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updated 5/3/2011 1:15:47 PM ET 2011-05-03T17:15:47

Guests: Richard Engel, Roger Cressey; Michael Sheehan, Bob Baer, Bob Kerrey, Tyler Drumheller; John Harris, Major Garrett, Patricia Reilly, Jimmy Boyle

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Bin Laden?  Done that.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Leading off tonight, the president who caught bin Laden.  The triumph of justice over evil, the leadership of leadership over talk, Barack Obama.  The cool hand directs the operation step by step.  All this time the crazies were talking birth certificates, he was working, planning, leading, bringing America‘s strength and brains to the enemy hideaway.

Tonight, we see how it worked from the inside.  We see how Obama now looks from the outside.  We weigh the impact in this country of what happened yesterday in far-off Pakistan.  Will this make the Republicans look for someone who can do what Obama can do, or will they keep on celebrating the clown show?  Will they stop enjoying their passion and go from cheering their buffoon parade to finding a real pick to put up against a proven master and commander?

And what about al Qaeda?  Bin Laden‘s gone.  Where‘s the head now?  In Hamburg?  Islamabad?  Where are they plotting against us?  Let‘s find out tonight.  Bob Baer‘s a former CIA field officer and MSNBC terrorism analyst (SIC).  Michael Sheehan is a former special forces officer himself.

Mike, I want to ask you, how did we get bin Laden?  Let‘s start—let me go now with a picture of how this happened, as we understand it.  Here‘s how our elite special operations forces got the most wanted terrorist in the world.  Approximately, 24 Navy SEALs rapelled into bin Laden‘s heavily guarded compound from two helicopters.  In a nail-biting moment, one of those choppers suffered a mechanical failure.  But the SEALs, the blue dots on the screen, proceeded with their assault.

Bin Laden, the yellow dot, used by—used one of his wives as a human shield, but she was killed.  He fired on U.S. forces and was killed himself with a shot through the left eye toward the end of the firefight.

A backup helicopter arrived on site.  U.S. commandos then loaded bin Laden‘s body on board and blew up the crippled chopper before leaving.

The entire raid took 40 minutes.  Some of that time was spent searching the compound for more intelligence.  There were no U.S.  casualties.  And President Obama monitored the entire operation in real time from the Situation Room in the White House.

Again, Michael, I want you to give us a sense of how it worked beyond what we just showed you.

MICHAEL SHEEHAN, FMR. SPECIAL FORCES OFFICER, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: 

Well, Chris, this is a classic special forces hostage rescue type of operation, but this case, rather than rescuing a hostage, you‘re actually taking down an enemy, so it makes it a little bit easier.  But it normally entails a long-term helicopter flight, landing in a difficult spot.  And that‘s the most difficult part of the operation to begin with.  Then second, moving toward the target, and then going through a door when you don‘t know what‘s on the other side of that door.  Could be innocent civilians, women and children.  It could be terrorists with weapons trained into your chest, or it could be a combination of the two.

These operatives—in this case, U.S. Navy SEALs—are trained both in infiltration into the target and then clearing the target with precise lethality, be able to clear rooms, take out enemy targets, protect civilians, gather intelligence and get out of there quickly and effectively.  It went textbook operation, and that has always not been the case in the past, Chris.  So this is a big victory for the U.S. and for U.S. special operations forces, a classic operation done perfectly.

MATTHEWS:  Great, Michael.  Let‘s go right now to Bob Baer.  Bob, do we have a sense of how much they were caught by surprise?  Were they confronted with gunplay as they arrived?  Was this a shootout from the second they got there, or did they get the jump on them?

BOB BAER, FMR. CIA FIELD OFFICER, “TIME” INTELLIGENCE COLUMNIST:  No, they come in quietly.  They had no idea this was coming.  You know, once the flash-bang grenades start flying, it‘s too late.  You neutralize everybody in a building like this.  There‘s nothing they can do.  Someone might pick up a gun, and you shoot them.

I mean, this is—the word is right—Michael‘s right.  It‘s textbook.  This was a brilliant operation.  I‘ve been part of ones that failed in Iran in 1979.  It was an amazing thing.  I just still can‘t believe it.

MATTHEWS:  Michael, let me ask you about the thinking of the SEALs as they went in there.  What were they worried about that might have blown this whole operation?  Were they afraid there would be a lot more people in there?  Were they afraid that bin Laden would be hiding in a saferoom, a haven of some kind?  Was there anything that could have stopped this from succeeding, once they had the model set up and the training?

SHEEHAN:  Absolutely.  And they obviously had great preparation.  And as you mentioned, Chris, a model was set up, so they practiced this operation.  They practiced it at night with their night-vision devices, able to move stealthily, quickly at night with lethality.

But they don‘t know—the intelligence is never perfect in an operation like this.  They don‘t know they‘re going after bin Laden or some other high-valued target.  They‘re not even sure who‘s there.  They have a hope that it‘s bin Laden, but it could be somebody else.  There could be dozens of people heavily armed there.  So that‘s what they‘re worried about.

Fortunately, there weren‘t that many.  They were able to approach it very quickly and stealthily, and then take the initiative and gain complete control of that compound very quickly and do their job.  It‘s a great operation, as Bob said.

Our community, Bob and I, have been involved in this for 30 years.  We‘ve had some real setbacks at Desert One during the Carter administration...

MATTHEWS:  Sure.  It was horrible.

SHEEHAN:  ... at Mogadishu in 1994.  Even back to Vietnam, the Sante (ph) raid, when we tried to get some POWs out of a camp.  This is, again, one of those classic operations, and it all went well.  And the president made the right call.  He could have gone in a lot of different directions, including shooting Predators or other missiles at this thing.  This was a very risky operation.  It turned out he made the right decision.  It‘s a great day for our battle against al Qaeda and a big boost to our special operations and CIA operatives that put this together.

MATTHEWS:  Do you have different rules of engagement in this kind of a case, Bob, where people get in the way of a high-value target like this?  Is it much for dangerous for somebody to get in the way of an operation like this?

BAER:  Oh, I mean, the orders are clear, shoot anybody who even appears to resist, that hasn‘t hit the ground.  You just shoot them.  There is no choice.  This happens so fast.  They‘re talking about 40 minutes.  It didn‘t take 40 minutes.  We‘re talking about two minutes.  It took the other 38 minutes to collect the intelligence...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

BAER:  ... collect his corpse, which, by the way, was brilliant.  We needed to get his body to check the DNA.  We needed to bury it at sea so it didn‘t become a martyr‘s shrine.  You know, as far as I can see, nothing went wrong with this.  And we still don‘t know how the Pakistani military was neutralized—that‘s a big question—because they couldn‘t count on that base next to bin Laden‘s house opening up fire.  And there‘s parts of this operation they‘re not talking about in the press, as they shouldn‘t.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I find it fascinating that the—let me go back to Michael first, then you, Bob, quickly, before we hear from the president here—a clip from the president.  How can the Pakistanis live with this?  They get up and they realize we‘ve captured the world‘s most wanted criminal in their country, basically, somewhat—a recent amount of distance from the main capital, not out in the Northwest Territories.  And we did it and they either deny they knew he was there or they knew he was there and they admit keeping his secret.  It looks like a loss/loss for them either way, Michael.

SHEEHAN:  Well, this is a very complex relationship, Chris, that Pakistanis have tried to hedge their bets in this part of the world for a long time.  They‘re playing both sides of the deck here.  And right now, they‘re in a very embarrassing situation.

The good news is they did try to put a happy face on this and insinuate that they were somehow involved when...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

SHEEHAN:  ... when in actuality, they just showed up at the end.  And hopefully, we can use this as a positive momentum forward, but I could predict that this is probably just going to be another step in very complicated, tricky relationship, but one that‘s essential for us to be successful as we move forward.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s take a look at the president today.  He paid tribute, of course—we knew he would, but he did it well—to the special operations unit that got bin Laden.  Let‘s listen to the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And we‘re reminded that we are fortunate to have Americans who dedicate their lives to protecting ours.  They volunteer.  They train.  They endure separation from their families.  They take extraordinary risks so that we can be safe.  They get the job done.  We may not always know their names, we may not always know their stories, but they are there every day on the front lines of freedom and we are truly blessed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  OK, it‘s 2005.  Everybody in the world knows that bin Laden is probably in Pakistan, across the border.  The people of the community in which this compound existed saw a compound built—being built up with 12-foot-high walls or higher.  They watched barbed wire being put up around it.  They noticed it being built, not only being built but being kept quiet with nobody really coming in and out for years.

Are we to believe they didn‘t think bin Laden was in there, Bob Baer? 

I mean, this is right ground zero, where we expected him to be hiding.  Somebody‘s building a huge compound, spooky as hell.  Why in the world would we believe that they—the neighbors and the local police, who have to know what‘s going on in the locality, didn‘t ever walk in that front door and say, What the hell‘s going on in here?

BAER:  Chris, we just have to assume the worst, that somebody in Pakistan in the military or ISI knew bin Laden was in there, was protecting him.  There is no explanation, other explanation.  It‘s a police state.  Foreigners don‘t move into a compound like that and the police don‘t know, period, especially in a military cantonment like that.

The question is, how far did it go up?  Are we talking about a captain or a major that was...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BAER:  ... you know, brought into this?  Or does it go higher?  It worries me.  This isn‘t the Northwest Frontier province, I mean, by the border, the tribal area, where the military can‘t go.  (INAUDIBLE) abutting a military academy.  This is—this is very bad news.

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree with that, Michael, the fact that he‘s been sitting there and living—being basically in civilization in a country we targeted as a his probable retreat area gone to, his refuge, and there he was.

SHEEHAN:  Well, Chris, there‘s no doubt about it.  This is a tremendous embarrassment for the Pakistani government and their army and their intelligence service, the ISI.  There‘s just no excuse for this.

Bin Laden was actually quite smart to kind of hide in the open by moving into a suburban town outside of the mountains there, living in virtual luxury.  But he made a mistake by having such a large compound with huge walls and wires which wouldn‘t prevent a unit like the U.S. Navy SEALs from getting in there, it just made it a bigger target.  And it just shows that, clearly, either complete duplicitousness on the part of the Pakistanis or a complete failure.  And either way, they got some explaining to do to the world and to the U.S. government on how they allowed this to happen for so many years.

MATTHEWS:  You know what?  Justice is hard to find, but I have to say, this guy died a lot better than the people he killed in the World Trade Center.  You know, I‘m telling you, this was quick.  Two minutes.  He‘s lucky.  Anyway, thank you, Michael Sheehan.  Thank you, Bob Baer.  Great reporting, great inside information.

Coming up: What does the end of Osama bin Laden mean to the threat we face from al Qaeda right now?  What‘s left of the snake?  We got the head.  What‘s the rest of the snake like?  We‘ll see.  We‘re coming back.  That‘s ahead.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, take a look at the front pages of some of the newspapers around the country this morning.  “The New York Daily News” shows bin Laden‘s picture with the words “Rot in hell.”  “The Los Angeles Times” plays it big and straight, “U.S. kills bin Laden.”  “The St.  Petersburg Times” simply reads “Dead,” with bin Laden‘s picture there.  There you see it.  And “The New York Post,” “Got him, vengeance at last, U.S. nails the bastard.”

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BRENNAN, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  I think the accomplishment that very brave personnel from the United States government were able to realize yesterday is a defining moment in the war against al Qaeda, the war on terrorism, by decapitating the head of the snake known as al Qaeda.  It is going to have, I think, very important reverberations throughout the area.  This does not mean that we are putting down our guard as far as al Qaeda‘s concerned.  It may be a mortally wounded tiger that still has some life in it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That‘s homeland security director John Brennan, of course, saying we‘ve cut off the head of the snake called al Qaeda.  But is al Qaeda still a threat to the U.S.?

Former senator Bob Kerrey was a member of the 9/11 commission and was a Navy SEAL in Vietnam.  Tyler Drumheller‘s the former chief of operations for the CIA in Europe.

Tyler, I want to ask you about this.  You know, I try to visualize—we have—in America, we have crime and we have organized crime.  So I don‘t want to hear (ph) about these terrorists who feel like being terrorists.  I want to know about organized terrorists.  What‘s left of al Qaeda?

TYLER DRUMHELLER, FMR. CIA EUROPE CHIEF OF COVERT OPERATIONS:  What‘s left of al Qaeda are these affiliate groups, al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and groups that are inspired by bin Laden but not controlled by him, because after 9/11, the invasion of Afghanistan really destroyed the paths (ph) for the management infrastructure of al Qaeda.  But these groups are every bit as dangerous and someday (ph) more dangerous because they‘re smaller, less—and harder to find (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  Can they pull off these Alistair McLain (ph) tile (ph), you know, we‘re going up and doing something big, with combination of hijacking and buildings and all?  Are they capable of the big operation, these groups that are still out there, or are they just going to blow up whatever?

DRUMHELLER:  Well, you don‘t want to discount them.  But really, what they‘re looking at is—there was an attack in Marrakesh last Saturday on a cafe where a lot of French tourists go to.  That‘s the—and that was done by al Qaeda in the Magreb.  That‘s pretty typical of the type of (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  And they did—they blow up a cafe or what?

DRUMHELLER:  Cafe, and killed, like, 17 French tourists.

MATTHEWS:  Oh!  Tourists.

DRUMHELLER:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s what we‘re facing right now.

DRUMHELLER:  That‘s what we‘re facing.  And they‘re also doing that because they‘re trying to establish themselves in this new era in the Middle East.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Last point (INAUDIBLE) you know, KSM, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed—was he the mastermind, as you know it—he‘s called that—of 9/11?  And what was his—what‘s the role or the connection between the mastermind and the guy we killed yesterday, bin Laden?

DRUMHELLER:  Well, I think KSM was—he was the ops planner.  He had been in...

MATTHEWS:  He figured it out.

DRUMHELLER:  He had been...

MATTHEWS:  Get some planes, run them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

DRUMHELLER:  He had also been in the United States, so he understood how things worked in the United—he was one of the few members of al Qaeda that...

MATTHEWS:  Who came up with the idea of using airplanes?

DRUMHELLER:  They‘ve been looking at that since the mid-‘90s.  The blind sheikh, you know—they were going to—they were going to crash a plane into CIA headquarters in 1995.

MATTHEWS:  When you go to bed at night and you worry about America, what do you worry about now, with al Qaeda not having that guy anymore?

DRUMHELLER:  With—I worry about these small groups attacking airplanes and people—individuals.  It‘s more of a—smaller but it‘s just as bad, just as—just as dangerous if you‘re (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  And what goes on at the TSA—I travel maybe a couple times a week.  That stuff‘s really important.  They‘re still aiming at airplane—would like to get on a plane and blow it up.

DRUMHELLER:  That‘s really important because if even they don‘t stop the terrorist, that—a lot of what they do discourages them.  It‘s just they have to be careful—they can‘t get too far over into sort of the crazy things, and that—that makes it...

MATTHEWS:  Senator, it‘s great having you on because I respect so much your service to the country as a SEAL.  And I just think about the training these guys go through.  And you must have been thinking, having been through one of these kinds of incredible operations, what—give me your perspective, just generally as a senator, as a politician, as president of a college, looking at this thing yesterday.

BOB KERREY, FMR. SENATOR, FMR. NAVY SEAL:  Well, I mean, I heard Mike and Bob talking earlier.  I mean, it was a textbook operation and it went perfectly.  Sometimes they run perfectly and sometimes they don‘t.  So (INAUDIBLE) produce the action that we had, you know, last night, I mean, you know, it takes 20, 25 years of training and preparation.

Now, the decision with goldwater (ph) necklace (ph) to create these joint operation forces I think is a big part of it.  I think an awful lot of work since 9/11 has been done to train and prepare people for this kind of operation.

So it didn‘t just happen that President Obama makes a decision to call these guys and say, We want you to go on this op.  There‘s been an awful lot of work to bring them to this day.  The quality of people coming into the teams are superb.  They had great training prior to the op itself.  They had a great opportunity, thanks to good intelligence, to be able to run, you know, test operations against the building that they built as a prototype.  So an awful lot of people had their hands in this thing to make it possible for these guys to be successful.

But Chris, the thing you got to remember—and both Bob and Mike were talking about it earlier.  Tomorrow, they could go on another operation and fail.  Are we going to call them up before Congress and ask them what went wrong?   We‘re celebrating their heroism and their success, but on these kinds of operations, oftentimes, just the opposite happens.  Sp I think we need to give them an awful lot of credit, and an awful lot of credit goes to the professionals who collected the intelligence, who did the work for years and years to enable them to do this operation.  But I don‘t think anybody should, you know, suffer the illusion that these guys can be called in every single time and bat 1,000.

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  That‘s smart.  Let me ask you about this, Tyler.  It seems like just common sense, 9/11, don‘t want to forget it.

DRUMHELLER:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Thugs.  Fourteen of the 19 guys that did this were basically thugs.  They were just all:  Kill the people in the plane.  Keep them away from the—you know...

DRUMHELLER:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... we‘re going to take over the cockpit.  We have got some smart guys here.  We‘re going to fly the planes.  They have got enough training.  You guys‘ job is to cut throats, right?

DRUMHELLER:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  So, there‘s two kinds of terrorists.  There‘s the smart guys, who may not even go in the operation, right? 

DRUMHELLER:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And then there‘s the guys that are willing to cut throats. 

DRUMHELLER:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  So, tell me about them.  How many guys are sitting in rooms right now drinking coffee or on hookah pipes or whatever thinking about how to kill us? 

(LAUGHTER)

DRUMHELLER:  Well, there‘s an unlimited supply of people like that, of the thugs. 

MATTHEWS:  Unlimited—oh, thugs.  There‘s lots of thugs.

(LAUGHTER)

DRUMHELLER:  There‘s lots of thugs.

The smart guys are much more much—are much—are much rarer. 

And you also have to people that have been through the training, people that have been through some kind of training to show them how to build the bombs, how to—how to organize themselves. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, this kind of monkey bar stuff, I always thought—we always show the stock footage...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I always wonder, is that what we‘re afraid of?  Guys that can run along obstacles courses? 

DRUMHELLER:  No.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I get the feeling I‘m more afraid of the guy who has got a master‘s degree from MIT and knows how to build an incredible bomb. 

DRUMHELLER:  That‘s—that‘s an al Qaeda recruitment video.  But they...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s just to make them feel hefty.

DRUMHELLER:  The real danger—real danger—another real danger, Chris, is the—is the—is a group like Hezbollah, which...

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re laughing, Bob, because you had to do that to get in the SEALs, right?  Is that it?

KERREY:  Well, no.

(LAUGHTER)

KERREY:  You take the guy that actually was the—was the leader of the—of the attack on September 11, Mohamed Atta.  If he had gone to the cafe in Hamburg, where he was planning this thing a couple of years ahead of time, you would not have recognized him as a military operative...

DRUMHELLER:  That‘s right. 

KERREY:  ... because he has no military background.  He was an unhappy student.  He was from Egypt. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

KERREY:  He was planning this thing.

And he shopped for the best flight schools by going on to the Internet.  So, it—it—the vulnerabilities—in my view, the vulnerabilities have been substantially reduced after 9/11.  They‘re still plenty.  I think this is an indication that we—we have a tremendous amount of capability and—and the success that came out of it comes from that capability. 

But now, in my view, you—you have got to focus on Egypt, you have got to focus on Tunisia. 

DRUMHELLER:  Exactly. 

KERREY:  You have got to focus on building democratic regimes, which is the number-one enemy of al Qaeda. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I keep thinking about this, the—the kid, the guy who‘s 20 years old now as a terrorist, thug or brainpower behind it or whatever, 10 years ago was a 10-year-old kid. 

DRUMHELLER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And 9/11 was 10 years ago.  You know, I keep saying to people, you can‘t kill all terrorists.  You have to kill the reason they want to be terrorists, is a big part of this.

DRUMHELLER:  That‘s right. 

And I think the big issue now in the Middle East is, for a while, after 9/11, bin Laden represented the poor people of the Middle East railing against these corrupt regimes... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who hated their parents. 

DRUMHELLER:  And hated their parents, right.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

DRUMHELLER:  Now these people are in demonstrations against the dictators...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I agree.  I root for them.

KERREY:  No, wait a minute.

DRUMHELLER:  And...

KERREY:  They‘re demonstrating against dictators that we supported... 

DRUMHELLER:  Well, that‘s...

KERREY:  ... that were putting them in prison, putting them in jail, that was creating an awful lot of the discontent that we have been facing. 

DRUMHELLER:  Yes.  And...

KERREY:  So now is the time for us to get on the side of democracy...

DRUMHELLER:  Yes.  That‘s right. 

KERREY:  ... to get on the side of the forces that—that believe, in fact, that they can govern themselves and create their own opportunity. 

DRUMHELLER:  These guys don‘t want to overthrow Mubarak and Gadhafi to put a caliphate in place now.

KERREY:  That‘s correct.

DRUMHELLER:  They...

MATTHEWS:  I love your politics.  Bob Kerrey, thank you, sir. 

KERREY:  You‘re welcome. 

MATTHEWS:  It feels—it feels like the ‘60s.  I feel great. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re on the side of the people...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... at the ramparts against the old order.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Bob Kerrey, for coming on the show.  Senator Kerrey, thank you, former—thank you for your service, again, sir. 

KERREY:  You‘re welcome. 

MATTHEWS:  And you, Tyler Drumheller, thank you so much. 

Up next, let‘s get into the politics of this thing.  It‘s fascinating, a commander in chief being commander in chief.  Tough guy to take on.  It‘s a long way to the election.  But you have got to think that killing bin Laden, the way we did is so cleanly, so well done, makes this guy hard to beat.  Are the Republicans going to get serious now and stop doing their clown show and start looking for somebody who could be commander in chief of this country and take him on? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD:  USA!  USA!  USA!  USA!  USA!  USA!  USA!  USA!  USA!  USA! 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The cause of securing our country is not complete, but, tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARD—HARDBALL. 

That was, of course, President Obama last night announcing that U.S.  forces had killed Osama bin Laden. 

Late today, we got pictures of the president—well, these are amazing pictures—in the Situation Room.  There he is with National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.  What a picture, to be with the president there. 

And there‘s the president and his national security team.  There‘s Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, obviously, with her face covered there.  What are they—oh, they‘re getting an update on the mission against—but look at the faces of this.  This is in real time watching the action. 

Well, the surprise news showed competence by the president, many of us think, and his team.  So, what‘s the impact politically?  Does this news reshape the 2012 outlook we have been covering all these days on HARDBALL? 

John Harris is, of course, Politico‘s editor in chief, and Major Garrett.

I wanted two heavyweights on tonight.  And I mean it, gentlemen.  I really want to have a sense of this.  We see our presidents through different windows.  And, sometimes, we seem them through the window of how much gas cost or the latest scandal or whatever else.  Here, we see the president as operational, a president leading an operation in a way we have rarely seen one before, where he‘s calling the shots month by month and then we get the replay. 

What‘s your sense, John Harris, of how this may shape the way the Republicans, the ones who really influence that party, are thinking about moving ahead the focus on what president they want, rather than what kind of a show they want this year? 

JOHN HARRIS, EDITOR IN CHIEF, POLITICO:  Oh, Republicans have been relying heavily to date on showmanship, as you put it, on flamboyant issues, like the birther issue.

And a lot of the attention has been going to more flamboyant characters. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

HARRIS:  I think this is going to mark a pivot point and that the Republicans, if they want to be seen as having a serious chance of beating President Obama, are going to have to establish themselves first and foremost as serious people.  I don‘t think there‘s any debate that‘s going to take place. 

But President Obama, whether you like him or don‘t like him, is seen as a serious presidential contender. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

HARRIS:  And it‘s going to be hard for Republicans to run on—to run on showmanship. 

MATTHEWS:  So, I‘m asking that question again to you, Major, which is the question—I will frame it this way.  OK, he‘s competent.  We have got a competent guy to run against him who shares our values.  But we have to have that competence matched first now.  It seems to me that‘s the change.  My thought.

Yours—what is yours? 

MAJOR GARRETT, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”:  Yes.  Competence makes a difference, Chris. 

But I also makes a difference in the context of what the country cares about most.  When Bush ran for reelection in 2004, the country was very focused on security.  And his calling card was:  There‘s been no attacks.  I‘m chasing the bad guys. 

In 2012, President Obama will run on competence and will have—will have bin Laden killed on his tout sheet, as something he‘s done on national security.  But look at the “New York Times”/CBS poll of this month.  Fifty-four percent identified the three most important issues in this country, jobs, economy and the budget deficit.  Four percent identified, combined, Iraq, Afghanistan, war and terrorism in general. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

GARRETT:  So, the question for President Obama, as this great event plays out, is how much is the country going to be focused on national security, terrorism as it regards the 2012 election, as posed to the economy, budget and the deficit? 

MATTHEWS:  Well said. 

Let‘s take a look at the president again today on a further briefing for the country.  Here he is.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Today we are reminded that as a nation there‘s nothing we can‘t do when we put our shoulders to the wheel, when we work together, when we remember the sense of unity that defines us as Americans. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s talk politics. 

Back during the last election, not too long ago, 2008, here‘s President Obama in a presidential debate with John McCain.  Let‘s listen to what he said about—well, you will see.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2008)

OBAMA:  If we have Osama bin Laden in our sights, and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act, and we will take them out.  We will kill bin Laden.  We will crush al Qaeda.  That has to be our biggest national security priority. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Bin Laden, done that, as I said at the beginning of the show, John Harris. 

I will tell you, that‘s a pretty good commercial right there...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... I would guess, if he can get this back in the crosshairs as an issue next year. 

Your thoughts, John Harris? 

HARRIS:  No, there‘s no question...

MATTHEWS:  That ad we just saw.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS:  This is a very authentic “Mission Accomplished” moment, not detracting at all from Major‘s point, which we have seen again and again.  We saw it in 1992, when President George H.W. Bush sought to—reelection, and the victory in the Iraq War didn‘t do much to help him. 

It is true that the issues that are most salient might not relate to national security next year. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HARRIS:  Nonetheless, it is a powerful “Mission Accomplished” moment that I think radiates, as you say, an impression of competence, effectiveness, command well beyond the specific issue that‘s going to help President Obama in all sorts of different ways. 

MATTHEWS:  Last thought, Major, about that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How does he show competence about gas prices?  Just get them down, that‘s what competence is, right?

GARRETT:  Well, that‘s right.  And there are only so many things the president can control.

What I would say about this is, it shows a continuum of competence.  If you look at what President Obama said during the campaign, not just about bin Laden, but about the Afghanistan campaign—campaign in general, I‘m going to fight it hard, I‘m going to think about it new, and I‘m going to prosecute that war more aggressively than the current president, which he has done. 

And now in Afghanistan, he has some progress, and, in Pakistan, he...

(CROSSTALK)

GARRETT:  ... went on his own and got the result everyone in the country wanted to see. 

Secondarily, Chris, I think it‘s enormously important what we saw last night, young people around the country here in Washington, of course, and in New York City coming to the streets to celebrate, young people who vote and whose lives have been defined by the war on terror and all the things it has inflicted upon us, not only psychically, but operationally. 

I believe, in one element of the youth vote and energizing the Obama campaign for 2012, this will have enormous impact, because these kids remember what it‘s like to grow up with bin Laden as sort of the biggest monster in their world.  He‘s now gone.  The war on terror feels more effectively fought under Obama than it may have to them under President Bush.  I think that will have residual effect. 

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  So smart.  Great analysis.  I hadn‘t thought of it that way. 

Thank you, Major Garrett at “The National Journal.”  You‘re a good guy. 

Thank you, John Harris, a great biographer of presidents.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  Osama bin Laden‘s compound was just 35 miles from Islamabad, less than two miles from Pakistan‘s West Point.  How did the Pakistanis not know it was there?  And can we really trust the fact when they tell us they didn‘t? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... losing streak.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Wright (ph) takes it high. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, it‘s an—it‘s an odd feeling at the ballpark right now, to be perfectly honest with you at home, some of the crowd chanting “USA, USA,” obviously aware of the news, as ABC News is reporting that Osama bin Laden has been killed.  Other people probably...

CROWD:  USA!  USA!  USA!  USA!  USA!  USA!  USA!  USA!  USA!  USA! 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SUE HERERA, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Sue Herera with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks finished slightly lower in a surprisingly volatile session, the Dow Jones industrial average slipping about three points, the S&P 500 down two, and the Nasdaq breaking an eight-day winning streak with a nine-point decline. 

Stock were under pressure after an initial bounce on word of bin Laden‘s death, that despite some strong earnings and a couple of major acquisitions.  Health insurers were the sole sector finishing in the green, after Humana delivered a 22 percent jump in first-quarter profits. 

And Chrysler reported its first quarterly profit since emerging from bankruptcy nearly two years ago. 

And two big energy names, Chesapeake, Anadarko posting losses due to hedging-related costs. 

A busy M&A Monday.  Teva Pharmaceuticals will buy drugmaker Cephalon  for about $6.2 billion.  And Arch Coal is buying International Coal Group for $3.4 billion in cash. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—and now back to

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome balk to HARDBALL. 

Well, one of the most incredible aspects of this bin Laden story is that he had been hiding in a million-dollar compound, not a cave, and he was not in a remote area up in the northwest of Pakistan.  It was a town just 35 miles outside of Islamabad, the capital, right by the Pakistani military academy, that country‘s West Point, right there next to it. 

While the Pakistani government is saying it knew nothing about bin Laden‘s whereabouts, it does seem peculiar he was able to hide in a mansion so near the capital.  Are they telling the truth over there in that capital that they knew nothing? 

Richard Engel is NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent.  He‘s in Benghazi tonight, another trouble spot.  And Roger Cressey is a former White House counterterrorism official and an NBC News terrorism analyst. 

Richard Engel, I always go to you first because of your service for this network and the world.  I have to ask you, does anybody in Pakistan believe they didn‘t know he was there?  Because this is an insult to their ISI, as well as a question. 

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT:  We were told that no senior ranking military officials knew.  And we heard that from Washington sources. 

So, by that implication, it seems that some junior members, low-ranking military officers, did know that Osama bin Laden was in this military—or was in this compound in this military community. 

How could he exist in a walled compound, a compound that didn‘t take out the trash—they burned it—it had no telephone lines—just down the street from West Point, their equivalent of West Point, in an area full of retired generals?  So, somebody knew, and according to sources, no one senior, but certainly some junior members of the Pakistani military. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s think like spooks think, like CIA agents in any country, ISI people. 

You‘re looking for somebody who‘s on the lam, who‘s hiding from somebody.  So, you look for a guy who lives in a walled mansion.  You look for a guy who lives in barbed wire, never comes out, nobody ever sees him.

Doesn‘t that look like a guy who‘s on the run?  Doesn‘t that look like exactly like a guy who‘s on the run?

ROGER CRESSEY, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  Well, it could be a guy who‘s very important.  And in a country where you‘re not conditioned, you‘re not trained to ask questions, it could be the equivalent of a HVT, a high value target of a different variety.  So, the neighborhood and even mid-level officials, like Richard said, can say, someone is in here of consequence.  It may not have been known that it was bin Laden.

MATTHEWS:  But wouldn‘t the local prefect know, the local official who runs the, you know, the Chevy Chase police station where I live or something, wouldn‘t that person know who lives in the gigantic house?  It‘s a police state.

CRESSEY:  If the prefect gets $25,000 from somebody and says, “Don‘t have ask questions, we got somebody here of importance,” he‘ll keep his mouth shut.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at the Pakistani statement.  We have this statement from bin Laden.  Let‘s take a look at this statement right now.  The Pakistani government put out a statement saying, quote, now, we can believe this or not, I‘m not sure we do.

“Bin Laden‘s death illustrates the resolve of the international community, including Pakistan, to fight and eliminate terrorism.  It constitutes a major setback to terrorist organizations around the world.  Pakistan has played a significant role in efforts to eliminate terrorism.  We‘ve had extremely effective intelligence sharing arrangements with several intelligence agencies including that of the U.S.  We will continue to support international efforts against terrorism.”

That‘s rather bland, Richard.  Is it believable?

ENGEL:  It depends how far back you want to go.  There‘s recent reporting from our good friend, Bob Windrum (ph), over there in New York, that says one of t main sources of information a person interrogated at Guantanamo Bay was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.  That he was one of two Gitmo detainees who gave up this intelligence to interrogators, gave the name of the courier that was trusted by bin Laden to—and that was it was following this courier that ultimately led to his capture.  Well, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed wouldn‘t have been captured without help from the Pakistanis.

So, if you go back to a historic relationship, the Pakistani role has been very significant.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, it‘s interesting.  Let‘s me—let‘s try to figure this out.  The United States goes into a country that were not—is not our country.  It‘s their country.  And yet, we‘re able to track somebody within their country that they can‘t track.

How‘s that work?

CRESSEY:  Well, it works because you have a country like Pakistan where everyone is not sharing the information across all levels, number one.  Number two, we have possession of information and capability they simply don‘t.

Now, that statement the Pakistanis released is factually accurate, but it doesn‘t tell the full story.  Their government is schizophrenic and they have been for years when it comes to the issue of al Qaeda.  So, they‘re going to help when it was their interest and they‘re not when it runs counter.

This is a classic example of we, the United States, believing if we shared information, we run the risk of blowing the operation.  And it speaks to how confident the president was in doing this operation, Chris, but also how risky.  He was willing to blow up our relationship with Pakistan if this went south for this shot at bin Laden.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I think he had to as president.  We showed the clip of him during the debate promising, I think most Americans believe.

Let me get to the larger question of your region, Richard.  You‘re so good at this.  The whole—we were on four fronts over there, shooting Predators into Pakistan, fighting in Afghanistan, fighting in Iraq and fighting, of course, where you are right now in Libya.

Is this going to—it your sense being at the battle front that this is going to reduce the urge of Americans to even be in that region and battle regalia—even being over there fighting at this point, now that we got the reason we went over there, we got him?

ENGEL:  Absolutely.  And you look at the last decade.  There have been two major ground wars, and I think you could even call them three ground three wars because Afghanistan happened twice.  There was the initial push into Afghanistan and then the push into Iraq and then the push back into Afghanistan.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

ENGEL:  At the end of the day, it really wasn‘t any of these things that got bin Laden.  It wasn‘t the deployment of hundreds of thousands of troops.  It was a small group, 12 to 15 CIA agents and Special Operations forces that went in.

Sure, they wouldn‘t have driven out the Taliban out of Afghanistan.  They wouldn‘t have driven Osama bin Laden into hiding, had that initial push gone in.  But I think this might be proving a new model, that occupying states and nation-building doesn‘t necessarily work for counterterrorism.

MATTHEWS:  What a statement.  Thank you is much, Roger Cressey. 

Thank you, Richard Engel, always.

Up next, reaction from family members who lost loved ones in those 9/11 attacks.  Let‘s go back to the scene of the crime.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Before speaking to the country late last night, President Obama called his predecessor, former President George W. Bush, to tell him of the news that U.S. forces killed bin Laden.  Bush released a statement congratulating President Obama and calling the news a mementos achievement and a victory for America.  And former Vice President Dick Cheney, generally a vocal critic of Obama‘s foreign policy, had this to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  It‘s also a good day for the administration.  President Obama and his national security team acted on the intelligence when it came in and they deserve a lot of credit, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Good for him.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda‘s terror—justice has been done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.

What a statement that was.  Nearly 3,000 innocents lost their lives in that horrific attack of September 11th.

With us tonight, Jimmy Boyle, former president of the New York Firefighters Union.  Jimmy‘s son, Michael, was a firefighter killed that day trying to save lives in the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Also with us, Patricia Reilly, chairwoman of the World Trade Center United Family Group.  Patricia lost her sister, Lorraine, who worked on the 101st floor of the South Tower.

Let me start with Patricia.

This is your moment.  What do you feel, what do you think?

PATRICIA REILLY, SISTER KILLED ON 9/11:  I‘m very, very grateful to the military, to the Navy SEALs, to the president, for not forgetting and for ensuring that our loved ones and all the innocent people who were killed at the hands or by instruction of Osama bin Laden, that we finally got justice and I‘m very grateful to them for that, I‘m very happy.

I‘m really most happy Osama bin Laden knows that the last thing he thought was that the Americans came and “they got me for what I did to them.”  I feel a lot of gratitude for that.

MATTHEWS:  I never heard it put that way.

Jimmy, thank you for putting it on.  I can‘t imagine losing a son. 

I can‘t imagine it.  Your thoughts tonight, sir?

JIMMY BOYLE, NEW YORK FIREFIGHTERS UNION:  Very happy, Chris, that he was killed.  I‘m proud of them, proud of the America and proud of the president.  I thank a lot of people.  I thank Congressman King.  I thank President Bush.  I thank Harold Schaefer (ph).

I can‘t give so many thanks, so many people supported us.  But I feel a burden has been lifted off our shoulders.  I got the call from congressman before 10:00 last night that he was killed and just to put the television on.  And my whole attitude, my whole life changed.

Ten years of waiting for this moment, and it changed so many lives, changed my life, it changed some lives—I think of all the poor people that were killed.  I think of that day I was there, and every day, I pray for—I just pray for everything that changed the world that day.

And it‘s an honor for the American country, for our military and our president.  I‘m very proud of the president last night.

MATTHEWS:  Patricia, what was your sister doing that morning?  She was at the World Trade Center.  I think it‘s—whenever there‘s an execution or whatever like this, I always try to remind myself that it‘s all because of what this person did.  The execution, whether it‘s in a gas chamber, it‘s an electric chair, whatever it is, lethal injection or because of a firefight with the good guys coming in to get you, it‘s all because of what you did.  It ain‘t anybody else‘s fault but you.  You committed every one of these violent acts the day you did what you did.

REILLY:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  What was it like for your sister?  Where did she work? 

She worked on the 101st floor, right?

REILLY:  She did.  She was an administrative assistant for A.L. (ph) Consultants.  And I spoke with her this morning because she worked on the second tower.  And when I first spoke to her, she said she was safe, she was secure, she wanted me to let my mother know she was OK.  And I felt such a sigh of relief that it had passed us by.  But unfortunately, moments later, I heard on the radio that a second plane had hit, and I knew my sister was gone.

And Osama bin Laden didn‘t value her life.  He didn‘t value of lives of all the people who were in that building and on those planes today.  So, for that, we don‘t have to value his life.

I‘m glad he‘s gone.  I‘m glad that we finally have justice. And I‘m looking forward to when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed gets his justice as well.

MATTHEWS:  Jimmy, tell me about Michael.  What was he doing that day?

BOYLE:  Chris, he had just got off.  It was an election day.  He was going to help his cousin in a city council race.  And he was in the fly house, he was relieved.

The box came in, he got in a rig, went down there, proceeded to do what he was told, made it up to the 40th floor, searched each floor.  Every floor is an acre, 400 by 400 by 400, and they searched each floor going up looking for people, stragglers.

When the South Tower went down, they didn‘t realize it.  Finally, they were told by some fellow with the bull horn that they need to get out.  They proceeded down, helping people down, stairways were blocked.  He made it down to a lobby from the 41st floor.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

BOYLE:  And I think the 10:28, the building came down, they were in the lobby.  And the force of the—I just envision in my mind, you could hear the 110 stories coming down floor by floor by floor, and you could hear the sound, and they were trying to get out of there.  They were all rushing in the stairwell, and to the lobby to try to get out of the building, and they didn‘t make it.

And they found his remains in January 25th, 57 feet down.  You just envision the force of that building coming down from—and pile driving him down 57 feet in a matter of seconds.

But I was proud of the firefighters.  I was proud of what they did that day.  Many lives were saved—many lives were saved because of improvements made after 1993 in that building.  In ‘93, it was 99 elevators that we didn‘t know where people were for 24 hours.  There would have been more people killed except for the firefighters that day.

And I hope the world doesn‘t forget what they did that day.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re helping.

BOYLE:  And the braves were still brave, and it brings tears to my eyes to think about it.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it does to everyone.  Jimmy, take care of yourself. 

Patricia—

(CROSSTALK)

REILLY:  I really thank Mr. Boyle for his son‘s sacrifice and for all the firefighters and rescue workers.

BOYLE:  Patricia, we have (INAUDIBLE).

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, guys.

BOYLE:  God bless you.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you all.  God bless you both.  Thank you for coming on tonight.  A big night for the country.

When we return, “Let Me Finish” with what we‘ve learned about our commander-in-chief yesterday.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with the commander-in-chief.

We want our presidents to be all things, to have the oratory of JFK, the confidence of FDR, the resonant patriotism of Reagan, the common sense toughness of Harry Truman, the military temperament and restrain of Ike, the human feel of Bill Clinton.

Well, the more you pay attention, the more you learn that you can‘t have it all.  You give here to get there.  You accept this so you can keep on cheering that.  You grow up and realize not all kinds of greatness comes from even a great man.

And so, we look at our leader tonight, President Obama.  Less than a week ago, he was showing us his birth certificate.

But what of this man who kept cool through all this clatter and nonsense knowing he had other work to do, he and Leon Panetta and the other grownups.

I‘ve said on a couple occasions I‘ve been down the table from the president at briefings, I believed, listening him explain issues, and parry with serious reporters, that he should be the president, that he is right for this job.  Well, tonight, the country knows what I‘m talking about.

That‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.

More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.

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