The Independent reports:
Incredible though it seems, a country that is currently negotiating full membership of the European Union may be teetering on the brink of a military coup. The political and economic meltdown in Turkey over the election of a new president has brought the generals out of the shadows and the voters on to the streets in their hundreds of thousands.
The crisis began on Friday when Abdullah Gul, who comes from the Islamic-rooted AK Party, failed to win enough votes in Parliament to take the symbolic post of president, first held by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Hours later the army high command made clear their opposition to Mr Gul, whose wife wears a headscarf - one of the touchstone issues of Turkish politics. This is Turkey's biggest showdown between Islam and secularism in recent years; a country that aspires to be the bridge between Europe and the Muslim world is at a critical juncture.
In Turkey, it is important to appreciate, the army sees itself as one of the main guardians of the secular state. In the current context, the generals style themselves as protectors of liberalism against those who wish to make Turkey a more Islamic and less tolerant society. Over the past 50 years the military has mounted three coups and helped to oust an Islamist government in 1997. This time, though, their reaction took many by surprise.
The nomination of Mr Gul for the presidency had been widely seen as a conciliatory sign because it averted the likelihood of the job going to the more divisive Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. So why has his candidature provoked such a crisis? One reason is the alarm among the secularists about the political programme of the AK Party and its growing power. Mr Erdogan pressed, unsuccessfully, for the criminalisation of adultery (backing down only under acute pressure for the EU) and his party has campaigned to restrict alcohol sales.
From Ankara, moreover, the Prime Minister's decision not to contest the presidency looks less of a concession than a political tactic. With the popular Erdogan remaining at its head, rather than in the presidency, AK stands an excellent chance of winning the next parliamentary elections. It would end up with the posts of prime minister, president and speaker of Parliament - a dominance unrivalled by an Islamic-influenced party.
Perhaps the second reason is the stalling of Turkey's engagement with Europe. The prospect of EU membership has been an important element in Turkish politics because it offers something to both sides of the divide. It would mean more rights for those, for example, who wear headscarves, while also guaranteeing the fundamental Western freedoms held dear by the secularists. Turkey's EU ambitions, however, have been fading fast. With sentiment against Turkish membership hardening in France, Germany and Austria, there is a backlash among secular Turks who feel they are destined never to join the group that Germany's former chancellor Kohl described as a Christian club.
For Turkey the next few days will be crucial. The country's top court is likely to rule today on whether Mr Gul can stand for the second round of voting in the presidential contest. Whatever the verdict, the army must refrain from meddling further and accept that democracy sometimes delivers difficult results. Meanwhile the AK Party must do more to reassure its critics that it is not about to challenge the fundamentals of the secular Turkish state. Once the immediate crisis is over, both Turkey and the EU must work harder to make Ankara's membership negotiations work. The past few days have shown that there is no palatable alternative.
Monday, April 30, 2007
The Independent reports:
By the end of the century half of all species will be extinct. Does that matter?
The Independent reports:
In the final stages of dehydration the body shrinks, robbing youth from the young as the skin puckers, eyes recede into orbits, and the tongue swells and cracks. Brain cells shrivel and muscles seize. The kidneys shut down. Blood volume drops, triggering hypovolemic shock, with its attendant respiratory and cardiac failures. These combined assaults disrupt the chemical and electrical pathways of the body until all systems cascade toward death.
Such is also the path of a dying species. Beyond a critical point, the collective body of a unique kind of mammal or bird or amphibian or tree cannot be salvaged, no matter the first aid rendered. Too few individuals spread too far apart, or too genetically weakened, are susceptible to even small natural disasters: a passing thunderstorm; an unexpected freeze; drought. At fewer than 50 members, populations experience increasingly random fluctuations until a kind of fatal arrhythmia takes hold. Eventually, an entire genetic legacy, born in the beginnings of life on earth, is removed from the future.
Scientists recognise that species continually disappear at a background extinction rate estimated at about one species per million per year, with new species replacing the lost in a sustainable fashion. Occasional mass extinctions convulse this orderly norm, followed by excruciatingly slow recoveries as new species emerge from the remaining gene-pool, until the world is once again repopulated by a different catalogue of flora and fauna.
From what we understand so far, five great extinction events have reshaped earth in cataclysmic ways in the past 439 million years, each one wiping out between 50 and 95 per cent of the life of the day, including the dominant life forms; the most recent event killing off the non-avian dinosaurs. Speciations followed, but an analysis published in Nature showed that it takes 10 million years before biological diversity even begins to approach what existed before a die-off.
Today we're living through the sixth great extinction, sometimes known as the Holocene extinction event. We carried its seeds with us 50,000 years ago as we migrated beyond Africa with Stone Age blades, darts, and harpoons, entering pristine Ice Age ecosystems and changing them forever by wiping out at least some of the unique megafauna of the times, including, perhaps, the sabre-toothed cats and woolly mammoths. When the ice retreated, we terminated the long and biologically rich epoch sometimes called the Edenic period with assaults from our newest weapons: hoes, scythes, cattle, goats, and pigs.
But, as harmful as our forebears may have been, nothing compares to what's under way today. Throughout the 20th century the causes of extinction - habitat degradation, overexploitation, agricultural monocultures, human-borne invasive species, human-induced climate-change - increased exponentially, until now in the 21st century the rate is nothing short of explosive. The World Conservation Union's Red List - a database measuring the global status of Earth's 1.5 million scientifically named species - tells a haunting tale of unchecked, unaddressed, and accelerating biocide.
When we hear of extinction, most of us think of the plight of the rhino, tiger, panda or blue whale. But these sad sagas are only small pieces of the extinction puzzle. The overall numbers are terrifying. Of the 40,168 species that the 10,000 scientists in the World Conservation Union have assessed, one in four mammals, one in eight birds, one in three amphibians, one in three conifers and other gymnosperms are at risk of extinction. The peril faced by other classes of organisms is less thoroughly analysed, but fully 40 per cent of the examined species of planet earth are in danger, including perhaps 51 per cent of reptiles, 52 per cent of insects, and 73 per cent of flowering plants.
By the most conservative measure - based on the last century's recorded extinctions - the current rate of extinction is 100 times the background rate. But the eminent Harvard biologist Edward O Wilson, and other scientists, estimate that the true rate is more like 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate. The actual annual sum is only an educated guess, because no scientist believes that the tally of life ends at the 1.5 million species already discovered; estimates range as high as 100 million species on earth, with 10 million as the median guess. Bracketed between best- and worst-case scenarios, then, somewhere between 2.7 and 270 species are erased from existence every day. Including today.
We now understand that the majority of life on Earth has never been - and will never be - known to us. In a staggering forecast, Wilson predicts that our present course will lead to the extinction of half of all plant and animal species by 2100.
You probably had no idea. Few do. A poll by the American Museum of Natural History finds that seven in 10 biologists believe that mass extinction poses a colossal threat to human existence, a more serious environmental problem than even its contributor, global warming; and that the dangers of mass extinction are woefully underestimated by almost everyone outside science. In the 200 years since French naturalist Georges Cuvier first floated the concept of extinction, after examining fossil bones and concluding "the existence of a world previous to ours, destroyed by some sort of catastrophe", we have only slowly recognised and attempted to correct our own catastrophic behaviour.
Some nations move more slowly than others. In 1992, an international summit produced a treaty called the Convention on Biological Diversity that was subsequently ratified by 190 nations - all except the unlikely coalition of the United States, Iraq, the Vatican, Somalia, Andorra and Brunei. The European Union later called on the world to arrest the decline of species and ecosystems by 2010. Last year, worried biodiversity experts called for the establishment of a scientific body akin to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to provide a united voice on the extinction crisis and urge governments to action.
Yet, despite these efforts, the Red List, updated every two years, continues to show metastatic growth. There are a few heartening examples of so-called Lazarus species lost and then found: the wollemi pine and the mahogany glider in Australia, the Jerdon's courser in India, the takahe in New Zealand, and, maybe, the ivory-billed woodpecker in the United States. But for virtually all others, the Red List is a dry country with little hope of rain, as species ratchet down the listings from secure to vulnerable, to endangered, to critically endangered, to extinct.
All these disappearing species are part of a fragile membrane of organisms wrapped around the Earth so thinly, writes Wilson, that it "cannot be seen edgewise from a space shuttle, yet so internally complex that most species composing it remain undiscovered". We owe everything to this membrane of life. Literally everything. The air we breathe. The food we eat. The materials of our homes, clothes, books, computers, medicines. Goods and services that we can't even imagine we'll someday need will come from species we have yet to identify. The proverbial cure for cancer. The genetic fountain of youth. Immortality. Mortality. The living membrane we so recklessly destroy is existence itself.
Biodiversity is defined as the sum of an area's genes (the building blocks of inheritance), species (organisms that can interbreed), and ecosystems (amalgamations of species in their geological and chemical landscapes). The richer an area's biodiversity, the tougher its immune system, since biodiversity includes not only the number of species but also the number of individuals within that species, and all the inherent genetic variations - life's only army against the diseases of oblivion.
Yet it's a mistake to think that critical genetic pools exist only in the gaudy show of the coral reefs, or the cacophony of the rainforest. Although a hallmark of the desert is the sparseness of its garden, the orderly progression of plants and the understated camouflage of its animals, this is only an illusion. Turn the desert inside out and upside down and you'll discover its true nature. Escaping drought and heat, life goes underground in a tangled overexuberance of roots and burrows reminiscent of a rainforest canopy, competing for moisture, not light. Animal trails criss-cross this subterranean realm in private burrows engineered, inhabited, stolen, shared and fought over by ants, beetles, wasps, cicadas, tarantulas, spiders, lizards, snakes, mice, squirrels, rats, foxes, tortoises, badgers and coyotes.
To survive the heat and drought, desert life pioneers ingenious solutions. Coyotes dig and maintain wells in arroyos, probing deep for water. White-winged doves use their bodies as canteens, drinking enough when the opportunity arises to increase their bodyweight by more than 15 per cent. Black-tailed jack rabbits tolerate internal temperatures of 111F. Western box turtles store water in their oversized bladders and urinate on themselves to stay cool. Mesquite grows taproots more than 160ft deep in search of moisture.
These life-forms and their life strategies compose what we might think of as the "body" of the desert, with some species the lungs and others the liver, the blood, the skin. The trend in scientific investigation in recent decades has been toward understanding the interconnectedness of the bodily components, i.e. the effect one species has on the others. The loss of even one species irrevocably changes the desert (or the tundra, rainforest, prairie, coastal estuary, coral reef, and so on) as we know it, just as the loss of each human being changes his or her family forever.
Nowhere is this better proven than in a 12-year study conducted in the Chihuahuan desert by James H Brown and Edward Heske of the University of New Mexico. When a kangaroo-rat guild composed of three closely related species was removed, shrublands quickly converted to grasslands, which supported fewer annual plants, which in turn supported fewer birds. Even humble players mediate stability. So when you and I hear of this year's extinction of the Yangtze river dolphin, and think, "how sad", we're not calculating the deepest cost: that extinctions lead to co-extinctions because most living things on Earth support a few symbionts, while keystone species influence and support myriad plants and animals. Army ants, for example, are known to support 100 known species, from beetles to birds. A European study finds steep declines in honeybee diversity in the past 25 years but also significant attendant declines in plants that depend on bees for pollination - a job estimated to be worth £50bn worldwide. Meanwhile, beekeepers in 24 American states report that perhaps 70 per cent of their colonies have recently died off, threatening £7bn in US agriculture. And bees are only a small part of the pollinator crisis.
One of the most alarming developments is the rapid decline not just of species but of higher taxa, such as the class Amphibia, the 300-million-year-old group of frogs, salamanders, newts and toads hardy enough to have preceded and then outlived most dinosaurs. Biologists first noticed die-offs two decades ago, and, since then, have watched as seemingly robust amphibian species vanished in as little as six months. The causes cover the spectrum of human environmental assaults, including rising ultraviolet radiation from a thinning ozone layer, increases in pollutants and pesticides, habitat loss from agriculture and urbanisation, invasions of exotic species, the wildlife trade, light pollution, and fungal diseases. Sometimes stressors merge to form an unwholesome synergy; an African frog brought to the West in the 1950s for use in human pregnancy tests likely introduced a fungus deadly to native frogs. Meanwhile, a recent analysis in Nature estimated that, in the past 20 years, at least 70 species of South American frogs had gone extinct as a result of climate change.
In a 2004 analysis published in Science, Lian Pin Koh and his colleagues predict that an initially modest co-extinction rate will climb alarmingly as host extinctions rise in the near future. Graphed out, the forecast mirrors the rising curve of an infectious disease, with the human species acting all the parts: the pathogen, the vector, the Typhoid Mary who refuses culpability, and, ultimately, one of up to 100 million victims.
"Rewilding" is bigger, broader, and bolder than humans have thought before. Many conservation biologists believe it's our best hope for arresting the sixth great extinction. Wilson calls it "mainstream conservation writ large for future generations". This is because more of what we've done until now - protecting pretty landscapes, attempts at sustainable development, community-based conservation and ecosystem management - will not preserve biodiversity through the critical next century. By then, half of all species will be lost, by Wilson's calculation.
To save Earth's living membrane, we must put its shattered pieces back together. Only "megapreserves" modelled on a deep scientific understanding of continent-wide ecosystem needs hold that promise. "What I have been preparing to say is this," wrote Thoreau more than 150 years ago. "In wildness is the preservation of the world." This, science finally understands.
The Wildlands Project, the conservation group spearheading the drive to rewild North America - by reconnecting remaining wildernesses (parks, refuges, national forests, and local land trust holdings) through corridors - calls for reconnecting wild North America in four broad "megalinkages": along the Rocky Mountain spine of the continent from Alaska to Mexico; across the arctic/boreal from Alaska to Labrador; along the Atlantic via the Appalachians; and along the Pacific via the Sierra Nevada into the Baja peninsula. Within each megalinkage, core protected areas would be connected by mosaics of public and private lands providing safe passage for wildlife to travel freely. Broad, vegetated overpasses would link wilderness areas split by roads. Private landowners would be enticed to either donate land or adopt policies of good stewardship along critical pathways.
It's a radical vision, one the Wildlands Project expects will take 100 years or more to complete, and one that has won the project a special enmity from those who view environmentalists with suspicion. Yet the core brainchild of the Wildlands Project - that true conservation must happen on an ecosystem-wide scale - is now widely accepted. Many conservation organisations are already collaborating on the project, including international players such as Naturalia in Mexico, US national heavyweights like Defenders of Wildlife, and regional experts from the Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project to the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council. Kim Vacariu, the South-west director of the US's Wildlands Project, reports that ranchers are coming round, one town meeting at a time, and that there is interest, if not yet support, from the insurance industry and others who "face the reality of car-wildlife collisions daily".
At its heart, rewilding is based on living with the monster under the bed, since the big, scary animals that frightened us in childhood, and still do, are the fierce guardians of biodiversity. Without wolves, wolverines, grizzlies, black bears, mountain lions and jaguars, wild populations shift toward the herbivores, who proceed to eat plants into extinction, taking birds, bees, reptiles, amphibians and rodents with them. A tenet of ecology states that the world is green because carnivores eat herbivores. Yet the big carnivores continue to die out because we fear and hunt them and because they need more room than we preserve and connect. Male wolverines, for instance, can possess home ranges of 600 sq m. Translated, Greater London would have room for only one.
The first campaign out of the Wildlands Project's starting gate is the "spine of the continent", along the mountains from Alaska to Mexico, today fractured by roads, logging, oil and gas development, grazing, ski resorts, motorised back-country recreation and sprawl.
The spine already contains dozens of core wildlands, including wilderness areas, national parks, national monuments, wildlife refuges, and private holdings. On the map, these scattered fragments look like debris falls from meteorite strikes. Some are already partially buffered by surrounding protected areas such as national forests. But all need interconnecting linkages across public and private lands - farms, ranches, suburbia - to facilitate the travels of big carnivores and the net of biodiversity that they tow behind them.
The Wildlands Project has also identified the five most critically endangered wildlife linkages along the spine, each associated with a keystone species. Grizzlies already pinched at Crowsnest Pass on Highway Three, between Alberta and British Columbia, will be entirely cut off from the bigger gene pool to the north if a larger road is built. Greater sage grouse, Canada lynx, black bears and jaguars face their own lethal obstacles further south.
But by far the most endangered wildlife-linkage is the borderland between the US and Mexico. The Sky Islands straddle this boundary, and some of North America's most threatened wildlife - jaguars, bison, Sonoran pronghorn, Mexican wolves - cross, or need to cross, here in the course of their life's travels. Unfortunately for wildlife, Mexican workers cross here too. Men, women, and children, running at night, one-gallon water jugs in hand.
The problem for wildlife is not so much the intrusions of illegal Mexican workers but the 700-mile border fence proposed to keep them out. From an ecological perspective, it will sever the spine at the lumbar, paralysing the lower continent.
Here, in a nutshell, is all that's wrong with our treatment of nature. Amid all the moral, practical, and legal issues with the border fence, the biological catastrophe has barely been noted. It's as if extinction is not contagious and we won't catch it.
If, as some indigenous people believe, the jaguar was sent to the world to test the will and integrity of human beings, then surely we need to reassess. Border fences have terrible consequences. One between India and Pakistan forces starving bears and leopards, which can no longer traverse their feeding territories, to attack villagers.
The truth is that wilderness is more dangerous to us caged than free - and has far more value to us wild than consumed. Wilson suggests the time has come to rename the "environmentalist view" the "real-world view", and to replace the gross national product with the more comprehensive "genuine progress indicator", which estimates the true environmental costs of farming, fishing, grazing, mining, smelting, driving, flying, building, paving, computing, medicating and so on. Until then, it's like keeping a ledger recording income but not expenses. Like us, the Earth has a finite budget.
Reprinted with permission from Mother Jones magazine. © 2007, Foundation for National Progress. The Fragile Edge: Diving and Other Adventures in the South Pacific by Julia Whitty is published by Houghton Mifflin on 7 May
More than 16,000 species of the world's mammals, birds, plants and other organisms are at present officially regarded as threatened with extinction to one degree or another, according to the Red List.
Maintained by the Swiss-based World Conservation Union (usually known by the initials IUCN), the Red List is one of the gloomiest books in the world, and is set to get even gloomier.
Since 1963 it has attempted to set out the conservation status of the planet's wildlife, in a series of categories which now range from Extinct (naturally), through Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable and Near-Threatened, and finishing with Least Concern. The numbers in the "threatened" categories are steadily rising.
Taxonomists at the IUCN regularly attempt to update the list, but that is a massive job to undertake - there are about 5,000 mammal species in the world and about 10,000 birds, but more than 300,000 types of plant, and undoubtedly well over a million insect species, and perhaps many more. Some species, such as beetles living in the rainforest canopy, could become extinct before they are even known to science.
The last Red List update, released in May last year, looked at 40,168 species and considered 16,118 to be threatened - including 7,725 animals of all types (mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, insects etc) and 8,390 plants.
Guests John Harris, Lois Romano, Tony Blankley, Howard Fineman, Ron Reagan, and Russell Simmons join host Chris Matthews
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The countdown. Three days from now, the Republican presidential candidates meet to debate. The setting couldn‘t be better, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. Let‘s get our scorecards ready. Let‘s get ready for the Republicans to play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL. The man trusted with keeping the country‘s secrets is now spilling them in a revealing memoir. Former CIA director George Tenet, who was a Bush loyalist, is now lashing out at his administration, saying that Iraq was on the White House‘s agenda from the start and that no one at the White House ever asked him, George Tenet, the CIA director, if we should go to war with Iraq.
Why didn‘t Tenet speak out when he was at the CIA? Is this another case of, Don‘t blame me for the war? Is he trying to absolve himself from the war in Iraq? In a minute, NBC‘s Tom Brokaw‘s interview with George Tenet on the “Today” show this morning.
Plus, this Thursday is the MSNBC/Politico.com Reagan Library GOP presidential debate. I‘ll be moderating it, and MSNBC will broadcast it live beginning at 8:00 PM Eastern. That‘s this Thursday.
Let‘s take a look at Tom Brokaw‘s interview now with former CIA director George Tenet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, FORMER NBC ANCHOR: You had Condi Rice ignoring your warnings, Vice President Cheney exaggerating the threats repeatedly, Don Rumsfeld and the Pentagon running what effectively was a rogue CIA, his own intelligence operation. And you didn‘t threaten to resign then.
GEORGE TENET, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, Tom, I don‘t know that I agree with the premise of everything in your question, but let me say this.
I had a job to do. We had a war on terrorism. We had conflict in Iraq. I
I thought I could best serve my country by continuing to do my job every day. A director of central intelligence is agnostic on policy because we have to become objective and give them the best data possible, and I thought it was best to serve my country by staying in my job.
BROKAW: But if the country was not getting the true story, which it‘s fairly clear from your book that it was not, that the vice president had one clear view of what was necessary in Iraq, that the Defense Department had its own intelligence operation going on, and Condoleezza Rice was not responding with alacrity to your warnings, very clear warnings in July of 2001 that an attack was imminent, doesn‘t the country deserve to know that?
TENET: Well, Tom, I chose to do my job in a way where you stay inside the system, you do your best, you push your objective analysis, you make people aware of what you believe to be true. While people think, Well, why are you talking now? Why have you been silent so long? I certainly wasn‘t silent within the purview of my job and in the councils of the administration in terms of what we said and how we said it.
BROKAW: There‘s an anecdote in your book. In August, 2001, just before 9/11, you went out to Crawford, Texas, to make sure the president was seeing all that he should be seeing, given the warnings and the briefings that had been coming from the CIA. You ride around the ranch in his pickup and talk, as you describe it, about the flora and the fauna. Did he ever stop the pickup and turn to you and say, Mr. Director, what is going on here? What do we have to worry about?
TENET: Well, Tom, throughout that summer, we had those kinds of conversations with the president. The irony is, is that by the end of July, the intelligence went fairly silent. We weren‘t seeing the same kind of eruptive threat reporting we had been seeing May, June, July, August. So in that time period, we were in a quiescent time period.
The president is the one, in concert with our own work, when he was apprised of the imminence of what we were predicting, asked a very important question. Is it possible that they‘re coming here? That was the result of an August 6 President‘s Daily Brief that said he is determined to strike inside the United States, a strategic warning, not a tactical warning. So August was a quiet period.
BROKAW: But at the end of July, one of your very best people within the agency has said they are coming here.
TENET: Tom, it was eerily quiet that day, as we had just exhausted the list of threats we were dealing with, and I suspect he was ruminating and said, They‘re coming here, and he turns out to be quite prescient.
BROKAW: You were with Colin Powell when he went to the United Nations, the centerpiece of the administration‘s attempt to sell this country on the war. You were sitting behind him when he made that presentation. Was there ever a moment that day when you thought to yourself, We‘re way out on a limb here?
TENET: No, there wasn‘t. Subsequently, of course, we learned that much of what we gave the secretary to say had turned out not to be accurate. And I‘ll say it‘s an awful thing to reflect on. The secretary of state represents the United States of America, and we did not help him and we did not help ourselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was Tom Brokaw, of course, interviewing former CIA director George Tenet this morning.
HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster is here with me right now. You know, the latest—let‘s put this interview in perspective. The latest NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll showed that 55 percent, a clear majority, don‘t think victory is achievable in Iraq. Is this all covering their butts? Is this—everybody‘s got a book out now saying, I didn‘t do it.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Absolutely. I mean, you‘ve got George Tenet has already been asked by six former CIA officials to return the Medal of Freedom that he was given. He‘s been asked to take his $4 million that he got in advance for a book deal and give it to Iraqi veterans who‘ve been wounded. I mean, this is an administration...
MATTHEWS: Are we going to hear from Cheney next? Is Cheney going to say, I wasn‘t part of this thing? Let‘s take a look at—here‘s Rumsfeld. This is an interesting pattern, how these people are peeling off right now. Three years ago, I asked Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld if he ever advised President Bush to go war in Iraq. A fascinating exchange followed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Did you advise the president to go to war?
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: He did not ask me the question.
And to my knowledge, there are any number of people he did not ask...
MATTHEWS: Did that surprise you, as secretary of defense?
RUMSFELD: Well, I thought it was interesting. He clearly asked us, Could we win? And I said, obviously, that the military are sure that they can prevail in that conflict in terms of the—changing the regime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Tenet was asked—George Tenet—last night on CBS‘s “60 Minutes” if the White House ever asked him on whether or not we should go to war in Iraq. Let‘s take a look at that exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did anyone at the White House, did anyone in the Defense Department ever ask you whether we should go to war in Iraq?
TENET: The discussions that are ongoing in 2002, in the spring and summer of 2002, are how you might do this, not whether you should do this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody asks?
TENET: Well, I don‘t remember sitting down at a principals committee meeting and everybody saying, OK, there‘s a deep concern about Iraq. Is this the right thing to do? What are the implications? I don‘t ever remember that galvanizing moment when people sit around and honestly say, Is this the right thing to do?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So here we are with history being made, or at least being reported from the people inside for the first time. Rumsfeld said he was never asked. Tenet now says he was never asked if we should go to war. But Tenet also says in this book, which I think is the big story, that Cheney came to office determined to attack Iraq. It had nothing to do with 9/11. He was going to do—nothing to do with WMD, nuclear, all that stuff. That just came out later to make the case.
So that gets Tenet off the hook, in a sense. But it‘s also making the case against Cheney, that Cheney came out and said there was a nuclear reasoning to and all these other reasons, when, in fact, he already had his reason. Cheney wasn‘t telling us that it was on his agenda, at least according to Tenet here.
SHUSTER: Right. And one of the things that‘s so intriguing about this book, Chris, is in it, Tenet talks about how—that the weapons of mass destruction case—that was just the public face of the war. He suggested that everybody within the administration seemed to know that the largely unarticulated view about spreading democracy in the Middle East, that was what was driving Vice President Cheney.
MATTHEWS: Right. That‘s the neoconservative point of view. It wasn‘t what they sold to the public, in fact, if you listened very attentively during this case for the war. And by the way, the American people were very hard to sell on this. About half the people went along with it eventually. But they went along with it, smart people, because they feared that this guy had a nuclear weapon he could use against us. It wasn‘t about Middle East politics. And that was what Cheney sold so successfully on programs like “Meet the Press.”
SHUSTER: Right. And that‘s where the controversy comes in because as Tenet is suggesting, look, it wasn‘t the weapons of mass destruction case that was the reason for the war. He was out there allowing Vice President Cheney, Scooter Libby, the president, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was then the national security adviser, to talk about the mushroom cloud. And the criticism now of Tenet is that by his silence, by his working within the channels, within the administration...
MATTHEWS: The guy‘s sitting behind Colin Powell at the U.N. while a lot of the middle-of-the-road people who decide everything in this country the middle road decides it—the middle road said, You know, if Colin Powell, who we trust, one of the great men of our time, believes in the WMD case, and there‘s George Tenet, the CIA director, sitting right behind him, backing him up, there must be a WMD case. The vice president of the United States, who has an avuncular style, he comes on and says, “Meet the Press,” they got a nuclear weapon they‘re working on. We say—the middle-of-the-road people—not me, of course, but the middle-of-the-road people said—because I was always skeptical of this crowd. But let‘s go on.
SHUSTER: Well, and the language was always one of certainty. You always had Vice President Cheney saying “we know.” You have Donald Rumsfeld saying “we know.” You have the president saying the evidence is clear, “we know.”
MATTHEWS: I wish somebody would write a book and tell me when President Bush, who‘s not an ideologue, why he went along with this war, with the neocons, with Tenet, with all the rest of them. I‘ve never heard that really good account. Have you?
SHUSTER: No, but...
MATTHEWS: We don‘t know why he took us to war. We know Cheney wanted to go from day one, according to Tenet.
SHUSTER: No, but what you pick up, Chris, especially with Tenet, is you pick up that there were series of people like George Tenet who were enablers. For whatever reason, the president wanted to go to war, there was George Tenet, the head of the CIA, providing information, allowing the president to make his case and saying, You know what? I‘m going to be the team player. Even though he now says he personally felt that the wrong case was being made, that the evidence didn‘t support what the administration was saying, he enabled the president through his silence, and that‘s where the criticism is coming in.
MATTHEWS: You know, I‘m skeptical of ideology all the time. Anyway, thank you, David Shuster. Thank you. George Tenet will be our guest next Monday on HARDBALL.
Coming up: Tony Snow returns to work at the White House. David Gregory interviewed him today, and he‘s going to join us to give us that interview.
And this Thursday, by the way, again, the first-in-the-country Republican debate. The 10 GOP presidential candidates meet at the Reagan Presidential Library in California. I‘ll moderate live at 8:00 PM Eastern. And you can see it right here only on MSNBC and our on-line partner, Politico.com.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Today was Tony Snow‘s first day back at work at the White House as press secretary to the president after recovering from cancer surgery. And with a veto showdown looming over the Iraq war spending bill, he‘s returning to a full workload, obviously.
NBC White House correspondent David Gregory interviewed Snow upon his return today—David.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Chris, interesting day here, an emotional one at the White House. You‘re right, Tony Snow‘s return got a full round of applause in the press room, an unusual reaction for a press secretary, especially when times are as intense as they are. But it got one because Tony Snow has gone through a lot and faces an uncertain future. He‘s back before his chemotherapy starts for his new bout with colon cancer, cancer cells also attached to his liver. So the future is uncertain. The treatment starts, but he got a good reception today.
We did have a chance to talk a little bit later in the day, and I started by asking him what I think is an awkward question for people when they encounter somebody with cancer, and that‘s the very simple question of, “How are you?”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I‘m doing fine. You know, it‘s funny, it shouldn‘t be that awkward. One of the things I‘ve learned the last couple years is people get so scared when they hear the word cancer that they immediately let fears dominate them and they let their imaginations run wild.
You know, as you know, I lost my mom to cancer when I was a kid. She didn‘t really stand a chance, but now you‘ve got amazing research that is moving at incredible speed. So a lot of conditions that weren‘t treatable years ago are now curable, or people are racing toward cures. So you see more and more people—Elizabeth Edwards is one of them, who‘s out leading a full life while getting cancer treatment. And it‘s possible now to do that sort of thing.
GREGORY: I remember talking to you before you took this job. And one of the things that you really hit home was, Look, I‘m going to get a clean bill of health...
GREGORY: ... before I take this job at the White House.
GREGORY: And you got that.
SNOW: Yes. You know, it‘s interesting that—I did. And even before I went in for this surgery five weeks ago, it was pretty much anticipated that I was clean. The problem you have is that some of the very best diagnostic stuff you have is still fairly imprecise, so there are some things that you can‘t see. I mean, my PET scan was clean. My CAT scan was clean. My blood work was good. And I‘m really glad that we decided to go ahead and be aggressive. We had what we thought might have been an enlarged lymph node, and lo and behold, it was a cancer.
Having said that, you go back now and ask, OK, so what‘s a clean bill of health? Are you going to be able to do your job? And the answer is yes. One of the interesting things I‘ve learned just in the last five weeks is how many people are walking around now who have cancer, who are getting regular treatments, and who are doing what I‘m hoping we‘re going to be able to do, which is to knock this into remission and then basically do regular treatment to make sure we keep it there.
GREGORY: It‘s a pretty intense time for this administration. What was it like sitting on the sidelines with all this going on?
SNOW: I was spending more of my time—I was watching, but I was sort of distanced from it in the sense that I would (INAUDIBLE) my Blackberry and read the news every day. But for me, the last four weeks, really, since I came back from the hospital, I‘ve been driving the kids to school, picking them up from school. And it‘s been, in many senses, a wonderful time. I‘ve written a magazine article. Somebody asked me to write one about my faith, and I did that. I‘ll be doing a commencement address coming up, and I‘ve worked on that a little bit.
You know, it‘s a time to think about the things that are really important for you. And in some ways, it was stimulating to do that.
The other thing is, I was really proud of the staff. I mean, Dana Perino is just great, and so were all the other people in the press office. And they all pulled together and they didn‘t miss a beat. They didn‘t need me. I think I need them more than they need me.
GREGORY: What was the president‘s reaction like, and what kind of communication did you have with him over the last...
SNOW: He—at the very—I mean, he called right away. And for the first couple of days, was calling and wanted—he encouraged me to call him as often as possible. But on the other hand, I thought, you know, You‘re busy. And so it was really nice. It‘s the kind of—he knows how to handle these things. He was very friendly. He wanted to know how I was doing, offered any support, said, you know, If you want to be phone buddies, we‘ll be phone buddies. And that‘s all I needed. I didn‘t need to take his time, but it was wonderful and nice.
And again, people may not realize, it doesn‘t take much just to give somebody that little extra bit of strength and happiness, a little phone call, an e-mail. And people did that. So it was nice hearing from him.
GREGORY: What matters to you most now?
SNOW: Same things that always have, my family and my faith, you know, trying to live—what I‘ve always told my kids is, I want you to be good. And I think, ultimately—well, no, something has changed a little bit in that there‘s more of a determination on my part to do things of service. I mean, I‘m really lucky. I‘ve got a platform. I‘ve got some experience, so I can help people. And so that is something—I talked to people before about doing that after I left the White House. It‘s even stronger. I don‘t know what I‘m going to do. I don‘t know quite how to do it. But you got a chance to do something that‘s good for people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: I was struck today, Chris, talking to Tony—obviously, a lot of people focus on reporters like me, who have tough exchanges with him in the briefing room, but this is really a day to step back and focus on some bigger issues that he‘s got to deal with. He‘s got three young kids, oldest of which is 14. And he‘s in a mode now, day in and day out, with his wife, leveling with these kids about what he‘s going through, the ups and the downs. And they are at an age where, you know, they‘re really going to conflicted by it. And so no follow-up necessary on all of that, just a lot of support for him.
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t it amazing, David, how the cynicism of our lives slips away...
MATTHEWS: ... and we all sound like cornballs when we‘re telling the truth about life.
MATTHEWS: I mean, the best of life is corny in a way, to use an old expression, and he talks like that.
Let me ask you about the big story developing. Is there a chance for the Democrats who run the Congress now, our legislature, who‘ve declared they want to end this war, and the president—can they reach an agreement on this war?
GREGORY: Well, you hear within the White House and talking to Republicans outside, as well, that there is a bit of theater that has to play out here. They have to pass this supplemental with the deadline. The president feels he has to veto it. And certainly, Democrats need this for their own party‘s base. The president has his base of support behind him for the veto. And then they get down to any kind of real negotiation.
The president is not going to give in, in the sense that he is not going to allow a deadline for troop withdrawal. But he has said all along privately that the kind of pressure the Democrats are putting on, in some way, helps him...
GREGORY: ... because it helps him keep the pressure on the Maliki government to do more. Now, whether that bears fruit is anyone‘s guess at this point. And there‘s a lot of pessimists out there.
My sense is that they want to get to a place where there can at least be the articulation of some goals for the withdrawal of troops, or benchmarks, which has become the new kind of term that‘s been coined here...
MATTHEWS: I like goals better.
MATTHEWS: I think goals is great, because, if this country can reach a consensus on how many years we are going to put into that war...
MATTHEWS: ... what we are going to really try to achieve before we leave, I think the country could get united again, if—if they all agree to something, it seems to me.
And I think—I think there—there is room for that. But, obviously, things have gotten bad enough publicly, that that‘s going to be a difficult goal to meet, just in terms of getting that deal. But I think that that‘s where the—that‘s where the room is on the White House side.
MATTHEWS: Hey, thank you very much, David Gregory.
MATTHEWS: Great interview.
Up next: The Republican presidential candidates debate this Thursday. We‘re three days and counting here. And, when we return, how can you get involved in this debate? This is going to be interactive.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
This Thursday, the Republican presidential candidates will join MSNBC and Politico.com for the first GOP presidential debate of 2008. You‘re going to get to see them answer important questions, the candidates, and you will get to gauge for themselves what you think of these people.
Here now to talk about the big debate, John Harris, editor of ThePolitico.com.
John, I keep looking at the polls. I am always impressed by the fact that Rudy Giuliani keeps doing well in the polls. Everybody says, oh, Bernie Kerik is going to kill him, that suggestion to make him Homeland Security—or the fact that he‘s been married three times is going to kill him, or that he is pro-choice is going to kill him.
And, the more people say, that is going to kill him, this is going to kill him, his numbers keep going up. How do you figure this race?
JOHN HARRIS, EDITOR IN CHIEF, POLITICO.COM: That‘s right. It‘s been going on...
HARRIS: Look, it‘s been going on for three, four months now. The conventional wisdom is saying, look, this—these numbers aren‘t real, as you point out. But they stay pretty high.
The gap has narrowed a little bit in some of these polls. But, unambiguously, in the polls, he is the front-runner. I imagine, on Thursday, at the—at this Reagan Library debate, we are going to see the other candidates treating him like a front-runner. That means they are going to be taking shots.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that John McCain—well, I like to ask questions I think I know the answer to—is John McCain, who has been slipping a bit, but has come back roaring hard last week, taking shots already at—at Mitt Romney, on the—bin Laden, the importance of catching bin Laden, taking shots of Rudy Giuliani on the New York police and firemen not being on the same frequency, do you expect him to do a little free-firing on Thursday night?
HARRIS: I think he wants to show that, look, he is the most commanding figure in this race. He wants to prove that he is now what we all thought he was three, four months ago, sort of the almost prohibitive favorite in this race, by saying: Look, I had a bad spring—or bad winter, but now here is the spring. And I‘m ready to show that I‘m the class of this field.
MATTHEWS: How do people get involved in this? This debate, I think, will be the first time that, in real time, someone watching MSNBC or plugged into the computer and watching Politico—how do they get into this, and say, if they have got a brilliant question—let‘s assume they got the perfect question. How do they get that to you and to us?
HARRIS: Yes, what a softball question, Chris. This is not HARDBALL with this question.
MATTHEWS: I know. I—but somebody just asked me...
HARRIS: Thank you for asking. Thank you for asking, Mr. Matthews.
MATTHEWS: Do you want—you want to know the honest answer, in the interest of candor?
HARRIS: Oh, we...
MATTHEWS: Somebody just told me to ask that question in my ear, OK?
It wouldn‘t naturally come to mind. Go ahead, John.
HARRIS: I knew this did not sound like you. This does not sound like a classic Matthews question.
MATTHEWS: I know.
HARRIS: I appreciate your asking it.
If people go to Politico.com, www.Politico.com, they can send us suggested questions. We are going to let audience—the audience vote on these questions. And we‘re committed, in our interactive round on this debate on Thursday, to asking the questions that viewers want us to ask in three distinct segments within that 90-minute debate.
MATTHEWS: How many do you expect to get through by the end of the hour-and-a-half? How many live questions from live audience people do you expect they will get on the table? Ten? Five?
HARRIS: Well, the—yes. No, I think we will get—we will get 20 30, we hope, by the end of it.
HARRIS: These will be quick questions, no filibusters in these questions. This is—some people call it the lightning round, 30 seconds to answer. So, these are going to be quick questions. We‘re going to try to get as much in as we can.
MATTHEWS: Who is your momma, that kind of question?
HARRIS: Exactly so.
MATTHEWS: I‘m waiting to see what the censure board is going to come up with, because...
MATTHEWS: ... it‘s interesting. A lot of people who are partisan, as you know, John, will be calling in...
MATTHEWS: ... hot questions for their rivals, the candidate they don‘t want to see do well. So, it will be interesting to see how this gets competitive from the various candidates‘ corners, don‘t you think?
HARRIS: I suppose, yes. And—but the—it‘s not just who sends the questions. It‘s who votes on them, because we will—are going to be tallying the response to these.
We have had several thousand questions so far, and they are quite good. Some of these—these reader questions, whether they are from ordinary folks or maybe from the opposition research teams with the candidates, they are—they are dead on, some very good questions waiting for us on Thursday.
MATTHEWS: How are we going to know who won this debate? Do we wait to read the AP, “The New York Times” the next day?
Jack Germond is in semi-retirement. How do we...
MATTHEWS: And David Broder might tell us. How do we know—does the great mentioner have to tell us who won, or what?
HARRIS: You know, what I have noticed in these debates is, there is almost immediately kind of a vague, tentative sense that somebody did not so well, somebody did—did a little better.
HARRIS: And, then, within 24 hours, that gets amplified.
So, it was a knockout for...
HARRIS: ... for Smith, and Jones flopped.
We see the—these early very sort of slight judgments...
HARRIS: ... become really dramatic in the space of a couple of news cycles.
MATTHEWS: I have always figured the safe way to do this, as a journalist—or a pundit—is to go walking through the—in front of the print people, the newspaper people, and just sort of walk around there right afterwards, and listen very intently...
MATTHEWS: ... to the huddles, and see if you can get the word on who won.
Hillary Clinton, I guess, won the Democrats.
We will be right back with John Harris. He is staying with us.
And, when we return, we will talk about which of the Republican candidates will make the biggest splash Thursday night. There‘s a prediction. Will there be a splash?
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
TRISH REGAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hello. I‘m Trish Regan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
And three straight days of record closings end on Wall Street—the Dow losing 58 points today, to close at 13062. Analysts say investors sold off stocks for profit-taking. For the month of April, the blue chips index gained a healthy 708 points. The S&P 500 today lost nearly 12 points, to close at 1482. And the Nasdaq ended the day off 32 points lower, to the 2525 level.
Well, American workers racked up a seventh straight month of income growth in the month of March, income up seven-tenths-of-a-percent. However, consumer spending did slow.
Delta Air Lines comes out of bankruptcy after 19 months. Delta eliminated 6,000 jobs during the $3 billion restructuring.
And it may be finger-licking good, but it‘s healthier, too. Yum!
Brands-owned KFC says it‘s no longer using trans fats to cook its chicken. Yum!‘s Taco Bell chain has also gone mostly trans fat-free—now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
This Thursday, the Republican candidates for president will debate each other, all together for the first time, 10 of them. I will be moderating the big debate at the Reagan Library, beautiful place. You are going to see it Thursday night out in California at Simi Valley.
Here now to size up the field, it‘s very—very—we should be wearing blazers here...
MATTHEWS: ... the challenges, the expectations, are John Harris of “The Politico.” He‘s just been with us. Our debate partners, Lois Romano, of course, of “The Washington Post,” is joining us, and Howard Fineman, of course, of “Newsweek” and our own effort here.
Let me ask you, Howard, do you think—this is the question. Will they embrace the president? Will the people who seek to succeed him as president, the Republicans, will they be Bush supporters, or will they begin to what we call in politics become trimmers?
HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, embrace might be a little strong, because, if the numbers are like they were for the Democratic debate, there are going to be lots of people watching, not all of them dyed-in-the-wool, hard-core base Republicans.
MATTHEWS: So, they will be looking for the general election independent?
FINEMAN: They are going to be looking for the general election independent.
This is not the place—your debate will not be the place to speak only or solely to a room of 50 hard-core Republican base supporters.
MATTHEWS: Lois, do you think they will all be trooping in line, trying to show their party loyalty by showing Bush loyalty? Or how do you think they are going to nuance this thing?
LOIS ROMANO, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: I—I—well, I think, obviously, they—they have to play a little bit to the base, because they need to win the nomination first.
But they are facing an extremely unpopular war. So, they have to thread a very narrow needle on how they want to deal with the war, and still, you know, basically embrace Bush a little bit. I mean, I think what you‘re going to hear them saying is, we don‘t think this is a good war, but we don‘t think we should surrender.
MATTHEWS: John, what‘s your thinking? Are they going to hew to the Bush line, or are they going to try to show some distance, in a way, say, for example, without being cruel about it, George Bush Sr., the first President Bush, was able to run in 1988 and win sort of as a Reagan third term. But, also, he said, I‘m going to be kinder and gentler, a little nuance from the hard line of Reagan.
Do you think that they will try something like that, along that line?
HARRIS: You know, I‘m guessing what they will say is: Look, I don‘t want to get in an argument about the last eight years. I‘m talking about the next four years, the next eight years. So, it is going to really be up to—to us to frame questions that don‘t allow them to hedge like that.
Where do they stand on many of the key Bush issues and key Bush decisions?
HARRIS: Do they agree, or would they do things differently?
MATTHEWS: Well, that won‘t be so hard, it seems, with some of the outlying candidates.
Let‘s talk about some of the candidates, Lois, who may not be in the top of the list right now: Ron Paul, a libertarian U.S. congressman from Texas for years now who has been involved in Republican politics and sometimes in independent politics. You have got Tom Tancredo, very tough on the border, very anti-illegal immigration.
Some of these people—Brownback—have their own approaches to the war in Iraq that aren‘t necessarily the party line so far. Will they be the ones taking shots at the front-runners?
ROMANO: I think so. I think you will see Ron Paul develop as the Kucinich of this group. He is very anti-war. And—and he will do that.
And then you will see Tom—you know, from Colorado...
MATTHEWS: Tancredo, yes.
ROMANO: Tancredo, right.
ROMANO: He is going to after them on immigration. I mean, that‘s his
his big thing, border control. He is probably going to go after McCain for flip-flopping a little bit or hark back to McCain‘s alliance with Ted Kennedy. We probably will hear the big Kennedy name there.
So, I think—I think—yes, I think they will try to show that—and Brownback also—that they are individuals; they are different. And I think, for Brownback, he is going to basically try to carve out a little bit of the base for himself. I mean, he believes that there is still some room in this whole big group of 10 for somebody with really core conservative values.
MATTHEWS: Yes, well, I think that‘s very true, because there isn‘t really a—quote—“easy conservative sell” out there. A lot of these people have mixed records.
Let me go to Howard.
It seems to me that there are some opening here for these folks. You can go after Giuliani, because he is pro-choice, and says so. He is for funding of abortion for poor people. I mean, they could go after him on that, right?
They could go after—they could go after Mitt Romney for his record as a more moderate, or more liberal, even more tolerant, governor of Massachusetts than most conservatives are on issues like gay rights and abortion rights.
FINEMAN: Well, I think they could, and—but I‘m not sure that they will, unless you ask them the questions that require them to.
The reason is that nobody is so far ahead in this...
MATTHEWS: You mean I have to play hardball?
FINEMAN: Yes, you have to play hardball.
MATTHEWS: OK. I‘m just asking.
FINEMAN: But nobody is so far ahead in this race that the others on the Republican side, that the Republicans have to gang up on them and drag them down be—lest—lest they run away with it.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me challenge you, Howard.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s have a debate here.
MATTHEWS: Giuliani is at 39 percent in our poll, the NBC poll, which is godlike here.
MATTHEWS: OK? We—we like that...
MATTHEWS: ... “The Wall Street Journal” poll.
McCain is at 24.
MATTHEWS: He slipped a bit, but he is still way ahead of—Romney is at 12. Now, he has broken into double digits. That‘s interesting.
The people who say none of the above or haven‘t figured out are only 11 percent.
MATTHEWS: A lot of these people—John Harris, you pick up—these people have become committed already. It seems like, even though it‘s way early, there are not that many undecideds floating out there.
HARRIS: Well, I would guess that some of that support is fluid. And, so, there are going to be people watching this debate. These are tentative judgments that people have made, getting behind these candidates.
HARRIS: They are not final judgments. But that‘s why events like this are important.
MATTHEWS: I just wonder whether we‘re going to see a real fight between the backbenchers and the leaders tomorrow—Thursday night.
FINEMAN: Well, it‘s—you know, the 39 percent for Rudy is impressive in such a large field—large field. I grant you that.
And maybe one way that you impress the base is by attacking Rudy on some of those issues. So, that could happen. I agree with you that could happen.
But it‘s not like he is running away with the thing right now. The feel of it out there is that he is dropping back into the pack just a little bit, and there is plenty of time to take him down.
MATTHEWS: Who would you bet now?
FINEMAN: Plenty of time to take him down.
MATTHEWS: Who can you bet on now that might come from the back, somebody who is a—a comer? Who can come from the back and break into the top three, make it a top four?
FINEMAN: Well, I hate to mention any of the people who aren‘t going to be on the stage on Thursday night, but you still have at least three more candidates who could get in this thing—Fred Thompson, Newt Gingrich, and I still think Chuck Hagel, who is the really anti-war candidate.
MATTHEWS: He would shake things up.
FINEMAN: He would shake things up enormously. It‘s only May of the year before.
MATTHEWS: Let me give you a reason. Not that I want to bring an extra added attraction beyond what we can present Thursday night. But the latest polling in Iowa, the first in the nation test, says that 50 some percent of Republicans, who are going to vote in that caucus, think we should be out of Iraq in six months. They are more in tune with Hagel than the others.
FINEMAN: There has to be somebody other than Ron Paul, with all due respect to Ron Paul, to pick up that standard.
MATTHEWS: As they once said in an old Walt Disney movie, it‘s what you do with what you got that counts. Anyway, thank you John Harris. Thank you Lois Romano. Thank you Howard Fineman. Remember that one; what you do with what you got that counts.
Anyway, up next, which Republican candidate best carries the mantle of President Ronald Reagan? That‘s a question for us this Thursday night. HARDBALLers Tony Blankley and Ron Reagan join us next. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The president is digging in, saying he will veto a war funding bill with a timetable for getting U.S. troops out of Iraq. How will the 10 Republicans who want to be the next president deal with an unpopular war as they debate each other for the first time this Thursday here on MSNBC? And how much distance will they put between themselves and the president, if any?
For a preview, let‘s go to HARDBALLers MSNBC political analyst Ron Reagan and Tony Blankley of the “Washington Times.” Ron, we‘re going out west. Your mother is going to be there. It will be an interesting home game for the Reagans. What‘s your view of this as a television drama this Thursday night?
RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it should be very dramatic. Of course we have a very dramatic moderator for the event. That will help a little bit. It‘s going to be interesting to watch if any of the second or third tier candidates can actually make a move on the top three, the Romney, Giuliani, and McCain group, and whether any of those top three stumble a bit. I think McCain has the most to lose here, but that might be just my opinion.
MATTHEWS: Tony, I think he also has the most to want the same thing as Ron just said. I think he really wants to turn it on. My hunch is the last week or so he has been revving up.
TONY BLANKLEY, “THE WASHINGTON TIMES”: I have no idea what McCain is
planning to do. I take these early primaries -
MATTHEWS: That‘s no reason why you can‘t speculate. That‘s no excuse.
BLANKLEY: I think these early primary debates are sort of like the opening of a chess game. It‘s not like a general election debate in September, where 50 million people are watching, and you either make a huge mistake or you confirm a trend. Here, it‘s less the big mistake that any of us are going to comment on in the first weeks, an opening that you may provide another opponent. Little statements that may not seem like a big deal to any of us, but the clever opponent—
MATTHEWS: Rate the last week of Democrats. Did somebody do something that was lethal?
BLANKLEY: Not lethal, but Obama opened up a little opportunity, which Hillary quickly got into on toughness, on—
MATTHEWS: He didn‘t say retaliate fast enough.
BLANKLEY: And you saw Hillary then go out and saw people putting out a message on that. You saw John Edwards show an absence of moral certainty.
MATTHEWS: So well said. Tony, so well said. If you are asked who your moral advisor is or leader, you should have an answer.
BLANKLEY: You should. That‘s going to be exploited in many little ways. So it‘s more a question of did you give little openings. This is not going to be a decisive debate. They never are decisive at this point. And you can write off—I mean, Tancredo is going to obviously hit the immigration issue on polls, libertarian isolationists. He will hit no spending and no foreign policy.
That won‘t matter. It will be interesting, I think, to see how they try to, as you were discussing in the previous segment, separate themselves a little bit from Bush. The problem is that 2/3 of Republicans support the president, support the war, and 2/3 of the country don‘t support the president and don‘t support the war. So they can‘t show much separation. They can sort of confess that mistakes have been made. I don‘t think you‘re going to see a whole lot of separation going on.
MATTHEWS: It‘s interesting, Ron, that this test of mettle is a TV test. Your father was an expert on television. He really was. I grew up with him in the 1950‘s, watching “G.E. Theater.” Just apart from ideology, this medium was his medium, his ability to communicate by the millions. Do you sense any of these candidates, if you want to stick your neck out, who has anything like the power of the Great Communicator?
REAGAN: Well, Rudy Giuliani is probably the most charismatic of them, but you mentioned it before the break, that the Republicans have been looking for a new Ronald Reagan. The problem for them is there just isn‘t one out there. Yes, Rudy Giuliani is somewhat charismatic. He is a good speaker. But he has got a lot of problems with his candidacy.
McCain, he‘s hot and cold. You never know quite which John McCain is going to show up. This is why people are excited about Fred Thompson. There are Republicans who think that Fred Thompson, maybe because he works in television, can be a guy who can come in and seal the deal for them. He has to get in the race first, of course.
MATTHEWS: And we have to see whether he can turn a crowd on or not.
REAGAN: That‘s right. I don‘t think Fred Thompson is another Ronald Reagan either, to tell you the truth.
MATTHEWS: I wonder whether—let me ask you this, because you lived with your dad. This is again apart from politics. Don‘t you have to have the bug? Don‘t you have to really want to run for president? Your dad ran in, I believe, 1968 and lost to Nixon. He was kind of a long shot. Then he ran again in 1976 against a sitting Republican, Gerry Ford. Then he finally won on the third try. You have to really want it enough to keep going for it. To have to be talked into it the way Fred Thompson is, I have never seen that before. Maybe Adlai Stevenson was talked into it. That didn‘t work.
REAGAN: You have to be ready and eager to give up any semblance of a normal life forever, because if you win, that‘s it. Your regular life is over. You really have to embrace that.
MATTHEWS: Your campaign slogan can‘t be get my slippers.
BLANKLEY: You know, there is an interesting—there is an interesting aspect of this field of Republicans. We all observed there is no other Reagan out there, and clearly there isn‘t. In an odd way, this gives the Republican party an opportunity, because this is not 1980 or 1984. I wish it was. It‘s not. The issues set that could win then can‘t be replicated now.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s the question, why aren‘t they looking for another George W. Bush? Isn‘t that a problem. No, I‘m being serious. Isn‘t that part of our conversation that‘s a problem. They don‘t really want to emulate entirely or in large part—
BLANKLEY: Other than an FDR or Reagan, you don‘t usually—the country is tired of the president. They were tired of Truman.
MATTHEWS: So well said. They were tired of Truman. They were tired of Ike even. And Ike was immensely popular. Anyway, thank you. Tony, you get wiser every time I get older. Any way, thank you Ron Reagan. Great report tonight. Thank you Tony Blankley.
When we return, race in America. How much has the Don Imus incident changed what we can and cannot say, if anything? Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has a new book out. That‘s a heck of a book, by the way, he has come out with. It‘s not an ethnic thing. It‘s for everybody, this book, from what I can tell. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Russell Simmons is a music mogul, is one of the most influential figures in hip hop music and in our economy. His book is called “Do You, Twelve Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success.” First of all I love the concept. This should be a gradation speech, to tell the kids who graduate to do you.
RUSSELL SIMMONS, HIP HOP MOGUL: It is meant to inspire you to look inside. The truth is, when you look inside, there is a piece of god in you. If you can access that, anything you can imagine is yours. There is no secret without god. And the idea is that all the scriptures tell you the same thing. This book is based mostly on the Yoga Sutras, but all the scriptures run parallel.
And the real truth is when you look inside any business idea or anything you want to imagine, you can create. The book is about that. The title is a very funny story, because it was the 12 laws of success and I gave the book to Oprah. She read the book and it was the funniest thing. She called me and told me I had a corny title. So she tells me I have a corny title, and then she told me the name, which is the title of the second chapter. The book is about the inner voice.
MATTHEWS: She thought this was corny?
SIMMONS: No the 12 laws of success was corny. She renamed the book.
SIMMONS: To “Do You.”
MATTHEWS: Oh, she did that.
SIMMONS: Yes, it‘s kind of funny. But I would have thought that her naming my book would be out of the question.
MATTHEWS: Are you giving her a cut?
SIMMONS: No, she doesn‘t need it, I don‘t think.
MATTHEWS: This is graduation time, and I think one message to kids graduating—I always say to them, I hung out with a kid who knew all about music. Today he‘s Curt Loder. I hung out with another guy in college. He‘s from Buffalo. That all he did was talk about sports. Now he is a sports reporter for the “Buffalo News.” People do end up doing well what they had a hunch about.
SIMMONS: Every success I‘ve had—my first rap record was made before there were rap records. The Def Comedy Jam was a joke for HBO. The Def Poetry Jam is the longest running show they have, and that was a favor. The Reverend Run TV Show, for instance, is a show about a reverend and five kids. It‘s not popular at MTV, but now it‘s the number on show there.
So, my success has come from listening to my voice and having the courage to live up to what it promises me. And I think that it‘s a very obvious formula and it make you happy. And the idea that you want to connect to that thing that makes you happy, the thing that is the unity in all of us. And that is what the book is about.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me go into a problem area. I was writing a while ago, and I was going to put it into a book, but I decided not to for the following reason: it seemed to me that the guys in this business of talk, like Limbaugh and O‘Reilly and Imus took years to get their act right. For years they tried to be something else and they finally became themselves and they got good at it. Limbaugh couldn‘t get guests up in Sacramento, so he did the show without guests. O‘Reilly, people could stand, but he said, fine, a lot of people will like me, even though I‘m a little bit difficult to deal with. They‘re going to like me. You know, a couple million people is all it takes.
Now Imus, what was your view on Imus, what happened?
SIMMONS: Well, the you I refer to is the higher self. It‘s that thing, that Christ consciousness, that Somati (ph) the Yogis refer to, Nirvana the Buddhists call, you know, the toxic life-style that the Jews refer to, that is the you I am referring to. When you are disconnected and you don‘t realize that you are a part of, you know, all of mother Earth and you are a part of all of those things, that is the you I refer to. Not the one‘s that separate or isolated.
MATTHEWS: It‘s not egotistical?
SIMMONS: No, it‘s not at all. It‘s about letting go of the ego and looking for the strength that comes when you are really connected. That is where even—people who you might think are not spiritual, not connected, that is where their strength comes from. That‘s the law. The cosmic laws are unbreakable. So if you want to promote happiness, then you can receive it. If you want to give something that‘s lasting and stable and good, then you get back a lasting and stable and good result. So that‘s what the book is about.
MATTHEWS: What about Imus? What happened there.
SIMMONS: The Imus story is—I am the chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding. And Rabbi Snyder, who is the chairman of the World Jewish Congress, is the president. And our first response was that is Imus and maybe there is something we can do, some dialogue behind the scenes, that would promote something better. But America‘s response to him was good. It gave us a chance to talk more about race. It was very good. I was happy with not so much what happened to him, but the fact that we are discussing this now in such a meaningful way.
MATTHEWS: One candidate for reelection in Virginia, George Allen, was coasting to reelection as a senator until he called a kid Macaca, which is a North African reference to a black kid. Do you think we‘re changing, that we‘re getting more sensitive, or are we just being politically correct? Are we getting better or just more careful?
SIMMONS: You know, rappers talk often about things that bring up things in us, the misogyny—I wouldn‘t say racism, but homophobia, the violence, the truth. The truth about us is that we like to sweep things under the rug. And the lack of consciousness on the part of all the smart people, the sophisticates, is everywhere.
MATTHEWS: Was it good to put it out?
SIMMONS: I think it was good that they discussed it publicly.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but he got fired for it. Rap singers don‘t get fired for incitive language.
SIMMONS: They have a certain poetic license that they should enjoy.
I think we have to protect that.
MATTHEWS: But not talk show hosts?
SIMMONS: I don‘t think so. I think those words should be removed from mainstream television and radio.
MATTHEWS: The words he used?
MATTHEWS: I think they have been removed, Mr. Simmons. There‘s nothing like a noise like that to get fired. Anyway, thank you. I do like the title. Oprah, as always, is a genius. “Do You,” it‘s a great book. It‘s going to be high on the Amazon list tomorrow morning. Thank you very much Mr. Simmons. The name of the book is “Do You.”
SIMMONS: It already is.
MATTHEWS: Sorry, it will be higher. Tomorrow on HARDBALL, Bill Maher. And don‘t forget, the first Republican presidential candidates‘ debate coming up this Thursday. The countdown is on. Three days to go. Right night it‘s time for Tucker.
The International Herald Tribune reports:
In a troubling sign for the American-financed rebuilding program in Iraq, inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle.
U.S. officials have previously admitted, sometimes under pressure from federal inspectors, that some reconstruction projects have been abandoned, delayed or poorly constructed. But this is the first time that inspectors have found that projects officially declared successes - in some cases, as little as six months before the latest inspections - were no longer working properly.
The inspections ranged geographically from northern to southern Iraq and covered projects as varied as a maternity hospital, barracks for an Iraqi special forces unit and a power station for Baghdad International Airport.
At the airport, crucially important for the functioning of the country, inspectors found that while $11.8 million had been spent on new electrical generators, about three-quarters of the generators were no longer functioning.
At the maternity hospital, a rehabilitation project in the northern city of Erbil, an expensive incinerator for medical waste was padlocked - Iraqis at the hospital could not find the key when inspectors asked to see the equipment - and, partly as a result, medical waste including syringes, used bandages and empty drug vials were clogging the sewage system and probably contaminating the water system.
The newly built water purification system was not functioning, either.
Officials at the oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, said that they had made an effort to sample different regions and various types of projects, but that they were constrained from taking a true random sample in part because many projects were in areas too unsafe to visit.
So, they said, the initial set of eight projects - which cost a total of about $150 million - cannot be seen as a true statistical measure of the thousands of projects in the roughly $30 billion American rebuilding program.
But the officials said the initial findings raised serious new concerns about the effort.
The reconstruction effort was originally designed as nearly equal to the military push to stabilize Iraq, allow the government to function and business to flourish and promote good will toward the United States.
"These first inspections indicate that the concerns that we and others have had about the Iraqis sustaining our investments in these projects are valid," Stuart Bowen Jr., who leads the office of the special inspector general, said in an interview last week.
The conclusions will be summarized in the latest quarterly report by Bowen's office on Monday. Individual reports on each of the projects were made public Thursday and Friday.
Bowen said that because he suspected that completed projects were not being maintained, he had ordered his inspectors to undertake a wider program of returning to examine projects that had been completed for at least six months, a phase known as sustainment.
Exactly who is to blame for the poor record on sustainment for the first sample of eight projects was not laid out in the report, but the American reconstruction program has been repeatedly criticized for not including in its rebuilding budget enough of the costs for spare parts, training, stronger construction and other elements that would enable projects to continue to function once they have been built.
The Iraqis themselves appear to share responsibility for the latest problems, which cropped up after the United States turned the projects over to the Iraqi government. Still, the new findings show that the enormous American investment in the reconstruction program is at risk, Bowen said. Curiously, most of the problems seemed unrelated to sabotage stemming from Iraq's parlous security situation, but instead were the product of poor initial construction, petty looting, a lack of any maintenance and simple neglect.
A case in point was the $5.2 million project undertaken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build the special forces barracks in Baghdad. The project was completed in September 2005, but by the time inspectors visited last month, there were numerous problems caused by faulty plumbing throughout the buildings, and four large electrical generators, each costing $50,000, were no longer operating.
The problems with the generators were seemingly minor: missing batteries, a failure to maintain adequate oil levels in the engines, fuel lines that had been pilfered or broken. That kind of neglect is typical of rebuilding programs in developing countries whose citizens are not closely involved in planning efforts, said Rick Barton, co-director of the post-conflict reconstruction project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a research organization in Washington.
"What ultimately makes any project sustainable is local ownership from the beginning in designing the project, establishing the priorities," Barton said. "If you don't have those elements, it's an extension of colonialism, and generally it's resented."
There are people in Washington ... who never intend to withdraw military forces from Iraq and they're looking for 10, 20, 50 years in the future ... the reason that we went into Iraq was to establish a permanent military base in the Gulf region, and I have never heard any of our leaders say that they would commit themselves to the Iraqi people that 10 years from now there will be no military bases of the United States in Iraq.
-- former President Jimmy Carter, Feb. 3, 2006
Dan Hamburg, former U.S. congressman and current executive director of Voice of the Environment, and Lewis Seiler, president of Voice of the Environment, write in the SF Chronicle:
For all the talk about timetables and benchmarks, one might think that the United States will end the military occupation of Iraq within the lifetimes of the readers of this opinion editorial. Think again.
There is to be no withdrawal from Iraq, just as there has been no withdrawal from hundreds of places around the world that are outposts of the American empire. As UC San Diego professor emeritus Chalmers Johnson put it, "One of the reasons we had no exit plan from Iraq is that we didn't intend to leave."The United States maintains 737 military bases in 130 countries across the globe. They exist for the purpose of defending the economic interests of the United States, what is euphemistically called "national security." In order to secure favorable access to Iraq's vast reserves of light crude, the United States is spending billions on the construction of at least five large permanent military bases throughout that country.
A new Iraq oil law, largely written by the Coalition Provisional Authority, is planned for ratification by June. This law cedes control of Iraq's oil to western powers for 30 years. There is major opposition to the proposed law within Iraq, especially among the country's five trade union federations that represent hundreds of thousands of oil workers. The United States is working hard to surmount this opposition by appealing directly to the al-Maliki government in Iraq.
The attack upon, and subsequent occupation of, Iraq can be seen as a direct result of the 2001 National Energy Policy Development Group (better known as vice president Cheney's energy task force) that was comprised largely of oil and energy company executives. This task force -- the proceedings of which have been kept secret by the administration on the grounds of "executive privilege" -- recommended that the U.S. government support initiatives in Middle Eastern countries "to open up areas of their energy sector to foreign investment." As Antonio Juhasz, an analyst with Oil Change International wrote last month in the New York Times, "One invasion and a great deal of political engineering by the Bush administration later, this is exactly what the proposed Iraq oil law would achieve."
The people of the United States have indicated, in the national election last November and in countless polls, that they no longer support the Bush administration's war. The Scooter Libby trial revealed that top administration officials, including the vice president, "cherry-picked" and distorted intelligence in order to sell a "pre-emptive" war to a spooked public. The squandering of hundreds of billions of dollars, some billions of which, according to Seymour Hersh writing in the New Yorker, is being siphoned into "black-ops" programs being run out of Cheney's office (a stunning redux of Iran-Contra carried out by many of the same actors), has also strained the patience and credulity of the American people.
Another betrayal is the "contracting out" of "war-related activities" to corporations such as Halliburton, Bechtel, Chemonics and Blackwater. Halliburton, Vice President Cheney's previous employer, calls itself an "energy services company" but has tentacles reaching into nearly every aspect of the war (originally dubbed Operation Iraqi Liberation until some bright bulb among the Bushies realized that "OIL" might not be the best handle for this venture). Halliburton has also profited handsomely from no-bid government contracts awarded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the construction at the national embarrassment known as "Gitmo," and most recently, from the fiasco at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Unfortunately, all this corruption, mayhem and death are good for some (or it wouldn't go on).
The U.S. military budget, larger than the military budgets of the rest of the world's nations combined, continues skyward, even without all the "supplementals" passed regularly by Congress to fight the "war on terror."
The question we must ask as citizens is this: Is the United States a democratic republic or an empire? History demonstrates that it's not possible to be both.
Iraq has the world’s second or third largest proven oil reserves. The proposed Iraqi law (translated pdf) would give Western oil companies control over Iraqi oil. It provides for “exploration risk contracts” allowing foreign companies control of oil exploration, development and production for up to 30 years. If the law is adopted as is, control of the Iraqi oil industry will shift from the public sector, where it’s been since the 1970s, into the hands of the multinational oil companies, especially British and American firms. Under the new law, Iraq will reportedly be breaking away from the normal procedure that is used by all major oil-producing countries, none of whom allow such foreign control. In Saudi Arabia, the country that has the world’s largest oil reserves, oil is fully owned and controlled by the national oil company.
The same is true for Kuwait. The United Arab Emirates and Iran allow some foreign investment but maintain national control.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki endorsed the draft law February 26, 2007, and it was approved by the Iraqi cabinet in March. The law is waiting for a vote in the Iraqi Parliament.
As director of the CIA, George Tenet has kept America's most important secrets. And until now, his lips were sealed.
Tenet's CIA has been blamed for failing to stop 9/11, praised for the fall of the Taliban, and vilified for predicting that Iraq held chemical and biological weapons.
Now, three years after leaving the CIA, Tenet has written a book, aptly named, "At the Center of the Storm." This month, correspondent Scott Pelley sat down with Tenet. 60 Minutes wanted to know how he got "weapons of mass destruction" wrong. Are we using torture in the war on terror? And who was it at the White House who finally put the knife in his back?
60 Minutes found him passionate, combative, apologetic, defiant, and fiercely loyal to the people of the CIA and their fight against terrorism.
"People don't understand us, you know, they think we're a bunch of faceless bureaucrats with no feelings, no families, no sense of what it’s like to be passionate about running these bastards down. There was nobody else in this government that felt what we felt before or after 9/11. Of course, after 9/11, everybody had that feeling. Nobody felt like we felt on that day. This was personal," Tenet tells Pelley.
His story erupts after a silence of three years. 60 Minutes spoke with Tenet at Georgetown University.
In a sense, his career began and ended there. He's a professor now, but he first came as a student from Queens, New York. After college, he worked on Capitol Hill and in the Clinton White House, rising to lead the CIA at the age of 44. Tenet served seven years, all that time hunting Osama bin Laden.
"I still lie awake at night thinking about everything that could have been, that wasn’t done to stop 9/11. To the 9/11 families, I said, you deserve better from your entire government. All of us," Tenet says.
If he lies awake, men like Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Midhar, two of the 9/11 hijackers, are among the reasons. Before 9/11, Tenet’s CIA headquarters knew that they were al Qaeda and in America. But the information was filed, not passed to the FBI.
Scott Pelley remarks, "Two of the 19 hijackers, in your files, in Langley, Virginia, a year and a half before 9/11 … they don't get on a watch list. They don't get on a no-fly list. You know these are bad guys."
"Scott, they don't. And honest people doing honest work, for whatever you know, all of these people who are doing the best that they can, and understand this in great granularity, understand all of this and feel this pain, we all know this. I can't dress this up for you," Tenet replies.
"People were inundated with data and operations. And they missed it," Tenet acknowledges. "We're not trying to intentionally withhold—human beings made mistakes."
But the 9/11 Commission accused Tenet’s CIA of being bureaucratic and failing to recognize al Qaeda for the threat that it was.
"All these commissions, and all these reports never got underneath the feeling of my people. You know, to see us written about as if we're idiots. Or if we didn't understand this threat. As if we didn't understand what happened on that day. To impugn our integrity, our operational savvy. You know, the American people need to know that's just not so," Tenet says. "We're the ones that stand up and tell you the truth about when we're wrong. It's a great thing about this government. The only people that ever stand up and tell the truth are who? Intelligence officers. Because our culture is, never break faith with the truth. We'll tell you, you don't have to drag it out of us. You didn't have to serve me a subpoena to tell me I didn't watch list Hazmi and Midhar. We knew right away; and we told everybody. Truth matters to us."
(CBS) The truth of the CIA and al Qaeda starts before 9/11. Two years before the attacks, the CIA had officers on the ground in Afghanistan laying plans to overthrow the Taliban and take out bin Laden. But Tenet says neither Clinton nor President Bush would give him the go ahead. Then, by the summer of 2001, Tenet says he was so alarmed by intelligence that an attack was coming, he asked for an immediate meeting to brief then-National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.
"Essentially, the briefing says, there are gonna be multiple spectacular attacks against the United States. We believe these attacks are imminent. Mass casualties are a likelihood," Tenet remembers.
"You're telling Condoleezza Rice in that meeting in the White House in July that we should take offensive action, in Afghanistan, now. Before 9/11," Pelley remarks.
"We need to consider immediate action inside Afghanistan now. We need to move to the offensive," Tenet says.
In his book, Tenet says that even though he told Rice an attack on Americans was imminent, she took his request to launch pre-emptive action in Afghanistan and delegated it to third-tier officials.
"You’re meeting with the president every morning. Why aren't you telling the president, 'Mr. President, this is terrifying. We have to do this now. Forget about the bureaucracy. I need this authority this afternoon,'?" Pelley asks.
"Right. Because the United States government doesn't work that way. The president is not the action officer. You bring the action to the national security advisor and people who set the table for the president to decide on policies they're gonna implement," Tenet says.
"You thought you had some time," Pelley remarks.
"Well, you didn't know. Yeah, you thought you might have time," Tenet says. "You can second guess me until the cows come home. That's the way I did my job."
On Sept. 11, Tenet was at breakfast near the White House when the first plane hit. He thought instantly of his old nemesis.
"I knew immediately this was bin Laden. I excused myself from breakfast. I jumped in the car," he remembers.
"What do you mean you knew immediately? I mean, most people in the country thought there had been a terrible accident," Pelley asks.
"Listen, when you’ve been following this as long as I've been following this, when you’ve been thinking about multiple spectacular attacks. There was no doubt what had happened in my mind immediately," Tenet explains.
At the CIA headquarters, as the towers burned and the Pentagon was hit, Tenet got the aircraft passenger manifest; Hazmi and Mihdhar were listed.
"After all these years of planning and plotting and wanting to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, you must have thought, 'The SOB got me first,'" Pelley remarks.
"Um, yeah. But I had another thought. 'I'm gonna run you and all your bastards down. And here we come. Because the rules are about to change. Here we come; our turn now. Unleashed, authorities, money, direction, leadership; here we come, pal.' That's what I thought," Tenet says.
Immediately, Tenet got the authority he had been asking for in Afghanistan. And for the first time, the CIA led an American war. Tenet calls it the agency’s finest hour, except, perhaps, for just one thing.
"Was Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora?" Pelley asks.
"We believe that he was," Tenet says.
"And, the question is, 'How did he get away?' If this plan of yours is so great … and Afghanistan went so well…. How does Osama bin Laden get away, when we've got him cornered at Tora Bora?" Pelley asks.
"Well, have you ever seen the geography in Tora Bora?" Tenet asks.
"I have," Pelley replies.
"You don't have anybody cornered in Tora Bora," Tenet says.
Tenet says our forces were too light to stop bin Laden’s escape. "We played with what we had. 'Cause you didn't have a big force presence on the ground. We caught a lot of people, we didn't catch the one we wanted," he says.
But they did catch others, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man who planned 9/11. He was captured in Pakistan.
"When Khalid Sheikh Mohammed ended up in the hands of CIA interrogators, what did he say?" Pelley says.
"I'll talk to you guys when you take me to New York and I can see my lawyer," Tenet replies.
(CBS) But the CIA had something else in mind. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others were swept up in the "high value detainee" program. Secret prisons were set up, and several suspects were questioned under new, so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," said to include sleep deprivation, extreme cold and water boarding, which causes a severe gag reflex, as water is continuously poured over the face.
"The image that's been portrayed is, we sat around the campfire and said, 'Oh, boy, now we go get to torture people.' Well, we don't torture people. Let me say that again to you. We don't torture people. Okay?" Tenet says.
"Come on, George," Pelley says.
"We don't torture people," Tenet maintains.
"Khalid Sheikh Mohammad?" Pelley asks.
"We don't torture people," Tenet says.
"Water boarding?" Pelley asks.
"We do not – I don't talk about techniques," Tenet replies.
"It's torture," Pelley says.
"And we don't torture people. Now, listen to me. Now, listen to me. I want you to listen to me," Tenet says. "The context is it's post-9/11. I've got reports of nuclear weapons in New York City, apartment buildings that are gonna be blown up, planes that are gonna fly into airports all over again. Plot lines that I don't know – I don't know what's going on inside the United States. And I'm struggling to find out where the next disaster is going to occur. Everybody forgets one central context of what we lived through. The palpable fear that we felt on the basis of the fact that there was so much we did not know."
"I know that this program has saved lives. I know we've disrupted plots," Tenet says.
"But what you're essentially saying is some people need to be tortured," Pelley remarks.
"No, I did not say that. I did not say that," Tenet says.
"You're telling me that… the enhanced interrogation…" Pelley says.
"I did not say that. I did not say that. We do not tor…. Listen to me. You’re, you're making…," Tenet says.
"You call it in the book, 'enhanced interrogation,'" Pelley remarks.
"…an assumption. Well, that's what we call it," Tenet says.
"And that's a euphemism," Pelley says.
"I'm not having a semantic debate with you. I'm telling you what I believe," Tenet says.
Asked if anyone ever died in the interrogation program, Tenet says, "No."
Asked if he's sure of that, the former director tells Pelley, "Yeah. In this program that you and I are talking about? No."
"Have you ever seen any of these interrogations done?" Pelley asks.
"No," Tenet replies.
"Didn’t you feel like it was your responsibility to know what's going on?" Pelley asks.
"I understood. I'm not a voyeur. I understand what I was signing off on," Tenet says.
Asked if he lost any sleep over it, Tenet tells Pelley, "Yeah, of course you do! Of course you lose sleep over it. You're on new territory. But that's not the point! What’s this tension? The tension is, 'I've just lived through 3,000 people dying. This is not a clinical exercise.' Maybe for you guys it's a clinical exercise. Not for me! 3,000 people died. Friends died. Now I'm gonna sit back, and then everybody says, 'You idiots don’t know how to connect the dots. You don’t have imagination. You were unwilling to take risk to protect this country,'" Tenet says.
"Let me ask the question this way: why were enhanced interrogation techniques necessary?" Pelley asks.
"'Cause these are people that will never, ever, ever tell you a thing. These are people who know who’s responsible for the next terrorist attack. These are hardened people that would kill you and me 30 seconds after they got out of wherever they were being held and wouldn’t blink an eyelash," Tenet says. "You can sit there after, you can sit there five years later, and have this debate with me, all I'm asking you to do, walk a mile in my shoes when I'm dealing with these realities."
Tenet says the interrogations uncovered networks and broke up plots in the U.S.
(CBS) Asked if al Qaeda is in the United States right now, Tenet tells Pelley, "My operational presumption is that they infiltrated a second wave or a third wave into the United States at the time of 9/11. Now can I prove that to you? No. It’s my operational intuition."
He told 60 Minutes in 2003 terrorists were in the U.S. prepared to attack the New York City subways, when bin Laden’s number two called them back.
"By 2003, the intelligence tells you that Zawahiri has called off an attack against the New York City subway system, in favor of something larger. What is that larger thing?" Tenet says.
One clue, Tenet says, is that bin Laden has been trying to get his hands on nuclear material, since 1993. "Are these people gonna have a nuclear capability? This confers superpower status on a networked organization that is not a state. Is it gonna happen?" Tenet wonders. "Look, I don't know. But I worry about it. Because I've seen enough to tell me that there's intent. And when there's intent, the question is, when does the capability show up? If al Qaeda were to acquire nuclear capability, the thousands of weapons we have would be irrelevant."
In the midst of the al Qaeda threat, Tenet says he was astonished and mystified when the White House turned its aim to Iraq.
Tenet told 60 Minutes the war in Iraq is "a national tragedy." He says he realized it was the end of his career when he picked up The Washington Post and saw that he was being blamed for the decision to go to war. In classic Washington fashion, someone had leaked a story suggesting that the president decided to attack after Tenet said the evidence against Iraq was a "slam dunk."
In our interview, Tenet admits the CIA's mistakes and his own. But what makes him angry now is how the White House ignored CIA warnings, cooked the books on intelligence, and then used "slam dunk" to brand him with the failure.
"The hardest part of all of this has just been listening to this for almost three years. Listening to the vice president go on 'Meet The Press' on the fifth year of 9/11, and say, 'Well, George Tenet said, slam dunk.' As if he needed me to say slam dunk to go to war with Iraq," Tenet tells Pelley. "And they never let it go. I mean, I became campaign talk. I was a talking point. You know, 'Look at what the idiot told us, and we decided to go to war.' Well, let's not be so disingenuous. Let's stand up. This is why we did it. This is why, this is how we did it. And let's tell, let's everybody tell the truth."
(Editor's Note: In his book, "At the Center of the Storm," and on Sunday's broadcast of 60 Minutes, George Tenet said he encountered Pentagon advisor Richard Perle outside the White House on Sept. 12, 2001, the day after the 9/11 attacks. Perle disputes Tenet's account, saying the encounter never happened because he was stranded in France that day, and was not able to return to the country until September 15. George Tenet told Tom Brokaw Monday, April 30, 2007, "I may have been off by a couple of days," but says the conversation did happen.)
The truth of Iraq begins, according to Tenet, the day after the attack of Sept. 11, when he ran into Pentagon advisor Richard Perle at the White House.
"He said to me, 'Iraq has to pay a price for what happened yesterday, they bear responsibility.' It’s September the 12th. I’ve got the manifest with me that tell me al Qaeda did this. Nothing in my head that says there is any Iraqi involvement in this in any way shape or form and I remember thinking to myself, as I'm about to go brief the president, 'What the hell is he talking about?'" Tenet remembers.
"You said Iraq made no sense to you in that moment. Does it make any sense to you today?" Pelley asks.
"In terms of complicity with 9/11, absolutely none," Tenet says. "It never made any sense. We could never verify that there was any Iraqi authority, direction and control, complicity with al Qaeda for 9/11 or any operational act against America. Period."
"The president, in October of 2002, quote: 'We need to think about Saddam Hussein using al Qaeda to do his dirty work.' Is that what you're telling the president?" Pelley asks.
"Well, we didn't believe al Qaeda was gonna do Saddam Hussein's dirty work," Tenet says.
"January '03, the president again, [said] quote: 'Imagine those 19 hijackers this time armed by Saddam Hussein.' Is that what you're telling the president?" Pelley asks.
"No," Tenet says.
The vice president upped the ante, claiming Saddam had nuclear weapons, when the CIA was saying he didn’t.
"What's happening here?" Pelley asks.
"Well, I don't know what's happening here," Tenet says. "The intelligence community's judgment is 'He will not have a nuclear weapon until the year 2007, 2009.'"
"That's not what the vice president's saying," Pelley remarks.
"Well, I can't explain it," Tenet says.
Tenet says he sometimes warned the White House its statements were false, but he admits that he missed a big one in the 2003 State of the Union address, when the president said, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
(CBS) The CIA had knocked down that uranium claim months before. The agency even demanded it be taken out of two previous presidential speeches. How did it get through the third time?
"I didn't read the speech. I was involved in a bunch of other things," Tenet says.
"Wait a minute, the president’s State of the Union," Pelley remarks. "You didn't read that?"
"Right, I didn’t, farmed it out, got it at a principal's meeting, brought it down the hall, handed it to my executive assistant. I said, 'You guys go review this, and come back to me if I need to do anything,'" Tenet remembers.
"Nobody comes back to you?" Pelley asks.
"And therein lies why I ultimately have to take my share of responsibility," Tenet says.
"Did anyone at the White House, did anyone in the defense department ever ask you whether we should go to war in Iraq?" Pelley asks.
"The discussions that are on-going in 2002 in the spring and summer of 2002 are 'How you might do this?' Not whether you should do this," Tenet says.
"Nobody asks?" Pelley asks.
"Well, I don't remember sitting down in a principles committee meeting and everybody saying, 'Okay, there's a deep concern about Iraq. Is this the right thing to do? What are the implications?' I don’t ever remember that galvanizing moment when people sit around and honestly say 'Is this the right thing to do?'"
Still, at CIA headquarters, Tenet's team was about to make a historic blunder of its own. The CIA produced its evaluation of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in a secret report called a "National Intelligence Estimate."
"The first key judgment in the national intelligence estimate says, quote, 'Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons.' Period," Pelley says.
"High confidence judgment," Tenet replies.
How could he make such a bold statement? Says Tenet, "We believed he had chemical and biological weapons."
"But there was no hard evidence," Pelley remarks.
"No, no. There was lots of data. There's lots of technical data," Tenet says. "So you put all of this together, it's not evidence in the court of law. Remember, when you write an estimate, when you estimate, you’re writing what you don't know. You might win a civil case. Huh? You're not gonna win a criminal case, in terms of evidence."
"We are going to war. Tens of thousands of people are going to be killed. And you're telling me you had evidence to prove a civil case, not a criminal case?" Pelley asks,
"Well, as you know, hindsight is perfect. The public face on this what we wrote on weapons of mass destruction and for professionals, who pride themselves on being right, this is a very painful experience for us," Tenet acknowledges.
Perhaps the most painful experience for Tenet was the presentation of Secretary of State Colin Powell to the United Nations. Powell asked Tenet to sit behind him.
"Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent," Powell said at the U.N.
"Conservative estimate of 100 to 500 tons? I mean, how can you be so wrong?" Pelley asks.
"Scott, we've gone through this. It's what we believed, it's what we wrote," Tenet says.
"Where did these numbers come from?" Pelley asks.
"From our national intelligence estimate," Tenet says. "You don't make this kind of stuff up."
"Wait a minute, you did make this kind of stuff up," Pelley remarks.
"No, we didn't make it up, Scott, we just…," Tenet says.
"It's not true," Pelley remarks.
"Scott, you're doing it again, you're impugning the integrity of people who make analytical judgments and make their best judgments about what they believe of the Iraqis possessed. Intelligence, you know, my business is not always about the truth. It's about people's best judgments about what the truth may be. We believed it. We wrote it. We let the secretary down," Tenet says.
"These are not assertions, what we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence," Secretary of State Powell said.
"He didn’t tell the United Nations, 'Look, we think this might be true.' This was laid out to the world as a iron-clad case," Pelley remarks. "Conservative estimate. Between 100 and 500…."
"I wish I could reel the tape back," Tenet says. "Do you think that the American intelligence community's gonna roll out the secretary of state in front of the entire world and consciously let him say things that are wrong? No."
Asked if he apologized to Colin Powell, Tenet says, "Well, Colin and I have talked about it. I'm not going to talk about what he and I have said to each other, but we've talked about it."
(CBS) When it became clear there were no weapons of mass destruction, a rift split the White House and CIA. A former ambassador named Joe Wilson wrote an article debunking the uranium claim that had slipped into the State of the Union address. The White House retaliated, leaking a story that exposed the identity of Joe Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, as an undercover CIA officer.
"She's one of my officers. That's wrong. Big time wrong, you don't get to do that," Tenet says. "And the chilling effect that you have inside my work force is, 'Whoa, now officers names are being thrown out the door. Hold it. Not right.'"
Asked how much damage that did, Tenet says, "That's not the point. Just because there's a Washington bloodletting game going on here and just because her husband's out there saying what he's saying. The country's intelligence officers are not fair game. Period. That's all you need to know."
"They didn't seem to know that in the White House," Pelley remarks.
"I'm done with it. I've just told you what I think," Tenet says.
What Tenet didn’t know was that the next bloodletting would be his. It came in another White House leak, this time to reporter Bob Woodward. An unnamed source described to Woodward a pre-war meeting in the Oval Office. The CIA was showing the president how to present to the public the case for weapons of mass destruction. Woodward wrote “Tenet rose up, threw his arms in the air. 'It’s a slam dunk case!'"
"I never got off the couch, I never jumped up, there was no pantomime. I didn’t do my Michael Jordan, Air Jordan routine for the president that morning," Tenet tells Pelley.
"What did you mean by slam dunk?" Pelley asks.
"I guess I meant that we could do better," Tenet says.
"Do better?" Pelley asks.
"We can put a better case together for a public case, that’s what I meant. That’s what this was about," Tenet explains.
Tenet says the president wasn’t happy with the presentation. So he was telling Mr. Bush that improving the presentation would be a slam dunk. But Tenet says the leak to Woodward made the remark look like the decisive moment in the decision to go to war.
"I'll never believe that what happened that day, informed the president's view or belief of the legitimacy or the timing of this war. Never," Tenet insists.
In addition to five from the CIA, the only people in the room were the president, vice president, Condoleezza Rice, and Chief of Staff Andrew Card.
"Somebody who was in the Oval Office that day decided to throw you off the train. Was it the president?" Pelley asks.
"I don't know," Tenet says.
"Was it the vice president?" Pelley asks.
"I don't know," Tenet says.
"Who was out to get you, George?" Pelley asks.
"Scott, you know, I'm Greek, and we're conspiratorial by nature. But, you know, who knows?" Tenet says. "I haven't let myself go there, but as a human being it didn’t feel very good."
Tenet says, when he saw "slam dunk" in The Washington Post he knew the breach with the White House was total. He called his principal contact in the president’s office.
(CBS) "And I remember picking up the phone and calling Andy Card, who is a terrific human being and somebody I’ve always trusted … I call Andy and I said 'You know I believe he had weapons of mass destruction. And now what’s happened here is you’ve gone out and made me look stupid. It’s the most despicable thing I've ever heard in my life. Men of honor don't do this,'" Tenet recalls.
"Men of honor don't do this?" Pelley asks.
"You don't do this. You don't throw people overboard. You don’t do this you don’t call somebody in, you work your heart out, you show up everyday. You're gonna throw somebody overboard just because it's a deflection? Is that honorable? It's not honorable to me. You know, at the end of the day, the only thing you have is trust and honor in this world. It's all you have. All you have is your reputation built on trust and your personal honor. And when you don't have that anymore, well, there you go. Trust was broken," Tenet says.
"Between you and the White House?" Pelley asks,
"You bet. You bet," Tenet says.
Still, the president awarded Tenet the nation’s highest honor for a civilian, the Medal of Freedom.
Asked if he was conflicted about accepting the medal, Tenet says, "Well, there was conflict."
At Georgetown, he told 60 Minutes he accepted the medal because the citation was for the CIA's work in Afghanistan, not for Iraq. Some have asked whether the medal is why Tenet has withheld criticism of President Bush.
"Some people have wondered whether the Medal of Freedom is the reason you tend to give the president a pass," Pelley remarks.
"Well, that’s the most outrageous thing I have ever heard in my life," Tenet replies. "The notion that I would trade in my integrity to pull punches with anybody is just ridiculous."
He had the second longest tenure at the agency, but on July 11, 2004, Tenet took a cigar, and walked the grounds of the CIA one last time.
"You know that there are people watching this interview, they're gonna say to themselves, 'That's the guy that missed 9/11. That's the guy who got it wrong on Iraq.' To them, you say what?" Pelley asks.
"You know, history'll judge who this guy is. All I would say to them is I'm also the guy that was privileged to lead men and women that saved thousands of lives. I'm also the guy that was privileged to lead men and women who get up every day to try and keep them safe. I'm also the guy that knows that my report card is a heck of a lot better than the bad things, and there a lot of good things, and I would hope that the American people believe that here's a guy who tried to serve his country as best as he knew how, is an honest man, and led his people as well as he possibly could," Tenet says. "And, the rest is for other people to judge."