updated 7/8/2004 12:25:40 PM ET 2004-07-08T16:25:40

Guests: Jennifer Granholm, Trent Lott, Ralph Nader, Douglas Brinkley, Jerry Brown

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Surrounded by their wives and children in the heart of the battleground state of Pennsylvania, John Kerry and John Edwards made their first joint campaign appearance this morning.  Pretty pictures.  But did Kerry pick his running mate for his political skills and drive or?  We‘ll talk about the glamour factor with Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm.  Plus: John Kerry took Ralph Nader‘s advice and picked Edwards as his running mate.  Tonight we‘ll ask Nader himself if he‘ll give the Democratic Party its dream by ending the nightmare of a narrow loss in a three-way race and get out of the race.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  The Kerry-Edwards ticket hit the road today, wasting no time targeting the three biggest battleground states in the election:- Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.  Kerry and Edwards and their families started the day in suburban Pittsburgh before flying to rallies in Cleveland and Dayton, Ohio.  Tonight they‘re in Florida, at a campaign stop in Clearwater, Florida.  And as HARDBALL election correspondent David Shuster reports, Kerry and Edwards are launching their campaign together with some old-fashioned political stagecraft.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  It officially began just after 9:00 AM Eastern Tuesday morning.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  ... a man who has shown guts and determination...

SHUSTER:  And a man who was not at the announcement.  By design, John Edwards was kept away from this event so the Kerry campaign could take the huge story and stretch it out.  The location of the initial media blitz also had strategic significance.  Pittsburgh is the home of Teresa Heinz and the heart of Pennsylvania‘s political battleground.  It‘s also a quick trip for reporters from West Virginia and Ohio, two other crucial battleground states.

By late Tuesday afternoon, John Edwards finally emerged from his home in Washington, D.C.  Edwards and his family did not speak, but the pictures did.  And they landed, just as the Kerry campaign had been hoping for, on the front pages of the nation‘s biggest newspapers.

But even before then, Republicans launched an e-mail blitz portraying Edwards as a liberal, a friend of trial lawyers and inexperienced on national security.  Late Tuesday evening, the Kerry campaign, expecting the criticism, launched its first Kerry-Edwards television ad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Today they‘re a new team for America, with a plan to make us stronger at home and respected in the world.

SHUSTER:  On Wednesday morning, near Pittsburgh, nearly 24 hours after the first wave of media coverage, the Democrats and their picture-perfect families made their first joint appearance, choreographed and timed out, of course, for the morning news shows.  At times, it was difficult to tell whether John Kerry was more excited to have John Edwards by his side or Edwards‘s adorable son, Jack.

KERRY:  We want to announce today we have a new campaign manager. 

Jack Edwards has taken over everything.

SHUSTER:  In any case, for a Democratic nominee often perceived as stiff and impersonal, this was exactly the warm image Kerry‘s strategists wanted to promote.  John Edwards, Kerry‘s top rival in the primaries, played his part, describing Kerry as a leader.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I saw the kind of strength and courage and determination that he showed.

SHUSTER:  And by mid-afternoon Wednesday, the ticket was in Ohio, making the first campaign stop.  Meanwhile, the Bush campaign, mindful of the PR barrage, headed to Edwards‘s home state of North Carolina, where the president took a swipe at Edwards.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  He‘s being described today as charming, engaging, a nimble campaigner, a populist and even sexy.  How he does stack up against Dick Cheney?

Dick Cheney can be president.

SHUSTER (on camera):  Next up for both campaigns, day three of the story.  The president will be back at the White House, while, the Kerry-Edwards ticket hits fund-raisers and media appearances in New York, all choreographed by the Democrats to try and keep their momentum going.

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster.

Jennifer Granholm is the governor of Michigan, a battleground state in this election.  Governor, what do you make of that report you just saw there about glamour and the possibility that one of the factors in the selection of John Edwards was what he looked like?

GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM (D), MICHIGAN:  Well, you know what I think is even better is what the policies of this administration will look like.  I think, you know, he‘s—there‘s no doubt about it, he‘s a good-looking guy.  But in the end, I think people are going to be much more moved by the fact that he is somebody who will advocate for average citizens, and I think that‘s what‘s going to move people.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think about that potential match-up?  You‘ve been in debates, Governor.  Imagine—I can‘t wait myself, as a political junkie.  I want to be there, October, tonight.  I want to watch these two guys, this young guy against this older guy, Dick Cheney against this young guy, the new kid on the block, John Edwards, the trial lawyer against the Mighty Mouse of this administration, the guy who seems to have so much power, Dick Cheney.  What do you make of that, as a political person?  Describe that night to me.

GRANHOLM:  Oh, it‘s a great contrast.  We‘re always looking for contrast.  You can‘t get a better contrast than this.  He‘s a fresh face.  He is not a career politician.  That is true.  And I think that works to his benefit.  He comes and he speaks from the heart.  Now, Cheney, of course, has a reputation of being a bit closed, a bit dry.  I think that Edwards is totally different than that—from that.  Cheney‘s experience in being the head of a major corporation, Halliburton, and Edwards‘s experience of fighting against major corporations on behalf of average citizens—what better political theater can you possibly get?

MATTHEWS:  Well, the Republicans seem to have a list now.  I want you to defend each one of these points because you agreed to come on the show tonight, and thank you for that.

GRANHOLM:  Oh, great!~

MATTHEWS:  Three points they‘re knocking this kid for, this young guy. 

He‘s 51.  He‘s not a kid, obviously.  No. 1, he‘s a trial lawyer.  You‘re a lawyer.  You have a Harvard law degree, I believe.  What‘s that mean politically?  You hit a guy for being a trial lawyer.  Does that work?

GRANHOLM:  I think it works not at all.  I think people see him as an advocate.  In fact, I saw a poll this morning, an overnight poll where people said, Is it more likely or less likely that you would vote for him, knowing he had that background?  To 67 percent, it was—it was a favorable attribute.  So I just don‘t see that as being an issue at all.  I think...

MATTHEWS:  What about people...

GRANHOLM:  I think it‘s a good issue for him.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what about the problem you have in states like Pennsylvania, where I‘m from, where you have a hard time keeping doctors out there in small towns as specialists because they have to pay so much in malpractice because of these big suits against doctors, who make a mistake, but their whole career is on the line, if they make one?

GRANHOLM:  Yes, well, Edwards‘s history, his whole history has been against insurance companies and major corporations.  And I think Kerry has got a plan to be able to weed out the frivolous lawsuits and to allow individuals to seek retribution if they have been harmed.  It‘s a balanced approach.  And I think people appreciate that.  They don‘t want to be shut out from a court system, which is a foundation of democracy.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but don‘t Democrats take a ton of money from that foundation of democracy?  Aren‘t trial lawyers the most where reliable Democratic money crowd?

GRANHOLM:  I think trial lawyers do support Democrats.

MATTHEWS:  Why?

GRANHOLM:  Some of them support Republicans, as well.  Some...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, come on!

(CROSSTALK)

GRANHOLM:  You know, I think that it is completely thrown up in the air in this election, and I‘ll tell you why, because I think that all of the boundaries have been broken down.  Historically, one would have said that doctors support Republicans and not Democrats, but that‘s just not true in this election.  People feel like our health care system has been potentially gutted, Medicaid and Medicare potentially gutted.  None of the old rules apply anymore.  I think what really applies is people want somebody who‘s going to stand up for middle class, for citizens in the United States, and restore our respect in the world.

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve got a big state, Michigan.  Can you give me the name of a Republican trial lawyer?

GRANHOLM:  Well, I don‘t ask them their party affiliation...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You‘ll have to look a while.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Governor, about this issue of being a lightweight.  Do you believe that John Edwards is the best qualified Democratic candidate possible for VP this year, the best qualified, up against Dick Gephardt, up against Bob Graham, up against Eddie Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania, former mayor of Philly, against you—well, you can‘t run because you‘re formerly a Canadian, I guess.  But what—do you really think he‘s No. 1 on qualifications?

GRANHOLM:  He is the perfect—the perfect match for this team, and I‘ll—because, one, he‘s optimistic and he conveys that well.  Two, he hasn‘t been poisoned by the environment in Washington.  He brings that fresh perspective.  And he is somebody who speaks from the heart.

So I think, you know, if it‘s all about the number of years that you‘ve been in Washington, then George Bush never would have been elected president, nor would have Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan.  That‘s not what the point is.  Is he smart?  You bet he is.  Can he speak to people?  Yes, he can.  Will he know the ropes?  I love to see him in this debate with Cheney.  So I think the combination of attributes that he brings is perfect for this ticket.

I can tell you that Democrats in Michigan—and we are a battleground state—they have been doing high fives and towel snaps all over the place.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  That‘s politics.  Governor, let‘s check your analysis now.  You said that John Edwards didn‘t have much poison in him because he hasn‘t been in Washington that long, not a full Senate term, even, of six years.  If that‘s the standard, how little time you‘ve served in Washington shows how clean you are of Washington corruption, then John Kerry, after 20 years, your party nominee for president, is really poisoned by now because he‘s been here 20 years.

GRANHOLM:  Well, look at where the poisoning has come from.  If you ask any member of the Senate or of Congress—and Chris, you‘ve been around a long time—they will tell you that it has never been as acrimonious as it is today.  So you need to have somebody who comes from the outside, as well as somebody who remembers what it was like when more civility reigned.  Obviously, John Kerry has got the experience.  He‘s got the longevity.  He‘s got the foreign policy experience.  Combine that, of course, with John Edwards‘s freshness, and it is a perfect team.  That‘s why they‘re calling it a great American team for a new America.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s why you made law degree.  Let me ask you this question here.  What do you—we have Ralph Nader coming on this show, Governor, later.  He had a big impact in your state, didn‘t quite cause a spoiling there last time, but he could have a big impact, maybe almost 100,000 votes last time.  Do you think he should get out of the race or stay in the race for president as an independent party candidate?

GRANHOLM:  I wish, frankly, with all my heart that he would get out.  Everything that he has fought for, all of the battles that he has waged when he was a trial lawyer, everything that he has stood for is centering and is potentially going to be lost in this election.  I think that he would do a world of good by—now that Edwards, having been chosen, by deciding to step out.

MATTHEWS:  I‘ll deliver your note to him the minute he comes on. 

Thank you very much, Governor.

GRANHOLM:  I‘m sure it‘ll have a lot of impact!

MATTHEWS:  Well, it might have an impact.  You never know.  He does like Edwards.  Jennifer Granholm, governor of Michigan, thank you for joining us.

Coming up, Mississippi senator Trent Lott on whether his Senate colleagues, John Kerry and John Edwards, will have any luck winning down South.  And later: Ralph Nader wanted Kerry to choose Edwards.  Will Kerry‘s pick make Nader think twice about his own campaign?

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:   Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Republican senator Trent Lott of Mississippi said Edwards—that‘s John Edwards—is “a charming guy who was a suing lawyer—that‘s suing lawyer, who dropped by the Senate for four years and thought he was ready to be president.  Now he wants to be vice president.  What credentials does he have?  Zero.”

That‘s Senator Trent Lott.  He‘s joining us right now.  Well, I have to ask you, Senator Lott, you know, George W. Bush is president of the United States following six years in public service as governor of Texas.  Is that a big difference from six years as U.S. Senator from North Carolina?

SEN. TRENT LOTT ®, MISSISSIPPI:  I think it is.  But keep in mind, too, the president has now been not only governor for six years but president for four years.  He certainly has the experience that should go with the job.  But four years in the Senate, when you had no previous political experience or office-holding experience either at the local or state or federal level, that‘s not very much.  Most members that come into the Senate without any background at all take a couple of years to even figure out what‘s going on.

I understand it‘s being suggested that he has some national security and foreign policy qualifications because he serves on the Select Committee on Intelligence.  I‘ve been on that committee for a year-and-a-half.  First, I haven‘t seen him but two or three times.  Secondly, let me assure you, just because you go on the Intelligence Committee doesn‘t mean you get intelligence.  In fact, one of my complaints is that the whole process is set up to try to keep us from actually finding out what is going on.  And that‘s why I do support the report that‘s coming out from the Intelligence Committee and why I think there needs to be some reforms, both in Congress and in the intelligence community.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think there‘s more there?  Do you think there‘s—we‘re getting covered up, what we ought to be knowing about 9/11, for example?

LOTT:  I think the 9/11 commission really dug into that thoroughly.  The Intelligence Committee has been looking more at the going into Iraq and the intelligence...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

LOTT:  ... that we had before we went into Iraq, the weapons of mass destruction and the analysis that went on before we went in and...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think there might be jury-tampering, in the sense that the administration‘s floating the name of John Lehman as a possible CIA director, and he‘s sitting on the 9/11 commission?  I mean, really, you start offering a guy a sweet job like CIA director at the same time he‘s supposed to be rendering a decision, a fair, non-partisan decision on what happened on 9/11, isn‘t that a little bit conflicting?

LOTT:  Well, first, I think you know, Chris, CIA director is not a sweet job.  That‘s maybe one of the two or three the toughest jobs...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a highly desirable job for certain personalities, though.

LOTT:  Well, that‘s—maybe that‘s true.  Secondly, I think that the 9/11 commission basically has already made their decisions.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

LOTT:  And thirdly, I saw his name pop up once, but I haven‘t seen it today.  I doubt that he would be seriously considered.  He may be.  I think he‘s a good man.  In fact, he was my recommendation, along with Slade Gorton, to be on the 9/11 commission.  It was recommended to me by John McCain.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at the vote...

LOTT:  But he‘s credible.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry.  We‘re being rushed.  Let me ask you about the vote last night.  Are you surprised that an NBC poll taken overnight, over this past night, that Edwards is beating Cheney 45-38 already, a guy who‘s a new kid on the block, and he‘s already got a 7-point advantage?

LOTT:  I think it‘s natural to see a jump in polls.  He‘s the new kid.  You know, he‘s attractive.  He‘s getting a lot of good, positive coverage without a lot of analysis yet from the media, so it doesn‘t surprise me a whole lot.  This is a long way from November, and Dick Cheney, over the long haul, has proven time and time again he wears quite well.  He‘s very experienced, very serious.  And I think it surprises people when he actually gets in a debate or discussion how, No. 1, he has a sense of humor, he knows what he‘s talking about...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

LOTT:  ... and he‘s very comfortable.  He‘s like an old shoe.  I mean, he...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... that old shoe.  How would you like to have your candidate an old shoe up against John Edwards?  He‘s out there in town squares in Jackson and places like that.  He‘s in Charleston.  He‘s all over the South.  He‘s in Baton Rouge.  He‘s in New Orleans.  He‘s all over the South with that wonderful Southern North Carolina accent.  Don‘t you get a little worried about maybe people might like him?

LOTT:  Well, he is charismatic.  As you know, Chris, we have over the years produced some politicians from the South that are really good what I called hands-on politicians.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

LOTT:  They work the crowd hard.  They‘re pretty glib.  But I think people are serious about who is president and vice president.  So the first point is, they‘re going to be looking at the top man first.  But secondly, when they look at his credentials and voting record, I think they‘re going to be pretty uncomfortable with that.  You don‘t—you might play games even with a governor‘s race, but when it comes to president or vice president, sizzle is not going to be the determining factor, particularly not in the vice president‘s slot.  But he‘ll be an aggressive campaigner, and he‘ll bring...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

LOTT:  ... more pizzazz to the ticket.

MATTHEWS:  How come you guys on the Republican side defended Dan Quayle when it came to the question of lightness, and now you‘re going after John Edwards on the same issue, when you guys defended a guy who was pretty much a new kid on the block?

LOTT:  Well, I think...

MATTHEWS:  Good-looking, like this guy.  And you said he was just fine.

LOTT:  Yes.  Well, there‘s a little difference.  One of them is—you know, when you talk about somebody‘s experience, the record is, you know, he was a lawyer in North Carolina until five-and-a-half years ago.  He ran for the Senate, and he served four years in the Senate and has been gone, basically. for a year.  You‘re not questioning his intellect.  When people suggested that Dan Quayle was light, they were talking about his intellect.  Those of who knew him knew that he was a good legislator...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

LOTT:  ... and that he was...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

LOTT:  ... certainly not a lightweight intellectual.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Senator Trent Lott.  Thanks for coming on.

LOTT:  OK, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Ralph Nader‘s going to join us.  That‘s going to be a hot discussion.  It always is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Last February, I asked Ralph Nader who he‘d like to see run against George Bush on the Democratic ticket.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - FEBRUARY 23, 2004)

If you had a vote—if it came down to a vote between him and the other guy, if you had a vote and you weren‘t in the race, for example...

RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Oh, Kerry and Edwards would be certainly much better than Bush.

MATTHEWS:  Both of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Presidential candidate Ralph Nader joins us now.  He‘s author of the book, “The Good Fight: Declare Your Independence and Close the Democracy Gap.”

Well, you got your way, Ralph.  What do you think now?  Do you think this is a ticket that‘s going to stand up for the things you care about, the Democratic ticket?

NADER:  Two points.  One is, I think that it‘ll be harder now for the Democrats to dodge standing up for the right of all Americans who are defrauded or injured to have their day in court against the perpetrators.  The Republicans have been trying to destroy the civil justice system, one of the pillars of our democracy.  And with Edwards, they should have a good champion, if he‘s willing to do it.  And second, Edwards brings a key asset to the ticket.  He‘s Ivory soap with a smile, which is quite a contrast to the snarling Dick Cheney.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Well, let‘s talk about the substance here, Ralph.  You called for the selection of a vice president who‘s a man on your side on many of these litigative issues who believes in the right of people to protect themselves against big corporations through suing, if necessary.  Let‘s take a look at the letter you wrote, just to get this on the record.  You wrote this letter not long ago, a week or so ago, to Senator John Kerry.  You said, “I want to urge you to select Senator John Edwards as your vice presidential running mate.  He has already gone through a primary and has his rhythm and oratory, the two Americas speech, all well honed.  There‘s another reason for choosing Senator Edwards.  Senator Edwards can stand up for the millions of Americans who suffer these harms and costs every year.”

You also, I noticed in your Web site today, Ralph, you called for not just the selection of John Edwards, which is a done deal, but you urged him to go ahead and do the kinds of things you were just talking about, to go out there and fight against tort reform.  Today on the floor of the United States Senate, Senator Frist and the others are trying to push through a move to take a lot of these civil cases away from state courts and put them before federal courts, which are harder to litigate in.  What do you think should be the position of Kerry and Edwards on that legislation?

NADER:  Straight out to defeat it.  Senator Frist keeps talking about frivolous suits.  He never provides any documentation.  I‘ve written him numerous letters.  He hasn‘t had the courtesy to respond.  Having access to the courts is one of the only ways that powerless Americans can take on the Exxons and the Pfizers and the General Motors and the Citigroups.

MATTHEWS:  So let‘s talk about the fact of John Edwards, then.  He went into court on behalf of a little family.  He was able to win a case against a—involved a swimming pool and a young girl, I believe, being sucked down a drain and having her intestines pulled out because they didn‘t have the right kind of equipment there on the market—whatever the case was.  I don‘t want to get involved in the litigation now.  But is that the kind of thing that you think the American people should have being fought for in the White House and in the vice president‘s office?

NADER:  Absolutely.  The second protest against King George III by our Founders was that he was going to take away their right to trial by jury.  There‘s nothing more important than to preserve the more level playing field of the court system when the legislatures and the executive branch are under the influence of these big corporations.  That‘s the key.

MATTHEWS:  What about the possible misuse, where you have cases like in—you know the story about Pennsylvania.  You have the small speciality doctors who are specialists up in small towns in Pennsylvania.  They‘re scared of big malpractice costs.  They‘re afraid they‘re going to get hit at some point.  They get out of the business.  They move to other states.  Isn‘t that a reality?

NADER:  No, it isn‘t.  The Center for Justice and Democracy in New York will clarify that about Pennsylvania.  The problem is insurance company gouging.  They play this game where they are gouging the specialists, like the obstetricians and the neurosurgeons.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

NADER:  If you took all the premiums that doctors pay for medical malpractice in America, divided it evenly by all the doctors, they would pay about $10,000 a year, which is a third of what they pay their receptionist.  This is a manipulation...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who is paying the big $50,000, $70,000 premiums every year, then?  Who‘s getting stuck with them?

NADER:  The specialists.  The insurance companies overclassify.  That way, they reduce the pool of the medical specialty, jack it up when the insurance—when their interest rates go down on their investment and turn the doctors against the legislature to cut the base off of people‘s right to sue.  It‘s the same old game we‘ve been seeing every 10 years, and Edwards will be able to stand up to it, I hope.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s talk more about the new Ralph—Ralph—I was going to say Ralph Edwards.  He was a famous guy on television.  Ralph Nader—he‘s talking about Edwards.  We‘ll talk about Ralph Nader when we come back.  And later, former presidential candidate Jerry Brown with his thoughts on the Kerry-Edwards ticket.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on HARDBALL, Ralph Nader wanted John Kerry to choose John Edwards as his running mate.  Will that be enough eventually for Nader to abandon his own presidential run?  More with Ralph Nader in a moment.

But, first, the latest headlines right now.

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.    

And we‘re back with Ralph Nader, presidential candidate, author of “The Good Fight.”

Mr. Nader, you are immensely respected in this country, as you know, and you are also being villainized for running and possibly causing a spoilage in this campaign, where the Democratic candidate loses by a point or two and you get three or four or more points.  Are you happy with that possible scenario? 

NADER:  The Bush administration is crumbling.  Bush is falling in the polls.  By the time the fall comes around, there‘s going to be quite a gap.  I‘m not worried about Bush being reelected.

And if you look at our Web site, Chris, VoteNader.org, you‘ll see how we take apart the Bush regime in ways that the Democrats should emulate, if they had the nerve. 

(CROSSTALK)

NADER:  Bush isn‘t even telling the American people what the full count of U.S. casualties are in Iraq because they just narrow it to casualties in combat, even though they‘re double that in terms of fatalities, injuries, and disease. 

(CROSSTALK)

NADER:  He can‘t even level...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  That‘s why on this show we always list the total number not just killed in action, but all the people who have died in Iraq.  We‘re very careful about that.  I understand that. 

(CROSSTALK)

NADER:  Why don‘t you Democrats challenge Bush on that?  You see what I mean? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I would ask you, why aren‘t they tougher on the war, period?  There‘s not much of a national debate.

Yesterday, in the speech by Senator Kerry, there was one line on Iraq in the entire presentation of his vice presidential running mate.  Clearly, they don‘t want to run on the issue the way you do.  Let me ask you...

NADER:  Yes, we‘re the only anti-war issue—anti-war candidacy, for heaven‘s sake; 42 percent of the American people want the troops back now.  Over 50 percent think it was a mistake to send the troops to Iraq.  Who is speaking for them in the campaign?  It‘s not John Kerry; it‘s not George W.  Bush, who want to stay the course in Iraq in that quagmire. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it conceptually possible that the Democrats between now and Election Day will say the kinds of things, take the kind of positions on issues like product liability and issues that you‘ve cared about all your life, issues like opposing tort reform, opposing the war in Iraq, where you would say, damn it, they‘ve finally done it, I‘m getting out of the race? 

NADER:  No, because although lip service is the first stage of success, we‘re looking for deeds.  We‘ve got to keep on their back year in and year out. 

It‘s not enough for them just to give lip service.  And I really doubt whether they‘re going to come out for public funding of public elections, for universal health care, for a $10 living family wage or for the kind of national mission for solar energy that will solve our problem on foreign oil being imported in this country. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about clean fighting and bad fighting.  You‘re up against the Democrats.  Obviously, they‘re worried about you taking away some of the votes on their side of the political spectrum. 

Let me ask you, Ralph, have they been playing fair with you?  In terms of Arizona, did you or did you not have adequate number of signatures to be put on the ballot or were they just able to catch you without all the signatures filled out properly? 

NADER:  I think they presented three corporate law firms that they funded.  And more will spill out, Chris, on this, to go after us in ways we couldn‘t pay lawyers to defend it.

MATTHEWS:  But did you have the right stuff?  Did you have the right signatures and the right forms? 

NADER:  Yes, we did.

MATTHEWS:  Well, then, why aren‘t you on the ballot? 

NADER:  Because what they did is, they filed all kinds of challenges that we could not defend because the lawyers would have charged us $100,000. 

For example, one of the ex-felons who paid his debt to society, he was collecting signatures for us.  He was on jury duty.  He was a registered voter.  And he had 550 signatures they wanted to strike because he had some $400 debt to the state of Arizona.  We would have to defend that at very high legal cost per hour.  We‘re looking for pro bono lawyers all over the country, because we think this kind of dirty tricks that the Democrats are engaged in is a threat to the civil liberties of all third parties and independent candidates who want to give more Americans more choices, more voices, and a broader agenda. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, one of the top Democrats told me that last time around they weren‘t tough enough with you and you ended up hurting them in Florida, so they said this time around, they should be a lot tougher.  I guess they are being a lot tougher. 

NADER:  Watch what they ask for, Chris.  I mentioned with John Kerry in a telephone conversation two days ago, I said, you better look out what your underlings are doing.  They‘re getting rambunctious.  They‘re going to cross that line.  You may be faced with a mini Watergate. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask about Ken Lay.  He‘s been indicted today, former founder of Enron, former CEO.  Is that a good sign about corporate justice right now? 

NADER:  Very delayed, almost three years delayed.  And there are all kinds of corporations that are not being prosecuted and CEOs that are not being prosecuted. 

These two parties take money.  In the year 2002, they took money from corporate criminals that pleaded guilty, like ADM and Pfizer and Chevron.  Can you imagine?  And they didn‘t give the money back.  So we want to have debates on all this. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I want to talk about debates.  Ralph, do you think there will be a three-man debate in the fall among you and the president and Kerry? 

NADER:  It‘s all up to John Kerry. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the polls now say you need 15 points in the national polls, what, four polls or whatever it is, to qualify to get in the commission debates.  Are you going to succeed with your efforts to have the Citizens Commission sponsor the debates, which would only be a five-point threshold?

NADER:  Yes.  That‘s what we‘re favoring.  Look at OpenDebates.org.

(CROSSTALK)

NADER:  ... debate commission. 

MATTHEWS:  Will President Bush—it takes two to join.  Will President Bush back your cause and bring you into the debates into a three-way?  Will he that do for you? 

NADER:  It depends on people like you, Chris.  If you say you want the debates and NBC wants the debates, Sean Hannity, the second largest radio show in America, he just yesterday said he‘ll offer three-hour debates, whatever number, to get this country really engaged, get more people out to vote, bring the younger generation in. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Do you think Sean might have a political ambition to try to split the left, the left and the center? 

NADER:  No.  He would say he would have all the candidates there. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  But he wants to screw the Democrats, doesn‘t he? 

Isn‘t that what he‘s up to?

NADER:  Well, you could have the libertarian candidate on. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, that‘s true.

(CROSSTALK)

NADER:  Why are we rationing debates?  We don‘t ration reality shows.

MATTHEWS:  Excellent point, Ralph Nader.  Thank you. 

Let me ask you, second point, are you happy—I‘m going to ask an emotional response from you.  I know it‘s unusual.  Are you happy?  Are you even thrilled by the fact the Democrats have put a trial lawyer on who has made a reputation fighting for the little guy on their ticket? 

NADER:  I‘m pleased, because we‘re the underdog candidate for millions of American underdogs who are being pushed around, harmed, ignored, defrauded, laid off arbitrarily.  That‘s what this book is all about, to motivate people so they say like the old movie segment I‘m mad as hell and I‘m going to do something about it.  I‘m not going to take it anymore. 

There‘s even a section at the end that shows how you can be a super voter and not be fooled, flattered and flummoxed by politicians with silk tongues. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, the definition of an addict, Ralph, is someone who believes that doing the same thing again will yield a different result.  Why are you convinced that your result come the day of Election Day will not be the same as last time around and you‘ll get something like 90,000 votes in a state like Florida, thereby giving the election to the president, a man who you least would like to see elected president for the next four years? 

NADER:  Because I think the Democrats, if they‘re in that position again, Chris, will focus on the 10 times more Democrats who deserted them in Florida and voted for Bush than those Democrats who voted for the Green Party, No. 1. 

No. 2, our focus is on the masters in Washington, not the servants.  The two parties are the servants of the corporate government, corporate-occupied territory, where you‘re sitting right now.  Department after department, agency after agency, office in Congress after office in Congress with for-sale signs, that‘s our focus in this campaign, on the corporate masters of these political servants. 

MATTHEWS:  Do the Democratic Party—you know these numbers.  You‘ve studied campaign finance.  Do the Democratic Party candidates for Senate, governor, and Congress, do they take more money from the trial lawyers or more money from the National Association of Manufacturers, the Democrats? 

NADER:  They take more money from corporate money by far than trial lawyers, but they do take money. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But aren‘t the trial lawyers the leading—aren‘t the trial lawyers, though, on the Democratic side generally in terms of financing, aren‘t they, in fact, in bed with the Democrats? 

NADER:  Wait.  It‘s good to be in bed with people who represent the injured and defrauded against these giant corporations.

But, No. 2, if you stack up the opponents of the trial lawyers, far more money flows from corporate interests into the Republican and Democratic Party than from the trial lawyers.  There are just not enough trial lawyers. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

(CROSSTALK)

NADER:  But I‘m talking of money...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a quote for the century.  There aren‘t enough trial lawyers, Ralph.  Thank you. 

NADER:  Talking of that, we don‘t take commercial money.  We don‘t take PAC money. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

NADER:  We take individual contributions to our Web site, VoteNader.org.  And we‘re looking for pro bono lawyers and signature gatherers to get on all these states so we can give this campaign a real jolt and involve the American people, make it as exciting as your program is, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, when you‘re on, it‘s very exciting, Mr. Ralph Nader, a great man.  Thank you for joining us.  Please come back again between now and November. 

When we return, former presidential candidate Jerry Brown is going to be with us.  And, later, the chemistry between John Kerry and John Edwards with Kerry biographer Douglas Brinkley. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

ANNOUNCER:  Follow all the action in the battle for the White House.  Sign up for our free daily e-mail.  Just log on to our Web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, what‘s behind John Kerry‘s selection of John Edwards?  Former presidential candidate Jerry Brown and Kerry biographer Doug Brinkley will be here when HARDBALL comes back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Jerry Brown served as California‘s governor for two terms.  He‘s now the mayor of Oakland, California.  He ran for president three times.  He‘s currently seeking the office of California‘s attorney general. 

Mayor Brown, let me ask you about today‘s events and yesterday‘s events, the extravaganza of the new Kerry-Edwards ticket.  Is this going to have lift?  Is it going to get 51 percent or more come November? 

JERRY BROWN (D), MAYOR OF OAKLAND:  Got a good shot at it. 

I think the election is too close to call.  I think it all depends on what people think of the Gulf War.  If they feel that it‘s something we had to do and Bush handled it well, I think they‘re going to tend to vote for the commander in chief.  If they think we‘re bogged down, we‘re losing our focus and neglecting problems at home and creating real trouble in our place in the world, I think they‘re going to vote against him and vote for Kerry. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you expect a true debate come October or even sooner between the Democratic and Republican candidates, the president and John Kerry, over the war, where Kerry says the war was a blunder, the war was wrong, or is this going to be this kind of murky back-and-forth opportunism that you‘re seeing in the discussion? 

BROWN:  Well, I think there has to be a debate. 

There is some strategic sense for Kerry to let Bush, you know, hang out there by himself, with Kerry not feeding it one way or the other.  But between now and November, Kerry has got to take some decisive position or you‘re going to see a lowered turnout, and that could be a very negative factor for the Democratic candidacy. 

MATTHEWS:  What happens if Ralph Nader, who was on the program tonight, stakes out a very clear anti-war position and says, if you don‘t vote for me, you‘re really not voting against the war; the Democrat is simply an opportunist? 

BROWN:  Well, I think that will stir a lot of feeling.

But if people feel that strongly about the war, they‘re going to want to see Bush out of there.  And in terms of the votes, I think the Kerry people have more to worry about from voting machines than from Ralph Nader.  That‘s what sunk him in Florida, those machines. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the Democratic Party should make an effort to educate its electorate so that the people who go to those machines are sharp enough to know how to use them? 

BROWN:  Well, they certainly out to educate them.

But, in the meantime, people ought to stop voting machines that don‘t count votes.  And I‘ve seen it.  In my own precinct here, four people were going to lose their vote had I not been right there and called the county registrar and demanded that alternative measures be provided.  So there is a lot of risk to counting votes.  And among low-income people, they‘re most vulnerable because they‘re easily exploited by a system that is by no means foolproof. 

MATTHEWS:  How do poor people get exploited by machines, by voting machines?  I‘m curious, because I think some of them are hard to operate.  I made a mistake in a voting machine one time.  I tried to vote one way and all of a sudden the curtain opened because I voted straight party because it was the only way I knew how to get out of the voting booth.  It was the first time I voted. 

I know it‘s complicated.  Why don‘t political parties, both parties, try to teach people how tricky those machines can be when you‘re under the pressure of a big line behind you? 

BROWN:  Well, I‘ll tell you, there were three guys—they happened to be African-American—that showed up at my precinct and they said, well, your name isn‘t on the roll.  And I knew enough about the city and that I figured they were down, you know, 10 blocks away, so I drove them there myself.  And, sure enough, that was it. 

Another lady had got a Republican ballot.  The precinct worker said, well, just vote continue, punch continue, continue.  At the end, she had voted totally nothing.  When they tried to call the registrar, the line was busy.  I happened to have the cell phone of the registrar and I figured it out for her.  But there were four votes, low-income people—it‘s a low-income precinct -- 40 percent of the people below the poverty line—and they would have been four votes Democrat progressive.

So I saw it with my own eyes.  And this is in a progressive city called Oakland, California.  So the rest of the country, I bet there are tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands—well, there are millions that could be losing their vote if there‘s not a vigilant presence.  Both parties would be well enough, but I think people in—mayors, prosecutors, DAs, city attorneys, we all ought to be out there defending the voters‘ right to vote. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Ralph Nader is messing up the system by running out there and getting 5 percent of the vote, say, or even more this November, which would clearly—most of it would go to the Democrats‘ side?  Is that fair or is that just bad politics, good politics, or that‘s just the way the world works? 

BROWN:  When we say he‘s messing up the system, if the system is called democracy, he‘s not messing it up.  If it‘s a two-party duopoly, well, yes, he is messing it up. 

MATTHEWS:  But if you have a result in the election like the Democrats get 48 percent and the Republicans get 49 percent or whatever the numbers would be, and the other guy gets enough to throw it to the party that really has less people supporting it than the combination of Nader and the Democrats, is that good—is that good electioneering? 

BROWN:  Wait a minute.  I don‘t believe that people who are going to

vote for Nader at the risk of electing George Bush—the people who vote

for Nader do not like George Bush.  So, if they think it‘s close in their

state, they‘re going to vote against Bush in a way that‘s meaningful and

that is, they vote for Kerry.  If they‘re so turned off

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, why didn‘t they do last time in Florida?  rMDNM_Ninety thousand people in Florida voted for—I mean, I don‘t care, but 90,000 people voted Nader.  And, clearly, as you know, the results in Florida were tight as a drum.  That 90,000 would have swept it for Gore.

BROWN:  Well, I‘ll say two things. 

One, people, if they don‘t really want to vote for either of the two major party candidates can just not vote.  They can vote for the Natural Law Party.  There is more than the 90,000, I would bet, that don‘t vote.  There‘s always a fall-off of 1 or 2 percent. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What‘s your nose tell you about whether Cheney is going to make it all the way through the end of this race?  Do you think they might see this guy, the new kid on the block—he‘s rolling up the numbers now.  They‘re in great shape in the polling overnight, the Democrats.  Do you think they might say, Cheney is not able to go the distance; we have got to put in a guy there like Frist or Tom Ridge from Pennsylvania instead? 

BROWN:  Well, if the polls show that Bush might lose, I imagine the party elders will tell him, dump Cheney. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BROWN:  I don‘t think this is a marriage.  He‘s not talking to God on this issue.  I think he‘ll be talking to his pollsters.

MATTHEWS:  You think Cheney is movable? 

BROWN:  What do you mean movable? 

MATTHEWS:  I mean, you could tell him to go.  Will he go? 

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN:  Well, I think you can tell him to go. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m being a little ridiculous here, but he‘s a damn

powerful vice president.  I just wonder whether you can tell

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Nice work here—nice work, Dick.  You‘re out of here. 

I‘m sure that would be a tough conversation for the president. 

BROWN:  Well, it depends upon who is in charge.  If the people that really influence Bush are the Cheney people, maybe they‘ll say no.  But, on the other hand, these are pretty strong ideologues.  They are going to want to maintain the White House.  So, if they have to jettison Cheney, they‘ll do it.

Remember, Roosevelt got rid of Wallace...

MATTHEWS:  Henry Wallace, yes.

BROWN:  ... and took on Harry Truman.  So politics is about winning as much as it is about principle.  In this case, they probably would be well served to freshen up their ticket. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Mayor Jerry Brown.

Coming up, does the Democratic ticket need a touch of the South to win?  We‘ll ask Kerry biographer Douglas Brinkley. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Doug Brinkley is a presidential historian and he‘s a John Kerry

biographer.  He‘s author of the book “Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the

Vietnam War.‘

Let me ask you about this ticket.  You‘re down in New Orleans.  You‘re at the Eisenhower Center down there.  Is that a state that this ticket can win, Kerry-Edwards? 

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  Absolutely. 

Louisiana, as you know, Chris, has two Democratic senators, Mary Landrieu and John Breaux, has a Democratic governor in Kathleen Blanco.  It‘s a heavily Catholic state and a large African-American population.  So all of those lead to it being a state that John Kerry and John Edwards think they can win. 

Two other issues here, wetlands restoration and also sugar and agriculture and trade, which Edwards is a little more pro-worker, less free trader than Kerry, and it could help.  He might be able to rally some of the sugar cane workers, the way Mary Landrieu did.

MATTHEWS:  And they‘re for, what, kind of trade protectionism or what? 

BRINKLEY:  Yes, that‘s right. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They want that sugar quota real high, right? 

BRINKLEY:  Absolutely.  And I think that you‘ve got that opportunity.

So Kerry and Edwards are going to play here.  Oddly, I think some people in the Kerry camp had a Mississippi River South, the thought that they can win Louisiana, that they can win Arkansas, that they can win Tennessee, go up the river.  Instead of just winning the Deep South, some states, they are not going to win.  Alabama, Georgia look highly unlikely.

MATTHEWS:  Mississippi is probably unlikely.  South Carolina is unlikely.  It will be the softer South. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I got you.  So it‘s going to be the softer South, Louisiana, North Carolina.  But North Carolina is the toughest probably of the ones you‘ve mentioned. 

Let me ask you about this whole question of religion.  I don‘t know if I mentioned it on the air, but I thought that having Kerry pick Tom Vilsack, the governor of Ohio, putting two—basically, two Roman Catholics on the same Democratic ticket was probably one Catholic too many.  In some cases, one Catholic is one too many.  Was that in John Kerry‘s thinking as well? 

BRINKLEY:  I think so. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you know so? 

BRINKLEY:  Yes.  I mean, I do know so. 

Iowa was the thought of having—you know, he‘s fairly popular in Iowa, Iowa Governor Vilsack.  And, certainly, his wife is very popular and was an early supporter of John Kerry.  And Kerry gets along with Vilsack exceedingly well.  But the notion of having two Catholics, given the state of—it just seemed to make more sense to have somebody like John Edwards who was a Southern Baptist. 

MATTHEWS:  Did he say that to you, that he was concerned about two Catholics being two too many? 

BRINKLEY:  No.  But I think when you talked to him about...

MATTHEWS:  He didn‘t?  I thought you just said he did. 

(CROSSTALK)

BRINKLEY:  No.  But the campaign, people in the campaign, when you talk about people that are working with him, that was something that was always on the table, you know, the Catholic issue. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the lightweight possible issue?  No one would say that John Edwards was the most qualified possible running mate.  There are so many people with much more experience.  Did Kerry ever suggest to you that he was willing to give up that claim of having the most qualified person in order to have the most electable person as his running mate? 

BRINKLEY:  I don‘t think anybody would frame it that way.  But I think, of course, you‘re looking for who is going to help you win.  There‘s no doubt that there are people that Kerry was closer to.  Everybody knows.  Everybody has been commenting on it.  Dick Gephardt, for example, who he‘s exceedingly close with. 

But what they did look at, Edwards had turned in a kind of brief, a report outlining how he envisioned the campaign.  And it turned out to be very similar to Kerry.  And also, Chris, they essentially infiltrated the Kerry campaign since March, people like Miles Lackey, who used to be the chief of staff for John Edwards, moved in to Kerry headquarters to Washington. 

Old Edwards people from January, February are now running California and Ohio for Kerry.  This has been an ongoing process, the kind of morphing of Edwards and Kerry. 

MATTHEWS:  Have you noticed that all the time that we talked about it, about Kerry‘s war experience in Vietnam on the swift boats for all those months, and now we haven‘t talked about it for weeks?  What do you think that‘s about? 

BRINKLEY:  I think it kind of neutralized this out.  There was this whole swift boat group against John Kerry.  And it kind of went back and forth.  And, basically, I think you call it media exhaustion. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think so.

BRINKLEY:  People just got tired of hearing about it. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it will come back in October, November when we pick a president where war records will matter again and the question of the president‘s Guard service and all that?  Are these just issues that have worn themselves out and we don‘t care anymore?

BRINKLEY:  I think the Kerry campaign is going to try to remind people of the fact that Dick Cheney and Karl Rove and Bush, the fact of how they played their Vietnam card.  And it may flare up in one of the debates.  Somebody, the press might ask them and it becomes a controversial moment. 

But I don‘t think Vietnam is going to be a big part of September, October. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, thanks a lot, Doug Brinkley, historian, a great historian.

BRINKLEY:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more

HARDBALL.

Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.  

END   

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