Guests: Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell, Cynthia Tucker, Pat Buchanan, Jim VandeHei, Mike Isikoff, Bennie Thompson
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Obama goes to war. Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight, the president at West Point. One hour from now, President Obama will make the most consequential speech in the career of big speeches, when he lays out his plans for Afghanistan. He‘ll have to convince Pakistan we‘re going to stay on to get the job done in defending its border, while convincing skeptical Americans he has an exit strategy. How does he tell war hawks he means to win the war while telling war opponents our commitment isn‘t sinking us like all the occupiers before us into a death trap? It‘s tough to be both hawk and dove to keep the country largely behind him, at a time when the country is growing war weary.
Plus, does Dick Cheney ever stop? He‘s crawled troll like out from under his bridge to say President Obama is projecting weakness to our enemies. Boy, does he go for that word weakness. So the war deputy of the campaign that let bin Laden escape, that stuck us in this quagmire in Afghanistan is now attacking President Obama as weak for escalating the war.
And then there is the lingering question of those White House crashers. Why have a fence around the White House? Why have all the guards if people can just bop in there like this? Last night, we learned here that the White House staff were informed early in that evening of the gate crashing. And my question tonight, if they decide to let them stay, why are they now letting the Secret Service take all this heat?
Plus, is Mike Huckabee now Mike Huckawas? He granted clemency to Maurice Clemmons, the man accused of killing four police officers in Tacoma, Washington, on Sunday. Clemmons was shot and killed by police earlier today and you can bet right now, I say you can say that if Huckabee runs for president, the other Republicans will pull the old Willie Horton number on him.
Finally, remember when Democrat Alan Grayson said the Republican answer to health care was to die quickly? Well, Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has done Grayson one better. Check out the sideshow tonight.
And a programming note, at 8:00 Eastern tonight MSNBC will provide full coverage of President Obama‘s speech and then we‘ll be back with a late night edition of HARDBALL at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, which is of course 8:00 out west.
We begin with NBC‘c chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd, who‘s at West Point now and NBC‘s chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell. Chuck, tonight, will Dr. Health Care become General Obama? Are we going to see a shift in who this man is? Our president from home state focus on domestic policy to a president who‘s driven by his role as commander-in-chief henceforth?
CHUCK TODD, NBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONENT: Well Chris, I was just going to say, you frame it really well. This really is his first commander-in-chief speech.
You know, it‘s in prime time, it‘s here at West Point. And he is going to have tough rhetoric, tough rhetoric for the enemy, al Qaeda, as well as the Taliban. But also some tough rhetoric for our supposed partners in the region, Karzai in Afghanistan, Zardari in Pakistan.
So we will hear a very, probably a president that we hadn‘t heard in the past, right? It is about not just international diplomacy. This is about war. This is about troop escalation. So you‘re right. It is sort of a different President Obama than we‘ve heard in the first 10 months. So it will be interesting, Chris, that a lot of what the president said in March when he did the initial rollout of the Afghanistan strategy, a lot of that—a lot of those goals remain the same, and so a lot of that rhetoric might sound familiar if you‘ve just re-read that speech from March.
MATTHEWS: I think that‘s what‘s coming. Andrea, I want you to respond. Here we have an excerpt of the president‘s speech tonight. We have it in advance. This is a direct quote from the speech tonight. Quote, “The 30,000 additional troops that I am announcing tonight will deploy in the first part of 2010 -- the fastest pace possible so that they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers. They will increase our ability to train competent Afghan security forces and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight and they will help create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.”
Is this the Obama doctrine? Big buildup, big counterinsurgency and attempting to have our troops replaced by Afghans in two or three years?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: By Afghans and by NATO troops to a certain extent. To try to say that the Afghans will end up running this themselves, that they can train up and that it will be internationalized, that NATO will participate in larger numbers. But at the same time, I think that the real challenge is going to be getting to Chuck‘s point, to show the differences from March. He‘s got to show what has happened that has, first of all, made a new policy necessary and also the goal is the same. Disable, destroy, disrupt al Qaeda. So what has changed from then, from March until now, that has occasioned 10 national security meetings, 20 hours of presidential time in the situation room? Why did the March policy not work?
MATTHEWS: Helping us do that, here‘s a quote from David Axelrod from our earlier edition of HARDBALL tonight. Let‘s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID AXELROD, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: Remember, this isn‘t just retribution for past acts. This is about acts that are being planned right now, acts—we know that some were thwarted, one was thwarted just recently in New York. So this is about protecting the American people and, yes, I think we can tighten the ring on al Qaeda. Our goal here, and the goal the president has set, is to disable, disrupt, and defeat al Qaeda. That means that we need to work hard on both sides of the Afghan/Pakistan border to get that done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So how do elections matter in this country? We talk about elections in Afghanistan. How did the last one matter here, Chuck Todd, in terms of Afghan policy? Is it any different than Bush would be saying tonight were he still president?
TODD: Well, in fairness to candidate Obama, had said that Afghanistan was the war that the Bush administration had lost focus on and should be the good war. I think he used that phrase one time during the campaign. But he had said, he had pledged as a candidate. Now some people will say he only did that so he didn‘t look like a dove because he was being portrayed as the anti-Iraq candidate during the primaries.
Whatever the reason, he‘s clearly following through on a campaign promise which was to put more focus on Afghanistan and to start the withdrawal from Iraq. So in that sense, you can‘t sit here and say that he is somehow switching his positions.
Now, as far as President Bush, look, I asked senior administration official when they were describing this surge into Afghanistan, I said, what is the difference between the Afghanistan surge and the Iraq surge? And they said, you know, in many ways there isn‘t a lot of difference. The goals are the same. You put in troops quickly. So, you know, what‘s the common denominator here? Defense Secretary Robert Gates. So I think that in one sense he is taking a page from the Bush playbook as far as the surge was concerned. But it‘s not the Bush playbook. It‘s the Gates‘ playbook. He‘s the common denominator here.
MATTHEWS: So if he tries to run for president next time, he‘s basically going to be able to say, I told you how to win in Iraq and told this president how to win in Afghanistan, so you might as well make it official and make me president. I‘m dead serious. Petraeus sold the surge. If this is a replication of Petraeus‘ surge, then he deserve credit as in effect being commander-in-chief.
MITCHELL: In fact, Chris, what I was going to say is that the other common denominator is not just Robert Gates. The other common denominator is General Petraeus, the author of this counterinsurgency manual. And it is this manual that he and General McChrystal have authored, co-authored. And this is the policy. But it‘s been adjusted. There‘s one other big difference.
MATTHEWS: What is Dick Cheney beefing about? This president‘s doing basically what Petraeus did in Iraq. He‘s doing Afghanistan. Before you go, Dick Cheney, I think is off the reservation here in what he said. He‘s is going right at this president even though this president is basically replicating what they say was the success in Afghanistan. Here‘s the former vice president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: Here‘s a guy without much experience who campaigned against much of what we put in place with respect to policy and who now travels around the world apologizing. I think our adversaries, especially when all of that is preceded by a deep bow to the head of government wherever he‘s visiting, I think they see that as a sign of weakness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Apart from the iconography of that thing, the deep bowing in Japan, what‘s his complaint about this administration, Andrea?
MITCHELL: Well, he just made his complaint. I think what he‘s playing to is what the “Washington Post” reported yesterday in Dan Balz‘s story about the new Republican polling showing that Republicans and independent-minded Republicans have really switched, whereas they were the opposition has almost doubled among Republicans and Independent Republicans to Obama in these succeeding months.
The other big difference in this policy, and I think we have to give the administration credit for this, is that they are trying to deal with the Karzai problem and the Zardari problem on the other side of the border. They have got a weak, almost failed state in Pakistan. They‘re building up the prime minister and the general and the head of the intelligence service with all of those connections on the Pakistan side and they‘re trying to work around Karzai on the Afghanistan side. And that is the bigger challenge. That is the fruits of the new policy.
MATTHEWS: It looks to me, both Chuck and Andrea, that our real goal over there is to be seen in Pakistan as fighting the Taliban hard, as hard as we can. In fact, escalating our fight against them in Afghanistan so that the real fight, which is in Pakistan, will be fought harder by the Pakistanis. Your thought on that, Chuck, as the ultimate strategy?
TODD: Absolutely. Look, you know, a lot of the president‘s speech tonight is going to be an attempt to educate the public on the crisis that‘s taking place in Pakistan, frankly. Because Andrea called it just right.
It is a lot of folks in the administration are worried it‘s bordering on a failed state. Zardari, the president, is very weak politically internally. He even gave up his power to control Pakistan‘s nuclear arsenal and seated that to, as she brought up, the prime minister and the military there.
So this is in many ways—the president is trying to educate the public that, look, this isn‘t about the war in Afghanistan. This is about making sure Pakistan is stable because an unstable Afghanistan will lead to an unstable Pakistan. And guess what, Pakistan has nukes and that‘s a whole other level of problem than just dealing with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
MATTHEWS: It‘s so fascinating that here we are in the West in Washington fighting a battle that the British in London fought years ago with Winston Churchill back in the 19th century, fighting in that northwest territory of what was then India. That‘s still our concern today, what‘s going on there in that territory up there.
What‘s not so clear to the people over there how it‘s different. We‘re fighting to what consider to some extent although Axelrod disagrees, a punitive campaign, to punish those people for what they did but also to make sure they don‘t do it again, right?
MITCHELL: He would say and did say it is preventative and that it‘s an ongoing prevention expert. And when we talk about Pakistan, Chuck, not only does Pakistan have nukes, Pakistan has Osama bin Laden.
MATTHEWS: Exactly, the guy we went there to catch.
MATTHEWS: Chuck, thank you so much.
TODD: Al Qaeda in Pakistan.
MATTHEWS: Andrea Mitchell, as always.
Coming up, Dick Cheney is at it again, he‘s slamming President Obama, as I said. He‘s calling him weak. That‘s the worst thing he can get from Dick Cheney. This man is on the case. He is the rear guard of the Bush administration, going at the new administration. Cheney‘s latest attack even as the president builds up our troops over there, Cheney‘s hitting him from the rear. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has done what he‘s been known to do for a long time now, he‘s come out swinging against President Obama. Again today, ahead of the president‘s speech tonight, we‘re going to hear a lot from him tonight. In an interview with “Politico,” Cheney accused the president of the United States of projecting weakness. He said that he‘s looking far more radical than Cheney expected him to look and he slammed the president, again, for agonizing over his Afghanistan strategy. Let‘s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: I begin to get nervous when I see the commander-in-chief making decisions for apparently for what I would describe as small “p” political reasons, where he‘s trying to balance off different competing groups in society.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHES: Jim VandeHei interviewed Cheney for “Politico” and Mike Isikoff joins us. He‘s also obviously “Newsweek‘s” investigative reporter. VandeHei, Jim, thank you for joining us tonight on this. You got the big scoop from the former VP here. This little shot at the president for playing politics, did he back that up at all or just took the shot?
JIM VANDEHEI, POLITICO: I mean, it was basically 90 minutes of a relentless series of shots at Obama. He clearly does not think much of him as president. I think it‘s clear that Obama doesn‘t think much of Cheney as a former vice president.
And basically, his case was, he feels that on Afghanistan, that the president has sent too many signals of confusion to our allies and to the troops. And he said that that basically demoralizes our troops and demoralizes those Afghans who might otherwise support U.S. policy. And he tied all of this to a broader critique of the foreign policy of Obama and said that, overall, yes, he might be more popular as an individual overseas with individual populations, but that when it comes to thugs, terrorists, and dictators and the people who have the capabilities to harm the United States, he says that he‘s projected weakness and that they thrive on that weakness. That they exploit that weakness, and he thinks that overall that makes the country much more susceptible to terrorist attacks or to defeat in Afghanistan.
MATTHEWS: I did he seem to have a grudge against the president?
VANDEHEI: I don‘t think so. I mean, certainly, if you listen to his rhetoric, he did. There was nothing sort of visual that would say that there was a grudge. But this is a critique. We interviewed him right after Obama won the election. So this isn‘t that much different. He says THAT he now feels he‘s far more radical than he had anticipated. But when we talked to him I think it was back in January, he seemed to think at that point that Obama would be pretty radical by his own estimation.
MATTHEWS: No, what I mean by a grudge, no, I‘m asking you for something that‘s reportable. The fact that he was easily available, you were able to get him for this interview, the fact he‘s giving this harangue against the president for 90 minutes, that he‘s devoted himself in the way that Condi Rice has not, that George W. Bush has not, that Rumsfeld has not.
He‘s singled himself out for this duty of attacking the president like a rear gunner on an airplane. The fact that he‘s singled himself out for this duty, does that tell you he has a grudge, that it‘s personal?
VANDEHEI: I don‘t think it‘s a personal grudge, I think what he‘s trying to do is defend the Bush/Cheney legacy. He didn‘t say it, but we certainly heard from people around him over the last couple of months that there‘s a real frustration that President Bush, himself, hasn‘t been doing this and he‘s sort of taking on this fight solo.
Because, as you said, you don‘t hear it from Condi Rice, you don‘t hear it from Donald Rumsfeld, you don‘t hear it from George W. Bush. All you hear it from is Cheney. And he seems content to make this fight. And I think he‘ll continue to wage it until his book comes out in 2011. He made it clear, he has no desire whatsoever to return to government. Either running for president or in any other capacity.
MATTHEWS: Well, he‘s involved in politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Mike Isikoff. Mike, this is the same Cheney I‘ve watched for 20 or 30 years. He carries these admissions that he carries—you know, Obama lives in his head rent free. He can‘t think about anybody else. He used to do the same thing with his Democratic opposition on Capitol Hill. He did the same thing with Obama—I mean, to going to war with Saddam Hussein. He couldn‘t get Saddam Hussein out his head for years. He pushed and pushed and pushed the war. He‘s pushing and pushing this fight.
It‘s pure Cheney. I think it‘s one of the reasons we went to war with Iraq, the psychological condition of this guy that won‘t take a break from the war he‘s always fighting with somebody. Your thoughts?
MIKE ISIKOFF, NEWSWEEK: A couple things leap out here. First of all, the timing of this. On the eve of the president‘s big speech, announcing the strategy for Afghanistan, there is Cheney out there, giving an interview, knocking the commander-in-chief, one in past times—
MATTHEWS: He‘s always knocking somebody.
ISIKOFF: I know. But in the past this sort of, you know, rather personal criticism on the eve of a big announcement by the commander-in-chief would be criticized as projecting American weakness, itself. As, you know, there would be people on Dick Cheney‘s side of the fence who would say, this kind of talk is unpatriotic. If you really support the troops, why are you displaying the divided nature of American society? Why are you undercutting the commander-in-chief?
The other thing is, you‘ve got to wonder, from some of what he says, whether his beef is with Barack Obama or with the American public. I mean, the quote that leapt out at me in Jim‘s interview, is here‘s a guy without much experience, that‘s Obama, who campaigned against much of what we put in place and now travels around the world apologizing. I think our adversaries see that as a sign of weakness.
Well, right, Mr. former vice president. He campaigned against what you did and he won the election. The American public decided that‘s what they wanted. They rejected your policies and voted in favor of his. So is his beef with Barack Obama or is it with the American public that chose the path that Barack Obama laid out?
MATTHEWS: Any thoughts on that, Jim?
VANDEHEI: I think his beef is probably with both. I mean, he obviously has a black and white world view when it comes to fighting terrorism. It‘s clear that the majority of Americans are not with him on most of his policy views.
But he feels, nonetheless, completely rigid and completely passionate about those. And he feels, if you ask him, and we ask him about this, he feels that he has to make this argument. He feels like this is the most important issue facing the American people is our safety. He talked a couple of times, and he did this in January too, that he still believes that the biggest danger to the country is that a group of terrorists are going to get their hands on a nuclear weapon or some biological material and do massive damage in a way that he feels policy makers in Washington don‘t fully appreciate.
So this is, what I think, motivates him. He wants to “A” make that case and “B” defend his legacy. The guy spent 40 years in government in virtually every capacity you can in Washington. He‘s probably one of the five most powerful people we‘ve had in the last 40 years if you think about all the different positions he‘s had. He wants to defend his legacy. He wants to persuade to whoever is persuadable out there that his policies were right. And his policies will keep the countries safe. Obviously if you look at polls no one‘s buying it.
MATTHEWS: There‘s only one problem with that analysis, is that he
doesn‘t play defense, he plays offense. Let‘s take a look at Dick Cheney,
here he is in your interview. He said he‘s increasingly persuaded by the
notion that President Obama, “doesn‘t believe in American exceptionalism,
doesn‘t believe in our basic specialness of our country. The idea that the
United States is a special country, that we are the greatest, freest—“
Well how does he come to that belief? I mean based upon your interview, did you push him on that?
VANDEHEI: We did.
MATTHEWS: “Basically when I see the way he operates, I‘m increasingly convinced,” this is Cheney, “that he‘s not as committed to or as wedded to that concept as most of the presidents have known, Republican or Democrat. I am worried and I find as I get out around the country a lot of other people.”
His idea of getting out around the country is going down to shooting country down in Texas and hanging around the American Enterprise Institute among the neocons. His idea of America is probably different, but what does he mean, to challenge the Americanism? That‘s what this is about. This is the nativist crap we‘re getting from the Palins and the Becks and the Limbaughs. The same line we‘re getting from the birthers, he‘s not one of us. This is Cheney playing that card. What did he do to back it up? That this guy‘s not one of us?
VANDEHEI: What he always points to is the fact, the apologies that he talks about that Obama‘s given overseas, the bows that he gave to foreign leaders that a lot of conservatives ridiculed him for on his last trip. And the fact that he‘s wanted to negotiate, in Cheney‘s words, with thugs in Iran and Syria and other places.
So he says the combination of that makes him feel like he does not believe in American exceptionalism. And that‘s a pretty weighty charge. Barack Obama says that‘s ludicrous. I just don‘t believe that the way to accomplish that...
MATTHEWS: A place—the no-nothing crowd, the birther crowd, all the people that have been pushing this case. Go ahead.
ISIKOFF: Look. I think it does play, politically, maybe a little beyond that—
MATTHEWS: He‘s not one of us.
ISIKOFF: Yeah, there might be an element of that, but I think that, look, you had the—you were talking with Richard Engel before and he expressed the frustration of the troops—that President Obama is taking so long to make this decision.
MATTHEWS: That is legit. Hey, Mike, we‘ve got to come back later.
Thank you, Jim VandeHei, thank you Mike Isikoff.
Up next, a Republican senator hits a new level of fear mongering on the health care debate. Wait until you catch this character, Coburn. I thought he was smarter than this. Wait until you hear his lingo tonight. You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL, now for the “Sideshow.” First up, who‘s afraid of Barack Obama? Yes, it‘s getting worse. First there was Democrat Alan Grayson who said the Republicans‘ answer to health care was to have people die quickly. Now catch Republican Tom Coburn today on the Democrats‘ health care plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM COBURN ®, OKLAHOMA: If it doesn‘t raise costs and we‘re truly going to take this money from Medicare, what it‘s going to do to our seniors is—I have a message for you, you‘re going to die sooner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Die sooner? I thought sooner was the nickname for people from Oklahoma like Coburn. Now I guess sooners are people who think the other party is out to kill them.
Next, Shadowlands. Ahead of the president‘s big announcement tonight on Afghanistan and the troop build up, I assume that‘s what‘s coming, Bill Moyers of PBS dug up this taped phone call from Lyndon Baines Johnson to his secretary of defense, Robert McNamara. The date, March, 1964. Listen as President Johnson makes the case for quote, “helping a country whose government is rotten” and presents it as the best option. You‘ve got to help them, even though they‘re rotten. Think about Afghanistan as you listen to LBJ.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYNDON B. JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Or, we can say this is the Vietnamese war, they have 200,000 men and they‘re untrained and we‘ve got to bring their morale up and they have nothing really to fight for because of the type of government they‘ve had. We can put in socially conscious people and try to get them to improve their own government then what the people get out of their own government and we can train them how to fight. And that, after considering all of these, it seems that the latter offers the best alternative for America to follow.
MATTHEWS: Oh, is that coming tonight? Will President Obama admit that President Karzai‘s government over there in Afghanistan isn‘t the greatest, but say rather than getting out, we need to get in? Think of LBJ tonight when you listen to the president. We‘ve got more history for you tonight in the “Big Number.”
A new poll by “Vanity Fair” magazine and “60 Minutes” asked Americans which president they would pick to add to Mt. Rushmore. The choices they were offered, Andrew Jackson, FDR, Dwight Eisenhower, JFK, Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama who has just become president obviously. So, which president won out? Jack Kennedy won 29 percent. Reagan was a distant second, FDR came in third. But Jack Kennedy cements his status as America‘s most recent hero president. Twenty nine percent want his face on Mt. Rushmore. What is the development of that is tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Up next, that duo who showed up at the White House state dinner last week. Next, we‘ll going to talk to the congressmen presiding over the investigation into how this happened. It‘s serious business. You‘re watching the HARDBALL only here on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAELE SALAHI, STATE DINNER CRASHER: We were invited. Not crashers. And there isn‘t anyone that would have the audacity or the poor behavior to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Michaele Salahi on the “Today Show” saying that she and her husband did not enter the White House illegally. U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi chairs the Homeland Security Committee, which is investigating the security breach itself.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for joining us. I want to show you something that happened on the hardball last night. We had the top “Washington Post” reporter last night who covers these kinds of events, Roxane Roberts on, and she told us on the record last night that she told early in the evening two white house staffers about those two crashers. Let‘s listen as she testifies to what she did to notify the white house, officially, of what was going wrong that night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROXANE ROBERTS, WRITER FOR WASHINGTON POST: I said, can you tell me why they‘re not on the list? And she said, I don‘t know. But I‘ll try to find out. And I didn‘t hear anything for the rest of the evening. And the reason, I think, that‘s important is that even after they got inside the white house, the staff had two opportunities to go upstairs to the reception, discreetly pull this couple aside and verify that they were supposed to be there.
MATTHEWS: By the way, what were the staff members‘ names that you talked to?
ROBERTS: I talked to two members of the first lady‘s staff.
MATTHEWS: And who were they?
ROBERTS: Courtney O‘Donnell and Katy McCormack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Do you think that‘s important, Mr. Chairman that the white house staff was informed early in the evening that there‘d been this security breach?
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS.), CHAIR HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE:
Well, I think it‘s important when you look at the whole process. As you know, security is a responsibility of the secret service. So it‘s their job to determine who‘s legitimate and who‘s not.
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s the question. The white house, not the secret service, prepares the list. They are the ones who know who comes and decide who should be there. Throughout the evening, the white house staff, not just those two staff members, were obviously aware that these two people were there and they were obviously aware of the list of those who were invited. Does it concern you that no action was taken at the fact of seeing these two strangers show up?
THOMPSON: Well, it concerns me, but, again, the process begins with the Secret Service. They have ...
MATTHEWS: Where does it end?
THOMPSON: It ends with the Secret Service. They are absolutely responsible for the security of the president. They‘re absolutely responsible for any activities that go on from a security nature at this particular event.
MATTHEWS: Well, then, does that mean that you‘re going to basically focus on the secret service and not the white house staff?
THOMPSON: Well, we have a member of the White House staff coming to the hearing, as well as the director of the Secret Service.
MATTHEWS: Who‘s coming from the White House?
THOMPSON: Melanie Barnes.
MATTHEWS: And who is that?
THOMPSON: She‘s head of White House liaison.
MATTHEWS: You‘re not going to get Desiree Rogers, the social secretary, to come? But didn‘t you invite Miss Rogers?
THOMPSON: Well, Miss Rogers is scheduled to come. That was an error on my part. She has been the person selected to come. So she will come, as far as we know.
MATTHEWS: Were you get any under any pressure, did you hear of any pressure from the White House not to hold these hearings, of any kind?
THOMPSON: Well, we‘ve had communications with White House personnel, but we have not tried in any respect to prevent us from holding the hearings.
MATTHEWS: Did you—I want to clarify your answer, sir. Did anybody at the White House say to you or do your staff people or anybody else around you that you shouldn‘t hold these hearings?
THOMPSON: No, the only concern is whether or not some of the security protocols could be compromised if some aspect of the hearing became public. I assured them that as chair, we would make sure that only those items in the public domain would be discussed. Anything of a classified nature, I‘m prepared as chair, to make sure that we go into a closed setting.
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s the Salahi, the gate crashers, if you want to call it that. Here they are on the “Today Show.” Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT LAUER, HOST, “TODAY SHOW”: Who invited you?
M. SALAHI: And certainly not us.
TAREQ SALAHI, STATE DINNER CRASHER: Well, Matt, you know, one of the things that we‘re doing is we‘re working closely with the Secret Service and their internal investigation and --
M. SALAHI: Respect everything they do.
T. SALAHI: We‘re respecting their timeline and working on their timeline and we want to get through that process. We‘ve been very candid with them. We‘ve turned over documentation to them and we‘ll continue to work with the U.S. Secret Service completely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was just a meandering. They were asked by Matt Lauer, who knows how to ask a question, who invited you and they didn‘t give an answer. Did that impress you that they were gate crashers, sir?
THOMPSON: Well, I‘m concerned that somebody who‘s not on the list can come off the street into a state dinner at the White House. The protocol, which says they would have to be on the list. What our committee would do is see how that was compromised so it won‘t happen again.
Let‘s take a look at a scene from “In The Line of Fire,” which I was reminded of in learning about this story. Let‘s watch a bit of this movie, because it talks about what could happen when the wrong person puts on a black tie and pretends to be invited to a gala involving the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bag, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you please empty your pockets?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘re from Texas, though, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘re disadvantaged there, we were showing you a clip from “In The Line of Fire,” the Clint Eastwood film. And you have John Malkovich playing the villain, and of course sneaking and paying his price sneaking into a fund-raising dinner and then putting together a gun under the table. Do you see this as a threat? I mean, this president has got a terrible amount of threat from people. And are you concerned that this is a real security issue or just a snafu? Where would you place it in terms of importance, sir?
THOMPSON: Well, it‘s a security issue. Anytime someone comes into the White House, has not been vetted, all those things, clearly, a security risk. We want to work with the Secret Service and the White House personnel to make sure that it doesn‘t happen again, but even if it was something contrived by a couple, it can‘t happen. This is our commander in chief‘s residence. He has guests there. So clearly we have to make sure that he‘s protected. So it‘s a vulnerability, whether it was a ruse or a lark, it still happened. We want to make sure from a committee perspective that it doesn‘t happen again.
MATTHEWS: I‘ll be watching your hearings, sir, Bennie Thompson, United States Congressman from Mississippi, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee of the Congress. Thank you for joining us.
President Obama set to announce his big troop increase in Afghanistan tonight at 8:00 eastern. We‘ll preview what the president will say in a moment and whether he can sell it politically. Especially to those on his left. This is Hardball on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to hardball. Time now for the “Politics Fix.” Pat Buchanan MSNBC political analyst, Cynthia Tucker, political columnist for “The Atlanta Journal Constitution.” Cynthia, 30,000 more troops. That‘s the headline I believe. How‘s it going to go over?
CYNTHIA TUCKER, POLITICAL COMUMNIST “THE ATLANTA JOURNAL
CONSTITUTION”: I don‘t think very many people are going to be happy about this Chris ...
MATTHEWS: That‘s my second question. Who‘s this going to make happy?
TUCKER: Not very many people. I think he—that—as you know, congressional republicans have been telling the president that they are behind him on this. They support him on this, but they‘re not going to come out and forcefully advocate for this. And the left is very unhappy about it. Move on is already campaigning against it. Michael Moore is already campaigning against it. So I think that this shows the president as the very lonely commander in chief.
MATTHEWS: OK. You really got to the bottom line there. Pat, his constituency, the old phrase in politics, is dance with the one that bring you. The left won‘t like it, even though he did say in the campaign this is the good war. Who will like it?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the left‘s not going to like it, clearly, Chris. They‘re very unhappy with it and disillusioned. Secondly, the conservatives will say, a, it‘s not enough troops and secondly they were echo Mr. Cheney. Look, we‘re being led into a wider war with a reluctant commander in chief whose heart and soul are not in this war.
MATTHEWS: More attacks on, he was a Chamberlain—they‘ll call him a Chamberlain...
BUCHANAN: No, no, just say, look he is a reluctant warrior. He is LBJ. That‘s what he is. He is basically, I don‘t like this war. You‘ve got—whatever you say about Bush, he was decisive. Eisenhower, when he came in and said, look, I don‘t like Korea, I don‘t want to pay the price of uniting the peninsula, let‘s cut our losses ...
MATTHEWS: You share the belief of Dick Cheney. I‘m surprised to hear this. That this will shatter the morale of the troops.
BUCHANAN: Look, if you‘re sitting over there and you‘re hearing, then the White House say it‘s not open ended, we‘re sending them over so we can bring them out. There are conditions nowadays. What you‘re saying is his heart and soul is not in winning this war and you‘re going over there to fight and die for what?
MATTHEWS: And where do you get that idea that he hasn‘t made the sharp decision here?
BUCHANAN: I think he‘d made the decision sharply...
MATTHEWS: Why? Because it‘s taken three months?
BUCHANAN: No, but Chris, he‘s been agonizing over it. He‘s been debating over it.
MATTHEWS: And that leads you to believe he doesn‘t really believe ...
BUCHANAN: Now, the real thing is the conditionality on it. He‘s saying, we, our heart and soul isn‘t in the sense that, look, I‘m not giving everything to this war. There are occasions and things will happen. I will walk out of there, do you understand that? If you‘re saying that, you‘re not committed to the victory in the war.
MATTHEWS: You hear that. You hear that tonight.
BUCHANAN: That‘s true.
MATTHEWS: Why, here the fact that he is trying to do two things at the same time. Say we‘re going in but announce we‘re coming out. It seems like that does create a problem if you‘re about to have your life lost over there. By the way, we‘re out of here in two years. Oh, by the way, we‘re on our way out. We‘re just going to do and make a good fight before we leave. Remember the great John Kerry line during the Vietnam War?
TUCKER: Who will be the last man to die for a mistake? Absolutely. I think that that is the worst part of this decision that the president announces tonight. That nobody believes this is an all-out war in defense of the country. We haven‘t had an all-out war in defense of the country since World War II. It‘s not that kind of war. It is interestingly enough. Pat just talked about Vietnam. It does raise the specter of Vietnam, and I think the difference is the president is a student of history. He does not want this to go on and on and on like Vietnam did. Lyndon Johnson kept upping the anti-over and over and over again. We couldn‘t win with advisors. So, he sent combat troops. Couldn‘t win with 20,000, let‘s make it 50,000.
President Obama has already said we are making a certain commitment, benchmarks and we‘re giving the Afghans two or three years to stand-up as we stand-up.
MATTHEWS: There you know, Pat, when we grew up, we had a break through idea of growing up, you and I that there were bad guys, the Nazis, the Empire of Japan, the Communist. When they went in New York South, we knew in a million years that the North Korean government could not ever win the election in South Korean. Now, we got murky on our lives which Vietnam. We know that Ho Chi Minh could win the election in South Vietnam. The good guy/bad guy scenario wasn‘t clear. In this world, over Iraq and Afghanistan, the bad guys are al Qaeda. We will all agree with that. We are not fighting al Qaeda. This is the weird thing about this war. We are fighting a group of people over there called the Taliban. We don‘t agree with their view for the world. But are they the bad guys? Is it that simple? And isn‘t that the problem? We are fighting guys every day, we don‘t see as the bad guys the way we grow up thinking they were the bad guys. Is that the problem?
BUCHANAN: I think most people do believe the Taliban are bad guys.
We don‘t like them but we don‘t think ...
BUCHANAN: But here‘s the key here ...
MATTHEWS: I‘m not sure you are right on that.
BUCHANAN: Here‘s the key here Chris is look, we don‘t consider this a vital interest of the United States. If we did, you follow MacArthur‘s victim. In war, there‘s no substitute for victory. Those guys didn‘t...
MATTHEWS: Then we shouldn‘t be fighting it.
BUCHANAN: Well, look, look, if you are going to send 50,000 or 70,000 people, if Obama wants to win the war, what do you say? General McChrystal, you‘ve asked for 40,000 troops. It doesn‘t look to me like it‘s going to win it. How many of you need to win and end this war?
MATTHEWS: What‘s winning?
BUCHANAN: Well, exactly.
MATTHEWS: I‘m asking you. Are you for this war?
BUCHANAN: Here‘s what...
MATTHEWS: I‘m not sure you are this war.
BUCHANAN: His idea of this winning this war is getting a government there that we can stand-up, so we can get out. Anybody think it‘s going to stand-up after the—world get out?
MATTHEWS: If we shoot to death every single person over there that says they are Taliban right now. Does anybody think that means the war is over?
BUCHANAN: You create Taliban by shooting them.
MATTHEWS: You keep killing them, and I‘m just asking, does it have—we‘re going to get to Berlin, over the end of the war?
MATTHEWS: We‘re going to get the Tokyo, that‘s in the war. It doesn‘t have that reality.
BUCHANAN: Because, look, the Taliban...
MATTHEWS: So, what are we doing?
BUCHANAN: The Taliban have on open-ended commitment. They have been fighting for eight years.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s the question, if we put 30,000 more troops in there, can they match it? Can they grow up again against us?
TUCKER: I think that they can always go up against us. Not with 30,000 but ...
MATTHEWS: No but enough to keep the war going.
TUCKER: With enough to keep the war going.
MATTHEWS: And that is were be right back. This is a very hot question. Is this a war that‘s winnable? And that‘s the central question. Why should we lose one more person over there but it‘s not winnable? We‘ll be back with Pat Buchanan and Cynthia Tucker in a minute.
The president is speaking tonight at 8:00 this is the hot question of the hour. Should we be going this? You‘re watching HARDBALL here on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s about to happen, the president is about to take the podium. We are looking at the room right now at West Point in just a few minutes. We‘re now back with Pat Buchanan and Cynthia Tucker. The big question to Pat is does the president have his heart in this? You say no because you say ...
BUCHANAN: I‘ve say that I believe that it was Senator Obama up on the hill right now could be in the White House, he would be with Dennis Kucinich. He would be leading the battle soon. This is a mistake, we have things to do here at home. It‘s a war—we invested too much in it already.
MATTHEWS: But that Senator Kennedy for President. He said we need two or three more combat brigades in Afghanistan.
TUCKER: He campaigned—I don‘t think that‘s true at all. I don‘t think the president is that cynical. I don‘t think this was strictly ...
MATTHEWS: You don‘t think Pat is right?
TUCKER: I think Pat wrong about that. He talked about...
MATTHEWS: Look him in the face when you say that.
TUCKER: Pat, you are wrong. The president didn‘t talk about Afghanistan and Pakistan throughout the campaign. Now, it may that some of his voters on the left thought it was...
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me clear here—I used to say left, too. And I get—that the opposition of this war is far across the 50-yard line now. It‘s no longer people to the left.
BUCHANAN: George Will.
MATTHEWS: If you find people like George Will.
BUCHANAN: George Will, Tony Blankley, Ron Paul, libertarian wing of the Republican Party, there are a lot of republicans who are skeptical of this war. Others are win or get out type of republicans. And who is he going to make happy at your early request?
MATTHEWS: What could possibly turn out in the president‘s favor politically in this front? How can he look goods in two or three years?
BUCHANAN: The Afghan army and the Afghan government stand up. We beat the daylights out of the Taliban. They come to the table and ask for peace. And we leave orderly?
MATTHEWS: And what happens after we leave?
BUCHANAN: The Taliban is back.
MATTHEWS: And you‘re going to send 600 or thousand kids to die and 5,000 more? Well, that‘s my question. If the Taliban is a point of view. It‘s a cultural view of the west. It‘s Islamist. It‘s very much for Sharia law. We have seen it before. Is that going to change because we have an extra 30,000 troops there?
BUCHANAN: It‘s been fighting for eight years Chris.
TUCKER: That‘s not the reason. Let‘s remember, the reason we invaded Afghanistan in the first place, after 9/11, it wasn‘t about Sharia law. Americans don‘t care about Sharia law. We were—we went because they gave sanctuary to Osama Bin Laden you lost the attack on us. If Obama did nothing, if he said no more troops to Afghanistan and there was another terrorist attack in this country, what do you think would have happened there?
MATTHEWS: OK now—
MATTHEWS: If you are to make a bet over the 50 years, what‘s going to be the most common form of government in Afghanistan, Sharia style war which is basically Islamist law or western style democracy?
TUCKER: I don‘t think we care...
MATTHEWS: No matter what we do.
TUCKER: If this Sharia, that‘s fine, as long as they are not launching attacks on us.
BUCHANAN: It will be rooted in Islam because that is the culture and faith of 99 percent of the people.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t think we need to repot Afghanistan.
Thank you Pat Buchanan and Cynthia Tucker. Join us again tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern for a live late edition of hardball to go over what happened tonight. The president‘s address is coming up in just a moment right now. Let‘s join Keith Olbermann. Keith.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.>
Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.
User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s
personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,
nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion
that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or
other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal
transcript for purposes of litigation.>