tv The Chris Matthews Show NBC August 1, 2010 11:00pm-11:30pm PST
>> this is "the chris matthews show." >> ask not what your country can do for you. >> tear down this wall. >> i can hear you. >> the time for change has come. chris: this week the case for war sprung holes. is pakistan really with us? is karzai corrupt? can this fight be won? this summer mutiny. key democrats in congress now question the war. does barack obama who ran against the iraq war truly have his heart in this one? wi his bet on a surge a world away loosen his party? and finally, pin the tail on the elephant. democrats are out there trying to tie all republicans to the craziest of the tea partiers
but in this nasty environment, could even some of the craziest actually win? hi. i'm chris matthews. welcome to the show. with us today, hdnet's dan rather. the a.p.'s kimberly dozier. "the new york times'" helene cooper. and "time" magazine's rick stengel. the leaks from afghanistan showed the difficulty of our mission there. president obama in playing down the tharm done from the leaks again took ownership of the war. >> we've substantially increased our commitment there. insisted upon greater accountability from our partners in afghanistan and pakistan. developed a new strategy that can work and put in place a team, including one of our finest generals, to execute that plan. now, we have to see that strategy through. chris: in an interview with nbc's ann carey, vice president biden was emphatic that the war is still about al qaeda. >> we're in afghanistan for one express purpose. al qaeda. the threat to the united
states. al qaeda that exists in those mountains between afghanistan and pakistan. we are not there to nation build. chris: but this week, biden's fellow democrats showed their increased resistance. a vote on war funding showed a growing split. and two influential senators, both democrats, jim webb and russ feingold, said it's time for the senate to advise on any future war policy in afghanistan. dan, this is getting political. and it's dividing the country. we're looking at the division cut between those for and against this war. where's the president going on this? >> he'll make a decision after he reassesses around the first of the year. and then when -- the self-imposed deadline approaches next spring. but the key here is general petraeus. whatever general petraeus recommends, insofar as the president can politically do it, he's going to do it. the president is fachede -- faced with the situation, afghanistan is going badly. the u.s. military, counterinsurgency, new strategy, has not yet proven itself. and the american public is --
support for the war is shrinking. that's the backdrop against which he has to make these decisions. chris: the two big stories that jumped out at me in the afghan leaks were the fact that pakistan, the intelligence unit over there, is very dicey in terms of supporting us. to put it lightly. they may be on the other side with the taliban. and secondly the argument by the people over there that somehow americans' influence has made karzai more corrupt, that we have somehow added to the corruption of afghanistan, that is a nasty situation, helene. you've covered this story. can the president truly play on this bad news? >> i think this is very difficult for the president. i think what was most interesting about the leaked documents this week is that it's not that this was -- none of this stuff was a surprise to anybody. we've always known that the i.s.i. had tiings to the taliban. and we've always known that afghanistan, and the karzai government, had corruption issues. but this puts into the public's sphere something that the administration has been talking about. people have been talking about behind closed doors. now it's all out there.
and what was also really interesting, i think about those leaked documents, is the gran later that you suddenly saw -- the granularity that you suddenly saw. we talk to soldiers and go to afghanistan ander intview people and they know how to talk to us and you get a certain level of openness. but for the first time, we were seeing soldiers talking to each other. and that, you no, it really brings front and center just how difficult this whole afghanistan campaign has been and still is. chris: let me ask you, kim, welcome to the show and you got hurt very badly and you know about this war front situation and out covering for a.p. this leak story. thousand do you think it hurts the policy -- how do you think it hurts the policy, that we're seeing in hard news reporting, not scuttlebutt, these problems with our pakistan allies, these problems with corruption that we're defending over there? >> well,as helene was saying we knew a lot of the problems with the pakistani intelligence agency. what i'm looking at is what is
this going to do to our warrest on the ground long term in terms of intelligence collection? there are a lot of names of contacts in all of that granularity that you mentioned. there's a human intelligence network that took almost 10 years to build. on the afghan side and the pakistan side othe border. who he going to talk to americans now if they know their name is going to end up in a list somewhere? also back here, the post-9-11 reforms, the whole point of those reforms was to try to remove the stove piping between the different intelligence agencies and create ways for people to access everything. now you got a situation where intelligence analysts that i've spoken to are asking themselves, do we need to put some limits back in place, and that could stop. chris: baugs the leak came from somewhere and -- because the leak came from somewhere and the wider the sharing of information the easier it is to ke lead. and what happens if we leave afghanistan?
we've been focusing a lot about the war, justified to a lot of american hearts and minds on the grounds that we have to stop al qaeda from coming back into afghanistan. because that is where they launched their attack on us on 9-11. we don't want that to happen again. th 'sa strong argument. you bring up nor argument. if we pull out of afghanistan, what happens to the people of afghanistan under taliban rule? >> right. we have a very, very tough and almost brutal cover image this week of a young woman named ayesha who was cut off by the taliban for her abandoning her husband and in-laws. we've made promises to the people of afghanistan. i don't mean to say that the vice president was disingenuous when he said that we're not there for nation building. but we have been there for nation building. if we were only there to get rid of al qaeda the war would have been over five years ago. what we have brought to that country, was freedom for women in the way that they never had before. girls are going to school. women are in parliament. women are on television. hillary clinton, two weeks ago, said we will never abandon you. so that is part of the argument. americans can decide, it's not
worth it. it's not worth blood and treasure and our young men to defend this but we have changed that country. we have built that nation in some ways. and we have given women an opportunity. and i think people, what we're saying is people need to take that into account when they're making the decision. chris: and americans will in the election. so many presidents have faced the problem of running for re-election and losing a war. jack kennedy as he was trying to make a decision about vietnam. tragically he never got to run for re-election. but certainly l.b.j. was thinking about it going toward 1968 and thinking about the politics. nixon may have kept us in the vietnam war to win re-election in 1972. so a tough question for you guys covering the white house. is one of the reasons the president's keeping us in afghanistan, is not for the humanitarian, not for the geopolitical, but for the political at home? >> that's a hard question. i don't know. i don't know the answer to that. but i know that to rick's point, it's -- and i think a lot of american politicians, particularly president obama or secretary of state hillary clinton, will always say publicly that we're here to
stand for the people of afghanistan. the women of afghanistan. but that's not why we're there. and the reality is that the end of the day, that's not what -- the afghan women and the women of afghanistan, as horrible as their plight might be, that is not at the bottom of what american voters are going to be thinking about. chris t andhe republicans are going to drive that home. what republicans are clearly doing through the voice of dick cheney previously and now newt gingrich, is to say the democratsi preicdent, barack obama, doesn't get it. he's not a real war president. he doesn't know we're up against islamism. >> he's driving home in the elections this year and again in 2012. but the president's best course, if he looks to precedent of history, is to level with the american people. total candor. on such things as folks, the taliban is operating with virtual impunity in pakistan. they've increased their attacks, momentum comes out of there and until and unless you can deal with that, and until we the u.s. can deal with that
we're doomed in afghanistan. whether it be dealing with women, dealing with the comeback of the taliban or what have you. secondly, that what wins wars, military people know this, we in our hearts know it, willpower, firepower, and staying power. we have the firepower, our willpower is beginning to wane. and the question is do we have the staying power? now, if the president makes an address, levels to the people and says listen, these are the stakes, that's his best way to go. but it's very difficult to convince any politician, particularly one who probably will run for re-election to do that. chris: let's take it to the bottom line. we took this question to the matthews meter. 12 of our regular panelists. will democrats in congress maintain their support for president obama's afghanistan policy? 10 said yes, they will. he'll keep their support. as long as the popular support nationwide sticks with him at the current level. democrats will be there for him. only two say the democrats are going to peel off. helene, i know you cover this hard reality. but underneath the president's thinking, is there a worry
about all those people from the liberal areas like san francisco, the liberal areas of the democratic party, who are going to peel off? >> absolutely. and it's not just the liberals. he's very worried about this. and he's going into -- 2012 is not that far away. that's a very real fear. and i think a question to ask is where president obama is on his own support for the afghan war and just whether or not he wants to narrow its focus. chris: it was interesting that speaker pelosi, i know it often happens like this, but said nothing on this issue this week. her friends all voted against the funding. she was mute. she was the speaker. but she didn't take a political position on this. >> well, this is one of those situations where she's not going to score any political points with the white house on this issue by speaking out. and she's got her own issues that she's fighting with them. some things that she's trying to get behind closed doors. access to greater intelligence, access to greater oversight over some of the offices that are making decisions in the afghan war.
she's in campaign mode. this is not a time to pick a fight with the white house publicly. chris: it was interesting that jim webb, a warrior, has now said he wants to have more -- advise and consent authority from congress. and brings us back to that vietnam era where more and more congress puts strings on the president's powers to make war. >> i expect that to continue. it may not be last to say i want to sign off. i want to have say in where we go from here. >> one of the things that we've seen about barack obama, is that not that he's immune to politics but when it comes to big decisions he's sitting behind that big desk in the oval office and seems to make the decision based on what he truly believes. the thing that we've seen with people like this week with john kerry is that democrats i believe are going to peel off. it's not particularly popular. it's the use of american blood and treasure to defend something that americans don't actually feel is viscerally related to them is a problem. and what we all know in the geopolitical sphere is the real problem is pakistan. it's not afghanistan. the reason we're in afghanistan
is to make sure thatak pistan doesn't go south. and that is the argument that it's hard for him to make. chris: before we break, this week, democrats announced they're going to tie all republicans to the nuttier tea party ideas. that tactic may help save some democrats but things are so anti-washington, in a a few tea partiers may sneak by this year. political writer jennifer senior recently wrote any year when there's a pop plaste -- a populist tide it is likely to wash ashore hodballs. she looked at the republicans elected in the gingrich class of 1994. we put some of them in two bun sms the first bunch is the black helicopter crowd of paranoids elected to congress that year. helen chenoweth from idaho cast a global warming debate as a spiritual battle. >> the battle isn't even a battle for certain areas of timber. or certain wilderness areas. only until we're able to understand that this battle is a full-fledged spiritual battle
will we begin to understand and have the weapons to deal with it. chris: next item, texas' steve stockman who wrote in guns and ammo magazine that wake poe was a way for the clinton administration -- waco was a way for the clinton administration to prove the ban for assault weapons and sue myrick, in a book, the underworld to islamize america, and in 1994, andrea seastrand who proposed commerks rocket facilities saying children living in the ghettogh mist like the idea of being launched into space so they could live out there. all right. second bunch of republicans elected to congress in that golden year of 1994 the credits who stood on the family values plat norm and slipped off. mark foley who gave up his florida seat after a congressional page scandal. jim bunt of oregon left his wife and five kids for his 31-year-old chief of staff. item, mark sowder of indiana
resigned after an affair with an aide. and ohio steve latourette divorced his wife and married a lobbyist. and that congressional class also famously included mark sanford, later governor of south carolina. his extramarital dalliance took him to argentina. >> i'm here because if you were to look at god's laws, they're in every instance designed to protect people from themselves. it is indeed to protect us from ourselves. and the biggest self of self is indeed self. chris: the biggest self of self. that was the hall of fame class of 1994. when we come back will democrats limit their losses this fall by making this year's crop of republicans look nutty, too? will the democrats plan to attack all republicans with the tea party label? will it work? plus scoops and predictions right out of the notebooks of these top reporters. be right back.
chris: welcome back. democrats have been playing defense in this anti-washington year. now they're deciding to turn their fire on the republicans. saying the g.o.p. agenda equals the tea party agenda. >> with the tea party now the most potent force in the republican politics, the republican party agenda has become the tea party agenda. and vice versa. chris: even though there are some extreme tea party ideas out there, polls show that linking a candidate to the tea party movement may not prove lethal. plurality of suburban voters and voters that describe themselves as moderates or independents and worst of all for democrats, voters who say they're very enthusiastic about voting this fall all credit the tea party with being a genuine movement. not a fringe group. rick, this is a problem for the democrats. they think they're getting tough by going at the tea party types. it turns out the tea party in the recent poll we looked at are more popular than either the republicans or the democrats. >> and by the way, they're doing something that's appealing.
they're against the status quo. republicans are not going to pull away from them. ronald reagan, the great republican, maxim was if you agree with me 80% of the te, you're my friend. not youren mi. so basically the friends see, i think see that the tea party -- chris: and -- >> there you go. the birch society and the grand old society were more different than the tea party and the ecurrnt g.o.p. chris: we saw with tim kaine, they're calling it a contract on america. and they're listing all the things in the tea party agenda like getting rid of the health care bill. getting rid of medicare and social security. or wiping them out. but getting rid of health care is probably a big sales point. >> but not getting rid of medicare or turning social security over to wall street. and there are a lot of angry people out there. and a lot of scared people. people vote their pocketbooks. that's number one. number two, overnight's a long time in politics. a week is forever. we have a long time to go and a lot of things can hap n.
as we sit here today, odds on the republicans take the house, i know democrats don't want to hear it. retake the house. and the democrats, because of the figures that have so many in the senate, probably hold on to the senate. and it will change the center of gravity in american politics. unless something dramatic happens between now and november. chris: kim, you could argue that decision by the supreme court or rather the district court out in phoenix this week is going to enrage the tea party crowd. because you have the federal government, the big bad washington government, stomping an attempt by the arizona government to do something about immigration. >> you know, one of the things about the tea party movement, everyone i've met and interviewed in crowds outside obama's speeches that strikes me is they just feel beat up by big government. no matter who was in power at the time. because some of the people would relate stories to me that happened durk the bush administration -- during the bush administration. and found someone who gives them a voice and we're sticking cameras in their voice and listening to them. and have they matured into a political party? will they?
chris: is there a game for the democrats and really trying to villainize them, you got that candidate running in nevada who wants to use second amendment remedies if you doesn't like congress. you got somebody up in minnesota who's talking about having probes like joe mccarthy of anti-americanism by democrats. well, that extremism, something the democrats can run against by -- between now and november? >> i think what fundamentally everything will come down to again, as always, is going to be the economy. and that's where the democrats are not in that good shape. >> each district is going to be different. >> and it's always there. >> and -- chris: when we come back, [ son ] i'm a good son. dependable. i call my mom every week.
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chris: welcome back. dan, tell me something i don't know. >> it may not be announced but a change in overall strategy in afghanistan under general petraeus. be more bottom up than top down. and begin to see the results are -- or lack of results sometime early next year into early spring. chris: thank you. kim. >> i think on the afghan strategy in a couple of years you're going to see to a return to a bush-rumsfeld war plan. special operating forces, leading the way. small numbers of regular army. and that's going to be the situation on the ground for up to a decade to come. chris: wow. >> all right. i'm switching to iran. forget about the united states and the u.n. sanctions against iran. this week, what a lot of people didn't notice is the european union just adopted a huge set of very rigid -- rigorous
sanctions against iran's oil and banking sectors. and i think look to see the obama administration trying to get a lot of mileage out of that. chris: ok. >> i'm back to the mid terms. this past week, a democratic member sent a videotape to one. guys in our washington office. and you know what it was? it was karl rove giving his talking points before the 2006 mid terms. and it sounded exactly like what the democrats are saying now about the mid terms right ahead. and the republicans got shellacked. chris: when we come back, the big question in week, will democrats have the votes to keep the bush tax cuts for the middle class but not for the wealthiest? be right back.
chris: welcome back. to kill the bush tax cuts for the top bracket and save them for families making under $250,000 a year, democrats need to pass a bill. our question this week, will they get 60 votes in the senate this year to make those changes? dan? >> not likely. as tip o'neill, would say all politics is local. and i don't see a democratic incumbent congressman who is fighting for his life believing in a people in his district care very much about this issue. i think president obama loses this one. chris: kim. i think what we're going to see is delay, delay, delay. wait for theem novber elections. wait for the fallout.
see how much political capital the democrats have left. chris: perhaps a lame duck. helene. >> i think it's going to be really, really tough. i think the white house could very easily lose this one. chris: maybe they want to lose. >> if pime a democrat, and the republicans delay, delay, delay, the tax cuts go away completely, i can campaign and say you know what? i voted -- i wanted to give you my middle class vote as a tax cut. i wanted to raise it on the people making over $25.0000, that is a good argument for democrats to make. and to say to republicans, you know what? they got rid of your tax cut. chris: maybe the strategic defeat he doesn't mind losing. thanks for a great roundtable. dan, kimberly dozier, helene cooper and rick stengel of