Guest: Gen. Barry McCaffrey, Marie Cocco, John Fund, Kim Alfano, Gary Hart
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Tonight: New intelligence points to an active al Qaeda operation to attack the U.S. We‘ll get a front-line report on the war on terror from General Barry McCaffrey, just back from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Plus: With the election less than three months away, John Kerry‘s campaign is seeking support from disappointed Republicans. And the Bush air assault. We‘ll have the newest campaign ads.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. On the heels of Pakistan‘s arrest of two al Qaeda operatives, NBC News has learned that additional intelligence, separate from the documents that led to this weekend‘s terror alert, point to an active al Qaeda operation to attack the United States. NBC‘s Pete Williams has more.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. officials tonight say several intelligence sources corroborated the evidence found on a computer in Pakistan, revealing interest in attacking five U.S. financial buildings. For one, signs that the highly detailed computer data was recently accessed, showing a potential interest in using it. And detainees recently interrogated gave information not yet verified that the plan was about to be put into action.
Intelligence officials continue going over material on that computer and questioning the man arrested with it. Federal agents are checking out indications that he contacted people in the U.S. within the past few months. If confirmed, that could indicate potential al Qaeda operatives were here that recently. And the FBI is now asking owners of self-storage facilities to report suspicious activity, concerned that terrorists might store or mix explosives in them.
In London, British officials arrested 13 people yesterday.
Authorities say some may be linked to that computer specialist in Pakistan.
With security high around the potential U.S. target buildings, tonight in Washington, federal officials are considering blocking trucks from a busy street next to the Treasury Department and possibly even closing down the sidewalk because of long-standing concerns about truck bombs attacking financial targets. And Capitol Hill police touched off a firestorm by blocking another street near Senate office buildings and adding traffic checkpoints to the two main avenues north and south of the capitol.
CHIEF TERRENCE GAINER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: We think this will help move the traffic but reduce the risk to the visitors to this Capitol, to the people who work here, to the members of Congress.
WILLIAMS: City officials called it a massive overreaction.
MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS, WASHINGTON, D.C.: When you put a high value on openness, you may not be able to prevent every possible bad act. That‘s exactly what I‘m saying. And that‘s what it mean to be an American.
WILLIAMS (on camera): Intelligence officials tonight say they have no confirmation of an active plot to attack the five financial buildings, but they say all the red flags fully justified the public warning.
Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.
MATTHEWS: General Barry McCaffrey just visited Pakistan and Afghanistan at the request of the U.S. Central Command to assess our national security objectives in the region.
Let me ask you, is Pakistan on our side, General, or is it part of the problem?
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Yes. No, I think so. I think Musharraf‘s courage has been enormous, and it was accentuated by the fact they tried to kill him twice. They tried to kill a Pakistani army corps commander in Karachi, and now they just tried to kill the prime minister-designate. So there‘s little question in my mind that, in terms of al Qaeda, they‘re trying to wipe this out as a threat to their own political leadership.
MATTHEWS: What about the newest development reported by NBC News that there‘s been a contact between al Qaeda over there and someone in this country?
MCCAFFREY: Well, there‘s probably large remnants of al Qaeda and, indeed, Taliban leadership all up and down Pakistan‘s border. They barely control it. South Waziristan, Baluchistan—that‘s the teeming city of Karachi. The ISI, their intelligence service, I think, is acting in full cooperation with U.S. authorities. But this is an ongoing war, a struggle for Musharraf and his political leaders‘ survival.
MATTHEWS: That‘s a part of the old subcontinent that back even in the late 19th century, people like Winston Churchill were a part of these punitive raids to try to control, and you‘re saying it is still uncontrollable by any government, whether Pakistan or, in this case, a former part of the raj.
MCCAFFREY: There‘s 1,500 miles of border, heavily armed tribesmen. No government has ever had authority in there. The Paks got their border rangers up along the OPs (ph), 12 local natives, one Pak lieutenant. They simply don‘t have control. Now, Musharraf did get in there with the army. They took a lot of casualties, probably a couple hundred people killed and wounded, and they‘re still there. But they do not yet control that region.
MATTHEWS: Is it your sense—maybe it‘s hard to have a sense—that that‘s where bin Laden is hiding?
MCCAFFREY: Well, I think the...
MATTHEWS: On the Pakistani border with Afghanistan.
MCCAFFREY: If he‘s alive, that‘s probably where he is—minus a cell phone, minus a Thuraya phone, not receiving delegations, probably trying to survive with two, three, seven people. The tactical leadership of al Qaeda, two thirds of them are dead or behind bars.
MATTHEWS: Yes. But here‘s a guy who‘s 6-foot-8, which is very tall for that part of the world. He‘s on dialysis, and he‘s riding a donkey. And somehow, he‘s gotten away us from.
MCCAFFREY: There‘s 10,000 mud huts cantonments out there, all of them heavily armed. The Pak army isn‘t in control of that frontier region. If he‘s alive, that‘s probably where he is.
But more importantly, the tactical leadership of al Qaeda is still trying to cling to the edge of their former stronghold in Afghanistan, not with very good results. I think, basically, the short term, the situation in Afghanistan looked very surprisingly positive to me. Al Qaeda and the Arabs have largely been run out of Afghanistan.
MATTHEWS: The Arabs being those that went in there to build the bin Laden operation.
MCCAFFREY: Yes, 5,000, 6,000 terrorists and foreign fighters...
MATTHEWS: Who‘s winning? Does that mean you think that we‘re winning the war against terror in that sort of heart of darkness over there, the very center of the opposition to the United States and the West, bin Laden‘s operation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we‘re beating them, they‘re on the run, or would you say it‘s more closer to a stalemate?
MCCAFFREY: Compared to three years ago, it‘s astonishing what progress has been made. The U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan is a genius. General Abizaid‘s changed this military strategy from counterterrorism to counterinsurgency. We got a billion dollars in reconstruction money in there. We‘re building the ring road all around Afghanistan.
They‘re registering to vote. Eight-plus million people out of nine-and-a-half eligible are now registered to vote. The poor Afghans are sick of it. They want some form of civil life, an economic recovery. That‘s the good news.
The bad news is, the warlords are back, and $2.4 billion in heroin and opium production is fueling the centrifugal forces in that country.
MATTHEWS: What‘s market for opium, heroin going to the West?
MCCAFFREY: Well, maybe a metric ton of it a year comes to the and U.S. and fuels our own addiction problem, probably around 950,000 Americans. The overwhelming majority of it‘s headed out through the Central Asian republics, into Pakistan. Pakistan may have four million addicts up in...
MATTHEWS: Opium or the derivative, or heroin?
MCCAFFREY: Well, there‘s a lot of production of heroin now in the region. So it‘s not only the absolute prime supplier...
MCCAFFREY: ... of opium paste, but it‘s increasingly becoming a source of heroin.
MATTHEWS: It‘s easy to market that stuff because once you give a person a fix, they want it forever, right?
MCCAFFREY: Well, and plus, the money involved...
MCCAFFREY: ... is just unbelievable. It‘s hundreds of millions of dollars. You can‘t compete by growing maize or hart of palm.
MATTHEWS: Well, why did—that‘s true in a lot of parts of the world. Why is it that the narco-traffic succeeded so neatly right after the riddance of the al Qaeda?
MCCAFFREY: Well, we destroyed the Taliban. There was no authority. The Department of Defense, Secretary Rumsfeld told the U.S. armed forces, Stay away from the drug industry. We didn‘t take it on for two years. Now I think the new ambassador leadership and General Abizaid are resolved to confront the issue. But so far, we haven‘t made a dent in it. So the coming year after the U.S. presidential elections, we got to sit down and sort out, Do we want to win in Afghanistan? If we do, we go to back Hamid Karzai to confront the warlords. We got to eradicate the heroin opium production.
MATTHEWS: How do you do that, if you say it‘s so lucrative compared to the usual crops of maize, et cetera?
MCCAFFREY: Oh, it‘s going to be a tough...
MATTHEWS: I mean, the average person...
MCCAFFREY: ... tough challenge.
MATTHEWS: ... just wants to make some money as a, you know, subsistence farmer, and all of a sudden, there‘s this blossoming market, you know, for, you know, money crops.
MCCAFFREY: Well, I don‘t think you can do it unless there‘s a reward and a punishment. The punishment has to be, We‘re come and—aerial eradication, wreck your opium crop just before you harvest it. The other piece of it has to be, Look, let capitalism get to work. Let‘s get the roads under construction. Let‘s give them seed money to get back to farming. There is a way out. We‘ve seen it work in Peru and Bolivia. It could work in Afghanistan.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about the synergy between opium market and the terrorism motive. If they make a lot of money on opium over there, which they clearly are doing, according to your report, does that support terrorism?
MCCAFFREY: I think the factual evidence is...
MATTHEWS: Or is it an alternative way to live?
MCCAFFREY: Well, personally, I would say there‘s no argument. If you got $2.4 billion coming out of the opium heroin trade, that without question, it‘s affecting the Taliban‘s ability to fight. And more importantly, the warlords...
MATTHEWS: Helping or hurting its ability to fight?
MCCAFFREY: Oh, helping it. That‘s where you buy shiny machine guns.
MCCAFFREY: ... access to corruption of the government‘s agents. There‘s no question in my mind that that‘s an absolutely required program for us to take on. You got to eradicate the poppy crop, as well as do alternative economic development.
MATTHEWS: When the Soviets were in Afghanistan, did they have a heroin market?
MCCAFFREY: They did. And it got worse and worse during the period of time they were there, and it‘s had an endemic impact on the Russian population and on their own military.
MCCAFFREY: Interestingly enough, though, Chris, right now, the Afghanistan population, probably 7 percent of them, are involved in the opium trade. But you take broad gauge of people, they want a way out. They don‘t want to...
MATTHEWS: Is this one more example—not to be partisan, but is this more and more a case that we should have stayed in the war in Iraq—in Afghanistan and focused on it until it was done, not just catch bin Laden in Tora Bora, but hang onto that country with everything we had, rather than shift our focus down to Iraq?
MATTHEWS: I know that‘s a policy call, but is it—is it a reasonable assessment?
MCCAFFREY: Personally, I‘m glad we took down the Saddam government. I do think that we went in with inadequate force into Afghanistan. We only had 10,000 troops there.
MATTHEWS: But did we distract ourselves from the main target, our enemies who are actually coming to get us?
MCCAFFREY: For a year or two, we did. There‘s no question. But now we‘ve doubled the troop strength in Afghanistan. We got a lot of money moving into the region. There‘s a chance to pull this off yet.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, General Barry McCaffrey. Coming up—by the way, he‘s just back from those countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Kerry campaign is hoping for help from across party lines.
Disappointed Republicans are the new target for the John Kerry campaign. And later, the HARDBALL “Ad Watch” team has the newest campaign ads from both sides.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: With 90 days left until the election, will disappointed Republicans stick with President Bush or move over to John Kerry?
I‘m joined by Marie Cocco, who‘s with “Newsday,” and John Fund, who‘s with “The Wall Street Journal.”
Marie, you wrote an interesting column today, and I think I know a number of these people, not that they‘re big ideologues or partisans. People who normally vote Republican are taking a look at John Kerry. I‘m sure it‘s true the other way, too, but let‘s talk about that group. What would make a Republican voter think about voting for Kerry?
MARIE COCCO, “NEWSDAY”: Well, I think they basically fall into two categories. One is a category we‘ve known a lot about, really, since the Clinton era. This is the old-line deficit-hawk Republican, the fiscal conservatives, the social moderates, people who might have liked to vote for Christy Todd Whitman in New Jersey...
MATTHEWS: The old Rockefeller crowd.
COCCO: The old Rockefeller crowd...
MATTHEWS: Pay as you go.
COCCO: ... throughout the Northeast. But then there‘s a new group that seem to be emerging, and these are the families, not the men necessarily, but the women in National Guard and reserve families, in the military communities, who are sort of drifting away. They‘re unhappy with these repeated deployments, with the loss of income...
MATTHEWS: Which some people are calling sort of a legal draft.
COCCO: Well, John Kerry calls it a back-door draft...
MATTHEWS: Right, because you‘re telling...
COCCO: ... and he speaks directly...
MATTHEWS: ... people to stick around.
COCCO: ... to these women...
COCCO: ... these women in that line of his stump speech. And they—
I am told that they are now trending Democratic in a way that the Democrats -- not that he‘s going to win that vote. But I was told by a pollster who‘s not affiliated with the Kerry campaign that Democrats are doing better among military families now than they ever have since Ronald Reagan.
MATTHEWS: I heard that, too.
Let me ask John, do you think—let‘s put it another way. Can John Kerry win the presidential election in the Electoral College without getting a big chunk of Republicans? Because undecideds, it would seem to me, except for the real hard-nosed “I don‘t want to think about it” types, include a lot of Republicans.
JOHN FUND, COLUMNIST, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM: Yes, he can win without a lot of Republicans. And the problem right now that we have...
MATTHEWS: He can win without them?
FUND: Yes. Well, he‘s already tied in the polls without them because if you look at the polls on a national level, not these micro samples of small groups, Bush has 93 percent of Republicans. Kerry has about the same number of Democrats. The independents may include some people who used to be Republicans...
FUND: ... who voted for John Anderson or Ross Perot or something like that. But if you‘re talking about card-carrying self-identified Republicans...
MATTHEWS: How about people who voted...
FUND: ... Bush is very strong.
MATTHEWS: ... for Bush last—President Bush last time, who won‘t this time?
FUND: There are some of those, and there are also some, though, you know, like Zell Miller and a few other people, who are going to go the other direction.
MATTHEWS: Are you sure he‘s been voting Democrat all these years? He doesn‘t sound like it!
FUND: Zig-zag Zell has been voting the most—has been voting Democratic...
MATTHEWS: I love the way he‘s joining the attack on a flip-flopper, when he‘s the biggest, probably.
FUND: There are people who are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Democrat who move more Republican every year.
FUND: There are also people in the Northeast, as Marie says, who have basically abandoned the party.
MATTHEWS: You got specific...
COCCO: But can I tell you, it‘s not only the Northeast. This is what
· this is what I think the Bush people should be worried about...
MATTHEWS: Well, there‘s northern California, by the way, is part of the Northeast.
COCCO: It doesn‘t matter how many...
MATTHEWS: You know that.
COCCO: It doesn‘t matter how many Republicans in New York and California and in the Northeast vote for John Kerry.
MATTHEWS: Because it‘s all blue.
COCCO: He‘s going to win those states anyway. What matters is, Is there a slice of disaffected, disillusioned Republicans in places like Colorado, Arizona, West Virginia...
COCCO: ... even Virginia, which I am told there are public polls right now showing Virginia at a 5-point spread...
MATTHEWS: Which was close last time, by the way, just for the history‘s sake.
COCCO: ... and there are some—there are some private polls that I understand have it closer than that. This is not about the old Rockefeller Republican. This is about a new group of Republicans who are unhappy with the president and still unsure whether they want to give...
MATTHEWS: ... a new realignment here, a new realignment would be the following, the more—I don‘t mean real upscale, I mean slightly better than average Republicans suburbanites, who may be more pro-choice, a little more skeptical about the war. And then you look at the people—the president‘s accent, by the way, is getting more country every day. I don‘t know if you listened to him today. He gave a long speech today out in Davenport, Iowa, which was dropping all the G‘s, real country kind of accent. He would say in-surance, and things like that, all rural accents. It seems to me like he‘s realigning the country, saying, I‘ll take rural America, and you can have the city mice.
FUND: We‘re going to see some states flip. I‘ll predict New Hampshire goes to Kerry. I‘ll predict Wisconsin goes to Bush. And you know, New Jersey is still—now within 2 points. Kerry only has a 2-point lead. So even the Northeast depends on the peculiar dynamics of each state. Pennsylvania‘s a Northeastern state, but it‘s also a Southern state, it‘s also a Midwestern state.
MATTHEWS: Well, Pennsylvania, you might see a shift in the burbs toward Kerry and among the T (ph), which is outside Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, in the middle of the state, moving more conservative.
FUND: And Pittsburgh is trending more Republican.
MATTHEWS: It is always more liberal—I mean, more conservative than Philadelphia.
COCCO: I have to tell you, though...
MATTHEWS: By the way, it‘s not as complaining as Philadelphia—having been from Philadelphia, Pittsburgh is a lot more patient and nice because they put up with a lot more failure than Philadelphia. Philadelphia won‘t put up with anything! We bang on the pipes until we get the hot water!
More with Marie Cocco and John Fund when we come back.
MATTHEWS: I‘m back with “Newsday‘s” Marie Cocco and “The Wall Street Journal‘s” John Fund.
Marie, in your column today, which grabbed me—it ran in “The Washington Post,” as well as “Newsday”—you talked about Republicans anecdotally moving over to support Kerry. Are there any name-brand, bold-print Republican office holders who might come out and say, I don‘t care if I‘m a Republican, I‘m voting for Kerry?
COCCO: Well, I don‘t think there are any name-brand office holders. I mean, Lincoln Chafee from Rhode Island has been decidedly noncommittal about President Bush, but...
MATTHEWS: He‘s the senator up there, yes.
COCCO: But other than that, I can‘t think of one. And he hasn‘t come out against Bush, he‘s just not committed to Bush. So I don‘t think you‘re going to see office holders doing that. But I think what Kerry did today, for example, with these business leaders is a message. He put Robert Rubin, the former Clinton administration treasury secretary, up in the gallery next to his wife, Teresa Heinz, at the convention on the last night, so that when the cameras panned up to Mrs. Kerry, they got Robert Rubin, the man who is...
MATTHEWS: That‘s a little slight, isn‘t it?
COCCO: Very much...
MATTHEWS: That reminds me of the kind of buzz they got started on Wall Street, where he‘s going to be the next secretary of state because he was sitting next to Teresa Heinz at the convention.
FUND: Anecdotes don‘t quite make a pattern. The mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota...
MATTHEWS: I know. He‘s going...
FUND: ... a long-time Democrat, is going for Bush. There are several mayors from other small cities that are coming out. It‘s a lot easier for a mayor sometimes...
FUND: ... than it is for a state legislator. Look at the national polls. Almost all Democrats for Kerry, almost all Republicans for Bush. It would be nice for Democrats to think they‘re going to pick up Republican votes. They should look at the independents.
MATTHEWS: You know what I think‘s going to happen...
MATTHEWS: I think it‘s going to be a clear aligning of the country. I think New Hampshire will probably go for Kerry, making it all blue right across. And I‘ll bet you New Mexico goes for—could go the other—who knows? I mean, it seems like—maybe not that one, but I think there‘s going to be emphasis.
You were saying during break, or before the last segment, that New York could be overwhelmingly Kerry...
MATTHEWS: ... 70-30. But that just means the electoral map stays the same.
COCCO: That‘s correct.
MATTHEWS: Places like Mississippi and Alabama and South Carolina overwhelmingly for the president. But that doesn‘t change anything. The question is, What‘s going on where you have competing impulses? The cultural conservatism of Missouri, where they‘re voting on the marriage issue...
FUND: With the majority of Democrats voting for it.
MATTHEWS: ... right—against the economic circumstances against trade and more protectionist sentiments there, which has been the case, by the way, since the ‘56 election with Stevenson. And then you have the really tricky questions, cases like Ohio, where southern Ohio‘s Baptist and culturally conservative, especially conservative on cultural issues, marriage and things like that, plus, thrown in with the $7 an hour you‘re lucky to get there. So isn‘t that the problem?
COCCO: Well, it seems to me that if I were John Kerry, what I would be doing is not necessarily trying to win some of these counties in southern Ohio. I‘d be simply trying to keep Bush‘s margin down, which, as you know, if he keeps the Republican margin down in Ohio, if he does not let Bush rack up 70 or 80 percent of the vote in the Republican-leaning counties in the south of Ohio, then he wins the state. If he can hold Bush down in the areas where Bush is supposed to run strong and run strong in the Democratic areas, then he carries Ohio.
I would say the same thing is true—for example, look at Virginia, which I do not believe will tip Democratic. It has not voted for a Democrat since LBJ...
COCCO: ... in 1964. But look at the strategy that Mark Warner followed there. You have to get every African-American vote. You‘ve got to pump up...
MATTHEWS: That‘s not going to be hard.
COCCO: You‘ve got to pump up the moderate suburban vote in the District of Columbia suburbs and just hold the Republican margin down in their area.
MATTHEWS: Why doesn‘t John Kerry—not to give him campaign advice. Why doesn‘t he drop—stick it—everything else—drop everything else and say, The problem with this country is $7 an hour. There‘s too many adult males and females out there, middle-aged people, lucky to get 7 bucks an hour right now, and that‘s the problem. Stick to the one issue. It has a lot of social consequences, family consequences, as well as economic consequences. And it‘s not looking it‘s going to get any better.
FUND: The irony is Michael Dukakis actually recovered in the last two weeks of the 1988 campaign because he actually said, All right, you want to call me a liberal? I am a liberal. He went for that base, and he tried...
MATTHEWS: The economic base.
FUND: Yes. And he actually recovered a little bit. I think the problem that John Kerry has is his middle name is nuance. And nuance does not, with the exception of a black community and a few others, does not drive out a lot of turnout, especially for people...
MATTHEWS: Well, they‘ve got the passion without him.
FUND: Exactly. He‘s irrelevant to that.
MATTHEWS: Yes. They‘re angry still about the last election, as a general rule. Boy, you hear it everywhere about that anger.
Marie Cocco, good piece today.
COCCO: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Got us thinking. John Fund—still doesn‘t agree with you, maybe, but he‘s here. Anyway, John Fund, Marie Cocco, thanks for joining us.
Up next, former Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi, the man that started this campaign, and Republican media strategist Kim Alfano (ph) take aim at the latest round of campaign ads. We‘re going to hear from both sides, both ads, we‘re going to watch both of them.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: This half-hour on HARDBALL, ad watch. The Bush campaign unleashes its latest volley in the ad wars. Plus, will Congress and the president enact the changes called for by the 9/11 Commission? Former Senator Gary Hart will join us.
But, first, the latest headlines.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. John Kerry is the official Democratic nominee now.
And, as a result, his presidential campaign has less money to spend on ads. Not so for the Bush campaign, which launched a new ad this week.
HARDBALL election correspondent David Shuster joins us now with more -
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC ELECTION CORRESPONDENT: Chris, this is the phase of the election that Democrats have long feared and Republicans have long been looking forward to. President Bush has a massive amount of money to spend on television ads, and John Kerry does not.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m John Kerry and I‘m reporting for duty.
SHUSTER (voice-over): Now that he has officially accepted his party‘s nomination, John Kerry is running his campaign on public financing, a limit of $75 million. President Bush will have the same limit, but his tab won‘t start running until the Republican Convention concludes in September. That means, for the next four weeks, the Bush campaign, still loaded with private contributions, has a huge financial advantage.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With your help, Dick Cheney and I will serve this nation for four more years.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SHUSTER: And this week, the Bush-Cheney campaign hit the accelerator with a new round of television ads.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: The last few years have tested America in many ways. But together, we‘re rising to the challenge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Unlike most Bush ads, this one is entirely positive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: What gives us optimism and hope? Freedom, faith, families, and sacrifice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: For his part, John Kerry has decided not to run any campaign ads for the next four weeks. His campaign says it is an effort to save money for September and October. But it might also be related to the help the Kerry campaign is receiving this month from separate political organizations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, THE MEDIA FUND AD)
NARRATOR: Health care costs are soaring. Millions more American are uninsured. And those who have coverage are paying more out of pocket. Yet President Bush offers no plan to curb costs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: The Democratic group called The Media Fund announced it was spending more than $2.5 million this week to run five television ads in five different states.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, THE MEDIA FUND AD)
NARRATOR: We could build thousands of new schools or hire a million new teachers. We could make sure every child has insurance. Instead, under George Bush, America is alone, spending tens of billions to rebuild Iraq, with no plan for success.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: The ads are somewhat misleading, because paving the way for free elections in Iraq is in fact a plan.
But polling indicates that President Bush is vulnerable to the charge his administration is adrift.
SHUSTER: And it is a charge that the Democrats plan to make against President Bush throughout the month of August, because, when you look at these Democratic organizations that are stepping up to fill the void left by John Kerry, the amount of money that they‘re spending in some of these battleground states is at times almost twice as much as the Bush campaign is spending in those same states—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster.
I‘m joined right now by MSNBC analyst Joe Trippi, who was Howard Dean‘s campaign manager and is the author of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” You can read his blogs on HardBlogger site at HARDBALL.MSNBC.com. And Kim Alfano, a Republican media consultant.
Kim, new kid on the block, is this a time, a halcyon time for the Bush campaign. Lots of money to spend. Kerry can‘t spend anything, really, because he‘s saving it for the fall.
KIM ALFANO, REPUBLICAN MEDIA CONSULTANT: Well, it is just a stalking
horse. The truth is, like
MATTHEWS: What is a stalking horse?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like, it‘s like what Shuster said in his piece, that there‘s hundreds of millions of dollars being spent by other groups.
MATTHEWS: Oh, I see.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That will certainly fill in.
The DNC has an ad up right now, like he said in the piece as well
MATTHEWS: Well, can they use John Kerry‘s name, these third parties?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They‘re about this close to the line and in some
MATTHEWS: Joe, do you buy this, that it is an even playing field right now for the next month?
JOE TRIPPI, FORMER HOWARD DEAN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: No. No. For the next month, Bush has the advantage.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a bad time for Kerry.
TRIPPI: There‘s two things. Kerry doesn‘t have control over those spots. His team cannot put up the spots they want to, saying what they want to say. That‘s just the way it is if these other groups are doing it.
And the other problem is with these groups is, they can‘t really mention John Kerry‘s name, which means most of these ads have to be negative. And it will be the same thing with the groups that are running ads for the Republicans.
MATTHEWS: But isn‘t at the fact that “Fahrenheit 9/11” in playing the movie theaters right now, isn‘t that sort of a campaign gift to the Kerry operation, Kim?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Every time you walk out of theater, you say, oh, God, Bush is no good. At least for a few minutes, you‘re thinking that. Isn‘t that an ad campaign paid for by $9 a ticket?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.
TRIPPI: Well, there‘s all kinds of things that are going to on both
sides. “Fahrenheit 9/11”
MATTHEWS: What is as good as that? What is as good as the “Fahrenheit 9/11” movie?
TRIPPI: The Republicans didn‘t get their act together.
TRIPPI: But my point is, I really think that it is not so much that there isn‘t going to be like money spent. It is that the Kerry campaign doesn‘t have control. The Bush people do have control of their message. Obviously, these other groups are running ads, but they‘re going to be negative because they have to be and the Republican will be doing the same thing.
Do you by the fact that the third-party ads, paid for by people who would like to see Bush defeated, if not Kerry elected, are not as useful because they‘re not coordinated?
ALFANO: Well, I—no, I don‘t. I think that, we find in politics, that, as far as ads go, negative ads tend to move the numbers a lot more quickly. They tend to move...
MATTHEWS: Even for president?
ALFANO: Even for president, although, in presidential races, unlike others, the ads are sort of secondary. It is about the press they get. It‘s about the spin they get.
MATTHEWS: Let me try to imagine the person who is a citizen of the United States, over 18, obviously, with some brain on their head, walking down the street, going home, sitting in front of a TV set and watching an ad and say, damn it, I‘ve decided. What kind of a balloon head would decide on who to vote for, for president based on a TV ad?
TRIPPI: Well, it doesn‘t happen that way.
MATTHEWS: But you just said it happens that way.
MATTHEWS: You said a negative ad will turn people.
ALFANO: A negative ad will drive the media message, which is what‘s turning people.
MATTHEWS: Well, will it drive a voter‘s decision?
ALFANO: Well, ultimately, yes.
ALFANO: It is about repetitions. And it is about they hear it on TV, then they see it reported on...
MATTHEWS: In your business, it‘s a science or an art. How many ads, negative ads, do you have to run against the president, or in your case, against Kerry, to pick up a solid vote for the president? How many ads do you have to see to change your mind?
ALFANO: Well, it is how many ads to make you talk about the ads to get the press doing stories about the fact that these are the negative aspects of the Bush campaign.
MATTHEWS: You really think that I‘m going to change somebody‘s point
of view because I‘m talking
ALFANO: How about seven?
MATTHEWS: Let me tell you what I like. Everybody says this, Joe.
I know you don‘t really have a horse in this, because you really did like Howard Dean.
MATTHEWS: But let me ask you this. Everybody is saying that the Kerry ads are better than Kerry, that if you can put a Kerry ad on in somebody‘s face, it is better than putting Kerry in their face. And everybody is saying that Bush, the president, is much better out on the stump than the ads being run for him. Do you believe that?
ALFANO: I do.
MATTHEWS: In other words, Bush is better than his ads. Kerry is not as good as his ads. Do you believe that?
TRIPPI: Well, I think Kerry‘s different. People say he doesn‘t have
the energy out there. And I think the ad is easier to do that. And the
ads capture those moments when he has
MATTHEWS: He can‘t sell how many ribbons he‘s won, but the ad can.
TRIPPI: That‘s what I‘m saying. So there are some things his ads can
say that he can‘t. The same thing
MATTHEWS: Are they going to make the ads president or him?
TRIPPI: Well, he‘s going to be the one who is president.
But the interesting this is when—I‘ll tell you what happens in the back room in the focus groups. You run these negative ads for people in the focus groups. And the first thing they do is say, oh, my gosh, I hate negative ads.
MATTHEWS: I hate negative ads.
And then, at the end of the focus group, you say, well, who are you voting for? Oh, the other guy. Because—and then they recite all the negative stuff in the ad. So we know negative ads work, unfortunately. And that is why these two parties—one of the things I think is people are sick of it. And it is going to be interesting between now and November to see whether you do have pushback from the voters on this.
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t you guys just run ads of the other person making fools of themselves, like, why don‘t the Republicans only run ads of John Kerry saying over and over again, I did vote for the $87 billion for the troops in Iraq before I voted against it?
MATTHEWS: I would just show that. That‘s a pretty condemning piece of work there, isn‘t it?
ALFANO: Well, it is. And then we‘ve done that.
But at the end of the day, what is going to—your point about Bush
being better than his ads is going to pay off for him, because a
MATTHEWS: And I would run against Bush—you know what I run against the president? That piece from the movie, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” where the president is talking to these rich people, saying, these people in this audience are the haves and the have-mores. A lot of people would call you the elite. I would call you my base.
He‘s bragging about being in bed with the richest people in the country. If I were a Democratic ad guy, I would run that all the time.
TRIPPI: You‘re right. Both parties have that tape and they‘re going to run them.
But I think the biggest thing that happened this week was, coming out of the convention, Kerry had the momentum. He went on the same kind of bus tour that Clinton and Gore went on. And this time, the Republicans learned. They went and interrupted it. Bush is showing up in everyplace that this bus tour of Kerry and Edwards—they showed up in Iowa today.
TRIPPI: And that‘s the kind of gamesmanship you‘re going to see in this thing.
MATTHEWS: The president himself goes right in the same fight.
TRIPPI: He stopped that momentum, yes.
MATTHEWS: We‘re coming right back with more with Joe Trippi and Kim Alfano.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, much more on the campaign ads, just 90 days until the election. And later, former Senator Gary Hart on the latest terror threats.
HARDBALL is back after this.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Democratic strategist Joe Trippi and Republican media consultant Kim Alfano.
Kim, who are undecideds right now that we keep seeing in the polls, somewhere between 5 and 10 percent? Who are they?
ALFANO: In my mind, they‘re ones that are waiting for the results in
Iraq. I think they‘re going to
MATTHEWS: Real events.
ALFANO: They‘re going to go up and down based on what is happening in
Iraq. And it is going to
MATTHEWS: And when will they commit? When we will see them
ALFANO: Probably November 1.
MATTHEWS: Election Day. Well, they‘re voting on the second day in November.
ALFANO: Well, that‘s what I‘m saying. I think they‘re going to wait up until the end and see exactly where we are at that point.
MATTHEWS: So it is not the pitches of the candidates or how well they perform or how charming they are in debates on television. It‘s events outside that.
ALFANO: I think the president has it right. It will be about results. And he‘s got the platform to either perform or not perform.
MATTHEWS: That is the new theme of the Republicans. It‘s not words.
It is results.
Go ahead, Joe.
TRIPPI: I think that what has happened is, the convention is usually a place where a lot of these undecideds start tuning in. It is sort of like the signal that, hey, we need to pay attention here.
I think—but do I agree, they‘re going to wait until the very end of this. I think they can‘t decide between these—if anything, they‘re in granite in terms of being undecided.
MATTHEWS: Do you know any undecided people that you‘ve come across?
TRIPPI: Very few. I mean, there aren‘t a whole lot of them, but they‘re there.
MATTHEWS: They‘re not talking either.
And the interesting thing is that I think we—sometimes in most political campaigns, undecideds break to the challenger. But in presidential campaigns, more times than not, they break to the incumbent. It is easy at the end to make people sort of, particularly in a time of war, think, stick with the commander in chief I‘ve got. And so it will be interesting to see which way they break.
MATTHEWS: I think they‘re fascinating. Sometimes I get mad at them, because, like, make up your mind. But then I think it is a reasonable quandary for a lot of people today. Do you go with strength that could be wrong or indecision that could be right? It is not simple. If there was one person out there that was always right and always strong, you would probably vote for him. But who is that person?
MATTHEWS: Neither side claims that exactly. Even Bush, I don‘t think, claims that. He says, I—he suggests, maybe I‘ve made a few mistakes, but I‘m tough and I‘m making those decisions. The other guy is saying, I haven‘t done anything wrong yet.
TRIPPI: Go ahead.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Kim.
ALFANO: Well, it used to be, too, that there were built-in sort of benchmarks. The conventions used to be about news and interesting new twists on speeches. The debates used to be that way. Those were sort of places where undecideds could go. But they‘re so fixed now. They‘re such theatrical events now that there‘s no more news. And now news events are actually dominating.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the fact that Kerry is about 6 foot, 8“ is an advantage in debates? He‘s got to be the tallest guy ever to run for president since Lincoln.
ALFANO: I don‘t, unless he gains weight, unless he gains weight, because he is far too skinny for that frame. So I think it is going to make him look frail compared to George Bush.
MATTHEWS: To much like Lurch. Are you suggesting a Lurch problem here?
TRIPPI: You know what I think is going to happen here? I think this thing is coming down—the Bush campaign‘s message essentially is, we‘re doing everything we can. And Kerry‘s message essentially is, we can do better.
TRIPPI: And people want to do better. And so I think that the Bush
MATTHEWS: I think the Kerry message is, Bush is lost, but he is making good time.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you very much, Joe Trippi, Kim Alfano.
Up next, former Senator Gary Hart has a new book out challenging President Bush‘s doctrine of preemption. Gary Hart is coming here in a minute.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Former Senator and two-time presidential candidate Gary Hart is the author of 13 books. His latest is titled “The Fourth Power: A Grand Strategy For the United States in the 21st Century.”
With regard to American global power, Senator Harts writes: “One of the unavoidable realities of America‘s jarring entry into the 21st century and one of that entry‘s historic ironies is that we are both envied and resented. Envy and resentment are real and they are fed by policies and behavior that are imperious, unilateral, insensitive and arrogant.”
Senator Hart, so it is partly our fault, right?
GARY HART, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it depends on what it is.
MATTHEWS: Meaning the world doesn‘t like us right now so much.
HART: A lot of the world...
MATTHEWS: Especially the Arab world.
HART: A lot of the world doesn‘t. It wasn‘t just Iraq. It is the fact that we consume 25 percent of the resources, certainly, the energy resources, produce 25 percent of the trash. We‘re only 6 percent of the world‘s people.
We‘re seeing—the commission that I served on traveled the world. Members traveled to 25 or more countries. And we all came back and reported to each other the depth and breadth of the resentment toward the United States. Americans say, why do they hate us? I didn‘t find all that much hatred. What we found was resentment.
HART: Some of it serious and some of it hypocritical.
MATTHEWS: Where‘s it most—where‘s it most—this is a tough question, but where is it really the most legitimate? Where do they have a real grief against us, a grief against us?
HART: Well, in the less developed world.
We found a lot of resentment in the Middle East. There was a memorable night in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo where 200 people were there and just they spent two hours taking us apart.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s obvious. We‘re always on Israel‘s side, it seems, by their lights. Maybe Eisenhower tilted a little to the Arab world and maybe George Bush tilted a little bit to the Arab world. But, generally, we‘re pretty much pro-Israeli. If we were anti-Israeli as much as we‘re anti-Arab, Israel would hate us, wouldn‘t they?
HART: But the record has to show that Egypt gets the second highest amount of Americans...
MATTHEWS: But that‘s part of the deal for Camp David. Everybody knows that. That‘s to keep them calm and leave Israel alone, isn‘t it? Isn‘t that the deal everybody knows about?
HART: It may well be. But the resentment is still real.
HART: For whatever the reasons.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about the fact of what we can do about it. Part of the resentment is that we do support Israel. That‘s just a fact of life that everybody has got to deal with.
Part of it is that we‘ve tilted heavily toward them under this administration. Part of it is, we do grab oil and we seem to cut deals with potentates over there that aren‘t exactly good guys. How much of that latter one, which we can deal with—we always have a deal with whoever will sell us the oil cheapest. And those are not the best leaders of those countries, generally.
HART: The title of the book has to do with the power of our principles. Every time we violate our principles, we undercut what I think is our greatest power.
MATTHEWS: Like Saudi Arabia.
HART: Like Saudi Arabia. We are preaching democracy and there‘s no democracy in that region.
Now, if the purpose of invading Iraq was to export democracy to the region at the point of a bayonet, the president at least should have told the American people and the people of the region that. The policy might have been plausible, but it‘s—no policy is plausible if you can‘t explain it to the American people.
Is there anything that people get wrong about us? Or do they just have a good case against us?
HART: No, no, no, no, no.
MATTHEWS: In other words, we‘re basically pro-Israeli and not pro-Arab. We‘re basically interested and hungry for the oil. What part of it do they get wrong? It‘s not like we need better P.R., is it?
HART: Well, some of it is hypocritical.
HART: Some of the people that stood up in that embassy in Cairo you knew came to Johns Hopkins for their surgeries, had kids in American universities and skied in Aspen. So that‘s hypocritical. And you have to discount that. I think the other part of it is...
MATTHEWS: Kind of like Prince Bandar.
HART: Well, for example.
Well, let me ask you about the world out there. Is it your belief that we have more enemies today and face more recruitment of terrorism, recruitment of young terrorists, because of our policies in the Middle East, especially going to war with Iraq?
HART: Certainly because of the invasion of Iraq. And I can‘t document that because I‘m not...
MATTHEWS: Well, Mubarak says that. The president of Egypt said there‘s 1,000 bin Ladens created by our going to Iraq.
HART: Well, that was going to be my response. That is to say, I personally don‘t have evidence of that. All I know is what people who do have evidence say, including people in our own intelligence community.
MATTHEWS: Did you see that “Fahrenheit 9/11” just opened in Cairo?
MATTHEWS: What did you make of the reaction over there? The people thought, they had never seen United States criticize itself. They want to know what we think of that movie. It‘s interesting.
HART: What story I saw said that for the first time in the history of cinema in Lebanon, everyone turned their cell phones off.
MATTHEWS: They stopped talking.
Well, everybody—if you go to Israel and hang out there, everybody talks in the movie theater over there. I mean, we‘re the calmest people in the world I think sometimes.
Let me ask you about the value of idealism in the world. And we do stand I was in the Peace Corps. I hitchhiked back. I met a lot of kids in Africa, for example, and some Arab kids. They looked to America as heaven, that this is the country where you can speak. I was at the Berlin Wall when it was falling. And this young German came up to me and I asked him what freedom meant to him. And he said talking to you.
This is all true. We were the good guys in terms of freedom of speech, of religion, of democracy. We‘re still the gold standard. But what‘s wrong? Why can‘t we use that gold standard?
HART: Well, partly, it is unilateral invasion of countries without an immediate threat. Part of it is the exportation of our popular culture, which is...
MATTHEWS: Can be trashy.
HART: Is tragedy and resented in traditional cultures, certainly in that part of the world. Part of it is when we don‘t live up to our own ideals, try to assassinate foreign leaders, overthrow governments, suborn journalists, which we did during the Cold War.
MATTHEWS: Well, what about power? You say that our fourth power, of power of ideals of Americanism, is as strong as the other pieces of economic, political and military power. How can you make that case?
HART: It‘s basically the case you just made from your experience traveling.
It‘s—I‘ve had the same experience. When it all boils down, people want our clothes and our food and our lifestyle. But what they really admire and respect about us is our form of government when it works the way it is supposed to work. And that‘s why when we undercut our own principles, we undercut our greatest power.
Two-thirds to three-quarters of the people on Earth are not used to having a government that‘s on their side. The government is opposed to them. And the very idea that the government works for the citizen is such a profound idea to most people in the world that that‘s what they want.
MATTHEWS: Do you have an ambiguous feeling about Iraq, that if this occupation works and the takeover of that government worse, that it will become a paradigm, and yet, if it doesn‘t work, we also have a problem? It is like lose-lose we‘re in right now, to me, looking at it.
HART: I don‘t know how to calculate it.
I think we have got a 1-5 or 1-10 chance in pulling it off. But it is going to be long and very costly. And, again, you can‘t—the American people won‘t support that if they didn‘t know that‘s what we were up against going in there.
HART: That‘s where the misleading come in and I think the price that has to be paid.
If George Bush had said, we‘re going to remake the Middle East in our image and it is going to take a long time and cost a lot of money and the American people said, great, let‘s do it. That‘s one thing. But That‘s not what happened.
MATTHEWS: But let me ask you about the current test.
It seems tricky now. A president declares that we have a threat because we got some evidence from Pakistan. And yet he is basically making sure that people don‘t accuse him later of not letting us know about it.
MATTHEWS: But, in letting us know about it, he suggests a certain urgency that may not be there. Isn‘t this really difficult to weigh?
HART: Yes. Yes.
The code system, you have to have something like the colors to alert the 50,000 or 100,000, more than 100,000, first-responders in Denver and elsewhere. If you alert them secretly, the cops are going to call their families and say, gee whiz, we‘re on high alert. Get out of town.
MATTHEWS: Or tip off a TV station.
HART: Yes. So you have got to tell everybody is basically what it‘s...
MATTHEWS: But that creates a sense of—of we‘re in a terror environment. Therefore, vote for the president.
HART: Well, they better not hype it, because what will happen is exactly what happened this week. Intelligence sources will say, that‘s old evidence.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but then we get this new evidence today that suggests there‘s an update on all that and it was valid to be worried. It‘s so tricky.
HART: It is.
MATTHEWS: Do you wish you were president right now?
MATTHEWS: I know you do. You‘re an honest man—Gary Hart, “The Fourth Power.”
Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for HARDBALL.
Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.
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