tv Hardball With Chris Matthews MSNBC October 8, 2009 12:00am-1:00am EDT
the objectives are not clear. americans are split on the goal. we're joined by two members of the congress with very different ideas about where we go from here in a war that has lasted longer than any other except vietnam and the american revolution. plus, few people know more about the horrors of war than former georgia senator max cleland who lost three limbs in vietnam. he says we shouldn't be nation building in afghanistan. we should be targeting al qaeda wherever it is. wait until you hear what he has to say about karl rove who portrayed him as unpatriotic. what are we going to make of these two new polls out today? associated press poll has president obama's approval rating up six points since september. up to 56%. but a new gallup poll shows the republicans now with a very clear chance to gain control of the speakership next year. we will survey the political landscape and get the early odds on whether republicans can win back the house. late today, the democrats got good news on health care.
the congressional budget office said in effect the senate's finance committee bill is fully paid for. we will break that down in the "politics fix." steve colbert has a very funny take on the very serious question of how president obama is handling afghanistan. we'll have that in "the sideshow." let's start tonight with the war in afghanistan. eight years on. let's take a look at what walter cronkite said about the vietnam war in 1968. let's listen. >> it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of vietnam is to end in a stalemate. >> congressman dennis kucinich is an ohio democrat who thinks we should get out of afghanistan now. and republican congressman thornbury of texas says we need to send in more troops. let's get to the issue right now with both of you. congressman kucinich, you first. are we losing the war in afghanistan? >> we should never have been there. we have to get beyond equations of win or lose.
we can't win in a situation where there is a weak central government and widespread pride. occupation is to fuel insurgency, where there's drugs involved. this is a nightmare and we need to get the troops out of there and as fast as we can. >> i want an answer. are we losing? the general says our mission is failing. do you agree with him? general mcchrystal. >> well, again, i don't think we should have ever gone in or stayed in there to begin with. i don't even -- my level analysis on this, chris, it goes beyond winning and losing. we win by leaving. >> okay. that's an interesting point of view. i'm trying to figure out whether we're beating the taliban or whether we can't beat them. they are going to be there when we go. let me go to congressman thornberry. are we losing the war against the taliban in afghanistan? >> well, i trust general mcchrystal's assessment things are going badly. that does not mean we are losing to the taliban but it means we -- things are going in the wrong direction which means that the taliban is gaining and as they gain, al qaeda has more room to maneuver and to plan and plot against us.
>> okay. let me ask you, congressman kucinich, if you get your way, if we pull out of afghanistan quickly, what will be the consequences of that decision? >> i think immediately we don't just pull out without consulting with nations in the region. and we have to make sure that we -- that we have an ongoing observation of what is going on in that region. i think the immediate consequence is that the united states will be spared the loss of more troops, we won't see the u.s. in a position where during our occupation the production of opium goes up in the country. i think that we will start to be in a position of stabilizing our situation in other parts of the world. i think we will be in a stronger position to play a hand with iran. i don't think that we are -- i think we are destabilizing our power by being in afghanistan and i think we should get out there and we should get out of iraq as well. >> do you believe if we pull out of afghanistan, the taliban will defeat the central government of karzai?>> think that the centra
government of karzai right now is so corrupt and so weak that if we stay in there, we can't prop it up. it's despised by the people of afghanistan. whoever takes over, you know, they are going to have a difficult time being able to control afghanistan until, number one, they get control of the drug situation which is really the war lords and the drug lords have taken over much of afghanistan, so whoever takes over that central government, they're going to have a tough time holding on. you're looking at controlled chaos for quite a few years. >> congressman thornberry, what if we give general mcchrystal the 40,000 more troops he wants? what will be the result of that decision? >> well, remember, he's not just asking for more troops. he wants to implement a new strategy. and what that strategy seeks to achieve is to help the afghans stand up their own police and their own military so they can take care of their own security. so ideally, given the time and training and so forth, afghans
can secure their territory and prevent it from becoming another base to be used against terrorist -- as terrorist attacks against us and pakistan can also prevent its territory from being used as a base against us and the government of pakistan can be stabilized as well. remember, it is not just what happens within the borders of afghanistan that's important. it is neighboring pakistan with nuclear weapons that we have to keep our eye on. >> do you believe that president karzai's party won that last election? do you believe that was a clean election? do you believe we are defending a legitimate government? you first, mr. thornberry. >> it's obviously not a clean election. exactly who won, i don't know. we'll be watching for the studies and the investigations on that, but remember, we're not there to defend the karzai government.
we are there to prevent a sanctuary from being used to attack us here at home. and we are there to prevent the government of pakistan from being destabilized. and i would say that -- as a benefit, a side benefit in a way, we are there to prevent return of the taliban rule and nobody should underestimate the humanitarian disaster that those stadium executions and the other things that went on during the taliban rule brought on the people of afghanistan. >> i'm just trying to figure out, gentlemen, what exactly will happen if your policy prescriptions are carried through. i want to go back to congressman thornberry. you seem very unclear as to what we're protecting over in -- are we protecting the government there? how do we -- who are we -- who are we for in afghanistan? who are we for? >> we're for us, and we are for stabilizing -- >> we are for us in afghanistan?
>> yes, sir. we are stabilizing the government in afghanistan so that -- >> the government of karzai? >> the -- the afghanistan and neighboring pakistan cannot be used as a sanctuary to attack us. >> okay. >> this is what it's about. now, they're imperfect, but remember, their military and their police force is building up, and rather than focus on the head in kabul, we need to look at their whole national capabilities and whether they can effectively prevent al qaeda from using it as a base against us. >> let me get back to congressman kucinich because you seem hesitant, sir. i think i know your philosophy here. i don't get your particular belief. do you believe that general mcchrystal is correct in saying our mission is a failure? we are losing the ground war against the taliban. >> what he said is predicated on him wanting to send more troops and i disagree with that, chris. i think that, you know, his
whole view is you look at improving the counterinsurgency, it's the wrong strategy for afghanistan. you need -- counterinsurgencies are built for more stable situations than you have in afghanistan. the idea we are going to put a democracy in afghanistan, when you consider all the corruption they've had, ballot stuffing, ballot spreading, intimidation, it's kind of like thinking you can have a rock -- or have a rose grow out of sheer granite. it is not going to happen. it is the wrong soil. >> mr. thornberry, you want us to give the 40,000 troops that general mcchrystal has asked for. when do you believe we will be able to leave afghanistan in force? in other words, leave with a big force we have there. we will have over 100,000 troops there. he gets his request. when do you think we can leave? >> i don't know what the timetable is. >> wait a minute. we have been there eight years. should we stay eight more years? >> it would be a mistake for us to set a timetable just like it
was a mistake to set ahead of time a timetable in iraq. what i do know is general mcchrystal says the next 12 to 18 months will be a critical period in deciding how this goes. and we either need to trust the commander that's been given the responsibility that's on the ground who is one of the best our country has, or if the president doesn't trust him, he needs to replace him. >> let me ask you -- >> we need to go one way or the other. >> i'm not asking you to set a timetable. i'm asking you as a politician that represents people in the country in a civilian-controlled situation here, which we are in this country, thank god. how long do you think that we should fight this war in afghanistan? in other words, eight years now and counting. can we stay there another eight years? continuing to take the casualties we are taking. how long can we make this commitment? >> we need to make the commitment to defend the country, whatever time it takes. and whether that is in afghanistan, pakistan, or yemen or somalia, wherever al qaeda may score out to, we have to have the commitment to defend
ourselves. but i believe -- as apparently general mcchrystal believes, if we have a new strategy with the resources to back it up, we have a very good chance for success in iraq, i mean in afghanistan, just as we have been having success in iraq despite all the naysayers and despite all the doubts about that. >> okay. thank you very much, congressman dennis kucinich. thank you for joining us. thank you, max thornberry of texas. andrea mitchell is with us now. thank you for joining us, my colleague. i guess we are not going to get far in this argument. everyone is in a fixed position right now. it sounds like they made up their mind about these things 30, 40 years ago in every case. what does the president need to know that he doesn't know now before he decides on whether to give general mcchrystal his requested 40,000 more troops? >> well, white house officials are saying to me that, in fact, go back to the bruce reidel report which led to the
decisions of last march. we have been all saying the conventional wisdom in washington has been that march is now moot, that the initial afghan strategy is now supplanted because of the changes, decisions on the ground, perhaps the political realities but they deny that. in fact, you go back to the original questions that bruce reidel and former cia and nfc answered to the white house, it was, how do we come up with a strategy that will disrupt and end al qaeda's influence and protect the united states? what we want to do is get into afghanistan and disrupt al qaeda. the questions the president is asking, to get to your point, are how will these various recommendations lead to our goal? that goal remains to disrupt al qaeda, to protect the security of the united states, and to enhance regional security as well. those are the questions he is asking. right now what he's getting are answers. we don't know whether he is accepting the answers but getting intelligence briefing on
how it relates to pakistan, today, followed by a regional diplomatic briefing from the secretary of state and her advisers and obviously richard holbrooke and others would be part of that. and then robert gates would give the military perspective. what has changed today, the pentagon announced -- jeff morrell announced from the pentagon today, chris, they've given the president -- officially given the president the troops. >> my concern is as an american watching this, learning americans are building outposts of demand by 140 people, begins to look like one of the old french foreign legion movies where we're putting troops, western troops, our guys and women out in the middle of these outposts to guard land, to basically control the land of afghanistan. that's the job of afghans. >> that is not -- that cannot continue. in fact, as we know, that unit was planning to withdraw and relocate. i asked that very question of our military analyst. when you look at the pictures of
that ravine, what the heck were american troops doing in that location? it seemed absurd on the face. he said i don't want to second-guess an experienced commander in the field but you are absolutely correct. what he was told was they were protecting supply lines which makes some sense. >> it begins to look like -- >> cannot imagine -- >> andrea, looks like the old game of strategic hamlets developing control over land mass. we're trying to rule afghanistan because their government's a failure. we are trying to supplant and replace a failed government. we are trying to be the government in effect of afghanistan. i wonder if that is a smart strategy and whether it will ever allow us to leave. >> and i think that that is exactly what the president is wrestling with. no easy answers here. the other word out of the white house officials is don't assume that all the reporting is correct, that what joe biden is talking about is tantamount of withdrawing and doing it -- that's not what he is talking about. he is still talking about a
robust force of boots on the ground. i think you're going to see some building up of warlords. they're going to try to work around the central government while they're trying to enhance it and a lot of training. >> i don't think that -- my sources tell me that's not biden's view. his view is much more middle of the road here than that. certainly. andrea mitchell, thank you very much. the expert. coming up, what president obama needs to do in afghanistan. we're going to talk to a veteran of the united states senate and of the united states war in vietnam. a man who lost three limbs in vietnam, max cleland. he knows something about the wars of attrition. goodwrench... we roll out the blue carpet for drivers of these great gm brands. we can do the small things, the big things, just about everything... right inside your gm dealership. find out more at goodwrench.com. crunch. wheat thins. that's what's gonna happen here. because you're tasty... with toasty whole grains.
(crunch) wheat thins. toasted. whole grain. crunch. have at it. that's why i use covergirl's simply ageless makeup with olay regenerist serum. a department store brand can glob up in lines and actually make you look older. simply ageless makes you look amazing. from olay and easy, breezy, beautiful covergirl. gm drivers.. it's goodwrench & go time. three great services: all in one place. all at one time. all for one price for most gm vehicles. but it's only for a limited time. at participating gm dealers. could the republicans win back the speakership? the poll numbers say they're within range to do it. someday, cars will be engineered using nanotechnology to convert plants into components. the first-ever hs hybrid.
nine now, the number of war dead in operation enduring freedom, that's what it was called, and still is, has increased sharply. already in 2009, there have been 239 military deaths on our side. far more than in prior years. as president obama weighs his afghanistan strategy, which he's doing now, what will it mean for u.s. troops? max cleland lost both arms in vietnam and went on to represent georgia. his new book, hell of a book, "heart of a patriot: how i found the courage to survive vietnam, walter reed, and karl rove." thank you for joining us. it is a stirring account of what you went through which was probably almost impossible for to you put into words. what it was like for that grenade went off. and waking up and living through the torture of the alcohol and your limbs. let me ask you about -- let's start with what we were just talking about with andrea mitchell, who i respect a lot. andrea says the president is
trying to decide whether we can achieve that particular goal we went in afghanistan to achieve. catch bin laden, destroy the taliban -- destroy al qaeda, the terrorist group that attacked us on 9/11 with whatever strategy we follow. what do you think when you look at this current situation? >> what i think -- it is a couple of things i learned in vietnam. first, fixed fortifications are monuments to the stupidity of man, so if we try to fix one country with counterinsurgency and nation building, all the taliban -- actually, excuse me, all the al qaeda will do is move to another sanctuary. the point is that it is all about al qaeda. it is not about afghanistan. it is not about boots on the ground. it is not about the taliban. they did not attack us. al qaeda did. we have to go after al qaeda and we have to kill or capture bin laden. we have to go after al qaeda central which is in northwestern pakistan, and we have to protect pakistan's nuclear weapons program.
the taliban leadership actually happens to be in pakistan, not so much in afghanistan. so the real question is what's the mission? the mission is clearly and simply straightforwardly go after al qaeda wherever it is located. right now, it is located in pakistan. so all the questions are about afghanistan. wrong questions. >> you know, it is funny. there's nothing funny about this because you have been in combat and suffered tremendously and right now, i keep trying to tell myself stop thinking about this. just a conversation. there are men and women on posts right now in scary situations who have to get through the night tonight who are stuck out there in these outposts. let me ask you an ironic question. wouldn't we be better off if al qaeda did go back into afghanistan? we can pick them off at will. they are hiding in pakistan. everybody says the worst thing that could happen is -- al qaeda would go back in afghanistan. great. blow the hell out of them and nobody will stop us. taliban will not be able to stop us. we can't bomb with impunity in
pakistan. we have a friendly government there. if we have a hostile government in afghanistan, we can knock them off at our choosing, can't we? at least to me. >> the issue, if you -- if you go back to the first congressional resolution which was passed right after 9/11, it says we will go after those who attacked us and anybody harboring them. if you are harboring al qaeda you better watch out. we are coming after you and you may get hurt. whether that's the taliban or yemen or somalia or indonesia or any other place in the world. now, we -- our issue is with al qaeda. we have to take -- focus on that. war in iran, distracted the american people and compromised the american army. now we are a spent bullet in the nation in terms of political will. now we're pretty much spent militarily. we don't have in my opinion the option and shun have particularly the option of going after a counterinsurgency and nation building in five to ten
years. we are going to al qaeda wherever it is. it is in pakistan. you don't necessarily have to go after them with a hell of a lot of boots on the ground. that is not at big issue. the big issue is weighs the objective? what's the military objective? it is al qaeda. killing or capturing them before they kill us. >> you know, sometimes i think people think the more input you put, the more suffering you endure, the more troops you have, the more successful you are. i wonder whether the more brains you have the better you will do. in your book, you wrote, quote, when i lost my re-election bid to the united states senate back in 2002, my life fell apart. the start of the war in iraq, my own post traumatic stress disorder came roaring back 40 years after i was in combat. you know, i remember that campaign. i remember the sleazy campaign ran by your opponent back in 2002 where he tied you in with the enemies of our country because you voted for a couple of amendments that the labor unions wanted to allow people at the homeland security department to be unionized and he turned that into an anti-american act
because he didn't like unions. >> no, it wasn't that at all. >> what was it? >> it was the fact that the white house opposed the department of homeland security and me and senator lieberman actually on the governmental affairs committee were for the department of homeland security. the white house did not want lieberman to get a leg up because he has been vice presidential candidate and shifted their view. they accused me of somehow compromising the effort for homeland security. that was bull feathers and then they linked me in with osama bin laden and saddam hussein. that was also bull feathers but part of the karl rove strategy that -- you go after the -- you try to drive up the opposition's negatives even if it is to take away military service. they tried that against me and they were successful and they swift voted john kerry. the obama campaign learned in '08 you don't do that to the american hero like mccain. you don't try to take away his service and stay away from that, thank god. >> they certainly -- you'd think john mccain would learn a lesson
he was dealing with dirt balls when he was dealing with the bush crowd and karl rove and he had to get back in bed with them in 2008. here's the ad they ran against you as an incumbent and war veteran hero who certainly paid a lot of price for this country. here it is. >> as america faces terrorists and extremists dictators, max cleland runs television ads claiming he has the courage to lead. he says he supports president bush at every opportunity. but that's not the truth. >> there you have it. let me ask you about the -- how it all fits together. you talk about the -- max, about the experience of these wars, vietnam, do they all look like vietnam now, or what's the difference? >> well, i tell you, if you build up afghanistan, if you put in more troops, with the sanctuary right across the -- right across the border, across the mountain range, you know, and you pull in more troops and you try to focus on counterinsurgency and nation
building, that is vietnam. >> wow. >> and how did that work out for us? zippo. nada. you go -- don't go that way. you have a swamp. you focus on the alligators in the swamp and not drain the swamp. that's what i'm saying. the alligators in the swamp in that region are al qaeda. that is bin laden, that is al qaeda central. that is protecting the nuclear weapons program of pakistan and going after the taliban leaders which are not in afghanistan. they're in southern pakistan. so that's what you have to focus on. >> you know, everything you said is right. thank you very much. max cleland. the book is called "heart of a patriot." it's right here. we're showing it again. it's a great book. it's about america and what we've been through the last 30 years, especially this fellow. there it is. up next, steve colbert's very funny take on very serious business, the topic at hand, afghanistan. 100 years of engineering excellence is right on time. it's gmc truck month.
shop sierra 1500 slt with the 403 horsepower 6.2 liter v8. it's the most powerful half ton v8 in its class. step up to the best. it's gmc truck month. get 0% apr for 60 months on 2009 gmc sierra or get $6,000 total cash back on select 09 sierra 1500 extended and crew cabs in stock. see your gmc dealer today.
back to "hardball." time for "the sideshow." first up, everyone is a critic these days. steven colbert took aim on the president on his slow decision making on afghanistan. >> we should take the fight to al qaeda in afghanistan. that is why as president i will make the fight against al qaeda and the taliban the top priority that it should be. >> and obama made it a top priority. right after banks, cars, the stimulus, health care, a dog and herb gardens, the olympics, and beer. now we can go back to our old girl, afghanistan. guess what we forget? she's [ bleep ] crazy. that's why we left. she's moodier than a drunk hyena.
she's always broke and she has a serious heroin problem. >> all good comedy found on that certain hard truth. speaking of, the white house just released a list of 45 paintings that are now on loan at the white house. one in particular seems to encapsulate what it means to be the top decision maker these days. here it is, in ed roche's work, it's called "i think i'll --" we have it there. the old jack benny joke. your money or your life. i'm thinking, says the miser. finally, remember this zinger from democratic congressman alan grayson last week? >> if you get sick, america, the republican health care plan is this. die quickly. that's right. the republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick. >> of course, grayson rebuffed those republican calls for him to apologize, and now he's pushing back even harder with a
new fund-raising e-mail. it features a spoof of this poster for the just-out movie "the invention of lying." here's congressman grayson's version. the invention of truth telling. quote, in a town where everyone can tell lies, he's the only one telling the truth. i think this man is riding his own wave. he's doing well. now for tonight's big number." there have been a lot of comparisons between vietnam and afghanistan in recent months. here is another one. today marks eight years of war in afghanistan. how long did americans' involvement in the vietnam war last? it was eight years and six month. august '64 to january of '73 which makes afghanistan now just half a year shy of vietnam. america's longest war lasted eight years and six months. tonight's disturbing "big number." up next, yesterday we saw president obama's jump in the polls up to 56 points. today the republicans are gaining ground on the congressional front.
we'll sort out what it means for the midterms and whether the democrats can really hold on to power. boss:hey, glad i caught you. i was on my way to present ideas about all the discounts we're offering. i've got some catchphrases that'll make these savings even more memorable. gecko: all right... gecko: good driver discounts. now that's the stuff...? boss: how 'bout this? gecko: ...they're the bee's knees? boss: or this? gecko: sir, how 'bout just "fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance." boss: ha, yeah, good luck with that catching on! anncr: geico. fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance. the sparkly flakes. the honey-baked bunches! the magic's in the mix. my favorite part? eating it. honey bunches of oats. taste the joy we put in every spoonful. honey bunches of oats. we call the bunches in honey bunches of oats the prize in the box. well, now there's a prize inside the prize. pecans! pecans! baked into crunchy oat bunches. taste the delicious surprise in every spoonful.
new honey bunches of oats with pecan bunches. beautiful. people think that honda is always the most fuel efficient choice. well, this chevy cobalt xfe has better highway mileage than a comparable honda civic. the all-new chevy equinox has better mileage than honda cr-v. and chevy malibu has better mileage than accord. however, honda does make something that we just can't compete with. it's self propelled. introducing the 60-day satisfaction guarantee, buy a new chevy and if you don't love it, we'll take it back.
here's what's happening. tsunami warnings have been lifted in the pacific, following another series of powerful earthquake. a magnitude 6.7 quake rocked the philippines. two very strong quake hit the island off the coast of new zealand. the nonpartisan comingal office has fpd its analysis of the senate finance committee's health care reform proposal. it estimates the so-called baucus plan would cost and cut the deficit by $81 billion. it does not contain a public
option but they said it should expand coverage to with 29 million uninsured americans. meanwhile, they are also reporting the federal did he have is it tripled in 2009 to $1.4 trillion. and a congressional panel has unveiled a compromised plan for detainees at guantanamo bay that would allow them to face trial but not be in the u.s. or serve time in u.s. prisons. now back to "hardball." welcome back to "hardball." just over a year from the 2010 congressional elections on the majority democrats on course to stay or is the majority in trouble? how can president obama help the party hold power? nbc political analyst charlie cook is the publisher and editor of "the cook political report." look at this new number here. this is the associated press poll. it shows that the president's
approval rating jumped up to 56% and from 50% over a month. far more fascinating to me, guys, is the fact that the negative -- the disapproval which was so high after all the crazy stuff of the summer, the t.e.a. parties, the birthers, the nut bags up there, it went up to 49%, has dropped 10 points in a month. that, to me, is dramatic. ten-point drop in the president's disapproval. charlie cook, your estimate of what's going on? >> i think that's an outlier poll. it doesn't look like the other data we see. the fact is the gallup poll is out every single day at 1:00. of last night, 51% approval rating. last week was 52%. week before that was 51%. week before that was 52%. that's sort of a thrust of what we're seeing more often. >> how about the negatives? how about negatives? how about the disapproval number? what's that doing on your polling? >> approval -- disapproval is 40%, 41%, holding very, very,
very steady. i've not seen that kind of movement. there was a little bit of an uptick after senator kennedy's funeral. around the time of senator kennedy's funeral. i don't think there's an uptick and there's nothing in the news that would offer a suggestion why there would be an uptick right now. i think the president has had a pretty tough couple weeks. >> john harris, your assessment of the numbers coming up from the associated press showing ten-point drop in disapproval and a hike of six points in his approval. >> charlie is right. it's probably an outlier. although i think you can see some of the consumer confidence numbers ticking up a little bit. maybe the -- avoided the worst and an economic recovery might be on the way. i suspect that's -- other polls start to show this i think that's probably going to be one of the factors. i do think there is an emerging sense he will get something on health care.
and success is roaring with success in the polls. >> yeah. let's take a look at the gallup poll and this other number which i find fascinating. it shows after having a big lead of double digits in what's called the generic, not to make it too complicated, the simple basis question, are you going to vote for a democrat or republican next time? do you want the democrats or the republicans to run the congress of the united states? there it is. it is almost even. 46%, 44%, even, basically. it has been as recently as july. six-point advantage for the ds. charlie cook, your thoughts, is there movement there? >> i think there is, chris. if you look at the context of when these democratic majorities are created in 2006, 2008, you are looking at 10, 12, 15, sometimes higher democratic advantages in the generic ballot test. and now you are looking at, you know, 2%, 3%. 2% in this gallup poll. the way i would look at it is that this democratic majority was like a greenhouse where you are growing orchids and tropical plants. it was absolutely perfect growing conditions for democrats and every conceivable way.
the greenhouse isn't here, isn't there now. and what we are seeing is increasingly hostile environment. the polling i'm seeing shows there was a heart research poll of economic policy institute that came out a few -- last week. 85% of american people think we are still in a recession. you can line up ph.d.s and economics all day long and say the recession may be over, but until the american people say it's over, it's not over politically speaking. >> that helps the republicans? >> absolutely. >> even though the democrats have only been in for, what, nine months now? >> everybody knows that this recession started -- polls show people know this recession started under president bush. every single day president obama gets a little bit more vested in the economy. and i would argue that the focus on health care -- ought to go back to the sign that was in the war-room in 1992. it's the economy, stupid. and what -- what bill clinton said as a candidate, like a laser beam. every day, every minute, focused on health care, a day they are not focused on creating jobs.
>> i think you are dead right. by the way, i agree with that. the great question in politics, john harris, is does he care about people like me? and if the president is focused on his goal of health care and not the thing people are worried about now, you wonder if he cares about people like you and me. that's the fundamental disconnect here. john harris? >> again, we are -- when we get to 2010, we are looking at individual districts where democrats are likely to -- historical trends say they're going to lose. they won in republican-leaning districts. when you see the moderate voters and conservative leaning voters, who voted democratic, if they're concerned about the economy and concerned about spending in washington, that is a very difficult environment. we're seeing a preview of that this year in virginia. >> here is the tough call. let's go to virginia. while you brought it up here. we have the picture of virginia and the pollster.com trend line. republican chris christie falling down in new jersey. peaked a bit too early. couple of weeks ago. whereas corzine is coming back,
you could argue. that's going to be very close. in virginia you have another close one. looks like mcdonald has the advantage. charlie cook, i think the republicans are headed toward victory in virginia. what do you think? >> there was a window right after the democratic primary. creigh deeds, the democrat, was ahead. suddenly it was like the whole weight of some of the problems, the president's problems, the party's problems started coming down on him. you started to see independents moving away from him in droves. and the -- the republican lead, mcdonald's lead got real, real big. they whacked him back and were able to crawl back into the race for a while with this thesis thing. but it's a tough road. the independents are getting to be very difficult. keep in mind this is a group that voted democratic for congress by an 18-point margin in 2006 and the president's job rating has dropped from the 60s to the mid-40s among independents.
independents are the challenge for the democrats. >> deeds against mcdonald last night. >> frankly, a lot of what's going on in washington has made it very tough. we had a very tough august. people are uncomfortable with the spending, uncomfortable with a lot of noise coming out of washington, d.c. we are reframing the debate on virginia and i'm confident that if we can successfully do that, and i think we can, we're going to win this election. >> john harris, he was talk to you last night in that forum. here is the question. can he lay off the blame on the president? that's what he seems to be doing. >> definitely the subtext on both sides. deeds people and deeds, himself, as you saw in the clip, hey, what a tough year, national climate bad for us. in part because of decisions that washington democrats made. lot of national operatives are saying look, what we have is a disparity between deeds and mcdonald and should be looked to his own campaign, own candidates field before blaming obama and democratic congress. not good when you get a blame
game going before the election. >> looks to me like we have a daisy chain here. the economy is bothering more people every day. it's the feeling of a recession and the unemployment and the underemployment and the people that don't bother looking for jobs because they've given up keeps getting worse. at the same time they blame the president for that and now they blame the president for the political situations in virginia. it is all going back to the economy. charlie cook, i respect your views, though i like this associated press poll. john harris, thank you for joining us. up next, who should we be fighting in afghanistan? al qaeda, the taliban or both? what's the mission now? eight years after we got in there, are we just punishing the taliban? are we ever going to catch bin laden? that's a big smerconish question. we have the results of the phillies/rockies game in philly. it just happened. we will give you that when we come back. the politics of president obama's very tricky decisions coming up. t's my choice. because with national, i roll past the counter...
if you're still one of the guys who's going over and over... going urgently... waking up to go... it's time to do what lots of guys everywhere have already done-- go see your doctor, because those could be urinary symptoms due to bph, an enlarged prostate. and for many men, prescription flomax reduces their urinary symptoms due to bph in one week. one week. only your doctor can tell if you have bph, not a more serious condition like prostate cancer. avoid driving or hazardous tasks for 12 hours after your first dose or increase in dose, as a sudden drop in blood pressure may occur, rarely resulting in fainting. if considering cataract surgery, tell your eye surgeon you've taken flomax. common side effects are runny nose, dizziness and decrease in semen. millions of men have been prescribed flomax. maybe it's time to see your doctor and ask if flomax is right for you. and call 877-4-flomax to see if you qualify for up to $40 off new or refill prescriptions. for many men, flomax can make a difference in one week.
won the first game of the playoffs. a long way to go. ten more games to win but it's done. let's move on. >> congratulations. >> i want to ask you i think we all vaguely agree but there's disconnect among us if the president gets $40,000 more troops or a substantial number more or whatever number he agrees to will we fight in afghanistan with a large number of troops eight years from now? >> i think we will. it's not enough troops to completely take over the country. i'm not sure we have enough troops. the irony is we're not clear if we're fighting al qaeda or the taliban. i heard richard engel say something fascinating earlier today. he was asked to compare what obama might do with the surge which partially worked in baghdad in iraq. he answered if we were going to use this principle of the surge, we would have to make peace with the taliban because that's what we did in iraq. we made peace with tribal leaders and warlords and there's
nobody else to make peace with in afghanistan. we would have to pacify the whole country. we don't have enough troops to do that. this is a losing mission. i don't think we can pull out but i don't want to see another 40,000 troops in there. >> your thoughts about what we're doing in afghanistan? if the president agrees to any of this troop increase, i wonder if we'll ever get out of afghanistan whether we're not just in there for the long-term forever. >> there's some false sense of bravado creeping up in this argument which says if you're against the mcchrystal plan of allocating 40,000 or so troops to afghanistan that it's a sign of weakness and you're against the troops who have already served. i don't see it that way. i don't know what the objective is right now. i can tell you what the objective should be. it should be to go over there
and kill those who were responsible for the events of september 11th. >> they're in pakistan. >> they are in pakistan, chris. you know i'm a broken record on this. there's a better argument to be made for our intervention in pakistan than in afghanistan. if we completely rid afghanistan of the al qaeda and their taliban supporters, but the tribal regions of pakistan is a no man's land, where are we? we're nowhere. >> let me go to this. in the worst case scenario of those who say if we pull out of afghanistan is that al qaeda will come back in. maybe even bin laden will come back in. i say, great. great exclamation point. we can have them under surveillance and destroy them with no government in our way. the taliban won't stop us. we don't have to get permission from anybody in charge of pakistan. we don't have to mince around. we got them.
what's so dangerous about al qaeda being in afghanistan rather than hiding away in the hills of pakistan. >> i think the thought was that they established a foot hold there before and they would get another one. i think that's a really faulty conclusion. i think that we put -- we are the ones who originally put al qaeda -- those foreign fighters together with the afghans when we funded them to fight the soviets. let's remember history lesson which no one wants to remember. the way they treat women is a nightmare. there are lots of countries that treat women poorly. what they're trying to do is build a nation and what we're doing is building a nation that hates us and trying to get us out. there's no certainty that the taliban would let al qaeda pick up its suitcases and move back in. that's a really faulty premise. >> i wonder, i raised this with a congressman the other day. he thought i was talking another language. what moral right do we have to
go into some other country and kill the rebel faction? who are we to defend a government that won a corrupt election and there are people fighting it and we say we'll kill anybody who fights a corrupt government? what moral right do we have to kill those people because some day we think they might let someone come in that country who might come after us. i'm wondering about the morality of this. what's wrong with a moral question? do we have the right to keep killing muslims. we've been killing them for eight straight years on international television. if you turn on tv anywhere in the world right now, you see americans killing muslims. that's what we do on world television every night for eight straight years. i think it might make us enemies in that billion person world once in a while. if i was a muslim i would say those americans keep killing us. >> the moral foundation has to be a causal connection. you need a causal connection between those responsible for the events of september 11th to continue to kill them or have knowledge impending attack will take place unless you take care of them first. that's the answer to the question.
if when the president stands up in three or so weeks and says here is the plan, if he doesn't specifically reference bin laden than it won't pass my personal test. >> 10,000 more troops at the request of 40,000. don't throw a 50-foot rope to a guy drowning 100 feet from the shore. if you don't believe it, don't do it. we'll be right back with joan and michael. dddddddddd
we're back with joan and michael. a new poll that came out told us that the senate bill does pass mustard. it lowers the deficit over ten years. are things going the president's way. bob dole endorsed health care. arnold schwarzenegger endorsed it. they may pick up a couple senators in maine. are things starting to turn toward the president? i think the disapprove down ten points is good for him. >> things are turning around on the health care front which turns around his overall approval rating, chris. the report is big news. good news for the democrats because so many of the congressional republicans have pointed to other estimates of other bills that do pump up the deficit. this cuts the deficit by 81 billion. let me add interestingly olympia snow is an interesting figure here. she wants the baucus bill to cover more people. it still leaves 25 million uninsured and to be more
generous. we'll see. >> we'll have you on again. thank you. join us again tomorrow at 5:00 and 7:00 eastern for more "hardball." "countdown with keith olbermann" starts right now. good evening from new york. since august 23rd of this year, i have interacted daily with our american health care system and often done so to the exclusion of virtually all other business. it's not undercover reporting. it's not an expert study of the field but since that day when my father slid seemingly benignly out of his bed on the floor of his home, i've seen the true state of our hospitals, doctor's offices and pharmacies. my father's story as a patient and mine as a secondary participant and