Guests: Daphne Barak, James Garner, Jack Kemp, Anne Kornblut
CAMPBELL BROWN, HOST: For the first time since his arrest seven months ago, the world got a look at Saddam Hussein in his historic court appearance in Iraq. Among the charges Hussein faces, murdering religious figures and political enemies, gassing of Kurds and the invasion of Kuwait. Will justice and the rule of law finally prevail?
I‘m Campbell Brown, and this is HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Campbell Brown, in for Chris Matthews.
This is the day Iraqis had been waiting for. In a twist of fate, a defiant Saddam Hussein returned to one of his old palaces today, but this time as a criminal of an Iraqi court arraigned on seven charges. It was his first public appearance since he was captured in a spider hole seven months ago. And during the proceeding, the former Iraqi dictator insisted he was still president of Iraq, accused President Bush of being the real criminal and fiercely defended his invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SADDAM HUSSEIN (through translator): My occupation of Kuwait, the seventh charge, unfortunately, it is coming from an Iraqi. Is this just?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): But this is the law.
HUSSEIN (through translator): Law? What law? Law that puts Saddam to trial because the Kuwaitis said that we would make out of every Iraqi woman a prostitute for 10 dinars in the street, and I have defended the honor of Iraq and revived the historical right of Iraqis against these dogs?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Do not insult anybody. This is a legal session.
HUSSEIN (through translator): Yes, this is a legal session, and I am taking responsibility for what I say.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Any impolite statement will not—is not acceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: More now on Saddam‘s day in court and reaction from Iraqis.
NBC‘s Kevin Sites is in Baghdad and has this report.
KEVIN SITES, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, many are calling today‘s arraignment the dramatic first steps in the trial of the century. Here‘s how it started.
(voice-over): This was the world‘s first look at Saddam Hussein since being pried from his Tikrit spider hole seven months ago. Dramatically thinner, his beard turned mostly gray, in court today he appeared at times both agitated and defiant. Hussein asked the judge on whose authority the court was formed? To which he replied, The Iraqi people. He was given his rights, then told of the seven charges against him, which include the 1988 poison gas attack in Halabja that killed more than 5,000 Kurds, the brutal suppression of the 1991 Shi‘ite rebellion following the Gulf war, 35 years of religious and political assassinations and the invasion of Kuwait.
On that point, Hussein insisted he was only protecting the Iraqi people from the Kuwaitis, who, quote, “wanted to turn Iraqi women into $10 prostitutes.” The judge scolded him for that language.
Across Iraq, people crowded around their TVS, shocked by the haggard images of the ex-dictator. Basil Gemayli (ph) said Saddam executed his father. “I don‘t want him to die,” he says. “I want him to suffer until he dies.” Others, like Gaith Abdullah (ph), still see Saddam as a symbol of Iraqi nationalism. “In the trial,” he says, “they will not be able to prove anything because the whole thing was fabricated.”
Well, the big question after today is, Will those images of Saddam Hussein serve as a rallying point for the insurgency or an epitaph for the regime—Campbell.
BROWN: Thanks, Kevin. That‘s NBC‘s Kevin Sites in Baghdad.
James Woolsey has been a strong advocate of the war in Iraq. He served as director of the CIA from 1993 to 1995, and he‘s now the vice president of the Booz Allen consulting firm. David Scheffer served as the U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes during the Clinton administration.
Thanks to you both for joining us.
JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Good to be with you, Campbell.
DAVID SCHEFFER, FORMER AMB AT LARGE FOR WAR CRIMES: Good to be with you.
BROWN: Let me ask you both this question. And Jim, I‘ll start with you. I watched those images today in that video, and I found it so compelling and almost surreal, just seeing him. What was your reaction when you saw it?
WOOLSEY: Well, he‘s a ranting sociopath and...
WOOLSEY: ... that the United States and Britain and our allies have done a great thing by bringing him to justice and helping establish an Iraqi government that can prosecute him. I think this may be the beginning of people across the world seeing what some of the positive outcomes can be and are being of our intervention in Iraq.
BROWN: David, do you think he understood what was happening in the court? I mean, or is he a little bit delusional?
SCHEFFER: Well, I won‘t judge the delusional side, but I do think he probably misunderstood some aspects of why he was in that courtroom. He did not have counsel with him. He asked a lot of questions when he entered the courtroom: Where‘s the authority of this? Are you an occupation authority judge? Are you an Iraqi judge? Who are you? What is this about? If he had had counsel with him to just brief him as to why he was walking in, we might not have seen those types of questions. I did find it a little surprising that counsel was not in this arraignment with him. Now, under Iraqi criminal procedure, it is not necessary to have...
SCHEFFER: ... counsel there. But because this is such a high-profile crime and because occupation authority has actually—you know, before it transferred sovereignty, had such a large degree of responsibility with respect to this individual, and because the special Iraqi tribunal is going to be exercising standards of international due process, they should have leaned over backwards, I think, to have counsel with him in that courtroom.
BROWN: Do you agree?
WOOLSEY: I think Dave‘s got a point. I think it would be wise for us all the way along to advise the Iraqis, and when we‘re responsible for anything ourselves, to make sure that procedural guarantees are there. This man is, I think, quite certain to be found guilty, but we don‘t want this to look like a—you know, a fake or a show trial.
BROWN: Well, I want to get into the logistics of the trial in just a second, but first focus for me, if you can, on—on what you think the initial reaction was, and not just from us—I‘ve heard yours—but the Iraqi people because he came off as defiant and almost tough. I mean, you know, whether you agree with him or not, he didn‘t go in there cowering.
WOOLSEY: I think, among about 85 percent of the Iraqi people—the Shia, the Kurds, the Turkomans, the Christians, everybody but the Sunni Arabs—the reaction is likely to be almost universally one of—of pride and pleasure that a new Iraqi government is able to bring this man to justice. In the Sunni Arab part of Iraq, some maybe 15 to 20 percent, it could be more complex because some of these clans, particularly his own Tikriti clan and some of the others, provided huge numbers, a huge share of military officers, of members of his intelligence services, Saddam Fedayeen and the rest. And they realize that this means they are now more or less down and out until they win their way back into Iraqi society.
BROWN: But in fairness, the anti-American sentiment throughout Iraq is not limited just to the Sunnis. And you heard a lot of people saying today not—not only there—there—in—concede in—in light of the war and what‘s gone on, that there is a fair amount of anti-American sentiment throughout the country, in all different sects.
WOOLSEY: Iraqis are a proud people, and they don‘t like occupiers. And we occupied too long. WE should have held elections earlier. I think we should have turned things over to the Iraqis earlier. But nonetheless, the thrust of the hostility has been in the Sunni triangle and Fallujah and places like that, and among Sunnis. Muqtada al Sadr was a serious problem fore a time. It looks like they may have more or less pulled his teeth in the Shi‘ite areas of the south. But generally, in a lot of these areas in the south, the Shi‘ites, in the north, the Kurds, Saddam Hussein is not popular. And whereas we may not...
WOOLSEY: ... be all that popular, either, we‘re also not all that unpopular. It‘s, I think, mainly in the Sunni triangle, which...
BROWN: David, do you think there‘s a danger, though, that Iraqis, Sunnis or other—you know, universally may look at this as an American show trial?
SCHEFFER: Well, I think that risk is—is being minimized as much as possible because this Iraqi special tribunal is Iraqi top-heavy. It will be Iraqi judges, an Iraqi prosecutor, an Iraqi investigating judge...
BROWN: Yes, but...
SCHEFFER: ... so there‘s a lot...
BROWN: ... American lawyers are involved. They‘re advising them on every step of the process.
BROWN: And there is no system here in place.
BROWN: They‘re not familiar...
BROWN: ... with an independent judiciary.
SCHEFFER: During the occupation, it‘s true that they were behind the scenes doing so. They‘ll continue to do that for a while. But once this trial actually gets under way, I don‘t think you‘ll see much of an American presence in the courtroom. So the visuals will not be American.
But I think it is very important to look at the Milosevic precedent here, with respect to your question to Jim, and that is, Milosevic used his self-representation in the trial, and is still doing so, to grandstand politically in that trial and to...
BROWN: And it gave him...
SCHEFFER: ... communicate...
BROWN: ... a political platform and a forum.
SCHEFFER: ... and to communicate to his political supporters, who do still exist in Serbia. And that had an objective. If Saddam Hussein chooses to represent himself in this trial, he may try to use the same tactic in order to garner that support among the populace. But he seemed to also indicate that he wanted a lawyer today. I think it‘ll be incumbent upon this court to insist that he have a lawyer and that the lawyer do the professional speaking for him in the courtroom. And the statute to the court empowers the court to require that of him, that he have a lawyer in the courtroom.
BROWN: But do you see him, you know, standing behind a lawyer, or taking this opportunity to try to use it to his advantage?
WOOLSEY: I think he should be required to have a lawyer. I don‘t think he has or should be given any right to just stand up and try to use this as a propaganda device. And there‘s one thing to remember about—about Iraq. Not only did these people invent the rule of law, with Hammurabi‘s code a long time ago, but they had a very decent civil and criminal code from the 1920s to the 1950s. They had a distinguished set of jurists. This is not a primitive place.
Now, admittedly, for the last 30 to 40 years, they‘ve been under a terrible dictatorship, but the Iraqi people, particularly older ones, have an appreciation for many aspects of the rule of law that certainly aren‘t apparent if one, you know, looks at images of burning vehicles and so forth...
WOOLSEY: ... in the streets of Fallujah. But we have a lot to build on in this country, and this is a very good beginning to show the Iraqis how they are able to move back to some aspects of the rule of law that they once knew.
BROWN: OK, we got to take a quick break. We‘ll be back with more with James Woolsey and David Scheffer. And when we come back, what will Saddam Hussein‘s trial look like? We‘ll look back on the trials of other tyrants.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
BROWN: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Today has been history in the making. We‘re continuing to discuss Saddam Hussein‘s first appearance in an Iraqi court. And as NBC‘s Mike Taibbi reports, most modern-day dictators and war criminals have actually escaped trial.
MIKE TAIBBI, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From this to this, until today, the enduring image of Saddam Hussein‘s fall from power. This morning, the money shot, Saddam arraigned and formally charged with crimes against humanity.
COL RICK FRANCONA, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.), MSNBC MIDDLE EAST ANALYST:
The importance of this indictment is that it‘s being done by Iraqis in an Iraqi courtroom.
TAIBBI: But few of history‘s most sinister figures have ever been truly held accountable. Hitler, Stalin and Mao Zedong never faced trial, or any form of punishment, for their brutality. Neither did Cambodia‘s Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader whose atrocities were documented in the film “The Killing Fields.” His regime was responsible for the death, imprisonment or exile of nearly two million people. Yet he avoided trial and died in 1998 past the age of 70, apparently of natural causes.
Another despot, the former shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlevi, forced out of his country after popular uprisings against his regime, which was oppressive in its use of the secret police. On January 16, 1979, Shah Pahlevi fled Iran following the return of Ayatollah Khomeini. The shah died in Egypt in 1980 without ever facing trial for his crimes.
Death was also the way out for the former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos. The firm anti-communist leader who was initially supported by the United States. After years of widespread corruption, political bullying and reported links to the assassination of opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Marcos faced a backlash and was exiled to Hawaii, where he remained until his death in 1989.
Like Marcos, Haiti‘s Jean-Claude Duvalier was removed from his government courtesy of American transport. Known as “Baby Doc” Duvalier, he declared himself president for life at age 20. He, too, was forced out by mounting instability and anti-government protests. Dancing Haitians took to the streets on the morning of January 7, 1986, as the Baby Doc regime ended.
But among history‘s most famous tyrants, there are those who have been brought to justice. In 1989, former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega was captured and removed from Panama after President George H.W. Bush ordered an invasion of that country. In 1992, Noriega was sentenced by a U.S. judge to 40 years on charges of drug trafficking and the sale of U.S. secrets to Cuba.
And former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic was indicted by the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague for his ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, his trial still ongoing.
Mike Taibbi, NBC News, New York.
BROWN: I‘m back with James Woolsey and Ambassador David Scheffer. And David, let me ask you to kind of walk us through. We‘ve had the history lesson. Walk us through what we‘re going to see happen over the next several months.
SCHEFFER: You won‘t see much happen at all over the next several months because this who process will probably go somewhat underground with the preparation for the trials—the collection of the evidence, the preparation of witnesses, and the prosecutor, in fact, making those discretionary decisions as to how he‘s going to proceed not only against Saddam Hussein, but the 11 others who were also brought...
SCHEFFER: ... before this court today. And then, maybe five, six, seven months down the road, you‘ll probably see a new hearing before the specially constituted tribunal...
SCHEFFER: ... for this—for these crimes.
BROWN: Let‘s talk about the challenges, both of you—gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, getting people to testify, people who are still terrified. How hard is that going to be?
WOOLSEY: I think it‘s going to be harder the longer the violence continues in Iraq, of course, and...
BROWN: Well, the security situation prevents people from moving around to collect evidence or interview people.
WOOLSEY: Well, it especially does in the Sunni areas. I think one solution here, Campbell, is to move ahead as promptly as possible with elections, with single-member constituencies, not this proportional representation thing that the United Nations wants, single-member constituencies in the Kurdish and Shia areas and in the Sunni areas where it‘s peaceful. Have a national legislature. Go ahead and have the elections. And that establishes an incentive to the other parts of Iraq, such as Fallujah, to start behaving so they get to elect—have elections, as well. I think if we took some step to incentivize a move toward democracy and the rule of law for other parts of Iraq, such as in the Sunni triangle, we could get a better handle on some of the legal processes, too.
BROWN: It‘s a good idea, from your perspective. But the reality is, the Bush administration is giving a lot more control to the United Nations, and that‘s probably not what‘s going to happen. So given the reality, how do you operate under these conditions?
WOOLSEY: Well, the United Nations representative said she liked proportional representation, and that means lots of tiny parties and extremist parties. Muqtada al Sadr will have a party. I think they should reverse that. Jerry Bremer endorsed her recommendations, but I don‘t know that the U.S. government as a whole has yet. And I think they‘ll have a lot peaceful—more peaceful situations sooner if they can move quickly to elections. And the only way, really, to do that is to have single-member constituencies, not party slates, nationwide.
BROWN: OK, aside from his views on that issue (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I‘m trying to bring you back to reality. Witnesses—is it going to be hard to get people to come forward?
SCHEFFER: Well, this is extremely problematic, the witnesses. One of the most challenging aspects for any international criminal tribunal, but particularly for this domestic tribunal in Iraq, given the context of the violence and the security situation, is how do you assure witnesses that their testimony will not endanger their lives or that of their families?
BROWN: Well, they‘re trying to create a witness protection program, right?
SCHEFFER: Right, but it‘s very, very—well, it‘s very expensive, too, by the way, to create those programs. And it hasn‘t been demonstrated yet that there‘s been investment in that. You know, in Iraq, before Iraqi courts, judges have typically—certainly before Saddam Hussein‘s time, are more impressed with witness testimony than they are with documentary evidence.
SCHEFFER: This is just the way of those—of their courts. So I think if this court, which is going to be composed primarily of Iraqi judges—they may bring in an international judge. They have the right to do so. They are going to be looking for witnesses. And particularly, when you go as high as Saddam Hussein, guess who the witnesses are going to be? Some of those other 11.
SCHEFFER: And while their...
BROWN: They‘re going to pull out a plea deal?
SCHEFFER: While their security and the security of their families may not be as critical, it‘ll be other witnesses who are brought into the courtroom who will talk about the actual commission of the crimes, and their security is going to have to be assured.
BROWN: OK. When we come back, we‘re going to talk to you about whether or not he has secrets with regard to his relationship with the U.S. that he could spill as part of his defense. So more with Jim Woolsey and David Scheffer on Saddam‘s appearance in court today.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
BROWN: We‘re back, talking about Saddam‘s day in court with former CIA director Jim Woolsey and David Scheffer, the former U.S. ambassador for war crimes.
Let me ask you what we were talking about just a moment ago. Some of the charges stem from a time when the U.S. was allied with Saddam Hussein. Could this work in his favor? Do you see a scenario where he may start spilling secrets about what the U.S. may have known and turned a blind eye to?
SCHEFFER: Oh, he‘ll try to—anything he can get away with. But what we really did during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s was provide him with some intelligence. And also, I think the gates were open for some shipments of some things to him that shouldn‘t have been, precursors on some chemicals, for example.
But I think that he won‘t be successful in steering a trial toward that kind of thing. First of all, it doesn‘t really have a great deal to do with most of the charges against him. And secondly, any judge who‘s worth a darn is going to keep him in the provision of information and testimony on the charges that have been brought against him—the gassing of Halabja and the Kurds, the war crimes, et cetera. And we weren‘t really complicit in his war crimes.
BROWN: What do you think? How did you think the judge handled the—the appearance today?
SCHEFFER: Well, I would give him a B, a grade of B for his performance, from what I‘ve seen. He seemed a little intimidated at times by Saddam Hussein. He didn‘t seem to know exactly how to discipline this individual in front of him. I thought some of his responses to what Saddam Hussein said sounded a little weak. You know, he just said, Well, but it‘s the law. Well, as a judge...
SCHEFFER: ... you don‘t just say it‘s the law, you actually discipline the individual and put him right back on the procedural path he should be...
BROWN: Well, is that a danger...
SCHEFFER: ... in the courtroom.
BROWN: ... during this trial?
SCHEFFER: Well, hopefully, the judges that will be on the special tribunal—because it‘s not this court...
SCHEFFER: ... that he‘ll appear before—will be more probably more experienced, more seasoned, and frankly—well, I don‘t want to say more, but they will be courageous with respect to their presence on that bench. They know they have to be courageous.
BROWN: We got about a minute left.
WOOLSEY: I think they ought to put him in a glass booth that‘s soundproof and bulletproof and let him sound off when the judge believes it is appropriate to let him say something. Let him stay in there and rant to himself, but have his lawyer do the speaking for him.
BROWN: Well, I am sure we will be hearing much more from the two of you as this progresses. Thanks to you both for being with us.
SCHEFFER: Thank you.
WOOLSEY: Thank you, Campbell.
BROWN: James Woolsey and David Scheffer.
And then coming up: John Kerry‘s search for a running mate is winding down, and a decision could be just days away. What should Kerry be looking for? I‘ll ask John Kerry, who was Bob Dole‘s vice presidential candidate in 1996.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
BROWN: This half-hour on HARDBALL, what should John Kerry look for in a running mate? Jack Kemp ran for vice president with Bob Dole. And he‘ll be here. Plus, Saddam Hussein‘s day in court, how will it affect the war in Iraq and the battle for the White House?
But, first, the latest headlines right now.
BROWN: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Will the trial of Saddam Hussein help President Bush politically in November or will it be a sobering reminder to Americans that we are still at war with insurgents in Iraq?
Joining us from Vail, Colorado, is Jack Kemp, former vice presidential candidate and co-director of Empower America.
Thanks for joining us.
JACK KEMP, CO-FOUNDER, EMPOWER AMERICA: OK, Campbell. Nice to be with you.
BROWN: We‘re going to get into the veepstakes, which everyone is buzzing about, in just a second.
But I want to ask you. This is the big story today. And you must have seen the images of Saddam Hussein in the courtroom. What did you think about it?
KEMP: Well, finally justice can be done. I‘m glad he‘s in the hands of the Iraqis. I‘m glad the trial is being conducted in an Iraqi court. And I‘m really glad the president turned over the sovereignty to Iraq two days earlier than was expected. So, hopefully, we can begin now to win some hearts and minds not only in Iraq, but in the Arabic and Islamic world.
BROWN: Do you think they‘re going to be able to pull this off, the trial, that it has credibility, that they know what they‘re getting into?
KEMP: Well, I think the Iraqis take it very seriously. He did a great deal of harm. Irrespective of where people stood on the war, the occupation now has to be turned into economic liberation and justice for Saddam Hussein. And that‘s being done.
So can it be done? Yes. Will it be tough and cumbersome? Absolutely. But I think it works to the president‘s benefit in so far as the Iraqis now have a chance to be free and move toward some type of a stable, more democratic, not a perfect Jeffersonian democracy, but a more democratic form of government.
BROWN: Let‘s switch to politics.
As you know, so much attention focused right now on who John Kerry is going to choose to be his running mate. Tell us a little bit about the vetting process when you were chosen to run with Bob Dole.
KEMP: Well, it was—I was never really vetted, in the sense that they‘re doing in with—in the Democratic Party with John Kerry.
I had not really been on anybody‘s list, so it was out of the blue. In fact, I told Bob, who I respect and admire and cherish his friendship, that I really didn‘t want to do it, because I thought he needed a pit bull to go after Clinton and Gore. And that‘s not my politics.
So we talked and talked. And, finally, I did it and was vetted in the process, after having been in government for so long. After having said that, the process seems to be working. Who knows? I don‘t have a clue. But if he really want to make his race competitive, he ought to pick Sam Nunn of Georgia.
BROWN: Well, I was going to ask you about that, because he is sort of a dark horse. You don‘t hear a lot about him, not in the way you do Dick Gephardt or John Edwards. But what about rMDNM_Nunn? Why do you say that?
KEMP: Well, look, they have got a number of capable candidates. And he‘s talked about Edwards and Gephardt and Richardson and Vilsack of Iowa.
But what he needs is a world-class internationalist who is pro-defense, pro-free enterprise, pro-economic growth. That‘s really Sam Nunn.
BROWN: Well, do you think he would be the strongest against Vice President Cheney? Because one of the most telling moments of the last campaign was the debate between Lieberman and Cheney.
KEMP: Well, Dick Cheney is a very good friend of mine. He and Lynne are dear friends of our family. So, obviously, I‘m very prejudiced toward Dick Cheney.
But Sam Nunn has the gravitas, has the intellectual firepower. It would be a heck of a debate between Sam Nunn and Dick Cheney. They would probably agree on a lot of things, too.
BROWN: Well, knowing that Cheney is a good friend of yours, what do you think about the pressure that Democrats have been trying to put on him now, with focusing attention on the Halliburton investigation, what happened last week in the tiff he got in with Senator Leahy?
KEMP: You know, the American people—I‘m sure, Dick has his detractors, as anyone in politics would have. But I think this is just a sideshow.
The respect and admiration for Dick Cheney, both in the U.S. and internationally, is profound. And I think the gravitas that he brings to the race, the respect that he has for President Bush and all of the former Bush Cabinet officials, including me, I think gives him a tremendous—not my support, but the support that he does have. He has a tremendous amount of goodwill going into this campaign.
BROWN: But it does—the criticism does seem to have gotten under his skin a little bit. Fair? Has he told you that?
KEMP: I don‘t think so. No. No. I don‘t think it has, with all due respect.
BROWN: Well, why did he...
KEMP: I don‘t know that there‘s many men or women on this earth who probably haven‘t used a cuss word now and then. And he—I‘m not defending it, but I think it was not said under duress. It was said just, you know, get out of here. And, in that sense, I think Senator Leahy deserved to be pushed aside.
KEMP: Because he was really attacking Dick Cheney.
Let me make this point, Campbell.
He was really attacking Dick Cheney personally in ad hominem way. And I think Cheney reacted. But it wasn‘t defensively. He did it in a way that I think was more calculated than we might ever know.
BROWN: He has, though, become a lightning rod. Democrats like having him out there as their punching bag. And, at the same time, Republican are using him in a much more visible role in the campaign to try to draw in the conservative base. Do you see any scenario under which the Bush campaign might say, you know what, for the good of the president and his reelection chances...
BROWN: ... we need to replace Vice President Cheney?
KEMP: With all due respect, I think it would hurt President Bush. I think the loyalty of that family to their friends and their supporters and to their Cabinet and to their vice president, A, B, the respect that the American people have for Dick Cheney, irrespective of whether they may disagree with him, and not suggesting he‘s perfect, because no one is in politics, but, clearly, he‘s a powerful force in America, in our foreign policy.
And I think the American people will recognize that and reelect the Bush-Cheney ticket in ‘04.
BROWN: Let‘s switch back to Democrats. I‘m going to throw up a list of names of people that are being talked as possible picks for John Kerry. And I want to get your thoughts on them.
BROWN: Congressman Dick Gephardt, Governor Tom Vilsack, Senator Hillary Clinton, obviously Senator John Edwards, Senator Joe Biden, former Senator Sam Nunn. Who on that list is a real possibility and who do you think is static?
KEMP: Well, apparently, Edwards and Gephardt seem to be the so-called real possibilities.
I was suggesting Nunn not to hurt his chances, but to elevate him as one of the real forces for good in American foreign policy, defense policy, economic policy and his strong values. I am just a great—I have great regard and respect for Sam Nunn and his family. I think he would make a magnificent candidate.
To be honest, as a 68-year-old former politician, recovering politician, I want the best ticket going up against the best ticket. And I think the best ticket be Kerry-Nunn.
BROWN: Well, what would you look for? If you were choosing your running mate, would you do it based on personality, who you mesh with, or would you try match someone on the issues, for example, war on terrorism being a huge issue. Would you look to someone with strong foreign policy credentials?
KEMP: Well, foreign policy is an issue. The economy is always an issue. And foreign policy is this year a big issue. Iraq is a very big issue. So you‘re going to want somebody with the international experience who understands the world as it is, not as we wish it could be.
And in that regard, I think you want somebody, A, who can be a president, if something should happen to the candidate—or the president. Secondly, you want somebody who share your views. I don‘t think Sam Nunn would be raising taxes as much as John Kerry wants to do. But, having put that aside, I think his experience in dealing with Russia, in dealing in foreign policy with Asia and with Europe, the respect that the world leaders have for him, his ability to debate and his strong views on the economy, I think Sam Nunn clearly is a best candidate is Democrats could have.
If you just want personality and reaching out to the West, it would be either Bill Richardson from New Mexico, who is an Hispanic, Latino. And there‘s a huge Latino-Hispanic vote in America. And Bush is doing quite well with them. I wish we would do better with African-Americans, as well as Latino and Hispanics. But if you want someone who could match Bush in the Hispanic and Latino vote, it would be bill Richardson.
KEMP: But it may be Senator Edwards, though, in the final say.
BROWN: Let me ask you about an issue that frankly we‘re not talking about that much. Your new project, the Alliance for Retirement Prosperity, is set up to try to reform Social Security. But we‘re not hearing about it all that much. Is Social Security still the third rail of politics?
KEMP: Well, it has been the third rail.
I think if it were expressed the right way, Campbell—in other words, we have a democratic, capitalistic system, but all too many people don‘t own anything. They don‘t—may not own their own home. Even though a lot of people do, a lot of minorities don‘t. A lot of working people do not control their retirement and don‘t have a stake in the retirement system.
So we at the Alliance for Retirement Prosperity believe that the working men and women of America, particularly young people, should have the opportunity to put 5 or 6 percentage points of their payroll tax into an individual retirement account. Obviously, it has to be government-certified.
But like the California state—employee pension plan in California or the federal retirement plan, the thrift savings plan, you would have an option to put it into a retirement account that would get 7, 8, or 9 percent rate of a return, as opposed to less than 1 percent, which Social Security delivers today.
KEMP: Young people would be millionaires by the time they were in their ‘40s or ‘50s and we would be democratizing our capitalistic system, in other words, bringing it down to the populous, to the working men and women.
BROWN: Right. Well, it will be interesting to see if we hear much about that on the campaign trail.
KEMP: Well, I hope we do.
BROWN: But I want to thank you, Mr. Secretary, for being with us. We appreciate it.
KEMP: Thank you. Thank you, Campbell.
BROWN: And coming up next, the inside track on who John Kerry may pick to be his running mate and the political ramifications of Saddam Hussein on trial with “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman and Anne Kornblut of “The Boston Globe.”
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BROWN: Coming up, the latest polls in the battle for the White House, plus the inside track on who John Kerry may pick as his running mate—when HARDBALL returns.
BROWN: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
As we‘ve been discussing, today, America saw Saddam Hussein for the first time since he was captured in September. What does his image in court and a Saddam trial mean for President Bush politically?
For this, we turn to Anne Kornblut, national political correspondent for “The Boston Globe,” and “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman, an NBC News political analyst.
Hello to you both.
HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi.
BROWN: So give me your gut reaction when you saw the images today.
Howard, I‘ll start with you.
FINEMAN: My gut reaction was probably George Bush wishes that the United States Army and the coalition had managed to not only capture, but kill Saddam Hussein. I hate to be so blunt about it. But he poses a potential public relations problem for him.
BROWN: He has got a forum.
FINEMAN: And if he argues his case—the good thing for the Bushies is that Saddam won‘t actually be on trial for a number of months.
ANNE KORNBLUT, “THE BOSTON GLOBE”: Now, the flip side is that he got up there and sounded like a real jerk for most of the time he was on the camera. So he doesn‘t look like some sweet old man that we targeted wrongly. He actually looks like something—he called the Kuwaitis dogs. So I think they could make hay with it, too.
BROWN: But in the sense that it is a reminder to people of the reasons for war beyond the ones that have lost a certain degree of credibility, humanitarian reasons, do they gain on that?
FINEMAN: Yes. I think they can gain on that.
My only point was that Saddam is appealing to the nationalism of Iraqis. Now, that may be a fool‘s errand on his part. But don‘t forget, two days after the Americans left and Paul Bremer left, the Iraqis brought out the old flag and put it right up the flagpole, which was the Saddam-era flag. And to the extent that Saddam is able to stoke Arab nationalism and create problems in that part of the world, that could go down to George Bush‘s detriment.
BROWN: Let me get both of your reactions to some of the numbers in the new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll. President Bush‘s handling of the war on terrorism, those who approve of it at 48 percent now, and that‘s down from 63 percent from January, a big drop. What do you think?
KORNBLUT: Well, it was bound to happen. He had a terrible month of May. He—we‘ve had lots of insurgent—lots of violence on the ground in Iraq. And the weapons of mass destruction, the 9/11 Commission, he‘s had a lot of bad news. So terrorism is not going to be his strong suit.
Now, the Republicans, the Bush campaign will tell you, they hit a floor. They‘re turning around and they‘ve bottomed out and they‘re coming back. So for them, in a way, they‘ve been able to spin it that this could be good news.
BROWN: But why? They‘re not convincing people of that message yet, are they? If you look at the numbers—I‘ll throw up another one. Since Saddam‘s removal of power, the terrorism threat has increased today; 51 percent believe it has increased, compared to 32 percent back in January.
FINEMAN: To me, this is a big number, because I think the election is about, are we more secure, stupid? And the fact is, most Americans now think that going to Iraq made us less safe, made terrorism more prevalent. That‘s a problem for the president. That‘s why the numbers have gone down, as well as the gruesome beheadings that have gone on over there, which are just mentally terrorizing to the American people.
And, interestingly, John Kerry thinks this is now his opportunity to move in on this turf. We‘ll see whether that ends up being a smart move in the end, because power has been turned over. And I think there is a chance for the news to improve or at least not get any worse coming out of Iraq.
BROWN: But is it incumbent upon the Bush administration to keep making this case that—that we‘re safer because of the war in Iraq, that there is that link between terror, when, clearly, if you look at the numbers, nobody is buying it?
KORNBLUT: Well, absolutely. It‘s incumbent upon them now.
And they‘ve got a really difficult month, a couple months ahead.
They‘ve got the two conventions that are going to be security nightmares. They‘ve got the Olympics in Greece. If anything is to happen at any of those events or in the months to follow, that argument is going to present a real problem for them.
BROWN: I want to run really quick—we‘ve only got about a minute and a half—but run a new Kerry ad that just came out. The Bush campaign is responding. And get your reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JOHN KERRY CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: He‘s a husband and father, a pilot, a hunter, a hockey player, tough prosecutor, advocate for kids, 19 years Senate Foreign Relations Committee, author of a strategy to win the war on terror, a combat veteran who has been praised by former chairmen of the Joint Chief of Staff under both Presidents Reagan and Clinton. Stronger at home, respected in the world. John Kerry for president.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m John Kerry and I approved this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So what do you think? Is he combating the Democrats-are-too-soft image?
KORNBLUT: This is the—they‘ve called this the pilot ad. I think it‘s the “I‘m not French” ad.
KORNBLUT: He is really—he is really showing that he‘s a macho guy. He‘s a father. He‘s a hunter. And it‘s in stark contrast to the last ad that they released, which was called paperwork and which was about pushing paper in the health care system.
So I think this is really their attempt to make people understand who John Kerry is. It is something that has shown up in the polls as a weakness. So I think that‘s really what they‘re after.
FINEMAN: They‘re fighting for commander in chief. And Bob Shrum, the message-meister of the campaign, told me a couple months ago, we are not going to concede an inch on the strength question. So that‘s why the word strong is in there. That‘s why the word strength has been in past Kerry ads. They want to fight this war on Bush‘s turf.
It is an audacious way to go. They are not going to spend all their time talking domestic politics. They‘re going to talk foreign policy.
BROWN: Battle of the tough guys.
BROWN: We‘ll have Bush‘s ad, his new ad, coming up.
We‘ll be back with more from Howard Fineman and Anne Kornblut.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
BROWN: We‘re back with “The Boston Globe”‘s Anne Kornblut and “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman.
Battle of the tough guys, part two. Let‘s show the Bush ad and get your reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: John Kerry says he is the author of a strategy to win the war on terror against the Japanese Yakuza, never mentions al Qaeda, says nothing about Osama bin Laden, calls Yasser Arafat a statesman. “The New Republic” says Kerry‘s plan misses the mark. And Kerry‘s focus? Global crime, not terrorism. How can John Kerry win a war if he doesn‘t know the enemy?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Yakuza? Help me out here. What did you make of it?
FINEMAN: Well, what I made of it is that the Kerry ad was obviously effective, because these guys came one something to respond with right away. I think it is one of the best ads Kerry has won, even though it is overly macho and all that. It is still important.
But Kerry typically overstates his case by one small degree. And they went after it. It is true. The book doesn‘t mention the things that...
FINEMAN: That‘s true. That‘s true.
KORNBLUT: And the book was written long before the war on terror began. And, of course, now that—there is a quick response. The Bush people responded instantly to Kerry‘s ad. And, of course, now the Kerry people have responded instantly to the Bush ad. And they say that the very existence of the Bush ad is evidence in itself that they were terrified by the ad. So it is just another installation in the war of the ads.
FINEMAN: But you know what? Kerry‘s ad would have been just as effective if he hadn‘t mentioned that. It is a classic case of Kerry polishing his resume just one time too many. And it is problematic. And they seized on the one thing they could seize on in response to that ad.
BROWN: Let‘s talk about veepstakes. What do we know?
KORNBLUT: We know they‘re still deciding. We know they‘re playing up the drama all they can. They‘ve got—they—maybe it will happen Tuesday. Maybe it won‘t happen next Thursday.
And for the next week or two, I‘m betting—and I hate to bet—but if I‘m that, I‘m betting that they want to draw out this drama as long as they can, so it is on the front page of the paper and we‘re talking about all the many possibilities.
FINEMAN: Yes, that‘s my—that‘s my dismal view, too.
BROWN: You‘re sick of talking about this, aren‘t you?
FINEMAN: Especially since I‘ve been predicting—I‘ve been predicting in the magazine for the last weeks it will be next week. And just to torture me, since it‘s all about me.
FINEMAN: They‘re going to wait until just before the convention. No, I think they may do it by the end of the week, next week.
BROWN: Jack Kemp was on a few minutes ago and talked about Sam Nunn.
FINEMAN: Yes. I think there are three in-the-box candidates, who are Gephardt, Edwards and Vilsack, and a bunch of out-of-the-box candidates, of which Nunn is one. Bill Cohen is one. Bob Graham I would put out of the box, not in the box. Somebody who would stress foreign policy and defense, again, the strong guy thing that Kerry is stressing and bipartisanship, which is another big message for him.
BROWN: OK, we‘ve got about a minute and a half. Let‘s talk about the Nader factor. You have got one of Bush‘s biggest contributors, supporters now making cash donations to Nader?
KORNBLUT: Oh, yes. Well, the Egan family, the Massachusetts family, has thousands—has given the maximum, $2,000 each, to the Nader campaign.
It does a little bit to undermine the argument from the Nader people that -
· it actually supports their theory that they‘re only going to be taking away support from Bush.
But I think actually what is going on here is a little bit of conspiratorial plotting by the Republicans to make sure he gets on the ballot in as many states as he can.
FINEMAN: Sure, they were disappointed that Nader didn‘t get the Green Party endorsement, because every poll shows—every poll shows that the race is closer—that it benefits Kerry to have Nader—it benefits Bush to have Nader in the race. There‘s no doubt.
BROWN: What do you make of this Howard Dean/Ralph Nader debate?
FINEMAN: Boy, I‘m not going to have a front row seat for that one.
BROWN: Why not?
FINEMAN: I know I probably should. It‘s important. I don‘t deny that it is important.
BROWN: Somebody has got to do it. They‘ve got Dean out there.
FINEMAN: To me, it is interesting to watch Howard Dean. Who cares about Nader? Howard Dean is always an interesting drama. So we‘ll show up for that purpose, if nothing else.
BROWN: All right, any final predictions on what day we‘re going to get the announcements, V.P.?
BROWN: Just, I‘m trying to plan my vacation schedule. Come on. Help me out here.
BROWN: I think—the Kerry people just put out a schedule that seems to indicate that it won‘t be next week. But who the heck knows?
KORNBLUT: Which probably means it will be. Whatever we say is going to happen, the opposite will come true.
FINEMAN: We‘re in the crazy period now where we‘re making crazy phone calls and we‘re getting crazy phone calls from the people we‘re usually interviewing. They‘re interviewing us.
BROWN: We have got to go.
Howard Fineman, Anne Kornblut, thanks to you both. It was fun having you.
And join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.
Our guests include Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Ambassador Joe Wilson.
Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann.
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