Guest: Mark Regev
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Stop the world, we want to get off. Stop the war, we want to get off. Just two weeks into the fighting, are we really trying to stop it? Can Condi end the war when we‘re telling Israel to stay on the attack and can Bill Clinton, who says he would not have put our troops in Iraq, save the Democrat who cheered the invasion? Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening I‘m Chris Matthews, welcome to HARDBALL. It‘s day 13 of the Israeli-Hezbollah war. Earlier today, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew into the war zone in Beirut for a dose of American diplomacy, while Israeli forces pushed further into Lebanon and fierce fighting continued on the border. Let‘s begin in Tel Aviv with chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, who is traveling with Secretary Rice. Andrea, you have a unique position there, with Secretary Rice, traveling right with her. Is she getting something done?
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It‘s too early to say. She made the rounds in Beirut today and that was a surprise visit, under the cloak of secrecy because of the obvious risks. She wanted to prop up the Siniora government, that weak government led by the Prime Minister Siniora, and also made obligatory visits to other factions, including to the top Shiite, Nabi Beri, who is the speaker of the parliament. They, of course, want faster action. They want an immediate cease-fire.
That‘s the message she had yesterday from the Saudis at a meeting in Washington. That‘s the message last week from the Egyptians. That‘s the message today again from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and that‘s certainly what she‘s going to hear from the Russians and others when she gets to Rome for a summit on Wednesday. Right now she‘s having dinner here in Jerusalem. We‘ve actually come from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Chris, this is moving around quite a bit today, hard to keep up with and she‘s with her Israeli counterpart and again, in brief statements with the Israelis, for the press, before they went into dinner, Rice reemphasized her support for continued talks, for longer diplomacy, but not for an immediate cease-fire. U.S. officials said tonight that with this surprise visit to Beirut, the secretary of state has now put the United States firmly in the picture, leading the diplomacy, so they‘re truly sensitive to the criticism that they weren‘t fully engaged enough last week.
MATTHEWS: Is the cease-fire next Sunday?
MITCHELL: Hard to say. They still have to get through today in Israel, tomorrow in Israel, meeting with the prime minister in the morning, then she goes to Ramallah to meet with the Palestinian leader and then to Rome for the summit on Wednesday. The timing sounds right. That seems to be what is beginning to develop, but, you know, this is the Middle East.
MATTHEWS: I‘m just trying to figure it out, because I have a source close to the Israeli embassy that says it‘s about that time and I‘m trying to figure if we‘re not simply coming along and countenancing that. We‘re simply saying that will be fine, rather than really brokering a deal that would actually bring the cease-fire faster than it would normally come.
MITCHELL: Well, I think what she‘s doing is not really brokering the cease-fire. She‘s very clear about that. She wants a bigger solution. She wants the Lebanese army to be able to regain control in the south, they‘ve never really had control in the south. They want a pull back of Hezbollah, about 15 miles from the Israeli border so that the most of the Hezbollah rockets would be pretty much out of range of most large Israeli cities. So there‘s more to this package.
She says over and over again, she wants a long-term solution, not a quick fix, because a quick fix will only bring them back to violence once again. It‘s a dicey proposition. And she‘s planning to, you know, wrap up in Rome and then resume her previous schedule in Asia at an Asian summit, but she is available to come back over the weekend to Israel and that would fit your timing of a cease-fire next week.
MATTHEWS: It seems there‘s four pieces to this. Israel stops bombing, Hezbollah stops shooting its rocket, two soldiers get returned at some point, Israeli soldiers back from Hezbollah and there‘s some cordoned area between Israel‘s northern border and Hezbollah. Who is going to be the piece that fills that in? Will it be an international force? Will it be an international force backing up the Lebanese army? What would be that force that would be capable of at least seeming to take on Hezbollah?
MITCHELL: It would be a combination and it would be an international force, perhaps NATO backed, U.N. blessed, but not a U.N. force, because we‘ve seen how weak the U.N. force has been for 28 years in southern Lebanon. The whole point is to try to give Lebanon the tools to gain control of its country and it‘s never had that.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much. You‘re the best. As always, Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News now in Jerusalem. As Israel pushes forward against Hezbollah targets, Hezbollah rockets continue to hit northern Israel cities. NBC‘s Mark Potter is in Haifa, the third largest city in Israel. He joins us now with the latest. Mark, has there been a lot today?
MARK POTTER, NBC NEW CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it‘s been a very heavy day of fighting along the border today, Chris, with four Israelis killed, as the Hezbollah rockets continue to fall. The Israeli Defense Force says some 80 rockets hit a number of cities along the border today, injuring at least eight people. That number will probably climb as the night progresses. Three of those rockets fell here in the Haifa area, in the suburbs, although no injuries were reported in connection with those attacks.
Now Israeli officials say since the conflict began two weeks ago, they have destroyed some 2,000 Hezbollah rockets on the ground before they could be fired but the bad news for Israel is that officials believe that there are still three or four times that amount in the Hezbollah arsenal at this time, so that concern about those rockets continues. Meanwhile, today, Israeli soldiers were said to have been involved in very fierce fighting on the outskirts of a town known as an Bint Jubail, an important Hezbollah strong hold over the weekend. The Israeli soldiers took over another such town along the border.
Today, two soldiers were killed and 20 were injured as they faced withering fire from mortars, anti-tank weapons and small arms. Military officials say that these Hezbollah fighters that they have been encountering are well trained and are dug in, making for very, very difficult and slow moving combat along the border, two Hezbollah fighters, however, have been captured and are being held now for interrogation. An finally Chris, an Israeli helicopter crashed today, killing two pilots. An investigation of that incident is still underway. But military officials say it appears at first blush to have been the result of an accident, not the result of Hezbollah ground fire. Chris?
MATTHEWS: Mark, is this the first modern war where one of the strategies on one side is to exhaust the supply of missiles on the other?
POTTER: I don‘t know about that historically, but that is clearly what they are trying to do, although the Israelis are very clear to say today that they do not have any hope of getting rid of all the missiles. They don‘t think they can do that, there are just so many. It seems to be a two track strategy. The ground troops along the border trying to clear that immediate area and then the pounding from artillery and the aircraft going farther in to cities like Tyre and other places where those launchers are set up.
They really are going after, not only the missiles, but the launchers themselves and that‘s a very slow and difficult process. They say they‘ve gotten about 100 of them, but they‘re hard to find, they‘re mobile, they can be hidden easily. We saw a picture today that the Israeli official showed of one of those mobile units being parked right next to a mosque, within the shade of the mosque, hiding it there.
And the other thing that we‘re hearing a lot of is this mantra, never again, and that touches on the diplomatic story that Andrea and you were talking about a moment ago. They said they never would want to return to the way things were before July 12 when this incident began with the kidnapping of the soldiers and the killing of the others that led to this conflict. They say they want a broad peace, but a peace that lasts, and not just a cease-fire that stops the fighting and the soldiers it appears are trying to use every minute they have until that date comes, that cease-fire comes to get as much done as they can, frankly to kill as many Hezbollah fighters as they can, to destroy as many missiles as they can. They are racing against time as the political, the diplomacy continues to work, not only here but around the world.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, NBC‘s Mark Potter, who‘s in Haifa in Israel. NBC‘s Beirut bureau chief Richard Engel joins us from Tyre, Lebanon. Richard let me ask you about the other side. We‘ve been told from the beginning that the Lebanese side of this fight, rather the Hezbollah side, which is based in Lebanon, has 13,000 missiles, including some very powerful ones. Are they getting close to exhaustion of those usable missiles?
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: According to western intelligence sources, Israel claims to have eliminated about half of Hezbollah‘s rocket capacity, other intelligence officials, however, put it at about a third, and so it is weakening Hezbollah, no doubt, but there is also a burgeoning, growing humanitarian crisis in this country and that is creating more anger, more frustration against Israel. So you may be pulling some teeth out of this organization, but some would say it is growing as popular support and popular anger continue. For example, right now, off camera, we just saw a flash.
There are more Israeli airstrikes and shellings continue. They‘ve been continuing in this area throughout the day and now into the night. Most of the power is out, so people living in the city, there are not that many left in Tyre, a lot of them have decided to head north, and as we were coming there was a constant flow of traffic going in the opposite direction. People putting white flags out of their windows to show that they are not combatants. But sometimes these civilians, the non-combatants, are also being killed. As Mark Potter was saying, Israel feels that it is under the gun, it has to get this operation done quickly, so it is dumping a tremendous amount of artillery fire according to western intelligence, U.S. intelligence, about 20,000 artillery shells have been sent into south Lebanon and not all of them have been precise, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Rick, there was a big piece in the “New York Times,” top of the fold, major headline this weekend, that we‘re resupplying Israel with the state of the art bunker busters. Is that word getting around the streets. In other words, are they getting the sense that all of these bombs dropping on them are made in America? Is this hurting us still further over there with the people of Lebanon?
ENGEL: I hear that every single day. Yesterday we went to a hospital and the—one of the orderlies at the hospital at the door was furious. There was real anger in his eyes and he said, “Who are Americans?” Suddenly no Americans here and he wanted to find an American and attack him, because one of his cousins had been killed and he blamed it not on Israel, he blamed it on the U.S. munitions that Israel has been using for U.S. allowing this to happen and not reigning Israel in.
So there are certainly people who are blaming Israel and the fact that there are U.S. munitions being involved is something that is not is not something lost on the people here. As I said, they‘re telling us about this every single day.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Richard Engel. Take care of yourself over there.
Mark Regev is the spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry. He joins us now from Jerusalem. Mark, tell me about the connection between our supply of those state-of-the-art bunker busters, 5,000-pound bombs and the chances that Israel would be able to end this action earlier, because of that supply.
MARK REGEV, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTRY: Well we want this operation behind us as soon as possible, but as you yourself said, no one wants a mirage, no one wants a cease-fire that just causes more problems down the line. And the question that all the policy people are dealing with is how do you have a cease-fire that sticks, how do you neutralize Hezbollah‘s ability, their capability to launch this sort of regional crisis?
And I think the challenge that we all have is when we reach that cease-fire is to make sure that Hezbollah remains weak, that we start the process of disarming Hezbollah and of course we prevent the resupply of Hezbollah with even more rockets from Iran and Syria.
MATTHEWS: But even if you have a cordon of several meters or tens of meters between your northern border and Hezbollah‘s entrenchments, don‘t you risk that they could still fire with their sophisticated rockets?
REGEV: That‘s exactly the point. I mean, even if we manage to clean out the south Lebanese—the frontier zone from these Hezbollah strong holds and that‘s what we‘re doing as we speak. But we‘re concerned about the longer-range rockets that can hit us from further away and that‘s why it‘s so important.
At the moment, we are targeting trucks coming in from Syria, those trucks carrying rockets and missiles that are aimed at Israeli cities, but once a cease-fire starts, the question has to be asked who is going to stop those truckloads of rockets and missiles coming in from Syria to rearm Hezbollah? I mean, the whole point is to weaken Hezbollah. And if a cease-fire is just a vehicle for Hezbollah to rearm, regroup and prepare for the next ground, next round of fighting, that‘s going to do no one any good, not the Lebanese, not the Israelis, not anyone.
MATTHEWS: It‘s hard for me to put together from here in Washington, Mark, the two things I see going on. It seems to me based on what I hear that this war is not going to continue for more than a couple of weeks. At the same time—in fact, it might be offer the end of this week and at the same time Israel‘s desperate plea for these highly sophisticated bunker busters, which you couldn‘t very well use during an actual cease-fire. If there‘s going to be a cease-fire, why do you need these sophisticated bunker busters?
REGEV: Well, I don‘t want to go into operational stuff, Chris, you have to understand that, but I can say the following. We have to hit Hezbollah and we have to neutralize their ability to reign terror on Israeli cities. We have to neutralize what is ultimately, unfortunately, a very formidable military machine.
They‘ve had 10 years of Iranian and Syrian support to build up a formidable force and we‘re now acting to neutralize that force. But ultimately, the real solution is diplomatic and we have to see and I hope we see this in Rome two days from now. We have to see the international community united on its own resolution, that‘s Security Council Resolution 1559, that says Hezbollah has to be disarmed. If the international community unites behind that principle, I think we can go in the right direction.
MATTHEWS: Well I don‘t want to sound like Marxist, but there‘s one part of Marx that made perfect sense, which was economic determinism. To a large extent, doesn‘t the ultimate solution to your region and you must think about this every night when you go to bed—if there is to be peace in that region, certainly the fighting has to stop at some point, the killing has to stop, the blood hatred.
And that can be done to some extent through diplomacy. But after the diplomats have done their job and you‘ve done your job, don‘t you require to have countries on your border, neighbors, regular neighbors who are making a buck, who are doing OK economically and therefore don‘t see in jealousy of Israel? Don‘t you have to have a thriving Lebanon, a thriving West Bank, a thriving Jordan and an Egypt that‘s doing better?
And I‘m questioning whether the bombing campaign is helping...
REGEV: ... You know, I‘m not a Marxist either, but you‘re 100 percent right.
MATTHEWS: Yes, OK, go ahead, talk about that.
REGEV: No, I was going to say, we have no interest in failed states on our borders. We don‘t want to see a failed state and I think the Israeli-Lebanese frontier was quite peaceful until Hezbollah orchestrated this violence. And actually Lebanon was going through a major process of renewal, economic growth, of political growth and that was led by the former prime minister Hariri, who as you know unfortunately, was assassinated by the Syrians.
But what I think here is we as the Israelis, we have an interest in more democracy, in more economic progress. We want to see our neighbors move forward. If we live in a better neighborhood, that‘s good for Israeli security too.
MATTHEWS: I love to here that. Thank you very—Mark, stay with us, Mark Regev, who‘s spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry. And later on, up in Connecticut, hawkish Joe Lieberman, the three-term senator is learning about dove power up there, if you look at the polls. What‘s Bill Clinton trying to do, butting in up there today? You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Every war needs a steady supplies of armaments. And in the case of Israel‘s efforts in Lebanon, the United States is now part of that narrative, as I said. U.S. troops are now headed into the region. But American—they‘re not headed in, but American made bombs certainly are. We talked about that already. Here‘s HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After two weeks of Israeli bombardments of Hezbollah positions in Lebanon, Israeli military officials say at least two-thirds of Hezbollah‘s firepower still remains.
GEN. SHUKE SHACHER, ISRAELI CHIEF OF STAFF: They are preparing themselves in the last six years with a lot of Katyusha rockets, some missiles, thousands of missiles are under the ground.
SHUSTER: And with many of those bunkers deeper than Israel had anticipated in withstanding the initial Israeli attacks, the Bush administration has agreed to expedite a delivery to Israel of precision-guided bunker busting bombs. The armaments are part of a multimillion dollar package approved last year, but by speeding up the delivery schedule, Israel will have access to what the “New York Times” describes as a package of as many as 100 GBU-28s. The GBU-28 is a 5,000-pound laser guided bomb designed to destroy concrete bunkers. The weapon Israeli officials regret not using last week, when they attacked a Hezbollah position in Beirut. Israeli war planes dropped 23 tons of bombs on a bunker used by Hezbollah officials, but the next day Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah gave an interview on al-Jazeera and declared the group‘s leadership remained intact.
To deflect any potential Arab government anger over the expedited supply of new munitions to Israel, the Bush administration last week also announced a sale of military equipment to Saudi Arabia worth more than 6 billions dollars. For Israel, in addition to the new bunker busting bombs from the air, commanders say thousands of Israeli troops are now on foot, attacking Hezbollah munitions sites. The last 13 days, Hezbollah fighters have fired approximately 2,000 rockets, and Israeli counterattacks destroyed 1,700 before they were launched. But military analysts say that still leaves Hezbollah with at least 7,000 rockets. Most of them are the short range artillery version known as the Katyusha. They have a range of 12 miles and are generally inaccurate. But they can be set up quickly and fired remotely.
Of greater concern to Israeli officials are the rockets hitting deeper into Israel, like the ones that recently killed eight people in Haifa. Military analysts say those rockets were military grade and appear to have been the Iranian Fajr-3 and Fajr-5. From south Lebanon, these mid-range rockets can reach Israel‘s major population centers, but slip below the Israeli missile defense system, set up for longer range missiles that could be launched from further away in the region.
Just as Israel is looking for newer, more effective bombs, western officials fear that Hezbollah fighters may be seeking more armaments as well and U.S. officials say that‘s why the Bush administration did not object when Israeli warplanes bombed many of Lebanon‘s bridges and highways and stepped up the humanitarian crisis for refugees, but the strategy also destroyed Hezbollah resupply routes from Syria and Iran.
SHUSTER: U.S. military officials believe that at a certain point Hezbollah is going to run out of weaponry. Israel, on the other hand, thanks in part to the Bush administration, is just beginning to add more effective firepower. The key question is how long will it take to break Hezbollah and what will be the damage until then? I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster. We‘re back with Mark Regev, the spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Mark, what can we do, both your country and ours, to bring Syria back to the table of the world community, so you can at least push them or pull them with carrots and sticks into actually doing things that are reasonable?
MARK REGEV, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTRY: I think we have to present the leaders in Damascus with a clear dilemma. If you align yourself with people like Hezbollah, Hamas, the Iranians, if you align yourself with the most extreme Jihadist elements, so we will treat you accordingly. I mean, if you‘re outside international legitimacy, don‘t be expected to be treated as good company. If, on the other hand, through your behavior, you move towards, you know, the modern elements, the more productive elements, the more peaceful elements in the Middle East, then the door is open for dialogue and communication.
MATTHEWS: What happened to Bashar Assad? A lot of people, I think the western media, the “New York Times” and others have written a very charming portraits of this guy and his beautiful wife, as if he were part of a new generation, a more debonair, more wind swept, less cluttered by the old anger, the old bitterness and rivalries. He seems to have become a prisoner of his uncle‘s. What‘s going on in that Baathist party?
REGEV: Well, he‘s younger generation by age, but unfortunately policy seems that he‘s stuck in the old mill of that old sort of extremism, that old sort of totalitarian rule. The Baathist regime that he heads and that‘s unfortunate not only for Syria, that‘s unfortunate for all his neighbors. What I would say to Syria is the following. If you have want to change, the door is open, but it‘s clear what you have to do. If you say you want peace, that has no credibility, that has no legitimacy, as long as you are allied with the most violent anti-peace elements in the Middle East. If you‘re an ally of Hamas, if you‘re an ally of Nasrallah of Hezbollah, if you‘re an ally of that Iranian president Mr. Ahmadinejad, if you are the allies of all these people, you‘re clearly not in the peace camp.
MATTHEWS: How do we American and Israeli both, and we have a common interest here and we often do, how do we get these people who are bad people by your country‘s perspective and ours too, to talk, to accept even communication with us, so it‘s clearly and transparently available to them, these options that you‘re suggesting?
REGEV: Well, I think if we say to people, if you act like terrorists, you‘re treated like a terrorist, but if you act like a member of the civilized community, then the door is open, I think that‘s quite a good dilemma to present towards them and we saw in Libya that some Arab regimes have actually moved in the right direction.
MATTHEWS: That‘s because there‘s been a big fat carrot out there, oil sales. Anyway, thank you very much Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Up next, Bill Clinton is in Connecticut tonight, late this afternoon rather, trying to save the hawkish Joe Lieberman‘s political career. Should he be doing that? You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Just six weeks ago, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, actually it was six years ago, was the vice-presidential nominee of the Democratic party. Today he‘s in trouble. Anti-war challenger Ned Lamont has Lieberman against the ropes in a Democratic primary that is just two weeks off now.
Today Lieberman called in the biggest reinforcement any Democrat could have, Bill Clinton. Will it be enough? NBC‘s Chip Reid‘s up in Connecticut with more. Chip, why can the former President, probably the most popular man in the Democratic party, say the war issue isn‘t important to Democrats when it‘s the number one issue, the ace they‘re going to play in November?
CHIP REID, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I don‘t think he‘s going to say that. Obviously it‘s a very difficult argument for him to make, but what he‘s going to say is that you can‘t have unanimous agreement on this issue and you don‘t need unanimous agreement.
In the Democratic Party, there are a lot of people who think we ought to get the troops out now and there are a lot of people who think we ought to have a very carefully thought-out plan for getting them out down the road, but not cutting and running, very much like Mrs. Clinton wants.
She does not want to get them out immediately, she wants a plan for victory and presumably so does her husband.
Joe Lieberman, I think what has people so angry towards Joe Lieberman here is not just that his position is different, there are a lot of Democrats who don‘t want to pull the troops out right away, there clearly is a split in the Democratic Party. What really makes them mad is that he has been so stalwart in his defense of President Bush himself.
And people on the liberal anti-war wing of the Democratic Party absolutely can‘t stand the sight of the man, and with they hear Joe Lieberman saying nice things about him and about his war plan in Iraq, they just go crazy. It is amazing how angry they get about this.
So what Lieberman is doing is bringing in the heavyweight champion of the Democratic Party in what Lieberman calls the fight of his life here and it could give him a boost, but Chris, this is conditional.
Clinton is saying yes I support you, but if Ned Lamont, the democratic challenger who is riding this anti-war sentiment, a wealthy businessman who is pretty much new to politics, if he wins the Democratic primary in two weeks, Clinton will withdraw his support and support the Democrat, because he says you‘ve got to support the Democrat. So even though he and Joe Lieberman go back 36 years, all the way to when Joe Lieberman was running for the state Senate, Clinton was at Yale Law School working for him, they go so far back, but he‘s going to withdraw that support if Lieberman loses that Democratic primary and it looks like he could. It‘s neck and neck right now.
MATTHEWS: Well politics ain‘t bean bag. Chip Reid up in Connecticut, thank you for that report.
REID: You‘ve got that right. It‘s HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: That‘s right. Up next, what can Condoleezza Rice do on her trip to the Middle East? Could she broker a deal for peace without calling for a cease-fire? How do you say keep fighting but stop fighting? What‘s the message? The HARDBALLers are next. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me start. Welcome back to HARDBALL. Hezbollah‘s rockets continue to strike Israel today as Israeli troops push deeper into Lebanon, with no end to the violence in sight. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise trip to Lebanon just today before going to Israel.
On Wednesday, she‘ll convene an international summit in Rome to figure out an end to the fighting. What can she do? The HARDBALLers are here, Pat Buchanan and Bob Shrum. What can she do, Pat?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Condi has given the Israelis a week to get this over with, Chris. After that I think Condi can do a good deal if we‘re prepared to talk to Syria and talk to others and open this thing up. I think there are the makings of a deal.
MATTHEWS: And Israel will play ball?
BUCHANAN: That‘s where the real problem is going to come. I don‘t think Israelis want us to talk to Syria at all. And look, Syria‘s bottom line for being cut out of the Tehran/Syria/Hezbollah access is going to be the Golan Heights. And that‘s quite clear, the Syrian ambassador is talking about this.
MATTHEWS: is price is give us back the Golan and we will not be part of the Shia crescent.
BUCHANAN: If you want to—look, do like you did with Libya, let us get out of the penalty box, let us be access to all these international things and get us back to Golan Heights and we can talk and we can probably make a deal.
MATTHEWS: Bob, are you that optimistic, that out of this whole thing with all the carnage will come something good like the neutralization of Syria?
BOB SHRUM, HARDBALL POLITICAL ANALYST: Well first of all, Syria was offered all the Golan Heights except for the last several hundred yards, while Ehud Barak was prime minister of Israel and turned it down flatly. So I‘m not hopeful that Syria is suddenly going to start behaving well.
But I am hopeful that we‘ll see an end to the violence and I think that‘s because there‘s been a fundamental shift in Israeli policy. Israel tried peace by negotiation in the intifada. It‘s tried peace by separation and got cease-less violence.
Now I think the policy is peace by third party participation. I think they‘re going to clean out as much as they can to Hezbollah and southern Lebanon and then they want a force to come in, preferably build around NATO, that is going to police that area as a buffer zone.
I think that‘s a big and fundamental shift and I think what the administration is doing and I‘m usually on here disagreeing with them, but I think what the administration is doing is trying to give time to the Israelis to do what they have to do so the administration can then do what it should do.
MATTHEWS: When will the United States government blow the whistle and say it‘s time for the killing in Lebanon must end now, send a stifler to Israel, we‘re not with you anymore on this campaign, you have to stop. Will they do that say after this Sunday? How many more weeks will they give them? Another week?
BUCHANAN: I don‘t think they can give them too much more time. Where we‘re gaining points, Chris, is being a stalwart ally of Israel. We‘re also losing enormously with the Arab people by appearing to be a collaborator in the complete destruction of Lebanon.
MATTHEWS: But we are.
BUCHANAN: We are. And there‘s only so much time this can go on, but let me say to Mr. Shrum‘s point, he‘s right. but the missing piece there is to prevent the resupply of Hezbollah, you‘ve got to take Damascus out of the equation because the weapons come into Damascus and from there through the Bekaa. And this is why we‘re going to have to deal with the Syrians and already you notice, Olmert is saying the Syrians don‘t belong in this equation. So they know what‘s coming.
MATTHEWS: Look, bob, do you believe we have to be active in brokering a deal between the state of Israel and one of its nearest neighbors, in fact, a difficult, probably the last really difficult neighbor state that is and that‘s Syria?
SHRUM: Well, I don‘t know that we will broker a deal directly with Syria. I think we may do that through third parties. The Saudis and the Egyptians are apparently pushing the Syrians very hard right now. But the deal has to be that the Hezbollah, sponsored by Syria, has to be removed from southern Lebanon, there has to be a third party force built around NATO that‘s going to be there as a buffer zone and by the way I don‘t think we should get into a one sided discussion. It‘s not just people in Lebanon who are being killed, it‘s people in Israel who are being killed and the reason the bridges and roads are being taken out, as your own report said earlier, is so that we can‘t see the resupply from Syria of Hezbollah.
BUCHANAN: But here‘s the problem. Israel, if they continue this and they continue in Gaza and continue the economic blockade of the West Bank, is going to wind up with two failed states cheek by jaw with them. How that advances Israeli security or American interests, I don‘t know. Chris, Lebanon is a complete disaster. It‘s a catastrophe, says Blair. You have 600,000 to 750,000 refugees, they could turn over night into one of these Palestinian Diasporas, which produces endless numbers of terrorists, right on the northern border, the same on the West Bank and Gaza. Israel has got to realize that they‘re headed down a road at the end of which leaves them with basically two Somalia‘s on their border.
SHRUM: I never saw Pat so tender about the refugees that were created in Vietnam by Nixon‘s massive bombing in that country. This is a much more targeted effort. It‘s targeted at supply lines, at roads for very good military reasons. The truth is Lebanon has been a failed state. It‘s been a failed state because of the interference of Syria and the presence of terrorist groups like Hezbollah. I actually think Lebanon has a chance to emerge from this in a much better place than it‘s been, if we can get that buffer force on the border.
BUCHANAN: Lebanon had emerged as a Democratic pro-western, basically disarmed state which the president of the United States himself praised before all these strikes all across the country, that‘s the part of the Israeli ...
MATTHEWS: Excuse me Bob. We‘re going right now to Bill Clinton, he‘s up there campaigning right this moment, for Joe Lieberman. There they are, the pictures of the two politicians, Joe Lieberman, the incumbent senator fighting for renomination after his three terms up there, 18 years. Look at the hand up there. That‘s to make up for the kiss, the hand, Bob, are you watching this? We‘re seeing a new kind of rapprochement with the Democratic left here. There‘s Chris Dodd, the other senator, the senior senator. I think you‘re going to see a lot of hugging here. There you go. He‘s coming in there.
BUCHANAN: Can‘t get close enough, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I can‘t get close enough to Bill on this. Look at this, he wants that picture in the “New York Times” tomorrow morning. Get that photo op. So we‘re watching this ...
SHRUM: Maybe the kiss with Clinton will make up for the kiss with Bush?
MATTHEWS: I‘m not sure that‘s the proclivity of our former president, Bob.
BUCHANAN: But he, let me say this, I‘ll say this Bill Clinton is doing a smart thing. If Lieberman wins, he‘s in Hillary‘s back, he‘s in Hillary‘s camp for year 2008.
MATTHEWS: Here it is. They are playing “Don‘t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.” We can‘t hear it, but that‘s what they are playing. You see that picture right there, it‘s almost like they‘re thinking “New York Times” tomorrow, “New York Post,” get on the front, “New York Post” might get this one tomorrow. Watch for that in tomorrow morning‘s tab. “New York Daily News” I think will do it to. I think that‘s the picture for tomorrow in the big papers, wouldn‘t you bet, bob? That‘s the front page picture tomorrow, right there?
SHRUM: Sure, I think that‘s a good chance that‘s going to be the picture tomorrow. I think Bill Clinton is getting his ticket punched with Lieberman now, because he‘s probably not going to be able to get it punched after the primary. The real question is whether he‘ll come back and campaign for Lamont. And when he talks about party unity, hold Lieberman accountable if he runs as an independent. You know, Clinton keeps saying you shouldn‘t be doing this because of party unity. In 1968, he was for Robert Kennedy for president. He was for the anti-war candidate. I think Democrats have the right to vote anti-war and send a message in this primary.
MATTHEWS: Ditto. Thank you. We‘ll be right back with Bob‘s words ringing in our ears. Democrats have a right to vote against Joe Lieberman. We‘ll be right back after this to hear what the former president has to say.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re back with the “Hard Ballers,” Pat Buchanan and Bob Shrum. Bob, we‘re talking about the Connecticut primary coming in just two weeks. It‘s your party, cry if you want to, but this is going to hurt no matter what happens, right?
SHRUM: I don‘t think that‘s necessarily the case. I think that either Ned Lamont or Joe Lieberman will end up winning the Senate seat. I don‘t assume that polls about the general election right now are any more accurate necessarily than polls about the primary were two or three months ago. This isn‘t about liberal Democrats, it‘s about mainstream Democrats, mainstream Connecticut, people are against this war.
MATTHEWS: And they will stick with their position, even if Joe Lieberman is a real contender in November?
SHRUM: Yes, I think if he runs as an independent, he will be a real contender, but I think Ned Lamont will have a real chance. I think that will play out over the period of time between the primary and the November election and I think if Lamont‘s smart, he will broaden his argument beyond the war to some other issues.
BUCHANAN: On a national level.
MATTHEWS: Pat, will Republicans vote for Joe Lieberman, if he runs as an independent, having lost in a primary, as a sore loser?
BUCHANAN: Sure, the guy is running 50 points ahead of the Republicans right now. I agree it‘s going to close, but this is so smart for Clinton. He‘s got Joe Lieberman now, who is his guy. If Lieberman‘s in the Senate, he‘s Hillary‘s guy, if he wins on a third party ticket. If Lamont wins, let‘s suppose he wins the primary, I think Clinton endorses him and then stands outside of it, and so I think that Clinton has done a very smart thing. You‘ve got a rook here and you‘ve got him in Hillary‘s camp.
MATTHEWS: OK, how about Lieberman can‘t lose. Because if he loses the first round, Bob, he lose this primary to Ned Lamont, as the polls show he will. He goes back and runs third party and wins in November, or he comes back and loses a narrow one in November and he gets appointed Secretary of Defense.
SHRUM: Well I don‘t know that anybody should want to be appointed Secretary of Defense in this administration, in the middle of what is a geo-political cataclysm, a black hole that‘s sucking all our power and all our prestige into it, in Iraq. I do not assume, by the way, that it‘s a foregone conclusion that Lieberman wins as an independent. The last poll I saw was 51 percent, 27 percent, I think 7 or 8 percent for the Republican. That was the kind polling that you were seeing in fact, with a bigger margin, in the Democratic primary just two or three months ago.
BUCHANAN: I don‘t think he gets secretary of defense in the Bush administration if he‘s lost two races. And—
SHRUM: Well, he don‘t lose the first one, Pat.
BUCHANAN: If he loses to Lamont and losses in November, he‘s not going to go to secretary of defense. We don‘t do those things Bob.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go national, we‘re waiting for the former president to speak, Bill Clinton, who is going to obviously do a stem winder here, a real barn burner, to exhaust all the cliches, but what will be the signal if Joe Lieberman gets knocked off?
SHRUM: Oh, I think the signal will be very strong that the Democratic party has very, very powerful anti-war sentiment inside it, so does the country, by the way, at this point. It isn‘t just Democrats. I mean Senator John Thune from South Dakota said the other day, we have to distance ourselves from Bush and we especially have to distance ourselves from the Iraq war and he‘s a very conservative Republican. So I think it‘s going to tell us a lot about the feelings people have in this country about a war that‘s left our troops bogged down, our credibility shredded.
BUCHANAN: If Lieberman loses, Hillary Clinton will start to have to move to an anti-war position after the November election if she he wants to be nominated. That movement is so strong in the Democratic party, Chris, she is going to have to move away ...
MATTHEWS: You mean she would move purely for political reasons?
BUCHANAN: I know her husband would advise her not to do such a thing, but she might.
MATTHEWS: Bob, do you think she would move for purely political reasons to an anti-war position?
SHRUM: First of all her position is not the same as Lieberman‘s. She‘s been highly critical of Bush. She did support the compromised Democratic resolution to set some kind of phased withdrawal without a date. I think that if this war keeps going, whether Lieberman wins or loses and if this mess in Iraq is the way it is, what we‘re going to see by the end of 2007 is virtually every Democratic candidate, including Hillary Clinton, favoring a date certain for withdrawal.
MATTHEWS: And the minute we get a cease-fire in the Middle East on the northern border of Israel, all the focus of the media, my bet would be, would go back, Pat, to what our troops are facing over there in Iraq.
BUCHANAN: It‘s not only what our troops are facing, they‘re killing 100 people a day. It looks like the incipient civil war with Sunnis and Shias slaughtering one another. You get more and more talk of a separation of populations. That will be right back on the front pages, you‘re right, as soon as you get a cease-fire over there and maybe even before.
MATTHEWS: Do you think Republicans have thought through this, Bob, and really understood, well, I‘m not going to propose it, I‘m just going to suggest it, that this was a, the term used in this book, fiasco, do they see it as a fiasco or are they just turning to the Democrats like you, mow mowing and saying Bush is all wet? Do you think they believe he‘s all wet?
SHRUM: Republicans, I think Republicans are electorally frightened. I think when you begin to see people like Thune saying what they‘re saying, they then try to back off a little, you‘re getting an indication of how much fear there is in the Republican party. The most staggering conclusion, by the way, that I‘ve heard from the author of “Fiasco,” when he was interviewed yesterday, was he said not only was the war badly planned, not only did we not send enough troops, not only did we have a postwar plan, but to have any chance of success, which he thinks is very minimal, we have to stay there 10 or 15 years with 50,000 to 100,000 troops. The American people are not going to accept that.
MATTHEWS: How many failed presidencies does that add up to? Three or four failed presidencies to come if we stay there 15 years?
SHRUM: It‘s not going to happen.
BUCHANAN: Look, politically, the Republican party will stay with the president of the United States through this November. And then they‘ll see what happens. If they win the elections this November, it will be a different story, but they can‘t, you don‘t want to get caught moving ...
MATTHEWS: You just alerted the voters out there that if you vote for Republicans this Fall, you‘re basically voting for the war, is that what you‘re saying?
BUCHANAN: You‘re backing the president‘s policy of do not cut and run.
MATTHEWS: And if you vote Democrat, what signal are you sending?
BUCHANAN: You‘re cut and run or set a timetable and get out.
MATTHEWS: OK, we‘ll be right back with Bob Shrum and Pat Buchanan.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: There he is, former president Bill Clinton, speaking on behalf of Joe Lieberman up in Connecticut.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you for so many things that Connecticut has given me over the years, a law school education, a wife, and a senator from New York. A long friendship with Chris Dodd, and my law school classmate Dick Bloomenthal, I want you to look up here. You talk about the vagaries of biology. Dick Blumenthal and I are the same age and I resent it. He looks 20 years younger than I do. If I would have remembered how much I resent it, I might not have come today, it‘s unbelievable.
I am proud of his service, proud of my long friendship with Chris Dodd, which takes many twists and turns and is one of the rich blessings of my life. I am proud that I helped Joe Lieberman in 1970. I am proud that we‘ve been friends all these years, proud of his three terms in the Senate and his distinguished run for vice-president. I want you to know why I am here. And you have to for give me if I don‘t give too much of a woopty do. First of all, I am a little bit out of practice. That‘s known as the obligatory hill billy poor mouth. But that‘s really not why I‘m going to do this. I want to talk to you today because we have all the votes in here, and you need to go get the votes out there. And you have plenty of time to go get them.
I want to tell you, I am for Joe Lieberman for reasons that have to do with yesterday, and more important, reasons that have to do with tomorrow. You heard him say that he voted for my economic plan, what he did not say is that, he was not only the first senator outside my home state to endorse me, but when he and Chris voted for that plan, it only passed by one vote. Al Gore had to break the tie because the Republicans, the same Republicans that control both the Congress and the White House today, said it would wreck the economy, and instead it gave us three balanced budgets and three surpluses in a row for the first time in 70 years.
They have taken us, by contrast, they have taken us from a $5.8 trillion surplus over ten years to a $5.3 trillion deficit. It helped to create 22 million jobs and to move one hundred times as many people from poverty in to the middle class in our eight years as under the twelve previous Republican years, one hundred times. Don‘t ever let anybody tell you that these guys are not good Democrats. Don‘t say that about Joe Lieberman.
He helped me move 100 times as many people out of poverty as the Republicans took out, in the job, into a future. By contrasts, they have had six years, and have had about 6 million jobs, the slowest job recovery in a half a century. The only time since economists have been keeping statistics, that the American workers have increased their productivity on the job five years in a row, and average wages have not gone up. So average wages are flat, poverty is increases and job growth is anemic. Joe supports Democratic policies.
MATTHEWS: Bob Shrum, there‘s the man. That guy could sell you the Brooklyn Bridge, couldn‘t he?
SHRUM: Yes, well, he is masterful. I mean, you know, he‘s engaging and people obviously love him. It‘s not clear to me that this is a speech about why people should go out and vote for Joe Lieberman, as much as it is a speech about why people should prefer the Clinton record to the Bush record.
MATTHEWS: I think I heard the same thing Bob, vote for Hillary, what do you here?
BUCHANAN: I think that reminds them of a what a great job I did and by the way, I was helped by Joe, so go with Joe.
MATTHEWS: And who‘s this little fella here, doesn‘t know how to do it. Anyway, thank you Shrummy, thank you Pat Buchanan. Right now it‘s time for Tucker.
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