MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. When will the House of Representatives debate the war? We talked about the Senate and the problem over there with a possible filibuster. Will they vote to disagree with President Bushs plan to send 21,000 more troops to Baghdad?
Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida is on the Appropriations Committee and Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee is on the Homeland Security Committee.
Congresswoman Blackburn, would you like to see the House vote on the war?
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN, ® TN: What I want to see is the House support the men and women in uniform. That is what I thin is the appropriate thing to do and thats the action we ought to take.
MATTHEWS: When do the voters of America have an influence on the policy?
BLACKBURN: The voters of America are giving their opinions and I read
the Opinion Dynamics poll today that shows that 77 percent of those voters
MATTHEWS: Thats a Fox poll, right? Yeah.
BLACKBURN: Uh, Opinion .
MATTHEWS: Yeah, its a Fox poll. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but its a Fox poll. All right.
BLACKBURN: Seventy-seven percent show that they believe that what happens in Iraq does affect their life and a plurality of those that were polled out of the 900 that were polled say that they feel like weve not been aggressive enough in our stance with the insurgents.
MATTHEWS: Why do you givewhat about other polls like the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll saying most people oppose the surge? Why is that?
BLACKBURN: I think what a lot of people are saying that they want to be certain that we win on the war on terror. They are not necessarily sure that sending more troops in is what we need to do. I disagree with that. I think that returning those troop levels to where they were when the Iraqis held their elections with the men and women on the field saying thats the thing to do, then lets give it a shot. Lets see if it works.
MATTHEWS: What do you think, congresswoman?
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, (D) FL: The president is at a 28 percent approval rating for a reason. And November 7th the American people spoke primarily that they wanted move this country in a new different direction particularly on the war in Iraq. And they certainly didnt say on November 7th please escalate this war, please ensure that theres more violence. Please send our men and women into harms way.
And thats why they are opposed to the escalation. And what they voted for on November 7 was accountability. Unfortunately, the Republican leadership when they were in charge of Congress didnt exercise any accountability over the presidents decisions in Iraq and now we are going to be able to do that.
MATTHEWS: Was sending American troops in to occupy Iraq a smart thing for American interests?
BLACKBURN: When we go in and we topple Saddams regime and we began the world that the insurgents are working in and the breeding ground that they have there, thats the right thing to do.
MATTHEWS: So it was it smart thing for America to invade and occupy Iraq?
If you could use my language if you dont mind. Was it smart for America to invade and occupy Iraq.
BLACKBURN: It was smart for America to go in and break that regime down. Yes it was.
MATTHEWS: But weve occupied that country.
BLACKBURN: But Chris, you know .
MATTHEWS: Why dont you answer the question?
BLACKBURN: I am answering the question.
MATTHEWS: Im sorry. I want to be really polite. Do you think it was smart for America to invade and occupy Iraq?
BLACKBURN: I think it was smart for America to go in and topple that regime. Absolutely I do.
MATTHEWS: And occupy it for four years?
BLACKBURN: Has everything been perfect going forward? Not exactly right. But Chris, the thing is, what happens if we leave? What happens?
MATTHEWS: I just want to know if weve been smart so far. Because if were so smart so far, you should trust the people who have made the decisions so far.
But if we havent been smart so far we should question the people who made decisions so far. You say it was smart to do what weve done so far? Im only asking the question.
BLACKBURN: Im saying not everything has been perfect.
MATTHEWS: Was it smart to occupy Iraq for four years?
BLACKBURN: I dont agree with the way that you are phrasing that. I say what we have done is that it is the right thing for us to do to say we need to put forth a plan that we make certain we win the war on terror. It is a very difficult war. This is something that has been going on. Our interests have been attacked for 20 years. War is never an easy thing, defending freedom is never an easy thing, but Chris, we cannot lose in the war on terror.
MATTHEWS: So we cant leave Iraq?
BLACKBURN: We have to be certain that we stand those people up and lets give this plan a shot. Lets support our men and women in uniform.
MATTHEWS: That call to support our men and women in uniform. That works with me. I was just watching the Super Bowl yesterday and even a small moment we saw the men and women in Baghdad, they flashed on the screen and I also remember that little shot of the guy, the pilot that was leading the over flights at the game and it got to me.
And I was standing next to General Tommy Franks. We were sitting and watching the game together and it got to him, too.
Im very concerned about our troops, but because theyre loyal, because theyre obedient and they are disciplined and they are totally patriotic, its all the more important to give them the right mission. And you miss the political discussion here if you say simply support the troops. Because of course we support the troops. But you have to make sure they get the right mission. And thats what we debate here.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We didnt support the troops when we sent them into harms way without a plan, without a long-term strategy to eventually get them home. We sent them in there with faulty intelligence, an assertion that there were weapons of mass destruction which there werent, with plans that were not complete and now we have thousands and thousands and were going to send thousand more into harms way.
MATTHEWS: Whats your plan?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Id to actually like to have the president be straight with us. The CBO came out with a report - the Congressional Budget Office came out with a report last week following the presidents announcement of the escalation that its not 21,500, in order to actually provide the support staff you need, you have to send 48,000 troops in to Iraq in order get the job done. We have got to make sure that we, one, have some accountability which Democratic leadership in the Congress has done. We are holding hearings and were going to bring the administration and the military leadership in front of the Congress and ask them difficult questions, make sure we hold the contractors accountable.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you aboutIm sorry. I got the signal, 30-seconds, and Ill give it to you. Yesterday, another horrible day over there. The Sunnis killed a whole bench of Shias. A whole bunch of them. What do we do when the people in that country are fighting each other?
What do we do?
BLACKBURN: That is going to be one of those decisions where we turn to the men and women on the ground, the leadership, the command team that is over there. Lets put this plan in motion. Lets give General Petraeus a chance to go over there, pull this forward and see if we can make it work.
MATTHEWS: But whats our policy towards this fighting between both sides over in Iraq? Whats our policy? Do we take sides on the Shia side? Do we fight them both? Do we kill anybody that decides to shoot at somebody else? What mission do you give these soldiers? You have to give them missions here in Washington.
BLACKBURN: And what we have seen happen since the president came out with his speech three weeks ago now, we have seen al-Maliki make some changes. We have seen some changes in the clerics and al-Sadr. Lets see where we are going to get with this. We need to let them know. We dont need to do something counterproductive. Our men and women in uniform tell us that it is counterproductive to be having a resolution about whether or not we support the effort and what they are doing. The work that were doing over there.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We need to make sure we ask the tough questions, we need to make sure that we provide the adequate funding that we need for our troops and if we are going to move in a certain direction, we need a comprehensive strategy and the president .
MATTHEWS: I just want to get one thing straight. We are asking those people in Baghdad to debate issues. We are asking them to practice democracy. I think we should practice .
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. Congresswoman Blackburn, I agree with your sentiment, but I think this country is about democracy and about argument. Its not about we all agree. This isnt a fascist country where everybody is told to agree with everybody and support the troops. Thats a beginning a discussion. Its not the end of it.
Thank you very much.
BLACKBURN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Representing Tennessee so well and thank you Congresswoman
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you.