updated 1/18/2005 2:59:59 PM ET 2005-01-18T19:59:59

Guest: Whoopi Goldberg, Dana Rohrabacher, Patrick Lang

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  A CIA think tank report finds the war in Iraq has turned the country into the newest breeding ground for the next generation of terrorists.  Tonight, one of the strongest advocates of the war, Richard Perle, on terrorism, the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, and the upcoming elections in Iraq. 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

The National Intelligence Council, which is responsible for the national intelligence estimates on Iraq, has issued a new report on global trends that says the war in Iraq is creating a new generation of professionalized terrorists. 

The report reads—quote—“The al Qaeda membership that trained in Afghanistan will gradually dissipate to be replaced in part by the dispersion of the experienced survivors of the conflict in Iraq.” 

Has Iraq become the new Afghanistan for the next generation of terrorists?  Richard Perle was assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan administration.  He also served as chairman of the Defense Policy Board under this administration.  He is currently a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. 

So there we have it.  The weak government of Afghanistan, which had a partnership with al Qaeda, now elements of the terrorist organizations from around the world moving into Iraq to seize their opportunity of a weakened government and nongovernment.  Is this a long-term problem or a short-term problem in Iraq? 

RICHARD PERLE, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Well, I think the problem is closely associated with the future developments in Iraq.  And on that, there‘s some reason for optimism. 

We‘re on the verge of an election.  But I think it‘s a mistake to compare the Afghan situation, where the Afghan regime opened the territory to al Qaeda.  They had training facilities all over the place.  They had freedom of movement.  They weren‘t hiding.  They weren‘t involved in the day-to-day terrorist war within Afghanistan. 

Those were luxurious circumstances. 

MATTHEWS:  For terrorists. 

PERLE:  For terrorists.  It‘s a much tougher job for the terrorists in Iraq.  And they are expending all their energy now attacking us and attacking other Iraqis. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk, which no one ever does, a rosy scenario. 

Let‘s imagine that we have a government elected, Shia-dominated, but it‘s a broadly representative government, which leads to a formal, a better election turnout, say, in December, when the actual new—the new administration is put together over there.  Can that government be foreseen to be strong enough to say no more brigands in this country, no more paramilitary operations, all you terrorists have to go?

PERLE:  Well, they will certainly try to bring about order, as any government would. 

They‘re confronted with people who have nothing to lose because they have no place in the future of Iraq.  And these are mostly, contrary to the report out of the CIA, these are mostly former associates of the Iraqi regime, Saddam‘s...

MATTHEWS:  So they‘re not foreign? 

PERLE:  Well, there are some, but the preponderance of the insurgency now is made up of Saddam elements, people close to the regime who know that when there‘s a decent order and a participatory government, they have no place in it. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, break it down among the people you see contending with our forces over there and with the newly emerging Iraqi security forces and the new army, hopefully.  Are they, A, Saddamists?  What portion do you think are Saddamists, the people fighting us and killing our people right now? 

PERLE:  A substantial majority are Saddamists. 

MATTHEWS:  Are Saddamists.

What percentage are people from outside? 

PERLE:  Well, there are some, certainly.

MATTHEWS:  I mean al Qaeda people. 

PERLE:  It is hard to put a precise number on that. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I mean, I think we ought to know our enemy.  And, in World War II, we fought the Germans, the Italians and the Japanese.  In this case, who are we fighting? 

PERLE:  Well, we are fighting, principally—if we could eliminate the people loyal to Saddam, part of his—those who were part of his regime, we would largely have the problem solved. 

The remainder, the jihadists, I think, could be contained, because they don‘t have a lot of support among the general population. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the government.  Do we need a bigger army over there to do the job in the next couple of years? 

PERLE:  I don‘t believe we need a bigger army.  I think the Iraqis need a larger and better trained and more effective security force. 

And I‘m optimistic that they will get that as we train them and as they develop their own government and they are defending themselves and not working under the direction of an occupying power. 

MATTHEWS:  The best way to drain the swamp of the Sunni insurgency is to get more Sunnis in the new government.  Are you optimistic that we can get some involvement this month and a greater involvement in December, when the final elections are held? 

PERLE:  Well, I hope that Sunnis will decide that they now have been given the chance to elect representatives and that they‘ll choose to do so. 

But, Chris, be careful.  It‘s not a Sunni insurgency.  It‘s a Baathist insurgency. 

MATTHEWS:  Among the Sunnis.   

PERLE:  Yes.  I mean, many—most of the Baathists, although not all, are Sunnis, but not all Sunnis are Baathists, by any means.  Most Sunnis want to live in peace.  And they are not wedded to Saddam‘s regime.

MATTHEWS:  Have you gone over to Iraq since the war? 

PERLE:  No, I have not been over there. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you want to go over? 

PERLE:  I do want to go over. 

MATTHEWS:  Maybe we can get you over there. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I think a lot—it‘s very tricky over there right now.

Let‘s talk about the final report on WMD, the Duelfer report that came out this week, to little stir.  It was a rather quiet report, the final report.  What grabbed me was not that we couldn‘t find weapons of mass destruction—we have known that for almost a couple of years now—but the fact that—the conclusion by this fellow, our only reporter over there, who says that Saddam basically killed his nuclear program after the last Persian Gulf War, something like 14 years ago. 

Well, how could that be?  We have had people around here like Hamza.  Remember him?  He was congressman here, the bomb maker.  People from the INC, Iraqi National Congress, saying they are building a nuclear program.  The vice president was saying they had a nuclear program.  At one point, he said they had nuclear weapons.  Then he went back, etcetera.

How could so many people involved in Iraqi policy—in fact, he talked about the uranium supplies coming from Africa.  How could so many people build the case for a nuclear capability, a mushroom, as Condi Rice called it, a mushroom cloud, if there wasn‘t one? 

PERLE:  It was a...

MATTHEWS:  What is it based on? 

PERLE:  It was a bizarre combination of intelligence, some of which turned out to be simply out-and-out wrong, and Saddam Hussein‘s unwillingness to correct wrong intelligence.  He had in it his power to demonstrate that that program was finished.

MATTHEWS:  How could he have avoided a war, if the war was about WMD?  Let‘s say it‘s about WMD, because that was our argument with the world, with the European powers.  If he had come and proven he had no weapons of mass destruction, that would have made his case pretty strong in the world.  How come he didn‘t do it? 

PERLE:  Well, that remains a great mystery.  There is now speculation that he thought he was protecting himself by leading us to believe he had weapons of mass destruction.  I‘m not sure we‘ll ever know. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He didn‘t get the word that we were coming no matter what he did?

PERLE:  I think he may have been confused in part by what the Russians and the French were advising him. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about your history with regard to weapons of mass destruction and belief in them.  In 1998, you advised Bibi Netanyahu that it was a good idea to have a regime change.

PERLE:  No, no, I never advised Bibi Netanyahu on that. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what was your role in the report, the clean break report? 

PERLE:  Well, that was the product of a study group. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you signed it, didn‘t you? 

PERLE:  Well, yes, I signed it, but it was not written for Bibi Netanyahu.  It was a look at the region and regional problems that was then packaged. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it was highly sophisticated.  I‘ve read it.  It had a small part.  But what was interesting—let‘s get to the part I know you are interested in, the idea of knocking off the Saddam Hussein regime in the region, not us doing it, not Israel necessarily doing it, but getting it done somehow, that we would knock off Saddam Hussein, because he‘s a bad guy and a danger to the region.

He‘s also backed up the Syrians and said—you know the whole politics—and replacing him with a king, the old style Hashemite king that they used to have there before they threw him out.  What gave you even a glimmer of hope that the Iraqi people would accept a monarchy? 

PERLE:  Well, you couldn‘t simply impose an alien monarchy.  But there were elements among the Hashemites in Jordan.

MATTHEWS:  They run the Jordan government.  They used to run Iraq. 

They used to run Syria.  They used to run Saudi Arabia.  Right.

PERLE:  Who might well have been accepted, at least as titular leaders, in Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Why would that cause a glim in your—glitter in your eye?  Why would you like the idea of a—because it would moderate the government? 

PERLE:  Well, the idea for those of us who wanted to see Saddam‘s regime eliminated was that it should be replaced by representative government.  But the monarchy, a constitutional monarchy, might well have provided historical continuity as one made the transition to democracy.

MATTHEWS:  But, in 1996, you weren‘t talking about democracy in Iraq. 

You were talking about the monarchy—a monarchy restored. 

PERLE:  No, no, no, not an unconstitutional monarchy.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, a constitutional monarchy.  That was implied in your notion. 

PERLE:  Absolutely. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Let me ask you, in ‘98, when you signed, along with a lot of other neoconservatives, this case for military action against Saddam, were you thinking then about WMD?  Was WMD part of your thinking, that he had it?  I am trying to figure out why we went to war.  Was it WMD that didn‘t exist or was it ideology? 

PERLE:  WMD was certainly a concern.  He had them. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

PERLE:  Exactly when he ceased to have them could not be known, was be known. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re the biggest thinker in this concern, this neoconservative cause to get rid of this guy.  What was your biggest concern with when Saddam was there?  What was the argument that you made to yourself that said it was worth some blood, worth some treasure, it had to be done?

PERLE:  Well, Saddam Hussein was a threat to his neighbors.  He had demonstrated that twice with two substantial wars. 

MATTHEWS:  Kuwait and also with Iran. 

PERLE:  He was a bloody dictator who had killed hundreds of thousands of people.  He hated the United States.  And the effort to contain him could not carry on, in my view.  It couldn‘t carry on because it was losing support. 

MATTHEWS:  The sanctions were breaking. 

PERLE:  They were being massively violated.  And much of the world had come to believe that we were responsible for the death of innocent Iraqis as a result of the sanctions. 

MATTHEWS:  I know that, the food, the starvation. 

Did you in your heart of hearts believe he had a nuclear program? 

PERLE:  Oh, yes, I believe he was working on a nuclear program. 

Absolutely.  And there was...

MATTHEWS:  Why did you believe that? 

PERLE:  Because there was a lot of evidence.  And he didn‘t disabuse us of any incorrect information we may have had. 

Chris, if you say to someone, we‘re going to come and destroy your regime, but if you can demonstrate that you don‘t have weapons of mass destruction, we won‘t destroy your regime, and he makes no effort. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  But you remember you said at the time, no matter how many, no matter how many inspections were held, no matter how long the inspectors were in there, Richard, my friend, you said you wouldn‘t believe the inspectors.  It wouldn‘t be able to prove a negative, that he didn‘t have it. 

PERLE:  If Saddam was not cooperating. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

PERLE:  He couldn‘t have documented—in theory, anyway, he could have documented the destruction of these things.  But he chose not to do so. 

MATTHEWS:  He could have come forward with a clipboard with some notes on it and proved to you to your satisfaction he had no weapons of mass destruction. 

PERLE:  He could have said, this is what we had.  These were the inventories that the U.N. reported. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

PERLE:  These are the dates on which these materials were destroyed. 

You can interview the people who carried it out.

MATTHEWS:  And you would have believed that?  And you would have believed him? 

PERLE:  Well, it would have taken some intensive forensic work, but we could have established the truth under those circumstances. 

MATTHEWS:  And you would have accepted the need not to go to war then?

PERLE:  Well, I was in favor of bringing him down in any case.  So...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You‘re an honest man.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, Richard Perle.  He will not be stopped

by fact-checking.  Anyway, he had another reason.

We‘re—what was the big reason to go to war with Iraq, the No. 1 reason, strategic? 

PERLE:  He was a continuing strategic threat because of his ability to dominate that region of the world.  And we were losing the containment. 

MATTHEWS:  Our friends and our oil.  OK, thank you.

PERLE:  Not the oil. 

MATTHEWS:  Not the oil.

PERLE:  We buy oil.  We don‘t...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Coming up, we‘ll have more on this.  Has Iraq become a breeding ground for terrorists?  More on that from U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher from California, “The Washington Post”‘s Dana Priest, and former defense intelligence officer Patrick Lang.  They are all going to be here. 

And later, comedienne and Democratic activist Whoopi Goldberg, she is going to be joining us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, has America‘s war with Iraq turned that country into a breeding ground for terrorists?

HARDBALL returns after this.

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back. 

More now on that National Intelligence Council report and its predictions for Iraq.  U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California, is a senior member of International Relations Committee of the House.  He‘s a member of the Subcommittee, as well, on International Terrorism.  Patrick Lang is president of the consulting firm Global Resources Group and a former defense intelligence officer for the Middle East.  And Dana Priest, NBC analyst and national intelligence reporter for “The Washington Post,” wrote the report in today‘s paper. 

Dana, you start. 

What is new here about the arrival of and the existence of terrorists, international terrorists, in Iraq? 

DANA PRIEST, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, the National Intelligence Council predicts in their report that it‘s a breeding ground for a whole new generation of al Qaeda and other terrorists, who will actually replace those that were trained in Afghanistan.

But, really, the significance of what they were trying to say came out in their comments to the media yesterday during a rare news conference, where they started putting it all in the present tense and where the national intelligence officer for transnational threats said Iraq is providing the training ground.  It is providing the recruiting ground.  It is providing what Afghanistan used to, in a sense, a safe haven.

Out of the chaos of Iraq, people are learning to be professional terrorists.  And they will replace the al Qaeda-trained terrorists in the next generation, when, if they‘re not killed, they go home and are able to propagate terrorism in a more professional, if you will, manner, because they‘ve had this on-the-ground, gruesome as it is, on-the-ground training through their experience in Iraq. 

(CROSSTALK)  

PRIEST:  And that is what is the news. 

And, by the way, this was a report put together by 1,000 experts.  And those conclusions on Iraq is what you hear among the experts and terrorism around the world right now.  It has become the consensus point of view. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But, Dana, we just heard from Richard Perle, probably the most well-known supporter of the war against Saddam Hussein, an extremely influential voice in the city.  He denies the report completely.  He says these people are basically Baathists that are shooting at our soldiers over there and at the Iraqi nationals trying to put together a government. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If you remove the threat, you don‘t have to worry about the outside people.

PRIEST:  If Richard Perle knows who the insurgents are, he should tell the U.S. military and the CIA, because the fact is, they haven‘t figured it out yet.  And they have the courage enough to say that, that this insurgency is a combination of different factions moving together some times and not at others. 

And that is why it‘s so hard to defeat.  So, he might disagree with it.  He might have his own information, but he hasn‘t shared it with the people who are trying to defeat the insurgents now. 

MATTHEWS:  Patrick Lang, I asked before.  I‘m trying to bring this in simple terms.  During World War II, we knew we were fighting the Italians, the Germans, and Japanese.  Give me the composition.  When we kill an insurgent or somebody who has been shooting at us, can‘t you determine by his body and what kind of I.D. he‘s got on him what country he is from?  Is it that hard?

PATRICK LANG, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Oh, no.  You can look at these people and found out if they are Iraqis or non-Iraqis.  And everything I know about the insurgency thus far indicates to me that it is about 95 percent Iraqis, mostly... 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what is this report telling you, then?  I thought it says international haven for terrorists. 

LANG:  I know.  I know. 

But what they‘re saying there is, is that the insurgency itself, the process of fighting us, is creating new jihadis.

PRIEST:  Right. 

LANG:  As local Islamists become more trained and more enthusiastic, and that these people will constitute a further and more widespread threat in the future, since the jihadi movement is not just al Qaeda.  It is a movement.  It is a movement of ideas. 

MATTHEWS:  Iraqis or non-Iraqis? 

PRIEST:  Non. 

LANG:  Non. 

These guys out of Iraq will, in the end, are likely, a certain number of them, to join groups that will act internationally on the jihadi program. 

MATTHEWS:  Is our presence in the country generating the recruitment of more terrorists? 

LANG:  Of course it is, because what is going on is a revolt of Sunni Arabs against our presence and against the idea that the Shia Arabs are going to take over the country.  And so the longer we‘re there supporting the idea of this new government, the more these people are being generated. 

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Rohrabacher, how do you see the dynamic here?  is it—what is the chicken-and-egg answer, as far as you are concerned?  Were the terrorists there before we got there?  Did they become terrorists because we got there? 

(CROSSTALK)

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER ®, CALIFORNIA:   Well, let‘s note this, that they‘re comparing this to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan.  The mujahedeen got their big boost because they defeated the Soviet Union. 

This means that, even if their reported success is correct, it means that we should be ever more vigilant to win the fight in Iraq.  And what the president is doing is absolutely correct. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you Congressman, do you think there are more terrorists in Iraq now than when we started? 

ROHRABACHER:  I think that we are coming up to a deadline and it means there is an election. 

Once that election happens, the terrorists know that there will be a whole new way, a whole new dynamic for us at play in Iraq.  They‘re trying everything they can do to stop that.  That same dynamic, of course, will be a whole new concept is in the Muslim world, which is what we‘re fighting for.  And that is, radical Islam is not the only way of the future, but democracy is the way of the future.  And those who believe in democracy will defeat the terrorist radical Islamists. 

That‘s the message we have to get out.  And by backing down—look, this argument against us being in there because it‘s going to give experience to terrorists and radical Islamists is like saying, we shouldn‘t have fought the German army because it would give combat experience to the German soldiers.  That is ridiculous. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Dana.

PRIEST:  The report really tries not to weigh in about whether Iraq was a good idea or not.  It‘s just simply trying to describe what everybody has to agree is an unintended consequence, which is, because it has become a magnet, because U.S. forces are there, these people get the training now.

MATTHEWS:  You know what?  I‘m getting more confused.

Dana, you just heard the Congressman Rohrabacher say it‘s Islamists we‘re fighting, jihadists.  These are the people who die for their religion in a distorted form.  You just heard Patrick Lang say it was basically Iraqis, Sunni Iraqis who don‘t like us being there.  Then you had Richard Perle on the show earlier saying, oh, that these are all Baathists.  Who are they that are killing our men over there and women? 

PRIEST:  Well, they are all of the above.  And that is why it‘s so hard.  They are making alliances with each other.  They have different agendas, except they are united behind defeating the United States.  There is a portion of Baathists.  There is a portion of just disenfranchised, angry Iraqis.  And there is portion of foreign fighters. 

They do not have a wiring diagram and a hierarchy that is easily found out about, easily exploited, easily preempted.  And that is why the military hasn‘t done it yet. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re coming back in just a moment with Dana Priest of “The Washington Post,” Patrick Lang, and U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher when we come back.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California.  He‘s a Republican.  He‘s on the International Affairs Committee.  And “The Washington Post”‘s Dana Priest, who is doing all the reporting on this intelligence gathering, and Patrick Lang, who is a consultant on this field and used to work for DIA.

Just to go around the room one more time, so people know where we‘re starting from, you, sir, Mr. Lang, believe the people killing our Americans and setting those IED mines over there are who? 

LANG:  Are overwhelmingly Iraqis, Sunni Arabs who are resisting the Shia takeover. 

MATTHEWS:  Not necessarily part of the old Baathist government?

LANG:  Not necessarily, no.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Congressman Rohrabacher, who do you believe when you look at the situation over there are the people shooting and killing Americans? 

ROHRABACHER:  Well, it‘s a coalition.  They are using people who are the former Baathists as their basically storm troopers.  But they‘re being supported by radical Islamists from around the world. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Third, Dana, who do you see shooting—you‘re the reporter here.  Who is shooting at us and killing us every day when we look at those casualty figures? 

PRIEST:  Well, it is an amalgam of all of them who have tactical alliances some day and not the other days.  They—everywhere from terrorists who are organized when they come in, to gangs who are upset about the U.S. presence. 

I spoke recently to an Army officer just about heading over to Iraq in the next week and asked him, what have they told you about the insurgency?  And he said, they just don‘t know much.  They have half-a-dozen—or, rather, three dozen names of former Baath leaders that they would like to catch.  They don‘t even have photos for some of them.  And so they really don‘t want to know who they are fighting against, by and large, nor how they connect.  And, partly, that‘s because they connect some times and not other times.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s assume there is an amalgam of enemies facing us out there in the streets of Baghdad, Sunni Triangle, especially around there. 

We have jihadists, religious zealots who have come in from other parts of the country or that world—or from that country, remnants of the old regime of Saddam Hussein, the Baathists, and just nationalists who are mad because we kicked down their door the night before.  Let‘s imagine all three. 

Dana, you first.  What‘s the best chance we have of neutralizing those forces allayed against us right now—arrayed against us in the next year?  Do we have a chance of beating any of them? 

PRIEST:  Well, over the next year, it is to internationalize the presence there at the same—because we are the ones that are in part the brunt of the hostility among the Iraqis.  Whether you agree with that or not, that‘s there, but also to continue to train the Iraqi force. 

That is going to be incredibly difficult.  Everybody already admits that. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

PRIEST:  And so there is some discussion about whether you pull out, whether the presence is so inflammatory that you cannot help—you are not helping it by being there in the large numbers that you are.  Richard Armitage said that today in an interview on NPR, for example.

MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘re going to come right back. 

My first question to Congressman Rohrabacher is, should we keep our big force in there of about 150,000 people, keep fighting those people and try to wear down all the enemies arrayed against us? 

We will be right back to talk about the future of the military operation and our survivability over there in Iraq.  Back in a moment. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re back with U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California.  He‘s on the International Affairs Committee.  Former defense intelligence officer Patrick Lang , and “The Washington Post”‘s Dana Priest. 

Congressman Rohrabacher, as I promised, I want your answer.  We have got 150,000 people over there fighting against the enemy.  What do you think we have to do to that force level over the next year? 

ROHRABACHER:  Well, first, we keep the force level the same as it is today, until it‘s no longer needed at that level.  We should be building the strength of the Iraqi army and the Iraqi military, so they can be taking over, not the French or the Germans or the U.N., but the Iraqi people themselves. 

Then, on top of that, we must go after the funding.  There is still a lot of evidence that the funding for this insurgency is coming from outside.  And we have to go for the leadership and find out who the leaders are.  And we‘ve got to kill them.  And that‘s what it‘s all about. 

MATTHEWS:  Wherever they are?

ROHRABACHER:  Wherever they are in the world. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you say—then you support this latest discussion which talks about going into Syria, for example, and targeting—the way the Israelis have done a couple of times—targeted enemies outside the country and nailed them?

ROHRABACHER:  Absolutely.  Absolutely. 

We—remember, the person who has been responsible and claimed responsibility for these beheadings and all of these monstrous crimes against innocent or, let‘s say, helpless people is some Jordanian Islamic radical who is not even an Iraqi and he‘s over there doing this stuff.  So, if they have that type of international involvement, we‘ve got to make sure we cut off the money and cut off the money the leadership.

MATTHEWS:  Patrick Lang.

LANG:  Well, I‘m not against doing any of those things, although the fact that Zarqawi came from Zarka in Jordan is not a big thing.

But, in fact, we have to remember, this is a political struggle between the three main blocs in Iraq.  And until we get the division of power right between these groups, the war of the Sunni Arabs against the government is going to continue, no matter how effectively we fight them. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, suppose we do everything right?  Suppose we have an election where there‘s some Sunni turnout at the end of this month and during the course of putting together a Constitution.  We do everything we can to make sure that, even though the Sunnis didn‘t participate, that they are represented in the new form of government.  Then you get a lot more participation by Sunnis hopefully come December.  I am trying to be rosy here.  Does that help bring down the insurgency, Patrick? 

(CROSSTALK)

LANG:  No, I think it does. 

If you start to get this right, so the Sunni Arabs feel that they are not being—going to become subservient to the Shia population in the new setup.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

LANG:  Then the support for the insurgents will begin to disappear. 

MATTHEWS:  Dana, do you think that is the U.S. policy, to try to go in that direction, building participation through this year toward a stronger participation by all parties come next December? 

PRIEST:  Oh, absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Followed by a stronger government.

PRIEST:  Well, that is what they‘re trying now, and they are hampered in part by this—well, they are hampered in large measure by the security situation. 

Or, you know, you don‘t even have names on the ballots.  You have party affiliations.  You have a slate.  But you don‘t have names, because people are so worried about being assassinated.  And the other thing the U.S. government is doing right now is trying to work with the neighboring Sunni regimes—and there are many of them in the area, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt—to try to put pressure on the Sunnis to participate and on the Shia, who are going to be the majority, to reach out to the Sunnis afterwards to try to pull them into a government anyway. 

And that‘s the best political hope.  It‘s the best political strategy.  But, on top of that, as a big weight is the security situation, where a lot of people cannot participate as they would like to.  And there are not poll monitors and election workers.  And our campaign to get people—the United States‘ campaign to get people involved in the elections really is now a TV campaign that just tries to get out the vote.  And that is a very restricted sort of support for it. 

MATTHEWS:  Dana, you first. 

If this were a sports event—I‘m just trying to use language everybody can understand, even you. 

PRIEST:  Uh-oh.

MATTHEWS:  Even me. 

PRIEST:  I don‘t know. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s imagine this is an NFL game and we‘re at halftime.  Who‘s winning?  Are we winning or are they winning, the other side that wants us out of there, wants us humiliated?

PRIEST:  No, we are not winning, unfortunately.  Oh, boy.  If I try an analogy, it won‘t work.  But this insurgency has grown to proportions that were just unbelievably surprising.  That is why they are not prepared for it. 

The nature of it is so unconventional that it is hard to fight.  And, no, it is not something that you could say the United States is winning at this point. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

Congressman, who do you think is—well, you know.  You‘re covering this.  You have oversight.  Are we winning or losing the battle for Iraq? 

ROHRABACHER:  Well, first of all, it‘s not whether we‘re winning.  It is whether the Iraqi people are winning. 

And the Iraqi people, with our help, are going to win their freedom.  And the fact that our president, with all this criticism and backbiting that he‘s had to go through, has stuck to his guns and said we‘re going to have that election, once the election happens, it will change the whole dynamics.

I agree, the political fight is certainly as important as the military fight.  And we are well on the way to winning the political fight. 

MATTHEWS:  Patrick? 

LANG:  No, we‘re not winning at all at this point.  And we have to remember...

MATTHEWS:  Are we losing? 

LANG:  At this point, we are losing, in fact. 

And what we have to remember now is that, if we don‘t redress the grievances of the Sunni Arabs in this country, this war will go on forever, because they are a fighting people and they‘re not going to give up easily. 

MATTHEWS:  I think that is the challenge, bring everybody in, especially the Sunni.  The Kurds will be happy where they are.  And the Shia are going to win.  They‘re going to be happy.

Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California, Patrick Lang, and Dana Priest of “The Washington Post,” who reported this story on the front page today.

Coming up, activist and liberal Democratic activist Whoopi Goldberg is going to be here. 

And this Sunday at 9:00 Eastern, join Tom Brokaw and myself for a look back at over four decades of inaugurations in a special program.  And I‘m very proud of it, “Picking Our Presidents: Leaders and Legacies.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR:  The new president of the United States, George Walker Bush, with his father. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, there he is controlling his emotions.  You can see that.  And...

BROKAW:  Pretty emotional family, the Bushes are.  And people forget that about them.  This president tears up.  His father certainly does.  Barbara I don‘t think does a lot. 

(LAUGHTER)

BROKAW:  I mean, they count on her to be the enforcer in the family.  But, my God, what a moment.  You can‘t underestimate the tenacity in the political arena of this Bush family. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s Tom Brokaw back on MSNBC with me for “Picking Our Presidents: Leaders and Legacies” this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, actress and activist Whoopi Goldberg sounds off on President Bush and what red state America doesn‘t get about show business.

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Academy Award-winning actress, comedienne and Democratic activist Whoopi Goldberg stars in the new animated movie “Racing Stripes,” which opens today across the country. 

Whoopi, thank you very much for joining us. 

Let‘s get it straight.  You have got a one-person act going on Broadway right now.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, ACTRESS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve got a play on Broadway.  By the way, is there any blue material in that program, if we take the kids? 

GOLDBERG:  I would call it more aqua. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

GOLDBERG:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  So, it‘s sort of R-rated, but not the other one.  OK.

GOLDBERG:  No.  It‘s not the other one. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask about the movie “Racing Stripes.”  You play a zebra, right? 

GOLDBERG:  No, I‘m an old goat. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Oh, you‘re the old goat? 

GOLDBERG:  I‘m the old goat.

MATTHEWS:  But it‘s about a zebra, right?

GOLDBERG:  It‘s about a zebra who wants to be a racing horse. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, well, that‘s fair enough. 

Let‘s talk about something more to the point, which is your political role.  I have been in this situation, so I sympathize with it.  You said something to a crowd or you didn‘t say something, and it became the big issue of Hollywood and its role in the Democratic fight for the presidency last time.  What is your recollection of what it‘s all about? 

GOLDBERG:  Well, I kind of always thought it was all about people being able to express an opinion. 

I have been—I did nothing different than what I normally do, but it‘s funny, because it‘s the one time when I didn‘t actually say anything rude or nasty or ugly.  I was just actually doing a play on words. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, that double-entendre on the president‘s name...

GOLDBERG:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... caused some people to believe that that was gross material. 

GOLDBERG:  Well, it would have been nice if people would have actually been able to see what I said or had it been written down somewhere, so they could make a really smart opinion about what it was.  But it was much more interesting to sort of say what people would think that I would say, you know.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Well, this show is called HARDBALL, Whoopi.  What did you say? 

GOLDBERG:  Oh, Chris, do you really want to know? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GOLDBERG:  I said that I loved bush and that someone was giving bush a bad name.  You want the rest of it?

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GOLDBERG:  I said, I think it‘s time for bush to be in its rightful place, and I don‘t mean the White House. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

GOLDBERG:  That‘s pretty much it. 

MATTHEWS:  I get it.  Let me—and you think that was OK? 

GOLDBERG:  For a comedian, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

GOLDBERG:  If you had said it, it would probably be wrong.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

GOLDBERG:  But this is what I do for a living.  And it‘s demonstrated time and time again, when I had my own show, when I took the president to task all the time, as I‘ve done with all the presidents since Reagan. 

MATTHEWS:  But, you know, Hollywood people—you remember when Gary Hart...

GOLDBERG:  Wait.  Wait.  Don‘t call me a Hollywood person.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  New York, Broadway person.

GOLDBERG:  I don‘t live in Hollywood. 

Yes, I‘m a performer. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

MATTHEWS:  A performer.

GOLDBERG:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you this.  Remember, Gary Hart got in trouble?  He was out in California speaking to a gay group and he was making fun of New Jersey, saying, I‘m not back at some solid waste dump in New Jersey.  Well, somebody was in the room, I guess, from New Jersey or something. 

It‘s this problem of being in one room talking to one setting of people and having it bounce out and sounding totally different when it gets outside.  But...

GOLDBERG:  Well, you have to know that when you take yourself to an event or something that is against what you particularly believe, you‘re going to hear things that aren‘t going to be the kind of things you want to hear. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GOLDBERG:  So, listen, this was a really organized, as this party has been all along, a really tightly organized thing to present an idea that says these people feel like this. 

No one can doubt that my belief in this country is as strong as it‘s ever been.  No one can doubt that my commitment to the country is strong.  No one can doubt that I have very high family values, because I have a very great family.  So, I don‘t buy into any of that stuff, that people who make their living as actors or whatever don‘t have any idea about what the middle of the country is thinking, because it‘s not true. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do people in Hollywood—you have never said it.  I know you are like me.  You like this—love this place, obviously.

But there are Hollywood people that seem to inevitably say, if we lose this election, if Kerry loses in this case, I‘m leaving.  I‘m going to Australia.  I‘m going to London.  Why do people do that? 

GOLDBERG:  You know why they do it?  MATTHEWS:  Why? 

GOLDBERG:  Because you get the feeling, as we‘ve seen—I mean, look at what happened to Linda Ronstadt.  Linda Ronstadt said she liked a movie.  And the people who came to see her went berserk. 

They have taken to task many people for saying how they feel about different situations in the country.  And the general feeling, I think, with a lot of people who are outspoken about what they think and feel...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GOLDBERG:  ... is the idea that, somehow, we‘re going to be shut down, that it‘s no longer the American way to be able to express dissonance against your country, against the policies. 

And that‘s always been one of the great things that we have been able to do, is to say what we feel or what we think without fear of reprisal from the government.  And it‘s—we‘ve gotten to a place in the country where people are not sure that that‘s still the case. 

Now, you know, I understand where people are coming from.  I understand a lot of people have strong feelings about the country, but the idea is that, in this country, we‘re allowed to express them.  This is not Iraq.  This is not Iran or any other country where you‘re in a repressed mode.  Or at least that‘s the America I remember. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, who do you—this argument you are making is profound.  But when you look at the people you get in a car radio driving to work any day of the week, Limbaugh is on.  Gordon Liddy is on.  Laura Ingraham is on.  Joe Scarborough is on.  He‘s one of my people here on the network here at nighttime.

They go right to war with Hollywood, the liberals in Hollywood.  And they seem to almost make a living on it, going against you guys.  Who is winning the fight? 

GOLDBERG:  I don‘t know, man.  You know, it‘s all entertainment. 

I don‘t care what they say.  It‘s all entertainment.  And it makes perfect sense for one side who‘s a little bit stronger to take to task the other. 

MATTHEWS:  I got you. 

GOLDBERG:  You know, so I don‘t take a lot of it seriously, because a lot of these folks count famous people as their friends. 

So, you can have these kind of discussions and not have the same opinions and still be patriotic.  You can still be a person who believes deeply that our soldiers have been put in harm‘s way and question whether it was the right thing to do, as now we‘ve come to understand that we‘re not looking for these weapons anymore.  But how long did it take? 

So these are discussions that I think are important and smart for the country to have.  I think it‘s very important for us to have this dialogue and keep it going, but without fear.  I don‘t like the discomfort aspect of it all, because I think that is what erodes what America truly is. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s come back.  Thank you very much.

We‘ll be back with Whoopi Goldberg in just a minute to talk about her new movie.  I also want to talk about the Golden Globes this weekend and her bet and in fact her favorites.  And she knows the business, who is going to win this thing. 

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Whoopi Goldberg.  Whoopi, let‘s take a look at “Racing Stripes.”  Here is a scene in which you‘re appearing in as the goat. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “RACING STRIPES”)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Wow.  Oh, what is that?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  That is the only reason for a horse to live, kid. 

It‘s called a race track.

GOLDBERG:  Oh, there‘s more to life than running around in a circle.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Well, maybe to you.  It‘s like this.  Humans race.  Horses race.  There was even a chicken run, but there‘s never been a goat race, ever, ever, ever.  Get the picture, Franny?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Could I race? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  It‘s complicated.  It takes a lot of work to become a racehorse.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  What‘s a racehorse?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  What‘s a racehorse?  They‘re the greatest.  Once a year, there‘s a big race to see who is the best of the best.  By the way, the horses that won every year were the ones that we trained.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Why did you quit? GOLDBERG:  Ixnay on the other-may.  Comprende?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Just say what you mean, Franny.  We haven‘t spoken Latin since the pigs left.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Whoopi, why do they give these New York accents to some of these animals?  I don‘t get it.  What‘s the theory behind the voices?  What‘s the link-up in your voice obviously to the old goat?  And how do they figure out how to give who to who?

GOLDBERG:  I‘m not sure.  I didn‘t know how quite to take it. 

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG:  But I enjoy her, because she‘s kind of fun.  And she‘s an older goat.  And she‘s very smart.  She‘s very full of wisdom.  So—and it was an opportunity to finally get to work with Dustin Hoffman. 

MATTHEWS:  Really?

GOLDBERG:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s great, isn‘t he? 

GOLDBERG:  Yes, he‘s wonderful.

MATTHEWS:  I just met him the other day. 

Let me ask you about Hollywood and politics and show business.  You know, I was at a Barbra Streisand concert a couple years back.  And she asked the audience who had voted Republican or Democrat.  And something—almost half the audience raised their hands enthusiastically and said they had voted for the Republican candidate for president.  She was taken aback by that backstage.  Do Hollywood people realize that people can really like you and really disagree with you? 

GOLDBERG:  I think so.  I believe so. 

But you know what?  It‘s hard to sort of gauge when you‘re looking at it through the eyes of the press, because, quite often, you know, it‘s much more interesting to keep it, you know, dicey. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GOLDBERG:  It‘s much more interesting to make it divisive. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.   

GOLDBERG:  So, I just don‘t—I can‘t tell anymore.  I have a lot of friends who are Republicans and a lot of people who I respect a lot whose ideas on many things differ from mine.  And sometimes, we find that we‘re not so different, you know?

MATTHEWS:  I just think Hollywood people think it‘s more adversarial than it is in terms of their role. 

Paul Newman for years has been a liberal.  And he hasn‘t seemed—he‘s found a way of supporting people like Gene McCarthy, Bobby Kennedy over the years without making any enemies.  My advice to you folks is, go back where you came from, to your homes, to your families, get in the local newspapers, say you feel positively about a candidate, do it warmly and supportively.  Stay in character. 

Don‘t get vicious.  Don‘t get really tough, because it inevitably leaks out that you‘re in there with a bunch of elitist show business people making fun of a Republican.  It just comes off as nasty.  It does. 

GOLDBERG:  Well, I‘m sure that‘s good advice for folks who do that, who do make fun.  But you have to understand that that‘s the business side.  That‘s the part of the business that I‘m in. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re in the cutting-edge part of it.  I know.

GOLDBERG:  I‘m in the cutting-edge business.  I‘m in the comedy business.  And all politicians...

MATTHEWS:  Who is going to win the—who is going to win—who do you think should win the Golden Globes? 

GOLDBERG:  You know just cut me off.  That was just so cold.  That was just cold, Chris Matthews.  All politicians are fair game to people like me. 

The Golden Globes, I would love to see Don Cheadle.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s great.

GOLDBERG:  And Jamie Foxx take it.  I would like to see Thomas Haden Church take best supporting for “Sideways.” 

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG:  I have lots of ideas for best movie, but nobody is really interested in that, because, you know...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I liked “Hotel Rwanda,” because it‘s big picture.  And Cheadle seems like an African to me.  His accent is—I spent two years in the Peace Corps in Africa.  That accent is for real.  He‘s got that character down.

He seems like an African.  I don‘t know how.  It‘s so personal, how he does that.  It‘s a great heroic role, of course. 

GOLDBERG:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know, that‘s the art.  That‘s the art.  That‘s why not everybody can do it.  Despite what you may believe, not everybody can actually do this when you get to the artistic... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I know.  And Jamie Foxx really seems blind. 

GOLDBERG:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And it‘s amazing.

GOLDBERG:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And I know some blind people.  He‘s got it.  He‘s great. 

Anyway, thank you, Whoopi. 

GOLDBERG:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m your biggest fan.  Let everybody hear that, OK? 

GOLDBERG:  OK. 

MATTHEWS:  Whoopi Goldberg.  She can say what she wants. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Join us again Monday night at 7:00 Eastern for the HARDBALL war council with Generals Wayne Downing and Montgomery Meigs. 

And this Saturday night at 8:00 p.m., a very special night here on MSNBC and across all the NBC Universal networks.  We‘ll broadcast a live two-hour benefit concert for victims of the Asian tsunami.  Madonna, Tom Hanks, Diana Ross and Elton John are some of the stars scheduled to appear.  And I will be there, too.  And all the money raised will go the American Red Cross in support of tsunami relief.

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

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant,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 Voxant, 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

,