updated 5/21/2004 9:26:22 AM ET 2004-05-21T13:26:22

Guests: George Allen, Richard Holbrooke

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight, NBC‘s Tim Russert talks about Iraq, politics, and the hot selling book, “Big Russ and Me.” 

Plus, U.S. soldiers raid the home of Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi in Baghdad.  Chalabi responds by cutting ties with the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority. 

And President Bush makes a rare visit to Capitol Hill to rally Republicans on his plan for Iraq.  Or is this an effort to shore up his conservative base?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

Tim Russert is NBC‘s Washington bureau chief and the moderator of “Meet the Press.”  Time is the author of the hottest selling book in America, “Big Russ and Me,” a tribute to his father.

Tonight we talk about another father and son, the two President Bushes and their different policies on Iraq. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  You know, Tim, you talk about it.  It‘s sort of a game you talk about.  But it has so much to do with our world right now.

When you‘re—you‘re in baseball and you‘re catching a ball and you miss it, your dad said, one of the great pieces of advice in this book, knock it down.  In other words, don‘t lose control of the game just because you missed one.  Right?

OK.  You know where I‘m heading here.  Iraq.  This administration.  Do you sense in covering out of Washington that they had some strategy to cut their losses over there to find some way of getting us out of there over the next couple of years?

TIM RUSSERT, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”:  Obviously, I do now because I just listened to Colin Powell and to Paul Bremer.  They both said if the Iraqi government said for to us leave, we‘d leave.  And that to me was an extraordinary admission. 

I said to Secretary Powell, what happened to stay the course?  If we went into Iraq to find the weapons of mass destruction, and they don‘t exist, and then we said, “Well, we‘ve done the right thing because Saddam is gone.  And now Iraq is going to be a democratic state.”

And we‘re acknowledging now, well, that may not be because if we‘re asked to leave, we‘ll leave, and leave what behind?  It is quite striking that it then begs the question.  If we‘re going to stay course, what‘s the course?

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the interesting development in this presidency.  Fathers and sons.  You write about it in your case.  And of course, this country has been watching a father and a son relate as president and former president. 

When you look at George W. Bush as opposed to George Herbert Walker Bush, what do you see is the difference in the relationship between those presidents and those two father and son—people there?

RUSSERT:  Well, it‘s interesting in term of foreign policy.  Former President Bush, clearly in terms of after the Persian Gulf War, had a chance to do something with Iraq and chose not to. 

And Brent Scowcroft, his principal foreign policy adviser, has been outspoken from day one about not embarking on this second Iraq war, if you will. 

This president, George Bush 43, has chosen a much different course.  And he‘s not relied on Brent Scowcroft or on Jim Baker, but he‘s relied on Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and a whole other group of advisers. 

MATTHEWS:  And someone else, a deity.  He said in the book, Bob Woodward, this is off topic but it‘s interesting for a father—or son to say about his father.  This is what the president said. 

“You know, he is a strong—he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms strength.  There is a higher father that I appeal to.” 

Here‘s this president of the United States talking about not asking his father to be his Dutch uncle, his adviser on this much critical question, but going to his religion. 

RUSSERT:  In term of strength, absolutely. 

I think some people read into that even a broader context.  That the president was suggesting that, well, this is the righteous thing to do, or God directed.  I don‘t think that‘s what Bob reported.  But it‘s a really interesting issue. 

MATTHEWS:  The possibility that he feels messianic about this.  That he‘s saving the world from this—this guy. 

RUSSERT:  And I—I hear this around the country from people.  A lot of liberals will say, “Gee, what have we gotten ourselves into?”

But on the other hand, a lot of conservatives are saying, “Is this coming down in fact to almost a religious war?”

MATTHEWS:  Right.

RUSSERT:  Between Christians and Jews?  Versus a billion Muslims in the world?  It‘s a really eerie and striking...

MATTHEWS:  You do hear that in some of the president‘s rhetoric lately.  That I think had something to do with reelection.  You know, he talks about the terrorists are coming after Jews and Christians in this part of the world.  Clearly, he does construct it.

Let me get back to the father and son relationship, which a lot of people who love politics understand. 

Because we‘ve had presidents like President Clinton, whose father was an alcoholic, and he tried rise up from that.  Ronald Reagan‘s father was an alcoholic.  He rose up from that.

But here we have a son, not rising up from an ex-father.  The father was the president of the United States.  Very unique circumstances. 

Here he is in the Bill Simon book.  This is the president talking about what he accepted as a legacy from the old man.  Freedom.  “Freedom will prevail as long as the United States and allies don‘t give the people of Iraq mixed signals, so long as we don‘t cower in the face of suiciders, or do what many Iraqis still suspect might happen, and that is cut and run early, like what happened in ‘91.”

He‘s using his father‘s record to sort of lift off from and say we can do better than that.  That was bad. 

RUSSERT:  He did the same thing with tax cuts.  And the whole idea of read my lips, no new taxes: I won‘t make the same mistake that my father made. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.

RUSSERT:  He talked about that repeatedly early on in his administration.  That my dad didn‘t use the political capital he had gained from winning the first war against Saddam Hussein. 

And he has said that, you know, he‘s benefited from observing and being a participant in his father‘s campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  In the worst way, Tim.  I mean, not only the two you point out.  Not only is he much more aggressive in foreign policy.  And it‘s hard to believe the old man and his team would have gone into Iraq, because they didn‘t, when they had the chance. 

Lower taxes dramatically rather than raise them dramatically.  A much different Mideast policy, very much pro-Israeli.  The old man was a tough guy.  He said, “I‘m not give you your $10 million loan guarantee unless you stop the settlements.”   Very different on that. 

You can make a list of the father and son differences.  Do you think the old man—it‘s hard to figure out what he thinks about it.  But do you think it‘s sort of a Freudian thing?  He says, “I‘m not going to make his mistakes because he got kicked out of the White House.  I‘m not going to experience that.”

RUSSERT:  I don‘t know. 

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t that great, though?

RUSSERT:  It is.  I asked—One time I asked President Bush, when he was governor, what‘s the most important thing your dad taught you?  And he said, “He gave me unconditional love, the greatest gift I could ever have.” 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

RUSSERT:  End of subject.  That was it.  And it‘s clear that George Bush, our current president, felt that his parents obviously tolerated...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s so true. 

Do you know what Warren Beatty, the actor, said?  I was talking to him one night about—He loves politics.  And he said the difference between the Bush family and the Gore family is, that President Bush‘s father said do what you want when you grow up.  And all the kids are doing all the—one‘s governor, one‘s president.  The others are all business.

Whereas Al Gore‘s father said, “You‘re going to be me.  You‘re going to succeed me.” 

Talk about that with fathers.  Fathers—This is a little bit personal.  But fathers can‘t tell the kids who to be, can they?

RUSSERT:  No, you know.  And sometimes you want to look at your son and say, “This is going to be Tim Russert Jr.”  It‘s not. 

MATTHEWS:  The all American football star or whatever. 

RUSSERT:  They have their own lives.

MATTHEWS:  Baseball star in your case. 

RUSSERT:  I thought.  And then after two years—all through little league, J.V. baseball, my son comes to me and said, “Dad, I want to give up baseball.”  I died. 

MATTHEWS:  Heart breaker.

RUSSERT:  Give up baseball?  Actually, the way he did it is he came in, knocked on my door, which he‘s never done in his entire life.  He goes, “I‘ve got to talk to you.” 

I figured, we‘ve got trouble here. 

MATTHEWS:  You thought it was something really bad. 

RUSSERT:  Oh, yes.  A 17-year-old?

MATTHEWS:  All those season tickets and this kid says, “I‘m going south on you.” 

Imagine being George Bush Sr., say, and the son comes in and sees the dad and says, “Guess what, Dad?  I‘m going into Iraq.”  Can you imagine that conversation?

RUSSERT:  But I think George Bush, he had a lively college life.  Then he went down and worked at midland Texas in the oil business.  Kind of knocked around a little bit.  Got into a baseball team. 

I‘m sure his father said a couple times, “Gee, I wonder what‘s going on.”

In fact, his family openly acknowledged they saw Jeb Bush...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

RUSSERT:  ... as the potential president.  And then all of a sudden George Bush runs for governor of Texas.  And bingo, he‘s on his way.

MATTHEWS:  This father and son is great.  Because we‘re getting not only the book, and this was a hell of a book.  I said this last night.  I read every page of this book.  And I usually skip—as you know when you‘re doing a book guy.  I read every word of this book.

But I kept saying, this has Thomas Wolfe in here.  I‘m not saying exactly.  But it‘s got the detail in here, the little detail.  Your father and Big Russ and you, and little Russ, you were little then.  Long hair, Vietnam.  What did he think of you then?

RUSSERT:  Well, we had some pretty blunt discussions.  I went to school...

MATTHEWS:  Did he call you a communist?  A lefty?  What was he calling you?

RUSSERT:  Not that hard.  But in 1971, I went to school in John Carol in Cleveland, 20 minutes from Kent State.  And after the National Guard shot some protesters, a lot of those kids came to our campus.  And I called home. 

I said dad, “They‘re killing us.” 

And he said, “They‘re not killing us.  They‘re not killing you.  Those are kids, too, the National Guard are kids like you.  You think they intentionally went out...”

MATTHEWS:  I know this well.

RUSSERT:  “... to hunt down college kids?  That‘s not what it is about.” 

MATTHEWS:  How long was your hair at this time?

RUSSERT:  You know...

MATTHEWS:  I saw the pictures.  And he‘s looking at you and saying you‘re part of the problem, not part of the solution. 

RUSSERT:  He brought me out to the garage where he had two folding lawn chairs and a refrigerator and gave me a beer.  He said, “Sit down.  I want to talk to you.” 

MATTHEWS:  And you were 21. 

RUSSERT:  He said, “Let me tell you something.  I understand what‘s going on with Vietnam in a lot of kids‘ minds.” 

MATTHEWS:  He said we‘re pinned down over there. 

RUSSERT:  Pinned down.  He said, “And I understand you want to be for peace, but don‘t be rooting for the Viet Cong.” 

MATTHEWS:  But you weren‘t, were you?

RUSSERT:  I was not. 

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s what he didn‘t like.  He didn‘t like that flag burning.

RUSSERT:  He saw the protesters and he hated it.  He just hated it.  He didn‘t want me to get caught up with that crowd.  And that was great advice.

MATTHEWS:  This is as close to me right now as five minutes ago, this period in the ‘60s with my dad in the same setting. 

You know, I went in the Peace Corps.  I didn‘t believe in the war.  I said I won‘t even put on a uniform if I‘m not going to fight and I don‘t believe in the war.  But I‘m going in the Peace Corps and I‘m going to do something positive.  I‘m going to have an adventure over there. 

But this fight.  This fight was so father and son.  And there we are, talking about a father and son presidency now, which is so interesting.  Because you‘ve got to believe the old man is rooting like hell for the kid. 

And he‘s also saying that‘s not how I would have done it.  Right?

RUSSERT:  You know, Chris, I never thought much about writing a book about my father until now when you have your own son. 

And then you think about your dad and what they went through.  And all the sacrifice.  And I want to affirm his life.  And there‘s something about father/son relationships.  There‘s a reason they‘re not written about. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.

RUSSERT:  They‘re hard to understand.  Fathers don‘t talk.

MATTHEWS:  The father won‘t talk.  But you realize if your father loves you as much as you loved Luke, you‘ve been missing something, because you don‘t really realize that, do you?

MATTHEWS:  You never felt it.  You never felt it. 

RUSSERT:  Until you pick up on it.

RUSSERT:  They‘re not demonstrative. 

MATTHEWS:  Not at all. 

Anyway, we‘re coming right back.  More with Tim Russert.  We‘re doing the little stuff and the big stuff, the personal stuff and the presidential stuff.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, Tim Russert goes back to his hometown of Buffalo, New York, and talks about growing up with his role model, his father, when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Tim Russert, author of the book, “Big Russ and Me.” 

Five years ago, you Tim, worked on an NBC project that talk to back to your hometown of Buffalo, New York, to show how the community there shaped you into the man you are today. 

Let‘s take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUSSERT (voice-over):  We‘ve traced most of my family back to Ireland, going back at least two generations where they dreamed of a better life in a promised land called America. 

But for me and my family, these are really my roots, South Buffalo, New York, once a booming steel town where life centered around hard work, hard times, football, and family, where my grandfather arrived with no formal education. 

He survived the Depression and supported his family as a water department boiler man. 

TIM “BIG RUSS” RUSSERT, FATHER:  He was willing to take anything.  He worked hard, proud. 

RUSSERT:  Grandpa wanted more for my dad.  My father made it to the 10th grade, volunteered for World War II, then worked two jobs for 37 years to support and educate me and my three sisters. 

TIM RUSSERT SR.:  Anyway to make a dollar, I did it. 

RUSSERT:  I began at Holy Family School, then on to Saint Bonaventure School, where Sister Mary Lucille of the Sisters of Mercy helped give direction to my life. 

SISTER MARY LUCILLE, SISTERS OF MERCY:  You know, you weren‘t always the most quiet student. 

RUSSERT:  She started a school newspaper, made me the first editor, introduced me to journalism. 

LUCILLE:  That was really, not only a turning point in your life but it is—it definitely was a turning point in my own, that you can encourage and inspire young people to want to get involved in public matters. 

RUSSERT:  Sister Lucille insisted I apply to this private Jesuit high school. 

(on camera) Every day after school, I worked here, painted these lines by hand, answered the telephone, emptied out the poor box.  Seventy cents an hour, $15 a week.  But if I wanted to go to Canisius, I had to earn my tuition. 

(voice-over) If I could make it through Canisius, I know I could be the first in my family to go to college, even law school. 

Canisius opened a whole new world.  You might say, for me, this is where my real roots took hold.  Classmates who were the sons of doctors, lawyers, and state senators.  All melted together under one firm hand. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I used to say, you guys, mercy is from God. 

Justice is from me.  So don‘t beg. 

RUSSERT:  We called Father John Stern the prefect of discipline. 

Sometimes he even made it hurt. 

(ON CAMERA) How important is discipline to being able to engage in a good and fulfilling life?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you‘re not a disciplined sort of person, you‘re liable to give in or give up so that you‘re going to lose out. 

RUSSERT (voice-over):  Father Stern and the Sisters of Mercy taught respect, preparation, perseverance, lessons of life which still guide me today. 

(on camera) If it‘s Sunday, it‘s “Meet the Press.”

(voice-over) Tim Russert, NBC News, Buffalo. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Tim Russert, which is kind of scary, because he‘s—These are the elements in the life of Timothy J. Russert that I‘ve discovered on reading his brilliant new book. 

Irish Catholic, mercy nuns in grade school, Jesuits in college, safe old ethnic neighborhood, then he moved to a little better neighborhood.  Worked for a prominent Irish Catholic politician.  In his case, Pat Moynihan. 

High school editor.  That opened the door for a lot of things.  Rooted for Roger Maris against Mickey Mantel for homerun derby to beat the Ruth record. 

Father would never drive a foreign car.  Father worked hard.  Father was his role model, and he remembers the line waiting for the one bathroom they had in the house. 

And he used to do convent masses as altar boy.  He used to do the funerals.  He had a paper route.  He went to private Catholic high school, as opposed to public (ph) high school.

He knows all about jug (ph).  He had long hair in the ‘60s.  He had a father versus son rivalry about Vietnam.  He got married in his early to mid ‘30s.  His wife‘s from San Francisco, and she‘s a journalist.

Tim, every single thing there.  I know it‘s your book.  But I know every one of those worlds.  That‘s the same as me. 

You were talking about Sean Hannity the other day saying the same thing to you. 

RUSSERT:  He said, “It‘s an autobiography.”  Of his.

MATTHEWS:  It is an autobiography.  Yes.  Are there a lot of us around?  Like replicants?

RUSSERT:  It‘s the same gene pool.  I go around the country, Chris. 

People come up and say, “Make it out to Big Ed, Big Mike, Big Tim...”

MATTHEWS:  Yes, right.

RUSSERT:  “... Big Buck.”  Everybody‘s got a big guy in their life. 

One lady said, you know, “There‘s a little bit of Big Russ in all of us.”  And it‘s so true. 

There is a universality of this experience where we had a father who had a way of life.  You‘re from Philadelphia; I‘m from Buffalo.  It‘s not a geographical unit.  It‘s a way of life.  It‘s a way of looking at the world. 

And your parents instill in you, if you work hard, it‘s going to be OK.  And you know what?  Treat people right, and they‘ll treat you right.  And they‘re right. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

RUSSERT:  It adds up.  It truly adds up. 

And sometimes you say, “Oh, what do they know?”  They know everything. 

It‘s scary.  It‘s so scary.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think there‘s a big difference here in these generations.  And we talked about this the other night. 

And I‘ve got to tell you that I just think that coming out of the Great Depression, and our families are probably very similar in that regard.  There‘s no money around.  And it was all about saving; saving every nickel.  And it was about working very hard.  And there wasn‘t many jobs, you know? 

RUSSERT:  My dad had two jobs.  And he said, “I‘m lucky I had two.  Some guys couldn‘t find one.”  That‘s the way he looked at it.  He never whined, never complained. 

Can you imagine getting up 30 years of your life and lifting garbage cans?

MATTHEWS:  When you—I have to tell you, at one point in the book I did get emotional, and I don‘t often get emotional.  But the part of the book about you working on the trucks that summer. 

And everybody can imagine this, the smell, the grime, the sweat.  And you talk about how much heavier it was for your dad to lift up the—the bucket, all the way up on the top, because the old kind of garbage trucks, they didn‘t have the big rotator thing.  You had to throw it up over the top.  And you‘re talking about that.

RUSSERT:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Hard work.  I mean, imagine what it did to your heart muscles, let alone anything else, throwing that up there.

RUSSERT:  And these were houses in Buffalo that had two families. 

Every house had 10 to 12 garbage cans.  You‘d pick them up to the shaker. 

The shaker would shake them down and throw it back down. 

And then, when the truck went to the dump, you had to bring the cans back around the house.  It was full service back then in Buffalo.

MATTHEWS:  You know, the other thing about my neighborhood.  I‘m from North Philly, which is a tough neighborhood.  It‘s changed dramatically now.  I go back and tell people I‘m from Nicetown, Philadelphia.  But anyone watching right now knows the difference.

But you‘ve got the Polish neighborhoods next to the Irish neighborhoods, and all these interesting things about how clean the Poles are.  Like you were talking about how as you were leaving their homes, you can look back, and they had the hose out.  And they were already spraying the hose through the garbage can to clean up, whereas some other people weren‘t so delicate about it. 

RUSSERT:  We kidded all the time.  We all wanted to work in the Polish neighborhoods, because the garbage was so neatly packed.  One of my buddies said, “They‘ve got bows on it.” 

MATTHEWS:  But the other thing the Polish neighborhoods—my grandmother, Rose Conroy, used to say, every time we went to the Polish neighborhoods and drive around in North Philly, they‘d have all their—you call their blankets out the window. 

Did they do that?  To air them out?  It was an old Polish tradition. 

She‘d say, “Polish.”

And my father, my grandfather, his next-door neighbor was the only guy that had moved out when it changed racially completely.  And there was only two guys, white guys left in the neighborhood.  “He‘s a nice fellow.  Polish.”  It was just the way these guys talked. 

RUSSERT:  Well, compare that to the clam stands on the West Side, where the old clam shells thrown in the can on a Friday night and you go by on a Monday morning and try to pick that up?  Forget it.  The worst. 

You know, my dad...

MATTHEWS:  But you really—the job is really tough. 

RUSSERT:  Right.  It‘s hard.  It‘s hard.  It‘s grubby; it‘s grimy.  And you realize, man.  You‘ve got to really have to—need work in order to do this.  But you do it. 

And I learned now—I think about it.  My dad taught me so much by the quiet eloquence of his hard work.  That‘s the lesson he taught me. 

MATTHEWS:  To work is to pray. 

RUSSERT:  Absolutely.  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  I say to kids, all work is good, and they don‘t believe me.  And I say all work is good.  Anyway, we‘ll be back to talk about it.  Man, expressing that so well, “Big Russ and Me.”  I think this book must be No.  1 everywhere.  It will be.

Anyway, Tim Russert will be right back on HARDBALL—not exactly HARDBALL tonight.  MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Tim Russert.  We‘re talking about his book. 

We were last night, as well.  Big bestseller.

You know, I‘m trying to think about how your life changed and everybody who‘s been lucky has.  And you‘ve been lucky. 

When you look back, you‘re working on the summer job.  You‘re working on the trucks with your old man.  The same kind of job.  And you were saying, I‘m going to go to law school.  I‘m going to make it. 

Did you ever have a vision in your head, like those guys from Buffalo, that was pessimistic?  Did you ever have a pessimistic view, “I‘m not going to make it out of here”? 

RUSSERT:  I never knew what was going to happen to me.  And I was afraid to leave.  Until the blizzard of ‘77 came to Buffalo.  I was running Pat Moynihan‘s local office.  He came to Buffalo and brought me to Washington and got President Carter to declare, for the first time, a federal emergency for snow. 

MATTHEWS:  You guys delivered it to the White House. 

RUSSERT:  Yes.  Hand-delivered.  He said, “You ought to stay down here.  Washington will be good for you.  You‘ll learn a lot.” 

And then, Chris, after a couple months, I said to him, “Senator, I‘m not sure I‘m cut out for this.  There are a lot of ideological guys here who are really well read and they‘re having these amazing debates that I don‘t feel comfortable having.” 

MATTHEWS:  But they‘re all wrong, by the way, but go ahead.  I‘ve been watching them.  Go ahead.

RUSSERT:  But I said, “I think I‘m well educated, but I don‘t think I fit in.” 

And he said, “Let me tell you something.  What they know, you can learn.  What you know from growing up the way did you, from your dad and lifting garbage and on the streets of south Buffalo, they‘ll never know.” 

And it changed my life.  I began to think, you know what?  I can do OK here. 

MATTHEWS:  This is “Great Gatsby” stuff.  This is like Jim Cody and that there.  Pat Moynihan inspired you.  You called him in your book your intellectual father. 

RUSSERT:  Very much.  Because he was someone, as I drove him around, he‘d be quizzing me on everything.  You know, did the defense spending go up or down under Nixon?  Did social spending go up or down under Nixon?

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s Charles Parnell?

MATTHEWS:  Kids at Harvard don‘t even know that.  And it was so—it was just so challenging.  And here‘s a guy who worked for two Democratic presidents, two Republicans presidents.  He put it all on the line. 

And my most memorable moment was when Senator Moynihan asked my dad, Big Russ, to escort him down the aisle at the American Legion convention to the podium.  His official escort, Big Russ.  I saw my real dad, my intellectual dad.  And to this moment, I wish I could capture that forever. 

MATTHEWS:  And you did in the book. 

RUSSERT:  I tried.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a great book.  Anybody who reads this book is going to

have a lot of deja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra, another one he hears -

·         what he said. 

Anyway, Tim Russert.  You‘ve done it!  Anyway, Tim Russert.  The book is called—it‘s everywhere.  It‘s only $22, by the way.  It‘s a nice price for this book.  The paperback will be about $8.  Anyway, “Big Russ and Me,” a great, great, great read. 

HARDBALL‘s coming back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on HARDBALL, U.S. forces raid the headquarters of Ahmad Chalabi, once the Bush administration‘s main man in Iraq.  Ambassador Richard Holbrooke will joins us.  Plus, President Bush meets with Republican congressmen to stop GOP infighting.  Senator George Allen will be here to talk about that. 

But, first the latest headlines right now.

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Tonight, new allegations of prisoner in abuse at a second detention facility in Iraq. 

NBC‘s Campbell Brown has this exclusive report. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CAMPBELL BROWN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  With attention focused on the seven soldiers charged with abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison, U.S. military and intelligence officials familiar with the situation tell NBC News, the Army‘s elite Delta Force is now the subject of a Pentagon inspector general investigation into abuse against detainees. 

The target, a top secret site near Baghdad‘s airport.  The battlefield interrogation facility known as the BIF (ph) is pictured in these satellite photos.  According to two top government sources, it is the scene of the most egregious violations of the Geneva Conventions in all of Iraq‘s prisons.  A place where the normal rule of interrogation don‘t apply, Delta Force‘s BIF only holds Iraqi insurgents and suspected terrorists, but not the most wanted among Saddam‘s lieutenants pictured on the deck of cards. 

(on camera):  These sources say the prisoners there are hooded from the moment they‘re captured.  They‘re kept in tiny, dark cells.  And in the BIF‘s six interrogations rooms, Delta Force soldiers routinely drug prisoners, hold a prisoner underwater until he thinks he is drowning, and smother prisoners almost to the point of suffocation. 

(voice-over):  All that would be violations of the Geneva Conventions.  The conventions do not apply to stateless terrorists, so-called nonenemy combatants like al Qaeda suspects caught by the U.S. in Afghanistan.  But as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has made clear, the Geneva Conventions do apply in Iraq. 

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  The United States is a nation.  The United States is a nation.  The Geneva Conventions apply.  They have applied every single day from the outset. 

BROWN:  So, does Secretary Rumsfeld know about the BIF and what goes on there?  Several top U.S. military and intelligence sources say yes and that he, through other Pentagon officials, directed the U.S. head of intelligence in Iraq, General Barbara Fast, and others, to bring some of the methods used at the BIF to prisons like Abu Ghraib in the hopes of getting better intelligence from Iraqi detainees. 

The Pentagon‘s top spokesman in Iraq says the military will not comment on the BIF or what goes on there.  He was unwilling to even confirm or deny its existence.  General Fast declined our requests for an interview due to the ongoing prison abuse investigation, one that so far yielded charges against only the military‘s lowest ranks. 

Campbell Brown, NBC News, Baghdad. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  This evening, a senior Pentagon official denied allegations of prisoner abuse at battlefield interrogation facilities operated by Delta Force in Iraq.  And he said the tactics described in Campbell Brown‘s report are not used in those facilities. 

Also in Iraq today, U.S. forces and Iraqi police raided the home of Ahmad Chalabi.  Chalabi is the leader of the Iraqi National Congress and a member of the Iraqi Governing Council.  He is the former exile who sold the U.S. faulty intelligence on Saddam‘s weapons of mass destruction arsenal.  He‘s been the No. 1 ally of hawks in the Defense Department in pushing the case for war.  He has close ties with Vice President Dick Cheney and the joke is he got his country back through vice president‘s office.

Chalabi said his office was ransacked today and described his relationship with the coalition provisional authority as nonexistent. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AHMAD CHALABI, IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL MEMBER:  I am America‘s best friend in Iraq.  If the CPA finds it necessary to direct an armed attack against my home, you can see the state of relations between the CPA and the Iraqi people. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Richard Holbrooke was the United States ambassador to the United Nations under President Clinton. 

Mr. Ambassador, thanks for joining us. 

Richard, let me ask you about this.  A lot of people have been trying to figure out how we got involved in Iraq.  What was the role that Mr.  Chalabi played in our initial decision to try to go in there, overthrow that government, occupy and reform that government?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS:  Before I answer that, I just want to say about this raid this morning that it is a baffling event.

To be sure, Chalabi is a crook and has been indicted for embezzling in Jordan for 20 years.  But the timing of it is amazing.  Maybe they‘re looking for those missing weapons of mass destruction, which Chalabi and Chalabi alone seems to know where they are. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, he did—I know the joke and I accept it. 

But this guy has played an amazing role. 

HOLBROOKE:  Unbelievable. 

MATTHEWS:  Didn‘t he sell the newspapers in New York and the other papers around the country that there were weapons, that there were—that this was going to be a fairly easy takeover of that country? 

HOLBROOKE:  In the 40 years, believe it or not, since I first came to Washington, I have never seen a foreign official or outsider play the role in policy that he played, with the possible exception of Saudi Arabia and Ambassador Prince Bandar. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

HOLBROOKE:  He had a whole coterie of government officials, political figures and journalists believing everything he said. 

The amazing thing about today‘s event is that it took place.  Of course he‘s a crook.  Of course he should be out.  But why now, with 40 days to go and chaos breaking out, the wheels coming off American policy in Iraq?  What happened?  And now Rumsfeld says today, in the Congress, that he didn‘t know it would happen.  What is going on here?  Is the administration out of control or does Rumsfeld not only what‘s going on?  Did Wolfowitz know?  Did the vice president know?  Did Abizaid know?  Did Jerry Bremer know?  What‘s going on?

MATTHEWS:  Well, a few weeks ago, I asked Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld if he trusted Chalabi.  Let‘s take a look at what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  If you had to make a quick reaction if I said the name Abu Chalabi, and I said reliable, unreliable, what would be your answer? 

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Look, I‘m not going to start criticizing the members of the Iraqi Governing Council. 

MATTHEWS:  But he‘s an employee of yours. 

RUMSFELD:  He‘s not an employee. 

MATTHEWS:  He gets $350,00 a month from the Defense Department. 

RUMSFELD:  Come on.  Under the law passed by Congress, his organization, the INC, receives funds to do a variety of things.  The employee.  That‘s unbelievable, Chris.  You know better than that. 

MATTHEWS:  No.  I just think that people in the world who hear that he‘s making this kind of money from us would question his independence, wouldn‘t you? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, the question—the reason I‘m being a little tough there, as usual, perhaps, is the fact is that he‘s the guy that brought us into that country.  He left, as I like to say, his country of Iraq when the Dodgers left Brooklyn, back in the ‘50s. 

He‘s saying, oh, come on back in.  So we come back in under the argument there‘s weapons of mass destruction there, under the argument that the people are going to be glad to see us and, by the way, that all the oil in that country is going to pay for our occupation.  Instead, we‘re peeling off dollars by the billions, another 25 last week, $25 billion.

They‘re shooting at us and killing us.  To get any information out of the country, we have to torture people, apparently.  And here this fat guy sitting over there—I mean politically fat—with all the power.  I want to ask you this.

HOLBROOKE:  Well dressed, too. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

Why did the secretary of the Defense Department, after our interview, did cut off his $340,000 a month, his $4.2 million a year? 

HOLBROOKE:  Well, your interview obviously turned the tide. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe.

HOLBROOKE:  He got at least $27 million from the U.S. government.  Now his house is being raided.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If Rummy didn‘t know he was going to be raided, why did he cut off his money a week ago? 

HOLBROOKE:  I don‘t know what‘s going on. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s an

(CROSSTALK)

HOLBROOKE:  This is another example of a policy that‘s lost its focus, its direction.  The most important issue goes way beyond Chalabi.  This administration doesn‘t know who it will turn power over to in 40 days.  But the American troops will remain in harm‘s way.  They continue to die in ways which I think are disgraceful.  Getting rid of Saddam was quite legitimate.  But what‘s happened now is extraordinary. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think there‘s a middle distance there that we can go as country and still—and be united in this country? 

HOLBROOKE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s imagine America being united for once, and united not just 51 percent for the war and 49 against it, or the other way around, but a country that is 65 percent or 75 percent agreeing on something.  Can we decide to cut our losses in Iraq, to be blunt about it, to say, we‘re going to set up that government and then we‘re getting out, or we‘re going to offer it up to some of break it into pieces?  Or is there something that we can do short of staying there for five or 10 years and taking hell? 

HOLBROOKE:  Two points. 

First of all, every American political leader, everyone who comments on this, always says failure is not an option.  I say it myself.  The United States cannot afford to fail.  But what we need to do is define what is a success.  And Senator Kerry has spoken very eloquently on this in his speech at Westminster college in Fulton, Missouri, the other day. 

And he laid out his goals.  And he is not in favor of cutting and running.  He is laying out a policy which he thinks will work better.  In today‘s “Wall Street Journal” and “Washington Post,” Russ Geld (ph) and Jim Hoglan (ph) respectively and Peter Galbraith at the New York Review of Book, all laid out one approach which deserves consideration which addresses your point specifically. 

And that is that go back and keep Iraq a single country for international purposes, keep sovereignty in Baghdad, but let the three regions, the Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites, have a considerable agree of self-governance, as they did under the Ottoman Empire before 1922.

Iraq has never been held together as a single country except by coercive force, the British or Saddam Hussein or before them for 400 years the Ottomans.  Now, this is basically what we did in Bosnia with the Dayton Agreement, a single country with a weak central government, weaker than I would prefer, but the best we can do, and power in the regions.  Bosnia is at peace.  No Americans have been killed for 8 ½ years. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a formulation from American thoughtful people.  But would the Sistani crowd, the majority of people, the Shia, who would win an election if they‘re a unitary form of government over there, a centralized government, would they accept a decentralized approach? 

HOLBROOKE:  If—the Shiite issue is very simple.  For 400 years, the Sunnis have run the country as a minority under the Ottomans, the British and Saddam.  The Shiites are saying never again. 

But if the Shiites, who are 60 percent of the country, control the Shiite regions, they will leave the Kurds in some degree of autonomy.  The Sunnis are a bigger problem.  And this administration has done something unbelievable in Fallujah.  We have turned Fallujah over to the very Baathists, the Saddam Hussein people who we defeated.  And we‘ve called it a solution. 

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s a problem.  Suppose—let me go back to this—I have a big—supposedly, the Sunni Triangle autonomists—and they armed remain underground—what‘s to stop them the minute we pull out our strength, our main strength out of that country, from all the Sunnis who remain their sympathies towards the Baathist mentality pulling their guns out of their basements and their grenades and everything else and going to war with the Shiite majority of the central government?  What is to stop them from going to war? 

HOLBROOKE:  That is exactly the dilemma.  If we withdraw, there‘s a very high degree of risk of a civil war.  If we stay...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... by the Baathists. 

HOLBROOKE:  Of course.  But if we stay under the current circumstances, with 82 percent of the people asking us to leave, we‘re going to end up being the target. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Conundrum.  We‘ll be back with Ambassador Richard Holbrooke in just a moment. 

And coming up, President Bush goes to Capitol Hill to rally Republican members on the war in Iraq.  We‘ll talk about that meeting with Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, more with Ambassador Richard Holbrooke when we come back.  And later, President Bush tries to put an end to a simmering Republican civil war.

HARDBALL back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. 

My premise—because you are the world expert on so many of these things.  And you‘ve been all around the world.  It seems to me they love this administration, a lot of Americans do, because we just love the fun of it, taking shots at the French.  But the French were in Vietnam before us.  They faced the difficulty of facing a national...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLBROOKE:  Did you see “The Battle of Algiers”? 

MATTHEWS:  Many years ago. 

HOLBROOKE:  It‘s an incredible movie.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

HOLBROOKE:  There‘s an incredible scene in it.

MATTHEWS:  Again, they were somewhere before us.

HOLBROOKE:  Well, this film was made in 1966. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  

HOLBROOKE:  And there‘s an unbelievable scene in it where the general commanding in cleaning out the Casbah in Algiers, says to a press conference, do you want the French to stay in Algeria?  Because, if you do, you have to accept the consequences, all the consequences.  And then they pan, they fade into scenes of the kind of things we‘ve seen in Abu Ghraib, exactly.  This is a 40-year-old film. 

MATTHEWS:  Torture scene, interrogations, the whole routine. 

(CROSSTALK)

HOLBROOKE:  Yes.  They don‘t do dog leashes. 

MATTHEWS:  And why is that because?  Because you have to get information from an underground if you‘re going to beat it. 

HOLBROOKE:  Well, in urban fighting, particularly, which is even worse than Vietnam‘s circle canopy jungle fighting, this kind of thing happens. 

But the question about these photographs in Abu Ghraib is that it seems to me to be more than just a handful of people at a low level.  There was some kind of climate or culture that allowed it.  I don‘t know enough about it.  We‘re going to find out about it. 

But let me just tell you, Chris.  You mentioned my recent trips.  I‘ve

been in Europe, Central Asia, the Mideast and the Far East all in the last

month.  And across the board, from our allies to our not so allies, people

are horrified.  In Korea

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Our friends. 

HOLBROOKE:  Oh, in Korea, where we have 40,000 American troops, well, less now, because we‘re beginning to strip Korea to go to Iraq, where the Koreans pledged to Vice President Cheney to send 3,600 troops to Iraq right away, they are slow walking the process right now because there are demonstrations in the street. 

The foreign minister told me that the photographs are devastating and the government is trying to help us.  In Central Asia, they are very worried because these are Muslim, moderate Muslim countries which don‘t want to see the spread of fundamentalism.  Europe, you know the story already.  The pictures have hurt us a lot.  Even though we all know it is a handful of Americans, it is just one of those thing you have to live with.  In the Muslim world, it is even more devastating. 

MATTHEWS:  But you were saying another thing a moment ago, that it is part and parcel, what you have to do if you want to occupy a hostile country. 

HOLBROOKE:  I...

MATTHEWS:  Is there any other way to break the back of a resistance than being tough? 

HOLBROOKE:  I am not in favor of violating the Geneva Conventions, because I think it puts our own troops at risk. 

It was simply that you mentioned the French and my mind immediately went to that incredible scene in that film.  By the way, six months ago, the Pentagon in its screening room in the Pentagon showed a film to its people.  What was it?  “The Battle of Algiers.”  So even the Pentagon saw that film as a seminal film for us to learn from and study from.  But the lessons aren‘t good. 

MATTHEWS:  Why didn‘t the ideologues who pushed this war see this coming, the occupation, the interrogations, all this horror?

HOLBROOKE:  Because, as Congresswoman Jane Harman said in a meeting I had with her earlier today, she said, they had their dream.  Democracy would spread from Iraq.  The route to Jerusalem ran through Baghdad.  Chalabi was good.  They had a series of myths which they clung to in the face of escalating evidence to the contrary. 

A good policy badly carried out becomes a bad policy.  Getting rid of

Saddam Hussein was a reasonable goal.  But Al Gore, Bill Clinton, John

Kerry would have done it completely differently.  John Kerry voted for the

war

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Would John Kerry have taken to us war? 

HOLBROOKE:  John Kerry voted for the war resolution, which I also supported.  But none of us, including Senator Kerry, with whom I have talked about this many times, could have imagined this level of mismanagement of the war. 

MATTHEWS:  But you‘re advising Senator Kerry.  Would he have taken us into Iraq?

HOLBROOKE:  He has said clearly, and he has been very consistent on this, that he would have sought to get rid of Saddam Hussein through a slow, careful process of international coalitions, isolation, and a whole set of other things, some of which are rather sensitive to go into.  But he would not have done what George Bush did.  Nor would Bill Clinton. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who is advising the John Kerry campaign for president. 

When we come back, Republican Senator George Allen will be here to discuss President Bush‘s meeting with Republican leaders up on Capitol Hill.  He‘s trying to put that civil war to rest up there and the battle of words he‘s trying to end right now with Senator—actually, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and John McCain.  They‘re fighting with each other.  A lot of Republican activity, and it ain‘t good.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Bush met with GOP lawmakers today for what Senator John McCain called a pep talk for Republicans. 

Senator George Allen is a Republican from Virginia.  He‘s chairman of the Republican—the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which tries to get Republicans elected.

Are the Democrats—are the Republicans on Capitol Hill worried about this war? 

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN ®, VIRGINIA:  We are all worried about our troops.  I think we are resolved.  It is not a question of worry, but it‘s a question of what actions need to be taken to win this war against terrorism and turn over to Iraq a government that is run by the people with respect for individual rights. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that the senators on Capitol Hill, your colleagues, Democrat and Republican, are focusing too much on the prisoner abuse story, the investigation? 

ALLEN:  Well, I think that there‘s been a lot of attention put on it, but I think we need our generals and our commanders to be out in the field winning this war against terrorism.  The legal procedures and the punishment of those who are culpable are moving forward. 

MATTHEWS:  But why do you want to fight with John Warner, the senior senator from Virginia who has been calling these hearings? 

ALLEN:  I‘m not fighting with him. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re saying we‘re spending too much time calling the generals back here, when you‘re saying they should be in the field. 

ALLEN:  No, no, no.  Don‘t put words into my mouth. 

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.

ALLEN:  I think Senator Warner has done the right thing.  They have had hearings. 

There are people who have been concerned about the number of hearings or the focus on hearings.  But the reality is, as he is trying to get defense appropriations, or defense authorization bills through and then you get Senator Kennedy boring in on the prisoner issues, rather than looking at the funding for the troops and the armaments for our military forces.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

ALLEN:  I think that all that has been done is appropriate.  But now let the legal proceedings, the court-martials go forward. 

MATTHEWS:  Have you told Senator John Warner, the chairman of the

Armed Services Committee, to stop holding hearings?>

ALLEN:  Absolutely not.  I‘ve actually commended him for doing it in a very respectful way.

MATTHEWS:  But I don‘t get it.  Do you think there‘s been too much or not enough attention to the prisoner abuse story?  Too much or not enough?

(CROSSTALK) 

ALLEN:  I think that it is so shocking to the conscience of the American people that we as senators have the same reaction to it.  It something that is important. 

But let‘s keep it in the proper perspective.  It is an isolated situation and it may actually be at different places, I suppose. 

(CROSSTALK)

ALLEN:  But the point is, is they are getting after it. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do you say—how do you know it is an isolated situation? 

ALLEN:  Because, if you look at what the command and the requirements are, it seems to me that if there are any of these things going on, they are an aberration. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Senator, do you believe that individual people from Virginia, from Maryland who have been accused here, bought dog collars, bought leashes, bought hoods and brought them over to Iraq with them, or do you think they were issued by the military intelligence people over there?  Who is responsible for this whole line of questioning with these people the way they have been stripped and shackled?

Are you saying a couple country folk from Virginia and Western Maryland came up with these ideas and these implements of torture? 

ALLEN:  I think that that all is being investigated, who is culpable.

MATTHEWS:  But does common sense tell you that they brought the dog collars and the leashes with them? 

ALLEN:  It wouldn‘t make common sense to me, no.  I don‘t know where they got them.  I suppose they have stores there. 

But the point of the matter is, we are in a war against terrorism. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

ALLEN:  This theater in Iraq is very significant, very dangerous, very precarious.  We are getting ready to turn it over to Iraqis for an interim government.  That is, I think, the most important aspect for us to be focused on. 

I recognize this is deplorable behavior in as far as our troops.  And any of those troops who are involved, any of their commanders that are culpable, whether volitionally or because of neglect or dereliction, they all ought to be punished.  But let‘s—there is almost a fixation on that, as opposed to the larger issues. 

MATTHEWS:  But you made it—you suggest that it is a partisan fixation.  John McCain has been out beating the drum on this thing.  And he was mocked by your speaker of the house the other day as not actually being a Republican.  He said, a Republican?  And laughed at—he‘s a party member.  Do you think John McCain is a member of your party? 

ALLEN:  John McCain is a part of our party. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why is he being disowned by the speaker of the house just this week for being tough on this prison question? 

ALLEN:  No, I think that the speaker probably got frustrated.  John McCain is an independent minded individual, as are all senators.  In fact, you look at the Senate, the speakers are used to wrestling teams and so forth.  They are all a bunch of quarterbacks in the Senate.  No one is going to block...

MATTHEWS:  Are you happy with the way the president is running this war? 

ALLEN:  I think the president is providing strong, resolved leadership.  The president also recognizes you have to adapt, you have to be flexible, you have to it different ways, that you have to change. 

I think his ultimate goal and his leadership and his vision is right. 

It is going to be difficult, but we are going to have to persevere in this

war against terrorism, as Ronald Reagan did in the war

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Was the president smart to go into Iraq? 

ALLEN:  In the Cold War.

MATTHEWS:  Was the president smart to go into Iraq? 

ALLEN:  I think based upon everything that we knew and believed was the evidence at that time, yes.  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, we have got to go.  Based on the bad intel. 

(CROSSTALK)

ALLEN:  And the bottom line is—no, the bottom line is, the United States is safer and the people of Iraq are better off now than they were under Saddam Hussein. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much.  Good answer, Senator George Allen of Virginia.

Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL with veteran newswoman Cokie Roberts.

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

END   

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