September 11, 2014
Guest: John Feehery, Kevin Blackistone, Bobby Ghosh, David Nakamura,
Michael Tomasky, Rory Kennedy
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Afraid to vote.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Tonight, 13 years after 9/11, the president declares war on a new
terrorist enemy. But where`s the Congress? He says we`ll have allies in
the fight against ISIS, but where are the allies here at home? Also
tonight, will the NFL really deal with a player knocking out his wife and
with an executive office that seemed to allow it? Finally, a look at the
last days of the Vietnam war through new and dramatic pictures that
highlight the fear of those left behind.
But we start with this uncertain trumpet sounding from Washington,
this failure of both parties in Congress to step up and say, Yes, we
support the president`s call to drop bombs on the Islamic State.
Does the Congress, Democrats and Republicans, back this air war
against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria? Does it believe in this new
war or not? And if it does, why won`t it put its word to it? Or are there
members waiting to see how it turns out? And if so, why do they have to
serve in Congress to do that? Any one of us can sit on the sidelines,
watching to see who wins, cheering those who do, booing those who don`t.
As Jack Kennedy said, Victory has a hundred fathers, defeat is an orphan.
Are members of Congress simply afraid to say what they believe? And
if they don`t want to influence the big matters of our time, they are
clearly running away from this one. Isn`t going to war important enough
issue for the Congress to vote on?
Ed Rendell`s the former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania and John
Feehery`s a Republican strategist.
Gentlemen, starting with you, Governor -- I`m amazed that members of
both parties, Democrats and Republicans, especially their leaders, are
having a very hard time bellying up to this very important vote. Should we
begin an air campaign into Syria against ISIS or not?
EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: The
answer is absolutely yes, Chris. And first of all, it`s embarrassing that
the Republican leaders are silent. This is what they`ve asked President
Obama to do for the last eight or nine days, and he`s done it and he`s done
it in a direct and I think forceful way. They should get behind it.
As far as our guys are concerned, if our guys are worried about boots
on the ground, they can make the funding for this expanded war contingent
upon boots on the ground not coming to pass. They could make the funding -
- they could sunset the funding. And if there are boots on the ground,
they could remove the funding. There`s so much they could do.
But they have to act swiftly because the president made a very good
point. He believes he has the authority to do this on his own, and so do
I. And by the way, Pat Meehan, our local congressman here, said the
president should go ahead and not wait for a congressional vote.
But the president said a congressional vote`s important because it
sends a message to the world, particularly if Republicans and Democrats are
united. And the president`s right, it does send a message to the world.
And this is a time for everyone to not be timid, everybody to act together
as one Congress, representing one country in a war that is justified and
that can be limited the way the president says it will be limited.
MATTHEWS: John Feehery, the day that President Roosevelt addressed
the Congress after Pearl Harbor, December 8th, when he gave that great
speech, "Yesterday, a day of infamy," they voted that day. This doesn`t
seem to be something that should go to committee. They`ve been watching
this president engage with ISIS for weeks now. They know this question is
coming before the American people. And if the question is before the
American people whether we go to war or not -- and there will be casualties
-- why can`t the members of Congress step up and vote?
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think they are going to
vote. I think they`re going to put their money where their mouth is, and
by that I mean...
MATTHEWS: ... fight ISIS from the air?
FEEHERY: ... appropriations. We`re already fighting ISIS in the
MATTHEWS: No, no...
MATTHEWS: ... the issue of war. Why don`t they want to address the
issue of war itself?
FEEHERY: Well, I think they`re going to address it through
appropriations, like we did with the Korean war. The fact of the matter
MATTHEWS: No, they`re not.
MATTHEWS: They`re not -- John, let`s get the facts straight. The
only thing they want to vote on is whether we train some of the Free Syrian
Army in Saudi Arabia or not. That`s hardly controversial. They are not
wanting to vote on whether they have an air campaign attacking the people
FEEHERY: They already have an air campaign going on in Syria and...
MATTHEWS: No, not yet! Not yet! We`re beginning one. We haven`t
started it yet.
FEEHERY: I think this -- the president hasn`t asked for a particular
war resolution, hasn`t asked for...
MATTHEWS: Why not?
FEEHERY: I don`t think he wants one. I think what he wants is the
ability to do this if he thinks he has the legal authority, and I think he
does. And I think that Congress...
MATTHEWS: ... legal authority. I can`t vote...
FEEHERY: Well, it`s the same legal authority that you have in Yemen.
These are the same type of groups that are -- are -- have America...
MATTHEWS: Did you read -- did you read the resolution for 2001? It
deals with the people who attacked us on 9/11. This crowd did not attack
us on 9/11. You know why? They didn`t exist! ISIS didn`t exist in 2001!
FEEHERY: Well, listen, I think the president -- I think there`s going
to be plenty of authority within this continuing resolution, and I think
it`s going to be...
MATTHEWS: Your crowd is so busy suing the president! Let me go back
to the governor on this. It`s funny about the Republicans. They`ll sue
the president, threaten him with impeachment if he brings in the employer
mandate off-schedule as part of the Americans -- the Affordable Care Act.
And yet on a matter of war, they just say, Go ahead and do it. We don`t
want to have anything to do with it.
This is totally contradictory in terms of their notion of the
Constitution and residual powers and Article 2 and the whole works. Why
did Democrats let the Republicans get away with saying, You can threaten us
with lawsuits over whether we initiate a particular provision of a
particular law, and yet they think the president should stick his neck out
all alone on going to war? Good question, I think, Governor.
RENDELL: It`s a great question. And in the Senate, Harry Reid should
list this for a vote as quickly as possible. And look, it`s more than just
politics as usual. It`s more than just they`ve criticized the president
and now he`s doing what they want. Come on, don`t be hypocrites, guys.
This is about a group that decapitated Americans who had done nothing
wrong. And it`s a group that`s trying to kill people because of their
I thought the president was very effective last night, Chris, when he
said these people aren`t Muslims. They`re not acting in the name of the
RENDELL: I thought he was very effective on that. And he`s right.
These people are killers. They want to terrorize the entire world. And it
is time for Congress, Republicans and Democrats, to step up and act as one.
Do you remember, Chris, after 9/11, what happened later that day? The
Congress came out and they sang "God Bless America" on the steps of the
RENDELL: ... to show that they were united and one Congress. This is
a continuation, in a sense, of everything that`s happened since 9/11, and I
do believe the Congress should get that message across not only to the
world, but to the American people. Let`s, for once, bury the partisanship.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Why wouldn`t a member of Congress want to vote on
FEEHERY: Listen, this is not just...
MATTHEWS: Why wouldn`t they want to vote?
FEEHERY: This is not just the Republicans! It`s also the Democrats!
MATTHEWS: Why wouldn`t anybody want to vote?
FEEHERY: I think that they -- they`re taking this very seriously.
And there might be a vote. But the fact of the matter is...
MATTHEWS: Oh, there won`t be. They`re afraid to vote.
FEEHERY: I don`t -- I don`t...
MATTHEWS: They`re not -- neither side is pushing for a vote.
Let`s take a look at this. Last night, Arizona senator John McCain
told Andrea Mitchell that Congress should vote on this. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think that the Congress should vote
on it, and I do believe that just as President Clinton before Bosnia came
to the Congress, George Herbert Walker Bush before Desert Storm, it`s
better to have the support of the Congress, therefore getting the support
of the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well said in this case. And today, Speaker John Boehner
was asked about a vote to go to war in the House. Here`s what the speaker
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Why not be much more active and have a vote to give the
president authority, to have a congressional marker on this, if this is
such an incredible threat?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I do believe it would
be in the nation`s interest, I believe it`s in the institution of the
Congress`s interest to speak on this question. Now, normally, in such a
case -- I`ve been through this a few times over the 24 years that I`ve been
here -- the president of the United States would request that support and
would supply the wording of a resolution to authorize this force. At this
point in time, we`ve not gotten that request and we`ve not seen that
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that buck`s been passed. Anyway, the call for a vote
to go to war has been echoed by Democrats, as well. Florida Democrat Bill
Nelson introduced legislation to be voted on saying this one (ph) sure (ph)
there`s no question that the president has the legal authority he needs to
use air strikes in Syria. Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine said, I disagree
with the president`s assertion that he has all necessary legal authority to
wage an offensive war against ISIL without congressional approval.
John Feehery, I guess the problem is, as the governor said, there`s a
lot of wusses in this world.
FEEHERY: I don`t -- listen, I will defend the Congress. I know it`s
MATTHEWS: ... voting!
FEEHERY: I think the Congress is taking this very seriously. And I
MATTHEWS: How so? Why don`t they want to vote?
FEEHERY: They are going to the briefings. They`re listening to the -
- they`re trying to figure out where this training money will go to. And I
think that they will have an appropriate vote, and I think they will vote
on the money to pay for this, and I think that...
MATTHEWS: To pay for what?
FEEHERY: To pay for the training. I think they`re also...
MATTHEWS: No, what about going into...
MATTHEWS: ... an air war against ISIS? Are they going to vote for an
air war against ISIS, which the president is committing himself to?
FEEHERY: If the president wants a vote, they will vote.
MATTHEWS: OK. Do you...
FEEHERY: If they want a bipartisan vote, they can get a bipartisan
MATTHEWS: But you don`t think the Congress should actually vote, or
want a vote.
FEEHERY: I think if the president wants a vote that he`ll get a vote.
And it`ll probably pass.
MATTHEWS: You don`t think there`s a matter of constitutional
principle here, that we have the Congress vote on war?
FEEHERY: Oh, they do -- usually, at the request of the president.
They don`t just kind of make it up out of...
MATTHEWS: But should -- should the...
MATTHEWS: Let me go to a law professor here. Governor, the Congress
of the United States has the power to declare war, and that is generally
meant that you`d have a Gulf of Tonkin resolution, have a vote on the wars
of -- Iraq, the first Gulf war, the second war. Even the most conservative
presidents have come to the Congress and said, Yes, you have to approve
this, or I`m not going further.
Where are we on this one? Because we are getting into a war -- as you
know and John knows and I know, we`re going into a war with ISIS that`s
going to last three years or 20 years, we don`t know. But nobody thinks
it`s going to be a short war. Nobody.
MATTHEWS: Right. And look, if Congress needs to debate this, first
of all, they should, in my judgment, go on a 24-hour-a-day schedule until
they can thoroughly debate it and get this done.
But if they feel they need to debate it, I think Pat Meehan`s
suggestion, which I referenced earlier, Chris, that the president go ahead
and authorize the bombing in Syria pending the congressional vote, and then
they can debate it for all the time they want.
But I don`t think we can wait. We`ve probably waited a little bit too
long. I think the -- with the second decapitation, for sure, I think we
should have taken retaliatory action. And I think the president can go
ahead on a limited basis and then let Congress debate. If they want to
debate it for a week, they can debate it.
But frankly, there shouldn`t be much debate on this. If you structure
the resolution correctly and you structure the funding to sunset after a
period of time, where if there are boots on the ground, you can remove the
funding, you have everything we need to have to make a vote. What`s the
big deal? It`s not so hard...
MATTHEWS: That`s right. Well, the war -- the War Powers...
RENDELL: And John McCain...
MATTHEWS: ... 60 days. Yes?
RENDELL: And John McCain had it right on.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. There`s a rare unanimity between the
governor and John McCain.
MATTHEWS: And me, too, actually. And maybe you`ll come along, too,
John Feehery, when you come to your senses. You know the Congress will
want to vote on this if it works.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you. Don`t you think?
FEEHERY: I think what`ll happen is if the president asks for a vote,
they`ll get a vote.
FEEHERY: And I don`t think he has asked for one yet.
MATTHEWS: OK. He hasn`t, and I think he should. John -- I think we
agree on that. John Feehery, thank you. Governor Rendell.
Coming up, more on the president`s plan to go to war with ISIS. Some
of our key allies say they won`t actually take part in the air strikes. So
how do you win a war in the Islamic world without any of its help in the
actual fighting? This is another problem. Not only does he no few allies
at home, apparently, he`s got few allies abroad that are actually going to
do the fighting.
Plus, the president criticized dumb wars and campaigned on a promise
of ending the Iraq conflict, is now likely to end his presidency fighting
yet another war in the Middle East. It`s not exactly the legacy he`d hoped
for, or we had hoped for.
And coming up next, two big stories this week shed light on the dark
side of sports culture. There`s the verdict in the trial of South African
Olympian Oscar Pistorius, and the indefinite suspension of Baltimore Ravens
running back Ray Rice. Is there a culture of protecting violent athletes?
We`re going to ask you that.
Finally, if you want to see what the final days of South Vietnam
looked like, watch tonight. A new documentary reveals never before seen
footage of the hours leading to the fall of Saigon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He swam away. The helicopter was only about 20
feet from him when it hit the water. It was amazing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What a scene you`re about to see tonight. That`s coming
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: We`ve got some new numbers out of Pennsylvania in that race
for governor up there. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."
The latest Quinnipiac poll has Democrat -- Democrat Tom Wolf with a
massive lead over Governor Tom Corbett. Among likely voters, Wolf has a
24-point lead, with just eight weeks to go until election, 59-35, Wolf over
Corbett. What an outsider run that is!
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. An initial verdict is out in
that biggest worldwide criminal trial in South Africa, perhaps the biggest
trial in history worldwide in terms of attention. Today, a South African
judge handed down an initial verdict in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial.
She found Pistorius negligent -- that`s the word -- in killing his
girlfriend, but acquitted him of murder charges. Court has adjourned, with
a final verdict -- and that`s going to come back, apparently, tomorrow in
the session they`re having. It could be (INAUDIBLE) tomorrow -- actually,
a ruling on culpable homicide. We don`t know yet, but tomorrow`s the day
Anyway, Pistorius`s trial itself has become a worldwide news
sensation, of course, much like the O.J. Simpson trial. That was called
the trial of the century, that I covered 20 years ago every single night.
In fact, both cases, regardless of the verdict, we had allegations, apart
from the verdict of legal -- legality or criminality, was certainly
In the Simpson case, we had police reports of gruesome beatings. And
who could forget those disturbing 911 tapes? Let`s listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
911 OPERATOR: 911 emergency (INAUDIBLE)
NICOLE BROWN SIMPSON: Could you get someone over here now, to 325
Greta Green? He`s back. Please?
911 OPERATOR: OK, what does he look like?
SIMPSON: He`s O.J. Simpson. I think you know his record. Could you
just send somebody over here?
911 OPERATOR: OK, what is he doing there?
SIMPSON: He just drove up again!
SIMPSON: ... send somebody over?
911 OPERATOR: Wait a minute. What kind of car is he in?
SIMPSON: He`s in a white Bronco. But first of all, he broke the back
door down to get in!
911 OPERATOR: (INAUDIBLE) what is he doing? Is he threatening you?
SIMPSON: He`s (EXPLETIVE DELETED) going nuts!
911 OPERATOR: Has he threatened you in any way, or -- or is he just
SIMPSON: You`re going to hear him in a minute. He`s about to come in
911 OPERATOR: OK. Just stay on the line.
SIMPSON: I don`t want to stay on the line! He`s going to beat the
(EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of me!
911 OPERATOR: Just stay on the line so we can know what`s going on
until the police get there, OK?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, in the Pistorius case, prosecutors say his
girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, locked herself in the bathroom because she was
apparently so afraid of him. And by the way, she also sent him a text
message last year, saying, quote, "I`m scared of you sometimes and how you
snap at me and how you will react to me. "
Kevin Blackistone is a sports journalist. He`s a commentator and
regular on ESPN. And Goldie Taylor is an MSNBC contributor -- MSNBC
contributor, of course, and former Marine.
Goldie, I want to thank -- talk with you. And this is stories that
are -- you could argue more than peripheral to the cases themselves,
certainly in the way that they ended, the death of a person. But in this
case, the jocks, the protectiveness -- you hear about it in the special way
they`re treated in college, the training tables, the way they get breaks,
certainly, on some of the gut courses we talked (ph) about (ph) it (ph).
Some of them don`t even have to take the gut, the easy courses. They just
walk in, walk out, write a 10-page paper. Remember the story at UNC?
This coddling of jocks extends now into the area of violent, perhaps
criminality, that -- without me making a verdict or judging the cases here.
What`s the story generally that we`re getting to here?
GOLDIE TAYLOR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, you`re absolutely
right about that, Chris. If you think of professional athletes as assets,
then you understand that they come through a supply chain, from the time
that they`re in grade school and they first learn how to scoop a
basketball, you know, or run track or play football, you know, academics,
how they are responded to by society, free meals, the girls, you name it.
They`re coddled by society in general.
And then when you look at a coaching staff and you look at academic
instructors and others and some of the breaks that athletes are caught (ph)
-- given just so they can push them through the supply chain, that by the
time they become men, by the time they take the field in a professional
way, they don`t have these coddlers around anymore. And they`re also less
mature and less able to deal with themselves in a broader society. And so
we literally cripple these young men as we`re bringing them up to be
But it really goes further than that. We put them into a situation
where their body is traumatized physically and psychologically with every
hit that they take. That has real outcomes, and it unfortunately plays
itself out, you know, more often than we like to think, at home.
MATTHEWS: You know, Kevin, in the old studio system in Hollywood,
they protected all the actors this way. They were messing around. They
were drinking. They had all kinds of drug problems. You never heard a
word about it because they protect them with P.R. people and deals with the
cops and everybody else, you know?
KEVIN BLACKISTONE, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Right.
MATTHEWS: And now it seems to be worse because the violence level is
certainly higher than it was in the old days of the drunks and the
BLACKISTONE: But you hear about all the athletes.
I would argue or add to that that athletes are also the most
scrutinized employment class in America as well.
BLACKISTONE: I mean, you just laid out all the cases.
Of all the millions of domestic violence cases that take place every
year, how many do we actually hear about? How often have people been as
apoplectic and exercised and in a lather in a domestic...
MATTHEWS: Well, a tape.
BLACKISTONE: Well, it`s on tape.
MATTHEWS: We have a tape.
BLACKISTONE: But, earlier this year, we had the RadiumOne CEO, who
hit his girlfriend 117 times. It was captured on tape as well. He was
ousted from his position, and it never became a national conversation.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at this. If it weren`t for the
bombshell TMZ tape we all saw this week with Ravens running Ray Rice in it
-- that got all the attention, a two-day suspension -- two-game suspension.
But as "USA Today"`s columnist Christine Brennan points out, there are
numerous players that have gotten off scot-free so far. Here`s what she
wrote -- quote -- "But what of Ray McDonald, the San Francisco 49ers
defensive lineman who is facing a felony domestic charge, yet still
playing? Or Greg Hardy, the Carolina Panthers defensive end, who was found
guilty of assaulting his former girlfriend and threatening to kill her, who
also is still playing. Or what about Rice`s Baltimore teammate, Pro bowl
linebacker Terrell Suggs? Suggs` longtime girlfriend, Candace Williams,
claimed in a protective order filed in 2012, obtained by `the Baltimore
Sun,` that Suggs punched her in the neck and drove a car containing their
two children to a high rate of speed, while she was being dragged alongside
Do you think that`s typical of American life?
BLACKISTONE: I don`t think that`s typical of American life, but I
will say this about what Christine wrote.
And we have talked about it before. The fact that of the matter is,
is that many of us in the media, many of us who are fans of this game have
not held these athletes responsible at all. The same Ray Rice who is going
to be, if his name is mentioned tonight, booed, people in Baltimore are
burning his jersey, when he came back in preseason, they were giving him a
So what has changed here in terms of the optics...
MATTHEWS: Well, we`re going to get more in to this. And I wonder
about how much of the culture is being a little bad and everything, being a
little tough is all part of the swag of the sport. You know?
Anyway, thanks so much. We`re going to get to that. I wish we had
more time tonight.
Goldie, as always, my colleague, thank you for joining us.
Kevin, nice to meet you, sir, for the first time.
BLACKISTONE: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Kevin Blackistone from ESPN.
TAYLOR: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next, a look at how the rest of the world is responding
to the president`s speech from last night, especially within the Middle
East. We got Richard Engel coming on. He`s on the ground in Iraq with the
This HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But this is not our
fight alone. American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot
do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place
of Arab partners in securing their region.
Tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following
consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that
America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.
Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL
through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the president last night said this is not our fight
alone, and that will be -- we will be working with a broad coalition of
But what exactly will that look like? Today, we found out. German,
Turkey, and Britain all said they were unlikely to take part in the
airstrikes. And what about our partners on the ground? Is it realistic to
think that the Free Syrian Army is strong enough to gain territory after we
bombed land held by ISIS? And if not, how do we win a war with airpower
alone, and without credible allies on the ground or coalition partners
willing to get their hands dirty, if you will?
Well, coming to us from Iraq tonight is Richard Engel, chief foreign
correspondent for NBC News over there. And Bobby Ghosh is managing editor
Richard, thank you so much. It was great being on with you last night
with everyone else at MSNBC in the middle of the night there. I guess the
question is, what`s the teamwork going to look like in this war against
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Secretary Kerry
today got a moderate endorsement, at least an endorsement verbally for this
counterterrorism strategy, with several Sunni Arab nations pledging their
support, saying that they would limit the traffic of foreign fighters
leaving the Muslim world to try and contain that flow into Syria, that they
would cut back on terrorist financing, and that they would help, where
appropriate, the military action.
The where appropriate was the language that they used in the
communique. But in terms of the actual airstrikes, it seems like it will
be the U.S. primarily carrying them out. But you have just talked about
the biggest weakness in all of this. So if we have the Arab world lending
moral support, effectively tightening their borders, using their good
offices to try to smooth the process along, we have the U.S. bombing from
above, who is going to actually go in and fill the gaps on the ground?
In Syria, the -- Secretary Kerry is now talking about reconstituting
the FSA. After three years of neglect, the FSA has died. It will need to
be reborn, rearmed, retrained, and new leaders for it will have to be
found. That is not something that is going to happen quickly. It may not
even be successful at all.
The Iraqi army, which the U.S. spent nearly a decade rebuilding after
it fought it and then disbanded it, is also going to have to be retrained
and given new leadership. That is not going to be easy. And there`s no
guarantee that it will work, because even when U.S. trainers were here,
shoulder to shoulder in places like Baghdad, it clearly didn`t work.
So maybe it will work this time. But those are two enormous
challenges. And those are just two of the challenges facing this ambitious
strategy. So bombing ISIS, weakening them, finding their leadership and
taking them out with drones, that`s probably the easy part. Filling in the
gaps is going to be immensely difficult.
MATTHEWS: So, Bobby Ghosh -- hang in there, Richard.
Bobby, it seems to me this is the question, the conundrum here for the
president. You bomb the people like hell. By the way, it has to be
limited, bombing, because if you`re bombing, start doing carpet bombing
over there, or bombing too much, you are going to end up killing a lot of
innocent people, a lot of hospitals and schoolkids.
And it will be all over international television, and it will end up
destroying any good you do in the thing. But if you do keep bombing,
either one of two things has to happen for you to -- quote -- "win."
One, they have to just put their hands in the air and say, we give up.
We can`t take any more bombing, hands in the air, surrender to the United
States. Nobody on Earth thinks that`s going to happen. The second
possibility is that somebody is going to come along after we have bombed an
area, grab that area, take it over, take it from ISIS, and whittle down the
amount of area ISIS actually controls.
As Richard just said, there`s nobody to do that. So I don`t see how
the bombing campaign, beyond killing a few leaders if we`re lucky, gets
anywhere near destroying and degrading or degrading and destroying ISIS. I
don`t see how it works.
BOBBY GHOSH, MANAGING EDITOR, QUARTZ: Richard is broadly right, but I
take a slightly more charitable view towards the quality of the boots
available on the ground.
The Iraqi forces that initially melted away from -- from in front of
ISIS were some of the worst sort of poorly trained, badly recruited
elements of the Iraqi army. We have seen more recently some of the better-
trained brigades come up north. They were mostly in the south protecting
the Shiite areas, protecting the capital.
We have seen them come up and working alongside the Peshmerga, the
Kurdish militias, and with the U.S. with American air cover take back some
terrorist from ISIS in Iraq. So it`s not that they`re completely a lost
cause. With the FSA, with the Free Syrian Army, also, a I`m a little more
charitable towards them.
They have survived more than three years of fighting. And, yes, they
are a depleted force from three years ago, but they have survived. And
they have survived against overwhelming odds against them. The Syrian army
have completely outgunned them. And then they were fighting with --
against the ISIS on another side and still they have survived.
We have to give these guys a little credit. They need help. They
need a lot of help, they need money, they need training, they need better
arms. But that`s probably why the president is talking about three years
and longer to make this happen. This is not going to be -- this is not
Shock and Awe. And, thankfully, he`s not using language like that.
MATTHEWS: OK. So your bottom line, your bottom line here, as you
argue with me effectively here, is that the Syrian -- Free Syrian Army can
defeat ISIS with our air help, or not?
GHOSH: And a lot of other help. They need training, they need arms,
they need -- they need money, they need intelligence. They need a lot of
things. Air cover is the sort of last stage of the operation. They need
to be stood up once again as a fighting force first. My argument is, that
Yes, I wonder if it`s plausible, though.
Thank you very much, Richard Engel. Thank you, Bobby Ghosh.
I remain a skeptic about how this works together. How can the
president use an air campaign if there`s no one to exploit it on the
ground, and take cover -- take land back from them and capture these
people? They are going to be still be around, shooting at us, still
probably beheading us.
Coming up, President Obama built his legacy on bringing home the
troops and keeping the country out of war. But how can he recalibrate his
presidency now with ISIS in the picture?
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins. And here`s
It was a solemn commemoration at the World Trade Center site as the
names of those lost 13 years ago were read. Meanwhile, at the Pentagon,
President Obama spoke to victims` family members. And in Shanksville,
Pennsylvania, hundreds gathered at the crash site of Flight 93.
Senators huddled at the Capitol for a confidential briefing on ISIS.
After the meeting, Senator Chris Murphy, who sits on the Foreign Relations
Committee, says are elements of the administration`s strategy he disagrees
with, including arming the Syrian rebels.
And the CIA says the number of ISIS fighters in the field has grown
since June. It`s believed the militant group now has a force of between
20,0000 and 31,000 fighters -- and now we`re going to take you back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
This was not how it was supposed to be for President Obama. His
prime-time speech to America announcing military action in Iraq and Syria
last night is hardly what the candidate who ran and won on his opposition
to the Iraq war could have envisioned.
First, there was Obama`s speech at an anti-war rally in Chicago when
he was an Illinois state senator. A video of the campaign -- of the Obama
campaign featured on YouTube, let`s listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I don`t oppose war in all circumstances. And when I look out
over this crowd today, I know there`s no shortage of patriots or
patriotism. What I do oppose is a dumb war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the November after he had electrified the 2004
Democratic National Convention in Boston, Obama was elected senator from
And, as senator-elect, he appeared on "Charlie Rose," again
criticizing the Iraq war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I have looked at the evidence. I`m a hawk when it comes to
defeating terrorism. I was strongly supportive of Afghanistan. I would
have picked up arms myself to prevent 9/11 again.
I don`t think the president has made the case on Iraq because I don`t
CHARLIE ROSE, HOST, "THE CHARLIE ROSE SHOW": You said this before...
OBAMA: I said it in October of 20 -- October of 2002, six months
before the war was launched.
ROSE: If you had been a member of the Senate, you would have voted
against the resolution?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And when he announced his candidacy on a bracing February
day in Springfield, Illinois, an event I attended, the candidate made clear
that a vote for him was a vote to bring troops home from Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Most of you know that I opposed this war from the start. I
thought it was a tragic mistake. Today, we grieve for the families who
have lost loved ones, the hearts that have been broken, and the young lives
that could have been. America, it`s time to start bringing our troops home
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: It`s time -- it`s time to admit that no amount of American
lives can resolve the political disagreement that lies at the heart of
someone else`s civil war.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: That`s why I have a plan that will bring our combat troops
home by March of 2008.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And then last night, in a turn he could hardly have
imagined that on February 2007, the day, the day we just saw there, the
president prepared Americans for another conflict.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL. And any
time we take military action, there are risks involved, especially to the
service men and women who carry out these missions.
But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be
different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve
American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counterterrorism
campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL
wherever they exist, using our airpower and our support for partners`
forces on the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, as I said at the start tonight, this was not how it
was supposed to be for Barack Obama.
Joining me right now is David Nakamura with "The Washington Post", and
Michael Tomasky of "The Daily Beast".
David, you wrote this great piece about a turn in the road for the
president. And I was thinking how this really was something that Franklin
Roosevelt, I`ve been reading about it a lot lately, had to go from Mr. End
to the Depression to Mr. Fight and Win the Second World War.
And then you look at Lyndon Johnson, who had a terrible change, from
Mr. Let`s End Poverty in America, with the Great Society and Medicaid and
Medicare and all the good things he did, and then he had to get sunk into
the morass of the Vietnam War.
How would you compare the turn in the road for the president right
now, to those two previous turns for presidents?
DAVID NAKAMURA, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, it`s a big difference from
what this president was talking about, just six years ago when he was
popular around the world and in the United States for his views so
different from President Bush. I think, even just a few months ago at West
Point, the president gave a similar speech about his foreign policy. He`s
been criticized for being too cautious in some cases. But he said very
clearly, he doesn`t want to get the United States in a long, drawn-out
campaign, military campaign without any clear objectives and without a
clear end date, end of our terms of engagement.
And yet last night, you know, as much as he tried to sort of demarche
the limits of our engagement, with no ground forces, it`s not clear how
long it`s going to last. Behind the scenes, the administration has sort of
acknowledging that this is probably going to outlast the president`s term,
that will end in early 2017 and he`ll hand it off to the successor and that
is not the legacy that he expected or that he intended to leave.
MATTHEWS: So in the middle of this upcoming presidential campaign,
which may begin when if Secretary Clinton decides in January, it`s going to
start then, right? So, we`re going to have a two-year campaign covered by
a war, a war underneath it, as the other reality.
MICHAEL TOMASKY, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes, that presents potential
problems for Hillary or whatever the Democrat is, because if it`s seen as a
Democrat`s war, then, it`s --
MATTHEWS: Bob Dole`s old phrase.
TOMASKY: Right, it hangs around her neck too. Thinking about Obama,
the great irony here, I`m sure he came into office thinking that just by
virtue of not being George Bush and by virtue of ending the wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq, which he planned to do and is doing, sort of. He
thought that he would be a completely different kind of president. I mean,
he won the Nobel Peace prize in his first year in office.
MATTHEWS: But how could he have prevented the development of ISIS?
TOMASKY: Well, he couldn`t have. He couldn`t have.
MATTHEWS: Because ISIS came out of the failure of the government in
Baghdad to unite the Sunni with the Shia. So, the Sunni went elsewhere.
TOMASKY: Look, I`m not blaming him here. I think he`s doing what he
has to do. I`m just pointing out the irony of the fact that this guy, who
I`m sure wanted to be a president of peace, his legacy is now going to
hang, his foreign policy, at least, to a considerable extent on whether he
succeeds in waging this war.
MATTHEWS: How does this square, David, with doing something positive
on foreign policy, like PEPFAR, like fighting AIDS in East Africa, or doing
things you can usually freelance? Is there anything else he can do in
foreign policy if he`s fighting a war in Syria and Iraq?
NAKAMURA: This severely limits actually his options. You know, one
of the biggest initiatives this administration has talked about on foreign
policy, in addition to negotiations on nuclear program with Iran, is a turn
to the Asia-Pacific where there`s a real concern about the growth of China
as another superpower, both economically and military.
MATTHEWS: The turn to China?
NAKAMURA: Absolutely. The president is going to go to China as part
of this Asia pivot, they`re calling it. They`ve been talking about for
three years now. He`s going to go in November.
But they`ve really been distracted by that. They don`t have money for
it. They don`t have attention and the military is not as engaged as it
should be, if you`re going to carry that out.
So, I think not only is it a difficult, difficult intractable issue in
the Middle East they`re dealing with, not only is there a situation in
Ukraine they didn`t expect, but it`s going to take away from many of their
other legacy initiatives that they`re talked a lot about and I think the
administration knows that and it`s a big concern.
MATTHEWS: I never thought this one, I`m asking this Michael Tomasky,
because we think alike, could the president`s turn to the hawkish side last
night give Hillary cover to be more hawkish than Obama if she runs for
TOMASKY: Yes, provided this is going OK. I mean, if it`s not going
OK, then it`s not cover, it`s the opposite of cover. But if it`s going OK
in 2016, then sure I think it does. It`s easy for her to say, well, look,
to say, wink, wink, he did what I said he should do two years before.
MATTHEWS: Well, even more, he`s doing it so why can`t I do it?
TOMASKY: Yes, right.
MATTHEWS: Yes, right.
Anyway, thank you, David Nakamura. Thank you for that article today,
which got our heads around it. We always like people to do that.
Thank you, Michael Tomasky, as always, for thinking deeply.
Up next, filmmaker Rory Kennedy joins us. She`s going to be right
here. She`s the daughter of Bobby and Ethel Kennedy, of course. She`s got
a new documentary about the final weeks of the Vietnam War -- great
footage, which we`ve never seen before, of a pretty horrible time, with
lots of desperate people trying to get out of that country in 1975.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: The president`s speech lat night raised more questions,
more questions than it provided answers, and it might have scared some
people about the threat here at home, especially some in Texas, apparently.
The search engine Google was there to answer those questions. Here
were their top six. At number six of all the questions asked from Google,
is ISIS in Mexico? Aside from south of the border, many wanted to know if
ISIS was located in Houston, in El Paso, or just Texas in general. Some
widened their search with the number two question. Is ISIS in America?
And the number one question searched on Google during the president`s
speech last night, what is the difference between ISIS and ISIL?
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
By March of 1973, the last U.S. troops had left South Vietnam. For
this country the war was finally over. But just two years later, the North
Vietnamese broke the Paris Peace Accords in an all-out bid to unite the
country under communist rule. With the collapse of Saigon imminent, an
American-led operation to airlift American personnel from the country soon
began rescuing their South Vietnamese allies as well. It was the largest
helicopter evacuation ever undertaken and it`s best remembered by this
photograph of a lawn on a roof top as hundreds tried to get aboard.
Now, there`s a new documentary coming out that tells the story behind
the evacuation. "The Last Days of Vietnam" by filmmaker Rory Kennedy,
using previously unseen footage the film depicts that chaos to the days
before Saigon fell, including the kind of desperate measures some took to
escape. And one scene depicts how a U.S. destroyer in the Pacific was so
overwhelmed by incoming helicopters that the crew had to scrap them after
they had landed, pushing each overboard, one by one to make room for the
In one case, a South Vietnamese pilot found that his helicopter was
too big to land on the destroyer. Low in fuel, he risked his life to get
his family on that ship. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One by one, we jumped out. I jumped out, my
brother jumped out. My mom was holding my sister.
HUGH DOYLE, CHIEF ENGINEER, USS KIRK: One fellow standing there and
he looked up and he just hold his feet and stuff come flying out and it was
a baby (ph). Then the pilot flew out on our starboard right side, he
hovered with his wheels in and out of the water. Here`s a man flying a
twin rotor helicopter by himself. At the same time, he`s taking off a
flight suit. How you do it, I`ve talked to helicopter pilots, and they
can`t figure out how he did that, like a Houdini trying to get out of this
Finally, he made the helicopter roll to the right as he stepped out
the door on the left. He swam away. The helicopter was only about 20 feet
from him when it hit the water. It was amazing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Joining me right now is Rory Kennedy, producer and director
of that documentary. It`s called "Last Days in Vietnam."
So, you know, we all thought we knew everything from the one picture
of the people scrambling up and actually being pushed off the ladder to get
up top. What more is there to the story in pictures?
RORY KENNEDY, FILMMAKER: I think that`s right. A lot of us feel like
we know the whole story from that picture, and it`s such an extraordinary
story, that impact happened during those final days of the Vietnam war that
so few of us really understand and appreciate. The chaos of that moment,
how we got to the point where people were leaving off of helicopters, it`s
so dramatic and heart-stopping. It`s an amazing story that really hasn`t
been shared widely to this day.
But one of the things is that the film shows, at that time, the
American policy was just to get the Americans out of Vietnam, because it
got so hectic so quickly. And our story shows how Americans on the ground
went against U.S. policy to save as many Vietnamese as possible.
MATTHEWS: Because they knew the people?
KENNEDY: They knew them. They had families with them. They were
married to them. They had children with them. They spoke Vietnamese.
They had been part of the culture, they cared about them. And they knew if
they left them behind, they could be killed, they would be tortured. They
would end up in camps and they were very concerned about them.
MATTHEWS: Tell me about the timing of the onslaught when the north
and east start to make their big run to take the country. Was that
something that came really fast and, therefore, the people had no way of
gradually getting out or getting in boats or whatever, fly commercially out
of the country if they had the money?
KENNEDY: Well, what happened was, you know, we had signed the peace
accord in `73. So, at that time, all the U.S. troops had been withdrawn.
So, at this point in 1975, there were about 6,000 personnel in the country.
But there were no troops. And the north then came in.
They thought it would take two years to get to Saigon. It took four
months. The country fell like a house of cards. So, by the time they got
to Saigon, that we were unprepared as a government. We had no evacuation
plan, the ambassador who was really the person who was in the position to
make a decision to green light the evacuation refused to do so.
KENNEDY: He thought that it would cause a panic and he was very
attached to South Vietnam and didn`t want to see it fall under his
leadership. So, these people who saw what was going to happen, the
American troops said, we`ve got to do something about this. And they start
this block operation that was under the radar of the U.S. government and of
the ambassador, and they started getting people out of the country through
the airports, through ships, through every mean necessary. And, you know,
that story shows there`s some extraordinary moments of incredible courage
on the part of the South Vietnamese.
That guy went on a helicopter with his family out to sea, chasing the
American helicopters that were heading to the fleet. He didn`t have enough
gas. He didn`t know where he was going to land, he had his children with
him. He couldn`t land on the USS Kirk, so he threw his children out of the
door of the helicopter and they landed on the USS Kirk and the men down
there caught each and every one of these children.
I mean, it`s an amazing story and the film is full of extraordinary
moments like that.
MATTHEWS: Rory Kennedy, it`s an honor to have you. What a piece of
work. I mean, I`ve got to see it. And I`m going to see it.
Anyway, the film is called "Last Days of Vietnam". It`s playing in
New York right now. It will be released here in Washington tomorrow with
more cities to come. Check your listings, of course.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this war without a name, without
even a declaration of war, without even an admission that it is a war.
I know why a politician would not want to vote on going to war. It`s
the old rule of politics, that the safest vote is either to vote for a
measure that fails or against a measure that passes. In both cases, you
avoid getting blamed.
Why? Because in both cases, your vote had no affect whatsoever. It
simply didn`t count.
You might ask what kind of politician would like to have his vote not
count and not carry any responsibility because he or she did not have a
role in something happening or not happening. Well, today, on the question
of whether we declare war on ISIS, the Islamic State, the consensus seems
to be that you stay out of the range of fire. You keep yourself at such a
distance from the war that nobody can blame you. And we should think about
this tendency and not wonder so much why Congress did a job approval of
just 7 percent.
The mystery is not number 7. The mystery is that it doesn`t stop
people from reelecting and reelecting the same people and expecting a
better, more courageous performance.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>