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MSNBC Hardball-Transcript

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MSNBC Hardball-Transcript

MATTHEWS: Democratic Congressman Tim Walz of Minnesota retired from the Army National Guard in 2005 -- that's two years ago-after 24 years of service in the Guard. He is also a member of the Veterans Committee. And Republican Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia is a member of the Appropriations Committee.

Let me ask you this, Congressman Walz.

Imagine that, tomorrow morning, or six hours from now, you have got to get up in Baghdad. You have got to march around into Baghdad itself, door to door, kicking down doors, with the possibility of fire hitting you in the face, and having your head blown off, and, all the time, you're thinking, you know, back in Washington, the Congress doesn't think this is a good idea.

REP. TIM WALZ (D), MINNESOTA: Well, Chris, first of all, that this-this debate that's happening now, the last place it's happening is Congress. And that's the sad part.

I can tell you, those soldiers over there will do everything that is asked to them. I don't think that crosses their mind.

What crosses their mind is, do we have the correct body armor? Do we have a mission that can succeed?

These soldiers want to know, what they are doing is-is going to make this country safer. They want to know that they're going after the people who perpetrated 9/11.

And the vast majority of them-don't think that they're not smart and don't think that they don't understand the situation. They know that what they have been in-put into is a situation that they cannot achieve militarily, what we're telling them to do.

So, I don't think that's a concern. And I talk to a lot of these soldiers. They just want to know, are they going to be taken care of? Is their family going to be taken care of? And, when they come home, are there going to be services for them? Or are we going to continue to cut the services to the VA right when they need them?

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Congressman Shuster (sic).

Congressman Shuster (sic), you must have seen the Gallup poll that came out today that said that seven out of 10 Americans now are ready to basically pay back a member of Congress who votes the wrong way on this resolution issue about the war, in fact.

Where do you stand on it?

REP. JACK KINGSTON ®, GEORGIA: Well, Chris, I-I understand that angst, but I think that we just have to do the right thing, and look at this situation, that you do have troops in the street in Baghdad.

And we have an opportunity to send them 21,000 more recruits, more soldiers, to help them in that job. And, tomorrow morning, they're going to be asking themselves: Wait a minute. My congressman voted no on sending me some help. That doesn't make any sense.

In the meantime, the Democrat Party, which is now in the driver's seat, has not offered an alternative. And immediate withdrawal seems to be the only alternative that we're hearing from the Democrat leadership. And I don't think that's any sort of solution.


MATTHEWS: If President Bush wants to keep our troops in that country for another eight years or more, wants to establish permanent bases in that country, would you support him, Congressman Shuster (sic)?

KINGSTON: Well, I think we would only support him if it was stabilized, as we...

MATTHEWS: Congressman Kingston.


KINGSTON: ... the situation in Bosnia and-and North Korea-or in South Korea, and so forth.

But I think the question is, remember that so much of Charlie's discussion, Charlie Cook, was saying that it's the Republicans, Republicans, Republicans. But the Democrats now own policy, Chris. And the question is, when are they going to put their plan on the table?

MATTHEWS: So, in other words...


MATTHEWS: Let me get back to Congressman Walz.

In other words, the congressman, Congressman Kingston, is challenging you guys to put your money where your mouth is. Don't just pass nonbinding resolutions.


MATTHEWS: If you think the war policy should be changed, you have got the power of the purse. Use it.

WALZ: Yes, and absolutely, and we do have a plan.

The first thing I would say is, these aren't fresh troops coming in. My constituents and my soldiers are the ones that are being asked to stay on extra. So, make no mistake. These aren't fresh troops. These are extensions.

As far as having a plan...


KINGSTON: Well, actually, they are fresh troops coming in from the 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Georgia.

WALZ: And there's also 3,000 National Guardsmen staying longer. But that's an issue we can debate on the side.


KINGSTON: Well, they would want 21,000 to help them. That's what's important...

WALZ: That's the misplanning.

KINGSTON: ... that you have an opportunity to send them more help.


KINGSTON: And that's what they want.

WALZ: And 21,000, as you know, Congressman, is not near enough. And General Petraeus knows it, too.

The issue at hand here is, is that we do have a plan. The plan is securing this nation from the war on terror. We have had 2,000 days to capture bin Laden. We have had that same amount of time to try and secure Afghanistan, both of which we haven't done.

In the meantime, al Qaeda has carried out attacks against our allies across the world. This is a failed plan and a failed policy...

KINGSTON: Where is your plan?


KINGSTON: I accept all that, but where is your plan?

That's-the Democrats now are in the front seat, and you still want to back-seat drive.

WALZ: No, no, no. What we want to do is...

KINGSTON: This is an opportunity.

And this is a nonbinding resolution.

WALZ: No, it's the first step.

KINGSTON: What kind of silliness is that?

WALZ: Rest assured, Congressman, it is the first step in a plan that will actually redirect our forces to the war on terror, secure this nation, fully fund our military, and support our veterans, something that has not been done in this Congress.

KINGSTON: It-it's a first step?

WALZ: This is a conversation that has not happened in this country, in this Congress, until right now.


WALZ: The Republicans had the opportunity to have this debate for the past four years. They have chosen not to.

The American people spoke on November 7 and said, your way was tried, and all you have done is fail every step of the way.

KINGSTON: OK. I'm-I'm saying-I'm saying, I will take all the criticism, but you guys are now in the front seat. Get out of the back seat and start driving the car.

This is a nonbinding, silly, intramural resolution.

WALZ: When your resolution...

KINGSTON: You should be putting real resolutions on the floor. If this thing is a lost cause, as Nancy Pelosi keeps saying, why are we spending one more day there? Why not introduce an immediate withdrawal, because you guys are in the majority?

WALZ: Well, your vote against it, then, won't hurt you back home, Congressman. But I can guarantee you that the...


KINGSTON: Oh, it's about voting?

It is not about voting. This is about a war. And, if we are fighting a lost cause, we need to bring the folks home tomorrow. And why aren't the Democrats doing that?

WALZ: We're moving in the direction to secure this nation, Congressman. As you know well...

KINGSTON: With a nonbinding resolution? Nonbinding resolutions are great...


KINGSTON: ... for the Democrat club back home...


MATTHEWS: OK. Let me straighten this out.


MATTHEWS: Let me just referee.


MATTHEWS: Will there be a vote on funding at some point this year, Congressman Walz...

WALZ: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: ... a Democratic-advanced vote on funding?

WALZ: Absolutely.

And I think the way it will go on this, Chris, is, we are sending-we don't have a single unit that-that is C-1 qualified as combat ready. And I think what you will see is a resolution. And we will ask Congressman Kingston and the Republicans on that side to make sure, if they're willing to put their name on sending soldiers into harm's way...


WALZ: ... when they're not prepared and they don't have that.

KINGSTON: ... actually...

WALZ: And that will happen.


KINGSTON: Actually, I'm on the Defense Committee. We have had extensive hearings this year on combat readiness. And the numbers saying there's not one ready is-is not accurate at all.

There are some who aren't ready, and I share your concern about that. But-but we will, as Chris is saying, have a binding resolution, called the war supplemental, which contains $5.6 billion for the troop surge. And that's going to be the question. Do you defund it...

WALZ: Which CBO says-CBO says it's not nearly enough. They're saying it's going to be $13 billion to $17 billion.

KINGSTON: You're in the majority.


KINGSTON: You can increase the amount.

WALZ: Well...

KINGSTON: But, maybe, if you're against it, that's where you should defund it. And that might be your plan. I haven't heard a plan yet.

MATTHEWS: Gentlemen, I think we have found a lot. I have-I discovered here a lot here. We have learned that the Democrats' strategy, Democratic strategy, will be to try to set higher standards for troop readiness and rotation requirements that squeeze this policy.

You're saying, Congressman Kingston, they should be more direct and go after funding. But, if they do, they will really be challenging the president. And I'm sure they don't want to get that direct yet.

Anyway, thank you, Congressman Walz.

Congressman Kingston, I'm sorry for saying you're Bill Shuster. He was originally scheduled.

KINGSTON: I have been called worse.

MATTHEWS: I should have known from your Southern twang that you weren't from anywhere in Pennsylvania, sir.


MATTHEWS: Thank you.

KINGSTON: I have been called worse.

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