Guests: Mark Dayton, John Cornyn, Joseph Califano, Walter Shapiro, Donna Dees-Thomases
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: President Bush apologized again today for American abuse of Iraqi prisoner. And Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld did the same. When sworn under oath, he testified before Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Our country had an obligation to treat them right. We didn‘t. And that was wrong. So to those Iraqis who were mistreated by member of the U.S. armed forces, I offer my deepest apology.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So far, the pictures have told the story. Are videotapes next?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld came under intense fire today and was even heckled by protesters when he testified before the Senate and House Armed Services Committees.
Secretary Rumsfeld had a heated exchange with Senator John McCain over how the military guards were instructed.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: Mr. Secretary, you can‘t answer these questions?
RUMSFELD: I can. I—I thought the purpose of the question was to try to make sure we got an accurate presentation. And we have the expert here who was in the chain of command.
MCCAIN: I think these are fundamental questions to this issue.
MCCAIN: With the instructions...
RUMSFELD: There‘s two sets of responsibilities, as your question suggests.
One set, the people who have the responsibility for managing the detention process. They are not interrogators. The military intelligence people, as General Smith has indicated, were the people who were in charge of the interrogation part of the process.
And the responsibility, as I have reviewed the matter, shifted over a period of time. And the general is capable of telling you when that responsibility shifted.
MCCAIN: What were the instructions to the guards?
RUMSFELD: That is what the investigation that I‘ve indicated has been undertaken.
MCCAIN: Mr. Secretary, that‘s a very simple, straightforward question.
MATTHEWS: And that‘s the problem. Secretary Rumsfeld also said that he had thought about resigning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUMSFELD: The key question for me is the one you posed. And that is, whether or not I can be effective.
The—We‘ve got tough tasks ahead. The people in the department, military and civilian, are doing enormously important work, here and in countries all over the world.
And the issue is, can I be effective in assisting them in their important tasks? And needless to say, if I felt I could not be effective, I‘d resign in a minute. I would not resign simply because people try to make a political issue out of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And he said that the worst may be yet to come by way of graphic video and photos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUMSFELD: I‘ve said today that there are a lot more photographs and videos that exist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, anything progressing on today beyond what we already know and what we‘re going to find out from past performance?
RUMSFELD: If these are released to the public, obviously, it‘s going to make matters worse. That‘s just a fact.
I mean, I looked at them last night. And I—they‘re hard to believe. And so beyond notice, that‘s just a fact.
And if they‘re sent to some news organization, and taken out of the criminal prosecution channels that they‘re in, that‘s where we‘ll be. It is not a pretty picture.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: NBC‘s Chip Reid is at the capitol—Chip.
CHIP REID, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, the response to this, of course, it depends on who you ask.
Most of the Democratic Senators are frustrated still. They believe that, although he wasn‘t terribly arrogant and didn‘t have that swagger he sometime has—they were pleased that he apologized—they‘re still frustrated that they do not believe he really came prepared to answer their key questions.
For example, who is responsible and why didn‘t they come to Congress sooner?
If you talk to most Republicans, though, they think he really made a good first step. That doesn‘t mean this is the end of it.
And I think what has everybody concerned at this point is that there‘s more to come. As you mentioned, there are videotapes. And I‘m told that they‘re absolutely horrific. And if they get out, that is certainly going to turn the—change the nature of this story. And there are more photographs.
And there are some people, even some moderate Republicans believe that the drip, drip, drip of this story could mean eventually, Donald Rumsfeld is not going to survive.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you: do we have any outline of what is actually in these pictures that are yet to come out, and videotapes?
REID: Well, I‘ve heard rumors. But it‘s all at the level of rumor right now, so I‘m not prepared to go on the air with it. But it‘s—it‘s significantly worse than what we‘ve seen so far, I‘ve been told.
MATTHEWS: Secretary Rumsfeld said he wouldn‘t quit for political reasons. He wouldn‘t quit because of Democratic senators and others are calling for his resignation.
What about the international aspects? This is a crime done by one state, the United States of America, against the community in the world, the Arab world.
Doesn‘t some question of restitution or atonement require someone‘s head to roll? Even if they did nothing wrong?
REID: Well, I think that was one of the questions, too. And I think his main reason for saying he would consider resigning, No. 1, lack of effectiveness.
But No. 2 is the idea that perhaps it would send the kind of message to—when Evan Bayh asked him, he suggested perhaps it would send the kind of message to the rest of the world. Maybe it would be similar to destroying the prison itself, another symbolic gesture that would tell the world that we are really dealing with this.
And he indicated that it is something he has really thought about.
But I talked to some Republicans after the hearing who believe—they‘re confident he is going to do his best to hang on to his job.
MATTHEWS: As usual, the most interesting testimony was demanded by Secretary John—Senator John McCain. No pal of the White House there.
What was the Republican reaction to his very strong demands that the secretary of defense give details about what the military intelligence people were asking the M.P.‘s to get out the prisoners?
REID: Well, I think everybody thought the questions were justified.
I don‘t think anybody really objected to the line of questioning. Everybody wants to get to the bottom of it. Maybe some didn‘t like the tone of the questions.
But I think everybody wants to get all the facts here. And I don‘t think anybody felt John McCain was really out of line on the substance of his questioning. Maybe some objected to his interrupting the answers. But there was no big fuss about that.
MATTHEWS: Well, he sure was tough. Anyway, thank you. NBC‘s Chip Reid at the capital.
Right now, I‘m joined by two members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who questioned Secretary Rumsfeld today.
Senator Mark Dayton is a Democrat from Minnesota and Senator John Cornyn is a Republican from the state of Texas.
Let me go to right now to do you think he will resign, Senator Dayton?
SEN. MARK DAYTON (D), MINNESOTA: I don‘t think so. I think that‘s a decision for the president to make. He‘s the commander in achievement. It ought to be his decision. But he‘s the one who ought to be held accountable.
MATTHEWS: What about the term effectiveness? What does that mean to you when the secretary of defense says, “The question is whether I can still be effective.” Well, the military are still going to take orders from the guy. He‘s still a smart guy.
Is the question different than that? Is it about diplomacy at this point?
DAYTON: I think it‘s about giving president of the United States the discretion whether or not to continue him or not to best serve the president. I think he‘s a very honorable man in that respect.
But the real issue here is what are we going to do next? That was a question I asked at the end that wasn‘t answered. Are we going to increase the troop strength? Increase the occupation? Isn‘t that going to just cause more escalation of violence, hatred toward the United States? That‘s the track they‘re on.
The president‘s the one who‘s got to make that decision, explain to the American people what are we going to do from this point forward that‘s going to make the situation better, rather than worse?
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Senator Jack Cornyn of Texas. What‘s your view of the whole day, the whole issue here, of Rumsfeld, the president and the embarrassing pictures?
SEN. JOHN CORNYN ®, TEXAS: Well, it‘s very troubling to see American troops—a handful of American troop reflect so badly on all of us and the American government in general and damage our credibility in Iraq.
I thought Rumsfeld handled himself pretty well today, under difficult circumstances.
He has to balance his obligation to protect the integrity of the investigation and to make sure that a meaningful prosecution against those who did wrong is done successful. And balance the insatiable appetite for Congress and the press to know every grisly detail along the way.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about policy, Senator. We‘re fighting a counterinsurgency war. It‘s an occupation. We can argue it‘s a good occupation, but it‘s an occupation which requires that you have to put down insurgencies, which means you have to get information from the insurgents or else you‘re just going to get blown away.
Don‘t we have to be very tough, even cruel with the people we pick up as insurgents if we‘re going to break the story for ourselves to protect our troops about where the explosive devices are being planted?
Who is doing that stuff? Don‘t we have to be tough?
CORNYN: Well, we have to be tough, but we have to do it consistent with American values and with international conventions like the Geneva Convention. I think we can do that.
And—But the American people are not going to tolerate abusing prisoners in order to get the last ounce of information out of some of these people. And I think the revulsion you see here is pretty clear.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that those people, who have been all pointed to in these pictures, the people from Cumberland, Maryland, do you think that they thought up these methods like banding these guys together in bundles and all these things we are watching in these pictures?
Do you think they imagined that kind of misuse of the prisoners, or that reflects what they were guided to do as part of the softening up process for the interrogators?
CORNYN: I don‘t think this reflects policy. I think it reflects a lack of training, a lack of discipline, a lack of immediate leadership in directing these people how to do their job.
This was a handful of American troops run amok and not acting pursuant to any policy that we heard about.
MATTHEWS: So you believe it was their own imaginations that led them to embarrass these people in this fashion?
CORNYN: So far. Of course, what we are concerned about, all concerned about, is additional pictures, photographs, and information that may come out. But so far, it looks like they were acting on their own.
MATTHEWS: Senator Dayton, do you accept the bad apples theory?
DAYTON: These are very bad apples.
MATTHEWS: Would you accept the idea that they thought up all this stuff?
DAYTON: I don‘t know who suggested it and why it was condoned or why it continued. The facts are that they‘re in the conduct of a war. It‘s not going to go perfectly.
And what we need to face up to now is the fact that we are hated in the Arab world. We have Iraqi forces intensifying their attacks against us. Our troops are over there now, serving courageously. They‘re going to be increasingly suffering casualties and deaths. What are we going to do about that?
The administration says now they‘re going to increase the number of troops. They‘re going to increase the military force there. They‘re going to try to, what, subjugate the entire population?
MATTHEWS: Is that a good plan?
DAYTON: I think they need to answer. I don‘t think so. I think we‘ve got to put Iraqi forces, the ones that have been over there, 200,000 that are equipped and trained. They need to be responsible.
And you should set a deadline, say, in three or four months. We‘re going to put them on the front lines. We‘re going to withdraw. We‘re going to cut our forces in half or so. We‘re going to take a defensive posture so that Iran or someone else can‘t come in and take over the country. But Iraq‘s got to become responsible for Iraq.
MATTHEWS: So the policing of that country should be Iraqi?
DAYTON: It should be increasingly Iraqi. And soon. And should not end in 2006, as the president plans to go for.
MATTHEWS: What do you think, Senator Cornyn? Should the Iraqis take over the street protection and leave our guys in the barracks?
CORNYN: Well, we—that would be ideal. But they‘re not trained for that yet. And it‘s clear that in Fallujah and other places where they simply did not stand up and do the job they were trained to do, that they need some more training. They need the assurance that America will not cut and run.
Because, of course, the Iraqis have learned the hard way. Some have died as a result of rising up to fight someone like Saddam, only to find that the Americans and the United Nations have left, left them to their own devices.
MATTHEWS: Doesn‘t an occupation...
DAYTON: In fact, in Fallujah right now, according to reports, this is being tried. General Conway, the United States Marine commander there is trying this. This has got to be accelerated.
We‘ve got to tell them they‘re responsible. Give them a few months.
Get them trained. Tell them they‘re responsible for their country.
MATTHEWS: OK. We‘re going to come back and talk with the two senators about how we get out of this mess. Senator Dayton and Senator Cornyn.
And later, the family of accused prisoner guard Lynddie England goes on the defensive.
And later, Washington insider Joseph Califano will find out whether heads will roll in the Bush administration.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, much more with Senator Mark Dayton and Senator John Cornyn on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld‘s testimony today on Capitol Hill. HARDBALL, back in a minute.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: But in your opinion, even though you weren‘t personally involved in the underlying acts here, would it serve to demonstrate how seriously we take this situation and therefore, help to undo some of the damage to our reputation if you were to step down?
RUMSFELD: That‘s possible.
BAYH: I appreciate your candor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Historic hearings on Capitol Hill. We‘re back with Senator Mark Dayton, Democrat from Minnesota, and Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas.
Gentlemen, I want to ask you about—Senator Cornyn, let me ask you this. What should be the standards we should apply in determining, or the president should apply in determining whether Rumsfeld goes or stays?
CORNYN: Well, ultimately, Secretary Rumsfeld serves at the pleasure of the president. The president has been very clear that he intends to keep him.
But I would say, for Congress, as a whole, we ought to expect that he balance his, this insatiable desire of Congress to know on a blow-by-blow occasion what‘s happening that may hit the headlines in the newspapers and show up on television.
And his obligation at the same time to conduct a criminal investigation, to maintain the integrity of that investigation, and make sure that those who are at fault are brought to justice. And I think that‘s what he‘s trying to do.
MATTHEWS: Should the secretary of defense have told the president there was a big bad news story coming? It involved these pictures. And sit down with the president in a very sober way and say we need a public relations and international diplomacy strategy, and we need to deal with the justice matters here. And we‘d better get going on it.
Couldn‘t he have said it to the president three or four months ago?
CORNYN: I think once he realized the pictures were in the public domain, even though he hadn‘t seen the pictures, he acknowledged he failed to appreciate the significance of this and what the public reaction would be and failed to notify Congress and the president.
But the truth is this has been under investigation since January when the allegations first arose. And there‘s been an extensive investigation. And to determine who‘s at fault and how to remedy this problem and make sure it never happens again. I think they‘ve conducted themselves well.
MATTHEWS: Well, is the horse out of the barn?
CORNYN: Well, I mean, these pictures convey in a way that the press release that Centcom issued on January 16, the horror of what was going on. And there‘s just no—no way to...
MATTHEWS: Well, what I need, gentlemen—you can start, Senator Dayton. If we have more videotapes involving children, involving more of this, I guess you can still call it perversion, is this going to mean that there‘s going to be more of a call for Rumsfeld to walk?
DAYTON: I don‘t think that‘s the issue here. This is disingenuous to say that we‘ve known this. We haven‘t known this.
Why else would Secretary Rumsfeld or General Myers call the CBS to tell them not to run the story on “60 Minutes”? They said they were concerned about the consequences of our military. I share that concern.
But suppression of the truth, which is what they attempted to do, suppressing news reports of—the facts of what‘s going on there, is antithetical to democracy.
I asked whether the president or the vice president had been informed. They said not. I don‘t know whether their staff were. I don‘t know who had that information and why it was...
MATTHEWS: Senator Dayton, here‘s you asking that—those questions of Secretary Rumsfeld and General Myers about the motives for calling “60 Minutes” in the first place.
Let‘s take a look.
DAYTON: Did you authorize General Myers to call CBS to suppress their news report?
RUMSFELD: I don‘t have any idea if he discussed it with me. I was—
I don‘t know. I don‘t think he did.
DAYTON: Over the last two weeks, calling CBS to suppress the news report?
RUMSFELD: Suppress is not the right word at all.
DAYTON: I‘m sorry sir, but...
RUMSFELD: It‘s an inaccurate word.
DAYTON: General Myers, did you discuss it with Mr. Secretary?
RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: This had been worked at lower levels for the secretary of staff and my staff for some time.
DAYTON: That you would call CBS to suppress the news report?
MYERS: I called CBS to ask them to delay the pictures showing on CBS “60 Minutes” because I thought the result would bring direct harm to our troop.
DAYTON: Is that standard procedure—Mr. Secretary, is that standard procedure for the military command of this country, to try the suppress a news report at the highest level?
MYERS: It didn‘t—let me just—Senator Dayton, this is a serious allegation.
DAYTON: It sure is.
MYERS: And it‘s absolutely—the context of your question, I believe, is wrong.
DAYTON: I understand the context, general. I told you this context earlier. I have very limited time, sir. I want to get...
MYERS: I want to take as much time as we need to straighten this out.
MATTHEWS: The question is suppress. What did it mean to you, that term?
DAYTON: When he called Dan Rather and asked him not to run the story. That‘s suppressing the news. That he said he wanted him to delay for—he didn‘t say how long, an indefinite period of time.
Is the commander of the U.S. military forces authorized to call the media and stifle a story?
MATTHEWS: Senator Cornyn, do you believe that‘s appropriate behavior by the top general, to tell a network, a news network to please not run a story, because it‘s detrimental to the national interests?
CORNYN: Well, Central Command issued a press release about these alleged abuses on January the 16th. So there was no suppression of the news.
But seriously, as all good Americans, knowing we have troops in harm‘s way, I think General Myers and perhaps the secretary were concerned that, particularly as Fallujah was particularly difficult, that this would harm American soldiers. And I don‘t hold it against him one bit.
MATTHEWS: They were right about that. Thank you very much, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, Senator Mark Dayton of Minnesota.
Up next, the family of one of the accused soldiers holds a press conference in her defense. We‘ll find out what they had to say.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
One of the soldiers accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners is Private First Class Lynndie England. Today in her hometown of Fort Ashby, West Virginia, her neighbors watched Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld‘s testimony, while her friends and family came to her defense.
HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reports.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Fort Ashby, West Virginia, at the corner club...
RUMSFELD: I feel terrible about what happened.
SHUSTER: Patrons reacted strongly to today‘s hearing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes me sick. It does. It makes me sick.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s just a small group of people over there doing this. It‘s bad for our soldiers, though.
SHUSTER: Fort Ashby is the one stoplight hometown of Lynndie England, known all over the world because of this picture and others at the center of the investigation over abuse of prisoners in Iraq.
But it is this picture and others like it that her sister released today, in an effort to counteract the bad image.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If any one of you would need money for something, my sister would give you money without wanting money in return.
SHUSTER: England‘s family and friends say the prisoner photographs are misleading.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it was just more of her smiling at people behind the camera. I don‘t think that she was smiling at the people in the picture. Just the people behind the camera.
SHUSTER: Friends and family said England is fiercely independent.
She was married and divorced before turning 21.
Her family‘s lawyer, Roy Hardy, said today she joined the reserves with a career path in mind.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her plans were to get money to go to college from the military.
SHUSTER: England went to Iraq last December with a reserve unit which included Charlie Graner, a supervisor at Abu Ghraib, pictured with England in some of the photographs.
Parties said today England is now five months pregnant with Graner‘s baby.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She has bronchitis. She is about five months pregnant.
SHUSTER (on camera): In the town where she grew up in a trailer home and bagged groceries at the IGA, there‘s now confusion over what happened.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think that when this all comes to light, that she will not be depicted the way she‘s being depicted right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She follows orders. That‘s what her job in the military is to do. To follow orders of her superior officers.
SHUSTER (voice-over): For now, the Army has assigned her to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, while investigators sort out what happened at Abu Ghraib.
David Shuster, NBC News, Fort Ashby, West Virginia.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster.
Up next, Washington insider Joseph Califano on the possible consequences of the Iraqi prisoner abuse story for the Bush administration.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Joseph Califano is chairman of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, served as secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under President Jimmy Carter, and was a top domestic policy adviser for President Lyndon Johnson. He is alumnus of the College of the Holy Cross and is the author of the new book “Inside: A Public and Private Life.”
Joe, I like to brag about being a former insider, but nobody is a tougher insider than you were. You worked for LBJ, one of the tough Washington operators, and then Jimmy Carter. And you had a tussle with him.
Look at this thing we‘re all talking about today. What wisdom can you bring to bear from your experience working in this tough town about what‘s happening with Rumsfeld?
JOSEPH CALIFANO, AUTHOR, “INSIDE: A PUBLIC AND PRIVATE LIFE: Well, I mean, I think Rumsfeld—well, first of all, I think in the real world, whatever he says, he has to have offered Bush his resignation, and Bush said no. But the reality of that situation is that we‘re all expendable in the government except the President. And I think Bush will let this play out for a month and see how it plays out.
Whether Rumsfeld will be around then or not, the President will decide at some later point. But I think that‘s the real world of what‘s happening here.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the president‘s rather well-parsed—that‘s the new word from Washington, everything is “parsed”—his well-parsed description of the service rendered by the secretary of defense? He said he‘s been a very good secretary of defense. Boy, that‘s pretty careful language.
CALIFANO: Well, you know, Jimmy Carter, before he fired me, and when he fired me...
MATTHEWS: He said you were the best.
CALIFANO: ... he said I was the best secretary that ACW (ph) had ever had. And then he told me he wanted my resignation. I mean, I think that‘s the real world.
You know, a lot of what happened here—I mean, if I can use the word, I think some of those sort of general kind of unclear announcements were sort of cover-your-ass statements by the Pentagon.
CALIFANO: And they didn‘t fly. If we hadn‘t had a free press, we still wouldn‘t know about this.
MATTHEWS: Well, the old rule of press relations by your old pal, Jody Powell, was that if it smells bad, it‘s going to smell worse tomorrow. It is like a fish. If there‘s a bad story, it‘s like a fish that smells and smells, you‘d better get it out fast. Why do you think they sat on this for two months, it looks like?
CALIFANO: I think it is a horrendous mistake. Look, in the Vietnam War, the military tried for a long time to cover up the abuses and the torture and the murder that was happening over there. I think here they thought maybe they could nail a few guys. And by the time it came out, they‘d say, we already prosecuted these guys, they‘ve been convicted, they‘re out of the army. That‘s it.
And the other thing, Chris, I mean, I think these people—you know, we‘re talking about contractors and reservists, people that really aren‘t trained to do something like this. This is the price they‘re paying because they just can‘t afford to draft people.
A draft would put the president‘s electability at risk. And it might cost him the election. It would certainly cost him enormous support for Iraq. But we don‘t have really trained people over there. That‘s a big part of it.
MATTHEWS: Yes. They‘re reservists, too. They‘re not just regular Army. They‘re reservists. Do you think knocking off some of these people from rural Maryland and Virginia, and blaming everything on them, do you think that is going to sell with the world or with the United States, or either one?
CALIFANO: It‘s not going to sell with the world, and I don‘t think it will sell with the people of the United States, no matter how hard they try. I mean, what we have—it‘s not only reservists. Contracts—I mean, contract interrogators, contract security people over there because we don‘t have enough military. And that is the price of a very conscious decision not to have to draft people, not to have to call any more people up.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about hardball in Washington, because your book is about the insider, and you‘re the man. But let me ask you about this Teresa Heinz thing. It seems to me that the Republicans playing hardball, no surprise there—both sides do—are going after this woman.
Now, this week, John Kerry‘s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, attacked Vice President Cheney for his lack of military service. Let‘s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERESA HEINZ KERRY, JOHN KERRY‘S WIFE: To have a couple people who escaped four, five, six times, and deferred and deferred and deferred, calling him anything (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is in and of itself unpatriotic. Unpatriotic. I refer to the vice President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So this is how far we‘re going, arguments over draft records, whether who served, who got deferments. I mean, this guy, her husband, has three Purple Hearts. Dick Cheney has about five or six deferments to his credit. Is this a fair fight?
CALIFANO: Well, I mean, this is the real fight. I mean, I think the reality is, as far as President Bush is concerned, he‘s happier that they‘re attacking Cheney and not attacking him.
CALIFANO: I think Teresa is a woman that—and we both know here, Chris—she speaks her mind. I don‘t think that‘s the kind of thing that‘s calculated in a campaign. I think Teresa went out there and took a shot at Cheney.
Now, I say not calculated. Whether it was decided that somebody had to take a shot at Cheney, and Kerry doesn‘t have any really good surrogates...
MATTHEWS: That‘s the problem, isn‘t it?
CALIFANO: Terry McAuliffe isn‘t a good surrogate.
MATTHEWS: Yes. That‘s the problem Kerry has. He‘s out there as the lone gun against an entire firing squad on the other side. And Republicans are very good at lining up surrogates. Why don‘t the Democrats, the party you serve, learn how to put people in the field who will take shots at the other guys?
CALIFANO: Well, I don‘t know. And let me tell you, in the days of Lyndon Johnson, we would get on the phone and say to Russell (UNINTELLIGIBLE), “Russell, you‘ve got to let this guy have it.” Or to John—you know, remember when Romney said he was brainwashed...
CALIFANO: and when he went over to Vietnam during the war? We‘re on the phone, we probably had a dozen senators out there saying it‘s incredible, how can we have someone run for President who was brainwashed by a sergeant?
MATTHEWS: Well, who was the guy who said he was not only brainwashed, he was drip-died? Let me ask you the question about Ted Kennedy. I know for a fact that Ted Kennedy and Secretary Rumsfeld are friends. They were at the same party together a couple years ago, a birthday party for Ted Kennedy.
And I know they‘re friends. And there he is today grilling him in the Senate Armed Services Committee, and then going out afterwards and calling for his resignation. How can you be friends in Washington and still be cut throats in going at each other in public?
CALIFANO: Well, you know, Chris we‘ve all lived with that. I mean, Teddy went after me. I went to war with Teddy over the health care bill. I mean, I think that happens.
But I think at this point in time, when you look at Rumsfeld, watching him on the tube today, he is exhausted, he is under enormous pressure. You can see the aging occurring in Rumsfeld just the way it starts to occur in Bob McNamara.
You know, nobody feels worse about this, I‘m sure, than he does, for a whole variety of reasons. And it is taking an enormous toll on him. It absolutely has to. And then when Teddy gets out there and says, let‘s put Colin Powell in charge...
MATTHEWS: What was that about?
CALIFANO: Well, that was really sticking it to him. Come on.
MATTHEWS: Well, I don‘t think anybody gives Ted Kennedy the elbow room to say, let‘s pick our cabinet for the Republicans this year.
Anyway, Joe, it‘s great. Your book is the “Inside,” and you are—I mean it, under oath, you‘re the toughest guy that has ever been in this town, at least since J. Edgar Hoover. So people have to read this book and find out how it really works here, with all these tricky questions about these kinds of issues we‘re into right now with Rumsfeld.
Thank you very much, Joe Califano.
CALIFANO: It‘s great to be on HARDBALL with you, Chris.
Coming up, USA Today columnist Walter Shapiro and the political fallout of today‘s hearings, and a close-up look at a key Pentagon architect of the Iraq wall. We‘re going to talk about the neo-conservatives.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: For those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the U.S. armed forces, I offer my deepest apology. It was inconsistent with the values of our nation. It was inconsistent with the teachings of the military to the men and women of the armed forces, and it was certainly fundamentally un-American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Joining me now with his reaction to Secretary Rumsfeld‘s testimony today is Walter Shapiro, a political columnist for USA Today.
Walter, you‘ve been writing brilliantly about this campaign, as always. You know, we‘ve watched presidencies fail because of wars gone bad, because of scandal. We now face the daily double of both at the same time.
WALTER SHAPIRO, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Oh, exactly. I mean, this whole scandal to me is breathtaking, because what I really thought had changed in America was the basic command and control structure of the U.S. military. But watching Rumsfeld before the House and hearing a Republican congresswoman from New Mexico, Heather Wilson, bring up My Lai as if it were analogous to what‘s going on, indicates the vast damage that Rumsfeld and company, and the lack of accountability the military structure, has done both to the president, to Rumsfeld‘s reputation, and to what we‘re trying to do pretty ineptly in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: Were you surprised when he couldn‘t answer—we‘re talking about Republicans here—when Secretary Rumsfeld could not respond effectively to Senator John McCain‘s question as to what were the—the military intelligence people, what instructions were they giving the prison guards? He didn‘t know.
SHAPIRO: And this is the man who has centralized more authority in his office than any defense secretary in memory. And there was also the sense of, towards the end, when he goes into the House, that for the first time, Rumsfeld is beginning to look like the septuagenarian he is.
MATTHEWS: I would disagree. I think he looks just fine.
Let me ask you about the smartest, toughest guy in the president‘s camp. That‘s Karl Rove, his political adviser, who thinks about everything and the implications and everything. And he went out with a public statement this week that got picked up indirectly.
He certainly was picked up saying that he thought this would do damage for a generation to our relations with the Arab world. Why did he do that publicly? And if the president knows it‘s that serious, shouldn‘t he do more than just, say, apology—or offer apologies?
SHAPIRO: Well, right now, what you have is the only people who have really suffered in term of the wrath of George W. Bush are Paul O‘Neill and Larry Lindsay, the economic advisers, the only people this administration has fired.
But what the game Rove is playing is, clearly, he has to convey in every way possible that Bush recognizes the enormity of what has happened. And the flip side against it is that, at the same point, the more he conveys that Bush is horrified, the more difficult it becomes for Rumsfeld, who Bush doesn‘t want to fire.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s run this story out over the next couple weeks and months. If there‘s more video coming, which we‘ve been told tonight there will be, and we‘ve also gotten whiffs that it may involve boys and either real or apparent sexual conduct—homosexual conduct from the pictures, there‘s going to be the clear outlook that the other side will capture some of our guys and probably do something in retaliation on camera. This could just—this could just continue, couldn‘t it?
SHAPIRO: This could just continue because we go back to what‘s been going on at Guantanamo, what has been going on in Afghanistan, what has been going on with prisoners who have been brought to “third countries” for their interrogations? That this is the whole nature of an administration beginning to unravel. It may not fully unravel politically in this election, but in a lot of ways, this is the event in the Bush administration that has the most potential to do lasting harm to both the United States and the president‘s reputation.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about the strategic reality here. Everybody would like to think this is a case of bad apples or bad command and control, as you suggest. But what about this: we went to war with a government we did not like, with a leader we certainly despised and feared. That was Saddam Hussein. Part of that plan to get rid of him, to have a regime change, was to take over the country, to occupy, in effect, for better or worse, and that meant to fight an insurgency, to fight people who were trying to regain power.
That meant we had to get information out of those people. That meant we had to interrogate them roughly. I mean, in this very situation, and most occupying forces, fighting bad guys who are undercover, speaking the local language—we can‘t even speak that—trying to get to the truth to protect our guys against bombings and sniping and all the rest, shouldn‘t we have foreseen this whole thing?
And what struck me is, last week, in interviewing the secretary of defense, Rumsfeld said the big thing that surprised him was there would be this thing called the occupation with all its negative aspects. Shouldn‘t the ideologues around the secretary of defense, like Wolfowitz, all the guys pushing for this war, have told him, Mr. Secretary, it‘s going to get dirty?
SHAPIRO: I think...
MATTHEWS: Why didn‘t they do that? Why didn‘t somebody tell the president, this isn‘t going to be a clean sweep, this isn‘t going to be a cake walk?
SHAPIRO: I think that this is the most—I mean, the wish to believe was so intense, and the and the lack of skepticism on the part of the Wolfowitzs and the true believers, that the Pentagon is just mind-boggling. The case against the Bush administration politically is not ideological, Chris. It is competence.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you then, where do you think it stands right now as we end the week, the war itself? It‘s still a 50-50 proposition. The latest NBC poll says 42 percent of the people say the war is still worth it. Forty-seven percent say it‘s not worth it.
It‘s very close. Where‘s that number—those two numbers headed?
SHAPIRO: Well, I think, to a large extent, some of it depends on the casualty figures. Obviously, after the worst month since the—in a year, popularity for the war goes even further down. But a lot of it, where it is headed, is the fact that unless the handover on June 30 is miraculous, unless this prison abuse, prison torture scandal miraculously goes away, and unless those Iraqis come out with those orchids and those daisies to put in American rifle butts in happiness, we‘re in a lot of trouble.
MATTHEWS: Not likely. Thank you very much, Walter Shapiro. One good reason to read USA Today.
Coming up, we‘ll preview this weekend‘s Million Mom March against assault weapons with march founder Donna Dees-Thomases.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
This Sunday, women from all over the country will meet in Washington for the Million Mom March. They‘re marching to renew the ban on assault weapons, which is up this year. Donna Dees-Thomases is the organizer of the march and the author of “Looking For a Few Good Moms.” I asked her what impact the assault weapons ban will have on November‘s presidential election.
DONNA DEES-THOMASES, FOUNDER, MILLION MOM MARCH: Well, first of all, Chris, thank you for having me on. The Million Mom March, the first one was organized by mothers across the country who went out and voted this issue in 2000.
They voted out of office U.S. Senator Slade Gorton because he was an NRA senator. They voted out of office U.S. Senator Spencer Abraham. He was an NRA senator. They voted out of office John Ashcroft. So this is going to be an issue again in 2004.
We would like to remind President Bush that right after the Million Mom March, it was a huge success. He called us, he wrote us. He told us that he was going to renew the assault weapons ban. And we‘re going to go back to Washington on Mother‘s Day, May 9, to remind the president of his promise.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about this coming up in September. Do you think this is a good time to be debating this issue when you have an election coming up? I ask this because I went through the congressional districts before the 2000 election and looked at them point by point where there was pro-gun sympathy, in other words, opposition to the ban on assault weapons.
That‘s down the center spine of the country. A few states like Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, Arkansas, Louisiana, they‘re all pro-gun people in that middle part of the country. Isn‘t that where the election is going to be decided?
DEES-THOMASES: Oh, Chris, some of these pro-gun guys have wives who marched with us. The NRA allegedly spent millions of dollars to put their candidate, George W. Bush, in office.
They spent millions of dollars in Michigan. Al Gore won Michigan. They spent millions of dollars in Iowa. Al Gore won Iowa. They spent money in Pennsylvania. Al Gore won Pennsylvania.
So that is NRA propaganda. We‘d like to tell the...
MATTHEWS: Well, how about Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Arkansas and Louisiana? They all went red. They all went for Bush.
DEES-THOMASES: You know what? I would have to say, we to have to do a little blame with the Democratic consultants there. Al Gore has some responsibility for a poor campaign.
The Million Moms went out there and we voted this issue, Chris. We voted it. And I have to say, finally, about the best thing about Ralph Nader running again is the Democrats are finally blaming Ralph Nader for causing the presidential election.
MATTHEWS: Why Nader? Why, you would rather him than you?
DEES-THOMASES: Because we didn‘t do it. This is a public health issue. This should not even be a political issue.
You know, you can go to our Web site, millionmommarch.org, and stopthenra.com and you can read about these assault weapons that are going to be back on the streets in September. This is not a political issue. It is the NRA that makes it a political issue.
We are mothers. We do not want to worry about when we go back to school in September, buying school supplies that drug lords, terrorists and the mentally unstable are going to go buy AK-47‘s and oozies, Chris. This is not a political issue. It should not be a political issue. This is a public health issue.
MATTHEWS: What does the Second Amendment mean to you?
DEES-THOMASES: The Second Amendment to me is about a well-regulated militia. I personally do not believe that we should ban handguns. If someone has a safety course, they‘re licensed, the gun is registered, I have no problem with it.
MATTHEWS: But is that right? Do you have a right to own a handgun?
DEES-THOMASES: I believe it is not my position to tell people they can‘t own a handgun.
MATTHEWS: But do you think American people, born in this country, living in this country, have a right to bear arms?
DEES-THOMASES: They do not have a right to bear assault weapons which were designed for military use. They‘re designed to be held at the hip and to go in and spray and kill as many people in a McDonald‘s as possible. They were designed to go in and kill as many people in an elementary school as possible.
That‘s what these weapons are for. They‘re not legitimate hunting rifles. In fact, Field and Stream did a survey last year of its membership, and legitimate hunters said these are not hunting weapons, Chris.
So, you know, forget about talking about handguns. This is about assault weapons. This ban is coming up in September. We‘re going to go march on Mother‘s Day, May 9, to remind President Bush he promised us this issue.
He promised he would renew this. If he doesn‘t have the phone number of Tom DeLay, call us. We‘ll get it and get it right out of the House of Representatives.
We do know that there are votes in the United States Senate to get this out. In fact, there are more votes for this ban, now that it is about to expire, than it was for the original ban.
MATTHEWS: But isn‘t this part of the president‘s sort of cultural coalition, to be pro Second Amendment? Isn‘t this part of his sort of notion of who George W. Bush is, a man in Texas, a man who does well in the South and the bible belt? How would you ever get President Bush to change his mind and sign such a bill?
DEES-THOMASES: I think we have to put the pressure on. We‘re going to sign up people for petition. We‘re going to get a million signatures for petition. We‘re going to get moms back at the U.S. Capitol on Mother‘s Day. We‘re going to put the heat on.
Now, he may choose not to renew this. He may give many, many excuses. And we hope that Senator Kerry takes up this issue. And if President Bush doesn‘t want to do it, we hope that Senator Kerry, if he becomes president, he signs the law.
MATTHEWS: But aren‘t most people mugged with smaller guns than assault weapons? I mean, if you go to a 7-Eleven at midnight, s somebody coming in with an assault weapon, or is somebody coming in with a handgun? Isn‘t that the real problem?
DEES-THOMASES: Chris, they were banned 10 years ago. These weapons were banned right after a man went in and mowed down a bunch of kids at an elementary school in Stockton, California.
DEES-THOMASES: We started to realize that these are not weapons for self-protection. These are weapon of terrorism. These are weapons of mass destruction. This has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. This is what we‘re talking about.
MATTHEWS: But is it really the answer? Because you know what gun owners think? They think that you‘ll go after the assault weapons, as you call them, initially. Then you‘ll go after registration. Then you‘ll go after confiscation.
And the reason they might make that argument and I‘m not making it is that only 1 percent of crime are committed with assault weapons. You make it sound like that‘s the problem.
DEES-THOMASES: Well, thank goodness that President Clinton had the good sense to sign this into law 10 years ago. We do not have major crimes with assault weapons because they were banned 10 years ago, Chris.
These are weapons of mass destruction. These are weapon of terrorism. We‘ve talking all about the 9/11 Commission. We should have a 9/13 commission...
DEES-THOMASES: ... because we already know what these weapons are used for. They‘re used for terrorism. They‘re used to terrorize people, Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, thank you very much, Donna Dees-Thomases.
DEES-THOMASES: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Good luck with your cause.
DEES-THOMASES: Thank you so much.
MATTHEWS: A strong advocate there.
Join us again Monday night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media Inc. (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.