Guest: Sen. Chuck Hagel, Gen. Tommy Franks, Karen Tumulty, Byron York
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Did the United States interrupt an al Qaeda plot to attack on American soil? We‘ll ask Senator Chuck Hagel of the Intelligence Committee. Plus, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, General Tommy Franks, tells us what‘s next on the battlefields and in the war on terror. And the latest campaign ads in the battle for the White House.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. White House officials say they‘re optimistic that recent arrests in the war on terror helped disrupt an al Qaeda plot to attack the U.S. before election day. Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is a Republican and a member of the Intelligence Committee.
How do you assess that claim, that we‘ve stopped something big from hurting us before election day?
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Chris, obviously, I can‘t get into the specifics of it, but there‘s no question over the last couple of years, our intelligence community has been able to stop a number of these things from happening. Obviously, the American people will never know that. And it just takes one to get through. A hundred times that you‘re correct and you stop something...
HAGEL: ... nobody knows about it. But I think the American people should be assured—can be assured that we are a much safer nation today than we were before September 11.
MATTHEWS: But it‘s hard to keep these separate. Just for imagination‘s sake, imagine we had five Nazi storm trooper guys chasing after us. Now, we heard about one. He was going to hit the five big financial centers. Is this the one that we stopped?
MATTHEWS: Or is it some other one we stopped? Then we heard about the guy that showed his head up at the end of last week, and that was another warning we got. And then we got another warning still later about the—they‘re going to use limousines and helicopters. That‘s the third Nazi that‘s coming to get us.
I‘m trying to—which one did we stop, is what I‘m trying to figure out?
HAGEL: This is an imprecise, imperfect process in business, and you factor in all the pieces and all the pieces that come to some complete mosaic that you deal with, and many times, they are linked, and many times they are not linked. But...
MATTHEWS: But you‘re not answering the question. Which of those guys or which of those plots did we uncover and disrupt that I mentioned?
HAGEL: Well, I...
MATTHEWS: Do you know if it‘s the one to do with the five financial centers, the Stock Exchange and the World Bank, et cetera?
HAGEL: First of all, I can‘t get into specifics.
MATTHEWS: You can‘t. Because of your responsibilities?
HAGEL: On the Intelligence Committee.
HAGEL: But I can tell you what I do know, and what was presented by White House officials is correct.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you about just the near—let‘s go—we all went through the big debate last week, Was it good for the country or good for the administration or both or neither to have these announcements, these big—we‘re going to hit the World Bank, we‘re going to hit the International Monetary Fund, we‘re going to hit CitiCorp up in New York, Prudential Center, et cetera. Do you think the mere announcement could itself be beneficial to stopping trouble?
HAGEL: Oh, I think it could be, and probably, in most cases is, if for no other reason there‘s a certain dynamic that plays into a status of alertness that you might not otherwise have.
HAGEL: And that‘s probably generally beneficial. But you always have that fine line between panicking people...
HAGEL: ... and not giving them—or being unable to give them all the facts.
MATTHEWS: Common sense. You say a bank‘s going to be blown tomorrow. It‘s going to be hit tomorrow. And you announce it‘s going to be this particular bank. Just by announcing it in all the press, does that make it less likely the bank‘ll be hit?
HAGEL: Maybe. It‘s imperfect. It really is. These guys have a very difficult job, and it is always a matter of trying to find the equilibrium between not panicking people but yet erring on the side of being very cautious and careful. And that‘s why the integration of all our law enforcement people and our intelligence people is so critical here, so that they‘re all working off essentially the same information and they can act on that information in unison.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the New York convention coming up at the end of this month. I mean, it‘s going to be at ground zero, basically. It‘s going to be at 34th Street, at Madison Square Garden, you know, 30-some or more blocks from the World Trade Center, from downtown. It seems like an inviting target for our enemies.
HAGEL: Well, I think that‘s right, but so was Boston and so were—and is a number of other...
MATTHEWS: This is New York.
HAGEL: It‘s New York, but I think we‘re prepared and have been taking the appropriate measures to ensure security, and I have every confidence that we‘re going to be secure in New York.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it‘s prudent for the president of the United States, the vice president, all the members of the—Republican members of the Congress and the Senate to all go to one place? Is that smart, given the environment we live in right now?
HAGEL: Well, you won‘t have the president and the vice president there at the same time. You won‘t have...
MATTHEWS: You won‘t?
HAGEL: ... all the cabinet there at the same time. I mean, I—they‘ve not consulted with me on this, but I‘m sure they‘ve thought this out very, very carefully, so that you don‘t have a situation as you‘ve just mentioned.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask—you were in the military. You were in Vietnam. Are you troubled one way or another by this focus on Kerry‘s record?
MATTHEWS: McCain is. Senator McCain has made it clear he doesn‘t like it. He just bristles every time it comes up from the administration‘s side, the Republican side. Do you think it‘s something that the Republicans should just take a bye on and say, OK, he was a hero in Vietnam, we‘ll move on?
HAGEL: Well, the ads, for example, are not coordinated with the White House and they‘re not coordinated with the Republican Party. These are, as you know, so-called 527 independent expenditures. So that moves the Bush campaign team out of the way, and it‘s another group of people who‘s focused on that, and I‘m not sure that helps the president...
MATTHEWS: Well, he can make—the president can make a statement, I wish they‘d stop these ads.
HAGEL: Well, he could. And I think McCain‘s right on that. I think it doesn‘t play...
MATTHEWS: You think—you agree with McCain the president should just say, I‘d be better off, ladies and gentlemen, if I didn‘t have these ads out there.
HAGEL: Well, that‘s just one part of it. But let me go back to the genesis of it. And my dear friend, John McCain, and I disagreed on this. McCain-Feingold essentially brought a lot of this on. What it did, McCain-Feingold, was it neutered the parties. The parties can‘t fight back in an accountable way, and so now we have all these hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars of unaccountable money going into the system on both sides.
HAGEL: And who knows who they are? There‘s no limit to what they can say. They‘re not...
HAGEL: ... accountable. And quite frankly, that‘s what this election campaign reform bill brought to our system. And it will only get worse, Chris, until...
MATTHEWS: Well, this is what happened back in ‘88 with Willie Horton. You know, the Republican campaign of George Bush, Sr., the senior President Bush, they disowned any responsibility for Willie Horton. But the one thing we all remember from that campaign, besides the tank ad, which was pretty damn effective, of Dukakis in the tank, was this sort of Shroud of Turin picture of this African-American guy, which was damn incendiary to a lot of people, Everybody, in fact.
HAGEL: I think it, as always, will come down to the American people.
HAGEL: The American people see through it. They‘re almost inoculated completely to this nonsense on both sides. The American people, I hope and I believe, are wise enough to see through this nonsense. And they want candidates to talk about what is each of these candidates going to do for the future of our country. They want to talk about specifics, and they want to hear some of these specifics. So this nonsense that gets thrown around on both sides...
HAGEL: ... it debases the system.
HAGEL: And it‘s dangerous.
MATTHEWS: We got Tommy Franks coming up, our hero. Anyway, thank you, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.
HAGEL: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Coming up—member of the Intelligence Committee. Coming up, the man who led the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, General Tommy Franks, a real war hero, is coming here for a long time tonight. He‘s going to talk all about the operations in Iraq right now, what our people—why we‘re taking such heavy casualties over there right now and what the future looks like, especially over there.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. General Tommy Franks commanded U.S. forces in battle in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and he‘s now given an inside account of the planning and execution of both wars. His book is called “American Soldier.” But before we ask General Franks about Iraq and the current state of the war on terrorism, here‘s a look at his impressive military career.
(voice-over): General Tommy Franks, commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command from 2000 to 2003. Running the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he made his mark as a supreme leader and tactician, guiding U.S. and allied forces with acts of military precision and agility.
His road to the pinnacle of a military career began early. Growing up in central Oklahoma and Midland, Texas, he says that by the age of 5, he had an understanding of the world, that there was right and wrong, good and evil, and consequences for one‘s actions. All, he said, taught to him by his father.
The future general graduated from officer candidate school in 1967 in Fort Sill (ph), Oklahoma. Here‘s the newly minted second lieutenant with his proud mom. Shortly after he went to Vietnam, assigned to the 9th Infantry Division, and was awarded numerous medals of honor, including three Purpose Hearts. He served in West Germany during the height of the cold war and in Operation Desert Storm under General Norman Schwarzkopf.
But it was his sure leadership in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars that elevated General Tommy Franks to the top of the military elite, earning him the respect of his colleagues in Washington and, most importantly, his soldiers in the field.
Welcome, General Franks. Thanks for being on.
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.), CENTCOM COMMANDER: Hey, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t often do that, but certainly, you‘re worthy of my small tribute.
FRANKS: Well, it was absolutely terrific. Thanks an awful lot.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t usually do these packages. I‘m not that good at them. Let me ask you...
FRANKS: I‘m impressed.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about it. You must be—since you‘re an emeritus commander, you were in charge of all the troops over there, you must pick up the paper every morning and have an attitude about it. What is going—from your perspective—I know you can‘t second-guess these guys...
MATTHEWS: ... what‘s going on right now in, say—down in Najaf right now?
FRANKS: I think we‘re above what we had as expectations in our country. I mean, the Iraqis had an expectation that it was going to be fast, final, you know? I think we have the same expectation in this country, and I think we‘re faced with the hard reality this thing is going to take a while.
MATTHEWS: What do you think went on in the Pentagon at the civilian level when they were looking at this? Because they had to look at the politics first. Let me ask you this. Is it a military or political assessment, when you have to decide whether you‘re going to face nationalist resistance?
FRANKS: Yes. I think...
MATTHEWS: Whose call is that?
FRANKS: Well, I think, initially, it turns out to be a military assessment, and then in the end of the day, it‘s a civilian assessment. And if you‘re blessed and have someone you can work with—and I enjoyed my relationship with Don Rumsfeld—it‘s both of us.
MATTHEWS: Did somebody in the Pentagon top people, Feith or Wolfowitz, any of the intellectuals over there—did any of them foresee the fact that there‘d be resistance below the Saddam Hussein level, that once you decapitated him, there‘d still be a nationalistic fervor to resist our involvement?
FRANKS: Chris, I think it‘s a great question. And what happened in our planning was we saw both ends of the continuum. Maybe on one hand, we‘re loved, the Iraqis wrapped their arms around us...
MATTHEWS: What Howard Fineman calls the “Happy Iraqi scenario.”
FRANKS: ... quite quickly—absolutely. And now, on the other hand...
MATTHEWS: Did you believe ever that one?
FRANKS: Yes. I don‘t know that—I don‘t know that anyone believed it, but I think it was considered. And then on the other hand, you see what you see.
FRANKS: I mean, it is what it is. And so I think a lot of discussion about all points in between. But sure enough, as it turns out, we see the hard end.
MATTHEWS: One of the big things you study in military academies,
naval academies, is military history. And where in the history do you see
· I don‘t mean to be sarcastic...
MATTHEWS: ... but where in the history do you not see nationalistic resistance? I mean, we faced it in Asia. We benefited from it in the cold war because all these Eastern European and Central European countries wanted to get the reds out.
MATTHEWS: Where in the world—I mean, in other words—I guess I‘m being argumentative—why didn‘t we expect resistance?
FRANKS: Oh, I think we expected resistance. And one never knows exactly how much. I think even beyond resistance, one expects chaos. I mean, look at the result of what we found in Japan at the end of the second war, and the same thing in Germany. I mean, you encounter tremendous chaos, and I think that‘s what we‘re looking at right now.
MATTHEWS: Right. But at the end of those wars—I looked at the numbers—we lost very few men after VE Day...
MATTHEWS: ... and very few men after VJ Day.
FRANKS: Sure, but look at what we lost going in, Chris.
MATTHEWS: You can‘t call it VJ Day, you call it V Day now. I know. But once the—once the emperor said it‘s over, once Hitler was dead, we had control.
FRANKS: Yes. Well...
MATTHEWS: Right now, do you think we have control in Iraq?
FRANKS: Oh, I think we have control of what we have on the ground over there. I don‘t think the Iraqis yet have control of what they want as a new Iraq. And so the trick for us is going to figure out how to stay with this until the Iraqis can get their arms around it.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about casualties because you know and love your troops. You‘ve been with them, and you know—and I‘m just looking at this from over here.
MATTHEWS: You‘ve been with these guys. You know them. You know their names and their souls. Last summer, June and July, we lost 30 and 47 in the months of June and July. We lost—people killed in action, U.S. over there.
MATTHEWS: This summer it‘s higher, 42 and 54. Casualties have gone up over the first two months of this summer from 370 last summer...
MATTHEWS: ... to 970 this time.
MATTHEWS: And as you know, wounded means serious business over there...
FRANKS: Sure, it does.
MATTHEWS: ... because the flak—the jackets, vests, they manage to survive, but they‘re in a couple of pieces and...
FRANKS: You bet.
MATTHEWS: I met—you‘ve been over to Walter Reed. You know what I‘m talking about.
FRANKS: You bet.
MATTHEWS: You know it in the field. Why is the casualty level, if you mention the, wounded something like three times as high this summer as it was last summer?
FRANKS: I think the further we move into this, I think the more organized the resistance can become, I think the more they‘re able to look at everything from Al Jazeera to our own coverage. I mean, they‘re able—and who—I‘m talking about they—they are the guys who are on the ground over there, maybe Zarqawi, and they‘re seeing that they‘re having some success. Right now, we‘re in the season in our own country...
FRANKS: ... and they‘re going to make it just as uncomfortable for us as they can. That‘s why I think...
MATTHEWS: There‘s an old Texas expression. It‘s rather graphic, if somebody wants to hold their ears: It‘s better to have them inside the tent peeing out than outside peeing in. Wouldn‘t we have been better off keeping that army together of Iraq, in hindsight? Kept in the army and...
FRANKS: It‘s a fair question. It‘s a fair question. And I don‘t think we had the option, to be very honest with you. I think by the time we had sufficient control in that country, the guys had walked home. I mean, you had a quarter of a million guys.
MATTHEWS: Didn‘t they have addresses? Wasn‘t there a manifest somewhere you could look at and say...
MATTHEWS: ... Come in to work tomorrow?
FRANKS: Actually, I wish there had been. We did not have the addresses.
FRANKS: I mean, actually did not have...
MATTHEWS: You mean the army...
FRANKS: ... the addresses.
MATTHEWS: ... disappeared.
FRANKS: The army disappeared. Now, but we ought to be able to look at ourselves and say, Did we hunt them down and hire them back on quickly enough?
MATTHEWS: If you said, Triple pay next Tuesday, would they have shown up?
FRANKS: Well, that‘s—that‘s my point. I believe that—you know, then you get in the money thing. If you get in the money thing...
MATTHEWS: Well, double pay.
FRANKS: Well, yes. But...
MATTHEWS: It costs less if we did it—I hate to say it, like mercenaries, but wouldn‘t we have been better off if we had hired mercenaries than fought them?
FRANKS: I favor bringing these 250,000 angry young men, you know, off the street and put them in the employ of this new Iraqi government over there. Let them secure everything from museums to...
MATTHEWS: Right. It‘s...
FRANKS: ... oil field lines and all that.
MATTHEWS: It‘s like the Great Depression attitude of, you know, put them in CCC camps. It‘s better than having them hang around the street corners.
FRANKS: You get people even in this town, Chris, who will argue about that. Some will say, Well, if you do too much of that, then you‘re not going to be able to get the hand off the bicycle seat. You know, you‘re going to get them on the dole. I don‘t subscribe to that.
FRANKS: I believe that the idea is what we‘re doing now, and that is hiring them back on.
FRANKS: And so where I think maybe I‘m a little different than most people, I don‘t fault the process, I fault the speed with which...
FRANKS: ... we were able to execute the process.
MATTHEWS: Was there an ideological objection to that kind of—remember de-Nazification?
MATTHEWS: A lot of the more practical and more conservative military guys, like Patton, said, Let‘s start hiring these guys...
MATTHEWS: ... instead of fighting them because (UNINTELLIGIBLE) fight the reds tomorrow morning.
MATTHEWS: And the more liberal guys, like Roosevelt and his crowd, he New Dealers, said, No way we want to have those guys on our payroll.
FRANKS: Well, you know, I don‘t know. I don‘t know...
MATTHEWS: Was it the same—was it the same ideological fight when we got into Baghdad?
FRANKS: I don‘t know about the politics. I don‘t know that I saw a fight. What I saw was the incapacity of a bureaucracy to get its arms wrapped around sufficient money, especially a lot of it from the international community...
FRANKS: ... to be able to get it back into the system and get these guys hired off the street. It didn‘t go as quickly as I would like to have seen it.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about recruitment. And to me, being somewhat of a skeptic, as everybody who watches this show—I‘m a skeptic on everything.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I am.
MATTHEWS: Are we winning the battle of recruitment? And consider the question. I mean, young men and women in this country are being asked to - - or being—they‘re trying to sweeten the pie, obviously, because we‘re at war. I mean, who‘s going to—it‘s a lot easier to join during peacetime than join during a war because you know what you‘re facing...
MATTHEWS: ... deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan or something as bad. Can we win that recruitment campaign with a professional volunteer army against kids who are signing up for al Qaeda tomorrow morning because they‘re mad at us because we‘re fighting this war?
FRANKS: I think we can.
MATTHEWS: In other words, does the war in Iraq bring us more chances of victory or does it great—greaten the size of our enemy? Does it encourage people to become our enemy?
FRANKS: I think—let me say it this way. A lot of people have asked me the question like this. If you—since you didn‘t find WMD in Iraq, I mean, maybe it wasn‘t worth it. What do you think? Was it worthwhile for us to go into Iraq? And here‘s what I say. I say a lot of things keep me awake at night, Chris, but the fact that Saddam Hussein is no longer there to create a sanctuary wherein what President Bush would call the “evildoers”...
FRANKS: ... can sit and plot against us, satisfies me greatly. I think the country is better off today. My country better off today than before we went into Iraq.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that we have encouraged recruitment of al Qaeda by going into Iraq?
FRANKS: Of course, we have. Of course, we have.
MATTHEWS: Well, isn‘t that—isn‘t that the down—down-the-road problem? We‘ve got people willing to kill themselves to get us?
FRANKS: I think there are two problems. One is the problem of
terrorists, and you made reference to it, and I think where we find those -
· and we‘re going to find a lot of them around Fallujah in Iraq...
MATTHEWS: OK. I...
FRANKS: And ultimately, I think we will take care of them.
MATTHEWS: OK, I...
FRANKS: The second issue is terrorism, and that‘s a broader issue.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s come back. I want to ask you a question to come back with. Yes. How will you know that we made a mistake of going to Iraq? What—no, I want you to think about that.
MATTHEWS: What would have to happen for you to say, Damn it, I thought I was right at the time, I slept well at the time...
MATTHEWS: ... but I think something I didn‘t expect happened?
FRANKS: Two things...
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be right back with former general Tommy Franks.
MATTHEWS: ... question. He‘s ready to go. And later, a look at the latest round of campaign ads launched in this—it‘s a metaphor—battle for the White House. Never forget that‘s a metaphor. We‘re talking about a real one here.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: This country is roughly divided, General, between people who believe we were dead wrong to go to Iraq and people who believe we had to do it. And on each side are the different variations.
MATTHEWS: How will we know who was right, and how many years will it take us to know that?
FRANKS: We get out there in the future someplace. We put ourselves on this platform. We look back at the global war on terrorism. We say Iraq, mistake or a positive thing? Did we do the right thing?
MATTHEWS: Give me the scorecard.
FRANKS: I think there‘ll be a couple of metrics, maybe more. One metric...
MATTHEWS: I love the word metric!
FRANKS: Yes, I love it.
MATTHEWS: That‘s a real Pentagon term.
FRANKS: Well, it‘s a military thing, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Remember Rumsfeld said recently, a couple months ago, We don‘t have the metrics to figure out how much recruitment there is coming out against us.
FRANKS: Well, I‘m not sure about that, but I am pretty sure that we do have the metrics to be able to look back from some point in the future and say right or wrong, this thing in Iraq. And there are a couple of them. One of them is, Did we quit before it was done? I mean, before the Iraqis wrapped their arms around a population, 25 million, 26 million people, were able to control the fractious behavior. That‘s a metric, were we right or wrong, because that‘s the humanity sort of metric. The other metric...
MATTHEWS: In other words, if you can do it and you do it, we were right to do it.
FRANKS: And that‘s a good—no, that‘s one metric. I think another metric is, Did the evildoers, at the end of the day, succeed in establishing a sanctuary in Iraq, which our forces denied them when we went into Iraq, and plot the evil act against the United States of America? Second metric.
I think a third one could be, How about the WMD thing? Do we see a point where we disengaged from Iraq, and sure enough, at some point in the future, it all comes together and our country winds up being threatened by the sanctuary we left behind in Iraq? There may be more, but those are at least a couple.
MATTHEWS: That assumes that there would have been a sanctuary for terrorists if Saddam had stayed there.
FRANKS: Oh, and I absolutely believe there not only...
MATTHEWS: You believe that?
FRANKS: I believe there not only could have been one, I believe there was one. And the example that I use against all odds is Zarqawi, when Zarqawi was up with Ansar al Islam. And there are those who say, Well, Saddam didn‘t control the camps of Ansar al Islam, but I find it especially interesting that Zarqawi seems to have found a home...
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you...
FRANKS: ... where he can operate...
MATTHEWS: Suppose our...
FRANKS: ... inside Iraq.
MATTHEWS: ... going into Iraq and all the heroism and sacrifice that went into leads to a unification of the secular anti-Western people...
MATTHEWS: ... the Ba‘athists and those governments over there...
MATTHEWS: ... and the religion types who are willing to die, and the result of Iraq is that we were the catalyst for the unification of anti-Westernism in the Arab world.
FRANKS: Yes. Bad thing. Bad thing. If that should turn out to be the case, bad thing.
MATTHEWS: You‘re an honest man and a courageous man because you fought the war. More with general Tommy Franks and his book, “American soldier,” when we come back. And later, the Bush-Cheney campaign releases another campaign ad, this time focusing on the economy. We‘ll take a look at that one. I‘m sure it‘ll be a hot one.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: This half-hour on HARDBALL, General Tommy Franks on the U.S. operation in Iraq. Has the war made us safer? And, later, the newest campaign ads in the battle for the White House.
But, first, the latest headlines.
MATTHEWS: Well, General, thanks for writing a book about the American military man, about yourself. It‘s a real military book. It‘s not about politics. I‘m pushing you on the policy stuff.
There‘s a pictures of it. It‘s about fighting a war and winning it. And it‘s a hell of a story, very—well, a lot of Marines used to hate John Wayne because he talked them into going into the military. I don‘t know if you‘ve talking anybody into it.
FRANKS: Well, I hope so.
MATTHEWS: You probably heard those stories. God damn John Wayne
MATTHEWS: I wouldn‘t have joined the Marines if it weren‘t for him.
FRANKS: ... proud of, yes.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about recruitment today. And did you see “Fahrenheit 9/11”?
FRANKS: I haven‘t seen it, but I will. I will.
MATTHEWS: There‘s a part of it that is—the first part of it is pure propaganda, with just points connected, B.S.
The second part is about how Marines go out and recruit.
MATTHEWS: They go around sort of somewhat poor shopping malls, not the richest shopping malls. They go and they find black and white kids hanging around, kids with no point in life right now.
MATTHEWS: So they find people—and that makes a lot of sense—and they go to kids and they say, look, if you want to go into music, they say to this kid, the Marines are for you.
MATTHEWS: That‘s probably one of the smaller opportunities in the military.
And it‘s all about the fact that the military today is an opportunity for kids at the bottom of the line or almost at the bottom of the ladder. Is that fair or should there be a draft?
MATTHEWS: The reason I say draft is, we may face a situation, as you know, in Saudi Arabia.
MATTHEWS: If that country comes apart. If Pakistan comes apart...
MATTHEWS: ... God knows what we would have to do. But we may need a huge military in the next couple of years. What are we going to do about it?
FRANKS: It‘s possible. I hope we don‘t need a draft. I hope we don‘t.
I believe one of the greatest experiments—or the most—the great success stories we‘ve had in the military in 25, 30 years is this all-volunteer force.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but that was during peacetime.
Will kids—right now, I understand that the float, the people who have signed up on some piece of paper or shown an interest in joining the military, the people who have come into training and physicals, is pretty low.
FRANKS: But I‘ve gone through a time in the military coming out of the Vietnam era where the—where the view of the military was so low that you—we couldn‘t recruit then either. And so I think it would be a long time before we have to take a national decision to go back to a draft. And I for one hope it never comes.
MATTHEWS: What about the backdoor draft of holding these reservists beyond their tours?
FRANKS: It‘s a bad thing. And it talks to the structure of our current military.
What that says is that we have too many people, perhaps, in the wrong jobs in our military. And here‘s what I mean. We need—we know we need infantrymen. We know we need military policemen, civil affairs specialists and all that.
FRANKS: And we don‘t have enough of those. But, Chris, we may have too many of some of the other things that we do in the military. So I think we have got to shake it up down inside the military. And...
MATTHEWS: You mean the total force levels are adequate?
FRANKS: I don‘t know that yet. They may be and they may not be.
I was impressed by the fact that the General Peter Schoomaker, the chief of staff of the Army, has recently worked with the secretary of defense to get more people in the Army.
FRANKS: Now, I think that‘s a good thing, but I don‘t know how many total it‘s going to take.
I do know or at least I‘m satisfied that we do need to make some adjustments down inside the structure.
MATTHEWS: Do you think we‘re honest enough in the government in the United States in letting people know the cost of war? For example, I had one half-day over at Walter Reed. And it certainly blows your mind.
MATTHEWS: Not that the young guys—I‘ve said this before, who maybe have lost a limb, have lost a leg above the knee. And this guy, he‘s got a job to do when he gets home. He has got to make some money to provide for a family. He can make it because he‘s a gung-ho kid. He‘s trained and he‘s ready to go.
You have got a guy who has lost his sight, lost a couple of limbs, brain damage, a lot of that stuff isn‘t getting in the papers and people aren‘t seeing it. I said these numbers, this month—last month, 566 wounded last month in Iraq, 970 -- there‘s actually over 1,000 if you count this month, because we just lost some in August. We‘ve got people dead, almost 1,000, but we know that 1,000 figure. What about all these wounded people?
FRANKS: Oh, I think the more coverage that we get of them, Chris, the better off we are.
And here‘s why. I was just at the burn center down at Brooke Army Medical Hospital in San Antonio. You look at these young people who have been disfigured and all of that and you ask the—you know, if you could do it all again, what would you do differently? Would you join the military, not join the military?
And have a kid look at you and say, all I want to do is get back to my unit. And so more coverage of these wonderful stories, of these wonderful young people, I think, is good for the country, because, in fact, they are paying a high price, just as people in the military and because you‘re a historian—you know this, Chris. People in the military have been paying that kind of price for a long, long time.
MATTHEWS: But aren‘t there a lot of pencil necks out there that think about war as, we‘re going to take them out; we‘re going to use U.S. military power to its utmost? Isn‘t there an ideology out there floating around—it‘s in the government, too.
MATTHEWS: We‘re going to make sure we maximize the use of U.S. military power in the world, as if it isn‘t a human fact, it‘s a mechanical thing. We‘re going to hear this power. Don‘t you hear that in the articles and that columns that are written?
FRANKS: Of course I do. I hear it. I see it. I don‘t know how true it is.
I know that my experience over the last two or three years has not been by people pressing me to, you know...
MATTHEWS: To take chances that you shouldn‘t?
FRANKS: Absolutely not.
People tell me all the time, well, Bush was hard over. He was going to do it in Iraq and all that sort of thing. It may be true. But he knew I was in charge of Iraq and he didn‘t talk to me about it.
FRANKS: And so it‘s hard for me to identify with anything that is hyperbole.
MATTHEWS: I know.
FRANKS: You know, you see—what we see is, we see 9/11 on one hand, “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Then we see the other side. And I think the life in America is actually somewhere in the middle of all this.
MATTHEWS: Oh, I agree. But I think—but with misinformation, not necessarily intentional.
MATTHEWS: If the American people had known before the war that there was no—just the facts, we weren‘t going to find WMD—who knows if it‘s there somewhere?
MATTHEWS: That we weren‘t going to find an evident connection to 9/11 by that country...
MATTHEWS: Would they still have voted for the war?
FRANKS: Don‘t know. I actually do not know. But that‘s a far cry from a question that says, since people were intentionally misled.
MATTHEWS: No, I don‘t know. I‘ve been in life long to know everybody is a mixed bag.
MATTHEWS: But the fact is that, when we went to vote and the American people had to choose, really, the members of Congress voted for the people right before the 2002 election. And they were jammed.
MATTHEWS: All right. You got any guts? And guys like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, we‘re going to war. I don‘t care what they say now. They said, go ahead, Mr. President. Do what you have to do.
FRANKS: Sure. Sure.
MATTHEWS: So they were forced politically.
But the question is, if we had the right information about WMD, if we had the right information about al Qaeda‘s role—I mean, about Saddam Hussein‘s nonrole in 9/11, would we have still said yes?
FRANKS: I don‘t know. But I am satisfied that having said yes has enhanced the security of our country. I truly believe that.
MATTHEWS: Do you think in all your meetings with the president you had a pretty sure sense of what drove him as a leader of the country, why he felt we had to go to war?
FRANKS: I think so, and I say that because the same intelligence information the president, George W. Bush, I was also looking at.
MATTHEWS: Right. And he was worried about us or he was worried about the region?
FRANKS: I think he was worried about us, actually.
MATTHEWS: Getting hit by Saddam.
FRANKS: Absolutely right.
MATTHEWS: Did he believe the nuclear piece?
FRANKS: I don‘t know that. I don‘t know.
I know that I believed that Saddam was working on a nuclear piece and I know that I—I‘ll tell you what I put a lot of credence in was the last report that the U.N. inspectors did. And I saw it in ‘99 when it came out and said that there are enough biologicals out there to destroy, kill millions of people that are unaccounted for.
FRANKS: Well, I‘ll tell you, that very much played in my mind as we
led up to this. And I fully expected that our troops were going to get—
were going to
MATTHEWS: So you weren‘t thinking about the geopolitical Mideast remapping.
FRANKS: Absolutely not.
MATTHEWS: You were thinking about threat to the United States.
MATTHEWS: OK. Makes sense.
More with General Tommy Franks when we come back.
And if you would like to read an excerpt of his book, “American Soldier”—that‘s the name of it—go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com. Better yet, go to your bookstore and get the book.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, General Tommy Franks on the future of Iraq; plus, the newest ads in the battle for the White House.
HARDBALL back after this.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with General Tommy Franks.
Except for the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States has not had to fight a defensive war on our own soil until now.
MATTHEWS: As a military veteran and you look at the headlines the last couple of days, how do you read that defensively capability of the United States? Is it tougher to defend than to attack?
FRANKS: It is tougher to defend than attack, absolutely.
I‘ve told so many of my friends that we‘re—right now, we have a multiple choice quiz on our hands. We either fight them over here or we fight them here. And right now, if we choose to fight them over there, we‘re still going to have to protect ourselves here. And that‘s a very tough thing.
MATTHEWS: Where do we find al Qaeda? We lost them in Tora Bora, didn‘t we?
MATTHEWS: Where do we find them if we go looking for them?
FRANKS: I know a lot of them are dead, Chris. And a lot of them are, you know, behind bars someplace. And I‘m satisfied with that.
I‘m not satisfied with the fact that we don‘t have bin Laden, Zawahiri and some of those guys.
MATTHEWS: Mullah Omar. Don‘t forget him, head of the Taliban.
FRANKS: Well, I actually am one of those guys who—and I talk about
it in the book a little bit. I wish Mullah Omar was no longer with us, but
the fact is that he‘s no longer a player in the terrorist
MATTHEWS: What you have in your mind‘s yes as a military man, if you had to go teach a course on al Qaeda tomorrow morning, where are they? Are they in Germany? Are they here, in Brooklyn, New Jersey? Are they in—where are they, in England?
FRANKS: I think cells. I think
MATTHEWS: But how do you defeat an enemy that is like
FRANKS: I‘m nodding because I think that‘s where they are.
MATTHEWS: How do you get them?
FRANKS: You stay with it.
You remember when you and I talked one time in May, we talked a little Churchillian sort of thing, where he says...
FRANKS: Churchill during the dark years. He said, you never give in, never, never, never, never.
FRANKS: And I think what we have right now is a real tough hill to climb and we never give in. We simply cannot give in. We pursue these guys until we‘ve destroyed every last cell.
But to answer your question, the toughest thing will be to defend our own population while that‘s going on, toughest thing for us to do.
MATTHEWS: Can we—should we be getting tougher? FRANKS: In what respect?
MATTHEWS: Well, in terms of airport crackdowns? I mean, a lot of it gets very tricky ethnically and human rights.
FRANKS: It absolutely does get tricky.
MATTHEWS: But there are obviously—if we were a fascist country, we would be doing this a lot more sure-handedly.
FRANKS: If we were a fascist country, we would have already done it.
And you look at the extreme measures the Israelis have to take. You look
at the processes
MATTHEWS: Do you ever fly on Israeli Airlines?
FRANKS: No, but I know a lot about them.
MATTHEWS: Forty-five-minute interview to get on the plane. And they look at your eyes. They look at everything. They ask you your politics. They ask you everything. And they have a right to say no.
FRANKS: But, Chris, the heck of it is that if we were the day after 9/11/01 right now, you would see America answer that question one way.
But right now, we‘re almost three years post-9/11/01.
FRANKS: And America will answer that question another way. I for one hope we never have to become that invasive of Americans in order to protect ourselves. I hope we don‘t.
MATTHEWS: Well, so far, it‘s only taking your shoes off. We can live with that.
FRANKS: Yes, sir. I can do that.
MATTHEWS: But that‘s one of strangest things we do in this country.
FRANKS: Even cowboy boots.
MATTHEWS: Taking our shoes off every time we get on an airplane.
Anyway, General, it‘s an honor, of course.
FRANKS: Sir, it‘s an honor for me.
MATTHEWS: Good luck.
“American Soldier,” please buy it. I don‘t usually do this, but it‘s sort of patriotic, isn‘t it?
FRANKS: Thanks a lot.
MATTHEWS: What a great guy.
Anyway, no, I mean it. It‘s great literature, too.
When we come back, new ads in the battle for the White House, TV ads.
And don‘t forget, you can keep up with the presidential race on HardBlogger—I love that word—our election blog Web site. Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com. We wouldn‘t be doing this 10 years ago.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL, 85 days now until the presidential election. And the campaign ad war is raging.
President Bush is turning his focus to economic issues as his campaign builds toward the big Republican Convention in New York at the end of the month.
HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reports.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC ELECTION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the campaign trail:
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the next four years, we‘ll be working to build a culture of ownership in America. We want more people owning things in this country.
SHUSTER: And on television nationwide all week, it is a new effort by the president to offer his economic vision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN AD)
BUSH: One of the most important parts of a reform agenda is to encourage people to own something, own their own home, own their own business, own their own health care plan or own a piece of their retirement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Such ideas, including the partial privatization of Social Security, have long been considered politically dangerous. But the president, because of his spending policies, has frustrated some fiscal conservatives.
Mr. Bush may be able to soothe them by pushing free market reforms. And at the same time, without offering specifics, he can reach out to the growing bloc of voters known as the investing class.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN AD)
BUSH: Because I understand, if you own something, you have a vital stake in the future of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: A study by the Federal Reserve shows that American households owning stock went up from 19 percent in 1983 to 52 percent in 2001. And among voters, a Zogby poll found that 47 percent of registered voters owned stock in 1997, 66 percent last year.
Still, the stock market remains flat and the economy, especially in the industrial Midwest, is sputtering. The job losses are the greatest since the Great Depression. And it is all ammunition for the latest Democratic Party ad, which says the president is no friend to American workers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, KERRY-EDWARDS CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: Millions of good job lost to plant closures and outsourcing, yet President Bush protects tax breaks favoring corporations that move their headquarters overseas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: The ad is misleading in part, however, because the tax breaks for some of those corporations have also been protected by Democrats.
(on camera): Nonetheless, the ad war underscores the economic political divide. President Bush is trying to press his advantage with investors. Democrats are trying to appeal to workers. And somewhere in between are the undecideds, who are concerned about both and will likely determine this election.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster.
Karen Tumulty is national political correspondent for “TIME” magazine. And Byron York is the White House correspondent for “National Review” magazine.
Karen, what‘s going on? I‘m watching these two guys race across the Midwest. They‘re sort of crisscrossing back and forth. With all these days to go, why are they worrying about retailing state by state? I don‘t get it.
KAREN TUMULTY, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “TIME”: Well, because there are relatively few people out there who are truly undecided. In our latest poll last week, the number of undecided was 3 percent.
MATTHEWS: And where are they, out there in the Midwest somewhere?
TUMULTY: They‘re in about a dozen states, the ones who matter, at least. And then you ask them. You say, who exactly are these people? And they will say women. So...
MATTHEWS: OK. Can I ask you a brutal question, Byron? Why would anybody change their vote or commit, having been uncommitted, because the president came through town? I mean, are we that fickle? And would you stick to that new position when the other guy came through town?
BYRON YORK, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “THE NATIONAL REVIEW”: Well, look, if you were actually undecided, you might be impressed by the power of the presidency.
YORK: Karl Rove carries a laminated card in his jacket, which is the number of undecided voters in the last several elections. And it gets smaller and smaller and smaller as you go on. And you‘re right. They are fighting for a very tiny group. So the idea that presidential—sort of the impressive nature of the presidency might help is certainly—it‘s worth trying.
MATTHEWS: Like panache works.
YORK: It‘s worth trying.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this thing. I thought that the Democrats came out of the convention OK for themselves. I mean, if you‘re up there in Boston, as you were, they were happy together. That‘s probably one of the goals of the campaign. But they didn‘t seem to build. What happened?
TUMULTY: Well, one of the things that happened was that as soon as they came out of this election, that weekend...
MATTHEWS: You mean the convention.
TUMULTY: That convention.
That weekend, we suddenly find ourselves confronting al Qaeda again in this country. And that...
MATTHEWS: That trumped it.
TUMULTY: That really took over the entire news cycle, though, interestingly enough, it took over it at a moment when John Kerry was finally closing the gap with President Bush on a number of measures.
MATTHEWS: Including terrorism.
TUMULTY: Including terrorism and his fitness as commander in chief.
MATTHEWS: It seems to me the question is going to come out. The Democrats are really trying to build up John Kerry as if he‘s Audie Murphy.
MATTHEWS: Right. He‘s a war hero.
MATTHEWS: Is that going to work once he gets hits by the Republican counterattack, which is, he is not quite the hero you think he is?
YORK: Well, now, it would help if he had better positions. The problem with the whole convention thing is that they devoted the whole thing to national security: I went to Vietnam. I‘ll protect you now.
And his position on Iraq is just mushy. And it‘s not that different from Bush‘s. And you‘re right. He did get swamped in the anti-terror alert. And I think that a lot of members—some of the members of his party, specifically his surrogate Howard Dean, looked kind of bad in coming out publicly and saying that this whole thing was politically driven.
MATTHEWS: We have a president who is very aggressive in foreign policy. We have a president who believes in lower taxes, which obviously affects most the people who pay the most in taxes. We know an awful lot about George Bush. There will be no surprises in the second term.
Can you beat a guy that you really know—at least he is real—with sort of a mirage, a non—sort of I‘m the alternative, I‘m the brand X candidacy? Does that ever work?
TUMULTY: It works if the public has decided they want somebody who isn‘t that person. And, in fact, the numbers right now for George Bush both on right track/wrong track and on the polling question of do you think it is time to turn presidency over to someone else, are pretty devastating for this White House.
MATTHEWS: But does that ever work, where you simply turn it over to brand X without deciding—remember Jimmy Carter? I worked for the guy. I know this. Reagan had some weaknesses, to say the least. But you knew where he stood.
He came as a challenger with a clear record. I‘m going to cut taxes.
I‘m going to fight the communists. I‘m going to spend more on defense. You knew clearly what he was going to do, Reagan. Dewey back in ‘48, running against Truman, he didn‘t say anything. I‘m beginning to think that Kerry is running a Dewey campaign, running nothing as an alternative to something.
YORK: And the fear factor really kills him. The more people are afraid—and both campaigns are just terrified about something happening right up to the very moment the voting starts.
MATTHEWS: Afraid of what?
YORK: Of a terrorist attack.
MATTHEWS: Politically—besides the horror, what does do it politically?
YORK: I think that it makes people want to stay with what they‘ve got, because the one thing Bush has shown is that he‘ll strike back against terrorists. Some people think he strikes back against terrorists who didn‘t have anything to do with September 11, but, still, the guy hits back.
MATTHEWS: OK, what happens if the debates do well for Kerry and he wins, pick up three points coming out of the debates, and so does Edwards against Cheney? Everything goes well. They pick up three points, because that‘s as much as you pick up after these debates. Kennedy over Nixon was about three points, two points.
And then you see the president of the United States out there. There‘s fresh stories in “TIME” magazine, the scrappy president fights for his life, scrappy this. He goes—he‘s running around in West Virginia, running around New Hampshire. And people start to say, God, he‘s the underdog. He‘s the little guy that could. Doesn‘t he just win because he‘s the incumbent, unless we hate him?
TUMULTY: It depends on what things look like with the economy at that moment.
TUMULTY: It depends on what things look like with the war in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: Are you afraid he couldn‘t just be—not afraid, obviously. You‘re with “The National Review.” But isn‘t it possible he could end up being the Harry Truman of this campaign, the comeback candidate?
YORK: It‘s entirely possible. The debates are really important. One really top Republican told me one time, watching Bush at debate is like watching a waiter walk across a lawn and he has got a tray full of drinks.
MATTHEWS: But he delivered last time.
YORK: And the drinks go like this all the time, but he gets to the other side.
MATTHEWS: If you look at the numbers, you can all say that Al Gore was smarter, knew more, blah, blah, blah.
MATTHEWS: He knew who the health minister of Ghana was. He knew all this stuff.
But I studied the numbers. Before the debates, they were high for Gore. After the debates, Gore went down. Something happened.
TUMULTY: But remember Gore‘s performance. He came out looking over made up. He looked like a coach bag.
MATTHEWS: Yes. And you don‘t think Kerry run the risk of being a little stiff?
TUMULTY: But Gore fell right into every trap he should have known was there.
TUMULTY: Exaggerations. Sighing.
MATTHEWS: Walking up to the guy and standing next to him?
TUMULTY: Exactly. Exactly. I don‘t...
MATTHEWS: You don‘t think Kerry will make those mistakes?
TUMULTY: I don‘t know if Kerry will make those mistakes. But I think there‘s a real argument here as to whether George Bush won those debates or Al Gore lost those debates.
MATTHEWS: Well, clearly, Gore lost his edge. That‘s the fact.
What do you think of Kerry? Do you think he will come off as more arrogant or less arrogant than Al Gore?
YORK: The biggest single—more so—the biggest single handicap Kerry has faced is his 20 years in the U.S. Senate.
MATTHEWS: He doesn‘t want to talk about it.
YORK: Where you drone on. People read the newspaper while you‘re talking. And you just keep talking.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Thank you. I like having you guys.
Thank you, Karen Tumulty, Byron York of “The National Review.”
Tomorrow on HARDBALL, we‘ll analyze both campaigns‘ recent TV ads with media strategists Steve McMahon and Rick Davis.
Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.
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