Guests: James Jeffrey, Harris Miller, James Webb, David Remnick
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Zarqawi, the beheader, is dead. The son of Palestinian refugees who followed America into Iraq to become Al Qaeda‘s number one in-country mastermind, the beheader of American Nicholas Berg, is as dead as Julius Caesar.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews, welcome to HARDBALL.
Zarqawi is dead. The terrorist responsible for horrific acts of violence in Iraq, from beheadings to car bombings, was killed by U.S. military forces in an air attach on his safe house near Baghdad on Wednesday. It is a big blow to Al Qaeda, but will it curb the homegrown insurgency, dogging U.S. troops in Iraq? Will this prove to be a lasting political victory for the president and his Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or could it ignite big-time acts of revenge and violence by Zarqawi‘s lieutenants?
NBC Chief White House Correspondent David Gregory will have the reaction from the White House in just a moment.
Later, Iraq is one of the hot issues in the Virginia Democratic primary for the U.S. senate. Senator George Allen wants to be president. Tonight we meet two men who would like very much to end Allen‘s political career this year.
But first, on HARDBALL we do politics and David Shuster has this report on the political payload of the Zarqawi killing.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the public announcement today in Baghdad the Bush administration had wanted for three years. Today Zarqawi has been terminated said Iraq‘s Prime Minister, the top U.S. military commander declared ...
GENERAL GEORGE CASEY, COMMANDER U.S. AND COALITION FORCES, IRAQ: ...
Coalition forces killed Al Qaeda‘s terrorist leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi and one of his key lieutenants.
SHUSTER: Within hours of the Iraqi celebration at the news conference and on the streets across Baghdad, President Bush stepped into the White House Rose Garden.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Zarqawi‘s death is a severe blow to Al Qaeda. It is a victory in the global war on terror.
SHUSTER: Zarqawi‘s influence on the insurgency was significant because of his leadership in bombings, beheadings and kidnappings, all of which contributed to Iraq‘s instability. Military officials say the U.S. attack last night, captured on gun camera video from a U.S. war plane, came after coalition forces, with the help of Jordanian intelligence agents, picked up the trail of a top Zarqawi aide and spent weeks following him, hoping to get to his boss. Today the bomb site was littered with rubble. U.S. military commanders noted that Zarqawi‘s body had to be cleaned up for this photograph, which was released to convince the Muslim world that Zarqawi was dead.
The U.S. government had a $25 million bounty on Zarqawi and his death comes at an important political time for the U.S. military and the chain of command. The tempo of insurgent attacks on American soldiers has been increasing. The Marine Corps is reeling over an alleged massacre, by marines, of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha. And for months, half a dozen former generals have been calling for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld was at NATO headquarters, today, in Brussels when he got the Zarqawi news.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: No single person on this planet has had the blood of more innocent men, women, and children on his hands.
SHUSTER: One of the most horrifying murders involved American business man Nicholas Berg. Zarqawi, himself, on videotape, did the beheading and then ordered his lieutenants to distribute the video over the Internet.
On Capitol Hill today, Senator John Kerry and Representative John Murtha, leading advocates for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, praise the attack of Zarqawi and said it would help Iraqis defend themselves. One lawmaker, though, was quick to point out that Zarqawi and his associates were not involved in 9/11 and that Zarqawi only got his power because of the Iraq war.
Senator Barbara Boxer spoke on MSNBC.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER ®, CALIFORNIA: He founded the very first cell of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
SHUSTER: Still, White House officials are expecting an immediate political boost.
Three years ago ...
PAUL BREMER, U.S. ADMINISTRATION OF IRAQ: Ladies and gentlemen, we got him.
SHUSTER: When Saddam Hussein was captured, the president‘s approval rating shot up by six points. And approval for his handling of the War on Terror went up by 10. One Republican pollster cautioned today that any boost from Zarqawi‘s death may not last very long, given that American public opinion over the Iraq war hardened months ago. And to underscore the ongoing challenge to U.S. troops in Iraq, trying to provide security, today, after the Zarqawi announcement there was another string of bombings in Baghdad that killed more than 30 people.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you David, let‘s go now to NBC‘s Mike Boettcher, who‘s in Baghdad. Mike, take your time, how did we pull this off?
MIKE BOETTCHER, NBC NEWS - BAGHDAD: Well, it came from a collection of intelligence information from various countries and especially Jordan. Jordan was really key in this. And as well special operations forces had been looking at safe houses throughout this whole region, waiting for him to come to one of those locations.
So, it was a collection of knowing the general area, and that came from Jordan. That intelligence came from there and then local people tipped them off where that location was going to be. That is what we are told and I‘m told from intelligence sources in this region. And then that attack occurred. So it, you know, it was quite a complicated mission. It was not easy. They have been working on this, not for weeks, but for months. They have been monitoring all these sites for a long time, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I have a very good source over in Jordan, who told me in a meeting I had with him that the best way to catch Zarqawi, and it looks like the way we did catch them, is the tribesmen, the tribes people, who live on both sides of the Jordanian-Iraqi border are the ones most likely to have given them, and to have given him up, perhaps, to Jordanian intelligence because they would rather deal with some unit like that, that authority, rather than deal with the coalition forces. Was that the way it looked, was it Jordan that really pulled this rabbit out of the hat?
BOETTCHER: Well, Chris, that is very insightful because I spoke to one of the tribal leaders a few weeks ago here, who had joined forces with U.S. and Iraqi forces, looking for foreign fighters coming over the border from Syria.
You have to look at Zarqawi. He was a divisive figure in the insurgency in this region. They were cooperating with the U.S. in terms of trying to find foreign fighters coming through and trying to find him. So, somewhere on the inside, there was the Jordanian intelligence, but somewhere on the inside there was more information that came through, as well. It came through these tribes, and you‘re absolutely right about this. There is more to be said about this that is going to come out. We are trying to find that.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Mike Boettcher, who‘s over in Baghdad. Now let‘s go to NBC‘s Chief White House Correspondent David Gregory. David, interesting development, yesterday, Steve Hadley was in a meeting with some people. All of a sudden he goes out of the room and he comes back in and he‘s apparently been working on this and getting the word.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, members of Congress, who had just gotten back from Iraq, were meeting with the president to give him some feedback, some observations, some suggestions. We get word today from Tony Snow, who was in the meeting, that it was Ray LaHood, one of the members of Congress, who says, and gets some laughter with this, look, you really have to get Zarqawi. It is so clear. There was a little bit of laughter in the room, not to minimize it, but because it was so obvious and the president actually talked about some of the efforts that were underway to do just that. And it‘s during this time frame that Hadley gets called out and first is getting information about the air strike and the confidence they had at that point, even though they had to confirm, that it was Zarqawi.
MATTHEWS: Is this going to change the public‘s view of the war over there or the White House view of things politically?
GREGORY: I‘m not sure it is going to change the public‘s view, except for the fact that this is progress. This is a notable achievement in a war that has not had many, particular of late. It is so tangible. It is so real. I think the White House needed it. I think it is good for the country, it‘s good for our effort over there. I think that is undeniable. But it is also different than when they caught Saddam Hussein, in December of 2003. A lot has changed. So at this point, I think, the general malaise in the country and the feeling about our progress over there is different.
And I think that is why the president was more subdued today. He underscored the importance of this, his operational impact on Iraq. I‘m speaking of Zarqawi. His psychological impact. Eliminating those two things are so important, not only for the progress of the war, but to really give this new unity government, headed by Nouri al-Maliki, a fighting chance here. And so, I think that‘s the end game that they‘re focused on. They know that the stability of that government, the tangible gains of that government ultimately is what could change minds here.
MATTHEWS: Well could one concern be that if they bragged, and appropriately so bragged, about the killing of Zarqawi, a real bad guy, who killed Nicholas Berg and a number of other people in a most vicious way, beheading them, that they will expose the fact that they haven‘t caught Mullah Omar, the head of the Taliban and they haven‘t caught Zawahiri, the number two or three guy over there, and they certainly haven‘t caught Bin Laden.
MATTHEWS: Are they concerned that bragging at this point would look like bragging about a triple-a world series rather than a real one?
GREGORY: Well, two points. One is, I think, they know and maybe even much of the public understands that actually bringing these people to justice is not easy. It takes luck, it takes good intelligence and it takes surmounting a lot of obstacles in tough parts of the world. But I think it‘s not even that it had to be such a calculation that we don‘t want to gloat.
I mean, this is a pretty, at the moment, grim bunch here in the White House from the president on down when they think about Iraq. This has been a very difficult period for them politically and then operationally in Iraq. So I think at this point it is more instinctual to recognize that there‘s some really important facts, what Zarqawi was responsible for, what killing him could potentially mean, and what it means immediately.
But nobody is going around and believing themselves that it is going to create some sort of sea change. What they believe in is the prospect for it to give new momentum to a unity government and just, you know, a real boost of morale, obviously, for U.S. troops who, as I think Mike described, executed an incredible operation under difficult circumstances.
But in terms of what really changes the tide here, it‘s still very much outside of the president‘s control and outside of this White House‘s control what happens over there at this stage.
MATTHEWS: Why is the president going to Camp David?
GREGORY: Well, I think part of this is the packaging of the message here to talk about the way forward. I mean, the president‘s been doing this for awhile, we were to understanding, talking about the way forward in Iraq.
I think the real trigger here is the headline that would have bigger today had it not been for Zarqawi, and that is that Nouri al-Maliki filled his cabinet with those key security positions after weeks of infighting.
GREGORY: Now I think the White House feels like, great, we‘ve got a team over there that is intact. Now we can go to them and say, OK, let‘s be serious about this. Let‘s reassess what your plan is to secure the country.
How do we think differently about this? Let‘s concentrate on Baghdad. How do we move our resources? Let‘s do that. And I think those are some of the conversations that they will have over Monday and Tuesday of next week.
MATTHEWS: And that is going to be at Camp David?
GREGORY: That will be at Camp David. And, you know, the imagery is kind of interesting, isn‘t it, because I can‘t recall a time when the president has done that in such a public way since the days after 9/11.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, David Gregory.
Coming up, what will the killing of Zarqawi do for the new Iraqi government which has just been filled out, and what will it do for U.S. troops over in Iraq.
You‘re watching HARDBALL with the results of the killing on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Zarqawi is dead, but how much should America rejoice? We‘re joined now by a man who should know, Ambassador James Jeffrey. He is a senior adviser to Condoleezza Rice at the State Department. He‘s also a coordinator for Iraq.
Mr. Ambassador, give us an assessment from the inside of Foggy Bottom, what is the value of this kill?
AMB. JAMES JEFFREY, SECRETARY OF STATE‘S IRAQ ADVISER: This is a very, very important development and it is one that I think we can all join with Iraqis in rejoicing about. This does not mean that we will not have significant fights ahead.
It does not mean that the insurgency will simply roll up, but what it does mean is that the person who most personifies this murderous, total war against Shia, against Kurds, against foreigners, against essentially everybody in Iraq, is no longer out there leading the charge.
MATTHEWS: What was his role? I mean, day-to-day, he got up in the morning, what did Zarqawi do each day that‘s important to us negatively?
JEFFREY: He administered a series of cells that controlled part of the insurgency. Where he particularly was noted was in his ability to go into areas such as Ramadi in the last few months and take out shiekhs and others who had been in the insurgency but were trying to come into the political system.
This is what we‘re trying to do with this insurgency. It‘s a political battle, primarily, while a small part of it, he, by his violence against Shia and his attacks on other elements of the insurgency, drove basically drove this in a very, very negative direction.
MATTHEWS: How powerful are the jihadists, the people who have come from other countries like Jordan in Iraq today?
JEFFREY: They‘re only a few in number. And, in fact, much of Zarqawi‘s own organization is largely Iraqi in ethnic composition. Nonetheless, these folks, particularly the suicide bombers from outside, are extremely effective in taking the war to individual civilians.
MATTHEWS: If you looked at the enemy and you tried to figure the sort of the order of battle in human terms, you‘ve got a bunch of people on the other side who don‘t like us there, don‘t like the new government being formed, don‘t like peace and stability over there. What portion of them are Iraqi, of the bad guys fighting the system?
JEFFREY: The vast majority of people who are in the insurgency are Iraqis.
MATTHEWS: OK, what percentage are outsiders like Zarqawi? Five percent?
JEFFREY: It is, at most, five percent.
MATTHEWS: OK. Is his death, as of the last 24 hours, does that signal perhaps the demise of that operation?
JEFFREY: It doesn‘t signal the demise of anything. What it signals is a huge blow to that part of the insurgency and it opens the door to our ability and the Iraqi government‘s ability, in particular, to try to work political compromises with the bulk of the insurgency.
MATTHEWS: How close are we to getting the overwhelming number of Sunnis to go along with the majority rule by Shia, with some participation by Sunni?
JEFFREY: Well, we have. Just today, the final ministers were named to an inclusive government that includes about between 15 and 20 percent Sunni Arab ministers.
MATTHEWS: Which is appropriate.
JEFFREY: Which is appropriate. A Sunni Arab minister of defense controlling over 200,000 Iraqi army troops, and a great deal of support by the Sunni Arab political parties. So I think we‘re well on our way, and Zarqawi‘s death will push us further.
MATTHEWS: Give me a rundown, give me his rap sheet if you will, sir.
JEFFREY: Zarqawi grew up in Jordan, Palestinian in the camps. He then became involved with Osama bin Laden. Then—and I think this is important. I don‘t want to make too much of it, but Zarqawi was active with another group that was found in northern Iraq in the Kurdish territory along the border with Iran known as Ansar al-Sunnah.
He also, at one point, turned up in a hospital in Baghdad. This is before the country was liberated, so we don‘t know what ties he had with Saddam‘s regime or with the Iranians, who are close to Ansar al-Sunnah. But that is the problem in that region, Chris. These people have all sorts of ties to all sorts of groups and countries.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s start at the top. Bin Laden, we don‘t know where he is, right, no idea? Or is he in Pakistan?
JEFFREY: We think he is somewhere in the border area between Pakistan.
MATTHEWS: Mullah Omar, the former head of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, where is he?
JEFFREY: Same area.
MATTHEWS: What about Zawahiri?
JEFFREY: We think in the same area.
MATTHEWS: Zawahiri was in contact, we thought, with Zarqawi. Is that right?
JEFFREY: They have had communications back and forth, some of it secret. Some of it has been published in Al-Jazeera—or broadcast on Al-Jazeera.
MATTHEWS: Do we know who‘s calling the shots in Iraq, for example?
Was it Zarqawi, the guy killed this week.
JEFFREY: It was Zarqawi, primarily.
MATTHEWS: So he was the mastermind in (inaudible). Who are his lieutenants that might be grabbing the torch right now, or grabbing the banner?
JEFFREY: What we have seen, particularly in Fallujah, where they were very active before we attacked in November of 2004, is that Zarqawi can rotate lieutenants very quickly. As we took them out, new ones popped up.
MATTHEWS: So they‘re going to pop in—it‘s like a snake, it‘s going to regrow—or a worm.
JEFFREY: I wouldn‘t say that because the head is gone.
MATTHEWS: Well said. Thank you very much. James Jeffrey, assistant to Condoleezza Rice. We‘re huge fans—bring her back with you next time.
JEFFREY: Thank you very much.
MATTHEWS: And tomorrow night, on his last day in the House, Representative Tom DeLay will be our special guest on HARDBALL. Let‘s listen in to him live on the House floor today with his swan song.
REP. TOM DELAY ® TEXAS: I should add here that rMD+IT_rMD-IT_I do not begrudge liberals their nostalgia for the days of a timid, docile and permanent Republican minority. If we Republicans had ever enjoyed that same luxury, heck, I‘d be nostalgic, too. Had liberals not fought us tooth and nail over tax cuts and budget cuts and energy and Iraq and partial birth abortion, those of us on this side of the aisle can only imagine the additional things we could have accomplished.
But the fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, they didn‘t agree with us.
So, to their credit, they stood up to us.
MATTHEWS: Political warrior to the end.
Up next, how did Zarqawi use the rMD+IT_rMD-IT_Internet in his terrorist attacks? NBC News‘ Lisa Myers will be here to talk about that.
You are watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Zarqawi turned the Internet into a powerful weapon for terrorists. NBC‘s senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers has more on Zarqawi‘s state of the art legacy.
LISA MYERS, NBC NEWS: Chris, Zarqawi‘s death is clearly a blow to the jihadi movement worldwide. He was a charismatic figure, trying to create a new generation of jihadists, partly by using the Internet. On the Internet today, his death seemed to fuel jihadi passions.
MYERS (voice-over): As the U.S. military announced Zarqawi‘s death—
U.S MILITARY SPOKESMAN: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is dead.
MYERS: Zarqawi‘s lieutenants did the same with the statement on his own Web site with a highly positive spin. “We are bringing the good news of the martyrdom of our Sheik. What hit us is a blessing to our nation. It will encourage us to continue waging jihad.”
Jihadi bulletin boards and chat rooms were quickly overwhelmed. Zarqawi‘s photo was posted, adorned to glorify his death. One posting said, “Zarqawi‘s blood will serve as fuel to burn the invaders and the apostates.” Fitting for a man who experts say pioneered the use of the Internet as a powerful tool for terrorists.
EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST: Zarqawi really created the idea of a comprehensive information war on the Internet. The use of the Internet in order to provide disinformation, in order to provide information to supporters, in order to recruit people directly over the Internet.
MYERS: Zarqawi was a master of the propaganda war. Martyrdom videos, military successes and images which repulsed and shocked the West and inspired his followers.
KOHLMANN: One month into his campaign he had the full attention of the world with the Nick Berg video. When beheading videos got old, he moved to suicide bombing videos. When those got old, he moved to full-length Hollywood-style productions.
MYERS: Zarqawi also used the Internet to create his own larger-than-life persona as a masterful commander and an equal to Osama bin Laden. Only recently did the U.S. military unearth outtakes that dented that image when Zarqawi seemed to need help operating his own weapon.
But in the end, as U.S. military videos showed the smoldering ruins of the attack which killed one of the most ruthless men on the planet, it was the Pentagon that won the battle of images, at least for this day.
(On camera): Counterterror officials say to expect another audio or videotape very soon, from bin Laden or his deputy Zawahiri. Though they will no doubt Zarqawi publicly, they may not be all that torn up about his death. In some respects, Zarqawi was the problem nephew. His ruthlessness and bloody attacks on fellow Muslims caused problems for the movement. And when Zawahiri told him to knock it off, Zarqawi essentially ignored him.
What‘s more, Zarqawi has taken money and attention away from bin Laden.
MATTHEWS: Lisa, bottom line, is Zarqawi‘s death a plus or minus for the West, for our forces?
MYERS: It is certainly a plus. Counterterror officials say there are plenty of attacks already in the pipeline, so not to expect any immediate lull. But long term, as the ambassador said, you have cut the head off the snake. And the next snake may not be as bloodthirsty or as indiscriminate in killing children.
Internationally, Zarqawi had established a network in the Middle East and in Europe. There is some hope they may be able to roll some of that up. But when you look internationally, the fundamental problem, Chris, is that the terror threat has morphed. You don‘t need direct orders from Zarqawi or bin Laden. All it takes is a few locals and the Internet, and as London and Spain and even Canada has showed us, bad things can happen.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. NBC‘s Lisa Myers.
Up next, just five days from now, Virginia Democrats decide who faces Republican George Allen this November. HARDBALL‘s exclusive debate between the two Democrats, Jim Webb and Harris Miller, is coming up right here—
It never stops on HARDBALL—we do politics. You are watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
This coming Tuesday, Virginia Democrats will decide who they want to try to beat Senator George Allen for the Senate. Not long ago, Allen was thought to be a shoo-in for reelection and likely on his way to a 2008 presidential run. But not anymore.
Former Navy secretary Jim Webb and businessman Harris Miller have turned the heat up on Allen, and tonight, they‘ll turn it up on each other right here on HARDBALL.
Gentlemen, welcome and let‘s begin.
Mr. Miller, nice to meet you. Let‘s start here with a simple question. The president said today that catching Zarqawi, killing him, “will turn the tide against the bad guys in Iraq.” Is he right or wrong, Mr. Miller?
HARRIS MILLER (D), VA. SENATE CANDIDATE: He is wrong, unfortunately. I congratulate our military for killing this evil man, but at the end of the day, Chris, we still have a disaster in Iraq. Over 30 civilians were killed today. We had to bring more troops into Iraq last week. We are far from solving this problem. We need to get our troops home and we need to fire Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Webb?
JAMES WEBB (D), VA. SENATE CANDIDATE: I first of all look at this as somebody who has been on a battlefield and, you know, if somebody is trying to kill you, the best thing you can do is kill him first. So I think this is a great thing tactically.
MATTHEWS: Will it turn the tides?
WEBB: It‘s a great thing tactically, but I don‘t think it affects the overall strategic error of having been in there. Maybe it will help us start to get out, but I don‘t think in the strategic terms it makes a lot of difference.
MATTHEWS: Should we have gone in? Would you have voted in October of 2002, Mr. Webb, to authorize the war?
WEBB: I clearly would not have. If you read the “Washington Post” piece I wrote in September 2002, I was saying don‘t do it.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Miller, would you have voted to authorize?
MILLER: I didn‘t have access to all the intelligence that Senator Allen and other senators had.
MATTHEWS: No, no. Right now, looking backward, would you have voted to act?
MILLER: Looking back, no. Looking back, no.
MILLER: If I had access to that intelligence now.
MATTHEWS: OK, was it a mistake to go to Iraq, Mr. Miller?
MILLER: I‘m sorry. I didn‘t hear you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Was it a mistake to go to Iraq?
MILLER: Yes, sir.
MATTHEWS: Was it a mistake to go to Iraq?
WEBB: It was and I said so at the time.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s move on. You seem to agree completely on that.
Is there any difference between your position and his, Mr. Webb?
WEBB: I think I arrived at it far earlier than Harris Miller did. I think this is recent for him.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Miller, when did you decide, in your mind, in your heart, that we shouldn‘t have gone to Iraq? At the time that we went were you cheering that decision or opposing it instinctively?
MILLER: I wasn‘t opposing it instinctively because I believed General Colin Powell when he said that there was a plan to deal with the post-war effort. In fact, that was a lie. We were misled by the president. It became clear within three or four months it was a huge mistake.
MATTHEWS: But I‘m not clear then. Did you think it was wrong to go to Iraq or you just didn‘t like what happened when we got there? Did you think it was wrong to put American troops into a third world country where we‘d have to occupy it, just as a principle? Did you think that was wrong?
MILLER: Yes, that was wrong, but that wasn‘t what we were told. We were told there were weapons of mass destruction, which was a lie, and we were told there was a plan to get out of Iraq within three months. Both of those were lies, Chris.
MATTHEWS: But you believed them.
MILLER: Because I didn‘t have access to the intelligence.
MATTHEWS: Did you have access to any history books?
MILLER: Yes, I have access to history books.
MATTHEWS: Well, did you think that the United States going into a third world country would be cheered? Did you believe that Howard Fineman was right when he was kidding about the happy Iraqi scenario. You believe it? You believed that they would cheer our arrival?
MILLER: No, I didn‘t believe that, but what I believed is that the U.S. had a plan and I was briefed by people from the State Department who had clearance that said there was a plan to get the Iraqi troops to control their own country after the way. Clearly, Iraq is a quagmire. We have to get out of there. The question is now, Chris, what do we do going forward? And at the end of the day, we have to get our troops out of Iraq as quickly as possible.
MATTHEWS: OK, good.
Let me ask you, Mr. Webb, did you believe that we were wrong to go in regardless of what happened there?
WEBB: I wrote in the “Washington Post” piece before—five months before we went in that this was not simply about WMDs, it was about turning our troops into terrorist targets, and that there was not an exit strategy because the principal architects of this war did not intend for us to leave.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s ask about—let‘s go a domestic issue, immigration.
Mr. Miller, do you support a tamper-proof I.D. card for people in this country so that employers will know to hire them or not depending on their legality?
MILLER: Yes, in fact, I worked with Congress when Ron Mazzoli proposed that in 1981. We also need to have very tough employer sanctions, including sending employers to jail if they continue to hire people who are not here without work authorization. That‘s why people come to this country illegal, Chris, to get jobs. Unless we penalize the employers, people are going to continue to come.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Webb, do you agree with everything he said?
WEBB: I would agree that we should be using tamper-proof I.D. cards.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe in punishing employers who hire people illegally?
WEBB: That is very a complex question because of the whole range of employers that are involved. Certainly large employers you could have sanctions.
MATTHEWS: Why would you let somebody walk scot-free for hiring somebody illegally in this country, breaking the law?
WEBB: I don‘t think it is a question of letting somebody walk scot-free. It‘s a question of accountability. When somebody is hiring somebody to mow a lawn or something like that, it‘s a lot different than a Wal-Mart of a Tyson‘s.
MATTHEWS: No, how about a sweatshop? How about working on a farm?
WEBB: Well, that is what I said, larger employer where you have ...
MATTHEWS: OK, you‘re saying if somebody hires a maid and they don‘t check their papers?
WEBB: Yes, I think it is very complicated.
MATTHEWS: Do you think they should check their papers?
WEBB: Yes, I mean, I think it‘s very—I think it‘s very complicated. You know, I think ...
MATTHEWS: Why is it complicated?
WEBB: Complicated to check people‘s papers because you can generate papers. We saw this with Simpson-Mazzoli. You see it time and again. You can generate papers. A tamper-proof I.D. card and the ability to do something with it is probably a better approach, which individuals are able to check that is the question. I don‘t know the answer to that.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that a person hiring a person who might be illegal because of their accent or whatever, their manner, they have a sense they may have recently arrived in the country, which is a fair estimate. Do you think that person should do due diligence to make they‘re here legally or just casually say, sure, I‘ll buy your word here?
WEBB: Really ...
MATTHEWS: Should they pursue due diligence here?
WEBB: ... that is a question of practicality. That‘s the way people are hired, yes.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me tell you something. People have been turned down for attorney general, a number of them. People have had big trouble in American politics for hiring people illegally, and they can‘t give casual answers like, oh, it is complicated. They‘ve got to admit they‘ve broke the law or they didn‘t? Why is it complicated for you?
WEBB: No, it‘s complicated in terms of enforcement. If anybody has been in Southern California or southern Arizona and seen the extent of this, it‘s just an extraordinarily difficult thing. If you‘re going to large scale employers, it is a totally different thing.
MATTHEWS: OK, speaking of employment, let me ask you, Mr. Miller, should Virginia be a right to work state as it is, of change and should we outlaw—rid of 14-B that allows states to be right to work? Where are you on the labor issue, the key labor issue?
MILLER: I don‘t think we should change right to work, but I also
think we need some major changes in our federal law. I support the union
checkoff, and important piece of legislation, that would not allow people -
and bar (ph) people want to organize this.
MATTHEWS: But this is a different question. You believe we shouldn‘t have closed shops? We basically should be able to have right to work?
MILLER: I accept the state of Virginia right now, but there is a chance to give workers the chance to organize. We need the union checkoff legislation so that workers aren‘t obstructed who want to unionize.
MATTHEWS: Do you think we should have right to work laws in Virginia as we have them now?
WEBB: I think we should have mandatory unionization, but I do believe we need to reinvigorate the union movement.
MATTHEWS: But you agree with the law of Virginia as it stands.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me go on to gay marriage. Do you think Virginia‘s ban, that is on the ballot right now, should be approved or not? Would you vote for it, are you going to vote for it?
WEBB: No, I‘m not going to. I think it is a bad amendment. It‘s a bad amendment, first of all, as someone who used to write legislation, as a committee council. The second paragraph is extremely vague. On the other side of it, or in addition to that ...
MATTHEWS: ... Are you for gay marriage?
WEBB: I think, I‘m very civil unions, and I believe that this issue was deliberately ...
MATTHEWS: ... This would not permit civil unions. So you‘re for civil unions.
WEBB: I am for civil unions and I‘m opposed to the amendment.
MATTHEWS: Are you for civil unions Mr. Miller?
MILLER: I support civil unions and I also oppose the amendment. This is the first time Virginia‘s have ever considered an amendment which would limit the rights of individuals. It is a bad idea and I oppose it.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask about the don‘t ask, there are a lot of military families and I‘m sure some gay people as well, in Virginia. Do you like the don‘t ask, don‘t tell rule or do you think it is stupid?
WEBB: I support the don‘t ask, don‘t tell rule. I think that the military is a different environment. It‘s one where we‘ve always had gays in the military, we always will.
MATTHEWS: So you should keep your orientation to yourself if it is homosexual?
WEBB: At this point, yes. I just think it‘s a practicality issue.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me go to Mr. Miller, should we keep don‘t ask, don‘t tell?
MILLER: No, it needs to be modified, Chris. It is costing us $200 million or more a year, it‘s costing us the ability to recruit and retain very capable people. We need to have everyone serve in the military. We need to have all of the stake holders, including the military, sit down and come up with a more practical way.
MATTHEWS: Well, do you think people should be able to be openly gay in the military?
MATTHEWS: Yes, well we have a difference in opinion. We will be right back with Jim Webb and Harris Miller. Not many differences except on that one. And later, Zarqawi is dead. What does it mean for U.S. troops in Iraq?
“New Yorker” editor David Remnick, what a guy, is going to be here.
This is HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. For more of our exclusive debate between the two men who want to beat Virginia Senator George Allen this fall, we are back with business man Harris Miller and former Navy secretary Jim Webb. Mr. Webb would you have a question for Mr. Miller?
WEBB: Harris, there have been a lot of reports in the paper about your career as a lobbyist. I‘m just wondering how you would fix the problem with, we now have 33,000 lobbyists in Washington, double the number at the beginning of this administration.
MILLER: We need to get rid of several things, Jim, number one we need to get rid of the special interest projects, the so-called pork barrel. I‘ve said publicly I would vote against every one of them. I would make an alliance with Republicans to do that, people like John McCain. Secondly, I would prohibit any gifts, any gifts, to Congressmen or Senators. George Allen makes $165,000 a year. He doesn‘t need someone to buy him lunch.
Thirdly, I would try to get public funding for TV campaigns. You know Jim, you and I are out raising money all the time so we can pay for TV time, I think that‘s one part of politics we don‘t like. I think all other countries allow their candidates some free TV air time to get their views out there. We need to bring that to this country too.
MATTHEWS: OK, your question for Mr. Webb.
MILLER: Jim, you said recently when asked why you supported George Bush over Al Gore and George Allen over Chuck Robb that you experienced some Clinton fatigue. Could you tell us what was fatiguing about the Clinton administration and the peace and prosperity that existed in 2000?
WEBB: Well, I think what we‘re living in right now is a different country than we had in 2000, in every sense of the word. We are undergoing a tremendous sea change in this country in terms of even how we define liberal and conservative and where the party alliances have laid out.
One of the things that has been true about my experience having been essentially a Reagan Democrat is there are a lot of people like me who went over to the Republicans, basically on foreign policy issues, national security issues, who are ready to come home because they were never comfortable with the Republican Party on issues of economic justice and social fairness. So, I think we will see a continuation of that and that‘s really the important issue.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a couple of questions, both in a row, first of all should Hillary run for president? Jim Webb?
WEBB: I think it is too early for me or anyone else in the Democratic party to endorse anyone.
MATTHEWS: No, but should she run?
WEBB: She has every right to run and she has the money to run.
MATTHEWS: How about answering the question, should she run?
WEBB: She wants to and so she should, that‘s really the answer.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you Mr. Miller, should Hillary Clinton run for president?
MILLER: I would vote for Governor Mark Warner in 2008, but I‘m a great admirer of Senator Clinton.
MATTHEWS: Should she run for president?
MILLER: If she wants to, she should
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Donald Rumsfeld. You said he should be axed right now, he should be fired, right Mr. Miller?
MATTHEWS: Mr. Webb?
WEBB: I wouldn‘t be sorry to see Donald Rumsfeld go. But then what is next? The problem is the administration, not one single individual.
MATTHEWS: Would you like to see the president remove the responsibilities and duties of the Vice President, just take all his duties away from him? He doesn‘t have any under the constitution, just stop giving him jobs?
WEBB: I think we elect people based on how they have their relationships and that‘s the way George Bush runs the presidency.
MATTHEWS: So we‘re stuck with him. Let me ask you both the question, is George Allen qualified to be president of the United States? Mr. Webb?
WEBB: I believe George Allen has shown over the last five years that he is not particularly qualified to be a senator. I thought we were going to get a leader there and we didn‘t. Other people can decide, but that is my view.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Miller?
MILLER: I fought hard to keep George Allen from coming to the Senate in the first place. He was not a very good governor and he has been a disaster as a senator. He said he is bored with his job. He‘s been there while gasoline prices have doubled, our deficits gone to $9 trillion. And he‘s spent most of the time traveling around the country side and not even spending time in his home state of Virginia.
MATTHEWS: OK, final question, if you had to vote right now on a piece of paper in front of you, Hillary or Mark Warner, who would you vote for? Mr. Miller?
MILLER: Mark Warner.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Webb?
WEBB: I remain undecided.
MATTHEWS: Ahhh, OK, thank you very much. Good luck to both of you. Thank you Harris Miller, thank you Jim Webb. I think the only thing you guys disagreed about tonight is whether we say don‘t ask, don‘t tell. Anyway, the Virginia primary is coming up this Tuesday, June 13. If you are a Virginia Democrat, get out there and vote. We can say that here.
Up next, President Bush said Zarqawi‘s death could turn the tide in Iraq, but would it turn the political tide here at home? “New Yorker” editor David Remnick, a big-time reporter, joins us. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Since 1998, David Remnick has been editor of one of the most storied magazines in American journalism—
“The New Yorker.” His new book is a collection of his writings for the magazine. It‘s called “Reporting.” It includes profiles of people ranging from Al Gore to Mike Tyson.
Well, Al Gore has never bit anybody‘s ear off, but I am fascinated. I just saw the movie the other night. It is a very stunning movie. I do like the arguments made, the principles. I still doubt that Al Gore is enough of a people person to ever be elected president.
DAVID REMNICK, THE NEW YORKER: I‘ve got to agree with you. I‘ve got to agree with you. I‘m not sure that this Al Gore moment is going to move the needle enough on his negatives to push anything into a presidential race. People are obviously—the punditry moment is, is Al Gore going to get into the race? I don‘t know that he wants to get into the psychodrama of running against Hillary Clinton. That relationship is still tender. And I think he is enjoying himself. He is making some money with Apple and Google. He has got a cause that he‘s the main spokesman of. And he is having a hell of a lot better time than he ever has in elective politics.
MATTHEWS: Did you think he‘d ever make that decision? You know, I talked to Robert Kennedy Jr. He said he can do much more by sticking to some issues he believes in and not getting, you know, have to handle every issue in New York state by running for the Senate or something. Do you think he may come to that, where he‘d rather have a couple of issues he could speak openly about, but not to talk about abortion and gay rights and all the other issues he doesn‘t want to talk about?
REMNICK: Well, I think if Al Gore knew he could win and be president, he would run in a nanosecond. As you know better than anybody, Chris, people at a certain level of politics—like the entire Senate is filled with 100 people who think they could be the president. And certainly Al Gore, who won the popular vote by half a million votes last time around and went through an experience that we can only begin to imagine, and has watched a kind of increasingly radically conservative president flounder, I mean, the emotional power of that must be enormous. But he doesn‘t like running. And he‘s not great at retail politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you—let me ask you the greet psychological question, and this has nothing to do with ideology. No matter who‘s watching now, this has nothing to do with right and left.
If George W. Bush had the same—the opposite results in 2000, had he won the popular vote but was nicked out by one state where there was a real question about who really won, he would be walking around this country going on Jay Leno, Letterman. He would be the most popular guy in the country, acting like he was like Mr. Cool, because he got the most votes. He would have acted like a winner. And yes, technically, the other guy won, but I‘m the most popular kid in class, right?
Al Gore won. He got most of the popular vote. He lost and went down with dignity, he accepted it, he gave maybe the best speech given in that campaign.
REMNICK: His farewell speech, his concession speech was (inaudible).
MATTHEWS: And then he grew a beard and acted like the fugitive. Why?
Why was he so ashamed that he had to go off and hide?
REMNICK: I don‘t think that he was ashamed.
MATTHEWS: What was it he was?
REMNICK: I think that‘s not fair.
MATTHEWS: What was he?
REMNICK: I think he was bewildered by his circumstance, and he had everybody—and increasingly with time, as that presidency grew more troubled, let‘s put it mildly, with time, he also had to be the emotional receptacle of everybody coming up to him and saying, if only. If only. That is his life. And now...
MATTHEWS: Why did he retreat?
REMNICK: I think just to back away. I think he wanted—for the same reason he gave a very classy concession speech, I think he also knew that politically in the long run and probably morally in the long run, that to get up in President Bush‘s grille right away before really anything was established was not the thing to do.
MATTHEWS: I understand that point.
REMNICK: But at a certain point, certainly with Iraq and with any number of issues, he began waging what I call his wilderness campaign. And now you are seeing the height of it.
MATTHEWS: It‘s not (inaudible) -- Nixon in ‘61, ‘62, up until the governor‘s race, did it just right. He was happy, he was—he seemed to be content in defeat. But he was also well together, he was put well together.
Let me ask you about American cycles of politics. Al Gore couldn‘t sell a book.
REMNICK: It debuted as number three best-seller of “The New York Times” best-seller list, a book about a slide show about global warming.
MATTHEWS: Right, in other words, how things change. How do you see the cycles of American politics, where Al Gore can be eclipsed totally off the wall, laughed at back these many years and be a guy who is taken quite seriously?
REMNICK: Well, it‘s because the public and the press is fickle. We are not always kind. And we have short attention spans. And there is a lot to blame where we are concerned, as commentators, as writers and even the public is concerned. Al Gore now is pretty much Al Gore as he has always been, although much more full-throated and clear. I think he‘s a lot clearer as a spokesman than he was.
MATTHEWS: What are his feelings toward the Clintons? One at a time.
MATTHEWS: Did Bill cost him the presidency?
REMNICK: I think that in large measure, he thinks he did. And they papered over this difficulty in their relationship famously after 9/11. They met in Westchester at Clinton‘s house, and they patched things up. But again, this is one of the reasons I think it would be problematic for Gore to run for president in 2008. He would be facing Hillary. And his relationship with Hillary was always more problematic than it was with Bill Clinton.
REMNICK: They both wanted to be the number two person in the White House. They wanted to have the ear of the president in a policy sense. And I think...
MATTHEWS: Well, this isn‘t Betty and Veronica, is it?
REMNICK: Politics is personal. A lot of politics is personal. It is as simple as that sometimes, that there are personal rivalries in a White House, played out on a national stage.
MATTHEWS: David Remnick, your book is “Reporting.” Isn‘t it more, I mean, incentive for him to go bash the Clintons and win the final battle?
REMNICK: You know, I don‘t think—when we look at Bill Clinton, we know that he enjoys nothing more than elective political battle. He is a natural at it. He loves that fight. What Gore treasures is the ability most of all to govern. He does not walk into a crowded room and get energy from it. He leaves it exhausted and depleted. He knows that, and admits as much.
MATTHEWS: He has told you that?
REMNICK: Well, look, remember Richard Ben Cramer great book on running for president, “What It Takes?”
MATTHEWS: Yeah, “What It Takes.”
REMNICK: It takes superhuman endurance.
MATTHEWS: It takes the bug too.
REMNICK: Oh, man.
MATTHEWS: (inaudible) must be president.
REMNICK: And I don‘t know if he‘s got that bug.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know how you do everything. David Remnick does everything. He does Russia, he does America, he does everything. This guy is a hell of a reporter. One of the great reporters in history, maybe.
The book is called “Reporting.” He is the editor of “The New Yorker,” maybe the best magazine ever.
Play HARDBALL with us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern. Tomorrow night on HARDBALL, Tom DeLay on his last day in Congress. The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers. Both of them coming here. Big bookings tomorrow, DeLay and Myers.
Right now, it‘s time for “THE ABRAMS REPORT” with Dan.
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