updated 6/8/2004 10:35:17 AM ET 2004-06-08T14:35:17

Guests: Elizabeth Dole, Chris Cox, David Dreier, Richard Wirthlin

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The nation begins its solemn good-bye to former President Reagan as his first lady, Nancy Reagan, grieves and Washington plans the first presidential state funeral since Lyndon Johnson‘s. 

Tonight, Ronald Reagan‘s legacy and how he changed America‘s political landscape with congressman—California congressmen David Dreier and Chris Cox.

Plus, personal tributes from Senator Elizabeth Dole and former Reagan adviser Richard Wirthlin. 

In honor of our former president, a HARDBALL special report. 

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

President Reagan‘s body is lying in repose at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, as millions of Americans pay their respects to a beloved president and a political giant. 

We begin tonight with NBC‘s George Lewis at the library in Simi Valley. 

George, thanks for coming in tonight. 

Let me ask you about the reaction, you‘re talking to those people in that line we just watched.  What are they telling you?

GEORGE LEWIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, actually Chris, I‘m not at the library.  I‘m at the staging area where people are getting ready to go to the library.  They are being taken there by bus and then brought back. 

We‘ve been talking to some of the members of the public who have been coming back, and they say it‘s quite a touching experience, observing Mr.  Reagan‘s casket. 

A lot of people remember Ronald Reagan‘s sunny disposition, remember the slogan, “It‘s morning in America.”  They also remember him as a tough cold warrior, the guy who told Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin wall.  Lots of member list of his time in office.  People have been sharing them.

A lot of people came here at midnight last night to be first in line.  The Reagan people tell us that about 2,000 visitors per hour will be going through the library, looking at the casket.  That‘s about 60,000 people in the 30 hours that Mr. Reagan‘s body will be lying in repose in the library. 

Before the public visitation started, Nancy Reagan, accompanied by the three Reagan children, arrived.  She looked quite frail, leaning on members of the honor guard, leaning on her daughter Patty at times.  She could—after the prayer, this morning, she couldn‘t be heard, but she could be seen mouthing the words “I just can‘t believe this has happened”—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I think what struck a lot of us is when she put her head down on the coffin today, George. 

LEWIS:  Yes.  She put her head down on the coffin.  She also touched it at one point.  It‘s been quite a touching day. 

Also earlier, before she went to the library, at the funeral home, she went over to the sort of makeshift memorial that people had put up, flowers and signs, jellybeans, various pieces of Reagan memorabilia.  She waved briefly to the crowd.  But obviously this has hit her very hard. 

Also, daughter Patty has written something in “Newsweek” that I found very touching.  She said, “My father belonged to the country.  I resented the country at time for demands on him, his ownership of him.  America was the important child in the family.  But now I find comfort in sharing him with an entire nation.” 

And that‘s what the Reagan family has been doing today.  And as 60,000 people file past the coffin here in California, all of California is trying to share this moment, it would seem. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s it going to be like out there Friday night, George?

LEWIS:  It‘s going to be apparently quite spectacular, actually, because Mr. Reagan‘s body is going to be returned from the ceremony in Washington, D.C.  He will be buried at sunset. 

There will be a lengthy motorcade back to the library, and the directions for that motorcade are going to be published in advance.  So they‘re expecting that thousands and thousands of people will be lining the motorcade route. 

And then he will be buried, according to Nancy‘s instructions, at sunset on the west side of the library.  That overlooks the Santa Susana Mountains and on a clear day overlooks the ocean somewhere in the distance.  That‘s where he wanted to be buried. 

His grave marker has actually been in place for some time, covered by bushes.  Those bushes will be cut down.  He will be buried there.  Nancy Reagan wants to be buried alongside him when her time comes, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  George, it‘s great because out there that was where they used to film the cowboy movies out there in the California scrub. 

LEWIS:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  I love it out there.

Thank you very much George Lewis for NBC out at the Reagan—basically, right at the foot of the Reagan driveway up to the—to the library itself. 

Anyway, we‘re going to get back to the reality of life here with Senator Elizabeth Dole back here in Washington, served as transportation secretary under President, from 1983 to 1987. 

Thank you, Senator. 

SEN. ELIZABETH DOLE ®, NORTH CAROLINA:  Yes, indeed.

MATTHEWS:  I have to talk to you, because I know it‘s a solemn time, but I guess it‘s me, my personality.  But I just want to talk about Ronald Reagan as a figure, a live figure, what he was like. 

DOLE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  In his prime, and you saw him in his prime.  He ran for president in 1980.  He beat your husband, among—he also beat George Bush and a bunch of other guys like Phil Crane and other people. 

What was it like?  What was your impression of him on first sort of encountering this force of nature?

DOLE:  Sort of bigger than life, you know?  Just full of vitality.  He knew why he wanted to be president.  He had very clear vision.  Obviously great passion for what he wanted to do for the country, and of course, in terms of eloquence, almost unsurpassed. 

MATTHEWS:  And great stagecraft.  He understood how to communicate with lots of people, not just because he had a great voice and all that, but that number, when he pulled that number up in New Hampshire, when George Bush Sr. did not want anybody in the debate except him and Reagan so he could take him out. 

And Ronald Reagan said, “I paid for this microphone, Mister”—he got his name wrong.  Mr. Green, he called him.  “Mr. Green, I paid for this microphone, let these other people in the debate.”

What did you think watching that?  Is this something you‘d never seen before?

DOLE:  This was a time when I felt sort of nervous about what was going to happen.  I mean, it was all very uncertain, you know, and Bob Dole was having fun.  I mean, he was up there.  Remember him on the stage and...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look.  That‘s one of my favorite political moments.  It‘s sheer politics in action here. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Would the sound man please turn Mr. Reagan‘s mic off for a moment?

REAGAN:  Is this on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes. 

REAGAN:  Mr. Green...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Would you turn that microphone off? 

REAGAN:  I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know how good he is, but that was directly from State of the Union” with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.  That came from a movie.  He took it right out of the movies. 

DOLE:  It was wonderful.  And you know, he had such a great sense of humor and that wonderful smile of his, but behind the smile was steel. 

MATTHEWS:  Wasn‘t he?

DOLE:  He could be tough, and obviously—I mean, he changed the world. 

MATTHEWS:  Which brings me to my favorite question about him.

DOLE:  This man changed the world. 

MATTHEWS:  Was he more James Cagney or more James Stewart?  Was he tough or nice?

DOLE:  He was both.  He was—He was one of the most amiable people I have ever known. 

I can remember one time when—you know, he was very supportive of what I was trying to do, both when I was on his White House staff and at the Transportation Department. 

But there was one time when we disagreed and, of course, he overruled what I wanted to do, and I can still hear him as I was leaving the room behind me, saying, “Elizabeth, I‘m so sorry.  I‘m really sorry.” 

MATTHEWS:  Was he old school, when dealing with professional women like yourself?  You‘re probably one of the first, Frances Perkins and then you.  I mean, and Esther Peterson.

You‘re one of those early—it doesn‘t seem early.  It seems recent, but in terms of women of stature in Washington politics, you‘re one of the pioneers. 

How was he, a man of his generation born in 1917 (sic), dealing with a professional woman like yourself?

DOLE:  He treated me just like the other members of the cabinet.  He treated me as just one of the boys, so to speak.  And as I say, he was very supportive of what I was trying to do and safety for example, transportation. 

And while he certainly felt that businesses needed less regulation, he understood that there are times with you‘ve got to increase regulation for the sake of safety, to save lives, to prevent—to prevent crippling, disabling injuries. 

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t it funny when conservatives don‘t mind regulation when it means airline safety, because you‘re going to be on the plane, or food safety, things like that?

DOLE:  Well, you know, he was, of course, concerned that we‘d try to move some functions out of the federal government that could be done better in the private sector.  So he was very supportive on the sale of Conrail, getting our government railroad out into the private sector.

MATTHEWS:  What was the jellybean thing all about at the cabinet meeting?  Was that to lighten the mood or what?

DOLE:  It was wonderful.  Well, you know, he just—he had this great sense of humor and he would pass the jellybeans around.  He would tell a few stories, kind of sit back and just reminisce occasionally.

But what I have remember so well, of course, as assistant to the president for public liaison, I took many people, many groups, organizations into him in the oval office, in the cabinet room, in the Roosevelt Room.

And every now and then someone would say, you know, “I disagree with him on this point and I‘m going to give him a piece of my mind.”  And they‘d get in that room and into his presence, and you could see the anger just melting away. 

And he would explain his position.  He would address their concerns.  Then he might sit back and tell a story, something humorous, and maybe pass the jellybeans around, and that person coming out of the meeting was ready to climb any hill for Ronald Reagan.  It was amazing to watch that happen, over and over again. 

MATTHEWS:  For the price of a jellybean.  We‘re coming back with more stories from Elizabeth Dole.  She worked in the White House under Ronald Reagan.  She was a cabinet member with him.  She‘s a senator, of course, now from North Carolina, and she‘s also married to Bob Dole, one of our favorites here. 

Anyway, we‘re going to also have coming up California congressmen, a couple of them, Chris Cox and David Dreier, who followed in the footsteps of the president. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re coming back with personal memories of President Ronald Reagan, from Senator Elizabeth Dole, Congressman Chris Cox and Congressman David Dreier.  Our live coverage continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to our live coverage.  We‘re back with Senator Elizabeth Dole. 

We‘re watching Ronald Reagan at the ranch.  I guess he liked it up there.  He certainly looked it, with his cowboy clothes on and his glasses.  It‘s always amazing to see people who never wear glasses in public when they‘re wearing them. 

Let me ask you something a little deeper than the cosmetics, and that‘s the president and his religion. 

DOLE:  You know, there was a time when he and I were alone if a holding room before he was to give a speech, and you‘re not often alone with the president of the United States. 

But that particular day, we were visiting and I said, “Mr. President, I just can‘t resist.  I‘ve got to ask you something.”  I said, “You‘re always so kind and so congenial and you never seem flustered or frustrated.”  And I said, you know, “With the weight of the world on your shoulders, how do you do this?”

And he kind of leaned back and he said—he loved to, you know, kind of reminisce.  And he said, “Well, Elizabeth, when I was governor of California,” he said, “it seemed like every day yet another disaster would be placed on my desk, and I had the urge to hand it someone behind me, to help me.”  And he said, “One day I realized I was looking in the wrong direction.  I looked up instead of back.”  And he said, “I‘m still looking up.  And I don‘t think I could go another day in this office if I didn‘t know I would ask God‘s help and it would be given.” 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I‘m wondering if that religious need isn‘t prevalent among all presidents.  I remember reading the most unlikely people, Richard Nixon, who you worked for, John F. Kennedy, prayed on knees, according to their top aides I‘ve talked to when I was doing that book. 

So I guess it‘s true of all these guys under this pressure that they feel it. 

DOLE:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Maybe with the exception of Clinton.  Just kidding. 

Let me ask you about Nancy Reagan. 

DOLE:  Oh, I think Nancy...

MATTHEWS:  What role did she play when you were in the White House and you were working in the cabinet?  What was her role?

DOLE:  A tremendous role, and I think she deserves a great deal of credit. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.

DOLE:  She was his close confidante.  She was his best friend.  She was his trusted adviser.  Of course, their marriage is just something out of a storybook, really.  Incredible relationship. 

And Nancy really, I think, deserves so much credit for his accomplishments and for hers, all that she did in the battle against drugs.  The numbers came down, young people using drugs during the time of...

MATTHEWS:  You mean “Just say no” worked?

DOLE:  Absolutely.  It was working, of course.

MATTHEWS:  But she also was a tough political person.  A tough political...

DOLE:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  When Donald Regan got out of line.  They thought he was out of line.  He wasn‘t serving the president.

DOLE:  She—She had a back bone of steel and has a back bone of steel in terms of handling tough situations and adversity, and you know, in the White House, yes, I think she was right there, when some of the tough things happened. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think she had a lot of to do with his role as a leading conservative in the country?  In his thinking?  They shared a conservative philosophy. 

DOLE:  Right.  They did indeed and the fact that he—she was his trusted confidante.  They were partners in this respect. 

But I think clearly, you know, he was so focused.  He had—he was a visionary.  He knew exactly what he wanted to do when he came into office and pursued it with great passion, and she was his partner.  So I‘m sure there was input there, but I think he clearly knew what he wanted to do. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about your political party, the Republican Party, which now has become, I guess you would say, dominant in the South, North Carolina especially. 

If you look at the party‘s positions now, when you had Gerry Ford as president, it was sort of fiscal responsibility, the old Dole—not Bob Dole.  I was going to say the Bob Taft type, but Bob Dole as well.

And then Reagan came along as a supply-sider, tax cutter, and now when you think of the Republican Party, you don‘t think of budget cuts, you think of tax cuts. 

Was that smart marketing or was it a difference of philosophy or what?

DOLE:  Let‘s—Let‘s talk about what Ronald Reagan did here, because he infused conservativism with optimism.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

DOLE:  And there‘s no question that he remade the Republican Party. 

MATTHEWS:  How?

DOLE:  Oh my goodness. 

MATTHEWS:  Tax cuts?

DOLE:  He brought in, you know, all these Democrats who came on board, the Reagan Democrats, blue collar workers, some union members, the South, the young people. 

And I think they believed strongly in what he was doing in terms of cutting taxes, enabling people to keep more of their hard earned money, helping businesses with tax relief so that they could expand, they could grow, they could create more jobs, create more revenue.

But also it was his tough stance on foreign policy, the fact that, you know, he was not going to tolerate communism.  It had to be defeated.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

DOLE:  And you know, he stood up to—he said, “I reject the status quo.  I reject the Iron Curtain,” despite conventional wisdom. 

And I think the toughness of the man and the clearness of his vision -

·         the tax cuts certainly, but also his strong stance on defense—just attracted a lot of people, a lot of young people. 

He literally remade the party so that today basically it‘s parity in terms of the numbers. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s right.  And we grew up in a different country altogether.  It was mostly Democrat and the other half was half independent, half Republicans. 

Do you think he is as big in terms of that I image and building of a party as FDR was on the Democratic side?  To be a Reagan Republican is to be a Republican today, right?

DOLE:  I think I would say yes, in answer to your question. 

MATTHEWS:  That he‘s the role model for a Republican?

DOLE:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, thank you.  That‘s a bold statement made here on HARDBALL by Senator Elizabeth Dole. 

It‘s great to have you on.  By the way...

DOLE:  I‘m delighted to be here. 

MATTHEWS:  ... the welcome mat, as you‘ve noticed, is at the door. 

DOLE:  Yes, indeed.

MATTHEWS:  Any time you want to come back and talk politics on a somewhat more frisky moment. 

DOLE:  I will look forward to it.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re most welcome.  That‘s Bob Dole‘s seat, but it can also be Elizabeth‘s seat. 

DOLE:  Thank you.  Maybe we can do it together sometime.  How about that?  That would be different.

MATTHEWS:  That smacks of being too nice.  This is HARDBALL, OK? 

Up next, Congressman Chris Cox and Congressman David Dreier—But I‘ve been on with my wife sometimes—Both worked with Reagan.  And they‘ll be back here with their personal stories. 

We want to hear your thoughts and memories of President Ronald Reagan, and you can post them on our web site: HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  As Americans pay their final respects to Ronald Reagan, I‘m joined right now by two California congressmen that worked with the former president.  Congressman Chris Cox was a senior associate counsel in the Reagan White House from ‘86 to ‘88, and Congressman David Dreier, an old, friendly face on this show, was first elected to the House of Representatives the same year that President Reagan was elected to the White House. 

Thank you, gentlemen. 

REP. DAVID DREIER ®, CALIFORNIA:  I worked for him.  That meant I worked for him by coming to congress because we followed his marching orders, you know? 

Chris helped put it together and I—it was a great thrill for me, for the first time ever—You know, I ran in 1978 and I said yesterday for the first time I‘m glad I lost in 1978, because it allowed me to come here in 1980 as part of the Reagan revolution.  And I‘ve counted.  There are 13 of us left in the House and Senate who came in in that 1980 election. 

Chris and I were just reminiscing in the green room about the fact that 15 years ago this past weekend, we went to El Salvador to observe the first transition from one democratically elected government to another in the history of El Salvador. 

And we came back here to Washington and walked by the body of my predecessor, the chairman of the House Rules Committee, Claude Pepper, who was the last body to lie in state in the—in the capital rotunda. 

MATTHEWS:  That was when the Berlin wall came down. 

DREIER:  Well, and Chris and I then got on an airplane, and we went to Krakow, Poland to be observers of the election in Krakow. 

And you know what happened?  We got there, and I‘ll never forget this, Chris.  When we were in the Solidarity headquarters, on the television came the pictures of tanks rolling through Tiananmen Square, and they thought—the activists thought that General Jarazelsky (ph), dictator in Poland, had done this to prevent the people, to discourage them from voting the next day.

And if you think about all of these events, they really relate to the vision that Ronald Reagan put forward when he was first running.  And I mean, it‘s just been absolutely amazing.

And it‘s not unexpected that a 93-year-old man who had been dying for years would go, but it has been a blow to all of us, because just really, really a shock. 

I had dinner with Mrs. Reagan just a few weeks ago and she said he wasn‘t well, but I didn‘t think five weeks ago that this was going to happen now. 

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Cox, let me ask you about what Congressman Dreier just talked about, the legacy.  You‘re the new generation to replace this former president.  What‘s in the Reagan legacy that‘s going to endure?

REP. CHRIS COX ®, CALIFORNIA:  Well, what we were just talking about, of course, was the overseas peace. 

President Reagan grew up with defining the plague of the 20th Century, the totalitarian governments that were at large, precipitating both the world wars and ultimately enslaving most of Europe and parts of Asia: communism and Nazism and fascism.

By the time he took office, communism was left to be dealt with.  And he used another of the defining characteristics of the 20th Century, this new opportunity for global electronic communication as a weapon in order to defeat them.  He led the world. 

He did the same thing here in America.  Everybody in the United States of America who had a television knew what his program was, knew what his agenda was. 

And so as someone who worked not White House, someone who worked for the administration, even if I hadn‘t met with the president, I had no question about what my job was and what I was supposed to do, because he was so clear about it. 

I think that in addition to all the sunniness and the optimism and all the wonderful jokes that he told, you know, buck people up, which was part of his all-Americanism, it was the fact that he had these ideas: freedom, people don‘t work for the state.  It‘s the other way around.  This is what America is all about.  This is in fact what human rights are all about.

The fact that he wanted to put these ideas into action was what defined Ronald Reagan. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get to that.  I want to hear how he reacted to you guys as younger conservatives as a sort of guru, and if he really recognized that that‘s what he was when he sat down with you.  Was he sort of like Yoda telling the future. 

Anyway, Congressman David Dreier and Congressman Chris Cox, both from California, both conservative, both Reaganites.  We‘ll be right back with the sights, the sounds and protocols of the state funeral. 

You‘re watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half-hour, remembering President Ronald Reagan with one of his top political advisers, Richard Wirthlin, plus, the Reagan political legacy with Congressmen Chris Cox and David Dreier. 

Our tribute to President Reagan will continue in a moment, but, first, the latest headlines right now.

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Congressman David Dreier and Congressman Chris Cox. 

You know, I know this is a solemn time and I‘m not going to try to get too much in the mood, because I just think the fact is, this guy was a great politician and a great leader.  And I want to talk about the reality of this guy‘s life, not so much the funeral.  The funeral is inevitable.  We‘re all going to die.  But let‘s talk about what he did when he was alive.  This guy was one hell of a political fighter. 

You‘re smiling because you knew, back when he took on the Democrats and my old boss, Tip O‘Neill, this guy was going for blood.  He was going to win.  Tell me about him as a politician, as a leader of your party.

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER:  Chris, when we won in 1980, there were 33 of us who defeated Democratic incumbents. 

MATTHEWS:  Which never happens.

DREIER:  It was our high watermark.  And it was our high watermark up until we won the majority in ‘94.  And that meant we got to 192 Republicans, which is substantially lower than the Democrats have today in the House.

And yet this guy, President Reagan, was able to reach out.  I remember when Democrats—I can name some of them—Kika la Garza from Texas, who I remember there.  And he had just come out of his cloak room and he said, President Reagan just called me.

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER:  Kika la Garza, who, an Hispanic from Texas, voted for the budget and tax packages in 1981.  And so President Reagan was able to reach out in a way that was very, very, very impressive. 

MATTHEWS:  Chris. 

COX:  And, of course, he reached out beyond the picking up the phone,

which he did do, calling members, to the country.  And, as you know, the

Congress of the United States is a very sensitive instrument when it comes

to public opinion.  The president was very, very happy to use his

communication skills and take the case to the American people and that put

the pressure on the Congress and that brought votes

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER:  That reaching out to the country was really the reason that people responded positively when they got a telephone call, because the word had gotten out to the people. 

MATTHEWS:  And he‘s coming back here for his last time, this state occasion, this state funeral.  It is his last trip back to the Colin Powell.

But I will never forget the time he came in ‘81, after he had been—the attempted assassination by Hinckley.  And he came back and stood—do you remember that, a joint...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So tell me about your members of the joint

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Here was Ronald Reagan, who was escaping the assassination. 

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER:  And, of course, the word had come out that he was near death, and yet he was strong, he was vigorous, and inspired Democrats and Republicans. 

I will tell you, he s a president was—you need to go back and look.  He had standing ovations from both sides of the aisle and a pretty—and remember when he had Lenny Skutnik up in the gallery after the Air Florida plane went down.

MATTHEWS:  The guy who saved the girl from the airplane.  He couldn‘t

swim and he saved her from

(CROSSTALK)  

MATTHEWS:  He dived in the water.

DREIER:  That was the first guy to be recognized from the gallery.  That‘s something that Ronald Reagan started now that presidents have done ever since. 

MATTHEWS:  I think they should have retired that with Lenny.  Lenny was—anybody that can‘t swim and doggie-paddled out into the middle of the frozen Potomac River and saved a woman‘s life is up there by himself.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about that night.  That—I remember him coming out and saying, a little boy wrote me and said or a little girl wrote me and said, now, I know you‘ve been hurt, but don‘t show up in your pajamas when you give the speech.  This guy was good. 

COX:  Well, in the White House, in the correspondence unit, people would take the letters like that and send them to him and the president would personally respond to many of them, and, of course, a lot of that was unknown to the general public. 

Occasionally he‘d do something in a public way that you would notice, but that was the kind of personal touch that typified Ronald Reagan.  He dealt, of course, with leading the world.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

COX:  He dealt with leading, you know, then a quarter-billion

Americans, but he also recognized that human beings come in packages of one

at a time.  And that‘s why all of the personal business

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER:  My experience I had with that was he—I was talking to him

about the fact that there was a young boy—and you had met him, Chris—

who was wounded by the Soviets.  An MI-24 Hind-D attack helicopter came on

this 8-year-old boy and machine gunned him.  He was put on a mule, taken

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What country was the kid from? 

DREIER:  Afghanistan.  Afghanistan. 

He came here and had six surgeries.  He died on the plane.  They revived him, and he had six surgeries.  And I told the president about him, and he said, David, would you bring him into meet with me?  And in fact I did.  I was looking at the book the other day.  There was a picture of us in the Oval Office with Hazarat Khan (ph), who, interestingly enough, three weeks ago became an American citizen.

And that was what Chris says correctly, this very, very personal touch that Ronald Reagan had.  And he very much wanted to do that.  And, obviously, you know, the effort that we put forth in Afghanistan did play a big role if bringing down the Soviet Union. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.

COX:  I was going to say that your experience with Tip O‘Neill put you right in the middle of all of this personal stuff. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That was something else. 

(CROSSTALK)

COX:  That was real political competition head to head, but it was

also very personal and positive, the joke telling, the Irish joke telling

and so on.  That, of course, extended not

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  There they are together.  I love the camera.  There it is. 

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER:  Look at Tip looking admiringly at President Reagan.

(CROSSTALK)

COX:  Not just to political competitors, but also to members of his own staff.  On Air Force One...

MATTHEWS:  I once walked up—I once walked up to the speaker to give him a little—one of those statements you put out after a State of the Union to say what you thought of it.  It was kind of tough, as you might expect.

And I handed—I gave it to the speaker and he says, God, that‘s tough.  And he gives it to George Bush, sitting next to him, the vice president.  And Bush thought he was handing him a snake or something.  He didn‘t want to have his hands anywhere near this.  He goes, no, I don‘t want to touch it.  Anyway...

(CROSSTALK)

COX:  But you know that Ronald Reagan could do a perfect Irish brogue.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

COX:  He came back on Air Force One to entertain the staff and tell these jokes.  And it was as if he thought it was his job to make us happy. 

MATTHEWS:  Morale officer.

(CROSSTALK)

COX:  He really was.  And, of course, he was bearing the weight of the world on his shoulders. 

MATTHEWS:  There you are.  There you are with him.  Your hair is darker.  But, you know, what else?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this.  Did you ever look at him addressing the country and say, damn, I would like to be able to do that?  David.

DREIER:  Never.  Never. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Didn‘t you think he had something magical that all

political people

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  The ability to be able to talk to like every regular person? 

DREIER:  Oh, sure. 

And clearly his optimism, his viewpoint was infectious.  I mean, Chris and I are proud to have run as Reagan Republicans.  And for me, 24 years later, for Chris, 16 years later, we‘re both Reagan Republicans.  George W.  Bush is a Reagan Republican.  I mean, in 20 year increments, ‘61 for JFK, ‘81 for Ronald Reagan, 2001 for George W. Bush, we‘ve cut taxes, generated an increase of flow of revenues to the federal Treasury.

And it‘s working, with a million jobs created since January 1 of this

year and $40 billion in unanticipated revenues to the federal Treasury in

April.  And that‘s the JFK, Ronald Reagan, now George W. Bush

(CROSSTALK) 

MATTHEWS:  I guess you think George Bush is going to win this November, right? 

DREIER:  You bet I do. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that?

COX:  Of course.

DREIER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I just like to tease.  Anyway, thank you very much, Congressman...

DREIER:  What do you think, Chris? 

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s too close to call. 

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER:  But he‘s going to win.  You know he‘s going to win.

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know.  This is one I don‘t understand.  I don‘t get the sense this year.  We can talk about it at length afterwards. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Chris Cox, Congressman David Dreier, both from California, both Republicans, both conservatives, both Reagan Republicans. 

When we come back, it‘s been more than 30 years since Washington held a presidential funeral.  HARDBALL‘s David Shuster tells us what to expect. 

And later, top Reagan strategist, one of the top ones, Richard Wirthlin will be here with his memories of the former president and how he won all those elections. 

You‘re watching MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, as Washington prepares for its first presidential funeral in three decades, we‘ll have a look at what to expect.  Plus, Reagan strategist Richard Wirthlin remembers the president he served.

Our tribute to President Reagan continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re watching, as you can see, a live picture of President Reagan lying in state at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.  This has been going on for hours.  It will go on all through tomorrow.  Then, of course, he comes back to Washington to lie in state at the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, where of course great men like John F. Kennedy also lay in state.

Here in Washington, military officials are now making the final preparations for Ronald Reagan‘s state funeral.  Richard Nixon was the last president to die, but the Nixon family opted against a formal state funeral here in Washington, so it‘s been a long time since the nation had witnessed the kind of somber and honored-filled protocols this week.  By the way, LBJ was the last to be buried—or honored here at a state funeral.  That was in 1973. 

Correspondent David Shuster reports. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC ELECTION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  It was 31 31 years ago, following the death of Lyndon Johnson, when the nation last conducted a state funeral. 

In America, they date back to George Washington, although most of the protocols used today were established following the death of Abraham Lincoln.  In the nation‘s capital and in California, the preparations for Ronald Reagan this week have begun.

Today in Simi Valley, the president‘s body was received at the Ronald Reagan Library, where he will lie in repose through Tuesday evening.  On Wednesday, the president‘s casket will be flown to Washington on a military 747.  That may be given the designation Air Force One. 

From Andrews Air Force base Wednesday afternoon, the lengthy motorcade will take the president‘s casket to downtown Washington.  And like LBJ‘s processional, just south of the White House, Mr. Reagan‘s body will be transferred to a horse drawn caisson for a 16-block processional to the Capitol.  Like the honors accorded to the Presidents Johnson and Kennedy, the caisson will be drawn by six matched horses.

And in a tradition representing the fallen rider, the caisson will be accompanied by a single horse with the boots placed backwards in the stirrups.  At the Capitol, the coffin will be brought into the rotunda by military pallbearers and placed on the same pine board platform that supported the coffin of Abraham Lincoln.  For Kennedy‘s memorial, the line to file pass his casket stretched four blocks long and numbered in the end more than 200,000 people. 

On Friday, President Reagan‘s casket will be moved to the National Cathedral.  The funeral service will be presided over by former Republican Senator John Danforth, an ordained Episcopal minister.  Almost 4,000 people are expected to attend, including Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, George Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. 

Dozens of current and former heads of state have also made plans to attend, including former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev.  The service will conclude with the traditional and somber Navy hymn.  Then, the president‘s body and his immediate family will be flown to California for a private internment service.  

Following “Taps,” the graveside service will end with a 21-gun salute.  The 21-gun salute will be repeated Friday at U.S. military installations around the world.  It‘s a tradition signalling the burial of a president of the United States. 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster.  Those are great pictures. 

MSNBC will have complete live coverage of all the events this week as America pays its final respects to Ronald Reagan. 

We‘re joined right now by Richard Wirthlin, a big name in the Reagan legacy who was a close adviser to President Reagan and was his chief pollster and strategist. 

Richard Wirthlin, it‘s so great to have you on this week, because people don‘t understand or don‘t think that much about the political profession, and you understand the political profession. 

Ronald Reagan, what was it like meeting him the first time as a future client? 

RICHARD WIRTHLIN, REAGAN STRATEGIST & POLLSTER:  Well, Chris, that‘s something that I‘ll never forget, because at that time I was not a Reagan fan at all.  And actually I met him through an intermediary, Tom, one of his assistants, who didn‘t tell me I was going to meet him. 

And I was met in Los Angeles, taken out to the Bel Air home, and I was extremely surprised with Tom Reed told me that I was there to meet the governor of California, Ronald Reagan. 

MATTHEWS:  How did he clash with the image you had before? 

WIRTHLIN:  It was about a 180-degree turn, Chris.  He was anything about what I had imagined he would be.  He was not only extremely gracious and open and friendly, but we talked about the issues of California.

And, as you may know, I lived in California for many, many years, and I found that he was very, very insightful in terms of some of the challenges that California faced.  And I guess there‘s nothing as committed as a convert.  And in that visit where I visited with him for maybe almost an hour and a half, I became a Reagan convert. 

It didn‘t occur to me that he would run for the presidency at that juncture, but I was very confident that he had a very bright future, primarily from my perspective of someone who could change the direction that the country was going. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about a moment which was tricky in the Reagan political career.  That was when he had his first debate with Walter Mondale, running for reelection.  Tell me about that and what went wrong. 

WIRTHLIN:  Well, I think it was one case where Reagan was not allowed to be Reagan. 

I remember the preparations very well.  We took over a large, large cold room in the old executive office building.  There were about five or six of us there, and the process was to simply bombard the president with questions and then critique his responses.  And the more that session went on, the more concerned it became and the less articulate the responses were. 

Roger Ailes, by the way, came up with a brilliant idea, which really turned the tables on the second debate, not the first one, which was really a reflection of that overpreparation that he had gone through.  But Roger suggested that we play a game of baseball called bunting, namely, put the president not in front of seven or eight of us, but only two of us.

And it was Roger and me and the—in the White House.  And the idea was to have President Reagan give the first responses that came to his mind without thinking about them.  And that completely changed the dynamics of the preparation.  And he was knocking balls right out of the ballpark with us. 

Roger and I then suggested to him that he better—that there are some issues that would undoubtedly come up and we felt we should raise them.  And one was the age issue, because, in part of that first rather disastrous debate.  The president paused for a moment.  He got that twinkle in his eye and then he told Roger and me, don‘t worry. 

MATTHEWS:  Richard, Richard, we have the tape.  Let‘s watch this.  Roll the tape of Ronald Reagan coming back strong in that second debate after the issue of his age had come up. 

WIRTHLIN:  Thank you. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent‘s youth and inexperience. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there he went down and looked for the glass of water.  He had great stagecraft.  He knew he had a line that was killer and he just let it sink in there. 

WIRTHLIN:  He was a master in that regard.  And the interesting thing was, he kept that line to himself and it was one of the things that led to the victory that he experienced in November. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m so glad that that was his line.  And I read that in Roger Ailes‘ book, that was in fact President Reagan‘s line, because I thinking all these years that was a David Gergen number.  But I feel much better about our Republic now knowing that it came from the man himself. 

We‘re going to come right back and talk to Richard Wirthlin, a man who guided—well, he helped the president on a lot of political issues.  And I want to talk about some of them when we come on MSNBC with Richard Wirthlin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Richard Wirthlin. 

Richard, it seems to me that Ronald Reagan began his career for president, his very successful presidential run in 1980, because he knew what to focus on.  Did you have to tell him that he should stick to the economy and not get focused on all the other ideological questions in that race? 

WIRTHLIN:  Well, Ronald Reagan was really my teacher, not the other way around.  And he understood, there were really three big issues.  It was the economy and it was peace.  And, of course, the opposition ran the ads that he would not be a president who would provide peace in the White House, quite the contrary.

And of course that was something we could neither could avoid, nor wanted to avoid.  And he spoke very strongly to those big mega-issues.  There was another consequence of the campaign, in addition to peace and prosperity, that I think has left us with an enduring legacy, Chris.  And that is partisanship. 

When I put the strategic components together for the 1980 campaign in the summer of that year, there were 31 percent more Democrats by then of party of identification than Republicans.  After the election, that shrank to about eight or nine points.  And again, today, it is about four points.  So that‘s one of his lasting legacies.  And, as Congressman Cox indicated, that also broadened the Congress kind of governing coalition that he actually needed to implement the objectives that he articulated as part of the Reagan revolution. 

MATTHEWS:  What was the key to attracting the Reagan Democrats? 

WIRTHLIN:  I think that came naturally.  Candidates bring with them a whole history.  And one of the components of Reagan‘s history that was I think so powerful in that election was his ties to the Democratic Party. 

He understood the things that Democrats who weren‘t strongly partisan would respond to.  And beyond that, he knew that he had to speak beyond the issues and he had to not only persuade by reasonable presentation of the mega issues, but also touch people in their hearts and emotionally. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

WIRTHLIN:  And, of course, he was very, very effective in doing that through the stories and the anecdotes and the kinds of values that he so naturally articulated, those of patriotism, the value of a job.  Those were things that helped a great deal. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

I think playing George Gipp in the Knute Rockne story helped a lot.  And being friends with Pat O‘Brien, it really helped him with the Catholics. 

Anyway, thank you very much, a great guy to have on tonight, especially this week, Richard Wirthlin. 

Stay with MSNBC all week for complete live coverage, as America pays its final respects to Ronald Reagan. 

And join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern.  Our guests will included Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., and Richard Allen, who was Reagan‘s longtime adviser on national security.

END   

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