Guests: John Murtha, Kit Bond, Michael Isikoff, Jim VandeHei, Robert Redford, Charlie Cook
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: War talks: what‘s this talk of a war council all about? What are President Bush and his people talking about up there at Camp David? Is this a real review of U.S. war policy or more “stay the course?” Let‘s find out. Let‘s play HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews, and welcome to HARDBALL.
Tonight, live from Chicago.
The Bush administration and Republicans in Congress are ringing all the bells in the war in Iraq, but what will they be successful in changing anything over there, or are we back again to where we were? The war in Iraq will dominate the news this week in Washington, with President Bush meeting with his people today at Camp David.
Of Course, tomorrow, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice go to Capitol Hill to make their pitch to House and Senate members. In a moment, one of the leaders of that debate, Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania.
And later, Robert Redford has been politically active since the early 1970s; tonight Redford talks with me about President Bush, Dick Cheney and where he thinks this country is headed.
But first, President Bush is huddling with his advisers on Iraq in Camp David right now. HARDBALL‘s David Shuster is in Washington, covering the events up there at Camp David.
What is the reason for a meeting up there, David? I don‘t want to be skeptical, but why don‘t they just meet in the White House? That‘s what it‘s for, and these are his regular advisers.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, it‘s not—the location isn‘t entirely clear to me, but what apparently happened is, last week when the Iraqi government finally filled those two cabinet posts that had been dragging on for months, the Bush administration said, Okay, let‘s now take advantage of this, let‘s huddle at Camp David, let‘s have the video teleconferences with our generals on the ground in Iraq and let‘s talk now about what recommendations need to be made.
The president said repeatedly, We‘re going to leave it up to commanders on the ground as far as any possible drawdown of troops. You heard General Casey say, over the weekend—and by the way, he was on this conference call today—he said, over the weekend, that “I wanted to wait until the Iraq government had formed before I made any recommendations to the president.”
Now that the government is in place, the president, his top commanders, his top domestic national security advisers—they‘re all meeting in this big video conference today and again tomorrow to talk about the future and what steps need to be taken.
MATTHEWS: But I don‘t want to be to critical or cynical, but does the war look any different when you‘re wearing your L.L. Bean costumes? I just saw them dressed up there for the affair. But these are the same faces who took us into the war, got us stuck in all the unpredictable events—such as this insurgency—the whole problem we‘ve faced over there for three or four years, facing enormous numbers of casualties compared to what they predicted which was none. And all this going on, the world hating and the same crowd that took us in, is now meeting to do what? Are they talking about reducing the number of troops or what?
SHUSTER: They are talking about that. In fact, supposedly the president and his top commanders are talking about what sort of timetable can they possibly put together if the generals conclude that Iraq is in a better position to conduct more of the security.
One of the main problems they have talked about is that the Iraqis, even though U.S. generals say that they‘re able to take more of a leading role in actually fighting the insurgents, they‘re still incredibly dependent on U.S. logistics, intelligence, medical evacuations. So the idea is, what can the U.S. do as far as maintaining support for the Iraqi troops and at the same time responding to Republicans here in Washington who are demanding that the Bush administration start showing signs of progress that are tangible to the American people, specifically a drawdown of troops.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, David Shuster.
Democratic Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania has long been a critic of U.S. policy in Iraq. He is still calling for immediate troop withdrawal or redeployment.
Good evening, Congressman. Where are the Democrats, as a body? You‘re running for majority leader, you made clear the other day. Can you put together a majority of Democrats on a particular war position at this point?
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D) PENNSYLVANIA: Let me tell you, Chris, I believe that the public—Democrats in particular throughout the country—have been way ahead of the Congress, and some of the members have kind of hung back for one reason or another. I think it‘s absolutely imperative—there‘s no more important issue to this country than the war. That‘s why I got involved in the majority leader‘s race. There‘s nothing I would like better than to stay in defense, but I felt like $8 billion a month, $450 billion a year, more casualties by far than they predicted, electricity is below prewar level, everything that you just said is absolutely true. Unemployment in Anbar Province—that‘s a province where they welcomed us at first, they threw roses at us, they welcomed the United States troops—and now they‘re fearful of the United States troops in Anbar Province.
So here we are, we‘re going to be doing a resolution that says everything is going well. Everything is not going well and rMD+IT_rMD-IT_I‘ve been saying over and over again, You folks have to be realistic about it. They need to fire people, they need to hold people responsible, then they need go to work diplomatically. This can‘t be won by us. It can only be won by the Iraqis.
For instance, can you imagine the American Revolution—if the other countries tried to come in and tell us what to do, it wouldn‘t have worked at all. They have to settle this thing themselves, as painful as it may be, and the United States public knows it and that‘s why they‘re way ahead.
I‘m hopeful that this president, in this so-called meeting he‘s having, will come to the conclusion to set a timetable, give them goals and get our troops redeployed to the periphery. This operation against Zarqawi could have been done—it was done from the periphery, and certainly almost everything could be done from the periphery.
MATTHEWS: Are you confident that the reports we‘ve been getting on the death of Zarqawi are accurate, that there wasn‘t anything beyond the bombing done to him after he was found?
MURTHA: I am confident of that. I think that the Iraqis got in there first, as I understand, but they did administer medically to him. It was a traumatic experience. He was suffering trauma. And so I think he couldn‘t have lived, no matter—they wanted him alive, I‘m sure of that. They wanted him alive because of the information he could have given us.
MATTHEWS: I see.
MURTHA: So I‘m convinced they did everything they could to save him.
MATTHEWS: Okay, you mentioned—Congressman, you mentioned there‘s going to be a vote of so some kind. What‘s the form of the vote on the war going to be this week?
MURTHA: Here we go again: they have a resolution, which is a partisan resolution that they drew up without any consultation with the Democrats, and they‘re trying to justify a war rhetorically. This is what‘s been going on, this is the reason I get so upset. We need substantive answers to this, we need substantive answers about how we‘re going to solve this problem. We need to work with other countries. Every country in the world knows we have to have stability in the Middle East. It‘s important to the world energy supply.
Instead, we‘re trying to do it alone, versus what President Bush One did, when he was in there and he collected $60 billion and 100,000 troops from other countries and worked out a magnificent proposal, and then he had an exit strategy.
We went in without adequate troops. We went in and we don‘t have an exit strategy. We have to figure out a way to have the Iraqis ask us to get out of there. That‘s the whole answer, here.
MATTHEWS: Okay. You want to be leader—you want to be majority, Mr. Murtha. Can you put together a Democratic resolution—you can meet anywhere on Capitol Hill and have a vote on a resolution of the Democratic members. You‘ve got 202 members. How many can you get to back your kind of resolution?
MURTHA: Well, we already have over a majority, but the point is—
MATTHEWS: What, to withdraw, redeploy? What would be the form of the Democratic position?
MURTHA: Here‘s the form of the resolution, as I see it. It would be to redeploy, as quickly as possible, with the safety of the troops in mind, and then go all-out, diplomatically, to solve this problem, working internationally with the international community.
MATTHEWS: How many votes do you have for that, Mr. Murtha?
MURTHA: We have 101 votes right now. We have 101 on the resolution. We had 120 vote against the war. So there‘s no question in my mind, we would have well over a majority of Democrats voting for any resolution that comes up that is reasonable, and this is a reasonable resolution.
There is only two positions: one position is the president and the other position is my position. And in the end, my position is going to prevail. They‘re going to withdraw these troops, there‘s no question about it. They‘re just trying to figure out how they‘re going to do it and save face.
MATTHEWS: Why are the Democrats so conservative on this war? I was looking at the fundraising money. Is the fact that the Democrats are getting a lot of fat cat money, more conservative people contributing to the party, an explanation of—if you were getting your money from college professors, you wouldn‘t have this problem. You‘re getting it from rich people. You‘re catching up—in fact, passing the Republicans in fund raising. Is this steering the Democratic party to a more conservative position on the war, the money?
MURTHA: Chris, here‘s the way I feel about it. I think the American public want to change the direction. That‘s what I‘m hearing. They don‘t want to go down this same road and just hear the same rhetoric over and over and over again. They want a change in direction, and a change in direction means some changes at the top so that these folks have something to look forward to.
MURTHA: Why should the Democrats rule the Congress if you can only scrape up 102 members out of 202 to go your way on this war? Why should people vote anti-war and vote for Democrats, if the Democratic members won‘t say they‘re anti-war?
MURTHA: Let me tell you, they‘re voting for a change in direction, and they‘ll vote for a change in direction. There‘s no question in my mind about it. We need to lead this country. If we want to win the majority back, we can‘t depend on the Republicans to continue to make mistake after mistake. We have to lead. And I believe I‘m in that position with my expertise in defense to help Nancy Pelosi and the leadership in that direction.
MATTHEWS: Well, good luck, but I hear a lot of people out there, Democrats who are afraid to stake a position out, like you‘re doing it. I don‘t hear 200 Democrats out there talking the war the way you are.
MURTHA: Yes, well I‘m disappointed that there are not enough. But I‘ll tell you, the public is—I stopped at noontime today to have lunch on the way back, and four people, separate people, came up to me. A woman sent me—another woman sent me her purple heart that her husband won in World War II. She says she has nobody to leave it to and she wants me to give it to a wounded soldier. So I‘m hearing that kind of thing.
MATTHEWS: Well, this country could use—this country needs a choice, it needs a vote from the Democrats and the Republicans. We all want to know where the parties stand.
Thank you very much, Congressman Jack Murtha, who‘s running for majority leader of the House.
Coming up, Senator Kit Bond, of Missouri, talks about Iraq, al Qaeda and the president‘s Camp David meetings going on right now about Iraq this week.
Plus, Robert Redford is coming here to play HARDBALL.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Republican Senator Kit Bond of Missouri is a member of the intelligence committee and he supports President Bush and the war in Iraq. Senator Bond, tell us what you know about the whole war scene. We just heard from Jack Murtha, who wants to redeploy our troops out of that country. What‘s your position?
SEN. KIT BOND ®, MISSOURI: First I have great respect for Jack Murtha, I‘ve worked with him on procreations for defense. I know of his great record, but I just happen to think he‘s flat wrong on this issue.
Because we are making progress, and it has been very slow, it‘s very difficult, in a country that hasn‘t had a tradition of democracy. We have created the conditions, they can have elections, they‘re making tremendous progress, refugees are coming back, and we have to stay there and provide support until we get the Iraqi military and the Iraqi police force, which is the one element that is not yet ready to take over and provide security in the country.
Then our sacrifices will have been worth it. Iraq will be safer, the Middle East will be safer and we in America will be safer. If we can assure that Afghanistan and Iraq are stable countries not housing or being hospitable to terrorists.
MATTHEWS: What makes you think we can win? I mean, win by the president‘s standards, which is to create a stable country that‘s not going to be trouble for Israel, for us, or anybody else?
BOND: Well, I had the opportunity to talk to the experts when I was in Iraq in January and Afghanistan and they said it was very iffy about a year ago.
But our top people both military and civilian, and I‘ve talked to soldiers and marines who were there. I talked to the top intelligence and military officials and they believe that this national unity government that President Talabani was pushing and now Prime Minister al-Maliki is pushing has the best opportunity.
If we walk out and leave them now, the chances are far too good that insurgency, chaos, and terrorism will prevail, and this would be once again, a prime breeding ground for the kind of terrorist activity that not only threatens the people of Iraq and their neighbors, but provides the basis, the breeding ground for attacks in the United States.
MATTHEWS: How many more years do you think the United States will support 100,000 troops in Iraq?
BOND: Well, I think the number will come down as the Iraqis are capable of taking over more security functions. You know, we still—we‘re still drawing down 40,000 troops that we‘ve had had in Korea. We‘re still in Bosnia, we‘re still in other areas.
The United States is in a decades-long war against terror and we‘re going to have to have troops deployed where terror exists. I hope we can work, for example, with the countries of southeast Asia to keep them strong so that terrorists will not take over in those countries. The prospects look good, but the prospects are still—it‘s still very volatile in the Middle East and our best hope of peace in the world is to make sure that we get a stable Iraq and a stable Afghanistan and build from there.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Senator Kit Bond of Missouri. Up next, what can President Bush get out of these meetings he‘s having up at Camp David with all his advisers? “Newsweek‘s” Michael Isikoff and the “Washington Post‘s” Jim VandeHei will be here. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Live tonight from Chicago, Congressman Jack Murtha says he‘ll make a run for House leader if Democrats win back control this November. Meanwhile, current House majority leader, Republican leader John Boehner, has set up a debate on the war this week. What‘s the goal of that debate?
Michael Isikoff is “Newsweek”‘s chief investigative correspondent and John VandeHei is a reporter for “The Washington Post.” Mike, what is this all about this week? The big meeting up at Camp David, a lot of choreography, a lot of teleconferencing, a lot of reports from the Hill. And then this big debate later in the week, what are the Republicans up to in terms of the show biz of the war?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NEWSWEEK: Two separate things, what the president is up to, and clearly there‘s a recognition of the many problems we‘ve got. I think there is a feeling that the Zarqawi thing could be a pivot. Of course they‘ve hoped that about many other previous developments, but what‘s striking to me, just, you know, you look at the optics, as they say, of everybody coming out there at Camp David.
I mean, the vice president, secretary Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, I mean, these are the same people who are so—were there all along, and made all the wrong calls before about the presence of WMD.
MATTHEWS: Michael, why does woodsy work better than workplace?
ISIKOFF: Not clear. The other thing that struck me in your interview with Senator Bond is, he said, I believe he said, that a year ago when he was there, he was being told it was very iffy, the situation in Iraq, as to whether or not the United States could prevail.
Well, if they were telling him that a year ago or if they were saying that a year ago, they sure weren‘t sharing that with the public, so that‘s the kind of thing that does raise questions about what we hear now, because if we now hear that well, a year ago, our top military people thought the situation was so dire it was iffy if we could prevail, what does that say about how much we can rely on what they‘re publicly saying now, since they certainly weren‘t sharing what they were privately thinking then?
MATTHEWS: Jim, let me ask you about this whole quality of reporting we‘re getting from official sources. I don‘t want to be down on military public relations but our public affairs officers, but it seems like so often, we get one story in the first headline in the flash and then a couple days later, it‘s different. Zarqawi is killed in the bombing, then he‘s not killed. Then the autopsy says he lived 52 minutes and there is questions about how he was treated when we got him. Is this a big story or are we getting to micro management in this whole thing.
JIM VANDEHEI, THE WASHINGTON POST: I don‘t know that it‘s a huge story. I think there‘s always a different account as you get further away from the incident, you have operational reports. I think you have to look at it—I think the story is a, what is Zarqawi‘s death, what does that do for the whole Iraq strategy?
In proportion, what you see him doing at Camp David is trying to show that he does have a plan, that they‘re continuing to try to adjust the strategy, including doing more in Baghdad and secure Baghdad.
It‘s amazing that we‘re at a point where despite all the resources that have been put into securing Baghdad, a lot of U.S. officials will tell you privately that it‘s more dangerous today than it was four months ago. They see this is a symbolic place they need to secure. Not just for us but to show the Iraqis that we can get the biggest city, the central symbol of Iraq in order and then that could spread from there.
MATTHEWS: Could it be a reporter‘s problem too. You talk to people you know who are over there and you can‘t get out of the Green Zone or out of Camp Victory. It‘s very hard to just tool around and talk to people. Nobody is going to write a great report on how well the war is going until they can actually see that kind of security, right, Jim?
VANDEHEI: Absolutely. It‘s been one of the big raps on the media from the Bush administration. They‘re saying wow, you never report the good news. Then when you talk to reporters they are saying we can‘t even get there to talk about the good news that you say is happening because it‘s so dangerous. You hear the same thing from lawmakers.
Lawmakers come back. They don‘t get very far outside of the Green Zone, if at all. So they don‘t know really know what‘s going on. They don‘t get to Ramadi or the more dangerous areas to see what‘s happening on the ground in Iraq. Then you‘re forced to rely on the PR machine from the Defense Department and there is been some information that hasn‘t turned out to be true in the past so there‘s always skepticism.
MATTHEWS: Mike, last word. These suicides in Guantanamo, they are what they seem?
ISIKOFF: Very hard to know anything definitively anything that goes on down there. One thing that struck me listening to the Pentagon over the weekend, the military spokesman saying how dangerous these guys were, how serious their involvement with al Qaeda and the Taliban were. But we had never heard about these individuals before and they weren‘t among the ten most serious individuals who had been charged. In fact, there were no charges pending against them. So that does sort of raise questions about if these guys were so bad, why they hadn‘t previously been among those selected for military tribunal.
MATTHEWS: And they referred to it as a PR stunt, committing suicide.
What an odd thing to say, don‘t you think?
ISIKOFF: And also calling this a form of warfare. It‘s hard to know what to make of that.
MATTHEWS: It is hard. Thank you Michael Isikoff and Jim VandeHei thank you.
By the way, we‘ll report the latest NBC News and Wall Street Journal poll that comes out this Wednesday night. This is the one that is going to tell us how the country has reacted to the killing of Zarqawi and whether that will make us feel much better about the president‘s war performance. Tune if Wednesday to find out the numbers.
Robert Redford, the actor and director, he‘s coming here to talk about politics and the environment and the whole issue. You‘re watching HARDBALL from Chicago on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Robert Redford has been an environmental activist almost as long as he‘s been a movie star. Now he‘s joined with up with something called the Apollo Alliance to promote American energy independence. I spoke with Bob earlier today.
MATTHEWS: You know, it seems like you‘ve always been involved in the environmental movement, going back decades, decades. And yet now it seems to have come together like a perfect storm. We‘ve got high gas prices, the war in Iraq and this emerging reality about global warming. What does it tell you?
ROBERT REDFORD, ACTOR: It tells me it is a perfect storm and it‘s coming at a perfect time, just sad that it‘s so late. I got involved in alternative energy in the ‘70s when I went to a conference in Vail, Colorado as a guest.
And they presented this chart about how much of our energy comes from non-renewable sources and what the alternatives were that were renewable and I looked at that and said, “Oh god, that‘s a no brainer.” I said, what are we doing here? Why are we dependent on something that‘s eventually going to run out?
It didn‘t make any sense to me, so I got involved at that time to do whatever I could to promote alternative energy sources, kind of focusing on solar. Now you‘ve got this coalition, that‘s where the power. But what I‘m here for is to support the Apollo Group, which is the group that‘s pulling together a coalition of military, religious, labor, environmental groups.
That‘s the first time in history that all these groups, which represent the grassroots against the failed leadership that should have—
I mean, this issue has been under their nose, this current administration, since the day they rode in.
And we have an economy that‘s fueled—excuse the pun, it‘s fueled by oil, and it‘s absolutely imperative that we get off of the oil habit. I mean, it‘s bad for our security, it‘s bad for the environment, there‘s no real future in it because it‘s going to run out. What you can point to now is that this is a time for optimism because there are solutions. And they‘re real, and they‘re here and they‘re available now, despite what the administration does to undercut it or submarine it, it just can‘t be. There‘s too much evidence.
MATTHEWS: What do you think happened in that private meeting that Vice President Cheney ran called the energy task force? We‘re not allowed to know who was in the room. Do you know where our energy policy that we have, whatever it is, has come from?
REDFORD: Well what do you think happened? I mean it‘s pretty obvious what happened. It was designed by the energy companies in private for self-interested reasons. And so there you have it.
There you have the perfect equation of the big energy companies, oil and gas companies, influencing our political policies. And the fact it was done in secret, what that tells me is that was probably the beginning of a long chain of secret events the administration sort of tried to pull.
Now, fortunately, it‘s coming out in the wash now, that that‘s what was going on, but you had Enron in the room, one of our stellar groups.
MATTHEWS: What‘s their game? It seems like if you‘re in the oil business, what do you hope—you know the oil‘s—they know more than we do about how much is left, how much is reachable at a reasonable cost. What are the political problems in those countries. Do they just want to play the game out? Is that what you think?
REDFORD: Well, yes. I mean, the fact is oil and gas companies, where there are huge profits, they‘ve been able to afford year advanced studies, research. You know, 20 years ahead of the game. So they know what the deal is. And they‘re going to do—you don‘t blame them. They‘re going to do everything they can to undercut this alternative that‘s available to us now, because it‘s going to affect their bottom line. That‘s kind of old stuff, we‘ve seen that all along.
MATTHEWS: But Brazil for example, a country that‘s not as developed as this one, it‘s coming along but it‘s not where we‘re at, is smart enough to figure out a way to completely avoid any importation of oil. They grow it.
REDFORD: Well that‘s the other thing. See the thing that I‘m really excited about, Chris, is the alternatives, the solutions that are available now that are going to have wide ranging benefits.
For example, new technologies will create new jobs and the jobs will be held at home. We won‘t be outsourcing anymore. Getting off dependence on foreign governments for a resource that‘s going out, non-renewable, developing renewable resources here in our country is good for the economy. It‘s not good for the environment, safer environment, more reliable environment. But it‘s good for the economy. And so that‘s what I‘m excited about, it‘s really a time for optimism.
MATTHEWS: Can we grow enough corn to produce enough fuel to drive all those millions of cars that we have?
REDFORD: It‘s corn mixed with gas at the most. That‘s the E85, ethanol 85. But it‘s not just corn. There‘s going to be all other kinds of agricultural products that can be used as well for energy. You‘ve got biofuel already. You‘ve got Willie Nelson out there using biofuel. It‘s happening already and what needs to happen is that the American people have to get word that this is available, so they don‘t have to listen to the same old song and dance from the energy company.
MATTHEWS: When are we going to have cars that people want to drive?
REDFORD: You have them now, yes, the Highlander.
MATTHEWS: Is that good?
REDFORD: Yes, it is good. And it‘s got—you‘ve the got the Prius, you‘ve got the Lexus—all the auto—Toyota was smart and if our auto companies had been smarter, they would have jumped on this a long time ago.
Now they‘re being led by foreign companies and I think that probably one of the things you‘ll see in the future, my guess, is that you‘re going to see the auto companies, which are in dire straits, in support of the—unions supporting the move to transfer into renewable energy sources.
MATTHEWS: Do you think we‘re going to be able to get a car—we have a society, you live out west a good part of the time, route 70, route 80, where people drive 70 miles an hour in effect, that‘s what they drive, or faster. Are we going to be able to have hybrid cars handle that kind of job? I mean, this is a western country in many ways. Can we still do that?
REDFORD: This is all very new stuff, but it‘s moving. There‘s something happening. So right now the hybrids work best in the cities. The problem when you get out in the open road, the comparables wouldn‘t be so—there wouldn‘t be such a gap, but that‘s going to change because the technology is advancing every day because they know this is the future. So you‘ll see it eventually.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that we will be able to deal with the Middle East in five or 10 years? When you look at the politics of it, where do you think we‘re heading, in terms of access to oil? I mean, we‘ve got Ahmadinejad in Iran. For all we know, he‘ll take over Iraq in a couple of years. How do we deal with those places?
REDFORD: Well, you want to know?
MATTHEWS: I want you to tell me.
REDFORD: I think the first thing you do is—I think you‘ve got to get new leadership that has a new vision, which means you‘ve got to get these guys out. I mean, I think the problem with this administration and guys like Cheney, is that they are living in the ‘50s. That‘s the problem. They can‘t get out of thinking the world is turning the way it was in the ‘50s. It‘s—we live in a new time and a new world and they don‘t see it because their interests are so narrow.
MATTHEWS: He‘s an oil patch guy.
REDFORD: There‘s an arrogance about it.
MATTHEWS: But they‘re oil patch people, is that what you‘re saying?
REDFORD: Yes. I mean, they‘ve earned their fortunes in gas and oil, what do you expect?
MATTHEWS: He said, by the way—he said that if you want to be a conservationist, well that‘s a nice moral thing for you, but it‘s got nothing to do with the problem. Do you remember he said that, Cheney?
REDFORD: That‘s one of main things he said that you like you do a double take.
MATTHEWS: What about Bush, the president?
REDFORD: I mean, didn‘t he say that they were going to hit us with flowers? Didn‘t he say in the last throes?
MATTHEWS: I think he said the happy Iraqis would greet us.
REDFORD: Yes, well we know about that.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the president, because he is the president, he‘s from an oil state. Do you think that we have two people that have a problem because of just their local interests and their personal backgrounds?
REDFORD: I think a lack of breadth, not a broad enough mind, narrow mindedness tied to the privilege they came up with and so forth. I don‘t know it‘s so much the state. I mean, there‘s some good people in Texas, and the fact is that it‘s not that oil and gas is going to be taken away overnight, and it shouldn‘t be.
I mean, it‘s there. It‘s just that you‘ve got to get off the total dependency of it, because it‘s so bad for our national security, our environment. So it‘s not going to happen overnight, there‘s no silver bullet on that front. But the alternatives that are available now that these people keep denying, or trying to shun are what is the real problem, and that‘s what I think the Apollo Group is all about.
MATTHEWS: So you think your goal here in Washington this week is to try to get us to move from fossil fuels into renewables?
REDFORD: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, what about Al Gore, did you see the movie?
MATTHEWS: What did you make of it, “An Inconvenient Truth.”
REDFORD: It‘s good, we had it at the festival. It‘s good. Yes, I was—he shot...
MATTHEWS: ... You had it at Sundance?
REDFORD: Yes. No it‘s very valuable, it‘s very valuable, and I think that the main thing—it‘s one thing to show how bad it is, because it is. It‘s dire, but you‘ve got to show what is available as an alternative.
Because you got to have some optimism. My god, we‘ve been depressed for so long, it‘s about time to have some hope and there‘s a reason for hope because there are alternatives that are available right now so you‘ve got to get that word out and I think Al‘s film goes a long way in that direction. It‘s great.
MATTHEWS: But the movie was fairly depressing?
REDFORD: Well because it‘s dealing with hard facts but then if you look at the other side, you say OK, this is bad and it‘s been bad for 20, 30 years, because it‘s been denied by special interest for so long.
Now here‘s the good side, here‘s the bright spot and this is the part that America is supposed to be great at, you know, the can-do country. Look, you‘ve got Kennedy saying you can put a guy on the moon. They did.
And when people dream big, I mean, it‘s not like that‘s a silly thing. When you dream big, you can get there, as Kennedy did, as Martin Luther King did. So now I think that time has come for energy. I‘m pretty optimistic about it.
MATTHEWS: So this is a silver bullet in a sense. If we can grow enough fuel in this country to provide for our automobiles, that‘s basically what it is, we don‘t contribute to global warming. Is that true?
REDFORD: You don‘t contribute to global warming. We‘re one of the great polluters that contributes to global warming. Now you have China. China needs to set an example.
The fact is this country should have been setting an example a long time ago, that other countries that are developing countries like China, and India and other countries, could follow. There is no example to follow because we are part of the problem. Now there‘s a chance to—I think you have to get this group out of there.
MATTHEWS: But the problem is the other group that comes in, you‘ve worked for politics, you‘ve tried to help guys get elected over the years. It seems to me that nobody—Al Gore of could talked about global warming and energy substitution. He didn‘t. You‘re not going to get the oil state guys like Bush and Cheney to do it. Who is going to push this kind of cause in the energy independence? McCain ain‘t doing it, is he? Is Hillary talking about this?
REDFORD: I have no idea. Here‘s who is talking about it. The people who are here for the Apollo Group. First of all, you have military leaders, this is incredible, you have environmental leaders, you‘ve got steelworkers, you‘ve got union people. When in the past would you have ever imagined that the Steelworkers Union would be in conjunction with the environmental group to solve a—create a solution.
So you have this across the board coalition that‘s really what I think is the best of America, and what does it tell you? It tells you that the part that we should be led by is not happening. That‘s the sad part. The people we pay money to represent us are not. So up comes from the bottom, a grassroots group that has coalition straight across the board, even religious leaders. So that‘s pretty powerful stuff. When you say who‘s going to be talking about this, that‘s who‘s going to be talking about it.
MATTHEWS: We have three plus dollars a gas now, people out there, working guys, who have to drive 50 to miles each way pay a lot for gas. You have a war over there that you can argue isn‘t about oil but damn well is to a large extent because we‘re trying to protect the oil lines. The president admits that. You have this global warming fear that even the president and the conservatives are accepting now as a reality with Kilimanjaro melting down, and the ice cap and everything melting down.
It seems to me everything is working towards a political opportunity for one of the two political parties and it‘s you independent guys that are out doing it. There‘s no politician out at the front of this thing that‘s in the business anymore.
REDFORD: I think the Democratic party puts forth a bill that‘s a great start. There‘s more to go. They can be bolder, but it‘s a start in comparison to what energy policy we have coming from this administration right now which is a disaster and also an insult.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll come right back to talk to Robert Redford. We‘ll be right back to talk about politics.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Robert Redford. You know I think “The Candidate,” the movie you made back in 1972 is still incredible, because it‘s about money, glamour, it‘s about superficial. You‘re smiling. Have politics changed at all?
REDFORD: No, it‘s gotten worse. That film, I made that in 1970, 1971 and it was meant to be a small statement about how we elect people in this country by cosmetics rather than substance. It was meant to be a small, dark, humorous look at it. I had no idea it would be prophetic and particularly no idea that it would be not only true but it would get worse and become more true. That‘s sad.
MATTHEWS: Guys like Peter Boyle‘s character, David Garth.
REDFORD: No, no. David Garth was Garfield.
MATTHEWS: But you had guys that were like, you know, they were really good at this. Lee Atwater and Roger Ailes was really good in his day and now you‘ve got Karl Rove.
REDFORD: They‘re all cut from the same cloth. Strategists.
MATTHEWS: They‘re brilliant strategists. They are smarter than the guys who are running.
REDFORD: That‘s true. They‘re very, very smart on the wrong side, but they‘re smart.
MATTHEWS: So how come the Democrats don‘t have any of these Svengalis?
REDFORD: You have to ask them. I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: You‘ve met a lot of Democratic candidates over the years.
They don‘t seem to have the back room boys—
REDFORD: Maybe it has to do with the nature of the Democratic - the identity of the Democrat is to be open to all points of view and that‘s why it‘s hard to coalesce. I think now is the time they‘d better, because they have a great chance to come together and they should.
And the other side is all about strategy and winning, and so there‘s that thinking behind it, that whatever you do, you‘ve got to win, and whatever you‘ve got to come up with a strategy to win, as we‘ve seen in the last two elections. So I think that‘s the tension the Democratic Party has to get to a point where you can ask anybody on the street and say do you know what a Democrat stands for and they‘ll be able to give the same answer and right now I‘m not sure they could.
MATTHEWS: Will Rogers is still calling the shots when he said I belong to no organized political party, the Democrats. But when you look at how clever they use the gay marriage issue in Ohio and states like that last time and now they‘re doing it again, they‘re moving the country to a 55-45 position their way on some issues like that.
REDFORD: That‘s the old straw dog approach where they‘re in trouble and to distract people from the trouble they‘re in they create a straw dog. They did it with swift boat. I mean, I still think it‘s probably one of the great shameful acts to go after of Cleland the way they did, a war hero and to try to take this guy apart and accuse him of being unpatriotic. I thought that was one of the most criminally offensive moves I could imagine, but they‘ll do it because it‘s about winning and that‘s what “The Candidate” was about.
MATHEWS: “The Candidate” was also about how you use TV, money, TV ads, debates, all the big theater of politics. And you win but that was back when Democrats thought they could win, back in the early ‘70‘s. I remember seeing the movie with our friend Wayne Owens (ph), and I‘m watching it in Utah, that local theater out there, when we were working on his campaign. It was all fun and games. The Democratic Party was a happy party then. It was a winning party, even though it just lost to Nixon, you know, the time before it was going to lose again. It was a happy party for some reason.
REDFORD: Well, it had that stretch of time. Yes, it was. And I think it had a really good stretch of time, and there was a lot of encouraging moments in it.
But look, times change. Nothing stays—change is the only thing that really...
MATTHEWS: Has this country changed enough to elect a woman of any stripe?
REDFORD: I think it‘s close, yes. I think—look, first of all, you have got examples in other countries of women presidents. I mean, I hate to think we‘re behind the curve there. Who says that it should be gender related? I mean, the fact is, there are examples already in this country of leaders that are women, and I see no reason why we shouldn‘t.
MATTHEWS: Has Hillary got the right stuff?
REDFORD: I don‘t know. We‘ll see.
MATTHEWS: Are you rooting for her?
REDFORD: I‘m not rooting for anybody. I‘m Will Rogers.
MATTHEWS: Do you want Al Gore to come back and take a shot? Would you—if he were sitting here...
REDFORD: No, no, I‘m not wanting anybody. I‘m just waiting to see who comes up. I mean, some guys had their shot, and Al said he‘s not going to do it. We‘ll see if he means it, but I‘m looking for new, fresh blood. And somebody that really can grab a hold of the identity of what a Democrat means.
MATTHEWS: How about Obama? Too young?
REDFORD: I don‘t know. I don‘t know. Truth is, I don‘t know. Wait and see. See who comes up. There are little glimmers here and there, but I don‘t want to take a—I don‘t want to single out anybody. First of all, it‘s premature. Secondly, it‘s not fair to others. That‘s not my role anyway.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s end on your role today. You‘re coming back to Washington. You‘re here today to fight for the Apollo program, to try to get us focused away from gas and oil and onto these renewable resources, these energy sources.
REDFORD: Right. That to me...
MATTHEWS: When is this country going to click on the fact that gas and oil are going to run out, especially oil? When are we going to say we‘re going to go to hybrids, we‘re going to go to solar, we‘re going to make the big changes so we don‘t have to need the Middle East anymore? When is the big gut check going to come for us?
MATTHEWS: Coming up, we do politics on HARDBALL. Virginia voters will decide tomorrow on a challenger to Senator George Allen. How could this affect Allen‘s chances for reelection and for the presidency? NBC political analyst Charlie Cook will be here. You‘re watching HARDBALL from Chicago, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Decision 2006 rolls on tomorrow with a big primary in Virginia. Democrats Jim Webb and Harris Miller will fight it out for the right to face Senator George Allen this November. Could a close race for Allen hurt his presidential chances in 2008? And how about that new poll of Iowa voters that has John Edwards leading?
Charlie Cook is an NBC News political analyst and publisher of “The Cook Report.”
Charles, I am disturbed here. Jim Webb and Harris Miller debated on this show. I have the suspicion that neither one is going to beat George Allen. What do you think?
CHARLIE COOK, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: I suspect that you‘re absolutely right.
What this is about, Chris, is this. There is a feeling that Jim Webb, because he served as secretary of Navy for President Reagan, because of his military background, that he could tie Allen up, that he could force Senator Allen to spend a lot more time and a lot more money in the state rather than running for president, and he could cost the Republicans a bunch of money.
He‘s not going to beat—you know, neither of these guys are going to beat Allen.
Harris Miller, I think he‘d have to—Senator Allen would have to spend a little bit of time. He would have to go through the motions, but not much more than that. But frankly, neither of these guys is going to beat him. The question is, is one of them going to tie Allen up.
MATTHEWS: OK. So you still expect that George Allen is going to be one of the candidates for the Republican nomination for president.
COOK: Absolutely. But he will be spending a whole lot less time around the country this year, because Democrats are sort of (inaudible)...
MATTHEWS: Well, maybe he is lucky to lay back.
Let me ask you about this “Des Moines Register” poll that has John Edwards—now, Edwards came in second in the Democratic caucuses out there last time around, in 2004, did very well. People liked him. They thought he was cute. He also gave a hell of a good speech. I was there for one of them, one of the renditions of his speech. He gave it often.
Is he really a presidential candidate right now? Is he really somebody who can win the nomination? John Edwards, who is not in office, had one term in the Senate, and really didn‘t impress many people with his campaign for vice president last time.
COOK: Well, I think Edwards is certainly in the mix. There is going to be an alternative to Hillary Clinton. I mean, I think Senator Clinton has about a 50 percent chance of getting the nomination. There is a 50 percent chance that it‘s, you know, Mark Warner or Evan Bayh or John Edwards or Joe Biden or somebody out of that mix is going to emerge.
I think what this poll tells us...
MATTHEWS: How do you know that?
COOK: Because the thing is, well, we asked in a poll nationwide, Democrats, if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee for president in 2008, do you think she would have as good a chance as any other Democrat of winning the general election or do you worry that she cannot win a general election? Forty-seven percent of Democrats nationwide said that she would have as good a chance as any; 46 percent worried that she couldn‘t win a general election. The party is badly divided. That‘s her obstacle. She‘s got a 80 percent favorable for the party.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you this, what about a Busby Berkeley number, where you have like one of those ‘30s musicals from MGM where you have one woman in the center and four or five guys dancing with her in tails. She can beat four or five guys because they divide up the guy vote, and the conservative (ph) woman vote.
COOK: No, what‘s going to happen—you have got two basketball brackets. There‘s the Hillary Clinton bracket. She is the only name in it. She goes straight to the finals. Then there is the other bracket. It‘s everybody else, all these guys competing to see who will be the alternative.
If Hillary Clinton can convince the party she can win a general election, she‘s in. That‘s it. Game over. Btu if she can‘t, whoever it is among the others is going to be the nominee.
What this poll tells us is number one, that Edwards didn‘t get hurt, at least in Iowa, by being on the ticket. Number two, there‘s some residual good will. And number three, that because Senator Clinton has to run for reelection, she can‘t go out to Iowa. She has not been able to give the care and feeding that Iowans expect, and John Edwards has been there a whole bunch, I think five or six times this year. That‘s pretty much what the poll tells us.
MATTHEWS: And if Vilsack runs, Iowa doesn‘t count.
COOK: Well, except Vilsack—well, it does. If you can beat Tom Vilsack, then—if you can beat a governor of a sitting state, that even makes it even better.
MATTHEWS: Yes, potentially, yes.
COOK: And that John Kerry does not have the residual good will. The fact that he‘s in third place here, I mean, that sort of tells you what you need to know.
MATTHEWS: I know. I‘m still looking for greatness, Charlie. Help me out. I‘m looking for a greatness candidate out there, of either party.
COOK: I think he got a long way to go.
MATTHEWS: I think we got an open field—I think we got an open field for 2008, and Mr. and Mrs. Right hasn‘t shown yet.
Anyway, thank you, Charlie Cook.
COOK: I‘m glad you had my twin brother Redford on earlier.
MATTHEWS: Yes, thank you. Play HARDBALL with us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern. Right now, it‘s time for “THE ABRAMS REPORT” with Dan Abrams.
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