Guests: John McCain, Howard Dean, Lawrence Eagleburger
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Tonight reports that Pakistani troops have cornered al Qaeda‘s second in command on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
And more bombings in Baghdad. Will America get bogged down in Iraq?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
I‘m Chris Matthews.
Pakistani officials say they have Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden‘s No. 2 man cornered in a compound near the Afghan border.
Hundreds of Pakistani troops have met with fierce resistance at the compound, leading them to suspect that Zawahiri is holed up there.
Senator John McCain is an Arizona Republican and a member of the Armed Services committee.
Senator McCain, the significance of this firefight over there on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, if we get this guy, it will be huge. He‘s obviously one of the key operatives.
It‘s also a good indicator that the Pakistanis are much more cooperative and much more engaged than they‘ve been to the past couple years. So let‘s hope they succeed. And it will be a major step forward.
MATTHEWS: Do you think there‘s been a relentless pursuit of this guy since 9/11? Or that it‘s flagged during many of these months?
MCCAIN: I think there was a time, a battle at the end of the Afghan war, where we didn‘t have a lot of troops on the ground, that perhaps we had a shot at getting him.
But that part of the world, the Pakistani-Afghan border, has never been ruled by anybody. Not the British, not the Afghans, not anybody. And so it‘s a very, very tough situation.
But I think it‘s good that we‘ve adopted some of the tactics the British used to employ, and that is going to villages and saying, “Look, if you harbor these guys, you‘re going to pay a penalty for it.”
And I think that‘s a plus, incentives. And I think that‘s beginning to work.
MATTHEWS: How close do you hear we are to catching bin Laden himself?
The big enchilada?
MCCAIN: I don‘t know, Chris. I‘ve heard for several years that we‘re very close to him. But I think we will catch him.
But again, that part of the world, extremely difficult. But the Pakistani participation has been ratcheted up rather significantly in recent months.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to the other front in the war. That‘s Iraq. What do you make of the situation over there?
Perhaps the 1,000-pound bomb used against that hotel. What does it tell but the targeting of that target and where we stand in term of security over there?
MCCAIN: Well, I think the good news is that the attacks on U.S. military personnel have declined. And I think that‘s because we‘ve done a better job. The bad news is the attacks on Iraqi civilians have increased.
Insurgencies don‘t succeed when they kill their own people, innocent people. But I think what they‘re trying to do is weaken American will and allied will by carrying out these spectacular attacks. I don‘t think it‘s going to work.
But they are pretty sophisticated, and it‘s hard to police an entire country the state—the size of the state of Texas. And we‘re going to have to do a better job at trying to prevent it and better intelligence.
But overall, again, as I‘ve said a thousand times on this program, we cannot afford to lose him. We need to do what‘s necessary.
MATTHEWS: In terms of winning that part of the world, its hearts and minds, are you surprised by the latest polling by the Pew Foundation that found that the countries with the most moderate leadership in the region, Morocco and Jordan—we have Mohammed VI in one case and Abdullah in the other—King Abdullah in the other case—something like 2/3 of the people seem to be supporting our enemies over there, the terrorists, against us.
MCCAIN: I think it has a lot to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it puts emphasis on us moving that peace process forward.
Also, I think that there is a certain amount of resentment toward the United States, and the status quo is what a lot of them would like to see prevail.
As good as some of these moderate Arab countries are, if we bring democracy to Iraq, democracy will come to the Middle East.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this other question about the coalition over there. President Bush was able to scramble together a rump group of supporters. He couldn‘t get the permanent members of the Security Council, France and Russia, but he could get some other countries.
What about this statement by the president of Poland today that he was misled in terms of WMD?
MCCAIN: It‘s disturbing, of course, because he is responding to his public opinion, and he doesn‘t want to meet the same fate as the social—as the conservative government in Spain. So it could sign some—indicate some weaknesses in this coalition.
But I‘d also like to mention, Chris, that this bombing in Madrid over time will make the European aware that they‘re not immune to acts of terror. And yes, it may have been because of their support of the U.S., but they‘re not going to want to be dictated to by any group of terrorists.
And I hope that, and I believe that over time, they will recognize that they can‘t fight war on terror alone. They will be more cooperative and they will join us more enthusiastically. I‘m not saying in Iraq. But in the struggle that we‘re in to fight the war on terror.
And so there could be some beneficial impact over time of this tragedy in Madrid.
MATTHEWS: Do you think our going to Iraq has improved or disproved or lowered the power of al Qaeda to launch these kinds of attacks in terms of resources, recruitment, et cetera?
MCCAIN: I think it‘s lowered it, because I think it is cut back on some of their recruitment. I think it‘s devoted a lot of the attention to Iraq which might have been elsewhere.
But let‘s also try to remember that, if they succeed in Iraq now, then that would be a horrific blow to our efforts to fighting the war on terror. The stakes are now ratcheted up now that they, now that we are in Iraq and we‘re trying to put democracy in there.
Also, in this whole equation, as far as the European are concerned, the issue of weapons of mass destruction is far more significant to the European people, the countries in Europe, than it is in the United States of America.
The majority of Americans believe we did the right thing in Iraq, whether weapons of mass destruction were there or not. It‘s exactly the opposite in Europe. And I‘m sure that that is having an effect on why the Polish leader made the statement that he made today.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think that‘s the case? The Europeans care more about the initial and public cause for the war, which was to remove the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein? Why do you think Americans care less about that issue than the European do?
MCCAIN: Well, I think the Americans may be more aware that this guy was such a bad guy. He was so brutal. And that he was bent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction. If he were still in power, he would do so.
I think that if we had a trial of Saddam Hussein, it would be very beneficial to all world opinion when the details of this murderous, brutal regime were brought forward.
But the Europeans also harbor some anti-American sentiment, which is always there.
But I also would submit that we‘ve got to be more active in communicating with and being involved with most of our allies in Europe. The Atlantic alliance won the Cold War. The Atlantic alliance can win the war against terror as well.
And we‘ve got to strengthen it. There‘s no doubt about it. And public opinion does matter to Democratically elected governments, and we have to do whatever we can to change that.
MATTHEWS: How do we rebuild the Atlantic alliance after 9/11? It‘s in at a tatters. People did root for us after 9/11. But then they disagreed with us, many of those countries, over going to Iraq?
Now when they‘ve been hit themselves so brutally in Spain, is there a chance for the president to go over, even, and make a dramatic plea to them to join us in this war against terrorism, even if they don‘t want to go to Iraq?
MCCAIN: I would like to see the president do that and soon.
Don‘t forget that the European countries, and I take exception to France, because I don‘t know exactly how we handle our relations with the French.
The Germans are in Afghanistan. The Germans are in Bosnia and Kosovo. All—literally all of our NATO allies are with us in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, and have been cooperating and assisting in enormously important fashion.
So there‘s still the underpinnings of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and our Atlantic alliance. And with the exception of the issue of Iraq, they‘re doing very good things.
Afghanistan is now, to a significant degree, a NATO exercise and not a U.S. exercise.
MCCAIN: So the underpinnings are there. The 50-year friendship between ourselves and these nations as we fought the Cold War together is still there. The basis of the relationship is there.
We‘ve just got to repair it and nurture it. And there is commonality of interests. And that commonality of interests is mutual security.
MATTHEWS: Europeans like certain American presidents and don‘t like other ones. They liked Jack Kennedy. They liked Nixon. I don‘t know what they thought of Reagan. Probably didn‘t like him too much. They liked Clinton.
What do you think separates it when they decide who they like over here? Because I think it is a factor who is president. Do you agree?
MCCAIN: Yes, I do. In the case of Clinton, it may have been a lot of the governments at that time were left of center. They did, over time, grow to have enormous respect and appreciation for Ronald Reagan.
I think we‘ve got to be a little more humble. I think we‘d better understand that these people had this resentment toward us which every nation always has for the strongest nation in the world.
MCCAIN: We ought to probably cultivate them a lot more. We ought to probably look at the Kyoto treaty, demanding changes, but look at issues such as climate change, which are important to them. The international criminal court and other issues that are important to them.
I‘m not saying cave in but work with them.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s come back and talk with John McCain about the vice presidency, the presidency and party politics and what‘s happening with his life in that regard.
And later, Howard Dean will join us.
Plus Ron Reagan goes on spring break to find out what America‘s college students think, if they‘re thinking, of the presidential election and the hot issues dividing the country.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSBNC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, more with John McCain. Plus, even though he‘s out of the race, Howard Dean is still fighting. He‘s coming here when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. I‘m back with Senator John McCain of Arizona.
Senator Joe Biden, your colleague from Delaware, endorsed the idea of a Kerry-McCain ticket on HARDBALL earlier this week. We‘ve got to look at it one more time. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: I think that this is time for unity in this country. And maybe it is time to have a guy like John McCain, a Republican, on a ticket with a guy he does like, they do get along and they don‘t have fundamental disagreements on major policies.
MATTHEWS: Would you support that ticket?
BIDEN: I would.
Yes. If John Kerry said that‘s who he wanted, and McCain, I think I‘d encourage McCain to say yes. I doubt whether John would do it. I doubt whether John McCain would do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there‘s a little more of that, because he said in that conversation, Senator, that he thought it would be good to get rid of this very sharp rift between the blue and the red states. The country could come together with you and your tremendous support among independents.
Let me build it up a little more. Anyway, I‘m not going to ask you to make a Shermanesque statement.
Are you impressed with a guy like Joe Biden, who‘s a pretty strong veteran Democrat over all these years, to stick his neck out and say, you know, “I think that John McCain‘s a healer and a uniter as a V.P. candidate.”
MCCAIN: You know, also John Biden is a close and dear friend of mine, and that always affects people‘s judgment. And I‘m—and I admire and like Joe very much. You know as well as I do, he‘s one of the warmer and entertaining (ph)...
MCCAIN: ... individuals we have in the Senate.
Look, the answer is no, no, no. Categorically no.
But I‘ve got to say that John Kerry is a friend of mine. We worked together, trying to get a full accounting for the missing in action and POW‘s. We worked together, trying to heal the wounds of the Vietnam War.
Yes, I have disagreements with John Kerry. But those disagreements are open and honest disagreements. I‘m not going to criticize him.
And I am the co-chairman with Jon Kyl in George Bush‘s campaign here in Arizona. I have already campaigned for George Bush‘s re-election, and I will support and campaign for his re-election. Period.
MATTHEWS: Well, this is very frustrating information, Senator. Because if I can‘t get to you join him, and I can‘t get you to attack him, what are we going to talk about?
Here‘s Vice President Dick Cheney, a man who has no problem attacking, talking about John Kerry‘s claim that foreign leaders want him to be president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is our business when a candidate for president claims the political endorsement of foreign leaders. At the very least, we have a right to know what he is saying to foreign leaders that makes them so supportive of his candidacy.
American voters are the ones charged with determining the outcome of this election, not unnamed foreign leaders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there was classic Cheney. Not only nailing him for the claim that is unsupportable so far, but saying there was some insidious conversation which preceded the argument that other leaders made on his behalf.
Do you buy the fact that John Kerry was negotiating with the enemy in a way to get them to support his candidacy?
MCCAIN: I have no idea. I do know that this campaign has turned as nasty as any that any of us have ever seen. And we need to talk about the issues of healthcare, Social Security, Medicare, deficits, that are of vital importance to the future of America.
And I‘m afraid this continued negative campaigning is going to do what we all fear, and that is depress voter turnout, particularly amongst young Americans. I‘ll be interested in Ron Reagan‘s response that he gets from these young people that he interviews.
MATTHEWS: Well, the pictures are great. Stay with us. Senator John McCain, thank you for joining us from Arizona. We‘re going to go to another watering spot in Arizona, your home state.
Up next, Howard Dean is no longer running for president, but he‘s working to defeat President Bush. He‘s coming here next.
And later, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger on the war in Iraq one year after it began.
And Ron Reagan at the beach.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Former presidential candidate Howard Dean today announced the formation of Democracy for America, a new grassroots organization designed to recruit candidates for office and to challenge the policies of the Bush administration.
Howard Dean joins us from Seattle. Governor, will this be a Democratic organization?
HOWARD DEAN, FOUNDER, DEMOCRACY FOR AMERICA: It is pretty much, although, you know, there are a lot of people in our organization that were Greens, independents and moderate Republicans, as well as Democrats.
But you know, the way to replace George Bush is to elect John Kerry. And so it‘s—a lot of people are going to think it‘s a pretty Democratic organization.
MATTHEWS: What about this idea of floating around, glitzing up the political skyline of a possible Kerry-McCain ticket? What‘s your reaction?
DEAN: You know, I doubt very much that John McCain is going to cross over. But we‘ll see.
MATTHEWS: Would you support a guy who was as hawkish as Wolfowitz for vice president?
DEAN: Well, you know, fortunately, I don‘t get to choose the vice president. If I...
MATTHEWS: But you do get to choose who you support. You could support or not support a ticket like that?
DEAN: No. John Kerry is going to be the person I support for president. I mean, we have two choices. One is George Bush. The other is John Kerry. If you vote for Ralph Nader, that has the effect of helping George Bush.
DEAN: So there are really two choices, and there‘s no—I mean, obviously, I would prefer someone with strong Democratic credentials to be the vice-presidential candidate. But I‘m going to support John Kerry, period.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this developments the last couple of days and your feelings about, first of all, the attack on the trains in Spain and then the latest attack of that 500- to 1,000-pound bomb in Baghdad on that old hotel over there.
What did they tell you? Did they support or undermine the arguments that you made all through the campaign that going into Iraq was a mistake?
DEAN: Well, here‘s the problem with going into Iraq. It‘s now become a much bigger issue than simply whether we should have gone into Iraq or not.
The issue now is whether the president is a credible person or not. He made—all kinds of stuff they told us wasn‘t true. Iraq‘s about to get nuclear weapons. They‘re in bed with al Qaeda, that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. None of that was true.
Now we find out that the president, his administration withheld information deliberately about how much the Medicare prescription bill would cost. Deliberately.
This is an administration whose credibility has a lot of problems with it. And I think people do not tolerate presidents who can‘t tell the truth. And this president is rapidly falling into that category.
MATTHEWS: What about the dynamic of this war? We were hit on 9/11 by al Qaeda, apparently. We go to war with Iraq. Al Qaeda goes into Iraq and starts playing the champion of the Arab world, especially Iraq.
They attack Spain. They say they did it because they‘re part of the resistance, of the nationalistic, Arab resistance against Western attacks in Iraq, or take over Iraq.
How do you separate yourself out of this dynamic? I mean, as a critic of the war, how do you avoid being tied into sort of the other side of the policy. which includes the al Qaeda people?
I mean, how do you find a third position which is, “Our side was wrong. They‘re the bad guys, but we‘re making a mistake on how we fight them”?
DEAN: Our—That‘s exactly what we‘re doing. We‘re making a mistake on how we fight them.
There was never a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. The president and the vice president kept insisting, they were implying that there was. That wasn‘t true.
The problem is that we should have been spending our troops‘ lives and our money fighting al Qaeda, which has now killed 200 Spaniards, which killed 3,000 Americans.
The president‘s obsession with Iraq, which Paul O‘Neill identified long before the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, is something that is separate and distinct from the war on terror.
And I think one of the things we‘ve got to get across is that this president has made us weaker, not stronger, by recklessly using our army and our armed forces in ways that have not made America a safer place.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about your campaign, your grassroots campaign right now. You‘re organizing as of today. Is this going to be an ally of the Kerry campaign? Will you be supporting Kerry right down the line?
DEAN: Yes. But the purpose of the campaign is not to support the Kerry campaign, although I personally will certainly be doing that, the purpose of DemocracyforAmerica.com is to get grassroots people to run for office.
The hallmark of the Bush administration is a forgetting in Washington that ordinary people actually pay taxes and deserve something back from the government. It‘s been one of the largest transfers of wealth from middle class people to big corporations and the wealthiest Americans.
And so what I wanted to do, and the whole purpose of the campaign, not just Democracy for America but also its predecessor, Dean for America, was to give people the power to take back their country, which they‘ve begun to do.
The way to get rid of special interests in Washington is not just campaign finance reform. It‘s also teaching people how to run campaigns based on small donors. So you can raise more money than the special interest folks and therefore be beholden to ordinary citizens. That‘s something we‘re going to try to teach people how to do.
We‘re going to recruit members of Dean for America, 700,000 or so of them, to run for school boards and county commissioners. Frankly, one of the models we‘ve looked at is what Ralph Reed did.
Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition has been one of the most successful organizers in the country, all to bad effect, moving us further and further to the right. We need to move us back to the center by getting ordinary people back into office again and giving them the confidence and the resources to do that.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll come right back with more with Governor Howard Dean in a moment.
And later, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger on the first anniversary of the war in Iraq.
Plus Ron Reagan hits the beach again for spring break and asks college kids what they think of the battle for the White House. More of those pictures, coming up.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: This half-hour on HARDBALL, Howard Dean, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, and Ron Reagan goes spring break to find out what America‘s college students think about the battle for the White House, if anything.
But, first, the latest headlines right now.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We‘re back with Governor Howard Dean.
Here‘s a new ad released today by the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign.
Governor, let‘s take a look at it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN AD)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I‘m George W. Bush.
And I approved this message.
NARRATOR: Few votes in Congress are as important as funding our troops at war. Though John Kerry voted in October 2002 for military action in Iraq, he later voted against funding our soldiers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Kerry.
NARRATOR: No. Body armor and higher combat pay for our troops.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Kerry.
NARRATOR: Better health care for reservists.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Kerry.
And what does Kerry say now?
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.
NARRATOR: Wrong on defense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Governor, is that a fair ad?
DEAN: No, it‘s a ridiculous ad. And it is consistent with everything else the Republicans have been doing the last three years, out of context.
What Kerry did was, he voted the way I would have voted. He voted to give the troops the $87 billion if the president would pay for it. This is a president who knows nothing about the struggles of ordinary taxpayers to make a living. So he is willing to just throw this $87 billion on to the debt of the American people and our grandchildren and our children. President Bush is grossly irresponsible when it comes to handling money.
He doesn‘t mind spending other people‘s, but he certainly has no idea how to balance budgets, how to respect the needs of ordinary Americans. And I think that‘s a cheap-shot ad.
MATTHEWS: Well, how do you hold back money from a president, who is the commander in chief, and who is protecting our troop with body armor, etcetera, ammunition, because you don‘t like his fiscal policy?
DEAN: First of all, Chris, the president sent people over there without adequate body armor. He cut Veterans Administration‘s benefits by $1.8 billion. He cut 166,000 American veterans off their healthcare. This president is no friend of the American soldiers. And he is no friend of the defense—of the defense of the United States of America.
Somebody has got to make votes to hold this president accountable for all the money he‘s spending. He‘s spending a lot more than Bill Clinton ever spent. You can‘t trust Republicans with your money. They don‘t balance budgets. They don‘t create jobs. And they spend more than Democrats do.
MATTHEWS: Well, isn‘t Kerry‘s—Senator Kerry‘s problem that he did vote for an amendment which would have tied the money, the $87 billion for reconstruction to the troops to raising the money to pay for it? That went down. And then he faced final passage. After that vote was over with, he had lost that fight. And then the only question then was, do you support final passage or not?
MATTHEWS: And he said, no, after that all that argument is over again, I‘m not voting for final—he did in the end vote against the $87 billion, didn‘t he?
DEAN: Sure, as he should have. Most Americans thought that was a waste of money. If the president of the United States is not willing to say with some courage where he‘s going to get the money to send to Iraq, then the president of the United States ought to be replaced. And that‘s exactly what we intend to do.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about your organization, Democracy for America. Will you maintain control of the contributors list yourself? Will this remain in the hands...
MATTHEWS: Well, where does Joe Trippi come in here? Does he have a hand in grabbing any of those names or not?
DEAN: No. The list is the property of Dean For America. And it will transfer to Democracy For America, which is probably going to have to pay something for it.
But we don‘t feel that other people should get their hands on that list. Those are people who are our supporters and we certainly will ask them to help people. We will suggest that they support other people and their names will find their ways to other lists, but we‘re not going to give, sell or rent the list.
MATTHEWS: Right now, John Kerry, as you know, is your ally right now. He is up against a formidable fund-raising machine in the president and vice president. They‘re able to go to Republican groups and raise huge amounts of money. They have already got over $150 million or something. And they can spend that right through the Democratic Convention, blasting away at the same messages that we just showed on TV, show it over and over and over again, until people can‘t think about anything else.
Are you going to help him raise money to match that? Or are you going to keep this money to your organization, to yourself?
DEAN: No, we will also help raise money for John Kerry. We‘re already doing that.
MATTHEWS: Would you give your names to him for him to use in a fund-raising drive?
DEAN: Pardon me?
MATTHEWS: Would you give names on your contributors list to John Kerry so that he can use those politically active Democrats to raise money?
DEAN: Let me repeat myself. The list doesn‘t go anyplace. We will maintain control of the list, because that‘s the integrity, that‘s the deal we had with the people who joined us.
But what we‘re going to do is do what we‘ve done for a lot of candidates, is put up notices and send out some e-mails suggesting people contribute to John Kerry. If they do, then they‘re willingly giving their name to John Kerry and that‘s great. We‘re going to help these candidates, but we‘re not going to wreck the integrity of the list. I can‘t stand it when I get mail from some group, well intended as they may be, because I happened to give a donation to some other group who then sold their list to somebody else. That‘s not right. I don‘t like it. And we‘re not going to do it.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s happened to me, too.
But let me ask you this. Has John Kerry asked you for the list?
DEAN: He—no. No, he hasn‘t.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Terry McAuliffe, the head of the regular Democratic Party. You‘re in a very much way a maverick against the old order of the Democratic Party. Has he asked to you join forces?
DEAN: No. I have not met with him. I‘ll sure I‘ll run into him on
MATTHEWS: What you think of him? When you run into him, do you think he should stick around as party chair or there should be a new kind of person there?
DEAN: You know, Chris, that‘s not my call. That‘s John Kerry‘s call, not my call.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of Max Cleland as the new chairman of the Democratic Party?
DEAN: I‘m not going to have any say over who gets to be chairman of the Democratic Party.
MATTHEWS: You sound so—you sound so weak, Governor. You have a lot of say. You‘ve got this big organization of people who were activized by your campaign. You‘re talking about how you‘re going to keep them busy. You don‘t see yourself to be a faction of the Democratic Party alliance right now, with a lot of oomph?
DEAN: No, we‘re going to—we‘re going to work independently of the Democratic National Committee. We are an independent group. We‘ve got Greens. We‘ve got Democrats. We‘ve got independents. We‘ve got Republicans in our group.
We‘re not going to be working hand in hand with the Democratic National Committee. But I will certainly be working very hard to get people elected like John Kerry, like the members of Congress who supported us, like the congresspeople who are running for the two open seats down here in Washington, so we can start sending people like Tom DeLay and George Bush back to Texas, where they belong.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the two big questions that Kerry has to answer between now and July. The strategy of his campaign, how he picks up those border states, if that where he targets, or Florida, if he targets that, or the West, if he targets Hispanics. Where would you advise him to go strategically to try to win those extra electoral votes?
DEAN: Well, let me just first say that I don‘t give candidates the advice and then go talk about what the advice was on television.
But since we haven‘t had that discussion, I can tell you what I‘ve been saying in the campaign and what I‘ve said publicly in the past. I think Ohio is a key battleground state. The president won it the last time. We‘ve since lost over 200,000 jobs in Ohio. I think they‘re ready to vote Democratic. Florida—Senator Kerry had a lead in Florida the last time I looked, so that‘s certainly up for grabs.
I believe we can do well in Arizona.
DEAN: There are states that we won in the last time. I‘m determined to win back West Virginia.
DEAN: There‘s no reason that, with the job losses they‘ve had in West Virginia, for us not to be able to win that in the Democratic column. So those are all states I think we can do well in.
MATTHEWS: To recap, if he called you one night and did ask you your advice about whether to put John McCain on the ticket, because he needs him based upon his research and his polling, and he figures out he needs a guy like John McCain, who is a man very popular with independent voters and the media, I have to admit, to win the election, to beat George Bush, to take over foreign policy, would you say that‘s a good idea or would you say it is up to you?
DEAN: First, Chris, I want to ask you if you‘re John McCain‘s campaign manager, because it does seem like I‘ve heard more about this on your show than I have anyplace else.
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘ve been watching.
DEAN: But—that‘s right. You know, first of all, I do—John
MATTHEWS: I have a prejudice here. I have to explain to you my prejudice, Governor. My prejudice is, I want an exciting general election campaign that doesn‘t get bogged down in crap.
And one good thing about putting McCain on the ticket would do—and there are lots of other ways to do it—would make the issue policy, foreign policy. It would make the issue who is good at protecting this country. It would be an exciting campaign and it wouldn‘t get bogged down in a lot of little stuff. That‘s what I think.
DEAN: Well, I think it is very—I think it is very clear from John Kerry‘s background that he‘ll do a much better job protecting America than George Bush has. All George Bush has done is spent $160 billion in Iraq which has cost us 566 American soldiers. and I can‘t see that we‘re any safer now than we were after 9/11.
MATTHEWS: OK, well, thank you very much, Governor Dean. You‘re as feisty as ever, sir.
DEAN: Hey, thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: It‘s great having you on.
DEAN: Yes, sir. Thanks.
MATTHEWS: Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger on the war in Iraq on year later.
Plus, HARDBALL goes on spring break. Can‘t wait for this one. This is like the “Sports Illustrated” cover. And here, that‘s coming. We‘re going to talk to the kids—I guess they‘re kids—about politics and the battle for the White House.
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MATTHEWS: Coming up, what do college kids think about Iraq and the battle for the White House? We sent Ron Reagan on spring break to find out.
HARDBALL back in a minute.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Lawrence Eagleburger served as secretary of state during the first Bush administration.
Here‘s what John Kerry said yesterday about Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We‘re still bogged down in Iraq. And the administration stubbornly holds to failed unilateral policies that drive potential, significant, important, longstanding allies away from us. What we have seen is a steady loss of lives and mounting costs in dollars to the American taxpayer with no end in sight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Secretary Eagleburger.
Let me ask you this. What do you make of the charge that our policies in Iraq and around the world, especially, are driving our allies away from us? The Spanish government, because of the elections the other day, are going to turn against us. The Polish president said just today that he is very unhappy that he was given bad intel, bad information, he was misled about going into the war, about WMD. Are we losing our coalition?
LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, to a degree, yes, but the Pole also said he was glad that Saddam had been overthrown.
Look, there‘s no question that this is going to make some difference. But we need to understand something. When Senator Kerry goes through this blather of his on his foreign policy and talks about losing our allies, what allies that did not go to Iraq with us would have if the president had kowtowed to them or done something to persuade them to go?
MATTHEWS: Why not check on whether they have weapons of mass destruction before we go to war with them over weapons of mass destruction?
EAGLEBURGER: Now, that‘s a different issue. That‘s a different issue.
But all I‘m saying is, the French and the Germans wouldn‘t have done it no matter what we had. On the weapons of mass destruction, unfortunately, while I believe Iraq was the right thing to do for this president, I also have to tell you that I am embarrassed, as I think we should be, we Republicans, by the way in which that was sold, in the early days, particularly. I blame that much more on Vice President Cheney than I do on the president.
MATTHEWS: The argument made to Europe, wasn‘t it, that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, was that an honest argument?
EAGLEBURGER: If we believed it. And I don‘t believe—the answer is yes in the sense, I don‘t think the administration was lying when they said it. Were they accurate? No, they surely weren‘t.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the George Bush that you served, the first George Bush, along with Scowcroft, his national security adviser, and Jimmy Baker, your predecessor, do you think your crowd would have bought this intel as readily and as gullibly as the new crowd has?
EAGLEBURGER: If you hadn‘t put that adjective in there, I would have said no. I don‘t think it was gullible.
MATTHEWS: Which adjective?
EAGLEBURGER: The gullible business. I‘m not sure it was gullible.
But, yes, it is clear we would not have bought the same thing.
MATTHEWS: How about hopeful? Wasn‘t this crowd hopeful that there would be WMD there because it could justify their war?
EAGLEBURGER: No, come on. They didn‘t want to justify a war. Now, that‘s really awful.
EAGLEBURGER: They wanted to go in there and get rid of the man, yes.
MATTHEWS: No, to justify a war against a man on the basis of evidence they didn‘t have.
EAGLEBURGER: Well, the point is, again, I can‘t argue with you on the sense that the weapons of mass destruction did not show up. I don‘t argue that. I wish we had not made that argument.
MATTHEWS: If Franklin Roosevelt told us that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and it turned out that they hadn‘t, wouldn‘t that be a concern?
EAGLEBURGER: Your comparisons there are getting pretty sick, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, they‘re getting harsh.
EAGLEBURGER: But they don‘t make any sense.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this war in Iraq, because I think it is a question.
Historically, I‘ve gone back—and you can do this without thinking very hard—the presidencies which have failed since World War II, have failed politically, Harry Truman having to leave with a 23 percent Gallup number, Lyndon Johnson being told by Larry O‘Brien you‘re going to lose the Wisconsin primary. Jimmy Carter—and I was with him—humiliated by the Iran hostage crisis.
It happens not when presidents make mistakes, especially. It is when they look like they‘re bogged down. Is that—I think that‘s why John Kerry picked that phrase.
EAGLEBURGER: Oh, he has. There‘s no question. As I say, I think he has been duplicitous to make it, to be mild about it. But I think in this case, if Vie—if Iraq is going about as it is now...
MATTHEWS: Is it like Vietnam?
EAGLEBURGER: I don‘t think so.
MATTHEWS: Well, you just had a Freudian slip there.
EAGLEBURGER: No. No. Come on. I didn‘t Freudian slip. Please.
But if Iraq is about as it is now at the time of the election, I think Bush will win it. I don‘t think this is going to kill him, unless the internal situation in Iraq between now and the election time has the Shia killing the Sunnis and so on. If that happens, I think the president is in real trouble.
MATTHEWS: Put together the fact on the ground of this terrible attack on the hotel, killing all those really innocent people. They weren‘t combatants by any stretch of the imagination. They were Americans. Does that encourage the kind of disorder that could come from the Shia insisting on Sharia, insisting on total Muslim rule? How does that factor into the formation of the government over there, this kind of terrorism, day-to-day terrorism?
EAGLEBURGER: It‘s interesting, because I think what it does do is probably—I‘m hard—it‘s hard to say. My own sense of it is that this sort of activity against the Iraqi people probably in the end is going to work to the advantage of the coalition that is trying to create a more religiously free country.
But I can‘t tell you on that half so much as I can tell you that what it is doing right now is getting a lot of Iraqis to feel we aren‘t protecting them well enough. But in terms of how it creates—what it creates for the election itself, I‘m not at all sure that anybody can tell you.
MATTHEWS: Is it your sense that this is Iraqi resistance, the kind of nationalist resistance you can expect in any situation?
MATTHEWS: Or it‘s outside—outside Qaeda types?
EAGLEBURGER: Whether they‘re al Qaeda or not, the types, OK. I think a great deal of it is from outside. I cannot believe that this could all go on unless these people were slipping in across the border and so forth. And it is there that I think we have to exercise greater efforts to try to stop them.
MATTHEWS: Do you think we have a good reconstruction effort going over there?
EAGLEBURGER: A good reconstruction going over?
MATTHEWS: In Iraq. Are we doing the job? Are we building toward a stable, nonthreatening government in that part of the world?
EAGLEBURGER: The answer to that is yes. But we have a long way to go before I‘ll be very confident it is going to work.
But in terms of what we‘re doing now, yes, I think it‘s going pretty well.
MATTHEWS: We had Tom Friedman on earlier this week. And he is respected by a lot of people, with “The New York Times.” He talks about a very long-term U.S. commitment of troops as sort of a backup gendarme for the new government over there. Are you comfortable with the United States playing the kind of role that France plays in Francophonic Africa, where you go back in every couple years and back the government?
EAGLEBURGER: If you would lose all of these lousy comparisons, I would I probably agree with you. I think we‘re going to have to be there for some period of time. I think it is our obligation, if what we are going to do is end up with an Iraq we can be proud of. And the Kerrys of this world will then have to shut up about it.
MATTHEWS: How many more presidencies will we have to go through before we bring our troops home?
EAGLEBURGER: Oh, I don‘t think you‘re going to have to go that far.
MATTHEWS: Eight years?
EAGLEBURGER: I think within Bush‘s second term, we‘ll have brought them home.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s optimistic.
Lawrence Eagleburger, former secretary of state under the first Bush presidency.
Coming up, we‘re going on spring break. A lighter note will be struck in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON REAGAN, NBC CONTRIBUTOR: I‘m Ron Reagan in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, where America‘s youth has gathered for spring break. What‘s on their minds? Well, you mind be surprised—coming up on HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: All across America, college students heading off to spring break.
And this being an election year, we sent Ron Reagan out to find out what kids today are thinking politically.
Ron Reagan joins us from Lake Havasu City, Arizona—Ron.
RON REAGAN, NBC CONTRIBUTOR: Hey, Chris.
I know it‘s been a little chilly there on the East Coast. You may want to get on the next flight to Havasu City, where it‘s about 90 degrees. But the water is cool. And I guarantee you can find a cold beer here.
You can see behind me, the spring breakers have begun to arrive. And so we are here, too, as you said, to talk to them about, of all things, politics. What were we thinking? Well, it turned out pretty well. Take a look.
REAGAN (voice-over): Hot sun, cool water, abundant alcohol.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, baby!
And, well, you know. It‘s spring break time again, college-age youth
flocking to places like Lake Havasu, Arizona, with one thing on their minds
· politics. OK, we‘re kidding about that. But surprisingly we did find plenty of kids whose thoughts extend beyond beer for breakfast on the Colorado River.
Matt is concerned about our presence in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact that we are coming in with unilateral action on other countries and kind of imposing democracy across the world I think is kind of dangerous.
REAGAN: He‘s not alone. Erica (ph) also questions the president‘s reasons for going to war.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It doesn‘t seem like the end justifies the means at all, because he‘s gone in and he‘s almost like a tyrant going in there and telling these people, here‘s democracy, this is the way you should live.
REAGAN: Views on our own democracy, particularly the upcoming election, are varied.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m very anti-Bush, I have to say. He‘s very
close-minded towards same-sex marriages. He‘s anti-abortion. He‘s kind of
· he‘s not progressive enough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I vote for George Bush because I think he‘s led the country in the most difficult time our country has really ever faced.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m pro-Bush. I‘m for him. I‘m from Texas and so I‘m all for him.
REAGAN: Practically every spring breaker we spoke with here is opposed to a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, confirming recent polls that show young people are the most supportive of same-sex marriage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let them do their thing. If two gay men want to do their thing, let them get married. Let them have all the other rights of the rest of the citizens in our nation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m ail Republican, but I support gay marriage. And I‘m not a single-issue voter. I‘m still clearly a Republican, but I disagree with George Bush on that.
REAGAN (on camera): The Iraq war, gay marriage, George W. Bush. These kids have opinions. And notwithstanding the distractions of spring break, they‘re not afraid to share them. Still, this is the most underrepresented group of voters in America. Why don‘t they vote?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s an apathy thing, dude.
REAGAN (voice-over): Jackie Jessick (ph) and a boatload of friends do care about the world. But at 19, it can be kind of hard to focus.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now, I guess I‘m just more into having fun, living my life, and not really thinking about politics.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it‘s hard for us to realize what kind of a change we can make when we‘re this young. We don‘t realize that we have the kind of influence that we do and we don‘t realize that we‘re lucky and we live in a country that we can vote.
REAGAN: Yes, we‘re lucky. We can vote. These kids can vote, if only they would. Well, maybe inflatable hot dog rides to the polls.
REAGAN: Chris, have you ridden on an inflatable hot dog?
MATTHEWS: No, it looks interesting.
Let me ask you about the—give me your quick poll, Bush or Kerry out there?
REAGAN: You know, it was pretty even, but I‘d give a slight edge to Kerry.
REAGAN: Go ahead.
MATTHEWS: Well, any of the kids look like—I know they‘re exactly of the mood now, but do you think any of them really care enough to go out there and work this summer for these candidates when they‘re not doing their summer jobs?
REAGAN: I‘m not sure about that. But, for the record, all of these kids spoke very highly of voting. They all insisted that they would be voting. We‘ll know in November, of course, how many young people actually went to the polls, but they swear to me that they‘re going, that they‘re going to vote.
MATTHEWS: Is it harder to do an interview with somebody in a bikini?
REAGAN: It‘s harder to do an interview with somebody who is using a beer bong.
REAGAN: I don‘t know if you‘ve ever seen a beer bong, but I think you can probably imagine it.
MATTHEWS: I thought you were going to do questions like before and after the bong. They were more for Bush before the bong and more for Kerry afterwards. I thought it would be an interesting experiment.
REAGAN: Or vice versa.
MATTHEWS: OK. It‘s great seeing you. You got a tough assignment out there. And I‘m back here at this desk.
REAGAN: Oh, it‘s tough.
MATTHEWS: In Washington. Anyway, thank you.
REAGAN: It is a little hot.
MATTHEWS: Thanks a lot. Yes, too hot. Thanks a lot, Ron.
REAGAN: All right, Chris, take care.
MATTHEWS: Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Our guests include former Secretary of state Madeleine Albright and Archbishop Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.
Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.
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