Guests: Wesley Clark, Walter Shapiro, Deborah Orin
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: NFL star Pat Tillman swapped the fate of a football career to enlist the Army. He was killed in action in Afghanistan yesterday. We‘ll talk to General Wesley Clark about the sacrifices of war and the battle for the White House.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews.
Pat Tillman walked away from a multimillion-dollar NFL contract to join the Army Rangers after September 11. Tillman was killed last night in a firefight in Afghanistan. And tonight he‘s being remembered as a man who put his country ahead of fame and fortune.
Here‘s HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are heroes and then there‘s the National Football League‘s Pat Tillman.
MICHAEL BIDWILL, V.P., ARIZONA CARDINALS: In sports, we have a tendency to overuse term like courage, bravery, and heroes. And then someone special like Pat Tillman comes along.
SHUSTER: The Pentagon says Tillman was killed Thursday evening when his Army Ranger unit got ambushed near the Afghan village of Khost. This was Tillman‘s second tour of combat duty.
Two years ago in the wake of 9/11, Tillman turned down a multimillion-dollar NFL contract to join the Army Rangers.
Tillman had been a football star at Arizona State University and a strong safety for four years with the NFL‘s Arizona Cardinals. Known for his intelligence and rugged play, in the 2000 season, he set a club record for tackles.
But there was more to Tillman than football. He was an articulate and deep thinking man, who had graduated with academic honors. Friends said he felt a sense of purpose following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
This video belongs to the Cardinals.
PAT TILLMAN, KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN: My great grandfather was at Pearl Harbor and a lot of my family has given up—you know, has gone and fought wars. And I really haven‘t done a damn thing as far as laying myself on the line like that. And so I have a great deal of respect for those that have and what the flag stands for.
SHUSTER: So in the spring of 2002, Tillman quit the NFL, and with his brother, Kevin, a minor league baseball player, signed up for three years of military service.
Tillman turned down all interview requests, because he viewed his decision as no more patriotic than that of his less fortunate, less renowned countrymen. This past December during a trip home, Tillman made a surprising locker room visit.
BIDWILL: He was Pat Tillman that day. The same Pat Tillman I remembered when he was playing.
SHUSTER: Tillman‘s death has prompted an outpouring of grief. His Cardinals football coach said he represented all that was good in sports.
Arizona Senator John McCain said, “The tragic loss of this extraordinary young man will seem a heavy blow to our nation‘s morale.”
Other sports stars have joined the military in the prime of their careers. Baseball‘s Ted Williams and Bob Feller, the NBA‘s David Robinson. But those stars returned to their teams. Pat Tillman will not.
Instead, a nation often detached from a war so far away is left with another reminder of the cost and sacrifice. Only this time, it is from a young man watched and cherished on the gridiron every Sunday, who has redefined the term, sports hero.
MATTHEWS: That was David Shuster reporting.
General Wesley Clark is a former Democratic presidential candidate who‘s now a surrogate for the John Kerry campaign.
General Clark, you know all about battle. You‘ve been in it a long time. The cost of war. What does this tell us again about what it costs when you go to war?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first of all, when you go to war, the outcome is always unpredictable, no matter what all of the experts say.
And the human cost is one of those features of war that people can‘t anticipate. They don‘t understand the impact of it until it hits them and hits them close. And Pat Tillman is a perfect example of that.
There‘s, you know, over—I think we‘re over 700 American who died in that war right now. And every—very family that has suffered those kinds of losses is dealing with the tragedy. And thousands more have been wounded and lost parts of their bodies or bodily functions in some way, and life changing wounds. These are the tragedies of war.
MATTHEWS: What do you make about the sort of public relations of this war? That‘s all you can call it. The decision by the United States military under the Defense Department, for all these months to not let people see the people coming back who didn‘t make it back from Dover, Delaware.
CLARK: Well, a big election...
MATTHEWS: The front page today in “The New York Times,” and I wonder whether people think, well, now, is that the war? We didn‘t know that part of it. Or is it the fact we know—we‘re just kidding ourselves. Everybody does know we‘ve lost 700 people over there and thousands of people seriously wounded for life?
CLARK: Well, the big thing coming out of Vietnam, you know, was that the war was lost at home, and therefore, you had to worry about public opinion.
The truth is that the public needs—in a democracy, the public can judge and the public needs the facts to be able to judge.
I think it‘s wrong not to show those coffins coming home. We not only ought to be paying respect to the men and women who have given their lives there. And that‘s one way to do it. We also ought to tell the American people the truth about what this is all about and what the cost is.
MATTHEWS: You know, it struck me other day—maybe this is just sarcastic but I have a sarcastic streak. But when I found out that the woman who allowed those pictures to be taken, that appeared in the “Seattle Times,” the newspaper yesterday. And she gets fired and her husband apparently gets fired—that‘s what she said—for letting those pictures be taken.
I think, wait a minute. Here‘s a person who got in trouble and lost their job because they let the truth be out—get out. And all those people that made the mistakes, saying there was weapons of mass destruction; there was a connection to al Qaeda. Those were all these things that got us into the war that turned out not to be true.
Why do we punish people that left the truth out and reward those with continued service who keep the truth concealed?
CLARK: You‘re exactly right. And Chris, that‘s one of the reason I ran for office. I wanted to help get truth out there. And that‘s what John Kerry is doing now. He‘s trying to spread the truth.
MATTHEWS: Well, was he against the war or for the war?
CLARK: John wants to see us succeed on the war on terror. And he knows that to do that, we‘ve got to do a good job in Iraq. We‘ve got to come through that experience with an Iraq that‘s as stable as we can make it, an Iraq that‘s not a threat to its neighbors, an Iraq that‘s not a recruiting ground for al Qaeda. And we don‘t want to get thrown out of there on our ear.
MATTHEWS: But you thought the war was a joke to begin with. You were against this war.
CLARK: I never said it was a joke. I was against it. I thought it was a bad, bad...
MATTHEWS: The ideas behind it were a joke.
CLARK: I thought it was bad, bad strategy. It was an elective war. I knew there wasn‘t a connection with al Qaeda. I knew there wasn‘t an imminent threat to the United States.
And as a former military guy, I just don‘t believe in going to war unless you have to, because you never know what‘s going to happen. As we saw it unfold, Chris, we called it at the time. I did; Barry McCaffrey did. A lot of other people did.
Say, you know, it‘s not—you‘re going to do OK in the fighting but after it‘s over, you don‘t have enough troops. And...
MATTHEWS: Well, what about the other question. We‘re fighting in a world of a billion Islamic people. We‘re not just fighting for Iraq. We‘re fighting in the Arab world, in the Islamic world.
Now, you read “The New York Times” today, front-page story about all these young people in Saudi Arabia going to Iraq to fight us.
Are we creating more terrorists or eliminating more terrorists? Give me the math here.
CLARK: The math is that for every one of these people that you‘ve killed by accident or by design in Iraq, you will create two, three, four, 10 times as many enemies who are angry and embittered at the United States.
You cannot—First of all, excuse me, Chris. Let‘s be honest. We are not—we are not winning the war on terrorism right now.
MATTHEWS: Well, how do we finish...
CLARK: The number of incidents hasn‘t gone down.
MATTHEWS: Well, how do we deal with this Iraq? Let‘s talk about Fallujah, General. Here‘s the question. It‘s a military question.
We have a city over there, Fallujah, which is in the Sunni Triangle. They took four of our people, contract workers. They killed them. They burned their bodies, hung two of them from the bridge over there, over the Euphrates so they could have a good time.
We go in there with strength. We start to take that city back, block by block. It doesn‘t work. We‘re killing too many people. Now we‘re in some kind of a, you know, half-hearted truce over there, threatening to go in with full strength and basically, do a lot of killing of civilians by the nature of the fighting we‘re doing over there.
How do we make that choice? Do we go in and kill a lot of people and let—or do we let them win that argument?
CLARK: No. Eventually we are going into Fallujah. We‘re going to go into it house-by-house and block-by-block. But I hope not with 3,500 Marines. I hope we put the kinds of force densities around that city that we need.
We need probably a division around Fallujah, if you really want to do it right. You do not want to have to give up what you fought for. What you want is overwhelming boots on the ground, superiority when you start to go in on Fallujah. That way, you don‘t to have use firepower. You can actually put your eyes on the target and you can try to save civilians‘ life.
The Fallujah situation is entirely different than what we‘re dealing with Moqtada al-Sadr. There, what we want to do is we want to put the Shiites in a position where they‘ve got to resolve their internal conflict and they‘ve got to negotiate an end to the situation.
MATTHEWS: When we come back, I want to ask you about how we deal as the military force. And you‘re the general. After the sovereignty falls back to the hands, a large part of the sovereignty is back in the hands of the Iraqis. Are we out there like Gerka (ph) troops, Hessians (ph), are we taking orders in terms of politics from the host government?
More with Wesley Clark when we return.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, more with retired General Wesley Clark. Plus battleground Florida. Will the race in the Sunshine State be as close this year as it was in 2000? HARDBALL, back in a minute.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with General Wesley Clark.
General Clark, the question of how do we turn over the government to the Iraqis, it raises the old—the old experience we had with Vietnamization under the Nixon administration.
Do you believe that we can turn over sovereignty to the Iraqis, that committee over there that the U.N.‘s going to pick?
CLARK: I think it will be a real challenge for us, Chris, because what we haven‘t really thought through is what is the mission of the troops in Iraq? This is the real question.
When we went into Bosnia, we created a complete diplomatic agreement that gave legitimacy for the troops, specified exactly what they had to do, what their authorities were, what their obligations and responsibilities were. We‘ve never seen an agreement like that in Iraq.
Militaries don‘t do democracy. We may do—we may set up roadblocks. We may secure something. We may attack. We may defend. We may delay. We may provide self-defense. But we don‘t do democracies.
And what we have to figure out is how exactly is the United States military going to work in that country when the Iraqi government is in charge. When we make noise with the tanks at night and they say, “Please don‘t bring the tanks into the city at night. You‘re waking up our children,” do we say, “Sorry, that‘s security?” Pretty soon, they‘re going to not to leave—not to be there.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take the case we were just talking about, Fallujah. Suppose they say, “Go easy on that city. Don‘t go racing in there and then try to pacify it.”
And our soldiers say, “Well, wait a minute. If we don‘t get them now, they‘re going to get stronger.”
Who makes that call?
CLARK: That‘s the real issue, and that‘s why, when we say we‘re turning over sovereignty to the Iraqis except for security, we‘ve got an inherent inconsistency.
Once we start down the road of turning over sovereignty, we‘ve got to be very, very clear in writing what our objective is in there, what the limits are and what we—what specific authorities the commander has. It‘s got to be made all clear up front. It cannot be negotiated on a case-by-case basis with the Iraqis. It will blow up in that super charged political environment in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: How do we get the Iraqis to fight for this new government? Because it‘s not just American G.I.‘s and sailors and everyone else risking their lives over there.
It‘s the—We‘re trying to get—convince Iraqis to become basically the gendarmes, the defenders of a new government, risk their life, probably get killed. Is it going to be any more successful there than it was in Saigon?
CLARK: Well, it might be. It might be if you bring back some of the generals—apparently, we‘re doing that—If you give the Iraqis real authority in their own country so that the security forces there believe they really are fighting for Iraq against enemies of Iraq. If you can create that atmosphere, you‘ve got a chance.
If it looks like they‘re still taking orders from the Americans, and this is all about the United States and our credibility in the Arab world, they‘re not going to fight effectively for us.
MATTHEWS: What do you make about that, there‘s a piece in the “Washington Post” today, David—David Ignatius. Basically, his point was we say we‘re going to create a U.N. style interim government under Kofi Annan, et cetera, and it‘s not going to be an American puppet government.
But then you read about Ahmed Chalabi, the sweetheart of the neo conservatives. He‘s apparently finding himself in control of a couple of the key economic portfolios.
I mean, is this going to be like at the end of “Lawrence of Arabia,” where the Brits grabbed control of the utilities, water and everything else and let the other side have the flag? Clearly, we‘re still in charge?
CLARK: Of course it is, because you know, what the Iraqis can see through—it‘s very transparent, is that the United States is committed to Ahmed Chalabi. And as long as we‘re committed to him, we‘re going to take away his legitimacy in front of the Iraqi people.
He‘s got to break with us. He‘s got to do what the Iraqi people want. He‘s got to win friends there, not win friends in the Pentagon. And, you know, it‘s not just the Pentagon. It‘s also Ahmed Chalabi. If he‘s afraid to let go of the American umbilical, then he‘s going to fail, and we‘re going to fail with him in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: Do you think we fought the war for him? So he could have back his country after leaving when the Dodgers left Brooklyn back in the ‘50s? Do you think we...
MATTHEWS: Well, because it was his arguments, made through the vice president‘s office, made through the civilians‘ leadership in the Pentagon that basically kept pushing the cause for war.
It was Chalabi that came up with all the cases for WMD being in the hands of Saddam Hussein. It was Chalabi who said it was going to be a cakewalk once we got in there. It was going to be the happy Iraqi. He was the one that kept saying that there was going to be low cost and an easy victory. And a lot of our intellectuals in the White House, the best and the brightest, bought it.
CLARK: Chris, you‘re right. He misled us. He misled us all along the way.
But we fought that war because this administration wanted to use military power to take down states in the military—in the Middle East, instead of using our full array of diplomacy and international law, police and military force to go after the terrorists.
They thought it was easier to take down a state to make a strong stand and show how good we were, rather than going after the terrorists, which were a tougher target. And that‘s the fundamental flaw in the logic. And that‘s why we‘re not winning the war on terror today.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, General Wesley Clark, working hard for the Kerry campaign.
Up next, President Bush makes his 21st presidential visit to Florida. Today, our own Chris Jansing takes a look at the case in that country, America‘s biggest battleground, Florida.
And don‘t forget, all next week we‘re celebrating the seventh anniversary of HARDBALL. On Tuesday, I‘ll be joined by Senator Ted Kennedy. On Wednesday, I‘ll be over at the Pentagon with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Every week we‘re taking an up close look at America‘s battleground states. MSNBC‘s Chris Jansing is touring the states that will decide this election.
Tonight she‘s in the biggest battleground of all, Florida—Chris?
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Chris.
Well, both candidates have been hitting Florida really hard this week.
John Kerry earlier, criticizing President Bush on the environment and raising money.
And George Bush coming here to Naples to this nature reserve earlier today to defend his environmental record. Gave a major speech, rolled up his sleeves, did some work with the local volunteers.
But he‘s doing some fund-raising as well. Two events. A luncheon here, then later tonight in Coral Gables, that the RNC says will put more than $4 million in their coffers, money that will go largely to voter registration efforts and get out the vote, which will be critical here in Florida.
This, of course, was the decisive state in 2000. And it would be tough to overestimate its importance in 2004. Take a look.
SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: The next president of the United States of America, Senator John Kerry.
JANSING (voice-over): John Kerry in Miami, in Palm Beach, in Tampa.
Three days in Florida this week alone. Nine campaign appearances.
GOV. JEB BUSH ®, FLORIDA: Mr. President, as you can plainly see, Florida is Bush country.
JANSING: George Bush this week is making visit 21 of his presidency to Florida: Miami, and Naples.
There‘s a lot of ground to cover in Florida and not just geographically. The state‘s population is as diverse as America‘s.
Over the next seven months, both candidates are expected to spend more time in Florida than any other state.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It isn‘t just Florida itself. It‘s the way it affects the math of the rest of the country. The south is the fastest growing region in the nation. It has the fastest growing Hispanic population. It has the fastest growing economy.
And if the Democrats continue to be marginalized in this part of the country, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to win national campaigns.
JANSING: And increasingly complicated, with groups of swing voters all around the state.
Take the traditionally Democratic Jewish vote. It‘s back in play after President Bush reversed years of U.S. policy to endorse a new Israeli peace plan.
John Kerry promptly brought out the only Jewish vice-presidential candidate ever, former rival Joe Lieberman, to help shore up his pro-Israel credentials.
Then there‘s the 13 percent of residents who are Cuban-American. Eight in 10 backed Bush in 2000, but as many as 15 percent of those may now be wavering.
SERGIO BENDIXEN, POLLSTER: The Cuban-American voters are somewhat dissatisfied with the way that President Bush has handled the Cuba issue. They feel that he has not kept his promises. But they like him very much from a personal point of view.
JANSING: And there are other key swing votes: a million non-Cuban Latinos. Both campaigns, for example, will target Orlando‘s typically Democratic Puerto Ricans. They voted for Al Gore in 2000 but for Jeb Bush in 2002. Their vote could go either way.
And African-Americans, a huge 70 percent turnout in 2000. Democrats need those votes again this time around.
It took 36 days and a Supreme Court decision to decide the presidency four years ago. Now, arguably, Florida is as divided and competitive as ever.
REP. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART ®, FLORIDA: This time beforehand we‘re aware of how critically important each vote is. And so yes. This is going to be the ultimate battleground.
JANSING (on camera): High turnout?
DIAZ-BALART: Very high turnout. Very high turnout. This is going to be the electoral ground zero.
JANSING (voice-over): In George Bush‘s favor, Republicans run the state, controlling both houses of the legislature. And his brother Jeb, of course, is governor.
J. BUSH: I believe that the upturn in the economy started here earlier, which helps the president. This is a patriotic state, very pro-military. They support the president on the war against terror.
JANSING: And there‘s the governor‘s ground organization: 50,000 people come November to get out the vote.
But registered Democrats outnumber the GOP 42-38 percent and Kerry scores big with his support for expanded health care. One in five Florida residents is over 65.
GRAHAM: They will vote, I think, substantially for John Kerry, in part because what President Bush thought was going to be his ace in the hole for the elderly, which was the prescription drug plan through Medicare, has turned out to be bogus.
JANSING: Finally, and perhaps most unpredictably, there‘s the old punch card voting system that gave the world the pregnant chad. It‘s gone now. But critics of the new system have started lawsuits, charging it‘s unfair. And international monitors plan to challenge irregularities if they see them.
(on camera) Do you rule out, Senator, that there could be a disputed election or at the very least, an election in 2004 as close as it was in 2000?
SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: I think that‘s very possible. I certainly hope it isn‘t likely.
JANSING: And there‘s a new poll out here from the American Research Group. It has George Bush at 46 percent, John Kerry, 45. A statistical dead heat—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Chris, what about the possibilities of Bill Nelson, the junior senator down there, being on the Democratic ticket this year?
JANSING: Yes, I asked him about that. He said he‘d love it. He would, of course, accept it. He thinks he‘s a long shot. Of course, Bob Graham, the other senator, also being mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate. I think that shows you just how important Florida is, that those considerations are being made.
But there is a statewide poll that came out a week or two ago that showed neither of them would help John Kerry here in Florida, Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much. Chris Jansing, who‘s down in Florida touring the country, especially the battleground states, for MSNBC.
Anyway, we‘re going to come back and talk with Deborah Orin.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC—just a minute. Just a minute. I have no idea what‘s going...
MATTHEWS: This half-hour on HARDBALL, the latest on the battle for the White House with “The New York Post”‘s Deborah Orin and “USA Today”‘s Walter Shapiro; plus, much more on Pat Tillman, the former football star turned Army Ranger who was just killed in Afghanistan.
But, first, the latest headlines right now.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Pat Tillman traded an NFL career for a life as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan. And tonight, he‘s the highest-profile American to killed in that conflict.
Joining me now Deborah Orin of “The New York Post” and Walter Shapiro of “USA Today.”
Walter, let me start with you. It‘s great to see you tonight.
I know you follow sports because you write for the “USA Today.” And it is unavoidable in that case.
WALTER SHAPIRO, “USA TODAY”: But I‘m a baseball fan.
MATTHEWS: Well, this story of a football player here, a guy, an American, who gave up the career, the big money, what often—very much people like Ted Williams. Movie stars of old, Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, they went and fought in wars, too. But it is in today‘s world a surprise when a celebrity of any sort gives his life for his country.
SHAPIRO: Well, I think we live with the volunteer Army, which basically means anyone with a prosperous economic future can opt out of serving the country. It is very rare that anyone either who comes out of athletic stardom or comes out of privilege serves in any conflict more difficult than jaywalking.
MATTHEWS: Your thoughts?
And that has become a class thing to a large extent. It is a professional Army. It is a volunteer Army. Celebs and celebrity kids don‘t generally sign up and certainly don‘t find themselves killed.
SHAPIRO: I think one or two members of Congress are the only ones that have children serving in Iraq right now.
MATTHEWS: Your thoughts, Deborah?
DEBORAH ORIN, “THE NEW YORK POST”: I think it makes you want to cry.
I mean, this is somebody who did something really heroic and really selfless. And, in our culture, we aren‘t that used to the idea that somebody with a lot of money will do something that is totally selfless and totally patriotic. And it is a tragedy. It is something, I think, that gives all of us pause as we go about our ordinary daily lives and think about somebody who had everything and voluntarily, quietly, personally, gave it up, because, you know, there is a guy who didn‘t want to be interviewed, didn‘t want any fuss made over him.
ORIN: Said he was no different, no more special than anybody else. He was somebody who really symbolized what the dream of America—and, of course, when you see somebody who symbolizes what you think is the best in your country, it‘s a tragedy to see him die.
MATTHEWS: And usually, people that give even a couple bucks to a charity fund-raiser and show up in their best clothes and looking their best, they want to be thanked.
MATTHEWS: Just for that, celebrities.
Let me ask you about a trickier question. And that‘s John Kerry. The Republicans on Capitol Hill are really tearing into this guy for how he behaved after he came back from service. Do you think guy‘s fact that he got three Purple Hearts should immunize him against that attack or is he fair game?
ORIN: I think he is fair game.
You have the sort of bizarre conjunction of somebody who was a decorated in Vietnam veteran and he came back and said he committed atrocities and said that American soldiers violated the rules of law and their bosses were war criminals. And just as he gets credit—we‘re responsible for what we do. We‘re accountable. He gets credit for his service. And some people might not find what he said afterwards that pleasing.
Of course, he backed away it from last week, said that he thought the language that he used then was a bit inappropriate.
MATTHEWS: Well, you and I are from that generation, from that Vietnam-era generation. Do you think he gets any immunization among men?
MATTHEWS: The fact that he got shot at three times and hit three times and certainly stuck his—here‘s a rich kid, not a celebrity, but a rich kid who chose to go into combat as a judge officer.
SHAPIRO: Which is still so aberrant against the backdrop of Vietnam.
And I really think that wallowing in 1971 like the House Republicans were doing yesterday is—it is so irrelevant. I mean, we all in the 1970s and 1960s said things in an intemperate side of Vietnam on either side of the debate that in adult hindsight we regret.
So the fact is that Kerry maybe went a bit too far in the early ‘70s isn‘t the issue. What‘s really the issue is that these—the Republicans are trying to make a political issue out of an event that happened before the majority of American voters got out of grade school.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, yesterday, a number of Republican Congress people took to the House floor to criticize John Kerry‘s anti-war activities after he got back from Vietnam.
Here‘s what Congressman Sam Houston—Sam Houston—Sam Johnson, who spent seven years in a North Vietnamese prisoner of war camp, had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SAM JOHNSON (D), TEXAS: On this day in 1971, John Kerry showed his true colors. And they‘re not red, white and blue. Before the Senate, before America, and before the world, he blasted our nation, chastised our troops, and hurt our morale. What he did was nothing short of aiding and abetting the enemy.
A person like John Kerry does not belong in the White House. Is it any wonder my comrades from Vietnam and I have a nickname for him similar to Hanoi Jane?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, you got to wonder how much of this has been choreographed, Walter. What do you think?
MATTHEWS: Is the spontaneous outburst of a former POW or is this a guy who got the call from Karl Rove or somebody at the White House saying, it is your turn to speak up for the president and nail the opponent?
SHAPIRO: Well, I mean, clearly, anything that happens after hours on the House floor is choreographed. It‘s been choreographed since the days you were working for Tip, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I know. Well, I know how it was done, because both sides did it. But go ahead.
SHAPIRO: But the point here is, bringing up Jane Fonda -- I think the Annenberg Center did a poll and asked Americans how many people remember—what people remember Jane Fonda for. I think it was something like 7 percent still remember that Jane Fonda was an overly militant anti-war activist who went to Hanoi.
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you remember, “Cat Ballou”?
SHAPIRO: I remember “Cat Ballou.” Others remember exercise videos.
And the very old remember that she had a father named Hank.
MATTHEWS: I remember all her husbands.
MATTHEWS: She had so many of them, Tom Hayden when she was left-wing. She had a movie star—a European movie director, Roger Vadim. And then she married Ted Turner in her sort of corporate era there.
MATTHEWS: But what do you think, Deborah? Do you think this is going to be a nail in this guy‘s coffin to be compared once again to Hanoi Jane?
I think what it does is, for people who don‘t like Kerry, it is another reason not to like him. But the problem for Kerry, it is sort of the Republicans‘ turn at doing what Democrats did by the questioning Bush‘s air National Guard service. Voters don‘t really care all that much about what happened 30 years ago.
MATTHEWS: These are jabs, rather than punches.
ORIN: Well, it is a fog. It‘s what you call in political jargon noise. Nobody can hear what you‘re saying because you‘re busy answering questions about, did you really deserve this Purple Heart or not?
And they seem to have committed a real unforced error, according to “The Boston Globe,” which really tracks this stuff. They‘ve posted on the Kerry Web site some heroics of his swift boat, which he wasn‘t the commander. And the guy who was the commander at the time has objected rather loudly, wait a minute.
MATTHEWS: So the pro-Kerry people are bragging too much.
ORIN: Well, they posted up a long list of, here‘s what his boat did. And at one point, some of those heroics, a guy named Edward Peck (ph) has called in and said, hey.
MATTHEWS: We‘re not voting for the boat. Anyway...
SHAPIRO: You mean
SHAPIRO: ... boat didn‘t sink the Bismarck?
MATTHEWS: Anyway, the latest “Washington Post”/ABC poll found that 31 percent of voters in battleground states—and we know where they are, mostly in the middle of the country—say the economy is their most important issue, as opposed to 24 percent elsewhere.
And in the presidential matchup, Senator Kerry edges out President Bush by two points, a statistical dead heat. But elsewhere in the country, President Bush beats John Kerry by 8.
Let me ask you, Walter, you‘re a student of that map as well as Deborah is. Talk about that map. It seems to me that something like 32 states in this Union are not going to really have elections this fall. You might as well—Well, you should vote for patriotic reasons. But, apparently, they‘re not going to be that close. And 18 are going to be close.
Give me a—why are those do you think mostly economically troubled places?
SHAPIRO: Well, I think first of all because they‘re disproportionately in places like the Midwest and places like West Virginia.
Secondly of all, I have never been a total believer that this election is only going to be in 18 states. There has only been one election that I can think of since World War II that replicated almost totally the preceding presidential election. And that was 1956, after 1952, two Eisenhower routs.
MATTHEWS: So what was the only state to shift in?
MATTHEWS: Exactly. It went to Stevenson. After considering both candidates for four years, they decided that Stevenson was their man. That was a—what a strange thing.
Deborah, your thoughts. Why—how about the economy in those areas?
Why is a tougher economy in the battleground states?
ORIN: Well, because those are the states where there are industrial jobs. And that‘s what we‘re losing. And those are the states that feel it the most.
I think there‘s two theories of this election. Theory one is that it is razor thin. Theory two—and I am slightly inclined toward theory two right now—is that this election might be more like the 1980 election, which stayed very close until the end, because people weren‘t sure, do I really want to switch to Ronald Reagan to Jimmy Carter?
ORIN: And then, at the last minute, in the final debate, people looked and said, yes, I‘m ready to switch.
ORIN: And I sort of think this election might be the same thing.
MATTHEWS: Do you know what the average spread is for a reelection of a president since World War II? The average spread for a reelection campaign, 14 points. They‘re very rarely close. I‘ve done the study. It is amazing. And almost all the victories for reelection are swamps.
So if Bush gets reelected, evidence and history says he‘ll win big, no evidence of a close reelection.
Anyway, we‘re coming back with more with Deborah Orin of “The New York Post” and Walter Shapiro of “USA Today.” We‘re going to also talk with them about Bob Woodward‘s new book, which has got everybody buzzing this week.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, more with Deborah Orin and Walter Shapiro on Bob Woodward‘s new book.
HARDBALL back in a minute.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with more with Deborah Orin of “The New York Post” and Walter Shapiro of the “USA Today” newspaper.
Here‘s what Bob Woodward said this week on HARDBALL when I asked him if President Bush‘s father advised him. Let‘s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, “PLAN OF ATTACK”: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s Friday night. Let‘s hit the Freudian couch, Walter Shapiro.
Freud at work here. Father not listened to by son. Son, president of the United States 43, never asked 41 for advice about a war the father has already fought once and seems a little prickly on the subject. How do you read it?
SHAPIRO: Well, I do think that a certain Viennese analyst could do an awful lot with this.
At the same point, what is really interesting from reading the Woodward book is the sense that there is such a determination on Bush‘s part to go to war that you could almost argue that the historical analogies from his father are outmoded, because it‘s so clear that we‘re going to go to war. And, therefore, what do you talk about?
MATTHEWS: Well, one thing you wouldn‘t talk about is if you knew the old man was against you on it. Hey, dad what do you think if I take up cigarettes? Do you think that‘s a good idea? Well, the old man has already told you 30 years in a row, don‘t smoke cigarettes. You don‘t say, dad, what do you think? I got a little Lucky‘s habit here I‘ve decided to develop here.
Is it possible, well, Deborah, that he already knows his old man says, I don‘t believe in the war because Brent Scowcroft and Jimmy Baker and the old gang don‘t believe in these kind of wars? They‘re much more conservative in the old sense.
ORIN: I think it is a little subtler than that. I think that is part of it.
But I think there‘s also, Bush has said, and I think this was in Woodward‘s first book, that his father worries much more than he does, worries about him more than he worries about himself. And to ask your father about this is to lay a very heavy burden of responsibility on your father. And I think that Bush might have felt that was an inappropriate thing to do. In other words, if he says to his father, should I do it, how should I do it, whatever, anything that goes wrong, his father will then blame himself for.
And my guess is, that‘s a large part of it, that this is his responsibility. He is the president now. And it is improper in a personal sense and in a presidential sense to lay that responsibility on a former president just because he is his father.
MATTHEWS: Well, what about his allusion to another father?
ORIN: We all know that this president is very religious. And he has said over and over again that he prays and that he prays for help. And for some people, that is very reassuring. For other people, that‘s not reassuring. But that is who he is.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s take a look at what Bob Woodward said about Secretary of State Colin Powell. Boy, he made some news, referring to Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith‘s office as a gestapo office. Let‘s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOODWARD: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: Deborah, not to be too cynical, but the only line in that book I think I‘m going to forever remember is what Colin Powell said about Doug Feith, who is a real hawk over at the Defense Department among those civilians, and certainly maybe the most hawkish guy, calling him—and he‘s talking about his Office of Special Plans, which did a little separate intel work over there to justify the war, gestapo office.
And he said, Colin Powell, I don‘t recall using that term.
MATTHEWS: As if he used it is on other people, but maybe didn‘t use on it Doug Feith. What do you make of that? Does that mean this feud is going to continue between Colin Powell and the hawks?
ORIN: Well, I think it is there. I mean, you can‘t make a—it is not just a feud. It is a fundamental disagreement on policy, on how to go about thing. And maybe you change the language, but the difference of opinion doesn‘t change.
We tend to think that everybody should be unanimous. It is also true that it is useful for a president to get opinions from different sides. You want to hear this guy argues the case that way. This guy argues the case that way. If they all say the same thing, then you‘re not hearing anything to make a decision on.
MATTHEWS: You know what Churchill said. He said opinions differ. That‘s why we have checkered waistcoats. I guess those are—some people wear those weird checkered vests. That is his lighthearted way of saying it.
Let me ask you, what do you think about it, Walter? This is pretty strong language. And I think it does betray the real feelings between those groups, the moderates and the hawks, on whether we should have gone to war or not.
SHAPIRO: Oh, and I think much more importantly, Doug Feith is a minor factor in this administration. But Powell was almost as apoplectic on the subject of a fellow who has a little more power, a fellow by the name of Dick Cheney. I can almost see the passage in my mind‘s eye.
Cheney had the fever. Powell didn‘t understand what happened to the coldly calculating guy from the Cold War. Where did he get this sudden obsession with Iraq?
SHAPIRO: And the fact is that the only dissenter we seem to have had
in the entire administration was Colin Powell. And Colin Powell would only
go so far, both thinking
You know what? It reminds me of that great old movie with Steve McQueen and Yul Brynner, “The Magnificent Seven,” how each guy gets recruited to save this Mexican town. Each guy gets recruited in a totally different way. Bush got recruited apparently to try to fulfill what his father did not accomplish, get rid of this guy, Cheney because he had unfinished business, the neocons maybe for a grand ideological, Manichaean view of the universe. And we‘re going to liberate everybody and all that.
But it is interesting how each person is separately considered, Walter. And it is like they never really had a meeting of the minds. The president never asked anybody their opinion. Didn‘t you find that striking? He never said to Dick Cheney—actually, he asked Cheney, should we go? He never asked Powell. He told Powell, we‘re going to go. He never had a conversation with the secretary of defense. Did that surprise you?
SHAPIRO: That surprised me.
The only question is, since—one of the things that even Woodward
couldn‘t get to the heart of, which is the Bush/Cheney conversations. What
we don‘t know is, did Bush and Cheney have this kind of conversation? Or -
· because, otherwise, it was almost as if Prince Bandar played as much a decision of any of his aides—of any of the Cabinet member, in terms of, we‘re all dealing with a de facto situation.
MATTHEWS: It is hard to read, because I would like to ask you, if Dick Cheney were not Dick Cheney, if he were not the vice president, would we have gone to war? He is so powerful in terms of the paper flow and Scooter Libby‘s role and all that about the whole sort of—he is sort of like the Grand Central Station of the hawks.
And yet I think this president wouldn‘t have had him as his vice president if he hadn‘t been equally hawkish to the president. You get the sense he wouldn‘t listen to Cheney if Cheney didn‘t agree with him. He would be treated like Colin Powell.
Anyway, we‘re coming back. Lots of fun Friday night speculation about why we went to war with Deborah Orin and Walter Shapiro, and much more on the death of Pat Tillman, the former NFL star killed yesterday in Afghanistan.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back for more with Deborah Orin of “The New York Post” and Walter Shapiro with “USA Today.”
Walter, did your newspaper today, “USA Today,” carry those pictures of the coffins coming back, the American flag-draped coffins coming back from Iraq?
SHAPIRO: I don‘t believe it did. I know the picture that stayed in my mind was the one that ran, shockingly enough, on the front page of the “New York Times.”
MATTHEWS: That‘s right, today. What do you make of that development? It‘s the freedom of information. It‘s a journalist‘s right to demand certain information be made public. And, certainly, this is general information.
What do you make of the impact on our society of these pictures which the government has tried to keep from the pages of our newspapers for so long?
SHAPIRO: I think the impact would have been gradual. I think just seeing the faces, thinking about people lost in both Afghanistan and Iraq is powerful enough.
I think what makes the imagery of the flag-draped coffins so much more powerful than the face of someone who has fallen in battle is the fact that this has been kept from us for the last 10 years, that we have not seen flag-draped coffins during this entire Iraq war. And therefore, the poetry of the imagery and also the poignancy of the imagery is so much more powerful. But I think the point of this is that the administration erred in making pictures like this off-limits to the press, because...
MATTHEWS: I agree.
Deborah, I know we were talking about Pat Tillman and how that human face of horror of the cost of war. We‘ve also—and many newspapers have had full pages lately. I saw it up in Providence in “The Providence Journal” just last weekend, and the “New York Times,” of course, full-page pictures. It was like the many faces of Benetton, all these different backgrounds with young guys, mostly guys. And they‘re 19, 18, 22 years old.
Do you think these coffins will have a different impact? I think they show a finality that hurts more.
ORIN: I guess I see it differently.
I think the faces of what was lost are far more moving than the flag-draped coffins, because you look at the face. You see a young person who gave his whole life.
ORIN: I mean, what it reminds me of is going to Normandy Beach on D-Day, the 50th anniversary. And there were guys there who were veterans talking about the people who they had lost.
Every loss is a tragedy. The losses in this war are very small compared to World War II. And you‘re looking at these rows and rows and rows of crosses and occasionally Jewish stars and these guys saying, I remember him. He was 19. He never got to live what I lived. This is what war is about. It is the loss.
MATTHEWS: Yes, 700 are dead so far, compared to 400,000 in World War II. Still, a much smaller horror, but still horrible.
ORIN: It‘s a tragedy when anyone...
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Deborah Orin of “The New York Post” and Walter Shapiro of the “USA Today.”
All next week, we‘re celebrating our seventh anniversary, seven years of HARDBALL. And, on Tuesday, Senator Ted Kennedy will be here. He‘ll be joining us here on HARDBALL. And then on Wednesday, Donald Rumsfeld. They‘re actually friends, those two guys.
Anyway, right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann.
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