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MSNBC Hardball-Transcript

Interview

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MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The Senate struggled with war funding legislation today and rejected Senator Russ Feingold‘s proposal to cut off money for combat operations in a Iraq by April of next year. But the measure did pick up support from Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama, among the 29 Democrats who voted for it. So what‘ going to happen right now?

Let go right now to two guests, Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida and Republican Congressman Jack Kingston of Florida, both sit on the Appropriations Committee. Congresswoman, it just seems to me dramatic that 29 Democrats, all Democrats, voted to pull all the money out of Iraq by the end of next March, including Dianne Feinstein, who is quite a moderate on the war. She joined the 29. That is a lot of votes, isn‘t it?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: It sure is. It is more than half of the Democratic caucus in the Senate that joined the 171 Democrats that voted for a similar amendment on the House side last week. We, unlike the president—Democrats are not politically tone deaf. We understand that we can no longer give the Iraqis, the Iraqi government, a blank check and an open ended commitment. In order to make sure that we can eventually bring out troops home and make progress in Iraq, there have to be benchmarks tied to a timeline and make sure that we can fully fund out troops, and take care of our troops while they are there.

That is what we‘ve been trying to do all along and for some reason the Republicans keep rejecting it.

MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s go to Congressman Kingston, let him speak for the Republicans. Sir, do you think there is going to be a deal here? Are we going to get a spending bill to support the troops, which includes some kind of language that both sides can agree to?

REP. JACK KINGSTON ®, GEORGIA: Chris, I am optimistic that we can. I mean, the vote today—Democrats control the Senate and House. If they wanted out of Iraq, they could pass that bill right now. They are unable to do that. That Senate vote today showed they don‘t even have the Democratic support to get that done.

I believe that we will have a good compromise. I also think that the failure of that vote to pass today showed that people are coming to their senses that you just can‘t yank your troops out of there. I believe the benchmarks are a good thing. I think they are a laudable goal. But I think on the other hand, it is impractical to say, hey, whether you reform or not, we are going to leave at a date certain.

MATTHEWS: I agree. That seems to be the tenor. I am sure you watched the debate last night among the presidential candidates in your party. Clearly there was a difference of tone. They were supportive of the president‘s position, as you are, sir, but they put a lot of pressure on the Iraqi government to get it together.

KINGSTON: Well, I think that is the proper thing to do. We want that Iraqi government to get it together. But, you know, General Petraeus put it this way; he said, for them to have major—reverse the de-Baathification process would be like going into America right after the Civil War, in 1870, and saying, all right, now you have to have major civil rights legislation.

They‘re not ready for everything, and they‘re not going to be ready in the next six months. That‘s why this thing is frustrating everybody. We want instant democracy, but, unfortunately, it is going to take a lot of time.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Chris, this is not "The Wizard Of Oz." We can not be like Dorothy and click our heals together three times and wish our troops home. In order to make sure that we have progress in Iraq, we have to tie the benchmarks to the funding and we have to make sure that there is a timeline, which applies pressure on the Iraqi government to actually make progress. Without those three things working together—and I agree with Jack. We do need to work towards compromise. And I think compromise is possible.

But with the Republicans as dug in as they are, without any movement whatsoever, how is that going to happen?

MATTHEWS: Let me liberate our thinking here, my included. Congressman Kingston, how many years do you it will take, roughly, to build an Iraqi army capable, and with significant political direction from Baghdad, to keep al Qaeda from establishing a base in that country, to keep the two sides, the Sunni and Shia, from fighting each other? How many years will it take to have an army strong enough to subdue the civil war, to end it, basically, except for some terrorism, and to make sure al Qaeda doesn‘t establish a base in that country? How long would it take to get an army that strong?

KINGSTON: Chris, I‘ll cite a Brookings Institute report. And, as you know, Brookings is left-leaning, largely Democrat type group. They have said it is going to take 10 years. But the good news in that is that insurgencies usually fail. And they examine civil wars and disturbances all over the world to come to that conclusion. But it was a very good, I would say really non-partisan, study.

MATTHEWS: Will the people of Georgia support 10 more years of American military involvement in Iraq?

KINGSTON: Well, people know we are still in Germany and South Korea.

MATTHEWS: No, no, no, I won‘t let you get away with that. That is not a fair comparison. We do not have a war in South Korea. There is no German that has fired on an American since 1945. That is not a fair comparison.

KINGSTON: Well, it still is going to take time.

MATTHEWS: It‘s not a fair comparison.

KINGSTON: It still takes time, and Chris—

MATTHEWS: No, no, no.

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS: That is not an acceptable argument. You cannot compare our peaceful occupation of Germany since 1945, our peaceful occupation of Sour Korea, with the situation in Iraq. It‘s more, congressman, as if the Korean War had continued all these years.

KINGSTON: Well, Chris, let me say one thing, that I have a co-sponsored the bipartisan Iraq Study Group implementation, which Frank Wolfe is reintroducing this week. And I think one of the thing that it underscores is that if we leave right now, as much as you and I and Debbie might want us to leave right now, that you will have civil war that will spill over the boarder.

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS: -- which I find lazy. These comparisons to previous eras and previous countries do not do us any good. We are in the middle of Arabia, surrounded by a billion Islamic people who do not want us there. We have to deal with that fact of Americans getting killed every day. We got three guys in captivity right now. It is not fair.

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS: And all the neo conservatives do it over and over again. It is a lazy thinking, congressman. It‘s the kind of propaganda that has not help this country understand the situation.

KINGSTON: But the Iraq Study Group itself, a bipartisan group, which both sides cite quite often, says if you pull out suddenly—

MATTHEWS: I agree with all these arguments.

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS: Do not compare it to totally different situations in South Korea during the Cold War or Germany today.

KINGSTON: All right Chris, I understand I stepped on a nerve there.

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS: you stepped into a dishonest comparison, congressman, and that‘s the problem.

KINGSTON: OK Chris, let me accept that and move on. The point is, if you leave—and saying that you can leave in nine months is going to leave this country in worse condition.

MATTHEWS: That is an argument that most Americans are worried about your being right. Let‘s move on to the realities though. I am sorry to get involved in this fight. but some people come on this show over and over again, saying things that just are not true objectively. Thank you, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz and thank you Congressman Kingston.


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