Guests: Tom Brokaw, Ron Allen, David Gregory, Pat Buchanan, Eugene Robinson, Norah O‘Donnell, Michelle Bernard, Mika Brzezinski, Joe Scarborough, Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell, June Burkhart, Tom DeLay, John Thune, George Allen
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR: Any convention is supposed to be about the presidential nominee, if not your own, then at the other party‘s. But first, for the Republicans, this has been about the weather. And now it seems to be about their vice presidential choice. Not about her family, the Republicans are right about that. All of that is ultimately her business. The voters, pro and con, will figure that out for themselves.
Not about her and her husband‘s membership in a group that wanted Alaska to secede from the United States, no. This is about the backlash. First quoted writer: “The heartbeat from the presidency issue is a real one.”
Second quoted writer: “Palin has been governor for about two minutes, thanks to McCain‘s decision, Palin could be commander-in-chief next year, that may strike people as a reckless choice, it strikes me that way.”
Third quoted writer: “I can‘t in good conscience vote for a McCain-Palin ticket. Palin has absolutely no experience in foreign affairs.” The three writers may not even represent a majority, but they are in order, Jonah Goldberg, Ramesh Ponnuru, and Kathryn Jean Lopez, all of the Web site National Review, the most prominent conservative Web site, National Review.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): With NBC News special correspondent Tom Brokaw, chief White House correspondent David Gregory, Ann Curry at the podium, and Andrea Mitchell, Ron Allen, Joe Scarborough, and Mika Brzezinksi reporting from the convention floor.
The anchor of “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS,” Brian Williams, political director Chuck Todd, former Congressman Harold Ford Jr., Howard Fineman at the “Listening Post,” and chief Washington correspondent Norah O‘Donnell, and the panel: Pat Buchanan, Rachel Maddow, Eugene Robinson, and Michelle Bernard.
Among our guests, McCain campaign co-chair, former Governor Tom Ridge, Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Senator Kyl of Arizona, Senator Lieberman of Connecticut, and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
With coverage of the speeches by Senator Lieberman, Fred Thompson, and the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush. This is MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican National Convention.
MIKE DUNCAN, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: My fellow Republicans, it is my honor to call to order the 39th Quadrennial Republican National Convention.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OLBERMANN: Good evening, with Chris Matthews at our convention headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota, I‘m Keith Olbermann at MSNBC headquarters in New York.
And, Chris, I guess the starting question here is, can the GOP get this convention back to being solely or almost solely about John McCain? And if they want to do that, why would they be pushing the news tonight that Governor Palin‘s daughter‘s boyfriend will be attending tomorrow?
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Well, I‘ll tell you, the whole campaign, which is obviously become centered here in St. Paul, it seems to be about changing the subject that the Democrats had put the country‘s attention to last week.
As we left Denver, the question before the country was, and it was summed up very well by Dan Balz of The Washington Post in the main bar piece covering the convention: “Will the Democrats be able to make that thing stick?” That thing about who owns the failures of the last eight years?
As he put it in his main bar piece: “If the Democrats can make that stick, the Democrats win the election.” So what have the Republicans been doing over the weekend, perhaps with the help of nature? They have been able to change the subject, they hope, to, how do you like this new team of mavericks, John McCain and Governor Palin? How do you like this hot new team of Teddy Roosevelt types who are willing to break with the establishment, who are mavericks? How do you like them? Let‘s talk about them.
They have won in that regard. The question is, is the mystery too big? And you have to think, if you‘re as old as I am, that Governor Palin would have been a very successful mystery guest on the old “What‘s My Line?” show. People would not have known who she was in a general audience a week ago.
So they had two things going here. One positive, a lot of talk about the new team. Secondly, too much talk. Too much talk.
OLBERMANN: All right. Chris, let me bring in NBC News special correspondent Tom Brokaw. And the reference to Teddy Roosevelt notwithstanding, Tom has been doing this for a long time, but not quite that long.
But I‘d love your perspective on this. This idea that Chris just mentioned that really maybe the major story for the Republicans, at least from their perspective here is rolling out a new product, to use somebody‘s phrase, in September, getting it started with a sense of newness, is that working for them? Is that in fact what this is about?
TOM BROKAW, NBC SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: We don‘t know whether it‘s working for them yet or not. But, Keith, I always have to remind everyone that for the past 20 months, while we have been paying such careful minute attention to every semicolon in these campaigns, these conventions really are about reintroducing the candidates to the broader American public.
The Democrats had that charge last week. That‘s why they had that very carefully and theatrically orchestrated appearance by Senator Barack Obama in a football stadium on Thursday night. And in some ways, the Republicans caught a break this week, because tonight, Senator McCain will be sketched first of all by Joe Lieberman and by Fred Thompson in friendly terms.
And then we‘ll hear a brief speech from the president at the White House, live, as he‘s introduced by what may be the most popular Republican woman in America today, Sarah Palin notwithstanding, that is first Lady Laura Bush.
I think it‘s also worth remembering the essential character of John McCain. Twenty months ago, he was the odds-on favorite to be the nominee of the party. And then, as we all remember, his campaign came apart. He ran out of money. He was taking commercial flights and taxi cabs to fund-raising appearances.
And we all said, and so did his admirers within the party, that he was toast. But he fought his way back. I have been thinking about him today and I think probably the most apt metaphor for this old Navy aviator, is that he is a pilot of the old school.
He doesn‘t like flying in formation. He flies dogfights as they did in World War II, Pappy Boyington and Joe Foss. And John McCain likes to engage in that kind of combat. And that‘s what we see here, tonight. It‘s very improvisational and it could work, just like the selection of Sarah Palin appeared to be more improvisational than well thought out.
When it comes to Sarah Palin, on the floor the guess is that she will get an enormous reaction when she first appears. She is a fuse that has been lit. The question is, does she explode in popularity or does she explode in the candidate‘s face? That is still to be determined.
At any rate, politics always give us something new to talk about every nanosecond. Tonight is one more example, Keith, after this entire convention schedule was rearranged by Hurricane Gustav and the political conditions that exist in the land today.
OLBERMANN: I‘m not going to try to compete with your analogy, but let me follow up with it in terms of the pilots here. If that‘s the John McCain approach here, what is the logic behind his selection of wingmen tonight with essentially Rudy Giuliani being grounded—all right, I‘ll stop now, Fred Thompson taking Mr. Giuliani‘s place?
BROKAW: Well, one of the things I think that may be in play here is that they are beginning to be a little more concerned about the South. Fred Thompson is a son of Tennessee. He has a very avuncular and theatrical style, even if he didn‘t excite a lot of people when he was running himself.
Today the McCain campaign began running ads in North Carolina, spending money in a state that should be an absolute pass for them. President Bush won it by 12 points last time around. It has got about a 22 percent African-American population.
And the Obama people are going to make the McCain people pay in the South, in states like Virginia and North Carolina and in Georgia, where they have got an enormous voter registration drive under way on the part of the Democratic Party.
And so you have a son of Tennessee, Fred Thompson, who we all know has great skills thespian, who will be describing tonight his friend John McCain.
OLBERMANN: And it will be on at the 10:00 Eastern hour on NBC, which may be an old home for him from the “Law & Order” days. Tom Brokaw.
BROKAW: Yes, it will indeed.
OLBERMANN: .. we‘ll get back to you inside the Xcel Center later on in the hour. Thank you, sir.
Ron Allen, meantime, is on the convention floor, amid the Alaska delegation. So as much as perhaps we want to steer it away from Governor Palin, Governor Palin keeps coming back—Ron.
RON ALLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, she does keep coming back. Alaska is here in the back of the hall, oddly enough. They didn‘t get moved to the front despite the nomination of their governor to be the vice president for the party.
They are quite a colorful delegation. They were all wearing hats earlier that say “Drill in ANWR” essentially now. And this is one of those issues where essentially they part ways with Senator McCain, who was against drilling ANWR. We have got with us June Burkhart, who is a national committeewoman from Alaska.
And you are from Willow, Alaska.
JUNE BURKHART, ALASKA DELEGATE: Willow, yes.
ALLEN: Which is one of the towns that one of the daughters is named after, correct?
BURKHART: Yes. Their second daughter, I believe, is Willow.
ALLEN: How do you feel about all of the attention to your state and to your governor now?
BURKHART: Well, it‘s very exciting. I was in town last week for the RNC meeting. And when the announcement was made, we were just—we walked out of our hotel room and we were just flooded with people and excited people. You know, and I was really surprised because they had downplayed it to us.
ALLEN: You‘ve known her for a very long time, haven‘t you? Everybody seems to know her.
BURKHART: Yes, yes.
ALLEN: There have been a lot of questions asked, how do you feel about some of the questions about her preparedness for office?
BURKHART: I feel she‘s as ready as anybody else could be. She has had—her entire career has been administrative duties. And.
ALLEN: A lot of people talk about executive experience.
BURKHART: Yes, executive experience. And she has had a lot of experience. She has had two years as the city mayor, she has one or two council positions.
ALLEN: Thank you very much. We‘re going to have to leave it here because we want to see more of the hall.
ALLEN: You‘re not going to hog all the time here in Alaska.
ALLEN: But thanks very much for joining us.
BURKHART: OK. Thank you.
ALLEN: Chris and Keith, back to you.
OLBERMANN: Ron Allen, thank you—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Keith. I‘m here with White House correspondent for NBC News, David Gregory. He has been all over this story today.
There are so many stories popping out here. This was supposed to be a regular scheduled convention, and then we got Sarah Palin being named as vice president, and then we had the Gustav thing. And then tonight, it seems like they‘ve rearranged the schedule again by their own regard, their own decision-making.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they -
right. They have done that. And Tom Brokaw talked about that. They also have the presence of President Bush, who was supposed to be here last night. It would always be tricky for John McCain to have an unpopular president speaking at the convention.
He‘ll talk from the White House. He‘ll talk for a relatively short period of time. And my understanding is his focus will be why John McCain is the right pick if you need a president who understands the war on terror. He has got kind of a limited brief in that regard.
I think they are in the business now of trying to get focused on their message, Gustav, Sarah Palin, the questions about vetting have all taken it off that. I interviewed Rick Davis earlier on, on “RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE,” and he said, I‘m not telling you about the vetting process.
GREGORY: Because it‘s a confidential matter. Well, that‘s what he is saying publicly, behind the scenes, they are telling reporters exactly what was done and what was discovered and the thinking about why she stayed on the ticket.
MATTHEWS: Why are they on and off on this?
GREGORY: Well, because I think they want to change the subject. They are trying to deflect the issue and the question about whether this was an impulsive choice.
GREGORY: And you know, they want to defend her and defend, more importantly, John McCain‘s decision-making. That‘s the issue here. What does this say about his decision-making?
MATTHEWS: Well, is—are they proud of the improvisation or not?
GREGORY: Well, I think they are proud of the improvisation in the end, because, first of all, the issue of her daughter being pregnant was not a disqualifier. They—I think the initial questions and some of the frenzy about that was, did John McCain know?
They said, yes, he did. And it wasn‘t a disqualifier. I think Barack Obama has gone a long way to close down that conversation when he said, by the way, my mother was 18 when she has me and families are off limits.
But the rest of it has to do with what they are proud of, which is that he looked at this person, saw a maverick, they know this convention has to be about getting into this debate on change, that he represents change too, that he can‘t just be saddled with the baggage of the Bush years.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about their point tonight and what they want to do tonight. And I agree, Rick Davis said it‘s going to be day-to-day, how they figure this thing out. OK. They have got a plan, a new plan.
They‘ve got Fred Thompson, Hollywood, U.S. Senate, back to Hollywood, a very familiar, comforting voice. Almost like Ronald Reagan coming out and endorsing Barry Goldwater 40-some years ago.
And then Joe Lieberman. Why are they their showcased stars tonight?
GREGORY: Because I think they want to reinforce the message that John McCain is a guy who will bring change to Washington, that John McCain is a guy who stood up to his party, you know, i.e., Joe Lieberman is there as an independent, and that he‘ll reach across party lines, that he‘ll take on the establishment.
To reestablish the maverick image, the guy who took on President Bush, but who also uniquely is in a position to lead, and this notion, the theme about honor, that putting country first.
And that‘s something that they have tried to contrast with Barack Obama, who they accuse of being more self-centered and less experienced. So as Tom said, this is about reintroduction to the country.
And I think the McCain campaign has some reintroducing to do of John McCain. Yes, a lot of people know him, but they‘ve got to get in the voters‘ minds the idea of the John McCain that they want them to know. Hopefully the Palin pick reinforces that, and hopefully Thompson and Lieberman talking about the maverick style and who he is reinforces that.
MATTHEWS: Wow, what an irony there. Because they are trying to sell the very maverick John McCain they defeated, these people, back in 2000. So politics is not as important as country, partisanship is not as important as biography, this man‘s story is more important than anything else.
GREGORY: I think that‘s right. And I think where that comes through, even with George Bush, President Bush, who they need to reach the base, if his message is about who wins the war on terror, there is still a sizeable amount of not just Republicans, but independent voters as well who want to know if you have got a tough leader and a capable leader on that front.
MATTHEWS: And Joe makes that case, Joe Lieberman.
GREGORY: I think he does and I think the president tries to.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Gregory. Back to Keith in New York.
OLBERMANN: All right, Chris.
And just one reminder, though, that for the network coverage, at least, President Bush will be gone and forgotten by the time the network coverages begin at 10:00 Eastern time. The president‘s speech from the White House will be over already.
Coming up here, our political all-star panel will join Chris in St. Paul. We‘ll talk with former Congressman Tom DeLay, the former majority leader in the House. This is MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican National Convention.
OLBERMANN: This is MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican Convention Chris.
MATTHEWS: Right now we‘re joined by the former majority leader of the House of Representatives, the very popular and sometimes controversial Texas U.S. Congressman Tom DeLay.
Mr. DeLay, before we go any further, you caught so much trouble with the Democrats, did Nancy Pelosi get on your case the other night when she pushed the case of Chet Edwards as a possible running mate with Barack Obama? Was that some weird Texas partisanship going on there?
TOM DELAY ®, FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: You could certainly say it‘s partisanship. She has tried to make Chet Edwards a hero. When Chet Edwards votes liberal in Washington and comes home and talks conservative, I think she did him, you know, a terrible disservice.
MATTHEWS: Well, was she pushing him to get you, somehow? I always figured that you were the magnet of all attacks down there by the Democrats.
DELAY: Well, they certainly don‘t like all of the things that we were doing in Texas, nor the things that we were doing in Washington. And they tried every way they could to stop us. But I‘m very proud of our record.
MATTHEWS: Do you know who the governor of Alaska is?
DELAY: Yes, I do. It‘s Sarah Palin.
MATTHEWS: Tell me.
MATTHEWS: Tell me about her, because she‘s a new personality to me. Did you follow her career up until now? Did you know where—were you aware of her sort of maverick image?
DELAY: Well, I started looking at her over the last few months when her name was surfacing to be considered as the vice presidential candidate. I got to know her very—I got to know what her record and what kind of governor she is.
And I‘ve got to tell you, Chris, I‘ve never seen the excitement within the conservative wing of the party that I‘ve seen in the last few days by her nomination.
MATTHEWS: What is it about the governor of Alaska that excites the conservative people in your party?
DELAY: Well, she‘s obviously a woman that has a Christian worldview, and she understands what that worldview is, and she‘s a very principled woman. She has stood on those principles in her actions whether they be private or public. And that is exciting people all across this nation because she‘s exactly what the conservatives have been begging for, for the last two years.
And she‘s the epitome of the kind of leader that conservative Republicans wanted.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much. That‘s former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, accompanied by I think Charlie Bird there or somebody down there.
Let‘s go to.
MATTHEWS: . introduce our panel, MSNBC‘s chief—thank you very much Mr. Delay, U.S.—former—well, now let‘s go to the current chief Washington correspondent Norah O‘Donnell, and featuring Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post, and MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard, and our great colleague Pat Buchanan.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Let me start this ball off, and I don‘t want to get into it, because I‘m fascinated to hear about everybody‘s views here. I want to just go around the table here and jump in.
This is a fascinating situation. The focus tonight is going to be on John McCain, somebody we have all gotten to know over the last decade pretty well. We have our views of him, we know he is various aspects.
A complete mystery guest joins the national conversation. The governor of Alaska, who was not on anybody‘s chart, Chet—I was kidding about Chet Edwards, she was about as far out on the Republican side as he was on the Democratic side.
Pat Buchanan, you love this woman.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I do.
MATTHEWS: Tell why.
MATTHEWS: Tell us why we should love her too, or somebody should.
BUCHANAN: I‘ll tell you, she is a sensation for the Republican Party, which was down in the dumps, which doesn‘t like its candidates. And here she comes, she is a principled woman who represents the embodiment virtually of the whole Republican platform.
I know she‘s not being enthusiastically received among the press, but they are wild in the hall about her. And not only that, Chris, all across this country, I think, I‘ve got members of my family are calling up, they‘re wanting me to vote for McCain and now contributing.
I think that‘s happening. She will help in Montana, in Nevada, in those western states. She will help central Pennsylvania. She liberates McCain to go after the moderates and the liberals that he can win so well.
It gives the Republican Party a real fighting chance to win this. And after Barack Obama‘s speech, I‘ll tell you, before they picked her, I thought we were in real, real trouble.
MATTHEWS: Wow! We‘ve just hit the Pat Buchanan erogenous zone here.
MATTHEWS: He‘s a pretty excited guy here.
BUCHANAN: She‘s hot, Chris! She‘s hot!
MATTHEWS: Politically, yes. Gene?
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, just that, Pat, though, does she (AUDIO GAP) McCain or does she anchor McCain in a way? I mean, she‘s obviously very popular here. I think she‘ll be very well-received when she speaks tomorrow night.
And I think within the conservative wing of the party, she‘s a hit because of who she is and her worldview and all of that. But I wonder if she anchors the McCain ticket in the conservative wing of the party in a way that in fact makes it more difficult for him to go after the moderates and the...
BUCHANAN: I‘ll let Norah speak, but let me just say, what she does is, you can send her to all of those conservative districts, the southern evangelicals, they would almost prefer having her.
And then McCain is going to have to work those swing districts, you know, in—where she is not strong. And I think that is the one hope for winning this.
NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It is ironic on a night that‘s supposed to be “Who Is John McCain?” that everyone here is asking, who is Sarah Palin?
O‘DONNELL: I mean, there‘s going to be a long video tribute to John McCain and his life, but everybody wants to see the one about Sarah Palin, because not everybody knows her yet. She has not given an interview yet with anyone from the national news media.
She has only spoken at that national acceptance—not acceptance speech, but you know what I mean, when she was introduced by John McCain, and a little bit out on the stump. So people still want to know who she is.
Tonight, what you‘re going to see from the Republicans is a strong push back. The two key speakers are Fred Thompson and Joe Lieberman. And Fred Thompson is going to throw red meat to this crowd.
He is going to vigorously defend Sarah Palin in that speech, and then he‘s going to talk about abortion rights and what Barack Obama said at Saddleback Church when it came to abortion rights.
And then Fred Thompson also is going to speak about his friend John McCain, and once again, along with Joe Lieberman, recreating that image of the maverick. That‘s what we are going to see tonight. And I think you are going to see a lot of stuff about Barack Obama.
Joe Lieberman, from what I heard earlier, was not going to hit hard on Barack Obama. Fred—that‘s going to be left to Fred Thompson to do.
MATTHEWS: Well, a little defense, a little offense.
MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what I was going to say is, all along we have been saying for weeks John McCain needed serious wow factor. His campaign was utterly boring. And this is what we got on Friday.
Nobody was talking about John McCain. Nobody cared about the Republican Party anymore. And now he got it. He got wow power. People want to know who Governor Palin is.
MATTHEWS: More wow than Pawlenty!
BERNARD: Definitely a lot more wow than Pawlenty.
MATTHEWS: OK. Pat, last thought.
BUCHANAN: If Pawlenty had been picked, we‘d be—all be sitting here on edge over this whole thing. It has enlivened this whole campaign. This is the most exciting campaign.
MATTHEWS: I haven‘t heard you so excited since, what, I don‘t know, Pat?
BUCHANAN: Well, we finally got one of ours in the race, if you‘ll excuse me, Chris, a conservative Republican. You have got Obama, you‘ve got Biden, you‘ve got McCain. And now one of ours is in the race.
MATTHEWS: Keith, Pat Buchanan is happy. I guess everyone is happy.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Here we are. Back to you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Well, and those reading the story on, US Weekly, with the picture of her and her youngest child and the word “scandal” across it may not be quite so happy, but we‘ll see how it turns out. Thank you, Chris. Thank you, panel.
Up next, Joe Scarborough joins us from inside the Xcel Center with the latest from the floor. And later on, joining us as guests, Senator John Thune of South Dakota, former U.S. Congressman Rob Portman.
You‘re watching MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican National Convention..
OLBERMANN: From Minnesota and New York, this is MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of the 2008 Republican presidential Convention. Night two, technically speaking, but night one in effect after the truncated evening of the opener yesterday.
Tom Brokaw is in the Xcel Center and with us again, now with Senator Thune of South Dakota—Tom.
BROKAW: Thanks very much, Keith.
From the great state of South Dakota, Senator John Thune who defeated Tom Daschle. He was on a number of lists, you were, as a prospective vice presidential candidate. Did it get to the vetting phase at all?
SEN. JOHN THUNE ®, SOUTH DAKOTA: Well, not to the turning over information. I‘m not sure exactly what process they use, but I think they made the right choice.
BROKAW: What has to happen here tonight for John McCain to get reintroduced to the American people?
THUNE: Well, I think that the speakers who are - you‘re going to hear from Joe Lieberman tonight obviously, Fred Thompson, people who know Senator McCain really well and I think that they will point out a lot of the personal attributes, character qualities that make him stand out as a leader and that will serve the country really well as a commander-in-chief. So I think you‘ll hear a lot of people attesting to some of John McCain‘s personal qualities, strength of character, leadership capabilities, those things like that this evening.
BROKAW: For the first time in a long time, the West seems to be in play for the Democrats as it has not been before. South Dakota seems like it will be a safe state for the Republicans, but North Dakota just north of you, Montana, where Obama has spent a lot of time, Colorado, Nevada, can Senator Obama win those states?
THUNE: I think he‘s making a hard play for them. And I don‘t think you can take any states for granted. The states in the west, as you know, have been historically, traditionally pretty Republican. But I think the Colorados, the New Mexicos, the Nevadas, states like that, Republicans are going to have to contend for them this year. I think Governor Palin really helps with that. I think that she gives him an additional boost in western states where they care about some of those traditional values types issues.
BROKAW: When you woke up on Friday morning and heard Governor Palin‘s name or maybe you heard it the night before, you had to be surprised.
THUNE: Well, I think I was like a lot of people. I was a little surprised. I mean, she wasn‘t on the short list so to speak or anybody‘s media radar screen, but I think it‘s a great choice. I really do. I think that it‘s certainly unconventional, but it‘s consistent with Senator McCain‘s sort of maverick style. And do you need to go to this?
BROKAW: No, we‘re watching it right now and I think they‘re going to give me my cue. So I guess my question is, are you going to invite Governor Palin to the opening season?
THUNE: We have to and it sounds like she‘s a crack shot, but I‘m not sure I want to invite her. She might embarrass me.
BROKAW: All right, let‘s go to John Boehner down at the gavel, at the podium. He is the Republican leader at the House of Representatives. He‘ll introduce the colors.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: The colors will be presented by the Joint Color Guard consisting of the Red Lake Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion Post 513 of New Brighton, Minnesota, the current state Color Guard champions. Let‘s give them a warm welcome.
OLBERMANN: The anthem will be sung, and this is a point of pride for us here at NBC by Philip Alondi II, the son of our executive producer of specials and conventions at NBC News.
OLBERMANN: Philip Alondi II, as we said of our extended NBC News family. If you were watching with us in June at the Tim Russert memorial, he spoke as well—sang as well, excuse me, at that event and marvelously on both occasions. A point of pride for us here. And let‘s go back out to Chris in Minnesota.
MATTHEWS: It sure is a point of Pride, Philip Alondi, what a great singer, what a heroic moment anyway for our country. Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski join us right now inside the Xcel Energy Center. There they are, Joe and Mika.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: How are you doing, Chris?
MATTHEWS: That was a throw, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: It was a toss.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Take it away.
SCARBOROUGH: Chris, I‘m so used to your questions. I have to tell you, that was brevity.
BRZEZINSKI: Usually he goes all Joe Biden on us. I don‘t know what happened there, wow.
SCARBOROUGH: Anyway, we‘ve got invocation going on behind us right now. So it‘s a little silent at the hall, but Mika, I‘ve been struck we‘ve been here over the past day or so, just how small this convention center is, compared to what we saw in Denver. I‘m not even talking about Mile High Stadium. This is a very, very small venue. The smallest I have seen and we have been talking about why the campaign may have decided and the party to pick this. What do you think?
BRZEZINSKI: Well one of the things we were thinking is that when things really get going through the evening and throughout the next few days, it will look, it will appear to be packed to the gills, no matter how you slice it because it is so small. And it‘s filled up with color and light. And no matter what during the major speeches, it‘s going to look like standing room only even if perhaps in a larger place, it might not be.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes and no doubt about it Chris, the energy level has definitely - and I know you‘ve seen it. The energy level among Republican delegates has definitely been much less than it was out in Denver. You could see it the second you got off the plane. This is a party right now that‘s trying to find its way, it‘s had a very rough four years. A lot of people here are very excited about Sara Palin. Nobody thinks she‘s going to be going anywhere. But Mika talked earlier to the Obama campaign and they‘re excited for the fact that for the first time in this campaign, actually the onus is on John McCain to defend himself instead of it always being about Barack Obama.
BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, we spoke in the past 40 minutes to Robert Gibbs from the Obama campaign and Nicole Wallace about the Palin situation. And as Joe pointed out, Robert was saying that at this point, the spotlight has been about Obama, about tearing him down, putting the critical spotlight on him. And now, to an extent, especially if what you‘re hearing in the media, the questions being raised about Sarah Palin, the spotlight is on both of them. But they‘re letting things unfold tonight. They feel that speaks for itself.
SCARBOROUGH: Well Chris yeah, their feeling is that George Bush is going to endorse one candidate tonight and that candidate is going to be John McCain. And that speaks for itself. But Mika had a long talk with the McCain campaign just a few minutes ago about what Sarah Palin has been doing all day and it‘s absolutely fascinating.
BRZEZINSKI: Well, a lot of the talk has been about how the media has been handling the situation with her daughter. She met with Cindy McCain and Laura Bush today and they talked about the blogosphere and the media and the attacks on her daughter and the spotlight on her daughter. Nicole says that Sarah Palin came into this eyes wide open, but no one could have prepared her for people on the Internet questioning her own pregnancy, which is how this all started.
So she has had a very big crash course in what is to come. And Cindy McCain and Laura Bush helped her and talked to her about what she can expect in the months to come.
SCARBOROUGH: And also the fact that this is a woman who while she was going over her speech and people were coming in and out, she was also having to deal with talking to her daughters, talking to the family, taking all that in.
BRZEZINSKI: A high-octane multitasker is how she characterized her. This woman, she says, is definitely ready. But they talk about how the media handled it and the vetting process. And the way the McCain sees this is they feel the media is sore because they didn‘t have a chance to vet her and she went through a very careful vetting process. The questions being raised, though, John McCain only met her twice.
SCARBOROUGH: There are a lot of questions, Chris, being raised. And this goes back to a point that‘s just a reality whether you talk about a Republican or a Democratic candidate that explodes onto the stage. We found, through the years the media does not like to be surprised. They like to know where people come from and it has a lot of people on the floor here asking whether it was a great idea to unveil this last Friday or whether in fact her name should have been floated earlier. This would have given the media a chance to look and do their own vetting process. That did not happen and so right now of course, a lot of questions on the floor here. Excitement about the vice presidential candidate, but not so sure where it goes from here.
MATTHEWS: OK, Joe, you know, I think news is about the new. And the fact that she‘s so new guarantees that she will dominate it. We‘re going to find out a lot more about Sarah Palin in the next couple of weeks because that‘s the job of everybody who‘s got a note pad and a microphone is to find out what‘s new and she is the person on the block. This is a story that you could have guaranteed was going to take off from the day she was announced. Joe and Mika, thanks for joining us, we‘ll see you in the morning. Keith?
OLBERMANN: I think the media was not upset about this, I think it was a wonderful opportunity for a lot of people to get some practice at researching things. There‘s another story tonight about a car wash co-owned by the Palin family being shut down for not filing corporation records or not dealing with the Alaska tax records by the state of Alaska. So here‘s another one. There‘s like 13 of these going on at once. It‘s not media unhappiness. It was at that point. It‘s something else now all together. Our Andrea Mitchell to get back to the substance of this convention number two night is on the convention floor, in the Texas delegation. And we go to Andrea now. Andrea, good evening.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith. I‘m in Texas, but where is George Bush? I mean, that is the most remarkable thing about tonight. The president is going to be speaking here, but not in prime time and speaking by satellite from Washington, D.C., from the White House. They do have airplanes, he could have come here. He obviously wasn‘t going to come here last night when they had the hurricane to worry about, but things have now calmed down and so here we are at a Republican Convention.
And it‘s the first time really since 1968 that a sitting president is not coming in person to his own party‘s convention. This is deliberate. Obviously they are trying to down play the role of the president. And in fact boost John McCain because of the unpopularity of this current administration, create some separation.
And in fact the people who will be in prime time, Fred Thompson and Joe Lieberman are both going to speak about how John McCain is not like George Bush. So it‘s a pretty remarkable development. On the floor by the way, a lot of excitement about Sarah Palin. In particular the women here have been very enthusiastic. These are conservative delegates. And this has energized the base, but senior Republicans around the country are not that pleased about the surprise because, Keith, their concern that there are still a lot of questions about whether she‘s ready for prime time. Keith?
OLBERMANN: One more thing about President Bush, Andrea. The irony—is there are more to it than just the irony that for so long, people were wondering how John McCain would be able to be close enough to George Bush to take whatever momentum an incumbent president might be able to provide any candidate from his own party, and yet stay far enough away and ironically a hurricane that didn‘t turn out to be much of a hurricane did the job for them? Got that, created that situation for them in a way nobody could have envisioned?
MITCHELL: Exactly. It was obviously an act of nature, an act of god. But it did create an opportunity for John McCain to separate himself a bit further, get more distance from George Bush and from Dick Cheney who is of course now overseas, had gone off to Georgia. So they did not have the prime time appearances on day one. They did, of course, lose a day of being able to have political speeches attacking the opposition, attacking the Democrats, but they are pretty confident they can make up for lost time here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And they‘ll get the office and some demand probably just as much as they want. Andrea Mitchell on the floor at the Xcel Center with the Texas delegation. Ahead of us, the former Congressman Rob Portman, also the former head of the Office of Management and Budget, mentioned by many as a possible VP candidate for Senator McCain before his choice of Governor Palin. You‘re watching MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican Convention.
OLBERMANN: We rejoin you now with MSNBC‘s live coverage of the Republican Convention. Tom Brokaw rejoins us as well, alongside our NBC News and MSNBC political director Chuck Todd inside the Xcel Center. Tom?
BROKAW: Thanks very much, Keith. We are listening to John Boehner behind us talking about the legislative non-accomplishments I guess of this last Congress. They didn‘t get very far. Let‘s talk about what‘s going on here tonight and the orchestration of it all. This is not just to this hall obviously. They want a warm and fuzzy John McCain, so they picked Fred Thompson and Joe Lieberman from the Democratic Party to tee him up as if it were to reintroduce to the American public. So what‘s being said in the hall tonight really is they are trying to reach across America.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, tonight, the hall is not going to get as fired up about their speakers. Fred Thompson, not known for his stem winders. Popular guy, they love him as Paul Harvey‘s back up on the radio. So he‘s going to get a well-received. Lieberman is going to be the interesting one. Here‘s a guy who eight years ago, he was talking about being the nominee for vice president, talking about much he was ready to work side by side with Al Gore and now he‘s going to be in here. I don‘t think he‘s going to be Zell Miller, he‘s not going to come in here with guns a blazing going on Chris‘s set later challenging him to duels.
But the Lieberman message tonight is what the Republicans want to have been received outside this hall. That‘s what they want to see. They want to hear Democrats for McCain because we may know Lieberman hasn‘t really been in the fold. But the folks in Rolla, Missouri and the folks in Arapajo County, Colorado and the folks in Clark County, Nevada, are going to be like really? Al Gore‘s running mate is for John McCain? That is going to be news to some people.
BROKAW: It will be interesting to see if he has metaphors or met-aphers. That‘s what we don‘t know, given the Zell Miller.
TODD: Lieberman - it‘s interesting, he‘s not a great speaker either. But, you know, and—to listen to him tonight is going to be fascinating because he was John McCain‘s running mate up until two Sundays ago. That‘s who John McCain wanted to go into battle with. Sarah Palin was a last-minute sub.
BROKAW: Sarah Palin, can she work with him in the west?
TODD: If she stays alive? I think she wasn‘t picked to be the west. I think she was picked to help in suburban, ex-urban Pennsylvania, the “u” of Ohio, from that Youngstown area. I think they see her working class women. People in small town, not rural, and not suburban. But small town, these are women who are both working mothers but at the same time, culturally conservative.
And they want to hope that she relates to them. They‘re not happy - these women are not happy with President Bush. They were going to cross over and vote for Hillary Clinton. I don‘t think they are into Obama and it might not have mattered whether Palin would have been enough that somehow Palin was needed to keep these in the Republican column, these women. But I think that she is going to connect with those women. But it is less about the west, I think more about the rust belt.
BROKAW: All right, Chuck Todd, you and I have to move to another location. This is the high-rank district, so David Gregory gets to take it over. We get to move down to public housing.
TODD: That‘s OK.
BROKAW: We will do that after we throw it back to Keith. Keith?
OLBERMANN: Good luck gentlemen, and pack safely. Tom and Chuck, thank you.
There has been, with about three hours notice, a few excerpts released from Senator Lieberman‘s speech which will be one of the more extraordinary points in this political season. That will be about 10:40 Eastern Time, 9:40 local time in St. Paul.
Let me just read one of them quickly before we go back to the Xcel center. On the topic heading of why he supports John McCain “and that brings me directly to why I am here tonight,” Senator Lieberman is expected to say. “What after all is a Democrat like me,” he‘s identifying himself as a Democratic, though he is a registered Independent at this point. “What is a Democrat like me,” Senator Lieberman will say, “doing at a Republican Convention like this? The answer is simple. I‘m here to support John McCain because country matters more than party. I‘m here tonight because John McCain is the best choice to bring our country together and lead our country forward. I‘m here because John McCain‘s whole life testifies to a great truth being a Democrat or a Republican is important but it is not more important than being an American,” end quote and end of advanced excerpt.
So there you have what we expected to see from Senator Lieberman will be in fact at least part of his address later tonight, that he will be trying to portray John McCain, the life, the experience, as greater reason than policy or even party coming up in the election. So that‘s about three hours hence.
Immediately hence, back to the convention floor at the Xcel Center in St. Paul. Ron Allen standing by with George Allen, the former senator from Virginia. Ron?
RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Indeed. And no relation right Senator Allen, as far as we know, at least. Let me ask you about your state, Virginia, a new battleground state as the Democrats would lead us to believe. Do you think so?
GEORGE ALLEN, FORMER SENATOR, VIRGINIA: Well, Virginia is not to be taken for granted. And it voted Republican, but I think as people in the final two months of this election look at John McCain‘s record, his ideas on energy especially, as well as national security, with so many military in Virginia. And also, his economic ideas compared to Barack Obama, and then I think also, Governor Palin part of the ticket, I think Virginia is really fired up. It‘s energized and ready to be supporting people who care about those that take action.
R. ALLEN: This, of course, John McCain‘s night at the convention. But there has been a lot of attention focused on Governor Palin. Do you think too much so? Clearly, this is a historic candidacy and there are some questions that have come up.
G. ALLEN: Oh, a question will come up. If they are relevant questions, that‘s fine, they‘re fine. That‘s part of the bump and run of politics.
R. ALLEN: And of course you know something about the bump and run of politics.
G. ALLEN: I sure do. And I think with Sarah Palin, you have a governor with executive experience who is obviously a reformer, a maverick, cutting taxes, cutting spending and is going to be part of John McCain‘s effort to reform Washington. Most people think Washington doesn‘t operate in a way that normal people would like. And I think she brings a great perspective of freshness and energy to John McCain‘s efforts to reform the status quo in Washington.
R. ALLEN: You can certainly feel the energy here. This is a very unusual convention, the timing after the Democrats, a hurricane on the first day, the president unable to make it. What is the atmosphere here like? Do you think the party really is really ready to take on the Democrats? A historic run up through the primaries? A lot of new registration, new money, historic candidacy. Are the Republicans really ready?
G. ALLEN: Yes, Republicans are ready. And I think you saw it Friday. I‘ve seen it in BlackBerry messages. People are fired up. They realize what the choice is. I also think that Independent voters, we are watching both conventions and everyone putting on their best feet forward. But still they are going to look at where they stand on the issues that matter to us. Gas prices, energy, security, taxes and national security. And I think with the Russian invasion of Georgia, I think American people say we need a president that can be commander-in-chief on day one and John McCain has put his country first through his whole life.
R. ALLEN: We‘re going to hear a lot about foreign policy experience with Senator McCain and we‘ll also be looking at Governor Palin‘s experience in that area as well. Thanks very much, we have to throw it back to Keith right now. Keith, back to you.
OLBERMANN: Ron Allen with former governor and Senator George Allen of Virginia. Thank you kindly. Back with Chris Matthews here for a brief wrap up before the hour ends and ahead of Rob Portman‘s interview at the top of the hour. I‘m fascinated by having to do this—being two places at one time. You have to establish that McCain is the only guy ready to be in office at—on day one. But that rule is—it changes when it comes to the vice president on the same ticket. That‘s an interesting dichotomy.
MATTHEWS: Well, they haven‘t put it all together yet. They are scrambling, as you‘d say in football. This is targeted country I‘m in right now and I‘ve got to tell you, they‘re not in the pocket yet. They are trying to figure it you on. As Rick Davis said to me yesterday, they have got to figure this out day at a time and tonight they‘re going to try to focus on biography. You‘ve got the partisan situation, not good for the Republican Party. If this is an up or down of which party do you like, Republicans lose. If this is an up or down how do you like the way things have been going the last eight years, Republicans lose. So let‘s change this option. Let‘s make it a scramble. Let‘s make it—do you like John McCain? Is he a war hero? Is he a friend of yours? Do you like this new person on the block, Governor Palin? Do you like her? What do you think of her? If you get a 50 percent out of the two questions, you win. They‘ve got to change the game. They are scrambling. Tonight is a good example.
OLBERMANN: Chris Matthews, we will return in just a moment. Coming up tonight from the stage of the Xcel Center, the First Lady Laura Bush will introduce the president who was originally slated to speak in person last night. Instead he will be live via satellite from the White House before the broadcast networks join in, a very salient point. And we‘ll also hear from one of McCain‘s primary opponents, Senator Fred Thompson and Democrat turned Independent Joe Lieberman.
KEITH OLBERMANN, CO-HOST: Day two but only night one of a full speaking schedule at the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The invocation for tonight‘s proceedings is taking place as only minutes ago. The current president, an actor-turned-senator who wanted to be president and a Democrat-turned-independent who almost became vice president—still ahead on tonight‘s speaking schedule.
With Chris Matthews at the convention headquarters in Saint Paul, I‘m Keith Olbermann in MSNBC headquarters in New York—Chris.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, CO-HOST: Hey, Keith, well, you know, this has been an interesting night because we‘re still getting the lay of the land. And anyone who wants to understand that politics is a learning experience, watch tonight. You get the Republican Party‘s living off the land or off weather conditions, trying to develop a strong winning argument against gale-forced winds.
They have got the usual eight years situation facing most administrations. People want change after eight years and they face the problem of an unpopular president. They face the problem of a war that‘s still unpopular, and yet, they are showing improvisational ability tonight.
They are going to focus not on their party, not on their record; they‘re going to focus on the two candidates that they are putting forth to the American people—almost as if they had nothing to do with the Republican Party that‘s been running the country. It is an interesting gambit. As I said, it‘s more like a football scramble and with the quarterback leaves the pocket, races along the field and tries to find a way to get around the other side. That‘s what they are trying do.
And I want to talk right now to an expert on this, who may well have been one of the key players and still may be. Ohio congressman, former Ohio Congressman Rob Portman.
Thank you very much, congressman, for being here. You have played every position on this team. Special trade rep, budget director, potential running mate, and you are ready to serve. What do you make of this scramble with the Republican Party is not saying let‘s play defense, they‘re saying let‘s try something new with a brand-new team?
ROB PORTMAN, ® FMR. U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, Chris, first of all, we got to get you into the convention hall. I feel bad for you out there in the Minnesota night. But I appreciate your having me on.
I don‘t see a scramble here. What I see is an opportunity tonight to talk about Senator McCain‘s biography to represent service as the theme for tonight—his service to his country, in the military, in the Congress, and in the Senate. And then, I think, we are going to get into issues. And I think that‘s really where we‘re going to see the big distinctions.
If you look at the spectrum right now of where the American people are in terms of the issues, ideologically, they‘re actually closer to a lot of positions that John McCain has. And I think that‘s where you‘re going to see the distinction, not so much Republican/Democrat and not so much personalities and biographies. But at the end of the day, people will vote based on the issues and how they feel each candidate will affect them and their families.
MATTHEWS: Well, talk about that. Here‘s your chance. Talk about issues where John McCain is distinctive from the usual Republican platform position. What makes him different from the usual Republicans to make a distinction you‘re making?
PORTMAN: Well, Chris, he‘s got an economic platform that‘s actually quite different than where President Bush is in terms of taxes. As you know, he does believe we ought to extend the Bush tax cut. Most people believe that. We ought not to be raising taxes at the time when the economy is fragile.
But he also has some additional ideas of how to get the economy going, the needed expansion for small business to be able to expand plant equipment and jobs. Lowering the corporate rate, we now have the second highest corporate tax rate in the world. And so, corporate headquarters are leaving the United States, as you know, we got some great examples of companies that are being bought by foreign companies because the U.S. tax bill punishes U.S. companies. And this is something new and different.
When John McCain talks about energy—yes, President Bush is for nuclear energy - but McCain is more aggressive. He‘s talking about 45 new nuclear plants as soon as possible. A $2 billion commitment to clean coal technology, and, of course, drilling which we talked about a lot in the last several weeks. But the new proposal Senator McCain has there in terms of doing everything we can and doing it now in terms of energy, are more aggressive. And again, it won‘t be compared to President Bush and on November 4th, can be compared to where Senator Obama is.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much.
Let‘s get back—and thank you very much, Rob Portman, who is very much on the short list for vice president, of course, was a U.S. congressman from Ohio, special trade representative to the president, and budget director to the United States. He‘s had big roles. And there he is making the case for John McCain tonight—Keith.
OLBERMANN: Many names on that vice presidential list. Another one now on the convention floor with our Ron Allen at the Xcel Energy Center. He is with the South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford—Ron.
RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Thanks very much, Keith.
Governor, you are concerned about politics but also another hurricane, believe it or not, right? You said you have to make a decision tonight about 11:00 o‘clock whether to stay or go. How do things look?
GOV. MARK SANFORD, ® SOUTH CAROLINA: I will find out when it comes to 11:00 tonight. At this point, I expect not so good because it looks like that storm will make landfall somewhere on the southeastern corner of the United States, and in the middle of that southeastern corner, unfortunately happens to be South Carolina.
ALLEN: It‘s been a very unusual time. Your other—fellow governors along the coast have really taken charge. It‘s been a good opportunity to show the country what governors can do and what they do. Do you think it‘s been—it has obviously been a good time for those governors to put their best foot forward?
SANFORD: I got to give credit to the Gulf state governors and the job that they‘ve done. I mean, they really did a remarkable job in what is a land that lives with Murphy. I mean, Murphy‘s Law is always alive and well in every natural disaster instant, with every hurricane. I think that Haley Barbour did a fabulous job. I think that Jindal and Crist, go down the list. They all did a great job and we‘re proud of them.
ALLEN: Let me ask you about vetting. Were you vetted?
SANFORD: No. My wife and kids vet me every day, but (INAUDIBLE).
ALLEN: But not for the vice presidency.
SANFORD: No. Everyone had their different lists. I don‘t know how those lists came about. They were kind, they were complimentary, but not in that setting (ph).
ALLEN: What about the vetting of Governor Palin? One of the striking things about—she and Senator McCain apparently only met once or twice. It seems odd, given what we know about Senator McCain and his - he likes to be close to people, he likes to work with people that he knows very well.
SANFORD: Yes, but, I mean, but any of us as public figures have very much a public record and a public life. And so, you know, the fact is that she has been vetted by the people of Alaska and is walking around with 80 percent approval rating. It says that there are a lot of Republicans, a lot of Democrats, and a lot of independents that very much admire the job that she is doing. And you combine that with the way that she‘s been willing to challenge the status quo in her own party.
There has been a lot of vetting going on. Maybe not in the formal system (ph) that you‘re talking about, but very much across Alaska and now we will go through that process here in the United States.
ALLEN: There may be more of it, too. Make the case for governors.
Why do governors win so often and senators do not?
SANFORD: Well, we‘re obviously going to have senator as United States president next time around. But I think that what is particular to the gubernatorial experience, and I have been a member of Congress, I have been a governor, is that the buck stops in one place. In the same regards of presidential level, it stops there.
And so, this idea of executive experience, of being held responsible for some decisions that you own and some you don‘t, is part and parcel to the presidency and vice presidency.
ALLEN: Thanks very much. The governor keeping an eye on the convention and on his coast as well. Back to you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. Ron Allen and Governor Sanford, thank you both.
David Gregory is with us from upstairs in the Xcel Center in Saint Paul.
As much as we try to steer this away from Governor Palin, I imagine that this is continuing to be matter of interest, and perhaps, concern, certainly interest to senior Republicans. We have—since we‘ve been on the air—I think, three, four new and many of they admittedly tangential stories about this car wash, about whether the attorney who‘s representing her in one of the investigations is representing her either personally or in her capacity as governor, or as he says now, both. There are all sorts of things just continuing to pop up about the governor.
How is it playing among the senior Republicans?
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, there‘s really a mix, Keith. There‘s a lot of people I talked to on the floor who say they are excited.
I talked to both delegates and senior Republicans who say they‘re nervous. They love the boldness of the choice. They love the excitement that was created by the choice. But they are worried about how she‘s going to handle herself on the national stage. Some of the details that you are alluding to are what they are nervous about, both in substance and because of what they represent—the potential distraction for the campaign.
I ran into one of McCain‘s closest adviser just a few moments ago, who said, “Look, nobody is perfect. We could have chosen anybody in this race, Mitt Romney, Joe Lieberman, Pawlenty. There would have been questions about them. Not as many questions perhaps because relatively they weren‘t as new,” he said, “But you can‘t vet every aspect of somebody‘s life. There‘s something wrong with any candidate who you would choose.”
Now, some of that reflect the desire in the McCain campaign to change the subject, to get all the attention away from the vetting and questions about the decision-making. But that‘s where they are right now. They understand that there is risk. They hope there‘s a lot more upside there. But it‘s the—as Tom Brokaw said earlier, the level of improvisation here, all of the potential without actually knowing what that will be, that creates some of the nervous right now.
OLBERMANN: As one of the—as one of the host senators—Mr. Coleman of Minnesota speaks to the crowd—let me ask you a question in context with the quote from Rick Davis, the campaign manager for Senator McCain and how this quote can exist side-by-side with this anxiety about Governor Palin. Here‘s what Mr. Davis said to the “Washington Post,” “This election is not about issues. This election is about a composite view of what these people take away from these candidates.”
Let‘s just assume he‘s absolutely right and the issues are not really the deciding factor in what‘s going to happen on November 4th. How does a candidate‘s first choice, the vice president, vice presidential candidate winding up on a tabloid magazine with words scandals and pregnancies and the rest on it, how does that help that composite picture Mr. Davis is talking about?
GREGORY: Well, because I think that there is an assuming and a hope that maybe some of the tabloid aspects of it don‘t creep into what is the impression that people take away. Remember, the biggest thing that John McCain had to fight against and what he has to fight against in this convention is conventionality.
He‘s got a problem. You know, we are in a Republican convention where a lot of the party has never really been comfortable with John McCain. A president is going to speak tonight that the party is largely uncomfortable with, though the base still supports, but who is deeply unpopular in the country—that McCain has to navigate around all of that. The idea of conventionality was, I think, a real problem area for the McCain campaign.
So if voters take away from this selection that you‘ve got two people who are mavericks, who are going to shake things up in Washington, who will change Washington, and if it helps them get into the idea that they are going to compete with Barack Obama and the idea of bringing change, and that they will be seen as something different than the Bush years, redefining the Republican Party—that all goes to the upside for this McCain ticket.
And the down side is in the details—the details that you allude to, details that are potential judgments that voters make about her fitness or lack thereof on this ticket. Where there are questions raised about this choice and the decision-making of John McCain.
Republicans I talked to say that there‘s not a lot of middle ground here in this choice. She‘s either going to be a huge hit or a huge failure. We can‘t determine that yet. The McCain campaign can‘t determine that yet. What they have got is a high-risk choice with high potential reward and a significant potential failure as well. We‘re still on that middle ground right now.
OLBERMANN: All right. David Gregory, our senior White House correspondent, host of “RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE,” we‘ll be back with you later on. But to actually test your theory right now, let‘s go down, again, to the convention floor in the middle of the Pennsylvania delegation where Andrea Mitchell is standing by with actual living delegates with reaction to the Palin choice—Andrea.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Thanks so much, Keith.
I am with Congressman Joe Pitts from Pennsylvania. Congressman represents the area around Philadelphia, a key swing area. We‘re talking about Chester, Lancaster, Berks County, suburbs of Philadelphia. And what are the reactions there to Sarah Palin?
REP. JOE PITTS, ® PENNSYLVANIA: The reaction is real excitement. I have never seen people so excited, not just Republican women, but Republicans in general, activists. I‘m so excited. I think it‘s going to result in a lot better turnout, a lot more workers.
She is the real deal. She‘s a person who‘s dealing with family situations that million of American families can identify with. And it‘s just got people really excited.
MITCHELL: Now, there are a lot of women in that area who are less conservative socially than Sarah Palin. There are a lot of women who believe in choice. So how do you square the circle there?
PITTS: Well, I think that she has an appeal, a great appeal, to independents, to Reagan Democrats. I think, you know, she‘s got executive experience. She was first elected in 1988 in city council. She‘s taken on corruption. She‘s, you know, what you called a real reformer.
I think Obama thought that he could do this by himself by not putting Hillary on the ticket. And, I think, in this case, McCain has shown himself as the real agent of change. I think, you know, with her experience as mayor, as governor, as oil and gas commissioner taking on the other issues, and being a real reformer, as of last week, she was campaigning against the incumbents in Alaska for Congress. I mean, she‘s the real deal.
MITCHELL: Even though her town very small and her duties as mayor were really, you know, rather negligible by Pennsylvania standards. Do you think she can sell herself as a real executive and as someone experienced enough to be vice president?
PITTS: She certainly has more experience, executive experience, than anybody on the ticket, not to compare her with Obama who has none. She‘s got executive experience. She‘s got elective experience. And it‘s a big stake.
And she‘s showed herself very effective in that state, that big energy-producing state. Energy is a big issue in this campaign. So I think she‘ll handle herself real well.
MITCHELL: Congressman, are you surprised that the president isn‘t even giving a primetime speech and that, you know, he didn‘t get on his plane and come here, even though the first day, obviously, couldn‘t because of the hurricane. But are you—do you think it‘s a plus or minus for John McCain that George Bush and Dick Cheney are not here?
PITTS: I think the hurricane sort of threw us off balance. They had to reorder the agenda. And so, he‘s going to be speaking by teleconference tonight. He is down in Texas taking care of business, what he is supposed to do. He was criticized last night for not being there and not going there soon enough. So, I think, people accept that.
MITCHELL: OK. Congressman Joe Pitts, thanks so much.
PITTS: Thanks so much, Andrea.
MITCHELL: From the 16th district of Pennsylvania.
Back to you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. Andrea Mitchell, familiar indeed with all the districts in Pennsylvania. Thank you kindly.
Coming up: Tom Brokaw and Chuck Todd will join us once again. And we‘ll check back in with our panel and get more of the buzz from the convention floor as we get closer to President Bush‘s speech to this convention audience via satellite.
This is MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican National Convention.
OLBERMANN: We rejoin you with MSNBC‘s coverage of the Republican National Convention for 2008 from the MSNBC headquarters in New York, I‘m Keith Olbermann. Chris Matthews will join us in a moment from Saint Paul in the convention site.
One of the critical elements in the selection of the vice president and entire drama over who Senator McCain would choose to run with was this issue of pro-choice or anti-abortion—depending on your point of view and how you like to phrase it. There are pro-choice Republicans and none of them got, obviously, the bid for the vice presidency of the McCain ticket and as a self-ascribed pro-life Republican, Governor Palin of Alaska did. The senator from Pennsylvania would be described in the same terms as Governor Palin would be in terms of pro-choice.
I‘m sorry, I was misled. I thought we were going to Andrea Mitchell on the floor.
Let‘s start instead with Chuck Todd and Tom Brokaw starting again from the Energy Center in Saint Paul—Tom.
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you very much, Keith. What you hear in the background was just the conclusion with Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.
And the Republican Party platform with this path—I mean, the direction of Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, he said they reached out across the country electronically and otherwise to put together the platform. And when they came to abortion, no exceptions—rape, incest, didn‘t make any difference. They were opposed to abortion. That is Governor Palin‘s position as well. But it has not been John McCain‘s position.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, what‘s interesting is, Gary Bauer—a one-time presidential candidate—was John McCain‘s representative of the platform trying to soothe everything and they made the decision not to fight these delegates here on this issue. Senator McCain—this platform does not represent Senator McCain‘s conservativism. He did not make it his party‘s platform. He made it the Republican Party platform that he happens to be representing.
Stark contrast from Barack Obama who went ahead and changed the wording on abortion, put in a line in there that made pro-life Democrats a little more comfortable. That was not done here. If anything this is an stringent of a platform on abortion the Republican Party ever has and the problem is this—these delegates are more conservative.
I had—than even the ones four years ago, than even the ones eight years ago—I had a state chair tell me that people ran to be John McCain‘s delegates in places like Michigan or Ohio to the process. And they were more conservative than the people they were replacing. He‘s like they aren‘t (ph) McCain Republican, they just came here to write the platform. That‘s what these folks care about.
BROKAW: And tonight, Joe Lieberman, who will be addressing this convention, and speaking on behalf of his very good friend, Joe Lieberman, the Democratic candidate for vice president in the year 2000, is somebody as well who is for choice.
TODD: He is. And that was what—why he is speaking tonight and not tomorrow night.
BROKAW: That‘s the vice presidential candidate.
TODD: Absolutely. So look, the Lieberman thing tonight, he‘s going to call himself a Democrat which is going to make Democrats around this country nuts. They‘re saying he is not a Democrat. The fact is, he caucuses with them because if he didn‘t, Harry Reid wouldn‘t be the majority leader of the United States Senate. So, he does vote with the Democrats, supporting some senators 90 percent of the time, just not on Iraq and a couple other issues.
But it‘s interesting on this McCain thing. He was asked he is for McCain, and he said no other Democrats asked. And he said nobody asked for his endorsement in ‘07. John McCain did. He stuck with him. I don‘t know if Lieberman ever expected McCain to win.
When Lieberman endorsed McCain in the Republican primary, is when we were all telling everybody on the—telling viewers, McCain is done, he‘s toast. Suddenly, this guy won and Lieberman really—he started to like that because he feels—he has felt so disrespected in the Democratic Party.
BROKAW: Well, he‘s not only endorsed him but he‘s been a very forceful advocate on “MEET THE PRESS” and the television appearances here. He has accompanied him to the Middle East. He got him out of a little hot water at one point.
TODD: Look, he, Lindsey Graham and McCain are known as the “Three Amigos.”
TODD: I mean, they are that close now, the three of them. And they‘re going to—if McCain is elected president, those are the three guys that are going to govern this country. Sarah Palin may be vice president but Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham; they‘re going to be there. That‘s the kitchen cabinet.
BROKAW: And, Keith, my guess is that after this speech tonight, Senator Lieberman will still be able go back to the Democratic caucus but he‘ll not go back unaccompanied because he‘ll have a food taster with him probably before this over (ph). Back to you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, Tom. Thank you, Chuck.
And we wish the senator good luck with his meals.
My long introduction rendered unnecessary to Andrea Mitchell, still in the Pennsylvania delegation with Senator Arlen Specter who is in that same kind of straddling this position here regarding Governor Palin as the vice presidential choice—Andrea.
MITCHELL: Thanks so much, Keith.
I‘m with Arlen Specter, of course.
Senator, you represent a lot of pro-choice women, a lot of liberals.
How does Sarah Palin play among your constituents in Pennsylvania?
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER, ® PENNSYLVANIA: Well, she has many attributes which I think will be very appealing to Pennsylvanians. I think she‘s very new and there‘s a real quest for finding somebody who isn‘t in party line, party line straitjacket, Washington, D.C., for so long. And she‘s a people person. I think those qualities will be appealing to a lot of voters in Pennsylvania and in America.
MITCHELL: Do you have any concerns that she hasn‘t been properly vetted, or that more information will come out, or that there are surprises down the road?
SPECTER: I believe that Senator McCain has done due diligence as he checked her out. I have a lot of confidence in John McCain and it‘s his show.
MITCHELL: And, in fact, we had been told a lot of authority is that Joe Lieberman was his first choice but that he was dissuaded from that because he was told there‘d be a rebellion on this floor. How would Joe Lieberman have played for you in Pennsylvania as a Democrat-turned-independent on the Republican ticket?
SPECTER: Well, Joe Lieberman would have been fine by me if John McCain had chosen him. I think, Senator McCain has to balance a lot of factors. He has to balance keeping the party, base intact, looking for women support because Senator Hillary Clinton is not on the ticket. And it‘s a giant juggling act and John McCain is in charge. So I‘ll defer to his judgment on it.
MITCHELL: And if Sarah Palin, if they get elected, is this going to help you in your re-election efforts?
SPECTER: My sense is that we‘ll have to see how it all works out. Two years is a long time from this election to the next election. But I‘ve been apparently independent. I was asked recently would I disagree with Senator McCain on something and I said President McCain will be used to having a senator who disagrees with him because Senator McCain did that himself for President Bush.
MITCHELL: As someone who has covered you since 1967, I know how independent you are and it‘s great to see you. I know you‘ve been fighting back again. We wish you all the best and good health.
SPECTER: Thank you, Andrea. There‘s been a lot of fun since you were the KYW‘s radio reporter covering Arlen Specter from (INAUDIBLE).
MITCHELL: When you were running for mayor and then D.A.; and successfully, too, for D.A.
And if you have just a second, Keith, I just want to throw a question to Rob Gleason, who is Pennsylvania Republican chairman.
Rob, you know the state better than anyone, is this good for the base, bad for the base? Do you carry Pennsylvania?
ROB GLEASON, PENNSYLVANIA REPUBLICAN CHAIRMAN: It‘s great for the base. Sarah Palin is already playing very strong in the base. We‘ve had a lot of people who are volunteering. We are having a little trouble jumpstarting the base. And since she‘s gotten onboard, it‘s been tremendous. There‘s really a lot of support for her.
MITCHELL: But what would happen if Tom Ridge had been the choice?
GLEASON: Well, Tom would have been great. I mean, I love Tom Ridge. He‘s a great guy. He‘s been elected twice in Pennsylvania. So, he‘s a known (INAUDIBLE). Sarah Palin has never run in Pennsylvania. But, you know, this is who John McCain wants and we‘re pretty pleased with Sarah Palin.
MITCHELL: Rob Gleason and, of course, Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania. And, of course, Palin‘s debut stump speech was out west in Pennsylvania and she had, Rob is telling me she had about 3,000 more people in that crowd Saturday than they would have had without her. So, they‘re pretty excited—Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. Andrea, thank you. And thank you for sharing our best wishes to Senator Specter as well. Appreciate it.
Up next: Chris Matthews and our panel back with us from Saint Paul as tonight‘s theme of service unfolds inside the Xcel Center. Among the speakers still to come tonight, Arthur Swindle a man who was held in captivity during the Vietnam War along with Senator McCain.
You‘re watching MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of the 2008 Republican convention.
OLBERMANN: We rejoin you with MSNBC‘s coverage of the Republican convention. The lady in the middle of the picture is, if can you not tell, Cindy McCain, entering the hallway about 35 or 40 seconds ago, along with Bridget McCain. We have been told that Mrs. McCain will be addressing the convention at some point. She made what amounted to a cameo appearance on a cameo evening for the Republican convention last night, truncated as it necessarily was by the concerns, mercifully overstated concerns, about Hurricane Gustav. There is Senator McCain‘s wife, the would-be first lady of the United States taking her seat at the Xcel center in St. Paul, Minnesota.
There‘s Senator McCain‘s mother, obviously, to Mrs. McCain‘s right. As they pose for a few photographs and wait a few moments to take their seats and the resumption of the convention with Laura Bush, the woman whom Cindy McCain would succeed, scheduled to speak in a little over an hour and introduce her husband, who, of course, Senator McCain hopes to succeed, via satellite from the White House. That will take place in about an hour and 20 minutes or so, hour and 15 minutes from now, in fact.
While we await that, Chris Matthews is back with the panel at the MSNBC‘s headquarters in St. Paul.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Keith. About an hour and a half from now, the main speaker of the evening, who will be not the president, but Fred Thompson, the former senator of Tennessee, is going to speak positively about the nominee for president, John McCain. But he is also going to do some negative politics tonight. By the way, I have Rachel Manning joining me—Rachel Maddow. I know a Rachel Manning. She‘s head of human resources at MSNBC. It‘s not you. Hi, Rachel Manning.
Let me bring in Norah. You have some reporting. This speech will not be entirely positive in texture. It will have some rip. What will it be, the Thompson speech?
NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: This is supposed to be about McCain‘s biographical sketch tonight. But Fred Thompson and Joe Lieberman will address the Sarah Palin issue tonight. I am told by a McCain adviser that Fred Thompson will call her a courageous reformer, say what a breath of fresh air she is, that her and McCain are going to drain that swamp in Washington.
One draft of the speech says “the selection of Palin has the other side and their friends in the media in a state of panic.” He‘s going to push back hard, essentially blame the media and the other people for what they call a panic over Palin. Lieberman is also going to call her a courageous reformer that would bring real change to Washington. Interesting from these two men, they want the headline to be about biographical sketch of McCain. There‘s a lot in here they‘re going to push back on Obama, too.
MATTHEWS: Here is a point that you‘ve got in your reporting, we need a president that doesn‘t think protection of the unborn is above his pay grade. That‘s not a direct—by the way, it‘s a reference to something Barack Obama said during a discussion. It is not what he said. He said he did not know when a human life begins.
O‘DONNELL: No, no. He did say that‘s above my pay grade.
MATTHEWS: No. He said—the question—in answering a question as to when human—a human life begins, he said that‘s above my pay grade. He did not say protection of human life is above his pay grade. He has a position on abortion.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: He was essentially—what they are taking out context there is Obama‘s assertion that everyone makes their own ethical position about the issue of abortion. It is between every one of us and God. We all make that sort of decision. But what I think is remarkable is you didn‘t hear word one about abortion or abortion rights at the Democratic Convention, other than what Obama said you may be for or against it, but we can all agree that we should reduce the number of abortions. Talk about trying to de-politicize this issue.
Couldn‘t be more opposite at this Republican Convention. I mean, think about it, Lieberman and Ridge nixed as vice presidential choices, even though good reporting says that‘s who John McCain wanted. Palin, the pro-life, uncompromiser is in. Rudy Giuliani out as keynoter. Fred Thompson, an abortion purist, is in.
MATTHEWS: Bottom line here, they are going hard right on abortion rights.
MADDOW: Yes, they are bringing back the most divisive social wedge issue we have got and they‘re going double down on it now.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Wait a minute now. Mr. Obama is as far to the left on the abortion issue—his wife sent out a fund-raising letter testifying that they like the idea of partial birth abortion as a necessary medical procedure.
MADDOW: They liked the idea of—
BUCHANAN: She said we‘re going to keep that as a safe—we want it as a medical procedure. Let me say this, this shows some confidence, at last, in the Republican party. What they are saying, in effect, is you have a pro-abortion or pro-choice Catholic in Biden in Pennsylvania. You have a pro-choice guy on the ticket. But it comes down to the Supreme Court. We all know that, whatever their views. They are going to say we are going with Scalia and Sam Alito of Philadelphia. Those are going to be our kinds of justices.
Yes, they will overturn Roe v. Wade, hopefully, and yes, it will go back to the states. And let‘s get it on.
MATTHEWS: But Pat, it‘s further than that. It is further because not taking any position on this, they are taking a stronger position. Governor Palin supports the abolition of abortion as a right, period. She doesn‘t just say throw it back to the states. She says, if I had any say in this, we‘d outlaw it. Isn‘t that true?
BUCHANAN: That‘s right. Here is the point: look, we all know, whatever anybody says, right now Roe v. Wade is the law of the land. They‘re saying, we will try to name justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade.
It goes back to the states.
MATTHEWS: Why are they doing this politically?
EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: It‘s going to energize the Republican base. It energizes the conservative wing of the Republican party. It also energizes the liberal wing of the Democratic party, big time. And so there is going to be push back now.
BUCHANAN: Yes, there is. Let me ask you about Catholics—
ROBINSON: The Democrats are more in concert with American public opinion on this issue than the Republican cause.
MADDOW: That‘s exactly right.
BUCHANAN: Look, in this sense, if it is a strict voting issue, pro-choicers will leave the Republicans completely. But the pro-lifers, here is the thing, for socially conservative Democrats whose incomes are below 50,000, a lot of these folks are church-going folks, who listen to their priests and pastors, and they are marching for life and things like that. So I think that it is a long throw but it is the right thing to do. And it will energize the base.
MADDOW: A very wise political analyst whose initials are Pat Buchanan once said that on these divided issues, what you need to do is divide the country down the middle, in the aim of --
BUCHANAN: Not down middle.
MADDOW: You take the larger half, right? The larger part of is on the Democrat‘s side.
MATTHEWS: Smartly or not, to decide to rip the scab off this issue, we just heard it here. There is an ouch coming in both directions. Back toy, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Chris, when we continue from Minneapolis and New York, more from Tom Brokaw, more from the floor as we await for first lady Laura Bush and President Bush to address the convention. Then former Senator Thompson and Senator Lieberman. You‘re watching MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of the 2008 Republican convention from New York and St. Paul. We don‘t have President Lincoln again? That was a heck of a shot last time. Where is he?
OLBERMANN: From St. Paul and New York, we rejoin you with MSNBC‘s live coverage of the Republican National Convention. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani may not be speaking as originally planned on the convention tonight in St. Paul. But there are many other former Republican presidential hopefuls who are there and in full flower. Among them Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, who is joined on the floor right now, at the Xcel Center by our own Andrea Mitchell. Andrea?
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Keith. Sam Brownback, Sarah Palin is to the right of you, but certainly straight on all of your issues. You are a social conservative. How do you feel about the nomination?
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK ®, KANSAS: She is a great—she has added excitement here. She‘s from the Teddy Roosevelt wing of the party, which is reform and action minded. She is a solid social conservative as well. Then she lives it. She is authentic about it. Five children in her own family, one with Down Syndrome.
For a lot of people, there is one thing about talking about it, there is another thing about living it. She is living it.
MITCHELL: For those of you that work in the Senate, who know how to produce legislation—you are a budget expert—how do you feel about someone with as little experience as she has?
BROWNBACK: That‘s a difficulty for her. But going into the executive branch, that‘s what you want, is somebody coming in from outside and going into Washington to change it. I think that‘s really why we generally tend to elect governors to the presidency, and why we have only elected two sitting senators in the past to the presidency of the United States. They want someone with executive experience and somebody that works across the bureaucracy.
Here is somebody, the only person now on the ticket, on either side, that has that kind of experience.
MITCHELL: Senator, John McCain was known to have preferred initially Joe Lieberman. What would have happened here on the floor tonight if Joe Lieberman were his choice, not just his speaker?
BROWNBACK: Joe is a friend of mine and I love Joe. He is great on security issues. He is just inconsistent with the base of the party, particularly on life issues and some of the social issues. And I think there would have been difficulty. I think everybody would have worked on through it and said we are electing the top of the ticket‘s policies. We‘re not electing the vice president‘s policies. So people would have worked through it. But there wouldn‘t have been the enthusiasm and the interest and the excitement that there is for Sarah Palin.
MITCHELL: Could there have been a challenge? Would they have tried to go for a Huckabee or somebody else?
BROWNBACK: I don‘t think you would have seen that materialize, that, you know, people would have said no, this is a disaster, and gives the election to Obama and Biden, which is a very left wing ticket. I don‘t think people would have done that. There would have been folks saying, look, he‘s just not my cup of tea on the breadth of the issue. Love him on security, not on the others.
MITCHELL: Senator Sam Brownback, thank you so much. The view from Kansas, Keith. They are excited. This is, of course, the conservative base and these are the people that this decision was made for. Keith?
OLBERMANN: Andrea Mitchell on the floor with Senator Brownback.
Let‘s turn once again to NBC News special correspondent Tom Brokaw in the -
certainly not in the rafters, but upstairs in the Xcel Center. We just saw an example, I think, Tom, in what Senator Brownback said, of these series of needles the Republicans have to thread on the philosophy of selecting Sarah Palin as their vice presidential candidate. To have an outsider, even a relatively inexperienced one, to come in and clean up Washington from the outside. That meme has been established by what Senator Brownback said. But it must be governor and it can‘t be a senator because in that exchange then, a governor 20 months on the job is more experienced and more utile than a senator who has been on the job for four years.
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what I really think this all comes down to, Keith, however, is how well she performs, not just here, but in the days to come and especially in that debate. How credible and authentic she seems to be, how prepared she seems to be for that job. We can slice and dice and parse. The fact is that the ball now goes into the court of Sarah Palin, and how they manage her here.
Can I just tell you that we should take a look at the podium for just a moment, if we can, because we are seeing Cindy McCain as well, and their adopted daughter. And there was quite a moving testimonial from the podium about the adoption of a young woman. A man who is just now leaving, it was his daughter from Bangladesh. Paying tribute to Cindy McCain‘s work around the world with adoption matters.
And, by the way, we are going to be seeing a lot of Teddy Roosevelt in the next couple of days. That‘s suddenly the new symbol of this party. Ronald Reagan got a big round of applause, but what they‘ve settled on is that Sarah Palin and John McCain are the new Teddy Roosevelt rough riders of this election year.
I‘m here with Chuck Todd. When I saw Sam Brownback, it also occurred to me that Sarah Palin will appeal to a vote that we haven‘t talked about a lot tonight. That‘s the Evangelical vote, which has been critical to the success of the Republican party in the last several election cycles.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Three states I would emphasize when thinking about this, all in the south, Virginia, North Carolina—for the first time today the McCain campaign put television ads on the air in that state, acknowledging that is no longer a McCain base state but that is a swing state—and Georgia.
These are three states. The southern Evangelical vote has not been fired up about John McCain. These are all states, by the way—remember, during the primaries, Mike Huckabee was winning. Or Mitt Romney was splitting the vote. John McCain was not doing well in these southern states, because southern Evangelicals are not fired up by McCain. Palin could change that. That‘s the difference.
Bob Barr was getting three or four percent, the Libertarian candidate, former Republican congressman, could really throw those states into the Obama column, because he‘s trying to get a jacked up African-American vote in order to over-perform.
BROKAW: That twinned with an enormous drive to register African-American voters in those states.
TODD: Absolutely. Look, North Carolina and Virginia, it is possible Obama has changed the electorate. Whatever the electorate looked like in ‘04, it‘s not going to look the same. Georgia is a little bit more of a reach. That‘s where the Sarah Palin pick could be a bigger deal than we believe when we are doing the slicing and dicing of the electorate.
BROKAW: I think—and you have been hearing this all night long, in this convention hall and certainly on this floor, Sarah Palin continues to play very well. But the party pros just off to the side are concerned a little about where this goes and how it goes, because they can‘t see the end game ending particularly well for them. They are dealing with an unknown and politicos, especially those who are in the management game, really don‘t like to see that.
TODD: The pros think this is a swing voter election, moderates in the middle, center right, center left. But I tell you, there is a—the 2004 model was base vote, base vote, base vote.
BROKAW: All right. Thanks very much, Chuck Todd. Back to you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right, Tom. Ironic that Teddy Roosevelt is a symbol when the Republican were so unhappy with him as the vice presidential choice in 1900 and things worked out so beautifully for the country in that occasion. Let‘s go back out to the Xcel Center. David Gregory is with the former governor of New Jersey, Christie Todd Whitman. David?
DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Keith. Governor, you are working with the Republican Leadership Council, as we have been talking about. One of your big interests is getting the party back to the center. Does this convention represent a move to the center?
CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY: Actually, it does with John McCain. He‘s someone who has proven that he cares. There is a time for politics and there‘s a time for policy. And he understands where the difference comes and he‘s willing to buck the party when he feels that they are not moving in the right direction. That‘s something new that we haven‘t seen in a while.
GREGORY: You may be talking about governing. But as a matter of campaigning, he has moved to the right. The abortion platform here is pretty hard right when it comes to the abortion questions, with which you have some disagreement, I think, in the party still. The choice of Sarah Palin affects you how?
WHITMAN: It is exciting in that it‘s breaking a glass ceiling and it‘s a woman and somebody young. It‘s a recognition that not all wisdom resides in Washington, bringing somebody in from the outside. We are all learning more about her every day. I don‘t know her. I haven‘t met her before. But John McCain feels that this is the person with whom he can work the most closely and have the most confidence. You know, if you look at the two campaigns, there is not much difference in philosophy and opinion between Obama and Biden. There‘s some real differences between McCain and Palin on issues like drilling in ANWR, stem cell research, a number of different ones.
I think as the American people look at this, they are going to say, what kind of dynamic do I want in the White House? One where there is a creative tension or where everybody agrees with somebody? What looks more like my home?
GREGORY: Tension is fine. Is she prepared to be president?
WHITMAN: You know, that‘s hard to say about anybody. Is anybody prepared to be president? Certainly, it is not easy to be a governor and I know to be the first woman governor and to take on your own party is not easy. She has done that. You have to give her credit for that.
GREGORY: Do you think there has been any pandering here, that there is an effort to appeal to Hillary Clinton supporters that are unhappy she‘s not on the ticket? Do you think there is some of that in this choice?
WHITMAN: I would think that would be a pretty silly calculation to make, because of the initial issue that you talked about. Hillary Clinton supporters are pretty well on the other side of the page on the social issues from Sarah Palin. Most of them—I mean, I found throughout my career, women are harder on women than they are on the male counterpart. I‘m not sure that‘s going to bring a lot of them in.
I want to tell you, she has excited the base in way that I have never seen. The amount of money that‘s come in over the Internet in small and mid sized donations is staggering.
GREGORY: Quickly, President Bush speaks later tonight. You worked in the Bush administration. Is it going to be difficult for Senator McCain to disassociate himself from the Bush years?
WHITMAN: Well, certainly Obama and the Obama campaign is going to try to link them. But the record is pretty clear on where John McCain has found his own way. And what he says is look, Bush wasn‘t wrong on everything. I do support him on certain things. Where I think he was wrong, I‘m very well prepared to say that. He did and he stood up to him.
GREGORY: Governor, good luck with your work here.
WHITMAN: My pleasure, thank you.
GREGORY: Keith, back to you.
OLBERMANN: David Gregory, thank you. Governor, thank you. Up next, Chris Matthews and former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge. This is MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican convention. As we go to the break, the performance of Christian rock performer Rachael Lampa.
OLBERMANN: As we wait, in the next hour or so, the introduction of President Bush by the first lady and then the president‘s speech from the White House, via satellite to the Republican National Convention, not everything goes as planned in any political convention in any public event where there is a microphone or camera. Sometimes the mistakes are more, as they say, cringe worthy than others. This would be the RNC co-chairwoman, Jo Ann Davidson, within the past hour, talking about the vice presidential nominee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JO ANN DAVIDSON, CO-CHAIRWOMAN OF RNC: We are holding a convention to nominate a Republican woman, Governor Sarah Pawlenty, our next vice president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Republicans and Democrats would be unified in saying that that would be a neat trick. There is Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska. They are two entirely different people.
At the top of the hour, Chris Matthews interviews the former governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge. And we said, still ahead, President Bush addresses this convention. Our coverage continues of the Republican National Convention, 2008.
KEITH OLBERMANN, CO-HOST: The Republican National Convention in its third hour on this Tuesday night; it‘s second official day. First full one at Saint Paul. Not exactly the convention that the presumptive nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona, nor his party had planned. Hurricane Gustav last night bringing changes to the tonight‘s lineup.
The current commander-in-chief, President Bush originally on Monday‘s docket to speak instead this hour by video conference in what is being billed as an eight-minute speech—a relatively minor role at the convention of the party that has twice nominated him for the White House.
Meanwhile, former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani, seemingly replaced as keynote speaker by Senator Fred Thompson.
With Chris Matthews at our convention headquarters in Saint Paul, I‘m Keith Olbermann at the MSNBC headquarters in New York.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, CO-HOST: Keith, let‘s go right now to a popular fellow in the state of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge, who, of course, was governor for a couple of terms, a very popular U.S. congressman from Erie, and then, of course, headed Homeland Security.
Governor Ridge, the moderate wing of the Republican Party is atrophying right now as you watch on television. So, (INAUDIBLE) there‘s got a tough race facing them, there‘s one Republican left in the entire New England delegation of Congress. You are under fire, you are getting smaller and smaller, and tonight, it seems like you got a convention saluting a vice presidential nominee who wants to outlaw abortion—period across the country. Is this going too far?
TOM RIDGE, ® FMR. PENNSYVLANIA GOVERNOR: Chris, I think we are all quite comfortable with the choice and quite proud of the unconventional choice that our nominee, John McCain, has made. And you I talked many, many times before—one of the qualities that John brings to the Republican Party is a high level of tolerance of people who disagree with him on some of these different critical but very important social issues. He‘s not judgmental.
And he has—there‘s plenty of room for disagreement within the party. And John‘s nomination confirms that.
MATTHEWS: Your party, I understand, based upon some inside information, and you know and it has been published hopes to pick up some Democratic states this time, starting with New Hampshire, then Michigan, and then hopefully, if your party is to win the general election with 270 electorate votes, Pennsylvania, will Governor Palin help in that electoral strategy?
RIDGE: Yes, we had a great rally a couple days ago in York, Pennsylvania, Chris. I mean, with the Governor Palin and her family represent—they are a blue collar family. You know, they got a fascinating personal history. She also represents, given her two years‘ experience as governor, a kindred spirit with John. I mean, she‘s been a reformer. She‘s used the line-item veto.
She‘s had rather remarkable, maybe brief but a remarkably successful career doing many of the things that John thinks are important and certainly critical in his efforts to lead Washington in an entirely different direction in the future. So, I think her blue-collar roots and her background really appeal to these independent voters in Pennsylvania—
Democrats and independents alike.
MATTHEWS: How do you sell Governor Palin to the recrudescent (ph) Hillary Clinton supporter? What‘s the pitch—besides gender, what‘s the pitch?
RIDGE: Well, I think what Hillary supporters are going to discover in the next several weeks as Governor Palin has the opportunity to speak out very specifically on some issues that are important to Hillary Clinton supporters, on her views in regards to the environment, with regard to energy independence. I think they‘re going to find themselves in the company of a woman who has strong views which, in many cases, they may differ in part from Senator Clinton‘s.
But there was always great appeal to the Clinton supporters that had a strong, progressive woman who sought the nomination, was not only denied the nomination but denied number two on the ticket. Now, all of a sudden, you look across the Republican side of the aisle, you got a strong, accomplished woman who may disagree with him on some issues but projects that kind of personality and inner strength that, I think, that certainly Senator Clinton had and appeal to many of her supporters.
MATTHEWS: If Senator Clinton had been put on the Democratic ticket would Governor Palin have been put on the Republican ticket?
RIDGE: It‘s a great question. It‘s hypothetical. And sometimes, sometimes I‘m willing to answer hypotheticals but I‘m not going to venture down that one, Chris, because I don‘t know.
RIDGE: I think you -
MATTHEWS: I want you to acknowledge which you have already, that this was strategic, that this was—as we say in the political and journalistic world—living off the land. Hillary Clinton did not make first or second on the Democratic ticket. Your nominee, John McCain, saw an opportunity to play to the losing side and to some poach votes, right?
RIDGE: Well, strategically and tactically, she‘s a good choice because of that. But, frankly, she‘s a good choice regardless of who Senator Obama selected. She would have been a good choice; it would have been a very interesting debate, wouldn‘t it? Two strong influential women, strong in their views. It would have been a very interesting vice presidential debate, that‘s for sure.
MATTHEWS: A week ago, your party had gotten the old Nixon buttons out that said experience counts. And then you decide to take a two-year governor from Alaska within—oh, there‘s former President Bush. There he is, a very popular fellow across the country taking a seat. Barbara Bush, of course, another popular figure in American politics. There he is -- 41, he called himself, 41. There they are—the first lady and 41.
It seems like experience counts was your party moniker until a week ago. Did you shift from experience having seen that Senator Clinton was not successful with that theme to challenging Barack Obama on being the change candidate?
RIDGE: Well, first of all, Chris, I would say this, to you and to your audience, I think, Governor Palin has a far more executive experience running a state with a $10 billion budget, 24,000 employees, has used the line-item vetoes responsible for this massive natural gas pipeline, and really shown tremendous executive leadership of it over two years, just two years as governor.
But she was the mayor of a small community. And I tell you what—if you go down the list of things that have been accomplished by either Senator Obama who‘s the nominee for president and actual accomplishments of our vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin wins hands down. She did more than both presidents. She‘s done a few things.
MATTHEWS: OK. Governor Tom Ridge, former Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, a very positive fellow in the Keystone State.
RIDGE: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Back to you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: You raised a point about change, Chris, I believe it‘s Fred Thompson who will say later tonight that he will, in fact, pitch the idea that McCain represents real change and the change that Obama represents is somehow not real.
All right. Back to the floor—Andrea Mitchell, doing great work and in every possible delegation, is with Carly Fiorina, the economic adviser to the McCain campaign and also the senator of Utah, Mr. Hatch—Andrea.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We‘ve got a dynamic Republican duo here, Keith—Carly Fiorina and Orrin Hatch.
First to you, Carly—what about the choice of Sarah Palin and what it means in terms of the kind of women who would find Sarah Palin an exciting candidate?
CARLY FIORINA, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN ECONOMIC ADVISER: Well, first of all, I think she‘s an absolutely fantastic choice. She is clearly a reformer. She is tough. She knows what it‘s like to balance the demands of work and family—things that women, I think, appreciate being close to the Oval Office.
I think she has absolutely energized the Republican Party. And I must tell you, I have heard from many, many Democratic women since her pick and they are excited and onboard.
MITCHELL: Now, she is more socially conservative than a lot of independent women and a lot of Democratic women, Hillary Clinton women. You were trying to reach out to Hillary Clinton women. And what would be the appeal here of Sarah Palin for someone who believes in choice and who, you know, doesn‘t believe in her views on creationism and intelligent design? She is very conservative socially.
FIORINA: Yes, she is. But, as I said to you before and as I learned going across the country, most women it turns out are not single issue voters. Women care about the economy because they start small businesses at twice the rate of men. They care about education. They care about healthcare. They care about national security.
In other words, women are 54 percent of the vote. We are the majority. Not a constituency. And all issues are women‘s issues. And so while they may not agree with Sarah Palin on the social issues, they can certainly agree with her on enough issues to throw their support behind her and behind Senator McCain.
MITCHELL: And Senator Hatch, the west, obviously, an area of rich in electoral votes, traditionally Republican but Sarah Palin coming from Alaska—what‘s that do in your part of the country?
SEN. ORRIN HATCH, ® UTAH: Well, a lot of us believe that it was really something, going to pick somebody as far from Washington as he possibly could be. When he announced Sarah Palin, I got tears in my eyes. To think that Republicans are going to put the first woman in the White House.
And she‘s a tough, smart woman—a reformer, somebody who used to veto pen, certainly, the only one who has executive experience, knows more about energy than the rest of the candidates put together. And, frankly, a decent and a honorable tough woman. And she‘s been being maligned by some in the media, Andrea.
I got to tell you, I had a lot of women from all ends of the spectrum say to me, they are sick of it. A number of them said she‘s one of us. We all suffer. We‘ve all had trouble with teenagers and I think to build that up like they‘ve done is just to try and move off the issues of energy and some of these issues that we know Democrats aren‘t going to solve but we can.
MITCHELL: What about the experience level? I mean, can‘t Democrats come after her, figure out that, you know, there‘s got to be a way that campaign against this ticket on the basis of experience? She‘s only been a mayor of a really small town, then governor for a year and a half.
And there‘s some dispute over whether she is a real reformer, whether she really opposed the “Bridge to Nowhere,” whether she, in fact, you know, hired a big-time lobbyist for her little town, her little town of Wasilla and trying to get millions and millions of dollars in earmarks.
HATCH: No dispute by us. Let me tell you something—she has a record of really standing up and fighting for ethics reform, using the veto pen, getting pipeline through, talking about energy and getting energy done.
Look—there are a lot of Democrats trying to get off the real issues of energy, of high taxes, of a move towards socialism, of trying to make everybody subjective only to the federal government.
And I‘ve got to tell you, it is riveting to find somebody like her who basically—have you ever run a small town? It‘s tougher than running big towns, I‘ll tell you in a lot ways. But she also has been an effective governor.
And, look, don‘t ever sell her short. This woman has guts. She‘s got a good family. And, frankly, she has problems just like every other family has. But I‘m going to be very, very, very enthusiastic about having Sarah Palin as our vice president.
MITCHELL: And, Carly, does this mean that John McCain is not trying to broaden the base of the party—that he is trying to energize the base but is giving up on trying to reach the very voter who might have found Joe Lieberman appealing?
FIORINA: Oh, not at all. He is not giving up at all. In fact, I held yet another press conference today with a number of Democrats, both men and women, who are coming out in support of John McCain just as I held a press conference last week in Denver.
We are going to work for every single vote. And I think that Sarah Palin helps us reach out but make no mistake, we are going to reach out. And I must just say on the issue of experience, the reality is, that Sarah Palin has made more executive decisions as mayor and governor than Barack Obama has made in his life. And that is a very legitimate comparison to make.
I‘m frankly surprised that the Obama campaign is picking on experience given that it is Barack Obama who‘s running for president and Sarah Palin, after all is in the vice presidential slot.
MITCHELL: Carly, before I let you go, I know you had a meeting with Hillary Clinton‘s brother in Pennsylvania, as you were trying to reach out to Democrats. Any progress report on whether or not you‘ve got Hillary‘s brother in your camp?
FIORINA: You know, I had a meeting with about 50 supporters of Hillary Clinton‘s in Pennsylvania. Hillary‘s brother happened to come to the meeting. Frankly, I was delighted to have him but he wasn‘t the target of the meeting. The target of the meeting was to get these Democratic activist women to go into their communities throughout Pennsylvania and Ohio and talk to their friends and neighbors about John McCain and we accomplished that objective.
MITCHELL: Thank you very much.
FIORINA: Thank you.
MITCHELL: Senator Hatch, Carly Fiorina. Back to you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right, Andrea, thank you. The senator and Miss. Fiorina might have a little trouble selling that idea about reform with Governor Palin when she was mayor of that town of Wasilla, Alaska, when she got $27 million worth of earmarks, earmarks that (INAUDIBLE) of—the man with whom she shares the ticket.
We are now entering into in the next half hour, 45 minutes, what we would probably call the Bush family 45 minutes in this convention. It has been reduced to that period of time, as you see, the 41st president of the United States on the left and his wife, Barbara, on the right. They are anticipating a videotape tribute to that President Bush.
And later in the hour, Laura Bush, the first lady, will introduce her husband, current President Bush who will speak to this convention via satellite from Washington in a change, obviously, from the original schedule that was planned before hurricane events and weather events changed everything yesterday.
At this point let‘s bring in NBC News special correspondent, Tom Brokaw inside the Xcel Center in Saint Paul and our MSNBC and NBC news political director, Chuck Todd, and the relevance of Bush 41 to this convention—Tom.
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you very much, Keith.
And sitting just to the right of President Bush 41 is Bud Day, who was at the Hanoi Hilton with John McCain. He is one of his oldest and dearest friends. Bud Day has a Medal of Honor because he tried to escape and almost made it back to South Vietnam and became disoriented and the DMZ and was recaptured, and then spent those horrendous times.
Chuck and I have just been talking about President Bush 41 and Mrs. Bush and the growing affection for them, not just in the Republican Party but across this country. President Bush is 84 years old. He just had a hip transplant. And Barack Obama no less, said recently that he really admired the foreign policy conduct of that administration.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, there had been a lot of speculation actually that either in a McCain administration or an Obama administration, that you would have guys like Dennis Roth, Jim Baker, Brent Scowcroft, disciples of those guys that would be involved in the next State Department. There‘s a little question when—with John McCain who has shown more—shown more movement towards the neoconservative end of things.
But it is—we should mention McCain/Palin, the first time since 1972, no Bush or no Dole. We are seeing a movement away, I mean, two names dominated Republican Party politics. By the way, this guy Ronald Reagan, too. But for the longest time, since ‘72 now, no Bush and no Dole. So, it is sort of fitting that we‘re having this farewell to the Bush family in some form tonight.
BROKAW: And by the way, mid-September, in just a couple of weeks, President Bush 41 will be meeting in Philadelphia with Mikhail Gorbachev. They are going to give him a medal of the Constitution Center which President Bush has been deeply involved. And that will remind people of, really, one of the similar moments of the last 100 years or so—what happened when the wall came down in Berlin. I have been with the two of them before.
And Helmut Kohl, former chancellor of Germany, said to Gorbachev, “Thank you for not sending the tanks,” and said to President Bush, “Thank you for supporting my idea of unification of Germany.” A lot of people opposed that in Germany, and Margaret Thatcher, first among them, among European leaders. I think that President Bush 41 will get good marks from history, it‘s always hard, to know the open question remains, of course, what will happen if President Bush 43 for whom we‘ll hear tonight.
TODD: Well, I don‘t know about you. I couldn‘t help when you watched the “John Adams” series and you see his one-term presidency, and you think, well, he had a very active one term. That was sort of the first President Bush in a very active one term that history is treating a lot nicer than it did at the time.
BROKAW: And, you know, it goes without saying, that everyone understands in the political arena among friends that there had been tensions between father and son that have not spilled out into public. That President Bush 41 has been very supportive in a public way, gets angry when his son has been criticized. But people who are familiar with the family dynamics there know that this has been a very difficult time for President Bush 41.
TODD: What‘s interesting is John McCain appears to have a better relationship with Bush 41 than Bush 43.
TODD: There‘s a great cover story in the “New York Times” Sunday magazine this week that talked about how Bush 43 and McCain haven‘t spoken since May. In that time period, McCain went to Kennebunkport and did an event that, privately, have raised money. They‘ve been using the elder Bush, frankly, a lot more than younger Bush.
BROKAW: And as anyone who has watched the Bush family dynamics over the years knows that the one that you don‘t want to get on the wrong side is Barbara Bush, because she has very strong opinions and she‘s not afraid to express them. And she is a great defender of her son.
TODD: One Bush we have no talked about this convention who arguably, probably should be on the ticket is if his last name weren‘t Bush is Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor. It is odd that he is not a part of this convention at all. Now, he was supposedly a Mitt Romney guy early in the primary season but changed to McCain because he didn‘t like the way Romney was running the campaign and was impressed with McCain. If Jeb Bush were Jeb Smith there wouldn‘t have been a Sarah Palin on the ticket. It would be the former governor of Florida running with John McCain.
BROKAW: And we have to remember that President Bush 41 reached out to Mitt Romney and sponsored his speech, trying to explain to the evangelical right his Mormon roots and his beliefs on religion.
TODD: And Bush 43 always saw a little bit of himself in Romney. Both guys are MBA, business background. So, he definitely felt, the Bush 43 folks were definitely Romney people throughout this primary season.
BROKAW: Well, there is President Bush 41 who is 84 years old. And I don‘t know what you did on your 80th birthday but he jumped out of an airplane which is become a way he marks every five years.
TODD: So, that makes one more year. Next year, he‘s jumping out of a plane again.
BROKAW: I think if he can, he would. He doesn‘t like the idea that he‘s hobbled by the this hip that interferes with his quail hunting. But he can still run his speedboat around Kennebunkport, Maine.
TODD: And why do I feel like that‘s a Tom Brokaw reports, special report, you‘re going to jump with him.
BROKAW: I‘d be happy to. If he invites me, I‘ll be there.
Here now is a tribute, a video tribute, to President Bush 43 and President Bush 41.
NARRATOR: His name was George H.W. Bush. Come November, John McCain won‘t be the first former naval aviator to be elected president. Commissioned an ensign, Bush was the youngest naval aviator of his time and one of the greatest. He flew 58 combat missions in the Pacific earning the Distinguished Flying Cross.
But September 2nd, 1944 is the day he‘ll never forget. On his mission to take out Japanese installations on the Pacific island, he encountered intense anti-aircraft fire, flak at his aircraft. The engine caught fire; the plane, a fireball. But he completed his mission; then had to bail out.
George H.W. Bush was rescued at sea, the only member of his crew to survive.
After the war, this Connecticut Yankee and his new wife, Barbara moved to the dusty plains of West Texas to start out on his own in the oil business.
That dream flourished but something was missing in that story line. Fortunate for us, he had more missions to accomplish—a Texas congressman, American ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, our country‘s first envoy to China, and director of the Central Intelligence Agency, vice president to President Reagan, and finally, the 41st president of the United States.
His strength and resolve enabled him to successfully negotiate world changes brought out about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. He built one of the largest coalitions in history to rebut the aggression of Saddam Hussein in “Operation: Desert Storm.” And in doing so, he erased old ghosts of Vietnam.
Take a deep breath and thank George Herbert Walker Bush and his historic strengthening of the Clean Air Act. More doors of literally opened to Americans with handicaps through his support of the revolutionary Americans with Disabilities Act. The first President Bush—another who put country first.
(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)
OLBERMANN: Standing ovation for the 41st president of the United States at the Xcel Center. And now he sits.
Tom Brokaw invoked before the video tribute to the former president about him being at on point a Mitt Romney man, and Mitt Romney‘s role perhaps in this convention is still undecided. The “Boston Globe” is reporting at this hour that it is still unclear that if the former governor of Massachusetts who was considered to be one of the favorites, not just one of the inside choices, one of the favorites to be the vice presidential nominee for 2008, whether or not he will actually speak.
He was scheduled to do so tomorrow night. And right now, it is apparently undecided whether or not he will be fitted in somewhere else in this crowded convention schedule reduced to basically three days of activity.
When we return, Chris Matthews and Minnesota‘s governor, Tim Pawlenty.
And we continue to await for First Lady Laura Bush and President George W.
Bush by satellite from the White House.
You‘re watching MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican National Convention.
OLBERMANN: About 20 minutes until First Lady Laura Bush introduces her husband from the White House, President Bush‘s brief address to this convention coming up.
Welcome back to MSNBC‘s coverage of the Republican convention.
MATTHEWS: We are joined right now by Minnesota governor, Tim Pawlenty, our host governor here in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Governor, thank you for joining us. Did you have a sense that you were about to be the Republican nominee for vice president?
GOV. TIM PAWLENTY, ® MINNESOTA: Well, I certainly had a sense I was being considered and it was an honor to be considered. But I think that a great choice was made by Senator McCain.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that this—is suddenly being held (ph), this decision by the candidate, by Senator McCain, to select someone so unknown to the country, is it working, as you see it?
PAWLENTY: I think, Chris, it‘s always an introductory period where the public and the press is going to ask who is this person and what‘s their background. Do they have anything worthy of coming out in the discussion? That‘s what‘s taking place; it‘s part of the natural process. But the things that have been raised against Governor Palin, I think, are ridiculous.
Are you going to hold her responsible and not you, but is the media going to really hold her responsible for her 17-year-old juvenile daughter? It just seems like that‘s unfair and out of bounds.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about this whole question of the culture of the Republican Party. Both political parties, the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, to win the presidency have to win a majority support of the country, something like 50 percent to win. Do you believe you can win with the cultural statement being made by the selection of Governor Palin? That statement being someone from the very culturally conservative part of your party, is it going to work?
PAWLENTY: Senator McCain has a record of a maverick and a reformer. She does as well. She‘s clear conservative on the issues but I think, within the broad range of mainstream conservative and the tradition of Ronald Reagan, it worked pretty well for him and worked pretty well for the country.
MATTHEWS: Well, the reason I ask you is because there has been so much discussion about women‘s concerns in the last six months because of Senator Clinton‘s very heroic campaign that almost won her the Democratic nomination. And now, in response to that, and I think it is in response to that, your party has named a woman to the national ticket who has taken a 180-position from Senator Clinton on the issue of reproductive rights. Senator Clinton is pro-choice. I know these are shorthand terms.
Your candidate for vice president believes we should outlaw abortion, period. Outlaw it and not just get rid of Roe v. Wade at the national level, in the case where she has an influence, outlaw it. Is that going to work, that direct 180 contradiction from what Senator Clinton was advocating?
PAWLENTY: Chris, if somebody is out there who‘s going to vote only on the abortion issue from a pro-choice perspective, they are probably not voting for Senator McCain to start with. But there‘s a broader range of concerns and considerations that voters have, including women voters, that when they hear Governor Palin‘s story, her compelling life story about she is somebody who really does carve up the money at the kitchen table and wonder how their family will make ends meet and the rest of how she has kind of made her own way in life. That‘s a compelling story for a lot of women.
She has fought against corruption. She‘s fought against the old boys‘ network. She has fought against an establishment in Alaska that was corrupt. I think a lot of women are going to look at that and say, “I may not always agree with her on every issue, but this is a leader, a strong leader and we like that kind of approach that she has taken in Alaska.
MATTHEWS: Well, nice talking to you, Gov. Pawlenty. It‘s a beautiful state. It is almost like Christmas up here if you look at where we are at right now in front of this great old building here. Listen to these people here. We have a Christmas festivity going on outside the convention site. You‘ve got to come out and join us. Look at all the lights and all the people.
By the way, what does it feel like to have your name invoked as the nominee for the vice president tonight by the party co-chair, Joanne Davidson? Wasn‘t that funny?
PAWLENTY: Happy to be considered. But you know, I mentioned a brother in Pennsylvania a week or so ago. I‘ve got all the goods on you now, Chris, so you‘d better be nice.
MATTHEWS: I know. I know you have been checking me out, Governor.
Feel free to wander through the state of Pennsylvania.
Up next, we‘re waiting - the first lady‘s introduction of President Bush and we are going to hear from Orson Swindle, of course, one of the heroes who was held in captivity along with Sen. John McCain in Vietnam at the so-called Hanoi Hilton. You know, of course, he was active in the campaign of Ross Perot.
You are watching MSNBC‘s coverage of the Republican convention.
KEITH OLBERMANN: After the Republican National Convention tonight, the GOP getting back to the business of politics. Minutes from now, President Bush, who was to have held that coveted final slot on last night‘s schedule in St. Paul to instead address his party by satellite from the White House before the network prime time coverage to tell the country that he believes of presumptive nominee Sen. John McCain, quote, “He is ready to lead this nation.”
Tomorrow night the controversial vice presidential pick, Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, will give easily the biggest speech in her political career, bigger even than the stump speeches of Wasilla, Alaska. With Chris Matthews at our convention headquarters at St. Paul Minnesota, I‘m Keith Olbermann of MSNBC Headquarters in New York.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s go. We are joined right now once again by NBC News special correspondent - no, that‘s you. I‘m sorry. Yes, I‘m just going to respond to you. I think we are just talking around the table here. I‘m sitting with all the other panel, Keith. They haven‘t arranged this.
But everybody‘s got this on their mind - the big story this convention is probably not going to be tonight, even with the president speaking, even with Fred Thompson speaking, even with Joe Lieberman. Everybody is anticipating what it is going to be like to meet governor Palin. This is a mystery guest of the old school of the old what‘s my line. Who is this person? Where did she come from? Pat, you are laughing.
Like Annie Oakley with gun squad. We have no idea what this is going to be like. It‘s going to be spectacular.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: We‘ve got almost 96 hours now of unbelievable publicity about her. I think the anticipation is huge. She has an opportunity.
Listen, this is more about Sarah Palin. We‘ve been talking more about her than anybody has been talking about John McCain.
MATTHEWS: And it‘s news. It is a legitimate news story. Who is this person who could be our next vice president?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: With each passing hour, she‘s become even more fascinating. She belongs to the Alaska Independence Party and wanted to secede from the union? That‘s fascinating.
MATTHEWS: No, that‘s not - that‘s not what RNC believes.
They claimed that last night. The RNC said it is not true.
MADDOW: I mean, the thing that - the things that are coming about
Sarah Palin are making her more fascinating by the minute -
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: She is going to give - she‘s clearly going to give a better speech than John McCain. I‘m wagering right now. I‘m putting $25 out on that. And you know, we will get - we will really get to see who she is and also capture some of that spirit. It will be fascinating. I don‘t know how it will play outside of the home.
MATTHEWS: I‘m getting called back. We‘ll be right with Norah and the rest. Back to Keith in New York.
OLBERMANN: All right. Thank you kindly, Chris. Former prisoner of war, Orson Swindle, shared a cell in the Hanoi Hilton with John McCain during the ‘60s ‘70s. He is speaking now at this Republican convention and we are going to hear him in a few moments. He is not yet speaking. Thus, perhaps control would like to give me guidance as to what we will do instead.
All right. We got you - we disconnected Chris too soon. This Sarah Palin speech, we heard it again when you talked to Tom Ridge, the idea somehow that women supporters of Hillary Clinton are going to be swerved into the Republican camp or away from Barack Obama or away from whatever principles they shared with Sen. Clinton by the mere fact that the governor is a woman. It‘s not the most sophisticated, clearly, of political ideas.
Is it, however, a tenable one? Does it work even if it isn‘t sophisticated?
MATTHEWS: Well, I think you have to look at it a number of ways. To some, women are going to say this is Clarence Thomas. This is an attempt to get someone who is a reasonable facsimile on a base of one issue, in this case, gender. To others, it will work. We‘re going to see, by the way. It could be a split. Back to you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. Mr. Swindle is now approaching the podium at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. And now, let‘s listen to his speech.
ORSON SWINDLE, FORMER PRISONER OF WAR IN VIETNAM: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you and good evening. We are privileged to have with us this evening Michael Monsoor‘s sister and his two buddies from SEAL Team 3, Brian Lief Baron(ph) and Tom Di Savio(ph). Sarah and Tom and Lief, would you please stand and remain standing. We honor your brother and the sacrifice of you and your family.
Thank you so very much. Thank you so very much. We also have the great honor of having among us five Medal of Honor recipients. Gentlemen, would you please stand and be recognized and remain standing.
CROWD (chanting): USA! USA! USA!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SWINDLE: My two-and-a-half minutes is going to work in about a 60-minute gig here. In addition, there are two dozen of John McCain‘s fellow POWs in the audience. Gents, we have come a long way and I‘m honored to be among with you. Will you please stand and be recognized.
CROWD (chanting): USA! USA! USA!
SWINDLE: And finally -
CROWD (chanting): Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
SWINDLE: And thank you. Finally, let us recognize the many veterans among us who have served our great nation and sacrificed for us, including President George Herbert Walker Bush. Would you please stand and be recognized.
SWINDLE: When we talk about service, it doesn‘t get much better than this. We owe you all so very much. We honor your sacrifice. And we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the first lady of the United States, Mrs. Laura Bush.
OLBERMANN: This is MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of the 2008 Republican National Presidential Nomination Convention from St. Paul, Minnesota. Here is the first lady to introduce by satellite the president of the United States who is not actually in attendance, the first time a sitting president has not been in attendance at major political convention in several decades. Here‘s the first lady.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
LAURA BUSH, UNITED STATES FIRST LADY: OK. Thank you all. Thank you very, very much. Thank you so much. Thanks, everybody.
I‘m thrilled to be part of this historic convention on the eve of the nomination of John McCain for president of the United States. And I also want to recognize a former president and first lady, my father-in-law, President George Bush and Barbara Bush, and my sister-in-law, Dorothy.
The Republican Party has a very exciting ticket, a real American hero, John McCain, and a strong executive and proven reformer, Gov. Sarah Palin.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
I‘m proud - I‘m proud that America‘s first female vice president will be a Republican woman.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Women have always played an important role in our party from energizing grassroots to driving policy. Thank you to the dedicated women in our audience for making the Republican Party so strong.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
I‘m proud that impressive women have served in my husband‘s administration, women like Education Secretary Margaret Spelling, Labor Secretary, Elaine Chao.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
President Bush will address the convention in just a minute from the White House.
Before I introduce him, though, I want to talk to you a little bit about the man I love. The first time I spoke at our convention, George was governor of Texas and I was in front of the largest crowd I had ever addressed. That night, I told you about a man of character whose principles would not shift with the winds of politics of polls. A lot has changed in the last eight years, but one thing has stayed constant. George remains the man of strong values, with enduring love for the United States of America.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
America is in the middle of a heated campaign. Recently you have heard a lot of politicians offer a lot of opinions. But you haven‘t heard very many facts. So I thought I would share a few with you tonight. In honor of our nominee, let‘s call it a little straight talk.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
On an issue that‘s close to my heart, President Bush initiated the most important education reform in a generation, holding schools accountable and boosting funds for reading instruction. Today, student achievement is rising across the board and test scores from minority students are at the highest they have ever been.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
We all know how important it is for America to have judges who respect the constitution. Our whole nation can be proud of the two newest members of the Supreme Court, Justice Sam Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Many in this arena and many across our nation are people of faith, people who have answered the call to love your neighbor. The president has empowered faith-based and community charities to partner with the government to help those in need, engaging these groups as successful policy. One way we know this, across the country, 35 governors from both parties have started faith-based and community initiatives of their own.
And here‘s - here is another inspiring statistic. When my husband took office, fewer than 50,000 Africans suffering from AIDS were receiving the medicine they needed to survive. Thanks to the president‘s emergency plan for AIDS relief, that number is now nearly 2 million.
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You might call that change you can really believe in.
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George is using America‘s influence to lift up lives around the world. Millions of children are protected from malaria by mosquito nets the American people provide. In Afghanistan and Iraq, 50 million people are now living in freedom.
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Let‘s not forget President Bush has kept the American people safe.
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We‘ll always be grateful to the men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform of the United States, to the military families who know the anxiety of waiting for a loved one to return. America honors your service and we give you our thanks.
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In two months, the American people will choose the new president. No one knows the job, what job requires better than the man who holds this office. Ladies and gentlemen, my husband and the president of the United States, George W. Bush.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Thank you, Laura and good evening. As you know, my duties held me here in Washington tonight to oversee the Federal Government‘s efforts to help citizens recover from Hurricane Gustav. We are thankful that the damage in New Orleans and across the gulf coast was less than many had feared.
I commend the governors of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas for their sure-handed response and seamless coordination with the federal government. I thank all the wonderful volunteers who stepped forward to help their brothers and sisters in need.
We know that there is still risk even after the storm has passed. So I ask citizens across the region to listen closely to local officials and follow their instructions before returning tour their homes. All of us are keeping the people of the gulf coast in our thoughts and our prayers.
As you gather tonight in St. Paul, I want to share some thoughts about our nominee, a great American and the next president of the United States, John McCain.
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Before I do so, I want to say hello to two people in the hall with you tonight. I could have no finer examples of character, decency, and integrity than my mom and dad, and I love you a lot.
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I know what it takes to be president. In these past eight years, I have sat at the resolute desk and reviewed daily intelligence briefings, the threat assessments, and the reports from our commanders on the front lines. I have stood in the ruins of buildings knocked down by killers, and promised the survivors I would never let them down. I know the hard choices that fall solely to a president. John McCain‘s life is prepared him to make those choices. He is ready to lead this nation.
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From the day of this commissioning, John McCain was a respected naval officer who made decisions on which the lives of others depended. As an elected public servant he earned the respect of colleagues in both parties as a man to follow when there is a tough call to make.
John McCain‘s life is a story of service above self. 40 years ago in an enemy prison camp, Lieutenant Commander McCain was offered release ahead of others who had been held longer. His wounds were so severe that anyone would have understood if he had accepted. John refused.
For that selfless decision, he suffered nearly five more years of beatings in isolation. When he was released, his arms had been broken, but not his honor.
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Fellow citizens, if the Hanoi Hilton could not break John McCain‘s resolve to do what is best for his country, you can be sure the angry left never will.
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As a father to seven sons and daughters, John has the heart of a protector. He and his wonderful wife Cindy are adoptive parents.
John is a leader who knows that human life is fragile, that human life is precious, that human life must be defended.
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We have seen John McCain‘s commitment to principle in our nation‘s Capitol. John is a steadfast opponent of wasteful spending. As president, he will stand up to the high tax crowd in Congress and make the tax relief permanent. He will invest in the energy technologies of tomorrow, and lift the ban on drilling for America‘s offshore oil today.
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John is an independent man who thinks for himself. He is not afraid to tell you when he disagrees, believe me, I know.
No matter what the issue, this man is honest and speaks straight from the heart.
Last year John McCain‘s independence and character helped change history. The Democrats had taken control of Congress, and were threatening to cut off funds for our troops. In the face of calls for retreat, I ordered a surge of forces into Iraq. Many in Congress said it had no chance of working. Yet one senator above all had faith in our troops and the importance of their mission, and that was John McCain.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Some told him that his early and consistent call for more troops would put his presidential campaign at risk. He told them he would rather lose an election than see his country lose a war. That is the kind of courage and vision we need in our next commander-in-chief.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
And fellow citizens, we live in a dangerous world, and we need a president who understands the lessons of September 11th, 2001, that to protect America, we must stay on the offense, stop attacks before they happen, and not wait to be hit again. The man we need is John McCain.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
When he takes office next January, John will have an outstanding leader at his side. America will have a strong and principled vice president in the governor of the great state of Alaska, Sarah Palin.
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In the time the Oval Office has been in my trust, I‘ve kept near my desk reminders of America‘s character, including a painting of a west Texas mountain, lit by the morning sun. It reminds me that Americans have always lived on the sunrise side of the mountain.
We are a nation that looks to the new day with confidence and optimism. And I‘m optimistic about our future, because I believe in the goodness and wisdom of the American people.
I am optimistic because I have faith in freedom‘s power to lift up all of God‘s children and lead this world to a future of peace.
And I‘m optimistic about something else. When the debates have ended and all the ads have run and it is time to vote, Americans will look closely at the judgment, the experience and the policies of the candidates and they will cast their ballots for the McCain-Palin ticket.
While I‘m not with you in the Twin Cities on this wonderful night for our party, with Laura Bush speaking, you have clearly traded up. I am so proud the American people have come to know her gracious presence, her determined spirit, and her loving heart.
Laura has been a fantastic first lady.
Thank you, Laura. And thanks to all of you in the hall tonight. God bless you and God bless America.
LAURA BUSH: Thank you all very much.
For the past eight years, I‘ve seen the burdens of the presidency up close. John McCain has what it takes to face the challenges that lie ahead and he has the support of America‘s next first lady, Cindy McCain.
This year alone, Cindy has discussed land mine removal with Kosovo‘s president and prime minister. She‘s met with children undergoing reconstructive surgery in Vietnam.
She‘s listened to stories from survivors of genocide in Rwanda and she‘s comforted Georgian refugees who‘ve fled their homes in South Ossetia.
If Cindy can do all of this just in the last eight months, imagine what she can do in next four years in the White House.
The American people can expect great things from John and Cindy McCain. And President Bush and I can tell John and Cindy that they can expect great things from the American people.
We leave the White House with deep gratitude for your support. Our lives have been enriched by the generosity of citizens across our country, the children who welcomed us to their schools with songs and signs, the volunteers, church pastors and city mayors who shared stories of caring for those in need, the members of the military and their families who answered our nation‘s call to serve, and those who‘ve approached us with the simple and humbling words, “We‘re praying for you.”
Thank you very much for your encouragement and your prayers. Thank you for your support of the next president and first lady of the United States, John and Cindy McCain.
May God bless you and may God bless America.
LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you all very much. For the past eight years I have seen the burdens of the presidency up close. John McCain has what it takes to face the challenges that lie ahead. And he has the support of America‘s next first lady, Cindy McCain.
This year alone, Cindy has discussed landmine removal with Kosovo‘s president and prime minister. She‘s and met with children undergoing reconstructive surgery in Vietnam. She‘s listened to stories from survivors of genocide in Rwanda and she has comforted Georgian refugees who fled their homes in south Ossetia. If Cindy can do all of this just in the last eight months, imagine what she can do in the next four years in the White House.
The American people can expect great things from John and Cindy McCain. And President Bush and I can tell John and Cindy that they can expect great things from the American people. We leave the White House with deep gratitude for your support. Our lives have been enriched by the generosity of citizens across our country, the children who welcomed us to their schools with songs and signs, the volunteers, church pastors, and city mayors who shared stories of caring for those in need, the members of the military and their families who answered our nation‘s call to serve, and those who have approached us with the simple and humbling words “We‘re praying for you.”
Thank you very much for your encouragement and your prayers, thank you for your support of the next president and first lady of the United States, John and Cindy McCain. May God bless you all. And may God bless America.
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST: From nearly a staging point of view, just what the Republicans did not want to do, broadcast network coverage beginning at 9:00 p.m. with the anchors talking over the sitting president. They wanted to see this, the tribute, tribute to former president Ronald Reagan, late Ronald Reagan. Here is the video tribute.
NARRATOR: He was born the son of a hard drinking, wisecracking shoe salesman. His father ran up the stairs, looked at him and said that he looked like a Dutchman. Young Dutch worked as a sports broadcaster, found his way to Hollywood, and became a B movie star. But Ronald Reagan never forgot who he was, an American, a Midwesterner, and a leader who would always put his country first.
The media despised him. They said he was an outsider. They called him a California nut case. And some dared breathe the word “maverick.”
In the election of 1980, he faced Jimmy Carter. But Ronald Reagan knew who he was and what he could do. He would replace Carter‘s indecision with conviction politics. His platform was simple—lower taxes, less regulation, and getting government off your back.
Like Abe Lincoln, Reagan possessed a secret weapon, humor.
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I walked in, they were just concluding a meeting in the hospital of all of the doctors associated with the hospital. When I saw those doctors surrounding me, I said I hoped they were all Republicans.
NARRATOR: Americans loved the new president‘s confidence in America. He inspired a movement called the Reagan Revolution. One of its foot soldiers was soon to be a congressman, his name, John McCain. Reagan told his White House staffers that he hated taxes, inflation, and the Soviets.
By 1983, inflation fell, unemployment fell, and interest rates went down, and millions of jobs were created. Reagan brought an unprecedented economic expansion. He led from strength and broke the self-confidence of the evil empire of communism.
He had a partner. Her name was Nancy. The day after he was shot he wrote some words in his diary, “I opened my eyes to find Nancy there. I pray I will never face a day when she isn‘t there. Of all the ways God has blessed me, giving her to me is the greatest beyond anything I could ever hope to deserve.”
By putting country first, Ronald Reagan saved our America, saved our century, and changed the world.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the former Senator from Tennessee, the honorable, Fred Thompson.
FRED THOMPSON, ®, FORMER TENNESSEE SENATOR: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. As has been mentioned, our thoughts are still with our friend and fellow citizens in the gulf coast. Our special thanks go to those who have worked so hard to keep them safe. There can be no more important work than that.
But what we are doing at this convention is also important to our country because we‘re going to nominate the next president and vice president of the United States of America. We do so while taking a different view of our country than that of the other party. Listening to them you would think we were in the middle of a great depression, that we‘re down, disrespected, incapable of prevailing against challenges that face us.
Now we know that we have challenges, always have, always will. But we also know that we live in the freest, strongest, most generous and prosperous nation in the history of the world and we‘re thankful for that!
Now speaking of vice presidential nominee—what a breath of fresh air Governor Sarah Palin is. She‘s from a small town with small town values. But apparently, that‘s not good enough for some of the folks who are out there now attacking her and her family. Some Washington pundits and media big shots are in a frenzy over the selection of a woman who has actually governed rather than just talked a good game on the Sunday talk shows and hit the Washington cocktail circuit. I say give me a tough Alaskan governor, who has taken on the political establishment in the largest state in the union and won over the beltway business as usual crowd, any day of the week!
It‘s pretty clear the selection of Governor Palin has got the other side and their friends in the media in a state of panic. And no wonder—she‘s a courageous, successful reformer who is not afraid to take on the establishment. Sound like anybody else we know? She has run a municipality and she has run a state. I think I can say without fear of contradiction, she is the only nominee in the history of either party who knows how to properly field dress a moose, with the possible exception of Teddy Roosevelt.
OK. When she and John McCain get to Washington they‘re not going to care how much the alligators get irritated. They‘re going to drain that swamp.
But tonight, my friend, I would look to talk to you about the remarkable story of John McCain. It is a story about character. John McCain‘s character has been tested like no other presidential candidate in the history of this nation. He comes from a military family whose service to our country goes back to the time of the Revolutionary War. The tradition continues. As I speak, John and Cindy McCain have one son who just finished his first tour in Iraq, and another son—going back for his second one on Christmas day, I understand. And another—and another son who is putting his country first and attending the naval academy.
Now we have a number of the McCains in the audience tonight. I just want you to know—I understand they have been introduced but I want you to understand how proud we are of you and we thank you for doing what you are doing for your country.
Cindy is here with all the children. All the children are here, I believe. John is also here tonight. John‘s 96-year-old mother, Roberta. All I have got to say, if Ms. Roberta had been captured by the North Vietnamese, they would have surrendered. Now, John‘s father was a bit of a rebel too. In his first two semesters at the naval academy he managed to earn 333 demerits. Unfortunately, John later saw that as a record to be beaten. A rebellious mother and a rebellious father—I guess you can see where this is going.
In high school, in the naval academy, John earned a reputation as a troublemaker. But as John points out, he wasn‘t just a troublemaker, he was the leader of the troublemakers. Although—although loaded with demerits like his father, John was principled in rebellion. He never violated the honor code. However, in flight school in Pensacola, he did drive a corvette and date a girl who worked in a bar as an exotic dancer other the name of Marie the Flame of Florida.
Now the reason I‘m telling you these things—the reason I‘m telling you these things, that apparently, this mixture of rebellion and honor helped John McCain survive the next chapter in his life. John McCain was preparing to take off from the USS Forestall for his sixth mission over Vietnam when a missile from another plane accidentally fired and hit his plane. The flight deck burst into a fire ball of jet fuel. John‘s flak suit caught fire. He was hit by shrapnel. It was a scene of horrible human devastation. Men sacrificed their lives to save others that day. One kid, who John couldn‘t identify because he was burned beyond recognition, called out to John to ask if a certain pilot was OK. John replied, yes, he was. The young sailor said, thank God. And then he died.
These are the kind of men John McCain served with. These are the men and women John McCain knows and understands and loves. If you want to know who John McCain is, if you want to know what John McCain values, look at the men and women who wear America‘s uniform today.
The fire on the Forestall burned for two days. Twenty planes destroyed, 134 soldiers died. He barely dodged death in the inferno and could have returned to the states with the ship. Instead, he volunteered for combat on a carrier that was undermanned for having lost so many pilots, stepping up, putting his country first.
Three months later, John McCain was a prisoner of war. On October 26, 1967, on his 23rd mission over North Vietnam, a surface-to-air missile slammed into John‘s A-4 Skyhawk jet blowing it out of the sky. When John ejected, part of the plane hit him, breaking his right leg, his right knee, his left arm, and right arm in three places. An angry mob got to him when he fell to the ground. A rifle butt broke his shoulder. A bayonet pierced his ankle and his groin. They took him to the Hanoi Hilton where he lapsed in and out of consciousness for days. He was offered medical care for his injuries, if he would give up military information in return. John McCain said no.
After days of neglect, covered in grime, laying in his own waste in a filthy room, a doctor attempted to set John‘s right arm without success and without anesthesia. His other broken bones and injuries were not treated. John developed a high fever and dysentery. He weighed barely 100 pounds.
Expecting him to die, his captors placed him in a cell with two other POWs who also expected him to die. But with their help, John McCain fought on. He persevered. So then they put him in solitary confinement, for over two years—isolation, incredible heat beating on a tin roof, a light bulb in his cell burning 24 hours a day, boarded up cell windows blocking any breath of fresh air. The oppressive heat causing boils the size of baseballs under his arms. The outside world limited to what he could see through a crack in the door.
We hear a lot of talk about hope these days. John McCain knows about hope. That‘s all he had. For propaganda purposes his captors offered to let him go home. John McCain refused. He refused to leave the men that had been there longer. He refused to abandon his conscience and honor for his freedom. He refused though his captors warned him “it will be very bad for you.” They were right. It was. The guards cracked ribs, broke teeth off at their gums. They cinched a rope around his arms and painfully drew back his shoulders. Over four days, every two, three hours the beatings resumed. During one especially fierce beating, he fell again, breaking his arm.
John was beaten for communicating with other prisoners. He was beaten for not communicating with so-called peace delegations. He was beaten for not giving information during interrogations. When his captors wanted to know the names of the other pilots in the squadron, John gave them the name of the offensive line of the Green Bay Packers. Whenever John was returned to his cell, walking if he could, dragged if he couldn‘t, as he passed his other fellow POWs he would often call out to them. He would smile; give them a thumb‘s up. For five and a half years, this went on. John McCain‘s bones may have been broken, but his spirit never was.
Now being a POW doesn‘t qualify anyone to be president. But it does reveal character. My friends—this is the kind of character that civilizations from the beginning of our history have sought in their leaders—strength, courage, humility, wisdom, duty, honor. It‘s pretty clear there are two questions that we will never have to ask ourselves—who is this man? And can we trust this man with the presidency?
He‘s been to Iraq. He‘s been to Iraq eight times since 2003. He went seeking truth not publicity. When he travels abroad, he prefers quietly speaking—he prefers quietly speaking to the troops amidst the heat and hardships of their daily lives.
And the same character that marked John McCain‘s military career has also marked his political career. This man, John McCain, is not intimidated by what the polls say or what is politically popular. At a point in time when the war in Iraq was going badly and the public lost confidence, John stood up and called for more troops. And now we‘re winning.
Ronald Reagan was John McCain‘s hero. And President Reagan admired John tremendously. When the president proposed putting U.S. troops in Beirut, John McCain, a freshman congressman, stood up and cast a vote against his hero because he thought the deployment was a mistake. My friends, that is character you can believe in.
For years, members of Congress, Republican, and Democrat alike, have gouged the taxpayer with secret earmarked spending. Well, he never sought an earmark. I have experienced John‘s character—I have experienced John‘s character firsthand. In 1993, when I was thinking of running for the Senate, I went to John for advice. He convinced me I could help make a difference for our country. I managed to win that election and, with the Republican controlled Congress, we reformed welfare, balanced the budget, began rebuilding our military. And what I remember—and what I remembered most about those days is sitting next to John on the Senate floor as he led battle after battle to change the acrimonious, pork-barreling, self-serving ways of Washington.
Now the United States Senate has always had more than its share of smooth talkers and big talkers. And obviously, it still has. But while others were talking reform, John McCain led efforts to make reform happen. Always pressing, always working for what he believed was right and necessary to restore the people‘s faith in their government. Confronting when necessary, reaching across the aisle when possible, John personified why we all came to Washington in the first place. It didn‘t always sit too well with some of his colleagues. Some of those fights were losing efforts, some were not. But a man who never quits is never defeated.
Because John McCain stood up, his country is better off. And the respect he is given around the world is not because of a teleprompter speech designed to appeal to America‘s critics abroad. No, not that. It‘s not because of that, but because of decades of clearly demonstrated character and statesmanship.
There has never been a time in our nation‘s history, since we first pledged allegiance to the American flag, when the character, judgment and leadership of our president was more important. Terrorists, rogue nations, developing nuclear weapons, an increasingly belligerent Russia, intensifying competition from China, spending at home that threatens to bankrupt future generations for decades, an expanding government increasingly wasteful and too often incompetent to deal with these challenges, the Democrat present a history-making nominee for president, history making in that he is the most liberal, most inexperienced nominee to ever run for president.
Apparently, they believe that he would match up well with the history-making Democrat controlled Congress. History-making because it is the least accomplished and most unpopular Congress is our nation‘s history.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
THOMPSON: Together they would take on these urgent challenges with protectionism, higher taxes, and an even bigger bureaucracy. And a Supreme Court that would be lost to liberalism for a generation. This is not reform, and it is certainly not change, it is basically the same old stuff they have been peddling for years.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
THOMPSON: America needs a president who understands the nature of the world we live in, a president who feels no need to apologize to the—for the United States of America.
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THOMPSON: We need a president—we need a president who understand that you don‘t make citizens prosperous by making Washington richer. And you don‘t.
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THOMPSON: And you don‘t lift an economic downturn by imposing one of the largest tax increases in American history.
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THOMPSON: Now, our opponents tell us not to worry about their tax increases. They tell you, they‘re not going to tax your family. No, they‘re just going to tax businesses. So unless you buy something from a business, like groceries, clothes or gasoline, or unless you get a paycheck from a business, a big business or a small business, don‘t worry, it is not going to affect you.
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THOMPSON: They say they‘re not going to take any water out of your side of the bucket, just the other side of the bucket. That‘s their idea of tax reform. My friends, we need a leader who stands on principle. We need a president and vice president who will take the federal bureaucracy by the scruff of the neck and give it a good shaking.
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THOMPSON: And my friends, we need a president who doesn‘t think that the protection of the unborn or a newly born baby is above his pay grade.
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THOMPSON: Thank you.
The man who will be that president is John McCain!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
THOMPSON: And in the day ahead—in the days ahead of this convention you will hear a lot more what John will do as president, what he will do with regard to the economy, on energy, on health care, and the environment. It‘s not my role tonight to explain that vision.
It‘s my role to hopefully help remind you of the man behind the vision. Because tonight our country is calling to all of us to step up and to stand up, and put country first with John McCain.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
THOMPSON: Tonight, we are being called upon to do what is right for our country. What is right for our country. Tonight we‘re being called upon to stand up for a strong military, a mature foreign policy, a free and growing economy, and for the values that bind us together and keep our nation free.
Tonight we‘re being called upon to step up and stand up with John just as he has stood up for our country.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
THOMPSON: Our country is calling. Our country is calling. And John McCain can‘t raise his arms above his shoulders. He can‘t salute the flag of the country for which he sacrificed so much. Tonight, as we begin this convention, we stand with him and we salute him.
We salute his character and his courage, his spirit of independence and his drive for reform, his vision to bring security and peace in our time, and continued prosperity for America and all of her citizens.
For our own good, our children‘s, let us celebrate that vision, celebrate that belief, that faith, so we can keep America the greatest country that the world has ever seen. God Bless John McCain! And God bless America!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OLBERMANN: Keith Olbermann at MSNBC headquarters in New York, with Chris Matthews at St. Paul, Minnesota, the site of the Republican National Convention.
And we have heard two speeches in the last 40 minutes or so, Chris, first from President Bush and now from former Senator Fred Thompson. I think it is fair to say nearly entirely militaristic in nature and touching to some degree on who John McCain is and what he would do, but mostly standing him next to a flag and a gun.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think that was a very effective keynote. But what was unusual, Keith, is that it wasn‘t about a political party or a record or a platform, it‘s as if the Republicans have said, we can unite the party around a person. It‘s an unusual way to begin a convention. But I thought it was effective. It hit all the points, made John McCain out to be what he is, a hero, effectively.
But this is so unusual, to unite an entire political party about a man‘s biography which, of course, was available to them eight years ago and they rejected it. Now they‘re accepting it and celebrating it.
But you have to say—Pat Buchanan is with me here, I have to say, I think it was an effective speech. You and I have written speeches.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. It was not only an effective speech, it was a terrific speech. It was a barn-burner. And as you pointed out, Chris, the purpose of this thing is to contrast this candidate, who is a war hero, and a hero and POW, who sacrificed for his country, who has been tough maverick and an independent, contrast him to what he said basically was a lightweight liberal who apologizes for his country.
You had this really convention going. I think—I mean, this is a tremendous night, quite frankly, an opening night for the Republican Party.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s going to David Gregory, he is also with us.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Chris. I—just to pick up on what Pat talked about. I do think that this hit all the points that they wanted to hit, which is to stress McCain‘s biography at a time when even the McCain campaign has basically campaigned on Barack Obama and making this a referendum on Obama.
In terms of uniting the base, in terms of selling independents and potentially culturally conservative Democrats on John McCain is to remind them of the greatest asset, which is his story and his experience, and I think to try to dismiss with the back of the hand a lot of the movement and momentum that Barack Obama created out of his convention.
I also think if you start to compile some of what has occurred at this convention over the past week, you really have an effort to unify the base. The choice of Sarah Palin, the emphasis on abortion tonight, the remarks of President Bush, who talked about the defense of human life and to take the shot that the Senator Thompson did against Barack Obama, saying that protection of the unborn is above his pay grade, that that was red meat for the base tonight.
OLBERMANN: Well, David and Chris, stand by. There is much more to discuss from the Fred Thompson speech. But now Joe Lieberman will address this crowd in one of the great reversals of American political history, the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee speaking to the Republican Convention eight years later, trying to keep the Democrats out of the White House.
Here is Senator Lieberman.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: Thank you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: Thank you very much.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: Thank you, dear friends. Thank you so very much for that warm welcome. You would have to be me to know how much I appreciate it. I am really honored to be here tonight.
Dear friends, as you well know, we meet tonight in the wake of a terrible storm that has hit the Gulf Coast,, but that really hurts all of us, no matter where we live, because we are all members of our larger American family, right?
LIEBERMAN: At times like this, we set aside all that divides us and we come together to help our fellow Americans in need. The last thing we think about is whether one of the victims was a Democrat or a Republican because we‘re all Americans.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: You know, the sad truth is that it shouldn‘t take a hurricane to bring us together like this. Every day—every day across our country millions of our fellow citizens are facing very big and real problems.
They‘re worried about their homes and their jobs, their businesses.
They‘re worried about the outrageous cost of gasoline and health insurance.
And they are worried about the threats from our enemies abroad.
LIEBERMAN: But when they look to Washington, all too often they don‘t see their leaders coming together to tackle these problems, instead they see Democrats and Republicans fighting each other rather than fighting for the American people.
LIEBERMAN: I don‘t have to tell you that we were blessed in this country to have a great generation of founders. And they foresaw the danger of this kind of senseless partisanship.
In fact, our first president, George Washington, in his farewell address warned that the spirit of party could be the worst enemy of our democracy and enfeeble our government‘s ability to do its job.
My friends, I think tonight we can see that President Washington was right. The truth is today we are living through his worst nightmare in the capital city that bears his name.
LIEBERMAN: And that brings me directly to why I‘m here tonight. What, after all, is a Democrat like me doing at a Republican Convention like this?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: Well, I will tell you what, I‘m here to support John McCain because country matters more than party.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: I am here tonight for a simple reason. John McCain is the best choice to bring our country together and lead America forward.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: And, dear friends, I am here tonight because John McCain‘s whole life testifies to a great truth. Being a Democrat or a Republican is important, but it is nowhere near as important as being an American.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: I think you know that both of the presidential candidates this year have talked about changing the culture of Washington, about breaking through the partisan gridlock and the special interests that are poisoning our politics.
But, my friends, only one of them has actually done it. Only one of them has shown the courage and the capability to rise above the smallness of our politics to get big things done for our country and our people, and that one is John S. McCain.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: You know John, and you know that he understands that it shouldn‘t take a natural disaster like a hurricane to get us to take off our partisan blinders and work together to get things done.
It shouldn‘t take a natural disaster to teach us that the American people really don‘t care much if you have an R or a D after your name. What they care about is, are we solving the problems that they are against every day?
Let me tell you what you can expect from John McCain as president is precisely what he has done this week, put our country first.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: That‘s not a political posture by John, that is the code by which he has lived his entire life and that is the code that he will carry with him into the White House next January.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: Now, let me tell you that I have had the privilege of serving with John for almost 20 years, and the honor of becoming a dear friend of his. I have personally seen him over and over again, bringing people together from both parties to tackle our toughest problems.
For example, to reform our campaign finance laws, our lobbying and ethics laws, to create the independent 9/11 Commission after that great natural disaster—that great unnatural disaster caused by the terrorists, and then to work to pass the national security reforms that have made every American safer since then.
And then he worked together to end the partisan paralysis over nominations to the Supreme Court and other federal courts. This is the record.
LIEBERMAN: Now, let me—let me share something with you that I am in a unique position to do as a Democrat. My Democratic friends know all about John‘s record of independence and accomplishment. And you see, that‘s why I think some of them are spending so much time and so much money trying to convince the American people that John McCain is someone else.
I am here to tell you what I think you know, but I want to speak to the people out there. Don‘t be fooled by some of these political statements and advertisements. Trust me, God only made one John McCain and he is his own man.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: Let me, as John would say, give you some straight talk here. If John McCain was just another go-along partisan politician, he never would have taken on corrupt Republican lobbyists, or big corporations that were cheating the American people, or powerful colleagues in Congress who were wasting taxpayer money, but he did.
If John McCain was another go-along partisan politician, he never would have led the fight to fix our broken immigration system or actually do something about global warming, but he did.
As a matter of fact, friends.
LIEBERMAN: If John McCain is just another partisan Republican, then I‘m Michael Moore‘s favorite Democrat.
LIEBERMAN: And I‘m not!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: And I think you know that I‘m not.
LIEBERMAN: Senator Barack Obama is a gifted and eloquent young man who I think can do great things for our country in the years ahead, but, my friends, eloquence is no substitute for a record, not in these tough times for America.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: In the Senate, during the three-and-a-half years that Senator Obama has been a member, he has not reached across party lines to accomplish anything significant, nor has he been willing to take on powerful interest groups in the Democratic Party to get something done.
And I just ask you to contrast that with John McCain‘s record of independence and bipartisanship. But let me go one further, and this may make history here at this Republican Convention, let me contrast Barack Obama‘s record to the record of the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who stood up to some of those same Democratic interest groups, worked with Republicans, and got some important things done like welfare reform, free trade agreements and a balanced budget.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: Now, I‘m honored to say just a word about the great lady that John McCain has selected as his running mate.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: Governor Palin, like John McCain, is a reformer. She has taken on the special interests and the political power brokers in Alaska, and reached across party lines to get things done. The truth is, she is a leader we can count on to help John shake up Washington.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: That‘s why—that‘s why I sincerely believe that the real ticket for change this year is the McCain/Palin ticket.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: Let me tell you, friends, that the Washington bureaucrats and the power brokers are not going to be able to build a pen that will hold in these two mavericks, it is just not possible.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: Together, I think we can count on John and Sarah to fight for America and to fight for you, the American people. And that‘s what our country needs most right now.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: We all know it, these are tough times here at home. And we have dangerous enemies in the world. And what America needs now, frankly is not more party unity, what we need now is more national unity.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: And this is especially true of course because we are a nation at war. We need a president we can count on to fight for what‘s right for our country, not only when it is easy, but when it is hard.
And I was there, so I can tell you, when others were silent, about the war in Iraq, John McCain had the guts and the judgment to sound the alarm about the mistakes we were making in Iraq. You know.
LIEBERMAN: When others wanted to retreat in defeat from the field of battle, which would have been a disaster for the USA, when colleagues like Barack Obama were voting to cut off funding for our American troops on the battlefield.
LIEBERMAN: . John McCain had the courage to stand against the tide of public opinion, advocate the surge, support the surge, and because of that today, America‘s troops are coming home, thousands of them, and they‘re coming home in honor.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: My friends, I have had the privilege and I would say the pleasure of traveling the world with John McCain, even with Lindsay Graham, it was a pleasure.
LIEBERMAN: When I speak of John and I say that I can tell you from these travels how much he is respected and admired and liked by leaders across the globe, John McCain will be a president our allies will trust and our enemies will fear. And that‘s the kind of president we need in today‘s world.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: My friends, before I conclude, I want to ask the indulgence of all of you here in this hall tonight. Because I want to speak directly to my fellow Democrats and independents who are watching or listening tonight.
I want to speak directly to you out there. I know many of you are angry and frustrated by our government and our politics today, and for good reason. You may be thinking of voting for John McCain but you are not sure yet.
Some of you may never have voted for a Republican before. And frankly, in an ordinary election you probably never would. But I want you to believe with me that this is no ordinary election because—and it is no ordinary election because these are not ordinary times. And trust me, John McCain is no ordinary candidate.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: You may not agree with John McCain on every issue, but you can always count on him to be straight with you about where he stands and to stand for what he thinks is right for our country regardless of the politics.
I can tell you with a certain faith that as president you can count on John McCain to be what he is naturally, a restless reformer who will clean up Washington and get our government working again for all of the American people.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: So tonight, I want to ask you, whether you are an independent, a Reagan Democrat, a Clinton Democrat, or just a plain old Democrat, this year when you vote for president, vote for the person you believe is best for our country, not for the party you happen to belong to.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: I ask those of you who are watching or listening, vote for the leader who, since the age of 17, when he first raised his hand and took an oath to defend and protect our Constitution, has always put America first.
LIEBERMAN: My friends, I appeal to independents, Democrats, and Republicans. Let‘s come together this November to make a great American patriot, John McCain, our next great president.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LIEBERMAN: Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OLBERMANN: Senator Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, identifying himself to the audience both on television and in person as a Democrat, to which would be argued, I think, by a lot of his previous Democratic supporters that‘s not exactly here nor there.
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR: Senator Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, identifying himself to the audience, both on television and in person, as a Democrat, which would be argued, I think, by a lot of his previous Democratic supporters, that‘s not exactly here nor there.
I‘m joined from inside the arena by David Gregory.
Let me ask one question that sort of encompasses both the Lieberman speech and, before it, the Fred Thompson speech. I heard two disconnects in there. It seemed to be against the Republican Party line. And I wanted your thoughts on this.
There was apparently an ad-libbed portion in the—in the Lieberman speech—it was not in the provided text—that talked about the respect that foreign leaders and nations were giving John McCain, which, of course, they just piled Obama on, the pursuit of foreign approval.
In the Thompson speech, after giving what was in many respects a very moving and detailed explanation of the misery that John McCain suffered as a prisoner of war on behalf of this nation, Fred Thompson actually said, now, being a POW doesn‘t qualify anyone to be president.
And, of course, when General Wesley Clark said something like that, the bus rolled over him kind of quickly. Are those nitpicking points, or are they deviations from the standard Republican text, David?
DAVID GREGORY, HOST, “RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE”: Well, I think these are—this is fodder for some of the debate that will come out of here, just that kind of examination of these remarks and some of the claims that will be made.
You know, just—you mentioned the comments of General Clark. And Thompson almost going out of his way to say that the biography of McCain, the fact that he was a POW, cannot be asserted as itself a qualification.
I thought they went farther to make the point that it is a point of
character and that it fills out the biography. And I think that was more -
more of the point there. And, then, as you say, the other point about allies trusting McCain and enemies fearing him, I think, was all to the point of John McCain on the world stage, even down to the point of putting country first.
I mean, I think this is going to be part of the debate as well, because implicit in that is, somehow, the opposition does not. And these are the subtexts of these campaigns that have gone on, certainly since 2004, that are going to be hotly debated now.
OLBERMANN: David, stand by inside the arena.
Let‘s bring Chris Matthews back in on this—this conversation.
Were these functional and useful speeches, the last two, from Senator Thompson, former Senator Thompson, and Senator Lieberman, or were they not, in your assessment?
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Well, you are looking at a very clear strategy.
The Republican Party has an unpopular president to sell. These are objective facts. They have a record which is very hard to sell. They have an opposition party facing them from last week that wants to blame them—fairly or not—for everything that has gone wrong in America.
And the polls show they‘re taking the heat for that. So, what do they do? They change the subject to the quality and character of their candidate, who basically beat the Republican establishment. They‘re basically trying to accept here the nomination—accept the nomination of a man who beat the establishment, John McCain, giving him kind of the celebration of a Teddy Roosevelt.
Of course, if you go back, as you know, Keith, back to Teddy Roosevelt‘s day, he was sort of jammed into the vice presidency under McKinley to get him out of New York politics. In this case, they‘re trying to, well, make a—make some lemonade out of a lemon, as they see it.
It‘s been a very effective night, though, if you give what they came here with. The only strength they have that is real is the heroic history of John McCain. It‘s untouchable. It‘s unbeatable. The Democrats spent all last week saluting it.
Every Democratic speaker to take to the floor last week saluted the heroic life of John McCain. So, the Republicans start off with the same sense of the lay of the land. Their greatest strength, as Democrats know, as the Republicans know, is not their record, not their platform. It‘s their candidate.
This is the most candidate-based convention I have seen. I wasn‘t there with Eisenhower, but it must have been like that back in ‘52, when the Republicans didn‘t have a record, but they had a hero.
The second thing they‘re trying to do is just what the Democrats did last week, solidify their base around abortion rights. In this case, they‘re solidifying their base in opposition to abortion rights. Again and again, they go back to that. What unites the Republican Party are the social issues.
And then they go—they are going to go forward into the debates and hopefully win the election on the debates. But all they can do, going towards debates at end of this month, is solidify the party on social issues, unite them around a heroic candidacy of John McCain, and then hope that John McCain can defeat Barack Obama in the debates.
That seems to be the strategy—Keith.
OLBERMANN: To your point, I will quote again Rick Davis, the campaign manager of—of Mr. McCain‘s campaign, who said to “The Washington Post” either today or late yesterday: “This election is not about issues. This election is about a composite view of what these people take away from these candidates.”
Let‘s get some immediate reaction from the floor. Ron Allen is standing by on the convention floor with the former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich—Ron.
RON ALLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Thanks very much, Keith.
I‘m with a very happy man who has a big smile on his face, and, dare I say, a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, seeing Joe Lieberman here tonight.
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, you know, last time, I was here with the Georgia delegation listening to Zell Miller. This time, we‘re here with the Georgia delegation listening to Joe Lieberman.
We‘re already beginning to wonder. Next time, will it be Mark Warner? I mean, who is going to join us next time, because they seem to get one Democratic senator every four years now, which, if I were the Democrats, would worry me. What is it that is driving somebody who had been their vice presidential nominee eight years ago to come here to speak to our convention?
But I am very happy, very excited. And I think this has been a very, very good evening.
ALLEN: But this is still a man who disagrees with you and Senator McCain on many issues...
ALLEN: ... just about everything except national security, on abortion rights...
GINGRICH: We‘re going to hear from a wonderful former mayor of New York, who is substantially disagreeing with a large part of this convention on a whole series of issues, because he‘s a moderate Republican.
And, unlike the Democrats, we are prepared to have a wide range of people who agree broadly on a handful of big issues, and disagree on many other issues. And I think that‘s a great example of a genuine governing party. We‘re much bigger, we‘re much broader as a party than the Democrats.
ALLEN: There‘s every indication that John McCain wanted to put Joe Lieberman on the ticket with him. They‘re—one of the three amigos, as they‘re known.
ALLEN: What would have happened had he done that?
ALLEN: It would have been much harder, because Lieberman was, after all, the vice presidential nominee for Al Gore.
That‘s what makes it so remarkable that he is here tonight. But I think, in all fairness, Senator McCain found a genuine soul mate in an aggressive, activist reformer with the same kind of courage McCain has in Governor Palin. And I suspect this will turn out to be the strongest possible ticket that we could have fielded this year.
ALLEN: I sense the party is really rallying around Governor Palin, very critical of some of the coverage she‘s gotten, the questions she‘s been asked about. Is that a fair assessment of the mood here tonight?
GINGRICH: Oh, I think the mood here is overwhelmingly excited by Governor Palin, a recognition that Senator McCain has now created a national figure who is young enough that she could well be a leader of this country over the next two generations, and that she is a terrific rallying symbol for young people across America and for women across America to recognize that you can work hard, you can achieve, you can rise, and, if you have got guts, you can actually become a national figure.
ALLEN: But, to be fair, her resume is not something that we are familiar seeing with presidential candidates.
GINGRICH: Well, it‘s stronger than...
GINGRICH: It‘s stronger than Barack Obama‘s. I don‘t know why you guys walk around saying this baloney.
She has a stronger resume than Obama‘s. She‘s been a real mayor. He hasn‘t. She has been a real governor. He hasn‘t. She has been in charge of the Alaska National Guard. He hasn‘t. She was a whistle-blower who defeated an incumbent mayor. He never has once shown that kind of courage.
She‘s a whistle-blower who turned in the chairman of her own party and got him fined $12,000. I have never seen Obama do one thing like that. She took on the incumbent governor of her party and beat him. And then she beat a former Democratic governor in the general election. I don‘t know of a single thing Obama has done, except talk and write.
And I would—I would like you to tell me one thing you think Senator Obama has done.
ALLEN: Thanks very much, Mr. Speaker. I am going to leave it there.
ALLEN: I‘m not going to argue the case. Thanks very much.
GINGRICH: Thank you.
ALLEN: Keith, back to you.
OLBERMANN: Ron Allen with Newt Gingrich.
We are going to be back in a moment with some reaction from the former Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Jr., plus Tom Brokaw. There were some openings provided by former Speaker Gingrich right there. We will get to them in a moment.
This is MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of the Republican 2008 Convention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If the Hanoi Hilton could not break John McCain‘s resolve to do what is best for his country, you can be sure the angry left never will.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: What, after all, is a Democrat like me doing at a Republican Convention like this?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We rejoin you with MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican National Convention, the last of three speeches tonight, the first a brief one from President Bush, then from former Senator from Tennessee Fred Thompson, and from, most recently, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
Andrea Mitchell is on the convention floor with Senator Lieberman and joins us now—Andrea.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Thanks so much, Keith.
Joe Lieberman, lifelong Democrat.
MITCHELL: You‘re still registered as a Democrat...
MITCHELL: ... even though you call yourself an independent...
LIEBERMAN: Yes. Yes.
MITCHELL: ... in terms of the Senate. How weird is this, for you to be speaking at a Republican Convention?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I never would have expected it. But, then, I didn‘t expect my party to take the turns it did, particularly on foreign policy, national security.
So—and, of course, I couldn‘t have imagined in an earlier time that somebody I have been as close to as John McCain, worked with on so many things, national security, climate change, lobbying and ethics reform, would be the candidate.
So, I‘m proud to have been here. I hope it helped John. I really wanted to try to appeal to independents and Democrats who are undecided, to say that, if you want Washington to change, John McCain really has the record to say he will be the one to do it.
It was a wonderful crowd. So—and the uniqueness of it, or any awkwardness immediately left, because they gave me such a warm welcome.
MITCHELL: When you walked out, though, what was your initial feeling, as you walked out, you looked around, and you see all these Republican signs?
LIEBERMAN: Yes. Well, they were friendly.
LIEBERMAN: I mean, they were McCain signs.
And, you know, I am a Democrat. And I think that‘s perhaps what was unique about tonight. I‘m—I‘m—I remain a Democrat. I disagree with the direction of the party. I want to stay and fight.
But this is a time where country matters more than party. And McCain is the better of the two candidates for our country.
MITCHELL: Senator, we know that John McCain wanted you on this ticket, and, up until maybe 10 days ago, was hoping that you would be his running mate. But there was a lot of pushback. Staff, and others, said there would be a rebellion on this floor.
What would that have been like for you, and any regrets?
LIEBERMAN: Well, first off, I don‘t know. I mean, John and I are very friendly, but I don‘t know that that is the case.
And I must tell you that, when Rick Davis, the campaign manager, called me and asked—told me that John wanted me to put me on his short list, I was really shocked. And I said, make sure he is not doing this just to thank me for supporting him.
And Rick said, “No, no, he is not.”
So, I always thought that it was too far a reach. And my role is to do the best I can to help make him the next president.
MITCHELL: How does someone like John McCain, who seriously thought about you as his running mate, then turn to Sarah Palin. You a veteran political leader, an attorney, a former prosecutor, foreign policy expert, and Sarah Palin, how does she match up in terms of experience?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I know why he made—of course, my wife would say no one matches up to me, of course, but the reality is that Sarah Palin brings unique strengths to this campaign.
And I think she particularly illuminates a side of John McCain that was getting lost, which is, he is the maverick. He has fought the status quo. He‘s taken on corporations and power-brokers, Republicans or Democrats. That is her record in Alaska.
The other thing is, frankly, Washington is not working. And Sarah Palin is a breath of fresh Alaskan air. And I think that‘s why John chose her. He wants to shake up Washington, and this is a very good way to say he will do it.
MITCHELL: Do you feel comfortable campaigning as hard as you are for the ticket, given her position on social issues, which are completely opposite from your own?
LIEBERMAN: Yes, well, look, I came to the ticket because of John.
And even John and I don‘t agree on all issues.
But that‘s the point of it, I think, that—that we have got to find ways for people who don‘t agree on every issue, but agree on big issues, like national security, and getting our economy going again, and climate change, for us to figure out how to work together.
So, I—this is a question of confidence in this man. You know, one of two people is going to be president on January 20. It‘s either going to be John McCain or Barack Obama. And I know that John McCain is the one we need there.
MITCHELL: Do you feel that Sarah Palin is qualified to be commander in chief, if, God forbid, something should happen to John McCain?
LIEBERMAN: Well, you know, let‘s assume the best.
LIEBERMAN: And John is in great shape. He is going to be the president. And let‘s assume that nothing bad will happen. Why should we? But, if it does, yes, she will be ready.
MITCHELL: Well, one-third of all vice presidents have, one way or the other, taken office as president.
See, but they call it a presidential election for a good reason. And I say this with humility, as somebody who once ran for vice president. It is about the presidential candidates.
And I just think, as you compare the extraordinary record of John McCain, working across party lines to get things done, fighting the special interests, fighting his own party, and the total lack of that kind of record on Barack Obama, we have got to have John McCain in the White House next year.
MITCHELL: Senator Joe Lieberman, the big speaker of the night, a registered Democrat, but appealing for Democrats and independents to vote for John McCain—Keith, back to you.
OLBERMANN: Andrea Mitchell, thank you.
I—just for the sake of historical—historical accuracy, this is bipartisan historical accuracy. Senator Lieberman quoted Washington‘s farewell. I think it is imperative to mention that, in Washington‘s farewell address, he didn‘t warn against too much partisanship or a little bit too much activity by political parties. He warned against all political parties. He said, we should never have them in the United States of America.
So, it needed a little bit more context perhaps than Senator Lieberman gave it.
And with that, I will now seek further commentary from former congressman Harold Ford Jr., who joins us now from Saint Paul.
Different topic altogether—the speech by Fred Thompson with, as I suggested, a—a strong, and impressive, and certainly moving description of John McCain‘s travails in the Hanoi Hilton in his period of time as a POW, after that, with—with, for the first time I think I have heard in this entire campaign a prominent Republican—or many Republican—said, now, being a POW doesn‘t qualify anyone to be president.
As—as refreshing as that caveat might have been, purely politically, did Fred Thompson wind up with, in this speech, handing the Democrats a line to stick in an ad, or is it something that is just going to go into the ether?
HAROLD FORD, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think two things.
First off, the Republicans had a good night. There were two P‘s that defined the night, Palin and patriotism. Both Thompson, Lieberman, and all of the speakers, as you touched on, Keith, tried to reinforce John McCain‘s biography, his service, and his character.
If you listen to all of this, though, you could easily forget that we are undergoing the most lackluster economic period of activity in this country in the last 75 years, that America‘s standing has been reduced dramatically across the globe, and we have found ourselves culprits to weakening international organizations who have tried hard to help over the last several decades, not only strengthen America, but make the world safer.
I was particularly curious as you listened to Newt Gingrich and others brag about Sarah Palin. The American people will decide if he‘s—if they are comfortable with her, confident in her leadership, if—whether or not she can serve.
But, if you listen to Gingrich and Joe Lieberman and Fred Thompson, their definition of her experience, you would assume that Sarah Palin is more qualified than even John McCain to be president...
FORD: ... because John McCain has never served as an executive. He‘s never made executive decisions. And all he has done is written and talked as well.
So, in all of their exuberance to express her qualifications, they should step back a moment and realize that McCain is at the top of the ticket.
If you are Barack Obama tonight, you can take some solace, largely because the Republicans have tried their hardest to turn their convention into a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall. I respect, adore and admire every veteran, because they paved the way for me. But the reality is, what Barack Obama and his team will have to focus on now is the economy.
Remind Americans where we have been the last eight years. Remind Americans where he seeks to take us, because at no time tonight did any of the major speakers of the evening, as eloquent, as powerful, and compelling as they were, speak about what has transpired in this country over the last eight years, $2.5 trillion of lost wealth in homes, high unemployment rates, the fact that more Americans are without health insurance.
Barack Obama has a clear—a clear set of differences with John McCain. The question will be whether or not, over the next several weeks, he can magnify those and make that case. If he does, he will blunt a lot of what happened this evening.
But you have to give them an A tonight in effort and a B-plus tonight in their execution.
OLBERMANN: Harold Ford, stay with us.
Tom Brokaw is back with us, along with our political director, Chuck Todd.
And, gentlemen, I guess the—the major question here clearly is, did the Republican accomplish what they set out to do, and did it—does it have a shelf life to it, or is this the kind of thing that can change their perception of how they are doing and Americans‘ perceptions of what they would bring in a presidency?
TOM BROKAW, NBC SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that Chuck and I agree that it was kind of a mixed evening. And part of it, we can‘t measure easily.
I thought Fred Thompson did—was very effective, not only in this hall, but probably on television, in reintroducing John McCain, and talking the second half of all the statement, by the way, was a POW doesn‘t make you qualified to be president. Character, which came through, does.
And I think that they were trying to blunt, if you—if you will permit me this, Keith, this constant criticism that they‘re starting to get about using the POW experience as a rationale for just about everything else.
But I thought, in the case of Senator Lieberman, this hall was not very excited about his appearance here tonight. They rose to the red-meat lines. My guess is that they still see him as somebody who wears some—another team‘s colors when he comes in here, especially on social issues, like abortion. They know where he stands on that. He does vote with the Democrats 90 percent of the time.
And, Chuck, I couldn‘t help but think, as he was delivering that speech, and attacking Senator Obama, especially as an eloquent young man who is not yet ready, and then praising Sarah Palin, I wonder what Al Gore was doing at that moment.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, not just Al Gore.
What was Joe Biden thinking at that moment, too?
I was struck by the Sarah Palin stuff in his speech, because of that. It‘s one thing to have made the decision to be with McCain. It‘s clearly a friendship. It‘s personal. Now, he‘s taken some of the attacks in the Democratic Party very personally.
The embracing of Governor Palin probably—somebody that we don‘t know when he has met her, how often he has met her, but I have been struck by how little many leaders—Lindsey Graham, the other day, admitted he had never met her before—how easily he embraced Governor Palin in this.
And he really has bought—bought in full—looking almost for full membership in this Republican Party, maybe not for—for the future, but this 2008 version.
Thompson was effective tonight, I think better than any of us thought.
We—granted, we had the bar pretty low after his presidential.
BROKAW: Here is a guy who, in Iowa, had to ask for applause.
TODD: That‘s right.
BROKAW: He couldn‘t earn it.
TODD: But I do wonder if Rudy and Lieberman tonight would have been a more effective one-two punch, two guys that could have spoken to being—to this moderate wing of the party a little bit.
Or do you use Lieberman to introduce McCain? You do wonder the mixing and matching. Rudy is going to get lost tomorrow. We didn‘t see an electric crowd tonight. We are going to see it tomorrow. When Sarah Palin comes in here, it‘s going to be a rock star. There might be more people interested in watching Sarah Palin speak tomorrow than John McCain on Thursday night.
There won‘t be an empty seat in the house. There were a lot of empty seats tonight. There won‘t be an empty seat tomorrow. And you do wonder, are they wasting Giuliani by putting him tomorrow night?
BROKAW: And, Keith, because you and I are always interested in the sports angle, it was a good night for Fred Thompson to have a good night, after what happened to Tennessee last night in the Rose Bowl against UCLA.
TODD: He is actually Phil Fulmer‘s twin brother.
OLBERMANN: And he brought in—and he brought up the Green Bay Packers‘ offensive line, which now switches that back, talking about the sports analogy. The last time Mr. McCain told that story, it was the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ offensive line. It was a long time in there. It might have been both.
But, Tom, before I let you and Chuck go, I have got to ask this question. I think we are seeing a thread developing here. We saw it. President Bush made reference to her. You mentioned how much Senator Lieberman discussed Governor Palin. If—Senator Thompson discussed Governor Palin at length, and glowingly.
In his interview with Andrea Mitchell, Newt Gingrich just described her as the—the best hope for this party, perhaps, for the next two generations.
Is it clear, is it fair to say that the Republicans are going to sink or swim in this election with the governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin?
BROKAW: You know, I think it all depends on two things.
I think depends on how she performs in her speech tomorrow night. And then, as I was thinking earlier, we are now midway through the second act. The other piece of the second act are those debates. What happens when she goes against Joe Biden? And what happens when Barack Obama and Senator McCain meet in their debates as well?
That‘s when the country will really begin to harden their decisions and make their conclusions about who they want to be president and then who is prepared to step into the Oval Office if something does happen to the president. So, I—I don‘t think that we are through with this process of making the assessment yet.
I think it is very smart for the Republicans, in the meantime, to sell to the American people as hard as they can that she is ready, trust me, you are going to have a good feeling about her when you finally see her.
TODD: Politically, tactically, though, Keith, I do wonder, have the Republicans taken their eye off the ball? When they have made this campaign about Barack Obama, that‘s when McCain was keeping this close.
Suddenly, this convention feels—I mean, you brought it up tonight -tomorrow, it is really going to feel like this is Sarah Palin‘s convention. We are all just in attendance. And it‘s no longer about either John McCain—which obviously tonight was and Thursday night will be—or about making the case against Obama, that it is almost as if they have been sidetracked by this Sarah Palin nomination, which, on one hand, absolutely has just electrified the grassroots. But, on the other hand, it is distracting them from what had been a very effective message this summer, which is making the case against Barack Obama.
OLBERMANN: Yes, it was Obama, and it was experience on the other side. And now, as you suggest, Chuck, I think it has become the Sarah Palin convention.
Tom Brokaw, Chuck Todd, many thanks.
Let me turn now to our colleague David Gregory, who is back with us now.
The question that I—that I began to ask Harold Ford about shelf life to what was included in here, obviously, this did—and particularly Fred Thompson‘s speech, which had great strengths to it, particularly in the retelling of the story of John McCain‘s captivity. Is there—is there a shelf life to this? Or were there—were there opportunities presented to the Democrats to respond to this?
GREGORY: I think both.
I think the shelf life comes from the idea that this night and this convention is in large measure, this choice of Palin, is about selling change. Barack Obama‘s great effect last Thursday at Invesco Field was the contrast, was the argument that, if you want change in this election, who do you trust to deliver it to you? And he made a powerful argument in that regard.
McCain realizes, in this choice of Palin, that he had to throw the long ball. He needed something that was going to excite the base, yes, but to force independent swing voters, women to take another look at this ticket. He doesn‘t want to run the Bob Dole campaign of 1996 against Bill Clinton, who was talking about building a bridge to the 21st century.
He wants to have some—a real dynamic force in the campaign and to make the campaign for change.
But, Keith, here is what is so awkward about the Republican Party at this very moment. You know, here, I was thinking about the conventions of 2000 and 2004 with George W. Bush, and now President Bush. And here he is addressing this convention from the White House. He‘s got hurricane duties. He‘s also deeply unpopular.
And it is awkward. He is trying to pass the mantle of his legacy, to keep a Republican in the White House, to the very man he defeated in 2000 in such a bitter election. And, yet, it now falls to John McCain, with whom there is no love lost, to—to perpetuate the Bush legacy of Republican power in the White House.
The drama in all of this, I think, is inescapable. And there‘s a lot of drama on the Democratic side as well, both history and the drama of the Obamas and the Clintons. But, in this particular case, there is this mood in the hall tonight—yes, excitement about Sarah Palin, but a little bit of a lost feeling about, where does the party go from here?
Joe Lieberman is the headliner tonight, and he‘s a Democrat. We have got an unpopular president, the Republicans do—and now a Republican standard-bearer who has never been beloved in a convention hall, who has always been a flamethrower within the party, who is promising to sweep out Washington with dramatic change, in order to hold on to power.
It is a dramatic state of affairs. Change is the argument of the day. And, yet, again, if you look at the placement of George Bush tonight, it just reflects the balancing act that this party has to go through right now.
You notice, what did President Bush talk about? What did Thompson talk about? Primarily foreign policy. Nine-eleven was about that we haven‘t been hit again. The war in Iraq was about that the troop surge worked—very little discussion of President Bush‘s record beyond that.
They want to focus on these narrow channels that they can argue going forward.
OLBERMANN: And I will add one thing to your—to your very astute observations in there about the Bush/McCain dynamic.
There‘s George Bush, who said, in 2000, that John McCain was not ready to be president, despite all his years in the Congress and the Senate, and now that argument is the cornerstone of John McCain‘s campaign—or had been, at least until recently—against Barack Obama. It is a sort of...
OLBERMANN: It is a bizarre inheritance from one to the other.
GREGORY: And—and it is. You know, if you think about to the Democratic Convention...
GREGORY: ... here is Bill Clinton, who said, Barack Obama is not ready to be president, after such bitterness in their primary fight about him not being ready.
This is the drama of politics, this is the practice of politics, not always pure but it is evolved to this point where George Bush is saying, John McCain is the guy. Because in many ways, most Republicans believe, whether they don‘t like McCain completely or not, he seems to beep best situated to help the Republicans keep hold of power now.
OLBERMANN: And I‘m just flashing back to Jimmy Carter in Denver saying: “Trust me, no one is ready to be president ever, it just happens.” David Gregory, great thanks from inside the Xcel Center.
And one final really personal note of empathy with someone who now has a job I used to have. Fred Thompson, who is the principal backup to the radio commentator, Paul Harvey, as many of you know. This is empathy because I used to have that job.
You‘re in that booth, filling in for Paul Harvey, they give you a cough button when you need to cough. They did not do that for Mr. Thompson tonight, and by our counts here, he actually cleared his throat with an open microphone 70, seven-zero, times.
Up next, we‘ll check back in with Chris Matthews and our panel. I‘m going to start a collection fund for a cough button for Mr. Thompson. This is MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican Convention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRED THOMPSON ®, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I say, give me a tough Alaskan governor who has taken on the political establishment in the largest state in the union and won over the Beltway business-as-usual crowd any day of the week.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Americans will look closely at the judgment, the experience, and the policies of the candidates and they will cast their ballots for the McCain-Palin ticket.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: This is MSNBC‘s coverage of the Republican Convention at St. Paul.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: We‘re back right now. Let‘s bring in the panel. MSNBC‘s coverage continues. We‘re out here at the site of Rice field—or is it Rice Park? I think it is Rice Park, which is seven years older than Central Park, we‘re told. Pat Buchanan is here, Rachel Maddow, of course, Norah O‘Donnell, NBC News, and Gene Robinson from The Washington Post.
I‘ve got a Washington Post story that is just moving right now which carries some information relevant to the vetting process which brought us the governor of Alaska on the ticket. “Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was not subjected to a lengthy in-person background interview with the head of Senator John McCain‘s group vice presidential vetting team until last Wednesday in Arizona, the day before McCain asked her to be his running mate.”
So we had the first series vetting the day before she was named. “She did not disclose the fact that her 17-year-old daughter was pregnant until that meeting, according to two knowledgeable McCain officials.”
Norah, this is—this does bring up more questioning as to whether this was an improvisational selection.
NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: This raises questions about the judgment of John McCain and the way he made this decision. Was he forced into this decision?
As anonymous Republican sources were saying today, he wanted Joe Lieberman, he wanted Tom Ridge. His inner team argued against that because there would be a floor fight on this very convention, not the type of convention night they had tonight where everyone was very happy inside that hall, happy about those speeches, happy about the choice of Governor Palin, the social conservatives happy.
But this story will continue about why she was not vetted more fully, why this decision, one of the most important decisions you can make that signals what type of executor you are going to be, was made at the very last minute.
What this Washington Post story says is she was not interviewed by a lengthy process by the lawyer reading this until Wednesday. She was on announced Friday. The lawyers who go up and vet things did not go up there until Thursday.
The campaign has been telling us they know everything. Rick Davis, earlier on MSNBC, said there will nothing else be coming out against her that could damage her candidacy.
But this is significant, because it will raise questions, David Plouffe, Obama‘s campaign manager, today saying, this is totally different than how we ran it. They said they interviewed Biden‘s whole inner family for things, that it was a lengthy, long process.
Voters can judge those two things, about how this process will be made. She is going to have a big primetime speech tomorrow night. She might just hit it out of the park. She is definitely a rising star in the Republican Party. She is an impressive woman.
But this is raising questions about McCain‘s judgment, and McCain‘s campaign.
MATTHEWS: Well, I guess the question you‘d have to ask, would he give more time to the selection of a secretary of state, a secretary of defense, a secretary of the treasury, Rachel?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well.
MATTHEWS: Than just a quick apparently one-shot interview?
MADDOW: And what is his opinion of the vice presidency? Does he think this is an important job? My sense of what is important about the vice presidency is one thing political and one thing patriotic.
The political choice has to be, will this person make it less likely that I can get it elected? He has to be seen with Sarah Palin. But the patriotic choice is, I am about to do something that is incredibly anti-democratic, I‘m about to do something that within our system gives more power to one person than almost anything else that happens in American politics, and that is a nominee picking the vice presidential selection.
There is no Senate vote on that. There is no—the person doesn‘t have to be confirmed. That takes a lot of trust from the American people that we have that sort of system. It looks to me like John McCain treated that sort of very serious decision very cavalierly. And I am worried about it.
MATTHEWS: Well, there is a possibility that luck plays a role here. Luck does play a role in life, Pat. It could be that even though he didn‘t have a lot of time to conduct this vetting process, and it may have been improvised right up to the very edge of when he had to decide, unhappy with the other possibilities, he might be lucky here.
She could come out and be a real pistol here and win over this convention like no one else in this whole week.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this is exactly right. If she turns out to be a smashing success, nobody is going to care about whether she was vetted or when Culvahouse went up there.
And if the thing busts up and it goes down and it implodes, I mean, it doesn‘t make any difference whether she was vetted or not. I think he made a tremendous decision. The whole convention does.
We know a lot about her. I don‘t know any—as for this pregnancy, for heaven‘s sakes, sure, it‘s a distraction, but that‘s because of us. I mean, we didn‘t go after John Edwards, who had far worse a problem that attended him. And this is a daughter had a pregnancy.
MATTHEWS: Let Gene in here.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Number one, it was the campaign that announced the pregnancy. We didn‘t find it out. They announced it. They put it out there.
Number two, just as an old editor, I would be nervous. Because, you know, if a story is reported over two days, and it‘s a really big story, you are going to wonder if you got all the facts and if—you know, got everything you needed to know. So.
BUCHANAN: As Chris says, if this is a success and a triumph, John McCain did the smartest move ever and he won the presidency of the United States.
MADDOW: . John McCain rolled the dice and got lucky, and we got somebody who happens to be qualified to be president of the United States.
MATTHEWS: Back to Keith.
MADDOW: But he had no way to know when he made the decision.
BUCHANAN: But wait—listen, what do you mean? The woman has a tremendous record. I know it is two years, but it‘s a tremendous record.
MADDOW: You only knew it for five minutes, Pat. She.
BUCHANAN: I knew it then!
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be right back with more of the panel right after this. Back to New York.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OLBERMANN: We‘re back with our live coverage of the Republican National Convention.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go right now, Keith, to New Mexico Congresswoman Heather Wilson. She‘s down on the floor at the Xcel Center.
Congresswoman, thank you for joining us. Give us a complete sense.
REP. HEATHER WILSON ®, NEW MEXICO: My pleasure.
MATTHEWS: . as someone from the West and a conservative as to what you think of the convention tonight?
WILSON: It was electric here tonight. I was down on the floor with the delegation and also out in the halls, people are psyched. It‘s—you know, yesterday was very subdued, and intentionally so. But today I think people really responded, particularly to Fred Thompson.
But also to Senator Lieberman, who is a lower key and thoughtful guy, but a Democrat who—I mean, this is unprecedented, he was the vice presidential nominee four years ago and here he is endorsing the—the Republican candidate for the presidency.
I don‘t remember any other time in history when something like that has happened.
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you make of it in terms of four years ago when Zell Miller, the senator from Georgia, another Democrat, came in and did pretty much the same thing? Is this—is this going to be part of the pattern of Republican Conventions, Democrats coming in endorsing your candidates?
WILSON: Well, I sure like it, especially when Senator Lieberman was their candidate for vice president four years ago. That really says something when he has come forward and said, look, this is beyond party, it‘s for country, and John McCain puts his country first, and he is the guy who should be the next president. I think that is a very powerful statement.
I thought Fred Thompson did an out-of-the-ballpark speech tonight as well, he really reached the crowd.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about—because I agree in terms of drama, in terms of presentation, how do you find a professional like that? I mean, he is—he reminded me of Ronald Reagan‘s endorsement of Barry Goldwater in terms of historic, you know, drama.
WILSON: Goldwater was before my time. But I thought that—that Senator Thompson did a very good job. And he explained—he kind of reintroduced John McCain as a person and as a reformer and as a man of character. And I think he did that well.
He talked about a lot of issues as well. I think one of the things that got the crowd the most tonight was when he talked about, well, you know, nothing is going to happen to you because we are going to drink out of the other side of the bucket, we‘re going to drain the other side of the bucket when it comes to taxes.
People understood that, that if they raise taxes, everybody is going to be affected. And so I thought it was—I thought he was very effective tonight.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the very tricky issue, or troubling concern of abortion rights, did it surprise you that that came up a number of times tonight? And do you think that will create enough of a majority going into the election this November for the Republican candidates?
WILSON: Well, the Republican Party is pro-life. And I think that is an important issue for a lot of folks in the Republican Party. It is also a big contrast with Senator Obama who is not only pro-choice, or—but has taken some votes, including in the Illinois State Senate, against, you know, the born alive act, which to me is just incomprehensible.
And I—so there is a very big difference there for folks, and it‘s important to Republicans.
MATTHEWS: Tell us about that issue, the born alive vote, back in early part of this century, in 2002-2003, what was that about? Why is that worthy of note tonight? And Senator Thompson raised that in his discussion, in his speech tonight.
WILSON: Because what it said was, if a child—if someone tries to abort a child and the child, rather than being aborted and born dead, is born alive, then they should be given medical assistance. And it came out of a case where a nurse held a baby while the baby died and was prohibited from providing any life support to that child.
And it was just wrong. And it‘s—and Senator Obama said no, let them die. And I—I just find that to be deeply troubling, very, very troubling. And I think a lot of people here did tonight. It‘s something that really goes to the core of what being pro-life is about.
MATTHEWS: How do you square that deep concern about life and opposition to abortion with hosting Joe Lieberman tonight, a very strong supporter of abortion rights, at your convention?
WILSON: Senator Lieberman addressed that a little bit when he said, you know, on some of the big issues we need to look at what unites us and not what divides us, he appealed directly to—to Democrats.
And frankly, there are a lot of Democrats and independents who find Senator Obama‘s position on the born-alive protection act to be abhorrent, just like partial-birth abortion is abhorrent.
So Senator Lieberman said, you know, we have got some troubled times, some difficult issues, we need a strong leader, and John McCain is that leader. And I thought he was pretty effective.
Senator Lieberman is a low key guy. He always has been. And I think he was reasonable and articulate and appealing to people who are not Republicans.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Congresswoman Heather Wilson of New Mexico. Thanks for joining us tonight.
WILSON: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: . as we cover this Republican Convention on this first big night. We‘re back to Keith now.
OLBERMANN: Chris, thanks. To be fair to Senator Obama, Representative Wilson was not complete in that context of what she said. Senator Obama at no point said, let them die. What he—his argument was in voting against that measure in the Illinois state legislature was that extant law, the laws that were already on the books in Illinois, fully covered that horrific situation. And I believe Representative Wilson knows that.
We‘ll get more reaction to what we‘ve heard tonight from down on the convention floor. This is MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of the 2008 Republican Convention.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OLBERMANN: From New York and Minnesota, we are back with MSNBC‘s live coverage of the Republican National Convention. Speeches tonight from President Bush, former Senator Fred Thompson, and independent Democrat Senator Joe Lieberman.
MATTHEWS: It was an interesting evening tonight. It was almost a bifurcated evening of a tribute to the life and career and heroism of John McCain and a very traditional American story. Of course, the story of the hero.
But then a switch to Joe Lieberman, who came on in almost contradistinction to the Republican values on abortion rights which have been heralded throughout the evening. It just seemed like two different directions in the same evening, but maybe it worked. I don‘t know—
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Chris, for Joe Lieberman, he said it was a little strange at first, but you heard him say that when he got out, he got into it, and they were receiving him warmly.
He went beyond where I thought he would go because he had said in the past on the campaign trail that he would not attack or criticize Barack Obama at this convention. But he actually did.
He made it very clear, as he talked about Barack Obama being a young man but not ready to be commander-in-chief. And he really validated John McCain for a lot of Democrats. A lot of women out there, Jewish voters, others who support Joe Lieberman perhaps in Florida and also in other big states where Joe Lieberman still has some support.
So this is a real break. And he has been somewhat of a pariah in the Senate, but this was a real crossing of a barrier, if you will, for Joe Lieberman to do this.
Aside from that, the Republicans whom I‘ve spoken to tonight, some of them were senior Republicans, acknowledging that they got off easy in this convention. Because of the hurricane, you know, an act of God, they did not have a whole night devoted to George Bush and Dick Cheney.
And as popular as those two leaders are with the base and with the delegates here, they are not popular in the broader electorate with historically, you know, low popularity ratings out around the country. So that was another thing.
But now we have this new report, Chris, in The Washington Post by Dan Balz, who is such a highly respected political reporter, this late-breaking news that A.B. Culvahouse‘s interview—only interview, or major interview with Sarah Palin, according to The Washington Post, was on last—was last Wednesday, just of the afternoon before she was offered the job.
It‘s pretty extraordinary that that was the first and only interview with the man doing the vetting. It tells you that this was really a last-minute decision—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s get back right now to Keith, and I‘ll be back with Keith later in the next hour.
OLBERMANN: And when we return, more analysis of the story lines of the night. We‘ll look ahead to tomorrow. And the pressures on Governor Sarah Palin as she prepares to speak in what may be an all-or-nothing kind of arrangement at this 2008 Republican Convention. Our MSNBC coverage continues right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: John is an independent man who thinks for himself. He‘s not afraid to tell you when he disagrees, no matter what the issue. This man is honest and speaks straight from the heart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR: One theme tonight at the Republican National Convention at Saint Paul, Minnesota, three very different speeches making the case that, because of his service to his country, Senator John McCain should be the next president—the current officeholder, President Bush, in a scaled-down speech, addressing delegates by satellite from the White House, and, without ever mentioning his own record, intimating that, because he‘s in a position to know, Senator McCain has the experience to be commander in chief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We live in a dangerous world and we need a president who understands the lessons of September the 11th, 2001; that to protect America, we must stay on the offense, stop attacks before they happen, and not wait to be hit again.
The man we need is John McCain.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Senator Joe Lieberman, meanwhile, is still calling himself a Democrat, and still saying he is putting patriotism ahead of partisanship.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: I‘m here to support John McCain because country matters more than party.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: McCain‘s campaign manager, Rick Davis, having said in advance of tonight‘s courage and service of John McCain theme that—quote “This election is not about issues.”
Former Senator Fred Thompson touching the third-rail issue of abortion rights anyway.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRED THOMPSON, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My friends, we need a president who doesn‘t think that the protection of the unborn or a newly born baby is above his pay grade.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: At least three people, meantime, arrested tonight during an anti-poverty march that ended near the convention arena.
With Chris Matthews at our convention headquarters in Saint Paul, I‘m Keith Olbermann at MSNBC headquarters in New York—Chris.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Let‘s—let‘s bring in the panel, I guess, right now.
We have got Rachel Maddow with me, Pat Buchanan, of course, Michelle Bernard, and Gene Robinson.
And, of course, I want to go over the latest development here with regard to the vice presidential nomination of Sarah Palin. Is it significant, in the—to see that “The Washington Post” reports tonight for tomorrow‘s newspapers that this improved—improvised selection was so last-minute that the first in-depth interview of the candidate for vice president of the United States occurred the day before she was selected, that the news about the family situation with her daughter being pregnant was only disclosed at that point, information about the husband had been arrested many years ago in a DUI situation?
Are those—do any of those raise to the level of the kind of significance that would stop this nomination, had it been a longer procedure?
PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I don‘t—I don‘t think either of those two things would stop a nomination of someone he really wanted. They shouldn‘t, either.
This woman had nothing to do with her daughter getting pregnant. She‘s handled it according to her beliefs. I do think it suggests that the McCain campaign was more slipshod in its process than it let on.
But, as I said earlier, Chris, if this thing works out, nobody‘s going to care about the vetting.
BUCHANAN: And, if it fails, the vetting doesn‘t matter either, because the campaign will pay the consequences.
MATTHEWS: Rachel, the question is, does the vetting now commence in the newspapers?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. The vetting commenced on Friday morning, when she was announced. And that‘s why we have learned so much more about her than anybody and that presumably than the McCain campaign knew at that time.
I mean, even if you just look at the way that she was introduced as a person who was going to be a crusader against earmarks, even just what we have learned about having hired a lobbyist for the town of Wasilla to seek earmarks, having just sent a letter six months ago to Ted Stevens with $200 million worth of earmark requests for Alaska, for them to have introduced her as this great crusader against earmarks, alongside John McCain, wouldn‘t have passed the laugh test, let alone the smell test, had anybody known anything about her before the time when they decided to introduce her that way.
MATTHEWS: Well, we got some new developments here in terms of press corrections. Let‘s put this whole thing on the table.
“The New York Times” reports tonight for tomorrow morning‘s newspaper that they had a wrong source at the Alaska Independence Party, that the chairwoman of that party, Lynette Clark, was in error, according to “The New York Times” posting tonight. She was not—Sarah—Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, was not a member of that party in the 1990s, as reported by “The New York Times” today. Their sourcing was wrong.
They got the chairwoman of the party to give them bad information. So, the RNC was right today to insist that Sarah Palin, the candidate for vice president, has been a Republican, registered so, all through the ‘90s.
You have a thought on that, because she was involved in your politics?
BUCHANAN: Yes. I think “The New York Times” ought to vet their sources a little better before they start dropping this stuff out, Chris.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BUCHANAN: And good heavens. Look at—they dropped this right on her, and maybe they ought to look a little better at their sources.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think, when you go to the chairwoman—the chairwoman of the party, there is a certain credibility that goes with that.
But, apparently, in this case, it was not fairly done.
MATTHEWS: They did not do their vetting right.
Your thought, Michelle?
MICHELLE BERNARD, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that this, it doesn‘t really matter. I don‘t think people really paid that much attention to it.
The bottom line is, she is a Republican. She is a conservative. John McCain‘s base is completely electrified. They love this woman. And tomorrow night is going to be the most important night that we see this week.
MATTHEWS: So, all this will just add to the excitement of her presentation tomorrow?
MATTHEWS: All this concern about the vetting procedure will...
BERNARD: The people—the country is sitting back restless waiting to hear Sarah Palin—Sarah Palin‘s own voice tomorrow night.
EUGENE ROBINSON, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:
Well, Michelle is exactly right.
Meanwhile, here is what happened. On Friday, reporters scrambled to Anchorage from Los Angeles, from D.C., from New York. They checked into their hotels. They unpacked their bags. They started interviewing people.
In the next couple of days, we are going to start seeing these stories with dateline Juneau, dateline Anchorage.
ROBINSON: And we don‘t know what we‘re going to—what we‘re going to find out.
MATTHEWS: But, so far, the feeding frenzy has...
ROBINSON: But I think we‘re going to—we‘re going to find out something. We‘re going to find out more about her story. We‘re going to find out more about her record. And that‘s what I‘m really—really interested in, you know, like the fact that she did support the bridge to nowhere before she opposed it, that she did, you know, actively seek earmarks, before she decided that she‘s against them, that sort of thing.
So, we‘re going to learn if there‘s—if there‘s unity between the image that Sarah Palin projects of herself and the record that Sarah Palin compiled in—in Alaska.
MATTHEWS: But she still strides forth before this convention tomorrow night, do we all agree, as relatively unscathed, right?
MATTHEWS: There‘s nothing against her in all this reporting?
MATTHEWS: But the feeding frenzy has yielded a minnow so far?
BUCHANAN: It is exactly right.
And tomorrow night of course is—this is the Palin convention certainly tomorrow night.
But, Chris, the point you were making earlier, it is clear what the Republicans are doing now. They are playing the patriotism card, and they are playing the morality card. The morality card is going to be the right-to-life issue, and especially this newborn issue that is really explosive.
And the patriotism card is, of course, John McCain, this great war hero, as against this lightweight liberal, who basically, you know, writes scripted speeches to appease our critics in Europe. That‘s what they‘re saying.
It was—roughed up. It was a fine speech. Second best speech, I think, of the two conventions was the one that Fred Thompson delivered tonight.
BERNARD: Well, you know, what is interesting...
MATTHEWS: But wasn‘t it interesting that the fact that the Republican Party, as it seeks to regain and control the White House for another four to eight years...
MATTHEWS: ... is not advancing a program; it‘s not advancing a record; it‘s advancing a biography? This is a very narrow attack on the opposition.
BUCHANAN: Well, that‘s.
BUCHANAN: You‘re exactly right. But they‘re doing the biography.
It‘s just like at the Democratic Convention, sort of in reverse.
He‘s doing the biography of this great hero. McCain will come through with, here is the agenda, here is the vision. That will be his job here.
MATTHEWS: I see.
BUCHANAN: But, amazingly, at the last convention, Obama was the one that took apart the opposition.
BERNARD: Also, what I was going to say, though, what‘s really interesting to me is, it‘s not just John McCain‘s biography. If you notice tonight, Fred Thompson was very astute in tying John McCain, not to George Bush, but to Ronald Reagan.
He talked about Ronald Reagan being John McCain‘s hero.
BERNARD: Republicans feel that John—that Ronald Reagan is the best president we have ever seen in the United States of America. And that‘s who he‘s trying him to. It is the biography of Ronald Reagan, the America that—that Republicans love and remember, and John McCain.
MADDOW: Oh, yes. We—it‘s like we skipped back eight years in time. It‘s the year 2000 do-over. And all we need to know about the world is that the Democratic nominee wants to kill babies, Democrats want to raise your taxes, and John McCain was a POW.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MADDOW: That‘s all we need to know. And nothing for the last eight years has happened.
George W. Bush, oh, he‘s the great H.W. Bush‘s son.
MADDOW: I wonder what he‘s being doing for the last eight years.
MATTHEWS: Pat, you‘re laughing at this.
BUCHANAN: Well, Rachel has a point. They are not going back there. They went back to George H.W. Bush., Ronald Reagan. I sat there riveted and everything.
And I will tell you, it was a seamless night. They went from one of these to the other to the other to Thompson.
MATTHEWS: Except for one scene missing, the stitching. They skipped the president of the United States.
BUCHANAN: They had him on earlier, Chris. You must have missed it.
MATTHEWS: In a video. They had him on a video.
MATTHEWS: They had him on as if he were dead.
BUCHANAN: No. Then he praised John McCain.
MATTHEWS: That‘s not the same thing as welcoming him here.
BUCHANAN: He—he raised up John McCain as well.
MATTHEWS: He‘s alive, and he‘s president of the United States, and he has an airplane. He could have flown here.
Is it important, Pat?
MATTHEWS: I‘m leaving this as an open question. Is it important that Air Force One did not come here tonight?
BUCHANAN: I don‘t really think so. I think his wife and he validated John McCain as the leader of the future.
But Rachel is right. They passed over, very swiftly, the last eight years.
MADDOW: Is it fair to ask whether or not Dick Cheney was not here last night because he was involved in hurricane response in some way?
MADDOW: I mean, what was Cheney doing? Why couldn‘t he be here?
MATTHEWS: I think we‘re picking a point here.
BUCHANAN: He‘s in Georgia, isn‘t he? He‘s in Georgia.
MADDOW: Right. But he left there for today. He was scheduled to speak last night. Cindy spoke last night. Laura spoke last night. Where was Dick?
OK. Here‘s the interesting thing. I want you all to think about it. John McCain is a maverick. This convention, since last night, has been advocating maverick behavior. And then it spent a good part of tonight talking about orthodoxy on social issues.
Can it have both—can it have it both ways, Pat?
MATTHEWS: Can it be an orthodox party that celebrates maverick behavior? Will it work?
BUCHANAN: I think—look, I think, on pro-life, that‘s—look, that is what defines it. We are a pro-life party. The Democrats are the pro-choice party.
What the Republicans have said, we will fight that on our traditional battle lines. But you are right. Sarah Palin is—Palin is coming in as a maverick. She‘s coming in as a reformer, change addict, and she‘s someone that goes right after...
MATTHEWS: Change addict?
BUCHANAN: Change agent.
MATTHEWS: Oh, OK.
MADDOW: That would be something we have not had before.
MATTHEWS: A change addict.
ROBINSON: John McCain—during the Georgian crisis, John McCain said, we are all Georgians. The Republicans are in there saying, we are all mavericks.
How can—they can‘t all be mavericks. It‘s the new orthodoxy...
ROBINSON: ... all maverick.
BERNARD: After all the scandals of the last eight years, the Republicans want two mavericks in the White House.
BERNARD: And that is the—that is the line that we‘re going to hear about...
BERNARD: ... over and over again.
MATTHEWS: Has this ever been successful?
MATTHEWS: A party that‘s been in office perhaps, by the lights of most people, too long, it needs to be replaced by something new. Can it produce its own new? Is it possible?
Chris, you will probably remember it. Mayor Wagner up in New York City, first race I ever covered, he ran against the bosses.
BUCHANAN: And he was the boss.
BUCHANAN: And here‘s what they‘re doing. The Republicans are running against Washington, the Washington that they run.
BUCHANAN: And it is—and they‘re pulling it off.
BUCHANAN: Tonight, they pulled it off.
MADDOW: And they are here at the—at Republican National Convention...
BUCHANAN: ... change agents.
MADDOW: ... criticizing people who are politicians.
MATTHEWS: That sounds like alchemy.
ROBINSON: Who live in Washington, like Fred Thompson.
MATTHEWS: Tell me, Pat—I want Pat to have the floor here.
BUCHANAN: All right.
MATTHEWS: This is a political party to which you have had some loyalty over the years, not all the time.
MATTHEWS: And it‘s able—is it able to be its own phoenix, to come from the ashes of its own political problems, and offer itself up as something brand-new, out of the ashes of its own party? Is it doable?
BUCHANAN: Here‘s—yes, what they‘re doing is this. They‘re saying, you know, Cheney and Bush are here, and they did some good things, but these are two different people. They are two real outsiders.
One of them is from 6,000 miles away in Alaska, the other, John McCain, the most famous maverick in the Congress of the United State, and they‘re coming for a new Washington. And that‘s what they‘re bringing forward.
And it is working as of tonight. And it‘s a very tough thing to do, but I think they‘re working it.
ROBINSON: Well, Pat, it‘s certainly working internally in the party. I think it‘s making the people in that building believe that this is possible.
But I think Chris asks a valid question. Can they pull this off?
ROBINSON: And it‘s—you know, it‘s a bridge pretty far. They might
maybe they can.
BUCHANAN: ... bridge to nowhere.
MATTHEWS: If you‘re a Democrat watching this tonight, if you‘re—if you‘re one of the smart folks around Barack Obama, if you‘re Barack Obama, and you‘re watching—and they‘re watching—if you‘re David Plouffe...
MATTHEWS: ... or you‘re David Axelrod, you‘re one of them miracle workers over there, are you looking at this, saying, my God, look what they‘re doing; they‘re converting themselves from the old into the new through some kind of alchemy out there, with the help of a stagecraft and a great speaker like Fred Thompson?
Can they do this, or are they not worried? What do you think they think, Pat?
BUCHANAN: No, I think you are—they are, because everybody agrees that Barack Obama is the change candidate and change agent. They‘re saying, we are the change agents, too, but we have got a genuine war hero and a real man here, and they have got this lightweight who gives scripted speeches.
They have put Obama right back in the crosshairs. I will tell you, Thompson‘s speech was a splendid piece of political work.
MATTHEWS: Is this like “Mrs. Doubtfire,” where the husband is about to be denied custody of the children, he‘s being divorced, but he comes back as the nanny?
MATTHEWS: He comes back looking very different, because he wants to be close to the children again?
MATTHEWS: Is this a “Mrs. Doubtfire” moment...
BUCHANAN: No. This is...
MATTHEWS: ... where you transform yourself so successfully?
BUCHANAN: It‘s a Sarah Palin moment.
BUCHANAN: Sarah Palin moment.
MATTHEWS: I mean, is it possible that you can come back so transfigured that you can reappear as the savior from the person that you are?
MATTHEWS: Is that possible?
MADDOW: No, you can‘t.
MATTHEWS: Because it looks like it might happen here.
MADDOW: Well, the—you pointed it out earlier—and it‘s right—which is that, if this is going to be a convention that‘s about John McCain‘s biography, his biography hasn‘t changed since 2000. The Republican Party had a choice to pick him in 2000, and they did not.
MADDOW: They could be running the same...
MADDOW: ... about him now.
MATTHEWS: OK. That was easy, compared to what they are doing tonight.
MADDOW: That was easy.
MATTHEWS: That was easy.
MADDOW: But the last eight years are trouble for John McCain. But he is—he is 90 percent...
MATTHEWS: Well, I think we are looking at a—at perhaps a cross-dress, perhaps, like one of your favorite metaphors.
MATTHEWS: Or maybe we‘re looking at political alchemy, but tonight was certainly something new, Keith, when a political party, recognizing it can‘t sell record, it can‘t sell program, it can‘t sell success, but it can sell a very fascinating biography of an American hero, accompanied by another maverick, something new for the Republican Party tonight.
Let‘s go back to you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right, perhaps inspired, Chris, by—by realizing its greatest short-term dream about President Bush, which was to have him there while having him not there, which both of those things were accomplished.
All right, coming up, “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman at our campaign listening post.
And, all day—one of the other points that Chris and the panel just brought up—we have been asking you to text message us your thoughts on this question: What effect will McCain‘s level of V.P. vetting have on his candidacy? Answers are in. Eighty-one percent of those who participated said it will have a negative effect. Ten percent said a positive effect. Nine percent said it will have no effect.
Eight out of 10 of those of who you who participated said that the V.P. vetting will have a negative impact on the McCain candidacy. We will see how representative that might be.
This is MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of the 2008 Republican Convention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: Governor Palin, like John McCain, is a reformer. She‘s taken on the special interests and the political power-brokers in Alaska and reached across party lines to get things done. The truth is, she is a leader we can count on to help John shake up Washington.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We rejoin you with MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican Convention.
“Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman has been listening post at the listening post, our campaign listening post, all evening on this subject, Howard, of vetting the V.P. by the Republicans, how late it was done, and how rapidly it was done.
And I guess, if you don‘t know, as apparently the Republicans did not know, that, during her campaign for the governor‘s office, she was asked in a survey, “Are you offended by the phrase ‘under God‘ in the Pledge of Allegiance; why or why not?” and she had answered, “Not on your life. It was good enough for the founding fathers; it‘s good enough for me, and I will fight in defense of our Pledge of Allegiance,” even though the Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892, not 1776 -- there were suspicions about the quality of the V.P. vetting. And now we‘re getting obviously more reporting tonight that there—that it certainly was a rush job, at best.
HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was, Keith.
And I was in the hall tonight.
And, by the way, before I start, can I just say, I don‘t think I have ever been at a convention—and I have been at a lot of them—where the name of the political party is not visible anywhere in the hall. I defy you to find anywhere in that hall the word Republican.
But, in any case, up in the hallways, I was talking to some of the top McCain insiders. And one of them sort of gave me the sense that they have got their fingers crossed, still. They claim they know everything, but they don‘t know that they know everything.
A.B. Culvahouse, the lawyer, really did come in at the last minute. Some people still doubt that he actually did much of a job that day, because he‘s a very thorough guy, and would not have had the time that he devoted to others who were nominee—who were in the running for that—for that job.
What the McCain people said is this. They‘re trying to turn now from vetting to prepping, because Sarah Palin has a tremendous amount of work to do and many responsibilities, all to be crammed within four or five weeks.
She‘s still the governor. She‘s got her family situation. She‘s dealing with a personal investigation, in which she has just had to hire a lawyer. She has to under—learn the mechanics of the national campaign trail. They have to decide where to put her out for her first serious national interviews, because she probably will have to do some, not to mention the fact she has to learn about the world between now and the date that she has her vice presidential debate with Senator Joe Biden.
And I have been told—and “Newsweek” is reporting—tonight that they‘re putting together a team to begin prepping Sarah Palin. I don‘t know when it‘s going to start. It may have already started. One of the people involved is a member of the foreign policy team named Steve Biegun. There are going to be lots of other people there.
But they‘re going to have to prep her while they‘re still vetting her at the same time, or at least keeping their fingers crossed. They have got people out in Alaska to respond to whatever it is the reporters that Gene referred to earlier find.
That‘s the position they‘re in right now. They could not have sent the people they needed. They did not send the people they needed to go to every local newspaper that is not available on LexisNexis to read every clip, to read everything, every scrap of paper about her. They were flying pretty much blind.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a real departure for the Republican Party in selecting a vice president.
And let me just open the question and put it another way. They selected—or Dick Cheney selected himself. He was actually head of the selection committee, but he had a big hand in building himself up to be selected.
But he clearly came in as a partner, almost a lifeline for President George W. Bush, a clear senior adviser, with a very strong, avuncular presence in terms of policy, especially foreign policy, energy policy, et cetera.
Now they seem to be bringing in a vice president with a much different role, as someone to be taught, to be briefed, not to be a briefer or an adviser, but to be briefed.
MATTHEWS: This is an extraordinary difference from the way they approached this eight years ago.
FINEMAN: Yes, I guess so, although, in a way, even though Cheney was well—well-known, I mean, he was the vetter who suddenly certainly became the vettee. And that was something of a surprise, too.
I must say, though, that they‘re pretty upbeat. They have got their fingers crossed, the McCainites, but they‘re upbeat. The reaction to Sarah Palin on the floor of the hall, generally speaking, has been extremely positive. Charlie Black, one of the top insiders there of the campaign, told me that they raised $8 million in Bush administration three or four days just on Sarah Palin‘s name.
MATTHEWS: How are they going to...
FINEMAN: That‘s more—that‘s two or three times more than they had raised in any similar period before.
MATTHEWS: How are they going to deal with putting her out for available—availability to be interviewed by people like yourself?
MATTHEWS: .. I‘m not talking about putting her on—you know, putting her on the witness stand. I‘m just talking about standard interviews about the historic role of the vice presidency...
MATTHEWS: ... the American relationship with Iraq, in terms of the war and the way it began and the way it‘s been conducted, areas in which she has shown not a lot of involvement.
FINEMAN: Well, they know they have to do it, Chris. I think they gave her one—I think she‘s done an interview with “People”—possibly with “People” magazine. I‘m not 100 percent sure.
They‘re going to put that boat very slowly and carefully into the water, but they have got to do it, because they can‘t have her first big national confrontation with the national media and her opponent be on the -on the night that she does the vice presidential debate with Joe Biden.
FINEMAN: And, so, the first thing, obviously, is the speech tomorrow.
She doesn‘t have any time for serious prep, other than that.
As I said, she‘s got to learn the mechanics of the campaign trail, deal with Alaska, deal with the investigation, deal with her family. I mean, she is a brave woman, every—by all accounts. And she has taken on the establishment up there in Alaska.
But I don‘t think even a brave woman like she understands exactly what the heck she‘s gotten into here. We will see, starting tomorrow, whether she does it.
And I must say, it‘s fun to cover an event where we don‘t have a good idea of what‘s going to happen. I mean, it‘s going to be extremely important tomorrow night.
MATTHEWS: I agree.
FINEMAN: And the story—she is now the story, the dominant story for the next—for—potentially for the next couple days.
It‘s a mixed blessing for the Republicans. As I say, the McCain campaign people are still feeling pretty positive about it. I have been around campaigns where they know that they have—that the decision they have made, they‘re ultimately going to have to change, and they have got that sick look about them.
I don‘t sense that yet. And without some other big revelation about her—and there are a lots of people up in Alaska trying to find it—I think they are going to stick with her, and we will how she does tomorrow night.
OLBERMANN: We know so much, Howard, that politics is so often projection. What you think the other guy—what you announce the other guy is doing is actually what‘s going on inside your own camp.
Fred Thompson used that term panic tonight to describe what the media was doing because, for whatever reason, that was speculated about—about Sarah Palin. I‘m wondering if there is any sense of—if that‘s too strong a term to what—as to what‘s going on within the McCain campaign and the GOP hierarchy, if only for this videotape that there have been dribs and drabs coming out about God‘s plan for the pipelines and God‘s plan for Iraq, this speech tape that has been referred to. And snippets, as I say, have been out there. Presumably that‘s going to come out in full force and maybe in high-def before the week‘s out.
Well, if it‘s something where she‘s talking about the role of God, I don‘t think they‘re worried about it. I think, at the Republican Convention, that plays wonderfully. With a lot of their core, that plays wonderfully.
The sense I get from talking to many members of the House and the Senate, experienced politicians on the floor and in the hallways tonight inside, people I know pretty well—I can look them in the eye, I think, and get a sense of what they‘re thinking—I think they have mentally got their fingers crossed.
They‘re saying to McCain and the insiders, OK, you wanted to take this big gamble. You better be right. They‘re not—they‘re not saying, oh, my God, we have got to change things. They‘re saying, look, John McCain, we came here to cheer for you. We weren‘t all with you to begin with. You better have been right about this.
And, again, talking to Charlie Black, who is very close to McCain, he said, this is McCain.
I mean, if you present two curtains to McCain, one marked “business as usual” and the other marked “interesting,” he‘s always going to pick the one marked “interesting.”
And people inside the hall tonight are sort of holding their breath in advance of what she does tomorrow night.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman at the campaign listening post, it gets curiouser and curiouser. But, as you say, it gets more and more interesting, too.
OLBERMANN: Chris Matthews and I will be back in a moment.
Thank you, Howard.
FINEMAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: You‘re watching MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican Convention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: This is no ordinary election. Because—and it‘s no ordinary election because these are not ordinary times. And trust me, John McCain is no ordinary candidate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Continuing our MSNBC coverage of the 2008 Republican convention. Keith Olbermann at MSNBC headquarters in New York with Chris Matthews at MSNBC headquarters at the convention center in Saint Paul.
I know we haven‘t mentioned Sarah Palin that much tonight, as we continue our Palin-tology, looking ahead to that peach tomorrow. But, there is one quote that does sort of a bridge between Senator McCain and Governor Palin, we each referred to it a couple of times tonight Chris, from Rick Davis, the campaign manager, “This election is not about issues, this election is about a composite view of what these people take away from these candidates.” He said it to the “Washington Post.”
There were some issues in there—are they just attempts to build a composite of who these people seem to be?
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, Ronald Reagan used to say work the difference, work what you have the other side doesn‘t have. In this his case it was good television skills and he used them superbly to get ahead politically and to become president. What do they have this time the other side doesn‘t have? Well, they‘ve got a war hero. They have now a vice presidential running mate, a woman. The other side doesn‘t have a woman. They‘ve got one. So, you play what you‘ve got.
I think I‘ve never seen a Republican Party so enamored of John McCain. They may not have wanted him as their nominee, but they want him now. The numbers prove it. They have circled the wagons, they may not have known who Palin was a week ago, they do now and they love her. So they have found these iconic figures, a McCain and Palin, to be their champions come November and they‘re quite willing to adapt to it.
Of course, one of the oldest expressions in politics is Democrats fall in love, as they have this thing with Barack Obama, Republicans fall in line. They show up for the movies on time. They get there when they have to be there, they get—when somebody says please clear the aisles, Republicans clear the aisles, unlike Democrats.
And so they‘re disciplined, and their discipline is showing tonight. They‘re willing to say, we‘re not here to defend George W. Bush. We remember his father fondly; we don‘t really rember this administration. We are here to celebrate the possibilities of a phoenix of someone coming from the ashes of the last eight years and winning this election after all.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, there is, to your point there, looking at the official schedule from tonight, there are at least four specific time references to when the applause is supposed to start and end. So, you‘re literally correct on that point.
But this pivot, this change from McCain‘s experience and Obama‘s relative inexperience as the entirety of the election, reliability is the entirety of the election, to pivot over to this new point, which is change, it is literally a change to change. The problem is all of the debris that is left from your first campaign, this is essentially a second campaign the Republicans have started, I‘ll just read a quote from the 10th of August, this is not ancient history, and it‘s when Tim Kaine was still considered a front-runner for the Democratic vice presidential nom that went to Senator Biden. I‘ll read the quote and then I‘ll tell you who said it.
“With all due respect again to Governor Kaine, he‘s been a governor three years. He‘s been able but undistinguished. I don‘t think people could name an important thing that he‘s done. He was mayor of the 105th largest city in America.”
That was a trashing of Tim Kaine as a purely political possibility for vice president who had no practical experience because he had only been in office three years as a governor, and his city was only the 105th largest in America, which makes him look like napoleon in terms of experience compared to Sarah Palin. And the quote is from “Face the Nation,” and the speaker was Karl Rove. What do you do about quotes like that if you‘re John McCain?
MATTHEWS: Well, you burn them. You burn them quick. You put them in the burn bag is what you do with them. You know, just think—imagine tonight, you‘d have no opinions, you haven‘t spent years thinking about this election like you and I have and trying to get other heads around it and learn something from it, not just be visceral, but get something out of it mentally. You‘re a voter, you and I are voting in November, and all you have is that one crude tool, that binary tool that says yes or no. Keep it going, yes, or change it, no. That‘s all you got, you don‘t have a lot of options, it‘s not multiple choice.
All you got is that simple wedge, that crudest tool coming from the caves practically. You go yes or you don‘t go yes, you go no. And how the Republicans have tried to change that tonight just said no, you can‘t even use that tool anymore, I‘m sorry, that doesn‘t work anymore. You can‘t simply say no to the last eight years, yes to something different, you have to say—I don‘t know what they want them to say. Just, I guess, give up on your thinking ability for a couple hours and come back and say, let‘s start over mentally here with this new team.
Because American politics has always been the same. You vote for the ins, or you vote for the outs. You throw the bums out on a regular basis and you try somebody new, that‘s how it works. The Republicans tonight are trying something that might work, it‘s breathtaking. They‘re saying that‘s not the way it works, you don‘t throw the bums out, you accept some new thing that offers itself to you almost fully born. There‘s this new governor of Alaska you never thought of before, born full size. Here she is. You‘ve never heard of her before. She‘s going to be your next vice president. We just met her last Wednesday. She‘s going to be your vice president. This other guy we‘ve been rejecting rather handedly as a political party, in fact trashing his wife, his kids, insulting them, destroying them, now we‘re going to bring them back and say no, they‘re the real Republican Party leadership.
It‘s an extraordinary thing, but it might work. These poll numbers, I‘ll bet next week, are going to be pretty close, probably back within the margin of error again. So, John McCain and Governor Palin will be even with Barack Obama and Joe Biden going into the stretch, going into the debates at the end of this month. This is going to be heroic, this campaign, on the part of the candidates. They‘re going to have to win it themselves because are basic—all four of them are starting basically even by next Wednesday, I bet.
OLBERMANN: And don‘t forget one more thing about the Alaskan governor, as Senator Thompson said tonight, he‘d take a tough Alaskan governor who has taken on the political establishment in the largest state in the union. I thought that was some sort of typo, then I was reminded...
MATTHEWS: That is so good.
OLBERMANN: It is by land mass the largest state in the union, 47th in population. I guess...
MATTHEWS: I just—I just got an e-mail from Bob Wright who‘s up -he‘s the former head of our network, in fact, at NBC—and he says that the town that Governor Palin was the head of was smaller than Nantucket. So, I mean, that‘s a small place.
OLBERMANN: Smaller than the bleachers at Wrigley Field in Chicago, smaller than Nantucket. We have to take a break, Chris. Listen, we‘ll be back in a moment.
MATTHEWS: An extraordinary night.
OLBERMANN: I‘ll give the last word to the Who from the song—and I hate quoting rock lyrics, “won‘t be fooled again, meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” which is a description of what Chris was trying to describe of the Republicans, saying don‘t throw the bums out and replace them with us. Chris and I are back in a moment, some of the highlights from tonight‘s speeches. MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican convention continues after this.
OLBERMANN: We row rejoin you with MSNBC‘s coverage of the Republican convention. The message on the first full day and night across three speeches, virtually nothing about the Republican Party almost exclusively the story about a candidate. President Bush who addressed the convention from the White House, he highlighted how McCain‘s biography shapes the type of leader he‘d be. Then former senator Fred Thompson took to the stage in Saint Paul. He spent part of his speech going after Barack Obama and the Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRED THOMPSON, FMR SENATOR TENNESSEE: The Democrats present a history-making nominee for president. History-making in that he‘s the most liberal, most inexperienced nominee to ever run for president.
Apparently—apparently they believe that he would match up well with the history-making Democrat-controlled Congress. History-making because it‘s the least popular congress in our nation‘s history.
Together they would take on these urgent challenges with protectionism, higher taxes and an even bigger bureaucracy and a Supreme Court that would be lost to liberalism for generation. This is not reform, and it‘s certainly not change. It‘s basically the same old stuff they‘ve been peddling for years.
America needs a president who understands the nature of the world we live in, a president who feels no need to apologize for the United States of America.
We need a president—we need a president who understands that you don‘t make citizens prosperous by making Washington richer and you don‘t lift an economic downturn by imposing one of the largest tax increases in American history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: (INAUDIBLE) of Senator Thompson‘s 72 throat-clearings there, plus a hiccup of some sort. But, to talk about the substance of the thing—and I wonder, Chris, do the facts apply to either party anymore in terms of speeching? Is there any bar being met? Because what is the definition of least experienced presidential candidate of all time, if we‘ve had every military leader who ever ascended to the office never ran for office from Eisenhower back to Zachary Taylor, and I mean even Woodrow Wilson was only on a political job for two years when he got the nomination excuse me, when he got to the White House, he‘d he only been in politics for two years. Do the facts mean anything anymore or just the spirit and inflating the base, whether it be liberal or conservative?
MATTHEWS: Can you imagine what the Republicans would have done to the president of Princeton University as the nominee for president? They would have lambasted him. I have got to tell you, though, that Fred Thompson laid it on as a great professional and I thought that he—it was red meat for everybody. I kept thinking, where was this guy in the primaries?
But the real message here was the Republican Party‘s ability to regroup. Not just because of the hurricane in New Orleans and not just because they had to pick a VP at the last minute, but they were able to put together a party-discipline convention tonight, that they didn‘t really want in the first place. I‘ve been thinking the right metaphor for this, you know, they all talk about Saint Paul and the road to Damascus, the conversion. They had so much hell on the way to Saint Paul, it was like they had Damascus on the way to Saint Paul.
I mean, they didn‘t want this guy to be the nominee. He wasn‘t the chosen favorite of the Republican establishment. He beat the establishment. He came in against all odds, beating up everybody like “Rocky V.” I mean, the guy put up with everything, including dismissal by the party as you pointed out earlier tonight. And I think that the fact that he‘s the nominee tonight is a miracle, the fact that he‘s been able to come back is a miracle, but he‘s not the people‘s choice of the Republican Party.
John McCain beat the establishment, he beat the Bushies. He came back them, against eight years and took the positions he took against them in many cases, on immigration, on campaign reform, on patients‘ bill of rights, issue after issue, distinguishing himself from the president of the United States and his own party. So, in many ways he‘s earned this nomination by being a rebel and now you‘re seeing the party saluting the rebel. It‘s an interesting development.
OLBERMANN: For all of the differences, obviously, between senators Obama and McCain, is that one thing that they may have much more in common with each other than either one would admit or either one‘s party would admit, that they each are in the position they‘re in, this month, this time, this moment in our history because they toppled, not just the favorites, but the entire hierarchy and structure between the favorites in each of their parties?
MATTHEWS: Well said. They both beat city hall and that‘s something you‘re not going to be able to do even in America is beat city hall and they both did it and they deserve credit for that. They both went up against the unstoppable, the power. You can‘t beat the Clintons, the power, you can‘t beat the Bushes in the establishment of the Republican Party, you can‘t beat the money and interests—and they both did it.
And I think it‘s because of the time we live in, people are looking for something really different from what we have, and that is the fundamental reality of this election, the box that it came in, it‘s marked “change,” and both parties now know it. You cannot sell what we got, if you do, you will lose.
Hillary Clinton was a formidable candidate, a formidable campaigner, a champion. She lost because she defended what we have in many ways; she got stuck with it, perhaps. She chose to support the war authorization, she got stuck with the way we are. Nobody likes the way things are now. The Republican Party has adapted to that more than they did the hurricane.
Times are changing, if you don‘t change, you will lose.
OLBERMANN: Up next, much more from Chris and the panel in Saint Paul. This is MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican convention and it will continue right after this.
OLBERMANN: The first full night of the Republican convention at Saint Paul. We rejoin you now with MSNBC‘s coverage of it—Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK, we‘re back with the panel. We give everybody a half a minute to close down here tonight. By the way we‘re in the most beautiful setting. I think I‘m in a Tyrolean village, here. It‘s so gorgeous behind us here—Pat Buchanan.
BUCHANAN: Thank you very much. Republicans played the patriotism card tonight with the POWs, with the other heroes (INAUDIBLE) and then you have Fred Thompson getting up there, and then you had introducing John McCain as his hero of the war in Vietnam who suffered. He must have gone on for 10 minutes, very, very moving. They introduced their hero, they said we‘re going to run on the superiority of our man and we‘re going to run on the patriotism issue against you and the morality issue, as you pointed out. And the morality issue is going to be you have the life party and you have the pro-choice party, we think you‘re extremists, this is where we stand, let‘s have it out in this battle. And I think they drew a clear line and that‘s why the Republicans cheer and get up, they want to do battle for their causes...
MATTHEWS: You know what word we haven‘t heard about tonight? The economy—Rachel.
MADDOW: Tonight was supposed to be the don‘t think about George Bush night of the convention, and it actually ended up being that because all anybody can think about is Sarah Palin and the question about whether or not Palin is going to be the most important thing that‘s happened yet on the Republican side in this election is determined whether or not it‘s about her personality or whether it‘s about John McCain‘s decision process in picking her.
BERNARD: I‘m struck with tonight, Barack Obama, last week took over the mantel of the Kennedy Democrats. Tonight John McCain took over the mantel of Ronald Reagan Republicanism. This is an election between McCain and Obama, JFK and Ronald Reagan.
ROBINSON: Conventions are half about getting everybody on the same page and half about talking to the nation. I think the Republicans did a great job tonight of getting everybody on the same page. Can they talk to the nation? They‘re going to have to say the word “economy” sooner or later.
MATTHEWS: OK, put your money down, right now, everybody, left, right and center here, around the table. Ready? Will Governor Palin be a hit tomorrow night, not two weeks from now, will she be a hit tomorrow night—Pat Buchanan.
BUCHANAN: I‘m going to church tonight and pray that she‘s the biggest hit you‘ve ever seen.
MATTHEWS: Ideology says yes. Ideology aside, will she be a hit? Like walking out there like Judy Garland, opening night, or whatever you want to call it, the big night, work worked? Frank Sinatra, what worked?
MADDOW: I think her speech probably will great. I do not think it will settle the questions about why McCain—why and how McCain picked her.
MATTHEWS: But tomorrow night a hit?
ROBINSON: I‘m not so sure, actually. I‘m going to go the other way.
BERNARD: I say yes, she‘s going to rally the base and she‘s going to rally centrist women.
MATTHEWS: I think it will be like one of those old movies where the kids say: we can put on our own show tomorrow night. I think stepping into the part in the leading role is so dramatic for someone with her background. The country roots for rookies—Patrick.
BUCHANAN: Listen, I agree with you.
MATTHEWS: The country roots for rookies.
BUCHANAN: And we‘re praying, Chris, we‘re certainly praying it comes off that way.
MATTHEWS: And your prayers have power. Keith, back to you.
OLBERMANN: I get to vote on this, too, and I‘ll just remind you to go back to YouTube and look at that sportscasting video. That‘s something I know very, very well. I‘m not sure we‘re going to see that tomorrow night. And Pat better hope it‘s better than that performance. We‘ll find out.
For everyone tomorrow night, thank you, Chris. Tomorrow night, Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin, who again I don‘t think we‘ve mentioned at all this evening, will address the convention. Our coverage will begin from New York and Minneapolis at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, 6:00 p.m. Central Time. For Chris Matthews, I‘m Keith Olbermann in New York, for MSNBC, goodnight.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.