updated 3/24/2004 12:08:57 PM ET 2004-03-24T17:08:57

Guests: Bob Kerry, Slade Gorton, Bill Richardson, Senator Trent, Patrick Miller, Shoshana Johnson, Arlene Walters

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Were we caught off guard?  That‘s the question for the 9/11 commission that met today.  And who‘s to blame if we weren‘t?  And how do we make sure it never happens again? 

Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

I‘m Chris Matthews, and that‘s right.  Today was the first day of the 9/11 commission‘s public hearings. 

Do Americans really believe 9/11 could have been prevented?  That‘s the question.  And do they care about who should be blamed for the failure to prevent it?  You bet you. 

Later whistle-blower Richard Clarke‘s top aide and his successor will tell us if they think he‘s telling the truth about President Bush and the administration‘s effort against terrorism.  And they do. 

We begin with two who sat today in judgment of the truth and the consequences of 9/11.  Bob Kerrey‘s a former Democratic senator and now the president of the New School in New York City.  And Slade Gorton is a former Republican senator. 

Right now let‘s take a look at the testimony of Madeleine Albright, followed by the testimony of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE:  Clearly there are many issues and many questions now about how they were responding to the terrorist threat and how seriously they took it. 

You are going to have some other witnesses here who will be more capable of responding to that question than I, because I know nothing beyond what I read. 

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Without criticizing the responses that took place then, the fact that that had been all there was led us—me, I should say—to feel very deeply that the president ought not to simply fire off Cruise missiles, that in the event he was going to make a response, he had to put people on the ground, he had to put people at risk, he had to show a seriousness and purpose, or the administration would be seen as a continuum from the lobbing Cruise missiles after an attack with relatively modest effect. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s the HARDBALL question, Senator.  It‘s the question whether the Clinton administration during the 1990‘s were laying off here, laying back, refusing to take real action. 

Now Senator, I want you to answer the question, do you think the Clinton administration showed enough firepower against bin Laden before 9/11 to scare them off, or was Clinton and his crowd somewhat responsible for not responding aggressively enough to al Qaeda before we got hit on 9/11?

BOB KERREY, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER:  I‘d say no to the first and yes to the second.  I think they did not do enough.  I think in particular after February 23, 1998, when bin Laden declared war on the United States, we should have declared war on him. 

I mean, the only military action against al Qaeda since the 7th of August, 1998 was a relatively small military attack on the 20th of August.  We‘ve done nothing after—and there has been a series of military efforts against the United States, including several that were successful in killing Americans. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that encouraged bin Laden to go for the big strike, 9/11?

KERREY:  I don‘t know if it encouraged him, but I‘d be surprised if it didn‘t.  There was no military response.  I mean, the response on the 20th of August was, it could have been a good beginning, but it wasn‘t a beginning.  It was an end. 

MATTHEWS:  What about blowing up the pill factory in the Sudan?

KERREY:  Well, I happened to believe that there was intel that made that a justifiable act.  But there‘s no follow-on.  What happened after the 20th of August, 1998 was more damning than what happened on the 20th of August. 

There was no follow up.  There was no continued pressure.  And when the Bush administration came in, they studied it for eight months. 

MATTHEWS:  Was this a character problem by Bill Clinton, an inability to deal with his responsibilities as commander in chief to react to the threat to America that al Qaeda presented?

KERREY:  No.  I don‘t see it as... 

MATTHEWS:  What was the problem?

KERREY:  The problem is this is a non-nation state action.  This is not like Japan declaring war on the United States.  Osama bin Laden doesn‘t have a country.  And I think the problem was we didn‘t recognize that he was just as serious, in fact, a more serious threat in many ways than if he had been a president of some nation declaring war on the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  Slade Gorton, a different question.  After 9/11, do you believe, just based upon the evidence you‘ve gotten so far, this administration went in the right direction?  Did we go in the right direction in pursuing the killers of 9/11?

SLADE GORTON, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER:  Yes.  And no.  The answer to your question is yes.  The response to 9/11 was decisive and dramatic and certainly in Afghanistan successful. 

I think the real question is, have we done, you know—have we done enough?  And I think the particular question is, have we done enough so that our intelligence is better? 

With all of these billions of dollars we spent, what we kept hearing from both administrations, that all day today and I heard from them before was, we didn‘t have actionable intelligence. 

Now partly, that‘s an excuse because intelligence is never going to be 100 percent certain.  But when you get right down to it, we really weren‘t getting our money‘s worth.  And was that due to the fact that intelligence is fractured, divided and the like?

One of the most serious questions that Bob and I and the eight other members are going to have to come up with is are we going to recommend a dramatic change in the way in which we collect and use the intelligence that we are paying for?

MATTHEWS:  Remember in Washington crossing the Delaware—George Washington crossing the Delaware through the ice and all, and he got to other side and the Brits and the Hessians were all drunk or asleep. 

Look what happened 9/11.  I want to ask you about the testimony you got so far.  Dick Cheney sitting in his office, and he doesn‘t even know what it is.  He doesn‘t know if it‘s an accident or what it is. 

The president says, “That‘s some bad pilot.” 

And then you have Richard Clarke walking in the office and finding Condi and the vice president, and they‘re sitting around like a couple of deputy sheriffs in some Southern town, and they‘re saying, “I guess you‘re in charge, Dick.” 

I mean, doesn‘t this shock you, that there‘s no automatic game plan to be followed here? 

“Dick Clarke, I guess you‘re in charge?”

KERREY:  Well, we should have been better prepared.  There‘s no question about that.  I mean, not to be prepared for the possibility of a hijacking, not to be prepared for the possibility of a multiple hijacking, not to be prepared in general that al Qaeda could successfully attack the United States allowed 19 men to defeat us utterly. 

Every single defensive mechanism that we had up against them, they beat those defense mechanisms. 

MATTHEWS:  Could it happen again tomorrow morning based on testimony you heard today?  Is there any reason to believe that somebody couldn‘t get on a plane somewhere up in Maine right now, take it to Logan Airport and do the same exact thing all over again?

KERREY:  Well, I think it‘s far less likely that al Qaeda is going to be able to do it.  But can somebody else do it?  Sure.  I think...

GORTON:  Secretary Powell said that, talked at the dramatic end of his testimony today, he said that whatever we do, he said Spain was well prepared.  They knew something was going to happen.  They couldn‘t prevent it.  We‘re going to live the rest of our lives with that possibility. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Gentlemen, stay with us.  When we come back, we‘re going to ask Bob Kerrey and Slade Gorton whether Condoleezza Rice will be compelled to testify as a result of today‘s hearings.  She‘s all over the TV tube.  Maybe she should get under oath. 

And later, Clarke‘s successor and Clarke‘s former deputy discuss whether Clarke is telling the truth about the Bush administration‘s handling of the war on terror before 9/11.  Not to kill the suspense; they think he‘s telling the truth. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, more with former senators Bob Kerrey and Slade Gorton, two members of the 9/11 commission, when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIMOTHY ROEMER, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER:  We have Dr. Rice on the airwaves saying that she strongly condemns and disagrees with Mr. Clarke‘s assessments and analysis. 

I would hope that this discussion would not be for the airwaves and would not be a partisan type of discussion that we have, but belongs in this hearing room tomorrow.  I hope Dr. Rice will reconsider and come before our commission for the sake of the American people tomorrow. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That was 9/11 commissioner Tim Roemer, the former member of Congress from Indiana.  We‘re back with Senator Bob Kerrey and Senator Slade Gorton, both former senators now on this commission. 

Do you believe in executive privilege?  Do you believe in the right that, I believe it was Eisenhower back in ‘54 put together this right.  He said he‘d fire any aide that would testify before Congress, because he thought the conversations between people like Condi and the president are secret?

KERREY:  Yes, I do believe in executive privilege.  I think it is a privilege that needs to be protected so that the president could get good advice. 

But at the same time I think in this case the administration has made a big mistake.  Because first of all, Dr. Rice is a tremendous witness, so they lost her voice in the story telling.  But also, I mean, the evidence of her being on the television talking all the time; she‘s basically providing public testimony in a different way. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think they‘re hiding evidence or they‘re simply protecting privilege?

GORTON:  No, Chris, there‘s a distinction here. 

We know what Condi Rice would say.  Condi Rice has come to us in private, has talked to us, has answered every question we have.  Condi Rice is important in this hearing so that you know what she says, so that the public knows what she says.  It is a terrible mistake. 

I agree with Bob, executive privilege has its place.  It‘s something they can claim, but it is a terrible mistake to claim it with a witness who knows what she‘s talking about and who will present their case. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you like to know what the president knew and when he knew it with regard to the threat from al Qaeda before 9/11?

KERREY:  Well, I think we are pretty close to knowing that. 

MATTHEWS:  August reports, those kinds of things? 

KERREY:  I would have prefer that we‘d been able to read the presidential daily briefings without having to get them filtered through somebody else.  But I haven‘t seen anything through the filter that causes me such alarm that I would want—that I would say to you, that I think I‘ve been denied things that I... 

MATTHEWS:  What about George Tenet, the CIA director saying on the morning of the attack of 9/11 when he‘s having breakfast at the Carlton Hotel on 16th Street, and he hears about the attack and he said, “I hope it doesn‘t have to do with those guys getting flight training down in Florida.”  I mean, he did know a lot. 

KERREY:  Yes.  Look, the problem is—I say it again, I mean, the problem we didn‘t think that this was possible.  We didn‘t think a domestic attack by al Qaeda was a real possibility.  And we were, I think, unprepared for an attack that today...

MATTHEWS:  Actually, do you know what he did?  He said it was the guy Moussaoui, remember the guy who wanted to have the training in the 747‘s, he couldn‘t fly a paper cup and he wanted to fly the biggest planes in the world. 

They take him into custody thinking he might be up to something.  Now, Tenet‘s sharp enough to know that this is on the record, that this guy‘s been apprehended.  They didn‘t know what he was up to, but he was up to something troublesome. 

They did have something of a fix on these guys.

GORTON:  That was a failure of imagination.  They hadn‘t happened before, and nobody in either administration imagined that it would happen in the future.

Now, we‘ve got 20/20 hindsight, all of us.  And that‘s easy.  It‘s more difficult to put yourself back into their position. 

This guy, Bob Kerrey, is almost the only person around who asked for that declaration of war beforehand.  So he has every bit of right to say what he said now, because he wasn‘t saying anything different then.  But he was certainly lonely.  There wasn‘t anyone else in that crowd. 

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t you need leaders who think outside the box?

GORTON:  Of course.  It‘s a great idea.  Not only leaders, but you need people down who were advising them to do that.  And we just didn‘t have that. 

KERREY:  I think that‘s outside the box.  If you declare war on me, it‘s not outside of the box for me to declare war right back. 

MATTHEWS:  Be harsh in these judgments, please, Senator.  Be harsh.  Bob Kerrey, former senator from Nebraska, and now head of the New School in New York City.  Slade Gorton, former senator from Washington state. 

Up next, the White House is still fighting the fallout over former Bush administration adviser Richard Clarke‘s accusations that warnings about 9/11 were ignored.  General Wayne Downing and Roger Cressey will be here.

And later, the Battle for the White House with Senator Trent Lott and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

If there‘s one book the White House would like to burn this week, it‘s the new volume by Richard Clarke, “Against All Enemies.”  Clarke writes that the White House dropped the ball before 9/11 and carried it in the wrong direction afterwards. 

But that‘s not all.  We asked HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster to read the book and pull out some other hot passages. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Richard Clarke‘s book is filled with explosive allegations and complaints, including some aimed at the president‘s re-election campaign. 

Quote, “President Bush is telling fund-raisers illogically that he deserves money for his re-election because he is fighting the terrorists in Iraq so that we don‘t have to fight them in the streets of America.  He never points out that our being in Iraq does nothing to prevent terrorists from coming to America.”

Clarke goes out of his way to praise President Clinton, while offering comparisons with President Bush.  Quote, “Bush was informed by talking with a small set of senior advisers.  Early on we were told that the president is not a big reader and goes to bed by 10 p.m. Clinton by contrast would be plowing through an inbox filled with staff memos, while watching cable television news well after midnight.”

Page 162, quote, “Clinton‘s reading habits had always amazed me.”

Page 186, quote, “Ironically, Clinton was blamed for a ‘Wag the Dog‘ strategy in 1998 dealing with the real threat of al Qaeda, but no one labeled Bush‘s 2003 war on Iraq as a ‘Wag the Dog‘ move, even though the ‘crisis‘ was manufactured.”

On the 2002 midterm congressional elections, Clarke said the White House strategy for Republicans was clear.  Quote, “Run on the war was the direction in 2002.  Then Rove meant the war on terror, but they also had in mind another way that they would gin up.”

Page 264, quote, “Former Treasury Secretary Paul O‘Neill has written that the administration planned early on to eliminate Saddam Hussein.  From everything I saw and heard, he is right.”

Clarke also takes a shot at national security director Condoleezza Rice, who created a firestorm after 9/11 when she said...

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  I don‘t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon, that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile. 

SHUSTER:  Page 229, quote, “As I briefed Rice on al Qaeda, her facial expression gave me the impression that she had never heard the term before.”

In response to Clarke, the White House has launched a ferocious attack.  A half-dozen officials have accused Clarke of partisanship, greed and self-promotion. 

And the vice president on Monday blasted Clarke‘s credibility. 

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  He wasn‘t in the loop, frankly, on a lot of the stuff.

SHUSTER:  But a White House press release seems to contradict that.  Quote, “The government‘s interagency Counterterrorism Crisis Management Forum, chaired by Dick Clarke met regularly, often daily, during the high threat period.”

(on camera) Late today the administration tried another approach, releasing Clarke‘s resignation letter in which he praises President Bush. 

The White House is scrambling to paint Clarke as an untrustworthy opportunist.  It‘s a White House strategy that even Clarke depicted, describing it in his book as revenge. 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Retired General Wayne Downing succeeded Richard Clarke in the Bush administration as deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism.  He‘s now an NBC News military analyst. 

And Roger Cressey served as Richard Clarke‘s deputy in the White House from November ‘99 to November 2001.  He also works for NBC News. 

Roger, describe for me any differences you have with the description I‘m going to give you right now.  Here‘s an excerpt from Richard Clarke‘s book: “Later on the evening of the 12th”—that‘s September 12, 2001, the day after the attack—“I left the Video Conferencing Center and there wandering alone around the Situation Room was the president.  He looked like he wanted something to do.  He grabbed a few of us and closed the door to the conference room.  ‘Look,‘ he told us.  ‘I know you have a lot to do and all, but I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything.  See is Saddam did this.  See if he‘s linked in any way.‘  I was once again taken aback, incredulous, and it showed.  ‘But, Mr.

President, al Qaeda did this.‘  ‘I know.  I know”—this is the president

·         “‘But see if Saddam was involved.  Just look.  I want to know any shred.  Look into Iraq. Saddam,‘ the president said testily and left us.”

There‘s a couple points there.  Why did the president close the conference room door to the two or three of you, and you were one of them, with Mr. Clarke?

ROGER CRESSEY, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBER:  Well, he wanted to speak us to quietly and in confidence. 

MATTHEWS:  Who would have heard if you didn‘t close the door?

CRESSEY:  Other members of the situation room staff who were present. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think he had talked to before that led the president to want to come in and get the counsel of middle level people like yourself, rather than getting the counsel of his cabinet?

CRESSEY:  He came from a video conference, so we assumed it was an interagency video briefing, probably with the intelligence community and probably the Pentagon and maybe even the State Department. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it unusual for the president to go down into the bowels of the bureaucracy to the expertise level and to avoid asking—why didn‘t he just ask Cheney or ask Rumsfeld or Colin Powell what was going on in terms of the intel?  Or Tenet?  Why would he go to you fellows?

CRESSEY:  Well, we were the president‘s staff.  So it‘s not unusual that he would ask us directly.  You‘re the guys working on the situation on a daily basis.  You‘re the one who have spent the last couple years going through the intelligence on al Qaeda.  Take a look at all of the options and make sure that we leave no rock unturned. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it seems odd because of this.  He had gotten obviously the statement from somebody apparently at a high level that there was no connection to Iraq.  He was coming to you guys for one last crack.  He said, “OK.  Go through the books”—just like a cop.  Do it again.  Check it again, check it again.  See if there‘s any lynchpin connecting these two.” 

Did that suggest to you that the other people above you in the pay grade, the cabinet, for example, had said there is no known connection?

CRESSEY:  Well, there‘s two things: one, it was the day after 9/11. 

And we were still coming to grips with what happened. 

Two, there were some people who believed that an al Qaeda attack of this magnitude was inconceivable, that al Qaeda could do it without state sponsorship. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.

CRESSEY:  So there were some people who obviously believed that there was a state element to this, and they, of course, believed it was Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe Richard Clarke is a man of sound mind and body?

CRESSEY:  Without a doubt.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he‘s an honest man?

CRESSEY:  Yes, I do.

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe the book is an honest statement of what happened?

CRESSEY:  I believe it is an honest statement. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe there is any way you would have changed it in significant fashion?

CRESSEY:  Chris, I only can speak to the events I saw and what I witnessed.  So the facts are the facts.  Now, his interpretation of it, you know, that‘s Dick‘s view on it. 

But was there a meeting on September 12?  Yes.  Did the president ask twice about Iraq?  Yes, he did.  Did he also ask us to look at other options?  Yes, he did as well. 

MATTHEWS:  The White House is putting every one of their flacks to spend—to tell everybody in the country this guy is not be trusted because he‘s a disappointed office seeker; he didn‘t get the promotion he wanted.  He‘s really a partisan on the side of Kerry.  He‘s got friends in the Kerry camp.  Don‘t believe a word he says.  What do you make of that?

CRESSEY:  He‘s been in government 30 years.  He served three presidents: two Republican, one Democrat at the White House.  He served in the Bush administration for three years in two senior positions.  So they need to be a bit careful about discrediting him. 

MATTHEWS:  General Downing, you succeeded Mr. Clarke in that position.  Can you offer any wisdom as to—or insight as to why there‘s a major conflict between what he‘s writing in the book and what the White House is saying in reaction?

GEN. WAYNE DOWNING, U.S. ARMY (RET.):  Chris, I came in about two weeks after 9/11 and assumed the duties the first week in October.  I certainly did not see any great emphasis on Iraq, certainly—other than the fact we were concerned that they might have transmitted some kind of information about WMD to al Qaeda.  I never saw a link between...

MATTHEWS:  Well, how do you explain if there‘s no link established between Iraq and 9/11, why did the president, six days after 9/11, issue an order to draft war plans for Iraq?  Who got him to do that?

DOWNING:  I don‘t know that he did that.  I mean, that‘s unknown to me. 

Now, as far as the original question, I mean, you know, what prompted Dick Clarke to do this?  You know, I‘ve known Dick very well for 17 years.  He‘s a great public servant. 

MATTHEWS:  Sound mind and body.

DOWNING:  He‘s done some great things.  I can tell you...

MATTHEWS:  Is he partisan?

DOWNING:  Sure, he‘s very partisan.  He‘s very partisan about what he thinks is important.  He‘s dedicated.  He‘s got great zeal and he drives forward. 

But he‘s also very emotionally involved in this issue, Chris.  He lost good friends.  This was something he felt very clearly about. 

He‘s also ego is involved in this thing.  His position in the new Bush administration was not what it was in the Carter administration. 

MATTHEWS:  Is he a truth teller?

DOWNING:  Sure, he tells the truth, but he tells the truth, Chris, as he knows it through the filters that all of us have with our perceptions. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, General Wayne Downing and Roger Cressey. 

Up next, Senator Trent Lott and the New Mexico governor himself, Bill Richardson, on how the 9/11 hearings will affect the battles for the White House. 

And later, I‘ll talk with two former POWs who were captured in Iraq alongside Jessica Lynch one year ago today.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half-hour, from intelligence failures to the war in Iraq, how has 9/11 shaped George Bush and John Kerry and how will it affect voters this November?  We will talk the politics of 9/11 with Senator Trent Lott and Governor Bill Richardson in just a moment.

But, first, the latest headlines right now. 

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Top officials from the Clinton and Bush administrations testified at the 9/11 hearings today about their counterterror efforts.  But what did they know and when did they know it? 

We ask Senator Trent Lott, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. 

I want to go out West to Bill Richardson to Santa Fe. 

Governor, what goal is it—what do you think the American people, especially out in the country out there, well beyond Washington, do they think we are going to get down here with these 9/11 hearings? 

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO:  My sense, Chris, is that the public is mainly preoccupied with jobs, with energy, with health care.  Yes, this is an important series of hearings.

But I can tell you when I go out on the street all around New Mexico, people care about these very strong domestic issues.  This doesn‘t mean that these issues that are coming out today don‘t have traction.  But with all due respect, I know that‘s every second of the day in Washington, where you are right now, some of these hearings, but out here, people want to know about jobs and economic development and health care and the price of prescription drugs. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

Well, let me go to Senator Trent Lott on the Intelligence Committee. 

Senator, if we get hit again between now and Election Day—let‘s be bluntly political—and it is big and it is bad, the American people, it seems to me—let me ask you this as a question—do you think they will be looking for why it happened again and they will be looking for evidence we did not learn from the first time? 

SEN. TRENT LOTT ®, MISSISSIPPI:  It is hard to tell how they will react to a situation like that. 

They could say, well, we didn‘t do enough and we are going to blame somebody.  But, remember, Americans when hit tend to rally together and rally around the leadership of the country.  So it will depend on the circumstances. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, what about the old argument, fool me once, it‘s your fault, fool me twice, it‘s my fault?

LOTT:  In Washington, we are always trying to fix blame. 

Out in the real world—the governor is right to an extent.  People are trying to get by.  They‘re trying to live.  They are not paying that much attention to what goes on here.  They understand that we have not locked this place up, where there‘s no terrorist threat against airplanes, trains, cars, you name it. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

LOTT:  But they realize that we still have got a tremendous job ahead of us.  If it is a devastating-type blow, one that, it looks like it could have been avoided, that will be a problem. 

But I do believe that everybody, from the local level up, the private sector, are trying to do a better job.  We are taking this seriously.  What do we have to see here?  We have seen the towers come down, the bomb of the trains there in Madrid.  This is a serious problem.  This is a worldwide problem. 

(CROSSTALK)

LOTT:  And, you know, I was in Europe last week.  And even though the Europeans don‘t agree with us on Iraq, they understand that terrorism is something that threatens us all at home, including them. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Governor, suppose we do get hit again.  Do you think there will be charges from the Democrats or anybody, critics generally, that we spent the last two or three years fighting in Iraq when we should have been fighting al Qaeda, the people that will probably come to get us again? 

RICHARDSON:  Well, Chris, unfortunately, it‘s an election year. 

And I think this is a very important time when—I know this is not going to happen, when both parties lay off some of this partisanship, especially when I‘m really concerned after that attack in Spain that al Qaeda and terrorism, they are rallying back.  And it worries me.  I do think that the administration spent too much time on Iraq.  But that‘s another issue. 

I worry, Chris, at the state level, do I have enough first-responder assistance for police, for fire in case of an emergency?  What happens to the Los Alamos...

MATTHEWS:  Do you? 

RICHARDSON:  Well, no.  The answer is no.  We are getting it and the administration is getting better at providing it. 

But what happens if New York isn‘t targeted and they say, well, let‘s go after the Los Alamos National laboratories, where we deal with nuclear issues, or Sandia Labs?  So I—I just want the reality of the situation to extend to those of us in the homeland that are really concerned about potential attacks on our people here. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, if you were president of the United States, Governor, and you had $100 billion to spend, would you spend 87 of that on Iraq or would you spend 87 of that on firefighters here at home and 13 on Iraq?  How would you proportion the money? 

RICHARDSON:  Well, I would have balanced it. 

I do think that we have a responsibility in Iraq for reconstruction.  I would have done more coalition building, more United Nations, more international assistance, more Muslim countries, more peacekeeping so that we are not doing all of the police work. 

But there is a responsibility that we have to help Iraq, but not the extent we are doing now.  I would have, you know, proceeded with an economic plan that wouldn‘t have had all of these tax cuts, although I passed some tax cuts here.  I would have been more equitable in terms of spending on domestic problems than I would have on just the straight reconstruction assistance for Iraq. 

(CROSSTALK)

LOTT:  Yes, he went out there to New Mexico and cut taxes, Chris.  It made him one of the more popular governors in the country. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s nurture, not nature, I guess.  That‘s what that proves. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this about Richard Clarke‘s news-making event of the week.  And it is the event of the week.

Richard Clarke, who was the president‘s counterterrorism guy, I know he inherited him from the other people, his father and Clinton and everybody else.  But he said that he sat with the president, and the president—in the situation room the day after 9/11 -- and seemed to be uninterested in al Qaeda.  He was totally focused on going to war with Iraq, and he wanted any evidence these guys could dig up to justify a war with Iraq.  Doesn‘t that make worry that the president‘s eye was off the ball? 

LOTT:  No. 

I know for sure the president was paying attention to al Qaeda and the dangerous components of that organization before he was even sworn in.  They were looking at the situation with al Qaeda.  They were looking at going from diplomatic to military options.  They had those options on the table.  But, look, I don‘t know Clarke.  And I have not read the book and I will never read the book.  I really wonder about the timing of it all. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why wouldn‘t you read it?  You‘re on the Intelligence Committee.  There‘s a chance to get an insight into what happened in the room. 

LOTT:  Well, I talked to other people.  And, by the way, I was in some of those rooms.  I have got my own idea of what was going on. 

MATTHEWS:  But doesn‘t it help your oversight of the executive to know what they are doing? 

LOTT:  When a guy like this starts talking about how the president dragged him into the room and he seemed to be saying...

MATTHEWS:  Well...

(CROSSTALK)

LOTT:  Is he reading his mind now? 

But here‘s the other thing about it, too.  I think that the president would have been actually irresponsible if he hadn‘t—remember, this is the day after 9/11.  We don‘t know for sure what happened.  The experts were saying, oh, it is al Qaeda.  It‘s not Iraq.  It‘s not somebody else. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

LOTT:  But I think you have, certainly, a legitimate responsibility or right to say, is Iraq involved?  Is Saddam Hussein involved or not? 

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

LOTT:  And, by the way, he even says in his own interviews that I

heard that when they did have a meeting I think two days later

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But here‘s the problem, Senator.  He—two years later, he still did not have any evidence there was an Iraqi involvement in 9/11.  The president himself said so. 

And I think—I think Richard Clarke makes a good point here.  Well, I‘ll ask you if it‘s a good point.  He said it would be like going after Mexico after Pearl Harbor.  The Japanese attacked us.  Go get the Japanese.  When the president spoke on September 14, the most famous scene of his presidency as long as he lives will be standing there with that firefighter.

LOTT:  Right.  Sure.  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  He said, we are going to get the people who knocked down these buildings.  Well, he didn‘t.  He went after Iraq, an old grudge he had, according to this book. 

LOTT:  He did go after Afghanistan.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but he went—right.  And he didn‘t get them.  He didn‘t spend the time there.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  To double-back to go to Iraq. 

LOTT:  When they sat down two days...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

LOTT:  This would be three days after 9/11, the map on the table was Afghanistan. 

MATTHEWS:  Right, but then he doubled back before finishing the job. 

LOTT:  Well, this job is not going to be completed this week, next month, probably not even this year.  It is worldwide.  And we are working on it, I guarantee you, a lot of different ways, including with the Russians. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the hesitation on your part, Governor?  And you may well be on the ticket with John Kerry.  Who knows.  But what is the hesitation on the Democratic side to make an issue of this? 

In private company, the Democrats all seem to question the war with Iraq.  You hear it all the time.  It is in the mood.  It is in the water.  And yet when it comes time to debate the president, everybody‘s hesitant to take on the commander in chief, saying, Mr. President, with all due respect, you‘re “Wrong Way” Corrigan. 

The target here was bin Laden.  He‘s still out there plotting attacks against us and you wasted two to three years chasing after an old enemy of years, instead of the enemy of the people in this case, bin Laden. 

RICHARDSON:  Well, I do think obviously this is going to be a major presidential issue.  National security is going to be big. 

I knew Clarke.  I worked with him when I was at the United Nations.  He dealt with multilateral issues.  The guy does have credibility.  He once told me, by the way, he was a Republican.  He worked for all kinds of presidents.  He was a bulldog.  He knew the bureaucracy well.  Now, I can‘t validate what he is saying because I left—at ‘98, I left the U.N. to go to Energy. 

But I do think on the charge that the president was not doing everything he could on al Qaeda, I think that‘s a little flimsy, because my sense is, the president was.  What does worry me, Chris, is the intensive preoccupation that the administration may have had with Iraq. 

Now it‘s Secretary O‘Neill.  Now it‘s Richard Clarke.  And I just think it is important that the administration clarify that.  But, look, this is a presidential year.  It‘s going to be an election issue.  It is out there.  There‘s going to be an interest increasing.  I just hope that, for the sake of our national security in preparing for something that might happen to us with an attack, that we kind of tone it down a little bit.  But that‘s not going to happen. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you a political question.  You‘re a Roman catholic.  John Kerry is a Roman Catholic.  Do you think that disqualifies you not legally but politically from being on the ticket with him?  Do you think the Democrats would never run two guys of the same religion? 

RICHARDSON:  Well, I—by the way, I have already said that I‘m enormously happy as governor of New Mexico.  And so I‘m happy where I am.  But I don‘t know about the religion issue, Chris.  I think that with Lieberman having run, a Jewish-American...

MATTHEWS:  No, but I‘m talking about two, not one.  I‘m talking about two guys of the same religion on the ticket. 

RICHARDSON:  I don‘t think that‘s an issue.

MATTHEWS:  Really?

RICHARDSON:  But that‘s up to the voters.  That is not going to happen anyway, because I‘m staying where I am. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You promise to run for another term?

(LAUGHTER)

RICHARDSON:  I am going to run for another term. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re an immensely popular guy.  I think will you do well. 

LOTT:  And, Chris, Clinton and Gore already blew those theories away.  They were from neighboring states.  They weren‘t both Baptists, but they were both Protestants.  So religion is...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... a lot of double Protestants on tickets.  That‘s nothing new.  I‘m talking about two R.C.s.

Anyway, thank you.  I love to check on this stuff.  Anyway, I love to cause trouble, as you all know.  I‘m sorry if I offended your plans, but I know your plan are two terms, Governor.  Thank you for joining us, Governor Bill Richardson, one of the most popular guys in New Mexico. 

Anyway, Senator Trent Lott, thanks for joining us.

Up next, it was one year ago today in Iraq when Jessica Lynch and seven of her fellow soldiers were ambushed and held prisoner for almost two weeks.  When we come back, we‘re going to talk to two of those heroes of the Nasiriyah battle.

You‘re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, one year ago today, eight U.S. soldiers were ambushed and held prisoner for almost two weeks in Iraq.  You‘ll meet two of those heroes of the Nasiriyah battle when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Today is the first anniversary of the capture of eight U.S. soldiers, including Jessica Lynch.  They were members of the 507th Maintenance Company who were ambushed in Nasiriyah. 

Earlier, I spoke with two of those POWs, former specialist Shoshana Johnson and specialist Patrick Miller, who were in prison alongside Jessica Lynch.  Ms. Johnson endured 22 days of captivity after being shot in both ankles.  And Specialist Miller was taken captive after he single-handedly shot and killed eight Iraqi soldiers. 

I began by asking Shoshana was she was thinking about when she got off the plane after her rescue. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHOSHANA JOHNSON, FORMER POW IN IRAQ:  I just wanted to see my family most of all.  And, actually, I had wanted to walk off the plane, but the doctors were against that a little bit. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, your mother did say something when you were captured and everybody in the country heard it.  It grabbed me as a parent.  And she said, I hope they treat her like a lady. 

Did they? 

JOHNSON:  Yes.  I was very lucky.  I was treated with respect.  I can‘t begin to tell you, but I‘m incredibly grateful, incredibly grateful. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about—did you ever think you were in such bad shape, you were not going to be able to come home at all? 

JOHNSON:  Definitely.  Within those first couple of hours, I had quite a bit of bleeding.  They had problems stopping the bleeding.  Their medical skills are not up to ours.  I was very worried that I would either die of an infection or bleed to death.  But all I can say is I thank God and lots of prayers worked. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go to Patrick for a second, specialist.

Let me ask you, Patrick, about your incredible heroism there.  You shot and killed eight Iraqis.  Can you describe that firefight at all? 

PATRICK MILLER, FORMER POW IN IRAQ:  Not really.  The only thing that I really remember about it is just from what people tell me and stuff and then bits and pieces will come back.  But other than that, it was just such an adrenaline rush at the time. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Were you known as a superior marksman going into that incident? 

MILLER:  Not at all, no. 

MATTHEWS:  You weren‘t?  Well, you are. 

MILLER:  No.

MATTHEWS:  Are you still as good as you were that day?  Have you tried shooting since then?  It‘s amazing, eight guys you killed in one incident.  And they were all shooting at you, weren‘t they? 

MILLER:  Yes, they were.  But it is just one of those type of things that you don‘t know how you‘re going to do or what you‘re going to react like until you‘re actually put in the situation like that. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about, what were they after when they captured you and they took your prisoner?  What were they trying to get out of you in terms of intel? 

MILLER:  They just wanted to know like where we were going and how many soldiers we had in our unit and how many soldiers were going to be in the country and that kind of stuff and where specific units were located. 

MATTHEWS:  Were they all speaking English to you, these interrogators? 

MILLER:  They were, but it was hard to understand because they don‘t speak the best English. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think the role you played out there in terms of getting everybody home, how would you describe your role as a leader? 

MILLER:  To me, it was just a soldier doing what he‘s trained to do in that type of situation.  I don‘t look at it as being a hero or anything like that.  It is just me trying to get myself and as many other people as I can out and back home to their loved ones, because I know I want to go home to my loved ones. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Patrick Miller and Shoshana Johnson. 

Coming up, Arlene Walters, a proud mother of a fallen soldier, a true hero who saved his fellow soldiers in Nasiriyah. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  The 507th Maintenance Company that was ambushed in Nasiriyah—he was killed trying to defend his convoy during the shoot-out that injured Patrick Miller, Shoshana Johnson and Jessica Lynch.

Earlier, I spoke with his mother, Arlene Walters, who since his death has fought to get him awarded the Silver Star.  I‘m happy to report tonight that Sergeant Walters finally has been awarded the Silver Star. 

I began by asking her what she knew about her son‘s tragic death. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARLENE WALTERS, SON KILLED IN IRAQ:  Donald was the first one that was killed.  His vehicle was the first vehicle that was disabled.  It was disabled by firepower. 

Sloan was his driver.  Patrick and—Patrick Miller came along and picked up Sloan.  But Donald remained there by his vehicle.  And he—and they say remained there engaging the enemy.  And there was intercept, Iraqi radio reports.  Also, they interviewed Iraqi POWs and Iraqi citizens who talked about this brave American soldier who fought and emptied his weapons and fought very bravely against them and that this soldier was shot in the leg and stabbed in the abdomen. 

Now, if you recall, when they found Jessica, they said that she was shot and stabbed.  And then they found out, no, that her injuries were all from the accident.  And the autopsies report says that Donald, he was shot once in the right leg, twice in the back, stabbed twice in the abdomen and had a dislocated left shoulder. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think the Army reports credited those wounds to Jessica instead of to your son Donald? 

WALTERS:  I really don‘t know.

Well, first of all, in the reports, they got a mixup in the translation and they referred to the soldier as female.  They said she.  And that‘s what mixed it all up.  Then they found out, no, that it was a mixup in translation and it was a male soldier. 

MATTHEWS:  I got you.

WALTERS:  And all the facts, all the facts point to him.  And...

MATTHEWS:  How do—how do—Ms. Walters, how do you find out, through gathering hard evidence, whether your son stayed behind to cover the retreat of the others by car, while he stood there and stood his ground and fought to the end?  How can you determine if he did that or he simply was left behind by oversight and someone failed to pick up him as they should have tried to do to get him out of there as well? 

WALTERS:  That‘s what we do not know.  We don‘t know if he was left behind or if he chose to stay there and fight.  That‘s something that we‘ll never know. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the Army could interrogate—could interview the driver to see whether he in fact had the chance but didn‘t take to recover, to bring back your son or whether your son waved him off and said, no, I‘m going to fight these guys; you go for it? 

WALTERS:  I don‘t really know, because they said when his truck became disabled, they said get in another truck, which Sloan did.  But Don didn‘t and nobody really knows why he didn‘t. 

But I did receive a letter, finally.  I have been pushing this.  It said that Donald stayed there, he fought, and that he was probably responsible for saving some of his fellow soldiers‘ lives and also help them get through. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

Did he get—what recognition did he get own and what do you think he should have gotten for his conduct under fire?

WALTERS:  He got a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, but I believe he should have a Silver Star. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the distinction in terms of meritorious service, gallant service? 

WALTERS:  I‘m not sure.  It‘s just a higher award.  I have read it, but right now I don‘t remember.  But I think it says—I‘m not sure.  I may be getting this mixed up with the Congressional Medal of Honor, but one of them states that they give up their lives for their fellow soldiers. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

Let me ask you about being a gold-star mother, which you are, and let me ask you this.  How do you think—can you think objectively about the war or is it simply your memory of your beloved son?  Can you look at this war and see whether it was worth it objectively or not? 

WALTERS:  I have to say it was worth it, because Don was in the Gulf wore.  And Don told me on the phone that we had to go get Saddam.  And Don was very upset about 9/11.  See, he had gotten out of the service and then was in the reserves. 

MATTHEWS:  I see.

WALTERS:  And because of 9/11, he went back into the service full-time.  And he said we have to get Saddam and we have to stop these terrorists. 

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

MATTHEWS:  Congratulations again to Arlene Walters, whose son has finally you been awarded the Silver Star. 

Today, I had an opportunity to spend some time with a number of the wounded soldiers who are healing from their injuries at Walter Reed Hospital.  Join me Friday night at 7:00 Eastern for a special report on those men and women and how the war has changed those lives. 

But, before we go, a correction from David Shuster‘s piece on how to make a political ad.  One of the strategists seen on that ad said on camera that Senator Frisk has been an executive at Columbia/HCA.  Senator First never held any position at that company. 

Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Our guests include comedian George Carlin. 

Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.

END   

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