Friends like these. Abandoned by the public, bitterly opposed by Democrats.
President Bush could count on one thing: the loyalty of Republicans on Iraq.
But now key GOP senators are saying, you're on your own.
Lonesome hawk. John McCain's never been afraid of going it alone, but by
backing the president on Iraq, has he become the odd man out?
And pre-emptive strike. Barack Obama has all the excitement, but so far,
Hillary Clinton has the money and the muscle. And the best strategist there
is, Bill Clinton. Can the Clinton machine head Obama off at the pass?
Announcer: Sitting in today for Chris Matthew, Andrea Mitchell.
MITCHELL: Hi, I'm Andrea Mitchell, in for Chris today and welcome to the
Analysis: Gloria Borger, Howard Fineman, Ana Marie Cox and
Andrew Sullivan discuss war in Iraq and 2008 race
ANDREA MITCHELL, host:
Gloria Borger is national political correspondent for CBS News and a columnist
for U.S. News and World Report. Howard Fineman is senior Washington
correspondent for Newsweek. Ana Marie Cox is the Washington editor of
Time.com. And Andrew Sullivan is a senior editor of The New Republic and a
columnist for Time.
First up, during his State of the Union, President Bush was hardly the
self-assured leader. At times he even seemed to be pleading with Congress.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: This is not the fight we entered in Iraq but it is
the fight we're in. Every one of us wishes this war was over and won.
Whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing
a new strategy in Iraq and I ask you to give it a chance to work.
MITCHELL: But Bush's pleas to his own Republicans may be falling on deaf
ears. In February of 2005, 76 percent of Republican voters were confident the
war would succeed. This month, it's down to 44 percent. It's no surprise
that some Republicans in Congress are now leading the charge against the
Senator JOHN WARNER: The American GI is not trained, is not sent over there,
certainly not by resolution of this institution, to be placed in the middle of
a fight between the Sunni and the Shia and the wanton and just
incomprehensible killing that's going on at this time.
Senator CHUCK HAGEL: We'd better be damned sure we know what we're doing, all
of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder.
MITCHELL: And even Republicans who are sticking with the White House hint
that patience is running out.
Unidentified Republican Leader: We have serious concern about the policy of
this administration and that many of us feel you are not listening. It's time
to recognize that if you keep going the way you are, you are never going to
achieve what you want to achieve.
MITCHELL: Howard, the troops are deserting him. How long does he have to
make it work?
Mr. HOWARD FINEMAN (Newsweek Senior Washington Correspondent): Not very
long. I'd say a few months at the outside. I think some of the wavering
Republican senators, I know, have been told by the White House, by the
President himself, stick with us for a while. Stick with us for a while, the
hint being that if it doesn't work, if the so-called surge, escalation,
whatever you want to call it, doesn't work, that Bush in fact will admit it to
them and to the country with a change of policy by the fall. That's what the
wavering Republicans have been told off the record by the president himself.
MITCHELL: So Gloria, is John Warner's strategy now to try to give him a
little bit more time...
Ms. GLORIA BORGER (CBS News National Political Correspondent): Yes.
MITCHELL: ...by moderating the resolution?
Ms. BORGER: Yeah. I think Warner is saying, `I'm loyal to you, Mr.
President. I want to give you this chance. I want to give you this time.'
But, Andrea, push is going to come to shove in the fall. They're going to
have to reauthorize money for Iraq for the next fiscal year...
MITCHELL: It all comes down to the dollars, doesn't it? This budget.
Ms. BORGER: It all does. And the money for Iraq now in the pipeline in the
fall, that's going to be the really, really tough time.
MITCHELL: Ana Marie, what about the Republicans deserting him. Does this
send a signal overseas, you know, what about the argument from the White
House, the counter-argument...
Ms. ANA MARIE COX (Time.com): Well...
MITCHELL: ...that this is the worst signal to send to the insurgents, to
al-Qaeda, to all the bad guys out there?
Ms. COX: That's pretty much the only argument they have and the only one
they're using. Right now, they're not doing an out and out lobbying push to
try and woo these Republicans back, sort of, all the way to their side.
They're kind of letting them go with Warner and simply using this kind of
passive-aggressive argument, what does it look like, what message are you
sending to--overseas and what message are you sending to the troops?
Interestingly enough, when I asked someone at the White House about, `Like,
well, are you, you know, are you worried about how this is going to play out
if it doesn't succeed?' He's like, `Well, we're already there. They can't
stop us. We're going to let Baghdad speak for us,' which hasn't worked in the
past, but who knows?
Mr. ANDREW SULLIVAN (New Republic Senior Editor): They're...
MITCHELL: Letting Baghdad--Andrew, relying on Maliki and Baghdad is hardly an
option right now.
Mr. SULLIVAN: Well, it's more dangerous than that, I think, because I mean,
there's a video going out on the Web right now which shows American soldiers
actually standing while Shiite militias beat up and seriously wound Sunni
civilians. There is no way that we can do what we're doing there without
siding with the Shia in Baghdad. And in fact, the agreement is to leave Sadr
City alone. The key stronghold of the Shiite militia is going to be left. So
what they're trying to do is create a kind of phony calm in other parts of
Baghdad as leverage to keep this going, in the hope that Petraeus will succeed
in a few areas and then try and, I think, the whole gambit here is to shift
this problem onto the next president, and this surge is simply a placeholder
to get this to the next president.
Mr. FINEMAN: The key phrase that John Warner used that sound bite there was
that this Congress did not by resolution authorize our management of a civil
war. That's going to be the theory by which the Republicans are going to move
away from the president.
MITCHELL: That's what redeployment means...
Mr. FINEMAN: Yes.
Ms. BORGER: Right.
MITCHELL: ...pulling back to a different perimeter.
Mr. FINEMAN: Yes, but they're going to say, `We didn't authorize you to
manage a civil war or make a civil war worse between Sunni and Shia,' 'cause
the irony is, in much of the rest of the Middle East, our theory is, we want
to support the Sunni against the Shia so we're managing to make both of them
more angry at each other and us at the same time.
Ms. BORGER: And don't forget, Andrea, that the Republicans are protecting
themselves. I know you'll all be shocked to hear this but you've got 21
Republican senators up for re-election in 2008. Forget the presidential
campaign. This is really important and so far you see that playing out in the
Congress that the people are who are with Warner are the ones who know that
they're going to have tough races if they're not on the right side.
Mr. FINEMAN: By the way, Warner's up. Warner's one of the people up.
MITCHELL: We put it to the Matthews Meter, to 12 of our regular panelists:
Will Republicans push for troop redeployment if the surge fails by summer?
Seven say yes, they will push to get troops out, five say no, the Republicans
will stick with the president. Andrew, what would make Republicans stick with
the president beyond the summer?
Mr. SULLIVAN: I think just a hope and a prayer, all institutional loyalty to
a president, a commander in chief, in the middle of a war. Look, some
deference is owed to the president. I think the main resistance to this is
that no one actually believes it's going to work but they actually believe a
president in wartime has the right to do what he thinks is best in terms of
Ms. BORGER: Well, they...
MITCHELL: Well, let me drill down just a second. What is--what does "not
working" mean? Isn't there a good chance that Maliki and some of the others
will play possum, just calm everything down. You won't see the Sadr army for
a while. Let the troops deal with it. Let a redeployment take place, and
then the whole thing erupts.
Mr. SULLIVAN: Yeah.
Ms. COX: That's right.
Mr. SULLIVAN: I mean, the danger is that if we manage this civil war, which
I think is an impossible thing, no one manages a civil war, you either watch
it or you take part in it on one side or the other. And we already have a lot
of the Muslim world hostile to us because we are the West. Now we want half
of them hating us because we're supporting Sunni and the other half hating us
because we're supporting Shia, and there's no way around that. And that's the
logic that means we have to redeploy and withdraw now.
MITCHELL: Ana Marie:
Ms. COX: I think that as far as, like, sticking with the president goes, I
mean, there are some people who honestly believe, while the surge may not
work, whatever is left is worse. That to leave now or to just arm Maliki...
MITCHELL: That's the nightmare scenario the president laid out in his speech.
Ms. COX: Yeah. And so I think there's a lot of people, actually--I'm
thinking there are some, you know, American voters who realize that there's no
other plan. So how else are you going to do it except...
Mr. FINEMAN: That's the big argument--actually, the big argument that
every--that the supporters of this strategy are making is the bloodbath
argument. It's not that we can't be seen to lose anymore. They're not even
making that argument. They're saying, we--as a humanitarian matter, we can't
leave because it will be worse when we leave for the people who remain there.
That's a humanitarian argument that the supporters are making.
MITCHELL: Well, if there is a big bloodbath, if we have one of those
horrendous occasions, I mean, we went through it all back in 1983 with the
Marine barracks bombing, and within a few months, we were out of Beirut.
Gloria, if there is that kind of incident, will the Republicans then move over
to the Democratic side and move for cutting off funds?
Ms. BORGER: Well, you know, I can envision the scene, Andrea, of some senior
Republican statesman--maybe it's John Warner, I don't know who it is--going
down to the Oval Office, taking the president aside, having a private meeting,
saying `Mr. President, this is the time.' But as we've learned from Vietnam,
you know, what's very important, sometimes you're remembered for more for how
you got out of a war than how you got in the war. And so politically, getting
out of the war the right way--that moment may already have passed.
Mr. FINEMAN: Yeah.
MITCHELL: Ana Marie, do you see that happening? Do you see...
Ms. COX: I can't see that happening. I mean...
MITCHELL: ...Republicans going down, going...
Ms. COX: I think they've gone.
MITCHELL: ...to the White House...
Ms. COX: They've gone and gone and said and tried to make a...
Ms. BORGER: They'll go again. They'll go again.
Ms. COX: Yeah, he won't listen to this.
Mr. FINEMAN: There is no Barry Goldwater. George W. Bush will not listen.
MITCHELL: Barry Goldwater went to see Richard Nixon...
Mr. FINEMAN: Nixon. Nixon.
MITCHELL: ...and said it's over.
Mr. FINEMAN: There's no equivalent figure in the Republican Party. Things
have changed. In addition...
MITCHELL: Not John Warner?
Mr. FINEMAN: Yeah. In addition to which, if Dick Cheney is in...
Ms. BORGER: I was just going to say, Dick Cheney. Cheney...
Mr. FINEMAN: The key question is whether Dick Cheney is in the room whenever
that meeting, such as it is, takes place, because if Cheney's there, nothing
Mr. SULLIVAN: Cheney believes that so far the war has been an enormous
Mr. FINEMAN: There you go.
Mr. SULLIVAN: So we're dealing with someone who believes that this has been
Ms. BORGER: Yeah.
Ms. COX: But I don't think that...
Mr. SULLIVAN: And that any other alternative narrative is hogwash.
MITCHELL: Now he acknowledges that there have been problems in the way...
Ms. BORGER: Do you think the president, I mean...
Mr. SULLIVAN: Yes. Problems. Little problems, always happen in war. You
know the narrative that's in his head, and that means that there will be no
Mr. SULLIVAN ...unless Bush actually breaks with Cheney...
MITCHELL: Gloria, Gloria...
Mr. SULLIVAN: ...which will be a wonderful moment if it happens.
Ms. BORGER: You don't think the president agrees with that, do you?
MITCHELL: Do you think the president, Gloria...
SULLIVAN: I don't think--I think Bush and Cheney are at odds right now.
Ms. BORGER: That's what I think.
Mr. SULLIVAN: You can see it in the way they're talking, the way they're
MITCHELL: Bush and Cheney at odds. Gloria, who is the Republican who could
lead that delegation to the White House?
Ms. BORGER: I don't know. You know, it's interesting because first of all,
you're right. They'd have to lead it to see Dick Cheney, OK? And there is--I
think you're right, Howard. There isn't a Barry Goldwater figure. Maybe it
would be a little counterintuitive, maybe it would be a John McCain...
Ms. BORGER: ...who supports the war, who would have to...
MITCHELL: Speaking of John McCain...
Ms. BORGER: OK.
MITCHELL: ...he's been out front, pushing the troop surge. But how long can
McCain stick with it? In a recent LA Times poll, 42 percent said McCain's
support for the surge made them less likely to vote for him in '08. Only 13
percent say it makes them more likely to vote for him.
Andrew, is John McCain going to lose his chance at the presidency because he
is too tied to the Iraq policy?
Mr. SULLIVAN: I fear that Bush is going to do to McCain what he's done to
Blair. These are two honorable people, McCain and Blair, who honorably
supported this war and believed it should be executed competently with
sufficient troops and decently with humanitarian rationale and with humane
treatment of detainees. They have watched this nightmare unfold, but they
can't get off their previous support for it, so they're just dragged down
slowly into the mire. Blair is finished. I think McCain's career is on the
verge of being finished...
Mr. SULLIVAN: ...unless he does what you suggested, which is actually say,
`No, this isn't going to work, Mr. President.' He's going to move toward this
resolution with benchmarks, I hear. He may be the person, when he says no,
it's really over.
MITCHELL: If they would listen to him. Well, bottom line, we put it to the
Matthews Meter, 12 of our regular panelists: Will John McCain distance
himself from President Bush by primary season? Ten say yes, he will distance
himself. Two say now. Howard, how is he going to do it? Is he already doing
it with this benchmark proposal?
Mr. FINEMAN: I think he's going to do it by going after Cheney. I think
MITCHELL: I've already heard that.
Mr. FINEMAN: First of all, a lot of Republican strategists say that McCain
should have gotten away from support by saying that the surge wasn't big
enough. But he passed up that opportunity. But the way he's going to do it
is to say Dick Cheney is the one who's mismanaged all this. George Bush, his
purposes were good, they were noble, it was Cheney who's responsible for the
mismanagement. That's how he's going to do it.
MITCHELL: Before we go to break, every State of the Union is a massive scrum
with members of Congress, backslapping and angling for attention.
Presidential rivals, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, had an even tougher
challenge. How could they possibly avoid making eye contact? Believe it or
not, for the entire 15 minutes before the speech, they stood within a yard of
each other and never once exchanged so much as a glance. Finally, they found
a good excuse to avoid each other. The speech got under way.
What about this, Gloria? You were there, you watched them. You watched them
afterwards when they were at...
Ms. BORGER: Mm-hmm.
MITCHELL: ...adjacent cameras. Not a whole lot of interaction.
Ms. BORGER: Well, they're very polite with each other. How are you? Good
to see you, kind of thing. But then they go in their--they go in their own
separate way. It's like running into somebody you don't want to see at a
cocktail party and their eyes meet and then they divert and that's exactly
what it was like.
Mr. FINEMAN: I think the Senate is more like high school right now.
MITCHELL: It's always been high school.
Ms. COX: And her marriage.
MITCHELL: And when we come back, we'll talk about the Clinton vs. Obama
campaign wars. How are Hillary and Bill Clinton and their forces hoping to
stop Obama in his tracks.
Plus, scoops and predictions straight from the notebooks of these top
reporters. Tell me something I don't know. Be right back.
MITCHELL: Welcome back. Hillary Clinton launched her campaign with a soft
focused, tightly controlled living room chat.
Senator HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: So let's talk. Let's chat. Let's start a
dialogue about your ideas and mine because the conversation in Washington has
been just a little one-sided lately, don't you think?
MITCHELL: But when it comes to Barack Obama, she means business. This year,
the Clintons plan to rake in $65 million, an amount Obama will struggle to
match. Plus, the Clintons are working hard to nail down black leaders. And
take a look at what is likely to be the new Super Tuesday map. It was always
a big primary day, but now that huge states like California, Florida, New
Jersey and Illinois are planning to move their primaries to February 5th, it
becomes the day that settles it all and you've got to have big, big bucks to
get on TV in those states. Howard, what is Hillary doing to stop Obama from
having that kind of money?
Mr. FINEMAN: Well, it's all about the Benjamins, you know. It's all about
the money. That calendar that you showed makes it even more the case. Now,
Obama's going to be able to raise money, but the Hillary people are putting
out the word that, you know, we want your money for us. We don't want you to
try and play it cool and contribute to everybody. You know, Terry McAuliffe,
who's going to be Hillary's main fund-raiser in chief, told me, he said,
`Look, people should give only to one person because you're not going to get
any points contributing to more.' Big message, we want the bucks.
Mr. FINEMAN: Ignore the other people.
MITCHELL: Ana Marie, what about Hollywood? You've got defections...
Ms. COX: Right.
MITCHELL: ...from Hillaryland. You've got people like Steven Spielberg...
Ms. COX: Steven Spielberg, Katzenberg, Geffen, and...
MITCHELL: They haven't signed up with Obama but they're...
Ms. COX: ...Rahm's brother Ari's going to be hosting--Rahm Emanuel...
MITCHELL: A big fund-raiser.
Ms. COX: ...hosting a big fund-raiser for Obama. I think that's some money
Obama can really to get some free media out of it. Hillary doesn't need the
Hollywood money as much as he does. She has donors going way back. She
Mr. FINEMAN: She has New York.
Ms. COX: She has New York.
Ms. BORGER: New York.
Ms. COX: She has Terry McAuliffe, who can just--he's like a Hoover, you
know. He can suck the money out of almost anybody. Obama's going to be
looking to be carried by the buzz of Hollywood a little bit more than Hillary.
Mr. FINEMAN: And by Internet.
Ms. COX: And by Internet.
MITCHELL: Talk about the Internet a little bit, Andrew. What can the
Internet do for Obama? Is that a Howard Dean opportunity?
Mr. SULLIVAN: Look, it makes raising money instantly very, very, very easy.
And I think it also helps Obama in one obvious sense, which is that he can say
he's getting money from lots of little people, and Hillary is the candidate of
the big machine, the big establishment. She is playing right into his hands
strategically, it seems to me, especially if she's trying to prevent people
giving to him. That seems to me a very Mondale move, you know. It plays
exactly to one's fears and paranoia about Hillary.
MITCHELL: So retro.
Mr. SULLIVAN: And watching her makes you--watching her online, it's just...
Ms. COX: Sure, you've got everyone.
Mr. SULLIVAN: It's just...
MITCHELL: What about the black leaders? You had Sharpton on the Hill...
Ms. BORGER: Mm-hmm.
MITCHELL: Al Sharpton coming and meeting with everyone. The signal there is
`Barack Obama, you can't rely on us automatically.'
Ms. BORGER: Right. Then the signal there is that this is a power play for
them, of course, because now there's--they know that the eye is on
Ms. BORGER: And don't forget...
MITCHELL: Bill Clinton...
Ms. BORGER: ...the Clintons are very popular in the African-American
Ms. COX: Bill Clinton.
Ms. BORGER: Bill, Bill Clinton was called...
Ms. COX: Right.
Ms. BORGER: ...the first black president by Toni Morrison.
MITCHELL: By Toni Morrison, a New Yorker. Remember her...
Ms. BORGER: ...and Hillary Clinton has been on the telephone before Obama
announced, telling black leaders to please hold off. Of course, the Clintons
have Vernon Jordan in Washington, who will be supporting them and shoring up
that kind of support.
MITCHELL: But what if Hillary falters in Iowa, where John Edwards is clearly
ahead, very early, to say that Edwards has been the senator from Iowa
practically. What if she falters in Iowa, New Hampshire, the traditional
start-up states? Now, California gives her a firewall or is she already
Mr. FINEMAN: I don't think it works that way. I think if she falters early,
what is built as a big bonfire, that could all go up in flames. She's got to
worry about the anti-war constituency. She's playing it very cute here,
because she's looking at the general election, but while the moveon.org types
don't control the general election, as was shown in Connecticut, they're
important in the primaries and she's got to worry about it, and I'm told that
they're going to have issues primaries on the Web and the first one's going to
be about the war and she's not going to win that one.
MITCHELL: OK. Bottom line. We put it to the Matthews Meter, 12 of our
regular panelists: Can the Clintons stop Obama before the primaries? This
one is not even close. By 11-to-1, the panel says Obama cannot be stopped.
Andrew, that's the bottom line for you as well?
Mr. SULLIVAN: Well, I just think as a candidate he's so fresher than
Hillary, that she harkens back to the '90s. I think she's been a very
sensible senator. I think, in fact, it's hard to disagree with her on the
war. But when I see her again, all my--all the cootie vibes sort of resurrect
Mr. FINEMAN: That's a technical term, by the way.
Mr. SULLIVAN: I just--I just...
Ms. COX: (Unintelligible)...
Mr. SULLIVAN: I'm sorry. I must represent a lot of people.
Mr. FINEMAN: Real politics, yeah.
Mr. SULLIVAN: I actually find her positions appealing in many ways. I just
can't stand her. I'm sorry about that.
Mr. FINEMAN: According to a new poll, she...
Ms. BORGER: What about...(unintelligible)...
Mr. FINEMAN: I'll tell you what though.
MITCHELL: What about--what about the new poll?
Mr. FINEMAN: In fairness to her, after this roll-out that she had this
MITCHELL: Very, very positive.
Mr. FINEMAN: The numbers in our poll, the Newsweek poll and others, very
positive, very powerful, actually.
MITCHELL: And, in fact...
Mr. FINEMAN: Cooties not withstanding.
Ms. BORGER: She's very powerful. It is...
Mr. SULLIVAN: But if you look at her polling over the years, it is
absolutely dead straight line. People who don't like her, are not going to
change their minds, and they're about over 40 percent.
Ms. BORGER: But isn't it--but isn't it...
Mr. FINEMAN: She won two Senate elections in New York.
Mr. SULLIVAN: In New York.
Ms. BORGER: But isn't it interesting that the woman is the most qualified
and the establishment candidate?
MITCHELL: And the establishment candidate. We'll be right back with scoops
and predictions straight...
MITCHELL: Welcome back. Gloria, tell me something I don't know.
Ms. BORGER: This is actually about policy, Andrea.
MITCHELL: It's not politics?
Ms. BORGER: No, no. I think we're going to get some kind of immigration
reform deal sometime this summer. Ted Kennedy, on the Democratic side, maybe
John McCain on the Republican side will go...
MITCHELL: The Democrats are closer to the president than the Republicans on
Ms. BORGER: Absolutely.
Mr. FINEMAN: Speaking...
Mr. FINEMAN: ...of women want to be in power, down in Kentucky, Phyllis
George, remember her?
MITCHELL: Very well.
Mr. FINEMAN: She was a Miss America, married to the governor. She moved
back to Kentucky, wants to get in politics. Looking at running either for
governor or senator, maybe even against Mitch McConnell...
MITCHELL: Oh, that's a good one.
Mr. FINEMAN: ...the Republican leader.
MITCHELL: Don't count her out.
Mr. FINEMAN: Right.
MITCHELL: Ana Marie:
Ms. COX: Adding to speculation about whether or not Chuck Hagel will throw
his hat in the ring for president, I've heard that he's shopping around a book
proposal in New York, which is sort of the literary equivalent of staffing in
Mr. SULLIVAN: The new hot position in the Republican Party is anti-war and
pro-life. Sam Brownback is the candidate. He's been dismissed. He shouldn't
be. He's going to grow.
MITCHELL: I'll be right back with the week's big question.
MITCHELL: Welcome back. The big question for me this week is will Chuck
Hagel, who has been hammering the president on Iraq, emerge as an anti-war
presidential contender. Gloria?
Ms. BORGER: I think he will. I think he'll get into it late, if he gets
into it. And he could come into it as an Independent.
MITCHELL: Does McCain have to drop down for Hagel to succeed?
Mr. FINEMAN: Well, McCain's already dropped down a little bit, and I think
Hagel's going to do it because he wants to carry the anti-war message so he'll
have that sense of crusade about it.
MITCHELL: But Ana Marie, is he doing it--if he does it, will it be as a
Republican or will he be this fusion candidate, the old Bloomberg scenario?
Ms. COX: I don't see him going as an Independent. He's a fellow Nebraskan,
I should add, and we like to stay true to the first thing that we went with,
so I think he'll probably stay a Republican, but he will try to carry--like, I
do think he believes he has a message.
Mr. FINEMAN: Yeah.
MITCHELL: Andrew, is he the only real voice here from that party?
Mr. SULLIVAN: He is a Republican realist, an old-fashioned Republican
realist and there's a place for that in the debate.
MITCHELL: Thanks to all. Great roundtable. Gloria Borger, Howard Fineman,
Ana Marie Cox, and Andrew Sullivan.