MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster.
It seems as though the Democrats have a strategy out there. Its to let the people who are really anti-war, like Senator Ted Kennedy and Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania, get out there and speak without committing their main forces.
The main leadership of the Democratic Party, as David just said, are not going to put out an official response by the party to the president tomorrow night because they want to cover their rear ends. Theyre going to let the left go out there and make the fight so they can protect themselves for 2008. This afternoon, Senator Ted Kennedy told me his plan to force a vote on the Iraq surge.
MATTHEWS: Senator, are you trying to stop this surge in troops to Iraq?
KENNEDY: Yes. Yes, I am. The overarching issue of our time is the Iraq war. It was the overarching issue in the elections. The president of the United States understood that he had to change course, but the change of course that he has taken is to escalate the number of American troops that are going to be there that are going to be put into a civil war.
That is against the advice of General Abizaid, General Dempsey, the ones that have testified before the Armed Services Committee. The resolution and the legislation I offer says you, Mr. President, have to come to Congress to get authorization to do that.
We will not send additional American troops into a civil war, we will not expend additional taxpayers money until the Congress of the United States, the Senate of the United States votes in favor of it. There will be those members that will vote in favor of it. I will not because I believe that we are involvedputtingthis will put more American servicemen in harms way in the civil war.
But I do believe that wethe country is demanding accountability. They want to know where their members of Congress are. They want their members of Congress to do more than just make speeches. They want action.
And this gives an opportunity for action. We have done it in the past. We did it in times of Lebanon and limiting the increased number of American troops in Lebanon. We have done it in Vietnam. We should do it now in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: How many more casualties do you think were going to take over there if we surge?
KENNEDY: Well, its just...
MATTHEWS: Weve lost 3,000 guys already.
KENNEDY: Thats right. The numbersI mean, when you talk to families, as I have, just one family, the real issue is, are we getting in the right direction or the wrong direction, and this is a major step in the wrong direction. Its going to mean increasing loss of American lives.
We ought to rotatewe ought to rotate American troops out. That will send a clear message to the Iraqis that we mean business. They will not understand we mean business until they understand that were going to have a redeployment, and I think that is what we ought to do.
If we put more troops in there, this will, I think, serve as a crutch for the Iraqis not to make the hard decisions, the hard judgments to demobilize the militias and to take the steps which are necessary to establish an accountable government.
MATTHEWS: This is what President Kennedy was trying to do back in the fall of 1963. You were familiar with that. He tried to put the pressure on the South Vietnamese government to do the fighting. Do you think that would have stopped the Vietnam War, if we just said you do the fighting?
MATTHEWS: Were in that situation now.
KENNEDY: The similarities between the Vietnam War and the Iraq war is that we had military leaders, primarily President Johnson, that believes that there was a military solution to the Vietnamese War, and we havenow we have a president believe that there is just a military solution to the age-old strife that has been going on for 1,300 years between the Sunnis, primarily, and the Shia.
It has got additional kinds of complications with influences of al Qaeda and increasing conflicts from divisions within the Shia and other factors, and movements for a nationalist movement there, but nonetheless, the idea that youre going to have a military solution rather than a political solution is wrong.
Finally, our troops have been in Iraq longer than we fought in World War II. They have been there for four years. This is a country of 25 million people, and we defeated them 10 years ago. And we havewe had occupation of the northern third of the country, the southern third. Their total military budget was $3 billion or $4 billion a year.
We have beenthe military have done everything they have been asked to do, and those fighting men and women have done it with extraordinary courage. But we are asking them to do things which they are not prepared to do, and that is to try to resolve a civil war. That is wrong to ask them to do it, and theits perpetuating American involvement.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the president believes in this policy, as you say, that we can win a military victory in the streets of Baghdad or is just his last, desperate move?
KENNEDY: Well, I think you have to accept what he has said. I think thecontrary to the militaryAbizaid and Casey, who are the two military leaders that have led the whole movement for the lastbasically three years, the most knowledgeable ones. They had testified before the Armed Services Committee against this proposal. Colin Powell, who had led this country to success in the first Gulf War, has testified against this proposal.
So those who have been most involved do not believe that this is right militarily. And I think when you understand that what this cries out for is a political resolution rather than a military resolution, and you see the president taking a major step towards a military resolution of it, the Congress should step in. And the Congress should have a debate. And the Congress should vote on this authorization.
MATTHEWS: Youre on Armed Services. Has Carl Levin, the incomingthe new chairman, the Democratic chairman of that committee, said hes with you on this? Will he help bring this to a vote on the floor?
KENNEDY: Well, Ive spoken with Carl Levin. Ive spoken with the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, with Joe Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Ive talked to our leader, Harry Reid, Jack Reed, whos an expert. Weve got many people that have spent a lot of time on this issue. A number of them have resolutions of their own, basically to achieve similar kind of objectives. I talked to Jack Murtha as well, whos got a resolution of his own that is trying to deal with these issues.
I think what is important for the American people to understand is that there are many of us who are working to try and insist on accountability and are opposed to an increased military surge.
But we need to get action taken. If we dont take action in the short term, this president will go ahead and order these troops over to Iraq and then it will be too late because theyll be in place, theyll be out in the field. And...
MATTHEWS: When do you have to have a vote, senator?
KENNEDY: I think it has to be within theprobably the next two to three weeks.
MATTHEWS: Can you get the vote on the floor? Do you have to bring it up as an amendment? Orhow do you have to do it?
KENNEDY: We have to take this up as amendment to Appropriations. But my sense, if the American people are concerned, they are going to let their members of Congress and the leadership know that they want action rather than a lot of rhetoric.
MATTHEWS: Do you agree with the president about constitutional authority of Congress? I mean, I want to ask you a general question. He obviously doesnt think he needs any more authority. He doesnt want any more resolutions. He hasnt asked for any more, right?
KENNEDY: Thats right.
MATTHEWS: He thinks hes got what he needs.
KENNEDY: Thats true.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he would go attack Iran right now without an authorization? How broad are the powers he assumes here?
KENNEDY: Well, hehe is allegedly relying on the 2000 -- October, 2002 resolution that passed the House and the Senate, which I voted in opposition toBut that was primarily focused on the fact that Saddam presented an imminent threat to the United States militarily. Saddam is no longer there; about the alliances between Saddam and al Qaeda, which the 9/11 Commission dismissed; and about the weapons of mass destruction, which werent there.
So all of the tenets of that authorization have effectuallyhave left. Now, the president says even though they have left, he thinks he still has the right to continue on the conflict.
What I am saying, given the fact that these have left, we are looking at a new departure in Iraq and sending new troops. He ought to come back to the Congress for an authorization. That is consistent with our constitutional responsibilities. He has the constitutional responsibilities as the commander-in-chief. We have it as the holders of the purse and also the war-making power in the United States Senate. So we have a role as well.
And it seems to me that the American people are entitled to know whos on their side. The American people do not support a surge, do not believe that we need more American servicemen involved in a civil war. They know the result is going to be increased causalities, increased wounded and its going to bemake it even more complicated down the road.
MATTHEWS: Weve talked to some other senators, Republicans. People like John Warner have spoken out, saying he thinks the president perhaps needs a new resolution. Gordon Smith of Oregon has said these kinds of things. Of course, Chuck Hagel of Nebraskado you think youll get any Republicans behind this vote when it comes up?
KENNEDY: Well, I thinkIm hopeful that we will. A number of the
ones have expressed concerns about the direction of the administrations
policy. I thinkI would just hope that the members of the Senate and
House are going to listen to the American people because it was very clear
I found in the course of this campaign the message they were sending.
It was very loud and very clear. And they do not want additional American troops put into harms way. They do not want American troops involved in civil war. They oppose that concept.
It makes no sense in terms of securing in Iraq. Its putting these soldiers at risk. Its the wrong policy, the wrong idea. And we, the Congress, under the leadership of the Democrats should not let that happen.
MATTHEWS: A political question, a Massachusetts question, a Commonwealth of Massachusetts question. Who will you endorse for president in 2008 in the Democratic Party?
KENNEDY: Well, we have to find out who is going to run. Isnt that the circumstance? My colleague and friend John Kerry is taking a look at it. Hes going to make his mind up very soon...
MATTHEWS: Do you have a deadline for your support? Its been said that you have a deadline.
KENNEDY: Is that said?
MATTHEWS: ... its been said in the world out there that you want him to make a decision here.
KENNEDY: I think John understands that you have to make one earlier than later. And I expect that he will...
MATTHEWS: Will you back him?
KENNEDY: I think itsI will back him. But I think that thein the meantime, weve got a superb new governor. Deval Patricks doing an outstanding job.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the last governor, the last question, the governor who just left office, Mitt Romney. When he ran against you, people noticed that he was moving to the center, if not to the left. He was for a womans right to choose on an abortion. He was for gay rights generally. Now hes out there running to the right, saying hes against any kind of gay union of any kind, hes against any kind of abortion rights. Which is the real Mitt Romney that youve gotten to know?
KENNEDY: Hell have to explain it. In oureven in our debate we had it. He washad moved back and forth on the choice issue. I said he isnt pro-choice or anti-choice. Hes multiple choice. And I think hes going to have to probably respond to that as he gets across the countryside. And well wish him luck.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Senator Kennedy.
KENNEDY: Good to see you.
Thanks a lot.