updated 7/30/2004 9:54:41 AM ET 2004-07-30T13:54:41

Guest: Howard Fineman, Gov. Bob Holden

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry‘s Vietnam service is said to be at the core not only of his foreign policy but of his approach to life.  


WILLIAM JEFFERSON 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 say to America in a loud, clear voice, send John Kerry.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  From Boston, the hub of the universe, the cradle of liberty, I‘m Chris Matthews with MSNBC‘s live coverage of the Democratic national convention.  We‘re live from historic Faneuil Hall on this, unfortunately, the final night of the convention, where shortly Senator John Kerry will deliver the most important speech of his political career.  The big question: Can the candidate define himself and convince America that he is the man who deserves to be elected the next president of the United States?

We‘ll have continuous coverage from the speaker‘s podium to the floor, with reports from NBC‘s Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert, plus political and historical analysis from our panel, “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman, NBC analyst former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News and the host of MSNBC‘s “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY,” Joe Scarborough.

But as we await John Kerry‘s speech tonight, we‘re joined by Kerry biographer Douglas Brinkley, an MSNBC contributor and the author of “Tour of Duty.”  You‘ve written about this man.  You speak with him often.  Doug Brinkley, is he up for this test tonight?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, KERRY BIOGRAPHER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Yes, this is a big moment for John Kerry.  I mean, he‘s had many of them in his life, but certainly, with the exception of his April, 1971, testimony in front of the Fulbright committee, this is going to one of the speeches he‘s going to be remembered for.  And hopefully, he‘s going to be beaming into living rooms and introducing his biography to a whole new set of voters.

MATTHEWS:  You know, John Kerry‘s often spoken of as a man who can be boring at times, can be a bit sort of lazy in political terms, but who rises to the occasion.  Will he feel that tonight is an occasion he must rise to, or does he still look ahead of the debates and to the final weeks of the campaign?  Is he ready to be pushed to greatness tonight?

BRINKLEY:  Well, I think debating is John Kerry‘s strong suit, and I know he‘s looking forward to those.  But I think tonight, Max Cleland‘s going to steal the show, Chris.  When he comes out in his wheelchair with some of the so-called “band of brothers” to thunderous applause in this arena are going to be unbelievable.  And Max is going to talk about how John Kerry is his hero and his brother in such a moving fashion, and I think Kerry‘s going to be basically saying, Reporting for duty, here and then talk about—as you know, we‘ve gotten the script now.  What he‘s going to be saying, he‘s going to be invoking everything from 9/11 to his Vietnam service to the influence his mother and father have been on his life and why he loves John F. Kennedy and the city of Boston.

MATTHEWS:  Will his goal be to show strength tonight or warmth?

BRINKLEY:  I think he needs to show strength.  I think it‘s about being commander-in-chief now.  He‘s never run on being Mr. Warmth.  He‘s also never run on being the arch critic.  A lot of people here would love to hear him throw some punches at George W. Bush tonight, Howard Dean style, Al Sharpton style.  But you won‘t see Kerry do that.  He‘s going to talk about why he‘s an optimist in the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, Kerry wants people to believe that oxygen is—that optimism is the oxygen for America and he‘s going to provide it.  It‘s a hopeful message, and there‘s not going to be too many slights, although I notice there is one criticism of George Bush by name.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about John Kerry.  Why is his biography, which is going to be developed tonight for the American people as never before, with his service in Vietnam—why is that important to him personally?  If he hadn‘t gone to Vietnam, would he be any different as a candidate for president?

BRINKLEY:  Boy, Chris, that is the big question.  I think the answer is no.  I think Vietnam has informed who John Kerry is.  You know, the greatest moments in his legislative career have been, No. 1, one being able to work with Ted Kennedy, the lion of the U.S. Senate, and being able to be a junior senator.  But No. 2, it‘s been the POW/MIA issue, working with John McCain, dealing with Agent Orange.  Vietnam for John Kerry is a symbol of a generation.  In this speech, in many ways, he wants to give the Baby Boomers a choice between the Bush-Reagan conservatism and a kind of revisiting of the Kennedy era of the ‘60s—not the late ‘60s, the early ‘60s of John F. Kennedy, about duty, honor, country, “Pay any price, bear any burden.”

And you know, he‘s also tonight, I think, most importantly, confronting the fact that at times he‘s ponderous, that he‘s going to say, I‘m not a black-and-white guy.  The world‘s not yes or no.  There‘s nuances to the world, and I‘m somebody who has to deal with those complexities, and I‘m willing to deal with those complexities.  So he‘s going to be self-critical on himself, which I think will be one of the more interesting moments.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, you called it “nuances,” and he would agree with you, but many Republicans would call them flip-flops.  Didn‘t he spend a good part of his career getting elected as an anti-war candidate, a person who was on the left politically, in terms of foreign policy?  And now he‘s shifting it around and running not as and anti-war candidate of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s or ‘90s, but he‘s now running as a pro-war hawk, in a sense.  He‘s running as a man who‘s proud to serve as a military man, ready to fight, much more of a warrior than a peacemaker.

BRINKLEY:  I look at it a little differently, Chris.  John Kerry lost his first two elections in 1970 and 1972 because he was the anti-war candidate.  He took some years off, reemerged in the 1980s and started then dealing with the war hero, the Vietnam service record.  So I think it‘s been a long period.  If you look at his Senate races, it‘s been the dog hunters, the Vietnam vets.  Time and again, they‘ve rallied to his side.  And he always put veterans‘ issues at the forefront of his campaign.

Look at who (UNINTELLIGIBLE) beyond Teresa Heinz going 30 times to Iowa and helping him there.  It was the firemen in uniform and the veterans from Vietnam and other wars that helped John Kerry win Iowa, then on to New Hampshire and South Carolina.  So He‘s always put himself forward as kind of the Boy Scout, the guy who is a bit of a Dudley Do-Right, and that angered people sometimes in prep school or in college that he always wanted to be seeming to do the patriotic good thing.  But John Kerry—if you look out behind me, it‘s all American flags, Chris.


BRINKLEY:  And Kerry never takes that American flag off his lapel.  That‘s what he sort of represents, trying to claim the flag back from the Republican Party.

MATTHEWS:  Does he bear any scar tissue from the war?

BRINKLEY:  I‘m sorry, Chris.  I didn‘t catch that because of the noise.

MATTHEWS:  Does John Kerry suffer any symptoms, negative symptoms, of a man who has served under fire in war?

BRINKLEY:  Oh.  Not anymore.  But when he came back in March of ‘69 --

I interviewed his first wife, Julia—and he used to have a series of

nightmares all the time, even into the ‘80s and 1990s.  But I think by the

·         in the ‘90s, the healing process came around.  He made amends with people like John McCain and others, you know, that—he started healing some of these Vietnam wounds, and I think he feels good that he was able to work in the Clinton years for normalization of relations with Vietnam, in many ways, put Vietnam behind him.

But remember, he went there 14 times, John Kerry, touring Vietnam.  And if you go to his office study, Chris, in Boston, it‘s filled with pictures of guys that were killed in Vietnam—Don Drose (ph), Dick Pershing (ph).  And his whole library is filled with Vietnam literature, maps.  So it‘s—he still contemplates Vietnam.  I think two big posts that John Kerry cares a lot about if he were president, is appointing Max Cleland the head of Veterans Affairs and appointing somebody very significant, a veteran, to be our ambassador to Vietnam.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Max Cleland already served in that capacity under President Carter.  Let me ask you about his psychology.  Having been a fighting man—and then he is a bit of a loner, I think most people would say—is he going to be happy having to accept perhaps the help, the big help of Bill Clinton to win this election?

BRINKLEY:  Well, you know, there‘s not a huge amount of closeness between Bill Clinton and John Kerry.  It doesn‘t mean that Democrats don‘t pull together.  There‘s not a lot of closeness between George W. Bush and John McCain, either for example.  But he‘s—unlike Al Gore, I think, Kerry will be using Clinton in strategic places, the African-American community around the country, Arkansas certainly.  And Hillary Clinton with women‘s groups is one of the most popular speakers.  And the Clintons know how to raise money and bring out crowds, so he‘s not—John Kerry is a pragmatist, and he wouldn‘t want to cut anybody out of this Democratic Party.  So the Clintons will be very active.  How support—how much they really want John Kerry is another question.

MATTHEWS:  Howard Fineman is going to get in right now, Doug.

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  Well, having read the speech a few times, which we can‘t really talk about in any detail, I can just say that it‘s—it‘s tougher—on one level, it‘s tougher, but in a shrewd way, against George W. Bush than I thought it was going to be.  This is a tough speech in places, a very tough speech in places, but it‘s done in a way that sounds less accusatory.  It‘s by inference.  That‘s No. 1.

No. 2, he‘s more revelatory about himself than I thought he was going to be.  No. 2, there‘s no one metaphor that defines it, other than, inevitably, his military service, which he returns to again and again, to define his values.  It‘s not just to use in terms of the war—in terms of fighting the war on terrorism, it‘s to use as a shield to defend against accusations that he doesn‘t defend American values.  It‘s well done.

MATTHEWS:  I can‘t wait.  Andrea?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  If he delivers this speech as well as it‘s written, it‘s going to be a wonderful moment for this campaign because he combines the biography with the values message.  There is a prescription of policy choices, and those choices, as Howard says, are a lot tougher, a lot edgier than one might have expected.  He comes out for a number of things here...


MITCHELL:  ...  and against—excuse me a second, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m sorry.

MITCHELL:  ... against the current administration.  But the core of the speech, the heart of it is the military issue, his military service versus the lack of, from their perspective, a vision for how to proceed in a war or a peace.

MATTHEWS:  Over here, Joe, before you have a chance to jump in, I just want to tell everybody it‘s about to happen.  John Kerry is on his way to the convention hall.  Joe?

SCARBOROUGH:  I was just going to say I think we all agree it‘s a very well-written speech, but you never know how it‘s going to be delivered.  And we saw last night John Edwards gave a good speech, but a lot of people are saying today that he shrunk.  He was great on the stump.  He gets in the big hall, he shrinks.  At the same time...

MATTHEWS:  What a difference a day makes.

SCARBOROUGH:  At the same time, though, Wesley Clark, who was not so good on the stump, seemed to expand.  This is a challenge like no other challenge.  It‘s a rite of passage, where somebody goes from being a candidate to being somebody that America sees as a possible president.

MATTHEWS:  This Dinah Washington‘s song, which is one of my favorite songs, in action—what a difference a day made.  Last night around this table, I got four-and-a-half stars out of a possible five.  I had four Rex Reeds here, all singing the praises of this guy‘s show.  And now through the day, I sense it, too, talking to people the last three hours.  I sense people are mellowing out on this speech and saying he didn‘t make the cut.

Let‘s go to Campbell Brown on the floor with Governor Bob Holden of the swing state of Missouri—Campbell.

CAMPBELL BROWN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  That‘s right, Chris.  I‘m sitting here with Governor Holden, and we have a front row seat to the aisle in which Senator Kerry is expected to go in and take the stage.  Tell me, Governor Holden, what are you expecting to hear tonight?  What do you think you—the people here need to hear tonight?

GOV. BOB HOLDEN (D), MISSOURI:  I think he‘ll outline how America will be stronger at home under his leadership and how we‘ll be more respected in the world under his direction.  And that‘s really what the people here want to understand and hear from him, is how he‘s going to invest in education and health care and great jobs and keep them in this country.  If they get that out of this speech tonight, he will be very successful.

BROWN:  How important is it, with so much riding on this speech, so many polls showing a lot of people still don‘t have a sense for who John Kerry is, that he connect with a wider audience?

HOLDEN:  Well, this is his opportunity to define himself and his agenda and his vision.  So it‘s an important night for him, and I think he‘ll do extremely well.

BROWN:  How tricky is Missouri?

HOLDEN:  Well, it‘s a toss-up state.  We‘ve only voted against the winning presidential candidate one time in the last 100 years.  So it‘s a hard-fought state, but I think John Kerry will carry Missouri.

BROWN:  Governor Bob Holden, thanks for your time.  Let‘s go back to you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Campbell Brown.

Let‘s go back to Joe Scarborough.  Joe, looking at this as an analyst, which you‘ve been so good to do, at least until midnight every day here, let me ask you about this campaign.  Do you sense that this convention‘s missed a chance to be a little more aggressive to make its point?  I mean, if we‘re fighting about peace and war and we‘re fighting about whether a guy gets a second job and works all night away from his family for 7 bucks an hour—and I think that‘s what the campaign is about at home, it‘s about 7 bucks an hour and whether that‘s enough—let me ask you this.  Do you think it‘s tough enough in addressing those tough issues?

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, no, I don‘t think it‘s been tough enough in addressing those issues the Democrats need to address.  But at the same time, you‘ve got to look at the bigger part of the campaign.  You look at the tens of millions of dollars the Bush campaign has spent characterizing John Kerry as a flip-flopper—that‘s worked.  You look at the tens of millions of dollars that John Kerry has spent trying to establish himself in swing states, you look at the latest polls, that hasn‘t been as effective.  They must establish—and this is rule No. 1 in American politics.  You must establish your identity with the voter before you allow your opponent to do that.  He‘s got to do that tonight, because I‘ll guarantee you, America knows who George W. Bush is.  They‘re going to be using the next four weeks, they‘re going to use the Republican convention, and they‘re going to go after John Kerry and continue to define him as a flip-flopper.  So he has to be positive.

FINEMAN:  Chris...

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s got to be more about biography than issues.

FINEMAN:  I talked to...


WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR, MSNBC ANALYST:  The speech as written, if delivered as Andrea says, all of the questions that Joe just raised will be answered and answered effectively.  In addition thereto, I think this whole week has not been about whether or not there was enough red meat being offered, et cetera, but I think it was leading up to this speech.  I don‘t think anybody connected with this convention wanted to dwarf in any fashion whatever Mr. Kerry was going to have to say. 

Whoever helped him put this speech together—and I hope we find out who -

·         it is one great speech.  And if he delivers it, as great as it is, there will be no question how he stands in the minds of the American...


MITCHELL:  Stephanie Cutter (ph) from the campaign told me today it was Bob Shrum and that the reports in “The New York Times” of other former Kennedy speech writers contributing—they had given passages, but those passages were not incorporated in the final version.

MATTHEWS:  Who wrote the speech tonight?

MITCHELL:  Shrum, according to Stephanie Cutter.

FINEMAN:  Shrum has been at his side the whole time.  There were lots of different people contributing, but Bob Shrum, one of the great speech writers of moderate Democratic Party history and the man running this campaign—not just a speech writer, running the campaign—has been at Kerry‘s side the whole time.  The other night, I...

MATTHEWS:  Why did Kerry say again and again to the press for the last week that he‘s been writing it himself?

FINEMAN:  Well, because he‘s been writing the words on the yellow legal pad.  Then they put it through the word processor.  Shrum does a revision, and it comes back to Kerry.  But I think they‘re lowballing a little bit on how tough Kerry is going to be on George Bush.  There are going to be some lines in this thing that are going to make the rafters ring tonight.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask Doug Brinkley—you‘ve covered a lot of these big presidential candidates and presidents themselves.  Why do the candidates freely admit, usually within two days of his speech, who wrote it?  Why were Nixon‘s speech writers, like Pat Buchanan, so well known, and Bill Safire, and Reagan‘s speech writer, Peggy Noonan?  You know, these guys weren‘t careful in keeping these secrets.  Why does John Kerry want to say that he wrote it?

BRINKLEY:  Well, I think back in 1971, there were some accusations that Adam Olinsky (ph), a former Kennedy speech writer—mainly for Bobby Kennedy—had written some of Kerry‘s famous testimony, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”  And conservative, right-wing columnists started attacking Kerry as not writing his own speech.  It was a phony testimony.  And I think it stung.  It hurt him.  So I think he wants people to think that these are his words, these are his emotions.  Yes, he consulted Ted Sorenson and Bob Shrum and Dick Goodwin and others...

MITCHELL:  But actually...

BRINKLEY:  ... but the speech is his.

MITCHELL:  But in this...

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Doug Brinkley.  Thanks for joining us tonight, by the way.  Great Kerry biographer.  Go ahead.

MITCHELL:  No, I was just going to say, in terms of this campaign today, at least, his press secretary, Stephanie Cutter, was not denying at all.  She confirmed that it was a Shrum speech and that while the others, Goodwin and Sorenson, had contributed some graphs, that those graphs were not used in the final cut.

FINEMAN:  You know how you tell this is true?  Remember, during the campaign the last couple months, John Kerry‘s been talking about “Let America be America again,” the Langston Hughes poem?  Kerry found that on this own.  Kerry insisted in putting it in all of his speeches.  I don‘t think I‘m breaking the rules of embargo to say you have to search very hard to find it in here tonight.


MATTHEWS:  Let me tell you all—remind you all how close this election is running right now.  I just got a new poll today.  It‘s for Iowa, a key state that the Democrats could easily lose, the Republicans could pick up, and West Virginia, a state they could pick up rather well.  In April, several months ago, the results of the poll in Iowa were, 47 Kerry, 46 Bush, OK?  You know what they are right now?  They‘re 46 apiece.


MATTHEWS:  That‘s how little it‘s moved in four months.  Let me tell

you about West Virginia, another real tight one out there.  In April, that

was 46-46.  Now it‘s a big margin for Kerry, 47-44.  They‘re in the margin

·         this is just like Kennedy-Nixon was in ‘60.   Months and months, weeks and weeks of staying within the margin of error.  This must drives these guys—I don‘t know how they hit the pillow at night.

FINEMAN:  This is Bob Shrum and the campaign‘s strategic doctrine, which is because of that gridlock, they have to focus like a laser on undecided voters. that they can‘t make this convention about the base.  The base is already there.  That‘s why Edwards last night talked about the working woman at the kitchen table.  That‘s why John Kerry tonight will specifically refer to voters in swing states of the kind that they‘ve tested and know they have to look for.  That‘s the basic strategic doctrine of the campaign.

MATTHEWS:  By the way, the idea we got 15 people undecided out there, 20 percent undecided, is not true.  If you look at most of the polls, we have less than 10 percent undecided.  And they‘re the ones, as wacky as they are, as fickle as they are—Gee, whiz, I don‘t know if I want to think about this, I‘ll think about a movie or something else—those people are going to be deciding on August 30, and they‘ll go, I‘ll think I‘ll go with this guy.

FINEMAN:  No, October 30.


FINEMAN:  They‘re not going to be watching tonight, probably.

SCARBOROUGH:  To those people—I was going to say, to those people, it doesn‘t really matter who wrote the speech.  To other undecideds—they don‘t care if it‘s John Kerry‘s word or Karl Rove‘s words.  All they want to do is they want to look into the heart and the soul of John Kerry and see who‘s inside of there and see whether they can embrace him like they can embrace, for instance, Edwards last night.  That‘s all that matters.

MATTHEWS:  So they think that they‘re actors up there, but the actors really are the person.

SCARBOROUGH:  Did anybody care if Ronald Reagan wrote his speeches. 

Absolutely not.

MATTHEWS:  Mayor Brown?

BROWN:  But it would be a tragic mistake if the Democratic Party doesn‘t understand that there are a number of disaffected voters who are not even being included...

MATTHEWS:  Who are not middle-of-the-roaders.

BROWN:  ... in these polls.  Correct.

MATTHEWS:  And they‘re not middle-of-the-roaders just because they‘re undecided.

BROWN:  Absolutely.  What they need to do is bring them back into the voting booth.  If they get them into the voting booth, they change the margin of victory...


FINEMAN:  They‘re going to try to do that organization—they‘re going to try to do that through grass roots organization, not with the messaging of this convention.

MATTHEWS:  The unemployment rate only counts people still looking for jobs because they‘re only—they‘re still hopeful about finding a job.  A lot of people aren‘t still looking for a candidate anymore, and they‘re undecideds, right?

FINEMAN:  That‘s—they are, and they‘re...


MATTHEWS:  ... this is the old-style (UNINTELLIGIBLE)  Can we watch this convention for a while?  Look at that guy—look at that guy dancing!

FINEMAN:  By the way, that is a great...

MATTHEWS:  I mean, this is the old stuff!

FINEMAN:  That is a great screen they‘ve got in there.  And I was over on the floor a little while ago.  Those people are unbelievably...


MATTHEWS:  ... big hats!

FINEMAN:  Those people are unbelievably pumped tonight.  They really, really are, in a way that they weren‘t the first three nights.

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ll tell you what.  They‘re unbelievably pragmatic, too.  I am stunned by how many people will go on and on and on about hating the war.  And you say, Well, what about John Kerry voting for the war.  It doesn‘t matter.  We‘ve got to come together.  They‘re very pragmatic, just like the Republicans in 2000.

MITCHELL:  You haven‘t seen any...

SCARBOROUGH:  They want the White House back.

MITCHELL:  You haven‘t seen any platform fights.  You haven‘t seen any arguments running up to this or during this convention week.

FINEMAN:  By the way, they loved Al Sharpton last night.  On the floor tonight, I was in the Michigan delegation, they said they were all crying.  They had teams streaming down their faces.

MATTHEWS:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) language of the Democratic platform. 

Let‘s agree to disagree...



FINEMAN:  I‘m tell you, they love Sharpton.

MATTHEWS:  What did the people at home think of it?

MITCHELL:  It was a good speech for that convention floor, not a good speech for the country in terms of Democratic politics.

FINEMAN:  But they were off message in terms of...


MATTHEWS:  ... right now.  We‘re going to go down to one of the—one of the family members, John Kerry‘s stepson, Andre Heinz, will begin the introductions.  And there are going to be many by the Heinz-Kerry children.  It all culminates in a big speech tonight by the daddy, John Kerry.


In 1995, John Kerry became part of my life when he married my mother, and it didn‘t take me very long to see that he is an incredible man.

I‘ve seen him as a husband, a father, a public servant, a sportsman, and a stepfather one could only dream of, while he sees me as the person that I am.

What does it say about someone who is able to be all those things?  What must he possess to excel at every one of them? 

He must be loving, he must be devoted, he must be humble, compassionate, decisive, and a peacemaker, especially if you know my brothers and sisters.


When John Kerry came to our lives, we knew we would be stronger at home because he commands resect and he knows how to give it.

This is the John Kerry I know:  my stepfather, my friend, and the next president of the United States.


Just kidding.  It‘s only Chris.


My brother and I now have the pleasure to introduce two remarkable people we have grown to know and love and admire over these last nine years, our two sisters, Alex and Vanessa Kerry.

ALEXANDRA KERRY, DAUGHTER OF JOHN KERRY:  Thank you.  Thank you, Vanessa.

Well, it is an incredible experience to be here tonight.  And I have to admit that it hasn‘t been easy to sift through years of memories about my father and find those few that might best tell you who John Kerry really is.  So let me just begin with one July day when Vanessa and I were kids.  It‘s a silly story, but it‘s true, and it‘s one of my favorite memories about my father.

We were standing on a dock waiting for a boat to take us on a summer trip.  Vanessa, the scientist, had packed all of her animals, including her favorite hamster.  Our overzealous golden retriever got tangled in his leash and knocked the hamster cage off the dock.  We watched as Licorice, the unlucky hamster, as he became termed, bubbled down into a watery doom.


Now, that might have been the end of the story, a mock funeral at sea and some tears for a hamster lost.  But my dad jumped in...


...grabbed an oar, fished the cage from the water, hunched over the soggy hamster and began to administer CPR.



A. KERRY:  Now, there are still to this day, there are some reports of mouth-to-mouth, but I admit that‘s probably a trick of memory.


The hamster was never quite right after that, but he lived.



Now, like I said, it may sound silly and we still laugh about it today, but it was serious.  And that‘s what mattered to my father.

Years later, when I was driving back to college with him, brooding as only a nineteen-year-old can, my father told me to look outside the car.  He said, “Ali, this is a beautiful day.  Feel the sun.  Look at the country you live in.”

The passion of his words makes me remember them, still, ten years later.  He said to me:  “I know men your exact age, who thought they had the same future you have, whose families were never born, who never again walked on American soil.  They don‘t feel the sun.

“Ali,” he said, “If there‘s something you don‘t like, something that needs to be changed, change it.  But never, ever give up.”


A. KERRY:  “Remember,” he said, “Remember that you are alive and that you are an American.  Those two things make you the luckiest little girl in the world.”


Even now, I look back at that and I think about what my dad‘s been through in his life.  Because he‘s quiet about those things, my sister and I had to sneak upstairs when we were kids and read his letters from Vietnam.  Who knew a 23 year old could have seen so much, so young?

To every little girl, her father is a hero.  And it‘s taken some getting used to that my father actually is one.


And it‘s not just in the obvious ways:  Because he likes to listen as much as he likes to talk; because he‘s studious in the way someone is when everything in the whole world interests them; because he leads by example; because he trusts people with the truth and doesn‘t play to our baser instincts.


A. KERRY:  And let me tell you this, when he loves you—as he loves me and my sister and his family, as he loves the men who fought beside him—there is no sacrifice too great. 

And when he cares for you, as he cares for this country, there are no surer hands, and no wiser heart.

And so when he teaches you, by the life he has led, as he has taught me and my sister all of our lives, there is no better lesson: that the future of this country is not only his life‘s work; it‘s mine and yours. It is all of our life‘s work, it‘s all of ours.


And if we want our children to breathe clean air and drink clean water, if we want them to control their own bodies, if we want them...


... if we want them to protect the liberties and opportunities that are our birthrights, we must be involved in the struggle.  Because on that day, in that car, my father was right:  We are the luckiest people in the world.  We walk on this soil.  We feel this sun. 

A. KERRY:  And we are Americans. 


And now, it is our great pleasure, and it is our great, great pride to introduce our father:  John Kerry.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  John Kerry saved my life and I‘m forever grateful.

TERESA HEINZ KERRY, WIFE OF SENATOR JOHN KERRY:  He really cares about fairness. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I respect him. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s got a big heart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s a tough customer. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  John‘s got a very deep sense of family. 

MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR:  John Kerry was born at Fitzsimmons Military Hospital in Colorado in December of 1943.  The world was at war, and the Kerry family, like millions of others, was woven into the very fabric of the war effort. 

John‘s father, Richard, was a test pilot, flying C-47s in the Army Air Corps.  His mother, Rosemary, was a community leader, who also dedicated herself to raising her children. 

DIANA KERRY, JOHN KERRY‘S SISTER:  John was a good big brother.  He was somebody who looked out for the rest of us, but also set a pace that was exciting to try and keep up with. 

FREEMAN:  Their family made their home in Massachusetts, and then later in Washington D.C. John‘s father became a diplomat overseas. 


He enjoyed cultures and history. 

My mother was 50 years a Girl Scout leader, and was incredibly proud of the pins she got for those 50 years of service.  She was my den mother as a Cub Scout.  And they both just gave back.  And I think their example of citizenship really had a profound impact on the whole family. 

FREEMAN:  In high school, John‘s height shot up to 6‘4“, quickly making him a top weapon on the hockey and lacrosse teams.  His young mind blossomed, finding many interests, including joining a rock band called the  Electras. 

J. KERRY:  It was a great way to meet girls, made a little record. 

A. KERRY:  There‘s your dad in some old hair cut. 

V. KERRY:  And he was like, yes I was in a rock band.  And Alex and I we were like, OK.  It‘s OK.  We were trying to get into it.

J. KERRY:  There‘s talk of a reunion. 

FREEMAN:  In 1962, John was accepted at Yale. 

DAVID THORNE, FRIEND:  I was really struck by his commitment to what he wanted to be.  He wanted to be in public life.  He wanted to be in public service. 

FREEMAN:  Talk on campus focused increasingly, of course, on Vietnam. 

John Kerry was one of those who chose to serve. 

CAMERON KERRY, BROTHER OF JOHN KERRY:  One of the things that John got from my parents was this strong sense of duty.  And, just, it was what you do.  And you didn‘t shirk the service. 

FREEMAN:  He entered the Navy in 1966 and requested deployment to Vietnam. 

J. KERRY:  I was skipper of what‘s called a swift boat, which is about a 50-foot gun boat. 

REV. DAVID ALSTON, VIETNAM VETERAN:  John lays his life on the line right alongside us.  Going into battle knowing that this man was willing to take a bullet made you respect him. 

JIM RASSMANN, VIETNAM VETERAN:  We got sent up these narrow canals with foliage up to the banks on both sides, plenty of places for people to hide. 

GENE THORSON, VIETNAM VETERAN:  He was always under pressure.  After a while, this takes a toll on a person.  Are you going to come back? 

J. KERRY:  There‘s a great similarity to some of what the guys in Iraq and Afghanistan are going through now, the kinds of patrols you go out on.  You‘re waiting.  You hold your breath.  You think you‘re going to be ambushed.

RASSMANN:  We had gone up a canal.  And the boat to our left hit a mine.  Simultaneously, we came under fire from both banks.  John was wounded and I was blown off the boat into the water. 

By the time I surfaced, the boats were gone and I was all by myself.  John turned around and all of them came back for me.  I grabbed hold of a net and started climbing upside down and couldn‘t get over the lip of the bow.  So I was just hanging there.  And all these rounds kept coming in.  And John ran up and dropped down on his hands and knees and pulled me over. 

Had he not come out on that bow like that, I would be dead. 

FREEMAN:  For this, John received the Bronze Star.  He was also decorated with a Silver Star for gallantry and three Purple Hearts for wounds he sustained. 

J. KERRY:  I am alive today through the grace of a higher being.  Every day is extra.  And that reassures you in taking on a risk or in standing up for the truth or in doing something that‘s difficult. 

I at that point had come back against the war.  I felt that the government had not been truthful with the American people.  And I felt that the war was not what it was described as.  And so I felt a great sense of waste and loss.  I became an activist, putting my passion into ending the war. 

FREEMAN:  As a 27-year-old newlywed, John delivered a powerful argument before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

C. KERRY:  He just talked in stark terms from the heart. 

J. KERRY:  Where are the leaders of our country? 

RASSMANN:  He said things that a lot of us were feeling. 

J. KERRY:  These are commanders who have deserted their troops. 

RASSMANN:  We knew by this time that the war was a mistake.  John was the one with the courage to come out and say it. 

FREEMAN:  His service behind him, John turned his attention to the home front.  He enrolled in Boston College Law School and, after graduation, found a new mission. 

THORNE:  There‘s another part of John, which is a tough prosecutorial side, too.  He was a tough prosecutor.  He went after white-collar crime with a vengeance.  It‘s part of his competitive nature to go get the bad guys. 

FREEMAN:  In 1984, John was elected junior senator of Massachusetts.  He was to become known as a foreign policy expert.  Working closely with members of both parties, he put America‘s needs before politics. 

As John pursued these important issues, he made a practice of commuting home on the weekends to be with his daughters, determined to remain a good father even as he worked hard to become a good senator. 

A. KERRY:  It‘s funny.  You always hear about these stories about politicians who don‘t have time for their families.  And I have never really understood that, because my dad always made time for us. 

J. KERRY:  I cried like a baby when they were born, both of them.  Being in a room while a child is being born, and you‘re not sure, wow, where‘s the breathing and is it up or is it down?  And you‘re kind of following it.  It‘s a miracle. 

FREEMAN:  In 1995, he married Teresa Heinz, widow of Republican Senator John Heinz.  Teresa came to the marriage with three sons and, like so many other Americans, John and Teresa have worked hard to make a success of their new blended family. 

J. KERRY:  Teresa is a bedrock.  She is as straightforward and as direct and as honest as anybody that I‘ve ever met.

TERESA HEINZ KERRY, WIFE OF SENATOR JOHN KERRY:  He comes in and if he‘s late, he‘s late.  My husband who is late. 


HEINZ KERRY:  And if he‘s tired, he‘s tired.  And if I‘m grouchy, I‘m grouchy, you know?  And I drive him crazy, too. 


HEINZ KERRY:  I was born in Africa.  And being an American to me is something that I‘ve earned and I became.  Being an American is something that I have to work every day to deserve, the freedom and rights that so many people in the world can only even dream of. 

FREEMAN:  As a husband, father, soldier and senator, John Kerry has spent a lifetime helping others achieve this incomparable American dream. 

J. KERRY:  I decided to run for president because I was frustrated.  I‘m confident I can make America safer.  And I want it safer for my kids, for the world, for the future.  My promise is to lead our country, to bring people together and take us to a better place. 

FREEMAN:  Time and again, John Kerry has been there for our nation, a soldier who understands the importance of peace, a leader who knows how to listen, a father dedicated to the children of our nation, a man devoted to our country‘s remarkable promise. 



MATTHEWS:  We‘re about to hear from Jim Rassmann.  Of course, we just saw him in that video.  He‘s the man whose life was saved by the candidate for president, John Kerry. 

This is quite a buildup, ladies and gentlemen.  And we‘re going to have one guy whose life was saved by the candidate.  Then, of course, Max Cleland is going to come out in a wheelchair.  It‘s hard to miss the imagery, the nonverbal imagery of this night. 

MITCHELL:  And that extraordinary footage from Vietnam, the personal movies that were threaded together so provocatively. 

FINEMAN:  The other interesting—the other interesting thing is, I think most of them were taken with an .8-millimeter camera that Kerry himself brought to Vietnam. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  Ponder that for a minute. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What are you suggesting, Howard? 

FINEMAN:  I‘m suggesting a self-consciousness.  I‘m suggesting a sense of destiny.  I‘m suggesting a guy who went to Vietnam honorably to serve and was proud of his service. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me offer you a middle case.  Back in the ‘60s, when he served...


SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s a nice way to put it.


MATTHEWS:  ...had .8-millimeter cameras.  It wasn‘t particularly a luxury item.  It wasn‘t unusual to bring them on trips.

MITCHELL:  We all did it, in fact.

MATTHEWS:  He was going to see the Far East.  I don‘t think I can jump

·         I cannot those dots with such alacrity, that he was out to promote himself. 

FINEMAN:  Well, I didn‘t say that, quite. 



MATTHEWS:  You did, buddy.

FINEMAN:  It was nuanced.  It was more nuanced than that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know what, though?

These days—I remember seeing Spike Jonze‘s film of Al Gore before he came out in 2000.  These things have really become the tee, where you tee the ball up.  And it makes crossover voters, it makes Republicans like me think, hey, isn‘t it great the type of men and women that we have out there to serve this country?

It is so important.  And it really has become, again, just a very important part of these nights, where somebody goes from being a mere politician, scratching and clawing to get elected to the next office, to becoming somebody who could be our commander in chief. 

MITCHELL:  And what is happening to the schedule here?  Help me because I don‘t have...


MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s a buildup to the...


MITCHELL:  But the buildup is supposed to be seamless.  Why isn‘t—were they ahead of schedule and they wanted to hit the prime time? 

MATTHEWS:  This is a Democratic Convention.  Must I remind you?  Remember, please clear the aisles and nobody cleared the aisles?  Well, this is the equivalent. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, in 2000, speaking of that, speaking of the staging and imagery, the second George Bush‘s film went to black, lights dropped down, remember?  He showed up in the middle of the stage. 

MITCHELL:  The same thing with Bill Clinton, the man from Hope, in 1992. 


FINEMAN:  What probably happened here, I‘m guessing is, that they may be a little ahead of schedule.

MITCHELL:  Exactly.  They‘re waiting for the networks.


FINEMAN:  The networks are coming on at 10:00.  So they‘re sort of stalling for time. 

MATTHEWS:  The worst thing that could happen tonight is that he would begin his speech before the broadcast networks come in. 

FINEMAN:  You can‘t have that.  You can‘t have that. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me tell you something. 

Like Andrea and Howard, when you cover people and you have these conversations with them off and on the record and on background and deep background, and don‘t mention me as a source anywhere near the White House or anywhere near the guy, you sometimes forget after five or six or 10 years what the background role was. 

I will now venture into an area which is interesting.  I was once in John Kerry‘s office.  And he was very friendly, of course.  He‘s a great host.  And he was showing me a great picture of those guys there with the shirt off on the swift boat, just like the Jack Kennedy pictures from World War II.

And he said, don‘t get me wrong, Chris . A lot of the time on that river, with the rock music playing, we‘re riding up the river, it was fun. 


MATTHEWS:  So I was comparing that to the solemnity of this video here.  War is—I‘ve not been in it.  I was in the Peace Corps.  I didn‘t choose to avail myself of that opportunity. 

But the fact is, in all seriousness, war is a combination of intense boredom, intense fear and horror, and sometimes, if you have some good buddies—and you see it all time—people are war buddies for life—it ain‘t bad. 

FINEMAN:  Chris, we had interviews at “Newsweek” with a number of the band of brothers.

And what impressed me about them was not just that they can testify to Kerry‘s bravery, but that they are regular people living regular lives, middle-class people of the kind he‘s trying to reach.  And one of them, a guy named Fred Short from Arkansas, said courage like that is hardwired into you when you‘re a young man and it stays with you all your life. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk to a guy who knows all about that.  This is the crewmate Jim Rassmann who, in that video we saw, described how he had his life saved by John Kerry.  Here he is talking.


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