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Hardball - Interview

Location: Washington, DC

MATTHEWS: Did you hear anything, Senator that stands in the way besides that meeting next week of the U.N.?

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS ®, GEORGIA: Well no I didn't, and I think he was very direct in saying that the ball continues to be in Saddam's court. He's got still an opportunity to come forward. He's not done so. He's not complies with 1441 or any other resolution of the United Nations. So, to think he's going to do so in the next week or a couple of weeks, I think we'd be kidding ourselves, and I think that's basically what the president said tonight.

MATTHEWS: Is it clear the president is going to go back to the Security Council one more time, Mr. Secretary?

EAGLEBURGER: I think it's clear. Yes, I don't think...

MATTHEWS: Even if he gets a loss.

EAGLEBURGER: I think he's going to lose, but I think he's going to go back.

MATTHEWS: Do you agree he's going to come up short of nine—he won't get the nine votes without the killer veto by the French?

CHAMBLISS: Yes, I think he doesn't expect to win. I think they painted themselves into a corner. And, you know, I think he was pretty direct in saying they've got an opportunity to lead, but they haven't led to this point, but they've got one more chance...

MATTHEWS: Why is he going back to New York, to the U.N. Security Council if he knows he faces defeat basically because the French are campaigning against us.

CHAMBLISS: I think he said it very well. It's time for people who know and understand what the facts are to speak up. If you believe Saddam Hussein is a terrorist, he has weapons of mass destruction, we need to destroy him, say so. If you don't think that and you know the facts as they actually are, say that. So...

MATTHEWS: As a former diplomat, Mr. Secretary, what's the value of a losing vote in the U.N.? Why not just go to war right now? The (EXPLETIVE DELETED) with them.

EAGLEBURGER: I think that in this case it's very clear that going and losing with a veto—and it'll be a veto, gives us - have we convinced—say look, we went the whole distance. We do believe this is sufficiently dangerous, we have to act alone, if we have to or with those allies that'll come along, but we did everything we could to get the U.N. to come with us first. So I think it's worth doing.

MATTHEWS: Do you think it's feasible, gentlemen, both of you, Senator first, to get the diplomats or rather the inspectors out of the country, out of Baghdad proper, and the rest of the country to get the journalists out. He said that—he acted as if that would be a fairly easy thing to do before commencing fire. Do you think it is?

CHAMBLISS: Well I think the president is going to give them an opportunity, and certainly, the inspectors need to come out even though we're very precise with the bombing these days, he's going to give them an opportunity to get out of there, if that is the course we have to...

MATTHEWS: But, doesn't that force us to give away our timing?


MATTHEWS: I mean, if he's going to go next Tuesday night at 10:00 New York time or Washington time. Doesn't he have to give them a couple of hours to get in their jeeps and get to the airport?

EAGLEBURGER: I think, as a matter of fact, he's going to announce anyway that—you know he's going to give them an ultimatum and say everybody out by such and such a time. I think that's inevitable under any circumstances.

CHAMBLISS: And I think that's fair, and I think the president is going to give Saddam the opportunity, one last chance to say by golly, it's time to free your people and you get out, and you disarm Iraq, and if you don't, we're coming.

MATTHEWS: Did you gentlemen get the idea that the president—maybe he was a little tired—people get a tired - after all the pressure on him, he was repeating himself again and again tonight with a few phrases, One was, this man, Saddam Hussein, is a threat to the United States, he's a threat to the neighboring countries in his region and finally, he mentioned Israel. He said that over and over and over again. He secondly kept saying this is about 9/11. Did that surprise you, he kept saying 9/11 so many times?

CHAMBLISS: No, because that is what really started all of this, there's no question about it from—to get to where we are now, we wouldn't be here if we hadn't had 9/11, and I think the president is reminding the American people...

MATTHEWS: What was Saddam's role in 9/11?

CHAMBLISS: Well this is an expansion of the war on terrorism, Chris, and Saddam is a terrorist. He does have weapons of mass destruction. We know he has a connection with al Qaeda who did plan and carry out September 11. That's the connection of Saddam to September 11.

EAGLEBURGER: Chris, I think there's another point here too, and that is it is very clear that we are not understood around the rest of the world and we're never going to convince most of those people. And it's also clear, I think there are a lot of Americans that are in doubt. So I think a lot of the repetition was to try to make that point. But there's one other issue that hasn't been said enough, and that is, OK, so you've got all of the terrorists out there, but terrorists don't build the weapons of mass destruction. Those are built by states, and it will be the states that transfer those to the terrorists. So you're going to have to go after the states in the first place anyway, and that's why it's important that we go after Iraq.

MATTHEWS: Two factors—the fact that the European countries, the big number, the big countries, France, Germany, and Russia are not with us. The fact the Chinese as of today are not with us. Chile...


MATTHEWS: ... are not with us. The fact that the neighboring country, Saudi Arabia hasn't really given us much help. The Turks, no help. The Egyptians, no help. The Jordanians, no help. Why does the president keep saying that the neighboring countries are at risk because of Saddam Hussein when it's so manifest that they're not willing to lift a finger to help us stop him?

EAGLEBURGER: Come on. They were not ready to do much even after the invasion of Kuwait until we bounced at them on their head a lot.

MATTHEWS: But what's their problem?

EAGLEBURGER: Because they're—first of all, because they are, in the first place, afraid of Saddam. They're afraid—they are—they want stability, they want—they don't want to have the boat rocked. That's been the case for...

MATTHEWS: If they're afraid of the guy, why don't they want him ridded...

EAGLEBURGER: Because they...

MATTHEWS: ... to be rid of him?

EAGLEBURGER: ... because they don't know whether they can manage him or not and because they have populations that they worry about. But that's been the case for a long, long time. So, they are—and now we have in this case, we don't even have the alliance as a whole that we had the last time. I'm not surprised by that.

MATTHEWS: Senator Saxby, representing your people—do your people seem a bit dismayed that the president seems to be out there all alone like a cowboy hero on Main Street at high noon that we don't have the Europeans with us generally, except for the Brits, and even then the people don't seem to like it. We don't have the Arabs—Israel can't get involved for political reasons. Do they keep asking you why is it us? Why is it our job?

CHAMBLISS: No I don't hear that because the fact of the matter is we do have an awful lot of countries who have already come out in support of our position. Now certainly, we don't have the major countries—ones Lawrence just referred to and you referred to. But you know, France has got an oil contract with Iraq. The Russians have an oil contract with Iraq. The Germans get oil from Iraq.

Now, does that tell you any reason why they might not be with us? Now, you know, what the president has very clearly said tonight is that Iraq, you have one more chance. He's told the United Nations, you have one more chance to join us. You know what the facts are, you know he's violated the resolution, you've got one more chance to join us. If you don't, my job is to protect Americans and Americans are in harm's way right now and I'm going to protect them.

EAGLEBURGER: Chris, I want to make one final point here for you. This is going to be the role of the U.S. for a long time, and that is leadership. And the president has looked at this issue, he has decided it is critical enough OK, if we can't get the rest of the world with us or a lot of the rest of the world because they don't see this thing in the conditions that he does, and he's decided it is dangerous enough, I think it is the quality of leadership that he's prepared to take it on alone if necessary and we Americans are ready to take it on alone if necessary.

MATTHEWS: Let's take a look at the president. Here's what he said, the president of the United States tonight in his press conference about the risks of doing nothing.


BUSH: The risk of doing nothing, the risk of hoping that Saddam Hussein changes his mind and becomes a gentle soul, the risk that somehow that inaction will make the world safer is a risk I'm not willing to take for the American people.


MATTHEWS: Do you see any hope in the president's words tonight, you first, Senator, that Saddam Hussein might change his mind in a week or so remaining in this diplomatic effort?

CHAMBLISS: I don't think there's any way Hussein is going to change his mind. You know, he's had 12 years to change his mind and he had a number of years before that. So, we...

MATTHEWS: Not like he'd become a gentle soul, as the president put it.

CHAMBLISS: That's right. And I want to echo what Lawrence said. The real key that the president showed tonight and our role and the president's role in this all along has been one of leadership. And it's been lack of leadership by the European countries and by the United Nations. So, I think it's very clear that this president is committed to protecting Americans.

MATTHEWS: Let me get an estimate of you both. You're an expert, you first Senator. Going soon within a week or so?

EAGLEBURGER: I'm not senator—here's the senator.

MATTHEWS: Mr. Secretary.

EAGLEBURGER: Yes. By the end of the month.

MATTHEWS: By the end of March. Any sooner?

CHAMBLISS: I think that's a fair estimate, but you know, things can change.

MATTHEWS: After the meeting in the U.N., nothing stands between us and war, is that right?


CHAMBLISS: He's got an opportunity.

MATTHEWS: Last chance—next week.


EAGLEBURGER: You can hope that his generals, once they see that this time it's real, that they'll take a shot at him, but that's the only thing that...

MATTHEWS: Are you hopeful they might...

EAGLEBURGER: I hope they might, but I'm not very...

MATTHEWS: Are we trying to reach them, do you know?

EAGLEBURGER: I have no idea.

MATTHEWS: OK thank you very much Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Lawrence Eagleburger, former secretary of state. Coming up next, Howard Fineman and Norah O'Donnell will be here to tell us what the mood is like at the White House tonight and on Capitol Hill among the Democrats and the Republicans.

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