Guest: George Allen, John Culberson, Frank Sharry, Mark Green, Melanie Morgan, Stephen Hayes, Chuck Todd
DAVID GREGORY, GUEST HOST: Tonight, border wars. How illegal immigration has become a large national security issue and a political opportunity for a Republicans. Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Hi everybody, I am David Gregory in again tonight for Chris. America drags hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants every year and now citizens across the country are forming militias to taking matters into their own hands. Governors in some southwestern states have declared a state of emergency. This week in Virginia, a local community is building a place to get illegal immigrant workers off the street. We‘re going to debate that later on on HARDBALL.
But first, an al Qaeda-related group has claimed responsibility for firing three rockets from Jordan aimed at a U.S. Navy ship docked in Aqaba. The missiles missed their target but one Jordanian soldier was killed in the attack and the question is the battlefield of the war on terror now spreading? We‘ll ask Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is here with us tonight. Senator, welcome.
SEN. GEORGE ALLEN, ® VA: Great to be with you, David.
GREGORY: Who is behind this attack?
ALLEN: Well, we‘ll find out who is behind it. This is the early part of it. And I guess they‘ll investigate. There may be several groups who will take credit for it but it does certainly put us on guard. No matter where we are. That our ships can be attacked. We saw this years ago with the USS Cole. And so these terrorist groups, whether in Jordan and some of them, of course, infiltrated from time to time into Israel and obviously, they‘re in places like Pakistan and Iraq and elsewhere.
GREGORY: But senator, we hear the president say so often that we are in Iraq because we‘re essentially taking the fight in the war on terror to Iraq. We would rather fight them there than other parts of the world. Is this battleground spreading?
ALLEN: Well, it is a global war on terror. And terrorist attacks occur in the Middle East. They also occur in places like Indonesia. They occur all owe the world. They have occurred here as well, of course, on 9/11. They have not hit here since 9/11/2001. The war on terror in Iraq is one of those theaters in the war. And a very important one. It is, one, a battle against day indicated and also against remnants of Saddam‘s regime.
And now there in Iraq, they‘re even turning on Sunnis. Not just worrying about them being against Shiites and Kurds. They just killed—these terrorists. I don‘t know if these the old Baath or Baathist regime or al Qaeda, but they killed Sunnis who were putting up posters encouraging people to vote.
And our reaction should be one of indignation and added resolve and a willingness to persevere. If voters, somebody wanted people to be voting in some state in this country, and poll workers were killed or political worker were killed putting up posters, we would be outraged and we ought to be outraged as well in Iraq. Because the men and women of our armed services are trying to bring forth a historic change—The opportunity for free and just society, for the people of Iraq—Which I think will be helpful for our security and obviously, also, having a foothold of freedom in the Middle East.
GREGORY: Do you do we‘re winning in Iraq?
ALLEN: I think we are winning. It is very slow and what is going on right now in their drafting of their constitution is so important. There is the security side. The training of Iraqis to protect themselves and their own homes and communities. And there‘s the political side. And I think that this drafting of this constitution is so important. If you just look through history. What motivated Americans when we seceded from Britain and that monarchy? It was the principles of the Declaration of Independence.
And so to the extent that they can craft and draft and present to the people of Iraq a constitution that has freedom of religion, freedom of expression for men and women, private ownership of property and the rule of law, that is something for people to be inspired for.
GREGORY: What evidence is there that they want any of these things we so value in America? And that the administration has said they wanted a long time ago, when in point of fact, when it comes to writing the constitution, there are real questions about whether this could be an Islamic state, about whether women will really be protected by the rule of law, and whether they indeed even want a central government, that‘s a strong central government or whether they want three separate regions.
ALLEN: David, you‘re right. These are not easy issues. They were not easy issues for the United States either. When we finally, when Cornwallis surrendered and we finally won, it took a long time. We had the Articles of Confederation. We realized there was too much impingement on commerce and weakness and so created the Constitution. And it took several hundred years to really make sure all people in our country, regardless of gender or race had equality.
I do think there‘s a will. And you see it. The whole issue of federalism is one that is important. We were created, the federal government in our country was created by the states. Theirs is a different situation. It‘s a top down approach. But you do have to have the realities recognize that the Kurds, because of the no fly zone, have actually developed their own political system there. And .
GREGORY: Should they have their own separate state, in effect?
ALLEN: I‘m not going to get into the right of secession and what sorts of different provincial rights there may be. I do think if they have equality regardless of religion, their ethnicity or their gender, that is a big step forward in the Middle East. That is not the case in most Arab-run countries.
GREGORY: Let me ask but troops. One of your colleagues on the Democratic side of the aisle, Senator Feingold, calling this week for the president to withdraw troops. He said it is not a deadline but he is saying by December of next year, there‘s a timetable with some flexibility to withdraw American troops. Is it time for that step?
ALLEN: No. It is not that time for that step. Because the Iraqis, they don‘t have the capability right now to secure their own communities. And it takes a while and longer than maybe some of us would wish for them to be trained up. And as they get trained up, we can stand down.
GREGORY: Well, why not pressure them? Why not say to them, look, you need to realize, we‘re not here forever.
ALLEN: Well, I don‘t actually think the Iraqis want the United States or coalition forces there. I think they may a different culture, a different background. I think like all human beings, they do want to control their own destiny. They don‘t care to be reliant on foreign governments. And I think again, this constitution will be key. If this constitution is one that does have those pillars of a free and just society, and if it is ratified by the people of that country, I think that is something that will motivate and inspire the people of Iraq.
GREGORY: But what about the insurgency? Even Secretary Rumsfeld said while it is a powerful course, a constitution - a political process to succeed, the big name terrorists like Zarqawi, they don‘t stop. The insurgency goes on. General Casey told Matt Lauer this week in Baghdad is that the history of surges is that they last nine years.
Do we need to stay until we beat this insurgency?
ALLEN: The insurgency may continue. But will that insurgency, David, actually inspire or win the hearts and minds of the people of Iraq? I don‘t think so. They don‘t want to return to Saddam‘s repressive regime. They‘re not going to want to have a Taliban style government in Iraq. And that‘s why the constitution is important. I don‘t think the terrorists, whether they‘re Baathists or whether they‘re al Qaeda, are anything that motivates anyone. All they want to do is wreak havoc, cause disruption, intimidate and threaten.
But if they have something to be for, that will matter. And it may take a while to kill off that insurgency. But it doesn‘t mean we have to be there until the last crime is, the last criminal is incarcerated. I think that as this constitution moves forward. And it is really key that they get this done on time. And not dissolve this assembly and so forth. That would be a major setback. But that would be an important benchmark. And I think that as next year comes along, they‘ve ratified a constitution, elected a permanent government. They‘ll be more trained up Iraqis. I think that will be the time where there will be those benchmarks where we can start reducing our forces.
GREGORY: But you‘re opposed to a deadline, a timetable.
ALLEN: I think you want to see events. You want to see tangible measurements of why we can stand down. Not just have arbitrary deadlines.
GREGORY: We‘ve just got a few seconds left. You‘re running for president?
ALLEN: Running for re-election. I‘ve just been all over Virginia on a listening tour and it is great to get out of Washington, DC, by the way.
GREGORY: Will you make a determination about whether you run on ‘08 based on obviously not only how do you next year but what you sense from the voters next year? And sense about your viability?
ALLEN: I haven‘t thought of those criteria. I‘m just doing the job the best I can to advance these principles. I would call them common sense Jeffersonian conservative principles to make this country for competitive for investment and jobs and I hope to get reelected next year. And generally speaking, having been the son of a football coach, I just always think the future is now and I‘m happy to do the job I can to the best of my ability.
GREGORY: The gentleman from Virginia, Senator Allen. Thank you very much for being here. And coming up, should the government use taxpayer dollars to create a labor center for illegal immigrant workers? It is a hot topic in one Virginia town. We‘re going to debate it when HARDBALL returns, only on MSNBC.
GREGORY: Tonight, we turn to a bitter debate over illegal immigration. The issue is no longer just about border control. In many cities across the United States, illegal immigrants hoping to be hired as day laborers gather each morning on the sides of roads, convenience store parking lots or busy street corners where they can be picked up by businesses looking for cheap labor that day. But this week citizens in a Virginia suburb have decided to take matters into their own hands, funding a labor center for tax dollars for illegal immigrants. Supporters say it will eliminate the chaos and safety issues. Critics say it amounts to a government endorsement of illegal immigration.
HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster is in Herndon, Virginia now.
David, what‘s this all about?
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, David, we‘re here in front of the Elden Street 7-Eleven in Herndon, Virginia. Herndon is a suburb of Washington, DC that has about 25,000 people. And many of the newest immigrants, you can see a few of them behind us, in this parking lot. Some of the newest immigrants. This is where they come and wait sometimes for hours on end. Waiting for contractors who are looking to hire cheap labor.
SHUSTER (voice-over): At 6:30 in the morning, every morning here in Herndon, Virginia, nearly 100 day laborers show up at this parking lot and wait. Many of them are illegal immigrants who surround every car that seems to bring the prospect of work. Those who don‘t get hired continue waiting, often for hours. Residents stay the loitering is an unsafe eyesore that intimidates store customers. City officials agree.
MIKE O‘REILLY, MAYOR OF HERNDON, VA: I can‘t solve federal immigration issues but what I can do, if we have 130 people standing on the street corner, we can move them to a regulated site and have more control.
SHUSTER: This week the city council approved spending $175,000 to create a formal day laborer hiring center. From the beginning, though, the proposal which was unveiled last month has been controversial. Critics charge plan endorses illegal immigration and that city money should be used the crack down on illegal residents, not support them.
DENNIS BAUGHAN, HERNDON, VA RESIDENT: We‘re taking tax dollars and putting them for 100 guys in the Town of Herndon. That‘s what we‘re doing.
SHUSTER: But social worker and immigrant advocates have weighed in the as well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people united will never be divided!
SHUSTER: And they‘ve argued on the streets and before the city council the center would help end the chaos and give the immigrants some dignity and respect.
SYLVIA WASHINGTON, HERNDON, VA RESIDENT: I can say that not only am I repulsed and insulted by the derogatory comments that have been slung by some of my neighbors. But if I close my eyes, it sounds like I‘m back in time.
SHUSTER: Taxpayer funded labor centers have been tried elsewhere. This one, for example, in Houston, Texas, has registered more than 120 workers over the last two months. In Virginia, the Herndon labor center will occupy this building being vacated by police. And a trailer, perhaps this one, will serve as a parking lot meeting point.
SHUSTER (on camera): The new center here in Herndon will be just a few miles down the road but some critics say they may go to court to try to block the use of taxpayer money. And even supporters of the center who don‘t like it like the one behind us, they say it wouldn‘t be an issue if the federal government were properly policing the nation‘s borders. Yet far away from the borders illegal immigrants are here in parking lots like this one, David, looking for work. David?
GREGORY: David Shuster in Herndon tonight. David, thanks very much.
Ground zero for the illegal immigration debate is will really the U.S. Mexico border, of course. This weak the governors of New Mexico and Arizona declared states of emergency because of rising violence in border counties. In Texas, Republican Congressman John Culberson has proposed a plan for armed civilians to help guard the borders like the Minutemen do. Frank Sharry who is the executive director of the National Immigration Forum says arming civilians is absolutely the wrong approach and they both join me now here in the studio. Welcome, both of you, to HARDBALL.
REP. JOHN CULBERSON, ® TX: Good evening.
FRANK SHARRY, NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM: Good evening.
GREGORY: Congressman, let me start with you. The Herndon idea. Good idea, bad idea?
CULBERSON: Enforcing a law is always a good idea. I think it is wrong to condone people WHO are here illegally. We, all of us as Americans have a society have laws and it has become, the country has reached a tipping point on illegal immigration. The bigger issue is that we have this tremendous flood of illegals pouring over the borders illustrates that our borders are not secure and we will never win the war on terror until we protect our borders.
GREGORY: They‘re hear because people want to hire them, true? Do you concede that?
CULBERSON: There are certainly people who want to hire them. But I believe they need to return to their home country. If they want to work in a guest worker program, which is necessary, they should return to their home country, sign up for a guest worker program and reenter the United States legally. My focus and the concern of the people of Texas and my 47 co-sponsors is that the borders are so wide open that we know now, from sworn testimony, that terrorists are hiding among them and entering the country, assuming false Hispanic identities and disappearing. And that‘s the concern and that needs to be the focus of the country in this war on terror.
GREGORY: Frank, comment just on what‘s going on in Herndon to begin with before the wider picture.
SHARRY: The failure of Congress to fix our broken immigration system is leaving local communities on their own, trying to figure out a problem that they can‘t solve. This is a federal responsibility. It is a big problem. And it needs a serious fix. With all due respect, I think deputizing retirees sitting in lawn chairs with binoculars won‘t solve the illegal immigration problem.
GREGORY: We‘re talking about militias, in effect, on the border. Why do we need that? What‘s not happening on the border that should be?
CULBERSON: Frank is right. This is a federal responsibility and we in Congress have tried now for many, many years to get additional border agents. We authorized 10,000 new agents. The administration for whatever reason refuses to ask for them. We can‘t fill the positions. The Border Patrol is having trouble retaining people. We need boots on the ground and additional beds.
So I just looked at it as an objective matter, solving the—protecting our borders is the same as solving the problem with crime. You need more patrol on the street. And I trust average American. I think we need to rely on the good sense and good hearts of average Americans because 9/11 ...
GREGORY: But wait a minute. What are you talking about? Vigilantism on the streets? Just deputizing people? Isn‘t that a good point? This is law enforcement just like it is in our big streets. You want people leaving their homes and deputizing them? Is that a good idea?
CULBERSON: We need to approach protecting the border the same way we do protecting our neighborhoods. And that is relying on the good sense of our neighbors. You have a neighborhood watch program, I‘m sure, Frank in your neighborhood. And we need to rely on individual Americans. My bill with the 47 co-sponsors I have would ask for all law-abiding American citizens who have no history of mental illness. They would be deputized, sworn to uphold the law, trained, equipped and deployed under the direct supervision of law enforcement comminutes—Law enforcement officials, under the command of the governors and deployed either working in an office or alongside a police officer.
There‘s $6.8 billion, David, sitting in Homeland Security in the treasury that has been untouched for two years. The money is there, the willpower is there. Let‘s trust the American people and deputize folks who go through training under law enforcement.
GREGORY: Let me press you, Frank. Why not? Why is this not a good idea? If you‘re not getting the federal help you say you need on the border, why not?
SHARRY: Look. This is a serious problem. The idea of deputizing a few volunteers will solve this, is ridiculous. We have half a million workers and families coming across our border every year. 11 million people here illegally. We have this huge labor migration and now in a post 9/11 world, the danger that terrorists are going to exploit the smugglers and the fake documents that are rife in the system.
And our response to this national security threat? Is volunteers? I mean, come on, let‘s get serious. The people of America are tired of the politics of gestures. Look. McCain, Kennedy, John Cornyn from Texas, President Bush, they‘re trying to grapple with this. How do you have tough enforcement at our borders, at our workplace, combined with expanded legal immigration that would bring immigration out of the black market and into the rule of law? That‘s a serious debate that the American people deserve to have. The politics of symbolism. That‘s yesterday‘s politics. Let‘s get serious.
CULBERSON: This is very serious effort. The FBI director testified under oath to my committee that there are individuals from countries with known al Qaeda connections who have entered the United States, assuming false Hispanic identities and disappearing. Unfortunately, the terrorists will hit us again and I am confident the next attack will be massive truck bombs in multiple cities across the U.S.
The focus of our bill is to deploy citizens from all over the country. All 50 states. Honest, law-abiding American citizens. Let‘s trust the American people. Give them training, equip them, deploy them, under the direct supervision of law enforcement on the border to prevent people from entering.
The money would also be available to help pay overtime for law enforcement officials and to build the beds necessary to house them and process them. We will never win the war on terror until we protect our borders. And that‘s what this is is a neighborhood watch borer patrol program trusting the good hearts and sense of Americans.
GREGORY: Let me butt in here. We‘re going to take a break. We‘re going to come back. More of this debate with Congressman John Culverson and Frank Sharry.
When we come back, you‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
GREGORY: We‘re back with Texas Republican Congressman John Culberson and Frank Sharry, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum. And we‘re talk about what to do with our porous borders, a national security issue. Also a big political issue in the Republican Party. You‘re certainly hearing a lot in your district. Frank, let me begin with you on this question. Of whether the focus here is misplaced. Whether there ought to be some kind of government crackdown on the businesses that are supplying the jobs that are in fact luring so many of these illegal workers over. And as we see in this Herndon example, they‘re here because they know they can get the jobs.
SHARRY: That‘s exactly right. We need tough border enforcement. Professional law enforcement at the border. Not armed militiamen. We need much tougher enforcement in the interior combined with legal channels so that workers who are coming to fill available jobs can do the job as well. That‘s what‘s so difficult about this debate, David. People say are you for immigrants or are you for enforcement? And what we say is we‘re for both. We want the workers to come in legally. We want the people to come out of the shadows. And we want to make sure that only legal workers get hired by being very tough with employers. A worker verification system that works and tough sanctions against those who (unintelligible)
GREGORY: Congressman, is the president out of touch on this? A border governor in Texas. Somebody who knows a lot about these issues, certainly tough on terror. Is he out of touch on this issue?
CULBERSON: I don‘t believe the president is out of touch. He has a good heart, he is a good man.
GREGORY: He doesn‘t believe in the militias on the border, does he?
CULBERSON: The president hasn‘t spoken on this issue yet. But I‘m working very closely with a coalition of border sheriffs and having very good response. I have got 47 co-authors of this bill because 9/11 deputized every American but not everyone can serve in the military or the FBI or the CIA and just as in World War II and every other war, average Americans want to participate.
GREGORY: Aren‘t you casting this as a fight in the war on terror when that misses the mark? That is not the overall problem.
CULBERSON: No, sir. It really is about the war on terror. My focus and my co-author‘s focus is the war on terror because the FBI director, law enforcement officials .
GREGORY: You don‘t think most illegals coming into this country simply want work rather than want to hit the United States?
CULBERSON: Most of them undoubtedly do want work. But the problem is, David, that there are terrorists and criminals hiding among this full scale flood.
GREGORY: What percentage of them?
CULBERSON: The FBI director tells us there is a significant number of individuals from countries with known al Qaeda connections entering the U.S.
GREGORY: What does that mean? Frank, is this a political argument?
Is this a political way to .
CULBERSON: This is about the war on terror.
SHARRY: It is a vulnerability. There‘s no evidence it happened but of course it is a vulnerability. So how do we get control of it? It‘s not a matter of if we control our borders .
CULBERSON: Boots on the ground.
SHARRY: . but how? He wants to deputize volunteers. We want a comprehensive fix that combine legal channels with tough enforcement.
GREGORY: All right. To be continued. The debate goes on. Thanks to both of you. Congressman John Culberson and Frank Sharry for being here tonight.
Up next, is there a real antiwar movement in the United States now? Or are there just a few people protesting against the war in Iraq? We try to give a reality check when we come back on HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
GREGORY: Welcome back to HARDBALL. I‘m David Gregory in tonight for Chris Matthews. This week‘s headlines were filled with the sound of Cindy Sheehan and others protesting the war in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIM EVANS, MILITARY FAMILIES SPEAK OUT: Mr. President, we are staying here. We are keeping this vigil. This vigil is larger than Cindy. It has always been larger than Cindy. This vigil is about us and it‘s about hundreds of thousands of other military families around the country and actually around the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: Now a campaign against Sheehan‘s protest grows stronger. Next week, “The You Don‘t Speak for Me Cindy” bus tour start its trek from California to Crawford, Texas. How has the debate over this mother of a fallen soldier changed the debate over the war in Iraq? Mark Green is the president and founder of the New Democracy Project. And Melanie Morgan is a radio talk show host, her group, Move America Forward, is organizing the “You Don‘t Speak for Me Cindy” tour.
Welcome to both of you.
MELANIE MORGAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Thank you.
MARK GREEN, PRES. & FOUNDER, NEW DEMOCRACY PROJECT: Thank you, David.
GREGORY: Mark, let me start with you. Does Cindy Sheehan speak for anti-war Democrats in the country?
GREEN: For the first time someone has risen up from the bottom up and is voicing a lot of the anti-war sentiment. Two years ago, 80 percent supported the war. It fell to 60 percent a year ago, when the insurgency was growing without an exit strategy. And now, as we saw Newsweek said, 61 percent of Americans are opposed to the war as we were in there now and only 38 percent support it.
Now no—other than Ted Kennedy, maybe Russ Feingold, I can hardly think of a senator or congressperson of stature who has said, enough already. We blundered in. We can‘t leave. We can‘t stay. The president has messed up and we‘re paying in lives and blood.
And now this woman, who had moral authenticity because she, of course, lost her son, and everyone agrees that‘s tragic, doesn‘t represent everybody. Obviously. But she is a voice and a face to the movement saying, we have to have a plan to get out because this is creating more terrorism and it‘s alienating people us in a world we have to work with.
GREGORY: Melanie, is she an authentic voice? Is Cindy Sheehan‘s voice larger than her own tragic situation, losing her son?
MORGAN: I think that she is not an authentic voice. And the reason why is because Cindy Sheehan really is a media creation. And I say that because she didn‘t float from the bottom up, as Mr. Green just referred a moment ago. She came from the top down. She has been hooked one the people from moveon.org and Michael Moore, who created “Fahrenheit 9/11,” a movie filled with propaganda and inaccuracies.
She is part of the anti-Bush movement in this country. And please don‘t get me wrong because I am not a Bush supporter in terms of being a rah-rah cheerleader. What I‘m saying is she is part of an organized movement that has been determined to undermine the authenticity of the president of the United States, the commander-in-chief.
GREGORY: But, Melanie, she lost her son. I mean, to hear you say.
MORGAN: Yes, she did.
GREGORY: To hear you speak, it‘s as if there is no credibility when you walk in the door. This is a woman who has sacrificed. She has made the ultimate sacrifice in this debate over real—not just ideas, but life and death in this struggle. And you just write her off as being a creation of the left?
MORGAN: No. That is not what I said at all.
GREGORY: Well, that‘s what you.
MORGAN: What I.
GREGORY: You said exactly that she‘s a creation of moveon.org and Michael Moore.
MORGAN: And she is a willing accomplice with these people. And you know what, there are other mothers out there who have lost children, many of whom are going to be joining us in Texas when we do our bus tour. “You Don‘t Speak for Me Cindy” tour that is going to be in Crawford August 27th. She has no more or no less authenticity than any of those other mothers.
GREGORY: All right. Mark, go ahead, get in here.
GREEN: By the way, that point is correct. Any mother or father who has lost a child can and should speak out. It doesn‘t mean they‘re right or wrong. But when my opponent says that she has undermined the authenticity of George W. Bush‘s commander-in-chief status, you know who did that? Curveball and George W. Bush by citing reasons to go to war, none which of have proven to be true. We‘re not going to regurgitate it here, David. I appreciate that.
MORGAN: Oh there—yes, here we go again. Bush lied, people died.
GREEN: Excuse me, no, no, one second, one second.
MORGAN: No. We‘ve heard that before.
GREEN: You can keep interrupting—stop, stop. Your interruptions aren‘t a sufficient answer. This is a tragic war of prevention that was based on falsehoods without adequate armor or troops, without an exit strategy. And now we‘re all suffering. And so the person who undermined George W. Bush is a president who had a faith-based war, not based on facts.
Now the other thing you said was factually wrong. I don‘t think moveon.org or Michael Moore knew who this woman was two months ago.
MORGAN: Oh, that‘s not true.
GREEN: She went there alone and her—and so what you‘re doing is the Joe McCarthy guilt by association. Instead of answering questions about Bush, you attack the patriotism of critics. This is an old story for people who can‘t make their own arguments.
GREGORY: But, Mark, let me ask you.
MORGAN: You know, that‘s.
GREGORY: Let me ask you this question because one of the things that Cindy Sheehan has said in her interviews right here on HARDBALL, when Chris asked her earlier in the week, was she opposed not only to the war in Iraq, but did she support the invasion of Afghanistan? After all, that was the breeding ground of al Qaeda terrorists and their harbor. She opposed that as well. Are you suggesting that the American people support her on that point as well? That‘s the face of the Democratic Party on these issues?
GREEN: First, it‘s not the face of the Democratic Party. It‘s one woman who is rallying people. Now I saw the plane sticking out of the World Trade Center at 8:47, I was 40 blocks north. I don‘t have to be educated about terrorism in my city and country. We have a right to pursue the people who attacked us.
My view, which is not hers, which is not Michael Moore‘s, is we were right to go into Afghanistan. I bet you 90 percent of Democrats agreed, and rallied to support the president on Afghanistan. He was wrong about Iraq. We‘ve spent $300 billion attacking the wrong country when we could have better spent it protecting our containers and our chemical plants and our airliners, for example.
So when my opponent starts attacking this woman, why don‘t you talk about whether we should be in Iraq and how to get out. And critics blame Newsweek‘s periscope or Dan Rather, who may have made a mistake, and I don‘t agree with Cindy Sheehan on Afghanistan, but it‘s not their small mistakes. It is the big tragedy of these blundering bullies in Washington who got us into a war they can‘t get out of it.
MORGAN: David, that has just made my point. Here he is attacking the president of the United States. We‘re at war. It is a war on terror. You know what? The anti-war left has spoken very loudly from Texas—from Crawford, Texas. We‘ve heard what they are against. They are against the war. They are against the president. They‘re against Iraq. And many of them are against the troops.
I would like to ask Mr. Green a question. What are you for? What would this country look like if we withdrew from Iraq? Can you please answer that for me?
GREEN: Sure. If we set a day, six to 12 months away, after Iraq-sizing the effort there, we would be saving $5 billion a month. We would not have 15,000 Americans coming home without limbs and 1,800 dead. And the insurgent—look, there‘s going to be a fight in Iraq for control whether we leave in a day, which I don‘t want, or six years, which I assume you don‘t want. We have to set—you know, we set a date for elections, and we set a date for a constitution as an action-forcing mechanism to get Iraq to do what it should be doing. Why not a date to leave? And that‘s a lot better than the quagmire we have now in Iraq.
GREEN: The only difference between Vietnam is—the only difference is they had concrete in Iraq...
MORGAN: Vietnam. Here we go. Vietnam.
GREEN: . but not jungles.
GREGORY: All right, let me get in here.
GREEN: You ever heard of it? Learn the lesson.
GREGORY: We‘re going to take a break here. We‘re going to come back and ask another question related to all of this, whether the Media coverage of the anti-war protests in Crawford actually were created by the media attention. Has it been fair? We‘ll get into that when we come back with our guest only on HARDBALL.
GREGORY: We‘re back on HARDBALL. I‘m David Gregory. We‘re talking about Cindy Sheehan with Mark Green and Melanie Morgan who are with us to continue the debate now over media coverage this week of Ms. Sheehan and her anti-war protests.
Melanie, let me start with you. Bring it on. I mean, is this August? Is this the mainstream media that has created her or does she represent a real voice?
MORGAN: No, she has absolutely been created by the mainstream media. As you well know, David, you‘re a White House correspondent, you know, when you travel down to Texas, there‘s not a lot going on. The hot dog days of August down in Crawford, Texas, and the national media look for a story line and there she was. She was very cleverly either placed there or she arranged to go there herself. But she met up and was organizing with moveon.org and all these other people. And they had a story line.
The story line played out day after day after day. That‘s why we‘re organizing our people who are patriotic people, who are, frankly, rather sick of the media coverage that has been going on. And we‘re going to make our statement, that we support the troops and that we are for America. And that they‘re not contradictory.
GREGORY: But, Melanie, why can‘t both voices co-exist? Why does this one voice have to be a set-up of some sinister plot on the left instead of the reality which that this is the mother who lost a son? And even if she is politically active, it doesn‘t mean that there‘s not a real voice here, just as there is also a real voice on the right that says, no, we‘re going to stick this thing out. Why does it have to be a zero-sum?
MORGAN: No, because the voices on the right are not being heard. For instance, tomorrow, as you know, there has been quite a bit of media associated with our trip down to Texas tomorrow because Cindy Sheehan has left. One of the interviews that I was going to be doing with a major network was canceled. Why? Because Cindy Sheehan isn‘t there.
We have an authentic voice. We are going to be heard. We‘re going to tell the stories of success. I‘ve just recently returned from Iraq and those stories are real. There are real successes going on there and for some reason, the mainstream media doesn‘t want to hear that.
GREGORY: Mark, do you think that if Cindy Sheehan is going to hook herself up at some point, maybe not originally, I don‘t know at what point in the game, but if she does become aligned with some major voices on the left, is she not fair game for Melanie and others on the right?
GREEN: You know, I‘m not a totalitarian commentator here. I think you can be patriotically for the war, as Melanie is, and I think, of course, Cindy Sheehan and others who think the war is creating more terrorists than it is killing, isolating us from allies we need, are patriotic also. And so if she aligns herself with 2.7 million Americans who voluntarily came together to moveon.org, which, by the way, historians will record has been far more prescient and accurate about the problems in Iraq than George W. Bush, who has messed it up from day one—so if they want to work with her, what‘s wrong with that?
By the way, by this point in time, if John McCain or if Bill Clinton were president, don‘t you think they would have brought her in, maybe not with cameras, sat down with her for an hour, heard her out. And this would have disappeared. To blame the media for the catastrophe of Iraq is blaming the radar gun for the speeder. It is a technique of people who can‘t defend the war. Other than to say, we‘re patriotic.
Let me tell you something. You are patriotic, so am I.
GREGORY: All right. Melanie, final thought here.
MORGAN: All right. I would just ask this one question. If this war were—if Cindy Sheehan were active during, say, Bosnia, do you think that she would be getting the kind of media publicity that she‘s getting if she were holding an anti-war staged effort? Do you think that under the Clinton administration, the media would have been paying attention to her then?
GREEN: No. Because Clinton‘s war was a bipartisan war based on facts. Bush is a.
MORGAN: And so was this war ...
GREEN: ... faith-based war that is hurting America. The war...
MORGAN: So is this war. This war.
GREEN: ... is the wrong war.
MORGAN: ... was approved by Congress.
GREEN: She is the voice and the face America. A majority of Americans now.
MORGAN: Hillary Clinton voted for this war.
GREEN: . agree with Cindy Sheehan. Bill Clinton didn‘t vote for this war, he was out of office. September 11th.
MORGAN: I said Hillary Clinton did.
GREGORY: I‘m going to have to break in here to both of you and say thank you. The debate to be continued.
GREEN: And we‘ll get more on the bus tour coming up as well next week. Thanks very much to Mark Green and Melanie Morgan.
We‘ll be back to wrap up the week in politics with The Hotline‘s Chuck Todd and The Weekly Standard‘s Stephen Hayes. And go to Hardblogger, HARDBALL‘s blog site, the online place for politics and debate, just go to our Web site, hardball.msnbc.com. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
GREGORY: We‘re back now on HARDBALL. Will the war in Iraq spread to other fronts? A group affiliated with al Qaeda is now claiming responsibility for today‘s near miss rocket attacks of two U.S. Naval ships in Jordan. Does this suggest that terrorists are not as easily confined to the Iraq battlefront as the Bush administration has suggested? Chuck Todd is the editor-in-chief of The Hotline, a daily political newsletter. And Stephen Hayes is the senior writer for The Weekly Standard magazine.
Thanks to both of you for being here. Steve, let me start with you.
What do we know about this attack today and where is it coming from?
STEPHEN HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, there are conflicting reports. It sounds like it may have come from a group called the—Abdallah Azzam Brigade, which is an offshoot. They‘ve claimed responsibility for previous attacks, I believe one in Egypt. Hard to really say I think at this point. Certainly it was inevitable that they were going to be attacking American targets. There are lots of American targets in the region. I don‘t think anybody should be surprised and I guess I would dispute sort of the premise a little bit because I think that the war has always been outside of Iraq.
I mean, this has been not even just a regional war but a worldwide war. And there is a lot of fighting going on in Iraq. Certainly it is the central front. But we had bombings in Bangladesh, we had bombings in London, we‘ve seen attacks in Madrid, in Bali, the list goes on.
GREGORY: But the point is, if the president says, looks, we‘re still fighting them over there so we don‘t have to fight over here, is that still basically the battleground that we‘re fighting and should anybody be surprised?
CHUCK TODD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE HOTLINE: It sort of goes back to the whole—you know, one of the arguments against going into Iraq that some made were like, well, there are more problems in other parts of the region, let‘s secure other parts of the region. Let‘s not—if you just—Iraq is going to be such a drain on military resources that you‘re going to struggle dealing with some of the other problem with terrorism that you have in other parts of the Middle East.
So, you know, this is the type of thing that I think that you had some critics of going into Iraq are saying, you know, if suddenly we‘re in seven countries, can we handle it because of the Iraq issue?
GREGORY: Right. Let‘s talk about Iraq. Steve, you and I have—we‘ve talked about some of these issues traveling with the vice president through Afghanistan, thinking about Iraq and its future. Pull back a little bit as you look at the last couple of weeks. Is there a political process that‘s heading in the same direction that President Bush told us it was heading?
HAYES: Well, I think it is. I think what‘s happening is you‘re seeing progress in fits and starts. You‘re seeing two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes one step forward, five steps back. And it‘s that kind of a process that I think makes people uneasy back here. And it is not always obvious what the progress is. I mean, I think to a certain extent, if you have Sunnis sitting down at the same table as leading Shiites, sitting down at the same table with the Kurds, they come to agreements that there won‘t be secession. They not going to push for these things. Those are small things. They are incremental steps, but they are progress.
Now nobody should argue that things in Iraq are going swimmingly right now. There are far too many attacks. We‘ve seen the security situation for a long time stay at the status quo. There are indications that it has taken steps backward. That certainly is not a positive development.
GREGORY: And you now have Democrats, Senator Feingold, who seems to be in line with a lot of Democrats who feel strong enough now politically on the eve of another election year to say, let‘s set a date certain. Let‘s set a deadline to get troops back, because they‘re hearing it when they go home which is—what‘s going on over there and why can‘t we just get out, right?
TODD: Right. Well, a guy like Russ Feingold, who wants to run for president, who wants to run to the left and gather all the anti-war sentiment on the left, makes sense that he was the first one to do this. And he sort of wants to capture that sort of Howard Dean phenomenon that helped him in 2004.
But, you know, look, this thing is what is dragging down the entire Republican Party right now. You‘ve got a lot of Republicans that have to be in the ballot in 2006 without the Bush campaign helping them without the Bush name helping them. And they‘re very nervous and this Iraq war is what is dragging the whole party down. Any accomplishment the Republicans have made, nobody listens to because Iraq is perceived to be going poorly.
GREGORY: But is there a danger here for—as the Republicans are now calling it, the moveon.org wing of the Democratic Party, bogging down the Democrats with the same—you know, basically the same mantra, that all they know how to do is cut and run, they really don‘t have a viable alternative?
HAYES: Yes. I think that‘s a huge risk. And I think you‘ve seen that with all of the events surrounding Cindy Sheehan this week. I mean, she‘s down in Texas. She started out saying things—I think she certainly was sympathetic. I think everybody grieves along with her.
But then she started saying things that were, I think, patently absurd. George W. Bush is the greatest terrorist threat in the world.
GREGORY: She also didn‘t agree about going to war in Afghanistan, which I think is pretty much out of step with even anti-Iraq people in the country—anti-Iraq war people, that certainly a lot of people thought that was an appropriate step.
HAYES: Well, and look, what this is potentially doing is it‘s potentially splitting the Democratic Party because you‘re going to have people like a Joe Biden, a Hillary Clinton, who are sitting there saying, you know what, we can‘t leave—get out of Iraq, even though we shouldn‘t have probably done—we didn‘t do it well, we can‘t just withdraw now. It‘s going to be a disaster.
GREGORY: But how much patience—even with Republicans, and we just
· we talked to Senator Allen. I asked him, are we winning in Iraq? And he had to pause a few beats.
HAYES: Boy, he had that moment of pause, yes, I saw that.
GREGORY: Yes, he had to pause a little bit as he thinks about it. This is a messy process. And the next administration, Democrat or Republican, is going to be dealing with the remnants of this Iraq policy, right?
HAYES: Yes, I think you‘re right. But, you know, what both of you—the point both of you made earlier, which is that we‘re heading into a 2006 election. There is going to come a point at which Republicans have to decide whether they‘re with the administration still, whether they‘re not. And I think once we see Republicans being forced on the stump to make an argument in favor of having gone in Iraq, in favor of liberating the Iraqi people, wiping out a terrorist threat, the administration will get behind them.
And it is the reason, frankly, that we saw the polls bump up again toward the end of the 2004 presidential election. Because the Bush administration had to make its own argument. They‘re not doing that right now.
TODD: That‘s what you‘re missing, is that I don‘t think you can expect the rank and file Republicans to sit there and make this case that Iraq was the right thing to do. And that‘s what is going to be missing.
GREGORY: Before we go, in our remaining time, I want to talk about this immigration issue, which is hot, particularly in the Republican Party, but it‘s also a wedge issue just for Republicans. Talk about the move by Governor Richardson of New Mexico this week, a state of emergency being declared there. He wants more federal help. This is a big issue.
TODD: It‘s a huge issue. You talk to any senators and congressmen, they go home and the one issue that gets thrown back in their face at town hall meetings, immigration. What Richardson did politically was brilliant, I mean, here he is, the only Latino governor in the country getting tough on the borders, tough on immigration and sticking the bill to the federal government. Figured out how to use the state of emergency clause.
And then all of a sudden there‘s a whole bunch of me, too, people. The governor of Arizona, Arnold Schwarzenegger in California are going, hey, that‘s an interesting idea. Only the governor of Texas not really jumping on this bandwagon.
But for Richardson it was politically brilliant, it shows that he‘s a real player in ‘08. But immigration is that hot, David, it is that hot.
GREGORY: But, Steve, is the problem for Republicans that George W. Bush rode in on this notion that we think about immigration differently than Republicans did in the ‘90s when it was anti-immigration, Prop. 187 in California, is there real political risk here?
HAYES: Well, I think there is a political risk on both sides. I mean, it divides both parties. And I think you‘re going to see now as the parties try to figure out where they come down on this as we debate competing bills in Congress, as the 2006 campaign heats up and then pointing to 2008, you‘re going see these two parties have an open and I think quite painful debate. Both sides trying to figure out what exactly the policy is going to be.
GREGORY: All right. We‘re going to leave it there, to be continued.
Thanks to both of you for being here tonight, Chuck Todd and Stephen Hayes.
Chris will be back Monday night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL, and I‘ll see you this Sunday on “MEET THE PRESS” as I pinch-hit for Tim Russert.
Right now it‘s time for “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” and much more on who may have been behind those missile attacks today in Jordan—Keith.
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