updated 8/16/2005 11:32:55 AM ET 2005-08-16T15:32:55

Guest: DeeDee Miller, Cindy Sheehan, Debi Bohannan, May Hasan Lamotte, Robin Wright, Larry Diamond, E.J. Dionne, Deborah Orin, Mike Maus

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  A mother‘s word.  Tonight, Cindy Sheehan.  The woman who brought the anti-war movement to President Bush‘s front door.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Cindy Sheehan, she‘s become the symbol of the antiwar movement after her son Casey was killed in Iraq.  Today, Sheehan asked the president to pray with her.  We‘ll talk live to Cindy from Camp Casey outside the president‘s ranch in Crawford, Texas, in a moment.

Also we‘ll meet a mother whose son served two tours in Iraq and she‘s protesting Cindy Sheehan.  But first, today was the deadline for Iraq‘s government to draft a new constitution but there‘s no deal.  NBC‘s Kerry Sanders is in Baghdad with the latest.

KERRY SANDERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Chris, they can‘t agree on a new constitution but they can agree on one thing.  To delay how they‘re going to frame that constitution by at least seven days.  Tonight‘s decision mean that there are still remaining issues that they apparently are unable to surmount.  These insurmountable issues have been on the table all along.  One of them is federalism.  Should there be in the constitution a definition of federalism for the Kurds to the north and the Shiites to the south?  The Sunnis don‘t want to see that happen.

Also, women‘s rights.  Should women‘s rights be defined in the constitution and say that a woman is equal to a man, or should it say that the definition of a woman‘s rights actually falls to Islam and is defined by the Koran.  That has been a contentious issue here.  One that looks like it will be a very difficult hurdle to clear.

What this mean for the United States is, a setback.  They had anticipated with a lot of pressure that there would be a framework of a constitution in this country tonight.  It is a failure.  It is unclear whether in seven days or more, things will move forward.  But clearly, the United States will be disappointed because if a constitution is put together, that is one step closer to U.S. troops coming home.  Chris?

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Kerry Sanders.  More on that constitutional crisis. 

The lack of a constitution later in the program.

Cindy Sheehan has been camped outside President Bush‘s ranch in Crawford, Texas, for nine days now, demanding she meet with the president.  Cindy Sheehan, along with her sister Dee Dee Miller join us now.  What‘s the latest—I haven‘t talked to you before.  It is nice to talk to you, Cindy.  I know it is a tragic situation.  Let me ask you, are you asking now for a meeting with the president?  Or some other kind of occasion?

CINDY SHEEHAN, LOST SON IN IRAQ:  We‘re still asking for the meeting with the president to discuss my concerns that I‘ve brought up.  But also, we‘re having a worldwide moment of silent prayer on Friday at noon for those soldiers who are still in Iraq and their families and for the people who have been killed and for their families.  And we‘ve invited our neighbors to join us.  And George Bush is one of our neighbors so we‘ve invited him to join us.  He says he cares about the troops and we care about the troops.  Maybe that‘s something we can find common ground on to begin our discussion.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, your sister is joining us right now.  Tell me about that t-shirt you‘re wearing.  Deedee Miller.

DEEDEE MILLER, SHEEHAN‘S SISTER:  It‘s just a t-shirt I got in K-Mart that said fed up.  And I just included with Bush on it.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that sends a partisan message that you‘re a democrat who doesn‘t like the president, period?

MILLER:  No.  I think it sends a message that I‘m fed up with the fact that he‘s not giving us the answers that we would leak about why Casey died.

MATTHEWS:  What doubted those answers might be, Deedee?  Speculate a bit. 

Why do you think he took to us war?

MILLER:  I don‘t know.  The answer to that changes daily.  I would like for him to come out and answer that for us.

MATTHEWS:  If—this is serious business.  The purpose of your vigil is to get an answer from the president.  It is not to demonstrate against the war, right?  It is to get an answer from the president.  Let me go back to Cindy.  Is the purpose of your visit to demonstrate against war or to get the president to say something he hasn‘t said so far?

SHEEHAN:  It is actually to hold him accountable for things he has already said, Chris.  Last week, it wasn‘t last week.  The week before when I started this, 14 marines had been killed from the same unit in the same incident.  And that not will only broke my heart.  Every day is a new sense of tearing my heart out of my body again, when I see other children who have been killed and I know what their families are going through.  That broke my heart.

And that angered me and it also made me kind of feel like a failure because I‘ve been working for months to bring the truth to the American people, to wake them up to the fact that this is a war based on lies and to try to put pressure on the government to bring our troops home.  In fact, I‘ve been on your show before, a couple months ago.  David Gregory was the host.  I have been doing this.  I just didn‘t climb out of the woodwork last Saturday and start this odyssey.

But when he was speaking about the terrible loss of life that day, and we had 30 troops killed in the first five days of August, which was heart breaking and tragic for the families and to their communities, but he came out and he said they died for a noble cause.  And you know, Chris, I never have believed that a war of aggression against a country that posed no threat to the United States of America is a noble cause.  So I want to ask him what the noble cause is.

And I also know that if he believes it is such a noble cause, what we‘re doing over in Iraq, which he hasn‘t defined that really clearly, and like my sister says, it changes all the time.  If you believe it is a noble cause, does he encourage his daughters to go and fight?  We know there are soldiers there who are in their third tour of duty that don‘t want to be there and they want to come home.  And we know there are soldiers who have been in the military for eight years and they‘re stop loss and held hostage over there and they want to come home.

So if people believe this is a noble cause, then they should be willing to put their own skin in the game.  And there are so many people who say yes, we‘re fighting over there for a noble cause but they are not willing to sacrifice their own lives or their own children‘s lives for this.  And I don‘t think they should myself, you know.

And the other thing he always says is that we have to honor the sacrifices of the fallen by completing the mission.  Well, Chris, I had my heart and soul ripped out on April 4th, 2004.  As a mother, why would I want any other mother to suffer the way I am?  Why would I want one more of our dear children to be killed for this mistake, for the lives in Iraq?  And those are the answers I want from the president.

MATTHEWS:  Can I ask you a tough question?  A very tough question.


MATTHEWS:  All right.  If your son had been killed in Afghanistan, would you have a different feeling?

SHEEHAN:  I don‘t think so, Chris, because I believe that Afghanistan is almost the same thing.  We‘re fighting terrorism.  Or terrorists, we‘re saying.  But they‘re not contained in a country.  This is an ideology and not an enemy.  And we know that Iraq, Iraq had no terrorism.  They were no threat to the United States of America.

MATTHEWS:  But Afghanistan was harboring, the Taliban was harboring al Qaeda which is the group that attacked us on 9/11.

SHEEHAN:  Well then we should have gone after al Qaeda and maybe not after the country of Afghanistan.

MATTHEWS:  But that‘s where they were being harbored.  That‘s where they were headquartered.  Shouldn‘t we go after their headquarters?  Doesn‘t that make sense?

SHEEHAN:  Well, but there were a lot of innocent people killed in that invasion, too.  And I believe that you don‘t send in—and I‘m not a strategist.  I‘m not a military strategist.  But I‘m seeing that we‘re sending our ground troop in to invade countries where the entire country wasn‘t the problem.  Especially Iraq.  Iraq was no problem.  And why do we send in invading armies to march into Afghanistan when we‘re looking for a select group of people in that country?

So I believe that our troops should be brought home out of both places where we‘re obviously not having any success in Afghanistan.  Osama bin Laden is still on the loose and that‘s who they told us was responsible for 9/11.

MATTHEWS:  The reason I ask that because a lot of Americans believe going to Afghanistan made since because we were doing what the president said he would do that very day.  A couple days after 9/11.  He said I‘m going to get the people that attacked these buildings.  And he went over and got them.  And that was where america was so united.  Whereas Iraq has caused a deep division.  Let me give you a statement that seems to show some division in your family.  One of your relatives has given this statement to a conservative radio commentary for distribution.

Quote, “The Sheehan Family,” that‘s your family, “lost our beloved Casey in the Iraq War and we have been silently, respectfully grieving.  We do not agree with the political motivations and publicity tactics of Cindy Sheehan.  She now appears to be promoting her own personal agenda and notoriety at the expense of her son‘s good name and reputation.  The rest of the Sheehan Family supports our troops, our country, and our president, silently, with prayer and respect.  Sincerely, Casey Sheehan‘s grandparents, aunts, uncles and numerous cousins.”

So it seems like you have a division in your family.

SHEEHAN:  Those are on my husband‘s side of the family.  And we‘ve always been politically on different sides of the fence.  I have always been a Democrat and they have always been Republicans, so we‘ve always had a good-natured kind of debate within that family.  But you know what, we support the troops.  How can they say by what I‘m doing I don‘t support the troops?

The troops are over there for a mistake and not one of them, not one drop of blood should have been spilled in Iraq.  Why are they still over there?  Why are they still dying and why are the Iraqi people still dying?  Because it is a mistake.  And it was based on deceptions.

And another thing about that side of the family, they barely knew Casey.  They barely had a relationship with him.  They call him their beloved Casey.  He was my hero, Chris, before he was killed.  I knew him so well.  My sister ...

MATTHEWS:  Were your husband‘s parents and grandparents on your side close to Casey?

SHEEHAN:  Out of all those people who signed the letters, they know him the most but they didn‘t really keep up a relationship with him either.  And I think ...

MATTHEWS:  Why are they going to war with you in public?  Why are they issuing a statement for national release through a conservative radio talk show host?  You knew Melanie is a bright woman.  She was going to get that out.  Why would they put out a statement that goes in the face of what you‘re doing in your camp?

SHEEHAN:  You know, like I‘ve said, we‘ve always been on different sides of the fence politically.  And my sister was Casey‘s second mom.  And she is standing here next to me in solidarity and agreement with me.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask Deedee a question.  Why do you think the other side of the family has taken this position?

MILLER:  I really honestly don‘t know.  We were shocked by it.  It broke my heart.  And I did send one of them an email saying as much, that despite everything in our disagreements, we‘re family and that this shouldn‘t be happening right now.  Again, I can‘t say why they did it.  But it was a shock.  And it didn‘t break my heart.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think they are simply partisan?

MILLER:  Well, I know they are.  I know they are.  I mean, they staunchly supported George Bush even though they knew that Cindy was having some real issues with the fact that they were supporting him.  Sheri (ph), Cindy‘s sister-in-law, did go as far as to abstain from voting.  She did take it that far.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the family was put up to this by a other partisan group on the right, for example?

SHEEHAN:  Chris, I don‘t know.  That‘s a question you‘ll have to ask them, I guess.  I‘d like you to know it was hurtful.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about your situation.  Cindy, this is a tricky situation.  Every time a family has a tragedy and the loss of a son, your oldest (ph), must be unimaginable.  Sometimes husbands and wives grieve in very different ways and it often leads to separation and divorce.  Is that what has happened between and you your husband?  Or is this a partisan fight that we‘re seeing in the open that‘s behind us?  The separation and divorce of you and your husband?

SHEEHAN:  My husband has always agreed with me philosophically.  And he only disagreed with the intensity that I put into the fight.  But I am compelled to do this.  And other than that, that‘s as far as I‘m going to talk about my family‘s—another personal tragedy due to this war.

MATTHEWS:  I understand.

SHEEHAN:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  We‘ll be right back with Cindy Sheehan and her sister Deedee Miller from the encampment.  It‘s called Camp Casey outside President Bush‘s ranch in Crawford.  They‘re surrounded, by the way, by people both for and against them.  What a hotspot that‘s become.

Later, many military parents disagree with the stand Cindy is taking and say her protest demoralizes our troops.

Plus, an Iraqi woman who says Cindy Sheehan‘s son didn‘t die in vain.  She‘s on the other side of the argument.  What an emotional issue this has been for our country.

Next is Cindy Sheehan supporters.  They‘re all down in Texas.

You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  ... Virginia.  Look at this plane.  It looks like it is pulling back from landing.  There are 25 people aboard this military plane.  Look at the plane.  He is trying to stabilize and get an even land.  It doesn‘t look like he‘s quite down yet.

This is an unusual situation for us on HARDBALL.  We‘re going live with this in Norfolk, Virginia.  He is coming in smooth, it looks like.  It looks like he is coming in smooth.  A belly landing.  Some sparks, some friction.  We hope this doesn‘t ignite, obviously.  It looks like a safe landing.  There‘s no fire.  Let‘s pray for this right now.  What an extraordinary picture to get like this.

There‘s no one approaching the plane yet.  It looks like one engine plane.  Apparently, they used a hook.  They threw it out and caught the plane.  And the crew is escaping the plane, three, four, five, six, seven,8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, they may all be getting out of there.  There are more than 15.  There‘s another fellow getting out.  Another service person.  More than we thought aboard.  More than 15.  Maybe up to 20 aboard already.  They‘re all getting out safely.  This is good news.  This is in Norfolk, Virginia.  We just happened to catch this picture live on MSNBC of this belly landing.

You‘ve seen them in the movies.  Here it is in real life.  A pilot.  What a great landing.  Brought that plane in safely with the help of the ground crews.  You can see the truck there.  They threw a line to help slow down the landing.  There‘s the propeller slowing down.  What a great operation by the pilot.  He saved his team.  They‘re outside the explosion distance.  And the firemen are joining it right now.  The firefighters.  But it doesn‘t look like they have to put out the fire.

Let‘s know back now to Cindy Sheehan who has caused quite a roar in Texas outside the president‘s ranch in Crawford.  Cindy Sheehan, I want to ask you a question, and Linda, of course—Deedee can answer the question.  Every night on television practically, we hear the president explaining why we‘re fighting in Iraq.  He says we‘re fighting terrorism and fighting for freedom.  Why do you expect a different answer when you ask him why your son died?

SHEEHAN:  Because I really want him to tell me truth, Chris.  And we know that there were no weapons of mass destruction and we know there was no link between Saddam and 9/11.  The Downing Street memos have proven that in July, as early as July of 2002, they knew all these things and wanted to fix the intelligence around the policy.  And I‘m never going to see my son again.  And she still be alive.  And there are tens of thousands of people in the world that should be alive right now.  And we just want to it stop.  We want the killing to stop.

MATTHEWS:  Cindy, the president is a stubborn fellow.  He believes in this cause as much as he believes in anything.  He has been led to believe by the expert around him that by going into Iraq, we can turn things around in the Middle East, that part of the world.  Start democracy on a winning pattern over there.  Establish a role model for other countries in that part of the world and stop the hatred of America that seems to come from so much failure in that part of the world.  You disagree?

SHEEHAN:  Well, another thing is I‘m a stubborn person, too, Chris.  And when I came down and said I was staying until I meet with him or until August 31, I met him, I wholly disagree with him.  We‘re not going to cure terrorism and spread peace and goodwill in the Middle East by killing innocent people or, I‘m not even saying our bullets and bombs are killing them.  The occupation that they don‘t have food.  They don‘t have clean water.  They don‘t have electricity.  They don‘t have medicine.  They don‘t have doctors.

We need to get our military presence out of there and that‘s what will start building goodwill.  We know they‘re building bases the size of Sacramento, California, in iraq.  They plan on never leaving.  And I see in the future, they‘re starting to beat the drums against Iran.  And I see Iraq as the base for spreading imperialism.  And if we don‘t stop them now, our babies and our unborn grandchildren will be fighting this.  This eternal war ...

MATTHEWS:  Are you considering running for Congress, Cindy?

SHEEHAN:  No, not this time.  I‘m a one issue person.  I know a lot about what‘s going on in Iraq but I don‘t know anything about anything else.  And I want to focus my energy on bringing the troops home.

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  I have to tell you, you sound more informed than most U.S. congresspeople so maybe you should run.

SHEEHAN:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Cindy and thank you, Deedee Miller, your sister.

When we return, back to Camp Casey, we‘ll meet two women who are there to show their support for President Bush.  You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  We‘ve been talking with Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq who is camped right out in front of President Bush‘s Texas ranch demanding that the president meet with her.  Many other military parents don‘t agree with Sheehan‘s vigil.  Debi Bohannan‘s son served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.  And she joins us from Crawford, Texas.  And also, with her, with us as well, is May Hasan Lamotte, an Iraqi woman who came to Crawford yesterday to tell Cindy Sheehan her son did not die in vain.  Let me go right now to Debi Bohannan.  Debbie, why are you in Crawford, today?

DEBI BOHANNAN, SON SERVED IN IRAQ:  Well, I‘ve watched this go on for the last few weeks and haven‘t had a—having had a son in Iraq and Afghanistan the last three years, having spent three years on my knees and losing with the terror of losing a son every day while he‘s there, I just felt compelled to come to let the president and the troops know that we do support what they‘re doing.  We appreciate what they‘re doing.  I also have firsthand information from my son who just rushed from Iraq a couple weeks ago, of just how much those, the Iraqis appreciate and trust us being there.  And how they depend on us to finish this job.  My son told me himself that if we leave, they don‘t stand a chance.

MATTHEWS:  Who is they?  Who are the Iraqis fighting?

You said the Iraqis won‘t have a chance against who?

BOHANNAN:  Insurgents.  From the borders.  Syria, Jordan ...

MATTHEWS:  Who are the insurgents?  Who does your son see as the enemy there?  That‘s very important to most Americans trying to figure this war out.  Who is the enemy in this fight?

BOHANNAN:  I think the consensus is insurgents coming from Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, surrounding countries.  Just to fight.  They don‘t want democracy.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that if the people of Iraqis supported us, that these people coming in from outside, you shouldn‘t call them insurgents.  That means people from the country resisting outsiders like us.  Why do you think that they would succeed, these outsiders if the people of Iraq supported us?  Why are they causing so much trouble if the people supported us?  That‘s the question people want to know the answer to.

BOHANNAN:  Well, the Iraqis have been oppressed for 30 years.  Just like an abused wife comes out of a relationship, it takes time to heal.  It is going to take time to regain their trend is and trust and self-confidence and stand on their own.

MATTHEWS:  Does your son get a sense when he is there risking his life every day he‘s there, you‘re praying for him.  What a situation you‘re in as a mother.  Does he get a feeling that they‘re rooting for us against the insurgents?

BOHANNAN:  Yes.  The common citizen in Iraq, yes.

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  That‘s good to hear.  Let me go to May Hasan Lamotte.  You‘re an Iraqi national.  You married a journalist.  You‘re here now.  Why did you come down to Crawford, Texas today?  Or yesterday?

MAY HASAN LAMOTTE, IRAQI OPPOSING CINDY SHEEHAN:  I came here to tell everybody and all American people that I feel sorry about every brave soldier who gave his life to give me and give my country and give my people our freedom.  And to tell them that their children sacrifices, they didn‘t go for nothing.  And I came here to ask Cindy to stop this and keep all troops in Iraq because if they will leave, it will be disaster for my country and for my people.  Then their sacrifices will mean nothing.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, who are we fighting over there?  The same question I put to Debi.  Who are the bad guys, if you will?  In Iraq?

LAMOTTE:  Excuse me?

MATTHEWS:  Who are the enemy?

LAMOTTE:  The enemy?  In Iraq?


LAMOTTE:  Bad people.  Bad people who do not wish the Iraqi people to enjoy freedom, to enjoy peace.  This is the bad people.

MATTHEWS:  Who are they?  Are they Iraqis?

LAMOTTE:  Iraqis?  I do not expect Iraqi people wish to themselves to live in bad situation.  Especially after their experience with Saddam Hussein.  I think it‘s from outside who, they will always, they were always thinking to cause harm to my people and my country because they have many of benefits when they can control my country.

MATTHEWS:  So the people killing Americans in Iraq right now are from outside Iraq.  Is that what you‘re saying?

LAMOTTE:  Excuse me?

MATTHEWS:  Are the people in Iraq who are killing our guys, are they Iraqis?  Or not?

LAMOTTE:  Maybe you can find—I cannot say to you because I didn‘t meet any bad people to ask him whether he is Iraqi or from outside of Iraq.  But you can find bad people everywhere.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this.  How many years should the United States stay in Iraq and defend the side that you‘re on? 

LAMOTTE:  I think when...

MATTHEWS:  How many years? 

LAMOTTE:  I think when Iraqi people can be—stand up on their own, at that time. 

MATTHEWS:  When?  How many years? 

LAMOTTE:  When, I cannot say to you how many years because everything takes time.  So how can I say this.  But I know good that when Iraqi people get their chance to be—enjoy their freedom and know the meaning of freedom and live in peace and can depend and can stand up on their own, at that time we will be ready to be alone.  But now, no. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I think a lot of Americans would like to know whether it is a couple of years or 10 years.  And if it is 10 years, I think a lot of people will say that‘s too long.  Anyway, thank you, Debi Bohannan, thank you, May Hasan Lamotte. 

Up next, Iraqi leaders were unable to reach a deal today on a new constitution.  All kinds of fights on that front.  What does that mean for our troops in Iraq?  How much longer do we have to stay now that they can‘t get their act together?  You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.  



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Today after hours of negotiations, the Iraqi parliament granted themselves a seven-day extension on that deadline for the draft constitution which would move Iraq further into self-government.  Several contentious issues are still unresolved, including these big ones.  What role Islam will play deciding Iraqi law and women‘s rights.  Robin Wright is the diplomatic reporter for The Washington Post.  And Larry Diamond worked on the constitutional issues as a senior advisor to that Coalition Provisional Authority, and he is also author of “Squandered Victory: The American Occupation & the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq.” 

Robin, how should we read the failure of the drafters to come up with a constitution today? 

ROBIN WRIGHT, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Well, it is a disappointment clearly because the administration has put real emphasis on the deadline.  At the same time, seven days is not long in the history of creating a constitution.  If you remember how long it took our own founding fathers, but it is clear that if the Iraqis don‘t come together in another week, then they do face a real danger of slippage and accusations that they are not going to get this together. 

MATTHEWS:  Larry, how do you read the failure today? 

LARRY DIAMOND, AUTHOR, “SQUANDERED VICTORY”:  Well, again, it is a disappointment.  But, Chris, I think it is important to realize that it would have been a much worse failure if they had agreed on a constitution that a significant section of the country did not accept.  And as a result, the political divisions in the country had been further polarized.  At least that hasn‘t happened. 

MATTHEWS:  What would have been a worse case? 

DIAMOND:  The worst case would have been if the Kurds and Shia had cut a deal and they said, OK, we‘ve agreed.  The Sunnis aren‘t on board yet, which they‘re not.  That‘s a big part of the problem, particularly concerning federalism.  Tough luck, Sunnis, we‘re going ahead anyway.  Then the Sunnis would try to defeat the constitution in a referendum.  And either way, you would have a deepening political crisis in the country.  So at least they‘re still talking. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Let me go to Robin Wright.  Robin, I‘ve covered your career for so many years now.  I don‘t want to say you‘re too old but you know your stuff about the Third World.  Has any government succeeded where you have basically knocked out the people who have power for years and said, all the new guys are going to take over?  I mean, why should the Sunnis who enjoyed so much power under Saddam Hussein ever accept a Shia-dominated government? 

WRIGHT:  Well, I don‘t think they are going to accept a Shiite-dominated government.  I think they‘re going to accept a government in which they are considered legitimate players.  And I think that‘s one of the important lessons we learned from today.  The fact is that the Sunnis and Shia and the Kurds didn‘t emerge from this shooting at each other, which might have been the way in a lot of other Third World countries.  I think of the civil war in Lebanon over the basic issues of distribution of power.  And the fact is that the Iraqis really are generally committed, at this point anyway, to try and to sort through these issues. 

And it is striking that the Sunnis are very much included in the process today, in contrast to the election process in January.  There has been an evolution over the last eight months that is important in trying to bring some form of unity to this country.  They still have a long way to go.  But the Sunnis are players at this stage. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Larry.  Larry, what role should the United States play in the long run over there?  Should we keep a garrison over there like we did in Germany or Tokyo for all those years, all those decades?  Or should we basically say we‘re leaving at a certain time completely? 

DIAMOND:  Well, Chris, I don‘t think we should give a fixed and irretrievable deadline.  But I think one thing that is uniting the insurgency, which has many disparate elements, you asked who they are.  They‘re Baathists and non-Baathists.  They‘re secular and religious.  They‘re foreigners but they‘re mainly Iraqis.  The one thing that unites them is nationalism, Iraqi or pan-Arab, and resistance to what they think is an indefinite American military occupation of their country.  And most Iraqis do not want us there forever.  So I think the president needs to clearly declare that we‘re not going to seek permanent military bases.  And when the Iraqi military can defend and secure the country, we will leave.  Not just leave a little bit but leave entirely. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the ideology of the president, and the people around him who took us to war would allow him ever to say that? 

DIAMOND:  I don‘t know.  You know, the administration has made a lot of adjustments.  The fact that they have sought so hard to bring the Sunnis into the political process is a huge adjustment from their initial strategy.  And I give them credit for it.  So they‘re not going to admit they have made a mistake, but they may find words to make even a fairly sharp adjustment.  And a sharp adjustment is what is needed now. 

MATTHEWS:  Robin, I sense in your words today a bit of optimism.  Am I right? 

WRIGHT:  Well, there is cautious optimism.  I think the Iraqis have all things considered in the face of this insurgency done pretty well.  But they keep deferring a lot of the critical issues that have divided them in the past.  Whether they can work out an arrangement, the distribution of oil wells, for example, how they live over the next four months, working over this constitution.  Part of the process is getting national consensus.  And if they don‘t get national consensus in October when this is supposed to be put to the vote, then they‘re going to be in trouble. 

We‘ve got two more critical elections the next four months for—over the constitution and then for permanent government.  And that really is the point where we‘ll be able to judge finally whether the Iraqis are capable of moving on without us. 

MATTHEWS:  Can we bring in some of the people fighting us over there? 

In other words, people fighting us, as you know, are the Sunnis, the people, some of them still loyal to the old regime, but there is also just Sunni elements, it seems to me, that, as Larry said, they‘re secular, they‘re just worried about a Shia government.  Is there any way we can bring those holdouts into the government? 

WRIGHT:  I think partially, yes.  Some of them who, the old Saddam loyalists, some of those who feel as Sunnis they‘ve been secluded.  If they see that the Sunnis are part of the constitution, if they are included in equal rights, if they are seen to be able to run in representative numbers, I think you‘ll be able to bring some.  Clearly not all.  Clearly not the extremists, the foreign components, the Islamic extremists who not only oppose the system in power but have an alternative ideology.  And that is to say some form of strict Islamic rule in the country.  Now that has not prevailed.  That has not won strong support from any sector of society, even among the Sunnis. 

So I think there‘s an important indication already of where the majority of Iraqis want to go.  And that‘s not in the way of the insurgency.  So in that sense, there‘s another reason for optimism.  But that also doesn‘t mean that they—the insurgents are going to give up or that we can defeat them militarily.  They can continue to grind away at us for a long time. 

MATTHEWS:  Larry, is there hope that we can cut a deal with some of the people we‘re fighting right now, and cut a real deal where they come into the government? 

DIAMOND:  Chris, I think there is.  The emphasis is on some.  But if you peel away a more tactical element of the insurgency from the Baathist and religious fanatical diehards, you will degrade the insurgency and tip the situation more toward the peaceful political process.  But to do that you have to...

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re hopeful. 

DIAMOND:  ... we have to start talking to them. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you hopeful that a really smart diplomatic initiative over there on the ground would work? 

DIAMOND:  I think it could if the president were willing to declare that we will not seek permanent military bases in Iraq, and if we would start talking to the people who have been trying for two years now through international intermediaries to send signals that they want to talk to the United States, signals largely unanswered. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think, Larry, the president continues to use words like “terrorists” and “outside agitators?”  It‘s almost like—not agitators but outsiders.  Why doesn‘t he face the fact that the people mainly opposing us over there are Iraqi? 

DIAMOND:  Well, I think the administration may fear that it gives a certain amount of logic or legitimacy to the resistance or undermines the logic of why we entered in if it turns out that the majority of this insurgency is indigenous.  But the fact is that that doesn‘t justify their brutality or their killing of innocent people.  It just...

MATTHEWS:  Sure, but a lot that...

DIAMOND:  ... dictates the logic of what we have to deal with. 

MATTHEWS:  But a lot of the criticism of this war is that it has been launched with half truths: connections between 9/11 and Iraq, WMD, arguments that the people over there are going to greet us with open arms.  They‘ve all been sort of half truths or partial truths.  Isn‘t it time we would all benefit from the straight truth? 

DIAMOND:  Chris, I couldn‘t have put it better myself.  We need a much more candid, honest, hard-hitting, open appraisal of the situation. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Larry Diamond.  Thank you very much, Robin Wright. 

Up next, Israel begins its pullout from the Gaza Strip.  Will the move make Israel more secure?  A big question. 

And the latest on that dramatic emergency landing of a Naval plane down in Norfolk.  

This is HARDBALL, only MSNBC.

MATTHEWS:  Earlier this hour, we showed you these live pictures of a Naval C-2 plane which made an emergency landing at Norfolk, Virginia, after its landing gear failed.  We‘re joined right now by retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona who is an NBC News military analyst. 

Colonel Francona, how do you explain this little event we just watched?  Pretty scary. 

RICK FRANCONA, NBC NEWS MILITARY ANALYST:  Well, he‘s coming in without his gear down.  So obviously he has had some trouble with that.  The pilot does a great job here, puts it down safely.  And as you were watching it live.  We were very concerned about, of course, that catching on fire.  And you‘ll notice the crew will be coming out here very quickly now.  This aircraft carries quite a few people.  It is a transport aircraft used to move high priority cargo, mail, and people to and from the carriers.  It is called a COD, Carrier Onboard Delivery.  So it has got that hook there that is used to bring it down on a carrier.  That‘s why you see it using the restraining gear there.  So he...

MATTHEWS:  So they were lucky that it was that type of plane

FRANCONA:  ... got that (INAUDIBLE) didn‘t slide down the runway very far. 

MATTHEWS:  So that was lucky that we had a plane equipped for a carrier landing. 

FRANCONA:  Yes.  And the—most military air fields are equipped with these restraining cables.  And if the aircraft has a hook, you can slow it down much faster, expose the crew to much less danger.  This was a textbook way to land this in an emergency. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the procedures for landing in an emergency with regard to a belly landing.  You see it in the movies.  We‘ve heard about it all our life.  But in terms of the pilot, how extreme does the situation have to get?  Does he have to be out of fuel?  Has he completely given up on his landing gear? 

FRANCONA:  Well, I don‘t what the Navy requirements are for this.  But evidently the pilot has the final call on that.  His option would have been to—if they had enough emergency parachutes on board, he could have had the passengers and crew jump out.  He could have landed himself.  Or but—in this case, he chose to make it.  And I get assumption, he is pretty, he was pretty certain he could make this landing safely. 

MATTHEWS:  So this fellow is in for a medal, what do you think? 

Pretty good landing, it looked great as an amateur watching it. 

FRANCONA:  He‘ll get a commendation, and I‘m sure he‘s going to get a few beers at the club tonight. 


MATTHEWS:  Colonel Francona, anything else we should know about this?  It‘s just—we were just lucky, I guess to catch this tricky situation on camera. 

FRANCONA:  Yes.  I mean, it shows the skill of this Naval aviator here.  He did a really great job.  I mean, these aircraft have a tremendous safety record.  They‘re used in very brutal conditions, slamming these things down on the aircraft carriers all the time.  It is a solid airframe.  And the guy just did a great job. 

MATTHEWS:  Is this going to be a—is this Colonel Francona, is this going to be a training film now? 

FRANCONA:  It could be.  It could be.  It is picture perfect and we were lucky to get it on tape. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much for joining us, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, NBC military analyst. 

Let‘s go right now.  We have Deborah Orin joining us from The New York Post.  We‘ve got E.J. Dionne, of course, joining us.  We‘re going to be talking about the Gaza pullout plus a look at domestic politics. 

E.J., let me ask about this whole situation here with regard to the Gaza situation.  We had the deadline we were talking about with regard to writing that constitution in Iraq which we‘re missing.  What about the deadline to get Israel out of Gaza, E.J.? 

E.J. DIONNE, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Well, I think this is a very gutsy move by Ariel Sharon and I‘m not a Sharon fan.  And I think it is also a realistic move.  But this is really a first step.  Dennis Ross, who was a Middle East negotiator for President Clinton and the first President Bush, noted that you‘ve got a whole series of steps you have to take. 

You can‘t turn Gaza into a prison for the Palestinians.  They‘ve got to be able to trade.  But you also have to have them move goods in and out in a way that doesn‘t endanger Israel.  Both Sharon and Mr. Abbas, leader of the Palestinians, have a lot of political problem on their own side.  Sharon split his own party, now those political splits get in the way of further progress.  So this is a very difficult step and it is only a first step. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We‘re going to come back and hear the other side of this discussion from Deborah Orin, the bureau chief in Washington for The New York Post.  We‘re talking about Gaza.  We‘ve also got to talk in the next few minutes about President Bush and how he‘s doing in the polls with regard to Iraq. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with The Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, and Deborah Orin of The New York Post. 

Deborah, I want to start with you.  A new Associated Press poll shows the president losing ground.  You know, I looked at that in The Boston Herald up here, which is no liberal newspaper, and they were playing up the fact that President Bush is now way below Bubba, as they call him, President Clinton in the polls at this time, in his second term, and way below Reagan.  What‘s going on? 

DEBORAH ORIN, THE NEW YORK POST:  Well, you know, when Clinton was in his second term, we were in a whole different era.  And with presidents who have to deal with difficult things aren‘t always that popular.  You know, if you go on to the comparison, history judges Harry Truman very kindly but his favorability was down to 24 percent. 

MATTHEWS:  I know. 

ORIN:  And so, you know it‘s not, it‘s only history...

MATTHEWS:  But then again...

ORIN:  It‘s only history that will tell us later whether...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but the Korean War was extremely unpopular by the time Truman left office. 

ORIN:  And yet now history judges Truman as one of the giants.  I think Truman certainly will be rated higher by history than Bill Clinton. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but didn‘t the problem the president faced then, Truman was very unpopular when it seemed like the Korean War was in stalemate.  Remember that?  I‘m not—I don‘t know if you‘re old enough, neither am I, to remember it.  But history shows what got him in trouble is not fighting the Korean War but in getting bogged down in it. 

ORIN:  Yes, well, you know, again, we as a nation at the moment have attention deficit disorder.  We want everything fixed fast.  And we have to remember, I mean, look back to World War II.  Wars, unfortunately, take time.  And peace takes time, you know, compared—I mean, it is a cliche but it is true, compared to our own history as a nation, when we were, when we won our independence from Britain.  It took us years to get ourselves organized.  And we were not coming back from three decades of tyranny and people being fed to Doberman pinchers and people being afraid to tell their children that they opposed Saddam Hussein. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I wish we had more time with you, Deborah.  You‘re a great guest.  We‘ll get back with you in the next couple of days.  Deborah Orin of The New York Post, she‘s the bureau chief in the D.C.  And E.J.  Dionne, a syndicated columnist who appears in The Washington Post. 

Let me go right now, talk more about that emergency landing of that C-2 plane down in Norfolk, Virginia, after its landing gear had failed.  Mike Maus is a public affair officer with the Navy. 

Mike, what‘s the report from the Navy on what happened to that plane? 

MIKE MAUS, NAVY PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER:  Well, we‘re—the whole incident right now will be under investigation to determine the cause.  But at this point, what I would like to emphasize is the skill and the expertise of these aviators in landing this aircraft, and having no injuries. 

MATTHEWS:  A great piece of work, by the way, we saw it live, Mike, and you don‘t have to sell it, that was one of the great things I‘ve seen on television, a great piece of heroic effort by that Navy pilot.  Anyway, thank you, Mike Maus, from the Navy. 

Join us again tomorrow night at 7 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now it‘s time for “COUNTDOWN.” 



Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant,Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Watch Hardball with Chris Matthews each weeknight at 7 p.m. ET


Discussion comments