Guest: Byron York, Jon Meacham, Alexander Haig, David Frum, Orrin Hatch
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Tonight, a HARDBALL/”Newsweek” special report, the quiet conflict inside the Pentagon, why the soldiers in uniform are questioning the marching orders issued by their hawkish civilian superiors.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews.
Today, President Bush nominated Michael Chertoff as secretary of homeland security. Mr. Chertoff was head of the Justice Department‘s criminal division from 2001 to 2003, where he ran the government‘s probe into the 9/11 attacks and subsequent anthrax attacks. Prior to his work with the Bush administration, Mr. Chertoff was the top Republican counsel to the Senate committee investigating the Clinton family‘s Whitewater land deal.
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah is the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Senator Hatch, you‘ve got a lot of swag up there on Capitol Hill. Is Chertoff a lock?
SEN. ORRIN HATCH ®, UTAH: He really is. He is one of the finest people who ever served anywhere, let alone in Washington.
He was a prosecutor, prosecuted a number of mafia cases, won them, then of course has had extensive experience in the Justice Department and elsewhere. And, of course, he understands all of the homeland security issues about as well as anybody and of course has left a fully tenured judgeship as a member of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. So, he is one of the top people in the country. He‘s one of the best people I know.
He is a straight shooter right down the line. And I think he will have plenty of Democrat support, as well as all Republican support. He is just—just one of the best people I have ever seen in government.
MATTHEWS: What do you think Hillary Clinton is going to do on this vote?
HATCH: Well, I think—I don‘t—I would hope that she has no animosity towards him, because he is a straight shooter. He‘s a fellow who does what he believes is right and he is honest, just as honest as can be. And he is as bright and intelligent as anybody who has ever served in any legal capacity in government.
So, this is a fellow who really can do the job. And I would hope that Hillary will feel very strongly that way as well.
MATTHEWS: So you don‘t see him as a mad dog on the Whitewater investigation? He didn‘t push too far on that?
HATCH: No, he didn‘t. And I don‘t think he was.
He had a job of investigating it, and, frankly, did a fair, straight job. He is not a person—he‘s not an ideologue in any sense of the term. In fact, I think he is anything but an ideologue. He is a very, very straight-shooting, honest, decent, competent, more than competent and great man. He is really a good person.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the Bernie Kerik fiasco. What do you think went wrong with the president‘s vetting process coming out of the White House? Why did Gonzales and the others at the White House say Bernie Kerik was clean as a houndstooth ready to come for homeland security and he turned out not to be that at all?
HATCH: Well, I am sure he said he was.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but everybody does.
HATCH: Yes, you tend to listen to people and what they say.
And, frankly, he is a great law enforcement person. It‘s a shame that these kind of problems arose. Bernie Kerik is a fine person. You know, you can criticize him for some of these things that are wrong in his life, but there is no question that he has played a significant role in law enforcement in the New York area. And that can‘t be dismissed just because you found some things to criticize.
MATTHEWS: Is it your sense—you are out in Utah now, where—you represent for so many years. Do you think the country, especially your people out there, do they feel more secure? Do they feel like they‘re protected from a terrorist attack right now?
HATCH: Well, I think most people in the country. We haven‘t had a significant terrorist attack since 9/11.
And keep in mind, I think it‘s because we have given law enforcement the tools to interdict and catch these people. We have caught over 300 terrorists in this country since 9/11. And we have convicted over 130 of them. And a lot of that is because of the Patriot Act, which basically brought criminal law, with regard to offshore terrorism or international terrorism, up to the same speed as the laws we use against the mafia and against child pornographers and other criminals.
It was the right thing to do. It‘s worked very, very well. And I think that‘s why people have more confidence today in this country. But having said all that, we are dealing with people who are willing to kill themselves to kill others. And, you know, that‘s going to be very difficult to stop if that starts in this country.
It‘s a lot better to take it to them offshore, which is what this president and this administration has done, than to have these problems on shore. But nobody can guarantee, you know, that we will always be protected in every way. All we can do is do the best we can. And I think having Michael Chertoff there at Homeland Security is a step in the right direction.
MATTHEWS: Are you comfortable morally with the process of taking prisoners we pick up overseas, whether in Afghanistan or Iraq or somewhere else, terrorists, and not being able to convict them under our criminal statutes, so sending them off to some dungeon in Cairo or that third country to handle them? Do you like that idea?
HATCH: I don‘t like that idea, but, you know, every once in a while, our side, including under Democrat and Republican administrations, has made it very clear that if you don‘t help us to get to the bottom of terrorism and help us to protect our American citizens, we may just turn you over to some people who don‘t have the same sensitivities that we do.
MATTHEWS: But, morally speaking, does it make it OK for us if we let someone else do the dirty work?
HATCH: Well, it depends on whether it‘s a country that is heavily involved or a country that might be heavily hurt by the known terrorists.
Frankly, I think we should do our own vetting, our own interrogation. And, by and large, it‘s done fairly and decently and honorably. I have been to Gitmo, you know, Guantanamo. I have gone through the systems down there. I am convinced that they‘ve done a fair, decent, honorable job. But all of us are sickened by what happened at Abu Ghraib. There is no question that should not have happened. That should not have been allowed. But you always have some people who will go outside the box and do things that are wrong.
But you‘ll notice that the minute that the military found out about it, they immediately investigated, immediately started prosecutions. Our country doesn‘t put up with that kind of crap. And I don‘t think we should put up with it. You know...
MATTHEWS: You don‘t believe that there was a higher signal that some things were in and some things were out, according to the memorandum we have looked at recently from the White House counsel‘s office, from the Justice Department‘s office of legal policy, whereby you are allowed to scare the hell out of somebody, you are allowed to humiliate someone, allowed to show cruelty to a person, but not up to the extreme case of actually them or hurting them?
Do you respect those guidelines and think that they might have played a role with regard to Abu Ghraib?
HATCH: Well, let me put it this way. I don‘t think they played a role with regard to Abu Ghraib. I think we had some people who were way out of line, who basically, under the stresses of that particular situation, did things that were wrong. That does happen occasionally.
And, naturally, we don‘t want those things to happen, because if our young men and women are captured, we sure don‘t want them mistreated at all. But we are dealing not with combatants, enemy combatants. We‘re dealing with terrorists who don‘t play by the rules.
HATCH: We know that if any of our young men or women are captured, they are going to be beheaded by these vicious people.
But, look, in all honesty, the original opinions written by John Hew (ph) and also by the man who now sits on the circuit court of appeals, those opinions were probably accurate. What they did is what legal opinions do. They give you the range of what is permissible under the Geneva Conventions. And some of the things that are permissible are very stressful.
But what they didn‘t do is state, yes, you can do some of these things, but we don‘t recommend you do them. And that‘s where I think the opinions broke down. And, of course, in the February 7 memorandum that Judge Gonzales had something to do with, it was made very clear that these are not enemy combatants and not subject to the same rules as the Geneva Conventions, but we are going to treat these prisoners humanely.
And I think that has been the rule. There is no evidence whatsoever that anybody in this administration or in the military, other than these few instances of bad action actually pushed doing things that were outside of what was—what would be considered decency.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about decency and the Supreme Court. Do you—what do you think of Harry Reid, your colleague from Nevada, the Democratic senator, Senate leader, his observation, perhaps partisan, that Justice Clarence Thomas is an embarrassment?
HATCH: Well, I think Harry got blindsided and just didn‘t answer that very well. Harry is a very decent, honorable man and I think will be a good leader for the Democrats in the Senate.
But, look, it‘s apparent that Harry hasn‘t read many, or—if any, of Justice Thomas‘ decisions. He is writing some of the most articulate, intelligent, good decisions on the court. And whether you agree with him or not, this man is a very bright guy who makes very good cases for his particular point of view.
And anybody who looks at them and reads his decisions has got to say, I might not agree with them, with all of them, but, by gosh, the guy makes sense. He is certainly intelligent. He is certainly learned in the law.
HATCH: And he deserves to be on the Supreme Court of the United States of America and deserves to be treated decently by politicians.
MATTHEWS: But that‘s the point. Senator Hatch, I have never seen a Supreme Court judge, an associate or chief, mocked the way that Clarence Thomas is. Why do people feel they have a license to make comments about him that are so ad hominem and so derogatory?
HATCH: Because he—well, I think very few do, and usually they are people who aren‘t very well-informed. But it does show that they just cannot tolerate a conservative African-American.
If you notice how they treated—on the Judiciary Committee, how they treated Janice Rogers Brown. Now, Janice Rogers Brown, sharecropper‘s daughter, worked her way all the way through college and law school, came up the really hard way, and finally winds up as a justice on the California Supreme Court, writes the majority of the majority opinions on the court.
HATCH: They treated her just like dirt because she is a conservative African-American. I think, sooner or later, African-Americans in this country are going to wake up and say, hey, that‘s pretty prejudicial treatment. It‘s not fair.
HATCH: And these liberals who claim to be so concerned with civil rights, yes, they are when it involves liberal African-Americans.
HATCH: But they are not when it involves somebody who is especially an intelligent conservative African-American.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the country is ready? Mitt Romney has been making some noises. He‘s a very impressive fellow. He‘s a Republican governor of Massachusetts, and that‘s an accomplishment in itself for a Republican.
He‘s an LDS member, a member of the Mormon Church. Do you think the
country is ready to make that change, to say, well, how about a Mormon for
president? We‘ve got Harry Reid, who is the Senate Democratic leader, who
is LDS. Do you think the country is sort of open now in saying, yes, let‘s
· no problem there?
HATCH: Well, I hope so, because LDS people, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, are really good people. They‘re honorable, decent people that you can rely on.
MATTHEWS: I know that.
HATCH: And, look, Mitt Romney has more than proven himself.
When he took over an Olympic situation that was in shambles out here, he not only turned it around. He made it a very, very prosperous situation, where, after the Olympics were over, the most successful Winter Olympics in history, they still had a whole raft of millions of dollars to be able to continue the Olympic venues and processes out here.
The guy is a terrific man. He is a terrific leader. He is very, very bright. And you are going to get somebody who is honest and tells it the way it is.
HATCH: And does what he believes. And that‘s what we stand for.
MATTHEWS: Are we in one of those magic moments of—I only have a second—are we at that magic moment of change, like we did in 1960 with a Roman Catholic candidate, that this could be the time that a Mormon does make the presidency?
HATCH: Well, I don‘t think anybody from any religious persuasion, and especially the churches that are among the top 10 in this country, and the Mormon Church is now the fifth largest in the country.
HATCH: I don‘t think anybody who is honest, decent and competent should be stopped from serving this country just because they may have differing beliefs.
MATTHEWS: I am glad I gave you a chance to say that, Senator.
HATCH: Well, I am glad you did. You‘re always...
MATTHEWS: I‘m glad you did. You are starting that bandwagon that is starting now, Mitt Romney for president.
HATCH: Well, we are going to have a lot of really good nominees for the Republican Party.
MATTHEWS: I know.
HATCH: And Mitt, I believe, will be one of them. And people should give him some real consideration. He‘s a great guy.
I am going to call Bill Frist up right now and say you are endorsing Mitt Romney, not him.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you. It‘s great always, Senator Orrin Hatch, senior senator from Utah.
A look at the hawks coming up now who pushed the Iraq war vs. those opposing generals who didn‘t really feel comfortable about this war. HARDBALL/”Newsweek” special report coming up, the real civil war, cautious warriors in uniform against hawkish Pentagon civilians.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, a look at how we went to war in Iraq in a HARDBALL/”Newsweek” special report with Jon Meacham, General Barry McCaffrey, General Alexander Haig and David Frum, when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Tonight, a HARDBALL/”Newsweek” special report, the conflict within the Pentagon. We take an in-depth look at the people who pushed for the war in Iraq and the generals who questioned it.
In a minute, you‘ll meet our all-star panel, with “Newsweek” managing editor Jon Meacham, who is the author of “Franklin and Winston,” retired General and MSNBC analyst Barry McCaffrey, former Secretary of State and retired general Alexander Haig, and former President Bush speechwriter David Frum.
But first, this report from HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the movies it‘s usually the military dying for war and combat and the civilians in the Defense Department pressing for restraint.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “A FEW GOOD MEN”)
JACK NICHOLSON, ACTOR: You want answers?
TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: I think I am entitled.
NICHOLSON: You want answers?
CRUISE: I want the truth.
NICHOLSON: You can‘t handle the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: But it‘s not been that way with the war in Iraq. Long before President Bush gave the orders, using force to topple Saddam was a glint in the eye of the civilians who would become key players in the Bush administration.
In 1998, a neoconservative think tank called the Project For the New American Century wrote to President Clinton: “The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action.”
In addition to those who signed the 1998 pronouncement, Richard Perle and two of his top associates had already urged an aggressive new strategy in 1996. In a paper discussing ways of enhancing the security of Israel, Perle‘s group embraced overthrowing Iraq‘s Saddam and replacing with a Hashemite monarchy that would redefine Iraq.
In 1998, after Iraq severed ties with the U.N. commission in charge of weapons inspectors, Congress passed the Iraqi Liberation Act. It called for arming rebel forces, but did not advocate U.S. military involvement. Two years ago, during the run-up to war, the divide between cautious military leaders and hawkish civilians got deeper. How many troops would be needed to secure Iraq?
RICHARD PERLE, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably a figure that would be required. We are talking about, post hostilities, control over a piece of geography that‘s fairly significant with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far from the mark.
SHUSTER: Military leaders offered a mixed assessment about an Iraq without Saddam. Civilian neocons predicted:
PERLE: Indeed, large numbers of Iraqis I think will happily celebrate his demise. And I would expect that there would be significant defections from his side to our side.
SHUSTER: After leaving Iraq, General Tommy Franks accused Deputy Defense Secretary Douglas Feith of underestimating Iraq‘s resistance and described Feith as—quote—“the stupidest guy on the face of the Earth.”
To this day, there are still disagreements about what the U.S. is confronting.
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY: It‘s not an insurgency. An insurgency implies something that rose up afterwards. This is the same enemy that butchered Iraqis for 35 years.
SHUSTER: Military leaders say the enemy includes foreign fighters from across the Arab world, but also Iraqis who have been infuriated by the U.S. occupation.
Furthermore, the military commander of the first Gulf War says this administration‘s civilian leadership ignored history.
NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF, NBC MILITARY ANALYST: We certainly knew there was going to be conflict between the Sunni and Shiite.
SHUSTER: So who is responsible for the ongoing complexities and problems? The Bush administration has fired nobody. Former U.S. military leaders want heads to roll.
MATTHEWS: Feith, Wolfowitz, Cambone, Rumsfeld, should they go?
RETIRED GEN. ANTHONY ZINNI, FORMER CENTCOM COMMANDER: Well, that‘s up to the president. But somebody ought to be held accountable for what went on. I think the president wasn‘t served well, the country wasn‘t served well and our troops out there weren‘t served well. And I think we ought to discover where that problem lies.
SHUSTER (on camera): The important detail of course is that it‘s not the Pentagon civilian leadership or the neocon policy wonks who are getting killed in Iraq. The blood is being shed by U.S. forces. And they are the ones who must face the grim realities that the policy-makers didn‘t plan on.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster.
More on the HARDBALL/”Newsweek” special report coming up, the real civil war, with “Newsweek”‘s Jon Meacham, General Barry McCaffrey, General Alexander Haig and David Frum.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with General Alexander Haig, General Barry
McCaffrey, “Newsweek”‘s Jon Meacham, and David Frum
Jon Meacham, you are the historian. You have written by favorite book, “Franklin and Winston.” I want to ask you this. There is an historic division, of course, between military men and noncivilian, or, rather, military men. Why in this war, what is it about Iraq that seems to have sharpened the frictions between the men fighting the war in uniform and the civilians guiding it?
JON MEACHAM, MANAGING EDITOR, “NEWSWEEK”: Well, I think what‘s happened is, it‘s the third chapter in a very important 60-year history.
In 1942, George Marshall was pushing hard to go across the English Channel early. So you had the military in a very hawkish position. You had Roosevelt and Churchill saying, slow down, slow down. Then you have Vietnam, where everything gets scrambled and politics seem to be driving the military and the military men rightly said, look, if we are going to do this, we have to do it right and in overwhelming force, which gave you the Powell doctrine by the time of Gulf War.
What is sort of tragic, I think, about this war right now, what is happening today, is that the military Powell doctrine, apply overwhelming force, know what you are doing, have an exit strategy, just seems to have fallen apart, even though Powell was in the administration at the time, albeit in a diplomatic setting. So, I think you have a case where there was a strong ideological push to do something to secure the country in Iraq, to secure this country, the United States, in Iraq, but basically Secretary Rumsfeld and others wanted to do it, as they say, light and fast.
MEACHAM: And the military men wanted more boots.
MATTHEWS: General Haig, I want to ask you about the premise here, because it seems to me that there is a conflict between the military guys, who were cautious about—who were cautious about going into Iraq, and the gung-ho ideologues, who really thought it was something we had to do. What do you make of it?
ALEXANDER HAIG, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I don‘t think that‘s a fair judgment. The military was every bit as enthusiastic about this.
They all felt we had to get in and get rid of Saddam Hussein as a matter of American credibility, which had been damaged at the end of the Gulf War. Incidentally, this is not the strategy of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was Cap Weinberger‘s strategy. He‘s the first one that spoke to it. And what it involved was, first, we would have overwhelming force, and, secondly, we would have overwhelming American domestic support.
MATTHEWS: Do we have overwhelming—by that standard, do we have overwhelming force along the lines of Weinberger and Colin Powell, the Powell doctrine, it‘s been called...
HAIG: Well, yes, later.
MATTHEWS: ... to fight the war in Iraq?
HAIG: Later it was called that.
MATTHEWS: Do we have it?
MATTHEWS: Do we have it?
HAIG: No, we do not. We didn‘t then.
MATTHEWS: Does the military share your view that this war was a much tougher war than it looked going in?
HAIG: There is no question about that. And there were some very serious misjudgments made and, as you have said, by the so-called neocons, but not all of them.
There are some that believe, for example, that military solutions are the answer to everything. It‘s a simplistic, one-dimension approach.
MATTHEWS: And who holds that view?
MEACHAM: They thought that democracy would follow the bayonet.
MATTHEWS: Right. Right.
Let me talk to—we‘ll come back and talk about Rumsfeld‘s view, because he‘s one of those who pushed early against Iraq, as well as Armitage—Armitage and the others.
More with Jon Meacham, General Barry McCaffrey, General Alexander Haig David Frum. We are talking about the battle between the uniform boys and the civilians over how to fight and when to fight.
And on Sunday, January 16 at 9:00 Eastern, join Tom Brokaw and myself for a look back over four decades of inaugurations in a special program, “Picking Our Presidents: Leaders and Legacies.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That‘s Tom Brokaw back on MSNBC with me for Picking Our Presidents: Leaders and Legacies” Sunday. That‘s this Sunday, January 16, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We are back with General Alexander Haig, General Barry McCaffrey, David Frum and “Newsweek”‘s Jon Meacham.
I want to go to David Frum. What do you make of this? Is this something you see as the normal conflict between the uniformed people who must fight and the intellectuals, like in Vietnam, who had to design the war?
DAVID FRUM, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, first, I think, in fairness, you can really easily overplay this. I mean, General Zinni is a retired military man with strong political opinions.
MATTHEWS: Which are they?
FRUM: He has got strong views about America‘s purposes in the Middle East. He thinks that they‘re best served by aligning with the existing regimes in the region.
MATTHEWS: People like Egypt and Jordan?
FRUM: Exactly. So, he has got strong views and he‘s—as is his right. And in his duty, he is expressing them. But...
MATTHEWS: And, therefore, he would oppose U.S. intervention in Iraq because what?
FRUM: Because it was destabilizing to a lot of the existing regimes in the region and they were very frightened and upset by it.
What about people like Schwarzkopf, who decided not to go into Iraq
the first time, and has since been extremely quiet—I‘ve interviewed him
· to the point where you get the clear message that he doesn‘t want to say it, but he doesn‘t think this war was a smart idea?
FRUM: Well, I can‘t read his mind. It was his decision, for example, to allow the helicopters to fly after the end of the first Gulf War, which was—the Iraqi helicopters—which was a moment maybe to have brought all of this to a more satisfactory conclusion.
But one of the things we do have to understand...
MATTHEWS: You think he missed a shot to end it then?
FRUM: To make—I‘ll just put it this way. I think America‘s reputation in the country, in Iraq, was hurt by the fact that after signing this armistice, after calling on the Iraqi people to rise, which would have been one way to solve this problem, when the Iraqi people did rise, America allowed Saddam to fly helicopters against them.
FRUM: Let‘s remember that we changed the rules of this game in 1986 with the Goldwater-Nichols Act. We have made military people much more powerful than they ever were before.
And it has tended to be true that chief of staffs are strong and secretaries of defense are weak. There are exceptions, like Dick Cheney in 1991, but, really, in a decade, Donald Rumsfeld is the first strong secretary.
MATTHEWS: Are you saying Rick Myers is calling the shots and not...
FRUM: No. Donald Rumsfeld is the first strong secretary of defense we have had in a long time.
MATTHEWS: Right. Is that causing some of the criticism?
FRUM: That may be causing some of the friction, because, for eight years, the generals really ran the Pentagon. And now Donald Rumsfeld is running the Pentagon.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to General Haig now—or General McCaffrey.
I hear comments—we‘ve read them in Woodward‘s book, Bob Woodward‘s book, about Tommy Franks. And, by the way, the language used to describe Doug Feith, one of the top people at the Pentagon, is much worse than we are able to quote on television by Tommy Franks. What is this rift between the military guys and the intellectual, or the people who are guiding the war?
RET. GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, NBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think it‘s a serious one.
HAIG: Go ahead, Barry.
MATTHEWS: General McCaffrey, please.
I think the concern—look, you have got people like Secretary Colin Powell are realists. He spent a lot of his early life rolling around in the mud with hand grenades as a field soldier in Vietnam. So he is a cautious, prudent person and he looks at force as the last resort.
I think many of the people, Secretary Rumsfeld, Steve Cambone, Doug Feith, had a more idealistic, theoretical view of it. And they saw new realities that didn‘t match what people like Rick Shinseki, with his enormous experience in Vietnam and the Balkans, was telling them. And they‘re arrogant and they‘re not listening. And that‘s been one of the challenges.
MATTHEWS: But why were people like Richard Armitage and Rumsfeld himself and—there was a lot of people, John Bolton, not just the neocons, but people who are more conservative perhaps, but not that far over, who also supported military action against Iraq way back in ‘98 with Project For the New American Century.
MCCAFFREY: Well, I sure did.
MATTHEWS: Why were they all signing up then?
MCCAFFREY: Well, I think the president was right from the start taking Saddam out of office before he got UNMOVIC out of Iraq. He had broken the oil embargo. We saw down the line, five years in the future, a terrible disaster with an Iraq that would threaten its neighbors, the international community and the U.S.
So, I was one of them who thought President Bush did the right thing. The execution, the arrogance of not listening to your field soldiers and your airmen was in our judgment the problem.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask here.
General Haig, when we went into the war, it was to face a military threat. That‘s weapons of mass destruction, the mushroom cloud. Dick Cheney was especially profound at warning this country of the threat we might face from a nuclear-armed Iraq, a Saddam Hussein with nuclear weapons. The military went in to face a military threat. It turns out there wasn‘t an immediate thing. There weren‘t the weapons there we thought, especially the nuclear.
Now the military is fighting an ideological campaign to try to democratize the Middle East, starting with Iraq. Is that something that you would have supported had you know there was no WMD?
HAIG: No, I don‘t think the weapons of mass destruction was the key issue from the beginning. It became that when we brought it to the United Nations and the British made—insisted that they had to have something besides just getting rid of Saddam.
HAIG: And so we brought that in and it distorted the whole thing, as going to the U.N. did. We should have acted first with NATO and a consensus of our European alliance and then turned to the United Nations. I wrote that at the time.
MCCAFFREY: Hear, hear.
MCCAFFREY: George Shultz wrote that at the time.
MATTHEWS: I hear a hear, hear from General McCaffrey.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Rick—Jon Meacham, rather.
Jon Meacham, let me—as the reporter here covering this without a point of view, I think, Jon, is it fair to say that the military believes they were led into a war to fight a military threat, it turns out there wasn‘t a military threat exactly—maybe there is in the long term—and that that is part of the problem here?
I think there is definitely a feeling that there have been shifting rationales. It started with weapons of mass destruction. Now it is a democratization of the Middle East. You can argue that they are both quite strong rationales. I would simply hope, speaking as a journalist and as a citizen, that the world‘s most powerful nation could somehow or another have a theoretical, an intelligent theoretical basis for protecting our borders and making the world better and still provide enough armor for the grunts from my home state of Tennessee, who was the man who talked to Rumsfeld over there about Hillbilly armor, to protect themselves.
That‘s to me where this all falls apart. There is this very—there‘s this wonderful theory in Washington and then there‘s the situation on the ground. And I would think that General McCaffrey and General Haig, who certainly have faced far more dangers than I have, would want to comment on that and say what—why is there this disconnect?
MEACHAM: Do we have to do things in a service, do light and fast, when in fact don‘t all wars come down to young men shooting other young men?
MATTHEWS: Well, they all come down to decisions whether to go or not to go.
And it seems to me, David, the interesting thing about this and the conflicting about it is, there‘s two main critics of the war, the people who thought we never should have gone and the people who really believed in the cause, but believe we didn‘t put effort into it, enough troops into it. And they both are saying not enough troops over there. And so who is caught in the middle here? The civilians at the Pentagon who say, we sent in enough military to do the job.
FRUM: Well, look, at this point, there is a real question of, if you send in more, do you make it worse?
MATTHEWS: Right. Because? How would it make it worse?
FRUM: Because, at this point, you have...
MATTHEWS: More targets?
FRUM: Not more targets, but more—less incentive to the Iraqi government that is emerging to build an effective military force. And there are a lot of Iraqis who have a lot to lose if Iraq goes bad, a lot more to lose than Americans do. And one of the things that you want to be careful of is that you don‘t so Americanize the war that the Iraqis do not shoulder the rifles themselves.
MATTHEWS: What do you think is the smart move right now, go in with what we have or enlarge the American presence?
FRUM: I think, at this point, that it is going to be—I am not a military man, so I am not going to offer military advice. But, at this point, I think getting the politics right and making sure there are elected authorities, making sure that those elections happen on time, keeping America‘s word, so that you can strengthen an Iraqi alternative, that would be my top priority.
MATTHEWS: General, General McCaffrey, the amazing thing is, we saw, when CBS got into trouble the other day, they fired a bunch of people. When the WMD failed to materialize over there, when Turkey failed to help us and offer us the second front opportunity, when Europe failed to help us, when the happy Iraq scenario didn‘t play out, all the cases made for war, that the oil of Iraq would pay for the war, none of them panned out, no one gets fired.
MCCAFFREY: Well, look, I am down here. I just spent two days visiting Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam, Houston, where we train all the Army‘s medics, combat medics.
MCCAFFREY: There is a huge war going on. The Army is at war. The Marine Corps is at war. The country isn‘t at war.
The resources aren‘t there to sustain this effort. I couldn‘t agree more with I guess Mr. Meacham, that you wouldn‘t want to increase the force presence on the ground in Iraq. The solution is Iraqi security forces, Iraqi political legitimacy. But you can‘t keep up the 150,000 security and stability operation unless we enlarge the Army and the Marine Corps. This thing is going over the edge of a cliff in the next 24 months.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t fear an enlarged American presence would enrage the Iraqis or make them feel that it‘s our war and not theirs?
MCCAFFREY: No, I just agreed with Mr. Meacham.
MCCAFFREY: I don‘t think we should enlarge the current troop position.
But we can‘t sustain this effort at 150,000 troops.
MCCAFFREY: Twenty thousand out in Afghanistan, 47,000 in South Korea. It isn‘t going to work. These kids are deploying on their third combat tour now. We need help. And, by the way, the equipment base of this armed forces is falling apart.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Jon Meacham of “Newsweek.” Thank you, General Barry McCaffrey, General Alexander Haig and David Frum.
Is Howard Dean really the best choice to lead the Democratic Party?
I‘ll ask Byron York and Joe Trippi.
And don‘t forget, sign up for HARDBALL‘s daily e-mail briefing. Just log on to our Web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, can Howard Dean save the Democratic Party? “The National Review”‘s Byron York and former Dean campaign manager, our own Joe Trippi, will be here when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Joe Trippi is of course a Democratic strategist. He ran the Dean campaign for president last year, an MSNBC political analyst right now. That‘s his current job. And Byron York is the White House correspondent for “National Review” magazine, the magazine of William F. Buckley.
Let me ask you, we have a fight going on for DNC chairman. Are you for Dean, Joe Trippi?
JOE TRIPPI, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I am coming out for Simon Rosenberg, the head of the New Democratic Network. I think he is somebody I think that‘s going to make a big difference, pull the party together and actually is very savvy about the Internet grassroots and I think has proven himself.
MATTHEWS: So, you are putting your old horse out to pasture here tonight?
TRIPPI: Well, no, I‘m not going to...
MATTHEWS: You mean, you are so down on Howard Dean that here you are on national television dropping him from your stable?
TRIPPI: It‘s not about Howard. It‘s not about opposing him.
I think, look, Howard Dean should run for—if he asked me for advice
· he doesn‘t do that these days—but I would tell him run for the U.S.
Senate or run for president in 2008 if he wanted to. I think he‘s got a lot of assets. But I think this is right now about building this party.
MATTHEWS: But those seats aren‘t open. Pat Leahy and Jeffords aren‘t going to anyway, so he has got to run for DNC chair.
TRIPPI: Well, like I said, he can run for president in 2008.
This is about—we should let Hillary Clinton, Evan Bayh and Howard Dean fight over the message of this party. We have a lot of people out there who can fight over the message.
MATTHEWS: Why wouldn‘t Howard Dean be a good Democratic National Committee chairman?
TRIPPI: I think this is really about pulling all the party elements into one house and moving forward and really rebuilding this party from the ground up, but knowing how to do that. I think Simon—I have worked with all these guys, all of them that are running. And I think Simon Rosenberg is the best person.
MATTHEWS: But how come Howard Dean, who was the only guy in the party with the cajones to come out and oppose the war in Iraq, straightforward, I think this is bad policy, I don‘t believe in the WMD argument, how come he doesn‘t deserve a little reward now in being party chair?
MATTHEWS: He was right, wasn‘t he?
TRIPPI: Look, I‘m going to—the guy has more courage than anybody I have ever worked for. I have no qualms about...
MATTHEWS: Well, do you think he was right about the war?
TRIPPI: Yes. I was against the war. I think that what we have to do, though, is reach out to everybody in this party in all these states and really push forward.
MATTHEWS: I think the indecisiveness of John Kerry on the war is probably one the reasons people didn‘t vote for him, because they knew where President Bush stood. They had no idea where he stood.
Byron York from the conservative point of view, do you think the Democrats are making a mistake if they do go with Howard Dean, who seems to be the front-runner right now?
BYRON YORK, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “THE NATIONAL REVIEW”: I think they would be making a mistake if they did.
In Dean‘s statement today announcing that he was going to run, he talked about the values issue and he basically equated values with bigotry. He said, referring to values is kind of a code word these days to appeasement of right-wing ideologues. And he said we can‘t drop our historic...
MATTHEWS: You are kidding.
YORK: Yes. He said that today.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know what he said worse a few weeks ago on “Meet the Press”? He said that abortion was a medical procedure. Well, it‘s not like having a tooth taken out. It has a moral consequence.
YORK: So he doesn‘t—he doesn‘t get it. And I think it would be a terrible idea for them to make him the chairman.
TRIPPI: Look, the thing that makes Howard Dean great is his ability to speak out.
MATTHEWS: Is he tone-deaf on these social issues, on these value questions?
TRIPPI: First of all, that‘s not what a DNC chairman is supposed to be doing, one. Let our leaders out there do that.
MATTHEWS: But wait a minute. All the DNC chairman—Terry McAuliffe, Ed Gillespie of the Republican Party, they‘re always on television speaking out on issues.
TRIPPI: They‘re speaking out, but they‘re basically doing what is being talked out there by the party.
If you go back and ask, what would Howard—would have happened at the 2001 -- or 2003 winter meeting, DNC meeting, where Howard Dean walked out and said, what I want to know is why so many of my party leaders are supporting the war in Iraq? As the chairman of the DNC, I can guarantee you he wouldn‘t be making that speech or he would be resigning the next morning. We are muting one of the most progressive voices in the party, when we ought to be doing is taking somebody who knows how to make the apparatus work, which Howard was not really that interested in, and putting that guy in there and making it happen. Simon is the guy to do that.
YORK: He also has baggage that some of the other guys don‘t have.
Not to bring up painful memories, but his campaign did not survive contact with actual voters. And a lot of his supporters in Iowa really irritate—seemed to irritate people. And I think—and then there was the whole...
MATTHEWS: Who is the chairman of the Republican National Committee right now?
YORK: Well, it‘s going to be Ken Mehlman. It‘s not officially chosen yet, but it‘s going to be Ken Mehlman.
MATTHEWS: So it‘s obviously not a big-picture job.
YORK: No, it‘s not. It‘s not something you get a high-profile person to do, usually.
Coming up, can President Bush hold his conservative base together on Iraq? Is there a fight between the neocon and the old cons? More on that.
And also we‘re going to talk about Dan Rather. That‘s coming right back.
And be sure to tune in tomorrow, when Senator Ted Kennedy joins me here to talk about the future of the Democratic Party. That‘s Wednesday right here on HARDBALL, Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back with Joe Trippi and Byron York.
Let me ask you about this Dan Rather thing. I was on “Imus” this morning and I was speculating—confirm and check me—that this fight that‘s been going on between Fox television, run by Roger Ailes, who used to work for Nixon, then of course worked for George Bush Sr. and was in the room advising George Bush Sr. when he fought with Rather on the—about going off to play the—watch the tennis game or whatever it was—is that a real ideological fight, a culture fight, in this country between right, who hates Rather, and Rather and his defenders?
YORK: Yes. I think it is. There are conservative watchdog groups that have virtually made careers out of watching Rather‘s career for more than 30 years.
MATTHEWS: Why is he the main happy target of the right? Why do you most dislike him?
YORK: Well, for two reasons.
One, he‘s been—at the time it started, CBS was the dominant news organization. Two, he‘s had a very high profile from the time he stood up and challenged Nixon with the, “No, sir. Are you running for something?”
And, three, he‘s had some very weird episodes that have been real chinks in his armor, like, Kenneth, what‘s the frequency? And there was a weird episode in Chicago with...
MATTHEWS: So there‘s a lot of schadenfreude, joy through other‘s tragedy, this week from the right? A lot of people in barrooms right now saying, I‘m glad we got him, right?
TRIPPI: We got him, yes. That‘s what I think is going on.
MATTHEWS: You think that‘s what‘s going on out there?
TRIPPI: Oh, definitely. Definitely.
And I think part of the problem here is, when he knew all this time that they‘ve been watching, and they‘ve been collecting, they‘ve been building careers on him, that it‘s handing them more missiles to shoot at you.
MATTHEWS: He gave them the...
MATTHEWS: ... Nixon said.
Why did he go to a story and buy it from a guy like Bill Burkett, who has been on this show? Burkett is the guy that just happened to look in a trash can and see all these records on Bush. He just happened to overhear a conversation walking around a parade somewhere. He just—he‘s like Zelig. He just happens to pick up on all this information. And we still don‘t know, no thanks to Thornburgh and no thanks to CBS, where those memos came from.
YORK: And there‘s a portion in the reporter where Mary Mapes, the producer of the piece, talks to some of the people at the CBS bureau in Washington who were very familiar with Bill Burkett, and they knew what he was like. And they told the investigators, she never mentioned Bill Burkett. If she had, that would have set off red flags all over the place.
MATTHEWS: The minute—I kept smelling this story, saying, is CBS‘ source Bill Burkett? Can it be that bad? And it turned out it was.
YORK: I will say some people think that CBS didn‘t go far enough with Rather, because, officially, he has not been reprimanded or disciplined at all, because when he announced that he was leaving, CBS‘ official position was, this has absolutely nothing to do with the story. He has not been reprimanded.
MATTHEWS: You didn‘t hear Moonves. Moonves yesterday made it very clear that his punishment had been laid out.
YORK: Having this guy, after this report, having him still involved in “60 Minutes,” as well as “The Everything News...”
MATTHEWS: You want him out, don‘t you, Byron? You want him out.
YORK: After the NBC—after the “Dateline NBC” scandal, the president of NBC News, the talent, the reporters, everybody was out.
MATTHEWS: Can I ask you a question. You‘re a columnist allowed to exert an opinion. Do you want him out?
YORK: I think they should fire him because of this, yes.
MATTHEWS: What do you think?
TRIPPI: I don‘t think he knew. It‘s not clear to me that he had a clue.
MATTHEWS: That Burkett was unreliable?
TRIPPI: That‘s where—that‘s where I think—I don‘t—I cannot believe Rather would give them the ammo to take him out if he had known that. Now, I don‘t know. I could be wrong. But if he didn‘t know, he shouldn‘t be...
MATTHEWS: Would he have done the same thing to Kerry?
TRIPPI: And I also think—I also think, look, the guy is leaving.
And I‘ve been involved in these before.
MATTHEWS: You‘re a kind heart.
MATTHEWS: You‘re a kind heart, Trippi. Try to be just as kind to the conservatives next time.
Thank you, Joe Trippi and Byron York, who administered justice very brutally just a moment ago. He says Rather has to go.
MATTHEWS: Join us tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Senator Ted Kennedy will be here to talk about the future of the Democratic Party—party.
And on Sunday, January 16, at 9:00 Eastern, join Tom Brokaw and myself for a look back at over four decades of inaugurations in a special program, “Picking Our Presidents: Leaders and Legacies.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR: I think that the Reagans probably missed what they were leaving. They so...
MATTHEWS: They liked it in the White House.
BROKAW: They liked it a lot, and with good reason. They did it very well. He was going out on a high. The Reagans knew that they were going to have their place fixed in history. And I think George Bush, 41st, as we now call him, was very eager to make his own mark on the presidency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That‘s Tom Brokaw, as you just saw him, back on MSNBC with me, “Picking Our Presidents: Leaders and Legacies,” Sunday, next January—next Sunday, January 16, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time.
Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.
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