Guest: David Gergen, Lois Romano, Ben Affleck, Jim Rassmann, Fred Short, James Hoffa
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We should choose a captain for our ship who is a brave, good man, who knows how to steer a vessel through troubled waters. So let us say to in a loud, clear voice, send John Kerry!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Again we‘re live at Faneuil Hall. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) got a big crowd here in Boston, site of the Democratic convention. And tonight, our own Ron Reagan will be addressing the Democratic convention. We also will hear from Senator Ted Kennedy, Kerry‘s primary challenger Howard Dean, who really ignited this party in the primaries as an anti-war candidate, and the new kid on the block, Illinois Senate candidate Barack Obama, whose father‘s from Kenya—what an amazing story—Harvard, president of “The Harvard Law Review.” Amazing guy. And Teresa Heinz Kerry.
And in a moment, I‘ll be joined by actor and native Bostonian Ben Affleck, friend of “Good Will Hunting.”
But right now, let‘s go to the panel, former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers, David Gergen, who was an adviser to four presidents, including President Clinton, and “Washington Post” correspondent Lois Romano, who‘s been traveling with Senator John Edwards.
As a little preview to Ben Affleck, what role would you advise—Dee Dee, you‘ve advised candidates. How would you advise Hollywood celebrities, especially five-star celebrities like Ben Affleck, to help a candidate they cared about?
DEE DEE MYERS, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY, MSNBC
DEMOCRATIC ANALYST: I think they‘re most effective on an organizational level, doing things like helping to register voters, helping to build party apparatus, because if you show up at an event in a town in—you know, somewhere in the middle of the country, you can get people to turn out, people who might not otherwise be attracted to politics. And if they come in and they register and they get fired up because something drew them into the room that they wouldn‘t normally see where they are, I think that can be tremendously helpful. I don‘t think it‘s particularly helpful to have them out arguing about policy.
MATTHEWS: Do you agree with that, Lois?
LOIS ROMANO, “THE “WASHINGTON POST”: Yes, and I also don‘t think it‘s helpful to have them being nasty and using language that is inappropriate. I think that was a problem at that New York fund-raiser. I think there was a big backlash on it. Whoopi Goldberg ended up getting fired. You don‘t want that kind of negative attention...
MATTHEWS: Why do they do that? Why do the Hollywood stars behave in a way they know would offend their own parents, if they‘re trying to help a candidate?
ROMANO: Well, I feel—I think that they feel like they have the voice to do that, that the candidate doesn‘t have it, the politicians don‘t, and so they can say things...
MATTHEWS: Are they right?
ROMANO: Yes, but does it help? I mean, they...
MATTHEWS: David, why don‘t they get a PR guy to help? They all have publicity experts. They hire them for a couple hundred thousand a year to be PR people. Why don‘t they call their PR guy and say, How can I help Kerry, before they start talking?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, to me, the amazing thing was the tin ear the Kerry campaign had...
MATTHEWS: That night.
GERGEN: ... that night. I mean, they just didn‘t get what was going on. It was like they‘re culturally obtuse.
MATTHEWS: Well, isn‘t that something they should pay for in politics?
GERGEN: I think they did. And I think one of reasons you‘re seeing this so toned down now, as we talked about a couple nights ago—they toned this down in part because of the backlash on the Whoopi Goldberg deal. They realized if you go after Bush too hard, with a pitchfork, he is president of the United States, people get very angry. And what they‘re doing here now is trying to depersonalize the criticism. They‘re trying to not make it personal but go to the issues. That‘s what Clinton did last night, and we‘re going to hear more tonight.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s the question of this convention, people. It seems like you‘ve got a country that about 40-some percent have already decided they‘re going to vote against President Bush, and they would have voted for Peewee Herman if he was on the Democratic ticket to get rid of Bush. But you got another 10 percent you need to win the election. You need 50 percent to win this election. And how do you get that 10 and hold your 40, is the question of the century here.
ROMANO: That 10, also, a lot of them like Bush personally. They like him—they think he‘s a family man. They like that he is religious. They like Laura. Which is why this kind of behavior is going to—is going to boomerang on you.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s go do Ben Affleck. He‘s a great writer, great actor. He‘s in Boston right now. He‘s also a Boston native, and he knows a hell of a lot about baseball because I heard him one morning.
Ben, thanks for joining us on HARDBALL. Let me ask you the question we‘re trying to deal with. Everybody‘s applauding now. There they go. They‘re going nuts. Let me ask you about the tough political question facing the Democrats. You got 40 percent of the country in the bag. They want to vote against the president. They want to vote for a Democrat. How do you get that other 10 and keep the 40 aroused?
BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR: Well, I mean, I think it‘s a very difficult question, which is why you see the Kerry campaign sort of straddling the line right now. There‘s a sort of—a conservative tendency toward, you know, don‘t do too much that may alienate the middle, but you also have to enervate the base. And I think that—that is going to be the issue of this campaign. I think both sides, the Republicans and the Democrats, are chasing that middle. And I‘ve heard it described as as little as 3 percent, 4 percent, 5 percent of the electorate that‘s right in the middle that you‘re going to need to win this election. I think it‘s a challenge that the Republicans are going to face by not seeming too far right and the Democrats face by not seeming too far left.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think Kerry‘s ran so conservative a campaign? I mean, cautious a campaign. He has not come out and said the country was wrong to go to war with Iraq, which is on the minds of at least 30 percent to 40 percent of the Democratic Party. Why hasn‘t he joined the party in saying the war was wrong?
AFFLECK: Well, I think he—for one thing, you know, I think he believed that removing Saddam Hussein from power was an important thing to do and was correct. I think what he takes exception with is the way that the president chose to do it, by doing it before the weapons inspectors had finished their jobs and without the support of a broader international coalition. That‘s a hard thing to distill into a sound bite. But he‘s a man of principle, and that‘s what he believes. And so it would be disingenuous of him to suggest that, but I think he has been very forceful in talking about wanting the world to share the responsibility of the democratization of Iraq, trying to take the targets off the backs of our troops over there and—but again, it‘s an issue we have some part of the Democratic base that‘s very far to the left. Senator Kerry believes that it would be reckless and wrong to just pull all of our troops out of there right away, and so he hasn‘t said that he wants to do that.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s me ask you about acting and personality. And I‘m not meaning to trivialize this, but you in the business understand—I‘m sure you know a lot of actors who are not the same person in real life that they are in the movies, that they may come across as a very lovable guy because of many character roles they‘ll play, but they‘re not as good as they seem. When you look at the president of the United States, he comes across to most people—I think most people are open-hearted about it—as a rather charming, regular guy, maybe the kind of guy you‘d meet on the golf course or at a baseball game. Is that a good indicator of his values and good indicator of what he‘s like at home?
AFFLECK: Well, I think it may be. I think you have two men here in this race who—and I‘ve had the honor to meet the current president of the United States and I‘ve had the honor of knowing John Kerry for a long time. Both are affable, warm, as President Clinton said, strong men who love their country. And I think voters do look at that, and I‘m sure you‘ve met quite a few politicians who have very different personas behind the scenes than they do when they come on your television show.
The issue really is, as again, I think President Clinton elucidated quite well last night, that it‘s about competing ideologies. And I think the idea is to try to get the electorate to focus on the agendas, rather than simply on the men themselves, who you‘d want to sit down and have a beer with and who you wouldn‘t. They‘re both gregarious, affable, I think, decent men who have very different ideas about the future for the country. I think one of the things that happens with television and this constant coverage and this focus on personalities is that that‘s what we increasingly start to see. We see every little detail of the candidate, little smiles, smirks, all this stuff. I think sometimes it can be a distraction, frankly.
MATTHEWS: Well, the reason I think it‘s on point, however, as we saw in the last election, and you saw it as well as we did, how personality played such a tremendous role in those three nights of debates between president—between former governor George W. Bush and former vice president Al Gore, where, really, if you look at the numbers in the polling, those debates made it for George W. Bush. He wouldn‘t have even been in the running if it hadn‘t been for those three nights. So we have to focus on it, don‘t we?
AFFLECK: I think we absolutely do. Ever since the Nixon-Kennedy debates, it‘s a fact of life, and it‘s absolutely something that I‘m sure both campaigns are focusing on it. The interesting thing about those debates, however, was that there was a sort of managed expectations that the Republicans executed really well. Everybody said, George Bush is going to be no good at this. Al Gore‘s going to whip him. Al Gore‘s going to kill him. He‘s going to make him look bad. When Bush put a cogent sentence together, everybody said, Hey, Bush didn‘t do that bad. And Gore definitely came of—you know, he had a sort of a pedantic way about talking about a lockbox, and that didn‘t come off that well. People felt condescended to a little bit. And I think the American public wants a friend, a father figure and a leader. They don‘t want somebody who comes across like the principal who suspended them when they were in high school.
MATTHEWS: Why do Hollywood people—and I‘m not including you, based upon the last 10 minutes of conversation, certainly, and everything I‘ve ever heard from you. Why do Hollywood people believe—and I‘m talking about the actors on screen—presume a level of sophistication about the country‘s political and public life that isn‘t really justified by their study?
AFFLECK: Look, I‘ll be the first to tell you that there are a lot of actors out there with more enthusiasm than they have information about what‘s happening. But again, I don‘t hold it against them, frankly. Everyone‘s entitled to express their political beliefs. I don‘t presume to tell anybody who to vote for. I am comfortable telling people what my opinions are.
But you have to look also to the media, where you have a vast majority of the loudest and most influential political voices in America media come from people who came from the entertainment world. You have—Rush Limbaugh was a radio disc jockey. Bill O‘Reilly came from “Inside Edition.” Michael Moore‘s a filmmaker. Al Franken was on “Saturday Night Live.” The line is increasingly blurred between news and entertainment. Secondarily, the media‘s also shoving celebrities down our throats all the time. As a person, I‘m much more interested in what an actor has to say about something substantial and important than who they‘re dating or what clothes they‘re wearing or some other asinine, insignificant aspect of their life.
MATTHEWS: Have you ever thought of crossing the line yourself?GERGEN: Which one?
AFFLECK: I‘d like to—I‘d like to—I‘d like your job, frankly, so I‘m waiting for you to move on and...
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Ben! Now I‘ll be nice to you. Let me ask you this. Do you think Whoopi Goldberg did a good job for Kerry the other night?
AFFLECK: I wasn‘t there. I went to the Los Angeles fund-raiser. I wasn‘t in the one in New York. I think when you have somebody—you know, if you did a rock concert that was a benefit and the Who played their music or the Rolling Stones, you‘d expect to get, you know, “Satisfaction” or “My Generation.” When you hire Whoopi Goldberg to do a benefit, you‘re going to get her brand of humor. And I think there is a fine line, and you have to be a little bit mindful. And I, for one, am not going to do any scatological jokes or puns about the president‘s last name on your show mostly for that reason.
But I also think I expect a different code of behavior maybe from comedians who have made a career with a certain kind of comedy than I do from, oh, say, the vice president of the United States, who used this vulgar language, you know, to a senator and was sort of unapologetic about it. So I think the Republicans hitting her too hard for that is a little bit hypocritical. I‘m sure, in retrospect, she regrets it. But you know, ultimately, that‘s the kind of news item that sort of comes and goes and I don‘t think has any real impact on somebody‘s decision for who they‘re going to vote for.
MATTHEWS: In terms of...
AFFLECK: Maybe I‘m wrong.
MATTHEWS: No, it sounds—everything you‘ve said sounds brilliant, actually. I‘m going to read the recording afterwards. Let me ask you about the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party. John Kerry has to take the floor Thursday night. Should he tell sort of self-deprecating jokes about his stiffness, like Al Gore did? Should Mrs. Heinz Kerry, when she goes on tonight—should she tell jokes about her recent comment, or should they just move on to the big stuff?
AFFLECK: Well, I‘m not an expert in politics. I can speak for myself. You know, when I have a movie come out that‘s a gigantic bomb, I find it‘s always helpful and therapeutic to sort of make mention of that, make a little fun of myself and move on. I think President Clinton used self-effacing humor to great effect last night while praising Senator Kerry‘s service in Vietnam, acknowledged his own lack of service. I think, you know, there‘s a fine line between trying to be too funny and too self-deprecating and seeming presidential.
I think what‘s most important for Senator Kerry when he comes up and speaks is to let America know who he is, what sort of man he is and what he stands for. I think right now, you‘ve got a base of voters who are ready to vote for him because they know a little bit about him and he‘s not President Bush. You got a bunch of people who like President Bush and are never going to vote for Senator Kerry. And those people in the middle want to know what sort of man he is, and if he‘s a man conviction, if he‘s a man of warmth. And I think that‘s what‘s most important for him to communicate.
MATTHEWS: Well, you have a stunningly developed political mind, and I do fear you. Ben Affleck, stay with us. We‘re at Faneuil Hall. We‘ll be right back. By the way, how many people here like Ben Affleck?
MATTHEWS: Back with more with Ben.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, HARDBALL‘s coverage of the Democratic convention up here in Boston on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s coverage of the Democratic convention up here in Boston. Ben Affleck stays with us right now, where he‘s going to join some of our colleagues. Let me go—Dee Dee, David and Lois, who wants to talk to Ben Affleck?
MYERS: I‘ll talk to Ben Affleck.
MATTHEWS: Dee Dee. Dee Dee, you‘re on.
MYERS: Yes, Ben, when you go around the country, how do people react to you when you‘re campaigning? Do they—are they interested in your opinions about Kerry? How do you think you can most help him? I know you‘ve been willing to do some stuff for him, and I know you‘re going to do more in the fall.
AFFLECK: Well, I mean, to be perfectly honest, probably the most effective things that celebrities do for political candidates is raise money. You know, that‘s something that you can do. And unlike, say, fund-raisers sponsored by—you know, engineered by insurance companies or oil companies, at least what you can say for celebrities is they‘re not expecting, you know, deregulation of their industry in return. So that‘s one of things that I‘m—I‘ve been able to do and to try to help them do it. Other than that, you know, I‘ve lived this sort of strange, sometimes unpleasant but mostly very lucky life that‘s involved lately a lot of media attention. And one of the things that feels good to me to do is to try to steer that in a direction of something more significant and at least be—try to create some political dialogue. And that‘s satisfying. Some people react to me kindly, and others don‘t. That‘s sort of the nature of politics.
MYERS: Do you think it‘s kind of a risk for your career as movie star to get in bed with one party?
AFFLECK: Unequivocally. Absolutely. And I think that‘s why, you know, actually, people say, Well, you see all these celebrities. To my mind, you see very, very few. Most feel like, and probably correctly so, that to be identified with one side of the ideological fence or other risks alienating a segment of your audience that may like your movies, may want to buy your tickets, and in fact, may make it more difficult for them to suspend their disbelief when they go see you in a movie because they have you closely identified with something else.
For me, part of that is already compromised, and it‘s also something that‘s interesting enough for me, and I don‘t care quite so much about that kind of image that I‘m able to do it. But I think a lot of people shy away from it, and many celebrities you see who‘ve gone out there tried to be active have gotten pretty beaten down, you know? And so I think there is a risk, yes.
GERGEN: Ben, this is David Gergen. I think a lot of us are blown away here by your vocabulary. Without being pedantic or scatological, you sure do elucidate pretty well.
AFFLECK: Well, David, I think I benefit from the same thing that helped George Bush in the debates, which is tremendously low expectations.
GERGEN: I want to ask you this question. You‘ve had to learn how to play a lot of different roles. And you know John Kerry pretty well. How well do you think he‘ll play the role of leader? What do you see in him that will make him a good leader of the country and a good commander-in-chief, which has been a major question at this convention?
AFFLECK: Well, I think one of the things that Reverend Alston talked about yesterday that was really inspiring to me was talking about how he‘s proven himself to be a leader in times of absolute crisis and danger, put his life on the line. I think that speaks to his character. I think, secondarily, as a man, knowing him, he inspires a great deal of confidence in those around him, and I think that will manifest itself. I think it‘s just early in the campaign. We got a long way to go until November. And I think you‘ll start to see more of that.
GERGEN: Do you think he can move country?
AFFLECK: I do. I think he can move a country because he has a tremendously stirring personal story, and I think he does have an ability to communicate rather complicated ideas. He‘s not a man of—you know, a simple man who‘s got ideas that are sort of reductivist, that you can hit in one or two sentences. But I think he does have an ability to communicate that. And as a person and the way I‘ve seen him interact with other people, he‘s enormously empathetic. That was what bill Clinton was really brilliant at, making people feel like he felt their pain. In fact, he said that explicitly. And I think you‘ll get to see more of that from Senator Kerry. I hope do you because, frankly, I think his message really needs hearing. I think where he‘s going to take the country is an extraordinarily good and important direction. And I hope he‘s able to do it, frankly.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to the people. A question for Ben Affleck.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What role do you feel the political conventions play in the elections?
AFFLECK: Well, I‘ll tell you one thing. I think they should play a more important role than they do. I think it‘s really a sad thing that—well, to be perfectly honest, with all due respect, all the major networks have more or less abrogated their responsibility—that was for you, Mr. Gergen—to covering—Al Jazeera runs more live coverage of our conventions than the primetime networks do. And I think I‘ve seen some pretty extraordinary things and been inspired to participate politically by many of the speeches that I saw here today that, frankly, you have to, you know, maybe turn on C-Span or read about in the paper to see. And I think if the networks were willing to give more coverage to it, they would reengage people. But most Americans, I think, at this point, feel like it‘s mostly prefabricated political pablum, there‘s no drama any more. You know, we‘ve been taught to want to see somebody‘s torch get put out on TV, and since we know who‘s going to win this nomination, there‘s not a lot of drama on the networks (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I would like to see more coverage.
MATTHEWS: Well, MSNBC is going to stay with this convention, Ben, until the last man dies.
MATTHEWS: What‘s your question for Ben Affleck?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ben, when you watched “Fahrenheit 9/11,” what did you think seeing George W. Bush standing there dumbfounded for eight minutes, knowing that the second tower had been hit and the country was under attack, and he sat there dumbfounded, doing nothing, and probably could have saved some people in the Pentagon that hadn‘t been hit yet?
MATTHEWS: What did you think?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I couldn‘t believe my eyes!
AFFLECK: Yes. Yes, I think it was—I mean, it‘s obviously very disturbing footage. On the one hand, you see a reaction on a man‘s face that he is clearly pained and shocked. I probably did the same thing sitting on my chair. I was completely freaked out and a little devastated. On the other hand, one does hope that in one‘s leaders, that they have the instinct to spring into action, to take some action or make the appearance of taking some action. And I was disappointed to see that he didn‘t do that, although I don‘t entirely hold it against him because, frankly, I was as shocked and devastated as he was. Although I think flying around in Air Force One for 11 hours before coming back and landing in the White House was probably less forgivable.
MATTHEWS: Ben, do you think that was a fair movie?
AFFLECK: I think it was agitprop. I mean, I think it was good, old-fashioned political propaganda. I think there are some arguments in the movie that are specious, but by the same token, I really think that it‘s—that it offered an important counterpoint and it was really important for a lot of people in America to see, in particular, even taking the Bush sort of...
AFFLECK: ... ad hominem attacks out of it, the relationship between the United States government and various foreign governments, the degree of investment they have in our country, the way that vested interests have sort of the mutually dependent agendas, I think most Americans didn‘t know about. At least, I didn‘t know, and I felt educated by that. It‘s a very polarizing movie.
MATTHEWS: Did you think there was a—did you notice the implication in the first half of the movie that the Bush family was more or less running with bin Laden? It wasn‘t just they were taking money from the rich Saudis, they seemed to be somehow implicating, the movie did, that the somehow, the Bushes are responsible, both members of the family, both presidents, for what happened on 9/11. That seemed to be the clear message...
AFFLECK: No, that—that...
MATTHEWS: ... of Michael Moore.
AFFLECK: That argument—that argument in specific is what I was referring to when I said specious. It was never explicitly stated, but there seemed to suggest, I thought, an—that‘s ridiculous. George Bush may have had—you know, his family shared investments with wealthy Saudis. So many of them happened to be bin Ladens. But that‘s a little bit touching outrageous to suggest that. However...
MATTHEWS: When you saw -- Yes, go ahead. Go ahead.
AFFLECK: Go ahead. No, go ahead.
MATTHEWS: When you saw Arnold Schwarzenegger get elected governor of California last year rather handily, in a big surprise entry into politics, a man that wasn‘t even born in this country, did you have a little tingle that said, Maybe me someday, governor, senator, president?
AFFLECK: Well, I thought, at least, you know, if I did get elected, nobody could accuse me of being the worst actor who ever got elected to public office.
AFFLECK: But I think, you know, the thing about that election was that it was a pretty...
MATTHEWS: You might be a girlie man! You better be careful.
AFFLECK: I‘m definitely a girlie man.
MATTHEWS: Why did you take that shot? How many people here would like to see Ben Affleck run for office?
MATTHEWS: And now I will get back to you for what you said about taking my job. So now, Ben, here‘s where I get back at you. This is not “Success” magazine. This is HARDBALL. How many would like to see Matt Damon run for office?
MATTHEWS: Just kidding!
AFFLECK: I thought that was a little quieter.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Ben, because this is something I‘m thrilled with. Darrell Hammond does me rather well. In fact, I try to do him sometimes, he‘s so damn good at me. I have heard through the grapevine, through my producers who work with me, that you can do me.
AFFLECK: Not as well as Darrell Hammond. All right, Ben Affleck, you‘re on the show. What do you know? You‘re an actor. You‘re an idiot. Tell us something. What are you here for? What do you got? I‘m sitting with David Gergen. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) four presidents. What do you know? Why am I talking to you? Go ahead. Answer.
AFFLECK: How‘s that? Is that all right?
MATTHEWS: I think that was Howard Cosell, but nice try. Bottom line
· let me ask you this because I want you to be a pundit because you said you can do this line of work, if you want to call it work. Let me ask you this. Put some moral money down on the table right now. We‘re not talking currency, we‘re talking your intellect, which is obviously well beyond any expectations. Just kidding again. Let me ask you this. White House‘s going to win the general election for president this year? After it‘s over, November 3, you pick up “The New York Times,” “The Boston Globe” the “LA Times,” who will it say won the election?
AFFLECK: I believe right now it will say that John Kerry won the election. I do believe it‘ll be very, very close. I think it‘s going to come down again to, you know, a few thousand votes here, a few thousand votes there. I mean, you know, New Hampshire in and of itself could be a swing state. Bush won that by...
MATTHEWS: ... few electoral votes could do it.
AFFLECK: ... by 7,000 votes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: Do you think New Hampshire...
AFFLECK: I really believe it could.
MATTHEWS: ... will switch to the Democrats this time?
AFFLECK: I think if they can get rid of the Nader vote. Nader got 27,000 votes there, and Gore lost by 7,000. That tells you a lot right there. And I think that was really the difference in last year‘s election. If Nader‘s not in the race, Gore wins hands down. That‘s how narrow a margin it—if 500 more people 18 to 34 voted in Florida or if 500 more Floridians‘ votes were counted, we would have had a different result. It was the most narrow election in our country‘s history, which I think is pretty outstanding. And if that doesn‘t get you fired you up to go to the polls and be involved, probably nothing will.
MATTHEWS: Ben, we‘re going to be down here tonight until midnight.
We‘ll be back tomorrow night. Standing invitation. And Thursday night.
Come down and join us, where the people are, the regular people.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Ben Affleck.
Coming up, NBC‘s Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert will join us. You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s coverage of the Democratic convention from Boston on MSNBC.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s coverage of the Democratic Convention.
Tonight, HARDBALL‘s election correspondent, David Shuster, joins us live from Boston‘s Symphony Hall with more on Senator Ted Kennedy, one of tonight‘s big speakers—David.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC ELECTION CORRESPONDENT: Chris, that‘s right.
In fact, this is a star-studded tribute here at Symphony Hall. It will involve the Boston Pops, Yo-Yo Ma, Bono, Glenn Close. The festivities begin just over a little—half-an-hour from now, when 2,500 people jammed into Symphony Hall will watch on a large screen a live feed of Senator Ted Kennedy taking the stage once again at a Democratic Convention.
SHUSTER (voice-over): In 1980, it was Ted Kennedy who delivered in defeat what historians call one of the best convention speeches ever.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SHUSTER: Four nine months, Kennedy had battled incumbent President Jimmy Carter for the Democratic nomination. But, in the end, Carter won and Kennedy was relegated to a supporting role.
E. KENNEDY: May it be said of our party in 1980 that we found our faith again.
SHUSTER: Ted Kennedy first appeared on the national scene during his brother‘s 1960 campaign. He was a 28-year-old floor manager at the Democratic Convention, helping John Kennedy secure the nomination.
E. KENNEDY: And we stand today on the edge of a new frontier, the frontier of the 1960s.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are hot times brewing on the Massachusetts political scene.
SHUSTER: In 1962, with JFK in the White House, Ted Kennedy ran for senator of Massachusetts and won. In 1963, his brother was assassinated. And it was Ted, Robert and first lady Jackie Kennedy who led the president‘s funeral procession.
In 1968, Robert Kennedy ran for president.
ROBERT KENNEDY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And now it is on to Chicago and let‘s win there.
SHUSTER: And he was assassinated the night of the California primary.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SHUSTER: Later that summer, at the Democratic Convention, anticipation swelled that Ted Kennedy might try to step into the void.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Conventions are great rumor mills, but I do not expect Senator Edward Kennedy to be a candidate in 1968.
SHUSTER: In fact, Ted Kennedy was not. And he was not a candidate in 1972 either.
E. KENNEDY: It was John Kennedy who summoned every citizen to ask what he could do for his country, and so will George McGovern.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SHUSTER: By 1980, Ted Kennedy had become a fixture at the Democratic Convention. Still, it was an awkward moment when he and Jimmy Carter did the handshake tango. In 1984, Kennedy surprised some Democrats by deciding not to run for president. But he still tried to help the party cut down Ronald Reagan.
E. KENNEDY: Ronald Reagan should not be the only senior citizen in this country who does not have to worry about the cost of medical care.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, my uncle, Ted Kennedy.
SHUSTER: In 1988, Kennedy offered some of the more memorable lines about the Republican nominee, George H.W. Bush.
E. KENNEDY: Some people say don‘t count your chickens before they are hatched. Well, the Republicans have already hatched their chicken in this campaign, and George Bush is a dead duck.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SHUSTER: In 1992, Ted Kennedy invoked the memories of his brothers in urging the nation to support Bill Clinton.
E. KENNEDY: My brothers had every gift but length of years. The years have been left to us.
SHUSTER: And, at the last Democratic Convention:
E. KENNEDY: I have been a Democrat all my life and I‘m proud of it.
SHUSTER: And, of course, everybody here at Symphony Hall in Boston very proud. Again, 2,500 longtime friends and supporters of Ted Kennedy are gathered here tonight to watch him give a speech that is expected to run about a half-an-hour long in which he will talk about his own life, his life here in Massachusetts with John Kerry and also of course some of those memorable moments in the Democratic Party—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster.
We are joined right now by NBC‘s Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert—Tom and Tim.
TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR: ... Ted Kennedy grow old.
We are just a few years apart. And I remember when he was the youngest member of the Kennedy family as he was coming up. And, of course, at this stage in his life, for Republicans especially, he‘s the guy that they love to run against. And I have been a little surprised they have not made more of him this week, the Republicans. This is his town. He is the liberal lion. He is the guy who made strong very statements against George Bush on the war in Iraq.
But they may not want to go after him because this is his home turf.
TIM RUSSERT, NBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: You know, it‘s interesting, Tom. They raised more money through direct mail off Ted Kennedy than anybody else. But if you talk to the Republican senators privately, they like working with Ted Kennedy.
BROKAW: Orrin Hatch, for example. Nobody is a more Republican senator than he is, and they‘re great friends on the floor.
RUSSERT: And George W. Bush in the White House says he could not have passed his education bills without him.
RUSSERT: But, nonetheless, tonight, we will hear, as you call him, the liberal lion roar. He is going to talk about King George needing to be toppled out of the White House. It is going to be quintessential Ted Kennedy.
BROKAW: The other thing is that John Kerry owes Ted Kennedy a lot, because, when he was in trouble in the primaries, before they got to Iowa, Ted Kennedy put his arm around him and carried him across the political landscape of this country. And he was a vitally important figure to holding off what appeared to be an unstoppable Howard Dean wave.
RUSSERT: And Ted Kennedy has a very close personal relationship with John Edwards.
RUSSERT: And he has not always been close with John Kerry. There‘s a famous scene in a Democratic Caucus meeting when John Kerry was resistant to raising the minimum wage. And Ted Kennedy went up and said, do you know what it means to be a Democrat?
But, nonetheless, Ted Kennedy said, he is my fellow Massachusetts senator. I‘m with him and I‘m going to go out. And he just wasn‘t token. As you said, on Super Bowl Sunday, he was out in Iowa campaigning for John Kerry.
BROKAW: Well, there was that wonderful moment that you and I were witness to in a famous steak house in Des Moines, Iowa, where Senator Kennedy got so carried away that he was taking around an Iowa senator, Chuck Grassley, and introducing him to Iowans.
RUSSERT: That‘s Ted Kennedy. And we are going to hear it all tonight.
Also, Barack Obama, this rising star in Illinois, Tom, someone who wrote an autobiography 10 years before he became a potential candidate for the United States Senate, someone who is gifted with the language. Tonight, I think we are going to hear a lot more of traditional Democratic rhetoric about the war in Iraq, about gay Americans. It‘s not on prime-time on the networks. And I think the Democrats are going to take advantage of that opportunity to talk to their base in a real way.
Chris, we have been talking, as I know that you have as well, about the future place of Barack Obama, who we will hear tonight. He is going to be very likely the next senator from Illinois. And this is an American story that comes true in the grandest possible terms, Republican or Democrat. And by tomorrow at this time, a lot of the country will know about this young man, Columbia-educated, Harvard-educated, an African-American father in the truest sense of the word, coming from Kenya.
His mother was white, from Kansas. And we have had a chance to look at the remarks, as I know that you have. And my guess is that he is going to make a big connection here tonight. So the Democrats could have two successive successful speeches in a row. They had Bill Clinton last night, Barack Obama tonight. And then the huge curiosity factor, what is Teresa Heinz Kerry going to say to this hall and to the country? And how will the country respond?
RUSSERT: And how does she comport herself and talk about her immigrant past, obviously talk about women?
And, Tom, and then the one independent speaking at the convention, Ron Reagan, talking about the issue of embryonic stem cells, which is a very controversial subject, one that he is willing to step out and try to lead on. It is pretty interesting night for the Democrats.
BROKAW: I will tell you, though, Chris, the big issue, as we saw it earlier today, is this 9/11 Commission report. It is the defining issue in American politics this week, not just in the campaigns, but across the country, in terms of anxiety on the part of the American people and a real demand that something be done about what the 9/11 Commission found in its very detailed and bipartisan search of what went wrong for that fateful attack—Chris.
MATTHEWS: That‘s right, Tom and Tim.
It seems to me—and we have been talking to a lot of people this week—the great challenge before John Kerry is to—somehow to match what George W. Bush was able to do in the days after 9/11, when he stood on the rubble of the World Trade Center and became a kind of King Henry V, a man who could lead us into battle against our enemies.
Thank you very much, Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert. We are going to check back with you a bit later on in the evening.
The Kerry camp is saying it has a strong support from Vietnam veterans.
I‘m joined right now by two of those supporters who are also John Kerry‘s former crewmates in Vietnam, Jim Rassmann and Fred Short.
Jim, thank you, and Fred.
I want to let you guys do your talking here, very unusual for HARDBALL. I‘m very impressed, obviously.
Jim, tell us about your service experience with John Kerry.
JIM RASSMANN, VIETNAM VETERAN: Well, I wasn‘t really one of his crewmates. I was a special forces officer. And we were using the swift boats for transportation in the Ca Mau Peninsula.
I was down there with a bunch of Chinese mercenaries called Nungs. Fred and John Kerry and the rest of us the crew ferried us up and down the canals.
MATTHEWS: And you at one point were swimming in the water and he brought the ship, the swift boat up and hauled you over the side.
RASSMANN: Yes, I was a lot lighter then.
RASSMANN: It worked out well.
MATTHEWS: Well, you would have been a hell of a lot heavier if they had hit you.
RASSMANN: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, you felt enemy fire behind you, right?
RASSMANN: No, I was getting enemy fire from both banks.
MATTHEWS: From both banks.
MATTHEWS: And was that able to hit the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party?
RASSMANN: It‘s amazing it didn‘t. When both of us were right up there at the bow, it‘s kind of a miracle neither one of us were hit.
Fred Short, tell me what he was like as a skipper.
FRED SHORT, VIETNAM VETERAN: He was a great skipper. He was a guy that always gave us confidence. He was one that gave us what we were going to do and instilled—he was so cool under fire that he made us feel better about what we were having to do.
SHORT: It was a dangerous time.
MATTHEWS: I was in the Peace Corps. I did not go into the military. But I‘ve heard there are two kinds of junior officers, the kind of guys that are looking for medals and risk the lives of their crewman and the guys who say my No. 1 job is to get my crew home. Where does he fit in that situation?
SHORT: His No. 1 job was to get us home. And our No. 1 job was to get him home and the rest of the crew. And that‘s what we did on a day-in and day-out basis.
MATTHEWS: Did you ever talk about the war when you were with him?
SHORT: We talked about the war crewman to crewman, but never crewman to officer. That was not...
MATTHEWS: Too—it was against protocol, right?
SHORT: It was against protocol.
MATTHEWS: What was your view of the war when you were fighting it?
SHORT: I didn‘t understand it.
My first patrol, I was ambushed, and three times on my 21st birthday, two times from the same spot in the river. And I thought going in and coming out and I thought, what are we doing here? We are just targets in the air for them, fish in a barrel.
MATTHEWS: What year was that? What year was that, Fred?
SHORT: Nineteen Sixty-Nine, my first...
MATTHEWS: So you could—did you sense by then that we were not going to have the kind of clean victory that we had had in other wars?
SHORT: It was kind of that way. I didn‘t see how we were holding ground where I was. We just would go in and show the flag. We were kind of the tip of the spear of gunboat diplomacy in Vietnam and we would come back out. We lost a lot of people. We had a lot of injuries. I think there were like 178 or 179 Purple Hearts issued that year.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s talk politics now, gentlemen. You are neither politicians, but you are American citizens and gallant warriors, I don‘t mind saying, because it‘s true.
Let me ask you, Jim. Captain of the ship, is that a fair metaphor for this guy running for president?
RASSMANN: Oh, yes, no doubt about it.
MATTHEWS: Why is it a good fit for him as an image?
RASSMANN: He was definitely in command. The guys could trust him.
They trusted his judgment. It was obvious to me from the first time that I came on board. And, again, I was not part of the crew. I was just on and off every day, every night.
And John knew what he was doing. He was somebody that we could rely on.
MATTHEWS: Captain of the ship?
RASSMANN: Absolutely. Absolutely. Without a doubt.
MATTHEWS: I sense he is physically fearless. Do you sense that about him, unusually fearless physically?
MATTHEWS: You don‘t sense that about him?
RASSMANN: I remember his face, the expression on his face as I saw him come out of that pilot house towards me. And there was enough going on in the air that he knew that chances are he was going to get hit. And he did it anyway. The expression on his face was a classic.
MATTHEWS: Can you do it?
RASSMANN: Can I do it?
RASSMANN: Oh, not now. I would have to have a couple of drinks first.
MATTHEWS: OK. Maybe we‘ll have you back later. I know that‘s the kind of thing I wanted to hear, because it is better when the guy really is afraid.
MATTHEWS: And he still does his duty and he still is the good man.
RASSMANN: You are right.
MATTHEWS: Great to have you on, guys.
RASSMANN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I wish I knew you.
Anyway, Jim Rassmann and Fred Short both served with John Kerry in Vietnam.
Up next, Teamsters president James Hoffa on John Kerry and the union vote. And Senator Ted Kennedy is going to be taking the podium in just a few minutes.
And make sure you log on to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com and check out our hardblogger site, featuring convention logs from Ron Reagan, Willie Brown, Dee Myers, Joe Trippi, Chris Jansing and Joe Scarborough.
You‘re watching HARDBALL live and our coverage of the Democratic Convention in Boston on MSNBC.
We‘ll be right back.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) Boston.
I‘m here with teamsters president James Hoffa, who addressed the convention earlier this evening.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: James, Mr. Hoffa, let me ask you the big question.
You guys were putting all your money on Gephardt. What happened?
JAMES HOFFA, PRESIDENT, TEAMSTERS UNION: Well, he didn‘t make it.
MATTHEWS: I thought you guys had clout.
HOFFA: Well, we thought we had clout, but I guess what happened was...
MATTHEWS: What happened to these guys? Look at all these guys with clout. What happened to Gephardt?
MATTHEWS: We‘ve got this guy, skinny guy from North Carolina.
HOFFA: I brought him with me.
MATTHEWS: This lawyer.
MATTHEWS: What happened to the union guys?
HOFFA: Well, we are here now devoted to one thing.
John Kerry, he is the guy that is going to be elected president of the
United States. That is what we
MATTHEWS: Didn‘t we have a meeting, you and I, at your headquarters when we did the Reagan funeral? And you sat across the table from me and you said, it is in. The fix is in. It is Gephardt. You said it was done. It was a done deal.
HOFFA: I thought it, too. Everybody thought it was Gephardt.
MATTHEWS: Have you talked to John Kerry and say, what happened to the deal?
HOFFA: No, I haven‘t talked to him about it. It is his choice in the end. He has got to make the choice. They probably polled it.
I don‘t know why they made the decision. I think we‘ve got a good team now.
HOFFA: We are going to back the team. They are going to do a good job. I think they are both good people. They are going to go out and they‘re going to win this race. Their positives overwhelm this other team of Bush and Cheney.
HOFFA: They have got all kinds of negatives. I think we‘re in good shape.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s talk about the candidate, John Kerry. We have Ted Kennedy. We‘ll talk about him in a minute.
Kerry voted against—he voted for NAFTA. He voted for all the trade stuff that you and the Teamsters don‘t like.
HOFFA: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: And now he is going to say he is going to be opposed to those kinds of positions, right?
HOFFA: That‘s what he says.
MATTHEWS: Well, he is a flipper, then. You are endorsing him because he is a flipper.
HOFFA: You know what that is? That is learning on the job.
MATTHEWS: Hah! What a spin artist.
MATTHEWS: In other words, if he spins...
HOFFA: ... talking to thousands of people that lost their jobs and he is saying, you know what? We have been wrong on trade. We need jobs in this country.
MATTHEWS: Well, what happens if he flips back?
HOFFA: He finally gets it.
MATTHEWS: What happens if he flips back? He was pro-trade. Now he‘s
sort of a protectionist. He is worried about—he wants fair trade. How
· what happens if he flips back to free trade and you guys are stuck, like you were with Gephardt?
HOFFA: Well, I don‘t think it‘s going to happen. There is such a thing as faith, you know. And we have faith in him.
MATTHEWS: Yes, you believed that Gephardt getting the V.P. nomination. And you were screwed once. Will you be screwed again here?
HOFFA: We are waiting to see.
MATTHEWS: Is John Kerry a regular guy?
HOFFA: Right now, we have got Edwards. Edwards is good man. John Kerry is a good man.
MATTHEWS: Is John Kerry a working guy?
HOFFA: Well, he is basically...
MATTHEWS: Has he ever really had a job? I‘m asking you.
HOFFA: You know, he was a Teamster, a member of the Teamsters Local 25 here in Massachusetts in 1962.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
HOFFA: He‘s got a union card.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: News to me. What union was he in?
HOFFA: He‘s got a union card.
MATTHEWS: What was he doing to earn that card?
HOFFA: He was warehouse man.
MATTHEWS: What, was it a summer job or what?
HOFFA: I don‘t know. Whatever he was doing
MATTHEWS: I don‘t find that in his biography anywhere.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask to you about the Teamsters, regular guys, relatively culturally conservative guys, right?
MATTHEWS: Not exactly swingers.
HOFFA: Well, whatever we do, we do.
MATTHEWS: No, but you‘re guys. You look at these guys. They‘re regular guys.
HOFFA: But we are economic liberals.
MATTHEWS: Economic—exactly. But, culturally, you know, you are not exactly on the liberal side of most of the social issues. I don‘t care to bring a list up with you right now.
HOFFA: All right.
MATTHEWS: Do you think you agree with this crowd on anything? Hah!
MATTHEWS: This crowd is cultural liberalism behind.
MATTHEWS: Then we have got economic liberalism in front of you.
What is the most important issue to labor this year? No matter who wins, what‘s the most important thing the president who gets inaugurated, whether he‘s Bush or Kerry, 20th of January next year, what does he got to do for labor and working people, men and women?
HOFFA: He can do 100 things right off the bat by executive orders, sending a message right now, job safety, overtime, minimum wage.
Start a program that helps the common person. That‘s the main thing.
Start inspiring jobs back in this country. Talk about rebuilding America.
HOFFA: That‘s what we need. We need jobs in this country. Turn this thing around. Get people back to work. That‘s the message. It is a domestic agenda that is going to be successful.
MATTHEWS: OK, we‘re going to come right back.
Thanks for the time.
HOFFA: OK, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Gentlemen, thank you all for coming over here to Faneuil Hall, Teamsters.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: We will be back. We are waiting here for Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, who is going to take the stage any moment now.
But, first, I‘m joined now by my colleague, MSNBC‘s Keith Olbermann at headquarters.
What do you make of this night tonight here in Boston, Keith?
KEITH OLBERMANN, NBC ANCHOR: Well, you know, Chris, if we were doing a copy of “COUNTDOWN” tonight, in addition to the regular program here at 8:00 on MSNBC, we would probably put at the start of the show in the No. 5 hole this concept of Ted Kennedy‘s speech tonight to the Democratic Convention in contrast to what happened at the Democratic Convention of 24 years ago at Madison Square Garden in New York.
In fact, the whole theme of the show might be time and the candidates. In 1980, Ted Kennedy launched what was really the last insurrection attempt against a sitting president by a member of his own party in the unsuccessful bid to get the nomination away from Jimmy Carter. And the entire world has changed for him in the subsequent 25 years since that did not take place. Oddly enough, the Kennedy announcement of his presidential ambitions back in 1979 in November took place not far from where you are standing at Faneuil Hall.
But the other end of the extreme tonight on what we would doing, as we await Senator Kennedy‘s speech, the Howard Dean speech at the end of the hour, which is about the story of what a candidate looks like one year and how different he can look the next, Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, Keith Olbermann.
Right now, Senator Kennedy is about to be introduced at the podium of the Democratic Convention.
But right before that, let‘s listen as Americans to the national anthem. Tonight, it‘s being performed by Native Americans of the Tohono O‘odham Nation in their native language via satellite from their reservation in Arizona.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We must work to bind up the wounds of a suffering world, to build an abiding peace, a peace rooted in justice and in love. We can build such a peace only by hard, toilsome, painstaking work.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, we now welcome to Pulitzer Prize-winning author, the great biographer of Lyndon Johnson, Robert Caro.
ROBERT CARO, LYNDON JOHNSON BIOGRAPHER: It is truly an honor to introduce to this convention Edward M. Kennedy.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CARO: He is a member of a family which has written so many shining chapters in American history. And during his own four decades in the United States Senate, he has been writing quietly, but with great statesmanship and courage a shining chapter of his own.
It is especially an honor for me, because, for many years, I have been watching Ted Kennedy in the Senate. In my last book, I wanted to write about the Senate and its history and its power. And in order to get a feeling for the institution itself, its moods and its customs, I would sit week after week in the Senate gallery and its committee rooms trying to absorb how it worked.
And it was while I was doing that, that I came slowly and almost by accident to the realization of how much Edward Kennedy has meant to the Senate and to America.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CARO: The Senate was, of course, created by the founding fathers to be a mighty institution with great power. During the 19th century, during the past, the Senate exercised this power, creating monumental pieces of legislation that shaped a young nation.
And during the 19th century, during that past, the Senate produced monumental figures in Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun and two great senators from here in Massachusetts, Daniel Webster and Charles Sumner. Trying to understand the Senate, to get a feeling for it, I sat in the gallery. And because I was thinking about its history and how I would write about that history, my mind was focused on the past, on the great senators of the past.
But as I sat there week after week, I slowly came to realize that I was also watching a great senator of the present, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CARO: In debate after debate, I came to see, Edward Kennedy‘s voice was the voice of principle, the voice that echoed back to what the founding fathers intended the Senate to be.
You know, when Lyndon Johnson, as leader of the Senate, was trying to pass a bill that really mattered, that would change the course of American history, he would try to make a young senator, or, for that matter, an older senator, understand that, on this particular issue he must put aside the interests of his state, the interests of his section, and think instead of the interest of the nation as whole. And Lyndon Johnson would say to the senator, you have got to be a senator of the United States, the whole United States.
Sitting there in the Senate gallery week after week, watching Ted Kennedy fight for great causes, for causes that transcended a state or a section, that phrase came back to me over and over again, because I saw that‘s what Ted Kennedy was, a senator of the United States.
His allegiance was invariably, always, to principle, to great causes. Think of what Ted Kennedy has stood for, of the legion of causes that he has championed during his 42 years in the Senate. Health care, education, the rights of working families, helping to end the war in Vietnam, apartheid in South Africa and violence in Northern Ireland.
Ted Kennedy has spoken of civil rights as America‘s great unfinished business. Well, no one has done more to try to finish it.
When you think back on the struggle for fair housing, for legislation, the struggle to protect not only African-Americans but women, the disabled, the aged, when you think back on a score of such causes, you realize Ted Kennedy has always been the champion they could count on.
It is not easy to champion such causes, to champion social justice, decade after decade, particularly when the political climate of the time makes those causes controversial, even unpopular. Sometimes it takes a great deal of bravery to do that.
But Edward Kennedy‘s championship of these causes has never faltered.
His brother, President John F. Kennedy, wrote a famous book, “Profiles in Courage.” Edward Kennedy‘s four decades in the United States Senate, his 42 years in the Senate, have been a profile in courage.
If you were a historian, you‘d realize as you look back over the long sweep of American history how few individuals have left the mark on that history that will truly endure. Because of the brilliance and the forcefulness and the steadfastness with which Edward Kennedy has championed the great causes of our time, because of the way he has brought them into and kept them in the national dialogue, because of the way he has made America care about them, the mark that Edward Kennedy has left on American history will endure as long as that history endures.
It is a great honor now for me to welcome him to this convention.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you, Bob Caro...
Thank you, Bob Caro, for that generous introduction.
Thank you, Bob Caro, for your generous introduction.
And with the continuing support of the people of Massachusetts, I intend to stay in this job until I get the hang of it.
To my fellow delegates and my fellow Democrats, I‘ve waited a very, very long time to say this: Welcome to my hometown. Welcome to my hometown.
To Americans everywhere, whose aspirations have been kindled anew by this campaign, we who convene here tonight in liberty‘s cradle, say:
Welcome home, for the ideals born in Boston and strengthened by centuries of service and sacrifice; ideals like freedom and equality and opportunity and fairness and common decency for all; ideals that all Americans yearn to reclaim.
And make no mistake: Come November, reclaim them we shall by making John Kerry President of the United States.
These fundamental ideals light the fire in each of us to do all we can, and then more, to see that next January, John Kerry has a nice new home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
It fills me with pride to have our Democratic Convention in this city, this hallowed ground that gave birth to these enduring American ideals.
Like my grandfather and my brother before me, I have been privileged to serve this place where every street is history‘s home: the Old North Church, where lanterns signaled Paul Revere; the Old State House, where John Adams said independence was born; the Golden Steps, where waves of new immigrants entered this new land of liberty and opportunity, including all eight of my own great-grandparents from Ireland.
Here in New England, we love our history, and like all Americans, we learn from it. We breathe it deep, because it sustains us, it guides us, it inspires us.
It was no accident that Massachusetts was founded as a commonwealth, a place where authority belongs not to a single ruler, but to the people themselves, joined together for the common good.
The old system was based on inequality. Loyalty was demanded, never earned. Leaders ruled by fear, by force, by special favors for the few.
Under the old, unequal system, the quality of your connections mattered more than the content of your character. Your voices were not heard. Your concerns did not matter. Your votes did not count.
The colonists knew they could do better, just as we know we can do better today, but only if we all work together...
.. only if we all reach out together, only if we all come together for the common good.
Now, it is for us, the patriots of this new century, to do that, to shape our own better future and make it worthy of our past, to choose a leader worthy of our country. And that leader is John Kerry.
Today, more than two centuries after the embattled farmers stood and fired the shot heard round the world, the ideals of our founders still resonate across the globe.
Young people in other lands, inspired by the liberty we cherished, linked arms and sang, “We shall overcome.”
When the Berlin Wall fell, when Apartheid ended in South Africa and when the courageous protest took place in Tiananmen Square, the goals of the American people are every bit as high as they were more than 200 years ago.
If America is failing to reach them today, it‘s not because our ideals need replacing, it‘s because our president needs replacing.
We bear no ill will. We bear no ill will toward our opponents.
In fact, we‘d be happy to have the over for a polite little tea party.
I know just the place: right down the road in Boston Harbor.
For today, like the brave and visionary men and women before us, we are determined to change our government. I have served for many years in the Senate and have seen many elections, but there have been none—none more urgent and more important than this one. Never before have I seen a contrast so sharp or consequences so profound as in the choice we will make for president in 2004.
So much of the progress we once achieved has been turned back. So much of the goodwill America once enjoyed in the world has been lost. But we are a hopeful nation, and our values and our optimism are still burning bright.
Those same values and optimism are what brought our forbearers across a harsh ocean and sustained them through many brutal winters, that inspired patriots from John Adams to John Kennedy to John Kerry...
.. and their strong belief that America‘s best days are still ahead.
There‘s a reason why this land was called “the American experiment.” If dedication to the common good were hardwired into human nature, we would never have had a need for a revolution. If each of us cared about the public interest, we wouldn‘t have the excesses of Enron; we wouldn‘t have the abuses of Halliburton.
And Vice President Cheney would be retired to an undisclosed location.
Soon, thanks to John Kerry and John Edwards, he‘ll have ample time to do just that.
Our country demands a great deal from us, and we rightfully demand a great deal from our leaders. America is a compact, a bargain, a contract. It says that all of us are connected. Our fates are intertwined. Fifty states, one nation; our Constitution binds us together.
Yet in our own time, there are those who seek to divide us: one community against another; urban against rural; city against suburb. Whites against blacks; men against women; straights against gays; Americans against Americans.
In these challenging times for our country, in these fateful times for the world, America needs a genuine uniter, not a divider who only claims to be a uniter.
We have seen how they rule. They divide and try to conquer. They know the power of the people is weakened when our house is divided. They believe they can‘t win unless the rest of us lose. We reject that shameful view.
The Democratic Party has a different idea. We believe that all of us can win. We believe we are one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
And when we say all, we mean all.
Today in this global age, our goal of the common good extends far beyond America‘s borders. As President Kennedy said in 1963 in his quest for restraint in nuclear arms: “We can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children‘s future. And we are all mortal.”
Interdependence defines our world. For all our might and for all our wealth, we know we are only as strong as the bonds we share with others. The dangers of terrorism and nuclear proliferation—our greatest challenges—are shared by all nations.
And our greatest opportunities, from achieving lasting peace and security to building a more prosperous society to ending the ravages of disease and the despairs of poverty, can all be seized, but only if the world works together, and only if America helps to lead in the right direction.
And John Kerry has the skill, the judgment and the experience to lead us on that great journey.
The eyes of the world were on us and the hearts of the world were with us after September 11th until this administration broke that trust.
We should have honored, not ignored, the pledges that we made.
We should have strengthened, not scorned, the alliances that won two world wars and the Cold War.
Most of all, we should have honored the principle so fundamental that our nation‘s founders placed it in the very first sentence of the Declaration of Independence, that America must give a decent respect to the opinions of mankind. We failed top do that in Iraq.
And more than 900 of our service men and women have already paid the ultimate price. Nearly 6,000 have been wounded in this misguided war.
The administration has alienated longtime allies.
Instead of making America more secure, they have made us less so. They have made it harder to win the real war on terrorism and the war against al Qaeda.
And none of this had to happen.
How could any president have possibly squandered the enormous good will that flowed to America from across the world after September 11th? Most of the world still knows what we can be, what only we can be, and they want us to be that nation again. America must be a light to the world. And under John Kerry and John Edwards that‘s what America will be.
We need a president. We need a president who will bind up the nation‘s wounds. We need a president who will be a symbol of respect in a world yearning to be at peace again. We need John Kerry as our president.
Time and again in America‘s history we, as Democrats, have offered new hope of a stronger, fairer, more prosperous future for all our people, a society that feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, cares for the sick, so that none must walk alone.
And when the elderly faced poverty and sickness that threaten their golden years, we created Social Security and Medicare.
And when the voices of many citizens went unheard and their lives were blighted by bigotry, we fought for equality and justice and for civil rights and voting rights and rights for women and for the cause of Americans with disabilities. We fought for those.
And when higher education was beyond the reach of veterans returning home from the war, we created the GI Bill of Rights, and we have continued ever since to make college more affordable for millions more Americans.
And when men and women needed protection in the workplace, we demanded safe conditions for their jobs. We insisted on the right to higher pay for working overtime. And we guaranteed the right to form a union.
And we pledge—and we pledge—and we pledge a fair minimum wage, so that no one in America who works for a living should have to live in poverty.
Only leaders who know this history and abide by the ideals that shaped it deserve to be trusted with our nation‘s future. Sometimes, in recent years, they have fooled us with their rhetoric, but we will not let them fool us twice.
In the White House, inscribed on a plaque above the fireplace in the State Dining Room, is a prayer, a simple but powerful prayer of John Adams, the first president to live in that great house.
It reads: “I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but the honest and wise ever rule under this roof.”
In November, we will make those words ring true again.
All of us who know John Kerry know that he‘s a fitting heir to these ideals. I‘ve known John Kerry for three decades. I‘ve known him as a soldier, as a peacemaker, as a prosecutor, as a senator and as a friend. And in every role he has shown his strengths.
He was the right man for every tough task, and he is the right leader for this time in our history.
John is a war hero who understands that America‘s strength comes from many sources, especially the power of our ideas. He knows that a true leader inspires hope and vanquishes fear.
This administration does neither. Instead, it brings fear: fear of rising costs for health care and for college; fear of higher unemployment and lesser pay; fear for the future of Social Security and Medicare; fear of greater bigotry; fear of pollution‘s stain on our magnificent natural heritage; fear of four more years of dreams denied and promises unfilled and progress rolled back.
In the depths of the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt inspired the nation when he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Today, we say: The only thing we have to fear if four more years of George Bush.
John Kerry offers hope not fear: the hope of real victory against terrorism and true security at home, of good health care for all Americans, of Social Security that is always there for the elderly, of schools and open golden doors of opportunity for all of our children, of an economy that works for everyone.
That‘s the kind of America we will have with John Kerry in the White House.
And the roots of that, America, are planted deep in New England soil.
Across this region are burial grounds—many so humble. You find them without intending to. You‘re in a town like Concord, Massachusetts, or Hancock, New Hampshire. You‘re visiting the old church there, and behind the chapel you find a small plot, simple stones bearing simple markers. The markers say “War of 1776.”
They do not ask for attention, but they command it all the same. These are the patriots who won our freedom. These are the first Americans who enlisted in a fight for something larger than themselves, for a shared faith in the future, for a nation that was alive in their hearts, but not yet part of their world.
They and their fellow patriots won their battle, but the larger battle for freedom and justice and equality and opportunity is our battle, too, and it‘s never fully won.
Each new generation has to take up the cause, sometimes with weapons in hand, sometimes armed only with faith and hope, like the marches in Birmingham and Selma four decades ago.
Sometimes the fight is waged in Congress or the courts, sometimes on foreign shores, like the battle that called one of my brothers to war in the Pacific and another to die in Europe.
Now, it is our turn to take up the cause. Our struggle is not with some monarch named George who inherited the crown, although it often seems that way.
Our struggle is with the politics of fear and favoritism in our own time, in our own country. Our struggle, like so many others before, is with those who put their own narrow interest ahead of the public interest.
We hear echoes of past battles in the quiet whisper of the sweetheart deal, in the hushed promise of a better break for the better connected.
We hear them in the cries of the false patriots who bully dissenters into silence and submission.
These are familiar fights. We‘ve fought and won them before. And with John Kerry and John Edwards leading us, we will win them again and again and again and make America stronger at home and respected once more in the world.
For centuries, kings ruled by what they claimed was divine right. They could not be questioned. They could not be challenged. The people‘s fate was not their own. But today, because of the surpassing wisdom of our founders, the constant courage of the patriots of the past and the shared sacrifice of generations of Americans who kept the faith, the power of America still rests securely in citizens‘ hands, in our hands.
True to our highest and noblest ideals, we intend to use that power. We will use it wisely and well. We will use it, in the poet‘s words my brothers loved, “to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.”
We will use it to heal, to build, to hope and to dream again. And in doing so, we will truly make our country once more “America the Beautiful.”
Thank you very much.
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