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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript

Interview

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MATTHEWS: OK. Joining us right now for another point of view is Kent Conrad. He`s Democratic senator from North Dakota. Senator, I guess you`ve heard those views. What are your views about the issues they`ve raised on the antagonistic side?

SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: Well, first of all, I have high regard for Senator Corker and Senator Collins, but there are others who have been, I think, strident voices against the ambassador that have been terribly unfair to her.

What she said on those Sunday talk shows was precisely what the intelligence community agreed to unanimously would be the unclassified version of events. It is entirely appropriate for the ambassador to rely on the intelligence community for what she says in public. What was said in a classified report would have been totally inappropriate for her to talk about on those Sunday talk shows.

So she is being pilloried and criticized for doing precisely what she should have done, which was to use the intelligence community`s unclassified assessment of what occurred.

MATTHEWS: Well, they make the point -- and I`ve listened to all the complaints about her, the more dignified and the less dignified ones. And their argument seems to be that she went on as a flack, if you will, a press secretary, somebody who went on to basically spin it so the president would look good, that his arguments over the last several months of the campaign would look good, that we`ve basically decimated al Qaeda, that it wasn`t a terrorist -- organized terrorist attack, it was a spontaneous attack.

And they say she emphasized more the spontaneity of it and the relationship
to that video coming out of Los Angeles and de-emphasized the role of organized terrorism here. Is that a fair criticism, or is that something that comes with the territory of speaking for the White House?

CONRAD: I don`t think it`s fair. Look, I`m on the Intelligence Committee, and there`s a lot that we can`t talk about that goes on there. But what is very clear is the intelligence community has said with great clarity and with unanimity that the talking points she used were the talking points provided to her by the intelligence community of the United States, that they provided those talking points after consultation with all of the agencies, and they were the unclassified talking points, which is precisely what any ambassador...

MATTHEWS: OK.

CONRAD: ... any representative of the United States should use, not the classified talking points that might reveal things critically important to national security.

MATTHEWS: Two questions. Can you tell us without giving away the names of
the people involved, is there a personal vendetta at work here from some of
the senators, a personal vendetta against the person of the U.N. ambassador
here, Susan Rice? And/or is there a surrogate attack going on against the
president who`s just been reelected by people who are embittered by that
fact?

CONRAD: I think it`s people who are embittered by the reelection of the president, and I think she`s caught in the crossfire, and I think she`s caught in it in a completely unfair way. Again, she used the talking points provided to her, and not just to her. Those were the talking points that were prepared by a request from the House Intelligence Committee. That`s who the intelligence community was responding to.

MATTHEWS: Oh.

CONRAD: She got a copy of those comments, and those are the ones she used,
which was entirely appropriate for her to do.

MATTHEWS: We`ll have to have you back, Senator, to talk about something I
know you`re good on, that`s the fiscal cliff. I want to have you on because I trust in you, sir. Thank you, Kent Conrad...

CONRAD: Thank you.

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