Guests: Michael Duffy, Mark Finelli, John Bruhns
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Are the records of a first lady fair game?
Should the American public get a peek at the public papers of Hillary Clinton, or should what happened in the Clinton White House stay in the Clinton library?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL. It‘s a beautiful, clear, low-humidity day in Washington, and the 2008 presidential outlook is also clearing up a bit. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani is gaining support. According to a new CBS poll, 38 percent of Republican primary voters support Rudy, followed by yet-to-be-announced candidate Fred Thompson himself, who sits at 18 percent. The big question here is, actors like Fred Thompson usually know how to make an entrance, but has Fred waited in the wings too long? There‘s is a new word today, by the way, that the “Law and Order” man may announce on Labor Day, finally.
And Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton was asked about an Associated Press story saying that Democrats are nervous about her leading the ticket next year. Here‘s what she told NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m ahead and I‘m winning and I‘m gaining support everywhere I go. And I don‘t think I have any right to anybody‘s vote. I have to earn every vote, and that‘s what I‘m doing every day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: “I‘m ahead and I‘m wining”—wow! We‘ll get into the politics with two of the best in the business, “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman and NBC News political director Chuck Todd.
Does President Bush claim divine guidance when he went to war in Iraq and is still fighting that war? And is religion driving our foreign policy? Bottom line: Is God driving George Bush, or does he think God is?
Plus, our HARDBALL debate tonight. Should young American men be drafted to fight the Iraq war? On a day when the military announced five U.S. soldiers killed in a helicopter crash during a routine flight west of Baghdad, two Iraq war veterans will weigh in on this one.
By the way, we just got word, as you just heard from Chris Jansing, 175 people were killed and 200 wounded in four suicide attacks over there in Iraq.
But first, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has this report on the blue skies of the 2008 presidential race.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton began airing her first television commercial of the presidential campaign.
CLINTON: Well, if you‘re a family that is struggling and you don‘t have health care, well, you are invisible to this president.
SHUSTER: The ad, which will run in Iowa over the next 10 days, intensifies the Clinton campaign in the one state where polls show her stuck in a dead heat with Democratic rivals John Edwards and Barack Obama. Most national polls show Clinton well ahead, but in almost every survey, she faces challenges on her likability. So in addition to Iowa ad, Clinton is attempting to soften her image with appearances like this one yesterday in Nevada.
CLINTON: I‘m following Michelle (ph) around today to see what a nurse does.
SHUSTER: Clinton spent part of the day following a nurse around Henderson, Nevada, and was trailed by NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell. Clinton is trying to show a personal connection to health care issues, in contrast with the demonized imagine she was tagged with as a health care policy wonk while first lady.
CLINTON: What I have found is that in a campaign, I have a real chance for people to be disabused of a lot of the stereotypes and the caricatures about me.
SHUSTER: Helping Mrs. Clinton is that nearly all of her White House documents remain unavailable to reporters and rival campaigns. Archivists at the Clinton Library in Little Rock say that releasing Mrs. Clinton‘s documents as first lady, nearly two million pages, will take several years.
Meanwhile, as Clinton and the rest of the field head towards Iowa this week for events at the state fair, the most vocal and aggressive voice on the trail right now belongs to Elizabeth Edwards. In a shot at Clinton and Obama on universal health care, John Edwards‘s wife told “The Progressive” magazine, quote, “Hillary is saying we need to develop a political will. She hasn‘t been talking to people if she thinks we need to develop it. We don‘t.”
On Obama, Edwards noted that his health care plan, quote, “doesn‘t cover 15 million people. If you‘re one of those 15 million, it‘s not universal for you. The fact that he says he‘ll fix it later, that‘s not the kind of bold response we need on a problem that is important to America.”
Elizabeth Edwards has spoken out before, criticizing Clinton a few weeks ago on women‘s issues and attacking conservative author Ann Coulter last month on HARDBALL.
ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: These young people behind you are the age of my children. You‘re asking them to participate in a dialogue that‘s based on hatefulness and ugliness instead of on the issues. And I don‘t think that‘s serving them or this country very well.
SHUSTER: This morning, on the “Today” show...
MEREDITH VIEIRA, “TODAY” SHOW: Is that part of campaign strategy, or is that Elizabeth being Elizabeth?
JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, give up on the strategy thing. No, look, (INAUDIBLE) we‘ve been married 30 years, and I‘ve known her longer than that. And the whole time I‘ve known her, she‘s been exactly the same person. She speaks her mind. She says what she thinks.
SHUSTER: Does Elizabeth ever check in first with her husband before attacking his rivals?
ELIZABETH EDWARDS: John and I both believe that it‘s really important to this election to be honest about where you stand on things and about how you see things. And I think don‘t feel like when I‘m being honest that I need to check in with him about that.
SHUSTER: Both Edwardses seem to be ratcheting up their blunt approach. In the wake of Karl Rove‘s plan to leave the Bush White House...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) Karl Rove?
JOHN EDWARDS: Good-bye and good riddance.
SHUSTER: But responding to the Edwardses is complicated. Earlier this year, Elizabeth Edwards was diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer, and while that appears to have convinced her to speak her mind, Clinton, Obama and the rest of the Democratic field take a huge risk if they‘re viewed at hitting back at a couple that is already suffering personally.
(on camera): So for now, the Clinton and Obama campaigns are responding to John and Elizabeth Edwards with silence. Behind the scenes, however, tensions are rising fast, now just five months before the voting begins in this presidential campaign.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster. Chuck Todd is political director for NBC News and Howard Fineman—who I miss! -- is back as chief political correspondent, of course, for “Newsweek” and an MSNBC analyst.
Let‘s take a look at the new CBS polls. Let‘s run the numbers, as they say. Look at Rudy Giuliani now. He‘s way up ahead. He‘s 20 points over Fred Thompson, who will probably announce, we hear now, on Labor Day or the day thereafter. Romney‘s still not up there in the big numbers. He and McCain are even in low digits, low double digits.
You first, Chuck. I know I‘m a broken record and alone among the liberal media and the conventional wisdom experts, but I still think Rudy Giuliani is winning this race. Your response.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Now, I—the resiliency of Rudy to me is one of the three or four most important storylines of the last eight months of this campaign. All of us smart people—on this side of the table...
TODD: ... just assumed this guy would wither and assumed that he would never stay this strong for this long. That said, I‘m still not ready to call him the nominee.
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m not, either.
TODD: I want to see...
MATTHEWS: I call him the frontrunner.
TODD: He is the frontrunner, I agree. I want to see what happens, though, when he actually has to deal with the personalized stuff. He has not had...
MATTHEWS: Well, I thought it was interesting that Richard Cohen, a fairly well known, usually liberal columnist for “The Washington Post,” who lives up in New York, said today he was very proud of the way Rudy answered a question from a reporter that said, Are you a practicing Catholic? And Rudy says, That‘s between me and the priests. And he saluted that response because why should Rudy have to explain his three wives?
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the new CBS poll is interesting and significant. I think the numbers can gyrate around. But I think Rudy is strong, and I think if Fred Thompson keeps waiting around, he‘s going to lower his expectations down to zero because from the Republicans I talked to today, one reason why Rudy‘s numbers are going up and he‘s strengthening is that Thompson‘s are going down. You didn‘t show the comparatives on there, but Thompson‘s numbers...
MATTHEWS: Yes. Down 7 points in a month.
FINEMAN: McCain‘s numbers are going down. Rudy‘s benefiting from that. I think Rudy‘s also benefiting from the fact that the higher that Hillary goes on the scale, the more Republicans in the grass roots are looking for somebody who can beat her, who can take her on, and they are willing to ignore certain things about Rudy Giuliani, which, by the way, I think they already know, because they think he has the strength to be the tough campaigner and win the race.
MATTHEWS: I think part of the reason may be, Chuck, that if you‘re thinking about who‘s going to win the next presidential election and run the White House for four to eight years, if you‘re a Republican, you can‘t once again give away Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Michigan, all the industrial states. You got to say, Damn it, we‘re going to fight for those states. We‘re not ju8st going to go Sunbelt.
MATTHEWS: Rudy offers the opportunity—and you‘re right, there may be a personal thing that stops it, but he at least has the profile of a bit-city type guy who can win a big state.
TODD: Well, look, I think...
MATTHEWS: Including California.
TODD: Look, I think the wise men of the Republican Party are seeing that. I mean, I don‘t think an Iowa caucus-goer is thinking about Pennsylvania, New Jersey...
TODD: ... and putting some of these Northeastern states in. But I do think that is what‘s helping him win over key evangelical folks. I mean, I think at the end of the day, if this thing is down to South Carolina, which I think will be the deciding state, between Rudy and Romney, where they have to sit there and hold their nose, the evangelicals are going to sit there going, Do I want the Mormon, or do I want the guy who‘s had...
MATTHEWS: Or if...
TODD: ... or the other guy with multiple wives.
MATTHEWS: ... and God may well be leading us to fight against Hillary...
TODD: ... evangelicals care more about this fight on the war on terrorism and Islam...
FINEMAN: I find this fascinating because what you have right now is the people who are moving up in the race, at least now, Giuliani and Romney, are two certified former flaming liberals, OK, on a whole host of issues.
MATTHEWS: Including immigration.
FINEMAN: Immunity, gay rights, abortion, you name it. They‘re both running as conservatives now. There still has to be someone in this race who‘s going to be the, quote, “real” conservative.
MATTHEWS: ... the Republicans really want a leader. I‘ve said it a million times.
MATTHEWS: Democrats, liberals love meetings.
MATTHEWS: Republicans like leaders.
FINEMAN: I agree with that.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a different culture. They want someone to lead the way...
FINEMAN: ... but if that—if that doesn‘t happen—in other words, if my—the way I‘m looking at this might be old-think...
FINEMAN: ... in terms of the way the Republican Party was built under George Bush and Karl Rove. It may be a new day because of the war on terror.
MATTHEWS: OK. I also believe that Rudy, when you think of him as Mr.
New York, you think of him walking through the hell of 9/11 and thereafter. When you think of John McCain, you think of the war in Baghdad and you think, Oh, God, not more of that. When you think of Mitt Romney, you think of either the man from Glad or you think of a Powerpoint demonstration somewhere with a perfect tie. Look at the new latest polling, CBS poll, another—another number just came out: 46 percent of people say that by fighting the war in Iraq, we are creating more terrorists. Only 18 percent say we‘re eliminating terrorists. In other words, the blood and treasure and hell of our guys, and mostly guys over there, and women, fighting for our flag and our country is causing more Iraqis and Persians and Islamic people and Arabs all around the world to hate us and want to become terrorists and become terrorist s. Therefore, we are fighting ourselves. That‘s a damning statistic, it seems to me, Chuck.
MATTHEWS: If you‘re fighting for this president‘s arguments.
TODD: It is, and I think that that‘s why when you go back to the Republican race, there is—it is going to come down to those two guys, Rudy and Romney, because they are running as competent—they‘re running on this whole competency...
MATTHEWS: Defenders of this country.
MATTHEWS: But they‘re not saying, We‘re going overseas.
TODD: But they‘re not—and they‘re not ready to completely distance themselves from Bush, but because they‘re outsiders, because one‘s a governor and one‘s a mayor, none of them from Washington, they can at least say, Come and—well, we‘ll manage this...
MATTHEWS: You know, the latest numbers we have—and we‘d like to bring you up to date, even though it‘s just—just bad news, the Iraqi army reports at least 175 killed, 200 wounded—that‘s 400 casualties—in four suicide bombings today in the Yazidi minority up in northern Iraq, where we thought it was pretty safe up there, the—you know, it‘s ju8st hell. And this goes on every day, and I get the feeling that the bad guys over there, meaning the people who want to get us out of there, are going to drive this bloodshed higher and higher between now and September 15, when we get the Petraeus report, right?
FINEMAN: I‘ll agree with that. But from the point of view of the Republican presidential contest that‘s going on now, I agree with Chuck and you, the Republicans seem to want strong leadership, strong characters that will not abandon Bush‘s position on the war, yet will not seem that they‘re inheriting it or just going to go blindly with it. In other words, strong characters but perhaps some shading of different policy that we haven‘t heard yet and that they‘re going to have to enunciate, whoever the nominee is, if they‘re going to win the election.
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t that interesting? And the guy that we most identify with the fighting over there and taking a hit is John McCain, who‘s going nowhere.
TODD: He‘s going—and yet here‘s...
MATTHEWS: Why‘s that?
TODD: Here‘s the guy—well...
MATTHEWS: If they believe in the war, why don‘t they believe in our number one warrior?
TODD: Because they don‘t trust him on any other issue.
MATTHEWS: OK. It‘s other factors.
TODD: I mean, it‘s every other factor. The war was the one thing that I think kept him—kept him alive...
FINEMAN: But make no mistake, Rudy and Romney are not—are not abandoning the president‘s...
MATTHEWS: It‘s not...
FINEMAN: ... position on the war. But they‘re different characters.
MATTHEWS: You‘re suggesting a different...
FINEMAN: ... seem to be more competent and strong...
MATTHEWS: They don‘t present...
FINEMAN: ... and sensible.
MATTHEWS: ... the picture of a continued...
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the number one goal among evangelicals, among secular Republicans, which is, you got to beat Hillary. The more the Republicans beat the drum—and you‘ve noticed every one of the Republican big shots, including Gingrich and all the people off state, are saying, Hillary‘s going to be the nominee. And not only is Hillary going to be the nominee, she‘s going to pick Obama as a running mate. My God! Trouble in River City!
That seems to be the way they‘re selling it. Is this the great war against Hillary, the anti-Christ ? Is this what they‘re selling?
TODD: I can‘t figure this out. On one hand, I want to sit here and say they‘re willing this. They want it, right? You know, it looks like they want it. On the other hand, you were part of that team that said, Oh, yes, Reagan, Reagan will be the easy one to beat.
MATTHEWS: That‘s what we thought.
TODD: And that‘s what...
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s what conventional wisdom thought.
TODD: Right. And I think that there—you know, the Republicans are feeding this notion, the only chance they have is if she‘s the nominee, so they‘re go ahead and willing it now and saying...
MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes.
TODD: ... set up this whole thing about beating her. At the same time, you almost wonder this—do they—are they—do they not want to face Obama? Do they not want to face Edwards, and that‘s why they‘re...
MATTHEWS: I think it‘s...
TODD: I can‘t figure it out.
MATTHEWS: ... trouble in River City. This is Professor Harold Hill.
You know, we got to have a boys‘ band to beat this woman here!
FINEMAN: Well, also, they‘re familiar with it. She‘s the enemy they know.
FINEMAN: She‘s the one they know how to run against. They‘ve had 25 years‘ worth of back-and-forth between Bushes and Clintons...
MATTHEWS: Well, why...
FINEMAN: Also, if you deal with Hillary, then you‘re not talking about turning the page.
FINEMAN: This is a change election. I think we all agree.
MATTHEWS: I get you.
FINEMAN: Republicans‘ only chance is to—is to...
FINEMAN: ... somehow be the change party by comparison.
MATTHEWS: How do you do that if she‘s running with Obama, which she‘s not going to do, obviously?
MATTHEWS: I think it‘s win-win. If she picks Obama, then they can call it a left-wing ticket. If she doesn‘t pick him, Oh, she didn‘t rise to the occasion. She hurt the—you know, the African-American candidate. She‘s not really a nice person, not really a courageous person. They can‘t win—they can‘t lose on that argument.
Anyway, thank you. I like talking politics. Thanks, guys.
MATTHEWS: NBC‘s—I was going to say America‘s political (INAUDIBLE)
FINEMAN: Oh, geez!
MATTHEWS: Howard Fineman, the best writing political expert there is.
Coming up: Does George Bush believe he‘s divinely inspired? That‘s what scares some folks. Does he think the Iraq war is a crusade literally?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Much of our foreign policy is driven by my deep belief that everybody yearns to be free. See, freedom is not America‘s gift to the world. Freedom is the almighty God‘s gift to each man and woman in this world!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We continue, by the way, to follow that very sad breaking news out of Iraq right now tonight, where four suicide bombers, as I said, hit a Kurdish community up in northwest Iraq, killing at least—killing 175 people, wounding another 200. We‘ll get a report from Baghdad in a few moments.
How much of President Bush‘s foreign policy is driven by his belief that the war in Iraq is God‘s war? Some details can be found in a new book about evangelist Billy Graham and his relationships and influence on past and present presidents. The book is called “The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House,” and it is—and it was co-written by Michael Duffy, who‘s sitting with me. He‘s assistant managing editor at “Time”—a beautifully written book. I really sell this book to anybody who cares about the presidency and religion. And he‘s a wonderful man, of course. We had him on the program a couple—a year ago, just a chance to have Billy Graham in your hands (INAUDIBLE) this book. Amazing writing.
But let me ask you about the current president. I listen to this president. He says things like—here he is—here—he‘s quoted by David Brooks, a conservative who had met with him. He said—here‘s what the president said just a few days ago. “It‘s more of a theological perspective. I do believe there‘s an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty is to all is freedom. And I will tell you that that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn‘t exist.”
So much of what the president has been saying lately is about this sort of messianic drive to go to war in Iraq because God wants to spread freedom. That sounds like the Crusades themselves. We‘ve been called the “crusaders” by the critics and our enemies over there. It sounds like it‘s true, that there‘s a religious piece to this that‘s driving it, which drove him into Iraq.
MICHAEL DUFFY, CO-AUTHOR, “THE PREACHER AND THE PRESIDENTS”: I think there‘s a religious piece to a lot of what Bush does. I think he came of age politically when he was working for his father. He had responsibility for getting evangelicals to the polls. This was in 1987-88. It‘s when he realized, Maybe I‘d be good at this political thing.
It‘s the first constituency he really had to study, really had to understand. He learned that this was a group he could talk to. And it was at the same time that that was happening, Chris, that he was going through his own journey toward a reinspired faith himself.
MATTHEWS: Well, is this kind of a Christian support for Zionism?
What is the drive to protect—well, protect Israel, to some extent, but
also to see Islam as something that has to be fought? It seems like that -
there is something there about the Middle East and Jesus and the Bible that drives him.
DUFFY: The protection of Jerusalem and protection of Israel absolutely is part of an evangelical belief that this is one of the things that America was put on, you know, Earth to do.
The president has not been quite that explicit. He doesn‘t have to be that explicit in order to keep that group of voters on his side. It‘s the one group that has stayed with him longest. He can speak to them in more coded language.
DUFFY: He can do that about—about foreign policy, Chris. He has done that about other things that have nothing to do with foreign policy. It is a language and a vernacular he learned really at the beginning of his political life, before he ran for governor, way before he ran for president.
MATTHEWS: Well, what does a guy like Billy Graham say to him? Does he warn him not to be—he is not—warn him he is not Joan of Arc, he is not listening to whispers in the night, he‘s not being driven to do something in foreign policy because of divine revelation?
MATTHEWS: Does he warn him not to think like that, that it is dangerous?
DUFFY: My guess is that—you know, Mr. Graham told us when we saw him earlier this year that the president tried to reach him three or four times over the winter. I know he‘s very concerned about the president and what is going on in Iraq.
But my guess is, Mr. Graham‘s conversations with the president are about the president, how he is feeling, how he is doing, very personal. How are you coping? How—and is very personal ministering.
I do not think—I have no reason to believe that he is involved the way he was with past presidents...
DUFFY: ... the way he was with Eisenhower, perhaps, and with Kennedy and Johnson, talking about foreign policy. That has not happened here, as far as we can see.
Don‘t forget, Mr. Graham‘s experience with George W. Bush was really on the takeoff of his spiritual life...
DUFFY: ... back in the ‘80s.
DUFFY: Hasn‘t done a lot of...
MATTHEWS: That‘s fascinating....
MATTHEWS: ... because, for a lot of people, the 12-step program...
MATTHEWS: I didn‘t do it, but people that did it found it essential to their life to give up...
MATTHEWS: ... up substance abuse. And a big part of that is belief and faith.
And it—but it does, people tell me, drive a kind of black-and- white view of the universe afterwards. You have to be very disciplined, obviously, in your refusal to use alcohol.
And does that drive—without getting too much into psychobabble here...
MATTHEWS: ... how much of Bush‘s conversion, his born-again reality today, has driven his political philosophy? He said Jesus was his number-one philosopher, which I think is more generally true for most of us than people like to admit or are ready to admit.
DUFFY: Jimmy Carter said...
MATTHEWS: Well, I think it is generally. It‘s the strongest philosophical influence on the Western world. Let‘s face it.
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you think? Do you think he is being driven by his conversion from being a drinker when he was a kid...
MATTHEWS: ... to being a grownup, and to become successful in politics? Was it—is religion driving his belief that he is somehow messianic, that I—that God saved me to do this thing?
DUFFY: I do think that he discover—rediscovered his faith at the time when he needed to change his life, to stop drinking, to figure out what he wanted to do. He was—don‘t forget, he was the son of—the namesake of a vice president at that point.
DUFFY: He had to—his father was about to run for president. He has a very—had a very flamboyant, you know, kind of way of life.
DUFFY: He had to button it down.
MATTHEWS: Well, he was a Henry V.
DUFFY: He needed a way—that‘s right.
MATTHEWS: He was a Henry V character.
DUFFY: That‘s right.
DUFFY: And he needed...
DUFFY: ... to change.
MATTHEWS: But that‘s scary.
All right, now, I‘m going to ask you as an expert...
MATTHEWS: ... because you spent the summer...
MATTHEWS: ... this beautiful book about the preacher and the presidents.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe he is under some illusion, delusion, whatever you want to call it, that he is divinely inspired to fight this war in the Middle East?
DUFFY: I think every president believes that God has put them there for a reason. I think, if they did not think that, they would have to say, well, if somehow God didn‘t want me here, and I have somehow overcome God. So, that‘s—and that‘s too complicated to explain. So, I think they all have to.
MATTHEWS: Well, Kennedy would say things like, here on Earth, God‘s work must truly be our own, meaning we have to set the goals and—a little more secular.
DUFFY: God‘s work is very important piece of their rhetoric. And I think they do believe, at some level, that they are doing God‘s work, whether they actually think God put them there.
MATTHEWS: Well, he will never—the reason I say it is because, the last couple of weeks, he has been damnably clear he is not changing his mind about this war. We‘re over there to spread God‘s freedom to people. They have a—there is a universality to democracy as a dream for people, and he is going to get it for them.
DUFFY: We will see if he sticks with it. This was a line about democracy and freedom that he really clung to in the first couple of years of the war. They have backed off from it a little bit.
DUFFY: And I would be really surprised if they stick with it to the extent that they did in the first half.
DUFFY: But it was a very useful thing to have in his pocket when he went to war in the first place—first place.
MATTHEWS: Well, under the equal whack for both parties rule of this show, let‘s go to the Democrats.
Joe Biden, who tends to be very honest, whatever you think of him as the next president, although I think he‘s a fine guy, he very clearly said the other day, yesterday, that the people like Al Gore and John Kerry, the last two Democratic candidate for president, said—created an image that they were somehow—we‘re looking at it right now—that if they were—as he put it, when they‘re sitting next to the pew, that maybe he really doesn‘t respect your view.
In other words, they are not really religious people. They don‘t share your evangelical views and your deeply religious views. They are too secular.
DUFFY: Yes. Well, I think, for the last 25 years, Democrats have done everything they can to alienate religious voters, faith-minded voters. And the...
MATTHEWS: Not a smart move politically.
DUFFY: Oh, no. And it seemed to be part of the program. They did it to woo a secular left that they thought didn‘t want to have anything to do with that.
MATTHEWS: Was turned off by the religious people, yeah.
DUFFY: Starting with Jimmy Carter and...
MATTHEWS: I hear it.
MATTHEWS: I have heard it years of...
DUFFY: Right. Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: ... people making fun of Jimmy—or Jerry Falwell and people like that. But you knew it was a broader brush than that.
DUFFY: Of course.
MATTHEWS: They were really making fun of the people in the churches, in the tents, in the mega-churches.
DUFFY: Right. It was a really stupid thing to do. And they have begun to realize that.
MATTHEWS: Elitism doesn‘t really work in politics, does it?
MATTHEWS: You know, can I sell your book? This is fabulous. If you
I don‘t think you have to be Christian especially or—but you certainly have to be an American to love this book. This is a book about probably the most important religious man in this country‘s history, and who was—I get chills thinking about being with the guy. I felt something. I don‘t what you feel, how to describe it.
DUFFY: Lucky. Blessed.
MATTHEWS: The ultimate daddy.
MATTHEWS: You feel so darn good being with this guy.
And you can see why so many presidents did it.
MATTHEWS: And why wouldn‘t you go to this guy?
Anyway, what a great man and what a great book, so beautifully written.
If you don‘t like to read, try this book.
MATTHEWS: It is so easy.
Anyway, Mike Duffy, a great writer.
Up next, more on today‘s top headlines.
And, later, the HARDBALL debate: Should we draft young man to go fight in Iraq? Now, you can‘t get a hotter fight than that.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s get more on that breaking story, a tragic story out of Iraq tonight, where four suicide bombers hit a Kurdish community up in northwest Iraq, killing, as I said, 175 people dead already, 200 wounded. And, usually, that means more dead.
NBC‘s Jim Miklaszewski joins us from the Pentagon.
Jim, how bad is this? Is this the beginning of the—sort of the endgame going to Petraeus‘ report in September?
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it could very well be, Chris.
This one looks particularly ugly, at least four separate vehicle borne IEDs. Those suicide car and truck bombs were aimed at several communities up in the north, particularly one in Qahataniya, which is west of Mosul.
Now, at that location, it is believed that, according to Iraqi reports, anyway, that as many as 150 people died in that single attack alone. Now, U.S. military officials are still trying to piece together some accurate information. They don‘t believe the number is that high. They are reporting for now about 30. They expect that number to go up and the number of 150 to go down.
But it came on the same day, interestingly enough, that U.S. military officials in Iraq and here at the Pentagon announced a major offensive operation, an aggressive offensive operation, and against al Qaeda, called Phantom Strike, that was designed to knock al Qaeda back on its heels, a preemptive strike to sort of preempt any kind of campaign, bombing campaign, that al Qaeda would try to pull off in advance of General Petraeus‘ report, as you mentioned, which comes in about three or four weeks now.
But it looks like al Qaeda was well-prepared, because these bombings occurred in an area that we really have not heard much about before today.
MATTHEWS: Who do we suspect, just generally, of these kinds of attacks going up to September 15?
MIKLASZEWSKI: Well, given...
MATTHEWS: Who wants us out of there? Who wants to prove that we can‘t succeed with the surge?
MIKLASZEWSKI: Well, particularly al Qaeda, according to U.S. military and Pentagon officials.
And the tactics used in these bombings have al Qaeda written all over it, four separate suicide bombings. Most of those suicide bombings are carried out by foreign fighters. There are very few Iraqi nationals, even al Qaeda members who are Iraqi nationals, who actually take part in the suicide bombings themselves, according to intelligence officials.
So, this has all the earmarks of al Qaeda, according to military officials, although that has not been confirmed. And al Qaeda in Iraq seldom takes credit for these kinds of things. It is just pretty much understood in that region.
Al Qaeda clearly wants to drive the U.S. out. That has long been their plan. And, you know, the Sunni insurgents in that region have also, as we have heard before in Al Anbar Province, have united with American forces in an attempt to launch offensive operations against al Qaeda.
But, you know, there—no matter how aggressive the U.S. military has been, al Qaeda still seems to be resilience enough to carry out these kinds of attacks. And the U.S. military says the worst may be yet to come as we get closer to that September date.
MATTHEWS: I wouldn‘t be surprised.
Thank you very much, NBC‘s Jim Miklaszewski, over at the Pentagon tonight.
Up next, tonight‘s HARDBALL debate could not be more relevant. Should young American men be drafted to fight the war in Iraq? That‘s a hot one. It could not be hotter.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
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MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Frequent tours for U.S. forces over in Iraq and Afghanistan have stressed the all-volunteer force and MADE it worth considering a return to a military draft. That is according to President Bush‘s new war adviser, his war czar, Lieutenant General Douglas Lute.
That is tonight‘s debate on HARDBALL: Should young American men be drafted to fight the Iraqi war? It could not be more basic.
Mark Finelli is an Iraq war veteran, and he is supporting the draft. And John Bruhns is also an Iraq war veteran who is with an organization called Americans Against Escalation in Iraq. He opposes the draft.
Mark, why do we need a draft?
MARK FINELLI, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: Well, very simply, Chris, America has had a lot of shortcomings as far as the planning for this war, especially as far as the equipment that is needed to support our troops on the ground.
It has taken roughly three years to get the best trucks out there that are necessary. And, you know, a big reason for that is the political, social, and economic elite of this country don‘t have a vested personal interest in winning the war.
MATTHEWS: And, so, if you force the elite, the upper-middle class, the middle class, to share the responsibilities with the working class to fight the wars, then what will happen? We will get real equipment out front out there?
FINELLI: Well, that‘s—that is the first thing.
For example, the MRAP truck, this truck basically eats IEDs for breakfast. It is an incredible piece of equipment. Yet, when I was in Iraq, I rarely saw them. But, when I did, the private companies were driving them around. So, this is—this was very disturbing for me—to me.
I remember speaking to my commanding officer and saying, hey, sir—this was roughly, I think, November 2005 -- I was saying, sir, that is what I want for Christmas and Hanukkah, because I want to come back alive.
And I was playing the averages there. I am a Christian. But it is very important that we get the best equipment out there as possible. And, again, without the—the most elite of America having a personal vested interest in the war, that is just not going to happen, on an infantryman‘s timetable, anyway.
Every solution that I brought up, you know, all the opinions that I
had on how to best go against the IED attack, the answer was always, to me
it would be, “Sir, can we do this?”
It would be, “Well, we don‘t have enough money to do that,” every single time.
MATTHEWS: So, war on the cheap because the people who are being brought over there are not from the upper classes and powerful people.
Your view, John. Should we have a draft? You say no.
JOHN BRUHNS, AMERICANS AGAINST ESCALATION IN IRAQ: I say no, absolutely.
I mean, just from the start, Chris, George Bush took us into war on a fallacy. He took us in there underequipped—I totally agree with Mark on that—undermanned, no plan to win the peace. He managed the war with utter incompetence. I mean, every single day, Iraqis are being killed. American troops are being killed.
MATTHEWS: But wouldn‘t the war be quickly ended if people were forced to fight?
BRUHNS: Chris, over 70 percent of the American people are against this war.
I—I—I cannot endorse trying to force people to go over and fight George Bush‘s war against their will, absolutely not. I mean—and then, plus, you are going to have the people who are—who say, hey, I—I support George Bush. And I support his war on terror, as long as it‘s not my kids going to Fallujah, as long as it‘s not my kids going to Baghdad.
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t that a good reason to have a draft? You can draft all the Romney kids. Well, --
MATTHEWS: You would not be able to pull a number like a lot of the hawks do, of saying I want a war, but I want someone else to it, not my family.
BRUHNS: Right, --
FINELLI: The reason why 70 percent of the American public is against the war is because we‘re not winning decisively. It‘s not because we went to war in Iraq. To win decisively, get us the proper equipment, give us a real strategy, which is working, by the way. It is going tremendously better than it was prior to that.
We have seen a horrible attack—I just learned about it when I came into the studio here. You notice, that was in northern Iraq. It wasn‘t in Baghdad or Fallujah. The surge is working. And I can tell America this, if you don‘t want a draft, let us finish the job there. Because regardless of who wins this next election, I assure you if we leave Iraq, the next terrorist attack in this country is going to be far more devastating than September 11th ever was.
BRUHNS: I would like to say something too, Chris. Last week I saw Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on “Meet the Press.” He is a lot better than Donald Rumsfeld, yet when he was speaking, he would barely look into the camera, Chris.
MATTHEWS: What‘s that tell you?
BRUHNS: Here is what he said: he said that he sees military progress, but the purpose of the surge was so that we could have a political reconciliation. But he really lacked faith in political reconciliation. He said that the divide and mistrust between Sunnis and Shiites is so deep and has been going on for centuries that it is almost impossible.
MATTHEWS: I guess that raises the question mark, what is victory of there for Americans? Is it a peace treaty between the Sunnis and Shiites? What does victory look like?
FINELLI: Victory for America—it‘s very important that America grasp this. I truly did not understand the Iraq war either, because the Bush administration hasn‘t really done a great job in selling the reasons that we‘re there. I‘m not here to plug a book. I don‘t work for this company, but one book I read that truly changed my outlook was a company called—excuse me, a book called “America‘s Secret War” by a gentleman named Dr. George Freeman.
There actually is a rhyme and reason for us being there, most notably after September 11th, we did have 20,000 troops in Saudi Arabia. We were asked to leave. Essentially, Bin Laden was restoring the Caliphate. He is dictating to the American people where our troops can and can not be. Operation Iraqi Freedom is essentially about that.
So victory essentially is maintaining our geo-political supremacy.
MATTHEWS: We needed a country to base our troops in, so we took over Iraq?
FINELLI: Essentially, yes—Essentially yes.
MATTHEWS: That is a pretty frightening admission on the part of a war hawk. To say that we didn‘t go to a war to fight WMD. We didn‘t go to a war because of Saddam being a bad guy. We went there because we wanted a country we could use as a base in a very imperial way. That is imperialism.
FINELLI: It is to a certain extent, I‘m not going to debate that, but zero terrorist attacks in the country for five years, zero. This is --
MATTHEWS: You think that‘s the reason why? The CBS poll that just came out today, Mark—and these arguments are going to go on as long as we live—but the CBS poll today found that people three to one, roughly, believe that the more we fight in Iraq, the more terrorists we create.
FINELLI: These people, unfortunately, already hated us.
MATTHEWS: No, create.
FINELLI: They are created. They are created in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: The argument is that it is a poster for war, that kids are becoming terrorist bombers and IED-creators and suicide bombers because they hate us so much because we have invaded their part of the world. We have Iraq, we have got Afghanistan, we have client states like Jordan and Egypt, we‘ve got a partnership with Israel. There‘s very few countries in that part of the world we don‘t control.
Can‘t you imagine their perspective—I‘m not defending it. But from their perspective, don‘t they see us coming?
FINELLI: They were coming after us anyway.
MATTHEWS: Who is they? Who attacked us 9/11?
FINELLI: Al Qaeda attacked us on 9/11.
MATTHEWS: Where were they from?
FINELLI: They were essentially financially supported by elements of the Saudi regime.
MATTHEWS: Our ally.
FINELLI: It‘s a duplicitous regime, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I know, but we‘ve got our allies—their kids came over from Saudi and Egypt and the emirates, and now we go attack the one country they did not come from. Last word here, Mark.
FINELLI: Unfortunately, the Saudis have their hand on the oil spigot of the world. So you can‘t attack Saudi Arabia. And I make the argument for the draft coming back. I also make a very strong argument that we should have a Manhattan-project level of effort to get off of Middle Eastern oil. Tom Friedman says it all the time.
MATTHEWS: We can agree on that one. John, last word?
BRUHNS: Chris, it goes back to the beginning. The war was based on a total fallacy. We now have General Petraeus saying that it‘s going to take nine to 10 years to develop a proper counter-insurgency plan. We have our war czar, General Lute, saying that now we need to implement the draft.
MATTHEWS: He says we should think about it.
BRUHNS: We should not take it off the table in order to sustain it. And during the 2004 election, President Bush said, hey, if you do not want the draft, vote for me. Now where are we? Now they‘re brining it up.
Chris, we‘ve got to end this war. We‘ve got to find a way out in order to
avoid the draft. If this war keeps going on the way it is, a draft is
inevitable. And I want this war over. I want to bring our troops home
FINELLI: A draft is inevitable if we run.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much. We‘ve got two Iraq war veterans.
Thank you guys both for your service. Mark, thank you for your service.
Thank you, John.
Up next, our HARDBALL round table on Hillary‘s secret files. At least they tend to be that way. Have Democratic candidates been seen as anti-religious in the last couple of elections? Has that been killing them?
Anyway, also a little more debate about this draft issue with our political reporters. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back. Time to discuss today‘s top stories. Ryan Lizza is Washington correspondent for the “New Yorker Magazine.” Charlie Hurt is the Washington bureau chief of the “New York Post.” And April Ryan is White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks.
First up, 2008 off and running. Today‘s “L.A. Times” reports that nearly two million pieces of documents, schedules, notes, memos from Hillary Clinton‘s time as first lady will stay locked up in the Clinton presidential library until after the next election. The RNC—that‘s the Republican National Committee—calls it Hillary‘s library lockdown. Should Hillary‘s first lady documents be open to the public? April Ryan?
APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Yes, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. Charlie Hurt?
CHARLES HURT, “NEW YORK POST”: Of course. Yes, anything that is out there we want out in the open. But I do think it is sort of interesting that we waited a long time for those two big books on Hillary to come out, where very good reporters spent years and years looking into her background and came up with not any real bombshells. So who knows what‘s in there, but I still want them out there.
MATTHEWS: Ryan Lizza, can we go into the Rose Firm—law firm billing records, the old cattle futures deals—what would we find if we went digging into the White House troves down there in the Clinton library?
RYAN LIZZA, “THE NEW YORKER”: I think there is a case that this is in Hillary‘s interest to get this thing out. Her whole argument is about her experience, and presumably it is her experience during the Clinton White House years. And we do not have a whole lot of primary documents documenting what Hillary did in that White House and how important she was to decisions. So why not get some of this out and show that Hillary was a key player in that White House, not just on health care, which every one knows about, but some of the other successes of the administration?
Also, for the RNC to criticize her over this is a little rich, considering Bush‘s a record on presidential archives and secrecy.
MATTHEWS: Yes, we have not had a full-bodied frisk of Dick Cheney lately. He had meetings all the time.
MATTHEWS: I‘m just kidding. But the fact is, they will not let Karl Rove talk. They won‘t let Harriet Miers talk. But they want Hillary Clinton‘s everything. That is inconsistent. But we don‘t look for consistency here. It‘s hard to find it when you‘re dealing with this crowd.
Let me ask you about a far more interesting issue. Does the president listened to whispers like St. Joan of Arc, April, because the question, when you read him lately, is that he seems to be a man possessed of a messianic purpose in the Middle East. We‘re fighting a war for god, for democracy, for freedom. He says that all the time. Yes? April?
RYAN: Chris, the president—I have had a chance to talk to him privately.
MATTHEWS: Not that privately because you‘re going to talk about it.
RYAN: I am a reporter. I‘m going to leak it all. The president has said, you know, he believes in symbols. He has talked about the issue of being out of this country and seeing the bible, the pages of the bible flip when he was at the Pope‘s funeral. He has also talked about—
MATTHEWS: What does that mean?
RYAN: It‘s a symbol. I don‘t know. He thought it was a symbol of god. You know, at a certain point the sun came out and he saw the pages of the Bible flip open. And he is basically saying look, that was a symbol. He started talking—
MATTHEWS: A sign, you mean?
RYAN: A symbol, sign, whatever you want to call it. He has also talked about other issues. But he really has said that faith has helped him move through his life, and he believes he is in the Oval Office for a purpose. He believes he‘s got a—
MATTHEWS: Most people would say that, wouldn‘t they, Charlie. I think it‘s true of my life, to the extent it is interesting. But as for a calling, as for a messianic purpose, as for we are going to war in Iraq, we will take the American army into Arabia and place it there for as long as we have to, and say that god directed that, because he believes in freedom, is a stronger case than just I have faith in god.
HURT: Sure, just try to imagine the incredible amount of criticism and head wind he has been up against for the past—regardless of what you think about the war, there has been an extraordinary amount of criticism heaped upon him, and his policies. And he really has been—it is as if it is BBs against the prow of a battleship. He doesn‘t seem to hear any of it.
MATTHEWS: If you are driven by religion, would you ever accept a mistake on your watch? He has basically said that nothing is going to change his mind.
HURT: To him it‘s a higher calling that he‘s listening to.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go back and talk a little about the Democrats and their problem with Religion. It seems to me that they have the opposite problem, which is to sell people on their secularism, which turns off a lot of people in the pews. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Next up, politics and god. Again, the Associated Press reports that Senator Joe Biden, running for president, -- what an admission. He said the Democrats lost in 2000 and 2004 partly because they were perceived as being anti-god. Here is the quote, “when he, (Bill Clinton), sat next to you in a Catholic or fundamentalist church, he respected your views. Fair or unfair. When Al Gore sat in that church, when John Kerry sat in that church pew, the perception was maybe he doesn‘t really respect my view.”
Ryan, that‘s a tough shot against the last two standard bearers of your party, that they were seen as anti-church.
LIZZA: My party? Joe Biden‘s party.
MATTHEWS: No, I meant his party. I am not assuming anything here. I meant his.
LIZZA: Joe Biden is just wrong on the facts here. Al Gore lost because of the butterfly ballot in Florida. And John Kerry—the defining issue in that campaign was national security. He didn‘t lose on religion. I think Joe Biden is just wrong on that.
MATTHEWS: Wow, a profound judgment. I like that. Go ahead, Charlie, are you as profound and dead certain that Biden is out to lunch?
HURT: No one can be as profound as Ryan Lizza, but I will do my best. It does seem like another case of Biden being Biden, which is just talking out.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t think that generally the Democratic Party, because of its positions on social issues and its rainbow thing about all religions and being very careful about not being theocratic, goes too far the other direction seems uninterested or not really that interested in faith?
HURT: They obviously—
MATTHEWS: Whereas Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were both successful. No, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, the last two Democrats to win a presidential election, both came across as southern evangelicals, because that‘s what they were. Whatever Bill Clinton‘s problems, in terms of normal behavior of life, and even his normal behavior, they were seen as religious people when they came in.
HURT: Clearly, Democrats fail to connect with voters on that issue. What I think is kind of interesting in this election is that we are looking at the Republican field and there isn‘t a Republican that revels to the top legitimately. Obviously, Mike Huckabee out in—did well in the Iowa straw poll last weekend and he is a Baptist preacher, but he is not being taken seriously nationally. The question will be—
MATTHEWS: I am not sure that John Kerry carried the Catholic vote, and he‘s Catholic. I‘m not sure he did.
RYAN: He was once Jewish and then he was Catholic. You have to remember that.
RYAN: People were concerned about that. You have to remember that Bill Clinton, whenever he went to a church, especially a black church, you saw it. Whenever Hillary Clinton—you remember the last time she was considered a black Baptist preacher because she used blank lingo in church.
MATTHEWS: Just getting good at the end of the show. April Ryan, Ryan Lizza, and Charlie Hurt. Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
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