'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Feb. 8

Guest: Jim Dwyer, Susan Molinari, Marie Cocco, Michael Ledeen, Wendy Sherman, Chuck Hagel, Jay Rockefeller

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Israeli and Palestinian leaders declare a formal end to more than four years of violence.  Will the cease-fire lead to peace in the Middle East?  We‘ll talk to Republican Senator Chuck Hagel and Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller. 

And how is Karl Rove, the architect of President Bush‘s political campaigns, expanding and building up his own career at the White House? 

Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

After four years of bloodshed, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas have called for a cease-fire. 

NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice if it will stick. 


ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  After 10 cease-fires, why should this cease-fire be any different? 

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE:  You have a new Palestinian leadership that is devoted to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, that in fact believes the violent intifada is not the way forward for peace and has been categorical in saying that.  You have the Israeli decision to withdraw from Gaza, which represents an opportunity to seize on Israelis‘ historic decision that they must give up land. 


MATTHEWS:  Will this be the course toward a permanent peace? 

Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Senator John D. Rockefeller, Jay Rockefeller, is vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. 

Let start with you, Senator Hagel.  Is this going to work? 

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL ®, NEBRASKA:  Well, we hope it will work. 

I think Secretary Rice‘s point about the dynamics being changed significantly gives us some sense of renewed hope.  But a lot of heavy lifting must occur here, not just with the Israelis and the Palestinians, but I think the United States and its quartet partners need to be engaged, continually, actively engaged. 

MATTHEWS:  Do we have any evidence that Arabs will kill Arabs who try to kill Israelis?  Because if we don‘t, what are we talking about here?  Will an Arab government say to fellow Arabs, if you try kill an Israeli, we catch you, we‘re going to kill you?


HAGEL:  It is in the interests of all Arab people in that area who believe in any sense of security and stability that this work, this two-state solution work.  Are there going to be tests?  Of course. 

Abbas cannot control all the violence.  He can‘t control all the terrorist groups.  And the first time that there is a terrorist attack in Israel—and there will be one—then we have got to make sure that we don‘t allow that dynamic to take control again.  And then we disrupt the process and we‘re back to right where we are at the beginning. 

But I think this new leader of the Palestinians, who I‘ve met with, many of us have, is as good a person for this job at this time as we could hope for. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go to Senator Rockefeller. 

Knowing Ariel Sharon as we all do all these years, he‘s a hard-liner.  How much will he put one in terms of violence before he cuts the deal—breaks the deal, rather? 

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA:  I think his big problem, Chris, is going to be in the Knesset, in the Israeli parliament, with the lands in the western territories.  I really think that there are people there who could object to it with the idea of throwing up a roadblock. 

They‘ve released prisoners.  They‘ve cut out checkpoints.  They‘re doing all kinds of things, the Israelis are.  I think Abbas on his side is really sincere.  He wants to go to Damascus to talk with the president up there about cutting off the violence and money of Hamas and others.  I think they‘re both very sincere at this point. 

But let‘s face it.  They‘ve just come through a good meeting supported by the Jordanians and the Egyptians.  And, as Chuck Hagel that, there‘s a long way to go.  But I‘m more hopeful than I was yesterday. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think—it‘s a real question.  Why do you think Hamas and the people who want to destroy Israel are playing ball with Mahmoud Abbas right now?  They seem to be for a couple days here.  What are they up to?

HAGEL:  I‘m not sure we have all the pieces there, Chris, as to what is really going on, the various subplots and the various interests there.  There are many. 

You have got the Iranian piece in this, that we‘re not sure where they are and what their objectives are.  But the fact is, we need to keep a wide-angle lens on this to get down the road with a larger objective.  And it is going to be tough.  We will be challenged.  But we‘ve got to stay with it. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Senator Rockefeller, can Hezbollah be restrained by Iran? 

ROCKEFELLER:  Yes, I think—oh, absolutely, I think it could be.  And I think that is one of the main Iranian questions.  And the Europeans and to some extent, but not much extent, us, are putting a lot of pressure on them for that.

But I think there really is a chance for a breakthrough here.  Now, that‘s easy to say and it‘s also easily undone.  But I think there is that chance.  Abbas seems to be very sincere about stopping the violence.  Sharon has said all the right things with regard to the releasing of 900 Palestinian prisoners, which is a lot, no more assassinations of Palestinians, etcetera, that kind of thing. 

I think they both mean it.  The question is, can they held the various constituencies together?  In the case of Abbas, that would be Hamas and El Jihad.  And in the case of Sharon, it would be the Knesset, which—

Knesset is going to be very tricky on this. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this question of Iran and its nuclear capability.  Condoleezza Rice, the new secretary of state, said the other day that an attack on Iran is not on our agenda.  That‘s a very interesting line.  What did you make of it? 

HAGEL:  Well, I think it is probably exactly what she said. 

MATTHEWS:  But an attack on France is not on our agenda, too.


MATTHEWS:  And on Ireland and South Africa.  

HAGEL:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  What does it say to say, your country is not exactly on our agenda right now?

HAGEL:  Well, it says to me that it doesn‘t mean it won‘t be.  It doesn‘t mean that we would take that off the agenda option list. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you take it off? 

HAGEL:  Well, I don‘t think we are...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think we should ever under any circumstances, short of them attacking us, attack Iran?  Should we do to them what we did to Iraq? 

HAGEL:  I don‘t think you ever take any option off the table. 

But I think you are careful and diplomatic in how you deal with these challenges.  We have a problem with Iran.  I think we are far better off to work with our European partners on this.  I think, myself, the United States should be engaging more.  I think it may well be that we‘re going to have to engage to some point more directly than we are with that European group. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

HAGEL:  But I think, at this point, any conversation or discussion about a military attack on Iran is irresponsible. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think we should tell Israel not to do it?  If they choose to do it, should we help them do it?  Apparently, they need our help in targeting. 

HAGEL:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Should we help them if they decide to do it or tell them not to? 

HAGEL:  Israel is a sovereign nation.  Obviously, if Israel would attack Iran, I think we all have some sense of the outcome of where that would put that region of the world.  It would put it in a conflagration of chaos. 


MATTHEWS:  You think the Arab nations would attack Israel?


HAGEL:  Well, I think that most of those Arab nations would be under intense, incredible pressure to respond and to react.  And that could blow up into an inferno. 


MATTHEWS:  Sure.  Senator Rockefeller.

ROCKEFELLER:  I think there‘s no way of understating the importance of the danger of Iran. 

Pat Roberts, who is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and myself and our committee has decided to really go look at the Iranian situation, the state of our intelligence.  We are—I think it is the most dangerous country in the world right now.  And that includes North Korea, because I think it is far less stable politically than North Korea.  We don‘t really have an idea about their nuclear weapons.  It is a very hard country to penetrate. 

And—but I will tell you this.  We cannot be caught in that same situation we were with Iraq, where you‘re asking all the questions after the fact and not before the fact.  We need to know what they‘ve got, where their nuclear capacity is or is developing.  And we‘ve got to be very firm about that, because it‘s a very dangerous country which hates two peoples, the Americans and the Israelis. 

MATTHEWS:  Do we have anything like that capability right now, intel? 

Do we have the intel to know where the nuclear facilities are? 

ROCKEFELLER:  That‘s not something that either Chuck, nor I are either particularly explicitly informed on or, if we were, could discuss. 

And that will be one of the hard things.  We‘re going to make a major push on Iran.  Our staffs, both Republican and Democrat, which work together in a bipartisan fashion, are working on it very hard already.  And we‘re going to—we‘re going to really go hard after the knowledge that we have and don‘t have about Iran, because that is not a country to fool with.  It is not a country which is subject to blandishments.  They‘ve handled the Europeans and pushed them off with threats of sanctions and all the rest of that.  It has no effect on the Iranians. 

They hate us going all the way back to 1953 and Premier Mossadegh, when the CIA took him out, and the shah and all the rest of it.  This is a very, very bad history and a very serious country, much less sophisticated. 


MATTHEWS:  Could we have to be preemptive, Senator Rockefeller and then Senator Hagel?  Should we—could we find a place where we have to be preemptive and attack whatever we can find over there in terms of nuclear capability if it gets close? 

Senator Rockefeller. 

ROCKEFELLER:  Yes.  If you‘re asking me, my answer would be no and that we‘re not anywhere near that point, because we‘re just in the process.  We will be looking at a lot of intelligence.  We will be then discussing with the agencies their understanding of what‘s going on there. 

It is going to become something of an obsession for Chuck Hagel and Jay Rockefeller and all the other members of this committee.


MATTHEWS:  Senator Hagel, I have got to ask you this.  If you‘re president in four years...


MATTHEWS:  Let me ask Senator Hagel this question very bluntly, because I asked it of Senator Rockefeller.  He said don‘t take it off the table, but he can‘t see doing it now.

Can you see the United States attacking Iran by air and trying to hit its nuclear installations? 

HAGEL:  Well, first of all, we don‘t know where they are.  And as Jay Rockefeller said, this is a very complicated piece of diplomacy.  And this is a complicated relationship. 

And I think Jay has framed it pretty well.  And I don‘t think using a military option on this equation right now is anywhere in the universe. 


HAGEL:  But I would say this.  I think there is some hope in Iran today.  They have a very young nation. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

HAGEL:  The Internet is everywhere there.  And there are a lot of things going on there that I think cut to our benefit, if we handle this right, if we‘re wise diplomatically. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.

Coming up, much more on the issue of Iran and how long diplomacy will be used before the Bush administration starts putting on the heat. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, a top Iranian official says a military strike won‘t eliminate Iran‘s nuclear program.  How should the Bush administration handle Iran?

HARDBALL returns after this.



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

As European officials began a new round of talks with Iran over the permanent suspension of their nuclear program, Iran‘s top nuclear negotiator accused the U.S. of blocking effort to resolve their differences and he warned that a U.S. military strike would not destroy all of Iran‘s nuclear facilities. 

Is the U.S. setting the stage for a military action against Iran?  Michael Ledeen is with the American Enterprise Institute.  And he wrote an op-ed on Iran in yesterday‘s “National Review” online.  And Wendy Sherman served as State Department counselor during the Clinton administration. 

Michael Ledeen, you‘ve been here so many times before, usually before a war.  Are we become a war with Iran? 


MATTHEWS:  Are you for invading Iran? 


MATTHEWS:  Are you for knocking out its nuclear facilities? 

LEDEEN:  I don‘t know if there‘s an option to knock out its nuclear facilities. 

MATTHEWS:  But if you could, you would? 

LEDEEN:  I would listen to it. 

But, in principle, I‘m not in favor of military action against Iran. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s been said that their nuclear facilities such as they have developed so far are diversified around the country and immune to air attack.  Do you think that‘s true? 

LEDEEN:  I believe that.  I don‘t know that they‘re immune, but some of them are buried inside some mountains.  Others are deep underground and heavily armed and so forth.  So it‘s certainly a hell of a lot more difficult than Osirak was for the Israelis. 

MATTHEWS:  And they were able—what, in 1981, was it? 

LEDEEN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  When Israel destroyed its entire nuclear facility. 

LEDEEN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Was there any retaliation at that time by the Iranians toward Israel? 


MATTHEWS:  They just took it on the chin. 


LEDEEN:  The Iraqis.

MATTHEWS:  Iraqis.  They just took it. 

LEDEEN:  Yes.  Well, they were already involved in military action of their own.  So they really that didn‘t have a lot of energy left over for Israel.  They had Iran to worry about. 

MATTHEWS:  Watching the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, say the other day that we have no—that we don‘t have an attack on Iran as a matter on our agenda, how did you read that? 

SHERMAN:  I read it as cautionary, that, at some point in time, we might have it on our agenda.  And I think that Europe is waiting to see what President Bush is going to do when he comes, because they‘re totally confused now on where we really stand on Iran and whether in fact it is, as David Kay said in the papers the other day, a prelude to another attack. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, is there a way to—first of all, why are we afraid of a nuclear capability by Iran?  And why is it in our interests to prevent it? 

LEDEEN:  Because it is a fanatical Islamic regime that has said, as soon as they get nuclear bombs, they will drop them on Israel. 

MATTHEWS:  They have said that? 

LEDEEN:  They‘ve said that. 

MATTHEWS:  If we had it—well, let me give you speculative running room here.  Do you think, if they had a democratic government, they could have nuclear weapons without that fear? 

LEDEEN:  Yes.  I think that a freely elected government in Iran would not be hostile to its neighbors and would be pro-Western and peace-loving. 

MATTHEWS:  Is that a matter of belief by you, a religious belief, almost, that countries are democratically elected are not sort of institutionally warlike? 

LEDEEN:  No.  I don‘t automatically believe that.  It‘s certainly true that freely elected governments are less warlike than tyrannies.  Tyrannies are the most warlike historically.

MATTHEWS:  Because?

LEDEEN:  Because it is in their nature, because they‘re the most insecure, because tyranny is the least stable form of government. 

MATTHEWS:  And it unites the country.

LEDEEN:  So they‘re always doing things, yes.

MATTHEWS:  It tends to unite the country. 

LEDEEN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Like Cuba, for example.

Let me ask you, Wendy, what do you think we can do to prevent—should we be in a position of saying, no way can you have a nuclear capability; we will not permit it?  That seems to be the position of Israel.  It certainly is Israel‘s position.  It‘s this government‘s position, I believe.  Should it be our position? 

SHERMAN:  I think our position has to be that we want to make sure that nuclear weapons do not fall into the hands of terrorists.  We have to make sure that states like Iran that are state sponsors of terrorism do not have nuclear weapons.  And it is quite critical to stop Iran from having nuclear weapons, much like we should stop North Korea from having nuclear weapons. 

That said, the United States has really taken a fatherly hands-off approach.  We‘re happy to have Europe go forward and try to negotiate and put incentives on the tables.  We‘re going to play the bad cop and the tough guy, but we really have to enter into this negotiation.  So far, we haven‘t been willing to do it.

MATTHEWS:  Should we do what is necessarily to stop them from getting a nuclear weapon?  I hate to use the phrase from “Body Heat,” but should we do what is necessary or not?

SHERMAN:  We should keep military options on the table.  But it would be...


MATTHEWS:  If it is the only way to stop them from building a deliverable nuclear weapon, should we take action? 

SHERMAN:  I think we won‘t be able to do that until we have proved that we‘ve negotiated the hell of the situation and tried to solve it through diplomacy. 

MATTHEWS:  But I‘m asking you a question of policy.  Will—should the United States, if it was a Democratic administration right now, permit ultimately the completion of a nuclear delivery system by the Iranian government we have now? 

SHERMAN:  I think it would go to the world community.  And I think everyone would not want Iran to have nuclear weapons.   

MATTHEWS:  Would you support at that point as the ultimate prevention measure an attack? 

SHERMAN:  I think it is something people would have to consider, yes.

MATTHEWS:  Really? 

SHERMAN:  Have to consider, maybe not do, because I agree with Michael.  It is very difficult to do. 

MATTHEWS:  You sound like you‘re very similar to the administration on this issue.


SHERMAN:  No.  Where I‘m different with the administration is, military action needs to be on the table. 

But as Shirin Ebadi, the nuclear—the Nobel Prize Winner from Iran, said in an op-ed in “The New York Times” today, a military attack would blow up human rights in Iran.  And so it is a terrible problem.  It is not a good option. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ve got to come back with Wendy Sherman and Michael Ledeen.  We‘ll talk more about Iran, also about the Middle East.  It‘s looking good over there right now.

And later, NBC‘s David Gregory on Karl Rove‘s new duties at the White House.  The‘s interesting.  He‘s got a real job now.  It‘s called government.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Michael Ledeen and Wendy Sherman.

This is a powerful statement.  It was in the president‘s State of the Union.  It was a powerful speech in itself.  “To the Iranian people, I say tonight:  As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you.”

Does that mean we‘re for regime change, that we will back them if there‘s a revolt? 

LEDEEN:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  And what would that mean?

LEDEEN:  I think he‘s a revolutionary.  I think he‘s...

MATTHEWS:  But what would it mean?  Would we say—would it be like Hungary in 1956, only, in this case, we would go in and help the insurgents? 

LEDEEN:  Well, let‘s hope not.  Let‘s hope that it is like the Ukraine in 2005. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, we didn‘t do much if...


LEDEEN:  I don‘t think you have to do much. 

MATTHEWS:  What did we do in Ukraine... 


LEDEEN:  We gave them some money.  We gave them training in nonviolent resistance, which is very important, how to do it.  We have a long tradition of that.  Communication, so that people in various different locations know what‘s going on elsewhere. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, we had access to getting into Ukraine.  Could we do the same thing in Iran today, given that—would they let us in there to help democratize? 


SHERMAN:  I think, right now, one of the things we have is laws on our book that don‘t allow us to even give funding to do civil society, to groups, to do exchanges, to do training.  And we need to change some of that. 

I think the other flaw here, we all have to be careful.


MATTHEWS:  But you think we should be proactive here?

SHERMAN:  But reform will not necessarily take care of the nuclear problem.  On this, I disagree with Michael, in that even many of the reformers in Iran believe Iran must have nuclear weapons to protect themselves in the neighborhood. 


MATTHEWS:  He said they wouldn‘t be dangerous if they had... 

SHERMAN:  Well, I‘m not sure—they would want them. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s not what he said. 

You said you would not be as—you wouldn‘t be concerned about a democratic government in Iran that possessed nuclear weapons. 


MATTHEWS:  But the question I would ask is, does anybody challenge the notion that there‘s a nationalistic pride in that part of the world to be able to balance the weapons of your regional rivals? 

SHERMAN:  There is absolutely a nationalistic pride to have nuclear weapons. 

MATTHEWS:  Just like the Pakistanis.

SHERMAN:  And I think the question is, is, if Iran gets nuclear weapon with whatever government, really, where‘s the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty?  Do we need to revise the whole thing?  Where are we?  Won‘t it say to governments all over the world, they can get nuclear weapons, too?  It‘s a point of pride.

MATTHEWS:  Any chance Israel would give up its nuclear weapons?

LEDEEN:  No, not in that neighborhood. 

MATTHEWS:  In the interest of a deal where Iran and everybody else agreed to in that region? 

LEDEEN:  Well, it would be the end of the world.  It would be universal peace and happiness.  Under those circumstances, sure.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Do you think they‘re always going to need that gun under the bed? 

LEDEEN:  No, but can I..


MATTHEWS:  Is that a fair question, that they always need that gun under the bed?

LEDEEN:  Right now they do.  And they think they do. 

SHERMAN:  It‘s not a...


SHERMAN:  ... neighborhood.

LEDEEN:  Bad place to live.  You would want one, too, if you lived in a bad neighborhood. 

But let me come back to...

MATTHEWS:  At least a baseball bat. 

LEDEEN:  Why don‘t we come back to your two questions. 

MATTHEWS:  How about a shotgun? 


LEDEEN:  I don‘t know and I don‘t think anybody knows what a freely elected government of Iran would want in the way of nuclear weapons. 

MATTHEWS:  But it is not an oxymoron?  You can imagine a freely elected Iranian government?

LEDEEN:  I can.  And I think that we don‘t have to do all that much in a country where we know that more than 70 percent of the people hate the regime and want to see it go. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

LEDEEN:  Or to support them.  They will do it. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re still an optimist? 

LEDEEN:  It‘s the history of Iran.  The whole 20th century, every change of government was a revolution.  They excel at revolutions.

MATTHEWS:  But you‘re looking—you‘re looking—are you more optimistic...


MATTHEWS:  Are you more optimistic about that region because of what happened two Sundays ago? 

SHERMAN:  I think it is wonderful what happened in Iraq.  I think the rest of the story is yet to be told.  I certainly hope for a positive outcome.  Whether it means that it will create flowering democracies all over the Middle East, I think it is a long way from here to there. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  It‘s great having you.  Please come back together.  You‘re so well informed.  And you occasionally agree, Michael Ledeen and Wendy Sherman.

Up next, Karl Rove gets more responsibility inside the Bush White House.  Look out for Rove.  And, later, the untold acts of bravery by the people trapped in the World Trade Center on September 11.  You‘ve never seen these before.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Karl Rove, President Bush‘s top political strategist, is getting an expanded role inside the White House. 

NBC News White House correspondent David Gregory joins us now with more. 

David, Karl Rove inside making policy decisions?  How big will he be? 

DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  I think he‘ll be as big as he always was and yet even have an expanded portfolio. 

Advisers here are saying this is a continuation of the fact that he has always been involved in policy.  But now, as deputy chief of staff, he has more of a coordinating function.  He is going to dedicate himself a lot more to policy and not just to politics.  There‘s people around here who are saying that doesn‘t mean he is going to be involved in sensitive foreign policy matters.  He has some coordinating role with the National Security Council. 

But I‘m told he is not involved in intelligence issues and military matters and counterterror, that sort of thing.  He is involved in the same way that he always has been.  If it has to do with economic policy, international trade, that sort of thing, he gets involved.

I think it is a reflection, Chris, that we are now past the reelection and it is about policy now for the next couple of years. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

GREGORY:  Even as it is about the building of a permanent Republican majority, which certainly Rove is interested is.

MATTHEWS:  So it was, David, back in late summer of 2002, when he was quoted as saying, this is a good time of year to roll out a new product, i.e., the war in Iraq. 

GREGORY:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Was that a role that was policy or was that P.R. or what would you call it? 

GREGORY:  I think it‘s both.  I think everything that the president does is about policy.  It‘s about things, ideas, values, things he wants to get done.  But it is also about politics. 

Look, Social Security is a debate about policy.  It is, of course, about politics.  It is about creating new Republican.  It is about creating building new Republicans for future elections.  It is about denying the Democratic Party a foothold with constituencies that they‘ve always had.  So politics is never divorced from policy. 

And I don‘t even think people who know who Karl Rove is have ever thought that he has played any kind of subordinate role just because he was the political adviser.  In fact, it is the opposite.  Most people think he is running the joint. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, could it be he will be the man who helps the president win the argument over Social Security reform, private accounts especially, even if he loses the legislative fight in Congress? 

GREGORY:  Well, I think that‘s right. 

And aides here are saying, look, Karl has had an outreach effort that is politically focused and policy focused for the past four years.  And this is a key part of selling the president‘s plan around the country.  Look, Karl is also still involve in organizing what the RNC is doing in terms of pressuring legislators on Social Security, congress men and women, senators around the country, Democrats getting—you know, tapping into that reservoir of support the president has.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

GREGORY:  And using it as a lever against members of Congress. 

MATTHEWS:  Great report.  Thank you very much, David Gregory at the White House.

Susan Molinari is a former New York Republican congresswoman.  And Marie Cocco is a syndicated columnist with “The Washington Post”‘s Writers Group. 

Let me ask you both about these new numbers about the president.  This is fabulous news for the president.  The latest CNN/”USA Today”/Gallup has the president‘s approval—this is job approval—up to 57 percent.  That‘s not sky-high, but it‘s certainly higher than it‘s been in an awful long time.  His disapproval down to 40.  What do you make of that?

SUSAN MOLINARI, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, I think, based on all the analysis that we‘ve seen today, a lot of it is a reflection on the fact that people are starting to come to grips that the vision that President Bush had in Iraq may in fact become a reality.  The elections were a huge success. 

They overcame anybody‘s greatest hopes.  The people of Iraq seemed to be emboldened.  We are now talking about a potential Middle East peace process, more and more people stepping up in terms of visibility in Afghanistan.  And so for something that has been so detrimental to the president‘s numbers, the war in Iraq, his vision for a peaceful Middle East...

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree with that, yes or no?


MATTHEWS:  Well, then let‘s go to the next question, because I want to move on here, because there‘s another poll.  I love polls.  People love polls. 

The next one has the president, asked how—this is about Iraq particularly, which you raised.  How is it going in Iraq?  Now it is 53-46.  Before it was 40-49, a complete—put an X there, a complete flip.  The down is now up.  The pessimists are now in the minority.  The optimists are in the majority.  Dramatic, huh?

COCCO:  It is dramatic.  I think it reflects the coverage of the election and the success that we had that day and the—followed right by the State of the Union speech, where you had that dramatic moment with the two mothers hugging each other in the balcony. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Pretty powerful...


COCCO:  But, as with everything about Iraq, this could change.  The president‘s numbers spiked when the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled.  The president‘s numbers spiked sky-high when they actually captured Saddam Hussein. 


MATTHEWS:  Right.  I agree.

COCCO:  So if you live by the great media day, you die by the great media day.  And that‘s the problem. 

MATTHEWS:  I want to demur to one point.  I think people saw that that country wanted to beat the insurgents.  And I think that changed people like my view.  It wasn‘t like those insurgents were speaking for a big minority. 


MATTHEWS:  They‘re speaking for a small minority.  And I think that was a big difference.


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at a very hot issue. 

You used to represent part of New York.  On Social Security reform, however, less than—well, let‘s look at the numbers.  I love reading the numbers, rather than the words here; 44 percent don‘t approve yet—or approve, but 50 don‘t.

MATTHEWS:  Is that represent—this country is about 50/50 Republican and Democrat right now.  So it says to me some Republicans don‘t jump to this proposal.  They don‘t like Bush‘s proposal yet. 

MOLINARI:  Well, I don‘t think there is a Bush proposal yet. 

We‘ve talked about some general concepts.  And the president has just begun selling.  There‘s still a lot of skepticism and shakiness on Capitol Hill.  I think it is interesting, if we can go back to the David Gregory.  One of the reasons why I think Karl Rove was put in a policy position is because he‘s very good at articulating complex and complicated matters, i.e., Social Security, and will have an ability to tap into the political potency of that issue with the members of Congress. 


MATTHEWS:  Remember, with Hillary Clinton, she lost the bill, health care bill, but she also lost the argument.  And the Democrats looked bad.  Is it possible, as I asked before, that the president could lose the fight, not get Social Security through, but have the young people of the country say, I like this approach; I‘m a Republican, even if he doesn‘t win?

COCCO:  I don‘t agree with that, because I‘ll tell you why. 

For at least 10 years now, there‘s been a movement generated by conservative think tanks, some of it involving Wall Street money.  There‘s been a big push on the conservative side for privatization of Social Security.  This is the first time that anyone, and, in this case, it‘s the president, has had to explain exactly how this is going to work.  And I think what‘s happening in those numbers is that people are finding out, if you divert all this money into private accounts, how do you pay the current retirees?  How do you pay for the widows and orphans? 

MATTHEWS:  Borrow it. 


MATTHEWS:  ... answer.

COCCO:  And borrow it is a big problem with Republicans on Capitol Hill. 

But there are so many moving parts to this thing.  And here‘s the way I think it does relate a little bit to the Clinton health plan.  There are a lot of moving parts to this.  It is complicated.  And every moving part hurts somebody else to help someone on another side.  And so you have a lot of people sort of looking at it and saying, well, wait a minute, what‘s wrong with the system we have?  Olympia Snowe has been quoted at least twice.  I‘ve seen her saying it‘s worked well for 70 years. 

I think that‘s where the American people are.  They‘re saying, why should I change this? 

MATTHEWS:  Big answer.  What‘s your answer?  Tough question.  What‘s the answer?


MOLINARI:  The answer is that there is going to be a crisis.  We all know that there‘s going to be a crisis. 

MATTHEWS:  In 2042. 

MOLINARI:  And what‘s the Democrats—what are the Democrats doing to lay the predicate for my kids...

COCCO:  Susan, what was...

MOLINARI:  Well, for my kids and for your kids?  This is—it does break down. 


MATTHEWS:  How would you make the case if you were trying to win reelection next November on this issue?


MOLINARI:  First of all, you have to—the first message you have got to get out there—and I think they have got to do a better job of this—is telling current retirees that their product is not going to change.  Their program is not going to change. 


MATTHEWS:  But the Democrats are out there arguing the very opposite of that.

MOLINARI:  Well, of course they are.  They‘re playing scare tactics.


MATTHEWS:  If you siphon off a third of the money going to—well, the fact is, you are taking away a third of the money going to... 

MOLINARI:  The money is going to be there for the retirees. 

MATTHEWS:  But that is going to borrowed to give to them.

MOLINARI:  But it‘s going to be there.

MATTHEWS:  Do you realize the president of the United States is promising people 55 and older, maybe you earned your Social Security benefits, but I‘m going to give you borrowed money instead of your money?  That‘s pretty scary for people. 

MOLINARI:  But it is going to be there so that, in the future, their grandkids are going to have a solvent Social Security system.  And I think most senior citizens will buy that.

COCCO:  This is where I think the president‘s biggest political problem is. 

Last week, a senior administration official briefing reporters said flat-out what those of us who have covered this issue for a long time know, which is that creating the personal accounts, or the private accounts, whatever you want to call them, does not solve the solvency problem. 

MATTHEWS:  There‘s still the problem with benefits.

COCCO:  That is White House saying it does not solve the solvency crisis. 

So, once you say, I want to fix Social Security this way, but then you say, oh, but this doesn‘t fix the problem, talk about a marketing problem. 


MOLINARI:  Well, it is a marketing problem.  That particular...


COCCO:  It‘s a truth problem. 

MOLINARI:  But what about the truth that says to people, and a certain portion of what you would be able to save, if something happens to you, unlike current Social Security benefits, you get to pass that on to your kids?  I think that‘s a pretty powerful argument, too.


COCCO:  If something happens to you at age 35 and you‘ve been contributing to a private account for 10 years and you die in a car accident and you‘ve got a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old, right now, under the current system, that 2-year-old and that 3-year-old get Social Security benefits until they‘re 18 years old. 


COCCO:  If you have a private account that that man has only contributed to for 10 years, how do those 2- and 3-year-old toddlers..

MATTHEWS:  They don‘t get money? 


COCCO:  That‘s a good question.  


COCCO:  The White House has never answered the question. 


MOLINARI:  They do get money. 


MATTHEWS:  We have to go, Marie, but that is something that everybody ought to remember.  It is not just a retirement program.  It is a if-you-die-young program.  And if you lose your breadwinner, as we used to call them in the family, the family gets a certain amount of money right until he would have able to do it himself. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re coming back with Marie Cocco and Susan Molinari.

And later, journalist Jim Dwyer takes us inside the World Trade Center

on that day in its final moments—what stories he has—as thousands

fought for their survival and heroes—wait until you hear these stories -

·         helped scores escape.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be back to talk politics with Susan Molinari and Marie Cocco.  And later, the untold stories of survivors inside the Twins Towers of the World Trade Center.

HARDBALL returns after this.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with former U.S. Congresswoman from New York Susan Molinari and syndicated columnist Marie Cocco. 

Marie, Dean, Howard, back—he‘s going to be chairman of the Democratic Party.

COCCO:  Back in the saddle.   

MATTHEWS:  Who would have believed?

COCCO:  I would not have believed it, but it‘s in fact what happened.

MATTHEWS:  Will he help the party win elections or not?

COCCO:  I think he will.

And I will tell you why, because this really was the grassroots of the party rebelling in open revolt against the beltway crowd.  And one of the most interesting...

MATTHEWS:  And lost. 

COCCO:  The beltway crowd lost.


MATTHEWS:  No, because Dean tried to knock off Kerry and Kerry won the nomination. 

COCCO:  No, no, no, I‘m talking about within the race for the chairmanship. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, this time, yes.

COCCO:  What did he was very skillful, which is, he went around to the 400-and-some-odd members real members of the DNC, who are scattered all around the country and not within the beltway, and said, what do you need to win elections in your state? 

MATTHEWS:  Are you afraid of this guy? 

MOLINARI:  Oh, yes. 


MATTHEWS:  No, really.

MOLINARI:  I could...


MATTHEWS:  Laughing is one response.

MOLINARI:  I think anything can happen. 

But what I don‘t understand about the Democrats is that you‘ve had one huge major success that put the Republicans on defense for a very long time. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ve got to go.

MOLINARI:  And that was Bill Clinton.  Why not emulate that strategy? 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Great.  Well, you don‘t have another one I guess on that side. 

Anyway, thank you very much, Susan Molinari and Marie Cocco.

When we return, survival inside the World Trade Center.  We‘re going to talk to the author of an amazing book on what happened inside those towers on September 11 and hear the untold stories for the first time of the heroes who gave their lives to save other people.  Wait until you hear these stories.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

As the world witnessed on Election Day in Iraq, sometimes, the most extraordinary courage is shown by the most ordinary people.  Millions of Iraqi citizens stood up to terrorists, went to the polls and cast their votes for democracy. 

On September 11, 2001, over 14,000 people were inside the world Twin Towers at 8:46 in the morning.  And over the next 102 minutes, simple acts became spectacular examples of bravery. 

“New York Times” reporter Jim Dwyer is the co-author of “102 Minutes:

The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers.”

This is historic journalism.  This is what journalism is, reporting the facts that nobody else has, telling the true stories that are true that really happened and we did not know about them. 

Jim, congratulations.  I‘ve read fabulous reviews of this book.  I hope everybody buys it, because it is journalism.  It is not speculation or punditry.  It is truth. 

Were the people inside the Twin Towers that awful morning given good advice from people outside on how to survive? 

JIM DWYER, CO-AUTHOR, “102 MINUTES”:  For the most part, the advice from the outside was off old scripts and it wasn‘t much use that day, and particularly from the—New York City‘s 911 system.  People were just told to hang in there and stay where they were.

And, in some cases, that advice got—went to people who could have gotten out had they left at the time.  Everybody was working off old scripts.  And this was a new day, obviously. 

MATTHEWS:  Were those scripts based on the likelihood it was a fire in one of the floors and you‘re better off staying in your room because the elevator is dangerous or what? 

DWYER:  That‘s exactly right. 

In fact, I was on the phone with two people who were trapped that morning.  And after it became clear they couldn‘t get their door open, I told them what I had heard from the tapes in 1993 when the Trade Center was attacked the first time, which was stuff some under the door and hang in there.  The firemen will get to you.  These folks could not open their doors and they could not get to a staircase. 

MATTHEWS:  Did they make it? 

DWYER:  No, they didn‘t. 


Let me ask you about the personal reactions of people.  What came to you after all this reporting about how people behaved in hard circumstances? 

DWYER:  The ingenuity that people showed, whether it was a—there‘s a famous story of five men who were stuck in an express elevator.  When they pried open the door, they were facing a blind shaft that was sheet rock.  And one of the men had a cup of milk that he had just picked up from the cafeteria.  They wet their clothes with the milk and they breathed through that. 

And one of the men had a squeegee with a—he was a window washer.  And they used the side of that squeegee to cut a hole through the Sheetrock wall on the shaft of the elevator and they kicked their way through some tiles and into a bathroom.  And they managed to get out of the building. 

MATTHEWS:  So they knocked their way through the plaster that nobody would have otherwise known was that a—that you were able to do it, I guess.

DWYER:  They were in a blind shaft.  Nobody knew where they were.  And there was no chance for them.  They didn‘t even know what had happened.  They were—they might as well have been in a submarine in the middle of the ocean as inside the Trade Center.  They had no idea what was going on.

MATTHEWS:  Did the people who died—what was the total number, 3,000-something? 

DWYER:  Two thousand seventy hundred and forty-nine. 

MATTHEWS:  Two thousand seventy hundred and forty-nine.  Did they know that they were victims at the time of their death of an attack from Islamic terrorists? 

DWYER:  By the time the second plane had hit and—the people upstairs were in touch, the people up on the high floors of both towers.  They were in touch with their families, either with cell phones or there was a lot of BlackBerry e-mailing going back and forth. 

And a lot of the family member shared that information with us and voice-mails and so forth.  And so you—they certainly knew that they were the victims of terrorists.  And, for the most part, I assume they inferred that it was the same folks who had tried to knock down the towers eight years earlier. 

MATTHEWS:  Jim, I spoke, as I told you during the break at the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick right after that in that spring.  It was an amazing opportunity to speak to so many people.  There was so many firefighters that were killed, a lot of them Irish-Americans because of the great tradition our people of course in joining fire departments. 

What happened to most of the firefighters?  Why were so many killed? 

What happened in that building? 

DWYER:  Well, the big problem was they had very bad communications among themselves.  And when the south tower went down, that was the first of the two buildings to go down.  There were warnings from the sky, from police helicopters that said, this other building, it‘s going to go down, too.  Their exact words is:  It is inevitable.  It is just a matter of time.  It is glowing red, the top 10 floors.  Get everybody out.

And that message got through to the police officers, who had pretty robust communications that day.  But there was no communications between police and the firemen, unfortunately.  And the firemen also had very poor communications within their own ranks. 

MATTHEWS:  But once it was clear—and we were all watching this in real-time that morning—once it was clear that the top towers above the hit, where the airplane hit, were going to come down, was it structurally obvious that the whole thing was going to come down, because those 10 towers would weigh so much—the 10 floors, rather? 

DWYER:  No, I don‘t think that people knew until the first one had collapsed that this was in the cards. 

You know, when they built the towers in the mid-‘60s, there was a big controversy about whether—what would happen if an airplane hit them.  And they supposedly did studies about a fully loaded 707 hitting it at 600 miles an hour.  And the jets that actually ended up hitting the towers were not much different in weight and flew slightly slower than that—than that rate. 

So, as it happened, everybody believed, everybody who knew anything about the towers had been taught this for years, including the firefighters and the police.  And many of the people who worked in the buildings knew about this.  So, nobody really expected the buildings to come down. 

MATTHEWS:  Was it because—I remember Tim Russert reporting it that morning.  Was it because there was so much gas on those planes, that the heat was so hot that it began to just melt the towers? 

DWYER:  Well, there‘s a federal study that is still under way about exactly what caused the collapse. 

But it now looks like what the jet fuel—the jet fuel was not a big factor in that.  What it did was, it started fires of things that were in the offices.  And that‘s what burned.  The jet fuel for the most part burned outside of the two buildings. 

MATTHEWS:  How hot does it have to get to burn those girders? 

DWYER:  I‘ve seen all kinds of temperatures.  And I‘m not a structural expert. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

DWYER:  But I‘ve read about 1,000 degrees centigrade.  And I operate in Fahrenheit, so I‘m not sure exactly what that is. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think was the best example?  The firefighters of every kind of ethnic group in New York went up those stairs, obviously not just the Irish, obviously.

DWYER:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Although I did get to speak to that group. 

But what was the best act of courage you heard about? 

DWYER:  There were people who got everybody on their floors out. 

The most spectacular story that we know about that we were able to piece together—we took about 2,000 pages of radio transcripts and cell phone conversations, all kinds of stuff, to assemble this story.  And perhaps the most amazing thing that emerged from all these little fragments of information was the account of Frank De Martini and Pablo Ortiz. 

Frank De Martini is from  Haddonfield, New Jersey.  And Pablo Ortiz is from Lower East Side of Manhattan.  They both worked on the 88th floor of the towers.  The first thing they did—they were just below the impact zone in the north tower.  Their floor was badly damaged, but not completely destroyed.  And they got everybody out of their floor.  They cleared a path through some rubble and past some flames. 

Then they got into the stairs and they hear people banging on the doors from the floor above them.  On the 89th floor, they were absolutely stuck tight in there.  And these folks had actually felt the floor melting below their feet on the 89th floor.  And some of them had started to call home and say farewell to their loved ones. 

And De Martini and Ortiz and another man named Matt Cannah (ph), who is an Egyptian man, got up to the 89th floor.  And they pried open that door with this crowbar.  Somewhere, they had dug up a crowbar.  They smashed through the Sheetrock, opened up this door, got everybody off the 89th floor. 

Then they did it on the 90th floor.  Then they did it on the 86th floor.  They went down to 83 and 84.  They opened up an elevator on the 78th floor.  And the last taped transmission we have of them and their group is that somebody is calling for help up on the 87th floor in an elevator, and it seems like they‘re headed up there. 

MATTHEWS:  So these guys gave their lives. 


MATTHEWS:  ... desperately trying to save others.

DWYER:  They saved clearly 75 to 100 people without any doubt whatsoever. 

MATTHEWS:  What were their names again? 

DWYER:  Frank De Martini, Pablo Ortiz, both of whom perished.  There was a man named Pete Negron who was with them and Carlos DaCosta.  And another man who managed to escape was Matt Cannah (ph). 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I guess we owe it to these guys to read this story. 

We ought to have that memory, at least.

DWYER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s “102 Minutes.”  What a story.  What journalism. 

Jim Dwyer, thanks for coming on the show. 

DWYER:  Thanks.  Thanks for having me. 

MATTHEWS:  Tomorrow on HARDBALL, I‘ll be joined by one of the biggest names in entertainment, reality TV mogul Mark Burnett.  And then, on Thursday, Pat Robertson will be with us. 

Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.



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