown that off the administration’s schedule. But quite frankly, North Korea is going to be harder to deal with and if you want to talk about a state that has weapons of mass destruction and proven links with international terrorism, North Korea should be at the top of your list.

MATTHEWS: OK, Thank you very much, David Kay, Bill Albright, Bill Arkin, Howard Fineman as always, Tony Blankley, as always and always Carl Jeffers. Join us again tomorrow night at 9:00 eastern for my interview with former NBA all-star Charles Barkley plus the HARDBALL “Hot Seat.”

And don’t forget, next Wednesday the “College Tour” heads to Chapman University in Orange County, California, with Arnold Schwarzenegger. What a night that’s going to be. Up next “MSNBC INVESTIGATES” deadly behavior with John Seigenthaler-John.

END

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