updated 7/7/2004 9:22:02 AM ET 2004-07-07T13:22:02

Guest: Tad Devine, Matthew Dowd, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, Howard Dean, John Wagner, E.J. Dionne

ANNOUNCER:  “DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT” will not be seen tonight so that we can bring you a special edition of Chris Matthews, “Battle for the White House.”

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, and welcome to this special edition of HARDBALL.  I‘m Chris Matthews.

This hour, we‘ll take a look at how the newly printed Kerry-Edwards ticket stacks up against President Bush and Vice President Cheney.  HARDBALL election correspondent David Shuster starts us off with the pros and the cons of each side.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  This evening, North Carolina senator John Edwards arrived in Pennsylvania for his first post-selection meeting with John Kerry, who earlier praised the rookie senator‘s drive and tenacity.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  ... a man who has shown guts and determination and political skill in his own race for the presidency of the United States.

SHUSTER:  In picking Edwards, Kerry is going with a smooth-talking Southern populist who often shows more pizzazz than Kerry himself.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We still live in a country where there are two different Americas, one for all those families—all those families who never have to worry about a thing, and then one for everybody else.

SHUSTER:  Democratic strategists say Kerry accepted and embraced the idea that Edwards might inject vigor and small-town appeal to the Democratic ticket.

EDWARDS:  Where I come from, we say a fish stinks from the head down!

SHUSTER:  He might also inject personality.  And in a match-up with President Bush, that could be crucial.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  No other questions?  This is unbelievable.  You‘d better hurry.  No, no, no!  Sorry, Elizabeth, you‘re not Australian.

SHUSTER:  By all accounts, the president‘s style is considered far more personable than the sometimes stiff and aloof approach of John Kerry.

KERRY:  Teresa and I have enjoyed so much having a day or so to be here with you.

SHUSTER:  But Edwards could boost Kerry in other ways, as well. 

Edwards became wealthy through jury verdicts against big corporations.  According to Democrats, it‘s an important contrast with Dick Cheney, Halliburton and the White House tied to big business.

EDWARDS:  We need to put an end to this war profiteering that‘s going on in Iraq every single day.  It is wrong!

SHUSTER:  But while Edwards may have a populist edge over Cheney, the vice president is far more steeped in foreign policy experience.  He was Bush 41‘s secretary of defense and is widely credited with offering a steady, albeit controversial, hand in the war on terror.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We have work to do in the defense of our country and for the good of humanity.

SHUSTER:  The Bush-Cheney ticket also doesn‘t have to face a problem John Edwards may compound: legislative inconsistencies.  John Kerry voted for NAFTA, John Edwards said he would have noted against it.  Both supported giving the president authority to invade Iraq, and both have tried sometimes awkwardly to criticize that.  All of this in the face of an incumbent president who is direct and plain-speaking.

BUSH:  Saddam Hussein had the intent, he had the capability, and the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.

SHUSTER (on camera):  For all of their advantages and disadvantages, both tickets have one important thing in common: Both satisfy their base.  Democratic activists wanted Kerry-Edwards.  The Republican right loves Bush-Cheney.  And so the race is set for the conventions and the fall campaign.

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Ted Devine is a senior adviser to the Kerry-Edwards campaign, newly minted campaign that it is.  And Matthew Dowd is an old pro, senior strategist for the Bush-Cheney campaign.

I‘ve got to ask you quite simply this.  The debates—the Democratic presumed nominee, John Kerry, is already talking about these two guys going toe to toe, John Edwards and Richard Cheney, the vice president of the United States.  Will they, in fact, go toe to toe?  Will they debate this fall?

MATTHEW DOWD, SR. BUSH-CHENEY ‘04 STRATEGIST:  Oh, I‘m sure they will. 

I mean...

MATTHEWS:  Will they do it toe to toe or sitting down in the schmooze fashion of last time?

DOWD:  All that will be negotiated.

MATTHEWS:  Will they stand up?

DOWD:  All that will be negotiated before...

MATTHEWS:  Can Dick Cheney stand up for an hour-and-a-half and debate this guy, this young whippersnapper?

DOWD:  Dick Cheney is fine standing up and debating where the direction of the country.

MATTHEWS:  Well, why‘d he insist on sitting down last time during the debate?

DOWD:  No, I‘m saying he‘ll stand up for where the country is and where the direction we want to go is, but all of those things, Chris, will be negotiated at the time.

MATTHEWS:  Why would there be an issue of...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I just want to ask you, why do you...

DOWD:  We‘re at day one of the—of the—of the Edwards—of Edwards vice presidential ticket, so let‘s—let‘s...

MATTHEWS:  I just find it interesting.  I mean, I find it interesting.  I know this is a small point.  But when people go to see a presidential or a vice presidential debate, they want to see the two guys, or a woman and a guy, standing at lecterns, facing each other, debating.  Why the last time did Joe Lieberman agree to sit down and schmooze and have a coffee klatch with Dick Cheney?  It was a failure for your guy‘s side.

TAD DEVINE, SR. KERRY-EDWARDS ADVISER:  I wish they stood.  I hope they stand this time.  We‘ll see.  We‘ll see what happens.  Vernon Jordan is heading the negotiation team, and they want to stand.  If the vice president needs to sit, we‘ll give him a chair.  No problem.

MATTHEWS:  Is that a shot at his health condition?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the states.  Let‘s go to geography right now.  Can you imagine any state that John Edwards will poach from the Republicans, one red state from last time that he will take away from your team?

DOWD:  No.

DEVINE:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he‘ll take North Carolina, his own state...

(CROSSTALK)

DEVINE:  I think North Carolina‘s in play now.

(CROSSTALK)

DEVINE:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Boy, that‘s a strong statement.

DEVINE:  Yes, in play.  And hopefully, by November...

MATTHEWS:  There is going to be an election in North Carolina...

DEVINE:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  ... in other words.

DEVINE:  There is.  And it‘s going to be a contested election, and we‘re going to force them to go and compete there.  Otherwise, they would not have.

DOWD:  The one thing to point out is they‘re currently on the air in 17 or 18 states.  In no Southern state are they on the air, other than the panhandle of Florida and Virginia.  They pulled out of Louisiana.  They pulled out in Arkansas, and they‘re not on the—they‘re not on the air in North Carolina.

DEVINE:  Well, we didn‘t stop at the panhandle.  You know, we go Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Fort Myers, OK?  We‘re all the way down...

(CROSSTALK)

DOWD:  But you pulled out of Louisiana...

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you...

DOWD:  ... and Arkansas.

DEVINE:  Well, we‘re not done with Louisiana.

MATTHEWS:  ... a tough question, Tad Devine, my buddy.

DEVINE:  Go ahead.

MATTHEWS:  I know I‘ve been trying to get stuff out of you for a couple days now, and you‘ve been pretty tough.

DEVINE:  That‘s for sure.

MATTHEWS:  The No. 1 standard that John Kerry himself set for the selection of a vice president—I think it‘s questionable here, and I want you to jump in here—a proven leader...

DEVINE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ...  with sound judgment on national security, economic prosperity and social justice.  Who are the troops behind John Kerry—I mean, behind John Edwards?  If he‘s a leader, he must have troops.

DEVINE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s he a leader of?

DEVINE:  Well, he‘s a leader of the Democratic Party.  He‘s a leader of a...

MATTHEWS:  He‘s a leader of the Democratic Party?

DEVINE:  He is.

MATTHEWS:  I thought John Kerry was the leader of the Democratic Party.

DEVINE:  I said he said he is a leader of the Democratic Party.  He distinguished himself running for president this time.  He proved that he could attract voters from across the political spectrum, not just Democratic caucus- goers in Iowa, which is very Democratic place, but also a place like Wisconsin, which had independents participating in the Democratic primary.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... John Edwards passed the test of a proven leader?

DOWD:  I don‘t think he passed the John Kerry test, or he said that this is a person that needs to be able to have the experience to assume the office of president.  And during the primaries, John Kerry said he didn‘t have the military experience, he didn‘t have the international experience, and he needed on-the-job training.  In John Kerry‘s own test, he picked somebody that failed his own test for political expediency.  Though he agrees with him on most of his issues, he did not pass that test, according to John Kerry.

MATTHEWS:  Why did—why did the presidential nominee, John Kerry, accuse John Edwards during the campaign of needing on-the-job training?

DEVINE:  Because when you contest a nomination with someone, sometimes you push back and forth.  I mean, that‘s why the president‘s father said Ronald Reagan‘s economic plan was “voodoo economics,” OK?  I mean, if the standard was you can‘t attack a guy, President Bush‘s father never would have been vice president, probably not president.  And if his father wasn‘t president, he probably wouldn‘t be president, either.  I mean, that‘s the truth.

DOWD:  There‘s a difference between differences on issues and differences on certain platforms, than saying somebody‘s not qualified to be president.  And that‘s basically what John Kerry was saying about John Edwards.

DEVINE:  He never said that.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the role of the vice president as a nominee, not just as a vice president, when he becomes vice president.  Is this vice president expected to play the traditional role of vice president, taking the fight to the enemy?

DEVINE:  No.

MATTHEWS:  He is...

(CROSSTALK)

DEVINE:  ... I want to tell you, there‘s only going to be one attack dog in this election for vice president.  That‘s Dick Cheney, the official attack dog.  “The New York Times” identified—said the attack dog was back on the trail the other day, OK?  And you know what?  Edwards isn‘t going to do that.  You want to know why?  Because he and John Kerry share an optimistic, positive vision for the future of this nation that the president and the vice president don‘t have.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me—if I do a word count in Nexis-Lexis or Google or something tomorrow, Matt, would you expect to hear the word Halliburton coming out of the mouth of the vice presidential nominee?

DOWD:  I don‘t know if it‘ll come out of Edwards.  I mean, just because you have a smile and Southern charm doesn‘t mean you don‘t attack.  And John Edwards, just like John Kerry, since September, when they got in this race, have been attacking the president and the vice president every step of the way.  And just because you say you‘re positive doesn‘t mean that you have a positive vision for the country.  If you attack every day and do all the stuff that you‘ve done every day for the past 18 months, it doesn‘t make you positive.

MATTHEWS:  Are they convincing populists, John Kerry and John Edwards?  Living in Georgetown a block apart from each other.  They are the wealthiest Robin Hoods in history, aren‘t they?

DEVINE:  And Franklin Roosevelt was a person of enormous wealth.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Exactly.  That‘s the paradigm.

DEVINE:  And John Kennedy was, as well.  You know, Chris, it‘s not where you come from, it‘s where you stand, it‘s who you fight for.  And I‘ll tell you, in terms of fighting for people, there is no pair match—that matches these two leaders in our party or our nation.

MATTHEWS:  Do you buy that?

DOWD:  It‘s also—it‘s also...

MATTHEWS:  Do you buy that?

DOWD:  It‘s also the most liberal ticket that‘s been nominated by the Democratic Party in its history.  That‘s a fact.

DEVINE:  No, it‘s not.

MATTHEWS:  Are Bush and Cheney is the most conservative ticket?

DOWD:  I don‘t think so.  I mean, go back and look at Ronald Reagan and his father.  I mean, there‘s various other—but this—these—this is the No. 1-ranked liberal and No. 4th-ranked liberal.

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute.  You would say that Dick Cheney‘s to the left of George Bush, Senior?

DOWD:  No, I‘m saying to the ticket—to the combination of the ticket...

MATTHEWS:  This is the most conservative administration since probably Coolidge.  Come on.  Let‘s be honest.  You‘re proud of that, aren‘t you?

DOWD:  Well, I mean, it‘s a—we‘re—we‘re conservatives.  George Bush and Dick Cheney are both conservatives.  And they‘ve said it...

MATTHEWS:  Are they...

DOWD:  ... and they‘re not shy about it.

MATTHEWS:  Are they...

DOWD:  But one thing that you‘ll not hear is John Edwards and John Kerry say they‘re liberals, even though...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s true.

DOWD:  ... their record says they‘re liberals.  We say we‘re conservatives.  John Kerry and John Edwards never say...

MATTHEWS:  But aren‘t you suggesting they‘re out of the mainstream? 

And you guys aren‘t any closer to the mainstream than they are.

DOWD:  No.  if you look at all the issues, who‘s for tax increases, who‘s for tax cuts, who‘s for funding...

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s go back and talk about that, OK?  I want to talk about trade, too.  I want to talk about whether the tradition of Bill Clinton on free trade is going to be carried on by this administration, whether there‘s going to be taxes raised by the Democrats if they get back in, some of the tough issues.  We‘re going to hit them with it.  Tad divine is ready to take them.  He‘s with the Kerry campaign.  And Matt Dowd is one of the most interesting members of the Bush-Cheney campaign.

And later, fellow North Carolina senator Elizabeth Dole will be here.  She‘s pretty good.  She‘s been serving with John Edwards.  She just hasn‘t met him yet.  We‘ll be right back with Elizabeth Dole.  And also former Kerry and Edwards rival Howard Dean is going to come here and be very soft-spoken about this new Democratic ticket.  We‘ll be back to talk about that and the anti-war crowd in this special edition of HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL.  We‘re back with Kerry-Edwards adviser Tad Devine and Bush-Cheney strategist—that‘s better, strategist—Matthew Dowd.

What‘s the worst you can say about John Edwards, as the Democratic nominee for vice president?

DOWD:  I think he‘s a decent—I think he‘s a decent...

MATTHEWS:  No, the worst thing you can say.

DOWD:  I think—I know.  I think he‘s decent man.  I think, as you pointed out at the top of the show, the pick for vice president by John Kerry is the most important decision he‘ll make until he becomes president, if he becomes president.  And I think it says more about John Kerry than it does about John Edwards.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s it say?

DOWD:  I think it says that John Kerry has made this decision for political expediency, for a guy that he didn‘t believe was qualified, and two, has now decided to brand the Democratic Party as the most liberal part of the party since (UNINTELLIGIBLE) began.  And I think that‘s that‘s what it says.  I mean, these guys raised taxes.  These guys are against—are for partial-birth abortion.  These guys both voted against $87 billion to fund our troops in war.  I mean, they‘re pretty consistent.  And John Edwards...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

DOWD:  ... if he moved to Massachusetts, he wouldn‘t even be the most conservative senator from Massachusetts.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the best thing you can...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the best thing you can say about your nominee for vice president?

DEVINE:  That he is an outstanding fighter for people, that his whole life has been a struggle to fight for people, that he was outstanding when he represented clients in courtrooms all across North Carolina, and he distinguished himself in both that Senate race, which I had the privilege of working on, and in his career, and then particularly in his campaign for president.

MATTHEWS:  How do they get along, these two guys?

DEVINE:  I think they get along very well.  And listen...

MATTHEWS:  As well as McCain and Bush get along?

DEVINE:  I don‘t know if they get along that well.  I mean, come on!  But I mean, I think the compatibility was an important factor because John Kerry needs someone who will fight for him, for an agenda and a vision that he believes in.

MATTHEWS:  Do you have evidence that John Kerry preferred John McCain? 

Because I‘m curious if you do.  I‘m looking for it.

DOWD:  I think...

MATTHEWS:  Do you know if he every publicly or privately asked him to take the job?

DOWD:  I don‘t have any direct evidence of that, but I know there‘s been speculation.  I know he called him seven or eight times, as reported in the press.  I think he seriously considered him.

MATTHEWS:  Asked him to—and he called him seven or eight times to ask him...

DOWD:  I don‘t know exactly what conversation was.  I mean, you‘d have to ask the Kerry campaign.

MATTHEWS:  But you guys are putting out the strong suggestion today that the first choice of John Kerry was John McCain.  Is that true or not?

DOWD:  We believe that John Kerry‘s first choice to be vice president was a Republican, which says something about (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

MATTHEWS:  Based upon what information?

DOWD:  Based upon the reports in the press that I saw.

MATTHEWS:  Oh.  So you like the press now.  Let me ask you this.

DEVINE:  Crystal ball.  Crystal ball.

MATTHEWS:  Was John McCain considered—considered—was John McCain ever considered by John Kerry as a vice presidential running mate?

DEVINE:  John Kerry considered a lot of people.

MATTHEWS:  No, but did he consider John McCain?

DEVINE:  We‘re not naming the names of people who were considered.

MATTHEWS:  Even now?

DEVINE:  No, because it was a private process, and it was one that was conducted the way it should be conducted.  The only person that John Kerry offered the vice presidential slot to was John Edwards.

MATTHEWS:  Did he think that John McCain would have been an attractive running mate?

DEVINE:  Listen, they‘ve been friends and colleagues for a number of years.  They worked together on issues like finding the truth about POWs and MIAs in Vietnam, restoring—normalizing relations with that country.  They‘ve been colleagues.  They‘ve worked together on legislative matters.

MATTHEWS:  Is it significant, Matt, that he did not deny it?

DOWD:  There‘s only—yes, it is.  I mean, I think it‘s obvious that...

DEVINE:  Deny that they‘re friends?  No, I‘m not going to deny that.

MATTHEWS:  Deny that he was considered for running mate.

DOWD:  They...

DEVINE:  I told you, a lot of people were considered.  We‘re not naming names.

DOWD:  I mean, I do think that there‘s only one candidate that John McCain is campaigning for president for, and that‘s this president, where he was in Reno last week, and he‘ll be campaigning again, so...

MATTHEWS:  You know who John McCain‘s second choice for president is?

DOWD:  Who‘s that?

MATTHEWS:  George Bush.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Tad Devine and Matthew Dowd.  His first choice was John McCain.  Up next: North Carolina‘s other senator, Elizabeth Dole.  And John Kerry‘s choice of John Edwards as his running mate.  We‘ll talk about one North Carolina senator about the other one.  And to learn more about John Edwards‘s stand on the issues, visit our Web site at hardball.msnbc.com.

You‘re watching a special edition of HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Does North Carolina senator John Edwards have the gravitas to be vice president?  Our next guest may have some insight.  Joining us in the studio is junior senator from North Carolina, Senator Elizabeth Dole.

Welcome.

SEN. ELIZABETH DOLE ®, NORTH CAROLINA:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Senator Dole, were you surprised by the decision that your fellow senator will be on the Democratic ticket?

DOLE:  No, I really wasn‘t.  I thought for some time that this might well happen.  You know, the polls were showing that there was support for John Edwards.  And it‘s interesting because John Kerry, his first choice apparently was John McCain, who has a great depth of experience, and then when that didn‘t work out, when he didn‘t agree to do it, it seems that he turned to the polls.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Of course, John McCain‘s first choice for the presidency was John McCain, and then he went to George W. Bush.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  So everybody‘s getting his second choice.  Let‘s take a look at this article that was written in “The Boston Globe.”  It says, “During the primaries, Kerry and Edwards had a prickly relationship.”  That‘s, of course, John Kerry and John Edwards.  “Kerry openly questioned Edwards‘s electability, once saying he could not even carry his home state of North Carolina.  The veteran senator also questioned the former trial lawyer‘s pursuit of the presidency after less than one term of elective office.”  Quote, “ ‘And people call me ambitious,‘ a ‘Globe‘ reporter once overheard Kerry asking an aide.”

So is he too ambitious?  Is he too big for his britches, John Edwards?

DOLE:  Well, you know, I‘ve not had an opportunity to work with John Edwards as much as I would have liked because in my year-and-a-half in the Senate, he‘s been on the campaign trail a lot of that time.  And of course, he did well running for the presidency.  He was all over the country.  He raised a lot of money.  But it didn‘t give us a chance really to work together as much as I would have liked.

And I think that what John Kerry said earlier—he said, you know, in the primaries that he didn‘t have the experience to serve as president of the United States, if that would become necessary.  But then he—he‘s now chosen him to be a heartbeat away, if, indeed, the ticket should win.  So that‘s a rather big flip-flop on the part of the head of the ticket.

MATTHEWS:  You are such a North Carolina woman.  You have put three shots into this guy‘s back, and you haven‘t even met him.

DOLE:  Oh, wait a minute!

MATTHEWS:  First of all, he‘s the product of a poll-driven selection process.  Two, he‘s been out there campaigning, not legislating, the last couple weeks—last couple years.  And three, you don‘t really know the guy.

(LAUGHTER)

DOLE:  Oh, I didn‘t say I don‘t know him.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you think?

DOLE:  You know, I just haven‘t...

MATTHEWS:  Is he qualified...

DOLE:  We haven‘t had...

MATTHEWS:  ... to be vice president of the United States?

DOLE:  Well, you know, I‘m going to leave that to the voters to determine once they look into his record.  I would just say that, you know, I‘m very strong for George Bush.  I think he‘s doing a tremendous job, so I‘m going to be out there campaigning hard for him.  And I think that when you look at this ticket, John Kerry recently, by the well-respected non-partisan “National Journal,” was determined to be the most liberal senator in the United States Senate.  And No. 4 on that list was John Edwards.  So there‘s no ideological balance there.  And I think that in terms of North Carolina, we‘re going to see that they‘re well to the left of the mainstream, not only North Carolina but across the country.

MATTHEWS:  But if that good, old, very nice North Carolina accent—I did go to Chapel Hill for a year.  I recognize it from you, as well—that very easy-to-take Southern genteel accent from North Carolina, is that not going to be a challenge to your party?  You don‘t have a Southerner on the ticket.  He‘s going to be—you know, Cheney‘s not from the South.  The president‘s not really from the South.  He‘s from Texas.

DOLE:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  I mean, from the South, you‘ve got now a voice that will sell—perhaps come across like butter or something in Louisiana and—where else could the Democrats win?  Arkansas they could win.  They could win in Missouri, in a border state, or Kentucky, a border state.

DOLE:  Well, let me talk about my home state for a moment because George Bush beat Al Gore, who was a Southerner from a neighbor state, by—it was a 13-point spread.  Now, I truly believe that George Bush is going to prevail in North Carolina against...

MATTHEWS:  Really?

DOLE:  ... a Massachusetts liberal, no matter who is his running mate. 

And we know that normally, it is the top of the ticket that people vote for.

MATTHEWS:  How did John Edwards win all those decisions from civil courts, when he went out there and defended little people, as he puts it, against big corporations and won those hundreds of millions of dollars in decisions?  How did he do that, if he wasn‘t a smart customer?

DOLE:  Well, I think that, no question, he has gifts, rhetorical gifts.  He‘s very articulate.  And he has—he‘s—you know, he‘s made millions and millions of dollars as a personal injury trial lawyer.  No question about it.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

DOLE:  And you know, I mean, the man is smart, yes.  I‘m just saying that I think that people in my home state and in other parts of the country will feel that this is too much to the left of mainstream views today.

MATTHEWS:  Four years ago, Joe Lieberman, who‘s a very likable guy—everybody seems to like him in this city and around the country—from Connecticut, debated Richard Cheney, who was a former congressman at the time, former secretary of defense, former chief of staff to the Ford administration and the White House.  And he sat down with him and had kind of a schmooze, just like us at a table here, although it was much more of a social kind of table than a business table, like here.  And everybody agreed that Cheney won.  Do you think Dick Cheney, the vice president, is going to get Senator Edwards to agree to a sit-down sort of a conversation, or is it going to be a head-to-head, lectern-to-lectern debate?

DOLE:  Well, we‘ll have to see what happens on that.  I really have no insight into that.  But I have great confidence in Dick Cheney.  He‘s a person of great depth, tremendous experience.  And I think there‘s—clearly, though, this team, Kerry and Edwards, will be strong in the debate area.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at Vice President Cheney in the last presidential—vice presidential debate.  Here he is with Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman back in 2000.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - OCTOBER 5, 2000)

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  I am going to be positive tonight.  I‘m not going to indulge in negative personal attacks.  I‘m going to talk about the issues that I know matter to the people of this country—education, health care, retirement security and moral values.

RICHARD CHENEY (R-WY), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  I am delighted to be here tonight with you, Joe, and I, too, want to avoid any personal attacks.  I promise not to bring up your singing.  So I...

(LAUGHTER)

LIEBERMAN:  I promise not to sing.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  If you were John Edwards, would you agree to that kind of a get-together, or would you come in here and say, Halliburton, Halliburton, Halliburton, Halliburton for an hour-and-a-half?

DOLE:  Would I do that?

MATTHEWS:  Yes, if you were John Edwards, would you agree to a schmooze or an out-and-out debate over the other guy‘s weaknesses?

DOLE:  Well, I think that, clearly, you have to lay out the issues, but I think in this case, they were having a little fun.  You have to have some humor in all of this.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but Dick Cheney won at the other guy‘s expense.  He got him too happy.  Let me ask you this.  Is John Edwards somebody for the Republicans to worry about?

DOLE:  I think that John Edwards will be seen as not having the depth of experience that‘s needed to serve a heartbeat away from the presidency.

MATTHEWS:  He won‘t pass what I call the cockpit test.  Who do you want as your co-pilot if you‘re pilot of a big plane and there‘s terrorists on the plane?  Who do you want sitting next to you?  You don‘t think he passes that test.

DOLE:  You know, let me say first of all...

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t like that test?

DOLE:  I want to congratulate John Edwards on being selected.  And he is a very articulate person, no question about it.  So I don‘t want to say too much here...

MATTHEWS:  But as the daughter of—a daughter of the Tarheel state, you are personally thrilled that your colleague from the United States Senate, from the home state of North Carolina, is, in fact, going to be on the national ticket.

DOLE:  You know, I think that the discussion of issues that North Carolina cares about has to be good for the state of North Carolina, so I‘m all for having those kinds of discussions.  And I think that George Bush will, and Dick Cheney, will prevail in the state of North Carolina.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s why you‘re the senator from that state.  Thank you very much, Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, the junior senator, who will soon be the senior senator.

Up next: Will the new Kerry-Edwards ticket be able to win over the anti-war vote, even though both voted for the war?  I‘ll ask former presidential candidate Howard Dean, who did not vote for the war in Iraq.

You‘re watching a special edition of HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL.  Former presidential candidate Howard Dean ran against both John Kerry and John Edwards.  Here is, by the way, the first Kerry-Edwards ad, Governor.  It was released today.  Let‘s both take a look at it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One is a combat veteran with over 30 years of experience, handling the toughest issues facing America.  The other is a son of a mill worker, who all his life has stood up for ordinary people against powerful interests. 

Today, they‘re a new team for America, with a plan to make us stronger at home and respected in the world.  John Kerry and John Edwards.  President, vice president.  Kerry-Edwards.  A new team for a new America. 

KERRY:  I‘m John Kerry and I approved this message. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Governor Dean, what do you make of this new ticket on the Democratic side? 

HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think it‘s terrific.  I really do.  I think it‘s a great choice.  I couldn‘t help but overhear Senator Dole‘s interview, and I‘ll tell you one thing that she didn‘t talk about, I think this assures the election of Erskine Bowles to the United States Senate from North Carolina, so that‘s a Senate seat we‘re going to get out of this.  Because I think we are going to win North Carolina, but even if we don‘t, it‘s going to be much closer than it would have been otherwise, so I think it‘s a great choice, brings a lot of vigor to the ticket.  I think it‘s terrific. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the Democratic Party that you‘ve worked in, you did very well in for several months.  You woke up the party back in the fall of 2003.  You got the campaign going, and then you lost it. 

But there‘s something out there and I want you to try to define it.  Maybe it‘s 40 percent of the country, maybe it‘s growing.  People that are not angry, that‘s a stupid word.  Their—unease, they‘re heated up about what‘s going on in the country.  They didn‘t like the Florida decision, they don‘t like the war, they seem to find something in this new movie by Michael Moore, “Fahrenheit 9/11.”  What would you call that thing out there that seems to be getting hotter every day? 

DEAN:  I think it‘s unease, really, as things have gone along.  Many of the things that I said during the campaign have turned out to be true.  The president wasn‘t truthful about why we went to Iraq.  The vice president still is insisting on things that his own 9/11 Commission says weren‘t true.  The Halliburton contract looks smellier every day as the president—the vice president continues to draw a deferred compensation salary. 

I think it‘s great, going to be great to have a young, wholesome vice presidential candidate to contrast himself with Dick Cheney, who‘s really gotten this administration in a lot of trouble, and I think people are very uneasy—it‘s one thing to be uneasy about a president‘s policies.  It‘s another thing to be uneasy about the president‘s integrity, and I think that‘s where the American people are starting to head right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that John Kerry and John Edwards together can tap into that 40 some percent or whatever it is of unease in the country and make it 51? 

DEAN:  Well, I think they can, and I‘m certainly going to do everything I can to help them.  This is an election which is going to determine whether America continues to go in a direction towards the far right, or whether we go back to our middle class, middle America values. 

It used to be the Republican Party had the monopoly on values.  Now they‘ve lost those values.  They can‘t run a budget properly.  We‘ve had a half trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see, as long as this president is there.  They can‘t seem to be truthful about why we‘re in Iraq.  They‘ve lost a million and a half jobs, and the ones that we‘re getting back are being paid for at 65 percent of the wages of the ones we‘ lost. 

We got a real crisis on our hands, this is a really pivotal election, and I think we can win. 

MATTHEWS:  Were you surprised that in the entire speech today announcing his vice presidential running mate, John Kerry, I believe—and I watched it live—mentioned the war in one sentence, the entire time? 

DEAN:  I think the war is an issue, as you know, one of the ones that I picked up, and I think people are very uneasy on it. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why doesn‘t Kerry talk about it? 

DEAN:  I think he does.  I was a little surprised at the speech today, but I‘ve been out on the road with him, and he is very effective talking about the war.  I think the biggest difference between John Kerry and George Bush in the war is John Kerry is essentially—essentially believes in cooperation with other nations and the president doesn‘t.  That makes all the difference in the world. 

MATTHEWS:  What about John Edwards, who wholeheartedly supported the war?  How can he claim the votes of anti-war Democrats? 

DEAN:  I think the way that we get anti-war Democrats is to say, look, it doesn‘t matter what you did as much as it matters what you‘re going to do.  It‘s very clear that the very things that John Kerry was talking about, and for that matter that I was talking about during the campaign, are now being adopted by President Bush.  Bringing the U.N. in, getting our troops home as soon as we can get them replaced by foreign troops.  Those are the things that need to be done.  Highly unlikely that President Bush is going to be able to do that.  I don‘t think we want American troops in Iraq for the next 10 years.  And so that‘s why I would recommend switching presidents. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that John Kerry and John Edwards share your gut sense that going to war with Iraq was outside the tradition of American foreign policy? 

DEAN:  Well, my objection wasn‘t so much that it was outside the tradition of American foreign policy, because I supported the first Gulf War.  The reason I didn‘t support this Gulf War is I didn‘t think we were being told the truth by the president of the United States, and I don‘t think you send people to war without telling them why they‘re going.  We saw this in Vietnam, where we had two presidents, one of whom I‘ve come to admire greatly, Lyndon Johnson, for his civil rights achievements, and Richard Nixon, who did not tell the truth to the American people about the war.  You cannot send American troops...

MATTHEWS:  What can President Bush—excuse me, Governor.  What did President Bush say that was dishonest about the war in Iraq? 

DEAN:  He said they had weapons of mass destruction, he implied that... 

MATTHEWS:  He thought they did. 

DEAN:  Well, he implied—and it still wasn‘t true.  He implied that he—he implied that Saddam had something to do with 9/11, which was flat out not true.  He implied that Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda were—had something—were working in common.  That was flat out not true.  He said in his State of the Union that Iraq was buying uranium from Niger.  That was flat out not true.  I‘m trying to think of anything that he said that‘s actually been true. 

He said that Iraq was a danger to the United States.  That was flat out not true.  I mean, when you think about it, it‘s pretty scary that the president would send 850 brave American troops to their death without telling us still why we‘re at war with Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, we just checked the poll, Governor, and just the other day we checked—yesterday, in fact -- 40 percent of the American people believe that Iraq was involved in 9/11.  Why do so many people believe that? 

DEAN:  Too many people watch Fox.  If they had watched the 9/11 Commission, they wouldn‘t believe it, because it‘s not true.  It used to be 80 percent, by the way. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Well, why do so many believe something you say is not true?

DEAN:  Let me just be—Chris, let me just be serious for a second.  People want to believe the president.  I want to believe the president.  It takes a long time to come to the conclusion that the president wasn‘t telling the truth.  But that‘s the conclusion I think many Americans have now come to. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you see the new movie by Michael Moore?  I keep talking about it, because it was the most overwhelmingly emotional movie I‘ve seen in years.  It‘s a documentary, but it had the power of a really good movie.  The sentiments were so powerful in it.  I think it affects everybody who sees it, but it‘s fraught with dishonesty, the Michael Moore movie.  Did you see it? 

DEAN:  I have not seen the movie.  I just haven‘t had a chance to see it.  My daughter saw it, and she was moved to tears by the woman who lost her son in Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s powerful stuff. 

DEAN:  But I have not seen the movie.

MATTHEWS:  But it also has stuff in there that suggests that President Bush is involved with bin Laden.  He‘s running with him.  He‘s part of the problem.  He‘s part of the terrorist family.  I mean, it‘s incredible the charges made in the movie.  Nobody—you don‘t believe that stuff, do you?  You don‘t believe that Ronald—you don‘t believe that George Bush is involved with terrorism, do you? 

DEAN:  No, of course not.  And I don‘t think that‘s true, but you know, filmmakers get a little bit more license than the president does in terms of portraying facts as they are. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.  Let me ask you this.  Do you feel that you could have won the presidency if the timetable of this unease in the country was a little more advanced at the time we held the primaries?  Do you think you were a little bit ahead of schedule? 

DEAN:  Well, I wasn‘t on schedule, whether I was ahead or behind, I don‘t know.  But that all comes under the heading of would have, could have, should have, if only this had happened, if only that had happened.  You can‘t look back. 

We‘ve got a great ticket.  I think John Kerry and John Edwards are going to do really well and I think they‘re going to win, and I think they‘re going to pick up some states that we don‘t expect.  And so you know, of course would I like to be president?  Of course I would.  But the truth is, I think we‘re in great shape. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you like to be secretary of state? 

DEAN:  I hardly think that‘s a position that‘s likely to be offered, but I also believe...

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘ve got the temperament, you‘ve got the temperament for it. 

I‘m just kidding, Governor.  I think you ran a great campaign.  I was very impressed, and I hope you do fine.  Maybe you‘ll be in this business at some point, but thank you very much for coming on tonight, Governor Howard Dean of Vermont. 

Up next, Pat Buchanan. 

DEAN:  My pleasure. 

MATTHEWS:  ... Columnist E.J. Dionne and “Washington Post‘s” John Wagner on the Kerry-Edwards ticket, newly born today.  And how it stacks up against President Bush and Vice President Cheney.  The heavyweight vice president, I should say. 

You‘re watching a special edition of HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL.  John Kerry and John Edwards, from rivals to running mates. 

Joining us right now to talk about the pros and cons of veep picking is Pat Buchanan, MSNBC analyst, and former presidential candidate, of course.  And E.J. Dionne, one of the smart people working for “The Washington Post.”  He‘s author of “Stand Up, Fight Back.”  And joining us from “The Washington Post” also, is reporter John Wagner, who covered Edwards when he worked for “The News Observer,” that great Raleigh newspaper I used to read at Chapel Hill.  He is now a political reporter with “The Washington Post.”

I‘ve got to start with you.  Let me ask you, Jack, what don‘t we know about John Edwards that we should? 

JOHN WAGNER, WASHINGTON POST:  Oh, I don‘t know. 

MATTHEWS:  Come on, there must be some little wrinkle that his character revealed after covering him a couple of years, that we wouldn‘t get here in Washington? 

WAGNER:  Well, I think you can look at his whole career as a politician is in many ways an extension of his days as a trial lawyer.  He doesn‘t come to the table with a deep reservoir of policy knowledge, but he‘s a very quick study. 

MATTHEWS:  Is he interested in the big questions that confront a national politician, whether a great senator on foreign relations or a great—or even a decent president—is he interested in the world? 

WAGNER:  Well, there‘s not a lot of evidence that he was grappling with these issues before he got to the Senate, but he, once he gets a hold of something, he has the tendency to really, you know, get up to speed and work it, and his gift is being able to assemble facts and present them back. 

MATTHEWS:  Yeah, but that‘s—you‘re missing my point.  Does he have a philosophy about America‘s role in the world?  Does he have the kind of thing we all grew up with, thinking about left, right, are you with Goldwater or are you with McGovern, or are you with Adlai Stevenson or Ike?   Has he gone through that development of thinking about the world in a presidential perspective? 

WAGNER:  Well, whether he‘s there yet now, I don‘t know.  I mean, he started from a fair ways back.  He‘s someone who didn‘t even vote half the time in local elections before he ran for the Senate. 

MATTHEWS:  And this is the solution to what we have now.  I mean, just to be blunt about it, the biggest knock against our president was his lack of sort of intellectual curiosity before he became president.  Not how well he‘s done his homework since.  He‘s done the homework, but he didn‘t come with a large preparation of curiosity about foreign affairs and big time national questions, and here we have a Democratic nominee for VP who seems to come from that sort of quick study mode, or mold. 

WAGNER:  Well, I don‘t think he‘s at all disinterested.  It‘s just that he‘s someone who kind of has tunnel vision at the task at hand.  When he was a trial lawyer, he was very much focused on his trials. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Let‘s go to Pat.  Does that—I mean, you‘re a guy that from the time you were, what, 3 years old, you‘ve been thinking about ideology and philosophy and the role of the individual, the role of society, the role of the United States in the world. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC ANALYST:  Look, when I was 5 years old, I knew that Lusitania was carrying contraband, because that‘s what my old man told me at the table. 

But let me say, you raise a very good question...

MATTHEWS:  In other words, we shouldn‘t have gone into World War I? 

BUCHANAN:  No, but we asked—we argued about Spain and all these things... 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I agree with you on World War I, but World War II we‘ll argue about.  OK, go on.

BUCHANAN:  Here is the thing.  You have asked a very penetrating question.  If John Kerry cares about the world and issues and ideas and how it‘s going, why would he give up a Senate seat and go back to North Carolina, which is what he did.  That‘s a very good question, Chris, and it does not look like this has been a real serious interest of this man‘s life at all, and this issue is going to be—the issue is going to be Iraq, as you know, and it‘s going to be about the Middle East and how we manage this kind of retreat (ph), and what we do about Israel here, what we do about the Iranian nuclear weapons and North Korean nuclear weapons. 

This is not a man who‘s considered these things his top priority or anywhere near the top priority. 

MATTHEWS:  E.J., I haven‘t heard anything from him that suggests deep curiosity or philosophical interest even in the Middle East, except as a constituency issue.  He doesn‘t seem to have any view.  He voted completely for the war.  He had no argument with the president about the war, it seemed to me.  Isn‘t he kind of a deficient candidate to fight on this front? 

E.J. DIONNE, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:  Well, no.  I think, first of all, I think he does have a moral compass and a political compass that‘s focused mostly on domestic issues.  You know, he‘s talked a lot about the fact that his interest in politics quickened after his son Wade was killed, and he started thinking more seriously about a lot of things. 

If you look at his primary campaign, he more than anybody, to some degree even Howard Dean, although he had a lot of moral clarity, had a message that put things together in a coherent way.  His two Americas theme wasn‘t just a campaign speech.  It was a description of the country as a lot of people see it.  And I think that‘s a real part of him.  And that...

MATTHEWS:  But how can he have blinders on, E.J., about the current situation—we are losing an American a day over in the Middle East in Iraq, and he doesn‘t seem to have a developed point of view on that, does he?  Tell me what it is. 

DIONNE:  Well, my sense of his point of view on Iraq is pretty much like Kerry‘s, which is that he voted for the war, he thought Saddam was dangerous based on the information that we had at the time, and he‘s been critical of the way Bush carried out the war.  There are a lot of people who believe that. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that Saddam was dangerous to us? 

DIONNE:  That‘s what he said at the time.  That‘s what a lot of people said at the time. 

BUCHANAN:  The truth is, the truth is, Chris, look.  These Democrats, a lot of them are very skeptical of the war.  I‘m sure they were, you were, I was, a lot of people around here were.  I‘m sure liberal Democrats...

MATTHEWS:  More than half of the American people think it was a blunder at this point, so it‘s not a minority position. 

BUCHANAN:  Exactly, but the reason the Democrats voted is Bush put it to them right up there in October, and they wanted to get it off the table.  It was crass politics.

But again, even, E.J., if this is a man who cares about the country and about health care and how people—why would you give up the United States Senate seat, which you‘ve got and you could win again, to go back to North Carolina? 

DIONNE:  Jack Kennedy ran for president after what, eight years in the Senate? 

BUCHANAN:  I know, but Jack didn‘t give up his Senate seat. 

DIONNE:  He didn‘t have to, because he wasn‘t up for reelection. 

Probably Edwards wouldn‘t have done either. 

I think he made two calculations.  One, there was a lot of talk that

he might not be able to win the seat, and especially he might not want to -

·         he might not be able to win the seat if he pursued this presidential campaign.  So it was a rational judgment. 

MATTHEWS:  That was right (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  He couldn‘t run nationally to a liberal—more liberal Democratic Party base, at the same time trying to appeal to a general electorate in North Carolina, which is more conservative.

DIONNE:  And he couldn‘t have spent the time in North Carolina he would have needed to spend to win the seat. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk more about this ticket.  I want to know what John Kerry has in mind for John Edwards.  Is he going to be the old Nixon guy, the attack dog, the Agnew?  Is he going to go at the enemy?  Tad Devine said earlier in the show he‘s not going to play that role.  I‘m amazed.  We‘re coming back with Pat Buchanan and E.J. Dionne of “The Washington Post” and John Wagner of “The Washington Post,” who really knows John Edwards.  Back with all this in this special edition of HARDBALL, on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Pat Buchanan, E.J. Dionne, author of “Stand Up and Fight Back,” and John Wagner of “The Washington Post.”  

Let me go back to John Wagner again and start with you, sir.  And please join in throughout. 

John Edwards, will he be a man who is willing to go in and take the fight to Dick Cheney? 

WAGNER:  I think so.  I mean, he made a—you know, found a real niche in the Democratic primaries as one someone who is kind to his rivals, but that really didn‘t extend to President Bush.  He can whack Bush with the rest of them, and he showed that during the primaries. 

MATTHEWS:  Give me a sense, if you can, of a scenario, an hour and a half in prime-time, sometime in October this year, the two vice presidential candidates will stand up against each other.  I don‘t think they‘ll agree to a sit-down this time.  They‘ll be debating each other.  Will John Edwards bring up the tricky questions of the energy task force inside the White House?  The names we never received that were in that task force, questions about the vice president receiving deferred income from Halliburton?  No case so far of any kind of moral deficiency or corruption or anything, but just tying those two together.  He‘s vice president, and at the same time, his old company that he‘s still getting paid by is making a fortune in no-bid contracts.  Will John Edwards directly attack him for that relationship, for that relationship with Halliburton? 

WAGNER:  It certainly wouldn‘t surprise me.  I mean, I think Edwards is going to want to do everything he can to keep the debate off the foreign policy arena and on domestic issues and deficiencies or alleged deficiencies of the Bush administration.  

MATTHEWS:  Will he sacrifice his own long-term presidential ambitions to be an attack dog for Kerry? 

WAGNER:  I don‘t know that he necessarily sees the two at odds.  I mean, he really did manage to do both during the primaries. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think they are at odds, Pat? 

BUCHANAN:  Sure, they are.  John Edwards has today become one of the most important assets in the Democratic Party.  If—I mean, he was going to go home, he had no future.  He is now the vice presidential nominee.  He is attractive, he‘s got tremendous press support.  He‘s not going to go out there and make himself an attack dog, or the bayonet of the Democratic Party when if Kerry loses he is in a perfect position to run the next time out as a candidate of the party.  If he runs a high-level race and he gets the kind of tremendous press he got in the primaries from running a high-level race. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask E.J., looking at this as a political student, do you think that this campaign will truly turn on the casualty rate in Iraq, or will it turn on continued sort of economic unease and the sense of inequality in some of the president‘s policies at home? 

DIONNE:  Look, I think if the president hadn‘t gone into Iraq, he wouldn‘t be in the kind of trouble he is in now. 

So Iraq is—underlies the whole campaign.  But I think the economy is a strange situation, where you have some of these growth numbers.  They have tapered off a little bit, but as a friend of mine who‘s in business said, until your sister-in-law who got laid off at Wal-Mart gets her job back, then the economy hasn‘t penetrated fully, and I think the president‘s problem is that the recovery is pretty good for people near the top, starting toward the upper middle class, it hasn‘t penetrated deeply enough. 

But on this attack dog thing, you can attack really hard without looking like an attack dog. 

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s done that?  

DIONNE:  John Edwards—who has done that?

(CROSSTALK)

DIONNE:  Edwards did it very well in the primaries.  You know, the Gephardt—the Gephardt-Dean attack, they attacked each other while there were two other candidates out there for people to vote for.  In the presidential race, putting aside Ralph Nader...

MATTHEWS:  Are we sophisticated enough, like the Brits are, the British are, you know how put the knife in and not even admit they are putting it in?  Can we do that?

DIONNE:  When people smile, it does a lot of...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Churchill once said, “I like a man who grins when he fights.”  When he fights.  We‘ll see if he can do it.  Thank you, E.J., for joining us tonight.  Pat Buchanan, as always.  John Wagner, thanks for joining us from “The Washington Post,” with the North Carolina beat.  Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern, for more HARDBALL.  Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader is going to be our guest.  That should be interesting.

Right now, time for Scarborough.

END    

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