updated 11/29/2004 4:57:54 PM ET 2004-11-29T21:57:54

Guest: Barry McCaffrey, Thomas Frank, Michael Ware, Chuck Todd, Jay Carney, Debra Saunders, Amy Goodman

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Over 30 years ago, Richard Nixon championed cultural conservatives he christened the silent majority, now they‘ve found their voice with the emergence of blogging and played a major role in silencing Nixon‘s betton noir (ph), CBS news anchor Dan Rather.  Tonight, a look at the power and the fury of the moral values voters.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  More on Dan Rather‘s resignation in a moment.  But first, U.S. and Iraqi forces are in the throes of their third large-scale military operation this month on the hills of Falluja and Mosul.  Thousands of troops mounted a new offensive in a region south of Baghdad known as the triangle of death, where insurgents have seized control of many towns. 

Retire Army general Barry McCaffrey, commanded of the Army‘s 24th Infantry Division during Desert Storm.  He is now an MSNBC military analyst.  Thank you, general, for joining us tonight. 

On the weekend, John McCain, the Senator from Arizona quoted you, a man he said he admires, calling for perhaps 80,000 more troops, Army troops, 30,000 more Marines to enter the fighting in Iraq.  Is that your position? 

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, RET, U.S. ARMY:  Well, no.  I said that is the addition we need to plus up the size of the Marine Corps and Army so we can maintain our current worldwide deployment.  Chris, we‘ve got 20,000 troops in Afghanistan, 140,000 in Iraq, another 37,000 in Korea.  The military is stretched to the breaking point. 

MATTHEWS:  How many more troops do we need in the fighting in Iraq? 

MCCAFFREY:  Well, that‘s a tougher one.  Right now there are no more to send.  We‘ve just about deployed all the National Guard and reserve forces.  The upcoming rotation will be the end of that barrel.  So I think General George Casey, our 4 star commander in Iraq, has got all he‘s getting.  They‘ll try and overlap some of the troops this January for the election.  But we can‘t go substantially above the force currently on the ground. 

MATTHEWS:  There was no talk about a shortage of troop when we went into Iraq.  Why is there such a crying need for them now?  What was the planning about? 

MCCAFFREY:  Well, I thought there was a shortage of troops going into Iraq.  It was absolutely bad judgment and unbelievable to many of us watching an invasion with one Marine division and 1 ½ Army divisions into a nation of 26 million people with a 400,000 man Army and a million man reserves.  That was the set piece that caused a lot of the subsequent looting and chaos in Iraq.

MATTHEWS:  We sent a half million troop going into clear Kuwait, simply to throw out the invaders from Kuwait, not even to take Baghdad.  Why was it believed we could take this country and stabilize it with a far smaller percentage of that? 

MCCAFFREY:  Well, I think there were a lot of political assumptions made.  Many of which I agreed with at the time.  That the Iraqis wouldn‘t fight effectively for this monstrous Saddam regime.  That the Army and Marine Corps and air power were so good, it would be hard to fight us in a war of maneuver.  All good assumptions. 

It just took leave of our senses in thinking we could dominate this massive, cruel land with so much armament floating around with no history of democracy.  It was bad judgment.  Many of us argued, and on behalf of Secretary Rumsfeld and some of his senior officials. 

MATTHEWS:  Since when do countries fight less for their defense, because they don‘t like the leader?  I mean, Adolf Hitler had people fighting to save his life right until he took it.  Right at the bunker, they were right there, he could here the shooting.  The German people fought to save their country and Hitler with the worst leader, perhaps, in history right to the very end because of their nationalism.  Why do we assume that nationalism isn‘t alive very much over in the Middle East? 

MCCAFFREY:  I think we should have assumed it.  In addition, we should have assumed that if you don‘t engage a military force, you allow them to walk away with their weapons, their leadership, their money intact, where they don‘t feel they‘ve been defeated in battle, then you incur not a subsequent peace offensive, but a continuation of war in a different manner.  That‘s what we‘re seeing.  There wasn‘t a war and then a failed peace.  There‘s a continuing armed conflict by the Sunni minority. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the pattern, general, you‘re watching over there.  And tell me what you see when you watch it.  We go to Falluja.  And the troops take horrible losses in terms of wounded.  I was reading about it in the Post today.  The horrible injuries our men and women are taking from RPG‘s at close range and things like that, are getting blown apart. 

We do take back Falluja.  We take back, in fact, every place we go to try to take back.  But the action continues.  What kind of a game is being played.  Or what kind of a front are we facing on the other side? 

Are they moving around and taking cities and using them for obstacle courses to slow us down? 

MCCAFFREY:  Well, I think we‘ve probably overstated the notion that there‘s 2,000 insurgents in Falluja, and there are 2,000 in Mosul.  I think we have most of the Sunni population up in arms.  They‘re trying to redominate the political system.  That‘s what the fight is all about,  never mind the Shi‘a struggle for survival. 

Now, the fighting in Falluja was pretty darn effective.  Those forces fought bravely and smart.  10,000 U.S. troops, we took about essentially 600 killed and wounded in eight days while killing probably as many as 2000 insurgents and capturing another 1,000. 

Thank God we did it.  That was a steady drain of attacks on coalition forces.  This now current fight south of Baghdad is more complex.  They‘re spread out.  It is not an urban area.  It is hit and run.  It is a Sunni minority.  And we‘re on the verge, some would argue, of a civil war in the south and central of Iraq where the Shi‘a are going to start pushing back against these murderous attacks on their own religious leaders and political leaders. 

MATTHEWS:  What is the nature of our military mission over there?  Is it to take territory city by city, clearing these cities of insurgents or outside terrorists like Zarqawi?  Or is it to win the hearts and minds?  If it is both, how do you put them together? 

MCCAFFREY:  I don‘t think it is either.  Right now the military has a very limited role to play, trying to create the conditions of security and stability so that political reconstruction and economic revitalization can take place. 

The military is going to do their job pretty effectively.  The question is, how can we, Ambassador Negroponte and his political leadership, indicate the will to the American people and their allies to stick with this situation long enough to construct an accountable government, rule of law, and a nonthreat to their neighbors and their own people.  Do we project that kind of political certainty? 

MATTHEWS:  Well let me ask you about there report by a group called the Defense Science Board.  Apparently it is related in some way in an advisory capacity to the Pentagon.  It said today, “When American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies this is scene, obviously by the Islamic societies as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.  The critical problem in American public diplomacy directed toward the Muslim world is not one of dissemination of information or even of crafting and delivering the right message.  Rather, it is the fundamental problem of credibility.  Simply, there is none.  The United States today is without a working channel of communication to the world of Muslims and of Islam.”

How can we build the environment for democracy over there if we‘re creating more and more apparent hostility toward us? 

MCCAFFREY:  Well, we‘re in a very tough situation.  There‘s no question.  I think much of the Arab world is in an inflamed sense of anger at the U.S. in particular and our allies.  A lot of it over our policy toward Palestine.  Nevermind what many have interpreted as a domination of Iraq for their oil.  It is nonsense.  We have got to create a government.  We have to get out of there in the next two or three years and leave a security force, an Iraqi security force, that can maintain some kind of stability. 

MATTHEWS:  And you believe that‘s a credible mission given the troops that we have. 

MCCAFFREY:  I think it is achievable if the American people are willing to hang in there and spend $20 billion a year on reconstruction,  $5 billion a month on the armed forces.  The military U.S. armed forces are not going not fail us, Chris.  The question is...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I don‘t doubt that.  How many Arabs can we kill to convince the Arab world we like them? 

MCCAFFREY:  Oh, could many on. That‘s not a good way to set it up. 

MATTHEWS:  If you‘re looking at it from the other side.  If we continue to kill them night after night to kill Arabs because we‘re trying to save the cities.  And the Arab people in the world, the Muslim people, keep seeing us kill them, when do they get to the idea we‘re over there to help them?  How does that work? 

MCCAFFREY:  Yes.  I think if we are capable of setting up a government in Iraq, starting in January, it will take about a year at a minimum to the following December, when in theory, a Democratic elected government takes office.  If in that year we can get an Iraqi government that will be tolerated by these 3 warring factions, then we will be able to start coming out, leaving in place a viable state.  That‘s the question. 

MATTHEWS:  So they have to like us so much, they simply have to like the government they elected. 

MCCAFFREY:  Sure.  Of course.  And stop making war with their neighbors and don‘t make chemical weapons.  There‘s sort of a minimal demand here on the part of the coalition, and particularly the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m having a hard time, general, trying to get a feel for what the military at the top levels like yourself really feel about this campaign in Iraq.  We had General Schwarzkopf on the other night.  And I asked him, do you think this was a smart thing to go into Iraq and he wouldn‘t answer me.  I take that as a no. 

MCCAFFREY:  The thing has gone wrong.  We had a flawed intervention.  I think we rushed this interim government into office.  Now our allies are tending to walk away from us.  We‘re in trouble.  The question is, can we or will we see it through? 

MATTHEWS:  Could it be a misconceived—is it possible it was a misconceived mission to begin with?  That you can‘t go into a country and build a democracy in a part of the world that really doesn‘t trust to us begin with. 

MCCAFFREY:  A lot of reliable, thoughtful people, Senator Bob Graham, Wes Clark and others said that prior to this operation.  It was not a political attack on their part.  I personally believe it was right to take down Saddam when we did.  We‘ve had a flawed execution.  We‘d better correct it or the cost will be considerable, both political and military. 

MATTHEWS:  Happy Thanksgiving, general.  General Barry McCaffrey, great to have you on tonight. 

MCCAFFREY:  Good talking to you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, elections in Iraq are just around the corner.  But there are concerns around the country, is it ready for them.  “Time” magazine, Mike Ware, has just returned from the front lines of Fallujah.  And he‘ll tell you what he saw, when we return.  Your watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Michael Ware, is the Baghdad bureau chief for “Time” magazine.  He‘s just returned from the front lines in Fallujah. 

Michael, thanks for joining us from New York, happy Thanksgiving.

If I was the president of the United States, and I was sitting here and you were sitting there or you were sitting in the Oval Office with him, in a totally not political sense, what would tell him, in terms of what you saw in Fallujah and else were in Iraq that would be helpful to his war planning. 

MICHAEL WARE, “TIME” MAGAZINE:  Well, I don‘t know what I could tell him to assist what he has in mind.  But I‘d certainly tell him that I just don‘t see victory right now.  I see a backward slide.  And in fact, I see us creating the very thing that the president said we went there to prevent.  I mean, it was the filmiest sketchiest grounds that linked the Saddam regime to the export of terrorism.  That regime was a hideous concoction, and evil to its own people and to its neighbors. 

But was it at the forefront of the war on terror, not at all.  And I‘ve closely examined that issue, as has the U.S. military.  Yet, now subsequent to this invasion and the occupation and the guerrilla war that is currently underway, we are the midwives of the next generation of al Qaeda and Islamic terrorist.  And so he‘s essentially—he‘s essentially defeated himself before he even begins. 

MATTHEWS:  There‘s a lot of people in this country that don‘t quite get, because we‘re not Arab experts, I‘m certainly not one or Muslim experts.  They don‘t get the difference between al Qaeda, the people who attacked us, on 9/11, and the regime of Saddam Hussein. 

Tell us the difference. 

How are they different peoples, if they are. 

WARE:  In many ways, they were polar apart.  By and large, the Iraqi regime was pretty much secular.  It was only toward the end that Saddam even attempted to court the Arab street or Islamist.  Saddam Hussein was an extraordinarily savvy leader, it must be said.  He knew that internally, one of the greatest risks to his power were the Islamist.  He kept a stronger lid on them than we ever have been able to achieve anywhere in the Middle East.  And it was by removing him, by opening up Iraq‘s borders as a free for all, that we‘ve given birth to a rise of Islamization.  Militants, angry armed Islam that simply did not exist under Saddam‘s regime. 

(UNINTELLIGIBLE)  Osama bin Laden condemned Saddam Hussein many, many many times, they were poles apart.  Though we have brought them together, or the remnants of Saddam‘s regime, we have brought to Osama‘s holy war.  Men who were smoking and drinking and visiting brothels under Saddam, and now growing their beards, they don‘t smoke cigarettes, and they‘re pursuing an international Islamic state. 

MATTHEWS:  So the men who are fighting our guys in Fallujah last week or the week before and are facing them now in the triangle of death and Mosul and places like that, they are Iraqi, but they are now, you‘re saying, moved by this religious Islamic fervor, that they weren‘t moved by before. 

WARE:  It is a real mixed bag.  We are dealing with imported foreign jihadis, inspired Osama, if not actually heeding his call.  Perhaps they follow Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or others.  They‘re just motivated to be there.  So, there is a large significant element of foreigners.  But the home grown Iraqi insurgents, the professional military offices, who said to me last year, look, with the fall of Saddam, my commissioners and officer did not end.  It is simply evolved to a new phase of this war.  This war is not over.  In fact now they‘re fighting a war of liberation to remove the foreign occupier.  Now...

MATTHEWS:  Are they moved by nationalism, what you or I or anyone who is fighting for their country against an invader would be moved by, or are they moved by a religious fanaticism or both?

WARE:  Well, originally, it was by and large nationalism.  It was a strong sense of pride in Iraq.  And there‘s still that element.  But the nationalist insurgents who exist today are being marginalized.  As bit by bit, group by group, the jihadis are hijacking the nationalistic insurgency.

MATTHEWS:  Unfortunately, the propeller heads who did the thinking before we went over there, never thought about what they were facing when we got in there.  Which the G.I.‘s have to face now which is people fighting the invader, people fighting because of religious fanaticism.  And as you point out, some people have come in there just to get a shot at us, but it‘s certainly not been prepared for, has it? 

WARE:  No.  Not at all.  And that‘s what just simply takes my breath away.  I mean, in Fallujah, as in elsewhere, I stood there as I saw American boys die.  I mean, a man shot at close range, blown apart by a rocket propelled grenade, he dies right there in front of you.  And I can‘t help but think why, for what cause? 

I mean, with the noblest of intentions.  And the American soldiers must be honored.  They are pursuing the tradition of true soldiering.  But to what end?  I mean, we‘re creating the nightmare that we are seeking to prevent.  It seem so in vain. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Michael.  Thank you for that.  “Time” magazine‘s bureau chief in Baghdad, Michael Ware, he‘s up in New York right now. 

Up next, author Thomas Frank on the Democrats in this divide we always talk about between the red and blue states.  It‘s there.  Let‘s see what it‘s all about.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Joining me now is Thomas Frank, author of “What‘s the Matter with Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.”  Thank you very much. 

You know, we speak today in the afterglow, you might say, of the resignation of Dan Rather.  And you know, I think a lot of things went into his decision to quit.  Probably he saw this report coming and said I don‘t want to leave after that, because it will look like I left after that. 

But let me ask about Rather and what he means to the cultural right in this country.  What do they think of him?  I mean the people out in the country who really don‘t like New York, they don‘t like L.A., Hollywood, the whole routine. 

THOMAS FRANK, AUTHOR:  The problem is that I‘ve never been a big fan of Dan Rather myself.  So  -- and I‘m like many people, I basically stopped watching network news broadcasts like 10 years ago. 

MATTHEWS:  You mean the evening news on the broadcast nets. 

FRANK:  Right, right.  That‘s what I meant. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re like a lot of people, by the way. 

FRANK:  I am. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, because the fact is that there are a lot of reasons for that.  I mean, you know the reasons. 

First of all there‘s something called traffic.  You get home at 5:30, and that‘s when they put those shows on sometimes now. 

FRANK:  I, you know, I watched—during the Republican convention, I was watching, I think it was NBC.  It might have been ABC.  But I was watching the broadcast news, every ad was targeted at very, very old people. 

MATTHEWS:  Pain relief.  Pain relief.  Do you know what happened?  Traffic.  I still—I worked for an evening newspaper for years.  I grew up with the Philadelphia Bulletin.  I used to deliver it as a paper boy.  I had a big paper route, the biggest, I think, in Northeast Philly.  And the bottom line is, you have to have those newspapers published, printed by noon to get them out before the 3:00 traffic jams.  And therefore, they‘re very old news on stocks and things like that.  That had the morning‘s news, so that killed that. 

FRANK:  Was that an afternoon paper? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FRANK:  Oh, they‘re all gone. 

MATTHEWS:  They all died because of traffic. 

And the San Francisco Examiner I worked for for 15 years. 

But the other thing going on is age.  Why do older people, 61 is the average for the CBS evening news with Dan Rather.  Average age. 

FRANK:  I would assume it is just force of habit. 

MATTHEWS:  I think they‘re lying, too.  I think they‘re much older. 

FRANK:  I think of my own parents.  And they still watch—my dad doesn‘t have cable yet.  So he can‘t watch this. 

MATTHEWS:  He is in the ritual 6:30, or 6:00, or 5:30 at night, he goes right to the tube.

FRANK:  He watches it, yes.  And now I‘ve never been...

MATTHEWS:  What about Rather?  I‘m going to tie this together, because we have this idea, me and the producers, and I think it is smart.  Back when Nixon was president, and he was facing the real first angry look from the liberal media.  And was taking a lot of hits, Rather came up and one time Rather got a big applause in the meeting of editorial boards, remember.  And Nixon said, are you running for something?  And Rather came back, and I thought rather lamely, and said, no, Mr. President, are you? 

And that seemed to be the iconic moment when big media and the president of the United States went head to head.  And the silent majority rooted for who? 

FRANK:  Oh, well of course for Nixon.  But they didn‘t—Nixon was by the end of it all was a very unpopular man.  So was Spiro Agnew. 

MATTHEWS:  But there were bumper stickers that said get off his back. 

That‘s all it said was get off his back.

FRANK:  Come on, we can all tell stories about that.  The day that Nixon resigned, one of my friends was at a little league game that day in Rockford, Illinois.  Which was at the time was liberal, today is super conservative as you know like many towns in America, in Kansas, too.  And all the car horns started honking and people were yelling and pumping their fists in the air.  They‘re like, all right, man, he‘s gone.  People were overjoyed when that guy went down. 

MATTHEWS:  Are they going to do that for Rather? 

FRANK:  Isn‘t that funny?  Wouldn‘t that be ironic? 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think? 

FRANK:  I think, yes.  He‘s a deeply unpopular person among many people. 

MATTHEWS:  You look at the newspapers.  I went to stands today at Union Station.  I love to do it, just check the headlines?  And see how different papers played it?  New York Times, very dignified.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in suspenders, a brand new shot they took yesterday right at the top left side.  The best part, one of the top two news holes. 

The Washington Post—Washington Times, right across the top.  IT was like Victory in Europe, you know, we got rid of him.   New York Post, you know, Scandal Dan—or whatever it is—front page.  They loved it.

Clearly the papers are showing their point of views politically.

FRANK:  Can I point out something else?  And I think this is telling, I think this is telling, the Times covered it on the business pages.  They jumped it to the business pages.  And that is, whenever you start talking about the liberal media, this is what you have to remember.  The Times covered it on the business pages. 

MATTHEWS:  What does that tell you? 

FRANK:  That is story about who owns—about why the media are the way they are. 

MATTHEWS:  But it is New York.  New York is the media capital. 

FRANK:  Sure. 

But remember that, the business pages. 

MATTHEWS:  What does it tell you again? 

FRANK:  Media is a business.  It is about corporate America.  It is not liberal bias, it is corporate bias.  Chris, I don‘t know if you care to hear this, but the biggest—there are these right wing guys with foundation grants that sit around and figure out every little last time that the anchor man goes off track and veers off slightly to the left. 

Well, I‘ll tell you something, the biggest bit of media bias that I have seen in my lifetime, and it is huge, and it goes on to this day while I was in the green room right here I saw another example of it.  Is the new economy.  I mean, not only the anchor man, every newsman in America was convince that had we had turned some kind of historical corner.  That price to earnings no longer mattered.  That the economy...

MATTHEWS:  Build a bubble. 

FRANK:  That the economy had taken loose from the earth and we no longer had to worry about business. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘re being too far right.  And they went through all the guys on my weekend show and women on the weekend show, they pointed out, it was like 19-7 right wing. 

FRANK:  Well, I take of that.  I counter balance them all.  I tell you what. 

MATTHEWS:  I keep listening.  I like to balance from both sides. 

Anyway, thank you Thomas Frank. 

Up next, Ron Reagan, Chuck Todd, Jake Hardy on Dan Rather stepping down from CBS News.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It is musical anchor chairs.  Dan Rather steps down in March.  Tom Brokaw steps down next week.  While Peter Jennings hasn‘t announced plans to step down, it is probably a move he and ABC executives are giving some thought to, however.  And what does it all mean? 

Joining me is Chuck Todd, editor in chief of “The Hotline,” a must-read for political junkies, and Jay Carney, “TIME” magazine‘s deputy Washington bureau chief, and Ron Reagan, MSNBC political analyst. 

There you all are. 

Well, we knew Brokaw was going to resign.  And, in fact, that‘s a big event at NBC and in our life here, that we know there‘s a big transition going on.  Let‘s talk about the Rather transition. 

Do you think it was timed, Chuck, to avoid coming in after this report by Thornburgh‘s commission as to how NBC handled the story about the president‘s National Guard service or lack thereof? 

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “THE HOTLINE”:  From what I understood, this idea of Rather retiring has been in the works for a while, even before the whole thing blew up. 

MATTHEWS:  Some time in the near future. 

TODD:  Some time, that it was always going to be coming.

MATTHEWS:  The timing now before Thanksgiving? 

TODD:  I think it does have—I think it has more to do with Brokaw‘s retirement.  I think it is a way to sort of—to try to save face a little bit for Rather, allow him to sort of be two of the three big anchors are going out, and it allows Rather sort of some cover.  He gets to go out under the Brokaw umbrella a little bit. 

MATTHEWS:  Rather than under the umbrella of the Thornburgh commission. 

TODD:  Of the scandal.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think, Jay, Jay Carney? 

JAY CARNEY, “TIME”:  No, I think it does have to do with the “60 Minutes” scandal and it actually offers CBS a real opportunity, because the problem that they have—they‘ve been languishing in third place in the rating. 

As you mentioned before, they have a very old audience, much older than the other two networks.  And getting rid of Rather would only make things worse, because he is an icon to some viewers.  Now they have a reason to get rid of him, because he has tarnished his image most recently.  And it gives them an opportunity to try to shake things up.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are you saying that he will be smacked by this commission report when it comes out?

CARNEY:  I think inevitably.  He has to be.  He...

MATTHEWS:  And it is better that he leave now and announce he‘s leaving now than have it announced the day after the report comes out that he‘s going to be pushed out. 

CARNEY:  Sure.  Yes.  I think there‘s no question.  And this was an opportunity for CBS to, as Chuck said, to go out in a way with Brokaw, but also give them a chance to try to make the best out of this and improve their ratings. 

MATTHEWS:  When will that ratings improvement come, Jay Carney? 

CARNEY:  It will take a while.  Any new anchor is going to have a hard time against Jennings. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s an interesting point.  I want to ask you about that in a minute. 

Let‘s to go Ron Reagan. 

Your thoughts about this cultural—some people see this as a hanging.  The people have been after Rather for 30 years, from the Nixon days, are giddy over this.  It‘s almost like a public hanging.  They‘re getting even for August 9, 1974. 

(LAUGHTER)

RON REAGAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  That‘s right.  He‘s always been a lightning rod for conservatives who like to point to him as an exemplar of the liberal media.  I think your...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I think they think he is married to Barbra Streisand, actually. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, that would be the duo of contempt.  But what do you think?

REAGAN:  Or maybe another man.  Who knows? 

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN:  But I think your guests are right.  He did want to get out before the Thornburgh investigation weighed in.  He didn‘t want to look like he was being chased out by that.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

REAGAN:  It‘s going to be something of an embarrassment.  But this is a man with nearly a quarter of a century in the anchor chair.  He has his pride and he wants to go out on his own terms, I think. 

MATTHEWS:  He is also quite a risk taker over the years, Jay. 

You were rather tough on him.  I‘ll give you a chance to balance this act.  There‘s a reporter who has gone out on a limb.  He went over there in every trouble spot in the world, risked his keister and his life and brought home the story.  And then he goes down on the story that he brought home wrong.  Is that fair? 

CARNEY:  Well, you live by the sword, you die by the sword. 

Rather did do some impressive things as a journalist.  And he was at his best when he was doing straight journalism.  But he did suffer from a problem of his own making, where he tangled with the first President Bush and probably didn‘t handle that as well as he could have. 

For this President Bush, having Dan Rather‘s scalp is sort of the liberal media icing on his election cake.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CARNEY:  Because not only did he take out John Kerry, but, in a way, because of Dan Rather‘s association with this wrong story on President Bush‘s National Guard service, Bush took out Rather as well.  It‘s big—another victory in that father-son drama. 

REAGAN:  Chris, could I just jump in here? 

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

REAGAN:  The story was not wrong. 

The documents were forged.  And the documents buttress the story.  But the story itself that George Bush got special favors to get into the Guard, that he did not fulfill his duty there, that he failed to take a medical exam is undisputed.  The story itself is right. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but Larry O‘Brien really—but Larry O‘Brien of the Democratic National Committee, the person they went and they tried to get the goods on, really was working for Howard Hughes.  Does that mean Nixon is exonerated from the way he got the information? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  More with Ron Reagan, Jay Carney and Chuck Todd when we return.

And, later, we‘ll debate whether the media‘s coverage of the war in Iraq and the presidential campaign have been fair.

And don‘t forget, sign up for HARDBALL‘s daily e-mail briefing.  Just log on to our Web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, more with Ron Reagan, Jay Carney and Chuck Todd when we come back.  And, later, a debate over the way the media covered the war in Iraq—when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Before I forget Thanksgiving, happy Thanksgiving to everybody out there.  I‘m heading up to celebrate with my family.

We‘re right back now with Chuck Todd, Jay Carney, and Ron Reagan.

A Gallup poll taken right after the election asked Democrats who they wanted to be their party‘s nominee in 2008.  Look at these numbers.  Let‘s look at the Republicans.  Hillary out front at 25, Kerry at 15.  Here‘s the Republican side, 47, almost 2-1 over McCain.   

I want to start with Rudy Giuliani.

Ron Reagan, who would have thought 2-1 beating McCain?

REAGAN:  Yes, that‘s strange. 

I don‘t know that Rudy Giuliani is a candidate, though, that can run very well in the middle of the country in all those red states.  If he is going to run, he is going to have to undergo some sort of religious conversion.  This is a guy who is pro-choice.  He has got nothing against gay people. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

REAGAN:  I don‘t know how he runs in Nebraska. 

MATTHEWS:  A little too metro, huh? 

REAGAN:  A little too metro, a little too metrosexual. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  He did convert; 9/11 it was his big conversion to the Republican Party.  All of a sudden, he became a Republican and the country viewed him as a Republican.  And the... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me tell you what happens in a campaign. 

The first older person comes up to you, maybe a Catholic, maybe not, and say, where are you on life? 

TODD:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  The minute that question is asked—Jay knows about this -

·         the minute that question is asked, there‘s silence in the room and there‘s an answer that‘s required.  I‘m pro-life or I‘m not pro-life.  And if you give wrong answer to that couple or that person, you‘re not on their team. 

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  Rudy will pull a papa Bush and he‘ll switch. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He‘ll switch?

CARNEY:  But that won‘t work either. 

TODD:  Yes.  It‘s not going to work.

CARNEY:  Giuliani and McCain—this is the irony of these alleged front-runners for the Republican Party for 2008, is that none of them are particularly plausible nominees, because—and this includes McCain, who had his moment, his chance in 2000 and couldn‘t win in South Carolina, couldn‘t win in states where there were closed primaries and only Republican could vote. 

MATTHEWS:  Is McCain a Republican, Jay?

CARNEY:  He‘s too liberal.

MATTHEWS:  Is he seen as a Republican by Republicans?  I don‘t think he is. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARNEY:  No.  And no matter how many times he hugged George W. Bush on the campaign trail, no matter how much help he gave Bush, unless Bush himself says, I want you to be my successor, I don‘t think McCain can win the nomination. 

MATTHEWS:  Ron, can Hillary Clinton carry the weight of Bill Clinton back to the White House?  Could she haul him back in the White House on her shoulders?  Because he will come back with her and live at the White House for eight years if she‘s elected president.  Do we want him as the first husband living over in the East Wing, putting together the party plans? 

REAGAN:  Well, does she want him back in the East Wing?  I don‘t know. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Can she haul him—in other words, can she win, as long as

·         I have to be blunt about it.  Can she win because of her husband? 

REAGAN:  I don‘t think—I‘m not sure that she can win because of herself. 

Now, this is not an attack on her, but I think there are many people out there in the country, Democrat and Republican, who just find her a very divisive, prickly sort of figure.  There was a friend of mine who was sitting with three liberal Democratic women the other day.  They related this conversation.  Asked them about Hillary.  And, to a person, they said no way.  We wouldn‘t want her in the White House. 

And these are Democrat women who just, they‘re put off by her somehow. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

REAGAN:  She has her friends.  She has her loyal following.  But I don‘t think it spreads across the country and I don‘t think it is terribly deep. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, Jay.

CARNEY:  Chris, I wrote an article right after the election about the state of the Democrats.  And I was shocked to speak with Harold Ickes, a very close ally to Senator Clinton and a former deputy chief of staff in the Clinton administration, who point blank told me, I‘m somebody in the inner circle who doesn‘t think she can win.  And if Harold Ickes doesn‘t think she can win, I think a lot of people will have problems with her. 

MATTHEWS:  The big question is, why does she want—does she want to run and lose or run for leadership of the Senate and win?  That‘s her life decision.  If she comes off as a loser running for president, she‘ll never be a big shot again. 

But she goes for leadership of the Senate, she could be majority leader some day. 

CARNEY:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s my thinking.  I‘m not her campaign manager.

Anyway, thank you.  Happy Turkey Day to everybody.  It‘s always the best holiday for men.  Women have to do all the work.  But men just have to eat. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, Ron Reagan, Jay Carney, Chuck Todd. 

When we return, is the media being tough enough in its coverage of Iraq?  Amy Goodman and Debra Saunders will join us.

And don‘t forget to check out Hardblogger, our political blog Web site.  Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Amy Goodman is the host of Pacifica Radio‘s “Democracy Now” is the co-author of the new book, “The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers and the Media That Love Them,” and Debra Saunders, a familiar face on the show.  She‘s columnist for “The San Francisco Chronicle.” 

Amy Goodman, what are you talking about here basically?  You think that the press laid down for the war with Iraq? 

AMY GOODMAN, HOST, “DEMOCRACY NOW”:  Oh, I mean, there‘s no question about it.  The media has reached an all-time low in this country.  There‘s a reason why our profession is protected by the U.S. Constitution, because we‘re supposed to be the check and balance on government. 

Instead, the media has acted as a megaphone for those in power, as a conveyor belt for the lies of the administration.  And, really, that‘s what paved the way for going to war, is that people in this country believe the media and the media kept alleging over and over again weapons of mass destruction.  And it simply wasn‘t true and there were plenty of people who were saying it.  but the media iced out all of that dissent. 

MATTHEWS:  But wasn‘t that merely the role of—quote—“objective”

·         close quote—journalism to simply say the administration says there‘s weapons of mass destruction?  Isn‘t that the role of the media, to simply report on what the administration is saying?

GOODMAN:  No, absolutely not the case. 

I mean, it is fine to quote the administration.  But it is our role to bring out the dissent as well.  And there was plenty of dissenting opinion within the establishment and outside.  There were many people, for example, within the intelligence community who were saying, this stuff just doesn‘t fly.  There were military families who were asking serious questions. 

And the media‘s role is to provide a forum for all of that debate and discussion.  There was much more debate in the streets of this country than there was in the mainstream media.  And that‘s got to change.   

MATTHEWS:  Debra Saunders, do you agree with that there was an uncritical look at the war as it emerged and was fought by the media? 

DEBRA SAUNDERS, “THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE”:  Well, I don‘t know what Amy wants. 

The truth is that everybody thought that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.  Yes, the CIA had issues over his nuclear capabilities.  But they weren‘t saying they didn‘t think that he didn‘t have weapons.  They said it was a slam dunk.  The U.N. thought he had them.  The French thought it.  The Russians did.  Saddam‘s own military people thought he had weapons of mass destruction. 

Now, it turns out, everybody, and I‘m including me, was wrong about it.  But to act—the people who were saying he didn‘t have weapons, these weren‘t people with special knowledge.  These were people with a political axe to grind who just didn‘t want to believe it. 

GOODMAN:  Oh, no, that is not the case. 

I mean, you take some of the U.N. weapons inspectors and you go right on up to the top.  And they were raising serious, grave questions about the allegations, saying, we can‘t know this and it doesn‘t add up.  And then you talk about the stories, for example, of Joe Wilson, the ambassador who went to Niger for the Bush CIA and he came back and he said, it doesn‘t pan out.  And it was not only Ambassador Joe Wilson.  It was also the current ambassador to Niger.  It was a general as well.

They were all saying, this stuff simply doesn‘t add up.  And instead, how Bush responded is he incorporated it into his State of the Union address.  And when finally Joe Wilson, who did not want to speak out, months later, spoke out with an op-ed piece in “The New York Times,” he is retaliated against with the outing of his wife, Valerie Plame, who is an undercover CIA operative outed by Robert Novak. 

And that investigation of who did this within the White House is still going.  There was plenty of dissent.  But the media, unfortunately, NBC, CBS, ABC, all the media much, not just Fox, continually beat the drums for war.  And that is not the role of the media. 

SAUNDERS:  Well, again, Amy, you keep talking about the dispute as to whether or not there were nuclear weapons, leaving out chemical and biological weapons.  And everybody thought that that‘s what he had.  His own people thought he had such weapons.  That‘s why they felt secure in Saddam Hussein fighting the United States. 

So you‘re just ignoring all that. 

GOODMAN:  No, no.

SAUNDERS:  As for Joe Wilson, I didn‘t know he was the shy guy who didn‘t want to come out.  I know that the Senate looked at his story and they found some issues with it as well. 

GOODMAN:  But, as I just pointed out with Ambassador Joe Wilson, it wasn‘t only Joe Wilson.  It was also the current ambassador to Niger.  It was also a general who had investigated the same thing. 

But, in every case—and, of course, the allegations of the links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, the links between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein, all of this was proven over and over again.  I mean, what is interesting is who Bush is choosing right now to be his Cabinet is frightening.  And it is all of the people who, despite the evidence, people like Stephen Hadley, who will now be the national security adviser.  He was the one who allowed in the whole issue of the allegations of uranium and Saddam Hussein going for them in Niger, despite the warnings of George Tenet.  He took the fall on that, and that—now he is being handsomely rewarded, because he is now national security adviser. 

Condoleezza Rice as well. 

SAUNDERS:  You bring up George Tenet.  George Tenet said WMD in Iraq, slam dunk.  He believed it.  And he, of course, was first made the CIA chief by Bill Clinton.  So this idea that I know that the leftist media likes to cook up of Bush getting everybody to say what he wanted them to hear and having his own people do it, George Tenet said slam dunk. 

GOODMAN:  No, but George Tenet did not say slam dunk on nuclear. 

SAUNDERS:  That‘s right.  But you‘re taking the nukes.

GOODMAN:  He warned Stephen Hadley.  And Stephen Hadley—but I think that‘s very important.

SAUNDERS:  But, Amy, you‘re taking—and that‘s been covered and covered and covered. 

You‘re taking the fact that there weren‘t nukes and you‘re making that for the whole WMD argument. 

(CROSSTALK)

SAUNDERS:  And there were plenty of reasons to believe that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons.  And his own people believed it. 

So to expect the American media—what were we supposed to do?  Drop into Iraq and find out that we couldn‘t find them? 

GOODMAN:  No.  The American media...

SAUNDERS:  It just doesn‘t work that way. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Amy, I want to bring this up to day, because you make some strong allegations.  And I‘m glad you brought up the case of Stephen Hadley, who was the guy, as you point out, who accepted responsibility publicly and finally as to having received that information from the CIA that there was no attempt by Iraq to buy uranium from the government of Niger.  That all came out.  And it was because of him we didn‘t know about it.  He finally accepted blame for it, took the bullet and has been subsequently named top national security adviser to the president of the United States.  That‘s quite a punishment for somebody who admitted to such a failing. 

What else is being kept secret by what you consider the softball media? 

GOODMAN:  Well, all of this is really rather frightening when you look at the Cabinet that President Bush is amassing around him, because there is no check and balance as he takes more and more people from his inner most circle.  I mean, my goodness, his own personal attorney, Alberto Gonzales, now being nominated to be the attorney for the country, and hearing people like New Jersey Senator Corzine saying that probably most senators are not going to challenge this. 

So Gonzales goes from personal attorney to attorney for the country. 

MATTHEWS:  No, he‘s no a personal attorney.  He‘s White House counsel. 

GOODMAN:  Well, White House counsel to...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s not personal attorney. 

GOODMAN:  It is not personal attorney.  But he is very close.  He almost basically has been, because he goes right back to Texas having been selected over and over again by George Bush and promoted right up until attorney general. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

GOODMAN:  There‘s no sense of any kind of check and balance.  And that is very serious. 

I mean, Gonzales himself is deeply implicated in those memos that started to question whether their should be any international war crime applications when it comes to, for example, the torture at Abu Ghraib. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask Debra.

Do you believe the media was tough enough in criticizing the case made for war?  I personally never thought it was WMD.  I thought that was the front case for war.  That was not the reason for the war.  And we got completely sent on a goose chase on that one by everybody, is there or isn‘t there, when the question is, so what?  That‘s not why the president went there.  He has said so.

His essential case for going to Iraq was to liberate the country, as he understands that to mean whatever it means.  And the question now is, are we under a soft press coverage right now?  Are the White House press corps as tough as they used to be in the days of Reagan and Carter and back through Johnson‘s days?  Is the media as tough as it used to be in criticizing presidential action, Debra Saunders?

SAUNDERS:  Well, I think a lot of people in the White House press corps who are in the building are in such a bubble that they‘re not necessarily doing the kind of aggressive reporting we used to see. 

But when you look at “The New York Times” and “The Washington Post” and other media, they‘re doing a lot of brutal stories on George Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SAUNDERS:  They look at the war.  If anything ever went wrong, oh, there‘s no plan.  Oh, this is the first time anything has ever happened that‘s bad in a war.

And so, on the one hand, people in the building may not be—may not have the time to do the kind of coverage that people used to do. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.

SAUNDERS:  It‘s pretty clear that there are plenty of other people making up the slack and, at times, being involved in some pretty bad stories that I think are absurdly critical of the administration. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that just makes my case.  The more you keep a distance from this crowd, the better are you reporting on them and commenting on them.  You get close into the White House, too close, and they are incredible at news management over at the White House. 

Do you agree, Amy Goodman? 

GOODMAN:  Well, I agree that the media is way too close. 

And I‘m not just talking about the Bush administration.  They‘re way too close to simply the power elite in Washington, to the Democrats and the Republicans.  I mean, before the invasion, when the Democrats joined with the Republicans in authorizing the invasion, Kerry and Edwards, they voted for the invasion as well, the media hardly expressed anything outside of that consensus. 

Then we had the presidential election.  So they opened up for the spectrum between the Democrats and the Republican.  And, yes, there‘s a debate there, because the Democrats are trying to distinguish themselves from the Republicans.  Now we see it closing right back down again, for example, with these nominees, with the Democrats joining with the Republicans and saying, it is going to be a pretty smooth process. 

The media should be outside of that minority power elite, because I think that‘s where most of America is. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, we don‘t have many Daniel Schorrs or I.F. Stones floating around these days.  And Sam Donaldson even isn‘t at the post he should have been at right now. 

Anyway, thank you very much.

GOODMAN:  Thank you, Chris.  

MATTHEWS:  Amy Goodman, I like hard criticism.  The name of the book is “The Exception is the Rulers.”  Anyway, thank you—“The Exception to the Rulers.”

Anyway, thank you, Amy Goodman and Debra Saunders.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Join us again Friday night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL, as we examine two historic partnerships that shaped this country, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. 

From all of us at HARDBALL and MSNBC, have a great Thanksgiving holiday. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media Inc. (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,