Guests: Aparisim “Bobby” Ghosh, John Batiste, David Lightman, E.J. Dionne, Terry Jeffrey
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Election eve, no more talk and no more squawking, time to start voting. Do you think it was smart to put American troops in Iraq? You‘ve got yourself a candidate. If you think the decision to go into Iraq was one of the worst in history, you have a name for your pain. It‘s the same name for both, doves and hawks, Joe Lieberman. Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews and welcome to HARDBALL. Despite diplomatic efforts to end the fighting, the war in the Mideast continues in full force. Today, Hezbollah fired more rockets into Israel and at least 23 people were killed in Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon. MSNBC has reporters in the region, and we will get a full report from NBC News correspondent Richard Engel in a moment.
Plus, from Baghdad, to Samarra, to Fallujah, violence across Iraq killed dozens of Iraqis today, edging the country towards a full blown civil war. American soldiers are caught in the crossfire, while politicians in Washington debate an exit strategy.
Meanwhile, the nation is watching Connecticut, as Senator Joe Lieberman, one of the strongest Democratic supporters of the war in Iraq could lose his job tomorrow in the Connecticut Democratic Senate primary against cable tycoon Ned Lamont. HARDBALL will be there all day tomorrow. We‘ll report the results in an election net cast on MSNBC.com as soon as they come in. Go to www.HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
We begin in the Middle East and NBC‘s Richard Engel in Tyre, Lebanon. Richard, why would Hezbollah allow any international force to get between it and Israel?
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hezbollah is fairly comfortable with the idea of having an international force, there has been U.N. peacekeepers here in Lebanon for years, and they have been very weak. Hezbollah has been able to operate with impunity. So the idea of having a weak force here would be very acceptable to Lebanon, or a force that‘s dominated by the Lebanese army, which Hezbollah would effectively be able to either control or just move around. But if it was any kind of serious international force, with unfriendly nations to Hezbollah involved, like the United States, or NATO members, then Hezbollah would probably reject it.
MATTHEWS: Well, how can they find common ground with Israel, who wants that force to be an effective force?
ENGEL: That is the core of the issue right now. Lebanon said that it is willing to dispatch about 15,000 soldiers and it has called up army reservists to bring them to the south. Right now that‘s not a realistic proposal, we‘re not at that stage yet. Israel wants to make sure that this is a force that is credible, that it has friends that it can talk to to rely on, so it all depends on the composition of the force and how much power they will actually have.
MATTHEWS: Well is it very possible that Israel will never find the force strong enough to replace it as its own defender and Hezbollah will say we don‘t want any force that‘s even as close to being as strong as the I.D.F., the Israeli forces, and therefore this war will continue indefinitely?
ENGEL: Israel doesn‘t want to stay in south Lebanon. It occupied the south for 18 years, and eventually left. Many in Israel called south Lebanon Israel‘s Vietnam. So it would certainly like to find a strong international force, and pull itself out of this situation. But if the force is just another weak U.N.-led force, like the one that‘s been in power, that has let Hezbollah launch rockets from very close to the its bases, then I think that would be a problem and Israel would be hard pressed to find someone strong enough to stand up to Hezbollah on its own home turf.
MATTHEWS: But the Israeli army is acclaimed for its strength and its zealotry and its fighting ability. Why would an international force be able to match, much less excel Israel‘s ability to destroy Hezbollah?
ENGEL: The real solution according to the Lebanese government is for Lebanese troops to be empowered, for them to go to the south and for Lebanese troops to really be armed, armed equipped, and given the intelligence and surveillance capability that they need to conduct any kind of real border monitoring and then to try and incorporate Hezbollah more into the political fold. If there was a situation here in Lebanon where Hezbollah can declare victory, it can say once again we have defended the south and we have pushed off another Israeli invasion, that could be enough for Hezbollah to then really join the political fold.
Hezbollah was already under a tremendous political pressure to disarm, and that‘s one of the reasons people in this country believe that Hezbollah started this entire conflict. After Syria was forced to pull out of this country, the main Hezbollah backer, a lot of Lebanese were starting to ask, why does Hezbollah still have its weapons and there was a thought that this was Hezbollah‘s final barrage, this is Hezbollah‘s final act of martyrdom, if you will, before joining the international community, before joining Lebanese politics in a real way.
So if there is a way that Hezbollah can fight this fight, survive in a way politically that‘s acceptable to the group, then the Lebanese government might be in a situation where it can actually control the south, but right now, if the Lebanese army were deployed to the south, it would really, most likely, be a puppet of Hezbollah.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much NBC‘s Richard Engel in Tyre, Lebanon.
As the Bush administration tries to find a comprehensive solution to the Lebanon situation, they have taken serious heat over the situation in Iraq. The top commander there, General Abizaid warned that the country is slipping into civil war now, but members of the administration are downplaying the possibility. HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has more.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three and a half years into the occupation of Iraq, the question now is whether U.S. forces are in an Iraqi civil war. Today in their latest effort to tamp down the violence, U.S. troops raided a suspected Shiite death squad in Baghdad‘s Sadr City, killing two people and wounding 18 others.
GEN. GEORGE CASEY, COMMANDER OF MULTINATIONAL FORCES IN IRAQ: There is a comprehensive plan, as I said, one, to change the situation significantly prior to Ramadan.
SHUSTER: But the news from Iraq suggests the situation has already slid into a civil war. Just today, for example, in Muqdadiya gunmen ambushed and killed four Iraqi police officers. In Samarra, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a police station, killing ten people. In Khalis, four people died when a roadside bomb went off under their bus. In Fallujah, a roadside bomb killed six people and near Baquba, a bomb blew up in a vegetable market, leaving at least two people dead.
On the heels of a U.N. report, saying the violence is rising and that Iraqis are now killing each other at the rate of 100 dead every day, Democrats are now calling on the Bush administration to start withdrawing U.S. troops immediately.
SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: I think we‘re in a civil war, so whether or not they‘d want to start it, I‘d start it today. I think basically redeploy forces in the area so you get them out of that situation. We can‘t be taking sides in the civil war. That‘s what‘s going on in there. It‘s over, withdraw these people. Get them out of there. This is a mistake.
SHUSTER: Administration officials are downplaying the talk of a civil war. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke last week on HARDBALL.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: It‘s not civil war when 12.5 million people go out and vote for a government that bridges all of the sectarian groups. It‘s not civil war when the Iraqis are able to then, on the basis of that vote, form a unity government that is now trying to work both toward reconstruction and reconciliation.
SHUSTER: Still, it was America‘s top commander of U.S. troops in Iraq who painted this picture of the war.
GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER OF U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I‘ve seen it, in Baghdad in particular. And that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war.
SHUSTER: And the reason the term is so significant is twofold, first, when Congress voted to give President Bush authority to use force in Iraq, it was to defeat Saddam Hussein and take down a regime possessing weapons of mass destruction. Policing a civil war is different.
SEN. JOHN WARNER ®, VIRGINIA: I think we have to examine very carefully what Congress authorized the president to do in the context of a situation, if we‘re faced with an all-out civil war and whether we have to come back to the congress to get further indication of support.
SHUSTER: The second problem involves the expectation of Iraqi stability.
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I really do believe we will be greeted as liberators.
SHUSTER: The Bush administration in selling the war said it would not only get rid of a tyrant and a threat from W.M.D., but would transform Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. Vice-President Cheney said Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds would come together and form a democracy.
CHENEY: The prospects of being able to achieve this kind of success, if you will, from a political standpoint, are probably better than they would be for virtually any other country under similar circumstances in that part of the world.
SHUSTER (on camera): Now, of course, Iraq is in turmoil, Iran has become emboldened and Shiite power stretches from Tehran to Baghdad to Beirut. The question is, are the Iraqi people now fighting a civil war and what does that mean for U.S. troops?
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster. Bobby Ghosh is the senior Baghdad correspondent for “Time Magazine.” He joins us by phone. Bobby, why are the Shia, who overwhelmingly dominate that country and population and will win all the elections from here to kingdom come, why are they engaging in violence if they can get it for free through elections?
APARISIM “BOBBY” GHOSH, “TIME MAGAZINE”: Well Chris, there are two things. One is that in the eyes of some Shiites, Democratic politics is not adequate revenge for all the years of repression and grief they have suffered under the Sunnis. And those people are taking advantage of the chaos that reigns now in Iraq and are extracting their vengeance upon the Sunnis. There‘s another group that feels that the national unity government does not give them enough cover, does not do enough to protect them from Sunni insurgents and Sunni terrorists and they figure that if the government can‘t protect them, then they‘ll protect themselves.
MATTHEWS: If we were to leave Iraq in the next six months, pull out basically in force, get out of there, who would be the real victims of our departure?
GHOSH: I think all Iraqis will suffer with the possible exception of the Kurds in the north. I think if the United States were to withdraw its troops right now without another force coming in in its place, like the United Nations, for instance, there would be absolute chaos and mayhem in this country and the two sides, the two communities, Shia and Sunni would break out into an all-out war and with a lot of support from the neighbors, the kind of war that could go on for years, decades, that could make Lebanon look like a picnic, frankly.
MATTHEWS: What—let‘s go through some of the prospects then for resolution, if there is one. Let me ask you about partition. We saw it in south Asia, it was bloody, it was horrific, the wounds still haven‘t healed between Pakistan and India. Is partition in the works in anybody‘s mind over there to avoid a civil war?
GHOSH: Chris, nobody here openly talks about it, although I have noticed that in recent weeks on jihadi Web sites, al Qaeda has begun to produce a map that shows a partitioned Iraq. But the majority of the Iraqis are still hoping and it‘s a fading hope, I suspect, that they can hold their country together.
I think what people are crying out for now is leadership, political leadership, that rises above sectarian interests. Unfortunately, they don‘t have that. The so-called national unity government is not necessarily nationalistic and is certainly not united, Shiite and Sunni politicians may now be under the same tent, but that doesn‘t mean that they are cooperating or that they are friends. They are just as hostile as they were and that is often the situation.
MATTHEWS: Well let‘s look at the four elements that we can see from here. Certainly the outside terrorists, a very small group, the al Qaeda crowd and their related groups. You‘ve got the Sunnis rejectionists, the insurgents so called who really don‘t want the popular government or the Shia government to rule. You‘ve got the Shia government and self Shia-led government itself, and you‘ve got the Shia militia. In those four, among those four contending forces, which will win?
GHOSH: Well, I wouldn‘t want to put money on it. I have a feeling that if it‘s an all-out civil war, you will have a dead heat between the Sunni insurgents and the Shiite militias, because the Shiite militias, we know are already getting support from Iran, and that will be counterbalanced by the Sunni insurgency getting support from Sunni countries in the neighborhood. They are already getting support from Syria, they‘re getting their money and people from Saudi Arabia. I think the prospect is that of a dead heat, and a balanced war that goes on forever, that doesn‘t—that won‘t basically stop until a great deal of blood has been shed in this country.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you for that grim report, “Time” magazine‘s Bobby Gosh in Baghdad. When we return, Major General John Batiste, who led the first infantry in Iraq and has called for Donald Rumsfeld to get out of his job over the way he led the mission in Iraq. He‘ll be joining us, General Batiste in just a moment.
And tomorrow, I‘ll be in Connecticut all day reporting from MSNBC as voters decide between Lieberman, the hawk and Democratic challenger Ned Lamont, the dove. We‘ll be live on HARDBALL at five and seven Eastern. We‘ll have a live special report on MSNBC.com as soon as the results are in. We‘ll be state of the art tomorrow night on MSNBC.com. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER OF U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I‘ve seen it in Baghdad in particular. And that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was the top commander in Iraq, General John Abizaid testifying before a Senate committee last week about the deteriorating situation in Iraq.
What does the rising violence mean for our troops in Iraq? Retired major general John Batiste commanded the first infantry division in Iraq two years ago and has recently called for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to go.
General Batiste, thank you very much for joining us. Do you subscribe to that view of General Abizaid that we‘re hedging toward or edging toward a real civil war in Iraq?
MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, Chris, first of all,
I was impressed with General Abizaid and General Pace last Thursday in
their testimony at the Senate Armed Services Committee. Sometimes it‘s not
what you say, it‘s how you say it and both of those great officers were in
very emotional for them to say what they did.
MATTHEWS: Are the president‘s confidences going to die with those words? Does he want his generals talking like that?
BATISTE: I think it‘s great that generals say what the truth is. You know, this goes back to some very flawed planning, and strategic underpinnings that took this nation to war three and a half years ago that were flat wrong.
MATTHEWS: Well, why don‘t you run through them.
BATISTE: Sure. You know, I‘ve been speaking out since early April, now it‘s going on four months for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld. And just very quickly, we went to war with some very flawed planning. We didn‘t conform to the doctrine or the principles of war. We ignored historical background of Iraq. We committed our forces into a situation that quite frankly, in the numbers and capability they had, they could not win.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about the—you know I always say to people, you don‘t get full intel, but you have a lot of history books in the closet, you went to high school. Everybody that went to high school knows what happened with the Middle East. It‘s been created by the Western powers. It was thrown together, not by a strong Tito or a Stalin, not a local ruler, but by hero Churchill put that country together. And the only thing holding it together was a tyrant, Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein could do what we can‘t do, which is hold the country together in the worst way, obviously. That‘s how he did it. Did anyone think that there was a natural unity to Iraq? The Shia, the Sunnis and the Kurds belong together?
BATISTE: I can‘t imagine that would be the case. All the handwriting was on the wall. When we went to war, we had a great plan, up to and including the fall of Saddam Hussein. Beyond that, there was virtually nothing. No strategy, no thought, the principles of war were violated in major ways as we committed this country into a very important undertaking.
MATTHEWS: You know, when we had our civil war, and it may have been inevitable, the United States going to civil war, because there‘s a real constitutional stress going back to the founding fathers, what to do about states‘ rights, slavery, all those issues, nullification, everything related. It seems to me that we wouldn‘t have allowed referees in our civil war, that if we were fighting north against south, same religion, different geography, if someone had came in here from England or Russia or France, I have no idea what role they would have played. What role can we play in a civil war in another country like Iraq, where we don‘t even speak the language?
BATISTE: Well, first off, Chris, whether it‘s a civil war or not, I don‘t know, and I‘m not sure that it even matters. The fact is we have got uncontrollable chaos, we‘re no longer on the offensive, we don‘t have the initiative. If we had done this right from day one, we would not be where we are today. There was a small window of opportunity that we had to nip this insurgency in the bud, with the proper capability and troops on the ground in Iraq and we quite frankly did not even think about that from day one.
MATTHEWS: But what we just heard from Bobby Ghosh from “Time Magazine” and he seems pretty good on the culture over there, he said that the number one driving force of the Shia militia, those are the people who are on the same ethnic group or sectarian group as the Shia who are running the government over there, they want revenge. If we had gone in there with a larger force, as you and others have recommended, had we got control on the ground and stymied and destroyed the insurgency in its infancy, wouldn‘t we still have to contend with this bloodletting of Shia who want to get even with the former government of Saddam Hussein?
BATISTE: Sure. That element would have always been there, Chris. No doubt about it that we‘re dealing with an incredibly complex society. It‘s tribal, it‘s ethnic, it‘s religious, and as we discussed, these complexities shouldn‘t have surprised any of us and certainly our British allies had significant experience in this area in the last century, but a terribly complex society and we haven‘t talked about the Kurdish impact on this either, they‘re designed to create a separate and independent Kurdistan, which will have far-reaching impacts with our allies, the Turks, one of our NATO allies.
MATTHEWS: General, we keep coming up, the administration, I should say, keeps coming up with new nicknames for people. We‘re fighting the Sunnis who are the minority over there and we don‘t like them, they don‘t like the government we‘re setting up because it‘s a majority government led by Shia. And we call them names. We call them terrorists. We call them insurgents and now we call these new guys militiamen. What is really going on in terms of the scorecard? How do you keep track of all this if you‘re service person over there? Who are you fighting and what are you fighting for?
BATISTE: It‘s inconceivably complex, Chris, you‘re tracking the whole gambit from militia to insurgents, al-Qaeda, to a criminal element, tribal in-fighting, and it‘s very difficult to tell one group from the other. They‘re all wearing the same uniform, nothing essentially and carrying AK47‘s and R.P.Gs. Very difficult to tell one from the other and extremely complex environment for our soldiers, marines and air men and sailors to be in.
MATTHEWS: Hell on wheels. Thank you. We‘ll be right back with John Batiste with more on the deteriorating, chaotic situation in Iraq. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re back with retired Major General John Batiste. General, I‘m trying to do this in a way that‘s not sarcastic, but we‘ve been told so many names for our enemy over there. They‘re called insurgents, terrorists, now militiamen. The president has said on many occasions, we‘re fighting them there so we don‘t have to fight them here. But if we‘re fighting in a civil war and we‘re fighting against the Shia militiamen or fighting against the Sunni rejectionists, they‘re people that live in Iraq and will probably spend in 99.99 percent of the cases never leave Iraq. They are people fighting for their own country, within their country, against other people from their country.
What in the hell does that got to do with fighting them there so we won‘t fight them here? They‘re not terrorists, they‘re just people fighting with each other over who should rule their country, right?
BATISTE: I‘ll tell you Chris, what comes to mind is this, in this kind of operation what you don‘t want to do is create more enemies then there are insurgents and the strategy that we took in to Iraq, the lack of unity of effort at the highest levels, insufficient resources, and on and on and on, caused us to do just that, create more enemies than there were insurgents. And it‘s had a snow-balling effect over time and we are where we are today, quite frankly, Donald Rumsfeld has so much baggage, bad judgment, dismal leadership, decision making over period of over three and a half years, where, quite frankly, I don‘t know how he can continue to serve the people of this great country and our president. He‘s become irrelevant.
MATTHEWS: He told me once, when I interviewed him at the Pentagon, that the president never asked him if we should go into Iraq. How do you react to that?
BATISTE: I think much of what he says is disingenuous. It‘s been that way for a long time.
MATTHEWS: You mean, you believe he really did signal the president that we should go into Iraq as a policy decision?
BATISTE: He‘s the secretary of defense. God help us if he doesn‘t make recommendations on what our great military does.
MATTHEWS: Well, you don‘t think he‘s just an automaton, who does what he‘s told and carries out the philosophy and the mission of the president dutifully? You don‘t think he‘s that person. You think he really was a policy man who brought us in to Iraq?
BATISTE: I think he carries enormous influence within our administration and I think he hasn‘t served our president well.
MATTHEWS: Who would be better?
BATISTE: That‘s not up for me to say, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well it is in way because you must think of some people out there who have the competence and the vision to do what this man, you believe, cannot do, even now, Donald Rumsfeld. Do you believe that Colin Powell, his five years are up, he‘s been out of the military five years, would he be a secretary of defense of superior quality?
BATISTE: Chris, there are any number of great Americans that can step in, fill those shoes and do a better job, and it‘s not for me to start naming those.
MATTHEWS: Should it be a general or civilian?
BATISTE: It should be the most qualified American we can find. We‘re at peril right now. Our army brigades, other than those that are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, are not ready. The National Guard has a third of their equipment. It‘s outrageous. Something needs to change.
MATTHEWS: Well John McCain has been out there saying what you‘re saying, general. Would he make a good secretary of defense? He‘s been complaining about the lack of support for their troops over there since day one, the lack of a compliment sufficient for the job. He‘s made the complaints you have made before you got to make them. Do you think he‘d be a good Pentagon chief?
BATISTE: Chris, I don‘t know, but let me say that our senators last Thursday in the Senate Armed Services Committee made me proud, both Republicans and Democrats. They‘re starting to ask the tough questions. The House of Representatives, House Armed Services Committee strangely silent. They need to get some energy going. And I‘m confident that Congressman Duncan Hunter will do just that.
MATTHEWS: Do you think Duncan Hunter is in bed with the military and will not challenge this administration‘s policies, is that what you‘re saying? It sounds like you just said it.
BATISTE: I‘m not saying that. I‘m saying we need political leaders he with the moral courage to do the right thing. This nation‘s at peril right now.
MATTHEWS: So you think Hillary Clinton and the others are doing a better job on the Senate side than the House Republicans are?
BATISTE: No question that the Senate Armed Services Committee is leading the way and last Thursday, the 3rd of August, was the first time that I‘ve heard them step up and take account.
MATTHEWS: And you include Hillary Clinton in that group?
BATISTE: Absolutely. She was one of them.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, it‘s always good to have you General John Batiste. Up next, it‘s the most talked about race in the country right now, Senator Joe Lieberman versus Ned Lamont in Connecticut. Tomorrow night, it‘s over. Who has the momentum going overnight tonight?
We‘re going to find out. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Thank you. Thank you, dear friends. I am humbled by this nomination and so grateful to Al Gore for choosing me and I want you to know tonight that I work my heart out to make Al Gore the next president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The highs and lows in a political lifetime. That was Joe Lieberman back in 2000 at the Democratic National Convention. He now faces the fight of his life in tomorrow‘s Democratic Senate primary up in Connecticut. Will Joe Lieberman‘s staunch support, in fact, leadership for the Iraq war end his career as a Democratic U.S. senator from Connecticut? Senator Lieberman was scheduled to be with us tonight HARDBALL, but canceled late today. We also tried to get Ned Lamont, his opponent, who also failed to show for muster tonight.
Here to dig into all of it is “Human Events” editor Terry Jeffrey and syndicated columnist E.J. Dionne. We begin with David Lightman of the “Hartford Courant.” David, thank you for joining us. These guys, one of them was ready to come aboard tonight, Joe Lieberman, but pulled out at the last minute. I guess he is—let‘s say this, he‘s doing the all politics is local approach, he‘s going to meet voters one at a time rather on television. Who is going to win tomorrow?
DAVID LIGHTMAN, HARTFORD COURANT: You know, Chris, this doesn‘t help you a lot, but I don‘t know. I‘ve never seen a race like this in 30 some years of covering this stuff. There‘s no model for this. We don‘t know who‘s going to turn out, we don‘t know when they turn out who it‘s going to be, we don‘t know if they‘re angry at Joe Lieberman or they‘re going to go in the booth and say yes, I don‘t like him on Iraq, but hey, he‘s a good guy, I‘m going to vote for him. It‘s just impossible to predict this thing.
MATTHEWS: You mean it‘s going to be a sentimental, sort of an Uncle Tonoose, he‘s been with the family for years, he shows up for Thanksgiving even though we don‘t agree with him on the most important issue of our times, we‘re going to use our vote as a sentimental, gee whiz, you‘re OK with us, Joe?
LIGHTMAN: Could be. You know, one of the puzzles for reporters in this thing, you go out Lieberman and everybody you meet says gee, he‘s a great guy, I like him. Then the next day you go out with Lamont and people say, Lamont‘s a good guy, I like him too. I like the fact that Lamont is against the war and you go back to Lieberman and they say, well Lieberman‘s for the war, but he‘s a great guy. No one can figure this out.
MATTHEWS: Well we all believe in democracy, especially Joe Lieberman and I wonder how there can be a case made that in a state that four out of five people on the Democratic side are opposed to us ever having gone to Iraq can vote for the guy who was at the lead of the charge to go to Iraq.
MATTHEWS: And would be at the lead of the charge if we attacked Iran tomorrow or Syria tomorrow, who‘s on paper—he puts out this—it‘s very similar to the language of the “Weekly Standard,” we must use our military might to protect our values. Very forward leaning, very—what‘s the new word they use? I think forward leaning is strong enough right now.
LIGHTMAN: I would get the point.
MATTHEWS: You know what, why would you waste your vote and then bitch about the war two weeks later. How can you go to some saloon and say, “I hate this damn war. Of course I just voted for the chief hawk in the state to support the war.”
LIGHTMAN: See, because again, people are going to say—and you‘ve found this, as you walked the streets. They look at him and say, “Oh yes, I remember in 1989, you came and marched with me when my plant went on strike or in 1993, you know, you helped get my Social Security check.”
I mean, this guy has a long, long history here and even today I met a guy at the electric boat plant, Ned Lamont was out there shaking hands and he recalled sending Joe Lieberman an e-mail three years ago saying if you vote for that war, if you support this war, I‘m going to find somebody to run against you.
Well here we are three years later and I say who are you going to vote for? He says, “Well, I‘m ready to vote for Lamont, but I just don‘t know. Joe is such a great guy. He‘s done so much.” This is a real dilemma people are having.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s try our in-house round table here. E.J. Dionne, who do you think‘s going to win tomorrow?
E.J. DIONNE, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Every smart person I know except for David says Lamont‘s going to win. David‘s even smarter because he refuses to make a prediction.
MATTHEWS: What about the polling coming in that leans toward Joe?
DIONNE: Here‘s the only way Lieberman survives. It is on, as you put it, the uncle to news vote. A lot of people like him and he did what amounted to as much of an apology as he could possibly do last night. I thought—
MATTHEWS: He gave us a Hillary.
DIONNE: Right, he gave a speech—
MATTHEWS: ... limited, modified hangout, which was, what did he actually say?
DIONNE: What he actually said was he withdrew that statement where he
said, you know, Bush is going to be president for three more years and we
criticized him at our peril. He said instead I welcome dissenters, and he
listed, right at the beginning of the speech, eight different things he had
opposed Bush on and I think those voters -
MATTHEWS: Except going to war in Iraq.
DIONNE: Even there he said well I‘ve oppose this aspect of Bush‘s policy.
MATTHEWS: Hillary, Hillary, Hillary, Hillary.
DIONNE: What I think he‘s doing is trying to take all those voters David was talking to, who kind of want to vote for him, really agree with Lamont on the war but are looking for an excuse tomorrow morning to say let‘s give him one more shot. I think Lamont, on the numbers, Lamont wins.
MATTHEWS: What you‘re really saying is he‘s a hell of a politician, Lieberman?
DIONNE: Except he should have done this a month ago. I think if Joe Lieberman had given this speech a month, month and a half ago, and had run his campaign on this speech, Lamont wouldn‘t have gotten to where he did. The other thing no one is paying attention to, Lamont ran a really good campaign. His advertising was done by Roger Hillsman, the same guy who did the late Paul Wellstone‘s ads. They‘re fun, they‘re interesting, and you can‘t say it‘s all bloggers. He started out at 20 percent three months ago and now he‘s somewhere in the low 50‘s, high 40‘s or low 50‘s. This was a good campaign Lamont ran.
MATTHEWS: So your bottom line take is—
DIONNE: I say Lamont wins, but I have this feeling that David may be right about the uncle to news vote.
MATTHEWS: And I like that, it‘s the sentimental, OK, he‘s earned his spurs, what do you think, Terry?
TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR “HUMAN EVENTS”: I think Lieberman is going to lose. I think one thing that Lamont has going for him is his voters are very intense. They‘re angry about the war. They‘re going to make sure they get out to vote. Joe Lieberman over the weekend gave up his own get out the vote program, a very bad sign.
MATTHEWS: Gave it up in favor of a big media buy.
JEFFREY: You‘re talking about a Democratic primary in August when a lot of people aren‘t paying attention anyway.
MATTHEWS: Aren‘t we he hearing about a 45 percent turnout, which it ain‘t bad, 45 percent is a hell of a lot better than they were talking fifteen percent.
JEFFREY: Today you have to guess, even though the polls have closed a little bit, the Quinnipiac Poll has Lieberman only down by six points, that Lamont‘s going to win this thing.
MATTHEWS: You‘re up here. We‘re going up tomorrow morning, I‘m going up tonight, what do you in your political thinking and I want you all to answer this, my basic is always the trend that‘s moving Thursday-Friday, going into the weekend, holds through Tuesday. That‘s been my experience in all campaigns, for whatever reason, when you get four, five days out, people really start to decide for real and if you can see which direction that‘s going and I think it‘s going to Lieberman right now, what‘s your mechanical way of doing that?
JEFFREY: I agree with that. I agree with E.J.‘s analysis. All these people have had Lieberman as their senator for years. They basically like the guy. They think he‘s honest. Most issues, he shares their values. He votes like a liberal Democrat on 95 percent of things, but they‘re really mad about the war and Lamont is the guy who is carrying their message and I think he‘s going to hold on and win.
MATTHEWS: So you say it‘s the issues.
LIGHTMAN: Chris, this is Connecticut. There‘s no model for this. People aren‘t used to voting in an August primary. They‘re not use to a referendum on a veteran incumbent like this in a primary. We just don‘t know. All the models are out the window in this one.
MATTHEWS: I‘ll tell you what‘s in the window. Everywhere in the world tomorrow night, every country in the world will get the news of this local Democratic primary and how it goes, and if it goes against Lieberman, you‘ll be hearing the front page in Rangoon is going to have this on it.
LIGHTMAN: But check the “Hartford Current” first for the best analysis.
MATTHEWS: Start with the local. Anyway, Terry Jeffrey, E.J. Dionne and David Lightman of the “Hartford Current.” We‘re all staying with us and coming back. A reminder, HARDBALL is in Connecticut, as I said, all day tomorrow. I‘ll be on every hour or two for the big primary fight between Lieberman and Lamont. I love that, two L‘s. We‘ll have live editions, that‘s L, of HARDBALL at 5:00 and 7:00 and then we‘ll have the results, state of the art, in the live net-cast on HARDBALL.MSNBC.com. So you‘re all going to have learn how to do this, those of you who haven‘t done this yet, the older people, like me. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: Iraqis haven‘t made a choice for civil war. Iraqis have made a choice for unified government that can deliver for all Iraqis, and when I say Iraqis, I mean, not just their leadership, which clearly has not made a choice for civil war, but their population.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defending Iraq on “MEET THE PRESS” on Sunday. I guess, defending our situation in Iraq. Today more death and destruction in Iraq from Baghdad to Fallujah and throughout the country. Is Iraq facing a civil war? Could we be in the midst of one right now?
We‘re back with “Human Events” editor Terry Jeffrey, “Washington Post” columnist E.J. Dionne, and “Hartford Current‘s” David Lightman. David, one of the many, many, many ironies we live in today is that Chris Dodd, the anti-war, dovish senator from Connecticut, is out there stumping all day. I could barely get him on the phone. He owes me a call by the way, if he‘s watching, to find out what‘s going on out there. The very day he‘s saying the war in Iraq is going chaotic to civil war, it‘s the stupidest idea we‘ve ever taken, he‘s out there defending Joe Lieberman, who thinks it‘s the best idea we‘ve ever had.
LIGHTMAN: And so are a lot of members of Congress. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the delegate from the District of Columbia, was up yesterday. Mayor of Newark Corey Booker, John Larson. Congressman John Larson, my goodness, he was against the war way back when. I mean, long before Chris Dodd, because again, Lieberman votes with Democrats 90 percent of the time. Every group that rates these guys, the NAACP, COPE, you name it, gives Lieberman stellar marks. So they feel he‘s a Democrat, he‘s been there for them, they‘re going to be here for them. The injury comes if Lieberman loses this thing, where Dodd, Larson and Norton and the rest of them are going to be and none of them will answer that question.
MATTHEWS: Well, that is the argument for Joe Lieberman. The argument against Joe Lieberman is that, well I‘ll make my argument, I‘ve made it before. We live in a country that‘s divided all three by red and blue states. So your vote rarely counts. I‘m blogging on this today. You‘re vote rarely counts. I mean if I vote in Maryland, so what? I can vote Democrat, Republican, whatever, it‘s still going to have the same result, Maryland goes Democrat. You cross the Potomac River in Virginia, it‘s usually the Republicans win all the Senate races over there and the presidential races, no matter how you vote. All the districts in Congress seem to be gerrymandered because of voting rights or some other reason, or just the way people live in this country.
And so you finally have an election where your vote really will count. If you vote for Joe Lieberman, you‘re sending a message that we can live with a guy who supports the war. If you vote for Lamont, you‘re saying this war is a bad idea from the start, we should vote on that now and say so.
David, isn‘t it a good idea to use your vote to express your deepest brief about the most important issue of your time?
LIGHTMAN: I would think so, if in fact that‘s the most important issue to you. But again, you know, we were out at the plant of Electric Boat this morning, the submarine plant, and people were passionate against the war, but they‘re also passionate about keeping their jobs, about building more submarines, about keeping a guy like Joe Lieberman, who is on the Senate Armed Services Committee, on the Sea Power Subcommittee, knows how to play the game, and we would say, Ned Lamont, you know, if you got there, you‘re a rookie senator. Joe Lieberman is there and the Democrats take control, all of a sudden he becomes a subcommittee chairman, he has some clout. How do you weigh that? How does a voter weigh that? How does a voter weigh that economic self-interest against his passion against the war?
I hate to keep saying I don‘t know, but that‘s going to be fascinating tomorrow to talk to people as they come out of the booth and say, what was it that finally drove you in the end?
MATTHEWS: OK. Talk about democracy in America. We have a representative form of government, we don‘t have democracy. We have leaders who vote for us. There‘s the Burkean theory, you vote your brain, your conscience, the hell with the people. You vote what you think is right. Then there‘s a representative view, which is your job is to represent the consensus in your state. Who‘s right?
JEFFREY: You know...
MATTHEWS: Let me let E.J. do that.
DIONNE: I have always liked the Burkean view that your vote your conscience, and then the people can vote you out. But I think...
MATTHEWS: But here, you vote your conscience, and they call you Uncle Tonoose and keep you any way.
DIONNE: Well, no, but I think David made a really important point, which is for that part of the Connecticut electorate, for which the war is the one and only issue, that is the Ned Lamont base—opposition to the war is the only issue. And he‘s going to get all those votes.
The people David is talking about, remember that old term, cross-pressure voters. I think there are a lot of voters who don‘t like the war, don‘t like Bush, but for a variety of reasons have this affection for Lieberman. Those are the ones who are up for grabs, and then he‘s got a lot on that really tiny minority of Democrats who still like the war.
MATTHEWS: But aren‘t there a lot of people out there who are middle of the road, say center left, not hard left but center left, typical Democrats. Are they disabused or disaffected with Joe Lieberman over a number of issues? He‘s OK on choice if you‘re pro choice, but he‘s been playing this game with Schiavo, he‘s been playing this game with Hollywood, he‘s been playing this game with Clinton, always trying to be morally superior to the left, right? Aren‘t they a little tired of that game? That dodge?
DIONNE: In the new Quinnipiac poll, it showed him down six points. The number that interested me the most is Joe Lieberman was only winning by 10 points, 53-43, among Democrats who call themselves moderate or conservative. He should be doing a whole lot better than that if he‘s going to win this race.
MATTHEWS: You know where he‘s winning? Among people under 30k a year. What do you say, Terry?
JEFFREY: Well, let me put a different angle on your analysis, Chris. Obviously politicians should vote their conscience and voters should vote their conscience. But if Joe Lieberman loses tomorrow and you have a bunch of Democratic senators who voted for the war in Iraq, just like he did, and they go out and support Lamont, who took the opposite position, just because Lamont has a D next to his name, are they fighting for their conscience or are they putting their party above conscience? The truth is that 29 Senate Democrats voted exactly like Joe Lieberman did on the Iraq war, and whereas you can look at Joe Lieberman and say, OK, this guy has been morally and logically consistent and statesman-like, following up on that vote responsibly since. Have other Democrats been as responsible and statesman-like as he has been?
MATTHEWS: So he hasn‘t cut and run? So he hasn‘t cut and run?
DIONNE: Has anybody heard about new information? That you know, I mean, the more this war goes on, the more you say, wait a minute, this is no good for the country.
JEFFREY: I can say that to you...
DIONNE: New information is important.
JEFFREY: Someone could come out and say I voted against the war, it‘s wrong, I think the best thing for our country, all interests considered, is for us to get out of there now. But most of the Senate Democrats are not saying—they‘re bobbing and weaving, trying to finesse the issue.
MATTHEWS: I‘ve got to go back, I like that. I like the bob and weave
we‘ll pick up on the bob and weave, because I hear Hillary. We‘ll be right back with Terry Jeffrey, E.J. Dionne and David Lightman. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Let‘s cut to the quick. We‘re back with David Lightman of “The Hartford Courant,” he‘s the inside guy. Terry Jeffrey of “Human Events” is the smart man of the right. Syndicated columnist E.J. Dionne is a man of the, well, nice left, the Uncle Tonoose left, if you will.
Let‘s start with this headline. David Lightman, you‘re inside. If Joe Lieberman were to lose by seven points tomorrow night, what should the world read from that, the world read from that fact?
LIGHTMAN: That Connecticut voters sent a message on Iraq and they sent a message to Joe Lieberman, stop cozying up to President Bush.
MATTHEWS: E.J. Dionne.
DIONNE: Connecticut voters...
DIONNE: Connecticut voters send a message to Bush, and Republicans better start worrying in the fall. And I bet we‘re going to see more skedaddling away from Bush on the part of Republican candidates.
JEFFREY: I think they should remember, it‘s not Connecticut voters, it‘s Connecticut Democrat primary voters.
MATTHEWS: Who don‘t have summer vacations.
JEFFREY: We talked about the difference in people in Iraq between the Sunnis and Shiites and Kurds. There‘s a lot of difference between a Republican primary in Oklahoma, which is a solidly Republican state, and a Democratic primary in Connecticut, which is a solidly Democratic, liberal state.
So I think what we‘re going to hear tomorrow is the liberal wing of the Democratic Party making its statement about something we already know it believes.
MATTHEWS: And you believe that will be the headline?
LIGHTMAN: Go to Oklahoma, Jeffrey says.
JEFFREY: Not only will the liberals decide the election tomorrow, but the liberals and the establishment media will decide the headlines.
DIONNE: Actually, I think the moderate voters are going to decide the primary tomorrow.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s all agree. You say Lieberman loses?
MATTHEWS: You say Lieberman loses? David Lightman, can you say who wins or loses tomorrow?
LIGHTMAN: No, I can‘t. No, I can‘t.
DIONNE: I still have that Uncle Tonoose feeling.
MATTHEWS: If you call me up personally, I‘ll tell you.
All right, thank you very much, Terry Jeffrey, E.J. Dionne and David Lightman. Tomorrow is the big day in Connecticut. We‘ll be there reporting all day for MSNBC. “HARDBALL” will be live at 5:00 tomorrow night, at 7:00 tomorrow night. And MSNBC.com will have results. I‘m going to give them to you as soon as we get them. I‘ll host a special webcast state of the art on the analysis and the results tomorrow night. Right now, it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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