Guests: Steny Hoyer, Chuck Todd, Todd Purdum, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Kay Granger, Tony Blankley
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: And now the news. More Americans killed in Iraq than on 9/11 but Bush continues to say we‘re fighting the same terrorists in Iraq that attacked us in 2001. Will he win that argument? Will he get 20,000 more troops? Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews and welcome to HARDBALL.
On the eve of the new Congress, we know what President Bush wants. NBC News reports now that the president will pitch a plan next week dubbed “surge and accelerate” which is expected to send 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq.
Meanwhile, the anti-war militants are ready to declare war on the Democrats until they make a move to get us out of Iraq once and for all. Are Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the rest of the democrats toward fight the president over the war? Will 100 hour of ethics, earmarks and economics produce the kind of war and peace political change that voters demanded in November?
Tonight, we‘ll talk about the new faces, and the new power players Capitol Hill. What are their priorities? And can they get something done? We begin tonight with an update on the news from Iraq. And how it is being treated at the White House. HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has the report.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Today President Bush met with his Cabinet and then urged the new Congress to work with the administration in a bipartisan fashion.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT: It is time to set aside politics and focus on the future.
SHUSTER: But the president made no mention of the Iraq War. The total number of American service members killed in Iraq is now greater than the total number of people kill on 9/11. An attack Iraq had nothing to do with. And on the heels of one of the deadliest months since the war in Iraq began, NBC News has learn President Bush‘ change in strategy will be to send in even more American troops.
According to U.S. officials, the president‘s plan, known as “surge and accelerate”, will be announced next week and will add another 20,000 troop to the 140,000 already in Iraq. It is not the change of course most American expected last November. When they voted Democrats into control of Congress. After the election, the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton Commission urged the Bush administration to begin a gradual withdrawal of U.S. combat troops. And throughout the fall, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said a U.S. troop surge would be a mistake.
GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: No, I do not believe that more American troops right now is the solution to the problem.
SHUSTER: The American military has long been a staunch supporter of President Bush and the Iraq War.
The 2004 presidential campaign, a survey of thousands of active duty military personnel found that 63 percent approved of the president‘s handling of the Iraq War. Now according to a new survey by “The Military Times” the number is down to just 35 percent approval, 42 percent disapproval. The new poll also found that only 41 percent of the military believes the U.S. should have gone to war in Iraq in the first place.
And when it come to an increase of U.S. troops in Iraq, only 38 percent of the military supports the idea, 39 percent are opposed. And 13 percent say all U.S. forces should be removed from Iraq today.
In Washington though, all eyes are on the Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Lawmaker in both parties have been exasperated, what they call the mishandling of the Iraq War. Evidenced again last week, according to lawmakers, by the execution of Saddam Hussein.
Images of Shiites taunting Saddam in his final moments have been played repeatedly on Arab channels across the Middle East. And with Iraqis, Sunnis and Shiites already in a civil war, Democrats and Republicans in Congress fear the violence will now get even worse for the Iraqi government and for U.S. troops.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think Saddam‘s execution was handled appropriately?
SHUSTER: A White House spokesman later said President Bush has not yet seen the Saddam video. The images have been part of an international discourse for days. And critics say the president‘s detachment is reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina when the president didn‘t appreciate the aftermath or public war until an advisor showed him a tape several crucial days later.
On Iraq, the political landscape for the president‘s escalation strategy is daunting. As it stands, columnist Robert Novak wrote today the president will find support for U.S. troop surge in Iraq from only 12 out of 49 Republican senators.
(on camera): And as for the Democrats, on the House side today, they had a meeting interrupted by anti-war activists, complaining that oversight hearings on Iraq are not enough. In fact, most Democrats want the U.S. to start an Iraq withdrawal. But it still not clear if Democratic leaders in Congress have the stomach for a fight.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster. Now the House Democratic leader, just elected, Steny Hoyer. Sir, thank you for joining us.
REP. STENY HOYER, (D) MAJORITY LEADER: You bet, Chris.
MATTHEWS: The word is coming from the White House and the Pentagon that the president intends to send 20,000 more GIs to Baghdad. Will the Democrats stop him?
HOYER: Well, first of all, we need to find out specifically what he wants to do with though troops. Almost every policy that they‘ve pursued has not work. I‘m very skeptical, personally of this so called surge as to whether or not it will accomplish the objectives and I‘m not sure what the specific objectives are. So of course we‘re going to have to have that fleshed out a little bit.
But I can tell you that Ike Skelton of the Armed Services Committee, Jack Murtha of the Appropriations Committee are going to look very, very carefully at this proposal and I‘m going to want to talk to them about what the thoughts are.
MATTHEWS: Can the Congress stop this surge if it wants to, if it decides to after deliberation.
HOYER: Well, I think possibly we could. At least we could vote on it. Whether we could stop it, probably not. Because it would have to be by statute. And the president obviously could veto that statute. And it is doubtful whether we could override a veto of that kind of a policy.
MATTHEWS: Does the president need authorization to increase the complement of troops by 20,000?
HOYER: Yes, he does that. But he could get the 20,000 troops I think without that. He needs that. As a matter of fact, many Democrats including myself have proposed an increase in our troop levels. We need that. We‘re using troops at such a rate that the president‘s number does not suffice.
MATTHEWS: What will it look like if the Democrats who were elected for change and for a change in policy in Iraq, if the president looks you guys and you women in the eye and says not only am I not changing a policy, I‘m not redeploying, I‘m escalating. And he gets away with it. Will that make your party look impotent?
HOYER: I don‘t think so. Shortly in short run. If we don‘t do something in the long run, yes. But again, Chris, we‘re going to be sworn in tomorrow. We‘re going to do our 100 hour, six for ‘06, which we said. Iraq has been a very complicated and unsuccessful, probably the most unsuccessful implementation of a foreign policy in my lifetime. Perhaps in history.
We‘re going to have to look at that. Oversight hearings start next week. By both Mr. Skelton and Mr. Murtha. So we‘re going to have to see what those oversight hearing result in. And we‘re going to have to see specific what I the president is recommending. We said that he ought to get rid of Rumsfeld. He‘s gotten rid of Rumsfeld. He‘s got a new secretary of defense which said, we‘re not winning in Iraq. He is now coming forth with what he call a change in policy. We‘ll have to see if in fact it is a change in policy.
But the American public made it very clear. They think that we‘re not winning in Iraq. They think we need to change policy and we need to get our troop out of harm‘s way.
MATTHEWS: You said you were skeptical about what the mission might be. Suppose the mission is to go door to door in Baghdad, kicking down doors, killing Iraqi insurgents, Sunni insurgents, inflicting casualties, taking casualties on the front line of this war. This very much sectarian war. Would you accept such a mission for the 20,000 new soldiers?
HOYER: Chris, I don‘t want to speculate on what the mission is going to be. What you‘re doing, but I certainly want to make sure, and I think the Congress is going to want to make sure every member, hopefully Republican as well as Democrats, that whatever the president suggests, we think is reasonable and possible to accomplish his objectives. That has not happened to date in this war and there is going to be great skepticism about the president‘s proposal.
MATTHEWS: Let talk about the six for ‘06. You have a great number of legislative initiatives. They touch on every point of American life. College costs, stem cell, health, minimum wage, retirement, Medicare, prescription drugs.
Touches about everything. Can you get that through with closed rules without floor amendments?
HOYER: I think so. And we‘re going to try to do it. These are unique in that for six months of the campaign, we talk about these issues and we told the American public, and we frankly told the Republicans, if we are elected, if we‘re in the majority, we‘ll put these on the deck and we‘re going to pass them in the first 100 hours. We‘re going to do that. We think we‘ll accomplish that in the next two weeks. We think these issues as you point out, are overwhelmingly supported by the American public. They speak to making America safer, they speak to paying people a decent wage, they speak to making college costs more affordable, they speak to moving down the road towards energy independence. Making prescription drug less costly and providing hope to million of people who have illnesses that embryonic stem cell research shows hope of either curing or preventing so we think they can pass and will pass.
MATTHEWS: Well, they‘re popular measures, largely. Let me ask you about an unpopular possibility. Are you going to repeal the rule that requires a three fifths vote to raise taxes?
HOYER: The answer to that question is yes. When you say repeal, and I‘m not sure that it was ever adopted. It was proposed but I don‘t think there is yet a rule in the House that says it is three fifths to repeal.
MATTHEWS: Why do you want to make it easier to raise taxes?
HOYER: I think it is not to be easy to raise tax. It ought not to be easy to raise taxes. But very frankly, I thinks honestly, public official who want to spend money, whether they want to spend money to defend America, spend money to invest in education, healthcare, the environment, law enforcement, they need to tell this generation that we need to pay the bill and not pass along to the next generation. I think that is a responsible way for public officials to act. And hopefully, we will do so.
MATTHEWS: Steny Hoyer of Maryland, U.S. congressman and the new Democratic leader of the House of Representatives. Sir, thank you for coming on HARDBALL.
HOYER: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, does John McCain have what it takes for 2008? Can he please the conservatives he needs in January and the independents he needs in November? We‘ll ask “Vanity Fair‘s” Todd Purdum and the “Hotline‘s” Chuck Todd.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The 110th Congress is just hours away. As things get going we already have eight senators who are running or thinking about running for president.
How will that play into such a closely divided Congress that will debate where we go in Iraq?
Chuck Todd is editor in chief of the “Hotline” and MSNBC political analyst. Todd Purdum is the national editor of “Vanity Fair” who has a big profile of John McCain in the latest issue of the magazine an article called “Prisoner of Conscience.”
Let me start with you, Todd, but before we get to McCain and your hot new piece, which features some action on HARDBALL out in Iowa a couple months ago, let me ask you about this surge. Do you believe the Democrats have the stuff, the cojones, if you will, to vote against this surge of 20,000 troops?
TODD PURDUM, NATIONAL EDITOR, “VANITY FAIR”: I think there will probably be some republicans who vote against it. People like Chuck Hagel in the Senate and some others are very skeptical about this policy and what good it will do.
They may have some quiet backing. Maybe not so quiet backing from those same type of retired military type who weigh in on the questions of prisoner abuse. So I don‘t know. I think it will be one of the most interesting we have seen in a long time. And whether there will be sentiment for sort of the George Aiken, declare victory and get out.
MATTHEWS: Will it have consequences? Will the debate. And Steny Hoyer was just on the show. The Democratic leader of the House and he said he is skeptical about the use of these 20,000 more soldiers over there. Will the debate have consequence? Will it come to a vote? And will the majority of the Democrats and perhaps the minority of the Republican combine to stop this policy? Escalation?
PURDUM: If I had to guess in the short term, there wouldn‘t be the votes to stop it because as Congressman Hoyer points out, statutorily, that would require a bill. The president would veto. But eventually, the Congress has the one power that is overwhelming and that is the power of the purse. And Vice President Cheney and the recently departed Secretary Rumsfeld remember very well during the Ford administration when Congress finally shut off funding for Vietnam.
MATTHEWS: The problem is that John Maynard Keynes, the economist once said, “We‘re all dead in the long run.”
Let me go to Chuck. What do you think, Chuck? You read the House pretty closely. Will the Democrats come in—Will there be enough red-hots in the House to say we got elected to stop this war. We can‘t escalate the war.
This is beginning to look like Cambodia where Nixon escalated and said he was ending the war quicker, when it looked like he was blowing it up bigger.
CHUCK TODD, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “THE HOTLINE”: I think there is going to be a lot of pressure from activists on the left who will push the blogosphere, whatever you want to call it. The presidential candidates you brought up. All these senators. I think Joe Biden and Barack Obama and Chris Dodd are all going to try.
MATTHEWS: They‘re already out there.
TODD: They‘re all going to outdo each other. Be it against this surge and they‘re all, Biden gets credibility to be against the surge. There is popular public opinion, not just with the United States but this “Military Times” poll that has circulated came up today. It is a mail poll. They do it via mail but of rank and file service members. So most of them were actually officers that participated in the survey. They‘ve now turned south on this war. And they‘re not sure it is a winnable thing.
So there might even be support among the troops to not do the surge. So I would be shocked—If Democrats don‘t do it, I think they‘re going to see a revolt on the left if congressional Democrats don‘t get in the way of this surge.
MATTHEWS: John McCain is calling for more troops. In fact, John Edwards, Todd, in our discussion, our HARDBALL town meeting down at the University of North Carolina, starts now. He now refers to the push for more troops. The surge as the president calls it. As the McCain doctrine. So he is drawing the line here between his attempt to be the Democratic nominee in 2008 by saying he is already taking on the man he presumes will be the Republican nominee. John McCain. Can John McCain carry the load of 20,000 more troops into Iraq?
PURDUM: Well, it is complicated. To be fair to Senator McCain, he was pushing for more troops a long time ago, three years ago when a lot of experts thought it might have made a difference. Before the security situation got so out of hand. And he has been absolutely 100 percent consistent in that view in the face of a lot of skepticism ever since. The problem for him now, as you point out, the public and kind of the establishment, including the military establishment, is very skeptical about whether we would be sort of throwing good lives after more good lives if you want to put it that way.
And what specifically 20,000 people could do. Secretary Powell has been very skeptical about that. And he has made no bones about saying that he thinks that is putting people in harm‘s way for a very dicey proposition.
MATTHEWS: Twenty-thousand American service people knocking and kicking in doors in Baghdad. Killing Sunnis, taking sides with the Shia. Meanwhile, that little guy Muqtada al-Sadr who was praised to high heavens during the execution of Saddam Hussein is the big winner. Because every time we kill a Sunni, we‘re doing his dirty work. Right, Todd?
PURDUM: Absolutely. And it is a fraught situation. There it is not clear that at this late date, more American boots on the ground could really stabilize things. And that‘s why it is just a horrible situation.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be right back with Chuck Todd and Todd Purdum to talk about this very interesting tape that we have from our Ames, Iowa, Iowa State town meeting which is at the lead of Todd Purdum‘s article.
It is where John McCain apparently changed course in midstream on television, live television with us on the issue of gay marriage.
Later, by the way, Congress is ready to reform ethics and earmarks, but when will the Democrats do something about Iraq. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida and Congresswoman Kay Granger of Texas will be here to battle that one out.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The night before they started the 110th Congress—they open tomorrow
we‘re back with “Vanity Fair‘s” Todd Purdum and the “HOTLINE‘s” Chuck Todd.
Todd Purdum, as opposed to Chuck Todd—I love it. It‘s like dominoes, the Todd part connects—let me ask you about—to give us the lead you wrote to your big “Vanity Fair” piece about McCain and his conundrum of trying to reconcile the right and the center.
PURDUM: Well, you were in HARDBALL and I was (INAUDIBLE). And you asked him a question, given the Mark Foley scandal, about the kind of prevalence of gay people in all walks of life and whether he thought there should be gay marriage. And he began to answer, apparently quite openly, that he thought if people wanted to have a marriage ceremony, he was looking for a word, I had sensed, like commitment ceremony or civil union. He couldn‘t quite find it. But he basically said, “If people want to go off and have something they call a marriage, that‘s OK, but I believe in the sanctity of the union between a man and a woman.”
At the next commercial break, his adviser, John Weaver (ph), went up and talked to him. You guys were making a move down on to the floor of the auditorium.
PURDUM: And in his first answer after the break, which was about agriculture subsidies, he suddenly interrupted himself and said, “Could I just say one other thing about gay marriage? I don‘t think it should be legal.”
And the whole audience booed. These were kids, you know, from...
PURDUM: ... Iowa.
MATTHEWS: Todd, let‘s—since you‘re advertising our show, we can only show the tapes. Let‘s show them right now.
This is John McCain unedited and then John McCain after he‘s been advised how to say it by his top staffer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Should there be—should gay marriage be allowed?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® ARIZONA: I think—I think that gay marriage should be allowed if there‘s a ceremony kind of thing, if you want to call it that. I don‘t have any problem with that.
But I do believe in preserving the sanctity of a union between man and woman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Could I just mention one other thing?
On the issue of the gay marriage, I believe that if people want to have private ceremonies, that‘s fine. I do not believe that gay marriages should be legal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, you heard it there.
Todd, that was interesting. What does that tell you as a journalist about the problem he faces in winning the Republican nomination and going on to win the general?
PURDUM: Well, it‘s hard because what happened next was he came back on the stage and said to John Weaver, standing in the wings, in a very kind of disappointed tone, “Did I fix it? Did I fix it?”
And the problem for Senator McCain is he can‘t quite fix it. He can‘t quite square the circle of appealing to the most conservative elements of the party that have a disproportionate voice in the nominating process and saying what he really thinks because the truth is what he really thinks on a lot of these issues is a kind of libertarian, live and let live, “You stay out of my life, I‘ll stay out of your life” approach. And that‘s like the person he is. It‘s very in keeping with his, you know, sort of rebellious, “Don‘t get in my way, I won‘t get in your way” type of person.
MATTHEWS: And you know what, Chuck? It‘s also the issue of gay marriage. It‘s not simply a question of, “Can two people pair off if they happen to be the same sex because they‘re attracted to each other and love each other and want to spend their life together?”. It‘s “Should society recognize those relationships a marriages?.”
So they‘re both relevant questions. Depending on your position, you will say, “One‘s more important than the other.” Some people who are for gay marriage will say, “It‘s more important about the love relationship than whether society likes it or not.”
Others will say, “Wait a minute. Society is what recognizes marriages. That‘s why they are marriages.”
TODD: Well, it‘s interesting what he just pointed out. He called—Todd called McCain a Western Republican. What‘s interesting is actually McCain is no different than Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan where—when they bought what—defined what conservative Republican was in the sixties and seventies.
What‘s interesting is it is still what they defined out West. You know, Arizona is the only state in the Union to actually reject that gay marriage ban. That‘s John McCain‘s home state.
McCain‘s only being true to what he is and what he thought conservative Republican was...
MATTHEWS: Can he win the Republican nomination taking a somewhat libertarian view on this issue? Or does he have to hew to the doctrine and say, “I‘m against it”?
TODD: The question is, “Can John McCain win Iowa?”
And, frankly, if he can‘t win Iowa, he probably can‘t win the nomination.
MATTHEWS: What‘s a better issue—what‘s a better position for him in Iowa, being for or against gay marriage?
TODD: He‘s got to be against it...
MATTHEWS: Is that your reading, Todd, or is that his reading?
PURDUM: I think he‘s probably got to be against it for the activists.
I also overheard a few conversation he had with a local Iowa activist when he was trying to go to a Lincoln Day dinner there. And I think there‘s a lot of skepticism about John McCain among Iowa Republicans who tend to be - - the party there is disproportionately controlled by conservatives. He virtually skipped Iowa in 2000 because he doesn‘t really like ethanol. They know that. He still doesn‘t really like it. His position has changed a little bit because oil is so much more expensive than it used to be.
But, you know, New Hampshire was the state that loved him in 2000. New Hampshire‘s that iconoclastic New England state, not going to take any guff from anybody.
But it‘s a totally different position for him to be in now to be the presumptive front runner than to be this maverick guy who‘s out there on this wonderful adventure that just happens to come awfully close.
MATTHEWS: Right. So, if he loses Iowa to Mitt Romney, he‘s got to take on him on in New Hampshire, right?
PURDUM: Yes. And then the schedule is stacked up in a way that, you know, he will have a national organization, he can fight a long way and he will have as much money as anybody else if he wants to do it.
And I mean, one of the interesting things is the whole Republican field is a little more moderate than you might think it would be. Mitt Romney is playing to the right now, but he has a background of supporting gay rights in Massachusetts...
MATTHEWS: I think it‘s a three-way battle and I think any one of those three guys can win. I include Rudy in that list. I think it‘s wide open. I don‘t think there is a lock on the Republican nomination by the culture of conservatism. I may be out on—I think the suburbs still rule the Republican Party.
Thank you, Todd Purdum.
Thank you, Chuck Todd.
Up next, Democrats have the majority in Congress and subpoena power.
So who‘s the first to get subpoenaed?
We‘ll talk about what Congress is going to do with Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a real hot ticket, and Congresswoman Kay Granger, a real steadfast supporter of the president.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. What will be and what should be the priorities during the first 100 hours of the new U.S. Congress?
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a Democrat from Florida.
She has been on the show before, but never sitting right across from me. She‘s on the U.S. appropriations committee. And U.S. Congresswoman Kay Granger, she‘s a Republican from Texas. She will serve as the GOP‘s conference vice chair. So we have two people who work with the leadership of your two parties. Let me ask you this. Will there be a vote in the Congress that matters on whether we put 20,000 more GIs into Baghdad?
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: I think eventually there will be a vote. But first, we have a whole lot of accountability and we need to make sure that the administration starts answering some tough questions, which the Republican leadership in the last Congress and for years has not asked them to do.
MATTHEWS: Does your leadership have the stuff to go to the line with the president and challenge him and say, “We are going to go to the floor and divide on this issue. We‘re going to say whether we support you or not.” Will they do that in the near future?
SCHULTZ: There is no question that this leadership, Nancy Pelosi, will make sure that we hold the president‘s feet to the fire, that we make sure that we do what has not been done for the last several years, asked the administration some hard questions, make sure that they can show the American people what their plan is and start moving out of Iraq and start really getting a handle on what‘s going on there.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Granger, just recently the chairman of the armed services committee Senator Warner of Virginia said he thought there ought to be a new authorization on the war in Iraq because its changed its coloration to something like a sectarian fight. Do you believe that the president wants 20,000 more troops in Iraq? There should be a vote on that on Capitol Hill?
REP. KAY GRANGER ®, TEXAS: I think what there should be on Capitol Hill and with the administration and together with the Democrats is to talk about what our victory is going to be in Iraq and whether we need those additional troops and for what reasons.
There are so many challenges, Chris, that we have that we need to work together on. And as Republicans, we‘re ready to work together. I hope we can do that. I am a little disappointed, frankly, in how this week has started. I had great hopes, it‘s a very historic week, woman speaker, the first in the history of the United States. And we came back ready to get to work and are not being included in the work that needs to be done.
MATTHEWS: OK, would you like to vote on—would you, you want to get involved in the legislation in the issue, you don‘t want closed rules and no amendments—you want a vote on the floor of the House, Congressman Granger, on whether we should increase the number of troops by 20,000? Do you want a vote on that?
GRANGER: I don‘t think it‘s the vote of the Congress, I think it is up to the commander in chief.
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute, you‘re saying the president of the United States, the executive gets to decide where we fight wars, how many troops we send, as his call?
GRANGER: No, I‘m sorry, I did not mean to say that, that is not what I meant.
MATTHEWS: Should there be a vote then?
GRANGER: I think that there will be hearings and I think the appropriate committees—I happen to sit on defense appropriations and I think there will be committee hearings and we need to look at the number of troops, not just in Iraq, the number of troops we have, but also what our missions are.
MATTHEWS: I am not getting a clear answer, congresswoman. Should Congress vote on whether we escalate this war with more troops or not? Should you vote on it?
GRANGER: I think there will be—I would be willing to vote on it.
MATTHEWS: Good, would you be willing to vote on it?
SCHULTZ: Sure, I‘d be willing to vote it.
MATTHEWS: Do you think we‘ll ever get to see a vote, because we never really had a good debate on whether we should have gone into Iraq or whether there was enough intelligence or information and honest debate? It was all about WMD when it was really about geopolitics over there and ideology.
SCHULTZ: We need to have a debate on a whole lot more than just whether we add 20,000 troops. There needs to be some long-term and short-term focus on what‘s going on there, and there hasn‘t been for years.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the president‘s claim in the “Wall Street Journal” today. Congresswoman Granger, he said we are fighting the terrorists in Iraq, the same people that attacked us on 911. Do you believe that?
GRANGER: We have not proved that they are the same people that attacked us on September 11th. What we‘ve got is we do have a global war on terror, and they are terrorists not just in Iraq, there are terrorists in the world and I think it is a global war. To say that we are fighting the same terrorists in Iraq, no, I don‘t agree with that.
MATTHEWS: Well he said, the president said today in the Wall Street Journal, “Our priorities begin with defeating the terrorists who killed thousands of innocent Americans on September 11th, 2001 and are working hard to attack us again. These terrorists are part of a broader extremist movement that is now doing everything it can to defeat us in Iraq.”
Well, I guess that‘s language—it sounds to me like he‘s saying we‘re fighting the same enemy over there, even though we‘re involved in a sectarian war between Shia and Sunni. Do you believe the execution and what we saw on television of Saddam Hussein looked like a sectarian lynch mob or it looked like a government execution? What did it look like to you?
GRANGER: If you are talking to me, we turned Saddam Hussein over to the Iraqis after the verdict was brought in and they conducted that execution.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it looked like a governmental action or it looked like a bunch of Shia screaming and yelling and attacking a Sunni they were going to love to execute? Was it a governmental event or was it a mob of Shia gloating over their chance to kill the leader of the Sunni?
GRANGER: There certainly wasn‘t the control that I would have wanted to have had at that execution, must less having it televised and I think that investigation is ongoing.
MATTHEWS: It is disturbing. Do you think it is disturbing that the president of the United States, like he never saw what was going on in Katrina, never bothered to look at the tapes of that execution, to this moment has not bothered to look at them?
SCHULTZ: Chris, everything about the way the president has executed this war has been disturbing, from the way we entered it and the false intelligence that was used all the way to this point where he is still continuing to use dart board strategy to decide what direction we are going to go in there.
MATTHEWS: Why won‘t you give the Republicans a chance to amend your Democratic agenda this year? Why are you going with a closed rule and no amendments on the floor? Why is that your strategy?
SCHULTZ: They have had every opportunity. All of these parts of the 100 hour agenda have been offered as amendments in committee, offered as amendments on the floor. November 7th, the American people clearly indicated that they want us to raise the minimum wage, they want the government to be able to negotiate for lower drugs.
MATTHEWS: What‘s wrong with a honest debate and letting the Republicans offer amendments?
SCHULTZ: The Republicans had their chance. They had every opportunity...
MATTHEWS: But those Republicans, like Congresswoman Granger, she was reelected. She‘s a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Congresswoman Granger, make your case. Why should you be allowed to offer amendments and debate these matters on the floor of the House when they come up, like stem cell, like minimum wage, like college loans?
GRANGER: I find it simply astounding that the Congresswoman is saying what she is saying. There were messages on November 7th, there‘s no doubt about the November election.
SCHULTZ: Kay, what is astounding is that you had the opportunity to implement this agenda and had every opportunity to vote for it and chose not to. Now we are going to go ahead and do that.
GRANGER: We‘re talking about people who ran for office and promised -
promised—open government, said we are going to be open, we‘re going to be transparent and we are going to be inclusive, and none of that is occurring. Absolutely none of that is occurring.
We are being shut out. We are going to vote on a rules package supposedly tomorrow that we have never seen. In 11 out of 12 years...
SCHULTZ: That‘s not the case.
GRANGER: ... we gave absolutely—that absolutely is true. We have not seen one word, have no idea what‘s in that rules package.
MATTHEWS: I have to ask Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz a question.
Why are you repealing the requirement for a two-thirds vote to raise taxes?
Why do you want to make it easier to raise taxes for Congress?
SCHULTZ: What we want to do is make sure we get a handle on this deficit and establish...
MATTHEWS: Which means make it easier to raise taxes.
SCHULTZ: No, no, no, no. We want to make sure that we establish pay-as-you-go rules and there needs to be the maximum amount of flexibility in order to do that.
MATTHEWS: That is Washington talk. Flexibility means the flexibility to raise taxes, right?
SCHULTZ: No, it does not.
MATTHEWS: It doesn‘t? OK.
SCHULTZ: Absolutely not.
MATTHEWS: So you are not getting rid of the two-thirds rule to raise taxes?
SCHULTZ: What we‘re doing is we‘re establishing the pay-as-you-go rules so that we can ensure Americans—just like Americans in their household budget, that we don‘t spend more than we take in, and this determines whether we have a...
MATTHEWS: Congressman Granger, is that how you read it? Do you want to protect your two-thirds rule?
GRANGER: No, they made it easier to raise taxes, it is just simple as that.
SCHULTZ: But this is a democracy.
GRANGER: That‘s absolutely the situation.
SCHULTZ: She can vote against if there an...
MATTHEWS: I just think there ought to be a full disclosure. You guys have a lot of popular stuff here. Everybody wants the minimum wage to go up. It hasn‘t been raised in 10 years. Most people want to see some stem cell. They want to see better prescription drugs. You are going to win on a lot of issues, except once again, the boogeyman for the Democrats is going to be taxes.
SCHULTZ: No it won‘t be.
MATTHEWS: It won‘t be.
SCHULTZ: Nope, because we have nothing in our 100 hours agenda, including in the pay-as-you-go rules, that has anything to do with raising taxes.
MATTHEWS: But why are you changing the rules then?
SCHULTZ: We are changing the rules to make sure that we don‘t spend more than we take in.
MATTHEWS: Well, I wish you both good luck. I hope the Congress gets a lot done by the State of the Union and I hope the Democrats get their stuff done, and you guys have to fight for...
SCHULTZ: We‘ll get a whole lot more done than the do-nothing Congress did.
MATTHEWS: You guys have to fight for an open rule. Anyway, Congresswoman Granger, thank you. You‘re a great person to have on this show. And you—it‘s nice to meet you finally.
SCHULTZ: Thanks, nice to meet you too.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz. No hyphen there, right?
SCHULTZ: No hyphen.
MATTHEWS: Just two names, right? Just like my wife, Cunningham Matthews.
Will the Democrats stop the Democrats‘ troop surge to 20,000 more G.I.s the president apparently wants to send to Baghdad? We will talk about it with MSNBC‘s Mike Barnicle and Tony Blankley of the “Washington Times.” That‘s coming up in a minute. This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Come tomorrow, there is a new team in town, and President Bush who has had a Republican Congress his entire presidency is going to have to work with a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate. So how is this going to shake out?
Mike Barnicle is an MSNBC political analyst—and I emphasize that word, political—and Tony Blankley is an editorial editor of the “Washington Times.”
Will there be a consequential vote on whether to increase our troop complement to 20,000 if the president pushes that way next Tuesday? Mike Barnicle.
MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I would doubt it.
MATTHEWS: A real vote.
BARNICLE: I would doubt that it would come to a real vote, unfortunately.
MATTHEWS: So why we have votes in November if these guys can‘t have a vote in January?
BARNICLE: Well, that‘s the big mystery, isn‘t it? I mean, I think most people I know know why they went to the polls in November. Apparently the members of the House, no matter what they‘ve said in the interim, you know, between a new speaker coming in, they don‘t realize that the people knew what they were voting for in November.
MATTHEWS: So you think it was in an atmosphere like this when the Congress and the Parliament was meaningless that the Greek colonels came to power.
When is Congress going to matter, Tony Blankley, one way or the other?
Are they going to vote on the war or not vote on the warrMD+DN_rMDNM_?
TONY BLANKLEY, WASHINGTONTIMES.COM: Eventually because the gentleladies in the last segment were both waffling a little bit about it.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I caught it. One was. Your side was waffling.
BLANKLEY: No, Wasserman Schultz also was talking about hearings and getting to more than just that. She never quite said. You never quite close at the deal on it and said are you going to have a vote or not.
MATTHEWS: Well, she said yes.
BLANKLEY: Anyway, I think the rumors that the Senate is going to have to fight and a vote in February...
MATTHEWS: What kind of a pressure point can they fight? Can they fight a spending bill, and authorization? Somewhere where the president has to win to get the troops?
BLANKLEY: It is going to be a supplemental appropriation that comes due probably in February. Now, the question is whether the Democrats will at that point, you know, try to oppose it or whether they will condition it.
MATTHEWS: You think they‘ll condition it. Well, given the money with some kind of loosey-goosey language that says you have to report back to us in three months on the mission or something.
BLANKLEY: I mean, if I—look, if I—the Democrats have to calculate between if they get their fingerprints on the Iraq war and it goes bad, they may be in trouble. On the other hand, they‘ve got a base that expects them to deliver on the election. And so they‘re cross pressured.
BARNICLE: They have to come up with a position on the war before vote on the war.
MATTHEWS: Yes, that would be cool.
BARNICLE: Yes, that would be very helpful.
MATTHEWS: Whether this is going to be a six month or a two year war.
BARNICLE: That would be very helpful if they had a position.
BLANKLEY: If they had a vote up or down, my hunch is it would lose in the Senate. There would be Republican senators who would go against it, and Democratic senators, and so there is a real danger that if they have a vote it will count.
MATTHEWS: Does the Congress have to win or the does the president have to win in terms of the procedure? Does he have to get an affirmative vote for his surge of 20,000 troops if he doesn‘t—or does he simply have to avoid being cut of?
BLANKLEY: He does not need authorization to send the troops. At some point, he is going to need money to pay for it, so the Congress could cut off the money and say you may not spend a penny for that, in which case he would have to withdraw the troops. That is what happened in ‘75 when the Democratic Congress cut off the Vietnam money in an appropriations vote in ‘75.
MATTHEWS: Why does he still suggest—as our country western music did for all those years—that the people who attacked us on 9/11 -- you know, bin Laden‘s crowd, al Qaeda, which we know exactly who the people were who attacked us, none of them were Iraqi—why the president continue to insists, again in the “Wall Street Journal” today we‘re fighting the same terrorists we fought on 9/11, who killed us on 9/11? Why does he keep doing that?
BLANKLEY: Look, I mean, what he said in the “Wall Street Journal” today, I think the language was careful. He is not saying the same individuals.
MATTHEWS: He is implying it‘s the same enemy.
BLANKLEY: The same radical Islam, but there were different radical Islamists who attacked us then and who were fighting there. But it‘s all part—as he‘s describing it. And I generally agree...
MATTHEWS: We got the radical Islamists on our side. We got Muqtada al Sadr as part of our hanging party. Why do you say we are fighting the guy? He‘s in the room, practically, with the hanging.
BLANKLEY: Look. You understand what the—you‘re being literal about it. The president is talking about the general threat from radical Islam around the world. And, as a lot of experts have pointed out, including critics of the war, if we skedaddle out of Iraq, that will encourage other radical Islamists to attack us.
MATTHEWS: He‘s still using it as a reason to go into Iraq, not as a reason to leave.
BLANKLEY: He doesn‘t need a reason to get in. He‘s already there.
BARNICLE: You could take the language that the president uses today in the “Wall Street Journal” and in the past about the link with Iraq on September 11th, take it to Johns Hopkins, take it to Harvard Medical School. They would say, “Isolated and delusional.”
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you a question about the militant left. Does Cindy Sheehan help the anti-war? Or does she make a burlesque of it by showing up today and doing her razzle-dazzle on the Hill, interrupting the Democratic press conference?
BARNICLE: I vote for B) makes a burlesque out of it.
I mean, I feel very badly for her. I feel badly for anyone who has lost a child in...
MATTHEWS: There, we‘re watching it now.
BARNICLE: ... but...
MATTHEWS: This direct action, Tony, do you agree? I know you have a point of view on this. But does this hurt or help the cause that we—that the middle of the country‘s turned against the war? Does it look like the middle right there?
BLANKLEY: They look like Americans to me. I think, generally, the Democrats probably don‘t want her up there because, obviously, she makes it harder for them to do nothing about Iraq, which obviously politically what they need to do.
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m sure the tabloids will make—enjoy this almost as much as Brad and—what‘s her name—Angelie.
We‘ll be right back with Mike Barnicle and Tony Blankley.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re back with Mike Barnicle and Tony Blankley.
Well, let me ask you about this big night. You worked for Speaker Newt Gingrich. I worked for Speaker O‘Neill. We know the rules.
Are the Democrats going to play fair?
BLANKLEY: I don‘t think so, and it doesn‘t surprise me...
MATTHEWS: Does anybody play fair when they‘re the majority?
BLANKLEY: To be fair to the Republicans, just for a moment, and we‘re...
MATTHEWS: Well, do they?
BLANKLEY: We‘re running out of—a wonderful article by Bob Walker in tomorrow morning‘s “Washington Times”...
MATTHEWS: The former Congressman from Pennsylvania who was the sort of the—he was the...
BLANKLEY: He was a floor specialist. And he used to describe the rules that we enacted in 95, which we didn‘t keep to after awhile. For the first several months we stuck with them, the open rules allowing every amendment to come up that either the Democrats or the Republicans on the floor wanted to do. Then, as the years progressed, we got tougher—tighter and tighter and more and more unfair.
The Democrats seem to be starting, based on what they have announced so far, that they‘re not even going to be fair at the beginning. They‘re having closed-door...
MATTHEWS: Are they saying, no amendments, no hearings...
BLANKLEY: We permitted amendments with our Contract With America items, all of them. And they‘re not going to do that. So I think for their...
MATTHEWS: You know what they‘re up to, Mike.
Mike, what they want to do is pass six big things that matter to a lot of people: prescription drugs, refighting that bill; college loan reduction costs; minimum wage; stem cell. Things that matter to most people. Get them all passed before the State of the Union in two weeks and be able to say, “Look, we‘ve put points on the board. We‘ve got bragging rights. We got something done.”
BARNICLE: Well, let me ask you, both of you, a question that I can‘t answer because I don‘t live here all the time. What does “fair” mean in the context of the politics of today?
BLANKLEY: “Fair” means—used to mean in Congress that the rules that allowed the minority body to amend—it meant going, taking the bills to committee and report out of the committee, instead of doing it out of leadership.
now, that‘s what we started to do near the end of the—before 2006 came up and a couple of years before that, we started doing the same thing the Democrats are going to do now, which is don‘t even take the bill to committee, where the committeemen have a chance to work their will on it, just to do it directly out of leadership, out of the Rules Committee.
MATTHEWS: But if you were Nancy Pelosi and you wanted to prove, as the first woman Speaker, that you could get things done, wouldn‘t you want to do it like at a football game, where you can score three quick touchdowns? Wouldn‘t you want to do it?
BLANKLEY: It‘s a trade-off, yes. You get more done quickly if you don‘t have any dissent. On the other hand, over time, to comity, the civility breaks down and the public begins to sense that there‘s an unfairness going on. So, it‘s a trade-off.
If I—we did it open for the Contract With America for the first hundred days. They‘re apparently going to not even do it open for the first hundred hours.
BARNICLE: If the Democrats get a version of some form health care, reduction in student loan interest payments, minimum wage...
MATTHEWS: Stem cell.
BARNICLE: ... stem cell research, that‘s fair.
MATTHEWS: They‘re going to get a lot of things people like.
MATTHEWS: They haven‘t raised the minimum wage in ten years.
BLANKLEY: The argument of every dictator is they‘re giving people what they want. That‘s not a justification...
MATTHEWS: You mean, getting the trains to run on time? Is that what you mean?
BLANKLEY: ... getting people what they want isn‘t necessarily...
MATTHEWS: Let me tell you, the Democrats are not well-known for getting the trains to run on time. So, if they do it, maybe they‘ll get something done.
You think the average person out there working at below minimum wage cares how they get the minimum wage hike or do they just want to get it?
BLANKLEY: No, of course not. Most people don‘t care about process. But people here in this town like you and I, who have been working in this for decades, understand that there‘s a role for process and equity in the process. And both parties, when you get power, the first instinct is to abuse the process. And it pays off for a while and then you pay a price...
MATTHEWS: OK. I want to end up with one thing.
What did you guys think of the execution of Saddam Hussein? We can talk about it now that Gerry Ford‘s funeral is over. Do you think that execution showed that we‘re in a civil war over there and that the Shia are fighting the Sunni and we‘re just standing by as the Officer Krupke over there?
BARNICLE: I think the—I think what we saw on TV, it looked like an episode of last Sunday night‘s “Deadwood” on HBO and I think it caused millions of people across this country to sit and say, “These are the people we‘re fighting for? These are the people we‘re losing our sons and daughters for?”
BLANKLEY: Obviously, it was an ugly, messy event. I don‘t think most Americans are going to feel too sorry for Saddam...
MATTHEWS: But what did it say about our side? What side are we on over there?
BLANKLEY: Well, look. It‘s easy to point out that what—everything that went wrong in the execution is what‘s going wrong generally with the Iraqi government...
MATTHEWS: Right. It is easy to argue that. That would be my argument.
MATTHEWS: ... are we Shia? Why are we on the side of one group against another that just wants blood?
Anyway, thank you. You‘re a reasonable man. I agree with everything you say, sort of.
Anyway, Tony Blankley and Mike Barnicle.
Tune to MSNBC all day Thursday—that‘s tomorrow—for the start of the 110th U.S. Congress. It starts—our program at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning with coverage anchored by NBC‘s Brian Williams. Then Matt Lauer, David Gregory, Andrea Mitchell, Chip Reid, along with MSNBC‘s Norah O‘Donnell, Joe Scarborough, Tucker Carlson, all leading up to HARDBALL—what a great lead-in—til 5:00 tomorrow night, when we come back to finish it up. We‘ll be the clean-up hitters 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.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. (www.voxant.com) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.
Watch Hardball each weeknight