Interview: Katty Kay of the BBC, Richard Engel of NBC, Gloria
Borger of CBS, and Tucker Carlson of MSNBC discuss Iraq and Rudy
Giuliani's chance of being elected in '08
CHRIS MATTHEWS, host:
Katty Kay covers Washington for the British Broadcasting Corporation, Richard
Engel is Beirut bureau chief for NBC News and a veteran of almost four years
on the ground in Iraq, Gloria Borger is national political correspondent for
CBS News and a columnist for US News & World Report, and Tucker Carlson is the
host of "Tucker" on MSNBC.
First up, shaping the battlefield. No end in sight to the hell in Iraq.
Here's just one of Richard Engel's hundreds of reports from the scene.
Mr. RICHARD ENGEL (NBC Beirut Bureau Chief): (June 15) The US military and
Iraqi governments are now focused on stopping al-Qaeda in Iraq from recovering
after Zarqawi's death, but the daily sectarian killings here seem to be
MATTHEWS: Richard, four years on the ground in Iraq. That's your record.
What's your gut tell you? Is it getting better over there for us or worse?
Mr. ENGEL: I think it's getting worse, unfortunately. I think there is a
civil war that has been on the ground for about a year that'll probably be
another nine or 10 years of civil war, maybe 250,000 people dead before this
is over. I think, eventually, they're going to have a situation that they
could've reached when the Iraqis were putting together their constitution, a
loose federal state and, unfortunately, it's going to--where those federal
lines are divided is going to take a lot of bloodshed, and the Americans are
just there to try and hold it together.
MATTHEWS: While the war rages in Iraq, the fight for control of Congress
keeps heating up here at home. Today we want to sharpen that divide, find out
what people are arguing about. The Democrats are calling for a major change
in strategy, of course. Here's Chuck Schumer of New York with the specific
Democratic plan for Iraq.
Sen. CHARLES SCHUMER (Democrat, New York): (Wednesday) A year of
redeployment and refocusing on four goals: counterterrorism, force
protection, logistics, and training. We don't believe that we should be
policing a civil war. We don't believe that we should have an endless plan
that doesn't seem to get anywhere.
MATTHEWS: But this week, the president forcefully argued that the war in Iraq
is all about the terrorist enemy.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: (Thursday) The terrorists know that the outcome in
the war on terror will depend on the outcome in Iraq. And so to protect our
citizens, the free world must succeed in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: Tucker, two different views now, very clearly divided. Now, the
president says we're fighting them, the enemy, the terrorists. We got to get
them over there, it's fungible, or they'll come get us here.
Mr. TUCKER CARLSON (MSNBC): Right.
MATTHEWS: The Democrats are saying we've walked into a hornet's nest. In
fact, we've excited that hornet's nest. It's between the Sunnis and the Shia.
We ought to get out of the way. Who's going to win this argument this fall?
Mr. CARLSON: Well, I mean, I think in the end, Bush is going to win the
argument. I mean, Bush is going to lose the argument historically. Fifty
years from now, I think it'll be obvious to everyone this was a disaster that
Bush started, and he'll be held responsible for it through history. And so
the Democrats are right to that extent. But he will win the short-term
argument, because the argument is this: `Yes, it's bad; it could be worse.'
That's the lesson of Iraq, it can always be worse. If we leave now--you
thought Rwanda was a disaster? This will be worse on a human rights level.
And strategically, it'll be terrible for the United States. So I don't think
we can leave.
Ms. KATTY KAY (BBC Washington Correspondent): I don't think he's going to
win the argument in terms of saying that terrorism is more important than the
war in Iraq. I mean, what the president's trying to do at the moment is
conflate Iraq and terrorism, say, get the public to focus on terrorism,
because that's where he's strongest-suited, and get them not to focus on Iraq.
But actually, if you look at the recent polls, people are more concerned about
the situation in Iraq than they are about the prospect of terrorism. And
that's what's going to provide, I think, in November, more of a success for
MATTHEWS: I've talked to reporters in the field this week and they say the
voter, when you talk to them, brings up Iraq. Now maybe the president will
take a couple weeks here and succeed here. Gloria:
Ms. GLORIA BORGER (CBS News National Political Correspondent): Well, what's
the president's trying to do is sort of change the subject here to terrorism.
Because, I mean, the latest CBS News poll shows that 55 percent of the
American public believes that the president is doing a good job in fighting
the war on terror. If you're going to nationalize these midterm elections
about Iraq or terror, make it about terror. And that is exactly what the
White House wants to do because they know that is their only strong suit.
MATTHEWS: How do you put that up against an almost miraculously identical
number, 56 percent who say we shouldn't have gone into Iraq? So they care
about terrorism, but they don't think we should've gone to fight over there?
Ms. BORGER: You know, it's a very, very delicate balance this White House is
engaging in right now. On the one hand, they have to say `We have succeeded
somewhat in fighting the war on terror. Iraq is a part of that.' On the other
hand, `Dangers lurk out there.' And who do you want, Chris? Who do you want
fighting that war on terror? Do you want the Democrats to do it or do you
want the Republicans?
MATTHEWS: Let's get a reality check here on the ground. From the beginning
of this war through the long drumbeat that led us into the war, especially by
the president--and also by the vice president--very effectively argued that it
was like--going to be like Eastern Europe: We knock off some bad guys, we
decapitate somebody like Saddam Hussein, and the people rally to us; it's a
smooth transition to democracy. That's not what happened.
Mr. ENGEL: What happened was a little different. You decapitated the state
and the entire body fell apart. The country collapsed, and it broke down into
its component parts--the Shiite section in the south, a Kurdish state, which
is effectively declared independence. Kurdistan exists as an independent
country, which was not the intention of the war. And then you have a failed
Sunni state, which I like to call Jihadistan, right in the center.
So it was not a simple decapitation. The idea now is not--is really just to
contain the situation. I've heard the president's speeches many times, and he
talks about `If the American troops pulled out right now, the situation would
get worse.' There's no doubt that would be the case. It would collapse
instantly into a much more chaotic civil war.
MATTHEWS: Who would win? The Sunnis, the Shias, or...
Mr. ENGEL: Well, I don't think anyone would win. That's the problem. I
think you're going to--and I think right now, because of the American
presence, this civil war that's under way is somewhat contained, and it's
going to take a long time. So the pot is already boiling, the people are
dying. Our presence there is containing it to a degree, and trying to
maintain a US influence at the time--at the same time.
Ms. KAY: I mean, where the president is slightly misleading the American
public is in trying to suggest that this is a problem created by a few outside
terrorists, which is what he's still trying to do, saying that this is an
outside problem and if you took those al-Qaeda in Iraq people out of the
country then you wouldn't have a problem. That's clearly not the case.
Mr. ENGEL: This is what the--this is what the Iraqi government is also
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that's true?
Mr. ENGEL: No. I think this is not a problem of a few instigators. But
like every civil war, there are--it is a proxy war, to a degree. Iran is
certainly influential and it's certainly funding several different militia
Ms. KAY: But what they've done is fueled an existing problem, fueled
Mr. ENGEL: And look...
MATTHEWS: We now have a Democratic proposal on the table; Chuck Schumer just
delivered it. It's basically the Murtha plan, the Jack Murtha plan. Pull the
troops back from the cities where all the fighting's going on, put them in the
barracks, use them to train, to give logistical support, and backup to the
Iraqis. What would happen if we did that?
Mr. ENGEL: Well, the problem is, if you try and sit back in the bases and
run the war by remote control, it's--that's--the Iraqis aren't going to
appreciate it because the Iraqi front line units are going to say, `Well, why
are you here if we're doing all the dying and you're just sitting back on the
bases telling us what to do?' So you have a tremendous risk of antagonizing
the troops. You have to always lead from the front, otherwise you lose your
credibility to be there.
Mr. ENGEL: So the idea of getting the US forces into a more training role is
the--is the ultimate goal. But if there's still an active conflict going on,
and you're sitting back with all of the helicopters that the Iraqis don't
have, all the armored equipment, and just sitting on your bases, you're
definitely going to antagonize the people you need.
Ms. BORGER: But politically, the Democrats are trying to be a little careful
right now. They're not setting an exact timetable because they know that
would play right into the Republicans' hands, who talk about cutting and
MATTHEWS: Well, bottom line, let's put it to the Matthews meter, 12 of our
regular panelists. Which message will be most convincing to independent
voters, those people in the middle, not the extremes: the Democratic call for
redeployment or President Bush's linkup of Iraq and terrorism? By nine to
three, our panel of 12 people say the Democratic message wins, redeployment
will work, people are still focusing on Iraq. Katty:
Ms. KAY: Well, because I think Iraq is the main story at the moment. It is
the main preoccupation of the American public as they go into the midterm
elections. And frankly, any plan at all is going to be seized on for change.
People want something to be done differently. The problem is exactly what
Tucker was saying. You cannot afford to leave Iraq right now. It's morally
irresponsible; it's strategically irresponsible.
MATTHEWS: Can you afford to step back? Tucker, go ahead.
Mr. CARLSON: Can I just stand up and put in a good word for dictatorships
here? You know, the subtext of this whole business is democracy and bringing
democracy in this kind of evangelical movement to the Middle East. Notice
that the countries that are stable, reliable, where the people actually live
pretty well are the autocracies there: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan.
These are not democratic countries...
Mr. ENGEL: Can't really say that to the Kurds.
Ms. BORGER: Well...
Ms. KAY: Yeah, but...
Ms. BORGER: Right.
Mr. CARLSON: No, but--OK, I--that may be right but--look, the bottom line
Mr. ENGEL: If you said to any Kurdish person, `We want to keep Saddam
Hussein,' he would be very much offended.
Mr. CARLSON: I'm sure he'd be very much annoyed, but the fact is, those are
the countries that are supporting us in the war on terror. Where do you think
we're getting our intelligence? Apart from Israel, we're getting it from
Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt; we're getting it from countries that are not
Ms. KAY: But also what you have--but look, what you have in Saudi Arabia is
you have an autocratic regime, but you also have a large part of the
population that's incredibly angry with that, that goes to the mosques, they
get even more angry, even more radicalized, and if they ever were to get into
power would be totally anti-Western. That's not a very good long-term
Mr. CARLSON: Which is--which is an argument against trying to impose
democracy in Saudi Arabia.
Ms. KAY: I'm not arguing for Paul Wolfowitz here.
Mr. CARLSON: Right. But--no, no, but you're actually arguing against
Wolfowitz, because you've just conceded what he won't concede, which is if you
brought democracy to a country like Saudi Arabia, we'd be--we'd be screwed.
Ms. BORGER: But it doesn't have to be American democracy, Tucker. Maybe it
can be something in between. I mean...
Mr. CARLSON: King Abdullah democracy, that's my kind of democracy.
Ms. BORGER: Yeah, King Abdullah democracy...
Mr. CARLSON: I'm for that.
Ms. BORGER: ...who says we have democracy.
MATTHEWS: The problem is, Tucker, we'd be stuck with a shaw till the last
Mr. CARLSON: Right.
MATTHEWS: ...and then they hate us for it till this day.
Mr. CARLSON: Yeah, they hate--I mean, my only point--point to a democratic
or an emerging democracy in the region where you see stability and a
likelihood of pro-America...
Ms. BORGER: King Abdullah's policy.
Ms. KAY: Which is the...(unintelligible)...argument, is that you create one
in Iraq and hopefully you have a domino effect in the region. And I...
Mr. CARLSON: I don't see any evidence that's going to happen.
Ms. KAY: I've always been skeptical.
MATTHEWS: Well, before we go to break, I'm no Gene Kelly, but I get the
impression that this guy wasn't actually dancing back there in the first
inauguration. By the way, that's the first time I thought maybe he was more
confident, that he was actually prepared for this job.
Anyway, speaking of preparation, our very own Tucker Carlson has been
practicing these days for "Dancing with the Stars." Tucker, show us some of
your stuff. Come on.
Mr. CARLSON: OK. (Dances) That's it. That right there...
Mr. ENGEL: Is that the big...(unintelligible)...
Ms. BORGER: (Unintelligible)
Mr. CARLSON: No, no, no. That is--that is but a taste of what you will get.
Mr. ENGEL: (Unintelligible)
MATTHEWS: OK. When we come back, Rudy Giuliani earned a hero's image on
9/11, but will his heroic stature survive the heat of a presidential campaign?
Plus a tribute to firefighter heroes of 9/11. We'll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back. Roughing up Rudy. Ever since he showed his mettle
on 9/11, Rudy Giuliani's been one of the country's most beloved figures. But
now as he gears up for a possible presidential run, a new book, "Grand
Illusion," by long-time critic Wayne Barrett says Rudy's no hero.
Mr. WAYNE BARRETT: (MSNBC's "Tucker," August 28) He made monstrous decisions
that, over the course of these seven and a half years--from the radios, to the
bunker, to the command-and-control protocols--that really resulted in grave
problems on that day.
MATTHEWS: Is this a grave attack on Rudy or just a sideswipe from a guy that
doesn't like him?
Mr. CARLSON: No, this is a serious attack. The guy doesn't like him; this
is his third book about Giuliani. But the book is a serious book and it
points up serious problems with Giuliani's management style in New York, some
of which we were aware of, others we weren't. I don't think it's politically
relevant because the fact is, for whatever reason, Giuliani ran toward the
fire on 9/11 when so many others, including this president, did not. And
that's, in the end, a big part of what leadership is. It's physical courage
that reminds us that being actually brave really matters--in the presence now
of Richard Engel, who's reminding us--I'm serious--who's reminding us of all
that actually the guy who's there when the bombs are going off is the guy you
MATTHEWS: Right. That's what Churchill said, by the way, that courage is the
greatest of human qualities, because it's the one that leads to all the
Ms. BORGER: Yeah, and I guess the question is, Tucker, compared to what?
Compared to whom? Who are the great heroes in American politics? I think of
Hurricane Katrina, I think of Mayor Ray Nagin, I think of him whining all day
long and not getting those buses ready properly, etc., etc. And I think, you
know, the iconic picture of Rudy Giuliani, as you point out, is running and
walking very quickly to the--to the towers and being in charge.
Mr. CARLSON: Yeah.
MATTHEWS: And knowing when to seize the moment. I guess I'm with you on
Ms. BORGER: Yeah.
MATTHEWS: ...politicians like Al Gore have had opportunities in their career
and they didn't quite grab for it. They didn't jump. Yeah, Katty:
Ms. KAY: And it's said that heroism is about charisma and aura and something
slightly indefinable about the way you come across. Then a book which points
out management failures is going to sound a little bit turgid, I think, and
bureaucratic compared to this hero image which Rudy Giuliani has.
MATTHEWS: "Turgid." I love that stuff. I find it turgid, as well. Richard,
what's the international reputation of Rudy Giuliani right now?
Mr. ENGEL: I don't think he's very well known, internationally, at least in
areas where I'm working. I mean, in the Middle East, people don't talk about
him very much.
Ms. KAY: He's loved in London, though, because he was there during the July
the 7th attacks last year, and he went on television and made a very stirring
address, exactly as he did in New York. It's his good moment.
MATTHEWS: Every time I look at a poll--and I expect McCain to win every one
of these polls. The press loves McCain. We're his base, I think,
sometimes--I see Giuliani leading the Republican poll every time. And he's
not in the news much. He's going around giving $100,000 speeches, but he's in
the--for some reason, Tucker, why is he always at the top? Latest poll, he's
up by 11 over McCain. Leading the pack.
Mr. CARLSON: Because he is a brilliant speaker, he's a compelling speaker.
And people who haven't had the chance to hear him speak may not know that.
He, also, though, I have to say, and I think this is going to be a big problem
here--he's very liberal, too, which I think is going to be a problem in a
Republican primary, something we haven't talked about. But he also has an
edge, he has a hardness. There is a nastiness. Do you remember his call-in
radio show when he was mayor? He would invite `Anybody, call in!' and then he
was, `Ooh!' he would just slam these people. He can't do that in New
Hampshire or South Carolina.
MATTHEWS: But don't we want a cop on the beat, even if the cop's a little
Mr. CARLSON: No, we don't. We want to be pandered to. I'm sorry, every
Ms. KAY: And before 9/11, that was his reputation in New York, too, wasn't
Mr. CARLSON: It certainly was.
Ms. KAY: He wasn't loved in New York.
Mr. CARLSON: We don't want the nastiness.
Ms. BORGER: I don't think...(unintelligible)...tough guy. I think...
MATTHEWS: Does he have a problem with this book raised another key issue, a
central issue: cronyism. He has people around him who aren't first-rate...
Mr. CARLSON: Yeah, it's New York, man.
MATTHEWS: ...and when there's a crisis, the patronage system doesn't work so
Ms. BORGER: Yeah, I think--I think that's what's going to happen with Rudy
Giuliani and you're going to sort of--you know, we in the media, although I
hate to criticize ourselves, we take people to the top of the mountain and
then once we get them to the top of the mountain, it's our job to knock them
down, so we're going to look at...
MATTHEWS: But don't tell these guys that. Don't give it away that--don't
give it away.
Ms. BORGER: Oh, they don't know it, Chris? They know it.
MATTHEWS: Look, bottom line, along those lines, we put it to the Matthews
meter, the top here, would Rudy's heroic 9/11 image survive the heat of an
actual year-long campaign? This one's close; five say yes, it would survive
the heat. But seven say no, he'd be taking a bruising. Gloria, you're one of
the seven who says he can't take it.
Ms. BORGER: Well, you know, I think he's got a thin skin, like a lot of
politicians, and I think he's used to sitting on top of that mountain, Chris.
He is really used to being there.
MATTHEWS: All right, you know what? I'll go back to--what about there's five
people in a room and he's the only one that can talk? Isn't that a plus?
Ms. BORGER: There are some other--there are some other Republican candidates
who--if the Republican Party becomes a changed party, they can nominate Rudy
Giuliani. Otherwise, forget it.
MATTHEWS: That's the point I think we should get to here, which is that it
isn't just the Democrats running against President Bush's eight-year
term--eight-year double term. It's the possibility that like George Bush Sr.
ran to replace Ronald Reagan by saying `I'll be kinder and gentler,' we might
have a Republican change agent.
Ms. BORGER: Right.
MATTHEWS: It could be McCain. He's the likely target. Likely prospect.
Ms. BORGER: But he's established...
Ms. KAY: It also depends slightly on what happens between now and 2008,
won't it? If there is a terrorist attack on American soil, then Giuliani
looks like a stronger candidate. But he's not a candidate, for example, who's
ever done much to do with foreign affairs.
MATTHEWS: Don't you want it to be 2008? Doesn't everybody here want it now?
Why do we have to wait?
Mr. CARLSON: (Unintelligible)
MATTHEWS: I'll be right back with scoops and predictions straight from the
notebooks of these top reporters. Tell me something I don't know. Be right
MATTHEWS: Welcome back. Katty, tell me something I don't know.
Ms. KAY: President Bush is going around the country telling people that Iraq
is now the front line in the war on terrorism. Well, many in Britain would
disagree with that. We're starting to feel that Britain is the front line on
the war on terrorism, certainly in Europe. And a recent poll shows that 13
percent of British Muslims think that the people who attacked the Underground
in July of last year were martyrs. Thirteen percent.
Mr. ENGEL: I think they're going to have 10 years of civil war in Iraq, a
quarter-million dead, until the Iraqis get exhausted and finally decide that
they can agree to a federal state. The Americans' goal is just to maintain
influence, try and contain the situation, and not let the regional powers--not
let Syria and Iran completely step in and dominate the situation.
MATTHEWS: Wow. Gloria:
Ms. BORGER: A domestic political issue that involves the midterm elections,
the Senate Democrats made it very clear that in Bush's new proposal this week
about how to treat these detainees, they're going to let the Republicans take
the lead in the Senate on fighting Bush on that. Some of the top Republicans
who will fight Bush: John McCain, Senator John Warner, Senator Lindsay
MATTHEWS: Lot of independents there.
Tucker, Tuesday night, right? You're dancing for us.
Mr. CARLSON: This Tuesday night, 8 Eastern. This week in Washington, former
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami was here, spoke at the National Cathedral.
A member of his delegation told an American that the Iranian government
believes--is certain that the US is going to bomb Iran's nuclear sites but it
will not go farther than that. Who knows if it's true?
MATTHEWS: Will they retaliate?
Mr. CARLSON: I don't know, but they apparently believe that we will.
MATTHEWS: OK, got to get it. Thanks to a great roundtable. Katty Kay,
Richard Engel--congratulations, my hero, headed back now to the Middle
East--Gloria Borger and Tucker Carlson.
When we return, a tribute to the New Yorkers who gave their lives to save
thousands. Look at these guys.
Everyone fears how they would do in battle. There's the dark dread that we
Americans, having had it so good, would not show guts under fire, that one
great good that rises even now from the hell and ashes of the World Trade
Towers was the heroic call to duty of New York's bravest.
(Audio excerpts of dispatch calls to World Trade Center and radio chatter of
Calixto Anaya Jr.
Joseph Angelini Jr.
Faustino Aspostol Jr.
William Burke, Jr.
James J. Corrigan
Thomas Cullen III
Martin Egan, Jr.
Thomas Gambino, Jr.
Peter J. Ganci, Jr.
Thomas Haskell, Jr.
Philip T. Hayes
Frderick Ill, Jr.
Angel Juarbe, Jr.
Richard Kelly, Jr.
Thomas W. Kelly
Thomas R. Kelly
Robert King, Jr.
Joseph Marchbanks, Jr.
Henry Miller, Jr.
Richard Muldowney, Jr.
Joseph Rivelli, Jr.
Michael E. Roberts
Stanley Smagala, Jr.
Leon Smith, Jr.
Robert Spear, Jr.
John Tipping II
Hector Tirado, Jr.
John Vigiano II
William X. Wren