MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Can Congress craft a war funding plan that President Bush will accept? Republican congresswoman Marcia Blackburn of Tennessee is a member of the Homeland Security Committee, and Democratic congresswoman Anna Eshoo of California is a member of the Intelligence Committee.
Congresswoman Eshoo, can you give us a sense of how this new parsing-out plan is going to work, whereby you give the president some money now, some later, given certain successes in Iraq?
REP. ANNA ESHOO (D-CA), SELECT INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, the bill is about $93 billion. A good partalmost all of it in the bill will be appropriated for our troops. But theres about three months of money, about $40 billion, thats being fencedin other words, withheld subject to benchmarks that the Congress is setting, that are actually the presidents benchmarks on the accountability measures relative to the government of Iraqreforming, de-Baathification, a long list of things. So accountability is built into the bill.
I think the American people want to see that. These are billions and billions of dollars. I think the American people want to know if the Iraqi government are going to meet the standards that not only the president has set, but also that the Iraqi government has said they would perform on.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Blackburn, do you have a thought on that?
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Well, anything, Chris, that is going to be artificial timelines and is going to be a plan for failure is going to be a non-starter. Now, I do think that benchmarks are going to be an important part of the discussion as we move forward on this. What we need to be certain is that we have a bill that is a clean bill. Republicans are united on that. We need to be certain that this is something that the president is going to sign because our troops need the funding. We need to get that money to them, and we do not need a bill that is going to tie the hands of our commanders in the field.
MATTHEWS: Do you accept the reasonableness of a plan that would require action on the part of the Iraqi government? Not on the part of our military. It doesnt tie the militarys hands, it simply says, as I understand it, if they want to get the money to support their democratization of that country, theyve got to democratize. They have to move forward.
BLACKBURN: Well, there are lots of times, as we have moved through this process, that we have said to the Iraqi people, You need to be moving forward. And the goalwe all agree, that the goal is to have the Iraqis be able to stand up and take control of this, see their civil defense stand up and take control, go through the hydrocarbons agreement, go through the de-Baathification process.
And Chris, what we need to do is be certain that our military men and women have the funding they need and the flexibility they need to get the job done. We have to win. This is something that we cannot lose. The terrorists want to end our way of life. They want to end our free enterprise system. We have to be certain that we have a plan to win.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go back...
ESHOO: Chris, if I might just say something? The president is going to have to report back to the Congress July 13, with the Congress making a decision. Theres a guarantee in the language of this bill that we will return to the defense dollars, the dollars that are set aside. But the president is going to have to come back and report to the Congress on these benchmarks. Its very important, and I think its common sense, most frankly. When I gave money to my kids, I wanted to see what they were doing with it. This is much larger than that, and the American peoples patience is really running out.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the presidents going to agree to live on an allowance, Congresswoman?
ESHOO: This is a big allowance, Chris.
BLACKBURN: You know, what we have to do...
ESHOO: This is a big allowance.
BLACKBURN: What we have to do nowthis is about funding for the troops. General David Petraeus came to the Senate. He laid out his plan. We need to hear back from him. We need to get the troops on the field. My goodness, all the troops are not even there that should be there to return to the levels that are needed to carry out his plan. He is a good man that understands how to fight terrorists. He is over there to win. That is what we want to be certain that we do, that we have...
ESHOO: Were not cutting any money for the troops.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Blackburn, suppose there were no Democrats in Congress, only Republicans. What role would you play in this war, simply going along with the president or would you be partners? What role would you be, as members of Congress, if there were no Democrats?
BLACKBURN: My role would be what it has been from the start, which is to support the men and women in uniform...
MATTHEWS: But thats notthats not...
MATTHEWS: I dont get it. In other words, say yes.
BLACKBURN: You support your men and women in uniform.
MATTHEWS: Say yes to the president. In other words...
BLACKBURN: You support your men and women in uniform.
MATTHEWS: No, no. Thats...
BLACKBURN: And you holdyou hold the Pentagon, you hold the military accountable for how they spend money. Yes, indeed, you do that, but what you have to do, Chris, is be certain that youre not tying their hands. You dont want a plan that is going to set you up to lose.
BLACKBURN: What you want to do is make certain that you are going to win in this war on terror.
MATTHEWS: Do you have any views on this war that are independent of the president, Congresswoman Blackburn?
BLACKBURN: Do I have any views...
MATTHEWS: That are independent...
BLACKBURN: ... that are independent...
MATTHEWS: ... of the president, yes.
BLACKBURN: ... of the president? You know...
MATTHEWS: Or are you just completely with the president?
BLACKBURN: Chris, I love how you ask these questions and set it up.
There are things where I differ with the president. Absolutely there are. But indeed, I think what you have to do is, first of all, listen to the men and women in the field and listen to your commanders in the field.
What we have to do is be certain that weyou know, if youre going to leave Iraq, you have to be able to say who won. And are the American people going to be able to say we lost and the terrorists won? Now, thats a question that you have to ask as you move forward with this discussion.
Is the president always right? Probably not. But Ill tell you what. I think that as many things as I disagree with him on, that many times, he has been right. And I appreciate the fact that when some of us were saying, You need to listen more to the men and women in the field, you need to do something about some things happening at the Pentagon, that, yes, indeed, those changes were made, not early enough, but they were made.
MATTHEWS: Yes. You know, the problem, Congresswoman Eshoo, this idea that somehow the military sets the standards for what were doing in the fieldif you follow that, General MacArthur would have taken us into China back in the Korean war.
ESHOO: Well, II think that...
MATTHEWS: I dont know where General PattonGeneral Patton might have taken us to Moscow back in 45. I mean, we do believe in civilian control of the military...
ESHOO: We do.
MATTHEWS: ... as our Constitution...
ESHOO: We do. But we also believe in accountability, and the accountabilityand the standards that must be met should be met by the Iraqi government. So I think, in terms of the big debate, you know, the byline of this is no more blank checks and theres accountability.
ESHOO: And there should be. And so the presidents going to need to report back again. These are not only his benchmarks, but what the Iraqi government has said that they would do. We cannot have war without end and funding without end. And so the Congress is standing up. I think the American people...
ESHOO: ... support thesetheyre sensible measures.
BLACKBURN: I think there also need to be some lessons learned from this. And as we move forward, we need to look at this and say, Theres some lessons learned here. This is what happens when you cut funding to your intelligence community. Its what happens when you cut funding to your military. And this isthere also should be lessons learned in that this is a new type warfare. Terrorists do not show allegiance necessarily to one country. They are showing allegiance to an ideology. And Chris, I hope that that is something that, as we move forward, we go back and we look at those lessons that, hopefully, we have learned.
MATTHEWS: I hope we learn a lot. Thank you very much, U.S.
Congresswoman Eshoo of California, Congresswoman Blackburn of Tennessee.