IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for August 2 9pm

The information that caused the Bush administration to raise the terror alert status on Sunday apparently began coming in the previous Friday.  President Bush has decided to accept part of the 9/11 commission‘s recommendations, but not give a new national intelligence director a cabinet position.  What effect is terrorism having on the presidential election campaign?

Guest: Rep. David Dreier, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, Tad Devine, Terry Holt, Tom Oliphant

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight we‘re within walking distance of the World Bank, potential target of a terrorist attack aimed at crippling some of the country‘s biggest financial centers.  Today, President Bush sought to reassure the nation.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We will continue to do everything in our power to defeat the terrorist enemy and to protect the American people.


MATTHEWS:  The terror threat is ratcheted up to code orange in the cities affected by the warning, and on the campaign trail, it‘s code red as candidates try to navigate a campaign in a climate of terror.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Four more years!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Four more years!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Four more years!

I‘m Chris Matthews.  I‘m surrounded right now by volunteers working in both political camps.  As you can see, even though this may be a potential target of a terrorist attack, people are carrying on politics as usual.

The terror warning has come to us with a specificity we haven‘t known before, five financial institutions that the U.S. government warned could be targets for terrorist attack, including the CitiGroup buildings in Manhattan, the World Bank here in Washington, the Prudential Financial up in Newark, New Jersey.  But although the sites may be jarringly specific, the timing of a possible attack is not specific at all.

I‘m joined right now by NBC News‘s chief justice correspondent, Pete Williams.  Pete, just for people watching right now, especially in Washington and in New York, is the alert still on?

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, and it‘s going to continue for some time, Chris.  It‘s always a question, when these things go up, of when will they come down?  And the answer is, nobody knows in advance.  They‘ll take them down when they‘re ready, and we‘re nowhere near that yet.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, when did they learn about this danger?  When did Tom Ridge, when did the president learn about the danger facing us here in Washington and in New York.

WILLIAMS:  The very early bits of this information began to flow in Thursday night, and by Friday, the administration was beginning to look at it in earnest, continued meetings throughout Friday and then again on Saturday, and the decision was made Saturday night to go ahead and put this information out on Sunday, get it out over the weekend, Chris, so that employees in these buildings would not be confronted with this news while they were at work.  They would have some time to digest it, and the cities would have some time of prepare before the long stream of people would come in on Monday morning whose IDs had to be checked, cars had to be checked going into parking garages, and that sort of thing.

MATTHEWS:  How long have the plans been in effect they‘re worried about?  How long have people been plotting and casing these institutions?

WILLIAMS:  Two separate issues.  We don‘t know, in fact, whether there is a plan in effect now to target these buildings, whether this was still in effect, ramping up, something that was looked at and abandoned.  But as for the reconnaissance and casings of these buildings, officials say that they began before the September 11 attacks.  So al Qaeda was beginning to look at them and then continued afterwards.  Now, one question is, when did they stop?  And that‘s something that is not at all clear tonight.

MATTHEWS:  So the buildings and the targets we‘ve talked about, including the very nearby International Monetary Fund, which is a fairly short walk from here, and the World Bank—those targets may be old.  In other words, they may not be live, at this point.  We don‘t know.

WILLIAMS:  Absolutely right.  They could be—and of course, one question is—you know, we‘ve asked them over the last couple of days, Well, does discovering this information and making it public, you know, foil the attack?  Will al Qaeda now abandon it, knowing what we know?  And of course, I think they don‘t know that.  That‘s certainly their hope.  Their hope is that al Qaeda will follow a pattern they‘ve done in other cases that we know of, where when they know there‘s security, when they know there‘s attention, they say, Well, forget it.  We‘ll go elsewhere.

And the 9/11 commission actually says that one intelligence source said if bin Laden had known that Zacarias Moussaoui, the man arrested in Minnesota, had, in fact, been arrested, he might have called off 9/11.  So the hope certainly is that if this plan hadn‘t been abandoned before, it will have been now.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  It‘s the old uncertainty principle.  If you try to measure it, you can stop it.  Anyway, thank you very much, Pete Williams, NBC‘s chief Justice Department correspondent.

Congressman David Dreier—U.S. Congressman David Dreier and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez are both U.S. Representatives from California, and both are members of the Select Committee on Homeland Security.

Congressman Dreier, what do you make of this new warning?  Is this—what do we do?  I should say, if this were in your congressional district, what would you expect people to do about this warning?

REP. DAVID DREIER (R-CA), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE:  Well, obviously, what we have to do every place, Chris, and that is be vigilant, be very careful.  And this action that‘s been taken, obviously, kicks into effect a number of precautionary steps, as it relates to public gatherings and buildings that potentially are targeted.  And so one of the things that you want to do is, is while you want people to be conscious of the threat that does exist, you also don‘t want to see anyone cower to these terrorists and those who threaten us because that‘s exactly what they want.  They want to scare the living daylights out of us.  And so what I do is just say, Be careful, but continue living your lives as you have.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask Loretta Sanchez.  Congresswoman, what would you tell your constituents if they were living or going to work in these five financial centers that have apparently been targeted at some point by the terrorists?

REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D-CA), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE:  Well, it‘s sort of the same advice that you give to somebody when they go to an unknown or a big city, is, you know, watch who‘s around you, take care of yourself.  If you see anything strange, report it immediately.  I mean, that‘s what you do in a situation like this.  If you‘re in that particular area where you think something‘s going to happen or we have some information, then watch what you‘re doing.  Watch what you‘re doing.  That‘s what we need to do.

But I would also say that this was more specific.  I mean, it‘s very different than the usual thing that we hear out of this administration, which is, Oh, my God, the sky is falling!  Watch out!  Terrorists are coming.  So you know, I‘m glad that this time...

DREIER:  Who said that?

SANCHEZ:  There was specific information...

DREIER:  Who‘s ever said that?

SANCHEZ:  ... that there‘s specific information towards that, that we‘re not just raising the level at this point, just, you know, broadly, that it is specifically tied.  And that‘s a good thing to see this time.

DREIER:  You know, Chris, with all due respect...


MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, Congressman.

DREIER:  With all due respect, I mean, there has never been anyone in this administration who‘s made an attempt to frighten people and say the sky is falling and there‘s some unknown terror threat.  They have been very careful.  We worked in a bipartisan way, putting into place this Department of Homeland Security following September 11.  We worked very carefully, Chris and Loretta, as you know, with this committee, on which we both serve, to try and deal with this issue, and we want to be responsible.  And this notion that somehow someone would politicize this, as Howard Dean said yesterday, is to me absolutely outrageous.  If any president, Chris, were to politicize a—for political benefit, a potential terrorist threat on anyone in the United States of America, I would vote to impeach that person if evidence came forward that that were happening.  And so I—think this...


MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman Sanchez, let me ask you a question.  Do you believe that terror alerts by themselves, even if they were established with total political neutrality, do have the effect of rallying people around the president and do have a partisan effect of helping the president in his reelection campaign, regardless of the intentions?

SANCHEZ:  I think what‘s more important to note is that the more that you call Wolf, the more that you bring people to a high alert, the more difficult it will be when you really need a person to be at that alert.  And that‘s why I say I think it‘s good that when you have specific information, you let people know about it.  But you know, what we‘ve seen where they‘ve brought it up and they haven‘t brought it down, or they‘ve brought it up, they brought it down, they brought it up...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it‘s...


SANCHEZ:  ... with press conferences, I think, is wrong.  Excuse me?

MATTHEWS:  You think there‘s—do you think there‘s politics, presidential reelection politics involved with these alerts?

SANCHEZ:  Well, I would...


SANCHEZ:  ... by telling you that, you know, I believe the president has done very little to secure us here in America, and as Americans, right here in ours own country...

MATTHEWS:  Well, I know that‘s the general critique.  But do you believe that Tom Ridge or the president or anyone has at any time used these terror alerts to gain politically?

SANCHEZ:  I would hope not.  I would hope that they...

MATTHEWS:  Well, do you think they have?

SANCHEZ:  ... were doing that because they‘ve got (UNINTELLIGIBLE) chatter going on and because it‘s very specific.  And that‘s why I‘m applauding the fact that they‘re bringing specific information this time because I believe...

MATTHEWS:  OK.DREIER:  The answer is no!

SANCHEZ:  ... in just having seen my own constituents, that they get...


SANCHEZ:  You know, they ask me, Why is this going on?

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you...

(CROSSTALK) Let me ask...

SANCHEZ:  Why is it being...


MATTHEWS:  We have a lot of students here.  We have a lot of young adults here working in both campaigns.  Does anybody here think that they‘ve been playing game with these terror alerts?  Anybody here?




MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.  Thank you.  That includes both the Kerry and the Bush campaign, folks.  Anyway, U.S. Congressman David Dreier, thank you for joining us once again.  And Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, same deal.  Please keep coming back.

When you come back: Who do voters trusts to protect them in the war on terror?  Big question.  And what are the Bush and Kerry campaigns doing to convince America that their candidate has the best plan?  Both sides are going to join me.  As you can see, they‘re already here.

You‘re watching a special edition of HARDBALL on MSNBC.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Four more years!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Four more years!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Four more years!

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to our special edition of HARDBALL.  You know, we‘re live from Washington harbor.  This is a beautiful part of Washington.  It‘s down along the harbor.

Of course, we‘re all thinking about the latest terror threats, which includes the World Bank, which is only a few blocks from here.  It‘s about a 15-minute walk.  I‘m joined by two big politicos in each campaign, Tad Devine, senior adviser to the Kerry-Edwards campaign, and Terry Holt, the national spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign.

Let me ask you both about these terror alerts.  When you live among them yourselves, do they bother you at all?


MATTHEWS:  I mean, you live here.

DEVINE:  Sure, and...


MATTHEWS:  Theoretically, this building over here is targeted.  The IMF building is targeted.

DEVINE:  Yes.  I think all Americans are concerned.  I mean, the threat of terror is real, and that‘s why John Kerry talked about it at the convention last week and the fact that he‘s prepared to defend this nation.  He understands that the first priority of a president is to defend America.

MATTHEWS:  You know—you know, Terry, just in the last program we did here—and I‘ll do it again to prove it—we asked these young adults who working on these campaigns—by the way, they‘re not actors.  These are the real thing.




MATTHEWS:  Perhaps.  I asked them, I said, you know, Do you feel safer having President Bush as our commander-in-chief?  And the Republicans, all the Bush people, said, I feel safe.  And believe it or not, the Democrats, the ones working for Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards, all said they don‘t feel safe because of—do you believe people, deep down in their souls, really measure their—I‘m sorry to question your honesty—really deep down in their souls determine their own personal safety based on their partisan association?

HOLT:  Well, I think it boils down to who you trust.  And the terror alerts that we‘re seeing this week are proof positive that the intelligence gathering we‘re doing, the offense we‘re playing—that those things are working.  We‘re—and we now have the tools...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, by that standard...

HOLT:  ... to respond to these threats, and that‘s what‘s happening over the next couple of days.

MATTHEWS:  But that statement you just made, the people who trust Kerry, who equal just about the people who trust Bush—in other words, the country‘s 50/50 on whether we‘re safe or not...

HOLT:  I think the 9/11 commission said it just right.  We are safer, but we‘re not yet safe.  And this is a long process, and from the very beginning, 9/11...

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s ask all the Kerry people.

HOLT:  ... the world has changed.

MATTHEWS:  Do you feel safer under President Bush than you did four years ago?


MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s half of America yelling there.  Let me ask you about this decision by the president.  I know you don‘t speak for the White House.  Interesting.  The 9/11 commission said, Create a new cabinet-level position, a new cabinet-level office, basically, in the White House to oversee all terrorist—anti-terrorist operations, all intelligence-gathering.  The president agreed to that in principle, in a sense.  He did create—or calls for the creation of a new national intelligence director and a new counterterrorism center, but not in the White House and not at the cabinet level, with a cabinet secretary.  Why not that...

HOLT:  Well, I think the president...

MATTHEWS:  ... bucking up higher...

HOLT:  ... is being very deliberate about the right kind of response to this.

MATTHEWS:  Why halfway on the commission report?

HOLT:  And frankly, don‘t they need to have someone looking through and selecting through our intelligence that‘s independent?  I think he wanted to have someone...

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s the question...

HOLT:  ... who is truly in charge...


HOLT:  ... that wasn‘t going to be motivated by...

MATTHEWS:  Why didn‘t he move...

HOLT:  ... politics.

MATTHEWS:  ... until the commission report came out, and then only adopt...

HOLT:  This is a deliberate process.

MATTHEWS:  ... half the commission report?

HOLT:  But he didn‘t move then.  He‘s moved since September 11.  Look, there are some people in this country...

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute!

HOLT:  ... that learned on September 10...

MATTHEWS:  When you say there‘s no cause and effect between the commission report...

HOLT:  ... and September 11...

MATTHEWS:  ... and the president‘s proposal today?

HOLT:  Well, what was the commission supposed to do?  They were supposed to offer recommendations.

MATTHEWS:  And the president‘s responded to them.

HOLT:  This is the president‘s responding to them...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I‘m saying.

HOLT:  ... in a very bold way.

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t you think it‘s interesting the president waited to hear from a commission that‘s nonpartisan to know what to do to defend the country and then only do half as much?  I think that‘s a legitimate argument...


HOLT:  The Homeland Security Department was created under this president...

MATTHEWS:  Because Joe Lieberman...

HOLT:  ... and just last year, we put...

MATTHEWS:  ... pushed for it.

HOLT:  ... put $26 billion...



DEVINE:  Chris, the...

HOLT:  ... and John Kerry...

DEVINE:  The president...

HOLT:  ... Tad‘s boss, wasn‘t even there for a vote.

DEVINE:  The president has...

HOLT:  Opposed it.

DEVINE:  The president...


DEVINE:  ... every step of the way, from the creation of Homeland Security, which the president opposed, to the 9/11 commission, which the president opposed, to cooperating with the 9/11 commission, which the president didn‘t do until he was forced to do it, until today, when he refuses to implement its recommendations.  The president has dragged his feet every step of the process, and that‘s why today...

HOLT:  And your candidate...

DEVINE:  ... we‘re less—and that‘s why today we‘re less secure than we should be.

HOLT:  And your candidate wasn‘t there to support the troops.  He wasn‘t there when it came to funding Homeland Security.  He missed most—most of those...

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you...


MATTHEWS:  Why did John Kerry, who also waited to be advised by the commission of what to do—he didn‘t have a plan beforehand...

DEVINE:  We have a plan.  It‘s right here.  Our plan for America.

MATTHEWS:  OK, but not...

DEVINE:  Stronger at home, respected in the world.  There it is.  Read it.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a very attractive cover, and it‘s obviously only been printed today...

DEVINE:  I‘m leaving it for you.  I‘m leaving it for you.

MATTHEWS:  By the way, you only came out with this plan since you named John Edwards VP, obviously.  You didn‘t have this plan before.  Let me—we‘ll keep it, though.

DEVINE:  Good.  Good.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this.  Why does the—why does the

presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry—why is he pushing for a new -

·         I mean, how many cabinet officials do we have to have in this—I don‘t think they can all fit in the Cabinet Room.

HOLT:  With that $2 trillion in extra spending, we‘ll make a bigger cabinet room.

DEVINE:  Chris, we‘ve got to reform the bureaucracy for the war on terror.  The 9/11 commission really is the best of our politics, Republicans and Democrats balanced together.  They worked something out.  It‘s a good plan.  John Kerry saw it and immediately said he would implement it as president.  It‘s a big difference from what we have on the other side.  The president has divided the nation.  You know, this nation was no more unified than it was on September 12, 2001.  And since then, we‘ve lost the unity and purpose.  And that‘s hurt us.


MATTHEWS:  By the way, I liked the speech, that part of the speech.  It was very well—nice phrase turns and all.  Good writing and good speaking.  But what did he mean when he said we had great unity in the months after 9/11, and then we lost it?  What did he say we did wrong?

DEVINE:  Well, you know, by...


DEVINE:  The biggest thing that we did wrong, Chris, that the president did wrong, was to divide the world, OK?  The world was ready to follow in the wake of the lead of the United States of America—important allies.  And by the way, working together with other nations and America leading strong alliances (UNINTELLIGIBLE) has kept this nation safe for the better part of the last century.  And the president repudiated that approach, and that‘s why we‘re less safe today.

MATTHEWS:  Are we safer if we...


MATTHEWS:  Are we safer, Terry, if we create a new super-intelligence person as national intelligence director?  The reason I ask that is because if you were president of the United States—and I know you have that in mind someday—if you‘re president of the United States...

DEVINE:  He looks like he should be, I‘ll tell you that.

MATTHEWS:  ... and you got on the phone, who do you want to call, like the Ghostbusters?  Are you going to call the national intelligence director or the head of the CIA?

HOLT:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  You got—are you going to call the guy who knows what‘s going on or the guy who‘s got him on a lifeline?

HOLT:  Well, as the 9/11 commission said...

MATTHEWS:  Who would you call?

HOLT:  ... there was no quarterback.

MATTHEWS:  Who would you call?

HOLT:  That‘s why we need this NID, so that we can...

MATTHEWS:  If you‘re—if you heard there was...

HOLT:  ... have a quarterback.

MATTHEWS:  ... something—if you read a wire story that said something crazy‘s going on in North Korea, would you call the CIA director, or would you call this new bureaucrat on top of him?

HOLT:  Well, I think that‘s the big question...

MATTHEWS:  Which one would you call?

HOLT:  ... and there was nobody...

MATTHEWS:  No, with—under this new system...


HOLT:  I would call the guy that—as we organize and expand this homeland security effort, this national...

MATTHEWS:  I‘d call the CIA director because the CIA director would know...

HOLT:  This is the guy...

MATTHEWS:  ... what to tell the other guy!

HOLT:  ...  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) supposed to call...

MATTHEWS:  Wouldn‘t you go with the horse‘s mouth?

DEVINE:  John Kerry will call the director of intelligence, who‘s implemented—and by implementing the 9/11 commission...


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, when we come back, we‘re going to ask Tad Devine if John Kerry‘s worried he didn‘t get the bounce from the convention he hoped to, or the Republicans said he would, at least.  And Terry Holt, we‘re going to ask him when he‘s running for president.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Four more years!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Four more years!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Four more years!

MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘re back with—at the Washington waterfront tonight.  It‘s a beautiful night in the city, a little dangerous because we‘re worried about terrorist threats.

But I have a lot of Bushies here and a lot of Kerry-Edwards people.  I haven‘t though of a nickname for them yet, but we got the Bushies here.

Do you have a question for Tad Devine of the Kerry campaign?


MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s a tough one!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It is.  I just—I don‘t see myself being safer with Kerry, so I have a hard time finding your justification just with his background and not really being a strong supporter of our troops.  So I mean...


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Is your candidate a strong supporter of our troops, or ain‘t he?

DEVINE:  He certainly is, and let me tell you why.  He served on the front lines of combat and he knows what it‘s like to be far away, defending his country in a war.  He was a leader in the Congress and finding the truth about POWs and MIAs.  He worked with Senator McCain to do that and restore relations with Vietnam.  He was a leader in helping the victims of Agent Orange find funding.  He‘s been a leader on veterans‘ issues his whole career.  So no one is stronger on veterans‘ than John Kerry.  I can tell you that right now.


MATTHEWS:  OK, we got a Kerry supporter here.  Do you have a question?  Do you have a question right over here for Terry Holt, who‘s with the Bush campaign?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I do.  Hello, sir.  I‘ve been watching the Bush commercials, and they make me uncomfortable because they take a very selective portion of Mr. Kerry‘s record.  They talk about his time in the Senate, and they deal specifically with the time when he‘s been campaigning.  Don‘t you feel that it‘s misleading to include only such a short portion of Kerry‘s record?

HOLT:  Well, the whole—let me say, we included the whole record—

350 separate votes for higher taxes.  That‘s a long record.  And $7.5 billion in intelligence cuts funding.  You don‘t do that overnight.  This is 19 years in the Senate, where he‘s essentially been an anti-war politician his entire career.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But you‘re talking about—he says—he‘s missed two thirds of the votes while he‘s been in the Senate, and then you mention very subtly campaigning, which is—you know, you have certain challenges when you‘re not the incumbent, and you can‘t go to Texas and take a vacation when you want to...

HOLT:  But excuse me, but the president...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... tape a commercial.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He has Republicans.  He needs to...

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.  This guy‘s pretty good.  What do you think? 

Tad, follow up here.

HOLT:  I think the president...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it‘s...


HOLT:  I think the president doesn‘t take a day off...

DEVINE:  He‘s doing a good job, Chris.  Let him do the talking, all right?


MATTHEWS:  How many people here think—think—that the president will be re-elected?


MATTHEWS:  How many people here would hate to see that?


MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you.  Let‘s get back.  Let‘s get back.  I want to talk to the pros here.  You know, I don‘t want everybody to talk about the word “bounce.”  I think your side did a very good job of introducing the concept of a bounce, that coming out of this convention, John Kerry should have about a 15-point spread.  But the question you have to ask now is, What happened to the bounce?

DEVINE:  Well, listen, Chris, we said before there wasn‘t going to be a big horse race...

MATTHEWS:  There hasn‘t been any!

DEVINE:  Well, I think there‘s been a significant movement.  Let me tell you, I saw “The Washington Post”/ABC poll tonight, where there was horse-race bounce, 6 or 8 points, depending on what you do.  But what‘s inside it is incredible.  John Kerry preferred as commander-in-chief 52-44.  John Kerry, enormous movement on health care, on jobs...

MATTHEWS:  So why...


MATTHEWS:  Why is he going up in terms of credibility—the party, on credible issues, but not as to who people want as their president?

DEVINE:  Well, I think he is, Chris.  I mean, that‘s why—I mean, you got a president of the United States who trails in almost every horse race now...


DEVINE:  ... in every poll.  That‘s a big problem for the president.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I think it is interesting, a very interesting race, very close, and we won‘t know until November 2.  Thank you very much, Tad Devine and Terry Holt.

Up next, an all-star panel will be here, MSNBC‘s Andrea Mitchell, “The Boston Globe‘s” Tom Oliphant and MSNBC contributor Patrick J. Buchanan.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on a special edition of HARDBALL, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced new threats against financial centers in both Washington and New York.  How real is the threat and what can be done?  We‘ll talk to terrorism analyst Roger Cressey in just a moment. 



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to a special edition of HARDBALL. 

I‘m joined by MSNBC analyst Roger Cressey, the former deputy of Bush terrorism czar, Richard Clarke. 

Well, Roger, is this for real, this terror alert? 

ROGER CRESSEY, MSNBC COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST:  There‘s no doubt this is for real. 

This is the type of detailed information the intelligence community rarely gets.  You have to take it seriously.  The real question is, is the plot active or is it just historical in nature? 

MATTHEWS:  How do we know this is not an old plot, maybe three or four years ago, and it‘s been long ago discarded? 

CRESSEY:  That is what the intelligence community is trying to decide right now. 

The fact that they were casing targets pre-9/11 in itself is significant.  The real question is, is there an operational cell here in the United States right now preparing to attack?

MATTHEWS:  Is it possible and plausible that these were alternative targets to the World Trade Center and Pentagon? 

CRESSEY:  That, we don‘t know yet.  But I think it is a safe bet that al Qaeda always has a secondary list of targets.  So even though our security is much tighter on the A-list of targets that were discussed yesterday, we should also be prepared for other targets they may be looking at right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there any discretion by the administration to decide whether to go to an alert?  In other words, is it always the case that this is a danger and we‘re going to tell people about it, or does the president or the homeland security secretary, like Tom Ridge, have to say, well, I think, given the situation, we better let the people know about this?  Is it a discretionary thing? 

CRESSEY:  Oh, absolutely.  It‘s the quintessential judgment call. 

If it is specific, credible and corroborated, you have to move on it.  And if it is imminent, then you go to battle stations.  That‘s the only thing missing right now is the time frame on this attack. 

MATTHEWS:  One other factor.  That is the what I call the Michael Moore effect, that people are skeptical of government .



MATTHEWS:  Something like 10 million people have seen that movie. 

People are highly skeptical and even cynical about authority these days.  They‘re not ready to believe everything they hear.  Do you think that‘s a factor? 

CRESSEY:  I think it is always a factor. 

But when the intelligence community—and we‘re talking career civil servants here, nonpartisans—produce this time of information, you have to make a judgment call on it.  And, look, the administration raised mistakes in the past with raising the orange alert level at the wrong time.  I think they did the right thing this time, targeting it to the financial sector only and allowing the law enforcement and intelligence to act in response. 

MATTHEWS:  How do you deal with a person who knows full well that we went to war based upon the threat of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical and even biological, all three of them in the hands of Saddam Hussein?  It turns out there is no apparent evidence of that yet.  How can you tell people, we were wrong about that one, we went to war and we didn‘t have the facts straight, but now be careful because we are telling you for real this time?

CRESSEY:  That comes down to 9/11, attacks in New York and Pennsylvania and Washington. 

So, when the United States government says we think we‘re under the threat of another attack, the American people will listen.  Of course, the key is never to play politics with this information, because the minute the American people doesn‘t trust the government anymore, we have truly lost and the terrorists have won. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the use of the word terror?  It seems to me that every time there is a poll taken as to who do you trust on terror, the president wins.  Every time you ask the people, who do you trust on Iraq, it comes out about even or it might even help Kerry.

Doesn‘t that encourage the president‘s wordsmiths, his speechwriters, to keep calling everything terrorism?  Every aspect of the war in Iraq becomes terrorism.  Everything that has to do with Afghanistan is terrorism.  Isn‘t it a convenient way to make a political statement and still claim legitimacy? 

CRESSEY:  Well, we need to be careful about drawing links when there aren‘t links.  But there...

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you the question.  Should we be calling the war in Iraq a case of terrorism against the United States? 


CRESSEY:  The war in Iraq...

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask everybody here. 

Should we—I want to ask the Kerry—well, I‘ll ask the Bush people.  I‘m looking at you guys.  Do you think going to war in Iraq was par of the war against terrorism? 

CROWD:  Yes!

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask the Kerry people. 


MATTHEWS:  Do you people believe that going to war with Iraq is part of the war against terrorism? 


MATTHEWS:  Well, that was a hard one.  I would say one was a clear-cut yes and the other one was a mix, 2-1 against.

CRESSEY:  Split like the American people. 

Look, you can define the war in terrorism and Iraq being part of it.  There is no strong al Qaeda link to Saddam Hussein.  That is the truth right now as we know it.  But you can define the war in Iraq as part of the global war on terrorism.  And that is going to be the debate in the coming months. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think the odds are we‘ll find any significant amount of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before we go to vote on November 2? 

CRESSEY:  Ten to 20 percent, at best. 

MATTHEWS:  There is that chance? 

CRESSEY:  Oh, there‘s definitely a chance, because the coalition and now the new Iraqi government has not covered every potential spot where they might, in fact, be hidden.  But, look, the compelling evidence is pretty strong right now there was no weaponized weapons of mass destruction at this time. 

MATTHEWS:  I think I‘m in a Utah Jazz game about to take a foul shot here. 

Let me ask you this, a question that came up earlier, again from a skeptic.  She said she wishes the president or the homeland security secretary, Mr. Ridge, would tell people what to do.  They say be alert.  But even if you‘re working in the—right here, a 20-minute walk away from here, if you walk quick, the World Bank, 20 minutes away, the International Monetary Fund.  Up in New York, a lot of people live near these targets, and certainly the Stock Exchange. 

What‘s a day trader—a trader supposed to do?  He goes to work.  He is in a feverish business.  All he can think about is the next stock move and he is supposed to all the time be on alert.  And what are you supposed to actually do?  I always ask this about when you get on an airplane.  Are you supposed to do, take your shoe off and get ready to hit somebody with it, take your belt off and be ready to whack them with it?

What are you supposed to—we never get any instruction manual on how to be an American citizen and it‘s why is the president not instructing people specifically what to do? 

CRESSEY:  There is no manual. 


MATTHEWS:  Then why keep telling us to be alert if there is nothing to do about your alert? 

CRESSEY:  Vigilance. 

Here is the example of vigilance.  When Mohamed Atta and his colleagues were learning how to fly in Florida, a truly vigilant person would have said, something strange about this.  They would have reported it. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you know that guy who was giving those lessons said that he thought they were from Germany?  OK, that guy wasn‘t exactly vigilant. 

CRESSEY:  Not at all.

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think he was capable of it if he thought that.  But what do you mean by vigilant?  There‘s a bunch of Arabs who want to learn how to fly.  What could that tell you? 

CRESSEY:  Well, there‘s a difference between learning how to fly and wanting just to fly—learn how to fly in midair and have nothing to do with taking off and landing. 


MATTHEWS:  That is suspicious behavior? 

CRESSEY:  That is definitely suspicious behavior.  So it is a fine line, Chris.  There is no manual.  You are exactly right.  And it has got to be a judgment call. 

MATTHEWS:  Let tell you the bad news.  We did catch that guy in Minnesota, Moussaoui, trying to take lessons in the air and nothing was done with that information. 

CRESSEY:  Absolutely right.  And that was one of the key lessons of the 9/11 Commission. 

MATTHEWS:  So somebody was alert, but the president didn‘t do anything because he didn‘t know the guy was alert. 

CRESSEY:  Well, the intelligence community didn‘t act on it either. 

MATTHEWS:  We have got a lot of work to do. 

Anyway, thank you, Roger Cressey, who knows what he is talking about. 

And he is truly nonpartisan.

We‘ll be back with our all-star panel, Andrea Mitchell, Pat Buchanan, Tom Oliphant, in just a minute.


MATTHEWS:  And coming up, who do voters trust to win the war on terror?  HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has that next. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, more with the panel and with our live audience from the Washington Harbor and Sequoia Restaurant in Washington, D.C.—when HARDBALL comes back. 



CROWD:  Four more years!  Four more years!  Four more years!  Four more years! 


MATTHEWS:  This is a special edition of HARDBALL.  And it‘s occasioned by this worry about the terror alert that has underscored to both the Bush and the Kerry campaigns for president distinct challenges in the final three months of this election.  Events are controlling the campaign. 

HARDBALL election correspondent David Shuster joins us now with more -

·         David.

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC ELECTION CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, polls show that the war on terror continues to outpace the economy as the No. 1 issue for voters.  And it will loom even larger if the fears of a terrorist attack keep growing. 


SHUSTER:  (voice-over):  In the wake of the latest terror alert, both presidential campaigns acknowledge it is an election issue beyond their control.  Polls show that, when it comes to handling terror, President Bush gets more support than John Kerry.  But support for the administration‘s war in Iraq may continue to erode if voters see al Qaeda as a separate and unresolved problem. 

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The policies of this administration, I believe and others believe very deeply, have resulted in an increase of animosity and anger focused on the United States of America. 

SHUSTER:  Today, the president engaged Kerry‘s argument heads on. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We will stay—the best way to protect the American homeland is to stay on the offense.  It is a ridiculous notion to assert that because the United States is on the offense, more people want to hurt us.  We‘re on the offense because people do want to hurt us. 

SHUSTER:  But are those people in Iraq?  Bush administration surrogates, like Senator Zell Miller, suggest the battle overseas has made America safer. 

SEN. ZELL MILLER (D), GEORGIA:  This is one of those things where you have got to have continued vigilance and we‘ve got to do everything we can.  But, certainly, it is safer because the war is going on over there instead of over here right now. 

SHUSTER:  For the Kerry campaign, the challenge is daunting, in part because of the American instinct to rally around the president in times of danger.  And some Kerry supporters are convinced the Bush administration is using fear as a campaign tool. 

HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I am concerned that every time something happens that‘s not good for President Bush, he plays this trump card, which is terrorism.  His whole campaign is based on the notion that, I can keep you safe.  Therefore, in times of difficulty for America, stick with me.  And then out comes Tom Ridge. 

SHUSTER:  Senator Kerry said he disagreed with Howard Dean and doesn‘t buy the notion that the terror alert was politically timed.  Meanwhile, Kerry‘s running mate, John Edwards, underscored today that he sympathizes with those parents who are particularly fearful. 

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We have the same concerns, because our daughter is also—our 22-year-old daughter also lives in New York.   


SHUSTER:  This is a very delicate issue for both campaigns because the terror alert is playing out at a time when neither candidate wants to be seen as taking political advantage of the war on terror.  But neither campaign wants to get rolled by it either—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster. 

Joining me right now is Patrick Buchanan of MSNBC, NBC‘s chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, and Tom Oliphant, the Washington correspondent for “The Boston Globe.”

Let me start with the central issue.  This is one of the great days in

the campaign, because the issues were joined today, not just the terror

alert, which is the backdrop to the whole campaign, but this statement by

John Kerry, Democratic candidate for president, that going to war with Iraq

·         and that‘s what he‘s talking about—has fueled more anti-American hostility in the world, especially in the Arab world, has therefore fueled more people willing to be recruited and come kill us as part of al Qaeda. 

Tom Oliphant, who is right here? 


MATTHEWS:  The president says that is a ridiculous notion. 

OLIPHANT:  Well, factually, the best citation I guess would be that book by Mr. Anonymous from the CIA, who reports it as just as a kind of commonly accepted fact. 

Obviously, the United States, with almost 150,000 troops in Iraq, might as well be sending out invitations to foreign fighters to come try to kill us.  I don‘t think the point...

MATTHEWS:  How about here?  Generally, around the world, does it create more hostility and recruitment of terrorists? 

OLIPHANT:  As far as we know, the numbers—they keep coming. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Mubarak, President Mubarak of Egypt, has got to be one of our few close allies in that region.  He said, when we went into Iraq, it created 1,000 bin Ladens. 




MATTHEWS:  Is he right or is the president right? 

MITCHELL:  I don‘t think either of them is right, because Mubarak is

right from his political standpoint.  He is facing the possibility of

insurrection.  The Saudis are concerned about regime change.  They are

begging us to help them along the border.  They have asked for $450 million

additional money along the border to help stop


MATTHEWS:  Well, is John Kerry right, then? 

MITCHELL:  John Kerry is right about that region, but not necessarily here at home.  I don‘t know that that is penetrating here at home.  I don‘t think that people here at home really—because they‘re so divided, I don‘t think the people...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, that is perception.  What about reality? 

Pat, what reality?  Are we hated more in the world and have more people willing to kill themselves to kill us? 

PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, there‘s no doubt, look, that the body opinion in the Arab and Islamic world is tremendously hostile to the United States and the president. 

MATTHEWS:  Because of Iraq? 


BUCHANAN:  More so than it‘s ever been because of Iraq, but that raises the question, why did John Kerry vote to go to war? 


BUCHANAN:  Why did he vote to go to war if he knew this was going to happen? 

So, I think, in this argue, Chris, today, though, the president has come off the campaign trail.  He is in the Rose Garden.  He is there with some very tough customers who stand tall in times of terror and you have a very serious threat.  Everybody agrees about that except Howard Dean. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s get to Howard Dean in a minute—Andrea.

MITCHELL:  John Kerry was the first to endorse—the first of these two candidates to endorse the 9/11 Commission recommendations, which are very popular. 

MATTHEWS:  Including creating a Cabinet-level security


MITCHELL:  Absolutely, completely endorsed them. 

But the difference is that George W. Bush is in the Rose Garden, as Patrick said, and was able to trump Kerry today with a half endorsement, but he‘s the one who is taking action. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 


OLIPHANT:  Only today—I hate this story.  I hate everything about it, because it‘s changing within the news cycle it broke in.  And those are always dangerous stories. 

Yes, Bush said what he said.  But Andrea has already told us this evening that this new national director will have zero control over the money, which is kind of important. 


OLIPHANT:  And there‘s more.  And there‘s more.  The way the White House envisages it, this person would have no control over operational matters either. 

BUCHANAN:  But, Chris


OLIPHANT:  And the commission said specifically...

MATTHEWS:  Right.  

OLIPHANT:  Don‘t tinker around the edges of this problem.


MATTHEWS:  That‘s why I want to get to this question.  Who are you going to call?  It‘s the “Ghostbusters”‘ slogan, but it is true.  Are you going to call the guy who is sitting there with no authority on the ground or simply the guy who has to call—on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” you call up and say, what is really going on in North Korea?  I have got to talk to the president tonight. 

That guy who you‘re calling should be talking to the president, right? 

MITCHELL:  But the problem is that this guy or woman in this new job will not be able to get real information from the CIA if the best counterterror analysts leave the CIA and go to this new counterterror center. 

MATTHEWS:  Because he is closer to the president. 

MITCHELL:  Exactly.  So this person may have better information. 


MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t this just moving the deck chairs?

MITCHELL:  That is the real...

BUCHANAN:  This is too wonkish.  You‘re out there in the country.  You hear of a terror threat.  They‘re going to blow up the IMF, the World Bank or bank up in New York.  The president of the United States is standing in the Rose Garden.  Here‘s what I‘m going to do.  I‘m going to name an individual. 

I saw it on television.  I saw it as leadership and response.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s at work.

BUCHANAN:  You know what Kerry should have done? 


BUCHANAN:  Kerry should have gotten up in that speech of his at that convention and said, I believe the president should call Congress back in session.  I‘ll be there.  We‘ll implement this entire report.

MATTHEWS:  He didn‘t do that. 

BUCHANAN:  You would have had a Kerry Congress. 


MATTHEWS:  That‘s what Harry Truman did back in ‘48.  Why didn‘t he do it? 

BUCHANAN:  Because he is John Kerry, not Harry Truman. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, that is a punchline. 

Let me ask you about this statement by Howard Dean yesterday that the president was doing his—putting—issuing this alert for political gain.  Does that hurt Kerry? 


OLIPHANT:  He came within about a quarter of an inch of letting it hurt him.  I thought his statement this morning was on the weak side. 

MATTHEWS:  Kerry‘s? 



The thing that is dangerous about what Dean did, Chris, is, when you make statements in this serious atmosphere with no supportive evidence whatsoever, you really are fooling around with something that gets very, very close to...

MATTHEWS:  Michael Moore. 


OLIPHANT:  And all the rest of it.

And when you come down on it, I like Joe Lieberman better.  He landed

on it with a big hammer, outrageous, irresponsible.  That was what Kerry


MATTHEWS:  He jumped on Howard Dean‘s assertion that the president is playing politics with terror. 

OLIPHANT:  Kerry said just enough. 

MITCHELL:  I‘ll tell you who was playing a little bit of politics. 

When Tom Ridge made the announcement yesterday, he shouldn‘t have added

those words about how well they‘ve done since 9/11.  That made it seem more

political.  But I don‘t think there are any serious Democrats, or

Republicans, who think that this was not what


MATTHEWS:  Do you think the president, Pat, is just playing politics? 


MATTHEWS:  Just to keep this even. 

Is the president playing politics by constantly referring to the war in Iraq as the war on terrorism, make it seem like they‘re the same thing? 

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t think so for this reason.  I don‘t think so for this reason. 

Whatever you and I think, I believe the president of the United States is honest.  He believes this is an integral part of the war on terror. 


BUCHANAN:  He believes in his heart. 

Let me tell you where Dean and the Democrats face a real danger.  They keep talking, saying this is a trump card politically.  If something ever happens, Chris, lord forbid that they start showing that Howard Dean clip, here‘s what he said mocking and ridiculing. 

MATTHEWS:  Imagine that.

BUCHANAN:  They‘re gone. 

MATTHEWS:  In other words, if we have a building blow up and a lot of people killed.

BUCHANAN:  If you have something blow up at the IMF...

MATTHEWS:  You have a tape of Howard Dean saying this was a joke.

BUCHANAN:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re not kidding.  I guess that‘s why they made the announcement, among other reasons. 

We‘ll be right back with our panel, incisive thinking here on the Potomac. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 




MATTHEWS:  We‘re here in what is clearly—I don‘t know.  Maybe Boston is the most political city in the world, but I think this clearly is a very political city.  All these young folks here, most of them young, are all working in political campaigns for either the president for his reelection or for his defeat at the hands of John Kerry.

By the way, we‘re at the Sequoia Restaurant, right along the beautiful spot.  We‘re right along the Potomac River.  The Kennedy Center is down there right next to the Watergate.  A lot of Republicans are familiar with that building. 



MATTHEWS:  Just kidding.  Just kidding. 



MATTHEWS:  But also we‘re only—if you figure it, we‘re in Georgetown, which is about 20 minutes away from the World Bank building, the International Fund—Monetary Fund, which are targeted in the latest intelligence work.

Let me get to something about this campaign.  Everybody is talking about horse race and the bounce and blah, blah, blah.  I don‘t think it is going to be an election fought like that.  I think it‘s an election about whether you like President Bush‘s performance for four years or you don‘t. 

And if you don‘t, you are going to look to the bullpen, like we do in baseball, and see if that pitcher, that reliever, is credible.  And Kerry‘s job is not to catch up to the president.  It‘s to look like he‘s president, so when people make up their minds in October, he could be one of them. 

OLIPHANT:  There‘s one caveat, Chris. 

Every once in a while, there are moments when everybody looks in and makes judgments.  And I got a feeling today might be...

MATTHEWS:  And it helps the president. 

OLIPHANT:  If there is, in fact, an imminent, specific threat that

justifies continuation of the alert into the future, that‘s one fact.  If

it‘s an Emily Litella moment, where somebody says, “Never mind” at the end

of the week, that‘s another


MATTHEWS:  Like what‘s all this I hear about Soviet jewelry? 


MATTHEWS:  Rosannadanna. 

What do you say?


MATTHEWS:  Do you agree, first of all, that the election will be decided in October by people who will hold off until then and wait and see which guy they like for president? 

MITCHELL:  Because it‘s so closely divided, I think people have to first of all decide whether or not they want to rehire George W. Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  When will they decide, late? 

MITCHELL:  Late, very late.  And if they decide they don‘t, then they will decide whether or not this other guy is credible. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I think.

Pat, do you think it‘s now or then?  And is it an August decision or an October decision? 

BUCHANAN:  It could be a Dukakis August decision.  Let me tell you why.  Before, I agreed with you.

MATTHEWS:  Which was negative for Dukakis. 


Before, I agreed with you.  And I do agree that the country, up until now, has said, we want to take a look at someone else, to hire, maybe hire someone else.  Kerry had this magic moment at that convention.  But for him to come out of it dropping five points in the Gallup poll, while Bush is headed back to 50, you could be a situation where the American people are deciding, we have looked at the fellow, and while we‘ve got problems with Bush, maybe we got to settle with him. 


MATTHEWS:  Did they look at the party or look at the fellow?

BUCHANAN:  Well, look, I thought Kerry had an excellent speech.

MATTHEWS:  I did, too.

BUCHANAN:  I thought he was above his game.  I thought he did well.  I thought he was going to get a five-point bounce. 



BUCHANAN:  But I was astonished at the—at this report this morning


MATTHEWS:  Well, if they didn‘t like that performance Thursday night...

BUCHANAN:  They‘re going to say, what can he do?  What can he do?

MATTHEWS:  ... they don‘t like Kerry, because he can‘t get any better than that.  He was fabulous—for him.

MITCHELL:  I don‘t think the Gallup poll is definitive, because it was polling on Friday and Saturday night, which is known amongst pollsters to be a bad night to do polls.

MATTHEWS:  Because Democrats go out and they have better social lives than Republicans, right?




MATTHEWS:  I shouldn‘t say those things.  But that‘s not a value judgment.


MITCHELL:  Pollsters know, professionally, that you don‘t poll on those nights.  But the other piece of it is that, within those polls, Kerry did pick up on credibility on terror. 


MATTHEWS:  I think Peter Hart was right, our pollster at NBC.  It was a concrete trampoline, no bounce. 

Andrea Mitchell, Tom Oliphant, Pat Buchanan, thanks for joining us on


Ron Reagan is going to be on “Jay Leno” tonight.  Catch him on “Jay Leno” tonight on all your local stations.


Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.