Guest: Bob Shrum, John Fund, Michael Rochelle, Todd Boyle, David McSwane
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Tonight, the U.S. Army wants you. For the third month in a row, the U.S. military has failed to meet recruiting goals. Is Iraq too hard to sell? Tonight, an inside look at what critics are calling bait-and-switch tactics to snag volunteers.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in New York with a HARDBALL special report.
With America at war in Iraq and the continued conflict in Afghanistan, how do you get young people to join the service without drafting them? The Army and Marines have missed their recruitment goals for three months in a row. In a few moments, we‘ll get reaction from the head of the Army Recruiting Command and hear from a counter-recruitment group.
But my first guests are a high school student who enlisted in the National Guard after being recruited at his high school last year and his mother. They do not want his identity made public because he fears retribution by the military for what he is about to say.
This young man believes he was inappropriately pressured by the National Guard to sign up. And once he did, he says they reneged on many of the verbal promises they made to him. He was only 17 at the time. And his mother said she agreed to sign for him under intense pressure as well. I spoke to him earlier about his situation.
MATTHEWS: Young man, what is your situation right now? You are in the National Guard right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
MATTHEWS: And how long is your hitch that you‘re facing right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An additional five years.
MATTHEWS: You have five years facing you right now. And what assignment are you facing right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, right now, I‘m awaiting my AIT training.
MATTHEWS: And what does that mean? What are you training for?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What it is, when I signed up, they signed me up for an infantry. So, that is my specialty training.
MATTHEWS: And where do you expect to be sent off to?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fort Benning, Georgia.
MATTHEWS: Do you expect to be sent to Afghanistan or to Iraq?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After I signed up, they told me it was a very high
· like, just recently, they told me it was a very high possibility I‘m going to be going overseas.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about what the promises—what promises were you given by the recruiting officer?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, when I signed in, they told me I could do any job that I wanted. And I told them originally that I wanted to become a medic in the Army. But they changed that and they said I wasn‘t able to do that. Then, also, they promised me a $6,000 bonus for enlisting, which I never got either.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the duty. You signed up to be a medic. Now you‘re going to be in the infantry. What happened? What happened to the promise they made you about letting you pick your own assignment?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They told me that my ASVAB score wasn‘t high enough. I was a few points below. So, they told me that‘s what they needed right now and they signed me up for that. They said they don‘t need medics right now.
MATTHEWS: But when you agreed to join up, when you signed on the dotted line, they didn‘t say you had to pass a test to become a medic, did they?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me ask you about the education they promised you? What was it? What was the offer made when you signed up to be in the National Guard?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, they told me I would be able to go to any college I want and that they will be able to pay for it. But they never said anything about when they‘re going to do it. They said they were going to—I could go right away to a school and I don‘t have to go through boot camp or anything yet. But then, once I signed it, all their promises changed.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask your mom.
Mom—I‘m going to call you mom, because we don‘t won‘t to give away your identity either, obviously.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
MATTHEWS: Mom, what do you think made you agree to sign for your son since he‘s under age. He‘s 17 at the time he signed up Why did you let him sign up for the National Guard?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn‘t want to. When I came from work, my son and the recruiter, they‘re waiting for me. And I thought he was just going to talk to me about it, what it was like. But he had all the paperwork here. And he said, sign here. I go, sign for what? I go, so he can go in. Because he‘s 17, you must sign.
I said, well, can I think about it? Let me—give me a week to the about it. I need to talk to people about it and get feedback. And he said no, no, you got to do it now, because they‘re moving me to a different branch and then I won‘t be able to come back. Just do it now. And he needed a lot of information that I didn‘t have at that time. And then, later on, we noticed that he wrote down anything he wanted. He filled out the information that I was supposed to give him later. He filled it up himself just to get it done that day.
And he put any information, people that we don‘t even know, names that we never heard about, addresses that we don‘t even know. He filled up all the information with his own—I guess he picked it up from I don‘t know where, because there are streets that are not even—they don‘t even exist.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the promises. Let me ask you about the promises your son said that were made to him, number one, his opportunity to be a medic. He wanted to be a medic. Did you remember that conversation with the recruiter?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
The three of us had that conversation. I said, are you sure he‘s going to—I don‘t want him to go to war. If it is going to be in medics, that will be fine with me. He said, that‘s what he‘s going to be. And he said, when he goes to boot camp, it is going to be easy for him. He‘s just going to start learning how to put in I.V., how to withdraw blood. He‘s going to start learning things like that.
But once he went to boot camp, it was a completely different story. It was horrible there. The stories he tells me about the place, it was nothing what we thought. And he really regretted when he was there. He called me and he was almost in tears. But he doesn‘t—he didn‘t want to complain too much, but he didn‘t want it there. He said, do you think there‘s a way for me to get out of here? I tried to find out, but, no, there was no way to get out.
MATTHEWS: When you were filling out the forms or answering questions, was there ever a question as to the duty assignment? Did you ever fill out or check a point that said medical; he‘s going to be a medic or a corpsman?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He chose all that information. And he said, yes. He‘s going to be in that. And he didn‘t—I didn‘t sign anything like that. I didn‘t see anything in writing.
But we believed him.
MATTHEWS: I see.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then, once he took him to swear him in, after he swore him in, that‘s when he said, oh, you know what? You did not qualify for medics. You‘re going to be in infantry.
MATTHEWS: Young man, what were you going to do with the $6,000 promised you as a signing bonus?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, when I was going to come back, I was planing on purchasing my car.
MATTHEWS: I see. And they never gave you the $6,000 and they said—when you asked, where is the $6,000, what did they say?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They just keep trying to avoid the question every time I asked one of the recruiters.
MATTHEWS: And regarding the educational promise, I want to go back to your mother.
Mom, were you impressed when they said they were going to pay for the college of his choice?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. That was a very good thing for me, because it make me kind of agree with him, because he said, we‘re going to pay 75 percent of his college of his choice. Any college he wants to go to, we‘ll pay for it. And I‘m going, can he go right away? Yes, he can start college right after he comes back from his first training. Since he‘s going to be National Guard, he doesn‘t have to go for the bad training. He‘s just going to have to be going one weekend out of the month.
And I thought that‘s the way it was. I didn‘t even know he was going to have to go for the whole summer.
MATTHEWS: You know, of course, that we‘re at war now. Our military forces are fighting in not just Afghanistan, but also of course in Iraq right now and perhaps other countries. Did they tell you that he would not be sent off to these combat areas?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. That‘s the first question I asked. I go, would he have to go to war to Iraq? He said oh, no, he‘s in the National Guard. He never has to go there.
MATTHEWS: Mom, did you know that a lot of the fighting that is being done in Iraq is being done by National Guards people right now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now I do.
MATTHEWS: Did you know that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now I do, yes. Yes. I didn‘t know at that time.
MATTHEWS: Is there any legal way that your son can avoid having to fulfill this commitment that he‘s made? Do you know, mom, if he can get out of this legally?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘ve been looking for a way to get him out. But it seems like there‘s no way to get out. Once he‘s there, he‘s there. And especially now that he‘s 18, he has to do it. I wish there was a way. If anybody knows a way, I wish they would tell me, because I want him out of there. I would rather him go to college.
MATTHEWS: Young man, one last question. I want you to take some time. What are your feelings now that you face going to Fort Benning and you face perhaps going overseas in the military and face up to a five-year commitment right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it‘s a lot different than I thought it was going to be. So, I mean, I really regret signing up when I did, because now it‘s like my future is being put on pause right now. So, I really don‘t know what my life is going to be like right now.
MATTHEWS: Are there any other young people that you know in the military in your unit who have been trained with you who are also encouraged to join under these kinds of...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MATTHEWS: These kinds of ways. And what do they say to you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They just—they try to avoid talking about it, because the more they think about it, the more they start hating it. So, all of us, we just try to keep it out of our minds.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, both, for joining us on HARDBALL. What a story. It‘s very important to have this voice and I appreciate both of you for coming on.
MATTHEWS: When we come back, do military recruiters bend the rules to attract unqualified candidates? I‘ll talk to a high school student who went undercover to find out and the tell in charge of the Army‘s Recruiting Command.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, a high school honor student who says a military recruiter encouraged him to lie and cheat. Plus, the general in charge of the Army‘s recruiting command—when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to this HARDBALL special report.
David McSwane, a 17-year-old high school student from Arvada,
Colorado, went undercover to write a story on Army recruiting for his high
school newspaper. What he found has sparked a military investigation and a
nationwide story. Posing as a high school dropout and pot smoker, he was
allegedly told by two recruiters that they had ways to help him be accepted
by the Army and pass a drug test.
David is in Colorado this evening to tell us about his expose.
David, what led you to do this?
DAVID MCSWANE, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Well, Chris, this is something that affects everyone my age. Recruiters are out there that are actively seeking more soldiers. So, I was interested in seeing just how far the Army would go to get one more soldier.
MATTHEWS: What did the recruiter say when you told him that you were a high school dropout?
MCSWANE: He said, at first, the GED was an option and then that wouldn‘t be a problem. It wasn‘t until after I failed the GED that he told me to create a fake diploma.
MATTHEWS: And how did he say that? Give me the words.
MCSWANE: He said call—go online, order a fake diploma and name the school Faith Hill Baptist School.
MATTHEWS: So, he suggested a fictitious name for the school and a manner in which you could get the diploma to look authentic.
MATTHEWS: In other words, he led you into crime.
MATTHEWS: Whoa. Are you willing to testify to that under oath?
Let me ask you about the marijuana problem. How did you suggest to him that you had a marijuana habit or whatever?
MCSWANE: Well, when I first met with the recruiter, he told me straight from the beginning to tell him everything. He wanted to know everything. And that was how it worked, so I could get into the Army. So, I told him I had a drug problem. And he said, not a problem. We‘ll cross that bridge when we come to it. And he eventually told me how to get by a drug test to get in the Army.
MATTHEWS: Is this the same guy that told you how to manufacture a phony high school diploma?
MATTHEWS: And how did he tell to you get by the drug test?
MCSWANE: What he told me was to go into a head shop, a local smoke shop, and order a detox kit that would clean out my system and give me a window in which I could drop a urine analysis and pass the physical exam.
MATTHEWS: And he said he had advised this before successfully to get kids around this problem?
MCSWANE: Yes. He said it has worked many times.
MATTHEWS: So he had a record of having encouraged kids to break the law again here by misrepresenting themselves as clean.
MATTHEWS: You‘re willing to say that under oath, too?
MATTHEWS: Well, tell me, what was your impression as you were—you must have been pretty good acting here to go through all this and have these guys say these incredible. I mean, these guys are basically leading you into crime, into lying to the government in federal forums. How did you manage not to laugh or not to show some sort of inclination that these guys are incriminating themselves?
MCSWANE: Well, the good thing about acting as a drug abuser is, I could just play dumb to anything they said and they would understand because I was hooked on marijuana.
MATTHEWS: Did you come in and sort of portray yourself as kind of a druggie?
MATTHEWS: Did you play it like a loosey-goosey kind of out-of-it personality?
MCSWANE: Yes. There were many times when I deliberately didn‘t call him back when I said I would, just playing the role.
MATTHEWS: So, you wanted to look as irresponsible as possible, so you could prove that they were irresponsible.
MCSWANE: Yes. They—on many times, they had to take the initiative to contact me.
MATTHEWS: David, stay with us. This is hot stuff.
Todd Boyle heads Washington Truth in Recruiting in Seattle, Washington. The group informs students, parents, teachers and activists on how they can teach high school students how to make responsible decisions about whether or not to join the military. And our old friend here, retired Army Colonel Ken Allard, is a draftee who fought in the Vietnam War and is now an MSNBC military analyst.
Colonel Allard, what do you make of this story?
COL. KEN ALLARD, NBC MILITARY ANALYST: Very, very serious story. And you‘ve asked exactly the right question. Will you swear to this under oath?
Because, Chris, that is not merely a nasty thing. That is a potential crime. The man has the right to be presumed innocent, but if these allegations are what they appear to be, it is a crime.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a crime to have, to falsify information when you‘re joining the military?
ALLARD: Absolutely is, because you are putting certain certifications. This is a federal matter. So, it is a federal bust. It depends very much on whether or not the local convening authority decides to either go the court-martial route or the federal conviction route. Either way, it‘s not a pleasant experience.
MATTHEWS: So, the recruit has to swear to this under oath as part of their application.
ALLARD: Absolutely. Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: And the recruiting officer, does the recruiting officer have to swear to the information or not? What is his role or her role?
ALLARD: Well, he is required to certify the truth and accuracy of most of the statements that appear on that form, as well as the fact that these things are true to the best of his knowledge and belief. Now, the failure to do that or the failure to having done it, to have sworn falsely, that‘s a wholly different issue.
MATTHEWS: Todd Boyle, what does this tell you about the recruiting going on in America right now that‘s useful to your work of advising people on the situation of—they face when they meet a recruiter?
TODD BOYLE, WASHINGTON TRUTH IN RECRUITING: Well, I don‘t think that
it Really IS conclusive evidence of anything, because you can always take -
· if you have 17,000 recruiters in this country, you can always find one or two or—in fact, there‘s some numbers of recruiter irregularities. So, I would be careful drawing any broad conclusions.
MATTHEWS: No, we‘re only concluding about one case here. And what is your conclusion about that?
BOYLE: Oh. Based on the audiotape I heard, it sounds like the recruiter did falsify the information. And he‘s going to get court-martialed.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this particular—are you talking about the McSwane case—you just heard from David—or the earlier guy, who didn‘t identify himself?
MCSWANE: I‘m sorry. I was talking about the McSwane case.
MATTHEWS: OK. So, do you believe that this recruiter now, because he told him to use this detox equipment to cover up a drug habit and because he told him how to go online and get a phony high school diploma, that those are two counts against someone?
MCSWANE: Yes. That‘s correct.
And, basically, the problem is that he‘s lied to his command. And our group is much more concerned when there is an omission or misrepresentation from the recruiter to the individual.
MATTHEWS: We were told tonight by the man who is the chief commander of recruiting that, unless it is in writing, no commitments made by recruiters count. Is that your understanding as well?
MCSWANE: Oh, yes. That‘s part of the enlistment contract. It is black and white.
MATTHEWS: In other words, a guy can say, I‘m going to give you a duty as a medic, I‘m going to give you a college education, I‘m going to give you a $6,000 signing bonus. None of that matters. It is also verbal unless it is in writing on the contract.
The contract says, unless the recruiter puts it in writing there attached to the contract, that it isn‘t binding.
MATTHEWS: Colonel Allard, is it fair ball for a—fair game for a recruiter to suggest other advantages that aren‘t in the contract in order to swing a person into line into buying into the military?
ALLARD: Chris, the recruiter is under an enormous degree of pressure to put boots in the training situation, to recruit these people. He can certainly make any kind of representations he wants. But, indeed, it is what appears on the enlistment contract, that the Army and that recruiter is actually liable to perform, whether that‘s an enlistment bonus, whether that‘s an educational bonus, or a military occupational speciality, unless it is in writing, it didn‘t happen.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe it common sense not to believe someone when they say you‘re going to get the billet you would like? I was thinking about this back in the Vietnam days. I would like to have been a public information officer. I knew, instinctively, that if some recruiter said you‘re going to get that billet, you are not going to get it, because they wanted more infantry than they wanted PIOs.
ALLARD: Chris, I just have to tell you, as I heard this story, I kept thinking, my lord, is Jimmy Carter still president? Is Tip O‘Neill the speaker of the House?
Because we‘ve been through all these things before, and, apparently that‘s exactly where this whole story is heading yet again.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, David.
We‘re going to come back. More with David McSwane coming back, Todd Boyle and Colorado Ken Allard when we come back.
And, later, we‘ll get reaction from the general overseeing the Army‘s Recruiting Command.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with David McSwane, Todd Boyle and retired Colonel Ken Allard.
David, I have to salute your guts. Let me ask you this. How does that case stand right now? This recruiter that you say offered you information on how to create a phony high school diploma, how to get past a drug test, even though you told him you were a user, where does that case stand right now?
MCSWANE: Well, keep in mind, there were two recruiters involved. And as far as right now, the Army is saying that they‘re working on a quick investigation and they‘re going to get down to the bottom of this and handle it immediately.
MATTHEWS: Well, what evidence do you have they‘re doing that?
MCSWANE: None. Just their word.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. You said two recruiters. I thought it was the same recruiter who gave you the advice about how to manufacture a high school diploma and how to get out of a drug test. You said it was the same guy. Why do you say there‘s two people involved?
MCSWANE: Well, what happened is, halfway through my road to enlistment, I was reassigned to another recruiter. And I told the new recruiter all about the fake diploma and the drug test. And he said it was OK. And my academic evaluation was later passed.
And he‘s the one who later drove me to the government vehicle to the facility where I could buy the detox.
MATTHEWS: Do you have nerves of steel?
MATTHEWS: I mean, how old are you? You‘re 17 years old and you‘re facing up to guys in uniform with guns and you‘re making up this story, and you have the nerve to face them down and concoct this thing that you know is going to incriminate these guys? Who are you, Bob Woodward?
MCSWANE: Well, like I said before, I was playing dumb.
MATTHEWS: I think you‘re Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein combined.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, I hope this thing get resolved.
Let me ask Todd Boyle for some advice. I‘m sure there‘s some parents out there watching, if not some young people, who might be inclined to give it a shot and go in and do their duty for their country. What should they do to protect themselves?
BOYLE: Well, they should make sure that their teenager understands what they‘re getting into. And there‘s a lot to understand about the military.
MATTHEWS: Well, what about this idea that you can cut a deal as to what your billet is going to be, what your assignment is going to be? Is that ever the case?
MATTHEWS: I want to play a tube in the band. I want to be a medic. I want to be a public information officer. Can you cut those deals up front?
MCSWANE: My understanding is that those deals mostly happen with older folks who have credentials and have particular skills. And you‘re highly likely, for example, if you‘re a nurse or something, to end up in the billet that you‘re planing to go into.
MCSWANE: But these always are at the discretion of the military. And if they need you for something else, they will reassign you. That‘s in the contract.
By the way, thank you very much, David McSwane, very much—very nervy guy. I will tell you.
Todd Boyle, thank you for the information.
And, as always, Colonel Ken Allard, great to have you on again.
MATTHEWS: When we come back, why is recruitment in the military dropping and what‘s being done to shore up the numbers? Major General Michael Rochelle, commander of U.S. Army recruiting, joins us.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s special report on military recruiting.
We‘ve talked about how some recruiters may have misled students into joining the military. Now HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster takes a look at the pressure the recruiters face themselves.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While the battles in Iraq can be tough, one of the most challenging jobs in the U.S. military today may belong to soldiers like Sergeant Jim O‘Ferrell (ph). O‘Ferrell is an Army recruiter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I used to have a kiosk sitting right here.
SHUSTER: He has been warning for months that enthusiasm for military service has dropped. And now official numbers released by the Army confirm it. Last month, the Army missed its recruiting goal by 42 percent. It is the third month in a row the Army has fallen short.
Other military services are having problems as well. Despite a stepped-up advertising campaign by the Marine Corps, that service missed a key recruitment goal for the fourth month in a row. And the succession of monthly downturns are the first for the Marines in a decade. Marine Corps officials say the numbers are misleading, because springtime, with high-schoolers waiting to make decisions about college, is always a challenging time of year.
And, for weeks, Pentagon official have been pointing out that all of the service goals this year are higher.
GEN. RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: The force we went to war with after 9/11 in Afghanistan and Iraq, trying to protect this country, was the force that was designed for the Cold War. And we have much different needs today.
SHUSTER: Still, military officials acknowledge that Iraq is having an impact. The Pentagon has boosted enlistment bonuses to up to $15,000. And with the military downsizing parts of the Navy and Air Force, some sailors and airmen are being offered incentives to transfer into the Army.
But even that program, Operation Blue to Green, is sputtering. The annual goal is 3,500 soldiers. But, after six months, it has produced less than 200. And because of the demands in Iraq, concerns are growing about the military‘s ability to meet other potential missions that might crop up around the world.
(on camera): It means even more pressure on military recruiters, who are now trying even more aggressive methods that some young men and women say have gone too far.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Major General Michael Rochelle is the commanding general of the United States Army Recruiting Command, who is responsible for Army recruitment in the United States. He joins us now from Columbia, South Carolina.
General, we had that young man, a 17-year-old who was in silhouette, with his mother also in silhouette. Is he locked into the military, into the National Guard right now?
MAJ. GEN. MICHAEL ROCHELLE, U.S. ARMY RECRUITING COMMAND: Well, that young man has in fact—Chris, first of all, let me say thank you for allowing me to be on your show and to respond.
The young man has in fact signed an enlistment contract. He is obligated. But I want to say something about the facts as they were related. First of all, it‘s incredulous to me. We go to great pains to ensure that every single person who raises his or her right hand to serve this great nation of ours as a soldier understands precisely what they are obligated for, precisely what skill they are going to be trained in. And we are the only service, by the way, the United States Army, that does it that way.
MATTHEWS: Well, the circumstance that was described by the mother and the son, they were—he was approached in high school. He went back home. His mom was there and signed for him. Was he—do you believe he was promised a medic‘s job?
ROCHELLE: I have no idea of the facts.
MATTHEWS: If he was promised a medic‘s job, did he have a right to get one as part of his contract, even if it was verbal?
ROCHELLE: Well, if he was unqualified for it, he could not have been promised it by anyone, if he was unqualified.
MATTHEWS: Well, suppose they didn‘t know he was unqualified and they said, we want to you sign up. We‘ll make you a medic. He signs up, subsequently takes the test, fails it, and ends up not getting what he asked for.
ROCHELLE: No. That‘s an incredulous sequence of events.
In point of fact, every young person is told that, yes, you can qualify for any opportunity the Army has, provided you qualify. And, in this case, the cart was before the horse.
MATTHEWS: Can you imagine that the kid was duped into thinking that he had the job locked up?
ROCHELLE: No. I think he may have misunderstood. I think that‘s entirely possible.
But, once again, Chris, we go to great pains to ensure that every young American who is a volunteer in America‘s Army knows precisely what options they are guaranteed. And it is signed in a formal contract. By the way, one thing that also we do, take great pains to do whenever possible, is to have the parent or loved one along for the process.
MATTHEWS: Well, the mother backs up the son. Well, you saw what I saw. The mother in that interview back up the son‘s memory, that he had been promised a billet as a medic, that he had been promised $6,000 up front, that he had been promised an education right after basic training, a college education.
ROCHELLE: As I said, Chris, the sequence of events as related are incredulous to me. I could not believe that that could happen.
MATTHEWS: Well, why do you think he signed up?
ROCHELLE: Well, I think he signed up for the same reason that many people sign up. It‘s—hopefully, it is for patriotism. It‘s for the desire to serve.
Obviously, at some point in time, as the young man said—and I was only hearing the audio. I saw no video. As the young man said, he was looking to pay off his car and obviously college was important to him.
The National Guard, by the way, offers magnificent opportunities for individuals to continue college education, pursue it while serving. I think it was ultimately motivated by patriotism. I would hope that‘s why every young man or woman raises his hand to be a soldier.
MATTHEWS: In this case, it sounds like it was a particular plea made to him, a case made to him that he found attractive, the case being, cash up front, assignment as a medic and college education. The college education part was particularly attractive. In fact, it was the selling point to his mom. She said so in the interview.
Why do you think these—both these people got it wrong, got all three elements wrong of the deal they thought they were making?
ROCHELLE: I can‘t explain that, Chris.
Without knowing the facts and is this—for all I know, this matter may be under inquiry by the National Guard Bureau. That, I can‘t speak to. So, I don‘t want to speculate as to how it got so wrong. But this is not the way the United States Army or the National Guard, the Army Reserve or the active component conduct its recruiting operations.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about the difficulty of meeting the recruitment goals right now.
MATTHEWS: What are they? Is it television, the fact that the medium we‘re on right now, has been so successful, you might argue, in showing the real hazards of war?
ROCHELLE: Well, obviously, the war is a factor. To deny that would be disingenuous.
But I will also tell you that the rosy predictions and the rosy state of our economy right now also makes recruiting very, very challenging. Recruiting an all-volunteer force is challenging under the best of circumstances and under conditions of absolute peace. It is equally just as challenging, if not more so, during the time of war. And this is a challenge that the all-volunteer force has never faced.
This month, I celebrate my 33rd year in this uniform. We have never, throughout the history of the all-volunteer force, which is only 32 years old, experienced what we are experiencing now.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it would help if the commander in chief were to go on television and make a pitch for recruitment, for people to join up?
MATTHEWS: I‘ve never heard the president, for example, who has called the country to kind of a generalized patriotic spirit in supporting the war with Iraq and Afghanistan before that, but I‘ve never heard him make a pitch for people to actually do the fighting.
ROCHELLE: The commander in chief doesn‘t need my advice or counsel.
And I certainly wouldn‘t presume to give it.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about what are you going to do now as the commander. You have to do it now on your own. You have to find a way to meet these goals. What can you do now that you haven‘t been able to do before or haven‘t done before?
ROCHELLE: We are appealing more generally to the influencers of young Americans. And I will tell you, Chris, that our recruiting messages, our advertising and our recruiters on the street, some 8,000 of them, are recruiting largely, almost universally, with integrity, I might add. So, the circumstances of this young man and the mother, I find very, very difficult to believe.
MATTHEWS: If someone is in a circumstance—and this isn‘t speculative—I‘m sure this happens occasionally—where they believe that someone falsely advertised their opportunities in the service, what are they supposed to do? Do they go to a lawyer? Is there an ombudsman? Is there anyone they can see to say, wait a minute; we made a deal; it was clear to us what the deal was and it was not met here? Is there any way a person can do that?
ROCHELLE: I‘m very glad you—very glad you brought that question up, because, in point of fact, if an individual even finds himself—I‘m speaking now for the active Army and the Army Reserve. And I believe I can also speak for the National Guard in this case, although the circumstances are sometimes guided under state rules as well.
MATTHEWS: What can they do?
ROCHELLE: But if an individual—if an individual finds himself, even while in training, and they in fact have discovered that there was a promise made in contract, contractual promise, that has not been kept, that individual can be separated.
MATTHEWS: Does that mean that, if a person is going to sign up tomorrow morning or tomorrow afternoon, that they should get it in writing, if they‘re going to ask for a consideration?
ROCHELLE: Well, Chris...
MATTHEWS: Is that something you advise, get it in writing? Because these verbal agreements, it seems to me, they‘re always open to contention afterwards, what was really said, what was implied, you know.
ROCHELLE: This is my point exactly, Chris. And thank you for that segue to it, because if it is not in writing, it doesn‘t exist.
And every single commitment that we make to a young man or woman joining America‘s Army today is placed in writing, whether it is a bonus incentive, educational benefits, an assignment of choice. It is all in writing.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. It‘s great...
ROCHELLE: Once again, that‘s—once again, that‘s why I find this particular circumstance to be just incredulous.
MATTHEWS: Well, we‘ll see. Anyway, thank you very much, Major General Michael Rochelle.
Coming up, President Bush gets cozy with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Democratic strategist Bob Shrum is going to be here, as well as John Fund of “The Wall Street Journal.”
And don‘t forget, sign up for HARDBALL‘s daily e-mail briefing. Just log on to our Web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, President Bush rips the scab off Yalta and blasts FDR‘s deal with the Soviets. Plus, is there a deal to end the filibuster fight?
HARDBALL returns after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Today, President Bush attended a ceremony in Moscow commemorating the 60th anniversary of World War II‘s end in Europe amidst a historical dispute over Russia‘s domination of Eastern Europe after that war. President Bush later traveled to the Soviet breakaway Republic of Georgia to show support for that country‘s move from communism to democracy.
So, how is he doing on the world stage?
Bob Shrum is a Democratic political consultant who most recently was an adviser to Britain‘s Labor Party in last week‘s elections. And John Fund is with “The Wall Street Journal”‘s OpinionJournal.com.
John Fund, I have to ask you. I‘m surprised that the president reopened the old wound, ripped the scab off of Yalta, the February 1945 agreement on the division of Europe. Why do you think the president broke open that question of why the Soviets had the Warsaw Pact, why we had NATO?
JOHN FUND, COLUMNIST, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Because several of the former Soviet republics that have broken away and become independent, Chris, are worried about a resurgent Russia, a Russia that hasn‘t fully accepted their independence.
I think the president wanted to send a message that we‘re not going to let that happen again. Now, look, Yalta is a mixed bag. I think, obviously, the United States made a mistake. But there was a reality that the Soviet Union had troops on the ground. But we emboldened the Soviets to take even more than they otherwise would have.
I think the president was acting in a very Reaganesque fashion. It was a lot different than his father‘s speech, when his father in 1981 went to Ukraine and gave his famous chicken Kiev speech, in which he said, don‘t let nationalism get you carried away. Remain inside the Soviet Union. That was a historical mistake. This President Bush was not going to repeat that.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it is smart, Bob Shrum, for the president of the United States to go back and condemn FDR for what happened at the end of his life, that deal he cut in Yalta, at this point in history?
BOB SHRUM, FORMER KERRY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: I actually didn‘t think I would be at this point in history defending Franklin Roosevelt, the Yalta agreement, Winston Churchill, who participated in that.
And Yalta, I think, as John knows, did not in fact ratify Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, but, for example, called for free elections in Poland. And Roosevelt, on the very day he died, was dictating a telegram to Stalin saying, you have to live up to this or there are going to be very serious consequences.
I think what happened in postwar Europe—John is right—arose as a result of objective facts on the ground. I don‘t think that President Bush needs to rake over those coals. I do think he is right, as an American president to make it clear that we stand with Georgia, we stand with these other countries that were once part of Soviet Bloc and that are now free and independent countries. Why shouldn‘t the president go to visit them? And, by the way, Chris, I am a retired Democratic political consultant teaching at NYU.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK. I thought it was like the priesthood. You never give it up. Let me ask you...
FUND: Not in Britain.
MATTHEWS: John Fund, let me ask you about North Korea.
SHRUM: That came out rather well.
FUND: I agree.
MATTHEWS: North Korea, what do you think? What are we going to be able to do over there, now that they‘re apparently setting up grandstands to hold a test of a nuclear device over there and they want the world to see it?
FUND: Chris, I‘m the first to admit that there are some unintended consequences of something like the Iraq war.
I think what the Iraq war and the collapse of Saddam Hussein—he is now going to be in the dock at a trial—told all of the rogue states, if you don‘t want a U.S. invasion, you better get some nuclear weapons. And I don‘t think we were about to invade other countries, but I think they might have thought we were. So, the North Koreans have moved forward. They want their insurance policy, so they can blackmail the Western nations.
And the Chinese are not cooperating. We asked the Chinese to shut off oil shipments to North Korea last week. They said no. The Chinese have apparently decided—I think this is a big mistake on their part—that a nuclear North Korea is acceptable in the region.
MATTHEWS: Oh, that‘s frightening.
FUND: I don‘t think they‘re going to like the Japanese reaction.
MATTHEWS: That‘s very frightening for everybody.
Coming up, could a deal be at hand on President Bush‘s judicial nominees and the Senate‘s right to unlimited debate? The nuclear option at home coming up.
And don‘t forget to check out Hardblogger, our political blog Web site. Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Bob Shrum and John Fund.
John, the president has issued an ultimatum at home, which looks like he is going to back up the nuclear option in terms of killing the filibuster in judicial nomination fights.
FUND: Well, yes, but just remember, it doesn‘t kill the filibuster for any legislation, just for the fact that people who are nominated to a position, held up for four or five years, ultimately deserve an up-or-down vote.
Now, I think a better response ultimately for all parties would have been to go back to the filibuster everybody seems to be nostalgic about, even though it was often preventing civil rights legislation. That is the filibuster that Jimmy Stewart dramatized, where you stay up all night. But senators in both parties, Chris, don‘t want to destroy their creature comforts that way.
Therefore, we have now a filibuster interruptus, in which people can just drag on while the rest of the Senate business goes on. I think we have to adjust this filibuster, because, frankly, it‘s—you can‘t bring good people into government if you nominate them and wait four or five years. It was wrong under Bill Clinton. It‘s wrong under George Bush. It‘s wrong under all presidents. We have to adjust the filibuster accordingly.
MATTHEWS: Well, Bob Shrum, people who love the Senate as the institution and do revere the story of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” as well as advise and consent, believe that there‘s a middle option here. Six Republican senators, six Democratic senators are talking about a deal whereby six Republicans agree not to back the nuclear option to destroy the filibuster and judicial fights and six Democrats agree to approve four of the seven disputed judgeships.
SHRUM: Look, I wish, by the way, that John Fund and “The Wall Street Journal” had editorialized against this same process under Bill Clinton.
FUND: We did. I can give you the dates, Bob. We did.
SHRUM: What John is saying would have more credibility.
FUND: We did.
SHRUM: Because the truth is—who did you—who? Who was being filibustered that you editorialized against?
FUND: I personally wrote the editorial saying Judge Paez deserved a vote. I personally wrote that.
SHRUM: And what about all the other Clinton judges that were filibustered?
FUND: I gave you the one I wrote. I know others were...
SHRUM: Generally, look, this is, each side likes the filibuster when it serves their own purposes. The fact of the matter is, the Democrats have approved over 200 of Bill Clinton‘s judicial nominees—of George Bush‘s judicial nominees.
Democrats are not holding up judicial nominees to the federal courts. We‘re talking about a handful of judges here. As for the proposed compromise, I think it would matter who was involved in this, which judges Democrats were proposing or that these Democrats were proposing to go ahead and approve. And I think you would have to ask people like Joe Biden on the Judiciary Committee what he thinks of this.
MATTHEWS: But why—why can any handful of judges be so dangerous to the republic, Bob? We have so many federal judges.
SHRUM: Well, I don‘t think any handful of judges can be so dangerous to the republic. But I would point out, for example, that Clarence Thomas getting on to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals and then getting on to the Supreme Court has probably had an impact on the future of the country.
So, I think Democrats are right to stand up on this. I think Democrats are right to ask questions about this. But the one thing I agree with John, about, by the way, let‘s go back to the old form of filibuster. If people want to do this, let them talk. Let them explain the reasons. That would be fine with me. It would be great theater and it might be great education in an era when we actually have C-SPAN watching the Senate full time.
MATTHEWS: Well, suppose, let‘s just try that out. If we have 45 Democrats who are willing to maintain a filibuster, what would it look like, John?
FUND: Well, you would probably last about 70 hours. You would have people sleeping on cots. The last time we did that was 1985 over Social Security benefits. Bob Dole kept the Senate in session all night.
And I think it was very educational. It focuses the entire attention of the country on the issue, on the nominee, because it‘s so unusual.
MATTHEWS: Then what? After all this—after this talkathon, then what would happen?
FUND: Well, then you get the cards and letters and e-mail messages and you hear public response.
Are people sided with the “obstructionists”—unquote, unquote—or they siding with the people who want to vote? And guess what? Senators often will respond to public pressure. That‘s how a democracy works. And if the nominee is that bad or that awful, usually, the filibuster would work.
MATTHEWS: Who be the best spokesman on your side of this fight on the floor right now?
FUND: Oh, I think that Senator Frist has been very good in pointing out how the Senate cannot function under the current system.
Bob, who is your best spokesman on the side supporting the filibuster?
SHRUM: Oh, I mean, Senator Biden, any of a number...
MATTHEWS: That‘s all I want to hear, Biden against Frist. We‘ve got to set this up. We‘ve got to set this up. Biden against Frist, it‘s perfect.
Bob Shrum, you‘re great.
MATTHEWS: John Fund.
Congratulations, Bob, on that victory over in London.
SHRUM: Well, actually...
MATTHEWS: You don‘t mind being called a former Labor Party adviser.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, tomorrow on HARDBALL, three-and-a-half years after 9/11, should the World Trade Center be rebuilt as it was?
And, coming up next on “COUNTDOWN,” expelled from their Baptist church because they voted for a presidential candidate their pastor didn‘t like. Republicans and Democrats up in arms in North Carolina. Keith Olbermann speaks with one of the expelled church members next on the “COUNTDOWN.”
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