Guests: Richard Ben-Veniste, Jesse Jackson, David Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt IV
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Tonight, Eisenhower and Roosevelt on the 60th anniversary of D-Day. David Eisenhower, grandson of General Dwight Eisenhower, talks about Ike‘s leadership on D-Day. And Teddy Roosevelt IV on his grandfather‘s storming of Normandy.
Plus, did CIA Director George Tenet abruptly resign in the face of critical reports on his agency?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews.
CIA Director George Tenet, the resignation comes just ahead of two new reports about September 11.
The first of those reports will be released this month 20 Senate Intelligence Committee. And it‘s expected to be an indictment of the CIA‘s prewar intelligence on Iraq‘s weapons of mass destruction.
The 9/11 commission‘s report, due by the end of July, is expected to take the agency to task over its failure to penetrate al Qaeda and unravel the 9/11 plot.
Earlier I spoke with 9/11 commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste, and I began by asking him his reaction to Tenet‘s resignation.
RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: I take him largely at his word that he needs to spend some more time with his family. He‘s had seven years of the most intense kind of a job, where he‘s got to be up 24/7, virtually all the time.
Few people really understand how public servants, particularly in these kinds of positions, have given to their country at the expense of their personal family and other interests in life.
MATTHEWS: Do you see his resignation as being in any way sort of a scapegoat? A person who‘s going to take the heat for the administration? For the administration for all that went wrong before 9/11? The failure with regard to getting the intel right with regard to going to war with Iraq?
BEN-VENISTE: Well, I think you‘d have to be deaf, dumb and blind here in Washington not to expect that a lot of the heat is going to be directed his way in this election year.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about the oncoming report by your commission, and even before that, the Senate commission regarding the intel that led us into war with Iraq.
Did he have reason to believe that he would be at the center of the criticism?
BEN-VENISTE: Clearly, the 9/11 commission is going to lay out the facts. And the director of CIA plays a very important role in the story leading up to 9/11.
But there was a lot of good that George Tenet contributed in terms of identification al Qaeda as the enemy and in terms of trying to galvanize the government. After all, the CIA had only a very tiny portion of the overall intelligence budget.
And so with without minimizing the things that went wrong at CIA, and George Tenet has admitted that there were several, there are many other players in this play.
MATTHEWS: I remember during the course of the questioning on television, we had on during those days, when you did talk to George Tenet about the shortcomings of his agency during the days before and actually the month or so before 9/11.
And what struck me—I think it struck you as well—is the degree to which Tenet was sensitive to the potential of an attack by al Qaeda when did it come. The morning of the attack of 9/11, he was having breakfast at the St. Regent‘s Hotel in Washington with a former Senator, the former chairman of the—David Born (ph), the former chairman of the intelligence committee. And then at that time, still, the president of the University of Oklahoma.
And he said when he heard about the report of the attack on the 9/11 -
· on the World Trade Towers, he said, “I hope it isn‘t that guy that was getting the flight training.” Very much attuned to the situation.
Do you think he was on top of this situation? And do you think he did a good job of letting the president know? Because the president said, “That‘s one bad pilot.” He seemed to be totally unaware of the threat.
BEN-VENISTE: Well, we had the famous August 6 PDB, in which an analyst at the CIA certainly attempted to call the president‘s attention to the fact that the attack might well come in the United States. That was over a month before the time of the attack.
Clearly, we were looking at a situation like kiddy soccer, where everyone was running to the ball and the ball had been placed overseas.
But that didn‘t stop other people from thinking independently and saying, “Look, this is a man who has threatened repeatedly to attack the United States. He has cells in the United States. We have reports as recently as a month or two ago of activity consistent with not only terrorist attack but hijacking of airplanes in the United States.”
And so this information was there. The fact that it was not utilized, together with the information about Moussaoui‘s arrest, together with the fact that two al Qaeda operatives were in the United States and the FBI could not seem to find them, all of these things in retrospect make these dots look closer and closer together.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look at the videotape. We fortunately have it of you talking to Tenet about those very concerns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN-VENISTE: Given the threat level, given the knowledge about planes as weapons, given the fact of Moussaoui‘s arrest, why was it that you didn‘t put the question of prosecuting Moussaoui to the side and go after the information which may well have led to unraveling this plot?
GEORGE TENET, CIA DIRECTOR: I‘d have to go back and look at all—when we talked in private session, we wanted to come back to Moussaoui. I have not gone back and reviewed all of that data at the time as to why I would make a decision to forego prosecution. That‘s not a—that‘s not a call I could make.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Mr. Ben-Veniste, as far as you‘re concerned, as one of the members of the commission, do you believe that the language of the report will be changed in any way because of this resignation by George Tenet?
BEN-VENISTE: No. I don‘t think so. We‘re going to—we‘re going to report on the facts. Events subsequent, well subsequent to those facts, while interesting, are not really within our area of concern.
What we will be doing is making recommendations on a more generic level on, a systemic level, that I think would be transformative if they were adopted. But this is a matter of an individual person who, for whatever reason, says that it‘s time to go.
Now, what the administration does with that politically will be one thing. What the Democrats do with that will be another. But the 9/11 commission is bipartisan and will not get into that dogfight.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that the now former director of central intelligence was to some degree, to blame for the failure not to stop 9/11?
BEN-VENISTE: Well, I‘m not going to look at it that way. I‘m going to look at it from the standpoint of what information we had and what information was utilized.
What we had was a lot. What was utilized was very little, as it turns out, in terms of warning those in a position to perhaps interdict, apprehend, identify the individuals who were threatening us. And that we will discuss at some considerable detail in our report.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much for joining us today on HARDBALL.
Richard Ben-Veniste, member of the 9/11 commission.
BEN-VENISTE: Good to see you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, two-time presidential candidate Jesse Jackson on this year‘s battle for the White House and why he says John Kerry needs to do more to reach out to the Democratic Party‘s base.
And later, D-Day at 60. I‘ll talk to David Eisenhower about the leadership of his grandfather, General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, two-time presidential candidate Jesse Jackson on this year‘s election and why he says that John Kerry can do more to appeal to those voters facing the hardest times, when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Joining me right now is the Reverend Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. He was a two-time presidential candidate in the Democratic Party.
Reverend Jackson, I want to ask you about what you‘re up to right now with regard to poor people and getting them at the forefront of the Democratic agenda.
REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: We want to take a tour across Appalachian this Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with the mine workers, Cecil Roberts, and AFSCME and the steel workers.
Because in this zone, we‘ve lost nearly 500,000 jobs, a net loss of jobs in every state. Poverty is now off the agenda; it‘s now terror and taxes.
A coal miner dies every six hours from Black Lung Disease. Kids in Appalachia go to school two hours and a half one way every day. There‘s no discussion about vouchers and charter schools in Appalachia. And yet these kids who suffer and sacrifice the most are the first to die in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: What would a John Kerry, running as a Democrat, what would have to do to make that—to create more opportunity for people, poor whites, blacks, whatever from that part of the country?
JACKSON: Well, put up some money to invest in infrastructure.
I mean, Bush‘s theory is—is to cut taxes and you give taxes back so it‘s top down. Cut taxes for the wealthy. Offshore to avoid paying taxes. And no bid contracts. That is a theory of trickle down.
Our theory must be to reinvest. Steel and energy and aerospace, I think, must be seen as national security industries. We must invest to pump them up. Because if we had a major war, we can‘t make our own steel, produce our own energy, or make our own airplanes.
MATTHEWS: What do you want to hear from John Kerry to justify your passionate support for him?
JACKSON: Well, he has my support. The question is can he broaden that base?
Right now, there‘s this 30-40 theory -- 30-40-30. Thirty to the left, and 30 to the right, and 40 in the middle.
JACKSON: I say broaden the base. That‘s why voter registration becomes important. That‘s why an impact study on what brings progressive activists into the agenda.
And so one looks at the charade in—in Iraq now, the idea of having a CIA steering committee called a new democratic leadership. Mr. Kerry need not embrace that idea. It‘s a bad idea, an idea that will not work.
On the other hand, nothing more basic to these workers who have lost three million jobs than reinvest in America‘s infrastructure. Put America back to work. That will resonate. Put America back to work.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you that big question. Do you think black America, African Americans that you deal with all the time, political people, nonpolitical people, have they warmed up? That‘s the phrase; I think it‘s the right one. Have they warmed up to this Democratic presumed candidate, John Kerry?
JACKSON: Well, they do not yet quite know Mr. Kerry.
MATTHEWS: A lot of people don‘t know him yet.
JACKSON: For example, who is the foreign policy team? Where do we fit on that? Who is the domestic policy team? Who is helping to call day-to-day decisions?
So while there is the anything—anybody but Bush theory operating, I think that he has the room to make these decisions. The ball is in his court now, it seems to me.
I think an impact study on blacks would be critical. For example, we‘re looking at 550,000 blacks unregistered in North Carolina.
JACKSON: And 300,000 in South Carolina; 600,000 in Georgia.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he can turn the tide? Do you think he could tip the balance with those votes? And center races in those states?
JACKSON: If the vice president brought value added.
MATTHEWS: Well, do you think John Edwards would be a good ticket?
JACKSON: He would have an impact worthy of study. But also...
MATTHEWS: Is he talking about, I know—I know, you know, other people talk about poverty. But he did talk about it in the campaign.
JACKSON: Talk about two Americas.
But on the other hand, if an impact analysis says, given the ups and downs, choose Lieberman or choose Ferraro or choose Gephardt, or choose Benson, given the huge number of black Democrats...
JACKSON: ... who are registered and not voting, or unregistered, suppose on the ticket were an African-American who brought that ticket excitement enough to have an impact in the 17 battleground states and in the South. That—We should at least have somebody.
If the Republicans with five percent of the black vote can get out of there a Supreme Court justice, a security chief...
JACKSON: ... and a secretary of state. Out of this pool of talent must be somebody worthy of considering to be an impact player as we go toward expending our base.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you what looks to be an imminent possibility. That‘s John Edwards on the ticket. Would he help? Although he‘s a Caucasian, would he help with the African-American vote more than some of the other guys like Gephardt?
JACKSON: He would be strong in part because he represents...
MATTHEWS: He‘s a Southerner.
JACKSON: ... in the South. And his message of Americas, he‘s uniquely qualified as a Southerner to speak of building a bridge.
MATTHEWS: Because he grew up poor?
JACKSON: Because that and because of his own Southern sensitivities.
So we‘re making a mistake as a party to write off the South, because we in fact can win key Southern states.
I mean, we lost the South Carolina governor‘s race by 40,000 votes with 300,000 blacks unregistered. We lost a Senate race in Georgia by 40,000 votes, with 600,000 unregistered.
So if Kerry takes that message—and what‘s healing about that message, South Carolina lost 75,000 manufacturing jobs. They may be willing to hear something other than just flag issues.
When you look at the South, the net loss of jobs in every state. Not a net plus one in a state. And so in my judgment, of those who are being looked at now, Edwards does bring value added to the ticket, if that were to be choice.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. The Reverend Jesse Jackson.
JACKSON: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next, D-Day 60 years later. David Eisenhower talks about his grandfather‘s leadership during the battle that changed world history.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Joining us is David Eisenhower, grandson of Dwight D. Eisenhower and author of “Eisenhower at War: 1943-1945.” David is a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.
David, it‘s great to have you here today. You‘re a great guy. I‘ve always liked you. You‘ve weathered a lot of storms. Married to Julie Nixon, what a world you live in.
DAVID EISENHOWER, GRANDSON, DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: Right.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about this great man who seems to be looking better than ever: Ike. Let me ask you, tell me what you feel about him.
EISENHOWER: Well, it‘s—It‘s—I think D-Day, which we‘re commemorating right now, is really the pivotal event of the 20th Century for America.
There‘s a story that my Uncle Milton, my great Uncle Milton who was president at Penn State tells about my grandfather. I‘ll never forget. This is exactly 10 years after D-Day.
President Eisenhower goes to Penn State to deliver a commencement address. This is a huge event, as you can imagine. And the rains come. And this is going to force the event indoors. And Milton remembers apologizing to his brother for this change in plans and the pandemonium.
And Ike sat back and said, “Milton, since June 6, 1944, I‘ve never worried about the rain.”
MATTHEWS: Did you say—Did you once say—I‘ve got to get on the record. We‘ll get the transcript of this later.
I want you to—Did you once say that once you‘ve received a Nazi surrender, even being president is no big deal?
EISENHOWER: You know, I‘m not sure I said that. But think about that for a second.
If you were on the scene and Goebbels walks in the room, he‘s offering a sword and he‘s taking the pen if that you‘re handing him and the signing instrument that brings to a conclusion a conflict which has probably killed 50 million people, which is going to reshuffle the decks of cards for 40, 50 years to come, and a conflict that for America, is really defining, what America proved to itself by accomplishing a miracle. That is, projecting force 4,000 miles to Europe, 7,000 miles to Asia, on the scale that we did.
Can you imagine being there at the moment where that event actually comes to an end? I think that that would be very hard moment to top. Practically anything.
Now my grandfather‘s friends, Lucius Clay and other people that I interviewed in connection with this book many years ago, insist that Dwight Eisenhower considered the highest honor in his public career to have been president of the United States.
This was—This was a thing that he would not have traded for all the tea in China, according to...
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about the man of character, Dwight Eisenhower. The night before the invasion of France, Ike wrote a note and tucked it into his pocket to released to the press, and he prayed that he wouldn‘t have to do that.
It read, “Out landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold, and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack [at Normandy] at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.”
Well, that says...
EISENHOWER: I, me, mine, I, me, I. In other words, this is a
statement in which he says, “I am to blame and I mean it.” There‘s no past
· there‘s no grammatical...
MATTHEWS: Passive voice?
EISENHOWER: No past tense. No constructions that...
MATTHEWS: No mistakes were made.
EISENHOWER: But you know, I think he felt that. Because as of June 5, 1944, they had 7,000 ships ready to go. He had all the units that he had requested for five or six months. He had control of the aircraft.
He was, according to this A&E movie which was just run, Tom Selleck sits back and says, “I am at this moment the most powerful man in the world.” He was the most powerful man in the world. He had been granted everything that he requested. And if D-Day had failed, who else can possibly be blamed?
MATTHEWS: As a political leader as well as a military leader, tell me about it. Let‘s just run through traps here.
This coalition, this Allied force, even—there‘s a Nazi—there‘s a German general, he was quoted as saying, “We saw the Allied planes.” They even called them the Allies.
So let me ask you about the Allies. How did General Eisenhower, Dwight D. Eisenhower get Winston Churchill, Montgomery, de Gaulle, all to get along?
EISENHOWER: My answer to that, Chris, is I believe that Dwight Eisenhower made a judgment about all of these people. He had to take their positions and interpret them. He had to look behind, or look for deeper meanings in the arguments and so forth.
And I think the conclusion he reached, and this was a unifying conclusion, is that beneath the bluster, beneath the nationalist positions that are being asserted, beneath the questions of pride that they all stood for and so forth, that Churchill shared Eisenhower‘s concept of the war, shared Roosevelt‘s concept of the war.
MATTHEWS: Shared the ideology.
EISENHOWER: Shared this American concept, and the British concept. In other words, what he saw was an essential unity in principle that the accounts tend to obscure.
And so what he did was he framed all of the questions that came before his command in terms that always drew discussion back to accomplishment of the common mission.
Now I would say this was—was he a nice guy? Was he affable? Was he this or that? Did he have diplomatic skills? I would say above all, he had intelligence. Because what he was able to do was he was able to interpret the statements and the positions and see beneath them an essential...
MATTHEWS: He was finding the common denominator.
EISENHOWER: Find the common denominator and the common denominator was, in the final analysis, as tragic as this situation was, there was only one way this war could play out. And that was to achieve the unconditional surrender and thereby accept a partition of Germany and possibly Europe for some time to come as a consequence of this Holocaust which—which plunged Europe...
MATTHEWS: We‘ve got to come back, with David Eisenhower, grandson of General Eisenhower, also a great historian of World War II, especially D-Day. We‘re talking to him about that.
All through this weekend, especially on Sunday, I‘ll be back for a special report, 6 p.m. Sunday night, Gen. Norman—I‘ve got to get this right—Norman “Storming” Schwarzkopf and Senator John McCain, another fighter.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: This half-hour on HARDBALL, D-Day at 60: David Eisenhower on Ike‘s leadership, Teddy Roosevelt IV on his grandfather‘s assault on Normandy, and inside a Higgins landing boat with a veteran who landed at Omaha Beach.
But, first, the latest headlines right now.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We‘re back with David Eisenhower. He‘s the grandson of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. He‘s author of—also author of “Eisenhower At War,” a big fat book—there it is—on what happened all through the war, a lot of information about the military stuff.
Let me ask you about de Gaulle. And he‘s a hero of mine, a hero of Richard Nixon‘s. A lot of people thought de Gaulle was the great case of the man who led his country. He saved their honor in World War II. What was he like in the war in the D-Day situation?
EISENHOWER: Well, I think that he was—he was like Montgomery in a lot of ways. I see him as a figure like Montgomery, who—again, on this question of unity, I think that what Eisenhower perceives in a de Gaulle is an intelligence and an understanding of the situation and the way that the war must play out on the one hand.
On the other, it is de Gaulle‘s role, it is his mission to cause problems for the allied command, to make them uncomfortable.
MATTHEWS: Why? Why did he want to be so difficult on the days—like he wouldn‘t agree to make that broadcast after Ike.
EISENHOWER: His problem is, when this war is over, he has got to
assert‘s France‘s interests as a sovereign nation. And he‘s going to have
to make a point to people who figure that they have saved France and that
they‘ve made France. He has to assert what his French
MATTHEWS: He also has to cover up for the humiliation of France‘s capitulation.
EISENHOWER: Certainly. Yes, there‘s a lot of bluff in everything he did. But they sort of matched their words with a deed by the end of the war, in the sense that the de Gaulle government was attempting to mobilize lots of forces. And they entered the battle in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) sector in southern France.
The French forces were playing a significant role by the end of the war.
MATTHEWS: Your grandfather‘s decision not to bolt for Berlin, to let the Soviet, the Red Army grab it, did he recognize potency of the Cold War to come?
EISENHOWER: He recognized the potential Cold War implications. I think that he also reckoned, with the implications as such a decision would reflect on war policy. What would it have said about America‘s role in World War II if at the moment we have freedom of action, we use that to exploit every advantage that we can find against the Soviets?
MATTHEWS: But wouldn‘t the Soviets have done that? Wouldn‘t they have raced if it was us getting their first?
EISENHOWER: Well, they might have. But our problem was to get the Germans to surrender. The Germans thought that we were somehow saving them at some level.
MATTHEWS: Well, wouldn‘t you rather be captured by us than the Russians, if you were a Nazi, I mean a German?
EISENHOWER: How does Eisenhower procure the German surrender?
I would say that, looking at his conduct between about April 15 and May 7, he had a saying that I heard him mention many times around the farm in Gettysburg and so forth. And that is, when he‘s approaching a question of the other side or war psychology, the question he asks is, does the enemy hate it?
MATTHEWS: Do they hate it? EISENHOWER: Do they hate it?
And if the Germans are holding out—open a front and inviting you to enter Berlin, that‘s what they wasn‘t to do. That‘s what they wasn‘t to do. Does the enemy hate it? You go somewhere else. And you go somewhere else until they get the point that we never acquiesced in their war on Russia. We never thought they were a defense against communism in Europe. We never thought that they were anything but a radical nihilist band that threatened Western civilization.
MATTHEWS: Ike felt—your grandfather felt that if we had gone for Berlin in a way that looked like we were collaborating...
EISENHOWER: That would have sent a signal to German garrisons throughout Europe that, just hold out for the allied columns to arrive. This is the way I interpret it. Now, the conventional account is that he didn‘t do it because of the casualties and so forth. And I respect those accounts.
MATTHEWS: In hindsight, should we have gone for Berlin?
I think that, in the spring of 1945, he had accomplished two things in the supreme command. No. 1, he had bring the war to as rapid a conclusion as possible. And, No. 2, he had to do so in the spirit of the allied cause in Europe.
EISENHOWER: And the allied cause in Europe was to advance in conjunction with our allies on other fronts, including the Soviet Union. We made a distinction between the Soviet dictatorship and the Nazi dictatorship. We made an alliance with the Soviets.
EISENHOWER: They were not our enemies, our real enemies all along.
They were in fact our allies.
MATTHEWS: And when he gave that great announcement to the troops going into Normandy, he made in it cooperation with our great Russian allies.
EISENHOWER: Yes. Exactly.
And so, at that critical point—now, we were going to fall out when the war was over. But, at that critical point, what he had to do was, he had to convince the Germans that it is pointless to hold out and wait for our columns to arrive. What ever you want us to do, we will do the opposite. We assure you and so...
MATTHEWS: OK. I don‘t want to ask you—we only have a minute. I just got the call here.
I don‘t want to ask you about your politics, because that might be tricky. But let me ask you this. I won‘t ask you about the president. I want to ask you about, is there anybody today who embodies Ike‘s leadership qualities in the field?
EISENHOWER: Chris, there are a lot of people. There are great leaders in every year.
MATTHEWS: How about Stormin‘ Norman, the aforementioned?
EISENHOWER: Something that you and I were talking about. You know, the thing that I ask myself and I‘m sure you ask yourself, you look at a fellow like Schwarzkopf during the ‘91 Gulf War, here‘s a fellow who is—he is intelligent. He is practical. He‘s down to earth. He can relate to G.I.s. He‘s obviously a great strategist. He is hurly-burly. He is an outdoor guy.
He is somebody that you can imagine yourself wanting to serve with.
EISENHOWER: He had great leadership quality.
MATTHEWS: And we‘re going to have him on Sunday night on HARDBALL, which is a great buildup. And I appreciate the promotion.
MATTHEWS: But do you believe he has got the stuff?
EISENHOWER: I think he does. And I think that we probably have many commanders, many leaders in many walks of life in America today like Eisenhower.
MATTHEWS: I‘ll tell you something. If General Eisenhower were available today, he would be our next president. This is exactly the guy:
I will go to Iraq!
Anyway, thank you very much, David Eisenhower.
Up next, Teddy Roosevelt IV, whose grandfather—his grandfather led the assault at Normandy. He was actually on the beach.
And later, inside a Higgins landing boat with a veteran who was there in the boat. And we‘re going to see him in the boat in a couple minutes here.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, Teddy Roosevelt IV tells the story of his grandfather, who led the first assault at Normandy, when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: General George S. Patton called Theodore Roosevelt Jr. “the bravest soldier I ever knew.” Armed with a cane and a pistol, the 57-year-old son of President Teddy Roosevelt won the Medal of Honor at Normandy and was the oldest American on Utah Beach. He was portrayed by Henry Fonda in the 1962 “The Longest Day.”
Let‘s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE LONGEST DAY”)
HENRY FONDA, ACTOR: This is the wrong beach. It‘s about a mile and a quarter south of where we were supposed to land. We should be up there. The patrol boat must have been confused by the smoke from the naval bombardment.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I agree with you, Ted, but what are we going to do now? Our reinforcements and heavy equipment will be approaching in a very few minutes.
FONDA: I know. I know.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: But what if they land at the right beach?
FONDA: The reinforcements will have to follow us wherever we are.
We‘re starting the war from right here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Well, joining me from New York is Teddy Roosevelt IV, grandson of Brigadier General Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy is a managing director at Lehman Brothers. He served this country as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam.
Teddy Roosevelt, how do you live with that name?
TEDDY ROOSEVELT IV, GRANDSON OF BRIGADIER GENERAL TEDDY ROOSEVELT:
Well, you know, the best way to live with it is sometimes you introduce yourself to somebody. And they say, how do you spell it? And so you know you‘re treated like everybody else.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I heard that. My wife was interviewing Winston Churchill the other day, the grandson of the British prime minister and he said, it is not always a plus.
Well, let me—let me—I‘m sure with you, it always is. Let me ask you about your grandfather and namesake on D-Day. And that portrait we just saw from Henry Fonda, is that accurate?
ROOSEVELT: That‘s very accurate.
When grandfather landed, because of the tides, the wind, and I guess perhaps some error, the Navy put him a mile and a quarter, a mile and a half off. He knew the beach intimately, because he ha studied the charts. He was very good at geography. And he knew instantly that they weren‘t where they should be. And they had a decision they had to make very quickly. Do they reembark so they would be where presumably the reinforcements would land or did they begin the war right there? And he coined that memorable phrase. The war begins here.
MATTHEWS: And how did he get back in position, where he was meant to be?
ROOSEVELT: Well, what did he was he had instructed the engineers to cut three different routes through the berm. And he got the troops as fast as could through the berm. And, as you know, he got the Medal of Honor for that.
But the stories of him walking up and down the beach with his cane—he had a pistol, but he probably didn‘t want to use it and probably didn‘t shoot it very well, though he was a very good shot with a rifle—just amazing. The G.I.s would say, who is that old guy coming down? And then they would say, my God, it‘s the general. And he would reach out and say, come on, soldier. Let‘s get off the beach.
One guy wrote a note. He said: This kindly old man came down. I was terrified. I was scared. And he said, son, you‘re doing a good job. Let‘s just get off the beach here.
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s amazing how time has changed. I guess an old man at 57. I‘m now 58, so I don‘t quite look at it that way.
But let me ask you, how did an old man of those days, at 57, get himself assigned to front-line duty?
ROOSEVELT: Because he wrote his commanding general, Tubby Barton, and he said I want to go in the first wave. I believe that I‘ll be able to steady the troops, I‘ll be able to provide a service. And I think if I‘m there, that‘s the best place that I can help the division get ashore. I know these men well and I want to lead them from the front.
And Tubby Barton refused him twice. And so grandfather wrote him a letter, a copy of which we have at home. And he laid out the five or six points that he thought were compelling for him to go. And Tubby didn‘t have the heart to tell him no.
MATTHEWS: Well, he would have lived a lot longer if he hadn‘t gone, right? He was killed, what, in a French village just a few weeks later.
ROOSEVELT: Well, he actually died of a heart attack.
MATTHEWS: So that could have been anywhere.
ROOSEVELT: Yes, that could have been anywhere. But he had put, clearly, an inhuman strain on his body. He had come down and been very sick in England. And he technically—he was technically AWOL from the hospital when he took up duty with the 4th Infantry Division.
MATTHEWS: Talk about D-Day, Teddy. What‘s it mean to this country?
ROOSEVELT: Well, I—you know, that‘s a very interesting question.
I‘m looking forward—and I‘m going to be in D-Day. I‘m going to join a ceremony, where I‘ve been invited by the remnants of the 4th Infantry Division. And I think it is going to be pretty moving.
These men, most of whom are in their ‘80s, some are in their ‘90s, they‘ll stand a little taller as they remember the deeds that they did that day. But they‘ll also remember their comrades in arms whom they lost. And I dare say, more than a few tears will be shed as they remember the extraordinary feats that they performed.
But D-Day for this country, I think, is really significant. It was a time in which the country came together. We came together with our allies. And, remember, the fierce fights that existed both the military and the political. Generals Patton and Bradley would complain bitterly to Eisenhower, you‘re giving more gasoline to Montgomery. We need the gasoline. We can break out of here faster. This isn‘t fair.
But the genius of Eisenhower was, he kept the alliance alive. The question I think we have, is there a lesson for us as we fight war in Iraq today?
MATTHEWS: Would Eisenhower Republicanism support this war?
ROOSEVELT: That‘s a very hard question to answer because...
MATTHEWS: That‘s why I asked you.
ROOSEVELT: And I hesitate because I hate to put words in a dead man‘s mouth.
I think Eisenhower would have supported this war. And I think most people did the support the war. And the criticism that at least I and my friends have about the war is the execution of the war. We don‘t think the war has been executed particularly well. And it has posed an unduly high cost on our troops there. We should have higher troops there.
And the fundamental problem that‘s emerges is that we went there originally to be custodians. But now we‘ve become perceived as being occupiers. And that makes it harder for to us get mission accomplished.
MATTHEWS: Well, the president took kind of a Lady Macbeth approach to this war. If it were done, best it were done quickly. Was that the right strategy?
ROOSEVELT: Well, I think the war was done quickly in the sense that we won it and we decapitated the Iraqi regime. But the strategy was fundamentally flawed if we thought we could occupy the country—and I use the word occupy—and provide security with 135,000 or 150,000 troops.
General Shinseki I think very clearly said to the Senate—and he was reprimand by Wolfowitz—said, we‘re going to need at least 200,000 troops there. And I think that was probably a much more realistic answer and maybe it would have been 225, 250. We don‘t know. But the first requirement—and here again, the lesson from D-Day comes back.
At D-Day, we had battalions and battalions of civil affairs officers that landed right behind the troops. And they were in a position as they took over France to help those villages, those towns, get electricity going, get services going, provide law, bring the French back into a government that was going to function properly.
But these people weren‘t properly soldiers in arms. But they were civilian affairs officers. And they got the civilian infrastructure back in place relatively quickly. We don‘t have that in Iraq. And it would have been a great thing had we worked with our allies, so that the Europeans would have provided some of that, while we provided the military might.
MATTHEWS: Do you think we would be better right now led by General Scowcroft and Jimmy Baker than the crowd we have at the Defense Department and the vice president‘s office today? They‘re much more alliance builders. They‘re much more in tune with the Eisenhower traditional.
ROOSEVELT: I tend to agree with that.
And I think that the tragedy of this war is that the neoconservatives, who enjoyed a tremendous prominence in the initial phases of this administration, were right around the then Soviet Union and the deployment of the missiles, etcetera. And they helped end—under the Reagan administration. And they saw what probably the rest us didn‘t see, how vulnerable the Soviet Union was.
And that led to the—both the economic and the political collapse of the then Soviet Union.
ROOSEVELT: But they were profoundly wrong, unfortunately, on Iraq.
And what the administration needs to do is to recognize that and do whatever it takes to give this war the feeling that it is a war that is being supported by many nations in the world and that we are not doing this unilaterally, but this is a multilateral effort supported more than just 35 countries, not just the El Salvadors, not just the Nicaraguas, but the countries that really count.
MATTHEWS: Maybe Teddy Roosevelt IV should be secretary of defense.
You never know.
ROOSEVELT: That‘s a tough job. That‘s a very tough job.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a very tough job. And I like the guy in there, but I agree with a lot of what you said.
Thank you very much, Teddy Roosevelt IV, talking about his grandfather, the man who won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his gallantry on the shores of Normandy.
When we come back, we‘ll talk to a D-Day vet who helped orchestrate the landing at Omaha Beach.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The D-Day invasion would not have been possible without the Higgins landing craft. Thousands of the boats were built in New Orleans and were used to maneuver onto the beaches at Normandy.
NBC‘s Donna Gregory joins us now from the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans, along with veteran Frank Walk, who landed on Omaha Beach in a Higgins boat—Donna.
DONNA GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Chris.
You know, a full slate of events is planned this weekend here at the museum. One of the highlights, as you mentioned, is a Higgins boat. This is a replica of it, a refurbished one, if you will.
Joining me now to talk about they experience on the Higgins is—was a 23-year-old captain, Frank Walk, who retired as a colonel, we might add.
Tell us how important the Higgins boats were in the landing at Normandy?
FRANK WALK, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: They were very essential. They really were. Without them, we would not have been able to make the landing.
GREGORY: And once you landed on Omaha Beach, tell s, what was your experience?
WALK: Well, it was really, really tough. It really was. It was chaotic. People were already dead and dying. By people, I mean soldiers.
It was very much like—you‘ve seen the film “Saving Private Ryan.” Very much like the first 15, 20 minutes of that film on some parts of Omaha Beach. And, as you know, Omaha was really the toughest of all.
Chris, it really is amazing how veterans like Colonel Walk can talk so calmly about what must have been such a horrific experience, but obviously living history here at the D-Day Museum.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Mr. Walk, about the Higgins boat. How seaworthy was that little vessel, that little boat there?
WALK: Well, it was very good, actually. We found it to be good so not only in the European theater, but also in the Pacific.
And when we had high waves, it didn‘t swamp. It was rough riding, and, of course, those of us were forced to ride in them usually became seasick. But other than that, I never knew of any that were really swamped in the seas.
MATTHEWS: Well, once that open front there that‘s right behind you swung down and opened, were all you fellows aboard targets for the Nazi snipers?
WALK: Oh, absolutely. We certainly were. And of course the object was to get out of there as quickly as possible when that ramp dropped.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about your experience, because you said it was like “Saving Private Ryan,” those first 15 minutes of that great movie. When you were going up toward the beach, you said—and I remember told me that you—there were bodies everywhere and the first thing you did instinctively was dug a foxhole.
WALK: That‘s correct. Exactly.
I dug my first foxhole right at the water‘s edge that day. And, of course, the tide was coming in, so I was pretty soon underwater there and had to move along further in.
MATTHEWS: Where was your next stop, your next sprint? Where did you end up the second time after you were there?
WALK: Yes, that‘s a good question.
It was behind the—right at the shell line, so-called, where we had a rise in beach elevation of about two feet.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you today. I understand that you witnessed a meeting where there was a consideration to withdraw?
WALK: Yes, that‘s so.
I‘m sure you‘ve read about that in history. I witnessed it, at least the part ashore, taking place right at the exit E-1 at a German fortification that had been knocked out of action there. And in participating in that were actually the senior commanders then ashore, and they were on—connected by radio to General Bradley, who was offshore on a cruiser.
MATTHEWS: What was the reason for reconsidering the invasion and thinking about pulling back?
WALK: Well, the resistance that we had met, plus the fact that at that point there were many, many dead bodies and wounded stacked up on the beach, a lot of equipment had been disabled there, so the whole place was just a bottleneck, so to speak.
And, of course, the more troops we brought in, since the German fire was still covering the beach, the more we would have in the way of obstructions there. So the object was to give the beach a chance to get cleared out before we landed any more.
MATTHEWS: I always ask this question of World War II vets, including my dad. Did you ever wonder whether we were going to win or not?
WALK: At Omaha Beach, yes, of course. We certainly did wonder whether we were going to be able to stay there or not or whether we were just going to die there.
MATTHEWS: OK, it‘s great having you on.
Colonel Frank Walk, what an articulate fellow. You are living history, sir. And I really appreciate you coming on the show.
Donna, thanks for coming on the show and bringing the great report from that great museum. I‘ve been there. I love that museum.
Thanks to Douglas Brinkley, by the way, for helping to get that thing built and the great Stephen Ambrose. What a great man he was.
Anyway, MSNBC‘s coverage of the 60th anniversary continues tonight at 10:00 Eastern with Joe Scarborough, who is over in Normandy.
And on Sunday, we‘ll be back at 6:00 Eastern. I‘ll be joined by General—I should say—Stormin‘ Norman Schwarzkopf and Senator John McCain, another great American fighter, for a special report. And on Monday, HARDBALL comes to New York City with Governor George Pataki, and former Governor Mario Cuomo, and 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey.
Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann.
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