tv The Chris Matthews Show NBC June 27, 2011 12:00am-12:30am PDT
>> this is "the chris matthews show." >> ask not what your country can do for you. >> i can hear you. >> a time for change has come! chris: battle fatigue. americans just don't mike long wars. korea killed truman, vietnam divided the country, drove johnson back to texas. now it's the weariness of afghanistan that's got us dragging. is obama off base here? could the republicans actually run to his left on this? funny you should ask. does john stewart want to call the shots in american politics or just take them? does the man want to lead us or what? finally, light my fire.
in olden days of romney or huntsman, they would have all the tickets, successful business, governor, nice family, no rough edges. but that was pre-tea party. will it take michele bachmann or rick perry to lighten things up in 1012? i'm chris matthews. with us today, "time" magazine's michael duffy, nbc's norah o'donnell, "new york times" helene cooper and "the washington post," david ignatius. first up, it was the weeks politics of the war became clear er, and ending the surge in afghanistan is now a given. but is the president lagging the country on this? in a new pugh pole. 67% of democrats say get the troops out asap, as soon as possible. 43% of republicans agree with that. and the republican establishment, mitt romney and jon huntsman, may pressure president obama from the left. here's huntsman. >> i think we can probably be a little more aggressive over the next year. we've routed the taliban, we've dismantled al qaeda.
let's get serious about what needs to be done on the ground, and that's a significant counterterror effort. chris: david, there's a lot of political pressure building that's come out of nowhere, really. republicans establishment candidates, like huntsman and romney, saying basically get going to get out of there. independents saying asap, come home, america. is the president going to stick to his focus on what the generals want, or will he listen to this public opinion? >> he's trying to straddle the two, which is very difficult. he's decided to pull out more troops than the generals would like, but far fewer than the real advocates of withdrawal would like to see. he's playing the politics of commander in chief. who would have imagined two years ago that barack obama would be politically the pro-war candidate, under attack from the left and right as being too solidly with our military? it's really amazing. it shows me how immersed he's
become in the actual details of being commander in chief. chris: on that point, is he believing in this war or staying in the war for political purposes because he wants to be safe in terms of attack in re-election season? >> i think a year ago i heard in the white house much more discussion of the politics of it. people would say things like, no, he can't be hurt by keeping the droop numbers up. nobody wants out of afghanistan. i think the president, whoever day has to make decisions signing off on predator strikes, on issues, the president made a bold and courageous decision to send our seals in in this mission to kill out out of bin laden. i think the president takes it very seriously. chris: this is fascinating stuff. helene, you cover the president. the president is commander in chief. he's also a political figure who has to respond to the public at home. is he aware now that he's more hawkish than the country? >> i'm not entirely sure i think he's more hawkish than the
country. i think this has long been -- afghanistan for obama has always been sort of the good war. but i think a couple of years ago he started to get very frustrated with the idea of how many troops the military had been pushing for him to send there, and i think that frustration has grown and grown, and you're at a point now where he very much wants to pull as many troops as he can and bring them home. and he's at odds with his military. but remember, i think it was leon panetta who said it's very hard for a democratic president to go up forcefully and publicly against his military commanders. that's a hard thing for president obama to do. but that said, i think he's much more pushing the counterterrorism. chris: this is a political question to both of you. mike, first. this question of going down the middle of the road, somewhere between the military who say, stick it out as long as it takes and his own promise to get us out eventually by 2014. there's no love for that middle.
>> no. he's a victim of his own success. americans thought we were in afghanistan to get osama bin laden. he's dead now. barack obama had a huge hand, maybe the decisive hand in making that happen. now americans in the polls make it very clear that they're done. for obama the problem is, as i think david was trying to say, like all presidents, the longer they live with the war, whether it was lyndon johnson or george w. bush in iraq, they've become involved in the details and they see the light at the tunnel. they see they can get to the ends of their policy. it's not clear that he will. chris: you have so much on your plate now, norah. you're going to cover the white house for a big network. you have the big opportunities coming your way. you've covered the pentagon. i want to ask you how it fits together in terms of dollars and cents. we have a "new york times" report from helene here the other day -- $15 billion the first year we were over there. $120 billion. we keep hearing about there's no shovel-ready projects in detroit. how come they're spending all this money over there? >> that's the sales job that the president has to make is that, why are you rebuilding
afghanistan and not rebuilding america? but military officials that i speak to say, look, we're drawing down the costs. they're going to drop already this year from $160 billion to $120 billion. we're drawing down. the white house says we're drawing down from a position of strength. but there's still so much money being spent in afghanistan. and with the public now acutely aware of our budget deficit, how do you make the argument that we should be spending that amount of money in iraq and afghanistan? chris: how does he tell it to the unions and the democrats that we have to spends all this money over there? >> that is his fundamental question. and the problem is that you're having democrats now saying very, very publicly, where's our jobs? we tonight have one or detroit or cleveland. for president obama, this is a much, much bigger issue. chris: are they throwing money away over there? are they just pouring money out of our bags and giving it to these warlords? >> it looks like it. [laughter] >> you know, chris, once again, you've answered your own
question. chris: well, with your smile i got an answer. david, you're an expert in the field. are we just pouring money into those bags of guys who want to be bought? >> it's very expensive to operate there and it's a very corrupt country. so a lot of the money is being wasted. one thing i just want to mention, because it's president h-part of the president -- chris: you you know how angry people get. >> they should be. there's no excuse for the corruption in the karzai government. it should frustrate everybody. just to focus on one thing -- part of what the president is doing is trying to keep enough troops in that the pressure on the taliban will be sufficient that the negotiations that have begun in secret -- we have had secret meetings with taliban representatives over the last few months, that that process will continue. chris: the eastern powers, including groups like the taliban, have studied western history for years. they've watched the british and the french cover their
withdrawals with artillery, in our case with modern equipment. but basically it's a withdrawal. all they have to do is wait. why should they deal with us? >> they thought we were going to be out in july, 2011. the universal expectation, and the president's speech this last week made clear that united states isn't going to be out in july, 2011. so that's going to be a surprise to your local taliban commander in the field. what effect it will have, we can't say. they're more back on their heels than you might think. chris: let's go to the 2012 politics. we asked the matthews meter, 12 of our regulars, including norah, has president obama beaten that old image of democrats as doves on national security? this is one of those big game-changers, 11-1. we know what it was, which is what you mentioned, catching and killing bin laden. so obama will not be tagged, according to the group, on national security. one says, by the way, he still will. that's only 12-12. norah, you're with the large majority that thinks the right
thing is to withdraw. >> he started the war in afghanistan, but it took president obama to finally capture and kill bin laden. there have been more drone attacks under the obama administration than the bush administration. there's an argument that can be made, and there are numbers that support that obama has more aggressively prosecuted the, quote unquote war on terror, if you like that phrase -- some don't -- than bush did. >> what's made this whole conversation more complicated politically is you have maybe two streams of thought on the republican side who, for the first time in a decade, are actually wanting to pull out. you have sort of the mainstream establishment republicans led by haley barbour and picked up by huntsman and romney saying let's look at this. this doesn't make sense. that's kinds of an economic argument, the mainstream argument saying this isn't adding up. it's part of the money factor you talked about. it isn't taking us anywhere. then there's the other almost element on the republican side,
which is the ron paul, this is a waste of our power, of our treasure, of our blood. that's a smaller group. but those two streams are driving a lot of water in the republican party. chris: well said. this is the harder question -- is there any upside for the president being somewhat pro-hawkish? >> it takes that doveish issue off the table. chris: there's an upside to the president being a bit behind the curve on this, a bit behind the public's desire to get out. >> yes, because he looks quite how closish and it removes the strepts for the republican candidate. >> absolutely. chris: being curmudgeonly about this. makes it better. >> particularly in pakistan, which we're not talking about, and that's where so much of this is. >> chris, we have a 10th anniversary of september 11 coming up, and if you have a president who says despite the political pressure, i am standing for american security in every way i can, that's powerful. chris: well said.
before we break, john stewart talked last sunday, and it got a lot of attention. it was a hot show. here's part of the exchange. >> honestly, i think you want to be a political player. >> you are wrong. you're dead wrong. i appreciate what you're saying. do i want my voice heard? do i want my voice heard? absolutely. chris: well, the key there -- stewart does say he wants his voice heard. in his 12 years on the air he's built a huge and young audience, but also tend to gravitate toward his politics. the knife edge of his political message has sharpened. here he was back jabbing george w. bush and al gore back in 2000, 11 years ago. first he goes after bush after the iowa caucuses. >> bush displayed a saks-sized false humility. >> i am humbled and i am honored by your outpouring of support. >> yes, an outpouring of support that earned him 40% of 10% of
the registered voters of a state with 1% of the u.s. population. [laughter] bring out the whoop ass! >> this is in the end zone and it feels safe! and you ain't seen nothing yet! >> no, you ain't. in fact, rather than president, gore is now running for president. chris: but iraq and katrina turned stewart's comedy from those general jabs to very tough critiques of bush and dick cheney. stewart hammered them nightly. mccain was one of his most frequent guests and right after he wrapped up -- here he is right after he wrapped up the nomination. >> i came on the show. we were declared dead, buried and -- >> you were doing terrible, i remember that. you were just in terrible shape.
in some respects, i resurrected your campaign. >> you did. because when i came on this show we got on to real serious issues. in fact, for a while there i was reminded of the words of chairman mao, who said it's always darkness before it's totally black. >> i remember getting that in one of my fortune cookies as well. chris: does he matter politically, john stewart? >> he doesn't want to be a political player, but he does have great political power and his ratings are huge, particularly among young people, which is why he's courted, why the president of the united states goes on his show. john stewart says the stuff you say at home when you start shouting at the television like a cread person, and he says it better than anybody else and does it in a fun way. we need that voice. chris: he can say anything he wants. i do believe a lot of people get their news from him. >> sure. chris: maybe scary, maybe not, but he does have power. when we come back, republicans
welcome back. here's my vision of the energy level at the tampa bay convention at the end of next summer. if romney gets the nomination, he gets up there. the best he could hope for is a polite, somewhat restrained reception that john mccain got in 2008 at that convention. that was before the tea party began. i'm guessing jon huntsman or tim pawlenty would face the same tampa crowd. the nomination goes to a tea party favorite, michele bachmann or possibly texas governor rick perry. they would turn the heat up certainly at that convention,
like palin did the last time. look at palin and what she did to make it rock. >> thank you so much. chris: it's an interesting thing and it will always be a blend of some kind. when you and i cover all these years, and it's been a long time, as you're about to make this transition. but i'm thinking heart and mind. people in politics are obviously moved by their mind. i want less government, less taxes. you have a deep intellectual commitment. but out's hard. who do they get in love with? let's try romney and huntsman. >> i think there's a real question about that. there's a real excitement deficit on the republican side with these establishment republicans. there's not a lot of passion, i think is the word that you were using for pawlenty or romney. that's why they love bachmann and that's why john mccain chose sarah palin for that very reason. i think the tea party still matters. they're going to play a huge role in the primary process. at the end of the day we'll have to see what the voters think about whether romney is going to be enough to drive them to the
polls, whether he can make the economic argument. chris: can romney do with george herbert walker did in 1988, when he gave that "read my lips" written speech? can he do something like that to be one of them that night? >> i think whoever is the nominee is going to have to do a lot more for the tea party than promise no new taxes. this is more than herbert walker bush had to deal with. they're making inroads at school boards and city council and legislative levels. they're rewriting the redistricting laws in florida. they're powering the house democrats in their weekly refusal to do anything on the budget. it's a much more powerful force than the one we had. there's a third-party risk if they don't get what they want. chris: the white house won't admit anything, but when you're in the back room with them -- >> they tell us everything. [laughter] chris: when you catch their giggles and listen between the lines, do you hear them chanting for bachmann?
she's announcing on monday. >> they're saying, bring it on. they would love that. they think in that case the republican party would be committing suicide in the general election. chris: david? >> i think that's right. i think if the any deteriorates further, so that in 2012 we're looking at an economy that just feels like it's in a tailspin, the appeal of a romney, an experienced manager, a man who projects that sense of competence -- and competence can be charisma sometimes. and the romney folks might be hoping for that. chris: when we come back,
chris: welcome back. mike, tell me something i don't know. >> chris, we're going to have a third stimulus. sometime in the next six months the democrats are going to insist in return for passing or helping to pass the raise in the debt ceiling limit that's being potentially organized by the white house republicans, they're going to have to come back with some kind of stimulus plug. chris: will it pass? >> the stimulus absolutely will pass. both sides. chris: wow. >> we're talking all this week about afghanistan, what a white house -- top white house official told me is that he is sitting there very, very worried about how he can get the minimum number of troops he needs to orchestrate a war in pakistan. and i don't mean a war as in
invading and ground troops, but what he needs as a base in afghanistan for them to continue with those drone strikes, because pakistan -- chris: does he need to keep those troops in afghanistan to support that? >> he needs a minimum number, maybe 20,000. from there you can launch -- you can go after -- chris: who told you this? good oh, yeah, i'm going to really tell you that. [laughter] >> this is a two-parter with helene. as pakistan's relations with the u.s. have gotten worser and worser, its relations with india, interestingly, have gotten significantly better, with meetings between commerce ministers, interior minister, foreign secretaries and people on both sides tell me this is actually maybe going somewhere. chris: i hope they can put the nuclear genie back in the bottle. when we come back, the big question of the week -- when voters are saying they're worse off than then president barack obama came into office, how does he deal with it?
chris: welcome back. there's a new poll that asks are you better off than before president obama took office? 44% say, no, not as good. that brings us to this question -- will president obama have to change the question to, who do you want in charge, me or the other guys on the far right? what does he do with this? >> he's got to get that first number back up, and if that isn't high enough, then he changes it. >> over here to david. >> he has to pray that the economy is better next year, next fall, than it is now and he has to look competent. chris: can he change the subject, though? >> if the republicans nominate somebody who looks like they're not, then he can change the subject. if it's mitt romney, forget it. chris: well said. politically will he try to change the subject? >> i think he's going to try to make the right look as much of a boogie man as he possibly can. chris: norah? >> the white house wants us to be a choice election not a referendum on his economic
record. chris: congratulations on your big career change. it's an opportunity you deceive. we'll all be rooting for you -- you deserve. we'll all be rooting foor you. i've watched your rise, you're going all the way. >> thank you. chris: a little tear there maybe. thanks to our round table, michael duffy, helene cooper, norah o'donnell and david ignatius. we'll see you back here next week. captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org-- ♪
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