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HEADLINE: HARDBALL for March 26, 2003

BYLINE: Chris Matthews; Keith Olbermann; Ken Allard; Carl Rochelle; David Shuster; Steve Handelsman; Bob Kur; Jim Miklaszewski; Jesse Ventura; Peter Arnett; Barry McCaffrey; Kerry Sanders; David Gregory

GUESTS: Duncan Hunter; Frank Luntz; Raghida Dergham; Hillary Rodham Clinton; Lindsey Graham; Dianne Feinstein; David Kay; John O'Sullivan; Michael Elliott; Lawrence O'Donnell

U.S. troops have seized control of a key airfield in northern Iraq.


Now back to our coverage of this war. Senator Dianne Feinstein is a California Democrat. a member of the Select Intelligence Committee. We're going to hear in a minute from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Republican.

We begin with—let's go with Senator Graham first here, it turns out, reading my prompter. This war—I don't understand the naysayers, I'm amazed by it. They're—we're not killing many of the enemy, not the enemy civilians, we're killing soldiers, which is what we should be doing and we're losing very few guys given the nature of the war.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: The Shock and Awe has been more about how people are hand wringing and belittling our great success. John McCain's got it right. We've done amazing things, we're 50 mile from Baghdad, we're a good people. I know that.

MATTHEWS: Six days.

GRAHAM: I know in six days. I mean I don't know what reasonable people expect, but no reasonable person could expect a better success and when it comes to being nice as a nation, I know we did not do well in the Turkish focus group, but I think we care more about Iraqi civilians than the Saddam Hussein regime and I think history will judge this effort well. We're a good brave people they're a very cowardly and cruel as a regime.

MATTHEWS: How important is it that we have a manifest demonstration of the importance and the goodness in this war? Two points. Do you think it's important that sometime in the next couple weeks, not now obviously when the war is on, but when we get control of that country, is it important to see good feeling from the Iraqis?

GRAHAM: Absolutely. I think we need to demonstrate that we're a good people and that we.

MATTHEWS: That they respond to us.

GRAHAM: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: .with welcome.

GRAHAM: I think that is important. Senator Feinstein, I'm going to give her a plug here. You don't know this we had a classified briefing a while ago and I'm not going to tell you the contents of the briefing but she said something I totally agree with. There are people on both sides of the political aisle that are frustrated and basically want to level Baghdad because they don't like all the talk about how badly it's going. That's a minority view. She said she that applauds our military for caring about civilian casualties, using smart weapons because it will pay off in the end and she is absolutely right. We're on track, we're ahead of schedule and we're doing it the right way. I think wave good balance of what we're doing here.

MATTHEWS: Since your name was taken in vain there Senator Feinstein, I'm going to bring you in a bit earlier than scheduled. I want to ask you this question. As Democrat who has had serious questions about this war, are you happy with the execution of the plan?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think so far so good. And I think Lindsey Graham said it correctly. So far, very few American casualties, some of them from friendly fire, some of them from mishap, but over 4,500 Iraqis taken prisoner thus far and I really meant what I said earlier. As long as Lindsey mentioned it, I'll speak to it, you know the United States could carpet bomb. We have chosen not to do it. It is the right thing to do. Every effort is being made to avoid civilian injury and I think that's important and I hope the world believes it's important. It actually places many of our people in harm's way, too. But I think this next week to 10 days is crucial. I think the key are the Republican Guard divisions around Baghdad and I think those fights are going to be the big fights and it's military to military and it's the way it should be.

MATTHEWS: Why are the Democrats on Capitol Hill, some of them, I don't understand why they're doing this, in the midst of the fighting they're complaining about the price tag. Do they want a cheaper war? Do they want to us cut back on the spending, of the—less guns, less equipment for our G.I.'s? How do you argue money when you're in the middle of a war?

FEINSTEIN: Well, you don't argue money in the middle of a war and frankly I haven't heard any of those conversations. I think obviously we want a prudent supplemental appropriation, but the Democrats won't carp over the supplemental appropriation. We want to add some things for homeland security, for example, I'm going to do an amendment to the bill to provide $400 million for inner operable radio systems between police, fire, state emergency services, mutual aid, etc. and there's a way of doing it that's very cost effective because now there's new software where you don't to have buy new systems but can interrelate disparate systems. We'll be doing things like that. But I—you know—the Democrats want to pay for the war there's no question about that.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask Senator Graham the question. Is—how important is it that we find a large cache of weapons of mass destruction so we can show Europe and the world that were right and they were wrong?

GRAHAM: I think we've already proven we were right and they were wrong. When you've got a tank in a hospital, when you have surrender flags and you pull guns out behind the flag, when you have human shields, your own people out in front of paramilitary groups, I think we've proven this is a despicable person. I do believe we will find chemical weapons. There's 3,000.

MATTHEWS: Is it important to find them.

GRAHAM: I think so. I think it will be at the end of the day.

MATTHEWS: Thanks a lot. Senator Dianne, Feinstein Senator Lindsey Graham, both of you. Thanks for coming on tonight.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you.

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