Guest: David Crosby, Graham Nash, Ted Nugent, Chris Farley, Tony Perkins, Elizabeth Birch
DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, a haunting return to the horrors of 9/11. The firefighters of the Twin Towers that morning in their own words. Oral histories and the fire department zone radio transmissions. What they saw, heard, and did to save lives before the towers collapsed.
Another vivid and painful chapter in one of America‘s darkest days. I‘m David Gregory. Let‘s play HARDBALL.
And good evening. I‘m David Gregory sitting in again tonight for Chris. No one wants to relive 9/11. But in 12,000 pages of documents and hours worth of fire department, radio transmissions, we are for the first time hearing from the firefighters themselves. Their own words about what happened. The chaos and the panic as they desperately attempted to save lives.
A court ordered the release of the materials, including the oral histories recorded in the weeks after the September 11 attacks after the “New York Times” sued for access to them. Hundreds of relatives of the dead firefighters also requested and received copies. “New York Times” reporter Jim Dwyer is the author of “102 Minutes, the Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers.” The co-author of that book.
Jim, welcome. Thanks very much for being here tonight.
JIM DWYER, “THE NEW YORK TIMES,”: Thank you, David.
GREGORY: First of all, you‘ve had a chance to go through this material, to listen to the transmissions, and you‘ve written this book which is just a painful and vivid look inside the towers that day. What have you learned with this new material?
DWYER: You find each of these fragments of information from every person who is there. They each carry a lot of the power of the day with them. Specifically, what we‘ve learned is that—a lot more about the city‘s emergency medical response that day. There‘s a great deal of information in the oral histories that has never come out before. We had over the last several years, been able to obtain quite a few of the important firefighter oral histories but the emergency medical service workers who worked for the city gave a tremendous and harrowing series of accounts about what went on inside. Not inside but on the perimeter of the Trade Center as they tried to respond and treat with the people who were coming out of the buildings.
GREGORY: Let‘s listen to a portion of the tapes. This first clip is from 8:47 a.m. on 9/11. The first plane hits the North Tower and this is from dispatch and Battalion 1. Let‘s go ahead and listen to that.
(BEGIN AUDIO TAPE)
FIELD: We just had a plane crash into the upper floors of the World Trade Center. Transmit a second alarm and start relocating companies into the area.
DISPATCH: Ten-four, Batallion 1.
FIELD: Engine six to .
DISPATCH: Engine 6.
FIELD: The World Trade Center tower number 1 is on fire. The whole outside of the building. There was just a huge explosion.
DISPATCH: Ten-four. All companies standby at this time.
FIELD: Battalion 1 to Manhattan.
DISPATCH: Battalion 1, K.
FIELD: We have a number of floors on fire. It looked like the plane was aiming towards the building.
GREGORY: Jim, not only as you say the initial signs of the chaos of the day, but it says something about communications, too. Within the fire department itself, that you have uncovered and it says come out later, was really poor.
DWYER: Well, that is very strongly reported inside all of these oral histories in particular. A lot of the firefighters who were in the second tower to collapse, the North Tower, described having almost no information about what was going on. Some of them didn‘t know a plane had hit the other building. They certainly for the most part, did not seem to know the other tower had collapsed.
One of the most heart breaking stories that I read today was a firefighter who described coming down the stairs, very casually getting told, we‘re all going to leave now. He was up on the 27th floor. Turned around and went back down. And he described the colleagues as he went back down who didn‘t really know what was going on, like himself. And how he got down to the lobby and thought maybe it is a better idea for him to stay in the lobby and he decided, no, he would get out. And he and his men left. But other men didn‘t leave. And those people died. They simply had no idea what was going on.
GREGORY: And how did that happen? How is it that there was no overall picture in the communications?
DWYER: Well, almost from the very beginning, you know, that very first clip you played is a very interesting one. There‘s a chief in there. I believe his name is Joe Pfeiffer (ph). Who actually was on the street and saw the first plane hit. And he, he has recorded, as he is driving right down to the scene to respond to it. And he says the words that you heard. A plane went right into the Trade Center and start relocating units to the area. It was a perfect response.
Now Pfeiffer, Chief Joe Pfeiffer, as he arrived at the Trade Center, the closer he got, the less he knew about what was happening. And he actually went inside to the lobby of the North Tower. And by the time he had gotten into the North Tower lobby, he had no idea what was going on one had you been stories over his head, or 95 stories over his head. And it‘s a very vivid example of the lack of situational awareness that firefighters in New York had and actually, in many other cities.
Now the city has spoken since this problem has emerged in part through the testimony of Chief Pfeiffer and other chiefs who responded to that. That they‘re going to do more about making sure they know what‘s going on.
GREGORY: Let‘s listen to another cut. This is 9:58 a.m. on 9/11 and this is as the South Tower collapses. Let‘s listen to that.
(BEGIN AUDIO TAPE)
FIELD: To Manhattan, urgent.
DISPATCH: Go ahead, K.
FIELD: One of the buildings, the entire building has collapsed.
DISPATCH: Urgent, identify.
FIELD: Major collapse in one of the towers.
DISPATCH: Which tower, K?
FIELD: Tower 2, tower 2.
DISPATCH: The entire tower. Major collapse.
GREGORY: I want to play one more right behind it because this is so chilling. This is from a civilian who was actually calling from one of the fire trucks taking cover and calling out for help. Let‘s listen to that as well.
FIELD: There‘s been a major collapse to the tower. The command center out here - everybody - There was a major collapse. I‘m in my rig right now.
DISPATCH: Ten-four. We‘ve notified them that there is a major collapse in the area, K.
FIELD: Everybody in the area had to run. I don‘t know if field comm unit is available.
Can anybody hear me?
DISPATCH: Go ahead.
FIELD: I‘m a civilian. I‘m trapped inside one of your fire trucks underneath.
DISPATCH: Stand by. There‘s people close to you.
FIELD: I can‘t breathe much longer. Save me! I‘m in the cab of your truck.
DISPATCH: Person transmitting the mayday. Where are you, K?
FIELD: I just told you. If you look at the World Trade Center there‘s a north pedestrian bridge. I think it collapsed when the partial building just collapsed. I was on the street. I don‘t have much air. Please, help me!
GREGORY: It just gives you such a sense, Jim, of the panic that you can only imagine went on. Was there any realistic sense that the towers were going to collapse?
DWYER: Interestingly, just a couple minutes before the first one collapsed, an engineer, a building engineer for the city tried to get word over to the fire department that he believed they were in danger of imminent collapse. And certainly, once the first one collapsed, the police helicopters were putting out very, very clear and explicit warnings over their radio system that the other tower was also glowing red and they said it looked inevitable. That it, too, was going to go. Those warnings, unfortunately, did not get into the fire department for the most part.
GREGORY: Just a couple of seconds left here. Why was it so important for the family members to get a hold of the tape and of the transcripts?
DWYER: You know, people disappeared. Some of them never found any remains. And they had no information. They wanted some part of their loved ones‘ last minutes to hold on to. They wanted the story of their life. Even at the end of it to be something they could keep. And so they were very eager, many were very eager to get these oral histories and look for clues about what happened.
GREGORY: Jim Dwyer. The author of “102 Minutes” and a “New York Times” correspondent. Thanks once again for joining us.
DWYER: Thank you, David.
GREGORY: You can listen, by the way, to the 911 transcripts on our Website, msnbc.com.
When we return, the war in Iraq. As violence against U.S. troops intensifies, can President Bush convince the American people to stay the course? You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
GREGORY: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re joined by Chuck Todd, the editor-in-chief of “The Hotline” and “Washington Post” reporter, Dana Milbank. Welcome to you both.
From the horrors of 9/11 now to the war in Iraq. Dana Milbank, we heard from the president this week something pretty stunning as a turnaround, really dismissing talk of an exit strategy, of a massive substantial drawdown of troops by spring as mere speculation and rumors, even if it comes from his own top commanders on the ground. Why do you think he took that step?
DANA MILBANK, “WASHINGTON POST”: You know, David, this has been going back and forth for some long period of time. The problem is, is this. The president would very much like to be reducing the troop level but he does not want to project the sign of weakness. He takes one step in one direction. One step back in the other direction. He‘s got until, if we‘re looking at the November 2006 election as the target date, he has a little bit of time to reduce the troops. You don‘t want to reduce the troops too early so things could start, the violence could actually turn up over there.
GREGORY: All week long, in the slow August days, we‘ve been talking about Cindy Sheehan, who has been outside the president‘s ranch. Important to point out, she met with the president once before but has been holding a vigil and wants another meeting and she‘s not going to get it. So she met with two senior officials of the White House. What does her vigil represent? What does the attention she‘s getting represent? Does it represent a kind of tipping point in the country where people are really getting frustrated with the progress of the war?
CHUCK TODD, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “THE HOTLINE”: Well, I think so. But the White House, they brought this problem upon themselves. They knew this woman was there. They knew it was going to happen. They could have taken this in one day. They bring her into the White House—they bring her into the ranch and have their meeting and she goes probably away and this is a one-day story.
GREGORY: But does she really go away? She‘s been beating up on the president. She presumably did that before. What is to be gained?
TODD: I think it could have—what is to be gained by attacking the mother of a dead child?
GREGORY: But he hasn‘t done that.
TODD: No. But his allies have. And they‘ve done some stuff on the Internet. What are you guys doing? There‘s no point in doing that. You‘re never going to win that P.R. battle. And if anything they‘ve brought more attention to her and probably created more of a political problem than they ever should have in the first place. So I think it was a very big mishandling of the White House.
GREGORY: Dana, you and I have heard the president many, many times talk about Iraq. And I was struck yesterday in his remarks where he was more empathetic than I‘ve heard him. Where he talked about the losses or he talked really about the frustration. It seemed he was taking pains to face up to the fact that this is an increasingly unpopular war.
MILBANK: Well, it is. And I think that was a direct result of the Sheehan appearance there. It is important to remember, she‘s been bouncing around for months, sort of tied one the Downing Street memos, all these other issue. This is a change in strategy for her and for the people who are handling her. And it has been extremely effective. And as Chuck is pointing out, I think the White House was not expecting it. Where really, this may be crystallizing things in a way it hadn‘t before. Of course, this unfortunate flurry of violence and deaths of many troops over there in Iraq has added to this as well. The president realizes, because he‘s seeing his own sinking popularity numbers in the polls, that he has to address this. The man still has not been to a military funeral.
TODD: Bush could have solved this really quickly. He should have gone to Ohio to that community that lost 20 soldiers very recently and it would have been a big deal that he would have been there. It would have been an easy thing to do. Because, as Dana pointed out, he hasn‘t been to a funeral. This would have been a way to memorialize a whole community that is going through a big loss.
GREGORY: Does the enemy see that as weakness?
TODD: That‘s always what they say. Is that they can‘t show weakness. It would bring the U.S. public opinion back toward him just a little bit. That‘s the biggest problem that they have going. Not the insurgency.
GREGORY: Dana, let me turn to a topic that is arguably going much better for the White House. That‘s the nomination of John Roberts. This week, NARAL, the pro-choice group put out an ad equating him with supporting abortion clinic violence. They got a lot of criticism for it on the left and the right. They pulled the ad down. Was that a mistake? Did that setback the cause of the left in trying to push Roberts on the abortion issue?
MILBANK: Dana, it certainly has setback their cause. Now you can argue whether the ad was a mistake in the first play, but certainly pulling it compounded the mistake if there was one. Now what you have going on is this circular fire squad among the Democrats saying we shouldn‘t have pulled it. We should have pulled the ad down. This has completely distracted from the larger fight. So Democrats are worried there‘s a perception building that they‘re behaving as if they‘re a bunch of wimps who are afraid to take on the president and the White House. They‘re saying the Republicans would not have pulled that ad. Hard to say. But there is .
GREGORY: You mean like the swift boat ad. In other words, don‘t shy away even if the facts really aren‘t on your side. The fact is to make a strong point and to keep driving it home.
MILBANK: Sure. The ad was false. It was misleading. But that hardly distinguishes it from most of the other ads that we see in politics.
GREGORY: Chuck, go ahead.
TODD: I tell you, NARAL did a favor for Roberts. Roberts was starting to get a lot of grief on the right. He participated in that gay rights case on the wrong side, as far as the social conservatives were concerned. There was some other stuff trickling out questioning his conservative credentials and then all of a sudden, he gets attacked by NARAL on the left and it sort of united the right. Now wait a minute. Wait a minute. We have to fight the bigger enemy here. And it actually helped Roberts. I think he has, he‘s going to end up having more problems on the right once these confirmation hearing start on the right than the left.
GREGORY: Thirty seconds left. Governor Schwarzenegger and this story of teaming up with the tabloids to make a story about an alleged affair go away. What is this about? Does it mean anything?
TODD: I don‘t think it means anything. The voters of California knew they were electing a roguish figure before. Now we‘ve got financial improprieties. Schwarzenegger has had a bigger problem in that voters are questioning his ability to govern the state. This is what they knew they were getting when they elected a celebrity.
GREGORY: They already made that decision.
TODD: Yeah. They made that decision.
GREGORY: Chuck Todd and Dana Milbank, thanks for being with me tonight. Up next, NARAL pulls the heavily criticized TV commercial linking Supreme Court nominee John Roberts to violence against abortion clinics, as we‘ve been talking about, so where does the fight go from here? You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
GREGORY: Welcome back to HARDBALL. A leading abortion rights group has pulled a controversial ad that attacks Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. The ad accused Roberts of supporting a clinic bomber and excusing violence. It was a charge that as we reported this week, seemed misleading. And when NARAL was stung by criticism from both sides of the aisle, the group decided to backtrack. HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reports.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Following a week of protests by conservatives .
BEN GINSBERG, FORMER BUSH/CHENEY COUNSEL: This is the worst kind of personal mudslinging.
SHUSTER: And a letter by Republican Senator Arlen Specter who wrote. “The NARAL advertisement is not helpful to the pro-choice cause which I support,” the National Abortion Rights Action League pulled back. Including the commercial that was causing more harm than good.
Quote, “We regret that many people have misconstrued our recent advertisement of Mr. Roberts‘ record. Unfortunately, the debate over that advertisement has become a distraction from the serious discussion we hoped to have with the American public.”
The ad referred to a bombing of a women‘s health clinic in Alabama that killed a security guard and severely wounded the nurse Emily Lyons.
ANNOUNCER: Supreme Court nominee John Roberts filed court briefs supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber.
EMILY LYONS, NURSE: I am determined to stop this violence so I am speaking out.
ANNOUNCER: Call your senators, tell them to oppose John Roberts. America can‘t afford justice whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans.
SHUSTER: The problem was, that the ad blurred the distinction between the bombing and a narrow legal argument John Roberts made at the Supreme Court six years before the bombing occurred. In 1992, then Bush administration deputy solicitor general John Roberts weighed in on a case that pitted the anti-abortion activists Operation Rescue against women‘s health clinics. The clinics were trying to use an 1871 civil rights law written in response to the KKK to argue that women like African Americans deserve protection from protestors. Roberts argued the law did not apply. And voting 6-3, the Supreme Court agreed. Political and campaign commercials have been pulled off the air before. In 1964, there was Lyndon Johnson‘s daisy ad aimed at Barry Goldwater.
ANNOUNCER: Vote for President Johnson on November 3. The stakes are too high for to you stay home.
SHUSTER: More recently, the Bush campaign last fall was forced to pull this ad.
GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: You‘re making America safer.
SHUSTER: After admitting the picture of the president the troops had been digitally enhanced. This week, the anger at NARAL‘s ad came from across the political spectrum. Including columnists who said the Roberts bombing was wrong and a distraction.
E.J. DIONNE, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: I felt that this kind of ad undercut the credibility of the pro-choice community. Again, associating Judge Roberts with violence is so different from saying we may have a legitimate disagreement with Judge Roberts on Roe v. Wade or other issue related to abortion.
SHUSTER (on camera): Democrats say that with the NARAL ad off the air, they hope to refocus the debate on Roberts‘ views on the right to privacy. Interest groups are pouring over thousands of documents and waiting for the White House to release thousands of others. As it stands, the biggest controversy has been over a group attacking Roberts, not him. The question is, will that change? I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
GREGORY: David, thanks very much. And up next, we‘ll get a preview of this weekend‘s Justice Sunday II. We‘ll talk to one of the organizer and a critic. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
COLLETTE CASSIDY, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening everyone, I‘m Colette Cassidy. Here is what‘s happening. The Homeland Security Department is lowering the terror level for the nation‘s mass transit systems effective after the day‘s rush hour local time. The threat level will return to yellow or elevated. It was raised to orange or high after the deadly subway and bus bombings in London July 7.
President Bush‘s motorcade has passed the growing camp of Iraq War protestors outside the ranch twice as he traveled to and from a political fundraiser at the neighboring ranch. Cindy Sheehan, the California mother whose son was killed in Iraq last year and who started the protest Saturday held up a sign. It read “Why do you make time for donors and not for me?” Sheehan wants to meet the president. She did meet with him once last year.
Another U.S. soldier was killed in Iraq. The military says he died in a roadside bombing Tikrit. And oil prices surged another $1.06 a barrel today. They closed at a record $66.86 a barrel. Those are the headlines. I‘m Collette Cassidy. Now go back to HARDBALL.
GREGORY: Welcome back to HARDBALL, I‘m David Gregory in tonight for Chris Matthews. This weekend, Christian conservatives are gathering, once again, to rally their base for Justice Sunday Two. That‘s to support the Supreme Court nomination of Judge John Roberts and to threaten Democrats against using a religious litmus test as we get closer to those nomination hearings.
Some of the GOP‘s biggest names will be there, including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and my next guest, Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council. This weekend is also the launch of the first gay television network, Here! TV and the first gay national political talk show, “Birch & Company,” and the host of that show, Elizabeth Birch joining us as well. Excuse me for that.
Welcome to you both. We sort of have opposite ends of the culture wars. But let me start with you, Tony, and ask you about Justice Sunday Two. What‘s the point? What are you trying to accomplish and why do you need it?
TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, David, it‘s real simple. This is an issue that has been affecting our country and our culture for the last 40 years. And there are people across this country that are very concerned about the direction the courts have taken in this country.
And in large part, it was what prompted people in large numbers to get out and work for President Bush in this last election. And here we are, on the eve of a confirmation hearing, and we‘re very simply going to lay out what has happened in this country over the last 40 years and what people now can do about it to make a difference.
GREGORY: What‘s the worst that‘s happened over the past 40 years that you want to put pressure on?
PERKINS: Well, I think there‘s a steady stream. There‘s not one you can point to. But it really began in 1962 when prayer was taken out of our schools. Then bible reading was taken out of the schools. Then the 10 commandments was taken out of the classroom in 1980.
Then students were prohibited from praying at football games. And then, of course, you‘ve had the Roe v. Wade decision. You see a long string of activist court decisions that have shaped the culture, going beyond what the legislative elected representatives of this country were willing to do.
GREGORY: Elizabeth, the argument is that our culture, our values, have simply gone to hell. That they‘re being somehow lost. What‘s your response?
ELIZABETH BIRCH, HOST, “BIRCH & COMPANY”: I think Justice Sunday is just politically unwise and not very tactical. I don‘t think it helps Judge Roberts, who has to garner bipartisan support. And it just creates that fervor of more division, more anger.
And frankly, when you have people like Pat Roberts having huge prayer circles for more vacancies on the Supreme Court, it is sort of ghoulish. And so it‘s smart in the first instance. But I also think that these leaders fail to interpret precisely what they‘re saying. We had an American revolution. We didn‘t have a Christian revolution. They‘re trying to bring about a Christian revolution.
We have the most profound religious freedom on the planet precisely because we separate church and state. And we have a plurality in this country. We celebrate that freedom for all religions. Hindus, Buddhists, all kinds of Christians, Jews, Muslims. So I think Tony Perkins and his compatriots missed the point.
This is the greatest country on earth for religious freedom precisely because those principles of separation of church and state are honored. And I think people are really tired. The church should get out of elections and go back to taking care of the poor, feeding the hungry, taking care of the ailing.
GREGORY: Tony, I...
Go ahead. One of the things I want you to think about in all of that, you are also looking to the Supreme Court, in this instance, to achieve some of this agenda that you think is being lost.
PERKINS: No, not at all. What we‘re looking to do is get the court out of the business of creating public policy. And those things that we talked about were not—we‘re not trying to create anything new. School prayer, bible reading, the posting of the 10 commandments, that‘s not something new that we‘re trying to impose upon the country. That‘s what this country did for over 200 years.
It is quite amazing that those that trumpet at tolerance are the same one that don‘t want Christians in churches to speak into the public realm. We have every right to speak about how policy should be in this country and to participate in the process. And I‘m happy that others on the other side, they can have simulcasts.
If they could bring people together and have an event like this, they could do it. And I find it interesting that they‘re saying it‘s infective, it‘s unwise, it‘s not tactically smart. Then they should be embracing it.
GREGORY: It this network that you‘re launching, Elizabeth? Is that part of the point? I mean, is this going to be an answer, you know, on the other end of this culture war?
BIRCH: I think that it‘s a tremendous opportunity, the Here! TV network, and the new programming that will allow to us really go at these issues with a delicate scalpel instead of an axe. I‘m one of those people that have come on many, many times and it ends up being this rhetoric that goes back and forth. And, you know, you get a segment but you never get to go deep and really examine. I‘d love Tony Perkins to come on. But I just wanted to answer to why...
PERKINS: I‘d love to do it.
BIRCH: ... Tony was saying that, in fact, faith knows no boundaries. It is not a partisan issue, faith. But the point is that we have to honor our own constitution that absolutely clearly on its face protects Tony Perkins and everybody else. That‘s not the point.
The point is that our founders envisioned that government would remain neutral precisely so that God and faith and spirituality could be left to the citizens. And that‘s where I think these leaders, James Dobson, Tony, others really fail to interpret what they‘re saying.
When they use words like judicial tyranny as delay used, or “judicial tyranny,” as Delay used, or “judicial activism,” they‘re failing to distinguish the very important role of all courts, but particularly the Supreme Court, to parse down and interpret the U.S. constitution.
GREGORY: Let me get to something a little bit more specific here, rather than just this debate about faith in our society and faith in the courts. But this has to do with the faith of John Roberts and his views, Tony Perkins, and whether or not this is a suitable area of inquiry. Why is it inappropriate, do you think, for Democrats on the Judiciary Committee to ask about whether his Catholic faith and his views, particularly about issues like abortion, would interfere with his judgment as a justice on the Supreme Court?
PERKINS: Well, that‘s a good question, David. We saw with previous appellate court nominees that, like Senator Schumer and others, were filibustering because people had deeply held personal beliefs, which in terms of, if someone describe to the tenets of the Catholic faith, would put them personally opposed to abortion.
And the Constitution is very clear about this. There shall be no religious test. And because someone has a particular faith, and they live by the tenets of that faith, they should not have to choose between that and serving in public office.
GREGORY: But the Catholic Church has applied a great deal of pressure on politicians, particularly on the issue of abortion. So why isn‘t it relevant?
PERKINS: Do they not have a part to play in this process if, in fact, we have freedom of religion, where people who are religious are free to participate in society? I mean, do they not have a role to play? Should they not be able to hold office?
GREGORY: Elizabeth, comment. Because really, the question is whether it‘s a suitable area of inquiry.
BIRCH: Well, that‘s not at all what Senator Schumer was doing, or the judiciary community was doing.
PERKINS: That‘s exactly what he was doing.
BIRCH: No, I‘m sorry, Tony. It‘s not at all. What the senator and the Judiciary Committee is investigating is whether a nominee will follow the law. And it is a perfect area of inquiry to ask whether Judge Roberts will follow the law that was established in 1973, Roe v. Wade, a woman‘s right to choose. And that is an absolutely perfectly appropriate area of inquiry.
GREGORY: We‘re going to have to leave it there, a debate that will be continued. Thank you very much to Tony Perkins and Elizabeth Birch.
And up next, the war in Iraq being played out in America‘s popular music. But should musicians have a say in the debate? When we return, we‘ll talk to two who led the anti-war charge during the Vietnam War, David Crosby and Graham Nash. Plus, pro-war rocker Ted Nugent. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
GREGORY: Coming up, how much say should musicians have in the debate over the Iraq war? Anti-war singers David Crosby and Graham Nash will be here with us next, along with rock‘s Ted Nugent, who‘s for the war. HARDBALL returns right after this.
GREGORY: Will the Rolling Stones get satisfaction from their new anti-Bush song, “Sweet Neo Con.” neo-conservative, that‘s the joke, when it‘s released next month? And how will the NFL react when they feature Mick Jagger and the boys in a new marking deal now that the Stones have gone political?
For a look at the protest music in our pop culture and how it collides with business and politics, we turn to the Detroit rocker himself, Ted Nugent, whose summer tour continues through October 1st, and “Time” magazine contributor Christopher Farley, who writes extensively about music and is author of the book, “Kingston by Starlight.”
Welcome to both of you.
CHRIS FARLEY, AUTHOR: Thank you.
TED NUGENT, MUSICIAN: Thank you.
GREGORY: Chris, let me start with you. What‘s motivating the Stones to do this? Is this just about getting back on top, here? Why are they doing this?
FARLEY: I think it‘s about generating some more heat for their new record they have coming out, “A Bigger Bang.” The thing is, these guys still fill up stadiums. The new tour is mostly sold-out. They don‘t really need help with that. But they do need help to generate interest in their albums. They really haven‘t had a huge album that people have been buzzing about since the early 80s when they released “Tattoo You,” so I think it helps to do that.
And also, I think, Jagger is genuinely interested in these kinds of issues. They‘ve talked about social issues in the past. They‘re by no means are they a political band, but they have waded into these kinds of waters before.
GREGORY: And they‘re wading in a big way. And maybe they made a sense that all of a sudden, the timing is right, and that there‘s an audience of this. From “Sweet Neo Con,” it says, “You call yourself a Christian, I think that you‘re a hypocrite. You say you‘re a patriot, I think you‘re a” and I can‘t finish the sentence here. Talking about gasoline and who‘s going to pay. “How come you‘re so wrong, my sweet neo-con?”
What about the NFL? How are they going to do business for Monday Night Football with a band that‘s taking on the president? Isn‘t this too controversial? Too hot for them? Especially after Janet Jackson?
FARLEY: I don‘t think so. People know what you‘re dealing when you‘re dealing with the Rolling Stones. It should come to no surprise the Rolling Stones can have an edge, even though they‘re in their early 60s.
GREGORY: They‘re not the Dixie Chicks, in other words? They can get away with it?
FARLEY: No. They‘ve dealt with the Gulf War before and in “High Wire.” They‘ve dealt with violence in South America in a song called “Undercover.” They‘ve dealt with urban unrest before in “Street Fighting Man.” They‘ve even expressed sympathy for the devil in “Sympathy for the Devil.” So it should come as no surprise that, here they are, with a song that raises as few eyebrows. The Rolling Stones have done this since the beginning of their career.
GREGORY: Ted Nugent, what do you make of all this? You support the president. You‘re a member of the NRA. You‘re around the country hearing good things about this president. How does this strike you?
NUGENT: Well, first of all, the only lyrics from Mick Jagger that really mean anything, that ticket buyers or people celebrating a football game on the weekends are “A ha-ha yes.” Nobody is going to take this stuff seriously, I promise you. It might get a little bit of a wink and a nod.
GREGORY: But wait a minute. Why wouldn‘t this be taken seriously when the kind of reaction that we saw when the Dixie Chicks did it?
NUGENT: Did you see the interview with Mick when asked that question? I mean, he was all guffaws and all laughter. Let‘s really separate the context with which Mick Jagger projects any number of statement in his rhythm and blues, gospel, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters celebration, continuing all these 40 years later, and how the Dixie Chicks just clearly blew it when they were responding, knee-jerkingly to some English crowd in an anti-war environment.
I mean, we‘re talking apples and grenades, here. And I love both apples and grenades. But I think with the Rolling Stones, they‘re going to be playing “Satisfaction” and “Honky Tonk Women” and people are just going to be dancing and having the time of their life. This will have zero effect.
Let‘s look at the political ravings of the left, shall we? Here, Dave Matthews wants to save the forest so he dumps his toilet in the Chicago River. First of all, you have to be believable. And when it comes to the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger is about being a party animal and celebrating that primal scream of rhythm and blues, which the Stones do perfectly.
So no one is going to pay attention to that. He is not a political force to reckon with and this is merely, I‘m sure, a knee-jerk lyric that happened to fit sill syllabalically in his song writing, and people will just continue to dance...
GREGORY: Chris, whether that‘s the case or not, is protest music still alive in this country? I mean, if it‘s not alive now, when is it going to be?
NUGENT: ... Bruce Springsteen did. You know, I think it‘s still pertinent. If you watched what Uncle Ted is doing at the state fairs and the county fairs and all these great family events, when I go into my pro-gun self-evident truth celebration, my pro-hunting, my pro-trapping.
When I talk about quality of life issue, the 10 commandments, the golden rule, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, 50,000 people at a county fair, universally, moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas and kids, black and white, Hispanic, no matter where you come from, if you‘re in America and you hear these self-evident truths, it is a sea of positive yes.
We get the truth. So when you see the left and the hippies of 60s thinking they‘re going to end the war in Vietnam when we clearly have to stop Communism wherever we find it, only in the absence of good people standing up can the left ever make any progress.
GREGORY: All right, back to this question I asked you. Is protest music dead?
FARLEY: Not at all. In fact, because of the Internet, so people can, sort of, release album and songs on their own without having to go through a record company, we‘re seeing a lot more songs that take on what‘s happening with the war and getting people‘s opinions. REM released a protest song against the war. The Beastie Boys released a protest song against the war. Jay-Z recorded a song that was critical of the war.
NUGENT: Yes, REM and the Beastie Boys. They‘re going to change the vote. Those guys are a laugh.
FARLEY: Jay-Z did it to, so there‘s a lot going on.
NUGENT: ... any political impact whatsoever. They‘re a joke.
FARLEY: And Green Day, which is a very hot young band...
NUGENT: And Green Day. They‘re all about mascara. Yes, we‘ll going to make a vote based on...
GREGORY: Ted, let‘s just let him finish.
FARLEY: Green Day released an album called “American Idiot” which was also, thematically, kind of critical of Bush‘s policies. So there‘s a lot going on and a lot of country musicians have released songs and albums that were pro-war. So there‘s stuff going on on both sides.
GREGORY: All right, Ted. Final thought here with 30 seconds about whether this has any impact at all.
NUGENT: Well, you know, mom and pop America are still very productive. Common sense still relates to the self-evident truth that makes this the greatest nation in the mystery of mankind. War is the answer when evil tries to disrupt and destroy good lives. Good should wage war against evil. That‘s what the president does. I say Semper Fi, chesty puller (ph), carry on.
GREGORY: All right. Ted Nugent, thanks very much. And Christopher John Farley from “Time” magazine.
And coming up, reaction from anti-war musicians David Crosby and Graham Nash, who brought us anti-war anthems like Ohio. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
GREGORY: During the Vietnam War, dozens of popular musicians like John Lennon, Marvin Gaye, Joan Baez, and Crosby, Stills and Nash and Young produced protest songs that helped unite a generation. Today, some bands are performing new songs against the war in Iraq and the Bush administration. We‘ve mentioned one, of course, the Rolling Stones with “Sweet Neo Con.”
The question is, who‘s listening? And do people really care today to bring us up-to-date on the impact of protest music today. We turn to a couple of experts, two celebrated musicians who brought us classics like “Ohio” and “Teach Your Children.” David Crosby and Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills and Nash, who are currently on tour throughout the country. Welcome to both of you. It‘s great to have you here.
GRAHAM NASH, MUSICIAN: Thank you. How are you, David?
GREGORY: I‘m great.
GREGORY: What‘s going on in this country? I mean, is protest music alive?
DAVID CROSBY, MUSICIAN: Yes.
NASH: Of course it is. I think people are genuinely getting upset. They see the image of their country being dragged through the mud throughout the world. We just completed two tours of Europe and they are not quite sure what to make of us Americans.
CROSBY: They feel sympathetic for our half of the country. You know, that approval rating that you see sliding down like an elevator, that‘s not an accident. And to return to what you asked us, I think, you know, protest music is alive and well in this country. There are a number of younger bands that have done very serious pieces of work about what‘s going on in the world.
And I think that the Stones are a little late to the party but I think it‘s great that they did it. This is a band that‘s always been about commercial success. They have not done this kind of thing before and I think it‘s great that they‘re doing it.
GREGORY: And to do it at the same time they‘ve got a contract with the NFL. I mean, they could perhaps get away with it in a way that—I talked about Ted Nugent about the Dixie Chicks. But there was a real difference there. I mean, the Dixie Chicks got into it and got their heads chopped off.
CROSBY: Well, the Dixie Chicks ran into a large conglomerate out of Texas, who we shall not say the name of. That was really what happened to them. It wasn‘t anybody else. It was a single...
GREGORY: The White House went after them.
CROSBY: Well, the White House goes after a lot of people. The White House has absolutely no power in the commercial area. What happened to them was a radio conglomerate out of Texas shut them out of 1,400 radio stations. That was what happened. The White House has absolutely no effect on that.
GREGORY: What about getting about young people. Are young people reacting the same way? Yes, you see the approval ratings. But you don‘t see the kind of resonance, the anti-war resonance. Do you?
CROSBY: I thought that, too. And then I started watching things like the Beastie Boys doing the concerts for Tibet. And this was all young thrasher bands, all young punk bands and stuff, getting out there and sticking up for what they believe in and fighting for a cause. It‘s a tradition that goes back, you know, past the Middle Ages with us. We have always been the troubadours. We‘ve been the town criers. You know, hey, it‘s 11:00 and all‘s well. Hey, it‘s 11:30, we have a chimpanzee in the White House and it‘s not so good.
GREGORY: But do you think 9/11 changed a lot of this? I mean, is there a fundamental difference from when you guys were starting out with messages about the Vietnam War than what happens after 9/11?
NASH: I think so. Here‘s what happened. I think that the media have really brilliantly learned how not to give the public information. During the Vietnam War when you were eating the steak dinner and Walter was on there giving you body counts every single nights, eventually you would get upset about that. And the majority of American people helped start...
GREGORY: There‘s a lot more comprehensive coverage about the war in Iraq in terms of...
CROSBY: Actually, no.
NASH: Absolutely not.
CROSBY: No bodies. Nobody hurt. Nobody lying there. No bodies.
GREGORY: That‘s just not true.
CROSBY: You never...
GREGORY: Look at the footage that comes out of Iraq. Look at the advent of the Internet, 24 hours a day cable.
CROSBY: Show us a TV picture on your network of somebody actually getting killed, an American?
GREGORY: Do you think that‘s a big difference?
CROSBY: I think it‘s a huge difference. It‘s what stopped the Vietnam War. People sat there and they could see Americans being killed and bodies coming home in caskets, which you‘re not allowed to see today. Not at all.
NASH: Even that photograph of, you know, the coffins in the airplane.
CROSBY: They had to have a lawsuit just to show it.
NASH: They were fired immediately because the media know, you cannot put the real truth on television because people will get upset.
GREGORY: But is there a difference in the youth culture now in term of how they—what they look to find in their music as a kind of a message to live by and a message to act on?
CROSBY: A lot of them simply want what our main function is, which is to be entertained. They want to be entertained, they want to be made to boogie. But a tremendous amount more are looking for content. They‘re looking for it to actually be about something.
And these bands that we‘ve just mentioned, you know, and the records we‘ve just mentioned, would not have happened if there was not a demand for it, if there was not an audience listening. And there is an audience listening.
GREGORY: Is the writing as good? Is the thinking as analytical? Is it as sharp in its protest today as it was?
CROSBY: I don‘t think anybody‘s been as good as us. No, I think some of it‘s brilliant. I think Springsteen, people like that, have written songs that you just can‘t...
NASH: What was that Bruce thing about the bullets?
CROSBY: 41 bullets, which is...
NASH: When that guy was showing the police his wallet and they shot him with 40 bullets.
GREGORY: What happened? Is there something going on now, fundamentally in terms of how people are thinking about Iraq that a woman outside the president‘s ranch is getting more attention, that—the question of whether we‘re really need to stay in Iraq for the long haul?
CROSBY: How could she not get attention? She was lied to. She was told her son was going over there because...
GREGORY: Is that what you‘re hearing, too? Is that the response you get?
CROSBY: Yes. They don‘t like being lied to. They know they were lied to, and they don‘t like it. And now people are saying, “Hey, wait a minute. You‘re mouthing all of these excuses for why we should be there, but you‘re not counting the cost.”
And the cost is dead American human beings, some of the best we‘ve got. Those people are people who believe in this country, they‘ve volunteered. They‘re going over there and they‘re good young people. And we‘ve wasted what, 1,830 of them so far?
GREGORY: Final thought?
NASH: I think the American people are beginning to realize that this administration lied to them and we‘re dying because of it. And they‘re not happy.
GREGORY: All right. Serious messages and some serious music.
Thanks, both of you, for coming on.
NASH: Thank you.
CROSBY: It‘s a pleasure.
GREGORY: And Chris will be back here Monday night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Right now, it‘s down for “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann and the latest on those fugitives who are fighting extradition to Tennessee where they‘ll face murder charges—Keith?
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