updated 10/1/2009 10:02:04 AM ET 2009-10-01T14:02:04

Guests: Sen. Robert Casey, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Pat Buchanan, Howard Fineman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Dan Lothian, Harry Soyster

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Council of war.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Boston.  Leading off tonight: In the war room.  President Obama‘s top commander in Afghanistan has said if we don‘t send more troops there, we risk failure.  And today the president held his first big strategy session to weigh that request and what the ultimate goal of our Afghanistan policy should be.  The key people from the military, diplomatic and political corners of this administration were in the room, including Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, CIA director Panetta and chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

And the most important questions they have to answer are: How many troops can we send there?  How long are they willing to stay there?  And what can they get done?  Republican senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Democratic senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania will be here to give their answers to those big questions.

Plus: Republicans want revenge.  They‘re demanding that Democratic congressman Alan Grayson of Florida apologize to House minority leader John Boehner for making these remarks on Tuesday night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D), FLORIDA:  If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly!  That‘s right, the Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Republicans are trying to frame Congressman Grayson as the Democratic counterpart to Republican Joe Wilson who, as you remember, said to the president in joint session, “You lie.”  But was Grayson any more out of line than several Republicans who have said that Democrats want to implement “death panels”?

Also, Dick Cheney is drawing fire from a group of retired generals and admirals who says he‘s scare-mongering about the hazards of closing Guantanamo and relocating those prisoners to American prisons.  Two top retired military leaders will be here to talk about their view of the former vice president.

And today, a new Arizona law goes into effect that will allow people to carry concealed guns into bars.  Are guns and booze a smart mix?

And finally, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got her shot at being president today—of the U.N. Security Council—and she‘s not letting anyone forget how much she likes that title.  More on that in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

Let‘s start with the president‘s big huddle on Afghanistan.  Pat Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst, as is “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman.  Let me go to you, Pat.  This is a big question.  How many troops do we want to put in Afghanistan, over 100,000?  How long do we want to keep them there?  And what will be better if we stay there five years, say?  Will it be any better for us if we stay five or leave now?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Chris, those are the questions that Barack Obama is asking General McChrystal even today.  If I give you the 45,000 troops, how long will it take for them to pacify the country and get a government that can stand up and an army that can stand up and control the country?

I think those are very hard questions to answer in the positive in the short term, Chris.  And from what I‘m hearing from Chuck Todd and others, it seems as though the president is tilting toward more and anti-al Qaeda strategy—in other words, holding off on the troops, the add-on troops to basically control the cities and protect the population, and basically going for a policy of going after al Qaeda.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Howard on the same questions.  How many troops, how long, and what will they get done before they leave?  Because eventually, one fact is real, we eventually will come home and the Afghanistanis will run their country—the Afghans will.  So what do we get done if we send a lot more troops over there.

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, Chris, the interesting thing is that that question isn‘t just being debated behind closed doors at the White House by military people.  It‘s being debated by people with a lot of political experience, like Vice President Joe Biden, like former senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, by Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff and former member of the House.  They‘re looking at it politically, too, in terms of what they can explain and sell to increasingly restive Democrats on the Hill who are having doubts about it.

To me, the most fascinating character could be Hillary Rodham Clinton.  She was outflanked in the Democratic primaries by Barack Obama, who was insisting the key war was Afghanistan and not Iraq.  Now she‘s sitting in the room while Barack Obama confronts the consequences of the way he ran the campaign.

BUCHANAN:  Chris—Chris...

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you, Howard.  We‘ll be right back with you and Pat.  Pat, hold on there.  I‘ll get back to you later on in the program.

Right now, let‘s bring in Democratic senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, who‘s a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.  Senator Casey, are those the right questions?  How many troops can we send over to Afghanistan more than the 68,000?  If so, how long do we keep them there?  And what can they actually get done if they stay there a significant amount of time?

SEN. BOB CASEY (D-PA), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE:  Well, Chris, I think that there are a whole series of questions, those that you mentioned, but many more.  We have to get this right on so many levels, militarily and also the non-military questions.  Troops and all the questions tied up with that are part of this.  But we have to get this right.

I think one thing that‘s very clear from what we learned in Iraq, we have to get the strategy right before we talk about resources.  And getting the strategy right‘s not going to be a couple of days.  I think the president should take all the time he needs to get the strategy right and then to have a discussion about resources.  But the Congress has a role to play here, and we have to have a much better debate than we had with regard to the war in Iraq.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think, Senator, of the argument, the historic argument that the British went in there and they were thrown out?  They killed to the last man.  The Soviets were thrown out with brutality.  They hated the Soviets.  We‘re in there now.  Why do we think we can change Afghanistan?  Is that a good argument, that you can‘t change a country that is Afghanistan, and we‘re us?

CASEY:  Chris, I think you make a good point.  I think we have to—in addition to assessing what‘s happening now and questions of resources and strategy, you do have to look at the history that we know about, the graveyard of empires, the book that was written, all of that.

But I‘ll tell you, when I was in Afghanistan for two days in August, and then one day in Pakistan, General McChrystal in his briefing to us, in addition to assessing the threats, talked specifically about the history.  He has studied the history of what the Russians did well and didn‘t do so effectively.  He studied that history, and I think he‘s going to—I think he already has incorporated that in some of his recommendations, and I think the president‘s going to cognizant of that, as well.

MATTHEWS:  but isn‘t there a tissue rejection that sets in, where people in a country, a third world or a fourth world country like Afghanistan, the longer you‘re there, the more you rot in their eyes?  You just become hated, don‘t you?

CASEY:  Well, there‘s no question that one of the difficulties in coming up with the right strategy but also communicating very effectively with the American people is this strategy is different than almost anything we‘ve ever done.  Counterinsurgency by definition is unlike what we did in World War II, unlike what we did in Vietnam even, and other wars.  So it‘s going to be difficult to articulate that.

But I think we have to give the president the time he needs to work with General McChrystal, as well as all of the talented people he has around him on his foreign policy and national security team, to be able to come up with strategies where a lot of it is going to be non-military, engaging the people, developing trust so they can govern themselves, so they can provide their own security with the Afghan army and police and also so that they can deliver the kind of services to people that maybe the Taliban is promising they can deliver.

So it‘s—there‘s no question about it that there‘s a dimension here that is wholly apart from the military strategy.  It‘s political.  It‘s engagement with people on the ground and it‘s developing trust, and that‘s not easy to do.

MATTHEWS:  Could you defend a loss of a service person over there?  I‘m sure we‘ve lost them in Pennsylvania.  We‘ve lost them all over this state.  Can you defend, when you look into the eyes of a parent or a spouse, someone killed in Afghanistan right now is actually making this country safer?  Can you make that case right now?

CASEY:  Oh, I think we can, Chris.  It‘s very difficult.  We‘ve lost more than 35 Pennsylvanians.  We have into the several hundreds now that are wounded just from Pennsylvania.

But I do believe that the stakes here are higher than the stakes that we faced in Iraq because of the threat to our own security in that region, meaning the possible threat—not just what‘s happening in Afghanistan, but what‘s happening in Pakistan, to make sure that that country is stable enough so that the—any extremist group, whether it‘s the Taliban group in Afghanistan or Pakistan or whether it‘s even al Qaeda—that they never get control of nuclear weapons, that they are never able to set up sanctuary in either place.

So the direct threat to our national security is very evident there, and as difficult as is it to make the case for war to any parent, any loved one, to any family member, I think we can make this case credibly.  That doesn‘t mean we have the strategy set forth right now.

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that the Pakistani government is the enemy of the Taliban in Afghanistan—not the Taliban—in Afghanistan—in Pakistan.  Do you believe that we‘re on the same side, we and the Pakistani government, in opposing the Taliban in Afghanistan?  Do you believe that?

CASEY:  I do.  Chris, from working on this in the Foreign Relations Committee—I also chair the subcommittee that has both countries under it but—and also talking to people in Pakistan, and following this—I just spoke to President Zardari the other day.  It‘s very clear this is a different approach now, and candidly, a much better approach from our vantage point, that the Pakistani government has taken with the Pakistani army.  General Kiyani is very serious about this, taking the fight already to the Swat valley and also getting to Waziristan.  I think they understand the threat now, or at least are reacting to the threat in a much more substantial way than they were a year ago.

So despite all the bad news that we keep hearing about Afghanistan, I think there‘s some good news to report there.  In Pakistan, I think the effort is much more focused and effective to take the fight to the Taliban in—in Pakistan.  I think our intelligence sharing is much better.  I think you‘re seeing the results of that.

But we have to continually monitor what‘s happening in Pakistan.  This aid package, the Kerry-Lugar bill, is very important...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

CASEY:  ... to develop the kind of—the kind of trust that our two governments probably have let break down over time.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, Senator Robert Casey of Pennsylvania.

CASEY:  Chris, thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go right now back to Howard Fineman and Pat Buchanan.  Pat, there‘s a real issue here about America.  We‘re a country, too.  Do the American people have it in us to spend five years trying to build a modern centralized government in Afghanistan, with people loving us, with supporting us, with feeding them, building schools, building highways, building latrines?  Is that our business, nation building in Afghanistan?

BUCHANAN:  You‘re asking, Do the American people have the patience and perseverance and will to put hundreds of thousands of troops into Afghanistan for five years?  The answer to that question, Chris, is no.  And just because you asked the right question at the beginning—look, the question for—that Barack Obama ought to ask General McChrystal is this.  General, if I give you the 45,000 troops, can you do the job you‘re talking about, protecting the populations, getting control of the cities, fighting al Qaeda and all these things?  Well, how many are you going to need for exactly how long to do it?  Because Chris, a majority of the American people already think—oppose the war.  A majority don‘t want the troops going in.

So we‘ve got a short timeframe here.  And if I looked at it, I would say, quite frankly, I don‘t think we have it within us in terms of the value of what we‘re going to get for it, the possibility of us winning it, and what it‘s going to cost over that time to really do it.  So Barack Obama‘s got to say, Do we start a new strategy now, or do we do it in a year when this one doesn‘t work?

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you, Pat.  Thanks very much, Howard, as well.

Let‘s go to Republican senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.  He‘s a

member of the Armed Services and Intelligence Committee.  Senator

Chambliss, this reminds me of 1968, after Ted, when General Westmoreland

said, We can‘t win that war in Vietnam with a half million soldiers, I need

I need 250,000 more.  That said to me we can‘t win it.  This guy‘s talking more numbers, when he‘s really talking, The mission‘s not working.  Do you believe that even with 40,000 more troops that we can achieve the mission of nation building in Afghanistan?

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE:  Well, I‘m not sure that 40,000 is the right number, Chris.  I think whatever General McChrystal says he needs is what the number ought to be.  It may be more troops now.  It could be more later.  Could be less later.  I don‘t know.

But here‘s what I do know.  We had an experience in Iraq, where we had a very dysfunctional government because we had a lot of violence going on.  When we increased the numbers of troops in Iraq and we had a change in strategy with the surge, we started restoring peace in the whole community of Iraq.  And once we restored peace all around that country, then we were able to move forward with having success.  We saw stability in the government all of a sudden.  We saw the people of Iraq getting on board with us.

Right now in Afghanistan, we have the same scenario.  The theater is different.  The contrasts are different.  But still, we‘ve got to have sufficient troops under General McChrystal‘s control to establish peace in that country.  If we don‘t do that, then we‘ll never achieve success.

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe—same question I asked before.  Do you believe that the Pakistan government, Zardari‘s government, is really on our side against the Taliban in Afghanistan?  Not—they‘re against their own Taliban, to some extent.  Are they really on our side?  Because historically, that government has supported the Taliban in Afghanistan.

CHAMBLISS:  Well, I mean, obviously, you‘ve—you‘ve hit at kind of the heart of this thing, Chris, because you can‘t decouple Pakistan from Afghanistan.  We‘ve got to have a commitment from the Paks to provide us assistance if we‘re going to prevail.  Otherwise, you‘re going to continue to have these folks go back and forth across the border.

Right now, I‘m not sure the answer to your question is in the affirmative.  We haven‘t seen the right kind of signs coming out of the Paks.  But we do know that they‘re giving us some permission to carry out some military operations that have been very beneficial, and hopefully, we‘ll be able to continue to have some sort of cooperative spirit with them that will allow us to get a more favorable reaction from the Pak government, as well as from the Pakistani people.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of the government in Kabul?  I mean, that election‘s a little bit murky, to put it lightly.  Lots of talks of what we used to call in this country in our big cities “irregularities,” meaning cheating.  Do you think there was enough cheating by Karzai to steal that election?

CHAMBLISS:  Well, I‘m not sure whether he stole it or what.  But you and I have been through enough elections to know that when you have 100 percent of the vote and a significant vote going to one candidate and all other candidates get zero, something‘s askew there.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, what about...

CHAMBLISS:  Again...

MATTHEWS:  ... losing—a Georgia boy or Georgia young woman gets killed down there?  Are they getting killed for that government that may be crooked?

CHAMBLISS:  Well, there‘s no question but what there‘s an awful lot of corruption in the Karzai government.  That‘s one of the ultimate issues that‘s going to have to be resolved.  We‘re going to have to rid that government of corruption, and that‘s not going to be easy.  But we‘re not even going to be able to do that until we establish peace and have some success in that realm.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

CHAMBLISS:  Here‘s what bothers me about delaying this decision, too, Chris.  And that is, we do have Georgians that are dying over there, and I don‘t like that.  I don‘t like it under the best of scenarios.  But here the president has had this report from General McChrystal for 30 days now, as of today, and we still don‘t have a decision that‘s been made by the administration on what we‘re going to do.  We‘ve got to move forward, and we‘ve got to be able to protect those folks, and I don‘t think we‘re giving them the best protection right now that we can.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well said.  Thank you very much, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.

Coming up: A Democratic congressman says the Republican health care plan is simply, well, don‘t get sick.  And if you do get sick, die quickly.  That‘s what he said and he‘s not taking it back.  Republicans are crying foul, demanding an apology.  But after a summer of lies and exaggerations from, well, the other side, is this one going to stick?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida said this about the Republican health care plan.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D), FLORIDA:  If you get sick in America, this is what the Republicans want you to do. 

If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: 

Die quickly.  That‘s right.  The Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Republicans demanded an apology for that. 

And, today, the Republican Tom Price of Georgia drafted a resolution of disapproval of what you just heard, just like Democrats did for Joe Wilson, who didn‘t move forward with it—they didn‘t move forward with that resolution today. 

And just today on the floor, Congressman Grayson said this.  I don‘t think this is actually an apology.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAYSON:  I‘m not going to recount every single thing that I said.  But I will point out that, immediately after that speech, several Republicans asked me to apologize. 

Well, I would like to apologize.  I would like to apologize to the dead.  And here‘s why.  According to this study, health insurance and mortality in U.S. adults, which was published two weeks ago, 44,789 Americans die every year because they have no health insurance. 

So, I call upon the Democratic members of the House, I call upon the Republican members of the House, I call upon all of us to do our jobs for the sake of America, for the sake of those dying people and their families. 

I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven‘t voted sooner to end this holocaust in America. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what you call chutzpah. 

Joining me now is Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and U.S. Congressman Dan Lothian of Florida. 

Did I get the word right?  I think it is chutzpah.  I mean, that guy

was asked to apologize, Congresswoman, and he came out and told them, so‘s

your old man.  I have got a bigger charge to make.  You‘re killing people

by the millions. 

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA:  Well... 

MATTHEWS:  Your thoughts.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  ... if you know—if you know Alan Grayson, you -

chutzpah is absolutely—and you pronounced it right—absolutely what he has. 

He has a real dry sense of humor.  I know he‘s been on this show before.  I think both his comments yesterday and today somewhat tongue-in-cheek, maybe a little bit more teeth than tongue.  But, at the end of the day, he was making the larger point that the Republicans had years to make health care reform a priority.  They never did.  They have no plan.  It‘s been more than 100 days since Roy Blunt, my colleague in the Congress, their—their—one of their leaders on and point men on health care reform, said they would have a plan.  They still don‘t have one. 

And, yet, every year, 45,000 Americans die because they don‘t have health insurance.  And that‘s the larger point that Congressman Grayson was trying to make.  He may have inartfully made it, but it was certainly important to stress that we need to get the Republicans to come to the table, work with us, sit down, and make health care reform a priority, instead of continuing to be the party of no. 

MATTHEWS:  Take your time now, Congressman Lungren.  You have a lot to bite off of right now...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... what she—what the congresswoman just said, what Grayson just said in his, well, doubling down, you might say of his attack on your party. 

Is this like what happened with Joe Wilson, the Republican Joe Wilson, who said to the president‘s joint session out loud, “You lie?”  Is what Congressman Grayson said about the killing fields of the Republican health care plan, is that the same misdemeanor, or felony? 

REP. DAN LUNGREN ®, CALIFORNIA:  I appreciate very much having me on. 

(LAUGHTER)

LUNGREN:  I must say that I thought I was going to be on with a congresswoman.  I didn‘t know I was going to be on with a senator who manages to filibuster and not answer the question. 

(LAUGHTER)

LUNGREN:  Look, the fact of the matter is, he said something he shouldn‘t have said on the floor.  He should apologize, just as my friend Joe Wilson said something he shouldn‘t have said on the floor, and then he immediately apologized, calling the White House, talking with Rahm Emanuel.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  He didn‘t apologize on the floor.

LUNGREN:  I mean, let‘s—let‘s—let‘s just go and—and do that sort of thing. 

The other thing is this.  We keep hearing this nonsense that only the Democrats have the wisdom that could possibly deal with health care.  We have multiple proposals that have been out there for a long period of time. 

There are at least 32 separate amendments that were offered in committee by Republicans, every one of them voted down by the Democrats. 

The fact of the matter is, the American people are rejecting their overall proposal. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

LUNGREN:  The American people, by large numbers, are saying, why not sit down at the table, Republicans and Democrats, and work incrementally on those specific areas that are problems, rather than tossing overboard our entire system and moving towards...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

LUNGREN:  ... the government takeover of health care. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look...

(CROSSTALK)

LUNGREN:  That‘s what we‘re really talking. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get to that in a minute, but let‘s take a look at three Republicans. 

Here‘s Republican Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida on health care.  Let‘s listen to her, because I think the tenor of this debate has gone south, negatively. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. GINNY BROWN-WAITE ®, FLORIDA:  Mr. Speaker, last week, Democrats released a health care bill which essentially said to America‘s seniors, drop dead. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And here‘s Republican Congressman Paul Broun of Florida. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL BROUN ®, GEORGIA:  This program of government option is touted is as being this panacea.  The savior of allowing people to have quality health care at an affordable price is going to kill people. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And here‘s Republican Congresswoman Virginia Foxx on health care. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. VIRGINIA FOXX ®, NORTH CAROLINA:  Republicans have a better solution.  It won‘t put the government in charge of people‘s health care.  It will make sure we bring down the cost of health care for all Americans and that insures affordable access for all Americans and is pro-life, because it will not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman, three—three Republicans in a row used language which sounds to me exactly like Grayson‘s language about the other side trying to kill people.  I don‘t see the distinction.

You first, then Congressman Lungren. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Well, it is always fun to debate my good friend Dan Lothian.  We just came from a Judiciary Committee meeting together. 

(LAUGHTER)

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  But, you know, the—the—the—I‘m glad to see that Dan is really arguing the larger points, as opposed to going tit for tat over this speech thing here. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But, see, I want to argue the—I want to argue the smaller points.

(LAUGHTER)

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:   I know you really want to do that.  But Dan and I want to argue over health care reform.

MATTHEWS:  I want to—I want to get—I want to get you both in the gutter and start throwing mud at each other. 

(LAUGHTER)

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  I‘m not...

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  No, what I really want to know is, is there—is there anything that‘s out of line?  The old rules of the House...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... when I worked for you people up there in the old days was, you didn‘t get personal.  You didn‘t accuse the other person of being evil. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Chris, one thing...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You could say anything you want about policy.

Go ahead. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  One thing...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  No, no, no, that‘s OK. 

One thing I can tell you is that it is absolutely—there is absolutely no comparison between Alan Grayson‘s speech and his comments that were in the normal course of the date on—on the House floor than to Joe Wilson‘s inappropriate conduct that was a violation of the decorum of the House when he shouted “You lie” to the president of the United States during a joint address to the nation. 

So, putting that aside, though, the larger point that Alan was making was that the Republicans have simply been nowhere on the issue of health care reform, except to be critical, except to offer nothing constructive to the debate. 

And what we need to do is have them—and I—Dan, I will meet you anywhere any time.  I would love to sit down to talk to you about the common ground that I know we have on health care reform, and stop arguing about the word choices that we use. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  We need to turn the volume down.

LUNGREN:  Well, Chris—Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Well, Congressman, I love the idea of a deal.

LUNGREN:  ... could I respond a little bit?  Could I respond?

(LAUGHTER) 

MATTHEWS:  How would you, if you—I want you to decide...

LUNGREN:  Let me just respond a little bit, though, about this idea. 

MATTHEWS:  If you want to respond.  But I have got a better idea. 

Why don‘t you tell me what a deal would be that both sides would agree to, possibly?  Is there a deal, in your mind‘s eye, that both sides can get 51 percent for or 65 percent for? 

LUNGREN:  Well, I—I think you would find a majority of the Congress, both the House and Senate, saying, set aside this idea of public option and let‘s work on the very specifics that are necessary out there, number one. 

Number two, I think we could sit down and we could talk about, how many are the hard-core—hard-core uninsured in this country?  Why are they that way?  Let us work to do something on that.

I would hope we could get agreement that we could allow people to purchase policies across state lines, which would allow a multiplicity of plans that would be available. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

LUNGREN:  I would hope we could talk about health associations. 

I hope that we could talk about exchanges that actually mean something, where we could get agreement...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Well...

LUNGREN:  ... so that you could have greater opportunity for people, particularly those who are employed by small- and medium-sized businesses. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  You know what? 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

LUNGREN:  Those are proposals that have been out there in detail by Republicans for a long period of time. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Where‘s...

LUNGREN:  But every single one of them has been rejected, even though offered or attempted to be offered. 

MATTHEWS:  We have to go.  We have to go. 

I thank you, Congresswoman. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  We have to go. 

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, as always.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Congressman Dan Lothian. 

We could do this all hour.

LUNGREN:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘re not going to do it.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Bring us back.

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  Hillary Clinton finally gets to have the title president.  Apparently, she says, again, she likes that title—that in the “Sideshow.”

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Sideshow.” 

First up:  Old dreams die hard. 

Catch what Hillary Clinton said when she got to preside over the United Nations Security Council earlier today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE:  Thank you so much. 

I—I resume now my function as president of the council. 

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON:  I kind of like being a president.  So, I...

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON:  This may go on a little longer than anticipated. 

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I have got to give to Hillary Clinton.  She‘s done the job as secretary of state, and she has been loyal. 

Now it‘s time for tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

There‘s a lot of big stories in the news today, which is why I was surprised to see this headline on the front page of “The New York Times” today—quote—“In New Jersey, Would-Be Boss is Big-Boss Fan.”  That would-be boss is New Jersey‘s Republican candidate for governor, Chris Christie, who is apparently a Bruce Springsteen fan, a big one.

Just how many Springsteen concerts—this is unbelievable—has Christie attended?  Now, this is really something.  One hundred and twenty.  Is this guy all right?  And guess what?  Christie is planning to attend the concert tonight at Giants Stadium for Bruce Springsteen. 

New Jersey‘s could-be next governor Chris Christie earns the title of Springsteen fanatic, showing up at an unbelievable 120 concerts—tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Up next:  Dick Cheney is under attack from a group of retired military brass, who say he‘s scare-mongering about the dangers of closing Guantanamo.  We‘re going to talk to a general and to an admiral about Cheney‘s fear-mongering, as they‘re claiming.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCOTT COHN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Scott Cohn with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks closing lower today, after a roller-coaster ride marking the end of the third quarter—the Dow Jones industrials down about 30 points.  The S&P 500 lost three-and-a-half, the Nasdaq down about one-and-a-half. 

News breaking just after the bell—General Motors says it will shut down its Saturn unit, after buyout talks with Penske Motors fell through. 

And Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis has just told his board of directors he plans to step down by the end of the year. 

On Wall Street, a weak dollar helped the Dow log its best quarter in 11 years, with the major indices turning in back-to-back gains for the first time since 2007.  But weak readings on Midwest manufacturing and jobs dragged on stocks today—investors worried a slowdown in the Midwest could signal a wider national reversal.  The ISM national report on manufacturing is due out tomorrow. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

A group of retired generals and admirals are rallying behind President Obama‘s push to close the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.  And they say that Dick Cheney, the former vice president, and his daughter, Liz Cheney, are using fear in this fight. 

Here‘s Cheney last May speaking to the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MAY 21, 2009)

RICHARD B. CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The administration has found that it‘s easy to receive applause in Europe for closing Guantanamo, but it‘s tricky to come up with an alternative that will serve the interest of justice and America‘s national security. 

Keep in mind that these are hardened terrorists picked up overseas since 9/11.  The ones that were considered low-risk were released a long time ago.  And, among these, it turns out that many were treated too leniently, because they cut a straight path back to their prior line of work and have conducted murderous attacks in the Middle East.  An estimated 14 percent of those released previously are believed to be back in the business of jihad. 

I think the president will find, upon reflection, that to bring the worst of the worst terrorists inside the United States would be cause for great danger and regret in the years to come. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, one of Cheney‘s biggest allies in this debate is none other than his daughter Liz.  Here she is debating Salon‘s Joan Walsh on CNN last June.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CNN)

LIZ CHENEY, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE:  It may be the case that it‘s easy to sit in Manhattan, or wherever you‘re sitting, Joan, and say, gosh, these people don‘t really want to harm us and we really shouldn‘t detain them. 

But, you know, we‘re at war.  And the laws of war very clearly state that...

JOAN WALSH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, SALON.COM:  I know we‘re at war, Liz.

L. CHENEY:  ... while you‘re at war, you can detain enemy combatants to prevent them from returning to the battlefield. 

Seventy-five percent of the American people do not think that our government should be bringing terrorists to the homeland.  And they‘re right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, with us now, two of those experienced military voices urging President Obama to close Guantanamo.

Retired Army Lieutenant General Harry Soyster is a director—is former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.  And Retired Navy Rear Admiral John Hutson is a former judge advocate general. 

General, I want you first to talk about this. 

The difference between putting the troops—or, rather, putting the bad guys, the terrorists—alleged, some cases, clearly guilty in other cases—in Guantanamo out there in Cuba, or putting them in some maximum-security prison in the United States, what‘s the difference? 

LT. GEN. HARRY SOYSTER, US ARMY (RET):  We have them in Guantanamo, of course, today.  And Guantanamo is a symbol of everything we‘ve done in the past, in terms of our abuse of prisoners, et cetera, and remains a symbol which we need to remove.  We need to remove that symbol as soon as possible, because, in fact, the quicker we do that, the more secure this country will be. 

MATTHEWS:  Because?  Why does the symbol hurt us in terms of our security?  How does it work? 

SOYSTER:  It‘s an excellent recruiting poster, and has been used, in fact, in the name Guantanamo by Osama bin Laden, himself.  And it‘s used as a great recruiting tool for our enemies.  It also has driven a wedge between our allies in—with the same view that it should be closed.  And they don‘t like the symbol either.

MATTHEWS:  Admiral Hutson, the Cheneys—rather the Cheney and the Cheney—they pronounce their names differently—have been out there scaring the country, making the point that if you bring these terrorists into the United States proper, into our territory, put them in a maximum security prison, that they will threaten the folk.  What do you think of that charge?

HUTSON:  I think it‘s just foolishness, Chris.  You know, we‘re here, this group of admirals and generals, in order to try to debunk the politics and the strategy of fear, and to rely on a strategy of strength.  We can bring these people to the United States, put them in prisons in the United States, prisons from which nobody has ever, in the history of America, escaped.  And we will be perfectly safe. 

This—one thing that Vice President Cheney is right about, this is a national security issue.  What he‘s wrong about is the direction in which the national security interest cuts.  The national security interest cuts in favor of closing Guantanamo.  General Soyster says taking that iconic image off the table, and putting these people in prisons, prosecuting those people that we can prosecute, transferring the others.  But get rid of Gitmo. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think, general, is the strategy or the intent of people like Cheney, who are constantly trying to get people‘s teeth rattling?  Constantly trying to get people nervous?  Of course, we have to be secure, our country.  To have us always nervous, always worried, even about some terrorist getting out of San Quentin or something.  What is their strategy, politically? 

SOYSTER:  Well, I think that is the strategy, to show that we have reason to be fearful, because of the fact that, as they worked the last eight years, they continued to put this country and those who believe in this country, that we have a lot to fear.  In fact, we have great faith in the strength of our country, and don‘t think that we need to be fearful, but, in fact, to capitalize on our strength, whether it‘s that of our courts, our armed forces or whatever, and maintain our highest ideals.

And we do that by doing the things that we advocate, and certainly not by putting the country in a state of apprehension, fear about what may happen, in this case, releasing—not releasing, but putting prisoners, properly tried, into our prisons inside the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  Admiral, why do you think a general, in this case, McChrystal‘s report to the president, was leaked to Bob Woodward of the Post?  What would be the strategy behind leaking a memo like that?  Do you think the civilian leadership of our country should be basically taking orders from its military commanders? 

I wonder—I sense a little General MacArthur action going on here.  I wonder why we‘re reading McChrystal‘s report to the president before it‘s officially released.  How do we know this stuff? 

HUTSON:  I‘m guessing that President Obama, as commander in chief, and General McChrystal, in his capacity, each have a pretty good understanding of what their respective roles are, and President Obama‘s role as the commander of chief.  General McChrystal will give him advice.  President Obama will tell him what to do.  And General McChrystal will execute that. 

So I‘m not sure that—why it was leaked, who leaked it.  I have no idea.  It was unfortunate.  But it really doesn‘t change the relationship of the commander in chief and subordinate general. 

MATTHEWS:  The “Huffington Post” reported today that a columnist for “Newsmax”—that‘s the conservative media outfit.  He‘s a fellow named John Perry—wrote a column Tuesday which later was pulled, which in part said the following: “imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation.  Skilled military trained nation builders would replace accountability challenged radical left commisars.”

Having bonded with his twin teleprompters the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech making.  Isn‘t this just Loony Tunes stuff, General?  We all saw “Seven Days in May.”  I wonder whether in this country anybody takes seriously the push for the military to grab power? 

SOYSTER:  Having spent a long time in the military, I don‘t remember any discussions about a coup.  In fact, I think it‘s a great strength of this country that our military completely understands the role of our civilian leadership and their superiority.  We are—have sworn an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.  It‘s worked pretty well for a long time.  We think it‘s going to continue to work for us very well. 

MATTHEWS:  Well said.  Who couldn‘t agree with that?  If anybody watching disagrees with that, please leave this country.  This is a democracy.  The military serves the interest of the country.  They do not dictate. 

Thank you very much, Lieutenant General Harry Soyster and Rear Admiral John Hutson. 

Up next, guns in bars?  Guns in town meetings?  Why is there such a push to allow guns everywhere?  It‘s happening.  This is not paranoia.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.  Starting today, a new law in Arizona allows nearly 140,000 people with concealed weapons permits in that state to bring guns into bars that don‘t have signs that say you can‘t bring guns in here.  The U.S. Senate voted a couple weeks ago to deny Amtrak, the railroad company, 1.5 billion dollars unless it allows passengers to transport handguns in their checked luggage. 

As the Supreme Court gets ready to look at the constitutionality of local gun laws, is the gun debate moving in the pro-gun action, and why? 

It‘s time for the politics fix, with MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan, and Howard Fineman, who is a “Newsweek” senior Washington correspondent. 

Gentlemen, first, you, Pat, then Howard.  Is this connected to this fear of government, a sense that you have to be armed to protect yourself from the federals, federalies?   

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  No, I think it‘s much more, Chris, related to a general fear in society, a sense that things are getting out of control, a sense that the society is decomposing, that the police might not be there to defend you. 

People want, in the last analysis, I think, the ability to defend themselves and their families in the ultimate situation, if no one is there.  I don‘t think the idea of people buying guns or conceal carry, for example, such as we have in Virginia, has anything to do with health care or the government of the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Howard, why do people want to bring guns into bars?  Why do they want to transport them by train?  Why are Federal Census takers being killed, hanged, and with the word Fed written on them?  I see a connection.  Do you? 

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  Well, I think it‘s possible, Chris, as a make a mental list of bars to stay out of in Phoenix.  I‘m sure Pat will be diving right into them, but I‘m going to stay out of them.  I do think—I do think if you look at the polls—I took a close look at some of the polling on this.  Over the last 40, 50 years, there‘s been a steady decline, really cutting in half the number of people who favor a ban on handguns.  From the late ‘50s, when it was 60 percent of the country wanted a ban on handguns—imagine that—down to less than 30 percent now. 

While, at the same time, there has been, especially since Vietnam and Watergate, and a certain presidency we won‘t mention in past presence, a greater distrust of government, a growing distrust of government.  Those lines crossed about 20 years ago.  I do think there‘s a relationship there. 

I think people want a certain sense of personal, political security, which, after all, is what the original intent of the Second Amendment, I think, was about. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do people want guns in bars? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, conceal carry I can—they want it for the same reason of conceal carry.  If they want to go out that night, they want to be able to take it into a bar and not have to leave it at home. 

Chris, let me say this, in 1992 I went to California right after the Los Angeles riots, and the Rodney King incident, all that carnage that went on, one of the worst riots in American history.  Five hundred thousand people bought guns in the next several months.  And a majority of them were women. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  This testifies to fear.  Take Washington, D.C., Chris, where I grew up, and where you lived for a while in the city.  Here are people utterly without any means of protecting themselves in some of these extraordinarily high crime areas.  They go to work.  They leave a wife and three kids sitting at home.  They‘re terrified something is going to happen because people are dealing drugs in the neighborhood. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FINEMAN:  Chris, can I say, I think there‘s something to that.  I‘m just looking at this chart from the Gallup Poll.  There was a precipitous drop in the percentage of people who supported a flat ban on handguns in the early ‘90s.  I think there‘s something to what Pat says on that.  There is.

MATTHEWS:  I have a big—my own view is it‘s—to me, I would defend the right of somebody to have a handgun or certainly a shotgun in their own home, especially if they live in a rural area.  But to be able to walk around and take it on subways with you, on trains with you, in bars with you, I think is crazy. 

We‘ll be right back.  That‘s just my view.  Thank you.  We‘ll be right back with Pat Buchanan, Howard Fineman for more of the politics fix.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Pat Buchanan, Howard Fineman, my two favorites.  I mean this.  The toughest question in the world is Afghanistan here.  It‘s not about PR.  It‘s not about the next election.  It‘s about American life and what we can accomplish in this early 20th century in the world, especially the fourth world, the Islamic world, far from here.  Pat, can we nation build in Afghanistan? 

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t believe we can, Chris.  There‘s a culture there and a history and a faith and a tribalism that we‘re really unfamiliar with in the west.  And our guys can do a great job of fighting and winning against wars, against armies and things.  But they‘re not into that. 

I do think this, Chris, if we have the choice now, I wouldn‘t go in to Afghanistan.  But we have to realize what happens if we do turn around and walk out or we don‘t give McChrystal what he wants and this mission fails.  It will be a triumph for al Qaeda, for the Taliban. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Pat, you ran for president.  You must have a presidential mindset occasionally.  What would you do?  Go in 100,000 troops, 40,000 more, hold what we have now, or reduce?  What would you do if you had to be president right now?

BUCHANAN:  As of right now, I would not commit the 45,000 troops General McChrystal wants.  I don‘t think he has made them a case—I haven‘t seen it—that this will do the job.  I think this is just the first bet, Chris, and we‘re starting up the road to far more and more troops.  I don‘t think, ultimately, it can be successful.  And I‘m not even sure it would be worth it. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Inside the war-room photo coming here.  We can all watch.  Look at that group, two large a group to make a decision.  They‘re all there, including the political guys.  Howard, you‘ve got Secretary Clinton there.  You‘ve got Rahm Emanuel there.  You‘ve got Joe Biden, the vice president.  You‘ve got the president. 

This is a policy judgment.  What do you think is going to happen? 

FINEMAN:  Well, if my eyesight is correct, I think David Axelrod is there, too, as I look at the photo.  And he is the political guy.  So, yes, this is a political thing.  They‘re not just looking at the boots on the ground and the situation in Afghanistan, itself.  They‘re looking at how to define the mission both strategically and politically. 

Joe Biden‘s the key.  He said, let‘s hold the territory.  Let‘s not change the nation. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Got to wrap.  Thank you very much, Pat Buchanan, Howard Fineman.  This is the hottest issue right now in our country.  Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.

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

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