HARDBALL 7:00 PM EST
Thursday, August 11, 2005
GREGORY: On the same day President Bush met with his foreign policy team at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, he said he had sympathy for a woman whose son was killed serving in Iraq. That woman, Cindy Sheehan, has been waiting outside the president`s ranch, demanding to meet with him.
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BUSH: And I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan. She feels strongly about her position. And I -- she has every right in the world to say what she believes.
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GREGORY: Melanie Morgan, a conservative radio talk show host, has been in e-mail correspondence with the Sheehan family on the father`s side and was sent the following statement just this morning: "The Sheehan family lost our beloved Casey in the Iraq War and we have been silently, respectfully grieving. We do not agree with the political motivations and publicity tactics of Cindy Sheehan. She now appears to be promoting her own personal agenda and notoriety, at the expense of her son`s good name and reputation. The rest of the Sheehan family supports the troops and our country and our president, silently, with prayer and respect."
Melanie Morgan joins us now. And she`s joined as well by Hilary Rosen. Welcome to both of you.
HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Hi, David.
MELANIE MORGAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Thank you.
GREGORY: Melanie, let me begin with you. Does Cindy Sheehan have something important to say?
MORGAN: I think that Cindy Sheehan believes that she has something very important to say and she has the right to say whatever it is she wants to say.
But that doesn`t mean because the mainstream media has portrayed her as a very sympathetic, lone grieving money, that actually represents the case. In fact...
GREGORY: Well, hang on one second. Hang on. Let me just -- I can`t let all these mainstream media attacks go by.
How has the media done that? I will grant that you there`s a news vacuum in August and she`s become a national figure, when perhaps, another part of the year, she may not have. But let`s not get so far away from this process that we don`t say that this is a grieving parent who lost a son in the war. So, I mean, you just assume that the media is trying to prop her up?
MORGAN: Well, all you have to do is take a look at the front pages of every daily newspaper in America today and read the descriptions of her as a very sympathetic person, which is not to say that she isn`t. She is grieving. She is sympathetic, but she is also a person who has had a political agenda for a lot longer than her son has been dead.
She is a member of several organizations. Let me read them to you. She co-founded an anti-war activist group before Casey died, Gold Star Families For Peace. She`s aligned herself with MoveOn.org, Code Pink. And she`s stating her case. She has that right. But other families in this country, 1,800 of them, in fact, are grieving as well. But they don`t get the opportunity to say on television, like she`s doing every single night for endless amounts of time, that they do respect the president and that he did not cause their son`s death, nor hers.
It was the insurgents in Iraq, who are viciously slaughtering every man, woman and child they can blow up. And those include civilians, as well as American troops.
GREGORY: Hilary, Hilary, the reality is that President Bush did meet with Mrs. Sheehan on a prior occasion. He obviously knows where she is coming from. He spoke about her again today. What more should he be doing?
ROSEN: Well, first of all, to attack this woman who lost her son is just about the most despicable thing I have ever heard.
And Gold Star Families For Peace, an organization she founded, was founded by other families who also have children who have been wounded or lost in the war. So, what she is saying is the same thing that a majority of American people are saying. Mr. President, we want to know the truth. When the truth -- when what we hear from you matches what we see in the papers and on television, then we will feel better. But, so far, it doesn`t.
ROSEN: Tell us why we`re not winning. Tell us what the insurgency is. Tell us what it has -- we have to do to get out of there. None of these things are being done.
So, what happens is, every time an effective spokesperson or something penetrates the American public`s consciousness, like Cindy Sheehan has, the right wing and the president`s allies go on the attack. And instead of -- and so, we lose silence and arrogance and we get attacks.
GREGORY: But, Hilary, her son, Casey, got bled him, God bless him, volunteered for this project.
GREGORY: Has she gone beyond the pale in her criticism, beyond her rights, which I think are expansive as a mother of someone who has been lost in Iraq? Has she gone beyond that in this case?
And let`s remember, the entire Army right now is an all-volunteer force.
ROSEN: In fact, 40 percent of the people fighting in Iraq are, in theory, part-time volunteers who have been there over a year beyond when they were supposed to be. So, it is exactly because we have a volunteer Army that soldiers and their families need to understand the truth.
They deserve the truth. What is an exit strategy? What will satisfy the president? What does success look like? That is not happening. We`re not getting that from the president.
Melanie, Melanie, is there something else at work here, despite what you said about Mrs. Sheehan? Is there not a kind of tipping point here, where a majority -- and, certainly, the polls bear this out -- of Americans are starting to raise their hands and say, wait a minute, this is not what we bargained for; this is not what the president said would happen; it`s not even matching what the president is saying is happening on the ground?
MORGAN: Well, this is what is so terribly frustrating, David, because I have been to Iraq. I have been on the ground. I have seen what`s going on.
And it is not being reported accurately in the media. I can tell you for a fact that the soldiers there are saying that we are winning the war, precisely because the insurgency miscalculated back in January that the elections would be a successful as they were. They made a terrible mistake and now they know that they have to derail the upcoming elections, constitutional referendum elections, that are this month and again in December.
And that`s why they`re fighting as viciously as they are and that`s why they are in the last gasps of their insurgency, because, if we win -- and, by winning, I mean those democratic elections -- that means that we can start drawing down and coming home. And that`s what the troops told me and that`s what the top brass told me.
I agree that the president has done a very poor job of articulating why we are there. And that`s why I went to Iraq, along with half-a-dozen of my fellow talk show hosts, to get the message out.
MORGAN: The reason why there`s a disconnect is because the media is not reporting the story as accurately as it is being experienced by our troops.
GREGORY: All right. We are going to have to leave it there.
The president, by the way, today said it was just speculation as to whether troops might begin to come home next spring, so a lot more to this.
GREGORY: My thanks to Melanie Morgan and to Hilary Rosen tonight.