updated 9/28/2004 3:55:25 AM ET 2004-09-28T07:55:25

Guests: Edward Kennedy, Orrin Hatch, Howard Dean

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight the battle for the White House turns into a political war over Iraq as the senior senator from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy, sits down with me with a full frontal assault on the Bush administration. 

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  What they have done is spend all of their resources in distorting and misrepresenting.  It‘s a campaign of anger and insult.  And the most egregious examples are the examples of Vice President Cheney.  When he even goes on to suggest that the—al Qaeda wants John Kerry to win.  That is the most outrageous charge.  It‘s the most anti-American, it‘s McCarthyism of the first order.

MATTHEWS:  McCarthyism.  Plus going across the aisle with a Republican response from Kennedy colleague Senator Orrin Hatch.  And the man who entered this race as the anti-war candidate Howard Dean on attack ads and Thursday‘s great debate.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  NBC News has confirmed there was a secret plan to have the CIA try to influence Iraq‘s elections.  But it was scaled back after Congress objected.  And today, 36 days before the presidential election, Senator Ted Kennedy delivered a blistering critique of the war in Iraq and said Iraq has left us more vulnerable to a nuclear attack by al Qaeda.  I interviewed Senator Kennedy after his speech and began by asking him if he was concerned about the U.S. trying to control the elections in Iraq. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KENNEDY:  Well, I‘ve read that report that the Central Intelligence Agency might be involved in terms of giving financial support to candidates that were supporting administration position. 

If that were true, that would just shatter any credibility that the United States had, not only in Iraq, but in the—across the Muslim world.  The administration has denied it.  The appropriate committees in the Congress should review it.  We just can‘t let that sort of thing take place. 

MATTHEWS:  Is that a general theory or a general principle you think we should uphold, which is no Americans, where they be ideology people close to the administration, people who pushed the war, people in the Pentagon, should all Americans stay hands-off this election?

KENNEDY:  Well, absolutely.  I mean, we‘ve seen past elections where the Central Intelligence Agency has been involved.  It has been involved not only in elections but also in deposing leaders.  I mean, we see also what happened in Chile, for example, with the Central Intelligence Agency, it goes back to Iran years and years ago.

Their record hasn‘t been a good one.  The fact is decisions have to be made about the future of Iraq by the Iraqi people.  And they are the ones that have to make it.  And this kind of story, obviously, undercuts any kind of credibility the United States has. 

MATTHEWS:  The CIA doesn‘t operate completely by itself.  It‘s an arm of the executive.  Do you believe the president was involved in trying to get involved in...

KENNEDY:  Well, I wouldn‘t get into—or suggest that.  I don‘t have any particular knowledge of that.  I take—they have denied it, I take them at their word before.  But I think it‘s enormously important that the agency as well deny it and the appropriate intelligence committees have a chance to review the—whatever is—the information that‘s out there.

MATTHEWS:  Are we losing the war in Iraq?

KENNEDY:  I think the preoccupation that this administration has given to Iraq took our eye off what is the real challenge, and that was the terror of al Qaeda.  And we had al Qaeda on the run.  I think what we—we had Osama bin Laden on the run.  And if we had pursued that policy, I think we would have undercut al Qaeda, very well have had Osama bin Laden in jail, instead of Saddam Hussein, and this country would be a safer country.

Saddam Hussein and Iraq never were a threat to our national security or to the United States.  And the administration—this Bush administration policy was really based upon ideology and politics.  And what we see now is a continuing blunder after blunder in Iraq.  It‘s costing us the lives of our troops.

And I think what we have seen is 863 Americans who have been either killed or wounded in that last month.  The sophistication of the attacks of the insurgents has escalated, the number that have been kidnapped have increased, and the beheadings have increased.  This is not going in our direction. 

Meanwhile, we have Iran and Iraq (sic) who are nuclear countries who have been out on the loose and pose a much more serious threat to us in terms of the dangers of nuclear policy than certainly Iraq.

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t accept the administration‘s reasons for us going to Iraq, the fact that there was a connection to 9/11, the fact that they had weapons of mass destruction, that they would pay for it themselves through oil, that the people would greet us well.  Why did we go to Iraq?  Why do you think George Bush, the president, you know the man, you know his father, why has this president—why was he so insistent that we, as you say, got off the trail of bin Laden and went to Iraq?

KENNEDY:  Well, first of all, the two principal reasons that were given at the time were one, the dangers of nuclear weapons, and two, the tie-in to 9/11 and al Qaeda.  Both of those, of course, have been completely disposed of. 

But the fact is this goes back, if you read the books, if you listen to the testimony of Mr. Clarke, who testified before the Senate, if you read the biography of Secretary O‘Neill who said that right after he was made secretary, within the first 10 days of the inauguration, they were already planning to go into Iraq. 

There was no question that this was driven because of a philosophical and ideological view of this president. 

MATTHEWS:  But from the start, Senator...

KENNEDY:  That‘s from the start.

MATTHEWS:  ... you talked to people in the outgoing administration, from the Clinton administration.  You talked to everybody around there.  You‘ve cited all the books on the record.  Why did this president take us to war in Iraq?  What was his primary reason for doing it?

KENNEDY:  Well, that‘s—history is going to have to say.  But I think they were probably looking for a quick hit.  I think that they were having their difficulties in finding Osama bin Laden.  There is increasing evidence that they let him escape at Tora Bora in the mountains of Afghanistan.  And it was beginning to get a little more complicated in dealing with it. 

They thought they could take Saddam and free—and see a quick hit on that, a quick occupation and have a big win.  And that is certainly the way they viewed it.  That‘s what all the information is that we were fed (ph).  And that was a catastrophic mistake.  They took their eye off the ball of what was the real danger to Americans.

It was al Qaeda that killed the Americans.  It wasn‘t Saddam Hussein. 

We ought to have Osama bin Laden in jail.  But the fact...

MATTHEWS:  But most of them argue—I‘m sorry, something like 40-some percent of the American people believe that Iraq attacked us on 9/11.  This is in the latest polls.  How can that be?

KENNEDY:  Well, it‘s because we‘ve had the vice president of the United States, even the president, even after the finding of the 9/11 commission, and after all of the intelligence reports that have been given, have shown—and even the secretary of state, Colin Powell, says that there were no connections.  Here is the administration—we still have the vice president going out and saying that there was a connection on this part. 

The president himself has even said—even if they are going to repeat it...

MATTHEWS:  Why?  What is driving...

(CROSSTALK)

KENNEDY:  ...to justify their mistaken policy in going to Iraq.  They have a lot invested.  But the American people have recognized this mistake for what it is.  The fact is now, we have blunder after blunder.  Not only were—we had the plan to win the war, but we didn‘t have the plan to win the peace.  And as a result of that, we‘ve had blunder after blunder.  It‘s being paid for by American servicemen. 

This has been a recruiting area for al Qaeda.  And we are getting weighted down.  In the meantime we have these nuclear powers with Iran and North Korea that are increasingly a potential threat.  And what we are trying to do in the last five weeks of a presidential campaign, ask ourselves, are we more secure?

You know, Ronald Reagan asked the right question in his campaign, are Americans better off?  Today we can ask ourselves, are we more secure than we were four years ago?  And I contend that under this administration, the answer to that clearly is no.  And I believe that it will be and we can have a president that can give a new view and be able to deal with these issues with John Kerry.

MATTHEWS:  What is the ideology you mentioned that‘s driving this administration to go to Iraq and perhaps other countries later?

KENNEDY:  Well, I mean, we...

(CROSSTALK)

KENNEDY:  ... go back to the time when President Bush I did not go into Baghdad, where Brent Scowcroft and President Bush wrote the book that said that they did not—they thought that the alliance at that time would break down and they thought that they would have the kind of internal kind of revolt that we‘ve seen if they went into Baghdad.

The principal advisers to this president were all people that dissented from that.  And they have been in positions...

MATTHEWS:  They still do...

(CROSSTALK)

KENNEDY:  They still do.  And they have been presented to this president, look, this is going to be a quick hit.  And they have been wrong, and we have seen the greatest fall from prestige and influence, the United States now, since that.  We were respected.  We had the world together in order to fight the battle of terror, and now we are a country that is basically despised in countries around the world, particularly the Muslim countries.

MATTHEWS:  Donald Rumsfeld, you know him - why is Donald Rumsfeld so much a part of this ideology?  Why did he send us in there with the idea you say was a quick hit?  He must have thought the same thing, because he sent us in there with much fewer levels of troops than many people thought we needed.

KENNEDY:  Well, he violated the Colin Powell rule with overwhelming force, which had been very successful, obviously, in the first war.

The interesting point is...

MATTHEWS:  So why‘d he do it?

(CROSSTALK)

KENNEDY:  Best to ask him.  But I‘ll tell you, I am a member of the Armed Services Committee.  I‘ve been on it for 25 years.  I listen carefully to all of the hearings.  We had—before going in there.  And virtually every single military commander—every single military commander said no, that we—and predicted effectively what was going to happen.

General Hoare said if we go into there, you‘re going to find out we will have an insurgency that‘ll make us—make us look like the last five minutes of “Private Ryan.”  Those words still echo, and he was absolutely right.

We had—the military commanders said no.  They predicted what was going to happen.  The civilian leadership, on the other hand, said yes, we‘re going to go in.  They won the—they won the battle.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Up next, I asked Senator Kennedy how the Democrats‘ plan for Iraq differs from the Bush administration‘s, and why Senator Kerry is behind in the polls.  And later, Senator Orrin Hatch responds to my interview with Senator Kennedy.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  In my interview with Senator Kennedy tonight, I asked him what the Democrats‘ alternative was to the Bush administration‘s plan to democratize Iraq and fight the war on terror.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KENNEDY:  First of all, this president has no credibility at all in dealing, with trying to bring an end to this war in Iraq, where Iraq can be stable, democratic, free, and American troops can be out, because he is completely incapable of getting any kind of international support.  He‘s insulted the allies around the world and shredded all of the alliances that we had.

John Kerry has the ability to bring those countries together.  The Republicans say, well, why can John Kerry do it and President Bush can‘t do it?  He can‘t do it because he doesn‘t have the credibility to do it.  John Kerry has, and he would be the one that would be able to bring the kind of international forces together, to be able to get—put that country back on the road through the kinds of elections, reconstruction and training that needs to be done.

This administration has had its chance.  It‘s had its chance.  And now it‘s time for a new opportunity.  John Kerry has that capability.  He has the program.  He spelled that out.  He‘s going to spell it out again on Thursday night to the American people.  This will be important that people listen to that.

But he has got that capability, and he has got that vision, and he has got the plan in order to be able to bring...

MATTHEWS:  The CIA warned, Senator, the CIA warned this administration that we were going to face tremendous responses around the world—negative responses from the Arab world, the Islamic world, the world as a whole, if we went into Iraq.  Why do you think the president decided to go anyway, knowing he would face this unpopularity in the world we face right now?

KENNEDY:  Well, there was no questions.  It wasn‘t only the CIA, it

was the State Department intelligence and the Energy Department

intelligence that questioned about the nuclear weapons.  The defense

intelligence questioned that.  State Department did.  But they—and they

·         they reclassified this, so it wasn‘t generally available to the members of the United States Senate.

I, quite frankly, was convinced after listening to the military commanders that testified for our committee on this.  But that was virtually excluded.  That wasn‘t shared with the members of the United States.  That was certainly put aside.  And what the administration used, carefully selected kind of information and intelligence to make their own case, to support their own—their own position on it.  And what the—the rest is history, and that, I think, has been a major blunder.  And it‘s going to be—it‘s increasingly apparent.

It isn‘t only the Democrats who are saying it.  These are—Chuck Hagel that‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

KENNEDY:  ... saying it.  This is Dick Lugar that‘s saying it.  This is John McCain that‘s wondering whether we‘re going to have adequate manpower if we‘re challenged in other parts of the globe.  This is even Lindsey Graham saying, look, you don‘t have to just paint a rosy picture in order to have a debate and discussion.

National security shouldn‘t be a partisan issue; it‘s an American issue.  But we‘re coming into the last five weeks of a campaign, and John Kerry has a way of dealing with this issue.  And it‘s not only dealing with this issue, but also dealing with the issues and the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  And he also has a program to try to reform the intelligence. 

These are very important in terms of how this country is to look at its security for the future.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the public mood right now.  You are a reader of public opinion.  Right now, according to the latest NBC polling, 58 percent of the American people say that if President Bush is reelected, they want to see major changes in these policies.  Another 31 percent say some major—some significant changes.  Only 9 percent of the American people believe that if Bush gets back in, he should stay the same.

With that overwhelming desire for change, why is Kerry behind in the polls?

KENNEDY:  Well, because this—the Republicans have run a very effective campaign of massive distortion, massive deception, and that‘s what we have seen—in terms of John Kerry‘s record.  They haven‘t defended their own positions.  They haven‘t had a debate on their own economic policies.  They haven‘t wanted a debate in terms of Iraq in and of itself.  They haven‘t wanted a debate on education or health care. 

What they have done is spent all of their resources in distorting and misrepresenting.  It‘s a campaign of anger and insult.  And the most egregious examples are the examples of the vice president, Cheney.  When—he even goes on to suggest that the—al Qaeda wants John Kerry to win. 

That is the most outrageous charge.  It‘s the most anti-American—it‘s McCarthyism of the first order.

But that has been the mark over the course of this campaign.  And what

·         the American people have been listening to that, the tens of millions of dollars that have been going, and that‘s made an impact, impression. 

But for my money, they are going to see—have a chance of seeing John Kerry and this president on these debates, as they‘ll see John Edwards, and they‘re going to have a chance to make a judgment.  And when they see the candidates and they listen to them, my sense is they are going to say these are the individuals we want to lead our country.

MATTHEWS:  Can you get John Kerry to show the same fire as Senator Kennedy?

KENNEDY:  He‘s got a lot of fire.

(CROSSTALK)

KENNEDY:  He‘s got a lot of fire in his belly. 

MATTHEWS:  You think he‘ll serve some Thursday night?

KENNEDY:  You bet he does.

MATTHEWS:  Is he going to take the fire to them?

KENNEDY:  He‘s going to take—absolutely.  You bet he is.  And he‘s a good, strong finisher.  He always has been.  And I know he‘ll do a great job on that and spell out, you know, a vision for the future of this country on the course of that debate.  And I‘m convinced people will say he‘s the man for us to lead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  When we come back, Senator Ted Kennedy on the ideology that led us to the war in Iraq.  And don‘t forget, our debate coverage begins Wednesday night, the night before the debate, at 7:00 Eastern.  We‘ll be live at the University of Miami on Wednesday.  And on Thursday, the night of the debate, our coverage begins at 6:00 Eastern.  Another all-nighter for HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  More now with Senator Ted Kennedy.  He‘s what he said when I asked the Senator what he thought was the strong ideology that lead us to war in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KENNEDY:  I‘ve worked with a number of Republican presidents over the 42 years I‘ve been in the United States Senate.  I‘ve worked with Bush one on the Americans with Disability Act.  We started with very different kinds of positions, but as a result of working out the different kinds of views.  We passed something that has been the most important civil rights legislation for the disabled in this history of this country with Tom Harkin and others, obviously.  But we‘re able to work that out. 

Bush one wanted to win, this president just doesn‘t want to win, but he wants to destroy.  And there‘s a very—on the basis of ideology.  It isn‘t just winning to win, it‘s winning to destroy.  And that, we‘ve seen it, quite frankly, in their efforts, particularly as has been focused on individuals that have differed with them. 

We saw how they differed with a very distinguished Mr. Clarke who had worked for years in counter-terrorism.  Once he got off that team, they were out to destroy him.  We saw it with regard to Valerie Plame.  Once the -- Wilson, who had been a distinguished foreign policy—once he came out with a different conclusion that they wanted, what did they do, they destroyed—attempted to destroy him. 

They did it with O‘Neill who had been their treasurer.  They‘ve gone right on down the line.  Shinseki, the general that said that we need to have more troops on that, just look at it.  You differ, you get destroyed...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... is it the president, is it Karl Rove?

KENNEDY:  It‘s the White House.

MATTHEWS:  Is it the president?

KENNEDY:  It is the basic White House decision.  I...

MATTHEWS:  But is he personally behind the hardball stuff?

KENNEDY:  They are the ones that bear responsibility.  And it would happen unless he let it go ahead and happen.  It would happen unless he knew about it and go ahead and have it.  That‘s a different atmosphere and climate than we have had over the period of time. 

MATTHEWS:  Give me a preview for Thursday night.  What is it going to be like?  Kerry, Kerry/Bush, the debate.

KENNEDY:  There it goes, round one, there it is.  It‘s going to be like you and Zell Miller. 

(LAUGHTER)

KENNEDY:  I think that‘s where it‘s going to be.  If it‘s that way, that audience will go up like that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE)

KENNEDY:  (INAUDIBLE)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Senator Kennedy.

KENNEDY:  OK.  Good to see you, thanks a lot, nice to be with you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Up next, Senator Kennedy‘s long time friend and political opposite, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.  He‘s be here with his perspective on the situation in Iraq.  And tomorrow on HARDBALL, Bill Maher‘s going to join us. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS  Republican Senator Orrin Hatch on Ted Kennedy‘s charge that Vice President Cheney‘s attack on John Kerry is McCarthyism. 

And later, Howard Dean will be here days before Thursday‘s presidential debate. 

But first let‘s check with the MSNBC news desk.

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Joining me right now is Senator Orrin Hatch, five-term senator from Utah and a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. 

Earlier in the program, Senator Kennedy criticized the tactics of the Bush-Cheney campaign. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY:  What they have done is spend all of their resources in distorting and misrepresenting.  It is a campaign of anger and insult.  And the most egregious examples are the examples of the vice president, Cheney, when he even goes on to suggest that the al Qaeda wants John Kerry to win.  That is the most outrageous charge.  It‘s the most anti-American.  It is McCarthyism of the first order. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Strong words, Senator Hatch, McCarthyism. 

SEN. ORRIN HATCH ®, UTAH:  Well, that‘s not unusual for Ted. 

Ted tends to speak a little bombastically and sometimes covers up a lack of knowledge in the process. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at what he was talking.  On September 7, this is what Vice President Cheney said about making the right choice for president. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We‘re now at that point where we‘re making that kind of a decision for the next 30 or 40 years.  And it is absolutely essential that eight weeks from today on November 2, we make the right choice, because, if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we‘ll get hit again, that we‘ll be hit in a way that‘ll be devastating from the standpoint of the United States and then we‘ll fall back into the pre-9/11 mind-set, if you will, that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts and that we‘re not really at war.  I think that would be a terrible mistake for us. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You want to referee that back and forth?  He accused Vice President Cheney of McCarthyism.  We just showed the tape of what he said about what would happen if the country elected the Democrats. 

HATCH:  Well, as you know, let‘s be honest about it.  Kennedy, Kerry, Edwards, none of them voted for the $87 billion that would have given the protective vests to our people.  And yet they brought it up in every speech, that that is one of the criticisms of President Bush.  Well, he‘s the one that got that vests for them, got the bulletproof vests for them.  But it is just continual misrepresentation throughout the whole process. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘ve been pretty tough.  I picked up the—I got this off Google, which is where I get everything these days.  And I looked up “The New York Times” on Saturday.  And I assumed somebody must have brought this to your attention, “The New York Times”‘ editorial on the 25th of September. 

Senator Orrin Hatch, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has announced the terrorists are going to do everything they can between now and November—quote—“to try and elect Kerry.”

Did you really say that, that the terrorists are trying to get Kerry elected? 

HATCH:  Well, I could have said that, because, as you know, the al Qaeda, they people do believe that they were the ones who threw out the Aznar government in Spain. 

And I really believe that they would do everything in their power to try to get rid of this administration.

MATTHEWS:  What will they do?  What will be their role in trying to dump Bush and get in Kerry? 

HATCH:  Well, of course, they‘ve been trying consistently to bring people into this country to commit acts to undermine the Bush administration.  And I suspect that they‘ll continue to try and do that. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re on Intelligence.  Do you think there‘s any—

I was looking at a report today.  People were trying to figure out if there are any groups in the country like the 9/11 people, the 19 people.  They haven‘t found any group moving around yet in the country.  Do you think—

I was watching I think it was “The Today Show.”  They haven‘t found any group that.  You‘re smiling.  Do you think there‘s a group moving around right now, a cell? 

HATCH:  I have no doubt that there are al Qaeda sympathizers and people in this country.  We‘ve caught around 300 various terrorists or affiliates with terrorists in this country.  We‘ve convicted 130-plus of them in federal courts.  So there‘s no question that they‘re trying to move in here. 

Remember

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They don‘t get us, though, do they?  We would probably, I would guess, vote for Bush overwhelmingly if it looked like—if there‘s any evidence they tried to influence our elections with a last-minute attack, wouldn‘t it?

HATCH:  Well, when it comes to national security, you‘re certainly going to support President Bush, because Kerry, Edwards, Kennedy, you name them, all voted against most of the national security matters. 

And when they talk about the war, let‘s be honest about it.  Everybody at the time did believe that they had weapons of mass destruction. 

MATTHEWS:  Who?  Saddam? 

HATCH:  Yes, that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. 

For those who say—Kennedy, I understand, in his speech today said there was no connection with al Qaeda.  But just think about it.  The matter of fact, if you read Steve Coll‘s book “Ghost Wars,” which is one of the—he is one of your colleagues, one of the better writers and authorities.  And what he said in there has not been refuted at all.  He made it very clear that there was a lot of connection between Saddam Hussein, the Iraqis, and al Qaeda in Sudan. 

And that‘s where, really, it started to begin. 

MATTHEWS:  But just to get it clear, there‘s no evidence of any Iraqi involvement with 9/11. 

HATCH:  Well, no. 

MATTHEWS:  The attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, is there? 

HATCH:  No.  I don‘t think there‘s—I don‘t think there‘s any current evidence that that has occurred. 

But the fact of the matter is, don‘t try and say that there was no

connection with al Qaeda.  Zarqawi was up there in Afghanistan.  He was

flirting with Osama bin Laden

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why do 42 percent of the people believe there was a direct involvement?

HATCH:  There was no direct involvement?MATTHEWS:  There was direct involvement.  Why?  Are they misinformed?

HATCH:  Well, I think most people have an inner sense that, look, these al Qaeda people aren‘t just in Afghanistan or northwestern Pakistan. 

MATTHEWS:  No, no. 

MATTHEWS:  No, no, that 42 percent of the American people believe that Iraqis, Saddam Hussein had a role in the 9/11 attack, actual participation in it. 

(CROSSTALK)

HATCH:  Well, that gets back to my point.  The American people are basically very visceral people. 

They understand that it‘s very unlikely that al Qaeda is just limited to Afghanistan, northwest Pakistan, that, literally, Zarqawi came from there.  He was financed in part by Osama bin Laden.  And of course he‘s the biggest terrorist in Iraq today.  So they kind of tie it together.  And whether that‘s true or not, there‘s no question that we‘re—well, Kennedy said we‘re not better off today.  I think there‘s no question we‘re better off.  We had a terrorist incident in our country for a long time.  I‘m not saying we won‘t have one. 

But the fact of the matter is, is that the terrorists know that this president isn‘t going to back down, isn‘t going to put up with it.  And he‘s going to go after them if they come in this country.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me get this straight.  You‘re saying that this administration deserves credit for the fact there‘s been no attack on this soil since 9/11. 

HATCH:  Well, I think not just...

MATTHEWS:  And, at the same time, you‘re suggesting, if there is an attack, it is part of an—it will be on the—to advance the Democratic ticket.  Which is it?  In other words, if we have an attack between now and November 2, does that mean we should vote for Bush or vote against him? 

HATCH:  I think you should definitely vote for Bush.  And the reason is...

MATTHEWS:  And if there‘s no attack, vote for Bush.

HATCH:  First of all, we haven‘t had an attack. 

But even if with we do, you‘re much more likely to have an effective response against those who attack us from President Bush than you will ever have from three people who basically have voted against almost everything that is militarily important.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If we don‘t get—I have 30 seconds here.  If we don‘t get attacked between now and November 2, is that evidence, prima facie evidence, that Bush team has done a good job with security? 

HATCH:  Well, I think almost anybody would agree. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If we are attacked between now and November 2, would it say they haven‘t done a good job? 

HATCH:  Well, look, there‘s no question that there are people trying to attack us. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But if they do attack us, is that a sign of success or failure? 

HATCH:  Wait.  Wait.  Wait just a second.  There is also no question that we are attacking them all around the world.  And we‘re trying to attack them offshore, rather than onshore.

But to say that we can absolutely guarantee that no car bomber or no killer of themselves is going to come to this country, I think that‘s pushing it pretty far. 

MATTHEWS:  But you‘ve set it up in a way that, if we don‘t get hit until November 2, the American people should think as they go in the ballot box, we better vote for Bush because we haven‘t been attacked. 

If we are attacked on the eve of the election, you will say, let‘s rally around the president and vote for the president.  You can‘t lose that argument.

HATCH:  Well, that‘s right.  We can‘t lose that argument because it‘s a true argument.  In other words, you should not vote for people...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a self-fulfilling argument.

HATCH:  You should not vote for two people, Kerry and Edwards...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

HATCH:  ... who wouldn‘t even support the finances to help our young men and women overseas to be free from injury. 

MATTHEWS:  Fair enough.  I like that argument.  But the other argument, I don‘t. 

Anyway, thank you, Senator Orrin Hatch.

When we come back, tough new campaign commercials—boy, are they tough—on the battle for the White House just days before the first presidential debate, which is Thursday night.

Plus, Governor Howard Dean will be here.  He knows something about debating John Kerry.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, the campaign commercials get tougher.  And with three days to go before the first debate, John Kerry‘s onetime rival Howard Dean will be here with a preview—when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  With the debates just days away and the election in five weeks, this is the part of the campaign where the attacks get rough. 

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster joins us now with the latest and greatest—David.

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC ELECTION CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Chris, in this campaign, we‘ve seen a lot of misleading television commercials.  But the ones we‘re looking at now are about as nasty and over the top as they come. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER (voice-over):  Thanks to support from two top Bush campaign fund raisers, a conservative group calling itself the Progress For America is now attacking John Kerry on television with this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

NARRATOR:  These people want to kill us.  They killed hundreds of innocent children in Russia, 200 innocent commuters in Spain, and 3,000 innocent Americans.  John Kerry has a 30-year record of supporting cuts in defense and intelligence and endlessly changing positions on Iraq.  Would you trust Kerry up against these fanatic killers? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  While Kerry has voted for some military cutbacks, many of the weapons systems were the same ones Dick Cheney tried to cut as secretary of defense.  Secondly, despite what the ad suggests, Iraq was not responsible for 9/11.  So just one day after the commercial was released, the Kerry campaign hit back. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

NARRATOR:  Despicable politics, an un-American way to campaign, the latest Bush-Cheney attacks against John Kerry.  George Bush and Dick Cheney are using the appalling and divisive strategy of playing politics with the war on terror. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  The problem with the Kerry commercial is that it is not the Bush-Cheney ticket using the image of Osama bin Laden. 

Still, Democrats point out, former Bush campaign lawyer Ben Ginsberg represents the group.  And Progress for America has received over $10 million from Alex Spanos and Dawn Arnall, two top Bush fund raisers.  Meanwhile, the Bush campaign, in its own television commercials, is now focused on John Kerry‘s conflicting statements about Iraq. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The winning of the war was brilliant. 

It is the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

I have always said, we may yet even find weapons of mass destruction. 

I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  The problem with the Bush ad is that nearly every Kerry statement is out of context, including one from this show. 

KERRY:  I think they clearly have dropped the ball with respect to the first month in the after the—winning the war.  The winning of the war was brilliant and superb and we all applaud our troops for doing what they did.  But you have got to have the capacity to provide law and order on the streets. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER:  As John Kerry and President Bush slug it out over Iraq, the Democratic group MoveOn.org is about to weigh in a commercial, an anti-Bush commercial, in which they will feature parents of soldiers killed in Iraq.  One parent, Chris, weeps on camera in the 60-second spot.  Tough stuff. 

But this is of course already a brutal campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  It sure is.

Thank you very much, David Shuster.

Joining us right now is former presidential candidate Howard Dean, whose new book is called “You Have the Power.”

Governor Dean, thank you very much for joining us. 

I have to have you comment as soon as—right off the bat here about something that Senator Kennedy said on the show tonight.  He said that the vice president of the United States is guilty of McCarthyism for accusing the Democrats of hurting the war effort over there. 

HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, I think it‘s not just the vice president.  It is the president himself who said that John Kerry‘s criticisms are undermining the war. 

The truth is, the president got us into a war that we didn‘t need to be in to improve the safety of the United States of America.  The president has jeopardized the safety of the United States of America by creating a situation in Iraq which is far more dangerous to our security than it was before we got rid of Saddam Hussein. 

Saddam Hussein was a terrible person.  He was not a danger to the United States.  The 9/11 Commission says so.  I think the president is in deep trouble. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s show Senator Kennedy and what he had to say. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY:  What they have done is spend all of their resources in distorting and misrepresenting.  It is a campaign of anger and insult.  And the most egregious examples are the examples of the vice president, Cheney, when he even goes on to suggest that the al Qaeda wants John Kerry to win.  That is the most outrageous charge.  It‘s the most anti-American.  It is McCarthyism of the first order. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Is that your sense of what the vice president has been saying, that he‘s even accused al Qaeda of rooting for the Democratic candidate? 

DEAN:  Well, I think not only has the vice president done that sort of thing, but the president himself has in much more subtle language. 

They have tried to imply that John Kerry is unpatriotic, even though he‘s the only person who represented his country in uniform in combat in the last 30 years of the people who are running for president of the United States.  These people are tough people.  They will hold power and they put the interests of their own power above the interests of the United States of America.  That is why we need a new president of the United States.  And that‘s why I‘m working so hard to get us one. 

MATTHEWS:  If a person supports the war with Iraq, should they vote for Bush? 

DEAN:  I don‘t think so, because if you support the long-term interests of the security of the country, you‘ve also got to think about the half-trillion dollar deficit that the president is borrowing his way into.  You have got to think about the security impact on having the Saudis and the Japanese and the Chinese hold so much American debt. 

There‘s a lot of problem with this president in terms of security. 

And it‘s just his lack of military experience.

MATTHEWS:  If you oppose the war with Iraq, should you vote for Kerry? 

DEAN:  Well, again, I don‘t think it is just about Iraq.  I think you‘ve got to look at the long-term future of the country.

Here‘s the real issue.  The first issue is credibility.  The president really is the real flip-flopper and the flimflam artist of this one.  He opposed the 9/11 Commission.  Then he supported it.  He wouldn‘t testify.  Then he did.  He said they had weapons of mass destruction.  Well, then they didn‘t.  He said Osama bin Laden had something to do with 9/11.  Well, the 9/11 Commission said it didn‘t.  Mr. President, which is it?  Which is the truth? 

The long-term future of this country depends on sound fiscal management and balanced budgets.  John Kerry has supported that.  President Bush has not.  He talks about it, but he doesn‘t do anything about it.  It depends on economic security for Americans.  That depends on—that means a health care policy that will help all Americans.  George Bush will not do that.  John Kerry has clearly said and outlined a way to do that. 

It depend on a moral future for the leadership of the United States in the free world.  I‘ve been to Europe three times since I left the presidential race.  People over there despise America and they despise us because of one man, George W. Bush.  Until the time that George Bush went into Iraq, we were the moral leaders of the free world since the end of World War I.  We need to resume our rightful position of leadership in the world.  And we can‘t do it with this president. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about your own role.  Are you convinced supportive of John Kerry 100 percent? 

DEAN:  Absolutely I am.

John Kerry will make a smart, informed president who will look at the long-term future of the country, not just the next election.

MATTHEWS:  When he fought against you in the Democratic primaries, he sort of supported the war and now—or at least supported his vote for authorizing the war.  And now he‘s clearly came out as a Deaniac in the last couple of weeks. 

He‘s clearly come out and said this war was wrong.  This president—called it the wrong war at the wrong time.  He‘s made it a 180 alternative, his candidacy, to the president‘s.  Has he morphed into you? 

DEAN:  What I think that John has done is, he voted for—what he voted for was to give president authority to go to war. 

As you know, look, Chris, you have spent a lot more time in Washington than I have.  You know very well that the bipartisan traditional of this country is to give the president authority to conduct foreign policy and military policy. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re misinterpreting what I think.  I think that Congress should declare war when it wants a war and not declare it until it wants a war.  It is a constitutional prerogative it must hold dear and not give a president a blank check, which I think is the issue here.  If Congress had been asked to support the war when the war was declared, then it would be clear now what Kerry meant by it. 

I don‘t think it‘s clear at all by what he meant, because he has—it is allowed to be murky because he gives the president a blank check.  Do you think that‘s good constitutional government, to have Congress give the president a blank check to go to war when and if he decides to go?

DEAN:  In general, of course you know very well that I don‘t think that‘s a good idea.  And I said so during the campaign.

But the truth is, I believe that, historically, since Vietnam, Congresses have given that kind of latitude.  George Bush showed that he didn‘t deserve that kind of latitude because he didn‘t do what he said he was going to do when the president gave him authority.  Now, I made it clear that I disagreed with John Kerry and Dick Gephardt and Wes Clark and all those guys.  I wouldn‘t have given him that authority.  Nonetheless, that‘s been done. 

The question is now, did the president take us into a war that would preserve American security?  The answer is, no, he didn‘t.  Did the president have any idea what he was going to do after our armed forces performed as they always do with extraordinary resolve and admirable ability?  No, he had no plan whatsoever.  The president didn‘t think about what was going to happen next.  And to this day, he won‘t admit his excuses -- he won‘t make excuses and he won‘t admit that he was wrong. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to come right back and talk to Governor Dean about John Kerry and whether he has the spunk that was shown in the early Dean campaign. 

And don‘t forget, you can keep up with the presidential race on HardBlogger, our election blog Web site.  Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Governor Howard Dean.

The name of your book is “You Have the Power.”  Somebody once said during your campaign when you were doing very well last year that you had the best “you” in American politics, when you said “you.”

Tell us about that when you were speaking in the second person to the American people.

DEAN:  You know, the truth is that American people have the power to change this country.  They just don‘t use it because they‘ve been beaten down by people who assert that they don‘t. 

The fact—and they‘re made fearful by our own president and vice president.  America—this is an extraordinary country with wonderful people, conservatives, Democrats, liberals, Republicans.  This is a very strong country.  We just lack good leadership.  And what I tell people is, you have got to get out and run for office.  Voting is not enough.  You have got to go out and run for office.  You have got to give small donations to candidates you trust. 

When middle-class and working people give $5 or $10 or $20, that begins to negate all that corporate money that is, for example, electing President Bush.  We do have the power to change this country.  We just have to use it. 

MATTHEWS:  They have a wonderful expression in the state of Israel, where they say everybody in the country is a prime minister.  And you and I know what that means.  Everybody has an opinion.  Everybody wants to call the shots.  Have we lost that sense of proactive citizenship? 

DEAN:  Yes, we have.  And it is a huge problem.  We think -- 50 percent of us vote.  We think—everybody thinks their neighbor is going to do the work for them.  When you think your neighbor is going to do the work for you, your country doesn‘t work anymore.  And ours is really in trouble. 

We have got the Patriot Act.  We have got presidents who say and vice presidents who say that to question the president is to undermine—is to be unpatriotic and undermine America.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

DEAN:  That‘s simply not true.  And we can come back from this, but it is going to require ordinary Americans to get to work. 

MATTHEWS:  Remember when we were growing up and we looked at the United States Senate, with all its incredible people, and we used to think, they were all—and they‘re right-wing, left-wing, whatever their—Jacob Javits, people like Barry Goldwater, Hubert Humphrey, Everett Dirksen, incredible figures, I mean, almost statesman.  Have we dropped in class? 

DEAN:  Yes, we have.  You see a lot more meanness, a lot more ugliness, a lot more epithets thrown, personal attacks on members of minorities. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you want to join that club, I‘m asking, because if the people look at the kind of people who are senators today, are they still looking up to them the way we, you and I, did as kids and say, God, he‘s a senator?

DEAN:  Yes, but I‘m not asking people to do that.  First of all, there are some outstanding people in the United States Senate.  Patrick Leahy comes to mind as one of them.  Ted Kennedy is another one.  Chuck Hagel is another one.  John McCain is another one.  These are outstanding people who are patriotic, who are going to stand up for their country.  Now, these are widely different people. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DEAN:  But they all, I believe, are patriots and they‘re going to do what they think is right, at some cost to themselves.

MATTHEWS:  Well, they‘re all anti-war.  That‘s for sure.  That‘s why you like them. 

DEAN:  Well, I don‘t know that—I think...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Every one of the guys you listed is against this war. 

DEAN:  Well, they are now.  But I think Hagel and McCain both voted for it. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s true.  Actually, and McCain is still for it, I think. 

DEAN:  Right.  I think that is right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But Hagel—Hagel is getting very critical.  You‘re right about him.

DEAN:  But there are—what we need is independent-minded people. 

Now, of course I‘m more liberal than some of these folks. 

MATTHEWS:  Than everybody. 

DEAN:  Well, that‘s actually—well, you know what I say about that is, I cop to being a proud liberal because I balance budgets and conservatives don‘t.  And I think it‘s time we had a liberal back in the White House so we can have a balanced budget to get this country moving forward ahead. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think President Bush, if he gets reelected, will name you head of the budget so you can balance the budget? 

DEAN:  I think President Bush won‘t get reelected and that will solve a lot of problems. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, thank you very much, Governor Howard Dean.  The name of your book is “You Have the Power,” one of the great lines in American political history.  “You Have the Power.”

Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Bill Maher is going to join us.  That‘s always interesting.  And on Wednesday, we‘ll be at the University of Miami as we get ready for the first presidential debate with our unconventional coverage from HARDBALL right through the night, one of those 6:00-to-midnight numbers again.  Coming up the night before the debate down there, we‘re going to beat everybody at 7:00 Eastern.  And then we‘re going to have special coverage from 9:00 to 11:00.  And on Thursday, the night of the debate, our coverage begins at 6:00 Eastern, another all-nighter.

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

END   

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