updated 7/30/2004 9:27:56 AM ET 2004-07-30T13:27:56

Guest: Willie Brown, Al Sharpton, Maureen Dowd, Hendrik Hertzberg

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE:  It‘s only—it is only—it is only leadership if someone follows.  And no one is following.

(APPLAUSE)

But let no enemy mistake our basic decency for lack of resolve.

BIDEN:  Americans will fight with every fiber in their being to protect our country and our people.  And John Kerry, when he is commander in chief, will not hesitate to unleash the awesome power of our military on any nation or group that does us harm—and without asking anyone‘s permission.

This is man whose judgment can be trusted.  This is a man tested in combat, who will never send our sons and daughters to war before exhausting every other alternative.

(APPLAUSE)

And then, if he must, he will not send them without giving them every tool necessary to win.

(APPLAUSE)

When John Kerry is president, military preemption will remain, as it has always been, an option.  But John Kerry will build a true prevention strategy to defuse dangers long before the only option is war. 

When John Kerry is president, our friends and allies will have no excuse to remain on the sidelines.

BIDEN:  And above all, when John Kerry is president, he will level with the American people, for he will inherit a world and a nation that will require him to ask much of us and of our allies.

And ladies and gentlemen, listen to me:  I have not a single doubt this generation of Americans will rise to whatever is asked of them.  They will rise to the moment, for as long as we are here, they desire to do great things. 

And John Kerry, as a student of history, understands why we prevailed when our nation faced grave peril in the past.  He understands that the terrorists may be beyond the reach and we must defeat them, but also understands that hundreds of millions of hearts and minds are open to our ideas and our ideals.  And we must reach them as well.

(APPLAUSE)

Ladies and gentlemen, our friends on the other side love to quote the Bible.  Just as Joshua‘s trumpets brought down the walls of Jericho, just as American values brought down the Berlin Wall, so will radical fundamentalism fall to the terrible, swift power of our ideas as well as our swords.

(APPLAUSE)

My fellow delegates...

(APPLAUSE)

... it‘s time to recapture the totality of America‘s strength.  It‘s time to restore our nation to the respect it once had.  It‘s time to reclaim America‘s soul. 

It is time to elect John Kerry president of the United States of America.

Thank you.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Well, that was a great speech by Joe Biden.  Of course, he‘s ranking Democrat on Foreign Relations.  He may well be chairman if there‘s a shift in power in the United States Senate, and he‘s thrown everything behind Kerry.

Let‘s look now.  We‘re going to hear from General Wesley Clark, a man who ran for the presidency, but didn‘t make it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Ladies and gentlemen, the former Supreme Allied Commander, General U.S. Army (Retired) Wesley Clark.

(APPLAUSE)

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), U.S. ARMY:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  It‘s great to be with you tonight.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you, my fellow Democrats.

I‘m an American soldier.  Our country has been attacked.

(SPEECH)

CLARK:  Make John Kerry the next president of the United States!

Thank you!  God bless America!  Thank you, my friends.  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  That was a hell of a speech by General Clark.  If I were John Kerry, I‘d be wondering if I could match it tonight.

And the theme that seems to be grabbing these people—the emotions on their face tell you that—they want America to going back to being the leader of the world, not having problems with the world.

NBC‘s Campbell Brown is on the floor with a veteran of the Korean War

·         Campbell.

CAMPBELL BROWN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  That‘s right, Chris.  I‘m with Missouri State Senator Ed Quick, who, as you mentioned, is a veteran.

Obviously, I saw you as enthusiastic as you were about what General Clark had to say tonight.

STATE REP. ED QUICK (D), MISSOURI:  Yes, yes.  I think he‘s a gentleman that truly understands what‘s going on and what needs to go on.

BROWN:  Tell me what you want to hear from Senator Kerry in terms of national security.  I know that you‘ve said you believe that the—there were mistakes made by going to war in the first place, but now that we‘re there that?

QUICK:  We need an answer.  You know, war‘s a very personal thing if you happen to be involved in it.  You know, we‘re losing hundreds of people, and amputees are coming back by the thousands.  I want someone to tell me how we bring this thing to an end.

BROWN:  And to you, that doesn‘t necessarily mean bringing the troops home.

QUICK:  Not necessarily.  I just think that we have to come up with a solution as far as what our people are going to do.  We need some help over there.  Everyone knows that.  But the thing is we need to get it settled now that we‘re there.

BROWN:  Thanks so much for joining me, Senator Quick.

Chris, let‘s go back to you.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Campbell Brown.

Well, that was a very moderate voice there.  If the Democrats could put that gentleman on the platform for three or four days, they‘d be in good shape.

Joe, you have a thought?  You did see those reactions in the crowd.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”:  Yes, I‘ll tell you...

MATTHEWS:  It wasn‘t a red meat crowd.  It was more like we want to be leader of the world again.

SCARBOROUGH:  But it was a red meat crowd.  The speech could have been a speech that Ronald Reagan delivered in 1980 or ‘84.

Listening to that speech, my question was: Where was that Wesley Clark during the presidential campaign?  I thought that was an explosive speech.  It was a speech that spoke to middle America more than any speech that I‘ve heard from the Democratic Convention in years.

And, again, Wesley Clark on the campaign trail near the end, he seemed a little off kilter and almost half crazy.  That was a remarkable speech.  I think Wesley Clark may have helped himself be secretary of defense with that one.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Mayor Brown here.  A lot of emotion on those faces.

MAYOR WILLIE BROWN (D), SAN FRANCISCO:  Yes, and I think Wesley Clark becomes the voice that the Democratic Party has been looking for on this very issue.  Can you imagine Wesley Clark being compared in reality to Mr.  Cheney or Mr. Bush on the issue of who‘s best to lead America?  I think Mr.

Clark will make that case with the American people, just as he did tonight. 

That speech was a 5.

MATTHEWS:  Are they looking for a Democratic Ike—I will go to Korea

·         Howard?

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes.  Well, yes, and that‘s what made Wes Clark attractive to so many when he got in it.  He wasn‘t good at handling the retail give and take on the campaign trail because I saw that up close.  I covered him quite a bit.

But he‘s a leader.  This is a guy who was a general, who inspired troops, who spoke to troops, who spoke at West Point.  He knows how to lead.  He knows how to command.  John Kerry has to have the same sense of command up there when he gives his speech later on.

But that‘s the promise of Wes Clark.  That‘s why he was looked on by many as a real contender before he got down to the...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What about Joe‘s point?  What didn‘t click at the end? 

Where did he lose his voice?

FINEMAN:  He‘s got one message, which is strength and respect.  That‘s all he really knows how to...

SCARBOROUGH:  He‘s also a rookie.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  And he couldn‘t handle the give and take.  He couldn‘t handle the retail politics, as Howard was saying, the questions from reporters.  He was used to the hierarchy of a military bureaucracy, and guys like that don‘t often handle the rough and tumble of a political campaign, but he‘s got the right message...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN:  I think that what happened to him...

MITCHELL:  ... candidate.

BROWN:  That‘s the value of Wesley Clark in this campaign.  He is not going to be perceived as a politician.  He‘s not going to be perceived as a guy that can do all of the wheeling and dealing.  He‘s going to be perceived as the guy who actually commands the respect and the...

FINEMAN:  I misunderstood your question.  You weren‘t asking what happened at the end of the speech.  You were asking what happened at the end of the campaign.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  The point I was talking to Joe...

FINEMAN:  Well, at the end of the campaign—in the campaign, he didn‘t know the issues.

SCARBOROUGH:  right.

FINEMAN:  The fact was they...

SCARBOROUGH:  Abortion all over the place.

FINEMAN:  It‘s like they gave him an Army field manual to...

MITCHELL:  He was a one...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  ... and he was reading.  He was reading along.  When he was on foreign policy, defense...

MITCHELL:  He was a one-trick pony.

FINEMAN:  ... foreign policy, defense, international relations, the same message that Kerry‘s going to deliver about being respected in the world, he was terrific.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  He never answered the gay marriage question.

FINEMAN:  He didn‘t know the...

MATTHEWS:  I could never get a straight answer.

FINEMAN:  He didn‘t know the issues.  He didn‘t know how to deal with it.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go right now to one of the big speakers of this convention, the Reverend Sharpton.

Reverend Sharpton, have you heard from the high command about your speech last night?

REV. AL SHARPTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, I don‘t know who you call the high command.  I sat right after the speech...

MATTHEWS:  Well, how about the guy running for president?

SHARPTON:  Well, I‘ve not talked to him yet.  I‘ve talked to everyone in the campaign, and, in fact, I sat the rest of the night with Terry McAuliffe and Mary Beth Cahill in the chairman‘s box, and they were very happy that I had answered the president and his challenge to African-Americans, and they were very happy with the statements I‘ve made about the candidates.

MATTHEWS:  Why was there a discrepancy between your pre-released text of what you were going to say and what did you say?

SHARPTON:  Well, I—first of all, I wrote the text, and I wrote it a week before the convention.  When I went to Detroit on Friday and unexpectedly heard President Bush throw gauntlet down, so to speak, with African-American voters, I told them I wanted to change my speech and I would ad-lib the challenge, and they were aware of that, which is why all of them were prepared for that.

I think the only ones were the pundits who, for whatever reason, want to decide—they want to tell us how to have a convention, rather than letting the people that are having the convention have the convention.

MATTHEWS:  Did you run your original text or the speech you planned to give by the handlers around John Kerry?

SHARPTON:  Did I do what?

MATTHEWS:  Did you give them a speech text ahead of time to get approved?

SHARPTON:  I handed in—I think I just said—a speech a week ago, which changed because of Mr. Bush‘s challenge to black voters.

But, again, Chris, if there‘s nobody upset but reporters, let‘s talk about the issues.  Who really cares about all of that?  The party‘s happy.  We‘re happy.  We‘re trying to galvanize voters.  It‘s the reporters who think that they have some right to decide what somebody‘s going to say.  I‘m really not interested in trying to calm them down.  That‘s their problem.

We are trying to win voters, and one of the ways to do that is to clearly answer when the president of the United States throws out a challenge to a constituency that I come from.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about a charge you made last night in your speech, which was pretty powerful and the people liked it, obviously, on the convention floor.  You said that if George Bush—I assume you‘re talking about the president.  Had he been president and picked the Supreme Court back in 1954, that Associate Justice Clarence Thomas would not have gone to law school.  What did you mean by that?

SHARPTON:  This president, George Bush, sent lawyers to the Supreme Court to argue against affirmative action when it went up last year.  I believe that Clarence Thomas and many in that generation went to law school because of things like affirmative action, because of other things that have passed that Supreme Court.

Since this president very publicly and openly opposed that, I felt he was—what justices on that court would have—that would have not made affirmative action and other programs necessary to advance people like Clarence Thomas to make those advances.  That‘s a matter of public record.

MATTHEWS:  Well, why 1954?  But why—Reverend, why 1954?  Eisenhower picked Earl Warren to head up that activist court.  Richard Nixon started affirmative action with the Philadelphia plan with the construction trades.  What are you talking about when you say 1954?  I just don‘t understand what your point was.

THOMAS:  I was talking about the anniversary—well, you weren‘t listening to the speech, Chris.  You usually do.  I said what I was talking about, the anniversary of the Brown versus the Board of Education.  It happened in 1954.

MATTHEWS:  But the trouble with your argument—the trouble with your argument is it‘s not well founded because Clarence Thomas went to segregated schools until he went to parochial schools and went to my college.  He never benefited from the Brown case, did he?

SHARPTON:  Well, first of all...

MATTHEWS:  How did he benefit from the Brown case?

SHARPTON:  First of all, I think he was born and raised in Georgia, and he had a lot to do growing up in Georgia with how Brown versus the Board of Education changed Georgia.  You would argue...

MATTHEWS:  He went to an all-black school.  How can you say these facts when they don‘t make sense?  He went to an all-black school...

SHARPTON:  First of all...

MATTHEWS:  ... and you‘re saying he benefited from Brown.  I don‘t get it.

SHARPTON:  Chris, Chris, Chris.  I stated that Brown versus Board of Education happened in ‘54.  I stated that if this president had appointed the court in ‘54, I do not believe Clarence Thomas would have made the advances did he.  By the time Clarence Thomas went to law school, it was no longer 1954.  I think it was about 18 or 19 years later.  If the appointment had been made in ‘54, what had been decided there would have been entrenched by the time he went to law school.  I think you‘re the only one in America that would have thought he would have gone to law school at birth, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Well, the fact is he went to private schools.  He went to my college.  I know his scholastic history.  It has nothing to do at all with desegregation.  That‘s the point I‘m making.

SHARPTON:  I think that—I think—but the point you‘re making, I think, does not fit what I said.  Clearly, Clarence Thomas grew up at a time where his—not only his education, but his later working for EEOC and other things were—doors were opened by that Supreme Court.

MATTHEWS:  All the context is correct, Reverend, except the fact he didn‘t benefit from Brown versus the Board of Education, and that‘s what you said in your speech.

SHARPTON:  I think every American—I think every American benefited from Brown versus Board of Education, and...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  That‘s a generalized argument.

SHARPTON:  ... I think that...

MATTHEWS:  Let me go...

SHARPTON:  Well, I think—and I think that if President Bush had made the appointments on that court, we would not have had Brown versus Board of Education based on the arguments he‘s raised on affirmative action.  That is my view.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask about what role you played in the Democratic fight for the nomination.  Do you think you played a positive role and stimulated voter turnout for the general election?  Do you expect to continue to play that role?  What is your role in politics?

SHARPTON:  I think that there are a lot of disaffected voters, a lot of voters that feel disenfranchised.  There are people like me who can be very key toward trying to appeal to them and trying to get them in the process.

I‘ve talked with the heads of the party and the candidate.  I‘ve already travelled with the candidates trying to appeal to them.  I think all of us that ran in these races should go to our constituencies, for example, in swing states like Florida, in states like Pennsylvania, Georgia.  In some of these states, I came ahead of Howard Dean.

I think all of us have a role to play, and all of that will cement a victory.

MATTHEWS:  I made this comment last night.  I‘ll make it to you directly, Reverend.  You‘ve built your career on what was a dishonest statement, that Tawana Brawley was raped by police, she was abducted and raped, and you said that that was the case.  For years, you continued to say so.  That was the basis of your public career in the beginning.

SHARPTON:  Well, I think that what you‘re saying...

MATTHEWS:  Are you ready to correct that now?

SHARPTON:  Well, I think...

MATTHEWS:  Are you ready to correct it?

SHARPTON:  I think that you are incorrect.  I started my career fighting Howard Beach, a case where people went to jail for murdering a young black student.  You can‘t come with flawed information to the principal, Chris.  Get your facts right.

MATTHEWS:  Are you ready to correct...

SHARPTON:  I‘ve fought many cases over...

MATTHEWS:  Are you ready to correct the basis of your notoriety?

SHARPTON:  May I finish?  May I finish?  I‘m not going to let you submit a false premise and respond to it.  Your premise is incorrect.

I have fought many cases, all of which people said were wrong, many of which, including Abner Louima and Amidou Diallo and others, were proven right.  I was also right about the weapons of mass destruction, and I will continue to fight for what I believe is right.

MATTHEWS:  Reverend, do you think the policemen in this country, a policewoman and first responders should vote for John Kerry because you say so, given your record?

SHARPTON:  No, I think that a policeman and a policewoman in this country should vote for John Kerry because he has the best policy, just like I think someone that may feel that some policing is wrong should listen to police, if they have an opinion.

I don‘t think that America ought to be as polarized as that.  There are many policemen that work in ways that are good.  There are many policemen that work in ways that I think are politically correct.  I don‘t understand what your question—what that means.

MATTHEWS:  I guess it has to do with credibility.

Thank you, Reverend Sharpton, on that wonderful address on the issue of polarization.

SHARPTON:  I think the voters answer credibility.  I‘m sorry to hurt your feelings.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much.

SHARPTON:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Tom Brokaw, Tim Russert, Maureen Dowd, Hendrik Hertzberg and the panel—you‘re watching HARDBALL—they‘re all coming up with our live coverage of the Democratic National Convention on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL SHARPTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Mr. President, we love America!  We believed if we kept on working, if we kept on marching, if we kept on voting, if we kept on believing, we would make America beautiful for everybody.

Starting in November, let‘s make America beautiful again.

Thank you.  And God bless you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to the people, to historic Faneuil Hall in Boston, Massachusetts. 

There‘s been a lot of talk about the military at this convention, a lot from the Democrats especially. 

MSNBC‘s Keith Olbermann is at MSNBC headquarters with more about this stuff—Keith. 

KEITH OLBERMANN, NBC ANCHOR:  Chris, that Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam, will introduce John Kerry about 90 minutes from now is not an accident.  There‘s Cleland‘s bloody shirt, his controversial Senate loss in Georgia two years ago, but moreover, there is his military record and John Kerry‘s military record. 

We tend to believe that the military and the presidency are two entirely separate things in this country.  In fact, 18 of our 43 presidents have had war records significant enough for them to have campaigned on them.  Here, as much as in any democracy in the world, military distinction puts roller skates on a candidate.  For one war hero, the span between his last battle and his inauguration was exactly two years and 11 days. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  That, if you‘re keeping score, would be General Zachary Taylor, not Lieutenant John Kerry.  But it is not coincidence that he arrived in Boston yesterday on a boat with a dozen of his fellow Vietnam vets, just as it was not a coincidence that his public reuniting with the Green Beret who says Kerry saved his life, Jim Rassmann, took place just two days before the Iowa caucus. 

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  He‘s still a fresh Army guy.

OLBERMANN:  Still, I knew Zachary Taylor.  Zachary Taylor was a friend of mine.  Senator, you‘re no Zachary Taylor.  OK, I didn‘t really know him.  I just studied him.

Hero of the Mexican War, swept into the White House in 1849, actually threatened Southern leaders that he would personally lead the Army against them if they tried to succeed in 1850, oh, and dead in office in 1851, an apparent early example of future shock. 

But as Wesley Clark‘s run for the nomination this year reminded us, regardless of era, almost nothing succeeds, nor succeeds faster than military success.  The very first president, after all, did not write the Declaration of Independence, nor the Constitution.  He was too busy out fighting the British.  Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison were both war heroes from 1812, Harrison retired for 20 years by the time the Whigs woke him up and ran him entirely on his generalship, mostly at the Battle of Tippecanoe. 

And Lincoln was a captain in the war against the Black Hawk in 1832.  Eight years to the day before his inauguration, U.S. Grant was clerking at his father‘s leather goods shop in Galena, Illinois.  Then came the Civil War.  And his soldiers and commanders, including other future presidents, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, and William McKinley.  Teddy Roosevelt, of course, nearly beat Zachary Taylor in rapidity of rise. 

The famous charge up San Juan Hill was on July 1, 1898.  He was governor-elect of New York state four months later, president after McKinley‘s death 37 months later.  Harry Truman did not run on his time leading a battery in World War I, but did no more to hide that fact than did his successor, Dwight Eisenhower, about, World War II.  Eisenhower, as late as the year before his election, would not say whether he was Republican or Democrat.  And his candidacy was pursued by both parties. 

Not all candidates play up their war service.  Lyndon Johnson, Naval Silver Star winner, Gerald Ford, World War II Naval lieutenant commander, Jimmy Carter for 17 years a Naval officer, and the first George Bush, Distinguished Flying Cross recipient. 

Certainly, John F. Kennedy did make a big deal out of his profile in courage, and particularly pertinent to tonight, he portrayed himself as the hero of a swift boat in valiant battle against an Asian enemy.  And if the fact that nearly 42 percent of our presidents have had notable military careers still does not seem relevant to you, if that subtle balance between keeping war at one arm‘s length from politics while embracing it with the other arm still does not register, ask Bill Clinton or George W. Bush. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And yet, of course, Clinton not only won twice.  He won by beating two bona fide World War II heroes, the first George Bush and Bob Dole; 31 times, our history has pitted what we may loosely call a war hero vs. a civilian.  The scoreboard thus far?  Heroes, 16, civilians, 15.  But the civilians are on a winning streak, six out of seven.

And this year‘s exact scenario of Bush vs. Kerry, an incumbent president running against a war hero, it has happened six times and only once has victory gone to the war hero.  And that, Chris, was in 1840. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Keith. 

That‘s a great report.  And it reminds us that simply having medals doesn‘t win elections.  And I was thinking, if that were the case, John McCain would be president as we sit here.  It didn‘t win for him because he wasn‘t part of the Republican establishment. 

The question is, does it take you over the line if you‘re almost there?  If you‘re John Kerry and you have the Democrats mad at the incumbent president, will leadership and heroism in war be enough to win that vital center? 

Andrea.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  It gives you enough to be an effective challenger.  It doesn‘t put you over the line. 

But in this climate, in the post-9/11 world, you can‘t challenge a

president who is as reasonably popular as this one in the middle of war and

fighting against terror unless you‘ve got some ability to prove that you‘re

strong militarily.  And this guy is trying to emphasize it.  That‘s why

he‘s surrounding himself by all these

(CROSSTALK)  

MITCHELL:  That‘s why he‘s going to be introduced by Max Cleland.

MATTHEWS:  Could it be—could it be that we have a voluntary army, a professional army, that so many middle-class people who are in our business or in politics didn‘t serve, that going to war is very distinctive now? 

I remember Fritz Hollings meeting some guys with VFW hats coming down the hall, American Legion hats, and they said, Senator, we‘re veterans.  And he said, well, who ain‘t?  And I think today, who ain‘t isn‘t the right response.  It‘s, well, congratulations.

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  But that‘s not why people are looking to the record and not why John Kerry is trying to put forward that record. 

He is saying, because I went to war, because I was shot at, because I was on the bridge, I have the judgment and the caution and the wisdom that is needed.  You‘re right.  It is almost exotic today our generation to have actually seen battle, to have actually seen battle.

(CROSSTALK)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”:  But, ironically, though, it is the Democratic Party that needs to get that message out.  It doesn‘t mean as much to the Republican Party as it does to this Democratic Party. 

Again, we‘re the post Vietnam War.  The Democratic experience since 1969, 1970 has been defined by Vietnam.  And there have been a series of presidents that have been seen weak on issues of national policy, national defense, intelligence.  John Kerry changes that.  I know the first time I ran for Congress as a 30-year-old, no war experience, no military experience. 

MATTHEWS:  But no war going on. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And no war going on.  But the most military district in America, I was running against a Marine that served...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re in Pensacola, right?

SCARBOROUGH:  Pensacola. 

Served during Vietnam. 

FINEMAN:  Big military

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And I‘ll tell you what.  I won the military vote overwhelmingly.  Again, I think Republicans get a free pass.  Democrats don‘t because of the last 30 years. 

MITCHELL:  Well, especially in the middle of this war, John Kerry is

making the argument—and he‘ll make it tonight—that, because I was in

war, because I saw people die, because I knew what this took, I will not

send American boys and girls into harm‘s way without making sure I have got

the right information, without making sure I have the right questions.  I

will not ask that of American parents.  That‘s the argument

(CROSSTALK) 

MATTHEWS:  You know what? 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  George McGovern couldn‘t have made that argument.  But John Kerry can make that argument.  That‘s why we see—everywhere we see, what do you see?  Strength, strength, strength.  War and service means absolutely nothing if it‘s....  

FINEMAN:  McGovern could have made the argument, but he didn‘t make the argument.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  In 1972, he was well to the left of the military establishment.  John Kerry has to prove that, now that we‘re in war, you can forget those votes he made in 1995, 1996, 1997. 

FINEMAN:  It‘s been the defining metaphor of his entire public life anyway. 

MATTHEWS:  John Kerry‘s.

FINEMAN:  John Kerry‘s.

So it happens that history may be meeting him here with the sales pitch he‘s been using from the time he started.

MATTHEWS:  By the way, do you know who else said that?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... a reality?  Jack Kennedy.  He was always Mr. PT-109. 

Mayor, did you see “Fahrenheit 9/11” yet? 

WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO:  Yes, I did. 

MATTHEWS:  I thought the most affecting part—effective part of that movie—and, sure, it had a lot of propaganda in it—was the end when they were trying to hand out brochures on Capitol Hill, where Joe used to walk across that street, trying to get members of Congress to take brochures so their kids would join the Marines.

And they were all going like its was wolfsbane, like, don‘t touch this stuff.

BROWN:  Well, they also said, without question, apparently on accuracy, that only one member of Congress, 535 people, had a relative serving in Iraq.  And that is the most dramatic, telling example. 

And, believe me, I think, this time around, the reason the Democrats have to emphasize the military component is because the Republicans have always viewed that as an exploitable weakness of Democrats. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It has been.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It has been.  But, Chris, let me just say very briefly about the legacy of John Kerry, it is not just the legacy of the swift boat.  It‘s the legacy of 1971.  I keep going back to this.  This is the battle. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  If it‘s war protesting, is he with Jane Fonda or is he

with the

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, he wasn‘t with Jane Fonda.

SCARBOROUGH:  No, no, I‘m saying, though, that‘s the big generalization that he‘s going to have to answer.

MATTHEWS:  I agree with you on that.  I think it cuts both ways.

We‘re less than an hour away from the big introduction of John Kerry by Max Cleland. 

And when we return, I‘ll be joined by NBC‘s Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert.  They‘re going to be joined, by the way, by Maureen Orth—

Maureen Orth—Maureen Dowd. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Maureen Dowd.

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Democratic National Convention on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Well, of course, that‘s country music legend Willie Nelson performing up at the podium.  I guess everybody loves him.

Joining me right now from the skybox is NBC anchor Tom Brokaw and the moderator of “Meet the Press,” Tim Russert. 

TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR:  Thanks, Chris. 

And we‘re joined by a guest here who is not, I think it‘s fair to say, a member of the Republican war room, which is camped out just across the street.  Maureen Dowd of “The New York Times” has written a book called “Bush World,” a compilation of her columns. 

The dedication is interesting, “For my mom, who thinks all the Bushes are swell.”  I think it is fair to say that you‘re not going to find that sentiment reflected between the covers of this book. 

Let‘s talk about this convention, if we can for a moment.  Conventions always try to incorporate the biography of the nominee.  But in effect, what you were writing in your column today is that this convention has all the excitement of one of those tea dances that John Kerry probably attended on Beacon Hill.  Have they gone overboard, in your judgment? 

MAUREEN DOWD, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  Yes. 

I think they‘re trying too hard to put a smiley face on a long-faced guy.  And Kerry‘s problem, what he has to prove tonight is he‘s not the preppie stiff, as his Massachusetts political colleagues called him.  And the way he has to do that is to bring that great preppie mantra into play.  Punch the bully in the face. 

The whole convention so far has been letting the Republicans define them as—they‘ve been overcompensating and letting the Republicans define them as weak and as not having values.  And he needs to make the case against Cheney and Bush.  They haven‘t even mentioned their names. 

BROKAW:  One of the things that you also write today is, there‘s kind of a convergence of the two parties here.  You have four millionaires running for president and vice president on the two tickets this time. 

DOWD:  Right. 

BROKAW:  And if you walk through any of the parties here or through the parties of the Ritz-Carlton or the Four Seasons, it is not exactly a party of the people. 

DOWD:  Right.  Exactly. 

They‘re having at the Four Seasons—Harold Ickes‘ group is meeting.  And they‘re chasing away reporters, saying we don‘t want to bother the wealthy donors, which is usually what you get at Republican Conventions.  So they‘ve caught up on soft money. 

TIM RUSSERT, NBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF:  Do you think the Democrats are too defensive about faith and patriotism? 

DOWD:  I think they have been so far.  But in this advance copy of Kerry‘s speech, everyone in our office thinks it is a good piece of oratory.  I think the way he uses the flag sounds good.  It sounds like he has the right balance. 

I thought Edwards‘ speech, hope is on the way, he has to do better than that.  That sounds like a Viagra ad.  I mean, that is really lame. 

BROKAW:  What did you think of Teresa?

DOWD:  Well, I thought she started out really well.  But I thought she got a little bit lost in the thicket of her foreign adventures. 

And when you got so far into it—I think Elizabeth Edwards‘ speech was about the right length for an introduction.  To me, the problem, the bad dynamic that Kerry and Teresa have is that it is hard to listen to him, because usually his speeches are so boring and it is hard not to look at her, because she is very distracting.  So they kind of cancel each other out in that way. 

BROKAW:  A very prominent Democrat power from California said about John Edwards is that they made a terrible mistake by handing him a speech that had been drained of all life.  And he didn‘t get to use his kind of natural skills out there on the stage. 

DOWD:  I agree absolutely.  I assumed he would make the amazing legal case that he is capable of against Bush and Cheney.  But also, when he looked into the camera and said that the terrorists should be afraid, that they‘re coming after them, he looked like a choir boy. 

I mean, he was too tamped down.  I think the whole convention has been too tamped down. 

RUSSERT:  What do you think George Bush thinks of John Kerry? 

DOWD:  Well, it‘s interesting.  In many ways, they‘re similar.  Their fathers were both diplomats.  They have many similarities. 

But, in other ways, they‘re different, because Kerry is—was always sort of a loner who now is making the case that we should have more friends in the world, whereas Bush was the genial rush chairman who now has insulted and turned off most of the world.  So it is a very—it‘s one of the most fascinating races I‘ve ever covered. 

BROKAW:  Someone who knows a little bit about what it is like to run against George W. Bush is Ann Richards, the former governor of Texas.  We had her in here today.  And she told me—I asked her if there‘s a danger that the Democrats, especially these delegates, underestimate George Bush as a candidate, as someone who is tough and loves the game of politics. 

DOWD:  I—I...

BROKAW:  She said, by the way, that she believes that they will underestimate him, that you should not.  She said he may not be able to link his sentences all the time.  He may not seem very thoughtful.  But, as a candidate, he is tenacious and he gets the game and he will listen to Karl Rove.  He will not try to outguess him or be better than him. 

DOWD:  I agree with that. 

I think the one thing Kerry has going for him is, he has a reputation of being really ruthless at the end.  And the Republicans are going to try and rip their throats out.  And if they‘re not ready to do that back, which we haven‘t seen so far, they are not going to succeed.  And I think Kerry seems to be more willing to do that than Al Gore was. 

BROKAW:  But I wonder if the country isn‘t ready, Tim and Maureen both, for a different order of politics this time, that the issues are so complex and so important that they don‘t want one of these catfights that we‘ve been witnessing in the last couple of election cycles to go on.  They really want to address them, and whether John Kerry will in his speech tonight in some way try get at that. 

DOWD:  But I don‘t think it has to be a catfight. 

They haven‘t even made the case that—they haven‘t even been willing to say that they wouldn‘t have gone to war if there were no WMDs.  So they‘re sort of paralyzed in making the case. 

RUSSERT:  It is interesting.  In Iowa, Tom, many advisers were urging John Kerry to go after Howard Dean.  He had to stop his momentum.  Go after him and be as negative as you can.  And he said, if I do that, John Edwards will win the nomination. 

There‘s a sense in this hall.  Certainly, you heard it from John Edwards and a lot of it in Kerry‘s speech tonight, that it is better to take the high road as we embark on the final 100 days.  Whether or not you can sustain a whole fall campaign is a pretty interesting question. 

BROKAW:  All right, the name of the book is “Bush World” by Maureen Dowd. 

And, mom, you can be proud.  Did she did well. 

(LAUGHTER)

BROKAW:  Chris, that‘s it from here. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert, and, of course, Maureen Dowd of “The New York Times.”

Hendrik Hertzberg is a former Jimmy Carter speechwriter at the White House.  I used to work for him.  And author of “Politics: Observations and Arguments 1966 to 2004.”

You‘re John Kerry tonight.  Do you think he wrote the speech? 

HENDRIK HERTZBERG, “THE NEW YORKER”:  I think he worked on it real hard.  But of course he didn‘t write it.  Nobody writes their own speeches anymore. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Why do you believe he didn‘t? 

HERTZBERG:  Because—because nobody does it.  The guy I‘m wondering about is Barack Obama.

If he wrote that speech, then he should be president, because it‘s such a great speech.  If he didn‘t, he should be president because he found such a great speechwriter. 

But of course he didn‘t write the speech, but it will be his speech. 

(CROSSTALK)

HERTZBERG:  It will be his speech. 

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t it a wacky political world where you can get all the way up to running for president, all the way to being a nominee of the party and only then do you have to give a great speech?  All the way up to then, you simply ask—answer TV reporters‘ questions and talk to small groups. 

HERTZBERG:  Yes.  And you can‘t really try out material on the road, because everything is taped now.  So if you try different lines, if you try different approach, then they‘re going to nail you for inconsistency and being a flip-flopper. 

So everyone congeals in this one gigantic moment. 

MATTHEWS:  What made Barack Obama‘s speech great Tuesday night, as you said? 

HERTZBERG:  Every single thing about it.  It was literature, the delivery, the inclusiveness of the language, not a single cliche in there, and the use of American patriotic imagery, with no patronizing, no bloviation, and this combination of intimacy and the ability to dominate this gigantic hall and the whole nation.  Well, it would have been if they had put on it TV. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, you give that a 10, right?

HERTZBERG:  I give that a 10. 

(CROSSTALK)

HERTZBERG:  And I would put it up there with Mario Cuomo‘s speech in 1984, which I give a 9.7. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the speech by the vice presidential nominee last night.  Where would you score that?  And talk about it first before you score it. 

HERTZBERG:  Yes, about the speech first?

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

HERTZBERG:  Well, it was a very slight letdown, I thought.  I thought the energy of this convention had built to a point where it—maybe it was inevitable there would be a slight letdown.  I‘d give it about a seven.

MATTHEWS:  Did he say anything of import to America today that would be relative to how you vote, for example, since that‘s the point of this stuff? 

HERTZBERG:  Well, he‘s still a new face for a lot of people.  And so the biographical stuff, I suppose.  But I don‘t really think so, no.

MATTHEWS:  Did it bother you the way he sort of turned his head sideways in a sort of a cute little boy kind of expression?  Did you know like he always kept—like Reagan had his turn of head.  Body language, were you impressed with it? 

HERTZBERG:  Yes, I liked his body language. 

But, on the stump, he used to walk around and do the—and use a lot more body language.  He doesn‘t just use his hands when he gives one of his patented John Edwards speeches.  He uses his whole body, like a rock star.  And he wasn‘t able to do that.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s talk about the candidate tonight, big speech coming up at 10:00 tonight, maybe a make-or-break, but let‘s talk about the qualities of it. 

Do you think he has to go through the following mandatories?  Does he have to do something idiotically self-deprecating to win the audience?  Does he have to do an icebreaker, like, you know, I‘m not really as stiff as you think or one of those stupid things?  Does he have to go through that embarrassment?  It is sort of—it is sort of like the limbo.  You have got to go down low to sell yourself.  What do you think?

HERTZBERG:  I don‘t think so.  You know what?  His formality, that standoffishness that Kerry has got, this is something that becomes less and less of a disadvantage as you approach the idea of being president. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, if he ever makes it to Mount Rushmore, he‘ll look right. 

HERTZBERG:  He‘s already got...

MATTHEWS:  He fits right in there. 

HERTZBERG:  Yes, he‘s already chiseled.

MATTHEWS:  Does he have to do anything that is—does he have to throw red meat out?  Does he have to have applause lines that people will put on the tube tonight later on and show, look how he wowed them? 

HERTZBERG:  Yes, I think he does.

And he‘s got to have—the big strategic question in this speech is, how do you go negative?  How do you do the contrast?  Because that‘s one thing that this convention hasn‘t done much of.  They haven‘t talked about Bush‘s record, except by allusion. 

MATTHEWS:  Should he mention the name George W. Bush? 

HERTZBERG:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Why does everybody else fear that name? 

HERTZBERG:  I don‘t know if everybody else fears it. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s like Yahweh or something.  We don‘t really mention the name of the enemy here.  What is that about?  Why don‘t they just say, we don‘t like the guy? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re laughing, Hendrik, but I know that‘s true. 

Everybody in this audience is pretty much a Democrat.  Safe bet. 

Let me ask you about, what is—who is his audience tonight?  Is it the middle-of-the-roader, what is called the persuadable?  Is it the rank-and-file Democrat?  Or is it these people, these soft Republicans he‘s trying to get who don‘t like Bush as much as they did four years ago? 

HERTZBERG:  Yes, I think it is more the soft Republicans and then—and the base, because, if you‘re undecided at this point, aren‘t you a little bit out of touch? 

MATTHEWS:  My very thoughts.  I think, if you‘re undecided now, you are not going to make up your mind until John Kerry would, sometime in late October, anyway. 

HERTZBERG:  Oh, that‘s a low blow. 

MATTHEWS:  I know it‘s a low blow.

Thank you very much, Hendrik Hertzberg from “The New Yorker.”

We‘re in Boston.  And, in the next hour, John Kerry will be introduced. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  The Heinz and Kerry children will take the podium.  And it is all leading up to the big moment, when Max Cleland introduces his fellow Vietnam vet John Kerry.

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the 2004 Democratic Convention on MSNBC.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We should choose a captain of our ship who is a brave good man, who knows how to steer a vessel through troubled waters.

So let us go say to America in a loud, clear voice, send John Kerry!

God bless you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

END   

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