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MSNBC Hardball - Transcript

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MSNBC Hardball - Transcript
Tuesday, November 22, 2005


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. How far is too far? The debate as to how you get information from U.S. prisoners is a hot topic worldwide as you can hear tonight. Senator John McCain introduced an amendment forbidding what he called cruel or inhuman or degrading treatment of any person in U.S. custody.

But the Bush administration says that amendment ties the hands of CIA interrogators. Senator Lindsey Graham is in the Senate. He's in the Senate Armed Services Committee. He joins us right now from South Carolina, his state.

Senator, where are you on this issue? Are you with McCain or how would you put down your position here?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, ® SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I'm a co-sponsor of the amendment, original co-sponsor. Ninety senators voted for the amendment.

There are two parts to it, both of them are very important. The amendment requires all interrogation techniques to be used by the Department of Defense to be included in the Army Field Manual.

And the reason is, Chris, when we first started this effort to change interrogation techniques, as a military lawyer for over 20 years, I can't myself understand waste inbounds and what's not. So, standardizing interrogation techniques, putting them in the Army Field Manual gives your troops the guidance they need not to get in trouble themselves.

The second part of the amendment is equally important. It says that no agency, including the CIA, will engage in cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment when it comes to interrogating detainees.

The reason we need both parts, we need to clarify for our troops what's inbounds. We need to recapture the moral high ground after documented cases of abuses.

And the reason we don't want to go down this road, one day, our troops could get in the hands of a foreign force and what we do on our watch will give them justification to treat our people in the same fashion. And I don't want to be part of that.

MATTHEWS: Well, being from South Carolina, you are very close to the military down there, senator. Is this the military's view about this?

GRAHAM: To a person. The number one fan mail I receive about standing up against the abuses of Abu Ghraib and trying to standardize interrogation techniques and recapture the moral high ground comes from those in uniform who believe their honor was stained.

A few people have brought dishonor to the military. The vast majority of the people who serve in the armed forces do not want to be judged by those few and they are embracing these reforms.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of the fact that we watched these vivid executions on TV the last two or three years, not our own of course, but you watch somebody being beheaded if you want to go watch on the Internet. I have never done it, but I guess you can do it. It's pretty horrible.

Do you think those people who capture our people over there, whether they be contractors or military people or reporters even, do you think they give a damn to what we do to prisoners? They're just going to be psychopaths about it.

GRAHAM: There are going to be psychopaths, but Senator McCain said it very eloquently. He knows this better than you or I, Chris. Detainee treatment is about us, not about them. Our enemy wears no uniform. They don't represent a nation. We wear a uniform. We represent a set of values.

They're ideology has no tolerance for anybody who is different. They have no sense of humanity. We do. We're different. That's our strength, not our weakness. To adopt the tactics of your enemy is going to the wrong way. We can beat our enemy without becoming our enemy.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you the Dershowitz question—you've got Moussaoui in custody, but this time you know a little bit more, you know he's number 20 on the terrorist list for 9/11. You are in an 11th hour situation, what do you do to get info from him to stop from what's happening the next day?

GRAHAM: I associate myself with your last guest who clearly defined what works and what doesn't. The Israelis don't go down this road. I have been to Guantanamo Bay and have asked every interrogator there who is interrogating the hardest of the hard, is the army field manual too restrictive. If you had to live by that document, would that hurt you? And they all say no.

The bottom line is, when you go gown that road of exempting yourself, or making exceptions to what makes us a great nation, it eventually catches up to you. If a captured airmen is in the hands of an enemy force, we would be legitimatizing anything that goes for our airmen because the next wave of bombers would create a lot of havoc for that host country.

So you can't start this without it hurting you eventually as a nation. And we don't need to do it to win the war. The only way we are going to win the war is adhere to values that make us different than our enemy.

MATTHEWS: Remember school yard fights or fights with your siblings and one kid, usually the older one, would grab the other one and pull his arm behind his back and say, uncle. And eventually the little kid says, unless they are somewhat like I was occasionally, uncle.

Why do they say uncle? because it hurts real bad. Why don't we say that grownups don't submit to torture the same way? They say uncle.

GRAHAM: I'm not a professional interrogator but I am a lawyer, I'm a military lawyer and I think techniques applied that are ruthless—you can get people to confess to things that they didn't do.

There is plenty of evidence out there in the law of armed conflict, there is plenty of evidence out there in criminal law where people confess to things they didn't do. John McCain eventually signed a statement that he was an air pirate because they literally almost killed him.

Is that what you want? That's not what you want. That's not what I want. That's not the way to get good information. And there is a consequence for going down this road. It will eat at your soul if you engage in this.

MATTHEWS: Let's talk about the House of Representatives, a real torture chamber. We'll be back to talk to Lindsay Graham about recent events on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and this fight of who is a coward, who is a patriot, et cetera, et cetera. You are watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: We are back with Senator Lindsay Graham, Republican from South Carolina. He serves on the Armed Services Committee. A political question, a partisan question, why has the vice president become so visible in our lives?

He is the man we think of in this torture issue, he's out championing it. He is the man defending the pre-war intel, or at least the honesty in presenting it. The WMD before the war, the fact that the war was going to go well. Why are you putting the guy out front who was so connected with the problem area?

GRAHAM: Well, I think a lot of our Democratic friends have put him out. Number one, events put him out front. Scooter Libby put him out front. One of the things he brought to the table was a great understanding of foreign policy. He was the secretary of defense in the first Gulf War.

If the war is going badly, he is one of the architects of the war. By his association with the president in terms of the advice he gives, he is out front. I think he has been treated unfairly at times and sometimes I disagree with him.

MATTHEWS: Do you think this country would have been better led the last five years by John McCain than by President Bush and Dick Cheney?

GRAHAM: I think John McCain, like Lindsay Graham, supported this president, will continue to do so and disagree when we think we need to.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about South Carolina. It was living hell, your state, for John McCain the last time through in 2000. His record the last couple of years, I look at this as a journalist, has been pretty strong.

He is out there for a lot of reform issues, he has been out there for a tougher military, stronger compliment of troops in Iraq, much more aggressive strategy, very hawkish of course, but stronger than the president. He has been also for elimination of some of this push for cruelty and torture.

It seems like he is popular with the media and has a lot of things going for him. Is he any better received in your part of the country than he was five years ago?

GRAHAM: John's numbers have consistently been good. You indicated that the South Carolina primary was tough, that's an understatement, it was really tough. John left South Carolina. He has a 60 percent approval rating among Republicans. That has been the same. John is a fiscal discipline hawk. He is a hawk on the war.

He is his own man and valuable ally of the president when it comes to selling this war. And on occasion, he disagrees. He is a politically viable person for the Republican Party. And you know better than I do about political capital.

The people that are in trouble politically, they are going to ask folks to come into their districts and their states to help them during crunch time. Watch who they ask for next October.

MATTHEWS: You think it might be McCain.

GRAHAM: I know it will be McCain.

MATTHEWS: If you were to be the new Karl Rove, in addition to the United States senator from South Carolina, and you were with the president tonight over dinner and he said let's sit around and smoke cigars, or whatever they do at the White House these days, the President doesn't drink. What would you tell him to do to get himself back in control of events like he was a couple of years ago?

GRAHAM: Veto the next bill that comes from the United States Congress that spends taxpayer money unwisely. Take a stand on spending. Try to help us find offsets from Katrina. Let's not borrow the money from our grandchildren to solve every problem. Get back to the basics being a party of fiscal discipline.

Put immigration on the table. We have to seal our borders. It is a national security and economic disgrace what's going on along the southern border of this country. Take a hard stand on immigration, including a guest worker program that will be a win-win.

Put on the table tax reform, not just tax cutting. Lead decisively and start with controlling spending.

MATTHEWS: You are good. I love that stuff. Sounds like the genuine article and doesn't sound like some watered down new conservative—but the real thing.

GRAHAM: It's what I hear. I hear from the people I represent who want our president to do well. And we've lost our way as a party and he can lead us back.

MATTHEWS: It would be a hell of thing if the only bill he ever vetoed was the one that said we can't have torture.

GRAHAM: It would be a huge mistake.

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. It's great to have you. Happy Thanksgiving, Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina. Member of the Armed Services Committee.


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