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HEADLINE: HARDBALL For January 14, 2003

BYLINE: Chris Matthews; David Shuster

GUESTS: John Zogby; Jay Carney; Lindsey Graham; Jon Kyl; William Perry Smith; David Hackworth; Ed Rollins; Katrina Vanden Heuvel

Is President Bush losing popularity as recent polls show? Interviews with Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Jon Kyl.


Senator Lindsey Graham is a Republican from South Carolina. You've been very attentive and very patient to listen to this...


MATTHEWS: ... fight. What do you make of this decision by the American people that lose some of their enthusiasm over the last couple of weeks for the president? What's that about?

GRAHAM: Well I think these guys did a better job explaining it to you than I did. A lot of it's coming back home, but these are uncertain unsettling times. When you look at television every night, you see families being separated, military members going overseas, the economy is not doing very well, so you want to make sure as an American because you really do love your country and you want to make sure that if people sacrifice for it, whether it's through taxcuts or anything else, that's considered a sacrifice, we're doing it in a fair minded way. I believe the president needs to and will make a case that will make everybody feel better about the deployment...


GRAHAM: ... and the upcoming action. I find it in my own state, a very conservative area in South Carolina, conservatives come up to me just all the time and say you think we're doing the right thing? Is now the time to go to war? Is this the right target and I said be patient. I think the president is on track to get rid of a bad guy in an appropriate way and at the end of the day, no matter how many polls you show me, I am convinced that Saddam Hussein over time is a very big real threat to this country and we need to neutralize him permanently.

MATTHEWS: Does the president have the flexibility to go back to the conservative voters of your state and say you know, we're not going this without the U.N. I still have to make the case to the U.N. We're going to hold off on this until, say, the fall to make that case. Would that sell with your people?

GRAHAM: Well I'm not so sure that the conservatives that I hang out with are really hung up with the U.N. giving us no—yea or nay.


GRAHAM: I think most people don't want their country to be seen as a cowboy or a rogue state. And the idea of a having a multinational force makes sense given 1991, we saw how well it worked. The president, I think, is doing the right thing consulting with the U.N., but we should not allow the U.N. to veto what's in our national interest.

MATTHEWS: What about the fact that if we go in there alone, it's an American/Iraqi war, that we...

GRAHAM: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... by the rules of history started because we go in there and start fighting with these people...

GRAHAM: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... and we try to take over their government. Doesn't that make us in the eyes of the world, not Americans maybe, outlaws?

GRAHAM: Well I don't think we will because not only in the eyes of the world, I think a lot of people in this country would be uncomfortable if Britain would not be able to go with us. Militarily we need Turkey and we need people in that region to help us. The idea that Saddam Hussein will be a bad threat to us over time is there. The case is there to be made. The perfect person to make it is not me, it's not a pollster, it's the president. The reason 65 percent of the people in the poll trust President Bush is they're somehow able to connect with him as a person and believe...

MATTHEWS: Right. I know that...

GRAHAM: ... that he has the best...

MATTHEWS: Suppose the president called you, Senator, and suppose—congratulations by the way...

GRAHAM: Thank you very much.

MATTHEWS: It must be amazing to be a U.S. senator...

GRAHAM: In my state, it doesn't happen very often.


GRAHAM: Every 50 years.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. If the president of the United States you support were to call tonight and say Senator, you're a new guy, but you know your state, you just got elected...


MATTHEWS: Should I go to Iraq without the U.N., what should you say?

GRAHAM: I would tell Mr. President, before you engage us in a military conflict, make the case to the American people first because it will be the American men and women who will do the fighting mostly, and I would continue to seek U.N. support, but I would not let Hans Blix tell us we can't do anything until March. The U.N. is important, but what's most important to me as a member of the Senate is that my president talk to the people in my country to convince them that shedding their blood is a worthy thing at this time.

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Senator Lindsey Graham. A new senator, freshman senator, please come back. He's going to be coming back.

Up next, the question of whether President Bush has lost his way politically. More with Senator Lindsey Graham and these poll numbers. We'll be joined by Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona.

And later the HARDBALL debate tonight, a hot one. Secretary of State Colin Powell pushed President Bush to act through the U.N. Does that approach stall the president's plans to overthrow Saddam Hussein?

You're watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: When HARDBALL returns in a moment, freshman Republican Lindsey Graham on whether President Bush has congressional support for war with Iraq. That's coming back in a minute.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Time is running out on Saddam Hussein. He must disarm. I'm sick and tired of games and deception, and that's my view of timetables.


MATTHEWS: That was President Bush today when asked about the timetable for a war with Iraq. We're back with Senator Lindsey Graham. Let me ask you a question. Every time we do one of these "college tours"...

GRAHAM: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... and some people don't like me doing this, I always ask the question of the students who are all of military age, I say are you for the war and generally it's about a majority...

GRAHAM: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... for the war. Regardless of the school, how elite it is...


MATTHEWS: ... north, south, whatever. Then I say how many of you intend to participate in any way in this war? They look at me like I've asked them is Santa Clause coming tomorrow morning?


MATTHEWS: Like why did you ask that. Isn't there a problem of having the fighters, a lot of them from South Carolina, black and white, so separated from the regular people that people don't even think about those soldiers as they might be one themselves or a cousin might be one.

GRAHAM: Well I'm talking to Charlie Rangel, we talked last week, I may come up with a hybrid of his draft proposal. There's a lot of ways to serve your country other than carrying a gun, but the idea that...

MATTHEWS: But the most dangerous way is carrying a gun.

GRAHAM: That's the most dangerous way. But, the idea that a lot of people are unconnected with the consequences of sending people overseas based on income or race...


GRAHAM: ... even the perception that that's real bothers me. Phil Gramm had a great line. It's time for people to get out of the wagon and pull the wagon and welfare reform. I think what Charlie Rangel was telling us, maybe it's time for us all to take turns standing on the wall, and there are a lot of Americans based on color and income believe that we don't stand on the wall equally. So I am for the idea of compulsory service to make this more real to people.

MATTHEWS: John McCain, a guy you used to like a lot and probably...

GRAHAM: Still do.

MATTHEWS: ... still do made the case we don't—I say we have a professional army because they're paid to join and it's an...

GRAHAM: Right.

MATTHEWS: It's a career opportunity for a lot of kids, as well as being patriotic and he says no, we have a volunteer Army. I said it's not really a volunteer Army because regular middle class or upper middle class kids, you know we go to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Chicago, these type of kids aren't thinking about maybe going in as infantry men or Marines.

GRAHAM: Well you know, the Officer Corps is pretty representative. The Enlisted Corps is lower economic...


GRAHAM: ... end of society, but there are a lot of people who join for a variety...

MATTHEWS: Would this war be less popular if the middle class and upper middle class were exposed to the draft?

GRAHAM: That's a very good question and the honest answer is I don't know, and the idea that we're talking about whether or not it's the right thing to do based on who's representing our country, I think Charlie Rangel is on to something, and I would like to fix that. I believe it's the right thing to do to remove Saddam Hussein sooner rather than later. I believe it's the right thing to do to make sure North Korea doesn't produce a lot of nuclear weapons, but the idea that somebody else's kid is going to do it is thought of by too many Americans as to be wrong, and I agree with Charlie Rangel. We need to make it more real to more Americans.

MATTHEWS: Can you say tonight you're ready to support some kind of mandatory national service of some kind?

GRAHAM: Yes I am, and I'm going to work with Charlie Rangel to—you don't need to draft every 18-year-old in the country, but this idea of bringing new people into the system—the war on terrorism, if you believe it's a war, then we ought to behave as if we're in a war and World War II, would be there any doubt we went to a draft, Korea...


GRAHAM: ... Vietnam? Homeland security needs are unlimited. The public health sector may need some support. The border security...

MATTHEWS: I agree.

GRAHAM: ... may need some upgrading. There's a million ways young Americans can help make us more secure, and I believe now is the time to act like we're in a war mode because we are.

MATTHEWS: Do you think—you said something right before the break, which I think everybody watching agrees with. The president needs to get on television and some kind of...


MATTHEWS: ... you know fireside chat, it's that time of year, and explain the details of why this country, ours...

GRAHAM: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... has to carry the burden of attacking that country, Iraq. Tell me what you want to hear from him.

GRAHAM: Well I'd want the president to make a case to the American people that it's in our national interest that the reason we're sending your sons and your daughters, American men and women overseas getting ready to engage in military combat is because of here's what lies ahead if we just ignore Saddam...


GRAHAM: To us.

MATTHEWS: Not to the neighbors including...


GRAHAM: To us because...

MATTHEWS: ... but us.

GRAHAM: We'll have some British help and we'll have some help...


GRAHAM: ... from other countries, but the dying and the fighting and the bleeding and the sacrifice and the money is going to come from this country. And I would really encourage the president sooner rather than later to get on television and make that case.

MATTHEWS: Thanks a lot. It's great to have you on as a senator.

GRAHAM: Thank you. God bless...

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