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NBC News MEET THE PRESS
Sunday, May 8, 2005
Guests: Gary Schroen, former senior CIA agent, Author of “First In: How seven CIA officers opened the war on terrorism in Afghanistan;”
James Carville, political strategist;
Mary Matalin, political strategist
Moderator: Tim Russert, NBC News
MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: This man, the third ranking al-Qaeda leader, Abu Faraj Al-Libbi, is captured. Why is this man, Osama bin Laden, still on the loose?
And will this man, North Korea's Kim Jong Il, sell nuclear weapons to al-Qaeda or use them to blackmail the world?
With us, Gary Schroen, a CIA officer for 32 years and author of "First In: An Insider's Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan."
Then: Social Security, John Bolton, Tom DeLay, the Bush second term and the field for 2008. With us for the Democrats, James Carville; for the Republicans, Mary Matalin. The political odd couple square off.
But first, the war on terrorism through the eyes of CIA veteran, now author, Gary Schroen.
Mr. Schroen, welcome to MEET THE PRESS.
MR. GARY SCHROEN: Thank you very much, sir.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you this photograph. Here is Abu Faraj Al-Libbi, captured, described as the number-three man in al-Qaeda. How significant was his arrest?
MR. SCHROEN: I think it's significant in two ways, Tim. He is the number-three guy. He replaced Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was a mastermind of many of the attacks. His arrest will significantly damage the al-Qaeda organization. It's important in a second way because it demonstrates that the Pakistani government and military are willing to go into tribal areas north of Peshawar, where it's most likely that bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahari are hiding.
MR. RUSSERT: Number one and two.
MR. SCHROEN: Number one and two.
MR. RUSSERT: Richard Clark, who headed up counterterrorism for the White House said on Wednesday, "I think the original al Qaeda, the people who attacked us on September 11th, really doesn't exist any more as a threat, as an organization. But there are other organizations out there related to the original al Qaeda, that pose a significant threat."
Do you agree with that?
MR. SCHROEN: To some extent. Bin Laden is isolated, but I believe that he is able to still influence and communicate with his organization. It's true that terrorism has been globalized now in a way after 9/11 that's significant. But bin Laden remains a critical figure for us to focus on and to capture.
MR. RUSSERT: And direct the operation?
MR. SCHROEN: I don't know if he is actually directing it, but his spiritual guidance and his encouragement certainly adds emphasis to attacks around the world and groups around the world operating against us.
MR. RUSSERT: On September 1, 2001, you began a 90-day phaseout retiring from the CIA. Then came the horrific day of 8:46 AM, September 11, 2001. All our lives changed. You were asked to stay on at the CIA. On September 13th, you were summoned to the office of Cofer Black, the head of counterterrorism for the CIA. What did he tell you? What was your mission?
MR. SCHROEN: The mission was to--the first part of it was to go in and link up with the Northern Alliance, formerly headed by Ahmed Al-Massoud, and to win their confidence and their agreement to cooperate militarily with us. They were the only armed force on the ground in Afghanistan opposing the Taliban. The second part of it was, once the Taliban were broken, to attack the al-Qaeda organization, find bin Laden and his senior lieutenants and kill them.
MR. RUSSERT: Kill them?
MR. SCHROEN: Kill them.
MR. RUSSERT: Wasn't it illegal for us to kill foreign leaders?
MR. SCHROEN: I don't think at that point that the--I think the administration had gotten to the point where bin Laden and his guys were fair game.
MR. RUSSERT: As part of war?
MR. SCHROEN: As part of war.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Black gave you specific instructions on what he wanted you to bring home.
MR. SCHROEN: That's true. He did ask that once we got bin Laden and killed him, that we send his head back in a cardboard box on dry ice so that he could take it down and show the president.
MR. RUSSERT: Where would you find the dry ice in Afghanistan?
MR. SCHROEN: That's what I mentioned to him. I said, "Cofer, I think that I can come up with pikes to put the heads of the lieutenants on," which is the second part of what he wanted done. "Dry ice, we'll have to improvise."
MR. RUSSERT: Why couldn't you find bin Laden?
MR. SCHROEN: Initially, when we entered Afghanistan, I don't think there was a real clear view back in Washington or in the field as to what we would face there. We were actually behind the lines. We were deep into Afghanistan about 30 miles from the Taliban front lines hosted by this armed force, and it was almost impossible for even Massoud and his organization to operate beyond the limited area that they controlled.
MR. RUSSERT: And so it's just impossible to penetrate.
MR. SCHROEN: At that point, it was and it became very clear to actually go after the al-Qaeda and to get at bin Laden we would have to defeat the Taliban militarily and take them out of the equation.
MR. RUSSERT: Now, you brought with you $3 million in American cash, 100-dollar bills.
MR. SCHROEN: That's correct.
MR. RUSSERT: How many suitcases is that for that amount of money?
MR. SCHROEN: One very big, very heavy suitcase.
MR. RUSSERT: And what did you do with the money?
MR. SCHROEN: We basically used it to assure the leadership of the Northern Alliance that we were serious, that we dispensed the money to allow them to buy equipment, materiel and other things that they needed to bring their forces up to full combat strength.
MR. RUSSERT: We had read at that time that John Walker Lindh, this young American teenager, in effect...
MR. SCHROEN: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: ...had become part of al-Qaeda.
MR. SCHROEN: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: And the question I asked then and I ask you now is how could an American teenager infiltrate al-Qaeda and not the CIA?
MR. SCHROEN: Well, that question's been asked a lot in discussions: Why don't we infiltrate? But if you actually look at what John Walker Lindh was and where he was at, he was a foot soldier. He was never going to be trusted to do anything other than carry a gun and carry out the most basic orders. He was certainly never going to sit in a council with bin Laden or his senior lieutenants. And in the end, he ended up standing in chest-deep ice cold water in the basement of Qala Jangi prison, a fort there, fighting it out with American forces.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to your book and talk about Mr. bin Laden. "Usama bin Ladin and Ayman al-Zawahiri are hiding somewhere in the tribal areas of Pakistan. They are undoubtedly being assisted by tribal leaders who dislike the Pakistani government and who enjoy the financial rewards bin Ladin brings to them. Winning full Pakistani military cooperation, refocusing military strategy by U.S. forces on the Afghan side of the border, bringing back Special Operations units, and beefing up the number of CIA teams in the border areas would allow for coordinated military operations on both sides of the border. This is the only way to locate and eliminate bin Ladin ..."
Why aren't we doing what you recommend?
MR. SCHROEN: We're--since that was written, I think we've started to pull--there are more Special Forces troops there. We are still shorthanded as far as CIA officers on the ground in those border areas. Again, the demand on personnel, both special operations and military, and CIA in Iraq are huge and it makes staffing there difficult.
We are able to operate effectively on the Afghan side of the border. The problem rests in Pakistan. The Pakistanis' military and intelligence service is very reluctant to go into the tribal areas north of Peshawar, Bashir, Derr and Momad agency. I have a long felt personally that that was where bin Laden went to after they escaped--he and Zawahiri escaped from Tora Bora.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that we know where bin Laden is right now?
MR. SCHROEN: No, we don't know where he's at other than the general area.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you think the Pakistanis have a pretty good sense where he is?
MR. SCHROEN: I think within the military and ISID at a a certain level, they certainly do now where he is.
MR. RUSSERT: ISID being Pakistani Intelligence...
MR. SCHROEN: Pakistani Intelligence Service.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you the map of the border area. It's the border 1,640 miles long, the mountainous region about the size of the country of Ireland. And you think up there in the upper right hand corner?
MR. SCHROEN: Upper right hand corner, there is a little--you know, the little jot out there is where Peshawar is, and north of that is a rugged area. It's traditionally been the most hostile area to any kind of government control. The tribals there have made centuries of living smuggling and it's one of the main drug trafficking routes in and out of the country. And bin Laden is very respected and liked in that area.
MR. RUSSERT: And they're protecting him?
MR. SCHROEN: I think they're protecting him for a number of reasons. He is considered to be a Robin Hood-like figure. He has made a, you know, mockery of our efforts to catch him for all these years, and he probably has a nice checkbook that he is writing sizeable amounts of checks for these people hosting him.
MR. RUSSERT: Tom Brokaw interviewed General Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan and talked about capturing bin Laden. Let me show you part of that interview.
(Videotape, May 4, 2005):
MR. TOM BROKAW: Is there a danger for you, personally, and for your government, that if Pakistani troops take down Osama bin Laden in what would probably be a difficult struggle, it would cause an uprising in some of the cities in your country, and in the refugee camps?
GEN. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: Well, there would be effects, but we shouldn't be so naive as to capture him and then go around telling everyone and going around with him everywhere. I mean, there is a method of dealing with the situation.
MR. BROKAW: But it would be delicate, wouldn't it?
GEN. MUSHARRAF: It would be certainly delicate, not only here but even in the Islamic world.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Musharraf: "It would be delicate here in Pakistan and the Islamic world." Is there a distinct possibility that Mr. Musharraf is afraid of capturing Osama bin Laden because he would fear that his government would be toppled?
MR. SCHROEN: In my opinion, that's a real likelihood, that the Pakistanis have cooperated pretty wholesomely in helping us capture a lot of al-Qaeda officers up to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and this-- the capture of Al-Libbi recently is a significant event but to take on bin Laden, there would be an uproar within that country and around the Islamic world that would really cause the foundations of the Pakistani government to be shaken.
MR. RUSSERT: After Al-Libbi was captured, some citizens in the town told NBC News: "If we had known it was him, we would have protected him."
MR. SCHROEN: I think that's probably very accurate. And if we were able to find bin Laden, and identify that to the Pakistanis, I would suspect that there would be a great reluctance and probably a refusal to move forward. That's my opinion.
MR. RUSSERT: In 1999, we had located bin Laden at a hunting camp where some Arab princes were also hunting with him. And there was a big discussion, debate whether or not to launch cruise missiles and take out bin Laden. Why didn't we do it?
MR. SCHROEN: The debate came down to the fact that we would be using cruise missiles and that this camp would be undoubtedly totally destroyed. There were a number of princes from the United Arab Emirates. This was a camp that was being supported by the UAE government, UAE military; C-130s were supplying these guys with the amenities that they needed. Bin Laden was there. And the debate-- we had the plan, our guys had scoped the camp out, put a beacon down so that we knew it was the exact camp. And then it got into, "Well, what tent does bin Laden sleep in? Where does he eat? Where does he go to the bathroom?" So these kinds of questions dragged on and on for two weeks. And, finally, the administration's decision was not to take the strike because of the collateral damage that would occur.
MR. RUSSERT: This is the Clinton administration?
MR. SCHROEN: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: You're convinced we could have gotten bin Laden then?
MR. SCHROEN: Absolutely. Our guys had eyes on him. Well...
MR. RUSSERT: And the what-ifs. This was in 1999, two years before 2001.
MR. SCHROEN: Exactly. The what-ifs.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to bin Laden and the president's comments on September 17, 2001. Here's George W. Bush.
(Videotape, September 17, 2001):
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I want him--I want justice. And there's an old poster out West, as I recall, that said "Wanted, Dead or Alive."
MR. RUSSERT: In December of 2001, the battle of Tora Bora. This is what you write. "In early 2002, in the immediate aftermath of the battle of Tora Bora and the subsequent escape of Osama bin Laden and his chief lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahari, CIA and specially trained U.S. military Special Operations units began to organize teams in the provincial areas east and south of Kabul, along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan."
You have no doubt that bin Laden escaped at Tora Bora?
MR. SCHROEN: No doubt at all. When the first film--videotape that was made--that he made afterwards shows him that he was holding his left side and was probably wounded there in the battle, but every bit of information we had at the time indicated that he had escaped and moved into the Waziristan area which is south of Peshawar.
MR. RUSSERT: How did he get away?
MR. SCHROEN: We had done--followed the same lead we had taken since September of '01 in defeating the Taliban. We were attacking with U.S. military forces against the al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, and we hired local tribal leaders to guard the escape routes into Pakistan. Unfortunately, many of those people proved to be loyal to bin Laden and sympathizers with the Taliban and they allowed the key guys to escape.
MR. RUSSERT: In the heat of the presidential campaign in 2004, John Kerry as part of his stump speech in effect would say things like this. Let's watch.
(Videotape, October 30, 2004):
SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D-MA): As I have said for two years now, when Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda were cornered in the mountains of Tora Bora, it was wrong to outsource the job of capturing them to Afghan warlords who a week earlier were fighting against us.
MR. RUSSERT: Should we have had more U.S. troops in Afghanistan circling Tora Bora to prevent his escape?
MR. SCHROEN: In hindsight that would have been ideal. We fought a special operations war. It was CIA and Army Green Berets on the ground directing the bombing campaign. It was only late in the campaign that U.S. ground forces came in, and the evolution, I think, simply we didn't take it far enough. If we'd have had one more battle after Tora Bora, we probably would have gotten it right.
MR. RUSSERT: Again, in October of 2004, in the presidential campaign, after John Kerry made those charges, General Tommy Franks offered this observation. "We don't know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001. ...Mr. bin Laden was never within our grasp."
You just disagree with that?
MR. SCHROEN: I absolutely do, yes.
MR. RUSSERT: And President Bush and Vice President Cheney all quoted General Franks, saying: "We don't know if bin Laden was at Tora Bora." You have no doubt.
MR. SCHROEN: I have no doubt that he was there.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn again to your book. "The United States is continuing to pour billions of dollars and sacrifice the lives of American soldiers in order to bring peace and democracy to Iraq. This is being done at the expense of Afghanistan. ... Given the total preoccupation with Iraq, I am not confident that the U.S. government will make the policy adjustments necessary to improve conditions for the success of the democratic experiment in Afghanistan, or refocus diplomatic and military efforts back to the South Asia region in order to capture Osama bin Laden and defeat al-Qa'ida. The opportunity to make these changes exists now; if we fail in these efforts, we do so at our peril."
Are you suggesting--do you believe that Iraq is a distraction, a preoccupation, and it is really limiting our ability to capture Osama bin Laden and secure Afghanistan?
MR. SCHROEN: I absolutely do. Afghanistan gets a distant second on all aspects, whether it's going to be military or aid that's going to be given to the country. Afghanistan is--the elections were successful. There is a beginning of democracy there. It's very fragile. The--but I think the entire population wants peace. It's a matter of how they share the pie. And we could do a lot more to bring that democracy to full birth if we would focus more attention, more money on that country.
MR. RUSSERT: Which is more important, do you believe, to the war on terrorism, Afghanistan or Iraq?
MR. SCHROEN: At this point, unfortunately, the Iraqi situation has gotten so large that it's become a major issue that has to be dealt with. I think, though, that ultimately we owe it to Afghanistan and to ourselves to end this al-Qaeda threat there and defeat the Taliban completely and let that country move forward so it doesn't become a safe haven for terrorism again.
MR. RUSSERT: In October of 2003, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld wrote an internal memo where he was opining about terrorists. And he said, "Today we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?"
Let me just there. That's a pretty interesting question. What do you think?
MR. SCHROEN: I think, unfortunately, the attack on Iraq has caused, really, a sort of insurgent rebirth. I mean, there are a lot of more terrorists out there now. People are--they don't have to take their orders from bin Laden. They see this as an international jihad. And I think it is difficult to measure. I think we probably at this point are barely holding our own.
MR. RUSSERT: Can we win the war on terror without winning the hearts and minds of the Islamic world?
MR. SCHROEN: No. I don't think we can. Part of the problem is that we are not hated by these people because of who we are, but the policies that we follow in the Middle East: "occupation" of Saudi Arabia, our policies in Iraq prior to the war, our support for Israel and all. These are issues that burn deeply within the Islamic world.
MR. RUSSERT: Before you go, I want to take advantage of your expertise on another issue. The Robb- Silverman commission--the president--Chuck Robb and Lawrence Silverman, on weapons of mass destruction not being found in Iraq--added this note: "The [Robb-Silverman WMD] commission made it clear it is concerned about the quality of intelligence on nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea. `The intelligence community knows disturbingly little about the nuclear programs of many of the world's most dangerous actors,' the commission reported. `In some cases, it knows less than it did five or 10 years ago.'"
That's pretty chilling.
MR. SCHROEN: It is, especially when you look at--well, Iran is an area that I know well, and it--I think we probably do know less now than we did a few years ago.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you have any doubt that Iran would like to have nuclear weapons?
MR. SCHROEN: Oh, absolutely. They would. They're the strongest supporters for the Palestinian cause. They support the Hamas and the Hezbollah there. They would like to have a nuclear weapon very, very much.
MR. RUSSERT: If Kim Jong Il in North Korea has six nuclear bombs, what are the possibilities that he would, being starved for money, decide to sell a nuclear weapon to al-Qaeda?
MR. SCHROEN: I'm certainly not an expert on Kim Jong Il, but I think that there would be a really strong possibility that he would consider that at any time, if the offer was right.
MR. RUSSERT: And North Koreans and the Iranians, if, in fact, they begin to possess nuclear weapons that can be detonated, the possibility of blackmail against the world?
MR. SCHROEN: Exactly. It's a frightening scenario.
MR. RUSSERT: Is there anything we can do to stop it?
MR. SCHROEN: We--with the Iranians, we'd have to sort of reinvent our diplomatic approach to them and all, and I think that this administration has started that by dealing with the Europeans. But it's a long, hard road. There are no moderates in Iran, really.
MR. RUSSERT: Is there any possibility militarily for us to stop the production in Iran or North Korea?
MR. SCHROEN: I'm not an expert on that. I would think that would be the worst thing we could do, though. If we want to set back our relations with Iran and send them--the last thing we need to do is attack Iran.
MR. RUSSERT: Before you go, will we ever capture Osama bin Laden?
MR. SCHROEN: I think with the capture of Al-Libbi recently--gives some hope that the Pakistanis will cooperate if we put enough pressure on them, and maybe we end up doing it unilaterally but I think we're going to get him within the next three to four months.
MR. RUSSERT: Three to four months.
MR. SCHROEN: Well, that's my hope.
MR. RUSSERT: From your lips to God's ears. Gary Schroen, we thank you very much, and our condolences on the loss of your mom, Fern, on Friday.
MR. SCHROEN: Oh, thank you very much.
MR. RUSSERT: And coming next, in Washington, there are heated debates about practically everything. Democrat James Carville and his very Republican wife, Mary Matalin, are here on Mother's Day, coming up on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: What is going to happen with John Bolton, Tom DeLay in the field for 2008? We'll ask James Carville and Mary Matalin after this brief station break.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back.
James Carville, Mary Matalin, welcome back both.
Here we go. Let's go to the tape.
MR. JAMES CARVILLE: All right.
MR. RUSSERT: John Bolton, this is George W. Bush's nominee to be ambassador to the United Nations. This was the article of Elisabeth Bumiller, of The New York Times. "Battle on Bolton Nomination Could Wound President Too. The White House is intensifying its campaign to rescue the nomination of John R. Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations, administration officials said, as Republicans close to the West Wing acknowledged that a rejection of Mr. Bolton would be politically damaging for President Bush. ... ...Republican close to the administration also said that a powerful motive for the White House was simply showing strength and an unwillingness to back down, particularly after Colin L. Powell, the former secretary of state who often warred with the hawks, expressed private doubts to Republican senators about Mr. Bolton. `It would mean that Colin Powell had influence to block someone,' said a Republican close to the White House. `It's a troubling sign if the president can't get him confirmed.'"
Is that what this is all about, Mary Matalin, macho politics?
MS. MARY MATALIN: Macho politics. Well, Richard Armitage who is Colin Powell's right-hand man said John Bolton's one of the smartest guys in town. This is not about politics. This is about getting the right appointment in the right place. There is very few people in government who understand better than John Bolton what the primary purpose of the United Nations is, which is global, collective security. That's as was stated its primary charter.
What John Bolton has done has been the president's point person on the only effective collective global security initiation since 9/11 which is the PSI, the Proliferation Security Initiation, which was instrumental in getting Libya to disarm, was instrumental in breaking up A.Q. Khan. He's elevated to the top of the G8 global agenda of non-proliferation issues. That's what the collective global security strategy in the 21st century needs to be and John Bolton's been the point person on that.
Furthermore, he's a highly skilled and accomplished public servant. He's been in four Senate-confirmed positions with three presidents, and finally he is a wonderful man with a generous heart, a great sense of humor. He's quiet and he's a man of humbleness and humility and the John Bolton that's being portrayed in this attack in another instance of nothing, no agenda, just obstructionism by the Democrats, is everything to do with politics on their side and in our side everything to do with getting the best people in the best place in the best policy to assure just not America's security but global peace.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Carville.
MR. CARVILLE: Well, Tim, first of all, Colin Powell is his former boss, has some very serious reservations about this as did so many other people in the State Department, but ultimately it's a nomination fight; these things come out. I think the question Americans look up and says, "Is this really the best we could do for somebody at the U.N.? Is this really the guy that we want making the case..."
MS. MATALIN: Yeah.
MR. CARVILLE: "...for the United States of America? Is this the face of the United States of America we want the world to see?" And I don't think that's what Americans want. I don't think he represents the broad mainstream of what America is in foreign policy and what we want to work with other people. And you're right. I think the administration has got itself into a fight where they're saying, "We have to defend this guy because we're going to look weak politically if he gets through."
My guess is they'll get him through by a vote and the face the United States before the world is not going to be the best that we can have. It's not going to be somebody who the world is going to look up to and say, "You know, this guy is somebody that we can respect. This is somebody that respects our views," and I think that a tragedy it is, that they could have done a lot better than this guy and you can see it, that people that have worked in the State Department, that know him, are coming out of the woodwork with reservations about him. And that's really what this is about. It's not about the Democrats.
MR. RUSSERT: Richard Armitage, the top deputy to Colin Powell, said, "He's one of the smartest men in Washington. It was the president's choice, and I support my president."
MR. CARVILLE: Wow. Give me an endorsement like that from a veteran.
MS. MATALIN: Well, Tim, who is coming...
MR. CARVILLE: He's a smart guy. There's a lot of smart people.
MS. MATALIN: The people that he worked with on policy are supporting him.
MR. CARVILLE: Right.
MS. MATALIN: We're not just defending him. We're very proud of him. This was an affirmative choice. The people who're coming out of the woodwork are avowed, outspoken Bush bashers. The woman that came out of Texas who was chased down the hall, allegedly, which there's no other contemporaneous witnesses, is Mothers Against Bush. See, these are Bush bashers. These are against Bush policies. They're not against the whole policy.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, Mary Matalin, let me ask you one question about this, because it's a serious one. John Bolton, it is alleged, tried to dismiss people who wouldn't agree with his interpretation of intelligence. I think that's a fair way of saying it. At the United Nations, we are going to have to go forward and lay out a case against North Korea, lay out a case against Iran in terms of their nuclear capability based on U.S. intelligence. In light of the problems we had with Iraq and the weapons of mass destruction, for the United States of America, is John Bolton the best person to make that case? Will the world respect him based on the allegations that have been made against him for trying to manipulate intelligence data?
MS. MATALIN: That is a--that--he did not try to manipulate intelligence data. He did not try to dismiss people. He had taken issue with people who lied to him, who barefaced lied to him. Is he's the best person? I will say again there is only one proven collective global security strategy that is working and that's non-proliferation. The point person for that in this administration has been John Bolton.
The effects of the PSI and the non-proliferation efforts are clear. We're taking down, breaking up these networks, we're disarming proliferators. We are stopping what is the greatest threat, by any estimation, and this is what the purpose, from the primary charter, and specifically in the 21st century, is of the United Nations. Furthermore, John Bolton's job is to represent the United States in the United Nations, and that's what he is going to do. And he is the single best person in--not just this administration but having served for three presidents in four Senate-confirmed positions.
MR. CARVILLE: Right. ...(Unintelligible) make the point. The South Korean ambassador that President Bush appointed basically said that Mr. Bolton's facts are just completely wrong. Secondly, I don't know, maybe this administration thinks we've stopped North Korea and Iran cold in their tracks. But they would be about the only people on the face of the Earth that thinks that. And to go back to the point with all of these things that we have before us, if he doesn't have support of the former Republican secretary of state, if the Republican-appointed ambassador to South Korea has problems with this man's veracity, if we have all of these important issues, it seems to me that we could do a lot better than Josh Bolton. There got to be a lot of people in the Republican Party who could do a lot better job than that.
MR. RUSSERT: John Bolton, John Bolton.
MR. CARVILLE: John Bolton.
MS. MATALIN: Josh Bolten, too, though.
MR. RUSSERT: But you believe he will be confirmed, Mr. Carville?
MR. CARVILLE: I tell you what, I'm impressed with--by their ability to twist arms. If I had to guess, I would not guess against them getting enough Republicans to do it.
MS. MATALIN: Let's make another prediction. Not only is he going to be confirmed, he is going to make America proud. He's going to be one of our best ambassadors to the U.N., mark my words.
MR. RUSSERT: Let's turn to another man in the news. Here is Tom DeLay, leaving Marine One, the president's helicopter, a presidential embrace, a show of support for the majority leader of the House of Representatives. Mary Matalin, where do we stand with Tom DeLay?
MS. MATALIN: Well, this is a wonderful Washington parlor game. So what's the charge? He went on trips. Do you know who is the biggest, the most frequent trip takers in Congress, even though there are fewer members? The Democrats. You know who spends more on private trips, even though there are fewer members? The Democrats. So let's take it to the Ethics Committee; let's lay it out. The attack on DeLay has nothing to do with this Washington parlor game. It has everything to do with his effectiveness. He has never lost a whip vote when he did that. He gets things done.
You know, it was four years ago at this time that the president sent to the Hill a comprehensive energy plan, the first one in a generation, and Tom DeLay got it passed in the House, four years ago. Here we are languishing, lo, these many years later. That's--he's effective on all sorts of legislation like that and that's why they want to take him out. It's not about Tom DeLay. It's about obstructing the president's agenda, and it is about what they're always about, which is demonizing. You know, it's a politics of personal destruction, which they've taken to an art form.
MR. CARVILLE: Well, first of all, I think it's a lot more about taking trips. It's about lobbyists paying for trips. It's about this story in the Los Angeles Times about Marianas--about the violence in the Pacific, getting something in return. There was a good David Rogers story in The Wall Street Journal.
The larger question is this. The Democrats have--Congressman Meehan and Congressman Emanuel have a very good ethics reform bill. They ought to just focus on that because DeLay is going to take care of himself and the press is going to keep coming. There's going to be more and more stories. You have The Wall Street Journal editorial page, probably the most rabid right-wing outlet in the United States, saying that the whole DeLay thing is kind of sleazy. You've got many Republicans who are saying this. What the Democrats need to do is just push through and talk about their reform bill. Now, if DeLay is so innocent, why he is telling the Dallas Morning News that he's not sure he will even testify before the Ethics Committee? And I think Democrats just need to keep pushing on that...
MS. MATALIN: It's a witch hunt.
MR. CARVILLE: ...to get him to come forward. It's a Republican House. How can he have a witch hunt in the Republican House?
MS. MATALIN: Because you are. You've got all the old media under attack, you're maligning his character. The Marianas, or whatever those islands, trip is, Democrats went on that. Democrats were paid by these same lobbyists.
MR. CARVILLE: No, no, no, it's these lobbyists that went over there. But at any point...
MS. MATALIN: Which Democrats did the same thing.
MR. CARVILLE: ...Jack Abramoff never paid for a trip for a Democratic congressman, but that's not the largest point. The larger point is the Democrats have to be very aggressive in pushing a pro-reform agenda.
MR. RUSSERT: You sound, Mr. Carville, like you'd like to have Tom DeLay stay there as a poster boy for the 2006 elections.
MR. CARVILLE: You're an astute observer, Mr. Russert. I would not be--I'm kind of pulling...
MS. MATALIN: Well, yes.
MR. CARVILLE: ...for the old boy to hang on a little bit by the, you know, hand.
MS. MATALIN: In the absence of no agenda in the prescribed self-destructive strategy of obstruction, yes...
MR. CARVILLE: I mean, I don't...
MS. MATALIN: ...as long as they can keep attacking DeLay and they don't have to put anything on the table, that fits in...
MR. CARVILLE: The...
MS. MATALIN: ...with their strategy, which really isn't James' strategy. You should not be blamed for the...
MR. CARVILLE: I'm not.
MS. MATALIN: ...self-destructive trajectory your party's on.
MR. CARVILLE: I'm not. I don't think we are on a self-destructive trajectory but I do think--yeah, I do think a very hard pro-reform legislation or strategy is a good start for a strategy for us.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to federal judges. There has been an enormous amount of criticism leveled against federal judges by some very prominent members of the conservative community. Last week Pat Robertson said that the threat from the federal judiciary is more serious than Islamic terrorists who slammed into the World Trade Center. MoveOn.org, a liberal Democratic activist group, has now taken to the airwaves with that quote. Let's watch it and come back and talk a bout it.
(Videotape, MoveOn.org ad):
Unidentified Man: Osama bin Laden ordered the worst terrorist attack in American history. Yet last Sunday Pat Robertson, a leader of the religious right, actually claimed that federal judges are a more serious threat to America than "a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings." Will Bill Frist and Tom DeLay continue to pander to the radical fringe or will they have the guts to repudiate Pat Robertson and all the others who are threatening our federal judges?
MR. RUSSERT: Mary Matalin....
MS. MATALIN: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: ...has this gone too far?
MS. MATALIN: It's demagoguery. That's sheer demagoguery.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, you don't agree with Pat Robertson.
MS. MATALIN: I think that was an injudicious thing to say, but that the secular left has behaved imperialistically--there's no other word for it. They have subverted the democratic process by taking their issues to the judiciary. What the so-called religious right has done has taken their petition and their concerns into the democratic process, into the public square. They organize and they try to affect legislation, as opposed to being the subverted process of democracy which is what the secular left does.
This is all demagoguery. There is a secular left. There is a religious right. It is the way in which the secular left overestimates its uniformity is funny. They're not--there's not just Christian conservatives. There is a lot of the people who are concerned about traditional values and in politics and in the public square. There are lots of Jews, there are a lot of conservative Muslims. There are--it's ecumenical. There's Catholics. It's across the board. There is not a uniformity. There's lots of pluralism and they're part of the democratic process. And this is just demagoguery on the parts of these left-wing extremists.
MR. CARVILLE: You know, I know it's Mother's Day so I've got to be a little careful here but it is kind of odd that Pat Robertson is saying that the federal judges are worse than Osama bin Laden and we're getting accused of demagoguery. I mean, if there's anything more demagogic than saying that, I have no idea what it is. And, look, it's like anything that you do--everybody says, "Well, you're just attacking people of faith." Oh, man, that's a kind of--that is a ridiculous thing. Judicial appointments are part of the political system. It's always going to be that way. This is a fight that the country needs to have. There's nothing wrong with it. And, you know, each side is going to have to make its points.
MR. RUSSERT: It sounds as though, and based on my conversations with Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate, Mr. Carville, that there's going to be the so-called nuclear option, that Senator Bill Frist will say "No longer need..."
MR. CARVILLE: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: "...60 votes to stop the filibuster. You can do it with a majority votes. We're going to change the Senate rules." What will happen if the Republicans do that?
MR. CARVILLE: First of all, it's going to hurt them politically. Second, it's going to be some really, really, really raw emotions in the Senate. And I don't understand--I really don't understand why they are putting all of this--they're going to do irreparable damage to the way the Senate does business. They're going to do some political damage to themselves. The public doesn't like this at all. And it also seems to people that all the Republican Party cares about is appeasing, you know, the extreme right wing of its political party. And for the life of me, I--there's a part of me that says, "I just want them to go through with this, and I want them to ram this right through."
There are a lot of Democrats who say, "No, you don't want to do this. These are lifetime judicial appointments. They're going to be on the courts of appeals. It's going to be a terrible thing for the country." So I don't know what I am, a better Democrat or better patriot. If I was a better patriot, I guess I'd wish these things would stop. If I'm a better Democrat, than I'd like to see them just ram it through because there is a public revulsion to these kind of arrogant, high-handed tactics that they go through.
And the other thing that I think the public is seeing is they don't do anything about gas prices. They don't do anything about health-care costs. The whole thing is Terri Schiavo, the whole thing is these right-wing judges, the whole thing is ANWR drilling. All right? The whole thing is the bankruptcy legislation. And, you know, if you're not a powerful lobbyist or some big, you know, powerful right- wing preacher, you don't get heard by this administration and this Congress. And I think that there's a big feeling across this country about this.
MR. RUSSERT: You know, Mary Matalin, it is interesting that the lead Florida judge on the Terri Schiavo case was a Republican Southern Baptist. The 11th Circuit, it was Judge Pryor, who was appointed by George W. Bush in a recess appointment, who didn't raise any objections to it, that we know of. The Supreme Court of the United States, controlled by Republican appointees, refused to hear the case. You look at the Bush vs. Gore case, highly controversial, 5-to-4. Why this attack on the federal judiciary when, in fact, many of the key decisions I'm talking about were made by Republican conservative judges?
MS. MATALIN: In emotional heat, injudicious things were said. As the president has made clear, as the vice president's made clear, we are, obviously, for an independent judiciary. What we want to have is a judicial system, a justice system that works, which means judges are seated. It is the president's constitutional obligation to nominate them. It's the Senate's constitutional obligation to advise and consent. Talk about high-handed tactics. This is an unprecedented, supermajority call vote for judges. What people wanted...
MR. RUSSERT: Well, the Democrats use filibuster, but the Republicans use the committee structure to block appointees.
MS. MATALIN: There is nowhere in our history, once--Abe Fortas--who did not have majority--a legislative filibuster used for the purposes of stopping nominees. We have a docket problem. One of the judges that's up, Janice Rogers Brown, who's a phenomenally qualified, who was elected with the highest majority of any judges in a highly liberal district, is--there is a quarter of the seats vacant on the district circuit court here. She can't get through. Priscilla Owen can't get through.
MR. RUSSERT: Will the Republicans, in fact, introduce the nuclear option, change the rules for filibuster?
MS. MATALIN: What the Republicans want is an up-or-down vote. What Senator Frist has offered to the Democrats is a--you want to filibuster, you can have 100 hours of debate on every judge. They rejected that. It's another example of obstruction. It's petty obstruction. It's not even principled obstruction. If they want to debate these judges, the qualifications of these judges, all of whom have received the "gold standard," according to the Democrats, the highest regard from the ABA. I'll break down the votes.
MR. RUSSERT: But we will see a rule change on the filibuster?
MS. MATALIN: I'm not predicting that. I'm saying we're going to get these judges through. What we want is an up-or-down vote. And that's what the people want. They want to stop this madness. Nobody knows the filibuster from cloture, from all of that. Bush sends the judges up. If you don't like them, vote them out. Put him on the floor and vote him out.
MR. RUSSERT: But senators are saying the White House wants to change the rules on the filibuster because they want to set the table for the Supreme Court nominee opening that may occur this year.
MS. MATALIN: The White House wants to stop the Democrats from changing the rules that have been in place for 214 years where judges got to the floor and got an up-or-down vote.
MR. RUSSERT: We are going to take a quick break and come back and talk about a lot more with James Carville and Mary Matalin right after this.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back.
All right. Mr. Carville, I'm going to think you want to change presidents...
MR. CARVILLE: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: ...in 2008.
MR. CARVILLE: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: Show you an article from the Associated Press. "The majority of New York voters said Hillary Rodham Clinton deserves to be re-elected to the Senate next year, but want her to pledge to serve a full, six-year term if she runs. The Democratic former first lady made such a pledge in 2000 when she ran for the Senate. Clinton, leading in the polls for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, has yet to offer such a pledge this time around." Will Senator Clinton pledge that she will not seek the presidency and serve her full six-year term?
MR. CARVILLE: I don't expect she'll do the same thing that Governor Bush did in Texas in 1998 or that Senator Kerry did in Massachusetts in 2002. I don't blame New York for wanting her to serve a full term. She's an incredible senator. I think that polls showed--I've never heard of this yet--67 percent of the people in the state of New York said she deserves re-election. But I suspect that she's going to--I don't know this. She hasn't said it, but I suspect her answer will be pretty close to what Governor Bush said in '98 or Senator Kerry said in 2002, she's going to run for re-election, do the best job she can and see where the future goes.
MR. RUSSERT: That sounds like she's running.
MR. CARVILLE: I don't know. She has not told me. For me, of course, I am crazy about her. I hope she runs, but she hasn't indicated that she would and she hasn't told me what the answer is going to be but it is not unprecedented that you have a lot of attention. And I think New Yorkers are very satisfied-- not satisfied, I think they're enthusiastic about the job that she's doing and I don't blame them for wanting her to stay in the Senate.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you another poll. That was Quinnipiac. This is Marist College, the Democratic field for 2008. Hillary Clinton's at 40 percent; John Kerry, 18 percent; John Edwards, 16 percent; Joe Biden at 7 percent; General Wesley Clark, 4 percent; Russ Feingold from Wisconsin, 2 percent; the governor of Mexico, Bill Richardson, 1 percent; Virginia Governor Warner, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, Tom Vilsack of Iowa all asterisks.
Republican side, Mary Matalin, Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York at 27 percent; John McCain at 20 percent; Jeb Bush, the president's brother, governor of Florida, 10 percent; former Speaker Gingrich at 8 percent; Senator Santorum of Pennsylvania at 3 percent; Bill Frist of Tennessee at 3 percent; New York Governor Pataki at 2 percent; Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, 1 percent; Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, 1 percent; Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi, 1 percent; Governor Owens of Colorado, Senator George Allen of Virginia and Sam Brownback of Kansas all asterisks.
Mary Matalin, who do you like in the Republican field?
MS. MATALIN: Well, both those polls, there's two interesting figures. One is in Mrs. Clinton's case, that conventional wisdom presumes that she's positioned for a coronation. All the Democrats know she's only getting 40 percent. Front-runners when they win on either side are in the 50, 60. So there's lots of room for another Democrat here. And in both polls the other interesting thing is the strongest candidates are the asterisks at this point, the governors on the Democratic side and, I think, on our side. Governor Allen, for instance, the country doesn't know him. He's been in the House. He's been in the Senate. Highly successful at the Senate committee electing, or getting, more seats. He's been our governor, our governor, where he took the lead on education issues. He's a wonderful person, but my point is that people who the country doesn't know now tend to emerge as the strongest candidates. And I'll say again, getting 40 percent when every single Democrat knows you, I wouldn't presume that even if she gets in it, the primary's going to be a coronation.
MR. RUSSERT: Look at these general election match-ups. Here's John McCain defeating Hillary Clinton, 50 to 42. McCain draws heavily from Independent swing voters. Rudy Giuliani-Hillary Clinton, 47-46, practically dead even. And then this one. Hillary Clinton, 55; Florida Governor Jeb Bush, 38.
What does that tell you, James Carville?
MR. CARVILLE: Yeah, you know, it tells me that in the Clinton--we did a thing--we asked President Clinton against President Bush, and President Clinton also won decisively. I don't think it says a lot. It says that the country would probably be more favorably inclined to go back to Clintonism than to stay with Bushism, I think is a pretty clear message from a lot of these polls. It says that Senator McCain is popular with Independents. But we know from the 2000 primaries he's got a problem with--he'll have a problem getting Republicans. You know, any time that you do these things, it's always the better- known candidates that do better. And I think Mary makes a point. I look at those numbers--I'm obviously a big supporter of Senator Clinton.
I think Senator Biden said right here that he would like to be president. But everybody acknowledges she's going to be very, very tough to beat. And anybody in the party that knows the structure, and the fund-raising structure of the party, she's going to be--she would be, if she gets in, she's, obviously-- would be very, very formidable. But, you know, we're Democrats. And I suspect a lot--you know, some people are certainly thinking about it right now and moving around. And we could have a heated thing. The Republicans, Mary points out, this is probably as wide open a Republican primary as we've seen, as I've seen, since I've been involved in politics.
MS. MATALIN: Well, in eight years.
MR. RUSSERT: First time in 56 years that an incumbent president or vice president will not be on the ticket in 2008.
MR. CARVILLE: Yeah, this is going to be a--for people that love what--the things that we do, this is going to be, in 2008, the Republican primaries of 2008, are just going to be a way lot of fun.
MR. RUSSERT: Mary Matalin, do you believe that Hillary Clinton could be elected president of the United States?
MS. MATALIN: I think she's charismatic, she is--she'll have a ton of money. She has a bunch of brilliant people, not the least of which is her husband and his ...(unintelligible). But no Democrat, Democratic president, has been elected in the last half century that didn't have some Southern bona fides, and that's only increased in the last half century.
MR. RUSSERT: She's the first lady of Arkansas.
MR. CARVILLE: Arkansas.
MS. MATALIN: Well, OK. Well, if they try to spin that. That is a real stretch. I'm just saying if I was a Democrat, I'd get positioned. I'd start working hard in this primary and, yes, if she makes it to the general election, that'll be--she's a compelling story. There's a sister solidarity thing. You go, girl. But I think there is a myth that women do the go girl voting thing. We care more about our own girls than the go girl thing. So let the games begin. I like her a lot and I think it will be a fun race.
MR. CARVILLE: You know, I think it--if you look at what she has done in New York state, it is stunning. It's that she came in--everybody said she's so polarized, she's so divisive, and now she's...
MS. MATALIN: She's a Northeast liberal.
MR. CARVILLE: Well, again, New York state, a Republican governor, Republican senator, you can say to yourself...
MS. MATALIN: Fine. Bring them in. Northeast liberals. We want them.
MR. RUSSERT: To be continued. James Carville, Mary Matalin, thank you.
We'll be right back.
MR. CARVILLE: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS. And to all of God's greatest gifts, happy Mother's Day.
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