updated 7/27/2004 10:04:21 AM ET 2004-07-27T14:04:21

Guest: Willie Brown

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I am honored to join you in this endeavor as a candidate for president of the United States. 

I am pleased to announce that with your help the next vice president of the United States of America will be Senator John Edwards. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.

Welcome back to our coverage, our unique coverage of the Democratic Convention tonight from Faneuil Hall in Boston.

Coming up this hour, the big guys of the night, Former President Bill

Clinton.  And, of course, he‘s going to be introduced by his wife, New York

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton—who would have believed all this was

going to happen in the last few years? -- who may have—give me a break -

·         may have presidential ambitions of her own. 

HARDBALL‘s David Shuster joins us now on the floor—David.

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC ELECTION CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Chris, the anticipation is certainly building here in FleetCenter.  The hall is completely jammed.  The seats that were empty 45 minutes ago are now filled, as everybody waits for Bill Clinton once again to take the stage. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I proudly accept your nomination for president of the United States. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

SHUSTER (voice-over):  He has twice been his party‘s presidential nominee, but Bill Clinton has been starring at Democratic Conventions since 1980. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Governor Bill Clinton, one of the president‘s men on the floor.

SHUSTER:  That year, the youngest governor in Arkansas history negotiated a delicate fight between Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy.

CLINTON:  The two sides have been working hard to try to get together.  And it‘s my hope that they will get together.  And I‘m feeling more like it today than I did two days ago. 

SHUSTER:  Four years later, Clinton gave a speech remembering Harry Truman. 

CLINTON:  And he would tell us to scrap all this nostalgia, quit whining about our internal problems and get on with the business of taking our message to the country. 

SHUSTER:  And then in 1988 came one of the most infamous speeches in modern convention history. 

CLINTON:  I‘m honored to be here tonight to nominate my friend Michael Dukakis for president of the United States. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

SHUSTER:  Clinton was asked to fill for Michael Dukakis.  And he went on for so long, 34 minutes, that this was his most popular line. 

CLINTON:  In closing...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

SHUSTER:  But four years later, all was forgotten when Bill Clinton came back as the presidential nominee.  He thrilled the delegates one night ahead of schedule with this surprise visit to the convention floor. 

CLINTON:  I want to thank you all for being here and loving your country.  And to tell you that, tomorrow night, I will be the comeback kid. 

SHUSTER:  It was a maneuver reminiscent of John F. Kennedy, who did the same thing 32 years earlier.  As for Clinton, his follow-up appearance in accepting the nomination highlighted his optimism and his own biography. 

CLINTON:  I still believe in a place called hope. 

God bless you and God bless America. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

SHUSTER:  Four years later, with the economy booming and America‘s prestige rising, President Clinton spoke about a bridge to the 21st century. 

CLINTON:  The real choice is whether we will build a bridge to the future or a bridge to the past, about whether we believe our best days are still out there or our best days are behind us. 

SHUSTER:  At the 2000 convention, the president who had survived impeachment staged one of the most dramatic appearances ever seen.  His long televised walk had all the trappings of a political resurrection.  And with a friendly crowd getting louder with each step, the president stepped to the lectern and spoke of the Clinton-Gore record. 

CLINTON:  Are we going to keep this progress and prosperity going? 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

CLINTON:  Yes, we are!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER:  Tonight, Bill Clinton is expected to talk again about his economic record and about a future under John Kerry.  But the Democrats, it may not matter what Bill Clinton says.  After all, said one delegate, this is our party‘s biggest star—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster.

You know what you have to say?  This has nothing to do with politics, Mr. Mayor and everybody else here.  But there is a guy who loves being Bill Clinton.  I mean, I look at John Kerry and I say if, you‘re happy, tell your face. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  This guy is always happy. 

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, you always talked about the winning politician being the one with the sun in his face.  He‘s got a whole galaxy.  He really does, even in the toughest times.  And he needs to give the charisma—somehow give a charisma transplant to John Kerry. 

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  And hates being offstage.  He‘s been up there.  He was up there in Chappaquiddick writing that book and being late on the book and finally delivering it.  He loves being in center stage.  And he‘s just going to relish this tonight. 

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  The only difference, though...

MATTHEWS:  He went to Chappaquiddick to write the book? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Chappaqua. 

MITCHELL:  Sorry.  Chappaqua. 

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  I‘m not going to say the joke that follows.

SCARBOROUGH:  Moving quickly beyond that statement, the difference is, though, like, in 2000, it seemed, with Al Gore, it‘s like almost like the song from “Jesus Christ Superstar,” I don‘t know how to love him.

He could never get his arms around Bill Clinton, didn‘t know how close he wanted him to him.  I‘ll tell you what.  John Kerry has got no problem with that tonight.  The Democrats have no problem.  Elvis is in the arena, and they can‘t wait for him to kick it off. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, they have had a ring, a long line of somewhat morbid candidates.  Dukakis was never happy-go-lucky.  I wouldn‘t say Al was wasn‘t Mr. Smiles.  And now this guy they had to teach to smile.  And they had one guy who seemed to love being a politician. 

Mr. Mayor, you‘ve loved being a politician. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the difference between these guys who seem like they‘re—Jimmy Carter sometimes thought he was suffering to be president. 

WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO:  I think Bill Clinton decided at 2 years of age that he wanted to be president.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BROWN:  And he‘s been working at it for all this time. 

MATTHEWS:  And it was going to be fun.

BROWN:  Believe me—and Bill Clinton genuinely loves people.  If you really love people, it comes through.  And, believe me, he would stop and talk to anybody under any circumstance on any subject and make it interesting. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go back to the podium at the convention.  The Democrats, a very serious moment, remembering those lost on 9/11. 

Haleema Salie is a Muslim-American of Sri Lankan descent.  She lost her daughter and her son-in-law on American Airlines Flight 9/11. 

Let‘s listen up.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

HALEEMA SALIE, MOTHER OF SEPTEMBER 11 VICTIM:  American Airlines Flight 11. 

Those we lost that day were husbands and wives, children, neighbors and friends.  We thought we would have them longer.  We thought we had more time.  As the families we stood in clothes of mourning and wiped our children‘s tears.  The whole country grieved with us and we leaned on their support. 

In our grief, and its ground-shattering aftermath, we truly understood that as Americans everything had changed and we will not have the luxury of time and innocence again. 

Tonight, I come here to ask that you never forget our loved ones, to remember that they were people exactly like you and me each with their own story.  Dignity asks that you give them a human face. 

And then I want to ask that you remember September 11th as the day we were one.  It was the day we acted as if we were responsible for each other.  Human life was valued above all else.  It was and must remain the defining moment that reminds us what unites us is stronger than what divides us. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

SALIE:  For the sake of those innocent souls we lost and for the soul of our country, life moves forward as it must.  We bring our memories but we turn our faces towards the future towards our children, towards the ongoing stream of life. 

Now, as we turn our faces toward a new day and a new world the strength of who we were on 9/11 should stay with us, a light in the darkness, to show us the way. 

Thank you. 

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Well, we‘re back. 

I want to go to Andrea Mitchell.  You know, it‘s good to remember that we were once united completely along party lines, across party lines.  I remember being in New York right after 9/11, and it clearly was a time—let‘s listen. 

MITCHELL:  And...

(MUSIC) 

(APPLAUSE)

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO:  Ladies and gentlemen, that moving performance was given by Gabe Lefkowitz, a 16-year-old violinist with the Boston Youth Symphony. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

RICHARDSON:  Delegates and alternates, please welcome the Reverend David Alston of Columbia, South Carolina, a swift boat crew mate of John Kerry. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Andrea.

Andrea, that was quite a moment for the Democrats there. 

MITCHELL:  It was. 

And it was, they said, going to be a moment that was not political, and that they wanted to show respect to the 9/11 victims.  And I think it really did work as sort of a time-out in all the partisanship that we hear at these conventions, because this is something that tore this nation apart.  It was the worst single moment in American history. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it also united us. 

I think, Howard, the question, I guess, historians will try to figure out 20 years hence is, a country that was very united September 2001 and was for several months, as was the world, outside the al Qaeda crowd, very united, and then it came apart, to the point where, today, we‘re about 50/50 on whether we should have followed up after 9/11 with the war in Iraq.  It‘s about 50/50, in all fairness.

The world is divided against us, largely.  We are divided within ourselves.  Is it the war that separated us and how to deal with the tragedy?

FINEMAN:  Well, it‘s the decision to go to the war in Iraq.  It‘s the way George W. Bush pursued it that‘s controversial. 

MATTHEWS:  Would we be united today?  Would there not be an election this year?  Would it have been about this issue?

FINEMAN:  No, of course not.  Of course not. 

We would be divided.  We would be separating into our camps for a presidential election.  But I‘m not sure it would have the edge of bitterness and recrimination it has right now, accusations of lying, extremism, sowing panic, the kinds of things that Jimmy Carter, former president, said earlier tonight.  That‘s the legacy of the controversy over the decision to go to Iraq. 

MITCHELL:  Absolutely.

And it has defined George Bush‘s presidency.  Now, he said he was a war president.  Now he‘s trying to say that he‘s a peace president.  But I think the Democrats are going to say, you cannot switch from war president to peace president just by claiming you can redefine yourself. 

MATTHEWS:  But for a lot of Americans, there was never a break point.  For a lot of Americans, there was a continuum.  From that moment we just honored there of 9/11 all the way through the latest skirmish in Iraq, it‘s part of a continuous reaction to an attack on the United States by Americans against our foes. 

Those people don‘t see a break.  It‘s the Democrats who are opposing this president who have honored a break.  And that‘s the big division in the country—Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  That is the big division in the country. 

And, of course, I‘m one of those people that don‘t see the break.  I know there was a lot of frustration when a “Washington Post” poll came out about six months ago among Democrats, because, of course, the majority of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11 and everybody would wave their arms and say, how could they say that?  There‘s no evidence of it. 

But I think we would still find ourselves where we are now even without Iraq.  We‘d be in the political season.  I think that certainly has brought out the Michael Moores of the world.  It‘s created a callousness.  This campaign season has.  You combine that with Iraq.

But I‘ll tell you what.  It sure was nice, just for two minutes, listening to the lady speak, talking about what unites us is stronger than what divides us.  And for those of us that have been in politics, we all know, this election is going to be over.  And regardless of whoever wins, they‘re going to serve this country proud.  It was a great time-out.  I‘m glad the Democrats did it.  And it took you back to 2001. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go right now to presidential historian Doug Brinkley.  He‘s an NBC News analyst and the author of “Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War.”

Doug, I‘ve been asking this all day.  I asked it again yesterday.  I‘ll keep asking it.  How does John Kerry, longtime U.S. senator, never been president, wants to be president, act like a president this week in terms of terrorism? 

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, NBC ANALYST:  Well, I mean, I think he‘s being careful right now.  Everybody knows that you have to—with the 9/11 report, people are trying to take a bit of a neutral stand, Chris.   

I don‘t think Kerry wants to this week—to be presidential is not to attack George W. Bush, to talk about how he‘s going to rally the country around terrorism, again, the fight.  It‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you, more particularly, how does he show rage against the terrorists and frustration against the administration at the same time?  That is the conundrum most Democrats have been in for almost a couple of years now.  How do you get angry with a policy and at the same time angry with the enemy of that policy, the terrorists? 

BRINKLEY:  Well, it‘s a good question. 

I think the key thing that Kerry is trying to let people know is that he‘s going to be vigilant on the war on terror, but he would bring a kind of diplomatic background to it.  He would work with our allies in a closer way.  And that‘s why he‘s learned to do the rope-a-dope, to kind of stand back, I think, and make it very clear that he‘s going to be the president who tries to work with countries, whatever that means.

The fact that he‘s not defining it clearly enough has been what his critics have been hammering him with. 

MATTHEWS:  You have been trying to become—I think you may eventually become the lifelong career biographer of John Kerry. 

So answer this question that I wrestle with every time I have him on this show.  Why doesn‘t he say, I was misinformed at the time of the vote on Iraq; I‘ve since been informed as to the fact there are no clear-cut evidence of weapons of mass destruction, no clear-cut evidence of a connection between Saddam Hussein and what happened on 9/11; therefore, I wish that I had not given the president the authority to go to war?  Why doesn‘t he say that? 

BRINKLEY:  Well, because I think Kerry‘s somebody who is—when he made those votes was—in retrospect, both Kerry and Edwards‘ votes actually serve their purposes right now.  They‘re trying to win over 5 or 7 percent. 

He‘s trying to show he‘s not a Massachusetts liberal, but he‘s somebody who would be very pro-armed forces.  So, in a lot of ways, I think the fact that he made that vote is helping him, even though here at the Democratic Convention, it‘s very popular to—it‘s not a popular vote that he made.  But with that 5 or 7 percent of independents, the fact that he shows that he may be willing to go to war if need be, if America‘s in harm‘s way, actually serves him. 

MATTHEWS:  Doug, do you actually believe that he believes that he voted to give the president a chance to go to the U.N. and pursue peace or he voted to cover himself if we went to a popular war? 

BRINKLEY:  Well, I think he—John Kerry, you have to take him somewhat at his word on it. 

I think he was presented with a lot of Americans with a threat that Saddam Hussein posed.  We were told about weapons of mass destruction.  And I think he wanted to make sure that America that safe.  Given the information he was given, he made his vote, and I think it‘s a vote he has got to live with.  To try to somehow apologize for that vote I think he feels would be a terrible mistake.

MATTHEWS:  What are the relations between the Clinton family, the senator from New York, the former first lady and the former president, and the Kerrys, are they friends, politically or otherwise? 

BRINKLEY:  Well, I think they are political allies certainly in this election, but there‘s no personal friendship between them. 

These aren‘t people that spend a lot of time together.  Bill and Hillary Clinton and the Kerrys aren‘t social friends.  He does talk apparently a couple times a week to Bill Clinton and gets some sort of advice from him.  But Kerry‘s very much his own person.  You can‘t call John Kerry a Clinton Democrat. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, is John Kerry one of those Democrats who felt they were betrayed by President Clinton?  Not that he had whatever it was with Monica Lewinsky, but he had the entire party cover for him for almost a year, in terms of his lying.  He forced them to be supportive of his lying.  Do you think he‘s, like some Democrats, still angry at Clinton for that humiliation? 

BRINKLEY:  I don‘t know.

But what is clear, Chris, is that Bill Clinton wasn‘t strongly for John Kerry, neither was Al Gore, when it came into December of 2003.  And Kerry, was, at the time of the Iowa caucus, pretty much on his—by his—on his own.  Governor Vilsack‘s wife was there behind him.  He certainly had the support of Ted Kennedy, but Bill and Hillary Clinton weren‘t fully in John Kerry‘s corner.  And I think that‘s something he remembers. 

He knows he has to win this election on his own.  It‘s not going to be about the Clintons.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BRINKLEY:  It‘s not about him.  It‘s—it‘s—it‘s—I mean, it‘s about—it‘s not a referendum against—against the Clintons.  It‘s about George W. Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, we had a briefing this morning.  Since I don‘t remember the exact ground rules, I won‘t give the person‘s name.  A senior official in the Kerry campaign, when asked if Bill Clinton would play a major role in this campaign, unlike the role he didn‘t really play in 2000, the answer was, they may appear together. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a pretty soft statement. 

BRINKLEY:  Well, the—I think you‘ll see Bill Clinton campaigning a lot for John Kerry.  I think it won‘t be like Al Gore the last time around.  And I think you‘ll see him becoming more and more of an elder statesman. 

Clinton is having a pretty big year.  He‘s got his—his book is No.  1 on the best-seller list.  He‘s going to get an incredible ovation here tonight.  His presidential library is opening.  And he‘s going to hit a kind of elder statesman role.  And John Kerry is somebody who will be consulting, I think, with all former presidents if he were elected. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think is Bill Clinton‘s political ambition right now for the rest of his life?  Do you think he‘s not going to ever seek public office again? 

BRINKLEY:  I don‘t think public office is in the making. 

I think he wants to become like Jimmy Carter, in the sense of being synonymous with some issues, whether it‘s the fight for global AIDS, whether it‘s dealing—continuing some of the legacy of his administration of making peace with Northern Ireland and other places.  And I think education and civil rights.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BRINKLEY:  I think you‘ll see him taking a lead role for the 50th anniversaries of the Little Rock Central High integration, Montgomery busboy cot.  He‘s very loved by the African-American community.  And that‘s quite a tribute to him. 

MATTHEWS:  I think there‘s one job he would jump at, if he could get it.  And that‘s secretary-general of the United Nations.  And I‘m almost positive he would accept it.  How he manages to wangle that invitation is going to be a great thing to watch the next couple of years. 

MATTHEWS:  Howard Fineman is looking to join in here.

What do you think?  You‘re talking to an historian of this guy.

FINEMAN:  I think that he would love to be president of the world. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I‘m talking about.

FINEMAN:  That‘s all that‘s left. 

MATTHEWS:  Why stop here?

FINEMAN:  That‘s all that‘s left. 

But even they don‘t appear together a lot, Bill Clinton can be useful. 

He can campaign in other places around the country for the... 

MATTHEWS:  We have got to go to the former first lady right now. 

We‘ll have Mayor Brown fill up in a moment here.

But this is a moment to watch, boy, a moment to savor.  Try to read the mind of Hillary Clinton tonight.  It is going to be so complicated.  She‘s clearly wanting to be a hero tonight.  She will be a hero with this crowd.  Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is coming out next.  By the way, her role is to introduce her husband, which is always an interesting relationship, to watch these two public figures together who are also husband and wife.  And that‘s always an interesting situation to watch publicly, how husbands and wives behave in public.

We‘re all watching to see if they do—I don‘t think they‘re going to kiss like Tipper and Al.  I may be wrong.

FINEMAN:  Especially if one still wants to run for president and the other already has been president. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I don‘t think they‘re going to do that V.E. Day picture that Al and Tipper like to give us in the streets of New York occasionally. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But we‘re—let‘s go down to the podium.  Let‘s go down there right now.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

RICHARDSON:  ... join senator from New York state and a great Democrat, Hillary Rodham Clinton!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  I am practically speechless. 

(APPLAUSE)

However, 12 years ago when our country needed new leadership, Americans selected a Democrat who gave us eight years of peace, prosperity and promise. 

Tonight I have the pleasure of introducing the last great Democratic president.

(APPLAUSE)

But first, I want to say a few words about the next great Democratic president, John Kerry.  

(APPLAUSE)

You know, I, like all of you, just heard the moving testimonials about the horrors of September the 11th and the extraordinary witnessing by Reverend Alston concerning his lieutenant, John Kerry.

I don‘t know how any American could hear the Reverend Alston and not know John Kerry is the man we need to be our president and commander in chief.

(APPLAUSE)

And yet, we meet at a moment of great peril, but also of great promise for the country we love.  Together we can, once again, widen the circle of opportunity for all Americans.  We can, once again, transcend our differences and divisions.  We can, once again, give our children a safer and more secure future.

That is the promise of America, and John Kerry will renew and keep that promise to this generation and generations to come.  He knows very well that you have to lead the world, not alienate it.

(APPLAUSE)

He will lower the deficit, not raise it.  He will create good jobs, not lose them.  And he will solve a health care crisis for our people, not ignore it.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, I know a thing or two about health care.

(LAUGHTER)

And I know that the problems have only gotten worse in the last four years.  We need to rededicate ourselves to the task of providing health care coverage for the 44 million Americans who don‘t have it, and we have to do more to lower the cost for all the rest of Americans who are facing increasing health care insurance premiums and drug prices.

(APPLAUSE)

We also need to lift the ban on stem cell research and find cures that will help millions of Americans.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, health care is a serious issue, and it requires serious solutions.  And that‘s what John Kerry is good at.  And that‘s what he will give us.

He will also give us something else, a great vice president by the name of John Edwards. 

(APPLAUSE)

Now, you know that John Edwards is smart.  He‘s energetic, and he‘s empathetic.  And he understands the challenges that hardworking Americans face in their daily lives.

Americans will be proud to have the Kerry-Edwards team in the White House.  And they will be proud, as we all will be, to have their extraordinary partners, Teresa Heinz Kerry and Elizabeth Edwards, working for our country as well.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, we‘ve been through our share of challenges as Americans, from a Civil War, Great Depression, World Wars and so much more.  But being a senator from New York, I saw firsthand, as all of my friends and colleagues did, the devastation of September the 11th.

I visited Ground Zero the day after we were attacked. And I felt like I was standing at the gates of hell.  I hope no American ever has to witness a horrible sight like that ever again. 

And yet, that tragedy both changed and challenged us.  I know it did for me.  And every day now as a mother, as a senator, as an American, I worry about whether we are acting as wisely as we can to protect our country and our people.

Last week, the bipartisan 9/11 commission issued its report.  And that commission would never have been in existence had it not been for the brave family members who insisted that this government have a commission to look into 9/11. 

(APPLAUSE)

And those commissioners issued a sober call to action that we ignore at our peril.  

John Kerry understands what‘s at stake when it comes to our security.  We need to fully equip and train our firefighters, our police officers and our emergency medical technicians.

(APPLAUSE)

They are our first responders in the event of a terrorist attack.

And we need to secure our borders, our rail lines and our ports as well as our chemical and nuclear plants.  We need to reorganize our federal government to meet the new threats of these times.  And we need to make sure that homeland security is a priority and that it is funded properly and that the resources go to the areas of greatest risk, like New York City.

(APPLAUSE)

And along with that, we need to take care of our men and women in uniform who, like John Kerry, risk their lives and, for too many, lost their lives in service to our country.  These brave Americans deserve better.

(APPLAUSE)

We need to increase our troop strength.  We need to raise their pay.  We need to provide our veterans, our National Guard and Reserve with the benefits they are entitled to for the service and duty they perform for our nation.

(APPLAUSE)

And do you know—do you know what we need to meet these challenges? 

We need a new commander in chief named John Kerry.

(APPLAUSE)

I‘ve been saying for many months now, John Kerry is a serious man for a serious job in a serious time in our country‘s history.

So let‘s join together not just those of us in this great hall tonight, but throughout our nation, and do everything we possibly can to convince our fellow Americans to look to the future, to look deep inside themselves.  They know what is best for our children.  And if we just have the courage to act on our conviction, we will by an overwhelming majority send John Kerry and John Edwards to do their duty for us in the White House starting next year.

(APPLAUSE)

I am very optimistic about this election, because I think I know a great leader when I see one.

(APPLAUSE)

And so does America.

In 1992 and 1996, Americans chose a president who left our country in better shape than when he took office.

(APPLAUSE)

And he still spends his days working to empower the powerless, to promote racial, religious and ethnic reconciliation, to inspire young people to citizen service and to bring life-saving medicines to people living with HIV/AIDS throughout the world.

(APPLAUSE)

He showed Democrats how to win again, and so will John Kerry.

Please welcome the 42nd president of the United States, Bill Clinton.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Ladies and gentlemen, I am honored to be here with you.

(APPLAUSE)

I am honored to share this podium with my senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton.  And I want to thank the people of New York for giving the best public servant in my family a chance to continue serving the public.  Thank you.

I am also—I‘m going to say that again, in case you didn‘t hear it.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

I‘m honored to be here tonight.  And I want to thank the people of New York for giving Hillary the chance to continue to serve in public life.

(APPLAUSE)

I am very proud of her.  And we are both very grateful to all of you, especially my good friends from Arkansas, for giving me the chance to serve in the White House for eight years.

(APPLAUSE)

I am honored to share this night with President Carter, for whom I worked in 1976 and who has inspired the world with his work for peace, democracy and human rights.

(APPLAUSE)

I am honored to share it with Al Gore, my friend and my partner for eight years, who played such a large role in building the prosperity and peace that we left America in 2000.

And Al Gore, as he showed again tonight, demonstrated incredible patriotism and grace under pressure.  He is the living embodiment of the principle that every vote counts.

And this year, we‘re going to make sure they‘re all counted in every state in America.

(APPLAUSE)

My friends, after three conventions as a candidate or a president, tonight I come to you as a citizen, returning to the role that I have played for most of my life, as a foot soldier in our fight for the future, as we nominate in Boston a true New England Patriot for president.

(APPLAUSE)

Now this state, who gave us in other times of challenge John Adams and John Kennedy, has given us John Kerry, a good man, a great senator, a visionary leader.  And we are all here to do what we can to make him the next president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

My friends, we are constantly being told that America is deeply divided.  But all Americans value freedom and faith and family.  We all honor the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world.

(APPLAUSE)

We all want good jobs, good schools, health care, safe streets, a clean environment.

We all want our children to grow up in a secure America leading the world toward a peaceful and prosperous future.

Our differences are in how we can best achieve these things in a time of unprecedented change.  Therefore, we Democrats will bring to the American people this year a positive campaign, arguing not who is a good or a bad person, but what is the best way to build a safe and prosperous world our children deserve.

(APPLAUSE)

The 21st century is marked by serious security threats, serious economic challenges and serious problems, from AIDS to global warming to the continuing turmoil in the Middle East. 

But it is also full of amazing opportunities to create millions of new jobs and clean energy and biotechnology, to restore our manufacturing base and reap the benefits of the global economy, through our diversity and our commitment to decent labor and environmental standards for people all across the world...

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... and to create a world where we can celebrate our religious, our racial, our ethnic, our tribal differences because our common humanity matters most of all.

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To build that kind of world, we must make the right choices.  And we must have a president who will lead the way.  Democrats and Republicans have very different and deeply felt ideas about what choices we should make.  They‘re rooted in fundamentally different views of how we should meet our common challenges at home, and how we should play our role in the world.

We Democrats want to build a world and an America of shared responsibilities and shared benefits.  We want a world with more global cooperation where we act alone only when we absolutely have to.

We think the role of government...

(APPLAUSE)

... should be to give people the tools to create the conditions to make the most of their own lives.  And we think everybody should have that chance.

On the other hand, the Republicans in Washington believe that American should be run by the right people—their people—in a world in which America acts unilaterally when we can and cooperates when we have to.

They believe the role of government is to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of those who embrace their economic, political and social views, leaving ordinary citizens to fend for themselves on important matters like health care and retirement security.

Now, since most Americans aren‘t that far to the right, our friends have to portray us Democrats as simply unacceptable, lacking in strength and values.  In other words, they need a divided America.

But we don‘t.

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Americans long to be united.  After 9/11, we all just wanted to be one nation.  Not a single American on September the 12th, 2001, cared who won the next presidential election.  

All we wanted to do was to be one country, strong in the fight against terror, helping to heal those who were wounded and the families of those who lost their loved ones, reaching out to the rest of the world so we could meet these new challenges and go on with our democratic way of life.

The president had an amazing opportunity to bring the country together under his slogan of compassionate conservatism and to unite the world in the struggle against terror.

Instead, he and his congressional allies made a very different choice.  They chose to use that moment of unity to try to push the country too far to the right and to walk away from our allies, not only in attacking Iraq before the weapons inspectors had finished their work, but in withdrawing American support for the climate change treaty and for the international court on war criminals and for the anti-ballistic missile treaty and from the nuclear test ban treaty.

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Now, now at a time when we‘re trying to get other people to give up nuclear and biological and chemical weapons, they are trying to develop two new nuclear weapons which they say we might use first.

At home, the president and the Republican Congress have made equally fateful choices, which they also deeply believe in.

For the first time when America was in a war footing in our whole history, they gave two huge tax cuts, nearly half of which went to the top 1 percent of us.

Now, I‘m in that group for the first time in my life.

(LAUGHTER)

And you might remember that when I was in office, on occasion, the Republicans were kind of mean to me.

(LAUGHTER)

But as soon as I got out and made money, I became part of the most important group in the world to them.  It was amazing.  I never thought I‘d be so well cared for by the president and the Republicans in Congress. 

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I almost sent them a thank you note for my tax cuts until I realized that the rest of you were paying the bill for it. And then I thought better of it.

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Now look at the choices they made, choices they believed in. They chose to protect my tax cut at all costs while withholding promised funding to the Leave No Child Behind Act, leaving 2.1 million children behind.

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They chose to protect my tax cut, while cutting 140,000 unemployed workers out of their job training programs, 100,000 working families out of their child care assistance, and worst of all, while cutting 300,000 poor children out of their after-school programs when we know it keeps them off the streets, out of trouble, in school, learning, going to college and having a good life.

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They chose—they chose to protect my tax cuts while dramatically raising the out-of-pocket costs of health care to our veterans and while weakening or reversing very important environmental measures that Al Gore and I put into place, everything from clean air to the protection of our forests.

Now, in this time, everyone in America had to sacrifice except the wealthiest Americans.  And most of us, almost all of us, from Republicans to independents and Democrats, we wanted to be asked to do our part, too.  But all they asked us to do was to expend the energy necessary to open the envelopes containing our tax cuts.

Now, if you like these choices and you agree with them, you should vote to return them to the White House and the Congress. If not, take a look at John Kerry, John Edwards and the Democrats. We‘ve got a different economic policy.

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In this year‘s budget...

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In this year‘s budget, the White House this year wants to cut off all the federal funding for 88,000 uniformed police officers under the COPS program we‘ve had for 10 years.  Among those 88,000 police are more than 700 members of the New York Police Department who put their lives on the line on 9/11.

With gang violence rising, and with all of us looking for terrorists in our midst and hoping they‘re not too well armed or too dangerous, the president and the Congress are about to allow the 10- year-old ban on deadly assault weapons to lapse. 

Now, they believe it‘s the right thing to do.  But our policy was to put more police on the street and to take assault weapons off the street.  And it gave you eight years of declining crime and eight years of declining violence.

(APPLAUSE)

Their policy is the reverse.  They‘re taking police off the streets while they put assault weapons back on the street. 

Now, if you agree with that choice, by all means, vote to keep them in office.  But if you don‘t, join John Kerry, John Edwards and the Democrats in making America safer, smarter and stronger again. 

(APPLAUSE)

On homeland security, Democrats tried to double the number of containers at ports and airports checked for weapons of mass destruction.  It cost $1 billion.  It would have been paid for under our bill by asking the 200,000 millionaires in America to cut their tax cut by $5,000.  Almost all 200,000 of us would like to have done that, to spend $5,000 to make all 300 million Americans safer. 

The measure failed.  Why?  Because the White House and the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives opposed it. They thought our $5,000 was more important than doubling the container checks at our ports and airports. 

If you agree with that, by all means, re-elect them.  If not, John Kerry and John Edwards are your team for the future. 

(APPLAUSE)

These policies have turned a projected $5.8 trillion surplus that we left, enough to pay for the baby boomer retirement, into a projected debt of almost $5 trillion, with over $400 billion in deficit this year and for years to come.  

Now, how do they pay for that deficit?  First, by taking the Social Security surplus that comes in every month and endorsing the checks of working people over to me to pay for the tax cuts.  But it‘s not enough. 

So then they have to go borrow money.  Most of it they borrow from the Chinese and the Japanese government. 

Sure, these countries are competing with us for good jobs, but how can we enforce our trade laws against our bankers?  I mean, come on.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

So if you think—if you believe it is good policy—if you believe it is good policy to pay for my tax cuts with the Social Security checks of working men and women and borrowed money from China and Japan, you should vote for them.  If not, John Kerry‘s your man.

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We Americans must choose for president...

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... we‘ve got to choose for president between two strong men who both love their countries, but who have very different world views: our nominee, John Kerry, who favors shared responsibility, shared opportunity and more global cooperation; and their president and their party in Congress who favor concentrated wealth and power, leaving people to fend for themselves and more unilateral action.

I think we‘re right for two reasons.

First of all, America just works better when more people have a chance to live their dreams.

(APPLAUSE)

And, secondly, we live in an interdependent world in which we cannot possibly kill, jail or occupy all of our potential adversaries. So we have to both fight terror and build a world with more partners and fewer terrorists.

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Now, we tried it their way for 12 years.  We tried it their way for 12 years.  We tried it our way for eight years.  Then we tried it their way for four more.  But the only test that matters is whether people were better off when we finished than when we started.  Our way works better.

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It produced over 22 million good jobs, rising incomes for the middle class, over 100 times as many people moved from poverty into the middle class, more health care, the largest increase in college aid in 50 years, record home ownership, a cleaner environment, three surpluses in a row, a modernized defense force, strong efforts against terror and a respected America in the world.

(APPLAUSE)

More importantly, more importantly we have great new champions in John Kerry and John Edwards, two good men, with wonderful wives:  Teresa, a generous and wise woman, who understands the world we‘re trying to shape; and Elizabeth, a lawyer and mother, who understands the lives we‘re trying to live.

Now, let me tell you know what I know about John Kerry.  I‘ve been seeing all of the Republican ads about him.  Let me tell you what I know about him.

During the Vietnam War, many young men, including the current president, the vice president and me, could have gone to Vietnam and didn‘t.  John Kerry came from a privileged background.  He could have avoided going too, but instead, he said:  Send me.

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When they sent those swiftboats up the river in Vietnam and they told them their job was to draw hostile fire, to wave the American flag and bate the enemy to come out and fight, John Kerry said:  Send me.

(APPLAUSE)

And then, on my watch, when it was time to heal the wounds of war and normalize relations with Vietnam and to demand an accounting of the POWs and MIAs we lost there, John Kerry said:  Send me.

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Then when we needed someone to push the cause of inner-city children struggling to avoid a life of crime or to bring the benefits of high technology to ordinary Americans or to clean the environment in a way that created new jobs, or to give small businesses a better chance to make it, John Kerry said:  Send me.

(APPLAUSE) 

So tonight, my friends, I ask you to join me for the next 100 days in telling John Kerry‘s story and promoting his ideas. Let every person in this hall and like-minded people all across our land say to him what he has always said to America:  Send me.

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The bravery that men who fought by his side in battle, that bravery they saw in battle, I have seen in politics.  When I was president, John Kerry showed courage and conviction on crime, on welfare reform, on balancing the budget, at a time when those priorities were not exactly the way to win a popularity contest in our party. 

John Kerry took tough positions on tough problems.  He knows who he is and where he‘s going.  He has the experience, the character, the ideas, the values to be a great president. 

And in a time of change, he has two other very important qualities: 

an insatiable curiosity to understand the world around him, and a willingness to hear other views, even those who disagree with him.

(APPLAUSE)

Therefore...

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Therefore, John Kerry will make choices that reflect both conviction and common sense.  He proved that when he picked John Edwards to be his partner.

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Now, everybody talks about John Edwards‘ energy and intellect and charisma.  You know, I kind of resent him.

(LAUGHTER)

But the important thing is not what talents he has, but how he has used them.  He chose—he chose to use his talents to improve the lives of people like him who had to work for everything they‘ve got and to help people too often left out and left behind.  And that‘s what he‘ll do as our vice president.

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Now their opponents will tell you...

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Their opponents will tell you we should be afraid of John Kerry and John Edwards, because they won‘t stand up to the terrorists. Don‘t you believe it.  Strength and wisdom are not opposing values.

(APPLAUSE)

They go hand in hand.

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They go hand in hand, and John Kerry has both.  His first priority will be to keep America safe.

Remember the scripture:  “Be not afraid.”

John Kerry and John Edwards are good people with good ideas, ideas to make the economy work again for middle-class Americans, to restore fiscal responsibility, to save Social Security, to make health care more affordable, college more available, to free us from dependence on foreign oil and create new jobs with clean energy and a cleaner environment...

(APPLAUSE)

... to rally the world to our side in the war against terror and to make a world with more friends and less terror.

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My friends, at every turning point in our history, we, the people, have chosen unity over division, heeding our founders‘ call to America‘s eternal mission to form a more perfect union, to widen the circle of opportunity deep in the reach of freedom and strengthen the bonds of our community.

It happened every time, because we made the right choices.

In the early days of the republic, America was divided and at a crossroads, much as it is today, deeply divided over whether or not to build a real nation with a national economy and a national legal system.  We chose to build a more perfect union.

In the Civil War, America was at another crossroads, deeply divided over whether to save the union and end slavery.  We chose a more perfect union.

In the 1960s, when I was a young man, we were divided again over civil rights and women‘s rights.  And again we chose to form a more perfect union.

As I said in 1992, I say again tonight, we are all in this together.  We have an obligation, both to work hard and to help our fellow citizens, an obligation both to fight terror and to build a world with more cooperation and less terror.

Now, again, it is time to choose.  Since we‘re all in the same boat, we should choose a captain of our ship who is a brave good man, who knows how to steer a vessel through troubled waters, to the calm seas and the clear sides of our more perfect union.  That is our mission. 

So let us go in tonight and say to America in a loud, clear voice: 

Send John Kerry.

God bless you.

(APPLAUSE)

END   

Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media Inc. ( ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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