September 23, 2014
Guest: Zeke Miller
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Allies.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in wartime Washington. And that`s right,
we`re at war right now. The United States is hitting Syria with bombers,
fighter planes and Tomahawk missiles, with two air strikes today. Well,
this time, we have allies in the field. Five Arab countries are joining in
the air war against ISIS while we Americans target it and another terrorist
group, Khorasan, the al Qaeda faction that threatens to plant bombs on U.S.
or European airliners.
Well, tonight, we hit the ISIS battle from all angles, starting with the
stealth creation of this startling new alliance of the United States,
Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar. It`s (ph) all (ph)
playing a supporting role, that country (ph).
Who did this job of pulling these countries together, and how did they keep
it secret? This is the best kept plan since our killing of Osama bin
Laden. My questions tonight, will this wild (ph) new alliance sell in the
Arab world? Will it convince Arabs that it is them, not just the United
States, going after ISIS, the terrorists?
Will this new alliance sell with the anti-war forces here in America? Are
people like me going to buy it? We`ll get to these questions and some
others, like the danger ISIS and this al Qaeda group, Khorasan, pose to us
here in the U.S.
Also, why it`s apparently so easy for someone dangerous to go, as you see
now, charging into the White House itself. We`re going to have a great
HARDBALL roundtable for the second half of the show, "The Washington
Post`s" Jonathan Capehart, Michelle Bernard and Zeke Miller (ph) of "Time"
all joining us for halftime.
And the Pentagon today said last night`s air strikes against ISIS and other
groups in Syria, quote, "were very successful." Among the targets were
ISIS training camps, headquarters and command and control facilities.
The U.S. military released some remarkable video showing several strikes
against ISIS, like this U.S. air strike on a vehicle staging area. Another
video shows a strike by a U.S. aircraft to a storage facility used by ISIS.
And yet another one shows a U.S. air strike on the ISIS compound near the
group`s headquarters in northern Syria. In all, more than 20 targets were
The scope of the strikes caught some by surprise. Referring to the initial
strikes that launched the Iraq war in 2003, one U.S. official said to "The
Wall Street Journal" about last night`s campaign, "It is shock without the
Well, today, President Obama praised the military`s efforts, but cautioned
this fight won`t be short or easy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last night, on my orders,
America`s armed forces began strikes against ISIL targets in Syria. The
overall effort will take time. There will be challenges ahead. But we`re
going to do what`s necessary to take the fight to this terrorist group for
the security of the country and the region and for the entire world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the spokesman for the Pentagon, Admiral John Kirby, gave a
positive assessment of the air strikes last night. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: We think we were very effective
last night. We`re still assessing the results of the strikes, of course,
but every indication we have so far is that we hit and our partners hit
exactly what we were aiming at and that we have damaged -- severely damaged
their ability to sustain themselves and to command and control their own
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Chuck Todd`s NBC News political director and moderator, of
course, of "MEET THE PRESS." Andrea Mitchell`s NBC News chief foreign
affairs correspondent. She joins us. And she`s also host, obviously, of
"THE ANDREA MITCHELL REPORT" here on MSNBC. And Michael Leiter is the
former director of the National Counterterrorism Center and an MSNBC
First I want to get the inside. I want to start with Chuck, and then I
want to go quickly to Andrea for the insight (ph), the White House role.
This is like Osama bin Laden getting killed. We didn`t think it was
coming. All of a sudden, it`s coming, a big splash, a big apparent start
to a big fight.
CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Well, and not only that, doing it
when they did it, basically, the day before the president`s going to New
York today at the United Nations. This is -- you know, to start,
essentially, dropping a bomb on the seventh different nation that this
president has bombed or ordered an air strike on at some point 24 hours
before the start of the U.N. General Assembly. It`s not something that
people would have pictured a Barack Obama doing, say, seven or eight years
I think this was a way for the president to send a message to the Arab
allies that he has resolve on this. Anybody questioning his resolve -- and
that`s been -- it`s happened politically in this country, but it`s been
happening overseas -- I think in many ways, the timing of this, whether --
it feels as if this was meant to say, You know what? Not only, Let`s go,
the allies are there, but you know what? Not a bad way to start the U.N.
meeting, which I think some people would have thought even a week ago
that`s not something this president would have done.
MATTHEWS: Andrea, starting a war is hardly the stuff of a Nobel Prize
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Right.
MATTHEWS: -- but there is diplomacy at the heart of this thing. What do
you know about John Kerry, the secretary of state -- his ability to round
up not the usual suspects but people who are willing to fight the fight
against ISIS for their own good reason, that ISIS is after their thrones,
in many cases?
MITCHELL: Well, there have been a lot of skeptics about John Kerry`s trips
around the world and back and the travel miles that he`s logged. But he
has very methodically -- in advance of the president`s September 10th
speech, he has methodically gone from one country to the next and had a
very unusual meeting in Jeddah with the Saudis and with a group of nations.
And that`s how he put the pieces together.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was critical to this effort, and frankly, the
king and the kingdom have not been at all supportive of Barack Obama, not
since a year ago, when they feel he blinked and didn`t go after Assad on
chemical weapons, when he announced a red line and then didn`t follow
through. So they had to be persuaded that the president was serious, as
Chuck has said. And Kerry was the man to do it because they`ve known him
for years. They knew him from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
And for all that Kerry sometimes suffers from the White House very close-
knit inner circle of the National Security Council staff, he does have
these relationships one on one. And he built it piece by piece, block by
block, very quietly and very effectively, and without broadcasting it to
MATTHEWS: Well done. Let me ask you about the -- you`re sitting on the
ground. You`re Baghdadi. You`re in northern Syria right now. And you`re
watching this rainfall of all kinds of bombs coming down at you, fighter
planes attacking you, Tomahawk missiles. And also, you hear on the radio,
or whatever you`re listening to, Voice of America, perhaps -- you realize,
My God, they`ve got Arab allies.
Is that scaring you or not?
MICHAEL LEITER, NBC COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERT: Not yet because he`s saying,
We`ve been through this before. We went through this in Iraq in 2006, when
they were Al Qaeda in Iraq. Said (ph), they don`t have the staying power.
So to start, you`re not scared. You`re taking some hits, but the question
is, does the United States have the staying power?
And he`s telling his guys, This is OK. Right now, we`re going to get more
recruits. People are going to come to our aid. We`re going to mobilize
people overseas who weren`t even with us. So that`s the key for him. And
he`s saying the United States doesn`t have staying power.
And now the test will be, as this gets harder for us because it will become
harder to find them, to kill them, how does it go?
MATTHEWS: But I think -- well, I`m asking you. Is the United States stuck
now? We`re in this war. We can`t walk away from it three months from now
and say, We tried to get rid of ISIS, we couldn`t do it, walk back--
TODD: And I think that was always the -- you know, once you go down
through -- he`s gone through the door.
MATTHEWS: He`s in it.
TODD: He`s in it. And I -- you know, this is where -- Syria is a
Pandora`s box. I don`t think there`s -- there`s no getting out of it, so--
MATTHEWS: So the -- so the people of ISIL are wrong, their psychological
understanding of our president.
TODD: Well, A, I think they`re wrong. And B, I think they`re -- it`s
because once you`re in, I don`t know how you extract yourself. Even if the
president wanted to extract himself, I think it`s going to be too
complicated. I think the decision to decide you`re going to train a so-
called moderate -- the moderate Free Syrian Army -- if they fail, do you
walk away? No, I don`t think there`s--
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, let`s talk about the leadership--
TODD: -- at this point, you walk away.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the potentates. Andrea, you`re an expert at
this. You know, it`s interesting that -- or sad that all our allies in
this new war are -- none of them are democratic. They`re all monarchies.
They`re all inherited monarchies.
MATTHEWS: Of course, the good ones, like -- like King Abdullah of Jordan,
I`d say -- and then you go all around the -- isn`t it interesting that the
only people on our side are potentates trying to hold onto the thrones they
hold against the streets that might go with ISIS at some point.
MITCHELL: This is not the Arab spring.
MITCHELL: These are the Arab militaries--
MITCHELL: -- and there`s Qatar, who helped fund -- the Qataris officially
and unofficially helped fund the radical groups in Syria that were the
precursors to ISIS. That`s why the Emiratis, the other (ph) Emiratis, the
United Arab Emirates and others and the Saudis are so unhappy with Qatar
right now. But we embrace Qatar because they`ve got a base. They do
things for us. We need them more than they need us. So they are in this
MATTHEWS: Are they speaking with forked tongue, as the old cowboy movies
would say? Are they happy -- helping us in this, but they`re really also
arming ISIS or funding them? Is that possible?
MITCHELL: Ask Michael Leiter, the counterterrorism guy.
MATTHEWS: She threw it to you.
LEITER: Look, in this coalition, the two most important parties that came
on board, the Saudis, because they are the central -- so much power, so
much money, and the Qataris. And the reason the Qataris getting on board
is so critical is because it is a sign that they`re not going to play both
sides. If they were passive and sat back, then they`d say, yes, we support
you, but the money might still be flowing. Their active participation, in
MATTHEWS: What changed them?
MATTHEWS: Why are they with us now?
LEITER: I think what changed them is ISIS was out of control. Everybody
in the region saw that ISIS was out of control, and that was a threat to
all of them. Certainly for the Saudis--
TODD: (INAUDIBLE) the geography (INAUDIBLE)
TODD: If everybody around them is in this coalition, Bahrain and Saudi
Arabia, everybody, they can`t be the lone--
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about--
TODD: -- voice (ph), right?
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk war aims for a second, all three of you (INAUDIBLE)
have time here. I want all three of you to weigh in here. Everybody tries
to figure out the other side, just like any contest, sports but especially
in war. You try to figure out the other side. Your G2 (ph), that`s his
job. What are they up to?
When they started beheading our people, didn`t they know they were euchring
(ph) us into that war, that we had to fight that war out of pride? And if
so, you say they want to us wear us down -- do they wear us down or do they
want to bring us in? What is it?
TODD: Well, what all of Leiter`s colleagues will tell you, or former
colleagues will tell you, is that they were -- the beheadings were an
attempt to recruit.
TODD: They were an attempt to sort of flex their muscles and say--
MATTHEWS: That wasn`t in our face?
TODD: -- We`re the new -- we`re the new guys in town. Don`t go with al
Qaeda, go with us.
TODD: We`re the ones putting this together. I -- look, I think they were
questioning U.S. resolve for quite a bit of time.
MATTHEWS: OK. Were they euchring (ph) us in or sending a -- trying to
push us out?
LEITER: Well, they were trying to keep us out, but also pull in the
recruits. This is them flying the flag, saying, We are the true jihadis in
the world. Everyone come fight and support--
MATTHEWS: Well, the unintended consequence -- well, let me ask Andrea the
question. Were they aiming those beheadings at us to humiliate us and drag
us into the war or to recruit fellow Islamists?
MITCHELL: I think both. I think it`s exactly right that this was a great
recruiting tool for them and their battlefield successes in Iraq, when the
Iraqi army folded and they took city after city -- Mosul, Fallujah, so hard
MITCHELL: -- and losing those gains. But let me just suggest that there
are some real problems with this military plan, and the generals would be
the first to tell you. Boyd Austin had recommended boots on the ground.
We don`t have enough spotters. We don`t have people on the ground in
Syria. That`s one of the reasons why we didn`t go in. General Dempsey
testified last week it`s going to take up to a year to train 5,000 untested
And so when the generals come back, when CENTCOM comes back and says to the
president, We need to have boots on the ground, and he says, There`ll be
regional boots, who will they be? It`s--
MITCHELL: -- things from the air than it is--
MATTHEWS: As you pointed out today with -- with who was it you were on
with? You were on earlier today, and you made a really good point. You
said that you have to have after-action reports or else you don`t know who
you hit, Andrea. And I thought that was really smart.
MITCHELL: -- Blinken, the deputy national security agency adviser.
TODD: Putting all our chips with the Free Syrian Army -- how did that
Iraqi army that we spent years, over a decade training and funding, and the
first sign, the first time they had to do a fight without the United
States, we saw what happened. And we think this Free Syrian Army is going
to somehow in a year or two years -- this is the part of the military plan-
MATTHEWS: Yes, we got to put it together--
MATTHEWS: -- the ground and the air at the same time.
LEITER: And air power is great when you have fixed targets and they`re not
quite ready. As they, you know, get away from that, as they go into the
LEITER: -- it gets harder and harder, and that`s when you need--
MATTHEWS: I think people know when you get to block-by-block fighting, you
can`t just bomb everybody. Anyway, thank you -- or you`ll have nothing but
enemies. Thank you, Chuck Todd. Thank you, Michael Leiter. Thank you,
Andrea for joining us. Great show today on your part today.
MITCHELL: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Coming up -- we`re hitting the war from every corner tonight.
Next, the politics of selling it at home. President Obama didn`t expect to
be a war president. In fact, he is now. And he needs support from left,
right and center, especially left. And getting buy-in from the left may be
his biggest challenge.
Plus, Richard Engel, NBC`s chief foreign affairs correspondent, on the Arab
response and where (ph) the Arab street supports the Arab leaders, all of
them monarchies, who`ve also joined in the U.S. air strikes against ISIS.
Then we`re back with our HARDBALL roundtable tonight. They`ve got big
thoughts tonight about big stories, including, what`s the threat to
Americans here at home? And how safe is the president`s own home, the
White House, following that stunning security breach on Friday?
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: British prime minister David Cameron spoke to NBC News about the
air strikes on ISIS in Syria, saying this is a group which poses a serious
threat to every country in the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: There`s no doubt in my mind it has
already undertaken and is planning further plots in Europe and elsewhere,
specifically in Belgium. In Brussels, it was an ISIS plot that went into a
Jewish museum and killed entirely innocent people. And there are other
plots they have been attempting, including in my own country, in order to
kill and maim innocent people. And the same applies to the United States
So this is a fight you cannot opt out of. These people want to kill us.
They have got us in their sights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRBY: Our initial indication is that these strikes were very successful.
Second, while it`s not our policy to discuss future operations, I can tell
you that last night`s strikes were only the beginning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Only the beginning. Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Rear
Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary. And more now on today`s
big story and our commander-in-chief, who finds himself now leading a war
that, as you heard in that clip, has only just begun, this war. President
Obama`s now a wartime president, a remarkable transformation from the dove
we elected, the Nobel Peace Prize winner we inaugurated.
Rather famously, of course, Franklin Roosevelt welcomed the transition he
had to go through from peacetime during the `30s to wartime in the `40s,
telling the press he was going from Old Dr. New Deal to Dr. Win the War,
and boy, did he change to what he had to be. The big question -- will this
president embrace his wartime role? And will the country rally behind him?
Michael Steele is the former RNC chair and Ed Rendell`s the former DNC
chair and former governor of Pennsylvania. Both are MSNBC political
analysts. One of my most famous quotes I ever read was Joseph Alsop, who
was listening to Roosevelt declare war on the Japanese. He`s lying on the
ground in Hong Kong, barely hearing the words of Roosevelt declare the war
-- "Yesterday, a day of infamy" -- and he said, I knew we`d win the war
because I could hear Roosevelt talking.
Is Obama capable of that?
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I don`t know.
And I think that`s really the question a lot of Americans have on their
minds, which -- you know, particularly after watching Americans being
beheaded on television. They appreciate the president`s Wednesday night
talk, where he came to us and laid out the next steps.
But now the question is, are you ready to really lead us on this adventure,
such as it is? And the fact that he`s taking stuff off the table -- he`s
still leaving stuff off the table, boots on the ground, for example --
gives people pause. And the president also is going to have to address
that question because you don`t get to dictate the terms here. ISIS, our
partners in the Middle East -- there are a whole lot of other players at
this table, and you can`t afford to leave things off if you`re going to
take seriously the obligation to be the commander-in-chief.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask Ed Rendell the same question. Governor, can he be a
leader that is convincing as a wartime leader, a guy who will win the war,
kill the enemy, take them down and be triumphant?
EUGENE ROBINSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well,
Chris, I think he did a wonderful job deflecting any real significant
criticism from the Democratic left by building that stealth coalition. I
think people are shaking their heads and saying, Great job, Mr. President.
We actually have Arab nations dropping bombs on Arab terrorists. And
that`s a significant victory, which I think ameliorates a lot of criticism
on the left.
I think he`s already set the table for good leadership. I think he and
Secretary Kerry deserve a tremendous amount of credit for putting this
coalition together, and not just a coalition that`s cheering for us, a
coalition that actually dropped some bombs. I think it was very
impressive, and I think he`s off to a great start.
MATTHEWS: Governor, do you think that this coalition is more credible than
the one W. had? W. would always talk about coalition forces. I mean, it
was the Polish and the Portuguese or somebody in our time. It was a
strange team, you know, that he threw together, a motley crew, you might
But is -- do you think it`s critical that there are Arabs are on our side
RENDELL: Oh, it`s -- it`s enormously important.
And these are not just Arabs willing to finance the war. That never
happened in Desert Storm, despite the fact we were promised. But these are
Arabs willing to do combat missions. And I think that`s a huge difference.
I think it will build support. I expect you will see a significant
rallying around the president in the United Nations because he was able to
build this Arab coalition. I think he`s done a great job.
MATTHEWS: I think so too.
But I want to ask Michael this question of war of choice, war of necessity.
MATTHEWS: How do you argue this isn`t a war of necessity? How could he
let these people go over there and behead our people and run roughshod?
STEELE: You can`t argue. That`s the point, Chris. You cannot argue.
MATTHEWS: Isn`t that a case for people following him into this war,
because they have to, because he had to?
STEELE: Well, yes. He had no choice. He was thrust into this fight.
And now the question -- and I appreciate where the governor`s coming from,
but, yes, Arabs dropping bombs is not the same as boots on the ground.
Will Arab boots be on the ground -- ground? You`re talking about, you have
the Defense Department telling us, oh, it`s going to take a year to train
5,000 fighters, Syrian fighters, to deal with the fight in Syria.
Well, do we have that long? What happens in the interim? So there are a
whole lot of pieces here that I still think need to get filled in. I
applaud the president`s determination to move this agenda forward and bring
together the appropriate coalition.
But you -- I still have a problem with the idea that you`re absolutely
taking American boots involvement off the table. And that`s something we
just need to know honestly. Will they at some point be required? And the
president has refused to answer that so far.
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s interesting that some of the president`s usual
critics, the usual suspects, are in line with him now, including the hawks
in the Republican Party. They`re rallying behind him.
Last night, U.S. Congressman Peter King from New York tweeted, "All
Americans must stand with President Obama in our war against ISIS,
particularly tonight`s airstrikes in Syria."
That`s from Peter King. Congressman King also went on FOX News to sound
the war cry. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I think it`s
important for all Americans to support the president. I think it`s really
important for all of us to come together.
Whatever happened in the past, that`s -- that`s -- that`s behind us. It`s
important now as Americans that we go forward, support the president, and
urge him to continue this to make sure these attacks continue and go on
until ISIS has been devastated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I think he`s a gut nationalist, like I am, although we disagree
on policy sometimes, a lot of times.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Speaker John Boehner said -- quote -- "I support the
airstrikes launched by the president."
Even Senator Lindsey Graham, a real hawk, voiced his support, according to
CNN -- quote -- "Graham said he told Vice President Biden he was very
supportive of the administration`s move."
So what do you make of that, Michael? Your crowd is moving around, your
STEELE: Erstwhile crowd, yes.
MATTHEWS: They`re moving into backing up the president, the usual hawks,
the amigos. I`m waiting for McCain to jump aboard.
STEELE: Well, and they should. I think that the president has now put us
on a war footing.
MATTHEWS: Is he joining them, or are they joining him?
STEELE: I think -- I think they`re joining him. I think they have come to
his position on this chessboard and they`re supporting him and giving him
all that he needs.
But what they have given him so far is limited, Chris. They -- before they
left town, they took this little bit of vote that says, OK, we will
authorize you through December. Well, what happens come January? And the
fact that the Congress has not dealt with this by publicly debating this,
involving the American people in this national discussion is a little bit
I appreciate getting behind the president. But they have a role here to
play as well. And the Congress cannot stay away from that obligation long
To your point, Governor, I want to respond to something Congressman Chris
Van Hollen, who is probably going to be speaker some day -- he said that
the members should come back and debate and vote on the use of military
force to support the current mission, but also says in the bill that there
be no ground troops, no Iraq war two.
So, there, you have a smart Democrat from the suburbs of D.C. who is
saying, yes, we need a cri de guerre. We`re going to war, we`re going to
get the bad guys, but we`re not going in on the ground, all in one
MATTHEWS: Doesn`t that make Michael`s point that we`re half-hearted here?
RENDELL: Well, sure it does.
And the House literally slinked out of town and I think abdicated their
important duty. I saw a progressive Democratic congressman complain that
the president didn`t have the authority. Well, if you wanted to give him
the authority, stick around, guys. Stick around.
RENDELL: It comes with ill grace to criticize when you`re back home.
But, look, I think the president again has tied Congress` hands. Once he
got this coalition together, we`re going to send a message to the Arabs who
put their rear ends on the line that we`re not going to authorize going to
war? Of course not.
MATTHEWS: Yes. They want -- the Congress wants to lead from behind on
Anyway, Michael Steele, sir, both chairmen of the party at different times,
Governor Ed Rendell.
Up next, NBC`s Richard Engel is in Turkey right now with a report on the
response from the Middle East all to what the president has been doing the
last 24 hours. We may have support from some Arab countries. How about
the Arab street? Are they with the potentates? Are they with the
monarchs, the kings and the emirates?
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That massive air campaign just begun in Syria represents the first major
military operation with our Arab partners in the region, which include
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, and Qatar.
The president has stressed the importance of the regional allies in this
fight. We`re not in it alone. And while the formulation or formation of
the U.S.-Arab coalition is a significant diplomatic achievement, we`re
still dealing with a part of the world that eyes our country with deep
suspicion, if not hostility.
Quote -- "The New York Times," it report today that: "The new air campaign
in Syria has drawn mixed reaction across the Middle East, a region where
many people hate the brutality of the Islamic State, but are also deeply
skeptical of the motives behind any type of foreign intervention. Looming
over the new campaign are memories of recent American-led interventions in
Libya and Iraq which many Arabs welcomed at first, but later turned
Joining me right now from Turkey is Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign
Richard, is the Arab street, as we have always referred to it, aboard in
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: I think "The New York
Times" had it right. There are very mixed reactions.
The Arab governments, some of them are taking part in this because they see
a direct threat to their own existence. ISIS already broke out of Syria,
charged into Iraq, and has now managed to carve out a safe haven for
itself. And it`s continuing to expand, continuing to take territory.
So countries like Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar worry that if it expanded
once already, it could expand into their countries. But on the street,
there are a lot of people skeptical of the United States. They see once
again the United States leading a coalition against a Muslim country, once
again, American drones and aircraft, B-52s, Tomahawk missiles dropping
bombs in villages in the Muslim world.
And even if they oppose ISIS, there are a lot of people in this part of the
world who can never support that kind of U.S.-led action.
MATTHEWS: Tell us about this group Khorasan, which is an al Qaeda
offshoot, which apparently is threatening to hit us here in United States
or in Europe with some kind of bombs on airplanes, which gets to a lot of
us who fly a lot. Tell me about that group. I never heard of them before.
ENGEL: Well, I think the U.S. administration is focusing on this group
because, according to intelligence officials, it is a dangerous group.
It was working with other militants, other al Qaeda militants to develop
bomb making techniques, targeting specifically the airline industry. But
it is not the only group inside Syria that wants to attack the United
States. I think the U.S. chose this group because it felt it was a more or
less imminent threat, and it could -- it could address critics who said
that ISIS is strictly a local group and that we should walk away.
Here, the administration can say, here`s a group that clearly wants to
target something that Americans use every single day. But when you start
wading deeper into the swamp that Syria has become over the last three
years, you`re going to find the Nusra Front, with many different--
ENGEL: -- many different factions that is a direct al Qaeda group, that is
probably just as dangerous as ISIS, if not even more dangerous, because now
you`re going to see a strategic rivalry.
If you bomb ISIS and you bomb Khorasan, then potentially you`re
strengthening Nusra, which is an alternative group. So do you have to bomb
them all? And I think the U.S. as it goes deeper and deeper into this is
going to find it very difficult to differentiate between all of these
ENGEL: -- militant groups and then to try to postulate what their
intentions might be.
I`m very skeptical when people say, well, ISIS only wants to attack locally
and this other group wants to attack planes, and this third group, well,
they want to attack Europe. You`re looking at groups from 10,000 feet with
bad intelligence. I think it`s difficult to know what is -- what their
intentions truly are.
MATTHEWS: Great to have you on tonight, Richard Engel over there in
Turkey. Thanks for joining us.
Up next is the HARDBALL roundtable, some heavyweights. We`re going to get
their perspective on the topics we have covered so far tonight.
Plus, dramatic new threats, including Americans who fought for ISIS and are
now back here in the U.S. -- what are they up to, the ones coming back
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins. Here`s what`s
A former employee opened fire at a UPS facility outside Birmingham,
Alabama, killing two bosses and himself. Authorities have not identified
the gunmen or the victims.
The family of a British aid worker being held by ISIS has appealed against
for his release. The militant group threatened to kill him last week.
And health officials predict between 8,000 and 21,000 people will be
infected with Ebola in West Africa by the end of the month. The CDC says
moving quickly is critical to containing that outbreak -- back now to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Americans who fought for ISIS have now returned to the U.S. This is an
acute and frightening warning for many of us delivered in a background
briefing. Here`s "TIME"`s report -- "TIME" magazine`s report, headlined,
"Some Americans Fighting With Terror Groups Have Returned to the U.S."
Well, this was the first government confirmation that Americans fighting
alongside ISIS had come back home, among us.
Well, anyway, lawmakers who made clear last week that they rejected
military intervention may need this heightened threat information to be
coaxed into supporting this war. Take for instance, West Virginia Senator
Joe Manchin. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: We took out Saddam. We thought that
would change. Iraq`s in worse shape. We take out Gadhafi. We thought
that would change. It got so bad in Libya, we have had to pull out our own
embassy and our people in our embassy.
I`m not supporting in any way shape or form Assad. Think he should be
gone. But as long as he`s able to remain there, he`s fighting the same
people that we`re asking people to train to fight -- we`re going to spend
$500 million. Makes no sense to me, and I can`t sell it. I have tried on
my -- you can`t sell this stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Republican Senator Rand Paul, of course, from Kentucky is
making all the moves as a 2016 presidential candidate, said arming Syrian
rebels was a stepping stone to Americans in combat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: As ISIS grows stronger or they`re not
quelled by sending arms to feckless allies in Syria, then what happens?
Then they come back again and again. There`s already the drumbeat.
There`s already those in both parties who insist that we must have American
G.I.s on the ground.
I`m not sending any American soldiers. I`m not sending your son, your
daughter, or mine over to the middle of that chaos.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now, the HARDBALL roundtable tonight,
Jonathan Capehart of "The Washington Post." He`s a columnist, an opinion
writer there, editorial writer, and MSNBC political analyst as well, and
Michelle Bernard, who is president of the Bernard Center for Women,
Politics and Public Policy, and Zeke Miller of "TIME" magazine, who wrote
the article I just mentioned, in fact, I just read from at the start.
Zeke, since you wrote the article, let`s talk about the threat at home here
as part of this thing, because most Americans are -- basically, they start
as isolationists. It`s our country, got a great big country, nobody wants
to move anywhere else, live somewhere else. They like it here and they
don`t wonder -- they wonder why we`re always getting dragged into European
wars or Asian wars or -- and we usually know why, but we don`t like it.
MATTHEWS: Is the president going to have to keep putting this stuff out,
coaxing this information to us through the media that we have got a threat
here at home and that`s why we got to fight there?
ZEKE MILLER, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I think if you look back on the past two
months, what we have seen, starting with the Yazidi sort of humanitarian
crisis, with the president talking almost in messianic terms about the
people stranded on the mountain, followed by protecting the U.S. personnel
MATTHEWS: How about the Christians?
MILLER: Exactly, the same thing. We have seen this very slow buildup, the
president sort of teasing out to the American people just what they would
support, just a little bit here, a little bit there.
Now that you have artillery supported strikes to protect -- protect this
population, now support that population. And now it`s finally coming back
at home. The president is sort of escalating what he`s offering, the White
House saying that now that some folks who fought alongside ISIS and other
extremist groups in Syria and Iraq have come back to the United States.
That`s the first time they have said that. And that -- and that came just
hours before we saw those strikes last night. They`re trying to--
MILLER: There`s definitely some sort of connection here.
MILLER: They`re trying to keep, you know, people engaged.
MATTHEWS: Jonathan, you`re here at "The Post." Did you get any whiff on
what was going to happen the last 24 hours? Was that--
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: No, not at all.
MATTHEWS: It was kept pretty secret?
CAPEHART: Yes, pretty secret.
MATTHEWS: All of a sudden, the United States is in a shock and awe, we`re
blowing apart -- everything, bombers are going, fighter planes are going,
B52s, tomahawks and we got five allies in the field with us.
CAPEHART: Right. Well, I mean, again, this is something the president has
been telegraphing for the last few weeks now, that whole -- when Congress
was in town for the last couple days --
MATTHEWS: Couple hours.
CAPEHART: -- and avoiding taking any kind of serious vote and saying to
the president you`re authorized to do whatever it is you want to do. We
were surprised that the United States hit Syria last night. The president
even told us in the primetime address that it will strike in Iraq and if I
need to, go into Syria. So, he`s been telegraphing these things.
I also think that the story in the paper over the weekend about how Turkey
was able to get out about 15 or 20 hostages from ISIS, also cleared the way
for some action to happen. So, yes, I was --
MATTHEWS: You mean they wouldn`t execute them?
CAPEHART: Right, right.
MATTHEWS: But also made us suspect Turkey had cut a deal? Releasing a
bunch of ISIS people or whatever, some kind of trade-swap, some prisoner
CAPEHART: I`m not sure what turkey did to get its people out, but whatever
it was, I think made it possible for turkey to help in some way, but also
for the United States to move forward in what it did last night.
MATTHEWS: Nothing arrests our attention like the beheadings.
MICHELLE BERNARD, BERNARD CENTER FOR WOMEN: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Biggest news story in five years, according to NBC-"Wall Street
Journal" polling, because everybody can imagine being beheaded, everybody
can imagine the horror of sitting in the desert, counting your hours, or
whatever, minutes, until you have your head cut off. We know these are
only being done to these people because they`re Americans, that got
happened to be Jewish, just he`s an American. So, that was a street-corner
threat to us.
BERNARD: Absolutely, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: I think that was more of an arresting kind of emotion than the
fear you might be one of the Americans caught in a dirty bomb, although
this new airplane bomber scares me a lot too, because we fly a lot in this
business. Nobody wants to be on a plane when somebody has the extra fluids
than they`re supposed to.
BERNARD: I think for a large part of the American public the beheadings
sort of lent a little bit more credence to what President Obama has done.
I frankly wasn`t surprised that this came at all. You sort of saw it
coming during the testimony last week. You know, the threats have been
bubbling up, they have been getting worse. I thought to myself, when is he
going to act? It`s about time that we actual do something.
If you think about 9/11, 2001, the threats never went away. We`ve sort of
been living in la la land in a sort of post --
MATTHEWS: Well, we never know because they keep secret a lot of the
BERNARD: Well, exactly.
MATTHEWS: When they catch somebody, they don`t announce it all over the
place. But I want to ask, isn`t -- if this is a tit-for-tat situation, if
we bomb them, they behead a couple of people, we bomb, and they`re going to
start beheading women, nuns, whoever they can get their hands on?
MILLER: Well, I think a part of it depends on who they have. The U.S.
government is being secretive in terms of what we believe is being held by
ISIS as --
MATTHEWS: Aren`t there Americans floating around that part of the world,
you can always grab somebody, the hitchhikers?
MILLER: There are a few. You always have the thrill seekers coming in.
But this area has been in conflict. And there are fewer there than ever
before. I mean, that`s why --
MILLER: You have a few missionaries, and you have journalists, people who
go in there for work and, you know, trying to sell the stories of the
people who are being impacted by this terrible crisis and the violence
there. Those are the folks still on the ground. A lot of them have been
You aren`t going to see American embassy personnel --
MATTHEWS: Is only the sheer numbers stopping people from beheading? Won`t
they behead anybody they can get their hands on? It seems like they do.
CAPEHART: It seems like that`s what they do. It`s a rather savage way to
die. It`s a very arresting image to see them clad in orange with some
fellow standing next to them clad in black.
MATTHEWS: Know it was coming.
CAPEHART: Knowing what`s coming and with a knife to their throat. But I
have the sense that the administration and the president, keep in mind, a
president who campaigned on withdrawing from two wars, who won a Nobel
Peace Prize with the promise of bringing peace to the world. He doesn`t
want to go to war. He doesn`t want to do --
MATTHEWS: So, what`s he doing?
BERNARD: Nobody wants to go to war.
CAPEHART: Right. But the point I`m trying to make here is, the president
said in his speech that, oh, we might have to also strike into Syria. Last
night, the United States strikes into Syria and announces that we took out
the Khorasan, this group no one had ever heard of, I hadn`t heard of --
MATTHEWS: They`re an al Qaeda group.
CAPEHART: -- until last night. There`s some information that he has, that
the administration has that they feel that they have to strike and do
something now before something more serious happens.
MATTHEWS: Are we in a war now or not? It sounds like we`re not now from
you. We`re not on the ground. We don`t have allies on the ground.
BERNARD: We`re on the ground in Iraq. We have troops in Iraq.
BERNARD: Because we have been asked. Well, you can call them trainers,
you can call them whatever, but the bottom line is we have boots on the
ground in Iraq. We probably at some point in time are going to have to
have boots on the ground in Syria.
The demographics don`t matter. The most important demographic, are you
American? They do not like our way of life. They didn`t go away after
And, quite frankly, the war is not over until the enemy says it`s over.
They keep coming back. They`re not going away. We are going to be there
and we should be there for a --
MATTHEWS: There`s 300 million Arabs and a billion Islamic people, when you
say they --
MATTHEWS: Thank God it`s still a group.
BERNARD: When I talk about ISIS, when we talk about al Qaeda, when we talk
about Islamic extremists who hate the way of life that Americans and the
people in the West lead, we are constantly in danger, because they haven`t
given up, they keep coming back.
MATTHEWS: OK. We`ll be right back, and talk about how come you can get
into the White House so easily, without a pass, just jump the fence.
Suppose ISIS decides to send a half dozen guys over the fence.
Well, today, the Secret Service established a temperature ten-foot buffer
zone. Oh my God. This is getting more like East Berlin or something --
the wall. Unfortunately, that`s what happens. With the terrible success
of terrorism, it makes us circle our lives in a way that we`re a lot less
Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Osama bin Laden`s son-in-law has been sentenced to life in
prison after being convicted in a terrorism case. The terror leader`s son-
in-law was sentenced by a judge in New York this morning. He`d been
convicted in March for conspiring to kill Americans. He was also the
spokesman for al Qaeda following the September 11th attacks, appearing in
recruitment videos for the terrorist organization.
And we`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Secret Service does a
great job. I`m grateful for all the sacrifices they make on my behalf and
on my family`s behalf.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
I`m back with the roundtable. That was, of course, President Obama
yesterday in the Oval Office reasserting his confidence in the Secret
Service, a good time to do that and a time when the U.S. is under threat
and at war. The White House fence-jumping, there it is again, leaves many
questioning the state of our security here at home because he`s the most
protected guy in the country.
Authorities are continuing their investigation into how a man carrying a
knife jumped a White House fence last Friday and sprinted across the White
House lawn and through the front door without being stopped.
And joining me right now again, Jonathan Capehart of "The Post", Michelle
Bernard, and Zeke Miller of "Time".
Thank you all -- you first.
Do you think people are putting this together?
We`re talking about ISIS chopping somebody`s head often around the United
States. The president of the United States, in that very moment, we`re
talking about all of this, some guy without any acrobatic skills apparently
able to just leap over this fence, charged, 23 seconds, ends up in the
If they`re watching this tape over in ISIS land, which they probably are,
they`re thinking, hey, they can make that run.
BERNARD: I`m telling you, they`ve got to be thinking. They didn`t have
too much difficulty flying into the World Trade Center. It can`t be too
difficult to get into the White House. This is really a national
embarrassment for the country and the CIA. I don`t understand how that
What would have happened if he had been successful and the president or any
member of his family have been in the White House? Or if he had been
wearing a bomb? I -- frankly, I don`t understand how this happens right
here, in Washington, D.C. at the White House.
MATTHEWS: I was watching a Morgan Freeman movie within the last year, the
attack on Olympus or whatever it was, remember?
CAPEHART: Great movie. The North Koreans are coming to do it.
MATTHEWS: Right, right, he just takes charge. Everybody is cheering him
in the theater. I don`t mind people talking in those theaters.
MATTHEWS: But it was really startling about how they came in.
But, you know, leave aside the is threat. Just the idea that the most
protected house in the country, the most protected person and family in the
country, and that fence is -- a person can just jump over that fence and
make their way into the house. Imagine how you would feel if you found out
that an intruder hopped your fence and was inside your house?
MATTHEWS: If you were the president. I don`t have a fence but -- here`s
my question. If you`re sane, I`m not sure this guy was. I think he has
some emotional problems.
If you`re sane, you`re thinking that bullet is going to come right back at
you. You can feel it coming at you, you know what I mean?
MILLER: Yes, but --
MATTHEWS: He didn`t feel that.
MILLER: He didn`t feel that probably because he had some sort of mental
issues. But to play devil`s advocate, look at -- this is the people`s
house. The Secret Service, if they wanted to, can turn the White House
into Ft. Knox. You`d see it on TV. You`d watch the welcome to Washington
video. You wouldn`t even enter the district. The whole district would be
a secured zone.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s vote on that right now. Should we be able to drive
down Pennsylvania Avenue and wave at the president, look at the president,
like we used to do on the 33 bus, yes or no?
BERNARD: I think the front doors to the White House should be locked in an
era where we have the first African-American black president in this
country, he should be extra safe.
MATTHEWS: OK. How about the principle? Should you be able to drive at a
car or bus past the White House and look at him?
BERNARD: Yes. But you shouldn`t be able to walk through the front door.
CAPEHART: Yes, you should be able to, but if someone`s climbing the fence,
the Secret Service should be getting that person at the fence.
MATTHEWS: Should you be able to drive past the White House and wave,
because I remember for the Nixon days, you would blow your horn if you
wanted him to resign, which is a wonderfully lower D democratic potential.
MILLER: Yes, I mean, I`m not sure Pennsylvania Avenue, the fact that you
can walk up to that fence is great. The buffer zone is sort of splitting
the difference. They`re not keeping everyone back behind the Lafayette
Park. They`re not keeping everybody back 200 feet from the fence.
MATTHEWS: You wouldn`t let traffic go through there again would you?
MILLER: They closed it off after the Beirut bombings, followed by Oklahoma
City. You know, this is a dangerous world. We don`t want to take any
risks. Let people go up, maybe if you have to screen people a little bit
But let them get a view of the White House. Thousands of people go through
that building almost every day for tourism. That`s good.
CAPEHART: Keep things the way they are. Just give the Secret Service, the
resources, the personnel to do the job.
MATTHEWS: Well, we`ve got to agree. They shouldn`t be doing what they`re
doing now. Anyway, thank you.
That picture is going to be played around the world.
Anyway, thank you. Jonathan, Michelle, thank you. HARDBALL roundtable
great tonight, Jonathan Capehart, Michelle Bernard, and Zeke Miller.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a topic up tonight and many days to
come. Should we be in this war against ISIS?
As the CIA agent played by Philip Seymour Hoffman said in "Charlie Wilson`s
War", "We`ll see."
We`ll see if we can bring this terrorist group down, if we can degrade and
eventually destroy it. We`ll see if we can win the war in cahoots with the
Arab countries that have now thrown in with us. And we`ll see if we can
weather the horror to come in this war that has already included public
beheadings of two innocent Americans.
It`s always good, by the way, to imagine whatever alternative we`ve had
here. Could the United States let this go on, this public assault and
humiliation of our country by terrorists in Syria? Could we have done
that? Could we have simply stand as a country or stood and let this be
done to us? Or could we have simply bombed them for a few days punishing
them for their act against us, those beheadings, just to get it over with.
Well, now, we`re really in it and for good. This is going to last years.
That`s if we and our allies are actually successful. And who knows where
this will turn if we`re not?
And that, my fellow Americans, is probably the best argument for doing what
President Obama is doing. If we let ISIS grow, there`s no telling how much
hell it`s going to bring on this world.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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