Guest: Christie Todd Whitman, Kay Bailey Hutchison
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Thirty Marines and a Navy corpsman are killed as their helicopter crashes in Iraq. And insurgents hoping to derail the election kill five other American soldiers, marking this the deadliest day for the U.S. military since the war began.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. On Tuesday, MSNBC was honored to bring HARDBALL to Camp Pendleton, home of the 1st Marine Division to get to know the brave men and women of the Marine Corps. Today, we heard the news, that 31 troops, including Marines from the 1st Marine Division, were killed in the helicopter crash in western Iraq.
Before we begin tonight‘s program, we want to express our deepest sympathy to the victims of that crash, their families and the corps.
Retired General Bernard Trainor is an NBC News military analyst and NBC News reporter Jim Miklaszewski is at the Pentagon.
But let‘s begin with HARDBALL‘s own David Shuster, who is in Baghdad.
David, thank you for joining us. You are in a difficult situation now. You told me some things on the phone today I want you to talk about. The Iraqis who are helping to us run these elections over there, they wear ski masks so that no one will recognize them. Tell us about that.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, when we were driving in yesterday at the military checkpoints in the city, in other words, the checkpoints that are guarded by Iraqi police, in order to protect their identities, to keep the identities not known to the insurgents, most of them wear black ski masks.
And it is a very, very jarring sight to see these men with their machine guns directing traffic wearing ski masks. In addition, Chris, a lot of the personnel, for example, even the Iraqi that work for NBC and other Western news organizations, we have yet to meet a single one who has said that he has told his family he works for a Western news organization.
They don‘t tell their families. They don‘t tell their neighbors. Again, there‘s tremendous fear, both among the Iraqi police, among those Iraqis working who are for American news organizations and American contractors, that the insurgents will murder them, assassinate them if there‘s any inkling that these are Iraqis who are somehow in any way trying to help the West—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Tell the viewers about the 100-meter rule you told me about with regard to street traffic.
SHUSTER: Well, Chris, one of the big problems that U.S. forces are having here, in fact throughout the country, is the difference in telling friend from foe.
And we had our own personal experience when we were going to a checkpoint here at the Green Zone. And that is, there‘s a special that the U.S. forces, the U.S. troops guarding these checkpoints will give when you they want to you approach. And you‘re supposed to approach these checkpoints one at a time with a distance of perhaps 100 feet in between cars.
We were in a car that was 100 feet behind another car that was at the checkpoint. And our driver noticed that there was a car at the intersection to our right that wanted to go through. So the driver slowly moved our car forward, maybe about 10 feet in order to make room for this other car to get through. That was enough of a jarring movement to the U.S. soldier at the checkpoint that he suddenly got very tense and very nervous and, for a brief moment, it wasn‘t the kind of situation that you want to see, when you see a U.S. armed soldier who is there with a machine gun and he is pointing it at you and wondering whether or not you are a friend or you are a foe—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Hold on, David Shuster. I want you to think about—for a return response, I want to ask, to tell me how things are totally—are different at all, to the extent they are, from what you expected. For months now and years now, you‘ve been working next to me in Washington. All of a sudden, you‘re shoved over there. I want your response instantaneously, instinctively, how is it different than you thought?
Well, we‘ll get that in a moment.
But for more on the helicopter crash, NBC‘s Jim Miklaszewski is at the Pentagon.
Mik, these were Marines, right, and one sailor?
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, 30 U.S. Marines and one sailor all assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Pendleton, although we must caution here that a lot of the Marine units are tasked to these mess from various locations.
And it is quite possible that these Marines, at least some of them, could have come from Hawaii. But according to U.S. military officials, the Marine were en route to western Baghdad to help secure the border and to enforce that driving ban for three days up to and including Election Day there in Iraq this weekend.
And according to the military officials, there was apparently a trailing helicopter that lost sight of the first helicopter in fog and sand. They‘ve had quite a few sandstorms there. This is some of the worst seasonal weather there in Iraq. They saw a flash of some kind and then discovered that the helicopter had crash.
Now, early indications are that there is no sign that this helicopter was shot down by enemy fire. It appears to be, according to military officials, a combination or at least one of the factors, pilot error, mechanical failure or a weather-related problem. But there were no survivors in this crash.
And that‘s due in part to the kind of tactics that they have to use in flying helicopters now in Iraq, because, at elevated levels, they‘re too easy to get picked off by rockets and rocket-propelled grenades. So, these helicopter fly at breakneck speed, some up to 150, 160 miles per hour flying on the deck, just barely off the ground, which makes it more difficult for an enemy to sight them and shoot them.
But then also, that reduces the margin of error to almost zero. When I took a ride like that, I looked down and I thought, in an instant, we would be on the ground and tumbling and dead. And apparently that‘s what happened here.
MATTHEWS: Is there a black box aboard?
MIKLASZEWSKI: No. They don‘t have black boxes on most military equipment. So they‘ll have to go through and analyze and see if there was any mechanical failure. That should be easy enough to figure out.
The big question, of course, is, did the pilot make an error in this bad weather? Or, in that kind of bad weather, at those speeds, you can—and at night—they prefer to fly at night—you can lose situational awareness, particularly with night-vision goggles, if they were using those, and they probably were. That‘s been a problem for some time. It takes these pilots some time to get acclimated to using—you lose—if you‘ve ever had those on, Chris, you lose your depth perception.
Now, they spend a lot of time training, but, nevertheless, mistakes can be made.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me go to General Bernard Trainor.
This is the helicopter. As everybody knows who grew up in the last 50 years, the helicopter was the symbol of the Vietnam War. It was our advantage and it was our vulnerability.
RET. GEN. BERNARD TRAINOR, NBC MILITARY ANALYST: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Is it a vulnerable weapon in terms of weather?
TRAINOR: Well, any aircraft can have trouble with weather. This is a very stable aircraft. Usually, I would say it is a workhorse of the Marine Corps. It is a heavy-lift helicopter. But it can be used to carry troops. And, apparently, that is what was happening here.
Now, it was 1:20 in the morning. It had about 30 Marines and a corpsman aboard, probably two squads and a corpsman. They were probably being inserted clandestinely to block the border. And, apparently, there was a shamal, a dust storm taking place.
Well, in a situation like that, it is not likely that they‘re going to be flying too close to the ground, because the danger of being hit by ground fire because of the sandstorm is limited. But there‘s the danger of having some sort of a weather-induced crash. So, he may have been flying high, trying to be above it. But you never know whether it was a mechanical problem, whether it was weather-related.
Maybe the pilot got vertigo. We really won‘t know. But I think there was a very low likelihood that it was shot out of the air.
MATTHEWS: People will ask why are we flying—I remember passionately Desert I, where we relied on helicopters to cross like 500 miles of desert in that effort by Jimmy Carter to rescue the hostages back in 1980 in Iran. Is it a weapon of desperation or is there any alternative to using it in these kinds of...
TRAINOR: Using a helicopter?MATTHEWS: Can‘t they go over land?
TRAINOR: Well, if you want to get there fast and if you want to get there particularly clandestinely, the way to go is by helicopter.
And with the GPS, the global positioning system, and the various avionics that they have on these helicopters today, there‘s no problem in terms of navigation.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me go back—let me go to Miklaszewski, to Mik.
What do you think the impact is going to be on morale, on the whole effort? This is the worst day for losses, for KIA, since the beginning of the war effort.
MIKLASZEWSKI: I don‘t have to tell you about the kind of esprit de corps or morale among the Marine Corps. You were at Camp Pendleton.
MIKLASZEWSKI: You saw it for yourself.
It‘s very emotional. Sometimes it actually—even for us hard-bitten reporters, it can bring tears to your eyes. And I think there‘s obviously going to be a period of mourning. But I can tell you, my experience with the soldiers and Marines on the ground in Iraq is that almost to a man and woman, they think they‘re on a rightful mission, a mission that they realize has to be completed, if you talk to them. And I don‘t think it will put a hitch in their step for too long.
MATTHEWS: Dave, let‘s get the perspective.
Excuse me, Mik.
Let‘s go to Baghdad right now to David Shuster.
What does it feel like over there? What‘s the reverberation of this crash?
SHUSTER: Well, Chris, it‘s very sad, because, when you‘re here, you see—and this gets to the idea of what the biggest surprise is, Chris.
And that is, there is this perception that there are some Iraqis that are helping U.S. forces. And while I‘m sure that‘s true, that there are some U.S. military advisers that are embedded with Iraqi forces and training them, when you see the convoys roll through Baghdad, you get the sense that the U.S. military is completely alone, that for most of the 150,000 forces who are here, they have to keep their distance from the Iraqis.
With the convoys, you can see that the Iraqis are now under orders to stay 100 meters back from any armed convoy. And there‘s a real sense, Chris, that one of the reasons that U.S. forces have such a difficult time with these ambushes is because the insurgents are so quickly melting back into the local population and there‘s no help that U.S. forces are getting from the local Iraqi citizens as far as identifying who the bad guys are.
MATTHEWS: Well, what about the crash of the helicopter? Is that seen as a really—is that really a bleak atmosphere in Baghdad right now among our forces?
SHUSTER: Yes, Chris, there was one military official we spoke with today who said that, of all the weeks when this could happen, at a time when the insurgents are trying to ratchet up the violence, when they‘re trying to frighten Americans back in the United States, when they‘re trying to wreak havoc, for this sort of crash to happen, likely, as Jim said, by accident because of weather, it is the worst possible timing as far as the potential morale of U.S. forces, but also as far as the mission here, the idea that, yes, the insurgents are going to inflict some damage.
But for some sort of freak accident like this to happen now is a real downer here in Baghdad.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, David. We‘ll be back with you,
Jim Miklaszewski and General Bernard Trainor are staying with us
And we‘ll have much more on the helicopter crash in Iraq when we return.
And join me tonight at 9:00 Eastern as the HARDBALL Heroes Tour visits Camp Pendleton for the second night. The first lady of California, Maria Shriver, will join us as we meet some of the brave men and women who are so valiantly serving our country, many of them heading back to Iraq. That‘s the second tour (ph) at Camp Pendleton, coming up tonight.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, retired Marine General Bernard Trainor on that deadly helicopter crash today in Iraq—when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
More now on that deadly helicopter crash in Iraq. We‘re back with General Bernard Trainor and NBC News Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski.
Mik, I thought it was interesting that, when we were doing our show out there yesterday, which is going to—the second half is going to be on tonight at 9:00 at Camp Pendleton—somebody asked—one of our producers asked about all the noise out there from the helicopters. And someone said, one of the Marines said, that‘s the sound of freedom.
It is interesting that we‘re now facing an election. And is this a unique mission for the Marines to have to protect voters?
MIKLASZEWSKI: You know, Mick Trainor may be able to answer that better than I, because he knows the full history of the Marine Corps.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s go to the—let‘s go to the veteran here, Mick Trainor.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Mick, bail me out here, will you, buddy?
TRAINOR: Well, sure, Mik.
The Marines can do anything. And they‘re used to doing this sort of thing, whether it‘s down in Haiti or Nicaragua back in the ‘20s and the ‘30s, securing election sites. This is just one more job for these people and they‘re prepared to do it. And while they grieve about what happened out in Iraq today, with a lot of their buddies being lost, they‘re young people.
And the grief is very deep, but it is very transitory. And they say, sorry about that. It happened to them. It is not going to happen to me. So their morale is not being affected at all. If anything else, it is giving them more a sense of grim determination to do the job.
MATTHEWS: Were you impressed positively by General Kramlich last night? We interviewed him in Fallujah, the toughest spot in that country. And I said, are you going to have a problem allowing people to come and vote in line when they‘ve been threatened that, if they stand in line to vote, they‘ll be killed?
And he, with tremendous confidence, not swagger, confidence, said, we can handle this.
TRAINOR: Well, he knows the situation better than I. I‘m not so sure that I would have talked with the same degree of confidence.
Intimidation is a very powerful weapon, particularly when murder follows with it. And so he has got his problems out there, but he seems to be confident they‘re going to be able to handle it.
MATTHEWS: I was taken with what David Shuster told us tonight on the program, Mik—I want to ask you, Mik, Miklaszewski Mik, about the fact that we‘re really in there alone. We‘re in this kind of hermetically sealed environment, the Green Zone. And even when we‘re moving around in Baghdad, our troops, our Marines are separated by 100 meters from the locals. That‘s a hard way to win the hearts and minds.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Well, it is. And it‘s almost farcical, the claim by the Bush administration that the Iraqi security forces are providing a large part of the defenses.
There‘s no military person, senior military person that I‘ve talked to that thinks the Iraqis are anywhere near up to providing for their own security. Estimates are that it will take two to five years before Iraqi security forces are at the point where they can actually defend themselves and large numbers of U.S. military troops can start to come home.
And, in fact, the U.S. military is so desperate to train up more of these Iraqis that they‘re talking about rehiring more former Iraqi military, those that served under Saddam Hussein. And since they already have some previous military experience, it is thought that they could probably reduce the eight-week training period that the U.S. military is now engaged in with Iraqis to maybe three or four weeks, just to get them out on the street with a gun.
Now, the key to this, of course, will be providing leadership. So far, they haven‘t been able to either grow or find any Iraqis to provide that kind of military leadership who weren‘t involved heavily in the previous regime. So, the U.S. will be providing large number of military trainers that will accompany Iraqi units.
It gives the advantage of, they can watch. They can continue to train. They can keep an eye on these Iraqis to make sure they‘re performing up to par. And, also, if those Iraqis get into a jam, the U.S. military is going to respond a lot more quickly to an American soldier on a radio calling in air support or other, some fast-rapid response troops who may be nearby than they would to some Iraqis.
So, it has a lot of advantages, but it is also going to tie up some of the best and brightest of the American military with those Iraqi troops for some time.
MATTHEWS: I guess the trick is to put the fight in your allies.
Anyway, thank you very much, General Bernard Trainor, Mick, and Jim Miklaszewski, Mik.
MATTHEWS: Many of those killed in the helicopter crash in Iraq were trained, as I said, and based at the Marine Corps air station Camp Pendleton, one of the elite aviation training grounds in the country.
We were there Tuesday and spoke with Colonel Greg Goodman, who is the commanding officer of the air station.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COL. GREG GOODMAN, CAMP PENDLETON: It has grown from just a sleek little one-runway facility to a major, premier air station for the Marine Corps.
The Marine Air Corps air station, like every other Marine unit, has its own mission. And it has its own mission statement. And that is to operate and maintain the Marine Corps‘ finest air station in support of Marine aviators going to combat. Any pilot that is in any one of these squadrons goes under—undergoes a rigorous training education program in preparing him for combat and the crew chiefs as well. And that lasts anywhere from a couple of months to several months.
And then they get into their tactical squadron and then they go through a training regimen there. Once they become qualified in the aircraft, then their squadron themselves has their own training package that prepares them for combat. We have about 340 people, about 40 civilians and 300 Marines here at the air station, that support and run, maintain the air station itself. We have about 170 some-odd aircraft that operate out of the Marine Corps Station Camp Pendleton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And we‘ll be back at Camp Pendleton tonight at 9:00 Eastern for the second day of the HARDBALL Heroes Tour.
MATTHEWS: President Bush held a news conference this morning to talk about, among other things, the upcoming elections in Iraq.
NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory is here with the latest.
David, you read the president pretty well. How is he going to set up markers to make it look good no matter what happens next week in Iraq?
DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think he‘s going to talk about heavy Shiite turnout in the southern part of the country. I think he‘s going to emphasize the point that the mere fact that people are showing up, risking their lives to vote in any number is in and of itself a victory.
And he‘ll also emphasize that it is a process, that there is a structure that is set up to, A, guarantee Sunni participation in the government. He emphasized in an interview tonight with Arab television that he takes heart in the fact that Shiite leaders want an inclusive government. They don‘t just want to run things all themselves. And that this is just the beginning of a process. I think that‘s what you‘ll hear him say later this week.
MATTHEWS: But what happens if the Sunnis don‘t show?
GREGORY: It is important if that happens, because it is perhaps unfortunately portentous of violence in the country.
And then it really is going to put pressure on the Shiites if they are indeed elected in large numbers, as is expected, for a Shiite government to, A, resist the influence of Iran, and, B, really take those steps to make sure the government is inclusive. And will that be enough? Will it be considered enough of a victory for insurgents, who may not be showing up in huge numbers, but are having a big-time effect in that country if they can keep people from the polls.
MATTHEWS: I noticed the difference in the president‘s opening statement from what he said in his inaugural address. It looked like he was cleaning some things up.
He said that bringing freedom to other countries, in the Middle East, for example, or in particular, would enhance our freedom at home. He didn‘t say our freedom here at home depended on doing it. He also said anything we do to build democracy in that part of the world is long-term. Is he trying to get rid of that red flag that said we‘re going to war in Syria and Iran?
GREGORY: I think they were taken aback here at the White House by what a lot of people detected as a pretty aggressive tone in that inaugural address.
I think they wanted to dial it back and say, we are not threatening anybody. This is not—this should not be taken as a direct threat to friend or foe around the Middle East. The president today saying, it would be a constant reminder in his discussions with other leaders in the Middle East and elsewhere, in Russia, in China. He said he would make the point that this is a process, a long-term process, not something that is going to happen instantly.
So, the White House wants to be very clear that this was not threatening, but this is a longer-term commitment that will outlast the president of the United States. And depending upon your point of view here, depending upon what you thought you heard in that inaugural address, this is definitely a change in tone.
MATTHEWS: Do you hear any change in tone like that on Social Security, a dialing back, as you say?
GREGORY: No. Absolutely not.
I think the president, though, recognizes a couple of things. One is,
he‘s got to do a better job—and he has got Republicans telling him this
· to beat back the Democrats on just defining this as a crisis. This is a big enough problem. There‘s internal polling that the Republicans have up on Capitol Hill that, sure, seniors and others want to see the Social Security changed, but they‘re not really on board with his prescription.
MATTHEWS: OK, David, got to go. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Great report, David Gregory, at the White House.
Condoleezza Rice was confirmed as secretary of state today, but only after Democrats delayed the vote. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison will be here to talk about it when we come back.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The United States Senate voted 85-13 today to confirm Condoleezza Rice as the next secretary of state.
NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell joins us now.
Andrea, were those 13 votes against the war policy of George Bush?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: They were against the war policy of George Bush. And there were some voting against Condoleezza Rice, who not only wanted to blame her for the war policy, but for the statements about weapons of mass destruction leading up to the war.
There was some tough rhetoric and some partisan actions. In particular, Barbara Boxer, who took her on, has been widely criticized by Republicans for having gone so far as to send out that e-mail that we aired yesterday, showing that she was e-mailing constituents, suggesting that they click and contribute money to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee because of support for her opposition to Condoleezza Rice.
So that actually made some Democrats cringe, because it took her out of the realm of someone supposedly making this stand for a matter of principle, principled opposition, and it put it into a political fund-raising ploy.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s a tough thing for any reporter to try to figure out, how much of a party‘s opposition is principled and how much is simply for vote and fund-raising.
MATTHEWS: Is there any way to figure that out? I noticed that John McCain, who is a Republican, although he is a maverick, he accused the Democrats of harboring—quote—“lingering bitterness,” and that‘s what it is about, a third possible.
MITCHELL: He said that they were sore losers.
I think some of the Democrats may have been trying to stake out positions with an eye towards the Democratic primaries in 2008. One of the more centrist Democrats, Evan Bayh, voted against Condoleezza Rice. That was a somewhat surprising vote. Some of the others were more predictable. John Kerry voted against her, but did not make a floor speech, either last night or today, during the total of nine hours of debate.
Joe Biden voted in favor of her, but said he had deep concerns. So, it is a mixed thing. But one of the interesting sort of historical notes here is that she had, with 13 votes against her, the most negative votes of any nominee for secretary of state since Henry Clay in 1825 -- Chris.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe it is fair to say—well, I can say it—
I‘m a commentator, as well as a journalist—that Evan Bayh has staked out his determination to run for the Democratic nomination next time by this vote?
MITCHELL: It is certainly an indicator. It is a little bit of what could be a litmus test with the liberal wing of the party. I mean, Barbara Boxer now has gone so far left, just as we see Hillary Clinton on abortion, on immigration, on her previous decision to go on the Armed Services Committee, staking out very interesting centrist positions, as she looks forward to the 2006 reelection campaign to the Senate and possibly something in 2008.
MATTHEWS: What an irony, Hillary Clinton taking outside right lane.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you very much, Andrea Mitchell, for joining us.
MATTHEWS: We‘re joined now by the United States Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas.
Thank you very much, Senator, for joining us.
What is your assessment of the hearings, the conflict, the attacks on Condi Rice and the ultimate confirmation?
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON ®, TEXAS: I think the Democrats were trying to use this time to attack the president and his policies.
I really don‘t think it was about Condi Rice. I think it was about taking the time and trying to give the president a hard time.
MATTHEWS: The national security adviser—and that‘s the role the Condi Rice played the last five years—is responsible for operations during a national emergency situation. Do you believe that she was in full charge during 9/11?
HUTCHISON: Well, I think the president was in full charge. But I think Condi Rice was a steady hand at the wheel.
I think the aftermath of 9/11, when our country didn‘t know what else might hit, was handled superbly. I think stopping the airlines all over the country, really shutting down the air service for 48 hours, was the right thing to do—actually, four days—was the right thing to do. And I think all of that emanated from a steady, methodical operation that was coordinated with Condi Rice and the Department of Defense and the president.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that she made the best possible use of that intel, the famous or infamous PDB from August 6, 2001, a month before 9/11, which said bin Laden to attack within the United States? Do you think she made the best use of that intel?
HUTCHISON: Chris, I don‘t think you can give 20/20 hindsight to intelligence that we were getting regarding attacks in our country.
You just have to think about what our frame of mind was pre-9/11 and post 9/11. Obviously, now, when we get any kind of an indication that there may be an infiltration of our borders by terrorists, we act on it. And we saw that happen in Boston just last week. But, before 9/11, we did not have all the information that would connect a real threat. And I don‘t fault her for that at all.
MATTHEWS: You mean, if you had heard on August 6, 2001, that bin Laden was determined to attack within Texas, you wouldn‘t have taken extreme action?
HUTCHISON: I don‘t think that we had the capacity, nor the ability to understand what they would do in our country.
I think we had had warnings before August 6. I think we had had warnings throughout that we might have a terrorist attack. We had no idea what it might be like. I don‘t think we had sufficient intelligence to put the pieces together. And I think that it was a surprise. And I think, to try to look at intelligence before 9/11 and say that someone was at fault, at her level, is misplaced.
MATTHEWS: OK. You say that she shouldn‘t have been expected to be prepared for 9/11. Should she have been prepared to put out a plan for our occupation of Iraq, which seems to be under tremendous criticism, that we have failed to appreciate the resistance we were going to face there?
Do you think she did a good job of preparing our troops for what they would face in Iraq once we got there?
HUTCHISON: Chris, I think there have been mistakes made in the aftermath of the win. I really do.
Now, where that should have happened, I cannot say that it was in the national security adviser‘s office. I think that there were miscalculations, I think possibly not knowing enough about their culture, not knowing enough about what kind of arms they had, maybe not taking the arms up when they were stashed in warehouses. There are a lot of factors that went into this insurgency. And I would not put that at the heels—or at the feet of just the national security adviser.
MATTHEWS: She‘s been an adviser to the president. Can she now stand on her own feet as a principal in the Cabinet and tell the president when he is wrong?
HUTCHISON: Oh, I think she will talk to the president directly.
I think that she is not going to share with all of us when she tells
the president what she thinks. And I don‘t think a Cabinet officer should
be expected to do that. But I think what is important is that she has the
complete trust of the president, that she understands foreign policy and is
· has a deep experience in foreign policy and she is known to the foreign leaders of the world.
And I think that they will work get very well to present the best case to foreign leaders about our positions and to gather support for the enduring war on terrorism, for which we must have support from our allies around the world.
MATTHEWS: Well, thank you very much for joining us once again, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas.
When we come back, Condoleezza Rice‘s agenda as secretary of state.
“The Washington Post”‘s Dana Priest will be here.
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, she served in President Bush‘s Cabinet, but her new book urges the Republican Party to be more inclusive. Christie Todd Whitman joins us when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back.
Now that she‘s been confirmed, what will Condoleezza try to accomplish
· Condoleezza Rice, that is—at the State Department?
“The Washington Post”‘s Dana Priest is an MSNBC military and intelligence analyst.
Dana, let start with Condi and we‘ll move to these other appointment challenges.
Condoleezza Rice, will she be her own person at State or the president‘s person?
DANA PRIEST, NBC MILITARY AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, so far, we only know her as the president‘s person.
What will that mean to be her own person? It may not mean anything different than exactly what we‘ve seen and exactly what the president wants. I don‘t know a lot of people who are expecting her to be Colin Powell, in other words, who are expecting her to challenge the administration in any overt way. However, she‘s making some interesting appointments.
Philip Zelikow is up to be perhaps one of her advisers. He was a member of the 9/11 Commission, feels very strongly that our policy towards terrorism is not broad enough, is not using what they call soft power, which doesn‘t go over well in this administration.
PRIEST: So what does that mean, that he‘s appointed her—or she‘s appointed him? Maybe its means that, actually, she agrees with that and might try to do something about it. But, really, the onus is on her to show that that is going to be the case, because, right now, there‘s no indication that she is going to be broad-minded or more broad-minded.
MATTHEWS: Well, I guess I have to ask you, is she going to be any different than, for example, Rumsfeld, Cheney and their agents, their undersecretaries, in terms of the shoot-first, ask-questions-later philosophy of this administration?
PRIEST: I‘m seeing it sort of the opposite, that they‘ve created a seamless group here and she‘s not going to step out of that.
However, there are people. Tony Blair, for instance, the prime minister of Britain, today spoke at Davos in Switzerland. And he said, if you want us—now, he is our best ally—if you want to us get on your general, you have to be part of the world‘s agenda. And that is going to be her choice. If she chooses to follow that lead, as many countries are saying, it will be up to her as the chief diplomat and not necessarily President Bush to do that.
And so mending relations with NATO is one of the things that many foreign policy analysts say should be on the top of her agenda. Whether or not she will actually do it, she said in her confirmation hearings that that would be one of the things that she would work on. But will she really take the effort and really make some compromises? Tony Blair was talking about the climate, global warming changes, something that the United States has not been a part of.
And it created a lot of bad will with the world community. Well, are they going to change their policy on that? Rhetoric and soaring expressions in the State of the Union and grand speeches do not do it for our allies overseas.
Dana, on that very point, I noticed the president tried to soften his point. He said that we‘re—that we‘re going to—he said, first of all, in softening what he said, and it scared a lot of people in the State of the Union. He said that our freedoms here in America do not depend on freedoms over in the Arab world. But he said that they would be enhanced by freedom over there. He also said, the effort to democratize that part of the world is a long-term challenge.
Was he trying to kill or deaden the fear from a lot of people that he was heading for Iran or Syria?
PRIEST: I think he was trying to kill the expectation that, actually, he‘s going to try to take regimes who have been our allies, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, for instance, and actually call them to task for the fact that they are not democratic regimes.
And people said—people expected some policy changes out of that. And, as you saw, right after that speech, the advisers came out and said, no, no, no, there‘s nothing different here in terms of our policy. So, I don‘t—I don‘t really expect anything different. I think he made a great rhetorical speech. And that‘s about it right now.
PRIEST: It goes into Iraq, though, because one of the things that he has going for him, when he asked the American people to be patient, like did he today after this awful Marine crash, is to be patient. And you see the patience wearing away in the poll numbers that suggest that Americans‘ support for the war is waning, which is rather predictable. However...
MATTHEWS: Dana, we‘re running out of time. Thanks a lot for joining us tonight, Dana Priest of “The Washington Post.”
When we return, former Bush Cabinet member Christie Todd Whitman says her party, the Republican Party, should shift back to the center or else risk its long-term viability. She‘ll be with us after the break.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Christie Todd Whitman served two terms as governor of New Jersey and was then pointed by President Bush in 2001 to head the Environmental Protection Agency, where she served until 2003. A lifelong Republican, Governor Whitman attended her first GOP convention back at the age of 9. A moderate governor, Whitman‘s new book is entitled, “It‘s My Party, Too: The Battle For the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America.”
Well, President Bush sure wanted you to be part of the packaging of his new administration back in 2001. Was he equally delighted to have you as part of the content?
CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN ®, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Oh, yes.
I mean, he and I never had a problem when we were talking about issues. It was with some others perhaps that we had differences. But, you know, it is the president‘s party. It really is, as far as being the president is concerned and controlling the agenda. I didn‘t have a problem with him, as we‘ve talked before. But I did with some of the others and some on the Hill, quite frankly.
MATTHEWS: If you look up on Capitol Hill, there‘s probably five moderate Republicans you could count, starting in Pennsylvania with Specter, working your way up to the two senators in Maine. Is that how big it is ever going to be? Is this just sort of the end of the moderate Republican reality?
WHITMAN: Not at all.
The Main Street Coalition is, first of all, bigger than that. And that‘s the moderate Republican group on the Hill for senators and congressmen. But if you look at what that in the last election, Chris, you remember, going up to the convention, that the race was dead even, in spite of huge amounts of money being spent by the Bush campaign, until you got to the convention, where the highlighters were Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, John McCain. And the president got an 11-point bounce out of that.
Then we went back to the regular appeal that they had up to that point, and things got tight again. And when it was tight in Ohio and Florida, those were the people he brought to campaign with him, which tells you that what he felt he needed to do in order to win was to ensure that people understood there are moderates and strong moderates in the Republican Party.
MATTHEWS: But you guys are up on stage, Governor, and back in behind the scene, the people writing the president‘s speeches are Krauthammer and Kristol on the hard right. And you have got people like...
MATTHEWS: You‘re laughing, but it is true. You moderates are not writing the speeches. His foreign policy is being driven by ideologues of the far right. He has got people like Ralph Reed driving his domestic policy. You look good up on the stage, you and Arnold and Rudy Giuliani and Governor Pataki. But the people, the little gnomes down inside the Bush machine, are all at the opposite end.
MATTHEWS: Do you have anybody on the inside or just on the outside?
WHITMAN: But the people, the people who vote, the people who really make up the Republican Party are far more evenly split than that. They‘re not to those extremes. And that‘s what the book is all about.
And that‘s why I have that Web site at the end of the book, www.MyPartyToo.com, to give people a place to go, people who are moderates a place to go to talk to one another, to find out what‘s going on, to support one another, and to build a grassroots movement for moderates in this country.
MATTHEWS: But is that a real, a real role for moderates in the Republican—or simply a show, showcasing role?
WHITMAN: No. It‘s a real role.
If you tell Arnold Schwarzenegger that he doesn‘t really represent anybody as a Republican, and you tell that to George Pataki, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, I think you would find that not only would they object, but the vast number of people whom they represent, a good part of the country, would object as well. They‘re real Republicans. They‘re really there and they do represent the party.
MATTHEWS: Do you really think that if a moderate Republican like you got into office or Schwarzenegger, that you would surround yourself with right-wing ideologues like Wolfowitz and Elliott Abrams and all those people, and Gaffney, and—and listen to people like Kristol, and go to war in Iraq? Do you really think George Bush, Herbert Walker Bush, would have taken us into Baghdad?
WHITMAN: Well, I don‘t—he didn‘t when the opportunity arose for, I guess, a host of different reasons, actually. And we wouldn‘t.
MATTHEWS: Or Scowcroft, Brent Scowcroft, or James Baker?
WHITMAN: It would clearly be different. It would clearly be different.
And that‘s why I am so concerned about the litmus test we‘re seeing being developed for what makes a good Republican. I think this president is going to have a hard time enacting the agenda he wants to enact for the second term. You‘ve already got Republicans on the Hill telling him that they are not going to talk about Social Security reform unless he meets their test for being more proactive on support for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
Those two things aren‘t in synch. You owe the American people better than that. We need to talk about both those issues, but as separate issues. You don‘t hold one hostage to the other.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the Bush family is pro-life?
WHITMAN: Well, from all that I have heard, and I cannot speak to specifics, but that members of—that the president would be outvoted in his own household on that issue.
MATTHEWS: In other words, I‘m asking you, do you think he‘s following his conscience or the political winds on that issue? For example, Barbara Bush is pretty obviously pro-choice. George Herbert Walker Bush was until he ran for president that time. I just wonder how much of this is an ideological convenience.
WHITMAN: No. I think the president is truly pro-life. He really believes it sincerely. I don‘t—again, I‘ve never the conversation with Laura or the girls, but I suspect they‘re not there with him on it. And from all I‘ve heard, they‘re not there with him on it, because this comes from him. And he really does believe it.
And I‘ve got to—and I respect that. All I ask is that they respect us, too.
MATTHEWS: You‘ve been governor of a big state in the Northeast. And you know that there are a lot of old people up there over 65.
MATTHEWS: And you know that they vote. And you know that they can be Republican or Democrat, depending on the season. They are not ideologues.
WHITMAN: This is true.
MATTHEWS: I can tell you. I grew up in Pennsylvania. And I can tell you, they‘re not ideologues either. They‘ll vote interest.
Do you think the older people in this country are going to vote Republican the next time around if they think a third of the revenue source is going to not be there because it is going to these private accounts?
WHITMAN: I think there has to be a very carefully crafted message to them to help people understand what it is we‘re talking about here, what the president is talking about. He has got to make his case. He has got to get the AARP back on board. They were with him earlier on the Medicaid and on the drug—prescription drug benefits, but he needs to gets them on board on this. But that‘s the discussion that we should be having, not talking about whether or not gay marriage...
MATTHEWS: I think we‘ll have a better discussion if all those people who take Amtrak and who take the shuttle on the East Coast, and they‘re people like yourself, East Coast, middle Western people, and some moderate Republicans out West, pick up your book, “It‘s My Party, Too.”
Christie Todd Whitman, you look like you are on a fine stallion here.
MATTHEWS: I know you‘re really sitting on a—on a park bench.
Anyway, thank you very much.
WHITMAN: Take care.
MATTHEWS: Christie Todd Whitman.
MATTHEWS: I‘ll be back at 9:00 Eastern tonight for the second night of the HARDBALL Heroes Tour from Camp Pendleton, where we met many brave Marine who are so valiantly serving our country.
MATTHEWS: Name, duty, rank, what you‘ve done over there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Corporal Brandon Bartlett (ph) from Minnesota, United States Marine Corps. I was the recipient of two Purple Hearts during my time in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: You OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s a slow process, but I‘m getting better.
MATTHEWS: OK. Great.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Etcham Tudody (ph). I serve in Echo 21 under Captain Zembeck (ph) and 1st Sergeant Skiles (ph) in Fallujah. And I was awarded a Bronze Star.
MATTHEWS: For what? What did you do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For pulling four wounded Marines out of an embattled house and getting shot at while I was doing it.
MATTHEWS: Thank you for your service, sir. Thank you very much.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Staff Sergeant Holmes (ph), (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
Company 1st LAR.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From Texas. Received a Purple Heart when we hit a couple land mines back in April.
MATTHEWS: OK. You all right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I‘m fine.
MATTHEWS: Good. Thank you, sir. Thank you all for your service. I mean it for everybody here, too.
MATTHEWS: That‘s day two of the HARDBALL Heroes Tour with special guests Maria Shriver and Ed McMahon one hour from now from Camp Pendleton.
And tomorrow on HARDBALL, with the Iraqi election just days away, we‘ll have more of my interview with Major General Richard Kramlich, who is with the Marines in Fallujah. And watch me tonight on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” on NBC.
Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.
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