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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Feb. 11

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guest: Hilary Rosen, John Fund

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight, the HARDBALL war council on North Korea, Iran and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld‘s surprise visit to Iraq.  Plus, is Howard Dean a uniter or a divider?  Intramural politics, as the Democrats get set to elect Dean as the new chairman of the DNC.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made a surprise visit to U.S. and Iraqi troops today.  He hailed the progress made by Iraqi security forces, but said U.S. troops won‘t be coming home until the Iraqis have the—quote—“confidence, capacity and capability” to keep peace in their country. 

Elsewhere in Iraq, two separate attacks left at least 23 Iraqis dead. 

NBC‘s Jim Maceda has the latest from Baghdad. 



Well, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld did make a surprise visit today to Iraq.  He had spent yesterday in France trying to persuade NATO leaders to do more to train Iraqi security forces here.  And that really was the emphasis of his trip as well.  First of all, he said he wanted to thank Iraqis because he thought that the elections were a resounding success.  He wanted to thank U.S. forces for providing the secure environment so that those who could vote did vote in that election. 

But he also is pushing what seems to be more and more Rumsfeld‘s and the Bush administration‘s exit strategy.  And that is namely that the more and the faster and the better these Iraqi forces can be trained, the faster they can take the fight to the insurgents and the faster then U.S. forces can come out of this country. 

Now, Secretary Rumsfeld spent the day both in a military base up in Mosul and then at a base here in Baghdad.  He oversaw some live-fire exercises by a counterterrorism group, again, Iraqi, and also a police SWAT team as well. 

Now, of course, the insurgents understand the importance placed on the shoulders now of the Iraqi forces.  That‘s probably why the numbers of attacks on Iraqi forces has just skyrocketed in the past number of weeks and months.  But despite these relentless attacks, Iraqi police are saying that morale is good, that recruitment is higher than ever, especially since the January 30 election.  And that has to be encouraging news for Secretary Rumsfeld—Chris, back to you. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Jim Maceda, in Baghdad.

Now we turn to our own HARDBALL war council, our group of esteemed military experts for their perspective on events in Iraq.  North Korea and other hot spots around the world.  Our war council today includes General Wayne Downing, General Montgomery Meigs and Colonel Ken Allard. 

I want to ask you about the ability to train the 200,000 men we need to build over there as the Iraqi security force. 

Let me go to General Downing. 

You have been just been in the country.  You were in country.  How are we doing? 

RET. GEN. WAYNE DOWNING, NBC MILITARY ANALYST:  Chris, we‘re actually doing quite well. 

I was in the field.  I saw four regular army Iraqi battalions.  I saw a Ministry of Interior special police commando battalion that was advised and accompanied by U.S. special forces.  And, of course, I‘m well, well acquainted with the Peshmerga, the Kurdish battalions.  And then I saw some public order battalions, which were disasters. 

The regular army battalions, the special police commandos and the Peshmerga, Chris, were quite good, very well respected by their American counterparts, both U.S. Army and U.S. Marine.  So, I mean, these units that I saw were good.  The public order battalions, poorly led, poorly equipped and poorly trained.  And they know that they‘re going to have to redo that.  So there‘s a lot good things going on. 

I think the election, the fact that the election took place, was relatively safe, was a big victory, Chris, and seen by the Iraqi security forces as well as our own forces as a victory.  So I think psychologically that was very good.  It‘s going to take time to do this.  I mean, this business about getting this done in six months or nine months, I think a lot of us know we should have started on this two years ago. 

In other words, we should have started this prehostilities, before we invaded Iraq.  We are not going to be able to make this up.  To me, Chris, the long pole is going to be time to do it right and the other long pole is going to be quality leadership.  Those units that have good leaders are tending to do well. 


MATTHEWS:  It‘s 2005, General.  When do you think we could reasonably accomplish the creation of a substantial enough security force in Iraq? 

DOWNING:  Chris, I just don‘t see this happening in anything less than two years.  I really don‘t.  I think we‘re going to have to be there in sufficient numbers for at least two years. 

I think, if we do this right, if we don‘t hurry it, then I think we‘re going to leave those, the Iraqis, with some security forces they can rely on who are quite good.  If we try to do this thing on a shoestring, if we try to do it slipshod and get out of there, we‘re going to have a disaster on our hands. 

MATTHEWS:  Colonel Allard, let me ask you about quality, the question raised ten.  What kind of quality do we need from a security force to—can we expect they‘ll ever be as good as, say, South Korean soldiers or Turkey soldiers?  A lot of soldiers around there have great reputations as fighters.  What‘s our standard for good enough for to us leave? 

COL. KEN ALLARD, NBC MILITARY ANALYST:  Well, the basic standard of being good enough to leave is, can they actually take the fight to the insurgents and, having taken it to them, can they actually manage to win?  The key thing right here is the fact that—you‘ve just come back from the Super Bowl.  It would be as if we have the Super Bowl and training camp all at the same time. 

It is a very tall order.  And you‘ve got to organize, you‘ve got to train and you‘ve got to equip all the same time that you‘re trying to get their leadership to the point where they can actually take their people to the field and take the fight to the enemy.  By any standard, that is a tremendously difficult task.  And, again, the criteria is, can you in fact win the fight against these insurgents? 

MATTHEWS:  How do you convince men who are doing the actual combat that they‘re on the winning side?  How is that done in war? 

ALLARD:  Well, basically, you show them victories.  It is the same way exactly as do you with a football team. 

You get them believing in themselves, believing in each other and believing they can actually win and take it to the enemy.  You do that enough times, and that becomes a very, very infectious kind of spirit.  And you either have it or do not.  And once you have it, it is very, very tough to have anybody that can stand against it. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to General Meigs. 

When I was out at Pendleton with Marines, I—it is hard to tell sometimes when you‘re with these young guys and women that they‘re actually trained to kill, because they seem so casual and ready to—give me the right phrase.  Regular people.  They don‘t seem like they‘re trained killers. 

Do you have to pull put the killer instinct in them in a military unit to have it really an effective force against killer terrorists? 

RET. GEN. MONTGOMERY MEIGS, NBC MILITARY ANALYST:  No.  If they‘re properly trained and properly led, the fact that they‘re going into operations comes very naturally. 

It takes a toll on them.  But, remember, we‘re not dealing with draftees anymore.  The soldiers you‘re seeing on the ground are volunteers.  They‘re much better trained than ever before.  And they know what they‘re doing.  So, it is amazing to watch how they can go from hard back to soft very quickly. 


MEIGS:  And shut down the use of violence if they have to. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, let me go right now to General Downing again. 

Your sense over there right now.  Do you think things are on course? 

DOWNING:  Yes, Chris.  I think there‘s a lot of good things going on.


MATTHEWS:  You suggested that we we‘re overly optimistic about how far we‘ve come and how fast we can get out of there. 


MATTHEWS:  Why would the generals over there make that miscalculation?  Why would the men, given this responsibility to train the Iraqis, be wrong about how well we‘re doing in terms of timetable? 

DOWNING:  Well, Chris, those who are training the Iraqis have not been wrong.  Those who are training the Iraqis, General Petraeus and his people, just have not been given the priority and the resources that they‘ve needed.  They‘re going to get that now. 

But that—you know, this is not a switch you can turn on immediately.  It is going to take some time to get more trainers in there.  That‘s why they want to get these NATO people in there, to help them both in Iraq and outside of Iraq.  But, you know, you just can‘t say I‘m going to do this and it is going to happen. 

It takes time to get the trainers.  It gets time to take the facilities. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

DOWNING:  That‘s going on right now. 

I actually am very heartened by what I saw.  I saw some damn good, tough unit that the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division respected.  They told me, these are good guys.  They‘ve done good work.  These special police commando battalions, this one particular battalion in Samarra had U.S. special forces with them.  They were considered to be very good.  They were conducting a lot of good night operations. 

And they are putting a hurt on these insurgents.  They‘ve got great confidence. 


DOWNING:  The Peshmerga, Chris, the Kurdish are very, very tough fighters. 

MATTHEWS:  Colonel Allard, how do we know or how do we tell the Iraqi people, Kurdish, Shia and Sunni, that this is a force that is not going to work with us, but they‘re going to be out there on their own?  We‘re leaving?  Do they know that? 

ALLARD:  Well, they do know that.  In fact, they‘re very eager for that to happen.

And one of the things that I think you‘re beginning to see, and it‘s a very, very slow process, as you see the election, one of the things that comes right along with it is, this is the popular demonstration of sovereignty.  When you see your sons standing there in an Iraqi uniform now being in charge, now being responsible for the whole security of the state, the fight against the insurgents, there is literally no force that I‘m aware of that can have that powerful an impact on the national spirit. 

So, it is all part of the same thing.  But, again, it is very, very gradual.  And you simply have to, in addition to everything else, win every time you take the field. 

MATTHEWS:  General Meigs, when you‘re training American military forces, how do you know the job is done, that this young guy, maybe it‘s 18, 19 years old, is ready to go out there and face a guy who is trying to kill him?

MEIGS:  Well, look, you create for them a very tough force that is tougher than the people down range.  And you run basically a full-contact scrimmage against that enemy.  And you instrument the heck out of everything, so you can play back to the troops everything each individual did. 

And you do that again and again and again.  And, at some point, you realize that thing has clicked and these guys have got what it takes.  But it is a very tough training regimen. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s like training films, yes.

Up next, we‘re going to ask the HARDBALL war council how the Bush administration should handle—these are tough ones—North Korea and Iran, both with the nuclear question. 

We‘ll be back with General Wayne Downing, General Montgomery Meigs and Colonel Ken Allard. 

And, later, I‘ll be joined by the newest member of our family here at MSNBC, Tucker Carlson.


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, the HARDBALL war council tackles twin nuclear challenges.  What should the Bush administration do to defang North Korea and Iran?

HARDBALL returns after this.



MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the HARDBALL war council, General Wayne Downing, General Montgomery Meigs and Colonel Ken Allard. 

You know, this is a very difficult time in terms of our relations with two countries, Iran and North Korea.  I, gentlemen, each of you to try to think about the biggest threat you see facing us in a military sense and what we should do about it. 

I‘m going to start with Colonel Ken Allard. 

A tough question for you.  What is the biggest worry to you, Iran or North Korea, and what should we do about it? 

ALLARD:  Iran, no question, because of where it is located and because of the threat that it represents to the entire Middle East and U.S.  interests that are there. 

In the case of North Korea, it is I think something, we can probably isolate them and get along just as well if we had had to try and engage them. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, what scares you about Iran?  You said it was the region.  It was the obvious factors there, the religious aspect, the zealotry.  But do we know they have anywhere near a nuclear weapon? 

ALLARD:  We are reasonably I think confident they‘re getting closer all the time.  And that‘s one of those decisions that you really don‘t want to be very far wrong, simply because of the fact that it‘s not only the religious, but also the geopolitical aspects of that region are just so terribly significant that, if all of a sudden, Iran pops up with a nuke, it literally changes the entire equation over there overnight. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Let me go to General Downing right now.

If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, it is obviously posed against Israel, the other nuclear power in that region.  How is that more dangerous than Pakistan and India both having nuclear armaments? 

DOWNING:  Yes, Chris, Pakistan and India is very dangerous.  And we really pulled out the stops to try to keep that thing diffused. 

I agree with Ken.  I am very concerned about Iran and I do not believe that they will be dissuaded from making a nuclear weapon.  I am confident that, if something does not intervene, they‘re going to do this.  Added to this, Chris, is not just the fact that they have the weapon.  There‘s also strong indications that they have got the missile technology to deliver it.  So, we‘ve got a real tough problem on our hands. 

The North Koreans, I am concerned about that.  But, listen, China will squash North Korea like a bug if they upset what China wants to do in the world.  And China has got big plans.  And they don‘t want North Korea interfering.  We have a real problem with Iran. 


MATTHEWS:  General, how good is Israel‘s point defense, their Arrow system?  Can they stop an incoming missile? 

DOWNING:  Their system is good.  And, in fact, it is quite good.  You never know.  I mean, you don‘t want to take the chance on somebody launching a missile. 


DOWNING:  The Israelis don‘t want to do that.  And, of course, the big thing is, is, can we keep the Israelis, you know, from doing some kind of a peremptory strike?


MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry. 

DOWNING:  And Iran knows that.

MATTHEWS:  But if Iran launches, is there enough time?  Do Israelis have enough chance to scramble a plane and blow it out of the sky?  Is there any—is there enough time to do it or not? 

DOWNING:  Well, I think the point defense missiles, you know, could possibly detect this. 

But you don‘t want this to happen, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

DOWNING:  And, quite frankly, the Iranian nuclear program is, as I understand it, well spread out and well protected.  So, it is not like going into Iraq at Osirak as they did in 1981.  Much closer.  They went ahead and took that thing out with one big strike.  It will be a lot different taking this on with Iran. 


DOWNING:  And, of course, we and the Europeans don‘t agree on this. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

General Meigs, your risk assessment of these two countries.  What‘s the highest...


MEIGS:  Yes, I agree.  I think Iran is the problem, because they can destabilize Afghanistan.  They can cause problems for us in Iraq. 

And, remember, Hezbollah, which is the most sophisticated terrorist network, is connected to Iranian secret intelligence.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

Well, do you think they might be able to create a bomb that could be carried in a suitcase? 

MEIGS:  If you can make a warhead that is going to go 1,500 kilometers, you can make a warhead that is going to fit in something about the size of a suitcase. 

MATTHEWS:  Wonderful. 

Thank you very much, guys.  Thank you very much, General Wayne Downing, General Montgomery Meigs and Colonel Ken Allard, our war council.  


MATTHEWS:  Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky has been an inspiration for President Bush‘s foreign policy.  NBC News White House correspondent David Gregory interviewed Sharansky and will join us when we return.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

He‘s a former Soviet dissident, now a government minister in Israel, whose book influenced President Bush so much that the president invited him to the Oval Office for a meeting and used some of his book‘s language in his inaugural address. 

NBC News White House correspondent David Gregory interviewed the man whose philosophy President Bush says is part of his presidential DNA, Natan Sharansky—David.


You know, it was 19 years ago today that Sharansky was freed from the Soviet gulag.  And this week, when I talked to him, he told an interesting story, that he had really hoped he could get some traction with his book in the American think tanks.  Well, little did he know that it would be the president of the United States who would really take a shine to his views and has for the past couple years. 

He is recommending the book to advisers and others who he comes into contact with.  And I asked Sharansky about that meeting just nine days after the president was reelected, when they talked about his views and how to apply them around the world. 

Let‘s look at that. 


GREGORY:  Did he want your advice? 

NATAN SHARANSKY, AUTHOR, “THE CASE FOR DEMOCRACY”:  I think he wanted to hear my opinion.  I think he is—maybe, sometimes, he feels himself rather lonely in following his convictions of his ideas.  And I think it was important for him to find out that he is not the only dissident in this world.


GREGORY:  Let‘s talk about advice.  What should the president do about Iran? 

SHARANSKY:  Well, Iran is a perfect example how, in one generation, with a country of true believers—I‘m using the terms of our book—turned into the country of double thinkers, when almost everybody believed in the official ideology.  And, in one generation, almost nobody believes in this ideology. 

That‘s why, one hand, we are short of time.  We are running out of time.  In another year or two, this regime can have a weapon of mass destruction.  And they don‘t make a secret that they will use it.  On the other hand, the situation is ripe.  And the free world, the president of the United States of America, the other leaders, have to support openly, demonstrably, directly, the dissidents who want change. 

GREGORY:  Let‘s talk about the free will of the Iraqi people.  If it becomes theocratic, allied with Iran, anti-American, anti-Israel, will it have been worth it in the end? 

SHARANSKY:  Well, look, you said allied with Iran. 

Allied with—if it will be ally of Iranian dictators and not Iranian people, because the Iranian people are already fed with this dictatorship. 

It is only the hesitation of the world to see in Iran nothing more than a bunch dictators what keeps them at power.  But—so I‘m saying that Iraq people, even if their views will be very different from the views of the free world, even if they would have a real religious state and so on, they—if it will be democratic state, overwhelming majority of people will see war as a last option, because silent majority of people there doesn‘t want wars. 

And that‘s why in democracies, in all type of democracies, whether it is democracy in Europe or democracy in Japan, the war is always the last option. 


GREGORY:  This is the real test, Chris.

And what I find interesting is—is that point that, as long as you have a democratic government, even if they‘re anti-American, anti-Israel, if they‘re theocratic, that, ultimately, if they‘re responsible to their population, they are not going to be aggressive toward other countries.  And we‘re seeing that in Iraq as a major test of that. 

MATTHEWS:  Where do we see that in the Middle East, though?  If you look back—let‘s not get too historic, of course, but if you look like all the way back to the first Jewish immigration into that part of the world, the new immigration in the 20th century, the Zionist movement, the streets went nut in places like Jaffa. 

It was the leaders, the Hashemite monarchs, who were the more moderating forces.  Why would Sharansky believe that the street in Arabia would more—or less antagonistic towards the state of Israel? 

GREGORY:  Well, because, in the end, he is saying that even the Arab street is full of some reformers.  He believes that‘s true in the Palestinian territory, that there are Palestinians who want to end—a lot of Palestinians want to end the armed conflict and just want to have a regular life and have their voices heard, and even if there‘s struggle, even if there‘s conflict, that, ultimately, the majority of a population is not going to want to be aggressive toward another country, is not going to go to war at the end of the day, which is the primary argument. 

MATTHEWS:  It is a sticky wicket, the question of ideology in the Middle East and democracy.

You have people on the Israeli right, the Likud Party and to the right of that in Israel, who are for democracy, for example, in Arab countries that are threatening them.  But are they also for the possibility of the Arab people under Israeli control, if that includes the West Bank and Gaza, getting a vote?  Or is that an academic question?  I don‘t know.

GREGORY:  Well, it is an important question. 

I think there‘s Zionism, which is the belief that the Jewish people are guaranteed a homeland in the holy land, and true democracy. 


GREGORY:  Obviously, the Jewish people don‘t want—want to have a state that‘s all their own.  But even Sharansky does not believe in withdrawing from the territories.  He just believes in, however the Palestinian state is carved, that it ultimately be democratic. 


OK, David Gregory, it‘s great to have you on, as always. 

GREGORY:  Thanks. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you for that interview.

MSNBC‘s newest member of the team, Tucker Carlson, joins us next, right away, in fact, to talk about President Bush‘s second-term agenda when we come back and also his agenda on MSNBC.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on HARDBALL, the newest member of the MSNBC family, Tucker Carlson, is going to join us.  Plus, can incoming Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean turn red states blue or will he deepen the red-blue divide? 

But, first, let‘s check in with the MSNBC News Desk. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

President Bush is firing on all cylinders in terms two, pushing aggressive policies on foreign and domestic fronts, Iraq, Iran, Social Security, taxes.  Can he get it all done? 

Tucker Carlson is the newest member of the MSNBC family. 

Welcome, Tucker.

So, it is Chris.  It‘s Keith.  It‘s Tucker. 


MATTHEWS:  Do you like that pronunciation, Tucker? 

CARLSON:  Of course, I went to Philadelphia...


MATTHEWS:  And Joe. 


MATTHEWS:  How are you going to fit in to this team?  What‘s your plan? 

CARLSON:  I‘ve got many plans, none I can reveal to you right now. 

No, it‘s going to—look, it‘s going to be a good show.  People need a good reason to spend an hour watching a show.  And I think we‘ll give it to them. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think our network is getting too conservative?

CARLSON:  No, I think the network is great.  I have watched this network for a long time.  I mean, it was always the network I had on, yes.

MATTHEWS:  Good for you.

Let me ask you this about policy.  It seems like President Bush is determined to avoid that second-term jinx by keeping all the engines going.  He‘s doing everything. 

CARLSON:  Pretty aggressive.  But, you know, the smartest thing I heard about Bush ever came from a friend of minute who covered the White House for “The Washington Post.”  Right at the beginning of the Iraq war, when most people, including me, couldn‘t really believe this was going to happen, he said, if Bush says it or even implies it, he will attempt to do it.  It‘s in his nature.

MATTHEWS:  Would somebody have been smart to tell Saddam Hussein he‘s coming unless you do certain things and there‘s only like two or three ways to get out of this war? 

CARLSON:  Would it have been smart of Bush to do that? 

MATTHEWS:  For everybody.  Saddam would have done what he was told.

CARLSON:  Well, we sort of did that.  But it—I think we were going to war no matter what. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think we have any more wars coming in this second term? 

CARLSON:  No, I don‘t. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Iran or Syria or anywhere else we might have a war front? 

CARLSON:  Yes, there may be countries that are worth invading.  But I‘ll doubt we‘ll invade them in the next four years.  The military isn‘t big enough, as you know.  I‘m not telling you anything new. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Iran is a much bigger challenge.

CARLSON:  That‘s exactly right.


CARLSON:  We‘re maxed out. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the agenda.  Social Security, do you agree with what I think, which is this a win-win for him?  Even if he loses the fight, it‘s a...


CARLSON:  Totally, because...

MATTHEWS:  Tell me why that is true.

CARLSON:  I‘ll tell you exactly why, because it is so bold.  It‘s—

just the courage he‘ll be given credit for having in taking it on, the

third rail, right?  He gets—he wins just in talking about it, much less

·         and I also think he may actually get it.  This is—again, I go back to the Iraq war.  Nobody thought that he could pull it together and he did.

MATTHEWS:  I think you‘re right.  I think you‘re right. 

But what happens if the Democrats are stay-off, like they are in the Senate?  They‘re just not joining his effort.  That‘s 45 votes.  Suppose the Republican Congress, people from states like Florida, the Sunbelt, where a lot of retirees—suppose they get off and don‘t back him out of fear. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  What happens then? 

CARLSON:  They‘re pretty good at corralling Republicans in the Congress, which is actually maybe part of the problem in the end. 


MATTHEWS:  ... a great thing.  Most people don‘t know what corralling means. 

CARLSON:  You know, pulling them in, making sure they do what you want them to do.  

MATTHEWS:  No, 15 minutes before the vote. 

CARLSON:  Right.  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  You get 20 guys or women.  You hold them on the floor in like a corral. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Legally, I mean an actual corral. 


MATTHEWS:  And then you say, we don‘t leave this place...


MATTHEWS:  ... until we know whether we need your vote or not. 

CARLSON:  There‘s nothing like physical coercion to get your vote. 

That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  And they don‘t release them from that corral, that human corral, until they got the 218, the 218 votes. 

CARLSON:  There‘s this weird role reversal, though, between Bush and the Democrats.  You think of conservatives as typically sort of fearing all change.  They never want to change anything.  Everything is great.  It‘s the status quo party.  It‘s sort of an instinct that conservatives have. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

CARLSON:  Democrats always assume that change is good.

Here, you have the Democrats saying in public, out loud, no, there‘s

no crisis.  Everything is fine.  And here‘s the president calling for

greater government activism, saying government can change your life and

make things better.  I‘m not


CARLSON:  I‘m not exactly sure what I think of it, but it is this complete switch. 

MATTHEWS:  How about this?  The other part of the switch.  When we were growing up—when I was growing up, a conservative was a lowercase conservative, as well as a big-case conservative, uppercase. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  A conservative would not have the federal government get involved in education.  It is, testing at the elementary school level and now at the high school level. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Because the president wants it.

It didn‘t get involved in medicine that much.  But now it is involved in terms of malpractice suits, in terms of prescription drugs.  This president is expanding the federal involvement in terms of faith-based, getting involved in that.  It is interesting.  How about in terms of...


CARLSON:  On everything.  On everything. 

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t the president more of an activist?

CARLSON:  It is almost impossible to make the case that Bush is a conservative.  That may be good.  It may be bad.  But, as traditionally conceived, he is not a conservative. 

Here‘s a president who has increased the NASA budget in his 2006 budget by 2.4 percent, NASA.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

CARLSON:  You can‘t even cut the NASA budget, OK?

MATTHEWS:  How do you explain to a conservative audience that you‘re out fund-raising with that we have a $500 billion deficit and it‘s growing? 

CARLSON:  You say the obvious thing.  We‘re at war.  It‘s a different world.  It takes a 9/11.


MATTHEWS:  Can you attribute that half-trillion dollars to war expenditures?

CARLSON:  No, you can‘t.  But you can say that 9/11 not simply changed everything, in that it made us pour a lot more into defending the nation, but also changed the way we view government. 

People, even conservatives, look at government as something that will make or can make our lives better. 


CARLSON:  Or indeed the lives of people across the globe.  That‘s exactly right.


MATTHEWS:  So what is big-government conservatism? 

CARLSON:  Well, you‘re watching it.  It is in the White House right now. 

It assumes—it is kind of the—it is a species of big-government liberalism.  It assumes that government...

MATTHEWS:  Would Barry Goldwater recognize the government of today, the Republican... 


CARLSON:  Well, Barry Goldwater was getting more liberal toward the end.

MATTHEWS:  No, he was more—he was getting more libertarian, but he was still against big government involvement in our lives, like abortion rights and things like that and gay rights.  He was pretty far liberal on those issues at the end. 

CARLSON:  He certainly was.

Look, Barry Goldwater, you don‘t have to go that far back.  Think of 10 years ago, 1995.  Compare the rhetoric of that incoming class of freshmen to the rhetoric that comes out of the White House now.  Again, I‘m not even taking a stand on which I prefer.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

CARLSON:  OK, I prefer the 1994 rhetoric.

But they‘re not even—almost not even in the same language.  When is the last time you heard someone talk about eliminating a department of anything? 

MATTHEWS:  Can you wait for this debate on Sunday between Sharansky, Natan Sharansky, who believes in Wilsonian idealism, you might argue, in the Middle East, go out and democratize the Arab countries, neutralize them to some extent, and Pat Buchanan?  Do you think that will be a good debate? 

CARLSON:  I think it will be fascinating, considering—now, you can go back and pull Buchanan columns from the ‘70s and ‘70s where he held up Sharansky, a famous dissident, as this beacon, right, of hope.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  And now he‘s a hero to the neoconservatives.  And Pat Buchanan is the bete noire of the neoconservatives.

CARLSON:  Yes, I think—I mean, this is my own view.  But I think Buchanan is far too easily and glibly dismissed by people, usually with name-calling, people who don‘t want to face his ideas, some of which are wrong, a lot of which are right.  And by right, they‘ve been proved true by history, as it‘s unfolding right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Hillary Clinton gets the nomination for the Democratic Party next time around, suppose, let‘s speculate.  Let‘s postulate...


CARLSON:  I think it‘s a fair assumption. 

MATTHEWS:  And Rudy Giuliani gets the other one.  Who wins? 

CARLSON:  I think Giuliani wins for a couple of different reasons. 

But I will say that, politically, how are they so different? 

MATTHEWS:  On issues, not. 

CARLSON:  Well, they‘re not.  They‘re not.

And I think Mrs. Clinton‘s negatives are really, really high.  She‘s sort of where Barbara Boxer was in, say, 1998.  Barbara Boxer of course won that election. 


MATTHEWS:  She‘s won three in a row, three in a row. 


CARLSON:  ... Matt Fong.  Exactly right.

But she went into it with negatives, people say, not simply, I don‘t prefer Barbara Boxer, in this case, I don‘t prefer Hillary Clinton.  They‘re saying, I would rather die than vote for Hillary Clinton.  How do you change negatives that high?  It‘s very, very difficult. 

MATTHEWS:  I think wherever gun rights are big, Hillary is down. 

Don‘t you think, middle part of the country?

CARLSON:  I will bet you, just as two weeks ago, she went and sucked up to the pro-lifers—and good for her—you‘ll see her saying nice things about the NRA within the next year.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you the Republican Party.  Is it going to be the dominant political party for the next 10, 20 years?  Is it on a run?

CARLSON:  The Republican Party of 2005, as I just said, bears almost no resemblance to the Republican Party of 1994. 

MATTHEWS:  But is the new party going to be the new...


CARLSON:  And so who knows what the Republican Party of 2015 will look like?  I just think that we‘re too—the parties are too close.  The last election results were too close to start crying realignment.

MATTHEWS:  Is Howard Dean going to turn the Democratic Party into a smart opposition party, instead of a former government party?

CARLSON:  There‘s a lot to admire about Howard Dean, his toughness.  Smartness is not something you would ever ascribe to Howard Dean.  If you have interviewed him, you know what I mean.  I‘m not saying he‘s dumb, but he‘s hardly a thinker. 

He said to me when I interviewed him two years ago for “The New York Times,” he said, there‘s not a single conservative idea I agree with. 

If you say that, you‘re closed-minded.  That‘s a reactionary thing to say.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I like about you.  You are open-minded.  And you‘ve said many—or at least enough times for me to be impressed, sometimes, one side that you‘re on is wrong. 

Anyway, thank you, Tucker Carlson.

CARLSON:  Thanks, Chris. 

And welcome to the team. 

CARLSON:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  When we come back, Howard Dean, the man just besmirched, is ready to take over the Democratic National Committee.  But can he represent the moderate wing of the party?  Does he want to?  Former Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi—he‘s a colleague of mine—joins us in a moment.             

And don‘t forget, the best way to keep up with HARDBALL is to sign up for our daily e-mail briefing.  Just go log on to our Web site,


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, does Howard Dean have the fix for the Democrats or is he what is wrong with the party?  Democratic strategist and former Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi joins us when HARDBALL returns.



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

The Democratic National Committee is holding its annual winter meeting in Washington right now and tomorrow will choose former Vermont Governor Howard Dean as its chairman. 

Joe Trippi was Howard Dean‘s presidential campaign manager and was at the DNC meeting today.  He‘s now an MSNBC political analyst.  Hilary Rosen is a Democratic activist and strong supporter of Dean.  And John Fund is with “The Wall Street Journal”‘s and not a supporter of Dean, except as someone to laugh at. 


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s start right now with Joe Trippi.

What happened at the meeting today?  What‘s the buzz, positive towards Dean?

JOE TRIPPI, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  All positive over there.  The big fight right now is over who the vice chairman is going to be.  It is—other than that, it is a love fest right now. 


MATTHEWS:  How do you balance Dean, right or left?  Do you have to balance him right?

TRIPPI:  Dean is a centrist, pragmatist.  He balanced the budget all those years up there and lowered the income tax twice.  He‘s a deficit hawk.  He was caricatured in the primaries as a liberal because of his position on the war and his stand on civil unions.

But I think people are going to be surprised at how pragmatic a politician he really... 


MATTHEWS:  Can he stay out of presidential politics?  Can he not tip the scale toward or against Hillary, for example?

TRIPPI:  Well, I think he mans it when he says he‘s going to stay out of the fight in 2008.


MATTHEWS:  Hilary, he gets on television, and, if you like Dean—and I like him, too, as person, certainly like him as a guest here.


MATTHEWS:  Because he answers questions. 

But if Dean gets on national television, like this show, and I say, what do you think of the Iraq war and how it‘s going, do you really think he‘s going to say, well, Chris, that‘s a question for the politicians? 

ROSEN:  No, no, no.

In fact, I think that what he will do is, he‘s going to set his own course.  And I think it is going to be some mainstream Democratic course.  And there will be elected officials who disagree with him and are going to have to then say that they disagree. 

MATTHEWS:  But are the Democrats for or against the war in Iraq? 

ROSEN:  I think he is going to say he‘s against it. 



MATTHEWS:  So he is into politics, then. 


MATTHEWS:  That‘s the one thing.

Let me go to John Fund.  Does that set him up as the target for the conservatives to say, look, John—Howard Dean speaks for the Democratic Party; we think he is a lefty; the party is a lefty party?

JOHN FUND, COLUMNIST, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”:  It will hurt a little bit. 

But, Chris, you peg me wrong.  I debated Howard Dean regularly on Canadian television.  I take him very seriously.  I‘m not one of these people whose say his platform is, I have a scream.  So, but the real problem is...

MATTHEWS:  Are you being ironic? 

FUND:  No.  I took him very seriously.  And I respected him when I debated him. 

But, Chris, I‘m being serious here.  The problem is the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic insiders.  Gallup has new a poll out today of Democratic National Committee members.  By 2-1, they say the party‘s approach to handling elections has to be either completely overhauled or major changes.  The problem is, you ask them what they want to change, only 7 percent of the Democratic National Committee members say that they should change any position on issues. 

That goes against everything that they‘ve been hearing since the election about values, about reaching out to appeal to pro-life voters, about Hillary Clinton‘s approach.  The party has a disconnect.  On the one hand, it keeps losing these elections. 


FUND:  On the other hand, it doesn‘t think it has anything to do with issues. 

MATTHEWS:  But they‘re not all practical politicians. 


MATTHEWS:  I have to say, John—you know, Hilary.  There‘s such a thing as a Democrat.  They‘re watching right now.  They deeply believe things like the war and abortion rights and things like that. 


ROSEN:  And there‘s really nothing that says that that has to be changed.

FUND:  I‘m not saying you change major issues.  But when you have 7 percent of the Democratic National Committee saying they don‘t have to change anything on issues, you‘re looking at a party that is fooling itself. 

ROSEN:  Well, I think there‘s a lot of people in the party who think that we haven‘t handled the issues that we do have very well.  And that is a very different thing than saying we should substantively change our position on issues. 

And the thing that I think Dean will be very good at is, he is a straight talker.  So, he won‘t just talk about for or against the war in Iraq, when—if he criticizes the war, he‘s going to do it by holding the president and the Defense Department accountable for what they‘re doing. 


MATTHEWS:  Why do the Democrats always act like there‘s a fog of confusion about issues?

The people know the Democrats are generally pro-choice, generally pro-gay rights, generally anti-gun.  These are facts.  Why does it always talk to them as a P.R. problem?  The average guy out there knows what Hillary Clinton stands for. 

ROSEN:  It‘s a fair question, but a majority of the country is also pro-choice. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but...


TRIPPI:  And one of the things the Republicans have, look, is, they‘re...


MATTHEWS:  Not that pro-choice.  They admit the right of a woman to have a decision. 

ROSEN:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  And it‘s her ultimate decision.  They‘re not happy about people who seem happy about abortion rights. 


ROSEN:  And a majority of the country do not want to see social issues...


MATTHEWS:  ... have pro-choice rallies that seem festive.


ROSEN:  And a majority of the country do not want social issues to be politicized. 

TRIPPI:  But there‘s also a difference between the two parties. 

The Republican Party is much more monolithic.  It‘s much more similar. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

TRIPPI:  It‘s got a lot less diversity than the Democratic Party has in it.  And that means that the Democrats...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a white bread party.

TRIPPI:  Yes. 

And so Democrats, like you have guys like Tim Holden, who represents

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, very conservative.  He has got an NRA rating of -

·         and he‘s—you know what he has in common with Howard Dean?  Standing up for the little guy.  And that‘s where the Democrats always have made our inroads. 

MATTHEWS:  Blew it last time.

TRIPPI:  And you can‘t—so, when you have somebody like Tim Holden in Pennsylvania and somebody like Howard Dean, that‘s the breadth of this party.

MATTHEWS:  You know the big question was—excuse me—you know the big question was, everybody, was, if you get a flat tire on a highway and Bush drives by and Kerry drives by, who is going to stop and help you fix your tire?  And Bush won.  Isn‘t that the Democrats‘ biggest problem right now?  People don‘t think they care about them. 

ROSEN:  No.  That was Kerry‘s biggest problem. 


ROSEN:  That‘s not the Democrats...


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, a new Associated Press poll may spell trouble for President Bush‘s Social Security reform plans and an opportunity for the Democrats.

You‘re watching HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Hilary Rosen, Joe Trippi and John Fund.

Let‘s look at a new Associated Press poll out today.  It shows disapproval of President Bush‘s overall job approval rising from his numbers last month.  American over the age of 50 disapprove of the president‘s performance at the rate of about 56, 57 percent. 

Joe Trippi, the seniors—and I‘m including myself here—I hate to do it—middle-aged and senior—are not jumping to support this new Social Security plan. 

TRIPPI:  No.  I mean, that‘s what those numbers look like to me, is that he has not sold the fact that he‘s trying to sell that they are not going to be affected by this. 

MATTHEWS:  People who can imagine it affecting them in the fairly near future don‘t like the looks of it. 



TRIPPI:  I think people don‘t like the idea of privatization of Social Security.  And I think the Republicans have already figured that out, so they‘re even trying to run away from that word and call them personal accounts.  But they‘re running away from something they‘ve—that‘s stuck already with the American people.  People know what they‘re trying to do.  They‘re trying to privatize.

MATTHEWS:  You know, it‘s not a huge amount for most people. 

You know, Hilary, all the elite talk about how many thousands of dollars.

ROSEN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  If you make $50,000 a year, you pay about $1,000 a year total.  Over your lifetime, that savings adds up to about, what, whatever, $50,000, $100,000.  I don‘t know what it is.

But the fact is, if you stick with Social Security, you basically get that money.  You get that kind of benefit level. 


ROSEN:  For a significant portion of Americans, it makes up a huge portion of their retirement income. 

MATTHEWS:  Social Security does. 


MATTHEWS:  But not this privatized thing.

ROSEN:  And—but the problem is, the president‘s proposal doesn‘t really deal with fixing and protecting Social Security. 

And I think that‘s really sort of the problem with Republicans right now and where the Democrats have to go.  There are moderate Republicans who are getting thrown out of their party by people only for the rich guys and the right wing.  That‘s where Howard Dean has his shot.  That‘s where Democrats have their shot.


MATTHEWS:  John Fund, I know you‘re an investor thinker.  Suppose we have a year in which we have a really bad stock market, bad news, like that October, one of these black Tuesday kind of things, and the stock market loses like 10 or 20 percent of its value.  Doesn‘t that create an incredible shockwave in the country among people who are depending on it? 

FUND:  Not if you structure it so that it goes into conservative stocks and bonds.  People in Galveston, Texas, and three other counties that were exempted from Social Security in 1981 have consistently gotten very high returns.  And that includes a lot of market downturns. 


FUND:  But, Chris, this poll, come on.  This is of 1,000 adults.  You know that those polls are not nearly as reliable as 1,000 registers voters.  If you relied on this poll back in November, John Kerry would be president. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FUND:  There‘s a poll out from Opinion Dynamics today which shows...


MATTHEWS:  But all adults participate in Social Security.


FUND:  This poll simply doesn‘t track.  It‘s adults.  It‘s not registered voters.


MATTHEWS:  But don‘t—we‘re not talking about voting.  We‘re talking about people who are affected by Social Security, which is everybody. 

FUND:  Ask politicians what polls they pay attention to.  And it is the polls of registered voters, because the 40 percent of people who don‘t vote also don‘t call their congressmen and don‘t complain. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you a question about the stock market.  You think you can pick the blue chips and be fairly comfortable. 

Back in the ‘40s, somebody wrote—I‘m sitting there reading the letters to the editors to “The New York Times” the other day.  Somebody said, suppose back in 1947, we all bought railroad stock, a real blue chipper, like the New York Central. 

FUND:  Chris.

MATTHEWS:  They would be broke. 

FUND:  Chris, the Texas state teachers pension fund, the pension funds of 15 states with state employees, including California, where I‘m sitting now, invest in a conservative mix of stocks and bonds.  They seem to be happy with it.  You ask any state employee in those 15 states, would you like to be part of Social Security?  If you can find one to come on your show and say yes, I‘m surprised. 

MATTHEWS:  Really?

ROSEN:  Look, the fact is that most Americans in the middle-class and lower-income brackets have seen this administration give away a huge amount of money, increase the deficits in tax cuts for the wealthy.  They‘ve seen promises in education funding not be fulfill.  There‘s just no reason to believe this. 

MATTHEWS:  Hilary, you‘re first.  Last-minute question.  This is the “Final Jeopardy” question tonight.  A year from now, will we agree that Howard Dean has been a good DNC chair? 

ROSEN:  Absolutely. 

TRIPPI:  I believe so, yes.

MATTHEWS:  John Fund.

FUND:  I don‘t think the chairman does a lot in his first year, except raise money.  Howard Dean will be good at that. 

MATTHEWS:  He won‘t get in the way of policy fights? 

FUND:  Not the first year. 



MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Joe Trippi.  Thank you, John Fund.  Thank you,

Hilary Rosen

Tonight, the lights will dim on Broadway in honor of a towering figure in American theater.  Playwright Arthur Miller passed away at his home at the age of 89.  His plays includes the extraordinary works “Death of a Salesman.”  And I loved “The Crucible.”  It was fabulous.  I saw it a couple years ago with Laura Linney and Liam Neeson.  What a dramatic piece of work that was. 

His dramatic personal life often captured the attention, more attention than his plays.  He married Marilyn Monroe.  He has that in common with Joe, Joltin‘ Joe.  She was, of course, the sex symbol of her time.  Anyway, he also was targeted by the House Un-American Activities Committee for his political views.

Arthur Miller led the life of a true artist.  He was a man of his times and will be remembered for his uniquely American voice. 

This Monday on HARDBALL, I‘ll be joined by Ambassador Cofer Black for his first interview since stepping down as the State Department‘s coordinator for counterterrorism.

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



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