updated 4/23/2004 12:12:36 PM ET 2004-04-23T16:12:36

Guests: Dan Senor, Ken Adelman, Laura Ingraham, Mark Gree, Edward Klein

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight, battleground Missouri.  One of America‘s electoral bellwethers.  It‘s voted for every presidential winner but one since 1900.  Can President Bush hold on to the Show Me State?  The HARDBALL battleground tour plants its flag in Kansas City, Missouri.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

Tonight I‘m in Kansas City, Missouri, and we‘ll preview the battle here between President Bush and John Kerry in a moment. 

But first, the top Marine commander in Iraq says U.S. forces would take the town of Fallujah within days if insurgents don‘t turn in their weapons immediately. 

NBC‘s Richard Engle is in Baghdad. 

Richard, are we winning over there or are we getting bogged down? 

What‘s the story in Iraq?

RICHARD ENGLE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  I think it‘s a difficult question to answer, Chris.  We‘re certainly winning militarily in Fallujah, for example. 

There have been this truce or a ceasefire that hasn‘t looked very much like a ceasefire at all.  There have been some pretty serious gun battles in the city. 

But the Marines have essentially tied their own hands there.  They said they will not conduct major offensive operations like they did several weeks ago, because they‘re trying to let this ceasefire play itself out. 

They‘ve asked for people to—the insurgents in the city to turn in their heavy weapons.  Today they received a few of those weapons, about a truckload.  But they said it—the Marines said it was just junk.  These weren‘t the real weapons that the militants were fighting with. 

And the Marine commander said, unless the militants made good on the terms of the truce, there‘s going to be another all-out assault in the city. 

On the other front, to answer the other hot part of your question, there‘s serious problems with the hearts and minds campaign, which was evidenced today in Basra.  There were some angry demonstrations there after dozens of people were killed yesterday in coordinated suicide attacks.  And the people of Basra today were blaming the British and the coalition in general for not doing enough to provide them security. 

Also today here in Baghdad, some contractors and major international firms, including USAID, decided they were scaling back their presence in Iraq, basically because it‘s too dangerous here.  They feel insecure.  A lot of Iraqis do, as well, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this new tactic of the enemy.  They seem to be attacking neutrals or non-American forces in order to get them angry at us. 

ENGLE:  It does seem to be having some success, as well.  There‘s been a lot of dents in the coalition that seems to be breaking down almost by the day over here. 

Honduras was the latest country to announce that it was—that it was going to leave.  Other countries have said that they are considering pulling out if their troops get attacked. 

There‘s been this kidnapping crisis with a lot of foreign nationals feeling very much threatened.  Businessmen, journalists, a lot of people here feeling that they could be next. 

Russian—The Russians have already started pulling most of their people out of the country, as France has also warned its civilians not to come to Iraq.  Germany, the same thing, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s it like for correspondents in terms of day-to-day security?

ENGLE:  It‘s—It‘s pretty terrible.  It‘s very difficult to go out and report.  In the past, I would be able to, as just one example, go around the city, meet people, find stories by coincidence. 

Now it‘s—you have to think before you move.  You want to plan every step of the way, like it‘s some sort of military operation.  I have a grab bag, a little backpack with some clothes, water, extra food that I keep by the door now. 

So it‘s a tense situation, unfortunately, for a lot of people here, including us. 

MATTHEWS:  Richard, can you gauge the morale factor with regard to these other countries pulling out?  I mean, it‘s usually—Mainly, a United States and a small percentage of British forces and a lot of other, much smaller forces. 

The departure, the abrupt departure of the Spanish.  The abrupt departure of the Hondurans.  What effect is that having on our troops?

ENGLE:  I think a lot of people, the troops felt that if there‘s tough work to be done, it‘s the U.S. troops that are basically going to have to do it.  And I think they had already felt that before, when there was—

This month, has seen an unprecedented level of violence in this country.  And every time there was major fighting to be done, U.S. troops went in to reinforce the coalition forces. 

Whether that was in—mainly in central Iraq and places like Kut and around Najaf.  So I think the U.S. forces already felt they were carrying the lion‘s share of the burden. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me get a sense of the battle over there.  We‘re facing a real challenge to go into Fallujah and clean up that town that wreaked such horrible pain on American, to see four Americans‘ bodies burned and then hung.  Two of them hung by that bridge over the Euphrates. 

And then of course down in the south where we thought we were secure down there in this stable part of the Shiah-led part of the country.  Is there any part of the country that‘s getting softer?  Getting more stable?  More peaceful?

ENGLE:  There—The northern areas, the Kurdish areas have been consistently calm.  They‘ve had a few attacks in Nabil, Kirkuk, these two cities.  Kirkuk‘s a mixed city with a lot of oil.

But in general, most of the northern areas, places, have been very calm.  And they‘re operating very much independently from the rest of the country, which is another potentially destabilizing factor for the unity of Iraq as the Kurds go about their own business and develop their own economy. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, NBC‘s Richard Engle, who‘s in Baghdad. 

Dan Senor is the senior adviser to Paul Bremer, the head of the coalition provisional authority in Iraq. 

Dan, thanks for talking to us today.  Generally speaking, are we moving ahead in Iraq?  Are we bogged down right now?

DAN SENOR, SENIOR ADVISER, COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY:  Well, Chris, we have a couple of isolated pockets where there have been some problems.  Fallujah, primarily. 

And some areas in the southern part of the country where Moqtada al-Sadr and his illegal militia have taken over government buildings and engaged in violence against the local population there. 

And obviously, yesterday the tragic bombings in Basra. 

Those are problems we expect to see similar problem between now and June 30.  As we get closer and closer to hand over sovereignty and various individuals, organizations, terrorists try to throw things off track. 

But by and large, save for those areas, most of the country‘s returning to normalcy.  It‘s hard to know that from the news coverage.  But the fact is, the unemployment is down.  People are returning to work.  People are trying to just rebuild the communities, get the infrastructure up and running. 

I mean, life is really returning to normal in much of the country.  We have to worry about these isolated areas, though.  We can‘t turn our head and hope these problems will go away.  We do have to confront them. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about an interesting news development in the papers back here.  That‘s the possibility that we‘re going to let some Ba‘athist people, perhaps bureaucrats from the old government, be part of the new government. 

What is the U.S. policy right now about bringing Saddam Hussein‘s technocrats, perhaps, maybe not party people but technocrats, into the new government?

SENOR:  You know, Chris, I think there‘s some confusion.  We—The de-Ba‘athification policy that Ambassador Bremer signed last May and then handed it over to the governing council and then they—they tinkered with it and developed their own policy in the fall is—continues to be the policy.  It‘s not changing.  The policy is not changing at all.

But built into the policy, there are mechanisms for appeals.  There are mechanisms to allow for special exceptions.  People who were Ba‘ath Party members in name only but actually didn‘t participate in the horrors of Saddam‘s regime directly, those people shouldn‘t be shut out of the system.  There are plenty of innocent, qualified capable people who shouldn‘t be excluded, who could play a role in reconstructing the country. 

The policy was initially set up to protect against those people being disqualified.  But because the appeals process, the implementation of the appeals process is such that it‘s taking a lot longer for those people to get through their appeal than was originally planned, we have to refine the system. 

But it‘s just a procedural issue, ensure that the appeal process quicker.  The policy remains intact.  If you were a senior member of the Ba‘ath Party, and if you were part of Saddam‘s atrocities, you‘ve got no place in the new Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  How do you—I was reading in the context of a way to kind of pacify the Sunnis, who were so much a part and benefited so much from the last government—How do you give them a piece of the action?  Is that part of the thinking here?

SENOR:  Look, the senior leadership of Saddam‘s regime, whether they‘re Sunni or whomever, should have—they were predominantly Sunni—should not have a role in the new country. 

When Ambassador Bremer came here, the first thing did he was sign a de-Ba‘athification policy into law here.  It is by far the single most powerful thing he‘s done. 

And when he travels around the country, we hear complaints from Iraqis about a lot of things.  But the one thing consistently that we hear praise for is the de-Ba‘athification policy. 

For most Iraqis, the Ba‘athist Party was like the Nazi Party.  It represented, it symbolized the mass graves, the torture chambers, the rape rooms, the chemical attacks.  That‘s what it was for most of them.  They want that shut down, and they want the senior leadership shut out. 

It represented a miniscule percentage, however, of the total—remember, there‘s about 1.5 to two million Ba‘ath Party members.  This represented—the percentage that we were targeting was something like 1.5 to two percent of the total number.  So it‘s a small number. 

But I think you‘re right.  There‘s a perception out there that some are going after all Ba‘athists.  And that may have been fueled by the fact that those Ba‘athists that shouldn‘t have been excluded were having a hard time getting through process, were having a hard time getting their special exceptions.  And that‘s something we‘ve got to refine. 

MATTHEWS:  Last question.  How about the coalition itself?  Is it holding?  You‘ve got the Spanish apparently abruptly leaving.  That didn‘t make our country too happy. 

SENOR:  Look, we‘re disappointed any time a coalition member withdraws.  We recognize that every coalition country has to decide for themselves, you know, how they want to fight war on terror, how they want to help secure Iraqi freedom. 

But I think it‘s important to keep some perspective.  We‘ve got some 30 nations with troops on the ground.  We‘ve got close to 20 countries with civilians on the ground.  I go to work every day with Brits and Australians and Poles and Slovaks.  It‘s a very diverse coalition. 

Something like 15 of the NATO countries have troops on the ground.  So the total effort is still strong in terms of numbers and the international nature of it. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much for joining us in Baghdad, Dan Senor.  We‘re going to keep up with you as the weeks proceed. 

Coming up, General Wayne Downing.  Plus the man who said Iraq would be a cakewalk.  Ken Adelman joins us with his response to Bob Woodward‘s new book, “Plan of Attack.” 

And next Wednesday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld joins us as we mark the seventh anniversary of HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, General Wayne Downing, plus Ken Adelman, who said war in Iraq would be a cakewalk.  HARDBALL, back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

General Wayne Downing commanded the Special Operations task force during first Gulf War.  He‘s now an MSNBC military analyst. 

General Downing, we just got two reports from the front.  One from Richard Engle that said things aren‘t going so well over there.  All across the country they‘re not going so well, except up in Kurdish—the Kurdish areas. 

And then we heard from Dan Senor, who‘s speaking on behalf of Paul Bremer, who says it‘s just pockets of resistance.  How do you see it?

GEN. WAYNE DOWNING, U.S. ARMY (RET.):  Well, Chris, I think we‘ve got a tiger by the tail.  I do think that it is kind of restricted now to these areas we talked about: Fallujah and then a couple of the pockets down in the south. 

But the reports I get, Chris, from my contacts over in Iraq is that this thing was fairly widespread.  And I think the fact that we‘re still concerned about the supply routes, we‘re still concerned about the development efforts out in some of these outlying areas, Chris, that indicates to me that things are not going well throughout the country. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about your experience in terms of troop morale. 

The word “coalition,” of course, is a bold heroic term.  It mainly means the United States has some friends in the field but we‘re carrying the brunt of the fight along, to some lesser extent, with the British forces. 

But when you hear that the Spanish are yanking out real quickly, and you hear that the Hondurans are yanking out their 500 troops real quickly, does that give you a sense of the Alamo?

DOWNING:  Well, I mean, I think these are two nations, you know, Spanish, I think it‘s very deplorable that they‘re pulling out.  I think it‘s exactly the wrong signal that they want to send to the terrorists that did those attacks in Madrid there several weeks ago.  I mean, that‘s the wrong message, because it encourages further kinds of attacks. 

Now as far as, you talked about morale.  As far as the morale of the U.S. forces, the Marines and the soldiers over there, Chris, that doesn‘t have much really effect on them.  You know, they‘ve got their mission.  They‘ve got their job. 

And quite frankly, you know, the way it always struck me when I was a soldier, when some guys quit, you know, that just meant that the tough guys had to stand up.  So I don‘t think that‘s going to impact our people at all. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the tricky command decision here.  If we go back into Fallujah and basically kick butt and kill a lot of civilians while we‘re doing it, is that smart military action?

DOWNING:  Well, Chris, you know, I think the reason we‘ve negotiated is because we really don‘t want to do that.  I mean, if you get into a big built-up area and get into one hell of a fight, I mean, there‘s going to be a lot of casualties. 

Believe me, Lieutenant General Jim Conway, the Marine -- 1st Marine Expeditionary Force commander, very, very seasoned, professional guy, you know.  He‘s not going to do anything stupid. 

I can tell you, you know, the numbers I‘m hearing, 3,500 or so Marines, a thousand or so insurgents.  Believe me, as good as the United States Marine Corps is, they‘re outstanding.  That‘s not the kind of ratio for this kind of fighting. 

So I really think if we‘re getting into this thing, we‘re probably going to have to put a lot more forces into that. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you mean people hiding behind buildings in corners can be less numerous than those attacking?

DOWNING:  Corners and basements, Chris.  The kind of—the ratio you use for this type of warfare is the attacker has to have numbers 10-1 to 20-1 if you‘re really going to dominate it. 

Now of course, we‘ll do smart things like isolate it, use precision weapons so we can knock down the collateral damage. 

But Chris, what we‘re seeing here is kind of, you know, the worst nightmare that we talked about a year ago. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.

DOWNING:  Remember, we were very concerned about heavy fighting in the cities.  Didn‘t happen.  Now here we go, fast-forward 12 months.  We‘re right into that nightmare now.  It looks a lot more probable now, certainly, than did it a year ago. 

MATTHEWS:  Does it hurt that we‘re going into the heat of the summer in Baghdad?

DOWNING:  Well, sure.  I mean, that—that heat over there, Chris, is unlike anything I have ever experienced.  I mean, you‘re talking 130, 135 degrees down there in the height of the summer.  You know, you add to that this very heavy body armor that the soldiers have to wear.  Stress, fatigue.  And that‘s a very, very tough situation.  So...

MATTHEWS:  A very tough heroic situation. 

DOWNING:  Sure.  And it proposes challenges.  But the troops have proven, Chris, that they can do it.  They know how to do it. 

MATTHEWS:  You got that one.  Thank you very much for coming on again.

DOWNING:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  General Wayne Downing. 

Up next, Ken Adelman, the man who said that liberating Iraq could be a cake walk.  We‘ll find out how he feels about that now. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Ken Adelman is a former assistant secretary of defense.  And according to Bob Woodward‘s new book, he was Vice President Dick Cheney‘s outside adviser, who built public support for the war with Iraq. 

In February of 2002, Adelman wrote an op-ed in the “Washington Post” in which he said, quote, “I believe demolishing Hussein‘s military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk.  Such an operation would constitute the greatest victory in America‘s war on terrorism.” 

Ken Adelman, welcome.  You‘ve had a couple chances to revise your thinking on the difficulty of this campaign.  Give us an update. 

KEN ADELMAN, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE:  Yes, I wasn‘t talking about this campaign, Chris.  I was talking about the liberation, just what you said in the introduction of the show, the liberation of Iraq from Saddam Hussein. 

That, people were saying, including Brent Scowcroft and others, that “oh, my God, there could be nuclear conflagration.”

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

ADELMAN:  There could be the uprising in the streets of—across Arabia.  There could be this.  There could be the flooding of the—of the plains in Iraq.  There could be the oil fields going up. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  You quoted Michael Hanlon to that effect, as well. 

ADELMAN:  Yes, that‘s right.  And they just went crazy and said that it was going to be so hard to take Baghdad and to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein. 

I did not agree with that.  And I used it as a bench mark, the first Gulf War.  And the fact is that this—the second Gulf War was half the time, half the troops, half the casualties as for the objective than the first Gulf War.  And so that—that was pretty good. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s update the situation.  We‘ve faced over 700 Americans dead, KIA or killed in action in the field, I should say.  How do you—Are you surprised at that?  So much damage since the war was basically, we thought the fighting was over.  It seems like it only began. 

ADELMAN:  Right.  I am—I am surprised that it has gone on a year.  I am surprised by the level of resistance a year after the liberation.  And yes, I‘m disappointed in the whole thing. 

But what you have to remember is, what is the alternative?  We had all kinds of deaths going on during Saddam Hussein‘s regime: 300,000 in these mass graves.  A million three Islam Muslims killed by Saddam Hussein in his two wars and domestically. 

That wasn‘t covered by MSNBC and HARDBALL or anything like that.  That was subversive.  That was the horror that was going on that we knew about, but we couldn‘t have cameras there. 

Or do you want the alternative?  So that‘s one alternative, what was there 18 months ago.  Or the alternative of having these guys win and having terrorism win.  And see the kind of values they have.  They blow up kids in schoolbooks.  That‘s not the kind of Iraq we want.  That‘s not the kind of Iraq the Iraqis want. 

MATTHEWS:  How do you—I know you‘re an intellectual with regard to warfare, but how do you intellectualize or come up with a rational way to fight the war right now? 

We have a choice now whether they go into Fallujah.  We were talking with General Downing about that. 

ADELMAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  If you go into Fallujah, and you have to kill a lot of civilians if you‘re going to retake the streets because they‘re there.  And the bad guys are hiding behind buildings and hiding in houses where people actually live. 

How do you do that?  How do you make that choice?  Do you go in hard and lay back and hope that you‘ll win the hearts and minds by not going in hard?  What do you do?

ADELMAN:  Here‘s what you—the objective of what you do.  What you want to end up with, Iraqis, the majority of Iraqi who want to live in decency.  Isolating these terrorists, isolating these anarchists, isolating these dreadful people. 

And what you want to do is have the United States bolster those Iraqis that see a future.  And most Iraqi do see a future now.  And what you want to do is strengthen them, train them, arm them, and give them, you know.

Say, “It‘s your future, ultimately.  We are handing over sovereignty to you on July 1.  We are going to eventually be out of this place.  You are going to eventually live in this place.  You‘re going to govern this place.  And therefore, you have to make it decent in a way that has not been decent for now 30 years.” 

MATTHEWS:  I just talked to Richard Engle over there.  He‘s a hotshot young reporter.  He‘s a hotshot young reporter, and the guy‘s amazingly courageous.  He‘s talking about the dangers of going out in the streets and just doing those wonderful kind of interviews that all journalists like to do.  Just checking in with people you bump into. 

ADELMAN:  I have no doubt it is dangerous, yes.

MATTHEWS:  And he says that really, everybody is sort of restricted over there, aren‘t they?  The Green Zone, you‘re locked into your compound. 

How do our soldiers, who have guts like you can‘t believe, defend people who want to help our reconstruction effort if they‘re basically battening down the hatches themselves?

ADELMAN:  What you do is the best you can.  What you really concentrate on doing is having the Iraqis be trained as police, as heavily armed police, as constabulary forces, and even as troops, in order so that there‘s a transition from the decency of American troops and the bravery of American troops and the decency and bravery of Iraqi troops.  That‘s your overall objective. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there confidence in that direction?  Are you confident that we can sort of Iraqize that government over there effectively, put security in the hands of Iraqis?

ADELMAN:  Yes.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the big question.  Thank you.  It‘s great having you on, Ken Adelman.  According to—We‘re going to have a lot more on this when we come back.  More on the fighting over the war and the fighting here at home over that war and how polarizing it‘s gotten here.

Anyway, we‘re going to also talk about Jackie Kennedy and how we remember her in her last days in fighting cancer.  That‘s also coming up on tonight‘s HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on HARDBALL, battleground of Missouri.  The Show Me State has voted for every presidential winner but one since 1900.  Will President Bush hang on again this year?  Plus, Mark Green, Laura Ingraham and a new book about Jackie Kennedy.

But, first, the latest headlines right now.

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Here in Missouri, you can‘t turn on the TV set without being bombarded by presidential campaign commercials.  The state is clearly a crucial battleground for the election and it has been that way for decades. 

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster joins us from MSNBC headquarters

·         David. 

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC ELECTION CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, that‘s right. 

Missouri is not only a battleground state.  It is also a bellwether. 

The Show Me State has gone with the winner in 24 of the last 25 elections, the one exception being 1956.  Four years ago, George W. Bush beat Al Gore by three points.  This year, both the Bush and Kerry campaign predict that Missouri will be another nail-biter. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER (voice-over):  With an unusual balance of North and South, urban and rural, Missouri is considered a microcosm of America.  The state has 11 electoral votes and both campaigns believe they are up for grabs. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m thrilled to be back in this part of our country, the great Springfield, Missouri. 

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Let‘s go out and win this election.  Thank you, Missouri.

SHUSTER:  Missouri is a state that seems to have it all, from country entertainment in Branson to the International Bowling Hall of Fame in Saint Louis.  Politically, Missouri underscores the national trend.  Democrats have gained strength in metropolitan areas like Saint Louis and Kansas City.  Republicans have taken control in rural areas.  But rural areas count for more in Missouri and the state leans to the right on abortion and gun control. 

Still, statewide elections tend to be close.  And through the years, presidential candidates have considered Missouri irresistible. 

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If this is Show Me spirit, just show me more. 

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Missouri is a battleground, a battleground in this national presidential election. 

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I love you.  I need you, Missouri.  Be there.  Thank you. 

John Kerry considers Missouri so important, his running mate list includes Congressman Dick Gephardt of Saint Louis.  Gephardt is a darling of organized labor, a crucial constituency in the state.  But Missouri also features a heavy concentration of military contractors who have been showered with projects and work from the Bush administration. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER:  The latest Missouri poll found President Bush leading John Kerry by seven points.  But that was a poll that was conducted a month ago.  In the last couple of days, a poll of all of the battleground states show John Kerry with a slight lead.  In any case, both the Bush and Kerry campaigns say that Missouri is going to be exceptionally close.  And both campaigns say they‘re going to be fighting for that state, Chris, very hard. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, David, why did President Bush refer to this state as Missour-a and then John Kerry called it Missour-e. 

(LAUGHTER)

SHUSTER:  Oh, I don‘t know.  Maybe it‘s that elitism of—no, no, no, just kidding.  No, some people, if I guess you‘re from Missouri, it‘s Missour-a.  If you‘re outside Missouri, it‘s Missour-e.

MATTHEWS:  Actually, I think it is the big city types that say Missour-e.  And the rural people say Missour-a.  I‘m just guessing, but I think I‘m right on that one.

Let me ask you, what is the tougher issue here for the president, economics or culture?  What is his strength?  And what is going to decide it, jobs or abortion rights and things like that? 

SHUSTER:  Well, Chris, interestingly enough, according to this poll of the battleground states that just came out, economy is a much bigger issues in the battleground states, like, Missouri, like Michigan, Pennsylvania, than the rest of the country.  So the economy could be an Achilles‘ heel for the president. 

But Missouri tends, as you know, to drift a little bit more conservative on social issues, which could be John Kerry‘s problem if in fact he is portrayed as perceived as somebody who is far to the left. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster. 

Mark Green is the former New York public advocate and now New York co-chair for the John Kerry for president campaign.  And Laura Ingraham is a national syndicated radio talk show host and the author of “Shut Up and Sing.”

Let me look at—have you both look those new polls out there, fascinating.  According to these new Harris, polls, despite the fact that three-quarters of Americans do not believe there‘s clear evidence of WMDs in Iraq, more than half still believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the war began. 

Laura, explain that.

LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well, to me, that makes perfect sense. 

Everyone believed that Saddam had WMD.  Even Hillary Clinton admitted on another program a few days ago that her husband was firmly committed to that idea.  They went somewhere.  There‘s no evidence that he destroyed massive stockpiles of weapon.  Where did they go?  And I think for the people that conclude that is much more logical than for people to conclude that they simply evaporated, somehow magically evaporated.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But people now believe, right now believe, that when we went into action last year against him...

INGRAHAM:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  That day, there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. 

Now, where could they have gone? 

INGRAHAM:  I don‘t know where they went.  But I think the point that people are having to grapple with is, they went somewhere.  And did they all get magically moved to Syria, Iran or somewhere else?  It is still a big country. 

I‘m not saying they‘re there, but I don‘t think it is illogical or I don‘t think it‘s right to say the American people are loopy. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, I just want to know why if they‘re logical.  That‘s all.

INGRAHAM:  Well, I think it is more logical than to believe that they

just completely evaporated or

(CROSSTALK)  

MATTHEWS:  Mark Green, your assessment.  The numbers show that three-

quarters of the people believe that we have no evidence whatever that there

were weapons of mass destruction when we got there.  But they also believe

·         a slight, serious majority, 51 percent, believe that they were there when we went to war. 

MARK GREEN, JOHN KERRY CAMPAIGN NEW YORK STATE CO-CHAIR:  Look, I don‘t understand Laura‘s point. 

It is rational to say that Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and the majority thought they were there based on intelligence.  But now we understand the intelligence was wrong.  Hans Blix and David Kay has said he had them 10 years ago and used it, but hasn‘t had any new WMD since.  So when Laura then says that they evaporated, they weren‘t there at the start. 

(CROSSTALK)

INGRAHAM:  Actually, David Kay—you‘re misrepresenting what David Kay—David Kay said there weren‘t stockpile of weapon.  David Kay did not say there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  That‘s false. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re talking about weapons that could have endangered the United States. 

INGRAHAM:  Absolutely.  And that doesn‘t have to be a stockpile.  Ask David Kay.  He said that. 

GREEN:  This debate is over.  There were weapons of mass destruction.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Mark, I‘m going to give you a chance here. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Mark, let me ask you this question, another poll discrepancy it looks like to me.  Do you believe—this is in the new Harris poll like the other numbers.  Do you believe the United States deliberately exaggerated reports of WMD in Iraq to increase support for the war? 

Now, there‘s no actual evidence that anybody lied or cheated.  But here‘s the number; 50 percent said no, but 43 percent believe right now that people misled the American people—in the government misled the American on purpose.  Do you buy that?  Or do you explain it to me?  Can you?

GREEN:  I think it is almost inarguable that they exaggerated weapons of mass destruction to justify going to war.  Paul Wolfowitz said in something that‘s gone public that that was the argument that could sell.  And it did sell. 

The only problem was, despite what Laura says, all the best evidence now is, it wasn‘t there.  And so in the book on Bush with Eric Alterman, we lay out all the arguments.  Now Dick Clarke has verified it.  O‘Neill has verified it.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GREEN:  Bob Woodward has verified it.  I don‘t know what much more evidence you need.

MATTHEWS:  Well, do you have evidence that we were deliberately misled?  Do you have evidence of that? 

GREEN:  No.  All I know is, we were misled.  And I think it is worse than a lie.  Chris, it is really amazing.  In Washington, it‘s apparently worse to call someone a liar than to be one.  I can‘t know that George W.  Bush lied.  Only he could know that. 

What we know, probably, is it is worse than a lie.  He deceived himself.  Because he had conclusion that Saddam Hussein, we had to go after him, he then looked for the—quote—“facts” to justify his preconclusion.  And it‘s a confetti of arguments that one by one have been disproven.

INGRAHAM:  Let‘s get back to reality here.  George Bush—George Bush focused on the intelligence that we had at the time.  Was that intelligence flawed?  You‘d better believe it looks like it was flawed.  Was it flawed when Bill Clinton was assembling it?  You‘d better believe.  Was it flawed when Madeleine Albright, Sandy Berger, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, the entire Senate Intelligence Committee, all of them saw the same evidence. 

(CROSSTALK)

GREEN:  They didn‘t invade Iraq based on it.

(CROSSTALK)

INGRAHAM:  To say—I let you filibuster.  Let me continue. 

When George Bush took case to the American people, when Colin Powell agreed to take case to the United Nations, they believed those weapons were a threat.  And they believed that, after September 11, we could not use the same mentality as we used before September 11.  It doesn‘t mean September 11 is connected.  But it means we have to be proactive and not wait for terrorist acts to come to our shores. 

If you think that‘s illogical thinking, then I hope you don‘t complain that George Bush didn‘t connect the dots before September 11. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Interesting point.  But let me ask you both, how come a woman just got fired for taking pictures of bodies of American heroes coming back dead from Iraq and all the people that were wrong about WMD were not fired?  How come you get fired for telling the truth or showing the truth, Laura, when nobody gets fired for getting it wrong? 

INGRAHAM:  I don‘t know what woman you‘re talking about.  But I

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They just fired the woman.  A picture was in “The Seattle Times” yesterday of the flag-draped coffins coming back from Iraq. 

INGRAHAM:  Right.  Where does she work? 

MATTHEWS:  And she was fired.

(CROSSTALK)

INGRAHAM:  Where does she work? 

MATTHEWS:  One of the contractors working for the Pentagon. 

INGRAHAM:  Well, is that in her job description?  Was she acting outside her duties?  I just don‘t know.  I think it is apples and oranges. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  She was fired for telling the American people the cost of this war, whereas the people who gave us the false reasons for going to war, none of them were fired.  Can you explain the discrepancy? 

(CROSSTALK)

INGRAHAM:  I think, Chris, the fact is, this has been a very difficult time in Iraq.  I talked to General Kimmitt, who is deputy in charge of the coalition forces.  He said, our soldiers understand it is difficult.  They‘re fighting it day to day. 

And they‘re worried, Chris, that the political will at home is not strong as the fighting forces abroad.  We deserve to give our—they deserve our support and not our—the constant back-biting that we‘re seeing in American politics today. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Mark.

Mark, do you think we‘re better off for what we don‘t know?  In other words, what we don‘t know won‘t hurt us?

INGRAHAM:  What don‘t we know, Chris?  What don‘t we know? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We don‘t know is, we do not see the costs of this war, because it‘s Pentagon policy not to show it to us. 

GREEN:  Two things. 

Laura cited Democrats who also thought there was WMD.  She‘s right.  But Bill Clinton didn‘t invade a country in a preventive war that didn‘t attack us.  Second, look, Lyndon Johnson was popular when he wrapped himself in the flag.  But when bodies came home wrapped in flags, his popularity sank. 

(CROSSTALK)

INGRAHAM:  Mark, do you think the military disrespects this president? 

(CROSSTALK)

GREEN:  Laura, you rightly said I shouldn‘t interrupt you. 

What‘s happening now is, Bush misled us into war, not really because the arguments were false.  But if he had put out a referendum and said, look, we‘re going to spend a quarter of a trillion dollars to arrest Saddam and occupy a Muslim country, yes or no, interesting debate.  He didn‘t say that.  It was dishonest. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘ll be right back to talk to Laura Ingraham and to Mark Green.  More about the legacy of Vietnam and OK, the whole works.  Back with them when we return. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, more with Mark Green and Laura Ingraham.  And later, the last days of Jackie Kennedy.

HARDBALL back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY:  There are all kinds of atrocities.  And I would have to say that yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed in that I took part in shootings in free fire zones.  I conducted harassment and interdiction fire.  I used .50-caliber machine guns which we were granted—ordered to use, which were our only weapon against people. 

My great regret is, I hope no soldier—I think some soldiers were angry at me for that.  And I understand that and I regret that, because I love them.  But the words were honest.  But, on the other hand, they were a little bit over the top. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Laura Ingraham, author of “Shut Up and Sing,” and Mark Green, co-author of the book—book on Bush. 

Let me ask you, Laura Ingraham, what do you make of those two testimonies? 

INGRAHAM:  Well, I think it shows sort of classic Kerry, on the one hand, on the other hand.  And people call it flip-flops.  You call it whatever you will. 

But, back in 1971, he was talking about soldiers, including himself, committing atrocities.  He went on with Tim Russert and said, well, it‘s regretful if some people were upset with me, some of these soldiers, but I love them.  But he was talking about the soldiers.  He said to Tim Russert, I wasn‘t talking about the soldiers.  But of course he was. 

And I think from all the veterans I‘ve talked to over the last several months, that infuriates them.  He called them monsters in his testimony before the House committee that same year:  We‘ve created millions of monsters.  And John Kerry still hasn‘t given a good answer on that.  I think the idea of calling your fellow soldiers war criminals, that doesn‘t sit well with veterans today.  And it doesn‘t sit well with Vietnam veterans.  I can tell you that. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s go to Mark on that.  Your view of watching those two bites?

GREEN:  I‘m just glad, Chris, you have no tape of me in 1971. 

Look, Bush and Kerry are alike and dissimilar.  Both, when they were young and reckless, they were young and reckless.  And they obviously can‘t be judged by what they did in 1971.  I assume George W. Bush didn‘t do things in ‘71 qualifying him to be president. 

But here‘s the difference.  Now that his records have been disclosed, the Navy said that John Kerry‘s heroism and leadership were unsurpassed.  He risked his life to save people under fire.  He had wounds.  Some of the ideological blowhards have said the wounds weren‘t serious.  My guess is they were more serious than when George W. Bush scraped his knee leaving the Texas Air Guard from Texas to go to Alabama. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you both about this whole question of the Vietnam legacy.  It was a messy war.  There were free fire zones.  He mentioned those, where people were just shot because they‘re in the wrong place at the wrong time.  We did use heavy ammo, heavy ammo, which isn‘t discriminatory among the civilians and the combatants.  It can kill a lot of people. 

What is the problem that you have, Laura, with his criticism of the Vietnam War, particular criticism?  Not how it works politically and how it offends people perhaps today. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is it wrong what he says objectively? 

INGRAHAM:  All I can tell you is what I‘ve heard from literally hundreds of Vietnam vets who have e-mailed me and have come on my radio show.  They say, look, I was there for not six months.  I was there for six, seven, eight and nine years.  I didn‘t see any of what John Kerry said.  A lot of the so-called testimony that he was referring to in 1971 of other atrocities turned out to be fabricated. 

And, of course, were there misjudgments and were there things done in Vietnam that are regretful?  Absolutely.  But when John Kerry to Tim Russert says he wasn‘t talking about the soldiers, I was young and I was angry, and then he goes on to say, but I was speaking honestly, well, which is it?  Was he talking about the soldiers?  Was he a war criminal?  I think it is just confusing to a lot of people.  Either he was or he wasn‘t. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Mark Green, make the case for your guy. 

GREEN:  If I can make a comment, I‘ve listened to Laura on her radio show.  And she‘s terrific in a monologue with people who anecdotally send her their views. 

INGRAHAM:  No, who actually call, Mark. 

(CROSSTALK)

GREEN:  One second.  One second. 

A few people—some people said to you they didn‘t like John Kerry in Vietnam.  The Navy disagreed with you.  He was a hero. 

(CROSSTALK)

INGRAHAM:  I‘m not talking about the records. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Mark, Laura, thank you very much for joining us.  Please come back and continue the fight. 

Up next, author Ed Klein on the last days of Jackie Kennedy Onassis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Edward Klein is a best-selling author whose latest book, “Farewell, Jackie,” chronicles the final six months of the life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.  Of course, we all know about Jackie Kennedy one thing.  This woman valued privacy. 

Quote—this is Edward Klein speaking: “She spoke freely and openly about all sorts of things.  She did so with the expectations that friends like Nancy”—that‘s Nancy Tuckerman—“would behave like priests in the confessional, binding themselves to a sacred oath of silence.”

Ed, given that incredible focus on secrecy, how did you put a book together like this? 

EDWARD KLEIN, AUTHOR, “FAREWELL, JACKIE”:  Well, I‘ve been writing about Jackie now for about 15 years.  I‘ve done at least 700 or 800 interviews, knew almost all the people with whom she was close, and I personally was friendly with Jackie for the last 12 years of her life. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it now easier to break through the veil of secrecy of the Kennedy family now that so many have died? 

(CROSSTALK)

KLEIN:  Yes, that‘s a very good question, Chris, because I think as Camelot fades and as the Kennedy mystique also gets more and more tarnished and their power dilutes, that it‘s easier to write about them. 

MATTHEWS:  And also that a lot of the fear disappears, too, right? 

KLEIN:  That‘s right, because their ability to exact retribution on those who write about them isn‘t there anymore. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there still a group of Kennedy loyalists who look at each book as it comes out and sit around and have a meeting about it and decide whether they want to approve the book or let it go or take a shot at it? 

KLEIN:  Oh, absolutely, Chris. 

I mean, there‘s no question in my mind that if something is written about the Kennedys that Teddy and other Kennedys don‘t like, that they will pick up the phone and call their friends in the TV media.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

KLEIN:  In the written media, in the cable media, the broadcast media, and start a countercampaign against whoever did that writing. 

MATTHEWS:  I remember the Joe McGinniss book on Ted Kennedy a couple years back.  That was blasted right out of the saddle by the Kennedy family, wasn‘t it? 

KLEIN:  It certainly was. 

MATTHEWS:  Now, let me ask you about Jackie Kennedy.  If she weren‘t so beautiful in life, like Princess Diana, would we care that much about her?  Isn‘t a lot of it just pure physical glamour that makes us so attracted us to her and her legacy? 

KLEIN:  Well, I think glamour had a had a big role in it, but we were so mesmerized, we in the press, and journalists, writers, by her beauty and elegance, that we forgot that Jackie left an enduring legacy which I write about at length in “Farewell, Jackie,” to begin with.

By restoring the White House, restoring Lafayette Square in front of the White House, Jackie began the urban restoration movement.  And if you look around any city in America today, you see her legacy in the saving of those buildings, wonderful old buildings. 

MATTHEWS:  I think one of the best things she ever did, besides being a fun first lady that everybody looked up to and made us all feel a little more glamorous and youthful and all those good things, even though I was pretty young at the time, the legacy certainly glorious for all.  But she didn‘t do anything wrong.  That‘s for sure. 

I love the fact that she went out there and had the guts to go out there and save Grand Central Station. 

KLEIN:  Now, wasn‘t that great?  And there‘s a great story about that.  Because people were so protective of Jackie when she went out to save Grand Central and was going down an escalator to get on a train to go to Washington to go to the Supreme Court and the other branches of government, these people who were with her were trying to protect her from the photographers.

And she said, get out of my way.  The whole reason I‘m here is so they can take my picture.

MATTHEWS:  Hah!  Isn‘t that great.  She understood. 

Tell me about quickly, we only have a minute here, how she faced death.  Was she one of those people that understood that it was going to happen and there‘s not much she could do about it? 

KLEIN:  Interesting that so much has been written about Jackie, including by me, but nothing until this book has been written about this period in which Jackie orchestrated her last days with the same kind of attention to detail and to elegance and to the aesthetic background as she did her own husband‘s funeral.

And, in that regard and how she died, it seems to me that just the way Jackie taught us so much about how to live, she also taught us how to die. 

MATTHEWS:  God, it reminds me, maybe a nice or a bad way, remember John Barrymore in “Dinner at Eight” where he committed suicide, but he made a point of having his profile showing as the police came in and found him? 

KLEIN:  Well, Jackie had Gregorian chants going in her death chamber when people came to visit her. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.   

KLEIN:  She picked out her sheets.  She picked out where the candles would be.  She left nothing to chance. 

MATTHEWS:  Great. 

Well, Edward Klein, another Gothic story, but what an intriguing story.  I‘m here in Kansas City, but Edward Klein‘s book is called “Farewell, Jackie.”

As I said, I‘m out here in Kansas City.  And tonight, I‘m speaking at a tribute for every Republican‘s favorite Democratic president, Harry Truman.  It‘s for a great cause, the Truman Library and Institute.  And I‘m happy to be out here. 

HARDBALL will be back in Washington tomorrow night with General Wesley Clark.  And all next week, we celebrate our seventh anniversary, seven years of HARDBALL, and a special interview Wednesday with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over at the Pentagon. 

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

END   

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