Guest: Lawrence Eagleburger, Norman Schwarzkopf, Samuel Berger, Ray Bradbury
ANDREA MITCHELL, GUEST HOST: Americans woke up to the surprise news that the United States had already transferred sovereignty to an interim government in Iraq. What happens next? We‘ll ask General Norman Schwarzkopf, former national security adviser Sandy Berger and former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger. And the political temperature is rising on Michael Moore‘s blockbuster movie, “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Ray Bradbury, the author of the original “Fahrenheit” book, will be with us.
I‘m Andrea Mitchell, and this is HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Andrea Mitchell, in for Chris Matthews.
The United States has transferred power to the new Iraqi government in a surprise ceremony that came two days before the June 30 deadline. Two hours after the ceremony, the administrator of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, Paul Bremer, was already out of there, leaving the country on an Air Force jet. Let‘s begin with the man who led us and led U.S. forces during Operation Desert Storm, General Norman Schwarzkopf.
General Schwarzkopf, welcome. Will the early handover...
GEN. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF, U.S. ARMY (RET.), NBC NEWS MILITARY ANALYST:
MITCHELL: ... now help prevent attacks? Is this a good strategic move?
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes, I think it was a brilliant move. I think it took the initiative away from the terrorists, who otherwise probably would have done a lot of demonstrations and a lot of damage. So I think it was well calculated, well thought out and courageous to go ahead and do it the way they did it.
MITCHELL: Let me just ask you about the potential political down side, which would be that it was done secretly, without the fanfare, the ceremony that had been planned, or at least advertised. Does this make them look like they‘re weak and that they can‘t do something in public with this new government?
SCHWARZKOPF: No, I think just the opposite. The new government was ready to step in and make it happen. I think it would have been the other way around if they‘d just gone ahead and let, you know, que sera sera and not take a stand. But they took a strong stand, came up with the idea and made it happen on their own. And I think that‘s very courageous.
MITCHELL: Now, it makes the new government look strong, in your mind. But what about the situation on the ground? You‘re a general on the ground. You‘re a colonel or another commander with U.S. forces. What has changed, if anything, for 138,000 or 140,000 Americans who are at risk in Iraq?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, I think, you know, the very, very important thing is that although they tried reconstitute some forces, some police forces and that sort of thing, the one thing they are missing and they need to work on is leadership. You can do an awful lot under—with great leadership, but without great leadership, it‘s very, very hard to accomplish anything. And I think that pretty well whatever all the experts are saying, that people that are over there are—our military are saying that we have to give—give the Iraqis better training and leadership of their units, and then they‘ll produce better.
MITCHELL: How can you train Iraqi soldiers in the climate where bombs are going off, they‘re being attacked, police stations and other security forces are being attacked? Anyone who, quote, “collaborates” with the Americans seems to be targeted.
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, let me put it the other way. You know, I‘m very disappointed in the reaction of the French and the Germans. They said we were going to get the pre-support from NATO, and then they have said, Well, you‘re going to get all that good support, but we‘re not going to come to Iraq. So I find it hard to believe that you‘re going to train much leadership back in Oberammergau or Paris or any place like that.
MITCHELL: So with NATO saying that they‘re not willing to actually be on the ground there, after all of these months of, you know, complaining that George Bush wouldn‘t go and wouldn‘t ask NATO for help, now that he‘s asked for help, they‘re really giving very little and very late, aren‘t they.
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes. And you know, they sent a signal that, supposedly, we were going to get—you know, get strong backing, and very, very quickly, that all crumbled. And it‘s just not there. So I—as I say, it‘s a lot of talk on their part, but when it come to delivery, I just don‘t see it on the part of those particular countries.
MITCHELL: You‘re surprised that had the French are not being more helpful, General.
SCHWARZKOPF: No. I‘m not surprised!
SCHWARZKOPF: I have to tell you. I would have expected it, Andrea.
MITCHELL: Now, what happens, since it is going to be our responsibility to train these soldiers? How do we turn Iraqis into, first of all, a fighting force, and second of all, a fighting force that‘s willing to fight other Iraqis? Isn‘t that a big political leap, given the cultural and religious differences and the animosity towards the occupation?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, you know, I think they have an awful lot of people right now that are in their police forces and that sort of thing that recognize there‘s a requirement for some kind of control and get away from the anarchy, and particularly, to somehow, you know, counter these terrorist acts that are occurring. So I think there‘s a recognition, a strong recondition of a need. Now the question is, you know, finding those people that were willing to lead and giving them the support that they need to do so. And in that regard, you know, our government has commissioned a three-star general, who was the commander of the 101st, by the way, in Mosul, when those problems occurred, to singularly go over there and be in charge of developing leadership within Iraq. I wish him luck.
MITCHELL: General Petraeus.
MITCHELL: Well, he had a very good record up north in Mosul with the 101st. He seems to have done better than some of the other commanders that tried to win the hearts and minds. Does he have a harder job now, given the prison scandal and the residue of abuse and the resentment, the deep resentment and anger being felt among many Iraqis?
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes, well, I‘m glad you brought that up. I‘ve got to tell you, I spent an awful lot of time in that part of the world, and I know that part of the world quite well. And the prison scandal was absolutely the worst possible thing that could have happened to us with regard to our relations with the Arab world. And it‘s just such a tragedy.
Really, the two things is the combination of our policy towards Israel and
then that, coupled with the prison scandal, has just really set our—our
· any hope of relationships back drastically. I‘d say for the next 20 years, we‘re going to pay the price for that.
MITCHELL: Do you think that the prison scandal, in particular, has contributed towards this—these violent attacks and the beheadings, in particular, the way that hostages have been taken, dressed in orange suits and then beheaded? Is that a very specific response by the terrorists?
SCHWARZKOPF: No, I don‘t think so. I think that they are—they are
· they are just pretty nasty customers who would go ahead and use that kind of technique. But we have given them the ammunition that they need to supposedly justify their cowardly acts. And as I say, it just could not have happened at a worse time.
MITCHELL: Have—have the—the violence that‘s taken place, has that—because many Iraqis are also victims, has that possibly helped the new Iraqi government turn corner, so that they can get people like al Sadr to come out and criticize Zarqawi and the others and try to build some sort of a cohesive response in support of the new government?
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes, I think that‘s absolutely the case. And you know, we hear the extremes on television and that sort of thing, but there‘s an awful lot of good works going on out there. There‘s a lot of rebuilding. There‘s a lot of people putting their live back together again in Iraq and Who want something better than what they have right now. So I think those are the people that are threatened, really, and I think it‘s very interesting that the new government is willing to stand up, denounce those people, that many, many religious clerics are standing up and denouncing them. And if anything, it may be bringing about more cohesion among the populace than otherwise would be there.
MITCHELL: OK, hold that thought. We‘re coming back with more from General Norman Schwarzkopf on what happens to Saddam Hussein now that Iraqis have taken control of their country? And later: Why is Ray Bradbury hot over “Fahrenheit 9/11”? We‘ll ask the author himself.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MITCHELL: Welcome back to HARDBALL. I‘m back with General Norman Schwarzkopf.
General, now that the Iraqis are in charge, who gets to keep your old adversary, Saddam Hussein?
SCHWARZKOPF: Oh, I don‘t think there‘s any question about the fact that Saddam has to be tried by a tribunal of his own people. I think that‘s the way it has to go, and I think that‘s the way it will go.
MITCHELL: But the Americans have said—Colin Powell said only yesterday that the physical custody would remain an American responsibility. Is that to guarantee that he is not somehow able to escape, that he‘s not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) some sort of prison break?
SCHWARZKOPF: No, you hit the nail right on the head. That—that—we want to make absolutely sure there‘s no way in the world that he can escape, now that there‘s a relaxation of some sort. And I think—I think his own—the leadership of the country feels the same way. They absolutely want to make sure that he‘s around for a tribunal that they conduct by the Iraqi people, who will decide what his fate will be.
MITCHELL: Should he be tried and then sentenced according to their law and their traditions, which could mean cutting off hands, beheading? I mean, we‘re talking about a very different society.
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes. Very definitely. I don‘t think we‘re advocating
cutting off hands or cutting off heads. I think that, you know, there are
other punishments out there that are somewhat less sanguine than that one -
· than those you speak of. but I think there‘s no question about the fact that he is going to be tried by his countrymen in a legitimate court, where he has every chance for a defense, and at the same time, the prosecutors, I‘m sure, will have plenty of ammunition to bring into the courtroom.
MITCHELL: This has got to be an uneasy relationship because you‘ve got a new government. It‘s only an interim government. They‘re trying to secure the country so that they can hold elections. There was some suggestion that the elections might even be postponed beyond January. Then they pulled back from that. How do they work out even the rules of engagement? Let‘s say an American commander wants to order troops, including Iraqi troops, into Fallujah. And what if they don‘t want to go? Who‘s in charge? Who gets to make those orders?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, that‘s a very, very good question, and I think that‘s one of the things that has to be resolved. It‘s not going to be—
I mean, it‘s got be resolved now. We‘re in the process of establishing leadership and chain of command and those things. And I think there are some charismatic leaders out there that could—would have no trouble at all, you know, raising a group of supporters to follow them into the thickness. You know, there‘s an old saying, and I—I will try and do it justice. But it says, 10 brave men well armed but lacking in faith in their leaders would not dare to attack the lion. Those same 10 men, trusting their leaders, become the lion. And I think that‘s sort of what we‘re talking about.
MITCHELL: And you also know the Iraqi military pretty well. Was it a mistake to disband the army, let them go home? Can some of those generals, even Saddam‘s generals, be reclaimed and be brought back as the General Petraeus tries to rebuild this military?
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes, well, you know, hindsight is 20/20. And it‘s very easy for me to say, absolutely, you hit the nail on the head. I think at the end of the war, you know, it was over very, very quickly, and there was a lot of leaders out there that we wanted to get rid of in one way or the other. And so I think that—you know, at that time, probably, if we had a little more foresight and realized that we might need that leadership, they‘d be around. But they‘re still around. They‘re still out there. And I‘m confident that we‘re going to find good leaders among those—the Iraqi people.
MITCHELL: We talked a minute ago about NATO and about the reluctance of the French and others to get on the ground and get their hands dirty and put themselves at risk, let‘s be frank. But who else is going to help us as we try to train these troops and secure this country? Is there ever going to be an exit strategy? Are we going to be in there indefinitely and have to even put more people in?
SCHWARZKOPF: No, I—I certainly hope not. I think there‘s an exit strategy or there will be an exit extra strategy. I think we have to wait and let the current government develop itself. Then we have to wait until the elections. The elections will tell us a lot as to where we go from there. I don‘t think we want it to become another Vietnam, where we‘re in a quagmire and can‘t get out. I think we‘re very conscious of the fact that there is—we have to come to closure on this thing. There is an end game. And—but right now is not the time to be looking for it. I think we got to develop their leadership more. I think we have to develop their security forces more and let the current interim government develop and see what happens from that standpoint before we go on to the next step.
MITCHELL: You know, I think a lot of American are wondering tonight, with this interim government, you know, can they control the violence? And why has it been so hard for us? We were the occupiers. We controlled everything, politically and militarily. Why has it been so hard to get our arms around this situation? Why is it so explosive? Literally, explosive.
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, that‘s very easy. We‘re the bad guy. We‘re the bad guy, and therefore, you know, they were rallying against us. Their interim government, I believe, is pursued (ph) right now by a majority of the people. The polls show the majority (ph) as being the good guys. And the good guys, hopefully, are going to be able to come up with support for their programs and for the elections that‘s going to come about and those sort of things, nation-building things. And they‘re going to look for help, and they‘re going to look for help in a lot of different places. They‘re going to look for help, I think, from others in the Arab world to help them. And certainly, they‘re going to look back to the United Nations again for help.
MITCHELL: And do you think now that we can really have the Iraqis out front? We‘ve been wanting so much to put an Iraqi face on this. Even if we do still control security, will people accept that this is really Iraqi-led?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, let me put it this way. We‘ve got one foot forward. And there‘s a lot more steps to be taken, but I think, certainly, we have one very positive foot forward that took place in the last couple days.
MITCHELL: And in fact, a lot of people predicted this would not happen on schedule. It didn‘t happen fully as they had originally envisioned. It‘s less of a real government than they had thought. It wasn‘t, in fact, the people they thought. But they‘ve done something, and we should probably give them props for that, right?
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes. You know, and when you consider where they were, you know, 10 years ago—I mean, these are people that were raised under a very, very brutal regime. And they‘re—you know, democracy certainly wasn‘t a word that anybody even would dare to think about in Saddam Hussein‘s Iraq, and a secretive nation where people were constantly looking over their shoulders to see who was following them and other people were disappearing.
You know, when you have that kind of an evil empire, if you want to call it that, you know, going on all around you, it‘s very, very difficult for you to instantaneously shift into an entirely different way of living. And I think that, you know, we‘d be expecting too much to expect anybody to do that.
If I was an Iraqi right now, believe me, I would be saying, OK, we just saw what happened, and that‘s a good sign, but—but, you know, is there going to be somebody like Saddam Hussein coming back on the scene? You know, Are these maniacs that are out there doing what they‘re doing—is that going to continue? And are they going to seize power? And are we going to be right back to where we were? So I would be kind of saying, Well, good. You know, We made one step forward. Now let‘s wait and see where we go from there.
MITCHELL: Thank you very much, General Norman Schwarzkopf.
And up next, more on why the handover was done in secret two days ahead of schedule with former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger and former national security adviser Sandy Berger. And later, Michael Moore‘s “Fahrenheit 9/11” got a lot of people to movie theaters over the weekend. But the author of the book “Fahrenheit 451” thinks Moore owes him an apology, or even more.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MITCHELL: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Will the new Iraqi government discredit the insurgency, and will Iraqis believe that they are finally in control of their own country? Joining me to discuss today‘s transfer of power, Lawrence Eagleburger, who served as secretary of state under the first President Bush, and Sandy Berger, who was President Clinton‘s national security adviser and is now advising the Kerry campaign. Welcome, both.
Mr. Secretary, first to you. Will this secret transfer of power help counteract the insurgency? Was it a good idea? And what‘s going to happen next?
LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I think it was a good idea, Andrea, because it made it possible to make the transfer without the terrorists getting into the act. I wish you‘d ask me these questions in about a month. It‘s awfully tough to say, at this point, whether the new regime, Iraqi regime will be able to maintain stability or not, or rather to, in fact, impose some stability. I have my fingers crossed.
I think, listening to General Schwarzkopf—I pretty much agree with him that we‘re going to have to wait and see how time goes on this thing. But I think the transfer was a good idea when it happened. I think we now pretty much have the Iraqis up front, where they belong, and we‘ll just to have keep our fingers crossed and hope that it works.
MITCHELL: Will it work, Sandy Berger? Does this really put an Iraqi face on this government, or is the United States, because of the security challenge, still really much—pretty much in control?
SAMUEL BERGER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I‘m not sure tomorrow‘s going to look terribly different than yesterday. It probably was a tactically smart move to do this on a hurry-up basis today and not wait until Wednesday and therefore catch the insurgents by surprise. But it‘s a rather sad commentary on how chaotic the situation really is that we had to do this in such a fashion. The fact of the matter is that we don‘t have law and order in Baghdad and large portions of Iraq. We have a long way to go to get a pluralistic government. We‘re still bearing 90 percent of the cost of this operation. So it‘s a step in the right direction, but we‘ve got an awfully long way to go.
MITCHELL: Well, you‘re both understandably cautious about what is going to happen next. But how can we assess how much power this new government really has, since the United States is still providing the security and has to train the Iraqi troops? Who‘s really in charge there? Secretary Eagleburger, first to you?
EAGLEBURGER: Yes. I think if you take a look, Andrea, at the past month or so, I think you have to come to the conclusion that the Saudis—the Iraqis are, in fact, much more in control than they were. I‘m convinced that some of the actions that we did not take in Fallujah, and so forth, when we had said we were going to, were largely as a result of conferences with the Iraqis themselves. I think they‘ve slowed us down in some of our activities. I think they are more in charge. I‘m not at all sure that they‘re ever going to be fully in charge, at least for some time to come.
But I don‘t think we‘re going to be flexing our military muscles anywhere near as much as some would assume. I think it‘s going to depend very much on what the Iraqis want and how well they are able to manage the security situation themselves. But Sandy is certainly right. It is not an easy thing to predict. The question is whether the glass is half full or half empty. I think it‘s half full. I think Sandy probably feels it‘s half—half full. I mean, I feel half full, he feels it‘s half empty.
MITCHELL: Well, is it a good thing that the Iraqis are holding us back from being more aggressive? Is that one of the reasons why the insurgents have been so bold, or is it important for to us take that step back?
EAGLEBURGER: Well, I don‘t want to...
MITCHELL: What do you think, Sandy?
EAGLEBURGER: Oh. Go ahead, Sandy.
BERGER: Well, I think it‘s essential that the Iraqis feel that they have control of their own lives. Only when they truly believe that they control their own destiny are they going to take responsibility. We‘re not going to be able to pacify Iraq without the Iraqis.
EAGLEBURGER: That‘s right.
BERGER: The Iraqis are going to have to take responsibility for that themselves. So the fact—one of the things that we‘re going to be watching over the next few days and weeks—is this a real transfer of authority, or is it really more of a nominal transfer of authority? I think it‘s got to be a real transfer of authority. Obviously, we‘re still going to have the heaviest part of the security burden because by no means are the Iraqi forces ready to take on insurgents. But the Iraqi people must feel that they own their own country again.
EAGLEBURGER: Well, Andrea, if I may just jump in here?
EAGLEBURGER: I think the point has to be, as well, that it‘s fairly clear to me that this administration finally woke up to the fact that part of our problem in Iraq is that the Iraqis themselves were not certain when we were going home and they began to worry about all the colonialist tendencies, and so forth. And I think what they saw was something we had to make clear that we were not going to do, which was stick around any longer than we had to.
BERGER: Although, Larry...
MITCHELL: OK, we‘re...
BERGER: A hundred and thirty-eight thousand...
MITCHELL: We‘re going to pick this up in just—just a second.
We‘ll be right back with both of you. Stand by.
This is HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MITCHELL: This half-hour on HARDBALL, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger on the transfer of power in Iraq; plus, “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman on what the handover means for the presidential race; and author Ray Bradbury on why he‘s angry at Michael Moore.
But, first, the latest headlines right now.
MITCHELL: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
I‘m back with former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger.
Gentlemen, what has to happen now to put an Iraqi face on this and make it more than just cosmetics, to make it really Iraqis running their government and making it safe enough to hold elections on schedule by January?
EAGLEBURGER: I was afraid you would ask me first.
What has to happen is very obvious. The question is whether it will happen. No. 1, the, now the new Iraqi interim government has to be able to make its will known around—felt around the country. That is not going to be easy, but they have got to begin to develop enough stability so that that election can in fact be held.
All the things that are obvious are in fact the things that are going to have to happen. And the real question is going to be whether the new government, supported by our military when necessary—don‘t get me wrong. I‘m not saying we won‘t do anything—but supported by our military when we have—when they have to. But, basically, more and more, the Iraqis have got to demonstrate that they can run their own affairs. And that‘s the only way we‘re going to get this thing settled at all.
MITCHELL: Well, what about players like Ahmad Chalabi, who is, I‘ve been told, campaigning actively to try to have some political role?
Sandy Berger, is he still a threat to this new government or is he no longer a player because the U.S. has withdrawn its political support for him?
BERGER: I would not count Chalabi out of the equation ever.
EAGLEBURGER: Good for you.
BERGER: And there is—although I think he ought to be out of the equation.
There‘s going to be both interethnic and intraethnic struggles here. Let‘s remember, though—let‘s just put today in perspective. Jerry Bremer has come home. His spokesman has come home. But 138,000 young men and women in the armed forces have not come home. We have not left Iraq. It still is a cauldron. We have now an Iraqi prime minister, an Iraqi president, but still American security—a security force that‘s going to have to bear the burden.
MITCHELL: Well, you‘re not suggesting that the Kerry campaign or Democrats want those Americans to withdraw, though, are you?
BERGER: No. I...
MITCHELL: What would be different in this policy if John Kerry were president right now and not Bush?
BERGER: Well, I think we would—hopefully, we would have more partners. We would have had more partners from the beginning. We would have gotten something more out of NATO than a commitment to simply train a few Iraqi soldiers.
I mean, the Europeans and our allies have as much at stake here as we do. Iraq is much closer to Europe than it is to the United States. And if it descends into civil war or chaos or radicalism, they‘re going to bear the burden, just as much as we do. And I think we have so far done a very poor job of enlisting the support of others.
And now we have an Iraqi government. So we‘re not asking to fall in behind us. We‘re asking them to fall in behind a more or less legitimate Iraqi government. And we have not been able to do that.
MITCHELL: Well, John Kerry has said that NATO should be more engaged.
And Joe Biden has certainly been making that point.
But, Larry Eagleburger, what more could George W. Bush have done? The French and others at NATO simply said, thank you but no thanks.
MITCHELL: And, in fact, we‘ll only do training and we‘ll do it out of country. We won‘t even put our own people at risk by going to Iraq itself.
EAGLEBURGER: Well, again, you‘ve asked the right questions. And I‘m not going to get into a political debate with Sandy. I think he‘s a great guy.
MITCHELL: Oh, go ahead. Oh, go ahead.
EAGLEBURGER: I think he‘s a great guy, but he has got politics all screwed up. But that‘s a different matter. The point is, it does seem...
MITCHELL: Tell us how you really feel, Mr. Secretary.
EAGLEBURGER: It does seem to me—it does seem to me I think that there are some legitimate charges to be made against the administration in term of its ability to get others to come along.
But I think we also need to understand that when Sandy, for example, says that Iraq is closer to Europe than it is to the United States, I might say the same thing about Yugoslavia. And in both cases, the Europeans have opted out for one reason or another. They have not done their duty. They haven‘t done what I think any country that wants to see success in this part of the world would in fact be doing.
And certainly the French are going to do everything they can, day after day, to make it impossible for to us succeed. Now, if that is a failure of the Bush administration, I guess I‘ll have to accept it, if that‘s the definition. I myself think it is a failure of an ally who has, for a century, or for 50 years now and more, relied on our support to maintain their security.
And I think it is a good example of what is wrong with some of the way the people in Europe think. Having said that, let me just add another point, which is, if Mr. Chalabi comes back at all, we are all in trouble. I happen to believe that his misinformation to the Defense Department people who were so much in his pocket, or he in theirs, is one of the reasons that we have judged so badly the outcome not of the war, but of the occupation thereafter. I think he misled us badly.
MITCHELL: Sandy Berger, I‘ll give you the last word on that.
BERGER: No garlands from the Europeans from this corner, let me say, for sure.
But the fact is that leadership is convincing others to do that which they often don‘t want to do. We have a new Iraqi government. We had an opportunity to bring Mr. Allawi to Istanbul and let him make a personal plea to our NATO partners not to fall in behind the United States, to fall in behind the new Iraqi government. We failed that opportunity.
MITCHELL: All right, thank you very much, Sandy Berger from San Francisco, Lawrence Eagleburger.
And up next, what does the transfer of power in Iraq mean for this year‘s presidential election? “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman will be here.
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ANNOUNCER: Follow all the action in the battle for the White House. Sign up for our free daily e-mail. Just log on to our Web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
MITCHELL: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The early handover in Iraq today caught a lot of people here in Washington by surprise. Democrats and Republicans were scrambling to weigh in. But the one thing everybody seems to agree on is that ultimate outcome in Iraq is going to be critical in the U.S. presidential campaign.
HARDBALL election correspondent David Shuster reports.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC ELECTION CORRESPONDENT: It was a historic moment in Baghdad.
IYAD ALLAWI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER-DESIGNATE: With the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people.
SHUSTER: And the beginning of a crucial new phase in the U.S. presidential election. The latest poll shows a majority of Americans, 54 percent, now say the occupation of Iraq has been a mistake. The transfer of sovereignty, if successful, could reverse growing doubts about the Bush administration. And today at the NATO summit in Turkey, the president portrayed the changeover as dramatic.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After decades of brutal rule by a terror regime, the Iraqi people have their country back. This is a day of great hope for Iraqis and a day that terrorist enemies hoped never to see.
SHUSTER: President Bush warned, there are still many challenges ahead. In fact, the transfer was moved up because officials feared a massive wave of violence on June the 30th. The new timing today caught the Kerry campaign by surprise, which scrambled to add his perspective.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You must have security on the ground in order to be able to proceed forward with the reconstruction and the political transformation. It is vital to do the hard work in statesmanship and diplomacy necessary to get that.
SHUSTER: For months, Kerry has insisted that success in Iraq involves delegating more authority to the international community. But the emergence of a transitional government may encourage just that and make Kerry‘s arguments seem stale.
Still, even Kerry‘s own strategists point to the president‘s 45 percent approval rating on Iraq and believe the success or failure of the changeover will be pivotal in voter attitudes. Pollsters say the president‘s standing has suffered primarily because of U.S. casualties.
And now Iraqi security forces will be the ones increasingly on the front lines.
(on camera): But, by all accounts, Iraq has been one of the most unpredictable issues of this campaign. And political strategists warn, it could be even more of a surprise in November than the changeover ahead of schedule today.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MITCHELL: Thank you, David Shuster.
“Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman is an NBC News political analyst.
Howard, the strategy behind this surprise handover.
HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they wanted to get ahead of the insurgents. They wanted to get ahead of the American network anchors. And they wanted to stay ahead of Michael Moore, the director of “Fahrenheit 9/11,” who is stoking resentment about the war. So it was part political theater, part military strategy. And I think the timing itself was a shrewd move.
MITCHELL: Is there a downside? Does it make it look as though they can‘t do this in public, they can‘t do it in the light of day, they can‘t have a big ceremony, they‘re still on the defensive, in a defensive crouch, if you will?
FINEMAN: Yes, yes, yes, and yes.
FINEMAN: Because it is still going to be American troops who are keeping the peace there, for the most part, 135,000 American troops. And, as David Shuster reported, the loss of American lives is the leading edge of growing opposition to this war. And the majority now say it is a mistake. So it is still American power. But the plus side is, there is now a United Nations-sanctioned interim government.
MITCHELL: And the president is with NATO.
MITCHELL: Which is exactly what John Kerry has been complaining about.
FINEMAN: And the president has gotten NATO to say at least we‘ll train some troops. So at least he has a fig leaf of international involvement and international legitimacy. And that was one of the main arguments John Kerry was making.
You saw John Kerry in that clip there. He didn‘t really have a lot to say because George Bush has now got the U.N. and NATO behind him. Of course, what is going to matter is what happens between now and November.
MITCHELL: Now, John Kerry is keeping his own counsel, but you‘ve done some really good reporting in the new issue of “Newsweek.” Where do we stand now with his deliberations? Has he made up his mind about the vice presidency?
FINEMAN: Well, I‘m grasping at straws, I can tell you. I know there...
MITCHELL: Oh, go ahead and grasp.
FINEMAN: I know there was a conference call late last week in which John Kerry talked to his top fund-raisers and said, guys and gals, if you have anything to say about any of the major vice presidential contenders, let me know right now. That‘s No. 1.
No. 2, they‘ve blocked out schedule in the campaign for right after July 4. So they‘re clearly coming down to a decision point. You have two main contenders, who are John Edwards of North Carolina, Dick Gephardt of Missouri, one taking an outside tack to get the nomination, the other the inside view. And that means it could be a total surprise.
MITCHELL: What about Governor Vilsack of Iowa? You have got some
reporting on that. Edwards really eclipsed him in his home state in Iowa
last week and was actively campaigning for the No. 2 slot. Vilsack then
sort of came out and started talking more publicly about how he really is -
· got a great personal story. He has got roots in Pittsburgh.
FINEMAN: Right, which I care about. It‘s my home town. But also the pivotal state of Pennsylvania.
John Edwards, his foes in this battle think, may have overplayed his hand. John Kerry is the kind of guy—and Kerry told me this himself. He likes people to wait their turn. John Kerry once told me, you know, Howard, I‘m the last man in my class to run for president, meaning the last Democrat in the Senate class of 1984.
He views himself as seasoned. He thinks people need to take their time and get ready to run. He thinks John Edwards is trying to cut in at the front of the line.
MITCHELL: He was clearly offended in the year 2000 when he and Edwards were put in the same category.
MITCHELL: Here, he had been a senator and lieutenant governor and Edwards had just been a trial lawyer.
FINEMAN: That‘s right. Kerry punched all the tickets. He doesn‘t view Edwards as a man who has done so. But Edwards is dynamite on the campaign trail. So let‘s see if Kerry swallows his pride and picks Edwards anyway.
MITCHELL: And Gephardt? Safe.
FINEMAN: Gephardt safe, reliable. Kerry really likes him personally, feels utterly comfortable with him. I‘m convinced they did deals together in Iowa to take down Howard Dean. So Gephardt has been doing favors for Kerry going back to last January.
And, as you said, Tom Vilsack, who is Catholic, who is from Iowa, but originally from back East, is a good long-shot possibility.
MITCHELL: But you don‘t there are any surprises? You‘re not going to see any women, people we haven‘t talk about?
FINEMAN: I‘m not going to say there aren‘t any surprises. All I will say is, Jim Johnson, the guy who is doing the vetting, went through Geraldine Ferraro in ‘84 with Walter Mondale. That‘s not a pleasant memory for him. I don‘t think Jim Johnson, who is a cautious Minnesotan, is going to suggest a long bomb. Like John Kerry...
MITCHELL: Just because of the surprises in her husband‘s finances,
not because of
FINEMAN: No, no, she was great. The husband was a problem.
MITCHELL: OK, stay with us, Howard.
Coming up, Michael Moore‘s “Fahrenheit 9/11” was a big hit at the box office over the weekend. We‘ll talk to the man whose book “Fahrenheit 451” spawned Moore‘s title, author Ray Bradbury.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MITCHELL: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Legendary science fiction writer Ray Bradbury is the author of more than 500 published works, including the 1953 classic “Fahrenheit 451.”
Mr. Bradbury joins us by phone from Los Angeles.
Mr. Bradbury, “Fahrenheit 9/11” grossed more than $21 million this weekend. Are you surprised by its box office success and how do you feel about the takeoff on “Fahrenheit 451.”
RAY BRADBURY, AUTHOR, “FAHRENHEIT 451”: Well, I‘m very unhappy about it, because he borrowed my title six months ago and never called me. I found out about it in “Variety” magazine. And I called “Variety” and I said, what‘s going on? What is this Michael Moore doing borrowing the title of my book?
And they said, well, we‘ll give you Michael Moore‘s phone number if you would like to call him. So I called his company and I protested. I said, no one has been in touch with me. No has informed me about this. And I would like to know what you people are doing.
So they told me that Michael Moore would call me that afternoon. This is six months ago. He never called. So, finally, a week ago, he finally called me because he was at a social gathering in Beverly Hills and a friend of mine gave me—gave him my phone number. And, at long last, he called and he was very embarrassed and self-conscious.
And he said, I‘ve made a terrible mistake. I‘ve done a lot of—I grew up on your books and I love “Fahrenheit 451” and I didn‘t realize what I was doing and I shouldn‘t have done it. I said, well, then, I wish you would give me my title back, because it‘s not fair, what you‘re doing. So he said he would call me again this week and he never has.
MITCHELL: Well, what would fair compensation be for taking or appropriating the title “Fahrenheit 451”?
BRADBURY: The fair thing would be giving the title back. That‘s all I want. My book is being taught in thousands of schools across the United States. And in 20 different cities in recent months, it‘s been named the book for all the population to read. And there have been productions of my play, “Fahrenheit 451,” in 30 or 40 different cities. And my opera has been performed in New York City, “Fahrenheit 451.”
So the book has been around a long time. And all I want is my title back. I don‘t want anything else.
MITCHELL: You don‘t think that you should get a piece of the $21.8 million they made in the first weekend alone?
BRADBURY: No, I don‘t care about money. That‘s not the point. The point is that he stole something. And all I want is to have it returned.
MITCHELL: What harm does do it? You‘ve been politically conscious. Certainly, all of your works have been politically conscious, and this one in particular. So what harm does it do to have this documentary use the name?
BRADBURY: He‘s putting my title on his film. I had nothing to do with his film, you see.
So, therefore, he can‘t take credit—he can‘t take my name and my title and have it apply to his film. My novel is not a political novel. It‘s an aesthetic novel. It‘s a philosophical and a sociological study in modern history. It‘s not political at all in any way. It‘s a study of humanity and education. So I want my title returned to me.
MITCHELL: Are you planning to see the movie, Mr. Bradbury?
BRADBURY: He hasn‘t offered to show it to me. I don‘t believe I should make an effort. He should offer to show it to me.
MITCHELL: So, if Michael Moore gave you a private screening of the movie, then you might reach another conclusion, or at least you would have a basis to reach a conclusion?
BRADBURY: No, it‘s too late, you see. He should have called me six months ago. I‘m willing to see the movie, but it wouldn‘t change my mind, because he stole the title.
MITCHELL: All right, well, Ray Bradbury, thank you very much for joining us, the author of the classic “Fahrenheit 451.” It‘s good to hear from you.
BRADBURY: Thank you very much for calling.
MITCHELL: And we‘re here now with “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman, who has seen the movie. I‘ve seen the movie.
Howard, what‘s the political impact of this? It‘s a powerful document. I‘m not going to say it‘s a documentary because it really in some ways is propaganda. It‘s juxtaposing three facts against each other and then coming up with its own conclusion.
MITCHELL: It‘s great satire, you might say, and it‘s powerful emotionally, the story of Lila Lipscomb, the mother of a slain soldier.
MITCHELL: But what‘s the political impact?
FINEMAN: Well, I think it‘s classic of our politics today, when there are two bitterly divided parts of this country. All the Republicans basically support George W. Bush. No Republican president has ever had the kind of support from his own party that he has.
And the Democrats would walk through walls to get him out of office. They don‘t trust him. They don‘t like him. They don‘t like this war. And this is a movie that is a cheerleading exercise for the people who can‘t stand George W. Bush.
MITCHELL: Is it going to change any minds? Will it reach any of that 10 percent, whatever it is right now, at least, between the red and the blue divisions in this country?
FINEMAN: Andrea, I think it could, if only because, if people wander into a movie theater, the power of the movies is just almost overpowering. I saw it last week at a big screen treater here in Washington called the Uptown. You take that heavy message and put it up on a big screen.
MITCHELL: It‘s not a subtle message at all. I can tell you that.
FINEMAN: And without historical context, it could be convincing for people who don‘t know the history.
But, for the most part, it‘s a cheerleading exercise for the people who already can‘t stand George W. Bush. I call them Michael Moore Democrats. And there are a lot of them.
MITCHELL: And what do the Bush people do to counteract it? What can they do?
FINEMAN: Well, interestingly, they‘re not doing much of anything. They had a big discussion in the White House: Do we put out long responses? Do we have fact sheets? Do we really take them on?
They decided to let it lay because they think it‘s mostly Michael Moore preaching to the converted. And I think, for the most part, that‘s true. But don‘t underestimate the power of the movies.
MITCHELL: And what—what else are we going to see? There are a couple movies out. There‘s another John Kerry movie that‘s being made by a pal of his. Is this going to be the cinematic political season?
BRADBURY: Well, I think so. I think politics is in everything. This is a deeply divided country politically. And both sides are using all of the weapons at their resources, radio on the one hand, movie on the other.
MITCHELL: And the Web.
MITCHELL: Thanks very much, Howard Fineman.
Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Our guests included Howard Dean and Senator John McCain.
Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann.
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