Guests: John Edwards, Lindsey Graham, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Eugene Robinson
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC NEWS ANCHOR: From Washington, this is MSNBC‘s coverage of the State of the Union remarks by the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush, his sixth such address.
Alongside Chris Matthews, I‘m Keith Olbermann.
We will hear the president tonight in as remarkable a set of State of the Union circumstances as any president has faced since at least Bill Clinton in 1998.
We will hear an answer, not exactly a rebuttal perhaps, from Virginia Senator Jim Webb, the new Democrat for that state.
And then, until midnight, Eastern, we‘ll hear the post-game analysis -
Tim Russert, Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw, David Gregory of NBC News. We are expecting Senators Graham, Clinton, Obama and Edwards to join us—many more. But all that is yet to come.
First, Chris, if there is a theme tonight it has got to be, is anybody happy?
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC NEWS ANCHOR: Well, apparently not, according to out polling. The NBC polling shows the people want dramatic change. They want the Congress to take the lead.
I think the two most dramatic ironic figures tonight will be the woman sitting behind the president, Nancy Pelosi, the first ever speaker who‘s a woman, and the woman sitting probably in the middle tonight, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is clearly now, based upon Vegas betting odds, the overwhelming favorite to win the democratic nomination for president, and also given a very good chance of winning the presidency in two years.
The numbers are extraordinary in terms of what people are betting on right now.
I talked yesterday to a University of Pennsylvania economist, who studies these things, who argues now that the best indicator of what is going to happen in American politics is not polls. They have a margin of error. It‘s betting. It‘s where people are putting their money.
There is Laura Bush, of course, the First Lady, with Lynne Cheney, the wife of the vice president. And she‘s making the rounds. Laura looks pretty happy. She is doing the job.
She is very much in red. It‘s interesting, every since Nancy Reagan, the willingness or the readiness of women to wear these bright—look at it right there. There is a wonderful look as we go in there. All the red there. That‘s people who want to get on television tonight. And you see the women up there, and the guy. And the First Lady, of course, with the red. So much red.
OLBERMANN: And ironically, the meaning red, of course, in our 21st century politics—there‘s a lot less red in the chamber than there was the last time we had one of these.
MATTHEWS: What did you mean by that?
OLBERMANN: The symbolic red, now that we have democratic control.
MATTHEWS: Oh, that‘s right. How did the Democrats ever get blue, which is the most desirable color to get in a country that‘s still in the aftermath of the Cold War?
OLBERMANN: This has been studied at length, as you know. There are people getting PhD‘s somewhere trying to figure out exactly when it turned.
We‘ve got four Supreme Court Justices tonight.
MATTHEWS: There‘s John Roberts, the chief.
OLBERMANN: In full regalia.
MATTHEWS: Kennedy and Breyer and Alito. And that other fellow I don‘t think is a Supreme Court judge.
OLBERMANN: If he is, he did not get a robe.
MATTHEWS: He didn‘t get the name brand.
This is really great. You know, Breyer—Steve Breyer, who‘s down there this weekend with the Carter reunion, he was a former staffer on the Hill, and one of the reasons he comes regularly to these occasions—and they all choose to come—is because of his loyalty to the legislative branch of government, which is a good thing to be loyal to, in fact, under our Constitution.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Madam Speaker, the President‘s cabinet.
OLBERMANN: And as the cabinet enters, we are delighted to be joined, as we see Secretary Rice leading the crew, by the anchor emeritus at “NBC Nightly News,” our esteemed anchor Tom Brokaw who‘s at headquarters in New York.
Tom, can you recall the circumstances under which, since certainly the Clinton time, when we have had a more bizarre set of symbols and a more fracturous set of political circumstances around a State of the Union address?
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Well, Keith, Keith, you have to remember that I was White House correspondent during Watergate. That was a pretty traumatic time for the president at that time, Richard Nixon, and a very hostile Congress dominated then by the democrats then as well.
Jimmy Carter had some difficult times during the capture of the American hostages in Iran, when he had an energy crisis that was not getting solved. So every president, at one time or another has had a difficult time.
But this president has had six State of the Unions in a row in which he has had the home field advantage. Tonight, he enters this arena. And it‘s not his home field, as dominated, as you have been saying all night, by the opposition.
And at the same time, based on what question know he is going to talk about tonight, one of his principle problems will be on the Republican side of aisle because he is going to talk about some issues tonight, and in a way that a lot of Republicans are not happy, including immigration and energy certainly.
But the dark cloud hanging over this arena tonight will be Iraq, not just in that hall, but outside the hall as well. The president is coming in here in his penultimate State of the Union address with a two to one disadvantage in the polls. That‘s tough to overcome with just one speech.
MATTHEWS: Tom, what did you make of the fact that John McCain, a man who many people believe is the best bet to replace the president, directing his attack personally in a new article today, in the press today, that the vice president, he said, is guilty of giving the president a witch‘s brew of bad advise. He‘s holding Cheney accountable for being the bad counselor to the president with regard to the war?
BROKAW: Well, I think it‘s a commentary. This comes from within the Republican Party. But it‘s a commentary on the kind of difficult task that the president has before him with two more years to run. He‘s got a Congress dominated by the Democrats. He‘s got a lot of Republicans who are now running to save their own life, not just presidential candidates, but more than 20 senators who will be up for election in 2008 as well.
It‘s unfair to call him a lame duck at this stage. But he has been winged severely, as he comes into the hall and tries to make his presidency fly again.
MATTHEWS: How much of a bump can he get? Can he, first of all, even more preliminary to that, Tom, can he change the subject from Iraq, at least on the front pages an on—for example the “Today” show tomorrow—can he shift the public topic?
BROKAW: I don‘t think that he can, I think, when you are spending American blood and treasure in a war that has not gone well, even by the White House admission, by the president‘s own admission. That will be a constant presence in this chamber tonight. Some of the initiatives that he will talk about—global warming will be mentioned for the first time in the seven years that he has been there. That will get some encouraging reception, my guess is, from the Democrats and across the country.
But the big issue remains Iraq, Iraq, and Iraq. And especially, I think, it might have been a kind of a tipping point this week when Senator John Warner, no one with better republican credentials that he has, the former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, had a bipartisan alliance that he went public with, to introduce a resolution being very critical of the president‘s plan to add extra troops.
OLBERMANN: The president will be in in a moment, of course, introduced by the sergeant at arms of the House.
Tom, can anything get done in this country if Iraq is not going to be addressed and resolved to some degree?
BROKAW: Oh, I think that we—I—the White House—somebody at the White House said today, we have a better shot at getting an immigration bill through with the Democrats in charge than we did with the Republicans. That may happen.
The Democrats also recognize that they can‘t sit on their hands when it comes to healthcare.
When I asked a very prominent Democrat today whether the president‘s plan for moving some taxes around as a way to address health care was a nonstarter, he said, no, no, it‘s not a nonstarter. This is what they‘re doing in the states. We just like to have more of the needs of the very poor people in the country addressed.
So I do think, on health care, on energy and on immigration, there is a chance that something may get done in the next two years because the democrats can‘t be a do-nothing Congress either, as the go into 2008.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask about the strategy here. Can the president govern using a majority of Democrats, or does he required, at some point, to win over a majority of his own congressional colleagues? For example, can he put an immigration bill together, which largely depends on a majority of Democrats who are more liberal on the issue and skirts around the more conservative republican caucus?
BROKAW: Yes, I think that he can. Again, talking to some of the Democrats on the Hill today, one of the areas in which they think they can work with him is on reforming No Child Left Behind. They believe that he is generally right with his goals in reforming American public education.
But now, after seven years, they agree that it does need some reform, some retooling, if you will. And they think that they can work with him on that.
So there are a number of issues that he probably can find some common ground with the Democrats.
But I dare say, stylistically and tonally, the White House is going to have to change. And I think you should look for that at the beginning tonight, the president‘s demeanor and how he acknowledges the new Speaker of the House—his whole change.
In the past, it has been pretty much, I talk, you listen. Because he had a captive Congress, if you will.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madam Speaker.
BROKAW: Here now is the president.
UNIDENTFIIED MALE: The president of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States.
MATTHEWS: The people, you‘ll notice, who are greeting the president profusely, have waited for hours, in many cases, to claim those very privileged seats right along the aisle there. This isn‘t by accident that these people are ones that get on national television now to embrace the president.
OLBERMANN: And what we were able to eavesdrop on, from one of them, and as you heard, I‘m sure—as we see the president greet Mrs. Dole—saying a prayer for your success. That might be metaphoric.
Minority leader Boehner just behind the president has not been his best friend this week. Perhaps that‘s symbolic, too. We are looking for images like we are casting a Hollywood picture, Chris.
Mr. Boehner suggested this week we needed a committee not unlike what Abraham Lincoln faced during the civil war, a committee on the conduct of the war, with the president to report every 30 days on the progress of the war.
MATTHEWS: You know, you must wonder, watching this, does the president only see these people once a year? It looks like high school kids greeting each other at their favorite summer resort, as if they hadn‘t seen each other in years or months. But, in fact, he does business with a lot of these folks, obviously the cabinet members, on a weekly or daily basis.
There it is, that great picture. The vice president of the United States, the Speaker of the House, different parties, different genders, different apparel obviously. So much a contrast.
OLBERMANN: And that historic handshake, Tom, there it is, the woman Speaker of the House. Extraordinary moment, is it not?
MATTHEWS: What is he thinking?
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much.
And tonight, I have the high privilege and distinct honor of my own, as the first president to begin the State of the Union message with these words: “Madam Speaker.”
In his day, the late congressman, Thomas d‘Alessandro, Jr., from Baltimore, Maryland, saw Presidents Roosevelt and Truman at this rostrum.
But nothing could compare with the sight of his only daughter, Nancy, presiding tonight as speaker of the House of Representatives.
Congratulations, Madam Speaker.
Two members of the House and Senate are not with us tonight, and we
pray for the recovery and speedy return of Senator Tim Johnson and
Congressman Charlie Norwood.
Madam Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens: The rite of custom brings us together at a defining hour, when decisions are hard and courage is needed.
We enter the year 2007 with large endeavors under way, and others that are ours to begin.
In all of this, much is asked of us. We must have the will to face difficult challenges and determined enemies, and the wisdom to face them together.
Some in this chamber are new to the House and the Senate, and I congratulate the Democrat majority.
Congress has changed, but not our responsibilities. Each of us is guided by our own convictions, and to these we must stay faithful.
Yet we‘re all held to the same standards, and called to serve the same good purposes: to extend this nation‘s prosperity; to spend the people‘s money wisely; to solve problems, not leave them to future generations; to guard America against all evil; and to keep faith with those we have sent forth to defend us.
We are not the first to come here with government divided and uncertainty in the air. Like many before us, we can work through our differences and we can achieve big things for the American people.
Our citizens don‘t much care which side of the aisle we sit on, as long as we are willing to cross that aisle when there is work to be done.
Our job is to make life better for our fellow Americans, and to help them build a future of hope and opportunity. And this is the business before us tonight.
A future of hope and opportunity begins with a growing economy, and that is what we have. We are now in the 41st month of uninterrupted job growth, a recovery that has created 7.2 million new jobs so far.
Unemployment is low, inflation is low, wages are rising.
This economy is on the move. And our job is to keep it that way—not with more government but with more enterprise.
Next week, I will deliver a full report on the state of our economy.
Tonight, I want to discuss three economic reforms that deserve to be priorities for this Congress.
First, we must balance the federal budget.
We can do so without raising taxes.
What we need is spending discipline in Washington, D.C. We set a goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009 and met that goal three years ahead of schedule.
Now let us take the next step.
In the coming weeks, I will submit a budget that eliminates the federal deficit within the next five years.
I ask you to make the same commitment. Together, we can restrain the spending appetite of the federal government and we can balance the federal budget.
Next, there‘s the matter of earmarks. These special interest items are often slipped into bills at the last hour, when not even C-SPAN is watching.
In 2005 alone, the number of earmarks grew to over 13,000 and totaled nearly $18 billion. Even worse, over 90 percent of the earmarks never make it to the floor of the House and the Senate; they‘re dropped into committee reports that are not even part of the bill that arrives on my desk.
You didn‘t vote them into law. I didn‘t sign them into law. Yet they are treated as if they have the force of law.
The time has come to end this practice.
So let us work together to reform the budget process, expose every earmark to the light of day and to a vote in Congress, and cut the number and cost of earmarks at least in half by the end of this session.
And, finally, to keep this economy strong, we must take on the challenge of entitlements. Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid are commitments of conscience, and so it is our duty to keep them permanently sound.
Yet we‘re failing in that duty. And this failure will one day leave our children with three bad options: huge tax increases, huge deficits, or huge and immediate cuts in benefits.
Everyone in this chamber knows this to be true, yet somehow we have not found it in ourselves to act. So let us work together and do it now. With enough good sense and good will, you and I can fix Medicare and Medicaid and save Social Security.
Spreading opportunity and hope in America also requires public schools that give children the knowledge and character they need in life.
Five years ago, we rose above partisan differences to pass the No Child Left Behind Act; preserving local control, raising standards in public schools, and holding those schools accountable for results.
And because we acted, students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap.
Now the task is to build on this success, without watering down standards, without taking control from local communities, and without backsliding and calling it reform.
We can lift student achievement even higher by giving local leaders flexibility to turn around failing schools and by giving families with children stuck in failing schools the right to choose some place better.
We must increase funds for students who struggle and make sure these children get the special help they need. And we can make sure our children are prepared for the jobs of the future, and our country is more competitive, by strengthening math and science skills.
The No Child Left Behind Act has worked for America‘s children, and I ask Congress to reauthorize this good law.
A future of hope and opportunity requires that all our citizens have affordable and available health care.
When it comes to health care, government has an obligation to care for the elderly, the disabled and poor children. And we will meet those responsibilities.
For all other Americans, private health insurance is the best way to meet their needs.
But many Americans cannot afford a health insurance policy.
And so, tonight, I propose two new initiatives to help more Americans afford their own insurance.
First, I propose a standard tax deduction for health insurance that will be like the standard tax deduction for dependents.
Families with health insurance will pay no income on payroll taxes—or payroll taxes—on $15,000 of their income. Single Americans with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $7,500 of their income.
With this reform, more than 100 million men, women, and children who are now covered by employer-provided insurance will benefit from lower tax bills.
At the same time, this reform will level the playing field for those who do not get health insurance through their job.
For Americans who now purchase health insurance on their own, this proposal would mean a substantial tax savings: $4,500 for a family of four making $60,000 a year.
And for the millions of other Americans who have no health insurance at all, this deduction would help put a basic private health insurance plan within their reach.
Changing the tax code is a vital and necessary step to making health care affordable for more Americans.
My second proposal is to help the states that are coming up with innovative ways to cover the uninsured.
States that make basic private health insurance available to all their citizens should receive federal funds to help them provide this coverage to the poor and the sick.
I have asked the secretary of health and human services to work with Congress to take existing federal funds and use them to create “Affordable Choices” grants. These grants would give our nation‘s governors more money and more flexibility to get private health insurance to those most in need.
There are many other ways that Congress can help. We need to expand health savings accounts.
We need to help small businesses through association health plans.
We need to reduce costs and medical errors with better information technology.
We will encourage price transparency.
And to protect good doctors from junk lawsuits, we need to pass medical liability reform.
In all we do, we must remember that the best health care decisions are made not by government and insurance companies, but by patients and their doctors.
Extending hope and opportunity in our country requires an immigration system worthy of America, with laws that are fair and borders that are secure. When laws and borders are routinely violated, this harms the interests of our country.
To secure our border, we are doubling the size of the Border Patrol, and funding new infrastructure and technology.
Yet, even with all these steps, we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border. And that requires a temporary worker program.
We should establish a legal and orderly path for foreign workers to enter our country to work on a temporary basis. As a result, they won‘t have to try to sneak in.
And that will leave border agents free to chase down drug smugglers and criminals and terrorists.
We will enforce our immigration laws at the worksite, and give employers the tools to verify the legal status of their workers so there is no excuse left for violating the law.
We need to uphold the great tradition of the melting pot that welcomes and assimilates new arrivals. We need to resolve the status of the illegal immigrants who are already in our country, without animosity and without amnesty.
Convictions run deep in this Capitol when it comes to immigration. Let us have a serious, civil, and conclusive debate so that you can pass—and I can sign—comprehensive immigration reform into law.
Extending hope and opportunity depends on a stable supply of energy that keeps America‘s economy running and America‘s environment clean.
For too long, our nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes and to terrorists who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments and raise the price of oil and do great harm to our economy.
It‘s in our vital interest to diversify America‘s energy supply, and the way forward is through technology.
We must continue changing the way America generates electric power by even greater use of clean-coal technology; solar and wind energy; and clean, safe nuclear power.
We need to press on with battery research for plug-in and hybrid vehicles and expand the use of clean-diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel.
We must continue investing in new methods of producing ethanol...
... using everything from wood chips to grasses to agricultural wastes.
We made a lot of progress, thanks to good policies here in Washington and the strong response of the market. And now, even more dramatic advances are within reach.
Tonight, I ask Congress to join me in pursuing a great goal: Let us build on the work we‘ve done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years.
When we do that, we will have cut our total imports by the equivalent of three-quarters of all the oil we now import from the Middle East .
To reach this goal, we must increase the supply of alternative fuels, by setting a mandatory fuels standard to require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017.
And that is nearly five times the current target.
At the same time, we need to reform and modernize fuel economy standards for cars the way we did for light trucks and conserve up to 8.5 billion more gallons of gasoline by 2017.
Achieving these ambitious goals will dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but it‘s not going to eliminate it.
And so, as we continue to diversify our fuel supply, we must step up domestic oil production in environmentally sensitive ways.
And to further protect America against severe disruptions to our oil supply, I ask Congress to double the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
America‘s on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil. And these technologies will help us become better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change.
A future of hope and opportunity requires a fair, impartial system of justice. The lives of our citizens across our nation are affected by the outcome of cases pending in our federal courts.
And we have a shared obligation to ensure that the federal courts have enough judges to hear those cases and deliver timely rulings.
As president, I have a duty to nominate qualified men and women to vacancies on the federal bench. And the United States Senate has a duty as well: to give those nominees a fair hearing and a prompt up- or-down vote on the Senate floor.
For all of us in this room, there‘s no higher responsibility than to protect the people of this country from danger.
Five years have come and gone since we saw the scenes and felt the sorrow that the terrorists can cause. We‘ve had time to take stock of our situation. We‘ve added many critical protections to guard the homeland.
We know with certainty that the horrors of that September morning were just a glimpse of what the terrorists intend for us, unless we stop them.
With the distance of time, we find ourselves debating the causes of conflict and the course we have followed. Such debates are essential when a great democracy faces great questions.
Yet one question has surely been settled: that, to win the war on terror, we must take the fight to the enemy.
From the start, America and our allies have protected our people by staying on the offense. The enemy knows that the days of comfortable sanctuary, easy movement, steady financing and free- flowing communications are long over. For the terrorists, life since 9/11 has never been the same.
Our success in this war is often measured by the things that did not happen. We cannot know the full extent of the attacks that we and our allies have prevented.
But here is some of what we do know.
We stopped an Al Qaida plot to fly a hijacked airplane into the tallest building on the West Coast. We broke up a Southeast Asian terrorist cell grooming operatives for attacks inside the United States. We uncovered an Al Qaida cell developing anthrax to be used in attacks against America. And, just last August, British authorities uncovered a plot to blow up passenger planes bound for America over the Atlantic Ocean.
For each life saved, we owe a debt of gratitude to the brave public servants who devote their lives to finding the terrorists and stopping them.
Every success against the terrorists is a reminder of the shoreless ambitions of this enemy. The evil that inspired and rejoiced in 9/11 is still at work in the world. And, so long as that‘s the case, America is still a nation at war.
In the mind of the terrorists, this war began well before September the 11th, and will not end until their radical vision is fulfilled. And these past five years have given us a much clearer view of the nature of this enemy.
Al Qaida and its followers are Sunni extremists, possessed by hatred and commanded by a harsh and narrow ideology. Take almost any principle of civilization, and their goal is the opposite. They preach with threats, instruct with bullets and bombs, and promise paradise for the murder of the innocent.
Our enemies are quite explicit about their intentions. They want to overthrow moderate governments, and establish safe havens from which to plan and carry out new attacks on our country.
By killing and terrorizing Americans, they want to force our country to retreat from the world and abandon the cause of liberty. They would then be free to impose their will and spread their totalitarian ideology.
Listen to this warning from the late terrorist Zarqawi: “We will sacrifice our blood and bodies to put an end to your dreams, and what is coming is even worse.”
Osama bin Laden declared: “Death is better than living on this earth with the unbelievers among us.”
These men are not given to idle words, and they are just one camp in the Islamist radical movement.
In recent times, it has also become clear that we face an escalating danger from Shia extremists who are just as hostile to America, and are also determined to dominate the Middle East.
Many are known to take direction from the regime in Iran, which is funding and arming terrorists like Hezbollah, a group second only to Al Qaida in the American lives it has taken.
The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat. But whatever slogans they chant, when they slaughter the innocent, they have the same wicked purposes: They want to kill Americans, kill democracy in the Middle East and gain the weapons to kill on an even more horrific scale.
In the sixth year since our nation was attacked, I wish I could report to you that the dangers have ended. They have not.
And so it remains the policy of this government to use every lawful and proper tool of intelligence, diplomacy, law enforcement and military action to do our duty, to find these enemies and to protect the American people.
This war is more than a clash of arms. It is a decisive ideological struggle, and the security of our nation is in the balance.
To prevail, we must remove the conditions that inspire blind hatred and drove 19 men to get onto airplanes and to come and kill us.
What every terrorist fears most is human freedom—societies where men and women make their own choices, answer to their own conscience and live by their hopes instead of their resentments.
Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies, and most will choose a better way when they‘re given a chance.
So we advance our own security interests by helping moderates, reformers and brave voices for democracy.
The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity. And I say, for the sake of our own security: We must.
In the last two years, we‘ve seen the desire for liberty in the broader Middle East, and we have been sobered by the enemy‘s fierce reaction.
In 2005, the world watched as the citizens of Lebanon raised the banner of the Cedar Revolution and drove out the Syrian occupiers and chose new leaders in free elections.
In 2005, the people of Afghanistan defied the terrorists and elected a democratic legislature.
And, in 2005, the Iraqi people held three national elections: choosing a transitional government; adopting the most progressive, democratic constitution in the Arab world; and then electing a government under that constitution.
Despite endless threats from the killers in their midst, nearly 12 million Iraqi citizens came out to vote in a show of hope and solidarity that we should never forget.
A thinking enemy watched all of these scenes, adjusted their tactics and, in 2006, they struck back.
In Lebanon, assassins took the life of Pierre Gemayel, a prominent participant in the Cedar Revolution.
Hezbollah terrorists, with support from Syria and Iran, sowed conflict in the region and are seeking to undermine Lebanon‘s legitimately elected government.
In Afghanistan, Taliban and Al Qaida fighters tried to regain power by regrouping and engaging Afghan and NATO forces.
In Iraq, Al Qaida and other Sunni extremists blew up one of the most sacred places in Shia Islam: the Golden Mosque of Samarra. This atrocity, directed at a Muslim house of prayer, was designed to provoke retaliation from Iraqi Shia. And it succeeded.
Radical Shia elements, some of whom receive support from Iran, formed death squads.
The result was a tragic escalation of sectarian rage and reprisal that continues to this day.
This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in. Every one of us wishes this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk.
Ladies and gentlemen, on this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. Let us find our resolve and turn events toward victory.
We‘re carrying out a new strategy in Iraq, a plan that demands more from Iraq‘s elected government and gives our forces in Iraq the reinforcements they need to complete their mission.
Our goal is a democratic Iraq that upholds the rule of law, respects the rights of its people, provides them security and is an ally in the war on terror.
In order to make progress toward this goal, the Iraqi government must stop the sectarian violence in its capital. But the Iraqis are not yet ready to do this on their own.
So we‘re deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq. The vast majority will go to Baghdad, where they will help Iraqi forces to clear and secure neighborhoods, and serve as advisers embedded in Iraqi army units.
With Iraqis in the lead, our forces will help secure the city by chasing down terrorists, insurgents and the roaming death squads.
And, in Anbar province—where Al Qaida terrorists have gathered and local forces have begun showing a willingness to fight them—we are sending an additional 4,000 United States Marines, with orders to find the terrorists and clear them out.
We didn‘t drive Al Qaida out of their safe haven in Afghanistan only to let them set up a new safe haven in a free Iraq.
The people of Iraq want to live in peace. And now it‘s time for their government to act.
Iraq‘s leaders know that our commitment is not open-ended.
They have promised to deploy more of their own troops to secure Baghdad, and they must do so. They pledged that they will confront violent radicals of any faction or political party. And they need to follow through and lift needless restrictions on Iraqi and coalition forces, so these troops can achieve their mission of bringing security to all of the people of Baghdad.
Iraq‘s leaders have committed themselves to a series of benchmarks to achieve reconciliation: to share oil revenues among all of Iraq‘s citizens, to put the wealth of Iraq into the rebuilding of Iraq, to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation‘s civic life, to hold local elections and to take responsibility for security in every Iraqi province.
But for all this to happen, Baghdad must be secure. And our plan will help the Iraqi government take back its capital and make good on its commitments.
My fellow citizens, our military commanders and I have carefully weighed the options. We discussed every possible approach. In the end, I chose this course of action because it provides the best chance for success.
Many in this chamber understand that America must not fail in Iraq, because you understand that the consequences of failure would be grievous and far reaching.
If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by Al Qaida and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country. And, in time, the entire region could be drawn into the conflict.
For America, this is a nightmare scenario.
For the enemy, this is the objective.
Chaos is the greatest ally—their greatest ally—in this struggle. And out of chaos in Iraq would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens, new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to harm America.
To allow this to happen would be to ignore the lessons of September the 11th and invite tragedy.
Ladies and gentlemen, nothing is more important at this moment in our history than for America to succeed in the Middle East, to succeed in Iraq, and to spare the American people from this danger.
This is where matters stand tonight, in the here and now.
I‘ve spoken with many of you in person. I respect you and the arguments you‘ve made. We went into this largely united in our assumptions and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure.
Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq, and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field and those on their way.
The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others. And that‘s why it‘s important to work together, so our nation can see this great effort through.
Both parties and both branches should work in close consultation. That‘s why I‘ve proposed to establish a special advisory council on the war on terror, made up of leaders in Congress from both political parties.
We will share ideas for how to position America to meet every challenge that confronts us. We‘ll show our enemies abroad that we‘re united in the goal of victory.
And one of the first steps we can take together is to add to the ranks of our military, so that the American armed forces are ready for all of the challenges ahead.
Tonight I ask the Congress to authorize an increase in the size of our active Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 in the next five years.
A second task we can take on together is to design and establish a volunteer civilian reserve corps. Such a corps would function much like our military reserve.
Such a corps would function much like our military reserve. It would ease the burden on the armed forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them.
It would give people across America who do not wear the uniform a chance to serve in the defining struggle of our time.
Americans can have confidence in the outcome of this struggle because we are not in this struggle alone. We have a diplomatic strategy that is rallying the world to join in the fight against extremism.
In Iraq, multnational forces are operating under a mandate from the United Nations. We‘re are working with Jordan and Saudi Arabia and Egypt and the Gulf States to increase support for Iraq‘s government.
The United Nations has imposed sanctions on Iran and made it clear that the world will not allow the regime in Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons.
With the other members of the quartet—the U.N., the European Union and Russia—we are pursuing diplomacy to help bring peace to the Holy Land and pursuing the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel in peace and security.
In Afghanistan, NATO has taken the lead in turning back the Taliban and Al Qaida offensive—the first time the alliance has deployed forces outside the North Atlantic area.
Together with our partners in China and Japan, Russia and South Korea, we are pursuing intensive diplomacy to achieve a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons.
We will continue to speak out for the cause of freedom in places like Cuba, Belarus and Burma...
... and continue to awaken the conscience of the world to save the people of Darfur.
American foreign policy is more than a matter of war and diplomacy. Our work in the world is also based on a timeless truth: To whom much is given, much is required.
We hear the call to take on the challenges of hunger and poverty and disease. And that is precisely what America is doing.
We must continue to fight HIV/AIDS, especially on the continent of Africa.
Because you funded the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the number of people receiving life-saving drugs has grown from 50,000 to more than 800,000 in three short years.
I ask you to continue funding our efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. And I ask you to provide $1.2 billion over five years so we can combat malaria in 15 African countries.
And I ask that you fund the Millennium Challenge Account, so that American aid reaches the people who need it, in nations where democracy is on the rise and corruption is in retreat.
And let us continue to support the expanded trade and debt relief that are the best hopes for lifting lives and eliminating poverty.
When America serves others in this way, we show the strength and generosity of our country. These deeds reflect the character of our people.
The greatest strength we have is the heroic kindness and courage and self-sacrifice of the American people. You see this spirit often if you know where to look.
And tonight we need only look above to the gallery.
Dikembe Mutombo grew up in Africa, amid great poverty and disease. He came to Georgetown University on a scholarship to study medicine, but Coach John Thompson took a look at Dikembe and had a different idea.
Dikembe became a star in the NBA and a citizen of the United States. But he never forgot the land of his birth or the duty to share his blessings with others. He built a brand-new hospital in his old hometown.
A friend has said of this good-hearted man, “Mutombo believes that God has given him this opportunity to do great things.”
And we are proud to call this son of the Congo a citizen of the United States of America.
After her daughter was born, Julie Aigner-Clark searched for ways to share her love of music and art with her child. So she borrowed some equipment and began filming children‘s videos in her basement.
The Baby Einstein Company was born. And, in just five years, her business grew to more than $20 million in sales.
November 2001, Julie sold Baby Einstein to Walt Disney Company and, with her help, Baby Einstein has grown into a $200 million business.
Julie represents the great enterprising spirit of America. And she‘s using her success to help others—producing child safety videos with John Walsh of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Julie says of her new project: “I believe it is the most important thing that I have ever done. I believe that children have the right to live in a world that is safe.”
And so, tonight, I—we are pleased to welcome this talented business entrepreneur and generous social entrepreneur, Julie Aigner- Clark.
Three weeks ago, Wesley Autrey was waiting at a Harlem subway station with his two little girls, when he saw a man fall into the path of a train.
With seconds to act, Wesley jumped onto the tracks, pulled the man into the space between the rails, and held him as the train passed right above their heads.
He insists he‘s not a hero. He says: “We‘ve got guys and girls overseas dying for us to have our freedoms. We have got to show each other some love.”
There is something wonderful about a country that produces a brave and humble man like Wesley Autrey.
Tommy Reiman was a teenager pumping gas in Independence, Kentucky, when he enlisted in the United States Army.
In December 2003, he was on a reconnaissance mission in Iraq when his team came under heavy enemy fire. From his Humvee, Sergeant Rieman returned fire. He used his body as a shield to protect his gunner.
He was shot in the chest and arm and received shrapnel wounds to his legs, yet he refused medical attention and stayed in the fight. He helped to repel a second attack, firing grenades at the enemy‘s position.
For his exceptional courage, Sergeant Rieman was awarded the Silver Star. And like so many other Americans who have volunteered to defend us, he has earned the respect and the gratitude of our entire country.
In such courage and compassion, ladies and gentlemen, we see the spirit and character of America. And these qualities are not in short supply.
This is a decent and honorable country—and resilient, too.
We have been through a lot together. We have met challenges and faced dangers, and we know that more lie ahead. Yet we can go forward with confidence because the State of our Union is strong, our cause in the world is right, and tonight that cause goes on.
OLBERMANN: The State of the Union strong for wood ships, for women speakers of house. For agricultural waste. The word “Iraqi” not appearing until more than 3,200 words into the president‘s speech.
Keith Olbermann alongside Chris Matthews at MSNBC in Washington. It wasn‘t a particularly bad speech. It wasn‘t a particularly good speech. What was it?
MATTHEWS: Well, I think it was workmanlike and a bit of a confection. I did think it opened doors to get things done in this country. We will see if anybody goes through those doors.
Certainly on health care, certainly on energy and of course on immigration he made it clear he wants to negotiate, he wants to find a negotiating partner up there on Capitol Hill to guess get those things done. I don‘t think there is a anything new on Iraq except this new bipartisan group which I‘m a little skeptical about. It may just include some hawks on the Democratic side.
I was impressed of course by the human interest aspects of those last people that he celebrated including Mr. Autrey. A wonderfully courageous fellow that saved that man‘s life in the New York subway tracks. We have to talk to Hillary Clinton about that later.
I thought it was wonderful what he said about malaria, (inaudible) says I got malaria in Zimbabwe a couple years ago. I‘m glad that he is saving people from what is killing now a million people a year over that and also think it was good that he kept the work and attention to the HIV-AIDS challenge in Africa. All good things.
Those are new, he rarely mentions them. He did so tonight. But I do think the most important thing wasn‘t on Iraqi, it was the open doors for negotiation on immigration, health care and energy. We might get something done if both sides want to play ball here.
OLBERMANN: Do his own people watch to play ball on the issues? It did not look like there was extraordinary enthusiasm for many of the remarks about immigration.
MATTHEWS: Republicans don‘t want immigration reform. Democrats do. That‘s going to be one of these questions I have been raising before we watch the president tonight. Will he agree to deals whereby most of his supporters in legislation are Democrats, which would betray the interest of his own base. Will he be willing to do that?
I think Tom Brokaw thought he might. I think on the issue of energy we have got a big intramural fight in the Democratic Party right now with John Dingell from Michigan holding strong for the auto industry. Will we get anywhere on auto emissions with that kind of a kind of a stranglehold perhaps against a major global warming type initiative. Big questions.
OLBERMANN: Do you want to take the first stab at trying to translate the references to al-Qaeda being Sunni extremists and the Iranians including Shia extremists. What was that all about?
MATTHEWS: Well, I think it‘s extraordinary that he went to the effort to try to explain that there are in fact, two sectarian groups, the one larger group, Sunnis, which includes al-Qaeda is a very small part of all the Sunnis we know. Frankly, most of the people we know in America who are Muslim are Sunnis.
And all our friend in the world from Egypt to Jordan around the world, the Emirates, are all Sunnis. The Saudis are largely Sunni but the largest Shia country of course is Iran which is Persian.
And of course the president—I thought was a little strong there trying to equate Hezbollah as a threat to us, Hezbollah, if you will, to al Qaeda. Al Qaeda struck us and killed 3,000 people. Hezbollah has been at war with Israel on the northern border and fought it to something of a draw a few months back but I don‘t know why he was trying to find equality of enmity there. I don‘t quite get that.
OLBERMANN: Tom Brokaw in New York, what is your assessment of that. Why suddenly have we had this specific reference to al Qaeda and other Sunni extremists, the specific reference to the Iranians as Shia extremists, the specific invocation of Hezbollah?
BROKAW: I think what we wants to do is put pressure on their host countries. He wants to identify them with countries in the Middle East that they would like to step up a little more.
It‘s no secret for example that most of emergency hijackers that attacked the country came from one of our principal allies, the Saudis. There is a lot of frustration that the Saudi Arabians have not joined in, in a vigorous way, with the larger war on terrorism and they don‘t have control yet of their own population.
So I think it was a subtle message that he was attempting to send of the I was struck by a couple of things that he said about Iraq. He said this is not a fight that we entered but we are in, a lot of people believe that in fact, that the American presence there and the failure of the United States to prepare for a post-combat Iraq in fact was the principal catalyst for that fight.
It was interesting to see him glide over, in a way, the points that he has had made about Iraq in the past and the very muted reaction in that chamber because that is the big issue. That is the 100,000 pound gorilla in American political life today and it certainly is in the Congress of the United States as we say before, he appeared, Senator John Warner, Republican now with the resolution saying that he ought not to send the extra troops there. But he is fully committed based on what we heard there tonight.
OLBERMANN: As we were discussing, Tom, before the speech, if the goal was to bring the heat down a little bit as a domestic issue, did he succeed in doing that by having so much in the speech? By going into almost a laundry list of domestic social issues and immigration reform as we mentioned, health care, biodiesel fuel, a civil debate on all this?
Was the attempt to lose Iraq in the shuffle to some degree and was it successful?
BROKAW: I don‘t think you can be successful and I think the White House acknowledges that. They felt they made the big speech 10 days ago on Iraq and they did want to get the domestic initiatives out there tonight. It‘s a tricky piece for the Democrats as well, Keith, as you know because they do have power now through 2008 and the country is going to be looking to them to see what their solutions are to the problems that the president correctly identified tonight.
I think that you can give him an A for identifying the priorities that have been before this country for some time and that the Republican-dominated Congress has give very little attention to.
Global warming, he used that phrase for the first time since he has been president. I would like to have seen the reaction of James Inhofe who is the senator from Oklahoma recently displaced as the chair of Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee who believes that the greatest hoax in the history of mankind.
Vice President Cheney is not a believer in global warming. As it has been described by now a consensus of scientists around the country.
So the president feels he has got a better shot at gaining some political points with the Democrats than he does with the Republicans on these issues and especially on immigration. One prominent White House aide said to me today my father down in Texas has almost stopped talking to me because of our guest worker program and our attempt to find conciliation on immigration. It is a radioactive issue.
MATTHEWS: Tom, let me ask you about the energy. You are right, think it‘s amazing for him to take such a strong position as a Republican which is generally a pro business position. To come out to modernize fuel efficiency standards for cars and yet when doing that, going through how tough he is going to get on fuel efficiency and his acknowledgement of the global warming issue, maybe it‘s a coincidence, maybe I shouldn‘t reading this into it but the vice president seemed to be smiling broadly during that. Did you catch that?
BROKAW: No, I would be the last person who would try to read Dick Cheney‘s mind. I do know that they feel that they have set these goals very high. It‘s a very bold program and they done have a lot of confidence that they can achieve the goals that he outlined here today and the mechanics of how you get there are still to be explained on how they would work that out with Congress.
Look, I think in the last 18 months there has been a sea change in this country about alternative energy, about the impact of global warming, not just a scientific consensus, but more grassroots. People are signing on to the idea. Mayors across the country are developing their own programs and just yesterday we saw 10 of the most prominent corporate leaders in America saying we believe in it and we think that we have to have a national policy.
It‘s also worth noting that the White House has not reached out to those corporate leaders so far at least, to get their additional thinking on all this.
MATTHEWS: Tom, we have got an NBC poll, you have seen the item in it, one of the elements was the public now believes it‘s up to Congress to lead the country. Does that which is sort of like a vote of confidence you will, carry with it the problem for the Democrats to have to do something? The president threw some balls into their court, knocked them into their court tonight. One on healthcare, let‘s do something if it means giving people tax breaks, at least find some way to give them health care.
On energy, of course, we talked about it, on immigration, he may have more friends on that side of the aisle than he has on his own. Does it put the pressure on Pelosi to agree to meet somewhere in the middle here?
BROKAW: Well, she‘s still in charge. They can initiate legislation in the House and in the Senate they will be resolving a lot of these issues. But I think that the Democrats know that with the power that they have been given in this dramatic off year election, with 2008 coming on very fast, that the country is in an impatient mood.
This was not birthright that they were handing over. I think Howard Dean said it best, the chair of the Democratic National Committee when he said, look, the people of this country have rented us, Congress for the next two years, and they expect some responsible action on or part to address these issues. They are tired of ideological battle. The whole message of the election was get something done and stop this kind of infantile squabbling that has been going on in Washington.
OLBERMANN: As we, Tom and Chris, await the formal Democratic response from the new senator from Virginia, Jim Webb which we will get in about two minutes and change, we have an informal response already from Senator Barack Obama. And it‘s interesting, these are fairly de rigeur kind of political things in either side of aisle.
But the start of this is worth reading. “The president offered some serious proposals tonight on two issues, energy and healthcare, that we all agree must be addressed. I‘m glad he did and I think it‘s important to respond in constructive way.” So perhaps those two things if nothing else have registered in some degree on both sides of aisle.
MATTHEWS: Yeah. You would think that they would simply have a meeting tomorrow morning and try to hash out the parameters, we agree on this, we can find common ground on that, spend five or six hours together and get the ball rolling but of course everybody will retreat to their corner and begin the delay game of making sure the other side takes most of the heat for whatever is done.
OLBERMANN: And the rest of the Obama statement pretty much is about Iraq and referencing political sound bites.
MATTHEWS: Tom, it was a wonderfully chivalrous moment there, I thought, in the beginning when the president paid real tribute to Nancy Pelosi and I guess by inference to her gender and this milestone of becoming the first speaker.
BROKAW: Yes, I tried to allude to that as we were waiting to hear from the president because White House aides today made it very clear that there was going to be what you could probably describe as the best of George Bush when he is in his personal—I‘m just a guy from Texas mode, he is at his most effective.
And that appeared to be a genuine expression on his part of congratulations to her even though I know that they have, and everyone else does as well, they have very strong ideological differences, they have been very tough on each other, but at that moment, Barbara Bush‘s son turned to the speaker and congratulated her in quite gracious fashion.
OLBERMANN: Perhaps not that level of graciousness specked in the Democratic formal response from the new Senator from Virginia, Jim Webb, after that most contentious campaign in Virginia where he defeated the incumbent, George Allen.
Senator Webb being chosen in just his first month of the Senate to give the Democratic response which is coming from Washington in a matter of seconds. Here is Senator Webb of Virginia.
SEN. JAMES WEBB (D), VIRGINIA: Good evening. I‘m Senator Jim Webb from Virginia where, this year, we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown, an event that marked the first step in the long journey that has made us the greatest and most prosperous nation on Earth.
It wouldn‘t be possible, in this short amount of time, to actually rebut the president‘s message, nor would it be useful.
Let me simply say that we in the Democratic Party hope that this administration is serious about improving education and health care for all Americans, and addressing such domestic priorities as restoring the vitality of the great city of New Orleans.
Further, this is the seventh time the president has mentioned energy independence in his State of the Union message but, for the first time, this exchange is taking place in a Congress led by the Democratic Party.
We are looking for affirmative solutions that will strengthen our nation by freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil and spurring a wave of entrepreneurial growth in the form of alternate energy programs.
We look forward to working with the president and his party to bring about these changes.
There are two areas where our respective parties have largely stood in contradiction, and I want to take a few minutes to address them tonight.
The first relates to how we see the health of our economy, how we measure it, and how we ensure that its benefits are properly shared among all Americans.
The second regards our foreign policy; how we might bring the war in Iraq to a proper conclusion that will also allow us to continue to fight the war against international terrorism and to address other strategic concerns that our country faces around the world.
When one looks at the health of our economy, it‘s almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits.
But these benefits are not being fairly shared.
When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did. Today, it‘s nearly 400 times.
In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.
Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world.
Medical costs have skyrocketed. College tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being sent along with them.
In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table.
Our workers know this, through painful experience. Our white- collar professionals are beginning to understand it, as their jobs start disappearing also.
And they expect, rightly, that, in this age of globalization, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with fairly in the international marketplace.
In the early days of our republic, President Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American-style democracy: that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base; not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street.
We must recapture that spirit today.
Under the leadership of the new Democratic Congress, we‘re on our way to doing so. The House just passed the minimum wage increase, the first in ten years, and the Senate will soon follow.
We‘ve introduced a broad legislative package designed to regain the trust of the American people. We‘ve established a tone of cooperation and consensus that extends beyond party lines. We‘re working to get the right things done, for the right people and for the right reasons.
With respect to foreign policy, this country has patiently endured a mismanaged war for nearly four years. Many, including myself, warned even before the war began that it was unnecessary; that it would take our energy and attention away from the larger war against terrorism; and that invading and occupying Iraq would leave us strategically vulnerable in the most violent and turbulent corner of the world.
I want to share with all of you a picture that I have carried with me for more than 50 years. This is my father, when he was a young Air Force captain, flying cargo planes during the Berlin Airlift. He sent us the picture from Germany, as we waited for him, back here at home.
When I was a small boy, I used to take the picture to bed with me every night, because for more than three years, my father was deployed, unable to live with us full-time, serving overseas or in bases where there was no family housing.
I still keep it, to remind me of the sacrifices that my mother and others had to make, over and over again, as my father gladly served our country.
I was proud to follow in his footsteps, serving as a Marine in Vietnam. My brother did as well, serving as a Marine helicopter pilot. My son has joined the tradition, now serving as an infantry Marine in Iraq.
Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we served and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country.
On the political issues—those matters of war and peace and, in some cases, life and death—we trusted the judgment of our national leaders.
We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure—with accuracy—the value of our lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm‘s way.
We owed them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it.
But they owed us sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.
The president took us into this war recklessly.
He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War; the chief of staff of the Army; two former commanding generals of Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq; the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs.
We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable—and predicted—disarray that has followed.
The war‘s costs to our nation have been staggering: financially; the damage to our reputation around the world; the lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism; and especially the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve.
The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought. Nor does the majority of our military. Nor does the majority of Congress.
We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism, not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos but an immediate shift toward strong, regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq‘s cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.
On both of these vital issues, our economy and our national security, it falls upon those of us in elected office to take action.
Regarding the economic imbalance in our country, I am reminded of the situation President Theodore Roosevelt faced in the early days of the 20th century. America was then, as now, drifting apart along class lines. The so-called robber barons were unapologetically raking in a huge percentage of the national wealth.
The dispossessed workers at the bottom were threatening revolt.
Roosevelt spoke strongly against these divisions. He told his fellow Republicans that they must set themselves, quote, “as resolutely against improper corporate influence on the one hand as against demagogy and mob rule on the other.” And he did something about it.
As I look at Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon- to-be President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate. “When comes the end?,” asked the general, who had commanded our forces in Europe during World War II. And as soon as he became president, he brought the Korean War to an end.
These presidents took the right kind of action for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight we‘re calling on this president to take similar action in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.
Thank you for listening. And God bless America.
MATTHEWS: Well, that was Jim Webb, the new senator from Virginia and for those who doubt when they go to vote that elections matter, that election in Virginia mattered because that man was able to speak tonight on I count it now eight TV networks, all simultaneously. We used to call that a roadblock in the old days.
He has reached a lot of people with the message of a man who is the son of a fighting man, and the father of one as well. Who is - farther of a son who is fighting over in harm‘s way right now.
I thought it was one of rare moments the democratic party showed tremendous discretion in picking someone who may not be the most liberal member of the Democratic caucus, who may not be a liberal but who certainly carries the rank, the political rank of someone who has faced the enemy and whose children are willing to face the enemy up against a president and a vice president who have avoided the same kind of experience rather deliberately and it‘s amazing piece of work as a counter demonstration of what democrats certainly not all Democrats but that Democratic family, the Webb family was willing to give to their country.
OLBERMANN: No accident I‘m sure that Senator Webb invoked three presidents, Eisenhower, Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, Republican and Andrew Jackson, of course, founder of the Democratic Party.
MATTHEWS: Of course he was Ronald Reagan‘s secretary of the navy. He is not a lefty Democrat by any means. He is a man of the middle and we are going to see perhaps the Democrats perhaps smart enough to put the middle out front. But I tell you the man‘s bearing, he looked like a military man, he acted like a military man tonight and he almost gave us a briefing rather than a speech, which I thought may be just the right cut you want tonight.
OLBERMANN: But your point about going to the middle. There was a lot certainly in the State of Union, Mr. Bush‘s remarks that was an attempt to get toward the middle. There are compliments that have been issued already, Senator Kennedy is quoted as saying a vision of comprehensive immigration reform that includes genuine enforcement of immigration laws, commending, we can agree with the principles of the president. There seems to be an attempt here to .
MATTHEWS: That said, this may be .
OLBERMANN: To rush, as a brand name, toward the middle.
MATTHEWS: OK, that said, this may be the first time since 1970 when Ed Muskie was overwhelmed, the performance by Richard Nixon before an election where I think the opposition may have gotten the upper hand.
We will go to Tom Brokaw for a verdict on that. Did the Democrats get the right note tonight, Tom?
BROKAW: Well, I think so. I think Jim Webb is one of the truly fascinating new members of the Senate of the United States. A year ago, we were both in Vietnam, retracing his days there for a book that I‘ll writing. I didn‘t know him all that well but we spent a lot of time together.
He had not yet made up his mind as to whether he was going to run against George Allen but he was so motivated by what he described even then as he did in his text tonight, the reckless decision, as he described it, of the president to take us to war.
He is a former secretary of the navy in the Reagan administration, heavily decorated marine in Vietnam. Graduate of Annapolis. Great rival of Oliver North and tonight he did in spare language, delineate the differences between the Democratic Party and this administration.
He also made one reference and in the course of his discussion about Iraq that is causing some concern among members of the Iraq Study Group. And that is the almost total absence of attention to any idea of diplomacy in trying to resolve what is going on in that part of the world.
That was a very strong element in the Iraq Study Group‘s recommendations and that has been completely set aside by this administration, almost no discussion of diplomacy although the president did talk about civilian reserve core which could do the work of winning hearts and minds.
At any rate, Jim Webb is going to be a real force in this Senate. He is a very thoughtful man, a graduate of Georgetown Law School and he studied over the years national security issues as a very thoughtful veteran of combat in Vietnam.
MATTHEWS: It‘s interesting that just as the president felt the need he had to go through a number of issues that were sundry in nature, here was a man, Jim Webb, the senator from Virginia who had the control of his own message not to have to go through all the Democratic laundry. He didn‘t mention a woman‘s right to choose. He didn‘t talk about civil unions, he didn‘t go through some of the labor issues that the unions want the Democrats to pass.
He had the portfolio and he had the power tonight to simply limit his message to his area of strengths. Powerful stuff tonight. I think the Democrats showed that they can be discriminate in what they say.
OLBERMANN: With our thanks to Tom Brokaw in New York, Tom, a pleasure to be object the same television screen with you, sir.
BROKAW: Well, thank you, my pleasure to be with you guys as well.
OLBERMANN: John Edwards, the Democratic presidential candidate and former senator is joining us now. From Miami, Senator Edwards, great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
JOHN EDWARDS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, for having me.
OLBERMANN: The speech from President Bush went 3,200 words before the word “Iraqi” appeared. This is an odd question to be asking but did we hear enough about Iraq from the president tonight in the State of the Union?
EDWARDS: I think actually most Americans think they have heard about as much as they can stand about Iraq, including from the president, so, especially since he gave the speech a week, 10 days ago about it. I‘m not all that surprised by that.
OLBERMANN: Were you pleased by the references to attempts at reformation of health care, at some of the other domestic issues that seemingly have not been discussed in this country seriously in the last few years.
EDWARDS: Pleased, yes. I think there—I had had several reactions to the speech. First I liked the fact that toward the end of speech most in the case of Mutombo and the great hero Wesley Autrey from New York City that he talked about, you know, goodness and decency.
My own view is, I think that the country really desperately wants that in their president. They certainly want it in their next president.
On the issues of health care and energy, I think the problem is, he is talking about very small incremental steps on issues that require bold moves, that require real transformation in this country.
And—and the last thing I would say is, I was really disappointed not to hear him talk about what I would describe as the struggle of—struggles of working men and women in this country, and particularly in New Orleans, which he made a big deal about a year ago and said, you know, he would stay with it until problems in New Orleans were solved. Well, he hasn‘t stayed with it and the problems aren‘t solved.
And those are all, I think, really important issues for Americans.
OLBERMANN: John Edwards will be appearing in our late-night coverage with Joe Scarborough.
And we thank you in advance for that, Senator. And we thank you for your time, here in the aftermath of the State of the Union.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s bring in now Lindsey Graham, the senator from...
EDWARDS: Keith—Keith and Chris, thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Senator.
Let me bring in right now Lindsey Graham, the senator from South Carolina.
Senator Graham, it‘s great to have you on.
What did you think of the president tonight? Do you think he did the job?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes. It‘s one of the better ones. I—the question is, were people listening?
I thought he did a very good job of explaining how the war in Iraq is part of the overall war on terror, the consequences of a failed state, and the new strategy, if given a chance, could be successful.
In that regard, I think he made a pretty good case that—that we can‘t lose in Iraq, because the consequences of losing are terrible, and this is the best idea left.
MATTHEWS: What did you make of Senator McCain‘s comment—it was in the paper today—that he thinks the vice president has been a bad counselor to this president with regard to the war?
GRAHAM: I don‘t know. I don‘t know if you can limit it to the vice president.
I can tell you this, that we have all up here not done our job in this regard: For two-and-a-half years, we have pursued a strategy that hasn‘t worked. We underestimated how hard it would be to create a democracy out of a dictatorship. We have never had enough troops. Some of us have been talking about that for a while, including Senator McCain. And we have let the problem get out of hand.
So, you just can‘t blame the vice president. I take my fair share of blame, Chris. I thought it would be easier than it would have—than it has been. I—the sectarian violence has gotten out of hand, because al Qaeda hit the mother lode when they destroyed the Golden Mosque, Shia holy site in Samarra.
And we paid a heavy price for those mistakes. Let‘s don‘t compound them by leaving.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t want to put you in the position of being a Saint John to the—the Messiah here...
MATTHEWS: ... John McCain. It‘s not fair.
MATTHEWS: But I know you respect him.
But he did also say today, there may come a point, if we don‘t get support from the Iraqi forces in dealing with the stability problems and the violence in Baghdad, we may have to resort to what they used to call in North Carolina, in Chapel Hill, a “four-corner,” which we go and basically...
MATTHEWS: ... defend the borders.
Do you think that may be where we will end up in three or four years, defending the borders of Iraq against outside interference?
GRAHAM: Well, we have got one last chance. The Iraqi military and political leadership have one last chance to work with us to get this right.
A failed state in Iraq is what Senator McCain talks about continuously. And we need to talk more about what happens if Iraq fails. We don‘t want the war in Iraq to spread. If you throw in the towel on Iraq, Chris, the fight‘s not over. It gets larger.
But I agree with this: If the Iraqi political leadership doesn‘t step up to the plate, share the oil with the Sunnis, disarm the militia, and come up with some political reconciliation, no—a million troops are not going to make a difference. We all agree with that. Ultimately, it‘s in their hands.
But one last thought: You‘re a great student of history and politics. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, no one could have a democracy be formed with this level of violence. The Maliki government is eight months old. We declared our independence in 1776. We didn‘t get a constitution ratified until 1789. Five years after the fall of the Nazi and Japanese regime, it took five years before they had their first election.
We‘re a bit impatient as Americans, and we have been unrealistic on how hard this would be.
MATTHEWS: The difference, of course, is, in Berlin, and in Germany, occupied as it was, and Japan, occupied as it was, we suffered no casualties after ‘45.
GRAHAM: We—we had enough troops.
MATTHEWS: That‘s right.
GRAHAM: We literally conquered...
MATTHEWS: No casualties.
GRAHAM: Yes. Well—well, we had some, but we had enough people to control the country. We have never had that.
You can blame Rumsfeld. You can blame...
MATTHEWS: Thirty-six people were killed in Germany in 1945...
MATTHEWS: ... after the V.E. Day. But, basically, it was a peaceful occupation. But...
GRAHAM: Yes, there was a soldier on every corner.
MATTHEWS: And a defeated enemy.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
GRAHAM: And a defeated enemy. And you‘re right. We—that‘s right.
MATTHEWS: That‘s the difference. We don‘t have a defeated enemy right now.
GRAHAM: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: They‘re still fighting.
GRAHAM: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: One of my favorite senators, if it‘s worth it to you, Senator.
MATTHEWS: Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
OLBERMANN: And, certainly, between Mr. Graham and Mr. Webb, we have had every president invoked so far, I think, except Millard Fillmore.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s turn to the anchor of “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS,” Brian Williams, along with our NBC News Washington bureau chief, moderator of “Meet the Press,” Tim Russert.
Gentlemen, good evening. Thanks for your time.
Tim, let me start with you.
Was that speech an attempt to tamp down the—the turmoil, the public turmoil about Iraq? And, if so, did it succeed?
TIM RUSSERT, NBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Keith, it was somber. It was sober. And that‘s the way the president intended it, according to his staff.
But it is quite striking. The president was quoted today as saying he could be Abraham Lincoln, and a speech is not going to change public attitude towards Iraq. He understands, it‘s the events on the ground that are now driving his policy.
The most important line, I thought, the president delivered, Keith and Chris, was when he said: This is not the fight we entered, but it is the fight we are in.
RUSSERT: And Jim Webb said: Hold on. You brought us there recklessly. And now you have to get us out. And, if you don‘t do it, we are going to do it.
The line has been drawn. They will vote this week, nonbinding resolutions. If that does not work, and the president doesn‘t listen to—to Congress—and he will not—then, I think Congress will allow him to have his way.
But, by the summer or early fall, you very well could have a fight about funding for the war in Iraq.
Let me go to Brian on a couple of interesting things.
Why do you think the president chose to limit his remarks? The speech seemed long enough, when you listened to it, to be honest with you. But were you surprised he finally decided to cut it down well below an hour?
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR: Well, we were told earlier today it was a fairly trim and fit 39 minutes, without applause. What was the quote at the end? Sixty-two different applause breaks. You watched.
Chris, Tim and I were talking, as—as you two, no doubt, were. This was a palpably different State of the Union message, just compared to all those we have covered in the—the past few years.
Remember, in 2002, this president enters the chamber at 84 percent. Tonight, he enters 50 points lower than that. So, I think this was a recitation of the issues.
There were some issues that didn‘t even get the—the—the courtesy applause, the polite, the—the civilian corps idea for the U.S. military got no reaction from the Joint Chiefs in the front row.
At that point, it was, slide down the ice, get to the tributes in the gallery, which were the—the winning high point. If—you know, if you can‘t win with a guy who throws himself under a New York subway train, it‘s time for a new speechwriter.
MATTHEWS: Tim—Tim, I want to ask you about the beginning.
I have to tell you, I am a softy, in some regard. I thought his very chivalrous acknowledgement of the first-ever woman speaker was right on the mark. I thought it was great, the way he did that.
You know, he had sold his people today: I have a nice touch.
He had really worked on that, because he realized that, when Americans were tuning in tonight, they were tuning in to see Nancy Pelosi, the new speaker...
RUSSERT: ... a woman, sitting behind there.
Even Dick Cheney remarked how different it was going to be, sitting next to her, as opposed to Dennis Hastert.
MATTHEWS: The competition is getting fiercer for glamour...
RUSSERT: I always wonder what they did back there, shared a—you know, sharing some chicken wings and things. But the...
MATTHEWS: Yes, well...
RUSSERT: No, but you are right. And I—and I thought—I thought Speaker Pelosi was quite gracious.
You know, Chris and Keith, it‘s quite interesting. Nancy Pelosi met with her caucus today, and said: Now, listen, we are going to be civil and respectful—Harry Reid, with the Democrats in the Senate, the same thing.
They take this tone concept very, very seriously. And the president, I think, throttled down on a lot of his energy and a lot—and the tone of his speech, because he did not want to be perceived as overly partisan, and not recognizing who had won the last election. And if you look...
MATTHEWS: There was just...
MATTHEWS: Tim—I‘m sorry. Go ahead, Tim.
RUSSERT: Go ahead.
Yes. If you look at...
MATTHEWS: There was just—yes, go ahead.
RUSSERT: If you look at immigration—if you look at immigration, the president is so much closer to the Democrats than the Republicans. And it‘s the one issue, I believe, he feels, both from a policy standpoint and a political standpoint, it‘s in his interest to get it off the agenda before the 2008 election.
Do you—I want to ask you that question. Do you think that he is willing to pass a bill out of the House and out of the Senate with a majority of—of Democratic voters—or members, and not his own party?
MATTHEWS: Will he be—will he go around his base to get that done?
RUSSERT: Yes. Yes, I do. On that issue, I do, because he believes and fears that that issue will tear his party apart for the next 20 or 30 years.
MATTHEWS: So, he wants to get past it.
You know, there was a little point there. I know you watch these things, as we all do, but—at least a lot of us do—but did you notice that, even though, in the text, in the second—third paragraph of the speech, it referred to the majority controlling Congress as the “Democratic Party.”
WILLIAMS: Yes. I pointed that out.
MATTHEWS: And he couldn‘t resist saying “Democrat” as an adjective, which is the thing that always bugs the Democrats—Brian.
WILLIAMS: I pointed that—we were sitting...
WILLIAMS: ... here, Chris, listening to the speech. And I circled my intended-for-delivery portion where it says “Democratic,” and tapped my pen to show Tim that, as delivered, was “Democrat.”
This goes back to just after the Contract for America. It was decided
I have seen it printed in talking points.
WILLIAMS: It was decided it gives it a harsher pejorative edge and does no assistance to the other party.
WILLIAMS: And I noted that, too. It‘s kind of tragic, in a way, that we both did.
One more very quick point, because our audience brought to this speech tonight all the issues they wanted to hear about. We received the quote from the president tonight—quote—“the serious problem of global climate change.”
A lot of people were waiting for the phrase, perhaps “global warming.” That was a big benchmark, too, especially a lot of Democrats. They didn‘t get that exactly. But they have this wording and a very short portion of the speech, after this night, to hang on to.
MATTHEWS: And Al Gore got his nomination for an Oscar...
MATTHEWS: ... two of them, today. So, this is the third trophy...
MATTHEWS: ... for the night, perhaps.
WILLIAMS: Yes, perhaps.
RUSSERT: Keith—Keith, you—Keith, you mentioned Millard Fillmore.
WILLIAMS: I knew you were going to do this.
MATTHEWS: You‘re the second person in America to mention his name in 10 years.
WILLIAMS: Buffalo, New York.
RUSSERT: Don‘t forget Grover Cleveland. What do they have in common, Keith?
WILLIAMS: Buffalo, New York. I will give you a hint.
OLBERMANN: Upstate New York.
RUSSERT: Ka-ching. (ph)
MATTHEWS: I think one was born there and one was killed there, right?
RUSSERT: No, that‘s William McKinley.
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m sorry. That was McKinley.
MATTHEWS: That was McKinley.
OLBERMANN: Listen, while we‘re on the subject of definition of terms, and—and almost hearing “global warming,” Tim, what—can you take a stab at explaining that specific reference that linked al Qaeda to Sunni extremists, and the subsequent one that—that—that linked the Iranians to the Shia extremists and invoking of Hezbollah?
These were awfully specific terms. We—two weeks ago, we saw those Iran references in the president‘s speech. There seemed to be still subtle, pointed remarks, internationally intended remarks.
Did you see those three remarks tonight being in that vein?
RUSSERT: I saw it as such a deliberate attempt by this president, once again, to link Iraq to the war on terror, and to be a logical extension of what happened on September 11, 2001.
It‘s an argument he has tried to make over and over again that, frankly, the American people have been rejecting.
It‘s interesting. Today, Keith, in talking to people very close to President Bush, they are quoting him as saying that he has no intentions of military active in—in Iran, and he was somewhat surprised that‘s what people took from his speech just a few weeks ago.
But everybody‘s antenna is way up, because of the moving of the Navy ships into the area, the Patriot missiles. But the president insists to his closest advisers that he wants to resolve the situation in Iran diplomatically. And he thinks the situation in Iran may be deteriorating, in terms of support for the current leadership.
But I think the antenna is going to stay up for everyone.
MATTHEWS: So, his intention, in terms of sending those messages—and we all heard the same messages—if you connect the dots, of course, to the Patriots and the movement of our carrier fleet, and you look at his threat about over—cross-border crossing, and the attacks on those two offices of Iranians in Iraq, you are saying that what he is really doing is trying to pressure, what, the people of Iraq to change their political structure?
RUSSERT: Yes, I think he is suggesting it‘s all of a piece. It‘s all part of this broad ideological struggle.
But, if you accept that, then, it begs the question: Well, if you did this to Iraq, Mr. President, what are your plans for Iran?
MATTHEWS: Yes, that‘s right.
RUSSERT: And—and I think people are going to continue to insist that.
He seems to have differentiated, in his mind, at least, in communicating with his own staff. But, when he talks to the public, it is all one big global war on terror, and the Iranians and the Shiites and the Sunnis in other places are all part and parcel and partners in that struggle.
MATTHEWS: Brian, first, you were—I think you were briefed today.
Do you have a sense that they want more than just a bump out of this? The president usually gets a couple points in the polls back after a good night of talking to everyone. And he may well get that. But do they have a long-term goal out of what happened tonight?
WILLIAMS: Senior aides describe the president, I think it would be fair to say, as a clear-eyed realist going into this.
They have always contended that there is their realty. They are the people who see the chatter that comes in over the—overnight. They are the keepers of—of the current reality in the war on terrorism. And there is everyone else.
And I think that has given them a kind of placid demeanor to look at all of this going on around them. It‘s as if to say, look, whatever you guys say—you could talk yourselves out—we know the truth. We get that there is a kind of Iraq war fatigue. We have got a job to do here.
It has been expressed directly and more obliquely.
And, since we have been on the air, consider this—and not to get poetic—I have lived about a third of my life in this city, and, yet, now, as a visitor from New York, it is now the capital of the kind of ominous, vaguely menacing-looking black SUV, and closed street, and police barricade.
The president‘s motorcade just left the Hill since we have been on the air. And that‘s part of their reality and the backdrop of the new bubble that now has to protect them from, the way they see it, a very violent world.
RUSSERT: But, Chris and Keith, the president‘s aides quote him as saying that he understands the war has drained the psyche of the country...
RUSSERT: ... and that, if he was polled about the war in Iraq, he would raise his hand and say he, too, doesn‘t think it‘s gone very well, which is quite revealing.
MATTHEWS: Sure is.
OLBERMANN: And, given—and, given the number of polls that are taken, I‘m sure, eventually, it will be his turn.
Tim Russert, NBC‘s Washington bureau chief, Brian Williams, of course, the anchor of “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS,” a pleasure, gentlemen. Thank you for your insight.
MATTHEWS: We are joined right now by the junior senator from New York, Senator Hillary Clinton. And she‘s, of course, the Democratic candidate—or a Democratic candidate for president.
Senator Clinton, let me ask you about the president tonight. Do you think he is sincere when he calls for bipartisan action on a number of these issues?
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Well, I think the jury is out, Chris. I‘m not quite sure.
We have since years of experience that suggests that that is not their favored means of getting anything done. But I‘m open to it. And I think all of the Democrats are. He mentioned a few issues, like energy independence and health care, where we are eager to work towards some kind of bipartisan result.
So, let‘s see what happens. I mean, the proof is in the pudding. We will see whether his speech tonight is followed up by any specific actions and the kind of outreach that should be undertaken.
MATTHEWS: Back when you were working so hard on health care, back in the ‘90s, in the early ‘90s...
MATTHEWS: ... and—and you really thought you could get a—some kind of compromise at the end, I believe, and the word came from the ideologues on the right, kill this baby in its bassinet, do not let them get a compromise health care bill that they can get credit for.
Do you still feel the sting of that strategy on the other side?
CLINTON: You know, I really don‘t.
I regret that we have lost all this time, in trying to deal with a problem that affects our economy, that undermines our productivity, and makes us less competitive than we would be otherwise. So, I think we have really missed the opportunity to take care of the problem that health care financing poses.
But, you know, I‘m a realist. And I get up every today and try to figure out what we are going to get done today to move the ball forward. So, I‘m ready to, you know, work with anybody. I‘m not interested in scoring partisan or ideological points on some imaginary board in the sky. Let‘s try to get something done.
I have too many people I represent right now, Chris, who are struggling because they don‘t have health care. We have got more than 46 million Americans, nine million children. You know, let‘s put down the ideological battleground and once again try to find some common ground.
OLBERMANN: Senator, when we spoke this morning, I asked you what might be said in this speech that would get you to stand up and cheer and applaud for the president. You mentioned health care. He discussed health care.
You suggested he should reach out to the Democrats and actually go for genuine bipartisanship. There were words to that effect. As you point out, how sincere they are will—will only be told by time. A real energy policy—there were hints at an energy policy.
But the last point that you made—or the first point you actually made was that he—a changing of the mind on troop escalation would have been the thing that would have easily brought you to your feet. We did not get that. Iraq did not come in until well over 3,000 words had been spoken in the speech.
In a—in a backwards kind of way, and in an unexpected kind of way, did the president not spend enough time talking about Iraq tonight?
CLINTON: Well, actually, Keith, I think he made his whole defense of Iraq, because he started by linking it to the war on terror, which all of us support. And I have been, you know, adamant that we have to be more effective and smarter in going after the bad guys who are after us.
And he certainly tried to once again summon the Congress and the country to see his version of reality.
I don‘t think it‘s going to sell. I think that a majority of
Democrats and a sizable number of Republicans are turning against this
policy of escalation, not because we don‘t want to fight the war on terror
in fact, we want to fight it smarter and better—but because it is only a slice of a strategy.
Where is the internationalization of this problem, the regional conference, the reaching-out to the neighbors? Where is the continual pressure on the Iraqi government to deal with the political and economic problems they face?
You know, when I returned from Iraq and Afghanistan a week ago, I said, look, I‘m against this troop escalation. Let‘s see if we can‘t put some pressure on the Iraqi government to start doing the things all of us know need to be done, in order for there to be some kind of political resolution, since we know there is no military solution.
MATTHEWS: What do you think, Senator, of the fact that the president has decided to go down to Williamsburg in a week or so and actually join the House Democrats.
MATTHEWS: You are laughing.
OK, this is a personal question. Would you accept an invitation if the Republicans invited you to their retreat?
CLINTON: Absolutely, in a New York minute, Chris. I think it‘s a great invitation. I‘m glad the president accepted.
You know, some of these things may be ritualistic. You know that. You have been in this town a lot longer than I have. But I think it also does at least show respect for the process. We need to get back to working with each other and, you know, pursuing some common means toward getting results for our constituents and our country.
So, I‘m glad that the president was invited. And I‘m delighted that he is going.
MATTHEWS: Do you think you can retail those Republicans into voting for you?
CLINTON: Well, I got some of them in New York. I would like to figure out if I could get a few more.
MATTHEWS: I knew you would—hey, by the way, wasn‘t that great about Wesley Autrey tonight? Wasn‘t he great?
CLINTON: I loved it. We were really thrilled that he was there. And what a terrific guy he is. I‘m—I‘m very proud of him, as a New Yorker.
MATTHEWS: God, America is proud of the guy. Humanity is proud of the guy.
CLINTON: That‘s exactly right.
MATTHEWS: Boy, it‘s so great to—great to have you on, Senator.
And thank you very much, Senator Hillary Clinton of New York.
CLINTON: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Here we are again. We have heard from Hillary. We are going to hear from Obama pretty soon. And we have heard from John Edwards.
We‘re going to get them all here tonight.
OLBERMANN: Well, that‘s—we‘re not at 50 percent yet, are we...
OLBERMANN: ... a year out before the primaries?
MATTHEWS: I will tell you, I am impressed by money, as we all are. And the money right now is on that woman we just talked to, about 50/50 to be the Democratic nominee, against a field of seven guys right now.
OLBERMANN: Right. And when you...
MATTHEWS: And she has got as good a chance, according to the betting odds right now, of—of winning that whole nomination.
OLBERMANN: And, again, you say 50/50. To clarify, that‘s 50/50 against the field.
OLBERMANN: It‘s 50 -- or she is about 50 percent, and everybody else combined is at about 50 percent.
MATTHEWS: She—you flip a—she is a flip of the coin away from being the nominee of the Democratic Party, according to the betting odds, right now, extraordinary at this point.
OLBERMANN: We discussed this, this morning in the interview that—that I got to do with Senator Clinton about sustaining that, though, over these extraordinary lengths. It seems as if every presidential election and nominating process is twice as long as the one before.
She pointed out, her husband got involved in late September, beginning of October, 1991...
OLBERMANN: ... and was sworn in January of 1993. We are a year, minus a day, before the New Hampshire primaries.
MATTHEWS: And, as she made clear this weekend with her announcement, she intends to spend every nickel she can raise to get her message across.
She will have the most Promethean fund-raising operation you have ever seen, not just bicoastal, across the country. She is going to raise so much money. There will be no limits on what she can raise, because she is not going to accept federal funding. She is going to be able to dominate, in terms of advertising, whenever she wants to bring it up. She can start doing advertising in Iowa tomorrow morning, if she wants to, she has so much money.
And I think another challenge they face is, she has—she has Terry McAuliffe working with her now and James Carville. She has some very smart people. She might be able to, if not euchre, benefit from the movement of some of these big-state primaries to earlier in the season. She might find herself in California next January, fighting for a February 5 victory in California.
If she can get California to move up, as Schwarzenegger wants to do it, the governor wants to do it, if she can get Florida to move up—
Charlie Crist may be behind that, for all I know, the new Republican governor down there—what she will find is the ability to spend huge amounts of money early, big advertisement on television, that nobody else can match, and win that baby.
As Terry McAuliffe has already predicted, somebody will win that by February 5. This could be a very fast election.
OLBERMANN: A matter that will be of concern to our next guest.
But let‘s—let‘s stay on point and talk to Senator Barack Obama of Illinois about the State of the Union address tonight.
Senator, good evening. Thank you for your time again.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Thank you, guys.
OLBERMANN: What did you think? Was that—that was a speech that seemed to be, from the president—there were—there were certainly waves, if not necessarily handshakes, out to the Democrats.
Did you perceive it as—as a somewhat moderate speech?
OBAMA: Well, you know, I think that the president put forward some
proposals on health care and on energy that were legitimate, serious
proposals. They‘re not ones that I would have put forward, obviously. I -
I—we have got different political philosophies.
But I think that he tried to find some areas of potential common ground. And I think that we, as Democrats, should meet him part of the way, and then sit down and figure out, are there areas of potential agreement?
Obviously, the—the entire second half of the speech, though, was devoted to foreign policy, and, in particular, Iraq. And I think what you saw, as evidenced by the response, not just from Democrats, but Republicans, is an enormous amount of skepticism within Congress that‘s matched in the country about this plan to escalate troop levels.
MATTHEWS: Senator, as the best writer in politics since U.S. Grant, what did you think of the speech tonight?
MATTHEWS: You are the best.
OBAMA: I appreciate...
MATTHEWS: What did you think of the quality of the writing tonight?
OBAMA: Well, you know, it‘s hard, I think, to separate style from substance.
And, when the president, I think, is feeling forceful and confident and clear about a direction, then, a president‘s going to be more effective.
I think that tonight the writing reflected the fact that there‘s a lot of confusion—not just in the country, but I think in the White House, as well—about how to proceed, particularly on the foreign policy front.
You know, frankly, the—the strongest responses that the president received were right at the end, when he was talking about the four wonderful stories of the individuals that were in the galleries. That‘s normally something that you put up front in a speech. That‘s not how you would end.
And I think that indicates that, you know, the overall approach on foreign policy is not one that I think really sold tonight.
OLBERMANN: Then, what kind of lead did he give you? If your party controls the Senate and—and the House, but is really not supposed to be establishing a—an international policy, but following an international policy, did the president say to you, here, help me go in one direction?
Or are you left confused, as you think the voters might be, having listened to this thing?
OBAMA: Well, Keith, I—I guess I would just dispute one area. And that is that Congress has a co-equal responsibility, I think, with respect to foreign policy.
There‘s no doubt that the executive has to execute that foreign policy. But, right now, what we have is, I think by all accounts, a disaster unfolding in Iraq. We all have a responsibility—Democrats and Republicans, Congress and the White House—to make sure that we can come up with the best strategy.
I don‘t think the president‘s strategy is going to work. We went through two weeks of hearings on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Experts from across the spectrum, military and civilian, conservative and liberal, expressed great skepticism about it.
My suggestion to the president has been that the only way we‘re going to change the dynamic in Iraq and start seeing political accommodation is actually if we create a system of phased redeployment.
And, frankly, the president, I think, has not been willing to consider that option—not because it‘s not militarily sound, but because he continues to cling to the belief that, somehow, military solutions are going to lead to victory in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: This is about your father‘s homeland of Kenya. I have visited so many times. And I know you got a rousing reaction when you went over there recently.
MATTHEWS: What did you—what do you think, having studied the president‘s program for HIV/AIDS, and now the new $1.2 billion commitment on malaria, which kills a million people a year over there? Do you think he‘s doing enough in that particular—I know it‘s much smaller than his commitment to the war in Iraq, but is he doing enough?
OBAMA: You know, I have to say—and I have said this publicly—I said it in Africa—this is an area where I think the president has stepped up and done some excellent work.
The fact is, is that the president‘s AIDS programs in Africa, in South Africa, and in—in Kenya have been quite successful. They have saved lives. You are seeing excellent work done on the ground, cooperation between international agencies and local agencies. And it‘s also building capacity.
I think the whole issue of malaria is critical. Malaria kills as many people as just about any disease on the continent. And, so, for us to make a modest investment that can save millions of lives, I think, is entirely appropriate. I think this is an area where the president deserves credit. And I hope that we see strong bipartisan support.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the central question of our times. And you have addressed if forcefully and clearly, and you are clearly against the policy. But what can you do about the war in Iraq, as a senator?
OBAMA: Well, look, we are going to be doing a couple of things. Number one, my hope is, is that you see a bipartisan vote, sending a strong signal to the president, even though it‘s nonbinding, that he should not take this approach.
Now, the president may choose to ignore that, but it sends a signal that not only the country, and also—but also Congress, is unified against the escalation of troop levels. From there, we have to consider options like a cap on troops. Senator Kennedy has an option to begin to cut off funding.
I think that there is going to be a lot of discussion about what our options are. It‘s difficult, because we want to give discretion to the commander in chief and commanders on the ground to make many of these military decisions.
At some point, though, despite the extraordinary work that‘s being done by our troops, if the mission is unsound, if the strategy is not workable, I think that we in Congress have an obligation to not only communicate to the president, but also see if we can have some impact on his decision-making.
OLBERMANN: You are watching MSNBC‘s coverage in the wake of the president‘s State of the Union Address, his sixth. Alongside Chris Matthews, I‘m Keith Olbermann. We will continue now with Senator Obama of Illinois.
On the subject of Iraq, in Senator Webb‘s official response on behalf of your party, he said: “The president took us into this war recklessly.” Does any kind of non-binding resolution, does any kind of binding resolution have to ascribe responsibility or even guilt in the terms that Senator Webb described tonight, in your opinion.
OBAMA: Well, I think that the resolution is going to be pretty straightforward. What it is going to say is, this strategy is not going to work. And Mr. President, you need to come up with a different course of action that is going to change the political dynamic in Iraq.
Look, three months ago, I offered an alternative plan. I‘ve tried to be as constructive as possible. Back in 2002, as the president was launching this war, and as Congress was forced to vote on it, I was very clear in opposition precisely because I felt that once we got in, it would be very hard to extricate ourselves.
That unfortunately has proven to be true. I think we have an obligation to be responsible about how we approach this. Nobody that I know has talked about a precipitous withdrawal. And oftentimes when you see contrasts being made between those who want to escalate troops and those who don‘t—senators McCain and others will suggest there is going to be total disaster if we don‘t take their approach.
Well, the fact of the matter is, is that nobody‘s suggesting all our troops are going to leave tomorrow. What we are saying is, is that if you start drawing down troop levels in a responsible way in conjunction with the commanders on the ground, then we were going to find ourselves in a better position to leverage the Iraqi government and powers in the region to start making progress.
And that‘s the only way we are going to end the violence there. We cannot impose a military solution on what has become on all-out civil war.
MATTHEWS: Senator, we all know we‘re at war, we know we‘re taking casualties, we know we‘ve lost 3,000 men and some women. And we know this war is bloody. We‘ve killed 50,000 to 100,000 Iraqis on the other side—that have been killed in this war.
And yet the president talks about the war as an heroic struggle but doesn‘t talk about the costs. I was watching—I think it was another network the other night, and I was talking—listening to a young serviceman who was having treatment at a field hospital in Iraq.
And he was telling the doctor—well, the doctor told him, we‘re going to have to take off your left leg. And he was pleading with the doctor. In a very manly way he said, you know, can‘t you try to save it, Doctor? Can‘t you try to save my leg?
And the doctor, who was doing his job, said, no, we can‘t, we can‘t save it. We just can‘t save it. But we can save your right leg. And the young service guy, God, he must have been on morphine, but God, he was bold, He just said, well, good.
You know, that kind of courage and sacrifice, it doesn‘t get talked about. It‘s all about vague heroism and the medals people win. But there‘s nothing about what is going on in our military hospitals now. Why don‘t we focus on the cost of this damn thing?
OBAMA: Well, look, the stories like the ones that you just eloquently described, Chris, are ones that we hear all across the country. On my flight back from Chicago—back from D.C., I had a Purple Heart-winner who wanted me to sign his Purple Heart. You could see the scars across his face. He was humble and extraordinarily proud of his service. But, you know, he‘s going bear those scars for life.
Families have lost loved ones. And I think that one of the unfortunate things is that too little of the sacrifices of this war have been borne by all of us. They‘ve been focused on those families who are fighting.
And we haven‘t even been honest about how we‘re paying for this war. We‘ve essentially borrowed this off the books and left it for the next generation. And so I think you‘re right that we have to understand the costs. We have to understand the enormous toll and sacrifice that‘s been made by those families.
We have to express our gratitude in terms of making sure that veteran‘s payments and disability payments and services for post-traumatic stress disorder and all of those are provided.
But the best thing that we can do for those families is to make sure that for those young men and women who are there, we are coming up with the most effective strategy, compatible with our national security.
And one thing I want to make clear, we absolutely have a national security interest in the Middle East. And we can‘t abandon that. We have a vital interest there that has to be served. And we don‘t want a complete collapse of Iraq.
But we also have to recognize that the president‘s general approach and philosophy has ended up strengthening some of our most powerful enemies there. Everybody would acknowledge that Iran is stronger now than it was before this war started. And that they have always been a significant threat, in fact, a much more significant threat that Saddam Hussein was. They actually are developing weapons of mass destruction.
And you know, so, we have got to make some much more sober, serious fact-based strategic decisions than are being made right now. That‘s the best way that we can honor the sacrifices that have been already made by so many of these brave soldiers.
MATTHEWS: Senator, thank you very much. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.
OBAMA: Thank you guys. Appreciate it.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, Senator. And let‘s bring in Joe Scarborough, the host of MSNBC‘s “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.” He will take over the postgame coverage, if you will, at the top of the hour.
Joe, did you have a sense that this was through-the-looking-glass kind of speech, and certainly a through-the-looking-glass kind of reaction that the president sounded a little bit more like a Democrat this time than the last time we heard him speak, and a lot of Democrats sounded a lot more like Republicans?
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: Well, yes. And if you listen to your last two guests, I was actually thinking about how down the middle and moderate they sounded. It sounds like everybody is coming together in the center.
I must say though, on Iraq, as I walked into the chamber about an hour beforehand, talked to Democrats who were giddy, talked to Republicans on the floor who were not so giddy. They‘re still a bit angst-ridden about being in the minority.
And I thought it was notable how negative the Republicans were about their president, the president that they believe put them in the minority, possibly the permanent minority.
At one point when the president walked in, a Midwestern congressman stormed out toward the Republican cloakroom and passed me saying, and I quote, mom: “Being in the minority sucks.” He wasn‘t going to listen to this president.
Interestingly enough, about halfway through the speech, Republicans started looking at each other and talked about how well the president did. And John Boehner—I ran into John Boehner in the cloakroom after the speech, and he said this is the best speech this president has given since September 20th, 2001.
It reminded me of what I heard Chris Matthews saying back in the 2000 election debates when George Bush went up against Al Gore. And he said, somehow, this guy always seems to rise to the occasion when his back is to the wall, when he is about to be knocked out.
He always seems to exceed expectations. And I‘ve got to say, for a president who has fumbled and bumbled around, and I think destroyed his party‘s unity since Katrina stormed on shores back in the fall of 2005, this is one of his brighter moments.
And I‘m not exactly sure where that confidence came from when you have maybe 20 percent of the American public supporting his surge, and when you have generals against him, when you have a John Warner going against him, when you have most of the party starting to break against him.
Yet tonight, somehow, he found the confidence to stand before the United States‘ public and actually sound like a president who was in charge.
OLBERMANN: What did—what, Joe—what did Boehner and the others like in particular? What was there in that that they saw—they took renewed energy and enthusiasm from?
SCARBOROUGH: Well, his confidence. It was confidence, for one thing. Another congressman came up to me—Zach Wamp came up to me and said—you know, and I could probably get in trouble, maybe banned from the floor of the cloakroom for repeating this stuff.
But Zach Wamp from Tennessee came up to me and he said, you know, this is really the first time he‘s effectively explained what‘s going on in Iraq, with the Shias and the Sunnis in a way that didn‘t put you to sleep.
You know, Keith, I think at least from the floor—and I don‘t know how it looked on TV, but from the floor, it was just his amazing sense of confidence. I say amazing because, again, this man is basically alone in the world.
And they said he was more articulate than usual. He seemed more confident than usual. He didn‘t stumble over his words the way he usually does. And you know, what I‘d been hearing, Keith, for some time from Republicans who were complaining about how this president couldn‘t really articulate how he felt on the war, I heard him say the most effective speech we‘ve heard on the Iraq War and the best explanation that we‘ve heard on this city has come from Tony Blair, when Tony Blair spoke before a joint session.
And that was—of course, it was stinging rebuke of President Bush. I think today they were just glad that he actually—they could give him a passing grade. And again, he seemed eloquent at times and also, again, seemed confident. And again, I must say I‘m surprised because I‘m not so sure where this confidence comes from. But at least it certainly is heartening to Republicans tonight.
MATTHEWS: Our colleague Joe Scarborough will be staying with us. Let‘s go right now to Andrea Mitchell to get a sense how this speech tonight—it is a major speech, with play worldwide.
Did the president give the world newspaper people a headline tonight?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, he did. But his headline is “more of the same,” I think, would be the reaction from foreign capitals. Frankly, they do not believe that this plan will work. And like the critics in his own party and certainly the larger number of critics in the Democratic Party, they don‘t think that 20,000 troops will help train enough and help shore up this Maliki government to withstand the sectarian violence.
They don‘t believe that the prime minister himself in Iraq is prepared to do all the things that are necessary to do. So it was more a wish or a hope from the president tonight. The confidence that Joe heard and that his fellow Republicans heard, I think is well-placed, because there is no question that when you talk to cabinet members and others involved in foreign policy, George Bush believes in what he‘s doing and is not really prepared to retreat.
That said, they are very few people in this capital and other capitals who really think that there is a road map to figure a solution out. They right now have confidence in General Petraeus, as you heard from the Armed Services Committee, even from Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman. But that is really their only hope that this new commander can somehow shape this thing up.
MATTHEWS: Tough question, but do you think the president was complete enough in his explanation as to the sectarian realities of Iraq today? He mentioned the attack on the Shia temple that sparked the violence there for a long cycle. But did he adequately explain the fact that that country may be coming apart, between the minority Sunni and majority Shia?
MITCHELL: Well, a lot of people would say that he has not. And that, in fact, what they have failed to deal with is the reality of the ascendancy of Iran, partly as the unintended consequence of taking down Saddam, and also of what has happened in Lebanon and the rise of Hezbollah in Lebanon because of the failure—acknowledged failure now, acknowledged by Israel in their own investigations, the failure of the Israeli war.
And of course, it was an American alliance with Israel that is now perceived to be a big victory for the Shia Hezbollah. So it‘s a hard concept for a lot of people who don‘t follow that closely to get. But overseas and certainly in the Sunni Arab world, in Egypt, in Jordan, in Saudi Arabia, they see the Iranian threat.
Now again, the secretary of state has said repeatedly that she sees opportunity in this. That this would somehow rally the Arab world around a Middle East solution. But a lot of people think that that may be way too hopeful.
And I think also, just quickly, what the other capitals wanted to hear is more diplomacy, and they didn‘t hear that tonight from the president.
OLBERMANN: And in particular, Andrea, I mean, to whatever benefit might have been achieved by identifying, say, al Qaeda and its followers are Sunni extremists, two minutes later references are made to the Iranians and the Shia extremists, and then Hezbollah is brought in there.
There‘s—I mean, not that you want to go and please any one of these organizations, but all of them, in this extraordinary balance in the Middle East, what benefit is derived or what interpretation would be reached in the Middle East of having all of these organizations and religious entities equated in the State of the Union Address?
MITCHELL: Well, the audience was really a domestic audience here. And for the domestic audience, it worked for them in the re-election in 2004. If you can equate the Iraq War with a part of the war on terror, that is what this administration has repeatedly tried to do. And it certainly did work in the re-election campaign.
The counter-argument that you heard most vividly from Hillary Clinton tonight was that this—as other Democrats have also said, that this war in Iraq has actually taken away from the war on terror and has taken away from the focus in Afghanistan. And that, of course, is going to be the continuing argument between the two partisans.
MATTHEWS: You know, one of the arguments—it was a bit grand of course, for the war in Iraq was that somehow it would reshuffle the deck. It would achieve some sort of Rubik‘s Cube success with regard to all of the countries in the Middle East. It would lead, as someone once said I think, perhaps felicitously, that the road to Jerusalem, meaning a peace treaty—a favorable peace treaty in Jerusalem would come through Baghdad. The road to Jerusalem was through Baghdad.
Now we get the sense that the road to Baghdad peace is through Jerusalem. In other words, we have to achieve some sort of forced agreement between Israel and the Palestinians to alleviate the situation in Baghdad.
How‘s that going?
MITCHELL: Well, there was some progress, at least, in bringing together the Palestinians and the Israelis in this hoped-for meeting in the next couple of weeks. So that‘s one thing that Condoleezza Rice accomplished in her meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah.
That said, again, this is trying to come up with some sort of victory out of what most people in the region, at least, would say has been a disaster.
MATTHEWS: OK. We‘re going to keep Andrea with us. Andrea Mitchell, thank you for joining—stay with us. Joe Scarborough, our colleague, will stay with us. Let‘s bring in perhaps the ramrod of the Democratic victory this past November, Rahm Emanuel.
I think you like that word, ramrod, is that all right, Rahm?
REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D), ILLINOIS: Whatever. As long it doesn‘t.
MATTHEWS: “Whatever,” a classic Rahm Emanuel comment. Whatever gets you through the night, right?
EMANUEL: I‘ve had other adjectives used to describe, but I‘ll take ramrod, that‘s fine.
MATTHEWS: OK. SOB might work too. But let me ask you.
EMANUEL: I answer to it.
MATTHEWS: I know you do. Let me ask you about the Democrats tonight. The president has gone to the point of saying he‘s going to join your retreat, right?
EMANUEL: Well, Nancy and I and the whole caucus invited him, correct.
MATTHEWS: And you—what role do you expect him to play at your retreat down in Williamsburg?
EMANUEL: He‘s going to give a speech. Obviously going to lay out some of the initiatives and areas that we can work with. And then we‘re going to have a series of questions.
And I think it‘s a recognition by both sides that if we‘re going to meet the challenges that face the American people, we‘ve got to do it together. And the caucus felt there was nothing more appropriate to do. You‘ve got a Republican president and a Democratic House. We want to have him come to the retreat so he can speak frankly among members, and we‘re going to do that.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it‘s going to yield something?
EMANUEL: Well, that‘s the hope. That‘s the intention. If nothing else, as we always say, we can have our disagreements without being disagreeable. He—I worked with Josh Bolten, who could not have been nicer to work with to get that date secured. The president accepted it. And we‘re going to make it sure that as he talks about certain areas, well, we can find common ground dealing with the energy crisis, dealing with immigration, dealing with areas of health care, stuff like that.
We will do that. He knows where we stand on the escalation. He acknowledged it in today‘s speech. We are not for it. We don‘t think it‘s the right policy to bring the results that we all see. But he is going to make the effort and we‘re going to make the effort as we‘ve shown in the last two-and-a- half weeks.
Sixty-three Republicans on average joined the Democrats on every major one of our initiatives. We‘ve shown we can not only govern, but govern in a bipartisan fashion. The president saw that and wants to try to work with us. We owe the American people who all elected us in our own districts and him to actually try to work together to meet those challenges.
OLBERMANN: So how does this map out then, Congressman? I mean, do you compromise with the president on the social issues which he seemed to be extending himself tonight and basically tell him now what to do about Iraq?
EMANUEL: No. First of all, that‘s not how the scorecard is kept. We will work on dealing with certain issues. And that is—look, I come to the view on health care—having worked in a White House that tried to meet this challenge, let‘s just take that subject.
Four presidents have tried to give universal health care, who are all very effective politicians: Truman, Nixon, Johnson, and Clinton. Four failed. But we succeeded in universalizing health care for parts of the population: senior, elderly, veterans, children.
I believe, given that the children‘s health insurance program is up for reauthorization, we should go for a universal kid program. That is the right place. My problem with his prescription is that it leaves in place a broken tax system and a failed health care system. That‘s it. And I don‘t think we should be noodling around that. I think we should give some universal health care, most importantly, to kids.
But he‘s identified health care. He‘s identified that it‘s a big challenge. We‘re then going to work and try to meet that challenge and bring our initiatives, our concerns to the table.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask, I don‘t get it, you know, the president talks about tax cuts for people that pay for insurance. It seems like if the government is going to give away revenue so that insurance companies can insure people, why doesn‘t the government just insure those people?
It seems like instead of spending money on health care, you‘re spending a lot more money on insurance companies.
EMANUEL: Well, as you know, Chris, we created in 1997 the children‘s health insurance initiative. It was for kids whose parents worked but have no health care. And that wasn‘t a tax credit. And the only group in the last eight years, while everybody is—all other segments of the population actually more uninsured existed, children were the only group whose health care coverage actually expanded rather than decreased.
And that is more kids got health care. That is the right way to do it. There may be a place for tax credits. There may be a place in the system. But rather than work around the edges, let‘s focus on a population and get universal care to that population.
Children is a place where we can get bipartisan support to do that. That‘s what we‘re going to do. But here, let me be clear, I think it‘s not like we would do a domestic—and the president kind of checkmates on—and we would work with him on foreign policy.
We have a goal and that is in the policies that he has, as he has outline in Iraq, in my view, is just more of the same plus. And I don‘t think that‘s the right policy. Iraq.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me throw that back at you, Congressman. Say, June, you‘ve gone through the non-binding resolution. You have gotten a good vote on that. You have pulled free a number of Republicans to join you. The president thumbs his nose at you and proceeds with his surge.
Some time in the summer you maybe have enough going with a supplemental, you are able to squeeze the pipes a little bit, can you stop this president from doing what he wants to do in the end or not?
EMANUEL: Well, first of all, that‘s not the only process, number one. And it‘s not just a—it is a symbolic vote that has huge import to policy. When Democrats or Republicans join together and say no to the escalation and the voice of the American people, it‘s not just a symbolic vote. It‘s a vote that the president‘s policies are wrong.
Second, we‘re going to have a concentrated debate on what Baker-Hamilton offered. Principally that the solution here was 90 percent diplomatic, not 90 percent military, which is the president‘s policy.
Third, we‘re going to look at Afghanistan and what that needs, because we can‘t afford a second failure in the Mideast or in the greater part of world.
Fourth, in the funding area, there is a troop area, but there‘s also Gitmo. There‘s also other places that we can look at on the funding. And there is also the issue, as Jack Murtha has laid out, that we‘re going to have certain benchmarks that our military doesn‘t cross the breaking point.
And everybody has warned that at this level, this new extension of the escalation, we are close to a breaking point for the armed forces. And I am pleased—one of the things that the president will get support, because Democrats introduced it three years ago, was expanding both the Army and the Marines by 100,000.
That was a piece of legislation that Democrats in the House and Senate had introduced clearly three years ago. He‘s come around and realizes that the obligations we have as a country, we do not have an armed forces that matches those needs and challenges.
MATTHEWS: But I mean you could probably set requirements in the appropriations language coming out of the subcommittee to deal with the amount of training troops have to have before you send them over. It has to be a level ford (ph), it can‘t be any less than that.
You can probably limit the tours over there. But that doesn‘t change the president‘s policy, does it? You are not really influencing the direction of this war, are you, with those changes?
EMANUEL: You know, it may be, Chris. When Jack set some conditions on the armed forces, I mean, look, we‘re going to cross that bridge on the appropriations appropriately. There‘s a system to this. We‘re going to follow that system, both with a vote on the resolution that will be bipartisan, a thorough debate on the Iraq Study Group that we have not had as a Congress, a discussion extensively, and a funding issue as it relates to Afghanistan, so we don‘t have a failure there, and then dealing with the supplemental as requested by the president as well as the conditions that we will then set both with the oversight of those dollars.
MATTHEWS: I want to thank very much the chairman of the Democratic Caucus in the House.
EMANUEL: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: . Congressman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois.
EMANUEL: Thanks, Chris.
OLBERMANN: All right. Let‘s bring back Joe Scarborough.
The—one thing that does not seem to be connecting, as close as the president may have gotten back his support among the Republicans in the House and in the Senate that you spoke to, as much as there might be that bipartisan hand that seems to have been extended at least in a waving to each other, if not necessarily a hand-shake, how is this, the first major statement of the president‘s address tonight, matched up against what we just heard from Rahm Emanuel and from other Democrats tonight: “We must balance the federal budget, we can do so without raising taxes”? Does anybody got a good idea how to do that?
SCARBOROUGH: Nobody has a good idea how to do that. But I always love sitting on the floor watching the State of the Unions, because you‘ll have the sides jump up and down. And it was so funny when the president said we must balance the budget. You had Republicans and Democrats standing up. And then he said, without raising taxes. Democrats immediately sat down.
And then later in the speech, my favorite wave moment when the president said, we must provide Americans affordable health care. All the Democrats jumped up. Republicans stayed seated. Then finally somebody on the center row, oh, wait a second, we‘re for that too. He jumped and then the whole line went. I mean, you had the wave going from left to right.
So to answer your question, Keith, no, nobody has any idea how to balance a budget while not raising taxes. In fact, tonight, a lot of them didn‘t have the idea on when they were supposed to applaud, when they were supposed to stand up and sit down.
OLBERMANN: And to that point, at one point at least—and there may have been other occasions, we only got that shot of the podium so often, but at one point at least, one applause moment, Speaker Pelosi got to her feet well in advance of Vice President Cheney.
SCARBOROUGH: She did. And Speaker Pelosi was actually the interesting one to watch tonight. Because of course, Dick Cheney, you know, he‘s surly. He‘s been around this park several times. He knows when to applaud, when not to applaud. It was Speaker Pelosi, of course, who is the beginner up there. And I mean, you know, again, you applaud for the wrong line and of course—or you jump up for the wrong line, and of course, you‘re going to have a lot of your base calling you, writing, e-mailing you.
It‘s very dangerous business sitting in that chair. Especially, again when you‘re Nancy Pelosi and you‘re in the majority. And I mean, how you clap and how you stand up, how you sit down sends a message to Americans.
If I can say, just very quickly, on page eight of the speech where the Democrats seemed most tortured was a line where the president talks about how they—here we go, he said: “On this day,” sounds Churchillian, “at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle, so let us find our revolve and turns events toward victory.”
Republicans stood up and yelled and screamed and hooted and hollered. Democrats were sitting there looking at each other, knowing that they don‘t believe victory is possible in Iraq. But at the same time, how do you not stand up cheering for victory for your own United States military? It was a vexing moment for Democrats.
OLBERMANN: There were a lot of them certainly when the president changed the script from congratulating the Democratic majority to congratulating the “Democrat” majority.
SCARBOROUGH: What is that about? Why can‘t they just call them what they want to be called? If I‘m a Republican, I don‘t want them to call me a “Republic.” Call the people—I mean, just call them, you know, the Democratic Party.
SCARBOROUGH: It seems like—I mean, the president‘s trying to be nice. It seems like he could give them the I and the C if you‘re going to compliment Nancy Pelosi, give them a couple of letters.
OLBERMANN: Joe Scarborough, the former.
MATTHEWS: Give them a couple of letters! I love it!
OLBERMANN: . “Republic” congressman from Florida..
SCARBOROUGH: There you go.
OLBERMANN: . will pick up our coverage, try to balance it out.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you. Thank you, K.O.
OLBERMANN: . at the top of the hour. Thank you, Joe.
And when we come back, we‘ll get reaction to the State of the Union from our panel.
MATTHEWS: And later, David Schuster and the “Truth Squad” take a look at the president‘s words tonight. That should be interesting.
You are watching MSNBC‘s coverage of the State of the Union.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I‘ve spoken with many of you in person. I respect you and the arguments you have made. We went into this largely united in our assumptions and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure.
Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field and those on their way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We‘ve met challenges and faced dangers. And we know that more lie ahead. Yet, we can go forward with confidence because the State of our Union the strong. Our cause in the world is right. And tonight that cause goes on. God bless.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We rejoin you with MSNBC‘s coverage of the president‘s State of the Union Address.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s introduce our panel right now. MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle; The Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson; but we begin with “HARDBALL” political analyst Pat Buchanan.
Pat, style, a grade please.
PAT BUCHANAN, “HARDBALL” POLITICAL ANALYST: I give the president an A. It was far better—you know, before the speech, the thought the excerpts were pedestrian. And that‘s what I said. But I thought the president was self-confident. He was self-assured.
The speech was well-delivered. I think it was overall well-written. I think the president was polite. His grace notes at the beginning to Nancy Pelosi were terrific. It ended with those four testimonials to those folks that I think were enormously effective.
But half of the speech was devoted to Iraq. And I thought the president made his case with politeness but authority. And, Chris, when he said—just in that cut just before the break, that, look, whatever you voted for, you didn‘t vote for failure, and I‘m asking you to support our troops in the field and those on the way, he got sustained applause.
I think he has completely undercut any effort to cut off funding for the troops. Now about Jim Webb, I think what I said before stood up. That was riveting. He is an authentic individual. It was very moving in those passages about his father and his son. And I think tens of millions of Americans saw him really for the first time. Virginia‘s seen him. And I think the Democratic Party really has a star there.
But in conclusion, I would say the president—this was an extraordinarily effective speech, anyone who says this president is, you know, beleaguered and besieged, that wasn‘t a beleaguered, besieged leader up there tonight.
MATTHEWS: Is that your view, Mike, of his substance—or his style tonight? Was he effective in moving the nation emotionally tonight with his address?
MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: No. I don‘t think he was effective in moving the nation emotionally, Chris. I was struck—unlike Pat, I was struck by the subdued tone the president seemed to have tonight. And by the fact that at least me personally looking at him, it seemed me that he wore the weight of this war on his face, much more so than any past appearances.
Now I agree with Pat on Jim Webb‘s appearance. He struck me as a Democratic Party member—Webb being a member of the Democratic Party of my youth, of your youth, Chris.
BARNICLE: Of Paul Douglas, of Phil Hart, a substantive, middle-of-the-road, strong Democrat. Loves his country. I thought it was a very effective night for Jim Webb.
And I don‘t think it was an ineffective night for the president. I was just struck by the weariness of his tone.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I liked the fact that Webb didn‘t have to come on with all the bandoleer-os (ph) of Democratic position papers.
MATTHEWS: . like so many of them do. He didn‘t have to talk about abortion rights. He didn‘t have to talk about gay rights. He didn‘t have to go into the usual union-site-is-picketing issues or whatever the latest one is they‘ve got to fight over. He wasn‘t doing that. He was allowed to say what he felt in his heart.
Gene, what did you think of Webb tonight?
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: I thought Webb was terrifically effective. That there was a strength in his delivery. There was a real eloquence to his words. You know, it was terse. It was well-written and well-edited. And ended on a real sharp point.
I mean, if the president won‘t lead us out of this mess, we‘ll show him the way. I thought that was effective. And the whole recitation of the service of his family has given to this nation. You know, if he needed to establish his credibility as the Democratic responder, that certainly did it. And I thought it was really effective.
As for the president‘s speech, you know, I thought there were two real high points. The tribute to Nancy Pelosi, evoking Tommy D‘Alesandro, her father. I thought that was just really classy and a really warm moment. Because that is a piece of history I think we‘ll remember from the speech, the first woman speaker.
And, of course, at the end, when Wesley Autrey, the New York subway hero, was introduced and got the biggest cheer.
MATTHEWS: Great stuff.
ROBINSON: . of the evening.
MATTHEWS: I loved that.
ROBINSON: In between it was really somber. It was sober. It was—there was no joy. There was no joy to his domestic proposals. He didn‘t seem that excited about global warming. And certainly there‘s no joy in Iraq for anybody.
So it was kind of a downer in terms of the way to spend an hour of TV-watching time.
MATTHEWS: Did you notice Condoleezza Rice, who can obviously be delightful when you get to meet her on occasion? She looked like a mummy tonight. Did you notice that? She was dead. Maybe she‘s been on a long trip and that explains it. But boy, was she miserable tonight. I mean.
ROBINSON: Dressed in black and looked as if she were in a mood. But you know.
MATTHEWS: I saw the face.
ROBINSON: . she really looked serious.
MATTHEWS: She has a very animated face generally, and she was just glum, I think, even worse than grim.
OLBERMANN: Well, if she was the logo for the night, I mean, Gene, you said somber, Mike Barnicle, you said subdued. Mike, was not to some degree all of the Democrats that we‘ve heard parade out here also seeming subdued? Do you—to hearken back to our respective dips in sports analogies here, do you smell a fixed fight, an attempt to keep a fight going for 12 rounds, or in this case, a non-fight? Did it seem to you like there was just less energy, less fight on both sides of the equation tonight?
BARNICLE: You know, Keith, I think that it‘s like a couple of heavyweights in the eighth and ninth rounds. Their arms are so weary from slugging each other. Look, this is a lousy war. It‘s a lousy fight. It affects both parties. Everyone in that hall tonight, members of Congress, on the House side and the Senate side, they‘re writing letters of condolences to the few, the noble, the brave who are being lost in Iraq.
Very few of the rest of us in this country suffer the kinds of sacrifices that the people in our armed forces are suffering. And I think that the blanket of this war is so overwhelming despondent, when you pause to think about it, that it has affected both sides.
OLBERMANN: Pat, follow up on that point. Did this president‘s speech tonight—as effective as you thought it was, could it in fact change the direction of the trip regarding Iraq? Could it influence to any great degree what the American public seems to have said about this war?
BUCHANAN: I think the president will benefit from the speech. I don‘t think it‘s going to change the national mind on the speech. I think the president is going to be given his four months or six months to see if this will work. I think the Congress will not try to cut off funds.
But in response to Mike‘s point, I agree with it in part. I remember the president standing on the rock pile up there after 9/11, in that September 20th speech, the defiant young war leader. This is a man who‘s been through five years—or four or five years of war. This is a mature, serious man who‘s laying out his case and who knows there‘s tremendous dissent and opposition there.
He‘s laying it out as best he can. And so I thought he seemed like an older and more serious and more mature man. But I think that‘s what to me gave it a much more effectiveness than I saw in those earlier excerpts. And the whole demeanor of this, I think it‘s going to do the president a lot of good.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s bring out the scalpel. We‘re going to keep the panel with us. Everybody pay attention what we‘re about to hear right now, gentlemen. We‘re going to bring in right now “HARDBALL” correspondent David Shuster and our “Truth Squad” as it takes a closer look at both President Bush‘s speech and Jim Webb‘s.
David, pull out the knife. Stick it in.
DAVID SHUSTER, “HARDBALL” CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, both President Bush and Jim Webb made some misleading statements. But let‘s start with President Bush. The president began his speech by talking in broad terms about federal spending and the need to rein in what happens here in Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: First we must balance the federal budget.
BUSH: We can so without raising taxes.
BUSH: What we need is spending discipline in Washington, D.C.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Spending discipline in Washington, D.C., this from the president who has never once vetoed a congressional spending bill, no matter how much pork or how many pet projects were in there.
Also, to balance the budget without raising taxes, experts say that Congress would need to essentially slash non-discretionary spending, in other words, spending aside from Medicare and Social Security, by as much as 40 percent. And nobody believes that the Bush administration and Congress are going to agree to do that.
The president also spoke about what will happen if we do not fix Social Security and Medicare before the Baby Boomers retire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Huge tax decreases, huge deficits, or huge and immediate cuts in benefits. Everyone in this chamber knows this to be true. Yet somehow we have not found it in ourselves to act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Somehow. Well, actually, here is how. The president proposed privatizing Social Security. The congressional Republican leadership, they didn‘t want to go along with it. And then of course the president was unwilling to compromise. And that‘s how nothing got done.
In the war on terror, the president tonight listed a string of successes and plots that had been broken up, including one last summer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Just last August British authorities uncovered a plot to blow up passenger planes bound for America over the Atlantic Ocean.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: The problem with that is that the plot was not as far along as the Bush administration had thought. There were suggestions that the Bush administration pressured the British government to act before the Brits were ready. Furthermore, several of those were arrested were eventually let go and experts say this is not the kind of operation you should hold up as an example of something great.
Now regarding Iraq, the president tends to portray the sectarian violence as something new there. And he talks about it by talking about the magic of 2005 when the Iraqis had elections. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Nearly 12 million Iraqi citizens came out to vote in a show of hope and solidarity that we should never forget. I think the enemy.
BUSH: I think the enemy watched all these scenes, adjusted their tactics and in 2006, they struck back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: The problem with that is that the interim Iraqi prime minister in 2005 said that the striking back had already begun. That sectarian violence was getting worse. Furthermore, military commanders in 2005 said that the sectarian violence was getting worse. The Bush administration links the point to the 2006 bombing of the mosque as the beginning point of the sectarian violence. But experts say that is misleading.
Now let‘s look at Jim Webb. In the Democratic response, Jim Webb spoke mostly in platitudes, didn‘t offer specifics about Democratic plans. And the way he described the current economic situation in this country was a bit misleading. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES WEBB (D), VIRGINIA: Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Now that‘s a pretty compelling argument except for the fact that economists say they usually never measure wages and salary as a percentage of national wealth. They measure it as compared to the cost of living. And when you compare wages and salaries to the cost of living, the sky is not falling in the way that Jim Webb suggested.
Jim Webb also said this about American manufacturing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEBB: Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas.
Good American jobs are being sent along with them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: That is true that American jobs and manufacturing are going overseas. But it‘s also true that high-tech jobs are coming to America. And a lot of people who support global economic integration say that when you only talk about the jobs that are leaving, you fail to look at the big pictures as far as efficiencies and economic integration in a way that everybody may benefit from the right kind of trade deals.
Are there problems? Of course. But some people would suggestion, Chris and Keith, that the way Jim Webb described at least one line was also misleading.
MATTHEWS: Well, thank you for that, David Shuster. We‘ll be right back with our panel.
OLBERMANN: And then at the top of the hour, Joe Scarborough takes over with his guests John Edwards and Senator Claire McCaskill. You are watching MSNBC‘s coverage of the State of the Union Address.
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BUSH: This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in. Every one of us wishes this war were over and won. It would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned and our own security at risk.
BUSH: Ladies and gentlemen, on this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. Let us find our resolve and turn events toward victory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Tonight I have the high privilege and distinct honor of my own as the first president to begin the State of the Union message with these words: Madame Speaker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We rejoin you with MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of the aftermath of president‘s State of the Union Address. Alongside Chris Matthews, I‘m Keith Olbermann.
And let‘s check in again with our panel, shortened by one member. Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post is still with us; and Mike Barnicle of The Boston Globe.
And, Gene, that moment, it‘s not substantial and yet it‘s one of those little touches that can make or break what might otherwise be dismissed as a mediocre speech, can it not?
ROBINSON: Yes. And it was a recognition of the fact that this is truly an historic moment.
ROBINSON: You know, it was a speech that looked different from every other speech—State of the Union speech you‘ve ever seen because instead of two dour white guys looming above the president, you know, Denny Hastert and Dick Cheney, well, you still had Dick Cheney, but you had Nancy Pelosi, who looked smashing in that—was that mint green or am I.
MATTHEWS: It was something like that.
ROBINSON: I don‘t know how to—quite how to describe the color of the suit. But you know, looking terrific. And it just—it really felt like, you know, a page had turned in America. And I thought it was really classy of the president to acknowledge it in that generous way, talking about her father and his service.
MATTHEWS: Well, you must wonder, you know, we can take a pause here, you know, it is not the most important thing in the world, but how proud her family (INAUDIBLE) her husband or her kids are, you know, her relatives, her older brothers up there in Baltimore.
And it is a nice thing for the president to basically really chivalrously pay tribute to this person who made this big milestone. But it‘s also smart because instead of having her sit there for an hour, and everybody thinking, what is he thinking about her being up there? He put it behind him. It was a political move. It was a smart political move and it was a nice one.
And I also think that the part of the country I come from, the sort of the suburbs of the Northeast where people are ethnic, Irish, Italian, Jewish, whatever, you know, they are all going to like this. They‘re just going to like it. The fact that he paid tribute there as -- a lady like that. They‘re just going to like in a certain subtle way.
And they may not have a candidate on the Republican side next time who appeals to that suburban vote as effectively as Reagan once did. And that could be problem too. I am always thinking politically here, Keith.
MATTHEWS: I‘m sorry, I can‘t stop this.
OLBERMANN: We know this, actually.
MATTHEWS: I can‘t stop thinking like this.
OLBERMANN: Yes—but—and it seems, Mike, that there was universal agreement on two points here, which was, that was a great way to start, and the usual greetings salutations to remarkable people who have been invited to attend the speech was pushed back to the end, so it was a great finish.
But when we go back to analyze this speech tomorrow and that sense of, well, this might have been, as Pat Buchanan said, his best speech since September 20th of 2001, what was in the middle? What was there? What was there that we‘re going to talk about tomorrow?
BARNICLE: Well, it‘s the old Walter Mondale line, isn‘t it, Keith?
Where‘s the beef?
BARNICLE: I mean, the beef was.
MATTHEWS: I was thinking of the old line of Cuomo, “polenta.”
MATTHEWS: Remember, it is all polenta.
BARNICLE: You know, one thing that struck me, and I think obviously if it struck me, it struck more than a few people, is there was a continued yet very subtle, again, reference to try to link September 11th with Baghdad, with Iraq. And they keep going at it. The president keeps going at it. And I don‘t think it flies. But you know, they‘re still trying to do it. And it‘s interesting that they‘re still working that angle.
MATTHEWS: You know, they keep forgetting, as many people do, that there were all Iraqis—there were no Iraqis on that plane, none at all. None involved at all according to all of the evidence anybody has been able to collect, right, left or center, no connection to 9/11 from Iraq.
And also, when we fought Iraq in that first Gulf War, guess who offered up their services to protect Saudi Arabia from Iraq? Al Qaeda. So they have been adversarial. Maybe they are not totally at odds in terms of not liking the West. But the idea that they were working arm-in-arm, and he continues to do that, it‘s permeated us through our country music, remember how you felt, the whole sort of notions that if you don‘t fight Iraq you weren‘t really getting even for 9/11.
He‘s been able to win that emotionally so many times, I mean, I wonder whether you can ever win the argument with this president because he‘s never going to quit trying to do what you just said, tie them together.
BARNICLE: Well, and that leads to -- you were talking with Rahm Emanuel about this, this particular president going to Williamsburg to meet with Democrats down there and their caucus, and he continued again tonight to talk about the need for bipartisanship. And yet this is a president whose track record is pretty clear in ignoring the advice of not only Democrats, but the advice of nearly everyone in some sort of power who has disagreed with his policies in Iraq.
OLBERMANN: Gene, don‘t you think though there‘s even perhaps a more -
I mean, Mike referred to some subtlety of this, but is it not even a little stronger than that? Does it not sort of border on guilt by association? Because people have heard who don‘t follow this the way the rest of us do, people have heard about al Qaeda in Iraq. So you‘ve already linked those terms. They‘ve heard the term “Sunni extremist” which has been constantly in the news. And now we have the line in this speech, “al Qaeda and its followers are Sunni extremists.” If you work that sentence backwards, all of a sudden Sunni extremists are al Qaeda and al Qaeda is Iraq.
ROBINSON: Yes. I didn‘t think it was very subtle either. And at one point, if you remember, he was essentially making the point that al Qaeda is going to come and try new attacks on the United States. And to make that point, he quotes Zarqawi, who never did that. And doesn‘t mention Osama bin Laden in that context, who actually did and who remains on the loose sitting in Pakistan, which is an ally.
And another point he said, well, we can‘t allow the creation of another safe haven for al Qaeda. Well, we kind of—we have, actually, in northwestern Pakistan under the, if not protection, certainly the watchful eye of General Musharraf. Al Qaeda seems to be sitting if not comfortably, relatively safely in caves or for all we know, in luxury apartments.
But, so, no, I didn‘t think it was subtle. But you know, the president went to this well before the midterm elections. And it was dry. And so I don‘t know what would make me think that this is really going to have much of an impact this time. I mean, we heard this before. And the last time it was brought out, it really didn‘t work.
MATTHEWS: You know, Jim Webb was very articulate tonight. And we can argue about how well he did compared to the president. But I thought it was interesting that he did mention some Republican heroes. And certainly Eisenhower looks better every year that passes since the ‘50s. He was a little slow on civil rights, to say the least.
But, but he kept us out of Indochina. He kept us—he got us out of Korea. And, Mike Barnicle, and then Gene as well, it seems to me that by putting Eisenhower—a man who has such enormous prestige, having received the Nazi surrender in Europe, to say I will go to Korea, that‘s all he had to say, I will go to Korea and he beat the heck out of Adlai Stevenson.
And then he did go to Korea and he did get an armistice and we did end the war. And it was the greatest end of any war, but it was over, at least. Is the Democratic Party capable of offering this country an Eisenhower? Do they have what one in their stock of candidates?
BARNICLE: Well, the interesting part about that, Chris, as you pointed out, Jim Webb, a Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam, from a military family, very emotional about his dad, very emotional obviously about his son, Jimmy junior, who‘s a recon Marine in Iraq, linking himself with a Republican verbally, Dwight Eisenhower.
There‘s a strength in Webb‘s Democratic Party background that has not been in existence—in the public prints in the past three or four years, because as you alluded to in the past, when the Democratic Party has been co-opted by so many cultural issues, I think a lot of people out in the country saying, you know, oh my God, you know, they‘re for gay marriage, they‘re for this and for that. But I‘m for America. I‘m for a strong military.
And yet here tonight you have Jim Webb, the United States senator from Virginia, winning a very important race, linking himself with Dwight Eisenhower. Linking Dwight Eisenhower to the—perhaps the future of Iraq, as Ike got us out of Korea as a president.
And raising the question, if this president doesn‘t do what the country wants done, we the Democrats, the strong Democrats, represented by me, Webb, will help him do it. It is a new Democratic Party.
MATTHEWS: It was really an attack behind enemy lines. He was like a paratrooper getting behind Republican lines. Not with all of this stuff about abortion rights and gay rights, he just said, we‘ve got to change the war policy.
Your thoughts, Gene, about, do they have an Eisenhower?
ROBINSON: Well, I‘m wondering if you‘re trying to goad yet another Democratic senator into running for president. It sounds like you are.
ROBINSON: You‘re beating the drum for Webb.
MATTHEWS: What am I looking for, an Eisenhower? Anyway.
OLBERMANN: Yes. That would make it a.
MATTHEWS: That would be an interesting.
OLBERMANN: That would also make majority of Democratic senators.
MATTHEWS: He might be an interesting running mate if he could bring Virginia. And thank you very much, Mike Barnicle and Eugene Robinson of The Post.
OLBERMANN: Joe Scarborough will take over MSNBC‘s coverage at the top of the hour. His guests with include John Edwards, Senator Claire McCaskill.
Chris Matthews, I‘m Keith Olbermann, thanks for being with us. Good night.
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