Guest: Sen. Wayne Allard, Richard Holbrooke, William F. Buckley, Matthew Dowd, Tad Devine
President Bush, Senate Republicans continue to push for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. On the campaign trail, President Bush repeatedly insists the war on Iraq has made America safer.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The battle for the White House surges. President Bush whacks Senator Kerry on his voting record on the war in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Members of Congress should not vote to send troops into battle and then vote against funding them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I think he‘s talking about Senator Kerry. And the standoff in the culture war against gay marriage on Capitol Hill. Plus, the Democrats trumpet their convention rallying cry: A nation stronger at home, respected in the world. It‘s election year.
From Los Angeles, let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. President Bush‘s bid for constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage is expected to die on the Senate floor tomorrow. But Republicans may have succeeded in making gay marriage an issue. Just two weeks before the Democratic convention. MSNBC contributor Ron Reagan joins us now—Ron.
RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That‘s right, Chris. After two days of debate, the bill‘s mostly Republican backers failed to get the 67 votes required to approve the amendment, but they‘ve managed to make gay marriage the hot-button cultural issue in this presidential election.
BUSH: A strong America must also value the institution of marriage. If judges insist on forcing their will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.
REAGAN (voice-over): This week, this constitutional process for an anti-gay marriage amendment has begun. With the president waging war in Iraq, dealing with a struggling economy, and bracing for possible terrorist attacks at home. The question is, Why now?
ROBERT TYLER, ALLIANCE DEFENSE FUND: It‘s very important that the will of the people be preserved and not allow activist judges to run amok the legal system and overturn what the people want for this country.
REAGAN (on camera): This would be the first time that I can think of, at least—and I‘m not a constitutional scholar, but the first time I can think of where it would be amended to restrict people‘s rights, to carve out an exception for certain class of people and say, You can‘t participate in society as fully as the rest of us. Do you think that‘s right?
TYLER: Same-sex marriage. There‘s no fundamental right to that. It‘s not a civil right. Marriage has always been between a man and a woman since the beginning of time. And today, to try to turn that into a civil right is like saying, you know, we should turn all restrooms into unisex restrooms.
REAGAN (voice-over): Kate Frankfurt and Lisa Bennett have been a couple for over 10 years. They‘re the proud parents of two young children and, like thousands of other gays and lesbians, they waited in line for days in San Francisco to get a marriage license.
KATE FRANKFURT, LESBIAN SPOUSE: What is there to debate? It‘s unclear to me what the—what the premise really is, why people think that our lives are so much different than anybody else‘s.
REAGAN (on camera): A lot of people say, Look, what the Republican Party is doing right now is they‘re introducing a wedge issue into the campaign. They know that they can‘t amend the Constitution. They know that the votes aren‘t there in Washington, whatever the states might do. And so they‘re introducing this now, in a campaign year, to highlight what they see as an advantage in so-called “family values,” a distinction between them and the Democratic Party. What do you say to that?
TYLER: The federal marriage amendment is necessary, and it‘s necessary now. Whether—this is not a Republican-Democrat issue, as far as we are concerned at the Alliance Defense Fund. This is an issue of what is necessary for America.
MARK LENO, CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLYMAN: This is a political calculation that the Bush campaign has made.
REAGAN (voice-over): Mark Leno is a California assemblyman who authored a resolution opposing the gay marriage amendment.
LENO: They believe they have identified approximately three million evangelical Christian voters who did not cast votes in the 2000 presidential election, and that if they can get those individuals out to vote, they think it‘s their margin of victory.
LISA BENNETT, LESBIAN SPOUSE: I want our government to be focused on, you know, the critical issues of the economy and the environment and education, not—you know, I don‘t want it interfering in people‘s personal lives. So sure, people can have their own opinions, and I respect that, but I think that all that this is serving to do is to divide Americans.
REAGAN (on camera): Terry, you‘re a Republican.
TERRY HAMILTON, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: Yes.
REAGAN: You‘re a gay man.
HAMILTON: I am.
REAGAN: What do you think about the Republicans introducing this amendment?
HAMILTON: Well, we think it‘s a mistake, and we think that it‘s the type of thing that divides our party and that we don‘t think that the amendment is necessary. We feel that the amendment should be soundly defeated.
REAGAN: Well, most observers would say that this amendment is likely to be defeated. But Chris, we‘ll be talking about this next year and the year after and the year after. As long as there‘s a critical mass of people in this country who are made uncomfortable by homosexuality, this is going to keep coming up again and again.
MATTHEWS: Do you bet that come November, after all the discussions we‘re having now because of this amendment on the floor—do you think people are actually going to be thinking as they go into that booth, gay marriage, one way or the other? Unless they‘re gay, maybe. But would most people, the great majority, rather focus on this than the war in Iraq or the economy?
REAGAN: No, I don‘t think so. I think—you will have two groups of people who will consider this. One is, of course, gays and lesbians. And the other are the people who are really pushing for this amendment, who are likely to vote for Mr. Bush anyway. On that point, though, there are some people on that side who don‘t think Mr. Bush has done enough to push this amendment, and conceivably, they could stay home out of anger.
MATTHEWS: Interesting stuff. Anyway, thank you, Ron Reagan.
Senator Wayne Allard is a Colorado Republican who authored the proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage.
Senator, thank you very much for coming on HARDBALL tonight. First of all, the politics. How‘s it look for passage of the constitutional amendment, starting in the Senate?
SEN. WAYNE ALLARD ®, COLORADO: Well, I think we‘ll get a large majority of the Republicans. We‘re going to have Democrats who will vote for moving forward on the issue. And so it‘s going to have some bipartisan support. And I would predict that if the majority—or the minority leader would release his hold on some of the Democrats, we would probably get even more support from the Democrat side. This is, fundamentally, a bipartisan issue. It‘s a winning issue for Republicans because it creates unity, I think, far beyond just the Republican Party. Minority groups, black Americans, Hispanic groups, as well as Asian families all support the idea of a traditional family.
MATTHEWS: Will we know after your vote tomorrow which side people are on?
ALLARD: We‘ll have a fairly good idea, I believe, where they feel, as far as moving forward on amending the Constitution with the marriage amendment. We will...
MATTHEWS: But Senator, it‘s not a vote on whether you want to ban gay marriage or not. It‘s a vote on whether you want cloture or not, right?
ALLARD: It‘s a vote on whether we want to move forward with the debate and eventually have a vote on the marriage amendment. And for those who feel that the marriage amendment is the right approach, they need to vote for cloture.
MATTHEWS: Why not have a vote on principle and just to clear the air, find out how many senators support banning gay marriage in the Constitution?
ALLARD: Well, I would very much like to have a vote on principle. I think the majority leader would like to have a vote on principle. But in order to have that occur, we need to have my amendment up, and then we need to allow for some amendments to that, if the members of the Senate decide that they have amendments that they would like to offer.
MATTHEWS: I see. Well, let‘s get it straight. I‘ve been reading your amendment. I read the language. I‘m still not clear. Would this ban on—this constitutional amendment, would it prevent a state like Massachusetts or Maryland or Pennsylvania to vote to allow gay people to get married?
ALLARD: It would not change the way the state of Vermont treats civil unions. It would not change the way that it‘s proposed to be in the constitutional amendment in Massachusetts because they do define in Massachusetts, for example, that marriage is between a man and a woman, but then they go around and say that civil unions are entitled to the same rights as though you‘re married. So our amendment would not prevent the state of Massachusetts from going ahead and treating civil unions and providing the benefits thereof as they feel appropriate.
MATTHEWS: Would it stop the state of Massachusetts—or the commonwealth of Massachusetts or any other state from saying, You know what? We want equal treatment. We want gays to be able to get married. Would it stop them from doing that?
ALLARD: Well, what it does, it defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and then it allows the state legislatures, through a democrat process, to a determine on how they want to treat civil unions and domestic partnerships.
MATTHEWS: But what about marriage?
ALLARD: And that‘s all left up to the states.
MATTHEWS: You‘re not answering my question, Senator. Would this stop states from allowing gay marriage?
ALLARD: Well, we define marriage at the—at the federal level, we have to define marriage in order to prevent the courts from taking over the jurisdiction of the states. And so we have to define marriage in the Constitution. That‘s the only thing that we do. The rest of it we leave up to the states. So if you‘re of the same view that I am, where you want to protect the concept of a fundamental marriage and then you want to also allow the states to determine on how they want to treat the same-sex marriages, they can go ahead and do that in regards to civil unions and the benefit that may accrue.
MATTHEWS: But not to...
ALLARD: And that‘s the main part of this issue.
MATTHEWS: Yes or no, Senator, for the people watching right now, trying to figure out this issue. Would your on gay marriage prevent states from allowing gay marriage?
ALLARD: States would not be able to define it marriage other than between a union...
MATTHEWS: I see.
ALLARD: ... of a man and a woman.
MATTHEWS: OK, so it shuts down gay marriage, basically.
ALLARD: But they would allow for civil unions or domestic partnerships and the benefits that may accrue thereof, and that‘s the main part of the issue.
MATTHEWS: OK. So you, as a conservative, are comfortable with telling states they can‘t allow gay marriage.
ALLARD: Well, look, if we don‘t take any action, it will be the federal courts that will tell the states that they can‘t do anything. If this amendment passes, it allows the states latitude on how they want to deal with civil unions and the benefit that accrue thereof. We simply have to define in the Constitution that marriage is a union between a man and a woman if we‘re going to restrict the courts so that they don‘t take away the power from the states. I‘m in favor of states‘ rights. The courts, the federal courts, are prepared to go ahead and take that right away.
MATTHEWS: How do you know that?
ALLARD: Well, because of No. 1, the Goodrich case in Massachusetts and what‘s happened in the Lawrence versus Texas case. And when you apply that with the constitution as it currently stands and some of the comments that have been made from the chief justices, it‘s the view of constitutional scholars that the federal courts will overturn the traditional definition of marriage as we know it. And in order to prevent that, we need to have a constitutional amendment.
MATTHEWS: I understand your view now, Senator. Thank you very much for coming on HARDBALL.
ALLARD: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) thank you.
MATTHEWS: Senator Wayne Allard, Republican...
ALLARD: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... from Colorado, who‘s the author of the ban on gay marriage.
Coming up: war in Iraq. Has it made America safer, as President Bush says? Kerry foreign policy adviser Richard Holbrooke will be here. And later, top strategists for both the Bush and the Kerry campaign square off here, 111 days before the election. We‘re going to keep counting it down for you.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Both President Bush and John Kerry are touting their foreign policy credentials on the campaign trail, and at the center of the debate is whether the war in Iraq has made us safer or not. HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has this report.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the battle for the White House, the debate over Iraq has become brutal. Today the president accused John Kerry of wavering in his support for U.S. troops.
BUSH: But members of Congress should not vote to send troops into battle and then vote against funding them.
SHUSTER: For the Kerry campaign, Iraq has become a referendum on the administration‘s honesty.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And this is a value I will put in place from the day that I take the oath of office. The United States of America never goes to war because it wants to. We only go to war because we have to!
ALLARD: Kerry accused the Bush administration of misleading the public. And he told “The New York Times,” quote, “They were wrong, and soldiers lost their lives because they were wrong.” Kerry‘s aggressive posture came as the president, during a foreign policy speech on Monday, said seven different times...
BUSH: And the American people are safer.
And the American people are safer.
The American people are safer.
The American people are safer.
The American people are safer.
The American people are safer.
The forces of terror and tyranny are suffered defeat after defeat, and America and the world are safer.
SHUSTER: The contrasts between President Bush and John Kerry present voters with a stark choice. If you think the administration‘s policies have made the country more vulnerable, John Kerry is your candidate. If you think America is indeed safer, go with President Bush. There are, of course, some complexities. Democrats argue the president cannot claim America is safer while Osama bin Laden is still at large and with these new warnings from the Department of Homeland Security.
TOM RIDGE, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Credible reporting now indicates that al Qaeda is moving forward with its plans to carry out a large-scale attack in the United States in an effort to disrupt our democratic process.
SHUSTER: Republicans argue that John Kerry cannot describe the war in Iraq as wrong when he and other Democrats gave the president the authority to invade.
RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Senators Edwards and Kerry reviewed the intelligence and concluded that Saddam Hussein was a threat. They voted to authorize the use of force, but now they have developed a convenient case of campaign amnesia.
SHUSTER (on camera): But voters aren‘t forgetting about the growing list of casualties in Iraq, and polls show Americans are increasingly skeptical about the occupation and forcing both campaigns to react at a time when the intensity of this race is ratcheting up. I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s clear this up as to where the two people stand, the president and his challenger. Richard Holbrooke served as United Nations ambassador during the Clinton administration. He‘s now a foreign policy adviser to the John Kerry campaign for president.
Mr. Ambassador, Richard, let me ask you this question. I was very taken with some words of your candidate in “The New York Times” in an on the record interview printed this Sunday. He said that because of the Iraq war, there‘s more recruitment of terrorists, there‘s more targeting of the United States. It sounds to me like he‘s saying we‘re worse off in terms of our security because of the war in Iraq.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FORMER U.N. AMBASSADOR: He‘s right. And it‘s very interesting. Your Jon Stewart-like “America is safer” iteration of President Bush‘s speech, which really could have been on the Jon Stewart show, shows a very simple approach to a very complicated problem by the president. Look, Chris, it‘s very clear. Iraq was a situation which, because of the way the occupation spiraled out of control, because of the creation of Fallujah as a liberated zone, has now become a ground zero for international terrorism. More and more people—as Secretary Don Rumsfeld himself has conceded, more people are joining the terrorist groups than we are destroying. We are losing ground against the fight against terror. It‘s clear. And what John Kerry said to “The New York Times” is simply a statement of fact. Now, I wish...
MATTHEWS: Well, the reason...
HOLBROOKE: I wish...
MATTHEWS: The reason the president took us to war is because the Congress, using its authority under the Constitution, gave him that authority to go to war by a majority vote.
HOLBROOKE: Oh, Chris, I...
MATTHEWS: Why did John—no, he gave him the authority.
HOLBROOKE: Chris, I really respectfully disagree with your interpretation of that resolution. That was a resolution, by the way, that I supported, as you well know. That resolution was not a declaration of war. It was an authority to the president of the United States to take whatever means necessary, including force, if necessary, to achieve our objectives. The timing, the choice, all of this was made by the United States.
Now, we‘ve come through two phases in Iraq. Phase one was a brilliant military phase, in which the military raced to Baghdad with great courage and relatively low casualties. Phase two began the day that statue came down. It was called the occupation. It will go down in American history as one of the most unfortunate, mishandled, misconceived operations ever. And it created a tremendous wave of opposition to us among Sunni, Shi‘ites and, I regret to say, Muslims and others all over the world. It was mishandled.
Phase three began two weeks ago, when John Negroponte took over as ambassador and General George Casey took over as U.S. commander. I know both men well. + Casey was with us at the Dayton peace agreement negotiations. Negroponte was my deputy and my roommate and my successor and a great friend. And I think it‘s a tremendous improvement.
But President Bush is going to have to perform better in Iraq. This election will be, in large part, a referendum on Iraq. And unless he can produce demonstrably better results than he has so far, I regret to say that he will have to be held accountable. And all the rhetoric you just played will not change the fact...
MATTHEWS: Let me...
HOLBROOKE: ... that things are not going in the direction they say they are.
MATTHEWS: Last week, the American people were—benefited from a bipartisan report, a unanimous decision, a verdict by the United States Select Committee on Intelligence in the United States Senate, which said there was no WMD worthy of going to war over, there was no connection to 9/11 by the Iraqi government. Had that report been issued in the midst of the debate over whether to authorize us—the president to go to war, would John Kerry have still voted to give him the authorization to decide whether to go to war or not?
HOLBROOKE: Hypothetical questions of that sort are...
MATTHEWS: It‘s not hypothetical. We have both bits of history in hand right now. We know your candidate voted to authorize going to war, and we know what the Senate committee has found to be the case during the time he voted to do that. If he had had that information we now have, would he have voted the same?
HOLBROOKE: Chris, the...
MATTHEWS: Why is that a hard thing to answer? I don‘t get it.
HOLBROOKE: Why is it a hard thing to answer?
MATTHEWS: Right. If the reason for the war was the threat to the United States and we find out there was no threat to the United States, then it‘s simple. You say, If I had known that, I wouldn‘t have authorize going to war.
HOLBROOKE: One of the reasons I enjoy doing your program is that you answer your own questions, so I don‘t have to do it for you.
MATTHEWS: I‘m trying to guide you towards an answer.
HOLBROOKE: Well, thank you.
MATTHEWS: One way or the other. Is it—is it—is it—wouldn‘t it have been useful to that debate to know that he had no weapons of mass destruction?
MATTHEWS: Wouldn‘t it have been useful to that debate to know that he had nothing to do with attacking us on September 11, 2201?
HOLBROOKE: Let me...
MATTHEWS: And what use would that information have been? It would have told a lot of people, What are we talking about going to war for?
HOLBROOKE: All right. Let me try to answer, and let me try to answer for myself...
HOLBROOKE: ... because, as I said, I did support that resolution. I believe then and I believe now that the removal of Saddam Hussein was extraordinarily important. I further believe that it was right as a U.S. policy goal—and that goal was laid out in 1998 under the Clinton administration by a resolution which President Clinton signed and which John Kerry and John Edwards and most of the U.S. Senate also supported.
That war resolution in September of 2002, which I also supported, was based very heavily on two things. One, the administration‘s central premise, weapons of mass destruction, which meant there was an imminent danger to the world. But Tony Blair said they‘re 45 minutes from London. They weren‘t, of course. They—their capability had declined. Had we known that there was no weapons of mass destruction, I personally would have still supported the president‘s request, but I believe that the wrong thing to do would have been to go to war on the schedule he went to war on.
He did not need to rush into this war. He could have taken his time. He could have built up more slowly. He could have created more international coalitions. He could have gotten more support. He could have isolated Saddam. Why, Chris? Because as, it turned out—and this is what the Senate select committee showed, there was no—there was no imminent threat to the United States or allies. And furthermore, the new commission, the 9/11 commission, is going to show that Saddam was not connected to 9/11, either.
MATTHEWS: Right. But by the way, the Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998 did not call for removal of Saddam by force or U.S. forces. Anyway, thank you.
HOLBROOKE: Key point.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Richard Holbrooke, former ambassador to the U.N. Still to come, top strategists for both the Bush and the Cheney campaigns and—the Bush and the Kerry campaigns, and William F. Buckley, Jr.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: This half-hour on HARDBALL, a new Gallup poll shows Senator John Kerry leading by six points among likely voters. We‘ll talk to top strategists from both campaigns, Bush‘s and Kerry‘s. Plus, the founder of “The National Review,” William F. Buckley Jr., he‘ll be here.
But, first, the latest headlines right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Senator Kerry tried to explain his vote by saying this: I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it. And now just recently, he offered a different explanation.
Yesterday, my opponent said he is proud that he and his running mate voted against funding the troops.
BUSH: Now, listen, he‘s entitled to his view. He‘s entitled to his view. But members of Congress should not vote to send troops into battle and then vote against funding them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was President Bush campaigning in Michigan earlier today.
Joining us right now is Tad Devine, senior adviser to the Kerry-Edwards campaign, and Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney campaign.
Let me ask you, Tad, where is Senator Kerry right now on whether he should have voted for the authorization permitting the war and against the $87 billion for the troops once they got there?
TAD DEVINE, SENIOR JOHN KERRY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: He‘s where he‘s been for months, Chris.
John Kerry voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq, and then the president did everything wrong. He rushed to war without a plan to win the peace. He failed to exhaust every remedy, as he said he would. He failed to build a broad coalition. And then later, John Kerry and John Edwards voted against funding that would be paid for by our children, OK?
And I find it incredible, Chris, that this president would—would blame John Kerry for sending troops to Iraq without body armor. I think if the president of the United States and the vice president had spent one single day on the front line of battle, they never would have sent our troops to Iraq without the body armor. And to blame John Kerry for it is so disingenuous, it‘s almost unimaginable.
MATTHEWS: You said to have our children pay for the war.
MATTHEWS: The children of World War II paid for that war. That war was all done on the sleeve. What‘s wrong about paying for a war by borrowing? We‘ve always done that.
DEVINE: But, Chris, this president...
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m serious, Tad. We‘ve always done it that way. World War II ran up a huge deficit in the United States. And everybody supported World War II and the way it was funded. What‘s wrong with doing it the way the president is doing it right now?
DEVINE: Well, I think to run up massive deficits to burden our future and threaten our economy in the near term and the long term is just plain wrong.
MATTHEWS: Did FDR do that?
DEVINE: Well, the president—you know, the—the president doesn‘t want to step up to the plate and ask any American to share in any sacrifice right now, because this president and the people around him said, listen, this is easy. We‘ll just go in there. A couple of months, mission accomplished, no problems. We‘re going to do it.
His own top military was saying, we needed 200,000 more troops to secure Iraq. But what did they do? They turned their backs on it. They ridiculed their own military. And look where we are today, in a quagmire that‘s getting deeper by the hour.
So, you know, this president refused to listen to good advice. Unfortunately, he has led the nation in the wrong direction. And now this generation and future generations will pay for the mistakes and policies that he‘s made.
MATTHEWS: Let me go right now to Matt.
We now know, thanks to the bipartisan committee—and the president has acknowledged the helpfulness of this report—that there was no real 9/11 connection to Iraq. There was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction, especially the nuclear piece that was often mentioned by the vice president.
Had the president—well, if he had to make the case for the war right now at a fresh start, what would he make as his argument for the war, since he can‘t argue an implied sort of payback for the attacks of 9/11 and he can‘t argue a WMD problem? What would be the case for war today?
MATTHEW DOWD, BUSH CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Well, the first thing I think, Chris, I think the political discourse in this country would benefit if people were honest about exactly what the facts are in this situation.
And for Tad to say that the president said it was going to be easy—he never said that. He said this was going to be tough, their lives would be lost, that this would be a year and year-out battle against the war on terrorism. So the fact that Tad said that we said it was easy was never the truth. I think discourse would be better...
MATTHEWS: Well, let me tell you something I know, Matt. Tons of guys have come on this show, neoconservative arguers, they‘re very smart people. A lot of them came on this show and argued that—what Howard Fineman calls the happy Iraqi scenario, that they would be well received.
Ken Adelman said it would be a cakewalk. A lot of people talked about it as being an easy argument, once we got in there and knocked off Saddam, that the people would love us and cheer us. And that hasn‘t happened.
DOWD: Chris, what Tad said was the president said that. And he never said that. So whatever anybody else says, he didn‘t say it.
MATTHEWS: OK, good point.
DOWD: The second thing was—is, is that the president at the last day, in the last weeks has said it‘s a good thing that Saddam Hussein has been removed from power.
Iraq was a hotbed of terrorism. He harbored terrorists. And in a post-9/11 environment, we can‘t wait for the bad guys to show back up here in America and deal with it. And the president has said that. And the president said the fact of what we did in Iraq in bringing Iraq, a sovereign country, and removing a brutal dictator from power, is a good thing for the world and a good thing for the world country.
MATTHEWS: Let me go over to Tad for a second.
I was struck very much by Senator Kerry‘s printed transcript of his
remarks with “The New York Times” this weekend. On Sunday, as you know—
you study this as a professional as well—he made some interesting new
points. He said that, because of the war in Iraq—this is Senator Kerry
· that we‘re facing more recruitment by the terrorists. They‘re able to get more people to join up against us, that there‘s more targeting of the United States than there was before we went to war with Iraq.
That‘s a pretty tough stand. It says that the war with Iraq has hurt us.
DEVINE: I think that‘s true, Chris.
First, let me say one thing about—in reply to what Matt said. The vice president of the United States—quote—“Our troops will be greeted as liberators”—end quote. OK, so, you know, we‘ll forget the rest of that argument, but let‘s put that on the record.
Now, in terms of Iraq and what‘s happened there making it more dangerous in the world, I don‘t think there‘s a single doubt that the policies pursued by this president has made it more difficult for us to win the war on terror, that, in fact, this president, because he rushed to war without a plan to win the peace and because most importantly he turned his back on the international community, America is less safe today, because we don‘t enjoy the respect of the world that we should enjoy because of the nation that we are.
And this president continuing to act unilaterally, continuing to turn his back on alliances of nations which could make us stronger, has in fact jeopardized the security and safety of this nation as a result of his policies.
MATTHEWS: We‘re going to come right back and talk to Matt and to Tad.
Coming up, the Senate takes up a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. And President Bush hits the heartland, touting his conservative values. How will this shake out in the campaign? We‘re back with our two campaign strategists after this short break.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, two top figures from the Bush and Kerry campaigns on the gay marriage fight on Capitol Hill, and William F. Buckley Jr. on Ron Reagan‘s outspoken views on politics and religion—when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Bush strategist Matt Dowd and Kerry adviser Tad Devine.
President Bush visited the Upper Midwestern states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin today, challenging John Kerry‘s claim to conservative values.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Campaigning in the Midwest, he even tried to claim he was the candidate with conservative values. Senator Kerry is rated as the most liberal member of the United States Senate.
BUSH: And he chose a fellow lawyer who is the fourth most liberal member of the United States Senate. Back in Massachusetts, that‘s what they call balancing the ticket.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: God, they‘re getting tough here.
Matt, your candidate is calling them lawyers. Is this a calculated selection of language, seriously?
DOWD: I mean, I think what the president is trying to present is the difference between somebody that has rhetoric on one side and has a record on another.
I mean, Senator Kerry was proud to be a liberal throughout the 1980s when he was running as a United States senator from Massachusetts. And now, faced with an electorate that doesn‘t match what his record, he‘s trying to change it with rhetoric. On issues of tax relief, on issues of funding the troops, on issues related to parental notification and partial-birth abortion and the Laci Peterson law, you can‘t say one thing and have a record that represents the opposite. And the president is just trying to point that out to people.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you. I want to stay on you for a minute. Then I‘ll get over to Ted.
It seems to me—and if you look at the history of conservatism in this country, it‘s been against foreign entanglements, going back to Washington. Now you‘ve got a president with a very aggressive, forward-leaning foreign policy. You say that‘s conservative, right, getting involved in Iraq and mucking around over there for the next couple years?
You can be for or against it, but you‘re calling it a conservative foreign policy.
DOWD: Listen, I call it, in a post-9/11 environment...
MATTHEWS: A conservative foreign policy?
DOWD: I call it, in a post-9/11 environment, leadership that deals with the threat of terrorism before it gets here.
And I think, in the end, we as Americans know that this has to be dealt with, that Saddam Hussein is now in a prison and not in a palace, and that‘s a very good thing for the world that that happened. And one other thing, Chris, of this whole debate about whether or not it was an international coalition or not, I don‘t know why the Kerry campaign keeps diminishing the 40-some-odd countries that were involved in this coalition, from Great Britain, Australia and others.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Tad. Respond to that. I‘m out of this right now.
I‘ll tell you why, Chris, because 90 percent of the troops on the ground are American; 90 percent of the costs are borne by the American taxpayers; 90 percent of the people who have been killed are our soldiers. And when they stand up and say they‘ve assembled a true international coalition, the president‘s father did that in the first Gulf War. They used diplomacy. They pulled together a true international coalition.
DOWD: Which John Kerry voted against.
DEVINE: Thanks for that, but let‘s just stick to this topic. It‘s called burden-sharing, OK?
Now, it is something that the President Bush doesn‘t seem to care about, OK?
MATTHEWS: But why did John Kerry vote against a coalition when you had one, Tad?
DEVINE: Sure. He did, along with people like Sam Nunn and others at the time, because they thought a couple more months of diplomacy may be able to solve the problem.
But, you know, that‘s a distraction from this issue. Let‘s talk about today. Why is the United States bearing the burden almost alone? Why? Because President Bush failed to build an international coalition, as he promised to. That‘s why. It‘s simply that.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you both, is leaving it up to the states a conservative value or having a federal ban on gay marriage a conservative position?
Tad, you first.
DEVINE: Well, four years ago, according to Dick Cheney, when he debated Joe Lieberman, it was—the conservative thing to do was to leave it up to the states.
Now, when we need to make political hay, when we need to further divide the country in an administration that‘s been the most divisive since Richard Nixon, we decide that we have to do it at the federal level. Listen, Chris, this is a political issue. Everybody in this country knows it. And the president, the vice president and his campaign are doing it for political purposes.
MATTHEWS: Matt, is it conservative to ban gay marriage at the federal level?
DOWD: It‘s conservative to try to preserve an institution that‘s been in our history for 2,000 years.
MATTHEWS: Great. Well said.
Thank you, Tad Devine, Matthew Dowd.
Coming up, William F. Buckley Jr. will be here.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
William F Buckley Jr. is known as the founding father of the conservative movement. He started the magazine “National Review” back in 1955. He hosted “Firing Line” from 1966 to 1999. He recently announced that he was relinquishing control of his magazine after nearly half a century. His great new book is an autobiography, a literary autobiography entitled “Miles Gone By.” He joins me now.
Before we go any further, Bill, I just want to thank you. Back in the ‘60s, you got me interested in politics. And I always knew at what drugstore I could get “The National Review” in the—in the latest edition. So thank you for that personally.
Let‘s talk about a great story. Your fellow movement organizer, Ronald Reagan, tell me about the first time you met him.
WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY JR., AUTHOR, “MILES GONE BY”: I first met him in 1959, when I found out he was scheduled to introduce me before I gave a speech to a convention of doctors.
What happened then is, as we moved into the theater, the sound system was not working, so he told a few jokes and tried to pacify the audience. But, after a while, he said, we have got to do something about this. And they couldn‘t find the janitor or the other guy with a key. So he said, well, where do you turn on the system? Somebody pointed up to the second floor where the sound system was.
And he opened the window by the stage and walked, catwalked over to the window corresponding and broke it open with his elbow, moved in, turned on the system, came in, and proceeded with the evening.
MATTHEWS: And that‘s how you met Ronald Reagan. How far up in the air was he when he did this sort of acrobatic walk?
BUCKLEY: Oh, he was about 20 feet. There was a lot of traffic underneath. But he was absolutely undisturbed by it. I think that Cary Grant movie had recently come out in which Cary Grant does that kind of thing. Nancy was not amused.
MATTHEWS: God, it sounds like Harold Lloyd up on the clock.
BUCKLEY: Yes, it does.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about defending the Reagan legacy, because you‘ve come into public vision again on that front. In your book, you say that Ronald Reagan will emerge as the principal political figure of the second half of the 20th century.
BUCKLEY: I think that‘s true, yes.
MATTHEWS: Explain that. Explain that.
BUCKLEY: Well, when he was elected president in 1980, there was a manifesto malaise, to use President Carter‘s word. People weren‘t so sure how to proceed with the Soviet threat. The Soviet threat was various and showed itself in various ways.
There was a mobilization of sentiment by President Reagan on that issue. And people became pretty much united on the notion that we should face that Soviet threat ingeniously and with diverse measures, such as the theater weapons in Europe, and aid to Afghanistan. But he—in the very fact that four years later, he was reelected by every state except Michigan.
BUCKLEY: Sorry, Minnesota—suggests the unanimity that he actually cultivated.
So I—I think that the ceremonies of a couple weeks ago simply left no doubt that he was an enormous figure. I thought him that. And I think that he—that there is an entitlement there that it‘s hard to reject.
MATTHEWS: What moved you to write a private letter to his son criticizing his comments during the course of that funeral?
BUCKLEY: I‘ve known his son since he was 12, 13 years old.
And I was startled by an interview he gave to “The New York Times,” which interview I interpreted as open warfare, not necessarily protracted, but open warfare against Christianity, his father‘s religion, and against against—and against the Republican Party.
For that reason, I took up specific points that he had made and attempted to correct them. There was—there was a tone of iconoclasm in it. And one tends to allow for that, do you have any children? No, I have cats. You know, in a sophomore show, that would be good for a laugh and a half. Not so good, I think, when you‘re 45. So I tend to reproach him on that.
But I think should cut short on that, because he has been a friend. He‘s been a guest at my house. And I would just as soon not pursue that beyond the necessary reaction to his public challenges.
MATTHEWS: He was concerned that it got into the public realm through Bob Novak‘s column. Do you know how that happened?
BUCKLEY: Yes. It happened because I sent a lot of copies around, including to his mother.
BUCKLEY: And this was a public statement. I mean, Ron Reagan wasn‘t talking to the editor of “The New York Times” and to nobody else. He was making a public statement in which he derided Christianity and derided most of his father‘s accomplishments.
So I thought that was a public statement and should be answered publicly. So, Novak, Bob Novak, got it and ran with a substantial portion of it.
MATTHEWS: But aren‘t there, Bill, a lot of people around today, the neoconservatives especially—and that‘s what they call themselves—claiming Ronald Reagan would have fought this war in Iraq with really no basis to make that—traditional conservatism has been conservative about the reach of U.S. power in the world.
You yourself said in that “Times” interview this week you think they have overreached in terms of what they think U.S. power could achieve. Why not lambaste them for abusing the Reagan record, not Ron Reagan?
BUCKLEY: Well, because where they overreached was a matter of a strategic malconsideration.
They didn‘t overreach on the matter of deposing Saddam. That was done effectively. They overreached in the notion that they could bring democracy to Iraq in the last year and a half, which I think was manifested, but—now, whether this would have been foreseen by Reagan, I don‘t know. He made some terrible miscalculations on Nicaragua, as we remember.
I leave it this way. It would have been foolhardy for Bush not to undertake this challenge, given what was then accepted as realistic intelligence. But viewed retrospectively, we know that he should have tried something else. President Bush acknowledged two days ago that the surrender of Libya on the whole matter of nuclear armament might very well have been a reaction by Gadhafi to that show of strength in Iraq. And I think that‘s pretty persuasive.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but he also, just to make a slight retort here, Bill, that Gadhafi wanted to get back into the international money game. He wanted to start selling oil for big money again, and that‘s why he was making those apologies, etcetera, or offering to make them with regard to killing our people in flight. And there are other indications that that was ready to crack diplomatically, wasn‘t there?
BUCKLEY: An argument can always be made for saying that anything a tyrant does is contraindicated by the necessities of the economy.
But for 70 years, the Soviet Union adopted policies which were manifestly unfriendly to normal concerns. What it was that turned Gadhafi around, we don‘t know, but it may very well have been some reflection of this episode involving Iraq.
MATTHEWS: Fair enough, Mr. Buckley. There‘s no one I would rather argue with, even if in a friendly way.
Thank you very much. You‘re a great guy. You helped inspire me, even if I haven‘t always been so loyal to some of your conclusions. Anyway, Bill Buckley, great book.
MATTHEWS: It has nothing to do with politics. It‘s a great lifestyle. What a life this guy has led, Switzerland, sailing. The world has been at his feet and he‘s enjoyed it. Great guy, great book, “Miles Gone By” by William F. Buckley Jr.
If you would like to read an excerpt of “Miles Gone By,” go to our Web site at HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
Tonight, I‘ll be, by the way, on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” me and Sharon Stone and Brandy. Don‘t miss it.
And then I‘ll be back in Washington tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.
Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.
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