Guests: Bob Woodward, Chuck Hagel
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Tonight, legendary investigative journalist Bob Woodward with his behind the scenes account of how and why this president went to war.
And is the draft coming back?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews.
Tonight, as I speak, a live grenade is rolling across the White House floor. Our guest tonight, the man who lobbed it, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Bob Woodward. His new book is called “Plan of Attack.”
Bob, thanks for joining us.
BOB WOODWARD, “PLAN OF ATTACK” AUTHOR: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: You‘ve shaken thing up at the White House. You‘ve got Rush Limbaugh yelling at you. Why are they so mad at you?
WOODWARD: Well, some people are mad. And the White House has put the book on the Bush-Cheney web site as recommended reading above Karen Hughes‘ book. So...
MATTHEWS: So what‘s that love-hatred relationship with George Bush and company that you have aroused in just a matter of two days now?
WOODWARD: People look and—read the book differently. It‘s a multidimensional portrait. And it‘s the president talking about his feelings, his prayers. I think it‘s the intimacy on one level. And some people are going to like it. Some people are not going to like it.
MATTHEWS: I really like the epilogue and all the parts of the book that were more intimate.
Tell me what it was like to sit down with the president of the United States talk about the most decision of his life, the war with Iraq. What was it like?
WOODWARD: Obviously, he wanted to do it. So there was not that push-back of, is this a trick question? And I sent them a 21-page memo which outlined what I had found from really a year or more of reporting major turning points and so forth.
And so he sat there and...
MATTHEWS: Where was it? At the Oval Office, or was it upstairs?
WOODWARD: First it was in the residence the first day.
WOODWARD: In his office, and we‘re sitting there in I think the Ulysses Grant furniture. And he‘s into it. He wants to answer. He wants to—He‘s jumping in his chair a lot.
MATTHEWS: That‘s the room upstairs, where I believe—the little Oval Offices. That‘s where his father used to sit and write those nice notes to people, the small...
WOODWARD: Yes. It‘s the president‘s residence.
WOODWARD: I mean, the office at home. I don‘t know whether it‘s tax deductible or not.
MATTHEWS: What do you think about—what is your sense—I know you don‘t like to interpret much, but from your reporting, give me everything you‘ve got now.
MATTHEWS: The relationship between father, president, 41, and son, 43.
WOODWARD: Let me just answer about going up to the residence. Because I thought of something that I had not mentioned and I should have put in the book. That I went to see him in the Oval Office. And then we walked up there together. And he came home.
And it‘s like almost anybody coming home. And he shouted out, “Laura!
Laura!” You know, “Where is she?” And he starts opening doors...
MATTHEWS: Like Desi Arnez. “Lucy, I‘m home!”
WOODWARD: And it—It was fascinating, because he wants to make that connection. And she wasn‘t there. She was doing something. And he was like, “Well, she‘s not here.”
And then we went into this room that had a cigar smoke smell to it. And I said, “I smell cigars.” And he kind of like, you know—“who‘s been in here? Bandar? Prince Bandar or somebody? Not him?” And he shrugged. No push-back.
I thought I was going to get an hour. But he realized that this was a process of covering many years and at the end of about an hour and a half, he said I want back and we‘ll go through the rest of it, so he got his schedule out. And he said...
MATTHEWS: Does he treat you as a pretty well known journalist, a respected journalist about his age? Does he treat you as like a peer or somebody coming out from another culture or the Army coming at him?
WOODWARD: I think he knows, because I‘ve done hours with him before. I want to find out what he did, what he felt and what it meant when—you know, why did he take Rumsfeld aside? What was going through his head when he started the process of the war planning? What did he feel about Colin Powell when he called Powell in and said, “It‘s war.” And said, “It‘s time to put your war uniform on.”
So it‘s a very intimate—a researcher at the “Post” has looked through this. And I don‘t know that there are other examples. We can‘t find any of a sitting president literally allowing somebody to excavate the decision making to this detail.
MATTHEWS: This might be interpretive, but you can, based upon your reporting, did you get a clear sense during your two interviews with him, 3 ½ hours altogether, that he was heads up on the people in his administration, their motivations, their capabilities?
WOODWARD: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: People like Rumsfeld, people like Powell, people like Wolfowitz.
WOODWARD: Right, right. Just to give you an example. I asked, because one of the things I found out is Rumsfeld, before the war, brought in Wolfowitz and his top generals and said, “All right. How long do you each think the war is going to last?”
And they all said, “We know that would be a prediction and that‘s a felony over here.”
And he said, “No, no. I really want to know.”
So everyone went around and gave anywhere from seven to 30 days.
Quite optimistic points of view.
And I asked the president about this. And I said, then it got to Rumsfeld and then he just jumped in. The president did. “And he didn‘t answer, did he?”
And that‘s exactly what happened. They said, “OK, what‘s your answer,” the generals.
And Rumsfeld said, “Oh, no. I‘m not going to answer. I don‘t do that.”
He knew that Rumsfeld would not give predictions. And he said that information about the best estimates of the length of war never reached him.
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t that interesting? Because Wolfowitz, I may be speaking for the more ideological people, the ones who really wanted to go to war, the deputy secretary of defense. He said only seven days.
Did the president ever get wise to the fact that the people who wanted this war were giving him the best news about the costs and the likely speed of success?
WOODWARD: That‘s a good question, and I should have asked it. And I didn‘t.
MATTHEWS: Never got to that. Let me ask you about the old man, the father. Everyone has a father and loves their father, if they‘re lucky. Right?
MATTHEWS: He loves his father. We know that. Was his father his adviser on the global stage?
WOODWARD: No, apparently not. I—In asking this, I said, “It would not be credible if you did not sit down and ask your father about this. Because here‘s the one man who sat in this office, who made a war decision against the exact same person.”
And President Bush kind of got his back up and said, “Well, if you think it wouldn‘t be credible, I‘ll make up something.”
And then I said, “No. I‘m being hard.”
And he said, “No, OK, you need to be hard.” And we went back and forth. Back and forth. And he said he didn‘t ask his father, that the conversations were about love and the relationship in the news and then he said, in terms of strength, he appeals to a higher father.
MATTHEWS: Does that strike you as maybe messianic? Or—In the New Testament, there‘s a line, “I must be about my father‘s business.” And that‘s Jesus talking about God. I mean, it sounds like his real father, George Sr., is like a Saint Joseph figure, not really—How did you put this together?
WOODWARD: I don‘t know. I don‘t know that theology that well.
MATTHEWS: It‘s just a simple story. His father was not—is not, was not his Dutch uncle. That‘s what I think is what you discovered in your reporting.
WOODWARD: Yes. And I was surprised, to say the least, that he wouldn‘t ask his father. I mean, I think you could say if you‘re president and you‘re making this most important decision of your presidency, defining the nation, really, that you would be, you know, going around like Bill Clinton and asking everyone on the street or everyone you encounter, “What do you think about this?”
MATTHEWS: Except his father—his father didn‘t get credit for winning the war the way he did. His father got in trouble for being tougher on Israel than he probably wanted to be politically. His father got in trouble for raising taxes rather than lowering them.
Did you ever get a sense in your interview with him that the son is trying to avoid the father‘s mistakes politically?
WOODWARD: I think there‘s a sense of that. And I think that part of his willingness to open up to hundreds of questions on this, when I wrote books or articles for the “Washington Post” about Bush‘s father, when he was president, as best I can tell, I was not allowed within 1,000 yards of him. I never interviewed him.
And I think there‘s a little bit of, “Well, I‘m going to open up and answer all of the questions. I‘m going to do, on some occasions, the exact opposite that my father did.”
MATTHEWS: He may have learned from a loving father that the father did things that he didn‘t think were in his interests in the long run. And the son says, “I‘m going to learn 180 from this guy.”
WOODWARD: That‘s possible.
MATTHEWS: You think that‘s possible?
MATTHEWS: We‘re going to be back with more with Bob Woodward. This is fascinating stuff for someone like me, especially, who is a real political junky. I want to know more from this guy. Stick with me.
By the way, coming up, there‘s a media next section, and then we‘ll get back to Bob with the rest of the show. Is the draft coming back? We had to put this news story in because Chuck Hagel, the senator from Nebraska, member of the Foreign Relations Committee, is talking up the draft again. That‘s a radioactive issue, as he puts it.
Back with more on HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, President Bush and John Kerry trade shots in a new round of political ads. And later, much more with Bob Woodward. HARDBALL, back in a minute.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The United States has 135,000 troops in Iraq right now. And one Republican senator has suggested it might be time to reinstate the draft.
Senator Chuck Hagel is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
He joins us now from Capitol Hill.
Senator Hagel, what do you think about the need for troops? Do we need more troops and therefore need a draft? Or is it a matter of making it more fair?
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL ®, NEBRASKA: Well, I think it‘s all three, as a matter of fact, Chris.
What we need to do is not look at the present short term, but we need to look at the long term. What I mean by that is, what kind of commitments have we obligated this country to over the next few years?
The president said, and I think he‘s right, we‘re in for a long term war. We‘re a nation at war. He‘s defined himself as a war president. This means the mission is going to have to match the resources. We are extending tours. Forty percent of those tours are National Guard reserve right now in Iraq. We don‘t have the manpower.
That extension of commitments is going to continue over the next few years to fight terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
It‘s time, I believe, Chris, that we start exploring all the possibilities in order to, first of all, be able to find the manpower we are going to need, rather than wait for a crisis.
And second, look at the societal dynamics of this. If, in fact, we are a nation at war, it‘s going to be a generation of war. Then is it fair to ask a few people to serve and sacrifice, essentially fight and die? I don‘t think so.
MATTHEWS: Will the casualty figures that show up on the TV screen every night, and the reality of those casualty figures to the American families have more of a negative, more anti-war effect if everybody is vulnerable? If everybody is draftable?
HAGEL: Well, that‘s not why I want to engage this debate. But I think the political reality of this debate would be, if we could get it started. And obviously, this is a political year so this is a radioactive issue. It‘s not going to go anywhere.
But it would connect some responsibility with our policy makers with what they‘re doing. Right now, as you know, we have one United States senator, Senator Johnson from South Dakota, I think five or six House members, who actually have children in the military who have been in or are in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The rest of us are completely disconnected. And we make these policies without any consequence for our own personal interests. I think it would bring this gap a little closer to understanding the reality and the intensity of what we are in store for, for the American people, all of us, the next few years.
MATTHEWS: We have a professional Army right now. What does that term mean to you?
HAGEL: Well, a professional Army, and by the way, I have been a strong supporter of it, because it has professionalized the Army in the sense of not just the structure and the people but the training and the focus and the emphasis.
And it means that we have got an Army of individuals, first who want to be there; second, who are professionals who have sought to develop themselves into a professional in some discipline in the Army.
MATTHEWS: Right. Well, how do you stop the old Park Avenue type doctor, the rich kid‘s doctor from saying, no matter what kind of a draft you set up, little junior shows up with his favorite doctor, and the parents have the doctor say, “Well, he‘s got high blood pressure” or “he doesn‘t have the right emotion or whatever, or something that gets him out of the draft.”
It‘s almost like—well, it just seems to me a wide open door for the rich kid, any kind of draft. It doesn‘t seem fair.
HAGEL: Well, that is always a part of this. Every system is imperfect, Chris, as you know. I was a draftee in Vietnam, and so I understand a little about that.
But we rotate forward now to the interests of the future of this country. The interests of America in Vietnam versus the interests for America in a war on terrorism are completely different. Black and white.
And your point about people gaming the system or trying to get out of it, sure, you‘re going to have to deal with that.
But I think if, in fact, we did institute—and I would go beyond just a draft, if we get to that point. That means as far as I‘m concerned, a national—a mandatory national service program. I‘m not ready to introduce that now or to say that‘s what we need.
But we‘ve got a major locomotive coming down the track at this country over the next few years on this issue, and we should not wait and debate it, explore it when it becomes a crisis. And that‘s what I think is most important about this national debate.
MATTHEWS: And you know, awhile ago, when this president got—reacted to 9/11, he set up axis of evil. Or David Frum, his speech writer gave him the lines and he used them. We‘re going after Iraq, Iran, we‘re going after North Korea.
Then John Baldwin (ph), another hawk—he‘s in the State Department -
· he came out with adding to the list Cuba, Libya and Syria.
Is one of your concerns that we keep drawing up lists of countries we want to target, perhaps militarily, without a military to go after them?
HAGEL: Well, that is a concern we all have. And certainly it‘s a responsibility that I have as a United States senator.
As I said, the mission must match the resources. We can‘t just unilaterally go out and commit the future of this country, resources, money, people, military, in a way that doesn‘t coincide and connect with the reality of those commitments and fulfilling those commitments.
HAGEL: And that‘s why we need alliances. That‘s why we need allies. That‘s why some of us argued before we went into Iraq that we needed the United Nations Security Council with us. And now, of course, we need the United Nations in.
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘re a combat veteran of Vietnam. Remember the draft situation, you had like one tour a year in Vietnam, then you got rotated out.
Today, to train a modern soldier, man or woman, doesn‘t that take a hell of a lot of months to get them prepared and used to all the new equipment and ready to use it, and physical shape? For a one-year rotation, does it make sense for a draftee?
HAGEL: Well, that‘s a very legitimate question. And it‘s a logical question that we would have to deal with. But let me just throw a quick answer back.
First, we have a very smart country. We‘ve got a lot of people who are pretty smart, can figure anything out.
But to answer that question, which is a very legitimate point. If we reinstated a national service, mandatory national service program, including a draft, we could take a lot of those people that would be part of that mandatory national draft, and they could fill in and do jobs that are specialized guys, special ops, linguists, public affairs are doing now and free them up. And so they could be doing other things.
There are ways to work this. Many, many different options here.
MATTHEWS: Senator, you said it was a radioactive issue and you didn‘t think it would pass in a presidential election year. Have you had any reaction from Karl Rove, the president‘s political adviser?
HAGEL: I‘ve not heard from anybody at the administration on this.
You know, this all started as a result of a question I asked during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing yesterday. Because it‘s something that I‘ve been thinking about. How are we going to continue to fulfill these manpower obligations, especially when you‘re looking at the National Guard and reserves, now 45 percent of our Iraqi force?
We‘re extending those, as you know. I think retention recruitment of the National Guard reserves are going to be a problem. I think active duty retention recruitment.
So we‘re going to have to explore these things. And we shouldn‘t wait until it‘s a crisis. But let‘s look at it. Let‘s look at all the dimensions of it.
MATTHEWS: Under your plan for national service, would Peace Corps or something like that, serve as an alternative? Or would it have to be military?
HAGEL: No, it wouldn‘t have to be military. A thought I would have -
· and again, I don‘t have a plan drawn up—but I think we would open it up to all kinds of possibilities for these young people, this great young generation, where they can contribute.
They want to contribute, I think, Chris. I‘ve talked to a lot of them. They know that they need to put something back into this country. I think it enhances their careers. It enhances their fulfillment of themselves, their contributions to their country. I think they want to be part of something greater than their own self-interests. Sure, we‘d have a lot of options.
Just think of this, Chris. All the things that we need to do in this country. If we could take this next great generation of vitality and brains and energy and put to it work across this country for a year or two, would we make a better world? I think so.
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s a provocative thought. Thank you very much, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Up next, the ad wars. President Bush and John Kerry each released new campaign commercials.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: In the battle for the White House, both the Bush and Kerry campaign have released a new round of television ads. And for the first time, John Kerry is diving right into the issue of Iraq, while President Bush continue to pound Kerry on his record.
HARDBALL election correspondent David Shuster reports.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Stung by the perception that he has no clear plan for Iraq, John Kerry, in one of his new television ads, tries to tackle the issue head on.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me tell you exactly what I would do to change the situation in Iraq. I would immediately reach out to the international community in sharing the burden, the risk, because they also have a stake in the outcome of what is happening in Iraq.
SHUSTER: Policy analysts say Kerry‘s plan is way too simplistic. But the ad could help Kerry join the debate at a time when the Iraq insurgency has American voters and the White House increasingly concerned.
Kerry‘s other new ad is a result of extensive polling that found many voters don‘t know what he stands for. So in this ad, Kerry outlines his national priorities.
KERRY: First, we will keep this country safe and secure. Second, I‘ll put an end to tax incentives that encourage American companies to shift jobs overseas. And third, we‘ll invest in education.
SHUSTER: The problem is that Kerry has not said how much his programs would cost or how they would be paid for.
An hour after the Kerry campaign released the ads, the Bush campaign, despite the president‘s record budget deficits, responded with an ad attacking Kerry, using newspaper editorials.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The “Wall Street Journal” said, “Kerry‘s tax plan would mean increasing the tax burden again, which would likely kill the recovery.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Iraq, the “Washington Post” said Kerry‘s attempts to weave a thread connecting and justifying his positions are unconvincing.
SHUSTER: Iraq is also at the heart of another Bush attack ad.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Few votes in Congress are as important as funding or troop at war. Though John Kerry voted in October 2002 for military action in Iraq, he later voted against funding our soldiers.
SHUSTER: Actually, Kerry‘s vote in October 2002 was not to go to war, but rather to give President Bush the authority to decide. And the $87 billion funding package months later for the Iraq occupation included controversial items like no bid contracts for Halliburton.
Still, Kerry was one of the few Democrats who opposed the package, and while it helped him dilute Howard Dean‘s anti-war message in the primaries, it left Kerry more vulnerable afterwards.
SHUSTER: Both the Kerry and Bush campaigns acknowledge that the news out of Iraq is now pushing a lot of other things aside.
And with Kerry ratcheting up his budget at the very time the Bush campaign is ratcheting down, you now have both campaigns spending roughly the same amount of money on their television advertising. And Chris, the same amount of money and largely some of the same issues.
MATTHEWS: Why is Kerry so pussy footing on these ads, so careful? I‘m talking about new tax provisions to prevent people from being sent overseas. Nobody really believes that those provisions will work. It‘s kind of soft stuff, isn‘t it?
SHUSTER: Well, it‘s soft in part because Kerry‘s getting a lot of help from these Democratic groups like the Media Fund and others. They‘re the ones that are going after Bush. They‘re doing the attack ads.
And Bob Shrum is behind these two new ads, who helped come up with the ads that helped Kerry right before Iowa. It‘s his belief that by putting Kerry front and center in these ads, it helps personalize Kerry and gives people a sense as to what he is all about, which is their challenge right now.
MATTHEWS: Is it fair for the Bush campaign to cite the “Wall Street Journal” editorial page, suggesting that it‘s really the news section they‘re quoting, when in fact they‘re citing the conservative opinion on the op-ed page?
SHUSTER: Well, it‘s certainly not fair to the Democrats. They would say, “Yes, you might as well cite the ‘New York Post‘” on that question.
MATTHEWS: Right. Anyway, thank you very much, David Shuster. We‘ll be keeping up with the ads.
When we return, Bob Woodward on Dick Cheney‘s push for war with Iraq.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: This half-hour on HARDBALL, Bob Woodward on Dick Cheney‘s push for war with Iraq, plus, the rift in the Bush administration between Colin Powell and the war hawks. I‘m coming right back with Bob Woodward.
But, first, the latest headlines right now.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Bob Woodward is our guest tonight. His new book is called “Plan of Attack.” It‘s I‘m sure headed for No. 1 on “The New York Times” best-seller list.
Have you ever missed No. 1 on all your books?
BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, “PLAN OF ATTACK”: Nine of them have been No. 1.
MATTHEWS: Been No. 1. Well, this is, I think, going to be the 10th.
Anyway, let‘s talk about this. You write: “Powell thought that Cheney took intelligence and converted uncertainty and ambiguity into fact. It was about the worst charge that Powell could make about the vice president. Cheney would take an intercept and say it shows something was happening.
No, no, no, Powell or another would say. It shows that somebody talked to
somebody else who said something that might be happening. A conversation
would suggest something might be happening and Cheney would convert that
into a ‘We know.‘”
Your assessment based upon your interviewing with all these people in the White House, 75 people in there, was Cheney pushing this war?
WOODWARD: Cheney, as Powell conclude, had a fever. He was obsessed with al Qaeda and the possibility of terrorists attacking in a much worse way than they did on 9/11, the connections, alleged connections between al Qaeda and Saddam, and it became an obsession.
MATTHEWS: What do you think is the motivation behind Cheney? Is it a justified suspicion of not catching the bad guys before they nail us? Is it an unfinished business because he was secretary of defense in the first Gulf War? Is it just a tough guy?
WOODWARD: It‘s all of the above. Those are three good reasons.
But, just practically, it became one of these things where Cheney has a dark view of human nature, anyway, a real horrifying conservative...
WOODWARD: There‘s evidence that Saddam did have weapons of mass destruction. He had used them. It looked like the intelligence suggested that. Of course, they got that wrong, which is a big deal.
MATTHEWS: They also were never able to prove the connection to al Qaeda.
WOODWARD: That‘s right.
And to George Tenet‘s credit at the CIA, he was the one who convinced the president, look, there are these links, but there‘s not authority, direction and control. So no one in Iraq is telling al Qaeda, go bomb that place.
MATTHEWS: But I‘ve been tough on the neocons on this program a lot. And I‘m very suspicious of their sort of ideological edge to a lot of their thinking. I think it is very dark. But what you point out in here is Colin Powell referring to Doug Feith, who is the undersecretary of defense, as running a gestapo office. That‘s pretty strong language from the secretary of state to the Pentagon civilians.
WOODWARD: It is. And Powell, I guess, since the book came out has called Feith and apologized.
MATTHEWS: The only defense he‘s offered is, he can‘t recall using that term.
WOODWARD: What does that mean in Washington, Chris?
MATTHEWS: It means he used it.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the relationship between the president and the vice president. I find it fascinating.
Just to have a little comedy here...
MATTHEWS: The president goes to Dick Cheney, this wizened expert. He is not as old as he sometimes seem to be because he is so old in his manner.
WOODWARD: That‘s true.
MATTHEWS: He seems like a much older....
WOODWARD: He is just so calm. It‘s almost like...
MATTHEWS: Yes, well, he‘s not like me.
Anyway, so he goes, he says, who should we pick as vice president? And it turns out that the president picks Cheney. Then he picks the—he puts him in charge of the transition team. And Cheney gets to pick all these secretaries and deputy secretaries, tremendous power. Why does Bush trust Dick Cheney so much?
WOODWARD: First of all, Cheney didn‘t pick them all. He had tremendous influence on all of it.
I think part of it has to do with Cheney—if you know Cheney, and I got to know him during the Gulf War.
MATTHEWS: He is very assuring.
WOODWARD: There‘s something very calm, calming about him.
And Cheney isn‘t hopping around the world on his plane. He has no political ambition. Karl Rove and George Bush love that, because most presidents have to deal with the renegade vice president, somebody who has political ambitions. Here‘s Cheney saying, look, I‘m not running. There is no higher office. What do you want me to do?
And one of the things Bush said is look at terrorism before 9/11. And I think that—and since what you study is what you are. And that laid some of the foundation for this dark view and this notion...
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about personality here.
MATTHEWS: Everybody would admit, when you meet George Bush, the president, you like him. He‘s a very likable fellow, unless you‘re really dead against him politically.
The vice president is—can be charming, too, but he‘s very dark. You‘re right. Very suspicious. He‘ always cautious. That dark view seems to be very consistent with the view of the ideologues who pushed the war, the Wolfowitzes, the Feiths, the Scooter Libbys, that crowd. Is the president right now aware of the close communion between Cheney and the very hawkish people in the Defense Department and in his own office?
WOODWARD: Sure. And I think that was part of it.
But that didn‘t drive the war decision. The president‘s war decision was, 9/11 occurred. He realizes and he told me for the book “Bush At War” that preceded this...
WOODWARD: ... that he wasn‘t on point, that in essence he hadn‘t done enough.
WOODWARD: And so you have that catastrophe and you say, I‘ve got to
keep it from happening again. I think there was a momentum that almost,
when you get all the CIA wound up and the military planning wound up and it
looks good, it looks easier. The CIA starts saying, look, we need to go to
war to protect all of these rock star agents that we have inside Iraq, the
MATTHEWS: Explain the rock star terminology.
WOODWARD: That is the cryptonym the CIA gave 87...
MATTHEWS: Iraqi agents on the ground.
WOODWARD: On the ground.
MATTHEWS: Who were vulnerable. And they were carrying—they were
carrying cell phones. And if anyone were picked up, that they would be
killed, their brothers and fathers would all be killed, according to
WOODWARD: Yes, exactly.
And they were as close to Saddam as you and I, some of them.
MATTHEWS: Working for us.
WOODWARD: Working for us. Phoning in, Saddam is going here, Saddam is doing this, trying to launch deception operations, analyzing the military operations. They sent in phony war plans and Saddam actually thought we were going to start the war by launching a raid at Baghdad Airport. So they did a lot of good work. Some of the work maybe is questionable.
But that—any president, including Bush, identifies with people.
And he realized those people were hanging out there.
MATTHEWS: I agree with that. That‘s why Reagan got in trouble with the Iran hostage crisis—oh, not the hostage crisis, the arms for hostage.
Let me ask you, the most interesting in the book was at the end of it in the epilogue, when you talk about, you asked the president, why don‘t you just tell the American people that you got bad intel about WMD, that you still went to war, but you were misled on that in terms of the intel? And he said back to you, well, if I admit that, then the people who are against this war were going to use it against me.
In other words, you have the president admitting he won‘t say what he knows to be truth because of political strategy.
WOODWARD: Yes, that‘s right. And I finally—we went back and forth. My mouth went dry at one point during that interchange, because he didn‘t want to get to it. And...
MATTHEWS: He didn‘t want to give you the headline. In fact, he said, I going to see this in “The Post”?
WOODWARD: That‘s right. And I said, no, this is for the book. It will eventually be in “The Washington Post” when we run excerpts. And, short of that, he said, true, true, true. We haven‘t found weapons of mass destruction. He acknowledged it.
MATTHEWS: But didn‘t you find it interesting that he held back on what he knew to be the truth because somebody would say nah-nah-nah—nah— nah on the other side?
WOODWARD: It is politics.
Do you know—my sense, there‘s something about him in that kind of setting for hours, hundred of questions, where you get those kinds of acknowledgments which he would never make in a press conference.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I also liked when he said, the crowd you run in.
WOODWARD: Yes, that‘s true.
MATTHEWS: Separate himself from the more elite of Washington, I guess he was trying to do.
WOODWARD: Yes, whatever that is.
MATTHEWS: Oh, we know.
MATTHEWS: It‘s what he thinks it is I thought was fascinating.
We‘ll be right back. It sounded a little Nixonian there for that matter. We‘ll do more with Bob Woodward coming back.
You‘re watching HARDBALL with Bob Woodward, “Plan of Attack.” Back in a moment on MSNBC.
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MATTHEWS: Coming up, much more with Bob Woodward, author of the book “Plan of Attack,” when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Bob Woodward, who has written “Plan of Attack,” another guaranteed No. 1 best-seller. You can believe it, because this has got everybody moving. I said it‘s like a grenade on the White House floor. You‘ve thrown it in there, because everybody is talking about this.
But then there‘s the love-hate thing. They want to us read it, but what do they want besides, some nuanced reading of this or what? What does the White House want us to get out of this book?
WOODWARD: I‘m not—Well, I think that Bush was in charge. I mean,
Dan Bartlett said it Mike
MATTHEWS: Not the V.P., not the neocons. He made the call to war.
WOODWARD: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: And that‘s their reading of your reporting.
WOODWARD: Yes. And he‘s all over it. He‘s into the war plan weekly. He‘s asking questions, what about if you bomb there, will you kill those children in the school nearby? And...
MATTHEWS: Interpretation. We‘re in dangerous territory, Bob Woodward.
WOODWARD: Yes. Yes. Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: He does not like to interpret. He is not a political pundit.
WOODWARD: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: This question. Based upon your reporting, the president of the United States, George W. Bush, would have gone to war had he a different vice president?
WOODWARD: Oh, that‘s an interesting question.
Cheney, as I write, was the steamrolling force. At the same time, I think Bush, at this dinner after the end of the first part of the war, Cheney says, after 9/11, the president got it.
MATTHEWS: Right. He said that to Ken Adelman and to Scooter.
WOODWARD: That‘s right.
WOODWARD: At a dinner celebration.
WOODWARD: Which was a celebration about the fall of Baghdad, but I think it was in part a celebration of how they‘ve rolled the centrist wing of the Republican Party foreign establishment—foreign policy establishment.
MATTHEWS: The difference between the way that George W. Bush looks at the world and the way that the old team of George Herbert Walker Bush, James Baker and Brent Scowcroft looked at the world, how is it different?
WOODWARD: Exactly. That‘s—Bush, this president is—it is his style. Fix it. Let‘s—we have got a problem here. Fix it. Tell me how we get there.
WOODWARD: And there is this sense that he is right. And I kept asking, I kept asking, in 10, 20 different ways, are you sure this was right? Are you convinced? Is there any doubt? None. Zero.
MATTHEWS: You asked him one time, you quoted something from Tony Blair, the prime minister of Great Britain, the United Kingdom, who said that he—after hearing from the mother of one of the victims of the war has no doubt that no one—no one who tells you they don‘t reconsider their thoughts or suffer doubt is not telling the truth. And he said to you on the record with a tape recorder going, I don‘t suffer doubt.
WOODWARD: That‘s right. And not only did he say it.
MATTHEWS: This is the president of the United States.
WOODWARD: Now, Blair is not saying they‘re not telling the truth. What Blair is saying is, don‘t believe—and he just said, you suffer doubt...
WOODWARD: ... when you get a letter saying, your decision...
MATTHEWS: Killed my son.
WOODWARD: ... cost my son. And I hate you.
WOODWARD: You have to have doubt. Blair said it.
WOODWARD: I read that to Bush. And before I could finish, he just said, no doubt, no doubt, eye to eye, movement in the chair. This is what I believe.
MATTHEWS: You have met—you have interviewed a lot of big-time politicians, William Casey, etcetera, lots of them. Have you ever come across such confidence as a reporter, personal confidence in decision-making?
WOODWARD: I have not, quite frankly.
MATTHEWS: Because we read about his decisions with regard to death row cases where he had to review them for 10 or 15 minutes or all these decisions.
MATTHEWS: They seem to be without fever, without—Harry Truman was apparently like that, way before our time.
WOODWARD: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about a
WOODWARD: And the political calculus in this is very interesting.
What do people in this era of terrorism want from a president?
WOODWARD: And they want toughness. And you can‘t go through this and
· you say it is a hand grenade on the White House floor. A lot of people will read this and go through it and say, what‘s going on? Why was it done this way?
MATTHEWS: Well, it made me more convinced or more believing that the president was the key decision maker and less convinced it was the ideologues who wanted the war before he came along and were signing manifestos to that effect back in ‘98.
MATTHEWS: But it also left me a little bit vague about the vice president‘s role. I find him to be a Machiavellian genius, a man who could suggest things in the right way so somebody else would do them.
But you make the point it was so personal with the president, he didn‘t need any adviser.
WOODWARD: Well, I think you remove Cheney from this equation and you would automatically up the role of Powell and his influence.
MATTHEWS: Right. Tell me about Powell.
WOODWARD: He would be the heavyweight. And the other factor is, Rumsfeld in this is not pushing for war.
WOODWARD: He is the war technocrat.
MATTHEWS: He‘s a cipher.
WOODWARD: I asked Rumsfeld and the president, I said, was there a
recommendation on what to do? And the president said, I never asked
MATTHEWS: How could that be, that the president never asked the defense chief whether to go to war or not, yet everybody thinks of Rummy as a pretty hawkish guy?
WOODWARD: Yes, that‘s right.
What Rumsfeld is, is, he has a lot of reverence for the presidency.
WOODWARD: And he said, you know, you want a war plan? I‘m going to give it to you and we‘ll make it better and better every day.
Here‘s a reading. And I really like Colin Powell. I know him a bit.
I really like the guy. I like him as a leader. But he came into this administration as a moderate, very much like an old Bush administration kind of guy. He would have fit in with Scowcroft or a Jimmy Baker, a peacemaker, rather than a war maker. And yet, when the war came, he signed up and he saluted to the president, according to your book, and he said, yes, sir, I‘m aboard. In fact, I‘m going to fight for this the best I can.
But then after the war, if he cooperated with you on this book....
WOODWARD: He said he let me interview him. Powell has said that publicly.
MATTHEWS: If that‘s correct, how does he maintain his honor of being opposed to the war, signing on to it without resigning and then knocking the war while he‘s still in office as secretary of state? How does he bring all that together?
WOODWARD: What‘s the important constituency for Colin Powell?
WOODWARD: I‘m going to ask you—no, the soldiers who are out there in Iraq, 130,000 of them.
WOODWARD: And we‘re sitting here quite comfortable.
WOODWARD: and those people are going through hell. And Powell knows it, because he‘s been there. And he knows, if he quit at any point in this...
WOODWARD: ... he would undermine confidence in what they‘re doing.
MATTHEWS: But has he undermined confidence by saying in this book to you, if he did, and he says he has, that he thought this was bad policy at the time?
WOODWARD: Well, he thought he pushed and issued very specific warnings to the president.
WOODWARD: Very, very clearly, no ambiguity.
But it is Powell‘s belief that presidents make this decision, not secretaries of state. And I believe, if he had been asked, “Hey, Colin, what do you really think? Tell me. Let‘s sit man to man up in that office in the residence,” he might have heard. But he was never invited in and he never felt comfortable enough to go and break the china to say, you have to listen to my recommendations on the bottom line here.
MATTHEWS: Right. What I like in this book is the personal relationships. The president and Colin Powell never quite get along together. Cheney and Powell don‘t quite get along together. A lot of human interest in here, a lot of human perception. Thank you very much for coming, Bob Woodward.
WOODWARD: Thank you. Good to be here.
MATTHEWS: We‘re going to come back, more with Bob when we come back, a little more with Bob when we come back. We‘ll finish up here on HARDBALL with Bob Woodward. The name of the book, “Plan of Attack.”
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Bob Woodward.
Let‘s ask—first of all, I want to talk about the politics of this thing. In “The Wall Street Journal” today, Rush Limbaugh takes a shot at you, Bob Woodward. He says—and I don‘t think he‘s really on strong ground here, because your first book on this war, the one you wrote before, was fairly supportive all around of the president.
WOODWARD: People interpreted it in different ways, just like this one.
MATTHEWS: Well, he says to you—this is what he says for public view. This is Rush Limbaugh. “Frankly, I don‘t know why the president or anyone else in the administration who supports the war against Iraq would give Mr. Woodward the time of day. Surely, they had to know that his reporting methods and his popularity with the beautiful people”—there we go again, that crowd—“inside the beltway for whacking Republican after Republican would result in the inevitable anti-Bush, anti-war screed.”
WOODWARD: I wonder whether Rush Limbaugh has read this book or even is familiar with the contents. The—well, I—the drawing on there.
MATTHEWS: Well, yes, well, that doesn‘t look like you at all. It looks like Hugh Scott or something from Pennsylvania 30 years ago.
WOODWARD: Thank you. Thank you.
WOODWARD: I didn‘t want to you hold it up.
MATTHEWS: Can I ask you a blunt question?
MATTHEWS: Does an attack by a well-known, probably the best known radio talk show guy in history, Rush Limbaugh, going back to Will Rogers, probably, does it help or hurt a book sale?
WOODWARD: I don‘t know. I have no idea.
People have to say, now, wait a minute, he‘s attacking the book and me and then the White House says on their Web site, recommended reading, “Plan of Attack.”
MATTHEWS: Which is approved by Dan Bartlett, probably, the communications director at the White House.
WOODWARD: And Bartlett has said publicly they encourage people to read this book. So who knows?
It is—it‘s complicated and in a sense, the—the history of this is what defines our era.
WOODWARD: Come on, this is what the campaign is about. People can say...
WOODWARD: Yes, the economy is terribly important and vital in a presidential election. But if it is kind of in the middle range, where it seems to be, people are ultimately making judgments about character.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about that. It‘s about the president.
WOODWARD: This is—this is as close as you get. I‘ve had historians call me and say, Franklin Roosevelt, you never know exactly why he did things at specific points. There was no one going around to try to chronicle the decision-making. I happened to be there and “The Washington Post” gave me the time to do it. The interesting thing is that Bush said, let‘s let it all hang out.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you Bush as a decision-maker. The key theme of this book is that the president of the United States, a relatively young president, made a personal decision to take this country to war in what most people would assume—and even he I think would accept—was an elective decision.
It wasn‘t—they were urgently attacking us.
MATTHEWS: We weren‘t—it isn‘t Pearl Harbor. He said, it‘s in the interests of this country in the long term to beat this government down and replace it.
Do you have a sense through all your 75 interviews and all the putting together of these facts and intuition when the president did decide to go to war?
WOODWARD: When did he decide? I think it‘s incremental. I think it
· you know, when do you decide to get married?
MATTHEWS: Well, when did he—well, when you basically ask someone to marry you. But, in this case, when was that moment?
WOODWARD: Yes, but some people walk away from the altar.
WOODWARD: And is it when you say I do or is it two weeks before or is it the proposal?
MATTHEWS: Well, once—people said once he sent the hospital ships to that region, once he had set himself up to take casualties, that the president of the United States had committed himself.
WOODWARD: Well, I think what happened in the fall of 2002 when he gave that famous U.N. speech in which he said, look, you, the U.N., either disarm Saddam and get rid of him or I‘m going to do it.
I think that he crossed the river there. And one way or another, given when—you know, one of his themes, and there‘s—when he says something, he will do it. When he said, I could get to the bottom of this story and interview him, there were a lot of people who said, don‘t do it, it‘s a mistake, you shouldn‘t do it. And he said, essentially, I said I would do it, so I‘ll do it.
The other sense he has is—which is the right one—look, I have a duty to protect the country. The one that‘s very controversial and makes I think a lot of people deeply concerned, where he says, we have a duty to free people, to liberate people. Where is the limit of that?
MATTHEWS: That is a very strong—it‘s called a neoconservative thinking about us being the liberators of the world, not just playing defense.
WOODWARD: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: But you think he‘s bought into that now?
WOODWARD: Yes, I think he has. And I think he bought into it for a whole series of reasons. And one of them is, his line, which he told me, he said this publicly, but he wanted to say this line came from me. And that is that freedom is God‘s gift to the world. And he believes that and this is the implementation of that.
MATTHEWS: Bob Woodward. The name of the book is “Plan of Attack.” It‘s about the president‘s decision to go to war with Iraq. And you can read an excerpt on our Web site at HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL right here and right now.
It‘s time now for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.
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