tv The Chris Matthews Show NBC September 5, 2011 12:00am-12:30am PDT
>> this is "the chris matthews show." >> ask not what your country can do for you. chris: the day, the decade. losses of lives and two wars. and financial collapse. how do you put a number on fear? straight from new york, since 9/11 with a weighted deliverance. we still weight. there are times we thought we would get past it but each time the relentless war and rising debt keeps pulling us back. when do we in the bad times say good-bye? finally, number nine, number nine, can barack obama get a second term if his jobless number remains upwards of 9%?
even a year from now? it's something he must be thinking about. hi, i'm chris matthews. welcome to the show. with us today "the huffington post" howard fineman, a.p.'s kimberly dosier and "the washington post's" david ignaceous. first up, the attacks on september 11, first attacks on america since pearl harbor, were unimaginable. before that terrible day. now it's hard to imagine how much different, more confident, safer feeling, more complacent our country would be today if it weren't for that still-awesome set of attacks on september 11. we might not have gone to war in afghanistan and iraq. >> on my orders, the united states military has begun strikes against the al qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the taliban regime in afghanistan. >> american and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger. chris: the toll of those two wars until now. more than 6,000 americans
killed. another 220,000 civilians killed in both wars. more than 100,000 americans wounded, many left with life-changing injuries. a huge share of our national debt is driven by those wars. one estimate by brown university is that the total cost of both of those wars and future bill that will come do is $4 trillion. and climate of fear, of course. those warnings from our leaders over the last ten years more attacks are a matter whf, not if. >> 9/11 changed everything. we begin every day reading intelligence reports from the cia and f.b.i. on the nature of the threat that's out there, on the plotting by al qaeda members and related groups to launch attacks against the united states and contemplating the possibility of of an attack against the u.s. with far deadlier weapons than anything we have seen today. chris: even barack obama has used that threat of war attacks. >> there are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 americans.
they are plotting to strike again. chris: david, so many costs, it's hard to imagine as i said in the opening what life would have been like without the 9/11 attacks. let's go through how it impacted our lives, iraq war. would there have been an iraq war, american invasion and occupation that continues had we not been hit on until until >> it's haunting to see those tapes, chris, as we approach this anniversary and think that's the moment that changed everything. but with the iraq war it is possible that even if there had been no september 11 attacks, the bush administration would have wanted to go in militarily against saddam hussein anyway. many of the senior officials of the bush administration believed that we left iraq and saddam hussein as an unresolved problem after the first gulf war. i don't think in the ends that the country would have accepted it. but the same arguments about weapons of mass destruction, which are arguments that proved to be false but were widely believed, would have existed with or without september 11. so it's possible that very
costly war moit have happened anyway. chris: that's news to me n a way it meets some of the my scepticism about the case, way for war. you were wounded badly in 2006 covering for cbs. your thauts on the way all of this tumbled out of 9/11, including the war in which you got hurt. >> well, one of the initial things the attacks of 9/11 did for the united states was bring the war against terrorism home for all of us. we lost 3,000 people thatdy. -- that day. later we lost twice that number in u.s. service americans including 30 members in the recent cha nook crash. what i worry is the initial pull-together of our society has broken down. that increasingly we are divided. we have the part of society that fights these wars overseas, bears the losses and the folks back home who really don't want to hear what's going on. war is distant to them.
there has not been an attack on american soil. they want it to go away. that's a real disservice. chris: i agree with you completely. regular people, meaning people who are of like the vast majority of americans who don't have stakes in those wars, people stakes, don't even talk about those wars. >> you have fewer than 1% of this country serving and fewer than 5% of this country who knows someone that serves. chris: president obama's decision to go into iraq made barack obama president. one of the unintended consequences, 9/11 probably led to the probability of iraq happening, being able to be sold to the country any under circumstances. unpopularty led to what i believe as barack obama's unexpected, out of nowhere, selection by the democratic voter over hillary clinton. >> right. it's hard to say what would have happened if that were had not happened. as we know, obama was the only one and touted it during his campaign, i voted no against that war. it was a wrong war. it was a dumb war. chris: senator clinton voted for it and he used that against her.
>> that was one of her biggest handicaps. it it is also hard to say what could have happened. maybe if the attention had been on afghanistan from the beginning and not dropped to the iraq war, whether we would have solvedcation or whether we would be out of nenn right now. we don't know any of these things. we don't know what the field would be like in terms of candidates. maybe osama bin laden would have been captured five years ago. these are the things we don't know todd. chris: howard, the 9/11 was the call for the war in iraq, trumpet call. even country music said, we got to do something about it, we have to go and hit them back. then we had the iraq war. for me it's been the pendulum almost, the reason the political back and forth, left and right, still driven by the attitude people have about that war. >> i think that's true, chris. i think we need to say first of all that we are resilient and ten years on in some respects,
it's remarkable how seemingly normal things are. but they aren't normal. they just seem normal. we're much, much more in debt than we were. and it's not just the 4 trillion that brown university counted. we cut taxes furiously. we printed money furiously. all in an effort to keep the economy float, which is what osama bin laden was really attacking when he attacked the world trade center. so we spent trillions of dollars to create the illusion that nothing has changed. in fact, everything has changed and we have yet as a society really to examine openly and how to argue and deal with the consequences of ten years ago. the american people are like that. we like to look ahead. we don't like to pick tend trails of the past. because we haven't done so, we haven't healed and it shows in the budget debate. it shows in the divisions of our
society which really began ten years og. but we still don't want to acknowledge. chris: so well said. let's get to one of those clinging things that clings to us from that experience. afghanistan, a war we went into right after 9/11 to get the bad guys, to get al qaeda. david, that war sits there. i guess my question is, is this about al qaeda still? is this about trying to prevent another 9/11, therefore, so with the case, fight them there rather than here? >> that's the way president obama has presented the war and his rational for increasing the troops. he's begun to pull those troops out now. i think it's inconceivable that the united states would have made the commitment that it has in afghanistan absent 9/11. there would have been efforts certainly to go after osama bin laden and al qaeda but that was not a priority for the bush administration which when it came in striking, up until september 11. they were worried about other things.
so it's a bizarre accident of history, the united states has ended up so committed. we're spending $120 billion this year at least on the war in afghanistan. and i think that's frustrating. economists talk about opportunity costs. by that they mean the things that you might have done if you haven't spent money on something else. chris: sure. >> when we look back on this an verse roy, thinking about the opportunity cost, things the country might have done, might have spent money on how we not gotten involved on these wars. chris: the question is was it snart i remember being proud that we chased these terrorists all the way back to their caves, the way all of us put it, back to tora bora, to catch them. you cover terrorism s there a connection between our fighting over there in those caves still, going around like the schnook helicopter that got hit, is that keeping us safe from terrorism? >> that's one of the things president obama has to explain
to the american public. he announced swhuneds like a change in strategy, bringing american troops home, but americans can see violence on the ground continues and there's even a talk making a deal with the taliban, the group that allowed al qaeda safe haven in the first place. i think a lot of americans are confused as to how that is keeping us safer, even as we're told by u.s. counterterrorism officials that al qaeda's on the ropes. you've got to explain to the american public, ok, why do we still have so many people in harm's way and if we're changing the strategy and shrinking the footprint, tell us how you're going to do it. chris: howard, larger question to tie this up, here we are ten years later. ten years from the heart. pictures are all over television. they will be over television weeks ahead. the memory of that that's so alive in the icon ography of those pictures, towers coming down when we thought they wouldn't. trillion dollars, you're so smart about the aspects that we have done to compensate, t.s.a., airports, unpleasantness. we can't go by the white house,
the freedom we had as americans to love our country and enjoy it is gone. that stuff. >> well, yes, it's true we had to change the way we fly and the way we think to some extent. my point is we paid a ton of money. we borrowed a ton of money not only to pay for the wars but to maintain the life pretty much that we had beforehand n certain respects that's a good thing. because in new york, for example, even right here ground zero in all over new york city, new york is alive today more than ever. my kids -- chris: our kids -- >> that is the mecca for everybody on the east coast. every kid from all over the united states and still from around the world. the sense of creativity and possibility in new york remains undiminished. but eye lot of that is floating on a sea of debt that we got into directly and indirectly as a result of the attack from osama bin laden a decade ago.
he knew what he was doing in attacking the heart of the american economy and to prevent him from being victorious, we borrowed money and printed money in a way that's affected us in ways we can't even measure. chris: same we reacted to ito in the countries -- the war that counters fought together, australia. you told us before you started the program today, you had not been to america before 9/11. what's your reaction to the culture things howard touched snon >> what i was saying is the first time that i arrived in america, i had just come back from iraq, and i landed in new york and i went down to ground zero and i met new yorkers. and it just struck me how al qaeda had basically picked the wrong place, they picked on the wrong people. they just didn't understand the mentality of new yorkers. and i didn't understand it myself until i came here and they were -- they are themselves unique to this country and it just shows me, maybe if they hit
somewhere else, maybe if they killed 3,000 people in another city, they would have dealt with it in a different way but new yorkers were like, is that it? is that all you've got? we're going to move on. we are who we are and we're go to continue. that struck me only two years later. chris: that reminds me of humphrey bogart in "casablanca" when he said to the nazis, major strausser, there are certain neighborhood in new york i wouldn't advise you to invade whfment we come back, something different with disastrous high unemployment out there, history tells us barack obama's re-election is far from assured new york cy matter what else he may do right. but is that misleading?
he won anyway but the important thing there was the trend down from 19.8 when he took office. in modern times the president re-elected with the highest unemployment rate which was ronald reagan in 1984, 72% rate. gerald ford, jimmy carter, bush 41 all lost campaigns for a second term, weighed down by unemployment. we asked the matthews meter, 12 of our regulars including howard here, can barack obama buck history and win even if the unemployment rate is, say, up around 8 1/2? 11 say yes, he can. one says no he can't. howard, i think you're with the 11 yes, he can. >> i'm with the 11. >> even up around 8 1/2. >> just because it's a matter of context. you can't make absolutes in politics. it's a game of context, depends on the context. sadly but necessarily, the obama administration is going to say there's a new normal and he's trying to work us out of that new normal but he's going to point backwards and blail george bush and that's still going to work with some people t depends
who he's running against. you can't say it's impossible. chris: back to what jamie said, as an australian, will the american people accept the reset, a guy that says this is as good as it gets? >> again, context. we have to know, is it trend down? is there a light at the end of the tunnel? also, who is he running against? and what's their plan? chris: i'm still of the skeptic mode here. i think 9% or even 8 1/2 is very hard to sell. >> i think it could be his election to lose if the republicans keep running smack into the tea party and aren't able to move forward with a coherent plan where they say, we have something different that we can make happen. chris: they might blow it. easy opportunity. >> exactly. chris: your thoughts, david. >> my guess is people end up voting on the trend, on whether they feel the country is going and not on the absolute numbers. even if it's almost certain the unemployment number is above 8.5, if the economy is firming, if people are being hired back, if people sense that markets
aren't in a free fall, we have steady, solid leadership in washington, in the white house at least, i think the president will have a strong case to make, fiend that unemployment rate is in every other way unacceptablely high. chris: will the republicans have any incentive to help? they would love to help cut the debt. that's long term and probably hurts employment numbers. will they help them do something in the next year to get people back to work? >> as little as they can get away with politically. because they want barack obama to own the economy. the memories of george bush are still fresh but fading. and they don't want to allow barack obama to point backward to a previous administration. the republicans want vivid evidence politically and economyly this is barack obama's economy, they will make as few deals as they can get away with without being attacked by their own republican corporate business leaders. chris: he has to offer something very enticing like tax cuts for
hiring or some kind of business tax cuts for them to say yes to? >> he's got -- he's got to show an ability to trap his opponents into a deal that favors thame he has not shown the ability to far to be able to do. chris: he has the skill to do that, find something kept resist, their own interests? >> i think he's still building relationships and he's still trying to, you know, create a dialogue with the people who are meant to be helping him. >> he has very few relationships with people on the hill. he's not caught hold in terms of dealing with people on the hill. he just doesn't seem to be able to do it. chris: what do you think, kimberly? >> i think we're going to see more moments like when the president stood behind the podium and said, they won't work with me. chris: that didn't work too well. >> exactly. it doesn't make him look very presidential. but i don't see a weigh for him reaching out to the other side. chris: david, you start, are we going toped up being in this conversation a year from now,
right going into the fall election with the president playing defense on joblessness? >> yes. chris: kim? >> yes. chris: still playing defense? >> yep. chris: still playing defense? >> yep. chris: when we come back, scoops ♪ mm-mmm-mmm-mm-mm-mmm ♪ mm-mmm-mmm-mm-mm-mmm ♪ ♪ mm-mmm-mmm-mm-mm-mmm ♪ mm-mmm-mmm-mm-mm-mmm ♪ [ female announcer ] kraft cheese has more full length shreds in every bag. you'll see the difference. ♪ mm-mmm-mmm-mm
years so far? >> chris, things under his control, not the wars so much because they were built in, his decision to spend all of his political capital in a year and a half of his team on the health care reform law i think was his biggest political mistake. chris: wow. smart statement. >> i think making the decision the iraq war was the wrong war and afghanistan war was the right war instead of saying they both should be finished and done with was the biggest mistake. chris: what about you? >> promising to close guantanamo bay. chris: when he didn't know how to do it. >> not researching how to do it and not being able to deliver increases the idea of him being a waffling president. chris: david? >> i would agree with howard. the idea of launching major change in social legislation without having a consensus in the country and in congress about what that should look like was a mistake that's just not how the president make goods policy. chris: wow whfment we come back, the big question of the week, will barack obama's re-election be decided by his own
chris: welcome back. we're one year out from the old traditional start of the campaign, usually labor day of election year, which brings us this to this week's big question. does barack obama's re-election depend more on his performance from now until the end of the term, his election or on conditions around him. howard a tough call. is it about what he does and shows or what happens around him? >> i think it's more of the conditions. i think people have decided that they think they know who he is for better or worse. he's not going to change that. it's a matter of context. >> i think it's a combination of both. chris: you can't do that. i'm sorry, i'm being impolite. which mostly. >> have i to agree with howard. chris: i'm sorry. conditions. >> yes. chris: he's a victim of circumstance. >> easy to be gracious when you're in a good situation. it's easy to be bev everybody lent -- chris: easier to enjoy it than
suffer. >> i think it's conditions but if he explains to the american public, here's why we're partly in this situation, part of you chose the tea party. part of you chose a third party that is changing the way the process works, maybe they will understand they voted for part of this. >> it's conditions. obama will do well or better if the country feels better. but that's the heart of his problem, he is not master of his own political fate. he is waiting for the conditions to shape it rather than determining it. chris: thanks for a great round table. howard fineman, kimberly, david. that's the show. thank you for watching. see you next week. ♪