May 10, 2004 Monday
TRANSCRIPT: # 051000cb.477
HEADLINE: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT For May 10, 2004
BYLINE: Deborah Norville
GUESTS: John McCain; Mary Matalin
John McCain has tough questions for Secretary Rumsfeld and for tomorrow's witness before the Armed Services Committee, General Taguba.
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST: The Iraqi prison scandal widens. The Bush administration braces for the worst. New photos and video of prisoners being abused. And a louder call for accountability.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: What were the instructions that they gave to the guards?
NORVILLE: Tonight, Senator John McCain on the story that continues to shock the world. His views on the top man at the Defense Department. What these images could mean in an election year. And how he himself endured years of torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
She was a top adviser in two Bush administrations. So why did she walk away? Tonight, Mary Matalin on being half of a notorious Washington power couple and why she left the White House to tend her own house. Plus, her thoughts on how her former boss is handling the Iraqi prison crisis.
ANNOUNCER: From Studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.
NORVILLE: And good evening. We've got a lot to talk about tonight with Senator John McCain.
New Iraqi prisoner photos have come out. New videos. And President Bush today visited the Pentagon where he saw some of those new photos and spoke about the future of the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld.
Also, tomorrow, Senator McCain's Senate Armed Services Committee will be questioning Major General Antonio Taguba. He's the man who prepared this report on prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.
Senator McCain also has a new book out, it's called "Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life." And we look forward to speaking about that in just a couple of minutes.
Good to see you, sir. Thanks for being here.
MCCAIN: Thank you, Deborah. Deborah.
NORVILLE: Deborah Norville, whoever I am.
You know, looking at this whole prison abuse thing, there are a couple of questions. One, someone had to decide this was the best way to get information, and someone higher up had to say it's OK to do it that way.
Do you know who those someones are?
MCCAIN: No, and I don't even know if someone did that, or whether this was just a rogue operation of some kind or whether it came from above and how far from above.
And those answers need to be provided, and very quickly, so that we can get everything out and move forward so we are not diverted, in my view, from the utmost urgency of winning this conflict.
NORVILLE: One of the concerns is that this will be shunted off into a committee for a long-term investigation, and there are some people who believe that, as you said, time is of the essence. The sooner we have all the answers, the better.
How can Congress assure that there's a speedy resolution to this and it doesn't drag out to the detriment of all concerned?
MCCAIN: Well, through the hearings process. But also, we can urge that all the information, by the way, including these photos and tapes, audio, whatever it is, are gotten out as quickly as possible.
Because one thing I'm familiar with is scandals in Washington. We have them periodically. Although this doesn't fit into that normal category. This is a huge thing. But we know about these things. There's leaks. And if we don't get it out, next week there will be another picture, another-As there was another picture today.
NORVILLE: And the picture today is so horrific. It's a man apparently tied to jail cells or backed up against them. Obviously threatened by these dogs. This picture appears in the "New Yorker" today.
In the article, it talks about a subsequent photo that was not released that is apparently of the same man on the ground with a bleeding wound.
MCCAIN: I worry about the drip, drip, drip of the leak system. All those pictures should be brought out immediately. The American people can make a judgment, get this behind us.
And the saddest thing about this, Deborah, the saddest thing of all is so many young Americans have fought and died and served so honorably.
Last week I was at the memorial service for Pat Tillman, and it was one of the most moving experiences of my life. Not because Pat Tillman was unusual, which he was. But all of them have been unusual. The-all 700.
And what does this do? This passes-puts a cloud over what they have done. And may divert some from their support of this conflict, which I think we have to win. Otherwise, the consequences are significant.
NORVILLE: Let's talk about the work of the Senate Armed Services Committee. On Friday, Secretary Rumsfeld appeared in front of the committee, and you were pretty insistent in some of your questioning. Let's look at one bit of that exchange on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: What were the instructions to the guards?
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: That is what the investigation that I've indicated has been undertaken.
MCCAIN: But, Mr. Secretary, that's a very simple, straightforward question.
RUMSFELD: Well, as chief staff of the Army can tell you, the guards are trained to guard people. They're not trained to interrogate. And their instructions are to, in the case of Iraq, adhere to the Geneva Conventions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Did you feel like he was trying to avoid your questions, or that he didn't know the answer?
MCCAIN: I just don't think he knew the answer is the conclusion I reached. Because the heart of this thing, as I also said, and at the beginning of our conversation, who gave the orders? What were the instructions? What were the relationship between the interrogators and the guards? What role did these, quote, "civilian contractors," play in this, and did they have any authority? And what were the instructions from above? That's the heart of it.
Now, people are going to go on trial, and we don't want to violate anybody's privacy. But what we need to know is what was the chain of command and what orders were transmitted down to these people.
NORVILLE: After Friday's appearance by Secretary Rumsfeld, do you have any clear sense of what the chain of command was?
MCCAIN: No. But I-we will. We will.
And I want to say, I think that Secretary Rumsfeld is an honorable man. I think it's way too premature to call for his resignation, and he has served the nation and the president well. But we need the answers.
NORVILLE: The president today, after his meeting with the Pentagon with Secretary Rumsfeld was very, very forceful in his support for the secretary.
There are some, though, who argue that if he were removed, either by his own choice or being asked to step down by the president, that it would send completely the wrong message to the Arab world, that it wouldn't be enough of a gesture.
MCCAIN: I don't know. I think the important thing in the Arab world is to prove to them that we're different from a lot of those Arab countries. We punish people who commit these kinds of transgressions, and we are defined by the we treat our enemies, and that's, I think, the best way.
Also, I believe that a lot of the Iraqi people who have benefited from the millions of acts of courage and charity and kindness by our American troops over there will appreciate that and balance that against this terrible occurrence that we're going through now.
NORVILLE: How is that balancing act going to be done, though, if, as you suggest, all of these videos, all of these photographs should be just released en masse, America takes its lumps, deals with them in the appropriate manner.
That's going to be a huge not only public relations blow, but a huge crisis of confidence. Because there are 135,000 American soldiers, the majority of whom, of course, are doing a great job, but who are now in even greater harm's way as a result of the understandable anger at what's gone on.
MCCAIN: What are our choices here, Deborah? Either get it all out, as you've got to do with these things and get it behind us and recognize the enormous wonderful service and sacrifice by so many of these 135,000 you're talking about, or have a drip out a week at a time for over a period of months? Those are our two choices.
NORVILLE: Can America reclaim the moral high ground that it attempted to have prior to this?
MCCAIN: Of course we can. Our soldiers-I'll never forget the picture, it was either a Marine or an Army young man on a bridge near Baghdad. A wounded Iraqi woman is laying on that bridge. He braves, risked his own life to rescue that elderly woman off of a bridge. That's what American fighting men and women are all about.
So, yes, we can do it. Is it going to be tough? Yes. Is the impact on the Arab world terrible? Yes. But, again, what are our options?
We've got to prove what kind of a nation we are, give the government to the Iraqi people, support them and bring democracy to that country.
NORVILLE: Well, what about the prison? There have been suggestions that it should simply be razed, blown up.
NORVILLE: Saddam Hussein terrorized people there. A few Americans terrorized some people there. Should it be blown up?
MCCAIN: Yes, I think it should be taken down. We've got to do things substantively and symbolically, and symbolically, I think that prison should be taken down, because it was Saddam Hussein's notorious torture chamber.
NORVILLE: What were we doing in there in the first place? Because it was so symbolic to Iraqi people in the first place, why was the American government using it?
MCCAIN: I'm sure that a military man who is in charge at the time with all the chaos that took place right after the victory and the looting that was going on said we needed someplace to put these people. And I understand that logic. But there's something greater at stake here now.
NORVILLE: As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, one of the things your committee is charged with doing is looking at how the military operates in all of the different venues in which it does.
And when you look at what's going on in Iraq, there was a dispute over the number of troops that have been sent in. Some said as many as 250,000. We're at 135,000, roughly, right now.
There's also a question about the ability of the people who have been assigned tasks. General Karpinski, who was on this program one week ago, had no experience in running prisons. Her biggest task prior to that was setting up a woman's training facility for female military elsewhere in the Middle East.
There were people in jobs, Lynndie England, the private first class who was just implicated in this. She was trained to process papers, and yet, we see photographs of her in the inmate detention section of the prison.
What's going on? People are doing jobs that presumably they weren't qualified to be doing.
MCCAIN: I draw that same conclusion.
Last August I was in Iraq and came back after talking to a whole lot of people, including sergeant majors who have been in a number of conflicts. And I fervently, fervently pled with them to send more troops, because we were going to face an incipient insurgency if we didn't do that, and we didn't do that.
And I think probably you can draw the conclusion that there were not enough trained people in that prison at this time. Remembering that hindsight is always 20/20.
NORVILLE: Always. Where are the troops? I checked with the Pentagon. There are 1.4 million active duty military personnel in uniform right now. Aren't there enough to send to Iraq if more bodies need to be in place to do the job?
MCCAIN: That's the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force. I think they're short of people. I think they need more. General McCaffrey, who's been on this program, says that we need 80,000 additional people in the Army and Marine Corps. We need more capability of boots on the grounds.
And by the way, I'd like to give Secretary Rumsfeld credit for transforming a lot of the military and the process that's going on to make more people available. But we need a larger military, and we need more people in Iraq.
NORVILLE: General Taguba is going to be in front of the committee tomorrow in Washington. What-What's the burning question you have for him right now?
MCCAIN: Chain of command. What were the instructions? Same ones I asked Secretary Rumsfeld, plus the training aspect of these people, and how egregious were these violations, and who did he talk to about it? Those are-it seems to me that this is a very comprehensive report he made.
NORVILLE: Indeed. We're going to talk more in just a moment to Senator John McCain, who's our guest for half of the program. He, of course, is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
As we mentioned, General Taguba be in front of the committee tomorrow morning. MSNBC will have live coverage of his appearance, beginning at approximately 9:30 a.m. Lester Holt will be anchoring that coverage. More with Senator McCain in just a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're doing a superb job. You are a strong secretary of defense, and our nation owes you a debt of gratitude.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: That was President Bush earlier today, backing his embattled secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld.
Back now with Arizona Senator, former presidential candidate John McCain who has a new book out called "Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life." And we'll talk about that in a second.
How is that going to impact on the presidential race?
MCCAIN: I think it's too early to tell. I think that if it gets cleaned up and the American people are satisfied that there will never be a repetition, then I don't think it will affect the race.
I'm more worried about how it affects American opinion of the war itself. When I saw those pictures I wanted to turn away. I don't want Americans to turn away from this conflict. It's too important.
NORVILLE: What is it going to take to end the conflict in Iraq? There's now the June 30 handover, which is looming ever larger.
There's a question as to how much international support America will have, because how can a country justify, some say, bringing their troops in, perhaps arresting people who need to be detained, and then handing them over to Americans who have, at least in these instances, proved to be not the best persons in jails?
MCCAIN: I think through use of the International Red Cross and other organizations, we can prove that we have changed and will change. I think also, that Mr. Brahimi of the U.N. will have a lot to do with this.
The sooner we get the government of Iraqi over to the Iraqi people, the less it will be the U.S. versus them kind of situation.
And they will be weak. They will have problems. There will be difficulties. But the sooner we get the government over to them, the more probable it is that this thing can be peacefully resolved and achieve the ends that we seek.
NORVILLE: Earlier Senator Kerry spoke about this and made a statement. We'll just play that and get your reaction to it. This is John Kerry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Those abuses have done enormous damage to our country. They've hurt us in our objectives in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: And indeed, President Bush said that this has been a stain on our country.
I'm hoping, and this is maybe very Pollyanna of me. I'm hoping that this doesn't get politicized. It's too important to be an us versus, Democrat versus Republican. How can you guys in Washington help to prevent that?
MCCAIN: I think there's a lot of good people in Washington. I think there's a lot of fine men and women. I saw Joe Lieberman, Evan Bayh. There's a number of senators on the other side of the aisle that want us to worth together and get this thing resolved and behind us.
And if the American people make it clear that that's what they expect of us, not partisanship, but working together, I think you'll get it.
NORVILLE: Is the thing about this that I think is so upsetting is it's not what America was supposed to stand for. And you have your own personal experience, not only being on the Senate Armed Services Committee, but probably the only person who knows what it's like to be on the other side of the bars in a jail cell.
Was there a flashback in your own mind when you saw those first photos come across?
MCCAIN: No, there really wasn't, Deborah. I felt the same emotions that every American did. It was so long ago and far away. And this issue is too important for me to have my views affected by my own personal experiences.
NORVILLE: And, yet, if I may, I'd like to play a section from your book that was released in 2000 called "Faith of Our Fathers," in which you talk very, very graphically and from the heart about your experience in Vietnam.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MCCAIN: At two to three hour intervals the guards returned to administer beatings. One guard would hold me while the others pounded away.
Most blows were directed at my shoulders, chest, and stomach. Occasionally when I had fallen to the floor, they kicked me in the head. They cracked several of my ribs and broke a couple of teeth. My bad right leg was swollen and hurt the most of any of my injuries.
Weakened by beatings and dysentery and with my right leg again nearly useless I found it almost impossible to stand. On the third night, I lay in my own blood and waste, so tired and hurt that I could not move.
They came in with two other guards, lifted me to my feet and gave me the worst beating I had yet experienced.
At one point he slammed his fist into my face and knocked me across the room toward the waste bucket. I fell in the waste bucket, hitting it with my left arm and braking it again. They left me lying on the floor, moaning from the stabbing pain in my refractured arm.
Despairing of any relief from pain and further torture, and fearing the close approach of my moment of dishonor, I tried to take my life. I doubt I really intended to kill myself. But I couldn't fight anymore, and I remember deciding that the last thing I could do to make them believe I was still resisting, that I wouldn't break, was to attempt suicide.
Obviously, it wasn't an ideal plan, but it struck me at the time as reasonable. Slowly, after several unsuccessful attempts, I managed to stand. With my right arm I pushed my shirt through one of the upper shutters and back through a bottom shutter. As I looped it around my neck, the prick saw the shirt through the window. He pulled me off the bucket and beat me.
Later, I made a second even feebler attempt, but a guard saw me fumbling with the shutter, hauled me down and beat me again.
On the fourth day I gave up.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
NORVILLE: That's amazing.
MCCAIN: Let me put it in context, too. Yes, that was a very bad time. But the great privilege of my life was to have the privilege of serving in the company of heroes.
I observed 1,000 acts of courage and compassion and love. And every time I fell, my friends were there to pick me up. And they're the ones I know best and love most, and I will cherish the memory of having had comrades such as I did in the prison situation.
So that was a bad, terrible episode for me. But my entire prison existence was one that I will look back on my comrades with gratitude and in some ways, joy.
NORVILLE: Will the men who suffered at the hands of Americans be able to find the same spirit to go on, to forgive, to put in perspective in the way that you have?
MCCAIN: Well, I hope so. But I think that there is different people of different faiths and different attitudes, and I was privileged, as I mentioned, to have-to be surrounded by some very strong people and I'll always within grateful to them.
And believe me, I was taking the same risks that everybody else was and proved maybe that I wasn't a very good pilot.
NORVILLE: What do you think was trying to be accomplished with these pictures that we've seen from the prison in Iraq?
MCCAIN: I'm not sure. Because torture in itself-and I'm not exactly sure what happened. These are only photos.
MCCAIN: Physical torture in itself doesn't work, because the person who is being harmed would say anything that they think their captor wants them to hear. So I'm not sure what was going on. And that's part of the hearing process and part of the information we need to find out.
NORVILLE: He literally wrote the book on courage. It's called "Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life." We're going to talk with John McCain about his new book in just a second.
Back after this.
NORVILLE: Back now with former presidential candidate John McCain, who has written a book called "Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life."
What prompted you to go out and look for stories of courage?
MCCAIN: 9/11, when people were afraid to fly, afraid to go shopping. Some people were duct taping their homes. And at that time a lot of Americans, understandably, were frightened.
And we thought we'd write a book about courage, what it means, how you can attain it, how you can make it grow. And some examples of people who have displayed extraordinarily heroic and brave actions, ranging from people in combat to people like Angela Dawson in Baltimore, who fought against the drug dealers and had her home burned, and she and her children were burned to death.
NORVILLE: The entire family perished. A sad story. Here was a woman trying to stand up to the bad guys in the neighborhood.
One of your thesis is to that courage isn't, contrary to what people were telling us after September 11, "Be brave, ride the elevator." That's not courage. "Take that trip. Fly a plane."
MCCAIN: That's right.
NORVILLE: Courage is something much more.
MCCAIN: Courage is a love of a virtue. In other words, if we love justice and freedom and dignity and our fellow human beings, then we will develop the courage to defend those values, because they will be challenged.
In other words, -- and there's physical courage, such as Roy Benavidez, this tremendous act of heroism when the president gave-President Reagan gave him the congressional medal of honor. And he said if they made a movie, nobody would believe it.
NORVILLE: What he did was go in under incredible fire during the height of Vietnam, rescue eight of his men. The story wouldn't be a movie-The helicopter crashes and they still get out alive.
MCCAIN: And he was stabbed and he was beaten and he was clubbed.
NORVILLE: And they're zipping up the body bag and he spits on them, oh, my gosh.
MCCAIN: He's alive.
NORVILLE: He's alive. It's an amazing story.
MCCAIN: And when he died he said, "I'm proud to be an American."
And to people like Angela Dawson, people like (UNINTELLIGIBLE), who...
NORVILLE: And people like John Lewis, whom you refer back to the march on Selma, during the early days of the civil rights movement.
MCCAIN: Who loved social justice greater than himself.
Who would kneel, knowing that he was going to get-physically his skull was fractured. It's remarkable. All of these people loved something greater than themselves. And we can love things greater than ourselves and dedicate ourselves to it.
And most of all, teach our children-you have a 9-year-old-teach our children these virtues and we've got to be honest with them.
You can't say never tell a lie and then pick up the phone and say I'm not coming to work today because I'm sick. So we have to impart these to others. But there's moral courage and physical courage. Roy Benavidez displayed physical courage. And sometimes, we run out of physical courage. Moral courage is like a muscle. You exercise it, it gets stronger. The first time you stand up to the bully, it's tough. The second time, it's a little easier.
NORVILLE: And, frankly, most of us will rarely need to call upon physical courage. But moral courage is something on a daily basis we're
MCCAIN: We have them all the time. These challenges are there all the time.
And many times, they cross over. John Lewis loved social justice, and he was committed to it. That was an act of moral courage. Dr. Martin Luther King, it was acts of moral courage that turned into martyrdom.
NORVILLE: When I was reading the story of John Lewis and the march on Selma, one of the things you talked about in here was that ordinary Americans flipped on the news that night and saw the news reels and said-quote-"They were ashamed of their country. They were ashamed of themselves, ashamed they had not loved their country as much as the marchers, that they had not had the courage to march into the force of such injustice."
I wonder if that kind of shame is sort of coming in on this whole Iraqi prison thing. It's almost an amazing coincidence of timing that your book comes out at the same time as these photos.
MCCAIN: I think we are ashamed and I think we are embarrassed, because we-one of the defining aspects of America is how we treat our enemies, and obviously, we have fallen short, to say the least.
And this is a time also to stay the course in Iraq, when it hasn't turned out as well as we had hoped, when we grieve at the Pat Tillmans and everything that he represents. And, by the way, Pat Tillman would say, I'm no different than any of those others. And we grieve for them. But we can't make their sacrifice in vain. We cannot do that. We have to uphold their honor and I believe show the courage and show why courage matters.
NORVILLE: You quote Napoleon as saying: Courage is like love. It must have hope to nourish it.
MCCAIN: Yes. And we must hope that there will be better times for America and better times for our men and women who are serving in the military, and most of all, better times for the grieving family members of those who have sacrificed.
NORVILLE: I know, this weekend you're going to be doing the alma mater circuit. You're going to be doing the commencement speech at your wife's alma mater, UCS.
MCCAIN: At UCS, Yes.
NORVILLE: What message do you have for the graduates there? You have a captive audience.
MCCAIN: I'm going to talk about courage, talk about courage, but not too long.
NORVILLE: And speaking of your wife, Cindy, how is she doing?
MCCAIN: She's doing very well. Thanks for asking. She's doing just fine.
NORVILLE: Yes. Well, give her our best. And it's a wonderful book, "Why Courage Matters." And it's certainly a busy time for you. With all the things you have to do in Washington, we're grateful that you could come up and be with us tonight, Senator.
MCCAIN: It's my pleasure.
NORVILLE: Senator John McCain.
By the way, if you'd like to read some excerpts from the senator's new book, you can just go to our Web page at NORVILLE.MSNBC com. We've got some excerpts posted there.
ANNOUNCER: Up next, her staunch conservatism earned her the trust of two Republican administrations. And her marriage gave a whole new meaning to the term strange political bedfellows. Now, Mary Matalin's walked away from the beltway power scene.
Find out why when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.
NORVILLE: Mary Matalin is the conservative half of a Washington, D.C. power couple who worked under both Bush administrations. Her insights on how the administration is handling the prisoner pictures next.
NORVILLE: My next guest was a key player in the Republican Party until one day she walked away from her job last year. Mary Matalin was the Republican National Committee's chief of staff in 1991 when the first President Bush name her political director of his reelection campaign. She went on to co-host her own television talk show and then went returned to the White House to assist President George W. Bush.
In January of 2003, she left her job as a senior adviser to Vice President Cheney in order to focus on her family. She has two daughters. And talk about a political odd couple. She is married to former Democratic strategist James Carville. She also has a new book out. It's called "Letters to My Daughters." We'll talk about that in a little bit.
Mary Matalin joins me now.
Good to see you.
MARY MATALIN, AUTHOR, "LETTERS TO MY DAUGHTERS": Deborah, did you notice not one of those hairdos was the same in any of those pictures?
NORVILLE: It's the continuing cavalcade of hair. We've all been there.
It's nice to see you. Congratulations on the book.
MATALIN: Thanks for having me. Thanks.
NORVILLE: Before we talk about the book, let's talk about the big news story, the Iraqi prison thing. Is the administration handling it the way, if you were in there, you'd be advising them to?
MATALIN: Well, I am still a volunteer adviser for the vice president and the campaign.
And there's only-the only thing you can do is what they are doing, which is telling the truth, getting all the facts out, putting it all on the table. And let me make a point here that has been made, but needs to be constantly remade. It's not like this was a cover-up or a lie or the press discovered this. The Department of Defense launched the investigation in the first place. In fact, they launched it within a day of being told about it.
And within two months, they had not just a criminal inquiry on the alleged perpetrators, but also senior level practices and procedures, all of this in the middle of a war. So we've got to get a little bit of context here. It's an abomination. It's horrible. It's an aberration. It's not in any way reflective of the military.
NORVILLE: I think there's a question, though, Mary, about whether everyone was as aware of the questions as early as those questions were being raised. As you know, "The Wall Street Journal" has reported this week that the International Red Cross was raising questions as early as May of 2003, which is long before General Taba's report, long before the report in November that was sort of an interim report leading up to the investigation that began in January.
There's a question of just how well informed others along the food chain were.
MATALIN: Well, it's not clear when that those earlier reports weren't reacted to and that procedures weren't taken to look at the system then.
What we do know is that at point X upon-within a day-I'm not going to go through all that ticktock again, but there was an immediate response to it and an immediate attempt to stop it and put in place a system that would preclude such activities.
So let me just say again, this is not what's disconcerting about this. Obviously, aside from the acts, it's that it makes it looks like that nothing else is going on over there except interrogations of prisoners, though in mind of the context, we were in the middle of the war. This is a war of intelligence as well. There's no excuse for that kind of treatment of prisoners, no matter what.
NORVILLE: How do you think this should be handled? John McCain was on earlier in the program and he says we should just get everything out there, every photo, every video, lay it all out on the table and let everyone get a chance to see it, get their arms around it and let's deal with it.
MATALIN: Yes, I think that's what they're doing.
And I will say again, it's not like this was a secret, the press that was reported not once, but twice. The investigation was reported by the Department of Defense. There was several actual media reports before this. The only thing that's new here is the pictures. And I understand transparency and I understand get it all out and let everybody see it. But I also will say this. And I'm not saying this on behalf of the administration.
I'm saying this as an American, as a mother, OK, fellow mother, that my kids are asking me about. This is an aberration.
NORVILLE: Have you talked to your kids about it? Your daughters are 6 and 9.
MATALIN: Yes. The 9-year-old says, what does A-B-U-S-E-R spell? And you have to say, well, why are they doing that?
I'm just thinking that we should, in a time of war, ongoing war, and particularly delegate, as we're talking up to June 30, all use some restraint.
NORVILLE: Do you think the media was wrong in reporting it as vigorously as they did?
MATALIN: No, no. I think the media in general, honestly, has reported far too little of the progress that's being made in Iraq. And the point of showing the progress, it's not that this is a humanitarian mission.
But the reason we're trying to make these strides to stabilize and advance that culture is because we need stability and freedom and people who have something else to live for in that region to start the long-term program, to eradicate the reasons for terrorism.
NORVILLE: You said on Tim Russert's program on Sunday that this was an education challenge, the link between the war in Iraq and the larger role of terrorism. Has the education challenge now become greater because of the complication of the investigation?
MATALIN: Yes, that's a poor choice of words. Thank you for bringing it up and giving me a chance to correct it.
What I was trying to say-and it was not well said at all-is that this is the first national security foreign policy since the one that was put in place for the Cold War 60 years ago. And it took us some 60 years of consistent policy following over many presidents to defeat communism. That's what this is. This is not just eradicating and going out and defeating the terrorists, which we know we can kill them off one at a time, where we've already killed off the leadership or detained the leadership.
It's putting in place policies that prevent failed states that breed these terrorists. That takes a long time. That's what we're trying to do in Iraq. We're not just trying to remove a
NORVILLE: But that's not a new battle. It's been 20 years since the Cold War ended.
MATALIN: Well, yes, but-well, this is not the Cold-this enemy is not the Cold War. That's what I'm saying.
All of our institutions, from our collective global security institutions, the United Nations, to our defense institutions, those capacities were all divined to meet mass conventional armies, mass weapons.
NORVILLE: And the rules of the game has changed completely.
MATALIN: That is right. So we have an education process.
I still don't like the way that sounds. People just-this is a new policy. It's a new threat. And so we need to understand as a nation that we need to have these long-term generational commitment to this new policy or we'll never be able to live the kind of life we've grown used to living.
NORVILLE: But you can understand the concern of people where, yes, there may be a new policy dealing with the terrorist threat, which we all know well, far too well, after September 11 exists as it does, but that the mechanism for dealing with it hasn't followed along, that you've got the problems with...
NORVILLE: ... the prisons that have taken the attention away from the mission in Iraq.
MATALIN: And I'll say again, I think far too little attention has been paid to the progress that has been made there, has been paid to the progress that's been made on the war on terror.
The president told us the morning after 9/11, actually, when we all came out from the bunker, the bomb shelter, that this is going to be a particularly difficult communications challenge, because so many levels on which this war will be fought don't have visuals, tearing down the financial network, getting the behind-the-scenes reform that's necessary in the region. Some things, you can't talk about, the intelligence. That business is unseen.
But progress is being made. And I think what I'm also saying is that a whole new factor that wasn't present in the Cold War is that we today, the United States, is the one and only superpower in the world. That's the first time in history that's been the case.
NORVILLE: We're going to have to stop right there.
Back more with Mary Matalin. Her book is called "Letters to My Daughter." We'll get into that in just a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEET THE PRESS")
JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": John Kerry wants to change course. He's convinced that what he's
MATALIN: Tim, he's filibustering. He has offered
CARVILLE: Read his speech in
CARVILLE: ... Missouri.
MATALIN: Every-even "The New York Times," even your flagship "New York Times" said it was vague. He's offered absolutely no alternative. He has done nothing but bash the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: That was Mary Matalin and her husband, James Carville, as they went toe-to-toe on "Meet the Press" yesterday with Tim Russert.
Back now with Mary.
Do you guys fight like this at home in front of the kids?
MATALIN: James has now come to understand now that that is a debate. That's not a fight. I don't think that it's fighting. He makes me smarter.
The more I listen to him, the more right I know I am. But he has this incredible talent to say clever things that mean nothing. But it's a pretty big talent to have in our business.
NORVILLE: And set you off in just the right way so that you can go off on him.
MATALIN: Well, no, I actually was doing my job yesterday. I wasn't being his wife. That's the only thing we do together. When we're with Tim, I'm being an advocate for my side. I'm not being his wife. But we were older when we got married. He didn't change me. I didn't change him. And we're not-that's not fighting. We like it.
NORVILLE: And the motherhood thing was never in the cards for a very long time. What changed?
MATALIN: I got accidentally pregnant. How does that happen when you're 40 years old?
NORVILLE: You're supposed to know better.
MATALIN: God was talking to me. He moves in mysterious ways.
No, we just didn't-we did not get married thinking we were going to have kids. I was 40. So we had those guys when I was 42 and 45.
NORVILLE: But I understand that you were listening when Barbara Bush gave that now infamous speech at Wellesley, when she talked about, you'll never regret the meeting that you didn't make, but you'll regret the kids you never had. That stroke a chord with you.
MATALIN: Or the-or-it was even more simple than that, the not spending more time with your family, not-you know, when you do campaigns-and your business, too, is rough like this. Oh, I know I should call my father. Oh, I know my sister and I need to go out to dinner. You just don't-you don't do it.
So that-all of that is what I thought I was hearing. But when I actually look back, I'm like, maybe I did want kids. It was her. And she did not have-the other thing about Barbara Bush is, she had a very-has a-continues to have an incredibly dynamic life. And there was a time in feminism when you could have a career or you could have kids and they didn't really tell us we could do it both.
NORVILLE: And yet you have in the last year stepped away from the full-time day-in, day-out work with the Republican Committee.
MATALIN: Well, I'm doing it the way it works better for me.
But I'm doing-I hope I'm contributing what the president and vice president asked me to do and the campaign asked me to do. I'm still active.
NORVILLE: Do you worry that there's some women who will say, oh, look, Mary Matalin couldn't do it either. She had to wave the white flag and jump off the merry-go-round?
MATALIN: Well, I haven't done that, and I don't think women think like that. I think that my theory on why the fastest growing sector of the economy is women who own small businesses is not because they bumped up against a glass ceiling in the corporate world, because they say, whose glass ceiling is it anyway? I don't want to have that. I don't want to work like that.
I want to work like this. I wanted to work for the president and vice president, but I wanted to brush my kids' hair in the morning and make cookies. I want to make cookies after school. So, you know, we do that. But I'm still working. We just have to figure out a different way to do it. That doesn't mean you can't do it all.
NORVILLE: It's more doing it on your own terms.
NORVILLE: Than letting somebody else set the terms of the way your life should be.
MATALIN: It's sitting in those god-awful, endless meetings. You can do it faster by e-mail.
NORVILLE: The book is a collection of letters that you've put together for your daughters.
What was the inspiration for you to do this, to write your own thoughts as they're growing older?
MATALIN: Well, my immediate inspiration was having lost my mother at the age I just turned, which, when I lost her unexpectedly, I thought that was ancient. She was 50. Now I think I'm just starting. There's so much in front of me.
MATALIN: And I didn't want them not to have what I didn't have, which-and I-but in the writing of the book, what I really
NORVILLE: Which was what, you didn't have anything tangible that your mom left you?
MATALIN: Well, not only did I not have a letter. I didn't have, except in my mind and my heart and my memory, all these lessons, all these values. It's amazing how much you do have by osmosis.
But if I had had them written down, you'd go over them and go over them. And you'd treasure them. But the thing I discovered in writing that book-that's why writing is so fabulous-is how much my mother loved me and how much I loved my mother. And the real thing with the book is, nobody loves you like your mama. So-and nothing probably means more to your happiness than being loved by your mother.
NORVILLE: And I think there's nothing more important for a child than to know, without question, they were loved unconditionally, wholeheartedly until the ends of the Earth.
There's a wonderful little-there are so many nice little passages, but I just want to bring one out, where you said: "If you're ever stuck somewhere some time without me, know that the values my mom anchored in me are anchored in you and you will never be lost and you will always be loved. XOXOXO, Mom."
MATALIN: Don't make me cry. Did you ever think you'd love anything as much as you love your kids?
NORVILLE: It's kind of incredible, isn't it?
MATALIN: It's just indescribable. But every mother has it. It's a mother coffee klatch thing.
NORVILLE: It's a mother coffee klatch. And yet, as a mom, you want to protect your children.
NORVILLE: You and your husband are involved in politics at the highest level. The discussions that you all have I'm sure around the dinner table are of the kinds of subjects that 6-year-olds and 9-year-olds probably don't hear much. How do you shield your children, but yet let them be children of the world?
MATALIN: Well, they live in a town where they're all children of the world. And kids, classmates of theirs were involved in the-I mean, their parents-involved in the Pentagon. You know, they've been in both of the White Houses. So they live in that world. And they're of it. So I don't shield them too much. But I try to explain what's going on as it's happening.
NORVILLE: What did they do for you yesterday for Mother's Day?
MATALIN: Oh, they both made me books, letters to my mom. They did. And really letters, like "A is for the apple you make me eat once a day," something like-it was just beautiful. Breakfast. They did-all day long, they just couldn't stop fluttering around. It was a beautiful thing.
NORVILLE: Maybe even better than hanging out around the White House.
MATALIN: Way better. Not close.
NORVILLE: Mary Matalin, the book is called "Letters to My Daughter." It's a darling little mommy coffee klatch. And we wish you well with it. Thanks for coming in.
MATALIN: Thanks, Deborah. Thanks for having me.
NORVILLE: Nice to see you.
When we come back, some of your thoughts on the Iraqi prisoner photos.
NORVILLE: Lots of e-mails from lots of you about the Iraqi prisoner abuse photos.
Ken Prince from Sandy Run, South Carolina, writes in on the idea that some Americans working in the prison say they didn't receive adequate training. He said: "Treating people with dignity and respect is not a training issue. If these people do not know any better than to do what they did, than they need the full UCMJ"-that's Uniform Code of Military Justice-"dropped on their silly, empty heads."
Laureen Ryder writes in from Indiana: "What lesson are we teaching our children regarding responsibility and accountability? As parents, we can and must teach our children the nobility in acknowledging one's errors and responsibility for the consequences of their actions."
You can send us your e-mails to us at NORVILLE@MSNBC.com. And, as you probably know, some of them are posted on our Web page. That's NORVILLE.MSNBC.com. And you can also see clips from our program at that same location on the Web.
That's our program for tonight. I'm Deborah Norville. Thanks so much for watching.
Tune in tomorrow night, a prime-time exclusive, a civilian interrogator who worked at the Abu Ghraib prison, the scene of these disturbing abuse photos. Now, he's not accused of doing anything wrong, but he may know what went wrong there. Also, tomorrow night, I'll being talking with some former war correspondents who were on the ground for the Vietnam War. We'll get some insights from them into these horrible images we've been seeing from Iraq.
That's our program for tonight. Thanks so much for watching. We'll see you again tomorrow.