updated 7/30/2004 9:17:36 AM ET 2004-07-30T13:17:36

Guest: David Gergen, Chuck Todd, Artur Davis, Rachel Kaprielian, Harold Schaitberger, Richard Schiff, Al Franken, Richard Trumka

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Join us in this cause.  Let‘s make America stronger at home and more respected in the world.  Let‘s ensure that once again in our one America—our one America tomorrow will always be better than today.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Live from the cradle of liberty, Fanueil Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, on the final day of the Democratic National Convention.  I‘m Chris Matthews, and you‘re watching MSNBC‘s continuous coverage.

Tonight is the night.  Senator John Kerry must stand and deliver the political speech of his life.  Candidate Kerry must make a personal connection with voters.  He must convince Americans he has the strength of character to be commander in chief, to protect the United States.

MSNBC‘s got the convention coverage with live reports from NBC‘s Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert and our team of correspondents on the floor and in the field.  Plus, our guests, former presidential candidates, the Reverend Al Sharpton, Senator Bob Graham, Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, actor Richard Schiff from “The West Wing,” and Ed Gillespie, the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

First, our political panel sitting with me: HARDBALL special correspondent Ron Reagan, former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers, former presidential adviser for four presidents David Gergen, and the editor of “The Political Hotline” Chuck Todd.

I begin with a note of doom.  Is it possible and what will happen if it happens that John Kerry gives a deadly speech tonight, a failure of rhetoric?

RON REAGAN, HARDBALL SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT:  If it happens, we‘ll all sit around and people like us will sit around the tables just like this and talk about how he delivered a dud, and the effect will multiply exponentially until it will be the greatest disaster in political history.

MATTHEWS:  If we say nothing and let it pass as it stands and let the dud be a dud, will there be a political consequence?

REAGAN:  It depends how dud the dud it is.  I don‘t think he‘s going to deliver that bad of a speech.  I mean, it may not soar, though, and, boy, if you‘re John Kerry, you really want it to sing.

MATTHEWS:  You want to be better than Edwards last night.

REAGAN:  You want to be better than Edwards.  You want to be the best thing in the convention.

MATTHEWS:  Hope springs eternal, Dee Dee Myers.  I speak of a dud because I think it would make better news than a fairly good speech.  A fairly good speech would be called a fairly good speech, and it‘s likely.  A dud will have an explosive quality.  What do you think?

DEE DEE MYERS, MSNBC DEMOCRATIC ANALYST:  Right, because expectations are that he‘ll give a fairly good speech.  I think the campaign has mismanaged expectations a little bit here in not defining them more specifically.  John Kerry doesn‘t need to give a speech that soars the way, say, President Reagan might have.

MATTHEWS:  Has he ever given a soaring speech?

MYERS:  Not that I‘ve ever seen, no.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  So that‘s sort of like...

MYERS:  So why—but they‘ve let the expectation sort of develop that he‘s going to give some speech that electrifies the delegates.

MATTHEWS:  Speech with (inaudible).

MYERS:  Well, that‘s a different objective in a way.  I mean, he needs to talk about, you know, what it is—why he wants to be president and what he‘s going to do as president and a little bit about who he is.  He needs to connect himself and his experience to his values.  If he can do those things, that‘s going to be a very successful speech.  It can‘t be a dud, you‘re absolutely right.

MATTHEWS:  David, on so many occasions, you‘ve stood with presidents in the back rooms, in the wings behind the cameras, whether it was Reagan or Clinton, whoever.  You‘re barely ambiguous politically these days, so I consider almost any possibility.  Do you have to butterflies?  Do you share the butterflies of the possibility this could go either way tonight?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER:  Absolutely.  Chris, I think that they‘re at a point where the Democrats ought to be very concerned, and pressure is really on for this speech tonight for a couple of reasons.

The audiences so far have been relatively small, as you know, for the whole convention, three nights.  The early indications, at least insiders are saying, they see very little evidence of a bounce.  The Edwards speech last night, while I thought it was good, did not ring the same way that, say, the Obama speech rang on Tuesday night.

All of this pressure means he‘s got to get his balance.  Whatever balance is coming out of this has to come tonight, and that means—that really puts a lot of pressure on him.  You and I know that if four days from now there‘s no bounce, you‘re going to be saying they had a failed convention, even though we all went into this saying there‘s not much bounce to be had with so many committed voters.

MATTHEWS:  Because there‘s so few undecided.

GERGEN:  There‘s so few undecided, but he‘s got to come out with something.  He‘s got to have some momentum coming out of this for the next two weeks.

MATTHEWS:  What would be a good life sign?  A couple of good write-ups by friendly columnists?  A surprisingly good write-up by a more conservative—if Bill Safire in “The New York Times” were to say—or George Will in “The Washington Post”—pretty good effort, I was kind of surprised, would that be it?

GERGEN:  I think that would help a lot, but I really think it‘s how he connects on television that matters.  You can get the contrarians writing their columns three days later, but the next 24 hours are going to be the hours that count.

I think Ron is right, that if people tonight come on your show midnight and say, you know, it was sort of a 5 or a 6 maybe on a scale of 10, that‘s not good enough.  I think he needs to be higher than that.

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe the headlines in the papers—the major papers across the country will be qualitative or descriptive about the speech?

GERGEN:  I think the—I think that the Edwards speech last night ought to be a good example of what‘s coming.  He‘s probably going to do much better in the papers, as Edwards did, than he may do on television reviews tonight.  But I—and I think they—I think Edwards was helped by the newspapers, but he wasn‘t helped by the post-speech commentary.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m one of those who believe that it‘s word of mouth.  You remember when Ted Kennedy gave his interview to Roger Mudd years ago and couldn‘t say why he was running for president?  Statistically, no one watched that because they were watching the premier on television of “Jaws” that night.  I mean, everyone was watching “Jaws,” but everyone said afterwards, oh, remember that interview, I remember that.  They didn‘t remember it.  They heard about it.

Chuck Todd—by the way, you—I want to explain to everybody tonight what you do.  For everyone in the news business, you are their morning report, their briefing online of everything that‘s going on.  That‘s what the hotline is.

How will the tom-tom drums read this speech tonight?  What will be the mechanism of deciding, midnight tonight, 6:00 tomorrow morning, whether he hit a home run, a single, a double or a strikeout?

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “THE HOTLINE”:  Well, first of all, we‘re going to get a ton of overnight polls.  You know, everybody is going to—be polling instantaneously so it‘s going to shape...

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s doing the national polling, the big-time stuff?

TODD:  You‘re going to see Gallup, I assume.  A couple of other networks will chime in on this.  It‘s just one of the events that that happens.  So that‘s going to shape the commentary that we see at night.

MATTHEWS:  Will “USA Today” have a Gallup in tomorrow morning?

TODD:  My God, I‘m pretty sure.  They almost always do, so I assume they will.

I would just say this: I remember Al Gore‘s speech was not well received by people like us on the night of.  A couple of days later, we went, oh my goodness, he got a real bounce out of that speech.

MATTHEWS:  Before we go to the floor with Campbell Brown, I want to ask everybody the same question.  Chime in one in a row.  Is this the most important event of the political year up to the debates?

REAGAN:  Yes.

MYERS:  Until the debates.

GERGEN:  Absolutely.

TODD:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  So this is the biggest event of summer.  Let—we‘re going to—stay with us.  All right.  We‘re going to stay right now.

Let me ask you, since this is the biggest event, does this set up both these fellows, Kerry and Edwards—I called it at the beginning of the week their weigh-in.  Based upon what we‘ve seen before, has John Edwards weighed in heavy enough now to be seen as a real contender in the debate with Dick Cheney come the fall?

REAGAN:  I think he...

MATTHEWS:  Or he seems a little slight?

REAGAN:  Well, he does still seem just a little slight, but I think he just did enough last night.  He didn‘t...

MATTHEWS:  He made the weigh-in.  He made the weight.

REAGAN:  Yes, it was a B, a B-plus.

MYERS:  Made the weight, but lowered...

MATTHEWS:  Made the cut.

MYERS:  Made the weight, but lowered expectations for himself, which may ultimately prove helpful.

MATTHEWS:  That line about “I‘m going to get”—that Rambo line of his—that was the biggest clinker of the night, maybe the whole week.

MYERS:  Didn‘t really work that well.

MATTHEWS:  Remember?  He‘s giving this mellow “I‘m going to protect the little people, I‘m a good trial lawyer,” and then he said, “I‘m going to get that guy Osama”—I was waiting for him to say, “I‘m going to sue that guy‘s butt.”

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I thought he was talking like a litigator.  What do you think, Chuck?

TODD:  I—you know, I actually think he raised now expectations for

his debate with Cheney.  That was a very heavy national security, military

·         pro-military speech.

MATTHEWS:  Did it work?  Did it sell, though?

TODD:  I don‘t know if it sold, that “We will destroy them.”  I mean, he used the word “destroy,” which is just—you know, it‘s very hot rhetoric, no doubt a very—almost overly strong testosterone, almost on steroids.  Democrats on steroids.

MATTHEWS:  But he doesn‘t look like he‘s on steroids.

TODD:  Well, he does...

MATTHEWS:  He looks very—he looks like a veggie or a vegan.

TODD:  He does have a slight...

MATTHEWS:  He looks like a vegan...

TODD:  But I think it raises some...

MATTHEWS:  ... not a Rambo.

TODD:  I think it raises some expectation with Cheney.

MATTHEWS:  Not that there‘s anything wrong with being...

GERGEN:  I don‘t understand that.

TODD:  Cheney—because it was such a heavy national security speech, it was almost as if...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Two say he lowered the bar.  One says he raised. 

What do you say, David?

GERGEN:  I—he raised the bar for what?

MATTHEWS:  Meaning will he have to deliver—do we expect him to do very well against Cheney right now?

GERGEN:  I think he lowered expectations for how well he‘ll do in the debate against...

MATTHEWS:  Listen, I think you‘re all right.  I think he just made the cut...

REAGAN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  ... as a credible VP, extremely likable, though, probably 2 to 1 likable over the other fellow, Dick Cheney, but we‘ll see if that matters.

MSNBC‘s Campbell Brown joins us now from the floor—Campbell.

CAMPBELL BROWN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hi, Chris.  I‘m here with Congressman Artur Davis from Alabama.

And I don‘t have to tell you how crucial the South is for Democrats. 

What do you want to hear from John Kerry tonight?

REP. ARTUR DAVIS (D), ALABAMA:  Well, I think what John Kerry has to do is, frankly, to explain why he wants to be president.  The presidency is not just a place on a resume, and John Kerry has to explain to the American people why he has a passion for this office and where he intends to take the country.

BROWN:  You don‘t think he‘s done that yet?

DAVIS:  Well, the case against Bush has been made, but, for a lot of people who have not made up their minds, they‘re wanting to know more about John Kerry and what motivates him, and he can begin to do that tonight.

BROWN:  There‘s a lot of emphasis on national security, as you know, during this convention.  You represent the seventh poorest district in the country.  Do you feel like there hasn‘t been enough talk about issues that your constituents are most worried about—health care and education?

DAVIS:  Well, frankly, neither party has talked enough about rural poverty, and, whether it‘s John Kerry or George Bush, we have to have more of a focus on the growing economic dislocations in rural America.

John Kerry and John Edwards have a real vision for rural America, and they have a capacity to talk about bringing the South together and dealing with some of the economic walls that have formed in the South.  That‘s why it‘s so important for districts like mine that we have a Democratic majority in Congress and a Democratic president.

BROWN:  Let me ask you real quick—the party organizers were not at all happy with Al Sharpton‘s speech last night.  What did you think about it?

DAVIS:  Well, I think Barack Obama two nights ago was a lot more important than Al Sharpton.  Barack Obama shows that if you have a black candidate who has the right mix of talent and message, that candidate can win anywhere, and that will be a template for a lot of other black candidacies in America.

BROWN:  Congressman Artur Davis from Alabama.

Thanks for joining us.

I‘m going to toss now to my colleague, Carl Quintanilla.

CARL QUINTANILLA, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Campbell, thanks very much.

You know, Kerry‘s trying to introduce himself to people across the country, but here in the room, a lot of people know him plenty well, including State Representative Rachel Kaprielian here from Watertown, Massachusetts.

You worked for the first Senate campaign at the age of 16 back in 1984.  What do you know about him that others don‘t that they need to know by tonight?

STATE REP. RACHEL KAPRIELIAN (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  That this is a man of tremendous character, this is a man of tremendous industry, and this is somebody who really will work very, very hard in the interest of the American people, as he did way back in 1984 when he was running for the U.S. Senate for the first time.

QUINTANILLA:  How does he get that across, though, in a speech that‘s obviously been so prepared and highly produced?

KAPRIELIAN:  I think with passion, with a real discussion about his past experience, and really what‘s in his heart and why it is that he wants to do this and knows that he can lead the country at probably the most critical time in a generation.

QUINTANILLA:  There‘s a lot of talk in the room that the people in the room wanted—don‘t want to see the party move as far to the right or the center as perhaps the campaign needs to.  Where do you come down on that?

KAPRIELIAN:  I think the important thing is to really speak to what matters to the values of the American people, and I think that the American people usually get it right, and that answer is somewhere in the middle, and, whatever the campaigns do during this election season, the important thing is what matters to most Americans, and what matters to most Americans is a strong economy, strong defense, and a place where we can raise our children in safety and harmony.

QUINTANILLA:  State Representative Rachel Kaprielian of Watertown.

And, Chris, she‘s a Holy Cross grad.  Back to you.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be talking about that all night.  I keep bumping into Holy Cross people everywhere, everywhere I go up here, my alma mater.

Thank you.

I think she may run for the U.S. Senate.  I was talking to her the other day.

I want to get back to the panel about the big question tonight.  You know, we all want to be Pollyannaish, especially when you‘re on television.  You want to say all the nice, right things, politically correct.  Is it more effective for Kerry to go in there and make a case against Bush, a really good barn-burner speech for change, or is it better to come out and sell your wares and ignore Bush and say wouldn‘t you like to have me as your president?

David Gergen.

GERGEN:  I‘ll tell you, Chris, I think one of the big, big questions hanging over this convention now is whether they went too soft and whether they got the wrong message out there.  I don‘t know the answer to that, but they—it‘s my belief...

MATTHEWS:  This hasn‘t been a Tupperware party.

GERGEN:  I know.  My...

MATTHEWS:  You know, you‘re trying to win the presidency.

GERGEN:  And moving to center, going to the moderate center, which I think was smart substantively.  They modulated their tone so much that they‘re—they pulled their punches, and I—and the buzz among some of the delegates I am talking to is, you know, we‘ve got to hit them, they‘re hitting us, they‘re knocking the hell out of us.

MATTHEWS:  But everybody kept cool for the whole three days, and then they let Sharpton blow the whole game last night.

GERGEN:  Right.  I—which is the wrong—who‘s the wrong messenger for that.

MATTHEWS:  Of course!

GERGEN:  Yes, so I—you know, it—so, to me, right now, I think John Kerry has to make the case against the Bush administration.

MATTHEWS:  He better raise his voice above Al Sharpton‘s, which is the way you‘ve got a problem right now.  Sharpton‘s the loudest voice at this convention, and he was speaking off message, I think.

MYERS:  And off Prompter.

MATTHEWS:  Dee Dee, tell me about what the reaction was among the pros, the Kerry people that you talked to today about Sharpton‘s performance last night.

MYERS:  Well, he—there was a lot of ad-libbing going on, for one, and I think, you know, he gave a—one of the most stirring speeches of the convention and ended up getting a lot of attention, and I think that that‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it helps?

MYERS:  No, I think it helped it in the room.  I don‘t think it helps beyond the room.  But most people beyond the room didn‘t see it.  So they‘re hoping that that‘s—you know—and I don‘t think it‘s the lasting message of this convention.  I think that this is a very...

MATTHEWS:  Well, on this network alone—I just checked the audience levels—he scored higher than Edwards in terms of audience.

MYERS:  Yes, but I‘m talking about...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, no, he didn‘t score higher on the audience, but he had a very large audience.

MYERS:  Yes, on cable.  I mean, that‘s his—you know, I mean, the great middle was not watching, but I think that this is a very lonely moment for John Kerry.

MATTHEWS:  I think we have a lot of rangy, difficult—a lot of Missouri types in our audience.  I don‘t think they‘re lay-down lefties or righties.  I think you underestimate the character and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) independence of our viewers.

MYERS:  You know, if a hundred million voters—I‘m not going to go on bashing cable here on cable television.  I‘m trying to move on, and I‘m being prohibited from doing that.

MATTHEWS:  Remember that chair they have in “Austin Powers” where the guy pushes the button and the person goes down in the flames.

MYERS:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  He says, “I‘m badly burnt, but I‘m still alive.”  You know those people?

MYERS:  I‘m glad there‘s not an eject button on this, but—no, I think this is a lonely moment for John Kerry because the entire campaign is on his shoulders.  It doesn‘t—the advisers, the delegates, everybody else is standing aside...

MATTHEWS:  He has not had his speech approved by anybody.

MYERS:  Well, it doesn‘t matter.  He‘s going to stand there tonight, and either he‘s going to carry this convention out of Boston or he‘s not.

GERGEN:  What did you think of the excerpts that have been released so far?

MYERS:  I think they are potentially good.  If he delivers them in a credible way, I think there‘s enough information in here now.  There—I don‘t know what‘s not in here.

MATTHEWS:  Fascinating thoughts.

We‘re here at Fanueil Hall with the real people, not the delegates, the people of Boston!  We‘re here all night.

Coming up, I‘ll talk to some firefighters, the heroes of our time, who are out here in support of John Kerry.  They‘re here, and we‘ll be here with them.  Physically with them.

We want to invite you to log on to hardball@msnbc.com and check out our HardBloggers site.  You can e-mail your comments about our convention.  Blogs from Ron Reagan, Willie Brown, Dee Dee Myers, Joe Trippi, Chris Jansing, and Joe Scarborough, and Keith Olbermann.  We always have a double “and” there.

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Democratic National Convention—and tonight‘s the last night!  I want it to go on—from Boston on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  I‘m here with the international president of the firefighters of the world, basically of the United States, mainly, Harold Schaitberger.

HAROLD SCHAITBERGER, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIREFIGHTERS:  And Canada.

MATTHEWS:  And Canada.  Well, North America, but only the Americans can vote.  How many people in your union are Democrats?  What percentage?

SCHAITBERGER:  About 40 percent Democrat, 44 percent Republican.

MATTHEWS:  Really?

SCHAITBERGER:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  So how do you get to endorse the Democratic candidate, if you‘re mostly Republican?

SCHAITBERGER:  Because we spend a lot of time to make sure that they know the choice between the candidates, the candidate John Kerry that‘s going to make sure that they have the staffing, the equipment, the training, the tools that they need to be able to do a job they‘re expected to do in this time of new threat to be able to help secure our homeland.  They know who‘s going to deliver for them and who hasn‘t for the last three years.

MATTHEWS:  How do you decide to pick for president?  How does the union vote?  Do you sit down and have secret ballot, or what do you do?

SCHAITBERGER:  No, our union spent a lot of time last summer.  We did a lot of polling throughout our country, we balanced it between our districts, and we wanted to find out what were the...

MATTHEWS:  But if most people are Republicans, how do you decide to vote for Democrat?

SCHAITBERGER:  Well, you‘re asking me, Chris, and I‘ll tell you.  We made sure that—we wanted to know what they thought the strengths, the skills, the principles, the characteristics of a candidate was that should be leading this country, and it came to one clear conclusion, John Kerry.  That‘s why we stepped out endorsed him when he was 9 percent last September.

MATTHEWS:  You know that probably one of the most powerful moments in American life in our lifetime was when President Bush came to the site of the World Trade Center horror and stood with that older firefighter.  He‘s not there.

SCHAITBERGER:  Retired FDNY.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  And said—it was a kind of a spontaneous moment.  Somebody yelled “I can‘t hear you,” and he had a bullhorn, he didn‘t have one of these mikes—he would have looked like Wayne Newton, but he had a bullhorn, and he said, “Well, we can hear you and the people that knocked down these buildings”—it wasn‘t the best English in the world, but it was a powerful moment.  How does John Kerry deliver that kind of ringing statement in defense of America tonight?

SCHAITBERGER:  I think he‘s going to show America tonight that he really does have the toughness, the experience, the skills, that he‘s been tested, and that he‘s going to have a plan to really make America safe, to have us respected around the world again, and to be able to have a plan to take care of the troops that wear the proud uniform of the United States abroad.

MATTHEWS:  Are firefighters still getting the respect they got—you know, it was great—even when the yuppies were sitting in the outdoor cafes in New York and the fire trucks went by for a while there, they were cheering them.  Is that moment still here?

SCHAITBERGER:  Listen, firefighters are respected in their communities all over this country.  They were respected before 9/11.  They‘re respected now.  What the real point is, Chris, that it‘s not about respect, admiration, recognition.  It‘s time for our government to make sure that the men and women that are wearing these shirts and all over this country have what they need to do their job.

MATTHEWS:  Do they have it now?

SCHAITBERGER:  And they don‘t have the tools and the staff they need.

MATTHEWS:  What are they—forget who‘s president for a second.  If you had to put a bill in and say this is what we need as first responders in the firehouses of the America, what do you need in those firehouses you don‘t have?

SCHAITBERGER:  First of all, we don‘t have to put a bill in.  We passed a bill last November in a Republican-controlled Congress that would have—help communities hire 75,000 firefighters that we needed in the two-thirds of the cities in the country.

President Bush opposed the bill.  President Bush hasn‘t put a single nickel in the appropriation—or his budget request to fund that bill.  We‘ve already passed the legislation.  We need a president who‘s going to support funding that legislation so have enough men and women riding those rigs to do the job they‘re asked to do.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I spoke to the friendly sons up in New York right after the World Trade Center horror and just read the list of all the - there are a lot of Irish guys who died, you know, and a lot of other kind of—Hispanics...

SCHAITBERGER:  Italians.

MATTHEWS:  ... black guys, all kinds of people.  Italians.  A lot of Americans in that group who died.  If we have it again, if we go through this hell again and they have to climb the stairs of another tall building, will they be in any better shape in terms of communication?

Now that‘s an issue.  Do you have the communication to keep the police on the same lines with the firefighters, with the mayor‘s office, with the feds so that we can get those—most of those guys out of doing their job, get them downstairs?

SCHAITBERGER:  Interoperability is still sporadic.  It still hasn‘t been put into place in the stations all over the country.  It‘s hit and miss.  But I will tell you this: Every firefighter in this country, small town, large city, they‘re going to do what they do every day.  They‘ll be up the stairwells...

MATTHEWS:  Well, they‘ve got the guts.  You guys have the guts.  The question is: Do you have the backup?  Do you have the connections so they know—get out of the building!  It‘s coming down.

SCHAITBERGER:  That‘s the whole point, Chris.  We don‘t have the equipment still.  We‘re not receiving the training.  These will be the first on the scene.

We get a bio-chem attack, we get a radioactive, we get a dirty bomb, they‘re—this is the men and women that are going to be on the scene.  They‘re still not adequately trained for those incidents.  They‘re still waiting on equipment, communications, and, more important than anything, the staffing.

We don‘t send our troops abroad...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you about New York City.  Things have been nice and calm here.  I‘ve loved being with the people here because everybody‘s here and everybody‘s in a good mood, even though there‘s a great bar right here.  Everybody‘s in a great mood.

When you get to New York, Madison Square Garden with all those trains running underneath and all those subways going through—you‘ve been there at rush hour.  It‘s just like the World Trade Center was, thousands and thousands of people going down the escalator.

Can you—how do we protect them today?

SCHAITBERGER:  That‘s the whole point.  What did the 9/11 commission say just last week?  Our borders are still in poor shape.  We focused a lot on our airline industry, and we‘re a lot better off there.  Our ports, our rails, our mass transits are still almost as vulnerable today as they were over three years ago.  That‘s the whole point.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to the people here.  Hi, guys.  I‘ll accept your T-shirt with enthusiasm, even though I can‘t take sides.  But let‘s go—let me go here and have some people—did anybody want to talk to the firefighters?  Any questions?  You want to thank them?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thank you.  Whew!

MATTHEWS:  How many people are for Kerry for president?

(CHEERS)

MATTHEWS:  How many are for—now this will drive them crazy.  How many are for Ralph Nader?

(BOOS)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, they‘re in heaven up here.  The stars are shining up here for the Democrats.  How many of you have the cahones to say you‘re a Republican in this crowd?

(BOOS)

MATTHEWS:  How about just yeses this time?  Who‘s saying yes?  Boy, this is a unanimous effort here.  How many think that the firefighters were the real heroes of 9/11?

(CHEERS)

MATTHEWS:  How many people still cheer when the fire truck goes by?

(CHEERS)

MATTHEWS:  How many want to be firemen when they grow up?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Because these guys—you know, when I was 5 years old, every kid wanted to be a fireman, and every girl wanted to be a nurse, and now today these guys followed their dream.

Anybody here going to do it?  Anybody going to protect the country against fire?

SCHAITBERGER:  Right here.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  They‘ll retire.  You don‘t have any replacements over here.  What do you have to say?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I said they‘re hard workers, and we appreciate everything that they do.

MATTHEWS:  Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My father‘s a retired fire captain, and my brother‘s on the department in Connecticut, and they need all the support they can get.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  So just to correct...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Show them the money.  Show them the money.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, God, Cuba Gooding!  Cuba Gooding!  She‘s here.

SCHAITBERGER:  You‘ve got a job, OK?

MATTHEWS:  Just like Cuba Gooding.  Show me the money.  Remember that in the movies?

I was going to ask you—I learned something, Mr. Schaitberger, during that issue of the months after the 9/11, that you don‘t call a fireman a fireman.

SCHAITBERGER:  Firefighter.

MATTHEWS:  Why?

SCHAITBERGER:  First of all, that‘s what they do.  And, second, we want to always make sure we are correct in this new modern time of ours.

MATTHEWS:  So you say fire person or...

SCHAITBERGER:  We‘ve been...

MATTHEWS:  Firefighter.

SCHAITBERGER:  ... saying firefighter.  That‘s what they do.

MATTHEWS:  Firefighter.  Is that right, guys?

SCHAITBERGER:  Fighting fire.

MATTHEWS:  You know, you don‘t go home and tell your kids you‘re a fireman anymore.  You‘re a firefighter.  Because a fireman works on what kind of vehicle?

SCHAITBERGER:  A locomotive.

MATTHEWS:  He works on a train, a fireman.  You learned something night!  A fireman is somebody who stokes the coal into the engine.

SCHAITBERGER:  Stokes that old coal.  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  A firefighter puts out the fire.  A fireman starts a fire on a train.  Does anybody have a salute they want to offer to our first responders here?  Their own—look at this lady.  You‘re here every night.  What do you think about firemen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Firemen are the best.  Thank you for helping out all the time.  We should start paying them.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, start paying them.  These guys—hey, you‘ve got a union.  Isn‘t it great that the first thing they think of is pay?

SCHAITBERGER:  Well, the first thing this union thinks of is service and duty.

MATTHEWS:  Quickly, why did you pick Kerry so early?  How come you knew the winner?

SCHAITBERGER:  Tough, skilled, experience, knows how to lead under fire, make this country strong, safe, and get us respected around the world again.

MATTHEWS:  The president of the international firefighters, Harold Schaitberger.  He‘s a big Kerry backer from the beginning.

Coming up, the actor, the star of “The West Wing,” Richard Schiff.  He‘s coming right here.  You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Democratic Convention.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s continuing live coverage of the Democratic National Convention where tonight John Kerry will give the address of his lifetime, or he won‘t. 

Joining me right now Richard Schiff who plays the White House communications director Tony Ziegler in the award-winning NBC series West Wing.

Richard, thanks for joining us.  I know you know a lot about politics.  What do you think the candidate has to produce tonight in terms of an impact on the country? 

RICHARD SCHIFF, ACTOR:  Well, I think they have set him up really beautifully over the last three days and I think you have to continue that message.  I thought Barack Obama was fantastic, Sharpton was fantastic, Edwards was fantastic, President Clinton was fantastic.  And I think the candidate Kerry just has to carry on the message for him to be successful.  They have done an incredible job so far.  I don‘t know.  What do you think? 

MATTHEWS:  You think it‘s been OK, B plus.  I thought that—I thought that...

I have a mixed view.  I thought Clinton was very good.  I thought John Edwards was very good.  I don‘t think Sharpton helped the cause much.  I think that Obama was historic.

SCHIFF:  Historic, absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  I thought that Dean came back strong and showed who he is and why he was so popular for so long. 

Let me ask you about Hollywood. 

SCHIFF:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  When we have people on this show, it is always a mixed bag.  Some people come on and they are absolutely brilliant.  Ben Affleck blew our—poor David Gergen was sitting with him, he was dying.  He was saying to himself, I‘ve been doing this for 40 years and this guy just beat me tonight.  What kind of world is this thing?  And then other people aren‘t so good.  Do you think everybody from Hollywood should, just because they feel like it, should be speaking out politically? 

SCHIFF:  No, I don‘t.  It is a fair and good question.  Being here for the last three days has taught me only one thing, that I‘m a really good actor, because I‘m not nearly as smart or as impassioned as Toby Ziegler is. 

Being around these incredible people for the last 4 days is bringing me closer to where he is.  There are some policy wonks, Bradley Whitford, Martin Sheen, Ben Affleck, who have been studying this for 25 years and have been active for a long time.  I have been separate.  I have been a little bit out of the circle and have just been learning about it while acting for the last four years.  So I‘m not as good a spokesman as some of those people. 

The problem is that everyone thinks of me as one.  So it‘s a very bizarre parallel universe that I‘m living in, and trying to figure it out as I go. 

The unfortunate thing is, and what people keep telling us, is that the young people especially, and the people who don‘t participate in politics respond to celebrities.  So whatever our message is, whether it‘s Republican, Democrat, right wing or left, pro war or antiwar, people will listen to us before they listen to true politicians.  That is unfortunate.  So we have to decide what do we want to do with that information. 

Right now...

MATTHEWS:  Richard, you know, I think you are selling yourself a bit short on one account.  You know, the great thing about West Wing from the very beginning, and it really started in the Clinton era, was the reverence that you young staffers showed toward the presidency and the White House in performing your roles. 

And I don‘t think you faked it.  I think there is a tremendous warmth for the office and appreciation of its importance to the country, it‘s patriotic nature.  And I do think that is one thing you folks on West Wing and by the way—and by the way, if it were only for Democrats, you wouldn‘t be doing as well, Republicans have as much feeling for the presidency. 

Do you think tonight that one of the goals that John Kerry has to meet is to show a reverence, a recognition of the awesome power and importance of the office he‘s seeking?

SCHIFF:  Well, I think he‘s done that throughout his life.  He‘s shown a great respect for his role in the military, he‘s shown and a great respect for his role as a protester, he‘s shown great respect for his role as a Senator.  And I think it‘s a logical progression that he will show great respect in the tradition of a Truman for office of the president. 

Once the man surpasses the office, we are in deep trouble.  And I think Senator Kerry understands that from what I can guess.  And I think he‘ll demonstrate that, I think he already has.  And I don‘t think that‘s a problem. 

MATTHEWS:  Are any of the actors on West Wing or any of the producers or writers Republicans? 

SCHIFF:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  That is a safe answer.  Thank you very much, Richard Schiff, a great actor. 

SCHIFF:  It‘s nice to see you.

MATTHEWS:  I‘ll see you around here some day.  MSNBC‘s Carl Quintanilla joins us right now from the floor with Al Franken—Carl. 

QUINTANILLA:  Chris, it is not a Democratic convention unless you have Al Franken.  In fact, he is still having his picture taken.  Al, let me get your attention really quick.  You are from the world of television.  How would you rate the production values here tonight, and all week? 

AL FRANKEN, COMEDIAN:  Strong production values.  Strong production values.  Well run convention.  You know, I think that unconsciously Americans think that, you know, if you can run a convention smoothly, maybe you can run the government smoothly.  I‘m not sure that follows, but I think the opposite may be true.  If you can‘t run a convention, you can‘t probably run the government.  This is great that everything is running so smoothly and beautifully. 

QUINTANILLA:  Do you see any disconnect between what the delegates want to hear in the room and what they will probably see on stage? 

FRANKEN:  Not really.  Carter gave a very tough speech.  I mean if everything—if the problem is that the networks really don‘t cover the whole thing and I don‘t even know how much MSNBC is covering of the speeches. 

There are—there have been—and I thought Clinton was very—said what people wanted to hear.  They wanted to hear that give me my tax cut, 300,000 kids don‘t get their after school program.  I think he connected the dots. 

So I‘m hoping tonight that Kerry does make an argument in addition to

·         against Bush, in addition to talking about his own biography and where he wants to take the country.  But I think the latter two are probably the most important. 

QUINTANILLA:  Really quick, are you going to run for Senate in Minnesota? 

FRANKEN:  You are talking about 2008 and that is a long way off.  One race at a time.  We‘re going to win this one.  And I honestly—the honest answer is I don‘t know.  I‘m thinking about it, but I don‘t know. 

QUINTANILLA:  Al Franken, thanks for the time.  Christ back to you.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you Carl, and thank you Al Franken.               

HARDBALL‘s election correspondent David Shuster has a look at what we can expect from John Kerry tonight—David. 

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Chris the delegates here on floor are well aware that this is history in the making again as far as politics is concerned.  You can really feel the electricity and the anticipation building. 

We are told that John Kerry, in preparation for tonight looked at more than a dozen acceptance speeches and found as we did in looking back that history is indeed a useful guide. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER (voice-over):  Through the years it‘s been the building block for almost every nomination acceptance speech, a bold plan for the future. 

SEN. JOHN F. KENNEDY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We stand today on the edge of a new frontier. 

LYNDON JOHNSON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  To build the great society. 

GOV. BILL CLINTON (D-AR) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I called this approach a new covenant. 

SHUSTER:  Tonight, it will be John Kerry‘s turn to make his mark on American politic.  But before the confetti flies and the balloons drop, Kerry will be trying to frame the election on his terms, terms quite different from some of his predecessors. 

JOHNSON:  We are in the midst of the largest and the longest...

VICE PRES. AL GORE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  ... period of prosperity in American history. 

SHUSTER:  If Kerry lets history be his guide, there a few important rules to giving a high-impact speech.  Rule No. 1, when you are the challenger, change is good. 

KENNEDY:  Their pledge is to the status quo, and today there is no status... 

GOV. MICHAEL DUKAKIS (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  ... quo, running in place, standing still isn‘t good enough for America. 

CLINTON:  Your time has come and gone.  It‘s time for a change in America. 

SHUSTER:  But no matter who you are, you will not be able to defeat the status quo alone. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I must have your help. 

KENNEDY:  Give me your help. 

VICE PRES. HUBERT HUMPHREY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Our task is tremendous.  And I need your help. 

SHUSTER:  Rule No. 2, play up your humble beginnings. 

GORE:  My father grew up in a small community named Possum Hollow in middle Tennessee. 

WALTER MONDALE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We never had a dime, but we were rich in the values that are important. 

SHUSTER:  Rule No. 3, voters can devalue a speech that addresses your own weaknesses. 

DUKAKIS:  I know I have a reputation for being a somewhat frugal man. 

CLINTON:  I don‘t have all the answers. 

GORE:  Sometimes people say I‘m too serious.  That I talk too much substance and policy.  Maybe I‘ve done that tonight. 

SHUSTER:  Another tip, be careful what you say. 

MONDALE:  Mr. Reagan will raise taxes.  And so will I.  He won‘t tell you.  I just did. 

JIMMY CARTER, 39TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I suspended some grain sales to the Soviet Union.  I call for draft registration.  We join wholeheartedly with the Congress. 

SHUSTER:  And don‘t be afraid to name your opponent. 

KENNEDY:  Mr. Nixon may feel it that‘s his turn now. 

SEN. GEORGE MCGOVERN (D-SD), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We are not conceding a single state to Richard Nixon. 

CLINTON:  George Bush, if you won‘t use your power to help America, step aside.  I will. 

SHUSTER:  Above all, honor your heroes. 

HUMPHREY:  In the tradition of John F. Kennedy. 

DUKAKIS:  John Kennedy once said. 

CARTER:  Bob Dylan‘s phrase, it‘s busy being born, not busy dying. 

SHUSTER:  And never, ever forget that you are fighting for the most important and powerful job on Earth. 

GORE:  I say to you tonight if you entrust me with the presidency, I will fight for you. 

KENNEDY:  Now begins another long journey. 

JOHNSON:  The choice is ours, is yours. 

MCGOVERN:  For this land is your land.  This land is my land. 

HUMPHREY:  We are and we must be one nation...

CLINTON:  Under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER:  As for John Kerry tonight, we‘re told that the speech could stretch as long as 55 minutes.  And that in his preparations, John Kerry has been spending as much time, if not more, on the actual delivery of the speech, how he articulates it as on the actual content that he wrote.  But in any case, Chris, even John Kerry‘s friends acknowledge that the senator from Massachusetts is well aware of everything that is at stake tonight—

Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David.  You know, David, in your tunnel (ph) play there of all those speeches, the losers, unfortunately, look like losers.  You could almost pick them out by watching your piece. 

When we come back, John Kerry and the union vote.  We are talking about big labor as we used to call it, the AFL-CIO‘s Richard Trumka.  You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Democratic Convention on MSNBC. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, FMR. FIRST LADY:  You cannot be a great leader unless the people are great. 

ANNOUNCER:  Over a decade after leaving the White House, Eleanor Roosevelt reminded Americans that even though she was no longer the first lady of the United States, she was still the first lady of the Democratic Party. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mrs. Roosevelt, we are delighted to have you here again.  We hope you will come to see us again, again, and again. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to Boston.  I‘m joined right now by Richard Trumka, he‘s often on HARDBALL.  He‘s the secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO.  He addressed the delegates about an hour ago. 

Richard, organized labor, do you guys have the clout you once had when you were called big labor to deliver this election for John Kerry? 

RICHARD TRUMKA, SECRETARY-TREASURER, AFL-CIO:  I think we absolutely -

·         well, you know, Chris, last time we were 26 percent of the vote that turned out.  We are hoping to replicate that this time.  But this time around we are going to have our largest grass roots ground campaign that we have ever had in our history. 

MATTHEWS:  How do you get votes—there is a difficult, stubborn 10 or 15 percent of the vote that won‘t make up its mind to the very end apparently.  How do you grab people who are not union families using union clout? 

TRUMKA:  Well, we started last November, started talking to our membership, started calling our membership.  In June, we had 10,000 volunteers out and we knocked on 500,000 households throughout the United States talking to them in the battleground states. 

Between July 15 and August 15, we plan on having 25,000 people out and knocking on 1 million doors.  And then on September 2, Chris, the night that George Bush is accepting the nomination from his party, between 4:00 and 8:00 that night, we‘re going to knock on 1 million workers‘ doors, get their message so that their voice can be heard through America.  So that while Bush is telling his story, our workers will be telling their story. 

MATTHEWS:  What commitments have you gotten from the candidate?  We know he voted for NAFTA.  Are you going to try to get him to change that position to go for more of what you call fair trade rather than free trade? 

TRUMKA:  We have the strongest platform on trade that we have ever had in our history.  John has pledged, the first 120 days of his campaign, to review all trade agreements.  If they don‘t possess a strong core workers rights and environment protection, he‘ll sign no agreements. 

In addition to that, unlike George Bush who has turned his back on enforcement of our treaties and laws, John will give vigorous enforcement to our laws.  He will prevent China from manipulating its currency.  He‘ll prevent China from refusing and not living by the rules.  He‘ll make them live up to their rules so that American workers, the best on the planet, get a fair shot in the marketplace. 

Is the John Kerry that you nominated this week the same John Kerry that voted for NAFTA? 

TRUMKA:  I think John Kerry has grown and continued to grow.  I think, he has gotten wise we are age. 

MATTHEWS:  Does that mean he‘s a flip-flopper?

See, that is what the Republicans say about him.  He switches positions depending on political needs.  He was for NAFTA, he wants to win the Democratic nomination with labor behind him, he now says he really wouldn‘t be for NAFTA again.  Isn‘t that making the Republican case?

TRUMKA:  Chris, John Kerry has a record of supporting working people for over 20 years.  He‘s not flip flopped when it came to minimum wage.  He didn‘t flip flop when it came to collective bargaining.  He didn‘t flip flop when it came to protecting Social Security.  He didn‘t flip flop when it came to protecting our overtime.  He didn‘t flip flop when it came to helping us with healthcare. 

The difference is they confuse changing positions when dictated by the facts around you with flip flopping.  Bush never changes, even though he should change in Iraq.  He should change with labor.  He‘s dogmatic, he‘s impractical and he‘s inflexible.  John Kerry is wise and courageous and he has a lifetime record of supporting working people throughout the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  John Kerry says he wants to end American independence on Mideast oil.  He is against drilling for oil in the arctic wilderness.  Where—he says that drilling—we cannot drill our way to energy independence.  If we don‘t drill for oil anywhere, where are we going to get it? 

TRUMKA:  Well, first of all, there is a lot of forms of energy, and oil can be replaced with other forms of renewable energy.  You can use coal for a lot of things.  There‘s all forms of energy out there that can be used. 

He is committed to doing the same type of a project that we made the push to get to the moon.  He is committed to making the same type of a push to get us energy independent, because he knows so as long as we‘re dependent on Middle Eastern oil or any other fuel source anywhere in the world, our country is not safe, we‘re not free and we‘ll be in more conflict.  He‘s made that commitment, and he‘ll put the United States on a footing to get us there in the next decade. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ve been talking about energy independence, David Gergen, but there is also the question of political independence.  When the Democrats get support of big labor on issues like energy and the environment, trade, do the American people suspect they are in labor‘s pocket? 

GERGEN:  Well that absolutely happened to Walter Mondale.  He was the candidate who was seen most behold to labor, and I think and every other interest group, and I think that hugely hurt him in the 1984 campaign.  He lost all but two states. 

I think that John Kerry is seen less beholden than the previous candidates.  I think it‘s less of an issue in this campaign.  It maybe be an issue of governance.  But I don‘t think it‘s interfering right now, if anything, John Kerry needs labor to deliver in Ohio.  He needs them to deliver in Michigan.  And I think that that alliance is going to be a plus for him this year. 

MATTHEWS:  Richard, how do you help him without seeming to control him? 

TRUMKA:  Well look, all we have to do is give people his record.  When you compare his record with the miserable record of George Bush when it comes to losing overtime, when it comes to your healthcare, when it comes to trade, the lack of enforcement, John Kerry is so head and shoulders above George Bush that we haven‘t had to sell John Kerry, our membership embraced John Kerry, working Americans have embraced John Kerry, because he supported them.  He‘s talking their lingo. 

He‘s talking about good jobs.  He is talking about protecting us.  He‘s talking about having great education.  What he stands for is what the American working family needs, wants and deserves. 

MATTHEWS:  Dee Dee Myers, do have any questions for Richard Trumka?

MYERS:  Richard, I thought you made an excellent point about how Senator Kerry gets criticized for changing positions when, in fact, he is responding to events as they unfold in the world.  Is that something that your members intrinsically understand?  Because the pundits in Washington don‘t understand the difference. 

TRUMKA:  Well, I think our members are a whole lot smarter than the people in Washington, they instinctively know what‘s best for America.  And they know that when the world changes around you, you can‘t be dogmatic and stick to a single position even when it has no merit. 

John Kerry showed the wisdom and the courage to absorb new facts, to change, to look at an environment that‘s changing and make a decision that‘s best for the American people.  To make a decision that brings us the safest, greatest homeland and gets us back on the footing where we‘re keeping good jobs here at home and we have the America that all of us dream about. 

GERGEN:  Richard, you are pretty tough on Bush.  Do you think that more speakers from the platform should have been tougher on Bush here at the convention? 

TRUMKA:  I think they have done exactly right.  Bush‘s record is Bush‘s record.  We‘re talking about what we‘re about.  These people from Jimmy Carter to President Clinton to everybody else has talked about what we stand for. 

We stand for good jobs.  We stand for a quality education for everybody.  We stand for good trade, fair trade.  We stand for enforcing all of our civil rights laws.  We stand for what the American people want, deserve and will have under a Kerry administration. 

And quite frankly, I don‘t think I have been hard enough on George Bush myself. 

MATTHEWS:  How do you deal with winning back those right to work states in the south where they don‘t believe that union shops, they believe that any workers are allowed to not join a union, not pay union dues simply because they don‘t want to.  How do you deal with making your case in states that don‘t believe in the kind of labor organizational rights that you guys believe? 

TRUMKA:  Well, first of all, Chris, it‘s a myth that workers in the states don‘t want unions, because the polls we have done show over 50 percent of the working American people would accept and vote for a union tomorrow if given the chance. 

But go to North Carolina that happens to be a right to work state.  They have lost so many jobs, because of bad trade, because of Bush‘s failure to enforce the trade laws. 

They know they need a change.  They want somebody that will stand up for American workers.  And they know that we speak for them.  They know that the American labor movement is trying to protect their overtime, trying to increase minimum wages, trying to protect their pensions, trying to protect Social Security, trying to bring them healthcare, trying to bring those manufacturers some relief from a healthcare system that‘s stopping them from competing in a global marketplace. 

And they know we‘re speaking their language.  That‘s why we‘ve linked together with a number of small manufacturers in North Carolina, in South Carolina...

MATTHEWS:  Richard, you are a great spokesman.  Are you going last long enough to be head of the Labor Union Movement? 

TRUMKA:  You bet ya. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Richard Trumka.  Thank you Chuck Todd of Hotline.  The rest of the panel sticks with me. 

Stay tuned for more of HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Democratic National Convention in Washington on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END   

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