updated 6/17/2005 8:15:27 AM ET 2005-06-17T12:15:27

Guest: Sheri Annis, Steve McMahon, Richard Haass, Harold Ford, T.X. Hammes, Russ Feingold, Trent Lott

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Polls show Americans want to bring home the troops, as their support for the war in Iraq deteriorates.  And today in Congress, calls from Democrats, as well as Republicans, for President Bush to set a timetable to withdrawal U.S. troops from Iraq.  With the pressure growing, the president is expected to make a more compelling case for the war.  But can he ever set a deadline with the war still raging? 

Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

Today, for the first time since the Iraq war began, members of Congress introduced a resolution demanding that the American occupation come to an end.  And perhaps most troubling to the White House is, that action involves both Democrats and Republicans. 

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reports on the action today. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  With the death toll in Iraq now at more than 1,700 American soldiers, today, a bipartisan group of House members said enough. 

REP. WALTER JONES, ® NORTH CAROLINA:  It is time for a public discussion of our goals and the future of our military involvement in Iraq. 

SHUSTER:  The two House Republicans and two Democrats introduced a

resolution that calls for President Bush to start bringing U.S. troops home

by October 2006. 

JONES:  The exact number of troops that come home at that time are left to the commander in chief‘s discretion. 

REP. NEIL ABERCROMBIE (D), HAWAII:  We impose nothing that does not reflect what is already in the timetable, for example, the constitution being established, a referendum on the constitution, the election of the government in Iraq in December. 

REP. RON PAUL ®, TEXAS:  We happen to believe the best thing we could do for our troop is get them out of harm‘s way. 

SHUSTER:  All four congressmen talked about a shift in public sentiment and debate.  But that shift is the most pronounced with Republican congressman Walter Jones.  Two years ago, Jones voted for the war in Iraq and then, angry at France, led the campaign to change the name of french fries to freedom fries. 

JONES:  This is a real tribute.  Whenever anyone orders freedom fries, I hope they will think about our men and women who are serving in this great nation. 

SHUSTER:  Today, Jones said he was troubled by the past and one of the Democrats in his coalition added:

ABERCROMBIE:  We‘re not here to assess blame, get involved in recriminations or accusations.  We believe the troops have done everything that they can do from a military point of view.  Now is the time for the politicians to meet their obligations. 

SHUSTER:  Over at the White House, however, presidential press Secretary Scott McClellan dismissed the effort, saying U.S. troops are not finished yet. 

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  It would be absolutely the wrong message to send to set some sort of artificial timetable.  It would be the wrong message to send to the terrorists.  It would be the wrong message to send to the Iraqi people.  And it would be the wrong message to send to our troops.  Our troops understand the importance of completing the mission. 

SHUSTER:  The irony is that Vice President Cheney‘s message recently was that he expects the war to end by 2009 -- quote—“The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline.  I think they‘re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.”

The erosion of public support for the war has put the White House in an awkward position.  A recent Associated Press poll found only 41 percent of Americans support President Bush‘s handling of Iraq.  And a Gallup poll this week found that nearly six in 10 Americans think the U.S. should begin a troop withdrawal. 

(on camera):  And so, the White House is talking sympathetically.  But, at the same time, by opposing this bipartisan resolution in Congress, the Bush administration is facing something it has not seen before, a group of lawmakers determined to end the occupation of Iraq who represent both the left and the right. 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Democratic Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin and Republican Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi join us now to discuss the mission and the exit strategy in Iraq.

Welcome, Senators. 

Senator Feingold, do you take the United States should begin withdrawing troops soon? 

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN:  I think we should get a plan from the president.  I‘ve introduced a resolution to that effect, where the president and the Defense Department and others tell us what they‘re planning, what is the mission.  And that should include a timetable, a time frame that we could all look at that says, we think this mission can be done by a certain time period.  So, I do want a time frame.  I think that would include withdrawal ultimately, but it should be based on the mission that we have, the things that have to be done, the training of the troops, the training of the police. 

So this isn‘t, let‘s withdraw today.  But let‘s have a vision of when this can end.  The American people deserve that.  Especially the moms and dads deserve to know what the scope of the mission is. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator Lott, where are you on laying it all out like this? 

SEN. TRENT LOTT ®, MISSISSIPPI:  First of all, I think there‘s no question at some point the people in Iraq are going to have to decide for themselves, do they want peace and freedom and democracy or not?  And they‘re going to have to do it themselves.  We can‘t continue to provide them the police protection, the military protection indefinitely. 

I do think that the administration should collaborate and communicate with the Congress, the Armed Services Committee, House and Senate Intelligence Committee, Appropriations, talk to us about how things are going, how is the training going, what are we doing with that training, how long is this going to take.

I‘m hesitant to say, OK, look, we‘re going to have this timetable and certain things will happen by this date or three months from now or six months from now.  For one thing, those insurgents that are killing people this very day then will know what they can count on and how long they can wait. 

But I do think we need to have a plan of how we began to change the situation and turn over their sovereignty and their governing and their protection to themselves, without publicizing it necessarily to the world. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re an Iraqi hostile.  You‘re someone on the other side who—maybe just a nationalist, maybe be a hard Baathist, hard-liner. 

FEINGOLD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  That person now knows from the second the Senate passes a resolution like this that we‘re getting out sooner or later. 

FEINGOLD:  No, that‘s not the history of what has happened in Iraq.

You know, I was over there in February with a number of senators and I asked one of the coalition top people, one of the military people, what would you think if we had an open timetable?  You know what he told me?  Chris, he told me that nothing would take the wind out of the sails of the insurgents more than being able to say that the so-called American occupation will end at a reasonable time and that you could point to a time.  You see, this is how they‘re recruiting people. 

MATTHEWS:  But what would stop them from saving all their ammo, saving the lives of all their suicide prospects, wait for us to be—wave to us handkerchiefs as we leave and then kill every person that we put in power over there?

FEINGOLD:  Clearly, this insurgency is not interested in that tactic. 

MATTHEWS:  Why not?

FEINGOLD:  Their tactic is to keep the pressure on right now.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Wouldn‘t you do that, if you were them?  Wouldn‘t that be the smart move?

FEINGOLD:  They‘re being effective right now with the strategy of keeping the pressure on continuously.

And the way that they are able to keep the pressure on continuously is that they can constantly recruit terrorists from across the world, al Qaeda people, because this is the spot.  Even Porter Goss, our head of the CIA, says this is now center of terrorism and it is because we‘ve taken the strategy of saying, we‘re here.  We‘re not saying when we‘re going to leave. 

The good way to kill this insurgency is to make sure that Iraqis take over.  And until the Iraqi people really believe that the Iraqis will have control, the insurgency is strengthened every day.  So, I think it‘s the reverse.  Think of the two times we‘ve used timetables before.  It worked.  We said, we‘re going to transfer sovereignty by X date, at the end of June. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

FEINGOLD:  It was done a day early.

MATTHEWS:  We pass a—the United States Congress passes a resolution of any kind with any date on it. 

LOTT:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  The world, the Reuters News Service, Al-Jazeera will flag a big headline.  The banner will be, U.S. Congress calls for withdrawal schedule. 

FEINGOLD:  That‘s not what I‘m proposing.  I propose that the president tell us what his plan is.

I have not called for a date certain. 

(CROSSTALK)

FEINGOLD:  I think it is up to the president.  The Congress shouldn‘t micromanage it.

But if the president of the United States says, look, our goal here is to be done in two years.  I think that‘s a perfectly appropriate thing to say in terms of when we‘re going to turn over to the Iraqi people the control of this thing.  I think it is fine. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Senator Lott, do you believe in a free hand for the president?  Basically, Congress stay out of even attempting to urge the president to put out a plan.  Don‘t say anything.  Let him do it his way. 

(CROSSTALK)

LOTT:  Well, I don‘t think he has a totally—or should have a totally free hand. 

I think they have to listen to others.  They have to communicate with Congress.  We are a co-equal branch of government.  We have a right to know how things are going and to know what the plan is as we go forward.  One of the things I do think we ought to do, though, is that we have a fledgling government in place there.  I would like to know what they think. 

And the ones I‘ve talked to have said, oh, please, if you just pull summarily now or by a date certain over a short period of time, we would not be ready to and capable of governing ourselves and defending ourselves. 

(CROSSTALK)

LOTT:  So, there‘s a process under way.  We‘ve expended a lot of treasure and valuable lives and casualties and injuries to make this system, make it work, give them an opportunity. 

Now we can‘t just pull up and say, OK, good luck.  We‘re out of here. 

(CROSSTALK)

LOTT:  So, I think we need to use some good judgment on it. 

FEINGOLD:  This is the where the whole problem with this debate is.

What Senator Lott is saying is nothing like what we‘re saying.  What we‘re saying is, it is time, given what has happened, to have the president outline what the mission is and what the time frame is.  Nobody is talking about pulling up stakes and leaving quickly.  There‘s no vision out there for the Iraqi people of how this is going to proceed.  There‘s no vision for the moms and dads in America about how long this will last.

And it is hurting recruiting.  It is hurting recruiting in our country for our military needs, because there‘s no vision.  There‘s no confidence.  And just constantly keeping it within the dome here and not engaging the American people with a vision of when it is going to end is really harmful to us and to the Iraqi people‘s goal of a democracy. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator, you‘re a Democrat and many would say you‘re a liberal. 

And yet, what you‘re laying out here is Nixon‘s promise in 1969. 

After getting elected president, he was going to have a progressive plan.  I went through all the numbers this morning.  So many troops this month, so many troops the next month, a big chunk the month after that.  And over the space of his first term as president, he removed our troops from Vietnam.  Is that what you would like to see? 

FEINGOLD:  Well, look, I want a plan...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s called Vietnamization.  Would this be Iraqization? 

FEINGOLD:  I see this as, obviously, we want the Iraqi people to be in control of this.

What I‘m talking about here is a plan that talks about what has to be done, not just dates with withdrawal by certain dates, but making sure that we know how many police need to be trained and by when we take we can do it.  How long will it take the military to be trained and how long do we think we can do it? 

A vision, a plan, some sense of where we‘re going, especially given the tragedy of the way we got into this thing, where, obviously, we were not ready for what happened, we were not ready for various contingencies.  The American people absolutely have to have a better vision for the future of where this thing is heading.  And that is what I‘m advocating.

LOTT:  Actually, Chris, a lot of that is in place. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Senator.

LOTT:  I met yesterday with a bipartisan group called the National Security Working Group.  I met with the head of the president‘s National Security Council, Steve Hadley. 

We know how many troops they have in uniform.  We know how many are actually up to a level they ought to be.  There‘s a lot more of a vision, a lot more of a plan in place that Armed Services Committee, Intelligence, and the leadership of the Congress are familiar with.  So, it is not as if we‘re just staggering forward...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Senator Lott has been a little short on the time here.  I want to give Senator Lott some of this time here.

Senator Lott, are we winning the war in Iraq? 

LOTT:  I think we are.  I‘m not happy with the way it‘s going. 

I‘m concerned about it.  The casualties, the insurgency continues to grow.  Of course, if we just left, for instance, where would those insurgents go?  They would probably show up somewhere else and endanger American lives somewhere else. 

MATTHEWS:  But the Iraqis I‘m talking about...

LOTT:  I think we need to do a better job.

But I actually—I believe that we are making progress against the insurgents.  And I do think that they‘re in their final throes of being able to be effective.  But I—I would like to see it be less violent than it is, obviously. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator, the people that sold us this war, the ideologues, the hawks who believed in this war, sold it as, all we have to do is liberate Iraq from this evil man, Saddam Hussein, and they‘ll love us for it and that will be the end of it. 

The president went to the aircraft carrier.  He accepted the kudos.  All the talk was the happy Iraqi.  We‘re going to get the oil to pay for it.  Has any of those promises been good?  Any promise?  The oil will pay for it.  The Iraqis will love us.  There will be no insurgency.  It was going to be a cakewalk. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  The salesmanship for this war was so good, I wonder if anybody is happy with the results. 

(CROSSTALK)

LOTT:  Well, most people are not happy with—totally with the results. 

I never believed it was going to be as easy as some people did, because I took the time to look at the over 2,000-year history of the people in this area. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

LOTT:  They have a long history of killing each other over religion and other things. 

And, frankly, I was surprised when it was so easy to go in Iraq.  What we didn‘t know was, that was the—that was the easy part.  And it was going to get harder and take time. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

LOTT:  You know, victory and freedom is never easy.  But it has ramifications way beyond what is going on there.  It has had an effect in the Middle East.  It‘s had an effect on Libya and Syria. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

LOTT:  So, it is not as if we haven‘t had some benefit from it.

MATTHEWS:  OK.Senator, you voted to authorize this war.  Are you glad you did? 

LOTT:  I did the right thing, yes, Chris.   

MATTHEWS:  Senator Feingold, you voted against authorizing this war. 

Are you glad you did? 

FEINGOLD:  Yes.  I certainly think it was right to vote no. 

And I‘ll tell you, this idea of a secret plan to end the war reminds me of another era. 

(LAUGHTER)

FEINGOLD:  The American people should be a part of this secret that Senator Lott is talking about.  The American people should know when it going to end.  It was not a good idea in the beginning. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, it got Nixon elected twice. 

FEINGOLD:  Well, there‘s much more important issues, such as all the deaths of our troops.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Senator Russ Feingold.  Thank you for coming.

Thank you, Senator Lott.  You usually are the one that comes over here.  And I appreciate always your efforts on our show. 

LOTT:  Thanks a lot, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Senator Trent Lott.

LOTT:  All right. 

MATTHEWS:  When we return, the view from Iraq.  A top Marine colonel tells us why he thinks setting a deadline for withdrawal is a bad idea. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, what do military leaders say when the politicians start calling for an exit strategy in Iraq?  The debate continues when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

We‘re continuing the debate over whether the Bush administration should set a timeline for withdrawing troops from Iraq.  It is a hot question. 

Marine Colonel T.X. Hammes was in Iraq last year and was involved in building a new Iraq army, a perfect guy to have on.  He‘s also the author of the new book, “The Sling and the Stone,” which is a look at warfare in the 21st century. 

And we begin with Democratic Congressman Harold Ford of Tennessee, who visited Iraq just last month and released a new TV ad today calling for both parties to work to bring the troops home.  Here it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

REP. HAROLD FORD (D), TENNESSEE:  A few weeks ago, I returned from my third trip to the Middle East, once again reminding me that, in war, there are no Democrats or Republicans, just Americans. 

I‘m Harold Ford Jr. and I approve this message because, this Fourth of July, I hope all of us will take a moment to remember those brave Americans fighting to make the world freer and our country safer.  Let‘s work hard to bring them home soon and with honor.  Make them as proud of us as we are of them. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Ford, why not just leave it to President Bush, the commander in chief, to make these calls? 

FORD:  The Congress and the country are making sacrifices as well. 

And, most important, our troops are. 

One of the things we‘re asking the commander in chief to do—and, as you know, I‘ve been one who has supported the administration.  I supported their money requests in the Congress.  I supported their resolutions that have called for the authorization—or, I should say, the use of force. 

What I think we need now is some idea of where we go from here, not a definitive timetable, but some map to how we can begin to not only draw down troops, but see stability won in Iraq.  I‘ve not been there and don‘t have the expertise that the other guest in the studio has.

But I can tell you, after talking to troops on my third trip there, listening to leadership on the ground, things were a little less safe for those of us traveling in the region.  And, frankly, I‘m a little less certain that we have as firm an idea as to how to achieve our objectives there as we did just as recently as a few months ago. 

Colonel Hammes, what do you think? 

COL. T.X. HAMMES, U.S. MARINES:  I think we definitely need a plan. 

That‘s one of the things that is missing.  No one can coherently express

what our plan is.  As far as a timeline, I would rather see an event-based

·         when we achieve this, then we can do this. 

MATTHEWS:  What would be a good event to mark? 

HAMMES:  An event would be the capability of the security forces at various levels for various places. 

If do you a plan, something like the British did in Malea, where you designate areas of the country that you‘re going to secure first.  We simply lack the troops and Iraqi security forces to secure the whole country at once.  So, we have to decide what is a priority, work on that, and when we achieve that step by step, then we move on to the next part. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Harold Ford, back to Congressman Ford again. 

And the question that always gets asked when you push any kind of timetable or any kind of headline congressional resolution that we‘re calling on the president at least to begin to talk about a timetable, the enemy, in this case, the insurgents in Iraq, read on their local newspaper, in their local newspaper, U.S. Congress calls for deadline for U.S.  involvement in Iraq.  Don‘t they have a big party at that point and say, we‘ve won? 

FORD:  Sure, they do. 

But I don‘t think we‘re asking for some definitive date here.  I think what‘s being asked for is the fact that we have to try some new approaches there.  Since 9/11, Congress and the American people have given the president the benefit of the doubt in just about everything he wanted to do in Iraq.  We find ourselves now, with elections having passed, and frankly more car bombings, more violence, and, in a lot of ways, less stability.

Furthermore, the way that the Iraqi people really measure our progress on the ground is by the restoration of basic services, from electricity to water to sewer systems.  And we still have a long, long way to go there.  The only point I make—and some others in Congress may have a different point. 

But the only point I make is, lay out for us, Mr. President, what the strategy is and what the road map is to achieve these things.  I‘m not asking for a March ‘06 date or an October ‘06 date, as some are asking for.  But give us a sense of how we can accelerate the training of the police and military forces that General Petraeus is leading there in Iraq.

Give us a sense of how likely it is that Sunnis and Shiites can get along to write a constitution that contemplates questions this day and 50 years from today.  And, equally important, how is it that we can provide whatever resources may need, within reason, to help the Iraqis restore their basic services and resume a life with the basic necessities that any American and for that matter any other citizen would want for their children?

That‘s the benchmark.  And, frankly, those are the goals that we need to lay out.  And I hope the president will see fit to do that. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you accept a proposal like the colonel has just offered, whereby we don‘t say timetables; we don‘t say by March of 2006 or March—April, but what you do say is, following the election of a legitimate government, the establishment of a constitution, the inclusion within the government of sufficient Sunni representatives to make it a balanced and complete government, and following six months of relative calm, we leave?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, I‘m not sure what else we would do.  I mean, what else could we set as a goal if it weren‘t what I just went through? 

FORD:  Well, I think you‘re right.  The colonel has done far more than the president has done up to this point, because the president hasn‘t articulated those things. 

And this is not meant to be harsh or negative towards the president.  This is just real.  There are too many families having loved ones serving overseas right now.  There‘s too many families whose loved ones are on their way back to Iraq.  I just think that we owe the country and particularly those families and men and women in uniform an idea of what we‘re trying to accomplish and provide them with the resources needed. 

One idea I also propose—and I would love to hear the colonel‘s thoughts on it—is perhaps we should consider sending—not my idea, but I‘ve heard some others throw the idea around as well—but consider sending some of the military and police trainees, Iraqi trainees, to other countries for training, much like big companies and medium size companies in this country do with training exercises and retreats, where they send employees off site to gain a better understanding and to gain training. 

Maybe, if we did that, it would slow the process just slightly.  But we would ensure we would get the kind of troop and kind of police officer, security officer that we want for that country.  I just think we need some new approaches and new ideas to make this thing work.  I‘m as committed as anyone to seeing us win stability in Iraq and bring our troops home. 

And the two have to go hand in hand.  And that‘s what I meant in my ad when I said bring them home with honor.  We have to win there and we have to find a way to do it better than we‘re doing now. 

MATTHEWS:  When we come back, I‘m going to ask both gentlemen to explain to me how we prevent the following from happening.  The minute we bring to draw down our troops over there, the enemy begin to accelerate its attacks, just like in Vietnam, making us rush out all the faster. 

We‘ll be back with Colonel Hammes and U.S. Congressman Harold Ford in just a moment.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Marine Colonel T.X. Hammes and U.S.

Congressman Harold Ford. 

We‘re talking about possibilities of establishing some basis for withdrawing U.S. troops over time from the war in Iraq, under the basis of either the president or the Congress agreeing on some kind of a plan. 

Let me go to Colonel Hammes. 

Let me ask you this question.  What happens if what happened in Vietnam happens in Iraq?  The more with withdraw troops, the more we have a clear schedule, the more the enemy just increases its fire on the withdrawing troop? 

HAMMES:  Well, in fact, in Vietnam, from ‘68 to ‘72, when we finally did get a plan under General Abrams and Ambassador Komer, we actually defeated the insurgency in the south. 

It would then force the north to do the conventional invasion in ‘72 and again in ‘75.  So, the activity actually went down.  But what happened is, when they did the conventional invasion, they had already broken the will of the American people and we were not going back. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me go to Congressman Ford on that.

Do you—do you fear that any kind of explicit plan for withdrawal will encourage the enemy to attack us in our withdrawal? 

FORD:  You know, I think the colonel said it best.  And I think some other colleagues of mine in the Congress have as well. 

The greatest threat we face I don‘t believe is the insurgents being more emboldened.  They seem pretty emboldened now.  The greatest fear or threat that we face in Iraq is if the American people lose confidence and support begin to diminish here for the efforts.  And, unfortunately, I think we‘re headed down that path pretty fast right now. 

I—I‘m gauging it from at home, from military families, from those who have supported this effort all along who are now wavering, not wavering in their support of the troops and wanting to win stability in Iraq, but who are questioning whether our policies and our approaches and ideas there are working. 

MATTHEWS:  Were we right to go to Iraq, Congressman? 

FORD:  That question is irrelevant.  We‘re there and we now have to win. 

If all of us had 20/20 vision back then about where we would be now, I doubt the president would have won authorization.

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

FORD:  Or won the votes for authorization.  But we are where we are.

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

FORD:  And we have to win. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, colonel T.X. Hammes and U.S.

Congressman Harold Ford.

In a moment, former State Department official Richard Haass on the war in Iraq and what approach the Bush administration should take with regard to Iran and Syria, those difficult neighbors of Iraq.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In his new book, “The Opportunity,” Richard Haass argues that the U.S.  is not taking full advantage of the opportunity to usher in a new era of peace, prosperity and freedom in the world.  Haass worked for Colin Powell as director of policy planning at the State Department.  He is now the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. 

Richard, thank you for joining us. 

You know, you are a very impressive fellow.  And everyone who watches this show has been wrestling with the Iraq situation now for two or three years.  And the people who support the war support the war, but they have problems.  They worry about us being stuck over there.  The people who are against the war have had second thoughts because the election seemed to be promising of a democracy over there. 

Have we got an alternative to what we‘ve been doing? 

RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS:  The short answer is no. 

Right now, you‘ve got two pretty stark choices out there.  One is to -

·         quote—“stay the course,” which essentially means getting the Iraqis to constitutionally come up with a new system and, second of all, to get the police and the armed forces up to speed.  The alternative that you‘re mainly hearing from people is some version of cutting and run.  And everybody knows the cost of that. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What are the costs of that, because we‘ve been talking about it tonight?  Congressional resolutions from both sides of the aisle, begin some kind of a timetable. 

HAASS:  Premature to do that.  The emphasis should be on behavior, should be on standards, essentially getting the Iraqis trained up and so for the. 

The costs of prematurely leaving, if you will, would be that for not just Iraq, which people forget still has a tremendous amount of energy—given where it is, it could lead to instability in the region.  It could make the war in Lebanon years ago look—look mild by comparison.  You could have Lebanon on steroids in this part of the world. 

And it would also send a terrible message about the lack of American staying power, which has got to encourage the worst sorts of people out there. 

MATTHEWS:  We were warned back in the first Gulf War by people like James Baker.  You know all these fellows.  You worked with them, James Baker, Brent Scowcroft, the president‘s national security adviser, the first President Bush.  Don‘t go into Iraq.  Although it would be nice to knock off Saddam, you will create a chaotic situation, where the whole country will come apart and we‘ll be sitting there trying to hold it together. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Weren‘t they right?

HAASS:  I was one of those people.  We warned it then.  And I‘ll be honest with you.  And I talk about it in this book.

I thought, again, this time around, it wasn‘t worth it.  I was very concerned that those who advocated this war—and I understood why.  And, obviously, we‘re all glad to get rid of Saddam.  But we shouldn‘t kid ourselves.  The cost of doing this, the direct in human life, financially, what it is doing to our military, and the indirect costs of doing this, all the time and energy it took out of American foreign policy, the costs are enormous. 

And, quite honestly, from my point of view, Chris, the costs are not -

·         actually right now outweigh the benefits. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it was a blunder to go to Iraq? 

HAASS:  I think—I say in the book, I think it was unwarranted.  It was not the strategic decision I would have made. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there anyone within the administration, not counting you, who have left the administration, and Colin Powell, who has left—is there anyone inside?  You don‘t have to tell me their name.  But is there anybody inside around the vice president‘s office, the secretary of defense office, the White House itself that believe that they made a mistake? 

HAASS:  If they have, they haven‘t communicated it to me.  And I don‘t sense it.  This is too central to the administration‘s foreign policy for people to simply say it was a mistake. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s who they are.

HAASS:  It‘s very central to this administration‘s approach to the world.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Let‘s take a look at what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had to say here on this program about Syria earlier this week. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE:  The problem with the Syrian government is that they‘re—they‘re out of step with the entire region.  They‘re still supporting Palestinian rejectionists who are frustrating the efforts of people like Mahmoud Abbas to bring about a Palestinian state. 

And, in Iraq, with the Iraqi people trying to get a better life, trying to get a democratic government, they continue to do very little about the people who are gathering on their territory, despite the fact that those terrorists are coming to Iraq and killing not just coalition forces, but innocent Iraqis as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the Middle East, because I‘ve been following the Middle East since we were kids, listening to Gronski (ph) and company 30 years ago.  And you‘ve been following it much more deeply than I have. 

Does anything ever change over there?  Or is it still a battle within the Israeli political community between the moderates and the hawks, surrounded by people who really deep down don‘t want them to be there?  And it never seems to change. 

HAASS:  I think it has changed. 

I think the fact—between Israelis and Palestinians, the fact that Arafat is gone, that even someone like Ariel Sharon is talking about leaving Gaza, you now have something going on between Israelis and Palestinians, both essentially accepting the fact that the status quo is not in their interest. 

Even more, Chris, though, what‘s interesting about the Middle East is, people are talking about political and economic change.  The word democracy is stirring the pot in the Middle East.  And that counts for something. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think we can have a democratic state in the Palestinian territories in our lifetime? 

HAASS:  Sure. 

MATTHEWS:  Really?

HAASS:  I think we can.

Palestinians in some ways are the most middle-class of bourgeois people in the Middle East.  They‘ve had this tremendous example of Israeli democracy.  We‘ve seen democracies taking place—taking root in other parts of the world.  There‘s nothing about the Middle East which is allergic to democracy.  It‘s just got to become in part the long-term purpose—well, one purpose of American foreign policy ought to be to try to propose or promote democracy there.

To use my language, it‘s one of the ways to integrate these people.  If we bring them in, we make them part of the modern world with democracy, with economic opportunity, I believe that they are much less likely to turn out terrorists. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Let‘s imagine you‘re secretary of state.  We have Bashar Assad, who is the new young leader of Syria.  We‘ve got King Abdullah, the new young leader of Jordan, already in office.  Those two are already in office.  We have got another generation, Saif Gadhafi, perhaps coming in for Moammar Gadhafi.

You‘ve got perhaps one of the sons—or the son of Mubarak coming in, in Egypt, maybe, maybe.  This new generation, King Mohammed VI of Morocco, are these guys any more open to a peaceful Middle East community than their dads were? 

HAASS:  My view is, they are. 

They are more open to it because they understand, they either change or they‘re overthrown.  They understand that they have got to somehow surf or ride this wave of reform.  Part of the world we live in is, the Middle East can no longer wall itself off.  The ideas that have taken hold in the former Soviet space, that have taken hold in Asia and Latin America, these ideas are finally spreading to the Middle East.  You now have Arab intellectuals who are essentially engaging in self-criticism. 

These leaders understand that they have got to change.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, why is this young Syrian leader, Bashar Assad—we see him on TV all the time—still allow his border to be so porous and to let jihadists go into Iraq and fight us there?  Why does he still seem to have an interest in going back and reasserting his hegemony over Lebanon?

HAASS:  Well, the Middle East is also the familiar Middle East. 

People still play hardball.  Pardon the expression. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

HAASS:  You have also got the—his internal politics.  This guy is not completely free in Syria. 

MATTHEWS:  So, he‘s led by his uncles or what, people around...

HAASS:  Well, yes.  He‘s had an old guard that is still very much still his father‘s people.  And also, yes, he wants to play some cards. 

The mere fact that he can put pressure on Iraq and do other things is his way of pushing against us, that lest we get too adventurous in trying to overthrow him. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s talk about the anthropology of this administration.  And I know you‘re close to it.  You‘ve been part of it.  You‘ve been appointed by the president.  This president, though—so, you have some loyalties.  And I very much cheer them on.  I like loyalties. 

Bolton, why did the president name a guy who is difficult to deal with, apparently, who is a real hawk, to a diplomatic post, United States ambassador to the U.N.?

HAASS:  I have no idea why he did it. 

But what really matters is what kind of U.N. ambassador John Bolton wants to be.  He has got to decide whether he plays Mr. Outside, essentially uses the U.N. like Hyde Park Corner. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

HAASS:  Which we do not need.

Or if goes there, he actually tries to leverage American power and do what diplomats do, which is diplomacy.  Depending on which way John Bolton goes, he could either be a Nixon goes to China kind of useful ambassador or he could simply waste the opportunity there. 

MATTHEWS:  Could he be a Jeane Kirkpatrick or a Pat Moynihan, a really strong advocate for U.S. values? 

HAASS:  But the problem with the Moynihan-Kirkpatrick school, right now, I‘m not sure that‘s what we need. 

(CROSSTALK)

HAASS:  That‘s too much using the U.N. as a soapbox.  It‘s too much the outsider game.  We actually need somebody there more...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who can work it. 

HAASS:  Tom Pickering. 

We need someone who—in a sense, the people whose names you don‘t recognize might be more the model. 

MATTHEWS:  The nobodies will do the big job. 

HAASS:  Well, you‘ve got to do the ugly daily work. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  It doesn‘t sound like you‘re a Bolton fan. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Do you want to correct me? 

HAASS:  Again, it depends which John Bolton shows up at the U.N.

MATTHEWS:  And you‘re expecting the one to show up will be the one to came to dinner, but wasn‘t so popular?

HAASS:  I don‘t know.  This president clearly understands that the United States now can‘t do things by itself. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Does this president have the stuff to name this in a recess appointment and forget the confirmation process? 

HAASS:  No idea.  That‘s your department.  That‘s politics. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, God.  I thought I would find out. 

Anyway, thank you, Richard Haass, the great guy.  The name of the book is “The Opportunity.”  If you want an alternative view to the way the world could be going over the next 20 years, this is the book.  If you don‘t want to give up, try hope.  “The Opportunity,” Richard Haass.

In a moment, why is Hillary Clinton hanging out with a possible ‘08 rival?  And what is making crowds in California jeer Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger now?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, Arnold Schwarzenegger hears jeers in California. 

Is his political muscle being strained?

HARDBALL returns after this.

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  A bipartisan group of House members introduced a resolution today that requires President Bush to start bringing home U.S. troops from Iraq by October 1 of next year.  The Pentagon says timetables don‘t work and the White House insists, a timetable is not on the table until Iraq security forces can protect that country. 

Sheri Annis is a media strategist who worked for Republicans.  And Steve McMahon is a Democratic strategist who still is. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me go right now.  I want to keep this straight here. 

Is the mood in the country turning against this war, Sheri? 

SHERI ANNIS, REPUBLICAN MEDIA CONSULTANT:  Certainly, the poll numbers show that people are upset that the troops are still there.

MATTHEWS:  Are the polls accurate?

ANNIS:  They‘re accurate in terms of people being upset with the troops still there. 

And I think it is true that troop morale is probably down.  And you can‘t blame people if they‘re been away for a long time.  So, the question is, how do you show that...

(CROSSTALK)

ANNIS:  How does the president show that there‘s a reason to stay there and also give a nod to the troops, to say, you are going to come home and we‘re thinking about you?

MATTHEWS:  When is this going to become a partisan issue, when the Democrat start to say, between now and next congressional election, a year from this November?  Are they going to come out and be the anti-war party? 

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  They very well could.

MATTHEWS:  Are they going to say this was the blunder?

(CROSSTALK)  

MATTHEWS:  And they have yet to do this.

MCMAHON:  There are many Democrats who are saying that already. 

I think they will come out as the anti-war party.  I think you‘re going to have a number of Republicans who come out as anti-war Republicans as well.  Look, this has—this has—you know, it‘s been a year and a half or more since the president declared mission accomplished.  He said major hostilities had ended.  And yet, every single day, you turn on the television set and more and more American soldiers are dying.  And the people in this country are getting very tired of it.

MATTHEWS:  Are they willing—do the American people see a dichotomy, a difference between supporting the war on terrorism and trying to get al Qaeda, trying to get bin Laden, and believing that the war in Iraq was not important to that struggle?  Or do they still see it as the same struggle? 

ANNIS:  I think they still see it as a similar struggle, because they see how awful some of the people can be, that the headings help the president‘s... 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  

ANNIS:  I don‘t mean to say.  But it helps the president‘s cause to show what tyrants these are.

MATTHEWS:  Steve, do they still see the war in Iraq as part of the war on terror, or they see it as an unnecessary diversion?   

MCMAHON:  The White House...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the critical question.

MCMAHON:  The White House hope they do and I don‘t think they are.

Increasingly, what is going on now is, the public is not seeing it as connected to terrorism.  They‘re seeing it as a badly planned, badly executed war with no exit strategy.  And the Republicans in the House now are finally saying, look, we have got to run for reelection.  We better do something about this if the president won‘t.

MATTHEWS:  What about bringing troops home?  It seems to me—and so much of my early—my generation as a kid, bring the troops home was a way of saying, the war is a mistake.  We‘re coming home.  If you say bring the troops home right now, is that another way of saying it was a blunder? 

ANNIS:  No, I don‘t think so.

MATTHEWS:  What does it say?

ANNIS:  I think it says, listen, you can‘t put people there for years and years and we don‘t want to be there forever.  There was a good reason to be there.  We have done a damn good job.  Let the Iraqis take over.  But...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you hear anybody saying it that way? 

ANNIS:  I say it that way.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You know, I think that‘s a hard way to say it, which is, you know, that our job was to get rid of this guy and give them a shot, not to give them a future, give them a shot.  We got rid of the bad guy.  We have given them a shot.  They can hold elections.  It‘s up to them now to do it.  Would a leader in this country, even the president, be willing to go that far and say, I did my best; I can‘t make Iraq?

MCMAHON:  I think that would be the best thing he could do, frankly, is to say, look, we underestimated how difficult it was going to be.  We underestimated how short we would be there.  But it‘s time to go. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  I mean, look, the bottom line is, the rationale has changed here.  We went in to disarm Iraq because they had weapons of mass destruction and they were soon to have a nuclear capability. 

That turned out not to be true.  And the problem is, the shifting rationale is something that the American people just aren‘t comfortable with.  So, it‘s not going to be enough to say, we accomplished our objective, because our objective wasn‘t regime change.  It was disarmament. 

ANNIS:  I‘m not saying it was a debacle at all.  I‘m saying we‘ve done a good job.  There were elections. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Georga Aiken foreign policy.  We won.  Let‘s go.  Is that your philosophy? 

(CROSSTALK)

ANNIS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  We won; let‘s come home?

ANNIS:  No, and not immediately come home.  But let‘s get out of there quickly. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I think it‘s interesting you‘re saying that as a strong person of strong Republican tutelage. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be right back with Sheri Annis and Steve McMahon. 

And you can follow all the hot political stories on Hardblogger, our political blog Web site.  Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Steve McMahon and Sheri Annis. 

An autopsy this week of Terri Schiavo found her brain was half normal size and she had no chance of recovery during all those arguments.  In March of this year, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said of Terri Schiavo‘s condition ---- quote—“Persistent vegetative state, which is what the court has ruled, I say that I question it, and I question it based on a review of the video footage, which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office here in the Capitol.  And that footage, to me, depicted something very different than persistent vegetative state.

Well, today, Senator Frist had this to say about his Schiavo comments a few months ago. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER:  We had a presumptive diagnosis.  I simply said, before withdrawing food, killing her, in effect, let‘s make sure that we have the right diagnosis.  I never, never on the floor of the Senate made a diagnosis, nor would I ever do that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s a tough one. 

What do you think, Sheri? 

ANNIS:  I think he‘s trying to crawl back out of this.  This hurts him.  And there‘s no good way to get out of this. 

He wants to get beyond this.  Luckily, he was on the morning shows today talking about something else and he wants to keep going.  And he should not have attempted to go that far in diagnosing.  He says he didn‘t diagnose.  It is parsing words at this point. 

MATTHEWS:  Hillary Clinton is out there doing a duet with him, like she did with Newt Gingrich a while back.  Is this part of Hillary‘s repositioning? 

MCMAHON:  Well, I don‘t know if it is part of repositioning.  But she...

MATTHEWS:  Why not—why don‘t you know that?  Of course it is.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t we ask... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  She‘s trying to make us think she‘s somewhere in the center. 

MCMAHON:  Well, she is—listen, she actually is somewhere in the center.  And there‘s a misperception that she is somewhere off on the left. 

And this bill that she‘s introduced with Senator Frist makes perfect sense.  And, yes, he is trying to crawl out from under it.  It is a shifting rationale.  It seems to be the Republican way.

(CROSSTALK)

ANNIS:  If you agree that Hillary is trying to move to the center...

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  You‘ll go ahead and go with me on the Frist thing? 

MATTHEWS:  They‘re both hermit crabs trying to find a shell, aren‘t they? 

(LAUGHTER)

MCMAHON:  Listen.  I think, when the history books are written, one of the worst things to happen to Senator Frist was the departure of Trent Lott, because he now has to be the Republican leader and he‘s got to lead on things like Schiavo and say ridiculous things like he did on the Senate floor that evening. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, you worked with Republicans.  And I want to talk to you about Arnold in a minute, Arnold Schwarzenegger, because I like Arnold Schwarzenegger.  I know he‘s a mixed bag, like most pols.  But we‘ll talk about it.

ANNIS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  The Republican Party is the party of the Christian right,

the party of the evangelicals, the part of the pro-life position, a

probably anti-gay marriage position.  And yet the two most popular figures

·         and I have got a brand new poll here that proves it.  The FOX News poll just came out today. 

It shows that Clinton, Hillary Clinton is leading among Democrats.  Big surprise.  But Rudy Giuliani, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-gay rights generally, leading among Republicans for the nomination for 2008.  And this is a consistent thing in every poll I‘ve read.  What‘s going on in the Republican Party that a pro-choice—I mean, made a pro-culturally conservative party seems to love this guy who is liberal on all the social issues?

ANNIS:  Because a lot of people haven‘t forgotten 9/11.  And Republicans have made this issue.  That‘s one place where everyone can come together, not talk about abortion, not worry about that, because we are leaders on defense issues. 

MATTHEWS:  Security. 

ANNIS:  And terrorism.  And Rudy Giuliani will always...

MATTHEWS:  Does that trump all this other stuff?

ANNIS:  Absolutely.  Absolutely. 

McCain is someone who is so clean and has served our country and would care about this more than anybody.  Rudy Giuliani, what more can you say?  He is the face of 9/11.

MATTHEWS:  But where‘s the successor to President Bush on the Republican Party?  You‘ve got two people who are seen as moderates, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, seen as moderates.  McCain is a conservative, but he is seen as a moderate. 

The people like Frist—I mean, who is out there that would be a Bushie on the cultural stuff, on choice issues and things like that?

ANNIS:  I mean, people will creep up obviously.  And Frist would love to be the one who comes forward. 

But I think people have to give a little bit.  It might be more of an Arnold-type party, Arnold-Giuliani party, as times go on.  Listen, Republicans put them forward at the last convention. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I agree with you about Arnold.

Let‘s take a look.  Let‘s take a—why was Arnold jeered the other day in his home town of Santa Monica?  What‘s going on there? 

ANNIS:  Because a lot of people from the outside, a lot of union worker from the outside came in and wanted to make a stink about Arnold.  That‘s basically what happened.

MATTHEWS:  About him going after the teachers‘ salaries and the nurses? 

ANNIS:  Exactly.  A special election has been called by Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s calling it for this fall. 

ANNIS:  Absolutely.  In November. 

MCMAHON:  He should have maybe had the president‘s Secret Service detail go out there and cleanse the crowd, like the president likes to do, so that there wouldn‘t be anybody in there who might be a Democrat or an independent or a dissenter, God forbid. 

(CROSSTALK)

ANNIS:  No, but this is the thing.  He agreed to speak in public.  He knows that he‘s up against this sometimes.  He can‘t control everything.  He knows what environments he can control.  And this, he can‘t control. 

The student themselves did not jeer him, or else they wouldn‘t have asked him to speak and they would have protested that prior to this.

MATTHEWS:  I bet he wins this fall and I bet he wins next fall, because the best thing going for him is the Democrats.  They‘re still a party of raising money and pressure groups and the same old crap. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  By the way, you worked for this guy. 

ANNIS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Make sure everybody knows that.  She worked for the governor out there. 

ANNIS:  I did.  I did.

MATTHEWS:  So, let‘s not act like this is a commentator. 

Anyway, thank you, Steve McMahon, as always, my buddy.  Sheri Annis, thank you.

ANNIS:  I don‘t work for him now, though. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.  Let me make that clear. 

Tomorrow on HARDBALL—you still love him, though—Condoleezza Rice, Russell Crowe, Rudy Giuliani, all tomorrow night, part of our eighth anniversary special.

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

END

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