tv The Chris Matthews Show NBC May 8, 2011 4:30pm-5:00pm PDT
>> had is the "the chris matthews show." what your country can do for you. >> i can hear you! >> a time for change has come. >> the gang that could shoot straight. what do pentagon gone insiders say were the keys of getting bin laden? and what are we watching for now? let's get the skinny from the reporters who covered this stuff. bin laden, done that. we went to afghanistan to catch bin laden, he left, we stayed. is the president ready to say let's go home? and are republicans ready to agree. and notching the victory of the decade must give the president
steam to his stride. how's it going to change things? with us today, rick stengel, managing editor of "time" magazine, and look at that special issue there. and elisabeth bumiller, pentagon correspondent for "the new york times," and helene cooper with "the new york times," and "the washington post" expert on intelligence and the middle east, david ignatius. first up, this truly is a panel of experts and we have three urgent questions today. how did our spy catchers score this win and what are they most worried about now, and how much sooner can we leave afghanistan? ck. let's start with you on how we did it. >> this was a perfect marriage between intelligence and the military, between c.i.a. and special ops. what this presages is the future of warfare. >> a lot of it was painstaking
intelligence work involving clue after clue after clue and they got a key clue eight months ago, a license plate, followed that. that was a major thing that happened but also it was the ability of the c.i.a. and the defense department to work closely together which hasn't really happened before 9/11. chris: i think there's going to be more of that, isn't there? >> yes. chris: you have a lot of reporting about the role of the halfway house. >> two things this strike me, first is how patient people had to be. we first heard the nickname of the courier who had the house where bin laden was hiding in 2002, nine years ago. it took all that time, nine years, and finally, it was classic intelligence. they put a safe house, not a halfway house. chris: my mistake. >> a safe house into the very place where they thought osama might be living and watched for months and months using every
kind of surveillance we have so it was the patience with the slow accumulation of leads and gutsy action. chris: when you go in there with guns blazing, you have to be really sure, don't you? in those rules of inn gauge. >> i think the truth of this is you can't be 100% sure and the presidents that demand 100% act and that's one of the admirable things that president obama's position, he did this in the face of uncertainty. it might not work, he might not be there. it was a tougher decision, i think, than we know looking at the result. chris: helene, you wrote the big story. >> it was just such an amazing story. when david talks about patience, i mean, i think almost in a way we've underplayed that. there were so many times they weren't sure osama bin laden really was at this place and they talk about red teaming this. after all the intelligence came through, they went again to an outside -- still c.i.a. analysts
but outside analysts they went through who had not been part of the intel gathering team. they showed them all of the information they had, the compound, who's coming, who's going, and asked, is there any chance this might not be osama bin laden. chris: what's red teaming? >> when you take the analysis you've been gathering and show it to somebody who's not involved at all to make sure that, because you've been tunneled in on one thing, you go to someone else and say, look at all of this and what do you think and who do you think is there and the red teamers came back and said, you know, there's nobody else it could be other than osama but that's such an iffy proposition. >> i should say it's the navy seals. they went in not knowing. there was a 60% to 80% chance that osama bin laden was there. but they called audibles in the middle of it. were a lot of things that went wrong, the helicopter
stalled, they had plans to land on the roof and that didn't happen. they were making it up as they went along and they did not expect to find as much intelligence. chris: what did they get? >> we learned that osama bin laden had aspirations to attack trains in the united states and so obviously the word went out late this past week to be careful. now, nobody knows for sure whether this -- how operational this was but i know that in the next weeks and months there will be -- this will come out slowly. chris: 9/11/11, right? >> he was interested in chicago, new york, washington and los angeles. chris: anything nels terms of danger -- else in terms of danger coming our way? >> the greatest c.i.a. operation in history that we know about it and the fact he was communicating using thumb drives and flash drives. chris: the little gadgets you
transmit information. right. he didn't have wireless service and this is what the couriers were taking around. it's an incredible haul and the problem they have is how to process that information as quickly as they can and see the whole grand picture that this cache gives them. >> there was rolling up. chris: what's rolling up mean? >> finding the clues they've got in this information, this trove, and going after others. there was a strike in yemen on thursday, thursday morning in which the people in the area said they saul -- saw predator jones in the air and picked up al qaeda in the arabian peninsula. the obvious question is, where did they get the intel? i'll give you a bet. chris: osama bin laden, he wasn't a mastermind anymore. >> he was being back-briefed on operations. he had more of an operational role than we thought.
there are two things that strike me about this intelligence. the first is that al qaeda's still thinking about spectacular operations. what we're seeing is that they were getting ready to commemorate the 10th anniversary of september 11 in a big way, taking down commuter trains in a series of american cities or other things we may not know about yet. that's the first thing. the second thing, it's clear, now that we have the intel and we're chasing them everywhere we can, they're going to scatter. they're not stupid. i've been hearing u.s. counter terrorism analysts tell me that a fragmented decentralized al qaeda will cause all kind of new problems with individual units operating on their own, picking up little plots. chris: competing. >> they won't take down skyscrapers but may drive us crazy with all kinds of smaller
operations. chris: john kerry saying there was no way to win that war. >> with the death of bin laden, some people are sure to ask why don't we just pack up and leave afghanistan. again and again, our military leaders and our civilian leaders have repeated the mantra, there is no military victory to be had in afghanistan. chris: do you hear anything at the pentagon about making more rapid our departure which is set to be completed by 2014? >> right now, general patraeus has not submitted his recommendation for the number of troops to be withdrawn in july. there's talk of several thousand, the beginning of a phased withdrawal. i think there's an anticipation at the pentagon, they'll be under pressure to make that a faster withdrawal, but right now they're saying that just getting osama bin laden does not change the calculus completely here. the taliban are still a threat and they are hopeful that this will put more pressure on the afghan taliban to negotiate, because i think the pentagon,
saying there's no military solution in afghanistan, as well. chris: without a military solution and no public impetus to catch bin laden, we caught him and killed him. >> the big picture is the military folks are saying, our biggest fear, we made advances there and i don't want you to pull back now. i don't know if that's true or not. i think there will be less pressure on him than we think. there will be pressure on the left as the campaign heats up. but he's a rational decision maker. he put 30, 000 more troops in there. he's not going to beat up the time table unless he thinks there's something to be gained. chris: by election time next year, hot season by the end of next summer, will it be an issue? will the runs say don't get out? >> one of the things that the white house looked at, haley barbour looking at the idea of becoming not so much an anti-war candidate but a war skeptic and i think they're looking at that
and seeing where the horizon fits. chris: they may not be on the right? >> right. >> i don't see republicans clamoring to stay in this war. it's not a popular war. i don't think this will be a big issue. chris: the old fight, republicans want to fight, democrats want to come home, is that the backdrop to next year's election? think democrats want to come home. the question now is where the republicans end up and what they decide. i think that's going to be really, really interesting to see just what side of obama they decide to put themselves on but also where obama himself ends up, he's got biden and a lot of people on the left in his administration who are going to be saying, look, we've got osama bin laden, it's time to come home. chris: the fact that patraeus has moved away from the front, does that give him more freedom? >> he hasn't moved away yet. he's going to make recommendations on precisely this issue, how many troops
should come out and when. the president has said there will be significant reduction after july of this year and he doesn't have the number yet. one thing to look for is a shift over the next two years from uniformed military operations to paramillary operations, the kind we saw in pakistan. we'll see more of that. chris: it's exciting to have patraeus go to the c.i.a. >> he's going to clean up the thing he didn't finish in kabul. chris: at the c.i.a.? >> yeap. late sunday night in washington when the white house put a few calls to news organizations with a heads up the president would speak on television but no details. it took about an hour for the rumor mill to get the story but broadcasters didn't want to go with rumors. msnbc white house correspondent was on the air and had a solid report but the network waited under an abundance of caution. >> pete williams, our department of justice correspondent, has informed us of the following, i'm going to go with this, an
administration official says he's been told that president obama will announce tonight that -- i'm sorry, i'm told now -- i'm being told to hold it. chris: a few minutes later, the associated press ran a flash and all of a sudden newspaper editors were thinking one thing, stop the presses. >> break down the front page, we'll have a complete layout. chris: last sunday night at "new york times" headquarters in new york, the night editor picked up the phone and said, "stop the presses." they switched front pages rushing this one into print. the stop the presses call is rare. one other time, march, 1968, the "times" had to rip out page one when l.b.j. surprised everyone at the end of a speech that was expected to be routine. >> i shall not seek and i will not accept the nomination of my
party for another term as your president. chris: they ripped up the paper to put it out. another time was the back and forth on election night 2000. the "new york times" and hundreds of paper his gone to press after 2:00 a.m. when george w. bush had been given florida and the election, but then things changed. here was nbc's coverage. >> originally nbc news and all the other networks projected that al gore would win florida, then at 2:18 a.m. this morning, we project -- all right, we're officially saying that florida is too close to call, so we take florida away from george w. bush. that means he is short of the 270 electoral votes he needs to win. chris: and the "new york times" put out this new page one. and again last sunday night, helene, high drama for the "times." >> it was high drama. i remember when we first got the
call, i got a phone call from doug mills, our photographer at the white house, who always, always is the first one to know anything and at that point everybody thought this was going to be libya, maybe they got qaddafi. and doug said, it's bin laden and i'm sitting there with my phone and i started shaking and i had to confirm it still but i had to first of all get the heads up to my boss and the higher ups at the time that this is stop the presses. i always wanted to say "hold page one!" but letting them know, before i confirmed it, that it was bin laden was the first thing i did. >> we stopped the presses. we normally would have begun rolling at midnight. we held it until 2:00 a.m. we got about half of our run got all the news. chris: you already had a special and groomr the bride in england. >> we were starting the presses.
we moved up our printing schedule and printed our third issue in one week, first time in 88 years in the history of the magazine because we thought americans wanted to gather around the hearth about this and commemorate it which is what we did with bin laden on the cover with the red x. chris: when we return, the obama presidency has a stamp of accomplishment on it now. will that change things?
releasing his birth certificate, working on his speech. he took a break on saturday from working on his speech for the white house correspondents dinner where he was going to needle donald trump. this is a pretty low-key guy when it comes to that sort of thing so i don't know if he's going to be jumping up and down and turning into a different person. as reporters and historians we always think presidents grow in the job. i think that's a romantic notion, particularly in the case of obama, he is who he is. it probably confirms the rational view of things he took into the office. >> i felt, watching the president sunday night, an american archetype of the strong, silent person.
chris: the cowboy. >> i saw obama as a little bit of a cowboy. chris: donald trump is not the hero in these movies. >> it takes a while to learn how to be president, and i think you're right. i don't know obama personally but i think he's the same person but i think this shows how alone the presidency is. at the end of the day, his advisers were divided on this raid. it was a very gutsy call. he made the decision on his own, that was it, there's nobody else and that's what strikes me. chris: how's the mood at the pentagon in terms of him and stature as commander-in-chief. >> it's good. >> elisabeth talks about his advisers being divided to the point where on friday morning he was about to head to alabama to view the tornadoes and they came up to him. he called them -- he was on his way to the helicopter and he called them down and they went ready to brief him again on the pros and cons of the raid and he
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waiting until july and looking for mitch daniels and john huntsman. chris: have they given up on bush? >> he's one of the people they're craving but i don't think he's going to get in. chris: i love that word, craving. elisabeth? >> leon panetta, the director of the c.i.a., ran the raid and what's interesting to me was how much he was out on the networks, out on television, talking about the c.i.a. and to me that was kind of a little of the transition into his new role starting july 1 as the defense secretary. >> the big question at the white house, president obama last year announced he was going to make a state visit to pakistan. now he's come out with this raid that shows that osama bin laden was staying an hour outside of islamabad and all this intel coming out, people waiting to see how high up the pakistani government might be implicated. they don't know if obama will go
yet. >> no is the answer. to go way outside the beltway, but the embattled president of syria has told other arab leaders that he knows he'll have to distance himself from iran to survive. chris: wow, good news for us. >> great news if it's true. chris: and that means hezbollah, too. >> yes. chris: thank you. when we return, the big question for the week for us, has the bush administration gotten enough success?
chris: welcome back, this week's big question, has the bush team gotten enough credit for the bin laden killing. rick? >> i don't think they have. they've been speaking up about saying that actually the human intelligence which they emphasized played a big role in this and we all know particularly on intelligence matters, it's a baton one president hands off to another
and obama has been gracious about saying that bush deserves credit. >> i think they've gotten enough. they've been all over television and president bush's decision not to go to ground zero was a personal thing. >> i think they should be getting credit. keep in mind that the c.i.a. chris: getting enough? >> i haven't been watching t.v. all week. >> president obama thought that president bush should get credit because he invited him to go to ground zero. i think the reason bush didn't go, the photograph of the two of them together would have locked the re-election of barack obama in 2012. chris: that's the show, thanks for watching. happy mother's day.
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