updated 8/2/2004 9:27:58 AM ET 2004-08-02T13:27:58

Guest: Terry Holt, Steve McMahon, John Meacham, James Fallows

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight from Boston, the day after the Democratic convention.  Last night, Senator John Kerry gave the political speech of his lifetime and accepted the nomination of the Democratic Party to be its nominee for president of the United States.  Kerry-Edwards—is this the ticket to get the Democrats back in the White House?  We‘ll have post-convention analysis and check how the speech rated with people across the nation.  And President Bush is off the ranch and hits the road on his “Heart and Soul of America Vision” tour.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  It is time to reach for the next dream.  It is time to look to the next horizon.  For America, the hope is there, the sun is rising.  Our best days are still to come!  Thank you.  Good night.  God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Finally, the moment everyone was waiting for.  John Kerry accepted the Democratic Party‘s nomination for president in a rousing speech in Boston last night and pledged to be truthful to the American people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY:  We have it in our power to change the world, but only if we‘re true to our ideals, and that starts by telling the truth to the American people.  That is my first pledge to you tonight.  As president, I will restore trust and credibility to the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Campaigning in Springfield, Missouri, today, President Bush shot back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  This week, members of the other party gathered in Boston.  We heard a lot of clever speeches and some big promises.  My opponent has good intentions, but intentions do not always translate to results.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Joining us now is the national spokesman for the Bush-Cheney reelection committee, Terry Holt, and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, who formerly served as adviser to Howard Dean‘s presidential campaign.

Let me go to Steve McMahon first.  What did you think, as an old Howard Deaniac, watching John Kerry give his acceptance speech?

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  I thought John Kerry was as good as I‘ve ever seen him.  He reminded me of that freight train that we got run over with in Iowa last night.  He was poised.  He was powerful.  He was articulate.  And I think that line that you just pick out frames the entire race.  President Bush used to like to go around four years ago and say he was going to restore the honor and dignity of the White House.  John Kerry‘s going to go around for the next 100 days and say, It‘s time to restore the trust and credibility of the White House.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to...

MCMAHON:  And that‘s what it is.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Terry Hall.  Looking at this candidate now, John Kerry, does he look to you in the way he presented himself last night as a credible alternative to the president?

TERRY HOLT, BUSH-CHENEY NATIONAL SPOKESMAN:  Well, I‘m going to apply the Matthews test to the speech last night.  A few weeks ago, a guy name Chris Matthews came out and said this speech needs to be judged by whether or not he was clear and he provided straight talk whether he would talk about whether he‘d go to war in Iraq and take out Saddam Hussein.  He failed that.  He failed that test.  We saw a very rhetorically sound speech.  John Kerry—he can smile on cue, I guess.

But ultimately, there were barely 70 words that were committed to talking about John Kerry‘s record in the Senate.  And ultimately, if he‘s going to demonstrate that he can have results with his policies, the record is something we need to look at.  As long as you look at John Kerry through a gauzy haze, he looks OK.  But man, when it comes clear into focus, this is a guy that cut defense, raised taxes.  It‘s still the same old John Kerry.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me go back to Steve.  It does seem that he offered a pincer here.  He didn‘t go right down the middle and take on President Bush, for sure.

MCMAHON:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  What he seemed to do was go at his right by saying, We need more troops, in language which surely would appeal to “The Weekly Standard,” any one of the neo-conservative documents or magazines out there, much more to the right—more soldiers, more effort, more troops across the board.  No. 2, he seemed to go to the left in terms of foreign policy, saying that something happened after those first months after 9/11 that took us off course.

Well, why do we need more troops if we‘re off course?  It‘s going to be like Yogi Berra saying, I‘m lost but I‘m on time.  I mean, don‘t you have to decide on policy before you decide on troop levels?

MCMAHON:  Well, and John Kerry decided on policy.  And one of the things he decided was that he wouldn‘t go in unilaterally.  He would have done what the president actually promised the Senate it was going to do before it gave him the power to go to war going to war, and that is involve other nations, not other nations that send 5 or 6 or 8 or 10 soldiers, but really involve other nations in the way that President Bush‘s father did.

HOLT:  But he didn‘t say how he was going to do that, either.  He just said that he would do it.

MCMAHON:  Well, the first you have to do, Terry...

HOLT:  You have to have—you have to say how you would do it, and John Kerry took this big moment and flat missed the opportunity to talk straight to the American people.

MCMAHON:  The first thing you have to do, Terry, when you‘ve lost the respect and confidence of the world, is replace the leader of your country.  Any corporate CEO would understand that.  Any corporate board would understand that.  And we think the American people are going to understand that, as well.

HOLT:  I think people are concerned about our place in the world, but they‘re first concerned about who‘s going to better defend this country.  And if we defer to Francois Mitterrand or to Jacques Chirac, I think the American people are going to question the judgment of that.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that‘s going to work, the kind of talk we just heard from Terry, this sort of, Go it alone, we‘re the American people, we‘ll make our own judgments about our security?

HOLT:  That‘s not what we‘re saying.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What are you saying, Terry?

HOLT:  It‘s flat wrong...

MATTHEWS:  Tell me what you‘re saying.

HOLT:  It‘s flat wrong to say that this president hasn‘t worked with the world.  There‘s the—NATO involved...

MATTHEWS:  Well, what world powers...

HOLT:  ... in Afghanistan, in Iraq...

MATTHEWS:  What happened to the...

HOLT:  ... we have strong relations...

MATTHEWS:  ... alliance that won—where is the big five?  Where‘s the big alliance of—that won World War 2, China and Russia and the French and the English?  What happened to that?  You‘ve got one out of four.

HOLT:  Well, we‘re talking about a totally different world.  You know, Europe is collapsing in on itself in terms of its sovereign powers.  These countries are all fundamentally changing.  We have a strong ally with Great Britain and with Japan, with other nations all over the world.  But fundamentally...

MCMAHON:  How many troops, Terry?

HOLT:  ... we have a national security posture in this country now

that are taking pieces off the table when it comes to the terrorist threat

·         Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq.  We have countries that are now not at threat to us that were under of the last administration.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me just say...

HOLT:  So we‘ve had progress on the national security front.

MATTHEWS:  I can accept that piecemeal argument, but you know, the big applause lines at the convention all week were any time anybody standing on the podium said, We should not be fighting this alone.  We need an alliance.  We need to build alliances again.  For some reason, Terry, people want to hear that at the Democratic convention.  It must be because they feel we don‘t have an alliance in the world.

HOLT:  Well, we have strong relationships all over the globe, and anybody who doesn‘t think that hasn‘t been paying attention.

MATTHEWS:  Well, why are we hated...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Where are we hated around the world?  That‘s what I want to know.

MCMAHON:  Anybody who‘s been outside the country knows that we‘re hated.

HOLT:  Go back to...

MATTHEWS:  I‘ve been around the world.  I just got back from Africa and France, and every time I read anything, people that are normally the biggest pro-American people in the world seem to be aghast at us, at our policies.  Steve...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLT:  But Chris...

MCMAHON:  No, listen, I think that‘s exactly right.

HOLT:  Chris, the United Nations—the United Nations has backed our Iraq sovereignty plan unanimously.  That was a great victory for this country.  And it was just last June.  You‘ve forgotten about it.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just looking at the world polls, Steve.  You know the problem.  Everybody seems to be against our policies in the world.

MCMAHON:  Exactly.  You go around the world, and a country that used to be looked up to, Americans who used to be loved around the world are now no longer loved, and our country is no longer looked up to.

HOLT:  I think that‘s great rhetoric, but...

MCMAHON:  People don‘t want to be...

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  They don‘t want to be like Americans any more.  They don‘t find what we‘re doing around the world very attractive.  They don‘t think the belligerence of this president is very appealing.  And they‘re going to continue to feel that way until we get a new president, which we‘re going to get, fortunately, in about 100 days.

HOLT:  So the only policy position here is that John Kerry has a better personality than George Bush to run this country?

MCMAHON:  He‘ll tell the truth, Terry.  He‘ll tell the truth.  He won‘t take us into war...

HOLT:  Did John Kerry promise to tell the truth?  He has to put his hand on a Bible and swear that anyway.  You need to have...

MCMAHON:  He won‘t mislead our country into...

HOLT:  ... firm policy positions.  You need to...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Gentleman, I wish—I wish—you are right, Terry.  I wish the world was on our side.  They seem to be not the same friends they once were.

Anyway, thank you.  We‘ll come back and argue again.  Steve McMahon, Terry Holt.

Coming up:  It was the most important speech of his campaign.  Did John Kerry deliver it?  We‘ll talk with “Newsweek” editor John Meacham and political analyst Charlie Cook in just a minute.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  How did John Kerry do last night?  We have two experienced observers of presidential campaigns.  John Meacham is editor of “”Newsweek,” one of the most influential magazines in the country.  And the political experts all turn to Charlie Cook, who‘s the editor and publisher of “The Cook Report,” to get his political judgment.

Let‘s go to John Meacham.  Score this as if you were a very difficult high school rhetoric teacher.

JOHN MEACHAM, “NEWSWEEK”:  I think it was an A-minus.  I don‘t think it was as memorable as President Reagan in 1980 or George Bush in 1988.  But Kerry had to do an important thing last night, which was frame himself as a plausible captain of a ship.  And he believes that he can guide the ship better.  And I think he made that case very effectively both in terms of his biography and in terms of the image of power and strength he projected.

MATTHEWS:  Will it now be an issue of what policy (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that both men are seen roughly as equally capable of serving as commander-in-chief?

MEACHAM:  I do think so.  I think that it‘s—this is going to be a ground war, and it‘s already started, obviously.  And it‘s going to be very interesting to see because there‘s not that much daylight between them on policies.  For all the sound and fury, there‘s really not.

MATTHEWS:  Pencil ready, Charlie.  What do you give this for a grade?

CHARLIE COOK, “NATIONAL JOURNAL,” NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think A-minus is fine, too.  I—you know, I‘ve watched John Kerry for almost 20 years, since he came to the Senate, and I‘ve never been a big fan of his speaking ability.  I thought it was beautifully written.  I thought it was very well delivered.  I thought it was well received.  To be honest, I didn‘t think the guy had it in him.  I thought he did a very—I thought he did a very nice job.

And my favorite part was—you know, to me, he‘s always been kind of a Stepford candidate—very stiff, formal, impersonal.  And he kind of opened up his shirt.  Well, first of all, I liked the daughters talking about him growing up—when they were growing up, and then the film lead-in, the crew, and then the speaking.  You got a sense—when he was talking about his parents.  You kind of—for the first time ever, you kind of got a sense for, you know, that this guy actually is a real person, and what‘s he like, and—you know, which I thought was long overdue.  So I liked the speech.  I thought had the whole evening from 9:00 to 11 I thought was very good.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I thought something else, John.  Check me on this.  I thought, apart from the words he spoke, was the body language.  I thought for the first time he looked comfortable in his skin on national television.  He was walking around almost like Hugh Grant, totally...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  He looked great.  He looked skinny.  He was in shape, obviously.  Here‘s a guy that‘s had rotator cuff surgery.  He‘s had prostate surgery.  And look at him bouncing around, you know?

MEACHAM:  Yes, he was enjoying himself.  You know, that‘s the great lesson we learned from Franklin Roosevelt, I think, all politicians—people want to think that their leaders are enjoying the job, are enjoying themselves...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MEACHAM:  ... enjoying leading them.  And I think he did a lot of that.  I think—I think Charlie‘s exactly right about the whole package, though, and I think keeping that band of brothers out there on the road and keeping the daughters out is going to be essential.  You know, Jefferson once said, if you‘re going to judge my faith, judge my life.  And I think it‘s a good thing, if you‘re going to judge a man, judge his family and what his family thinks of him.  And I think that they were incredibly powerful advocates for him.

(CROSSTALK)

COOK:  I‘m not a TV person, but to me, the guy‘s face—I mean, I think they must have lit him differently or something because he just didn‘t look constipated.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You are so good on that!  That is so true!  He doesn‘t look constipated.  I was looking for the phrase.  You got it.  Let me ask you about some of the content.  It seemed to me, gentlemen, that he was trying to do it both ways.  He was appealing to even had the neo-conservative crowd, the people who are really hawkish, by saying, Hey, look, I agree with you, Bill Kristol.  I agree with a lot of you ideologues.  More troops would have done the job.  More troops today will do the job better today.  Do you buy—why‘d he go that direction, just to keep everybody off balance?

COOK:  Well, you know—go ahead, John.

MEACHAM:  Well, I think it was more like a State of the Union speech than any acceptance speech I‘ve heard.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  That‘s right.

MEACHAM:  And in that sense, it had a flash of Clintonism in it.  I think that he is a complex guy.  He sees nuance.  He‘s making complexity his friend.  And I think what the country‘s got to decide is—you do have a man in Bush who sees things a lot more starkly, who makes a decision, who sticks by it come hell or high water.  And in Kerry, I think people want to make sure that he would actually pull the trigger.

COOK:  You know, I think he—it‘s like the speech was crafted to say, I‘m not going to give him an inch.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

COOK:  I‘m not going to give him anything.  I mean, he talked about doubling the size of the special forces, and my 15-year-old son lit up, you know?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

COOK:  I mean, it was—you know, I‘m sure the RNC cranked out a bunch of stuff afterwards, but they were looking around and kind of scratching around for a few kernels here or there.  But he didn‘t give them a lot.  This was not a Dukakis or McGovern speech.

MATTHEWS:  No.  He did what I like to see in politics, where a Democratic liberal, when he confronts the Republican, he does the pincer.  He hits them on the left, he hits them on the right, the way Jack Kennedy beat Henry Cabot Lodge and beat Dick Nixon and the way that Joe Lieberman defeated Lowell Weicker up in Connecticut.  You hit them on the right by saying you‘re going to put in more troops, be tougher.  You hit them on the left by saying he‘s taking us in the wrong direction politically in the world.  Can he get away with that pincer on both sides, John?

MEACHAM:  I think that‘s certainly the bet, and they‘re dead even.  I suspect he‘ll get a little bounce out of this, probably not a great deal.  But Democrats who win are the Democrats who do that.  Democrats who don‘t do that lose.

MATTHEWS:  What about the speech writing?  I detected, Charlie, a clear trace of Robert Shrum, the great speech writer for Ted Kennedy.  Here‘s the ending to the speech.  “It is time to reach for the next dream.  It is time to look to the next horizon.  For America, the hope is there, the sun is rising.  Our best days are still to come.”  “For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end, but for all those whose cares are our concern, the work is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the cause endures.”

Those are two pieces of his speeches, one by Teddy Kennedy in ‘80 and one by this—by the candidate last night.  You can‘t tell them apart.  It‘s the same writer.

COOK:  You know, and for a guy that was best known as “live shot Kerry,” this was pretty eloquent.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but what did you think about having the same speech writer as Ted Kennedy?

COOK:  Well, I tell you what.  I think you could do a hell of a lot worse.  And then having Ted Sorenson and Richard Goodwin jump in it a little bit, as well—you know, that‘s the trip—I mean, that‘s the trifecta.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, that‘s true.

COOK:  You know, outside of you, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Aren‘t you nice.

COOK:  ... that‘s as good as it gets.

MATTHEWS:  Well, they‘re better than me.  I‘m not sure they‘re better than Peggy Noonan.  But on the left, or the political center-left, they‘re definitely very good.

Let me ask you about women.  I thought, John, that in addition to all the revelry about the military and the salute and all that great stuff and the Hugh Grant sort of stuff and the swagger, but it was a nice swagger, was this long list of social commitments he had made largely of interest—or concern to woman who have to take care of their parents and their kids, et cetera.

MEACHAM:  Right.  Absolutely.  In fact, I thought at first, when he made his first allusion to woman, that it felt a little retro.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MEACHAM:  I said that to my wife, watching, I thought, yes, that feels a little ‘84.  But as the speech went on, and particularly on stem cells—

I think that science could be the key sleeper issue in the campaign, sort of like the Alzheimer‘s family vote.  I mean, if you think about...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, I come from one, and a lot of people do, as you know.

MEACHAM:  Absolutely.  And I think that‘s going to be a huge thing.  And I do think he managed to project a warmth.  It‘s the first time I‘ve used that word with John Kerry in a positive sense.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I saw the real John Kerry smile last night, and I used to say with Tip O‘Neill, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the political smile and then the real one.  And it‘s nice to see the real one.  It‘s kind of a crinkle in your face you can‘t control, and I saw it last night for the first time after 20 years with John Kerry.  So he must have been in the mood last night.

Anyway, John Meacham, stick with us, Charlie Cook.  We‘re coming back with both of you gentlemen.  Still ahead, Pat Buchanan and James Fallows on the media coverage of this convention.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:   We‘re back with “”Newsweek‘s” John Meacham and Charlie Cook of “The Cook Report.”

Let me go to Charlie first this time.  Did you notice the name missing from John Kerry‘s speech Thursday night?

COOK:  No.

MATTHEWS:  Bill Clinton.  No mention of the guy.  What is that about? 

Isn‘t he going to need the guy in the general?

COOK:  Well, I think they‘ll use him some, but Kerry‘s got to stand on his own feet.  I mean, he really does.  This is—and not on somebody else‘s shoulders.  So I don‘t think he needed to do that.

But you know, another thing, though, as we‘re talking—I think he covered all the bases, but you know, he wasn‘t pandering.  I mean, it wasn‘t like he was trying to touch all the parties‘ erogenous zones, the way sometimes these acceptance speeches do.  But no, I don‘t think he needed to.

MATTHEWS:  He didn‘t even talk—did he talk about sexual politics, abortion rights or marriage rights, that sort of thing?  I didn‘t really catch much of that.

MEACHAM:  I thought, rather brilliantly, it was Alexandra Kerry who said—who talked about controlling...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

MEACHAM:  Women should have the right to control their own bodies. 

And the point‘s made, and they moved on fast.

MATTHEWS:  What did you make, John, of his failure to mention the name of the Clintons, either one of them?

MEACHAM:  I thought it was smart because people don‘t always vote on biography.   If people voted on biography, Bob Dole would be finishing his second term as president.  And this is about the future.  It‘s about keeping us safe.  Clinton—even without the scandal, Clinton evokes a past that Kerry got the benefit of by talking about the 1990s.  Bill Clinton‘s now become a decade in Democratic rhetoric.

MATTHEWS:  What did you make of the direct personal attack on Cheney, Charlie, where he said that Cheney was having secret meetings with polluters?  That‘s about the worst way you could construct that, those events—secret meetings with polluters, not energy corporate CEOs, but polluters.

COOK:  Well, the thing is, I thought the speech was lacking a lot of red meat, but my gosh, he had to throw some in.  It couldn‘t be completely vegetarian.

MATTHEWS:  What about going after the Saudi royal family and saying, It‘s better to depend on our own ingenuity than on the Saudi royal family, John?

MEACHAM:  See, I think that was—well, Charlie can address this, too.  I thought that line might as well have been written by Michael Moore.  I think that was particularly addressed to an electorate and a base that has now spent $100 million seeing “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s—you make it...

MEACHAM:  I think...

MATTHEWS:  You make it sound like that‘s the whack-job wing of the Democratic Party.

MEACHAM:  No, I just think that without—I don‘t think you would have had that line in it without that movie out there.

MATTHEWS:  Why did he call for a raise in anybody‘s taxes, gentlemen?  Either one of you can—we know the record of Mondale campaign, where it just killed him.  Why would you say—I mean, everybody—not everybody makes $200,000 a year, obviously.  That‘s about 10 times the annual average.  But why would you start talking about raising taxes in the middle of a political campaign?  John?

MEACHAM:  Well, I think he wants to at least appear somewhat in touch with reality.  I mean, it is true that he did not really talk about how he was going to pay for the softer, more domestic issues.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

MEACHAM:  And so he wanted—and he‘s an intellectually honest guy, I think.  I think he needs to...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, come on!  He didn‘t tell how he would balance a budget that‘s a half trillion dollars out of kilter!

MEACHAM:  No, he didn‘t, but he flicked at it with the raising the taxes.

COOK:  I think if...

MEACHAM:  If you ask why, I think that‘s why.

MATTHEWS:  Well, he can‘t raise...

COOK:  I think he‘s going to...

MATTHEWS:  ... a half trillion in taxes, can you?

COOK:  No, the thing is, I think if you‘re going to go through a laundry list of stuff you want to increase spending on, I think you have to give at least a tip of the hat...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

COOK:  ... somewhere...

MATTHEWS:  Did you notice...

COOK:  ... for a little additional revenue.

MATTHEWS:  ... the cuts he talked about, the domestic spending cuts? 

Could you catch any?

COOK:  I didn‘t.

MATTHEWS:  I didn‘t catch any.  Did you, John?

MEACHAM:  No.

MATTHEWS:  Did you notice any?  I read the platform.  I couldn‘t find a single cut.

MEACHAM:  Oh, no.  No.

MATTHEWS:  You say that like, Of course not.

MEACHAM:  Well, what are you going to say?

MATTHEWS:  I mean, here‘s a guy that says he‘s going to balance the budget, the evils of deficit spending, and I say, But where are the cuts, and you go, Of course, there aren‘t any in there.

MEACHAM:  No.  I thought we were talking about the party platform and the acceptance speech.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... both.  Obviously, neither one—by the way, good happy hunting, trying to find a spending cut in any of those—any of that 20 or 30-some-page document.

Anyway, thank you very much.  It‘s great having you on, the editor of “Newsweek” magazine, John Meacham, a great author, still my favorite book, “Franklin and Winston,” a great book.  It‘s maybe my favorite book of all times politically, “Franklin and Winston.”  It‘s out there. Go buy it this week.

And up next—thank you, Charlie, Charlie Cook of “The Cook Political Report.”  Judging the political pageantry and the coverage of the Democratic convention with Patrick Buchanan and “The Atlantic Monthly‘s” James Fallows.  And reaction from across the nation.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half-hour, we‘ll have analysis of media coverage of the convention and we‘ll be on the streets of Boston for reaction to Kerry‘s speech.

But, first, the latest headlines right now.

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:                I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war. 

(APPLAUSE)

I will have a vice president who will not conduct secret meetings with polluters to rewrite our environmental laws. 

(APPLAUSE)

I will have a secretary of defense who will listen to the best advice of the military leaders. 

And I will appoint an attorney general who will uphold the Constitution of the United States. 

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was Senator Kerry last night in one of his most pointed attacks on President Bush and his Cabinet. 

So did John Kerry succeed in making himself appear as tough on national security as President Bush has? 

For answers, we‘re joined by the national correspondent for “The Atlantic Monthly” and former chief speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter, James Fallows.  Patrick Buchanan is an MSNBC contributor and former Republican Convention speaker himself.

Let me go to James Fallows. 

I know what a fine writer you are.  Was this a well-written speech? 

JAMES FALLOWS, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, “THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY”:  I

think it was well written enough and well delivered enough. 

I think if you look at the convention and the speech as sort of a capstone of the convention, they both did what the party needed to have done.  The speech was better than most people thought Senator Kerry would give.  It was comprehensive in both sort of establishing the image for himself as the leader of his patrol boat, the father of his family, etcetera, etcetera, but also going through enough of specifics on national security.  And it touched every single theme the Democrats are going to be using to appeal to swing voters.  So I think it did the job.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Remember the old laundry lists Stu Eizenstat

(LAUGHTER) 

MATTHEWS:  ... would come up with all the time in the Carter White House?  I thought he had the laundry list buried as deep into the guts of the speech so that people knew it was coming and they got around it to the final rhetoric. 

Pat, let me ask you about—I thought this followed the classic pincer campaign of successful Democrats, which is to go to the right of their opponents on national defense and just how many troops you have, how many missiles you are willing to build, and to the left on sort of philosophical directions and, of course, domestically appeal more to women than to men.

I thought it had a lot of craft in it.  I‘m sure it had a lot of honesty in it, but a lot of craft. 

PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I think you are dead right, Chris. 

Clearly, it is a traditional centrist, liberal, Democratic approach on domestic policy, without getting into the controversial specific social issues like civil unions or gay marriage.  At the same time, Kerry moved to the center and center-right on foreign policy, defense, strength, respect abroad, security. 

I think he was very much above his game.  He clearly delivered what I thought was going to be the most important speech of his life and it could cost him the campaign.  I don‘t think he could have come out of this convention much better.  It was a united convention and he really delivered an outstanding speech.  But your word, honesty, and what I would rather say credibility, the Democratic—the position of the Democratic ticket in my judgment is inherently noncredible.  And the question is whether the Republicans can expose this, the dichotomy, and drive through that wedge that opens it up before the November election. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know I agree with a lot of your thinking on some of these things lately.  And that is that you have to make a decision, were we right to go to war or not.  And that speech had a number of answers, almost a multiple answer question—rather, a multiple correct answer. 

Jim, James, did you catch the clear drift there on whether we should have gone to war or not?

FALLOWS:  Well, I think that the senator is going to artfully avoid this as long as he can. 

Just to go back to one thing that my friend Pat was saying, if there is a credibility problem for the Democrats, there is lot of that going on, because the Republicans have their problems to deal with in defending the record of the last while.  And if Senator Kerry and the Democrats stick to this not especially precise, but interesting theme, we should only going to war not when we have to, not because we want to, then they can say that the case the administration made was wanting to go to war, not really needing to go to war. 

MATTHEWS:  All right, but, first, they have to make the case that we didn‘t have to.

FALLOWS:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  And, of course, once you accept their ground rules for when you have to, they win. 

Anyway, coming—more coming back with Pat Buchanan and James Fallows on the media‘s role in this convention.  And later, HARDBALL election correspondent David Shuster checks in with us with a report from the streets of Boston.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, HARDBALL election correspondent David Shuster is in the streets of Boston getting public reaction to the Kerry speech—when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Pat Buchanan and “The Atlantic Monthly”‘s James Fallows.

While MSNBC had ‘round-the-clock coverage of the DNC Convention, the big three networks only covered the convention for about an hour a night.  Was that enough? 

Let me ask you, gentlemen, Jim and Pat, you know, I grew up and you grew up watching this thing ‘round the clock, because, in the early ‘50s, they were still deciding candidacies, up through ‘56, when Kennedy lost to Kefauver for V.P.  And then of course you may have had the Reagan-Ford fight in ‘76, but no real candidate fights.

And then we had the credentials fight back in the early ‘50s and then in ‘60 -- or there‘s the one in ‘52 over Ike and Taft.  And then we had policy fights over Vietnam.  It seems like there‘s no fights anymore, Pat, so what‘s to cover? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, it‘s—you‘re exactly right.  You had Goldwater‘s famous speech in 1960 and Goldwater‘s speech in ‘64.

They were matters of real controversy.  And let me tell you what has happened . And we‘re partly at fault.  In 1968, Chris, we started scripting the speeches of the surrogates and the others who were running for vice president.  And now these things are scripted to a fare-thee-well. 

The Democrats, not only did they have their nominee and their ticket lined up.  They made sure that their controversial and possibly firebrand speakers, Howard Dean, Al Sharpton, Jackson and the others, were not in prime time.  These whole things are theatrical performances to create an effect with the American people.  And, really, there is no drama left to them. 

MATTHEWS:  So if you were Jeff Zucker or David West (ph) or anybody else in this world of big decision-making, would you say the box was about right for the package, that three hours was just about enough to capture the big speeches and that‘s what it should be? 

BUCHANAN:  For the big networks.

I think what we do, we are political junkies at MSNBC.  We have got tremendous interest in this.  We have got a lot of other issues we want to talk about, other issues, what are they doing.  But for the big networks, which really live or die on gigantic audiences, I think they are probably from their own standpoint doing the right thing.  They don‘t need Pat Buchanan‘s advice.  Those are the guys responsible for the bottom line. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Jim, why don‘t they wave the yellow line like in racing and say, OK, we‘re all going to take five hours and do this right, we will agree to do that, we won‘t cheat? 

FALLOWS:  I guess they would probably have the antitrust police down on them. 

(CROSSTALK)

FALLOWS:  But I think the change here actually is more the networks than the conventions, although the conventions have changed dramatically from the days we remember. 

The networks have a much less central role in American life than they did when we all were kids.  And I think it actually is OK that the conventions, which are more and more the presentation of the parties‘ new talent, which we certainly saw from the Democrats and sort of their view, that it‘s doled out in all the different ways people can get the info now.

There is around-the-clock coverage on C-SPAN and PBS and all the cable channels and the Internet.  So, if you want to get the stuff, you can.  I think it‘s actually all right. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the Tuesday night.  Wasn‘t Tuesday night one of the more interesting nights and did the networks miss the best night, Jim? 

FALLOWS:  Are you are talking about—this is the Obama night? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, the Obama night.

FALLOWS:  That was really incredible.

We were in the room there.  And he had the same trait as Bill Clinton, where everybody—that carnival that usually is taking place on the floor just stopped.  And everybody held their breath to watch him perform.  Now, of course, he set his own high bar for every day of his life after this.  OK?  Can he top that performance? 

Can I just tell you one other thing about Kerry‘s speech.  The line that really struck me—and it might have even been ad-libbed, when he said, what if we had a president who believed in science?  Now, I didn‘t see in the newspaper.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Wasn‘t that something? 

(LAUGHTER)

FALLOWS:  He used that to introduce the stem cell issue, which is really powerful.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but didn‘t you get a sense they had gotten some new data in from the focus groups and they were going to attack it with a full vengeance?  They discovered somehow during week that Ron Reagan‘s speech apparently tapped into something. 

BUCHANAN:  I think, Chris, you are exactly right. 

I think—clearly, let‘s take all these other social issues, partial-birth abortion, all the things that were ignored—civil unions wasn‘t even touched.  I think he would not have gone up as high and as strong and used that phrase unless they had tested that as a winner against Mr. Bush.  And, of course, they are suggesting that all he is, is just a Christian fundamentalist, the only ones opposed to this.  I think they really poll-tested that one. 

MATTHEWS:  I think it may be just—I‘m Roman Catholic like you, Pat.

I think, of course, the questions of when life begins and conception and fertilized eggs are all central to our metaphysical understanding of life itself, and it will be always be a difficult political difficult debate, where others disagree with us.  But I thought the stem cell issue is unique.  It doesn‘t deal with sexual behavior, Pat.  It doesn‘t even deal with what we consider moral conduct or misconduct.

BUCHANAN:  But it does...

MATTHEWS:  It deals with a fundamental metaphysical understanding of something, which doesn‘t get the red-hots as excited politically—I‘m not talking about morality here—as the other issues do, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  Well, it‘s not as red hot, as you say.

But, clearly, you are going right to the heart of matter of, frankly, as Kerry mentioned, when exactly life begins and whether or not you have a right to create life and then destroy it.  And this is a very—for a lot of folks, it‘s a red-line issue. 

MATTHEWS:  And so many people have of course tried to have children through this process of in vitro.  And a lot of them use this process all the time, but it doesn‘t get any attention. 

Go ahead, Jim.

FALLOWS:  Just one line here.  I think a real contrast to the right-to-life issue is that there is a sort of one-to-one tradeoff of life vs.  life with stem cell, because, clearly, there is, in the view of some people, a life that is being sacrificed with this fertilized blastocyst.

But there is somebody else‘s life with Parkinson‘s disease, with Diabetes, with Alzheimer‘s or whatever.  And that is very different from most cases involving the abortion question.

MATTHEWS:  Also, of course, abortion is an issue largely with Roman Catholics, but a lot of other pro-lifers.

BUCHANAN:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  And I‘m not sure those other pro-lifers are as metaphysical about this issue, Pat, as Catholics are. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  I think Jim has framed it, but it is, does the good end justify the means? 

MATTHEWS:  Great question.  That is the question at hand. 

Let me ask you all, do you agree now that the networks came it the right amount of time? 

Pat first.  Three hours and that‘s it, and better get done your speech

by one minute to 11:00.

BUCHANAN:  Our network gave it the right amount of time. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I‘ll tell you...

BUCHANAN:  The others—the others—the others shorted it.  They should have given the Democrats—I think, all four nights, they should give them two hours of prime time. 

FALLOWS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Jim, I thought he was looking at the shot clock.  He was a Celtic up there trying to get it in before 34 seconds up there. 

FALLOWS:  It‘s for sure.  I would go with the two hours per—two hours over four nights, I think that would be the right solution. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s see if we can put the money up for that coverage. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, Patrick J. Buchanan and James Fallows. 

Coming up, were the Democrats successful in reintroducing their candidate to the American people?  We‘ll find out when we come back.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  John Kerry energized the party base at the convention this week, but what about the people beyond the base? 

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster is at Copley Plaza in Boston. 

David, what‘s the word out there on the public square? 

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC ELECTION CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Chris, the word is that parking was a lot better than anybody had thought.  But let‘s find out. 

All right, who wants to be on—who wants to play HARDBALL? 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

SHUSTER:  Come on.  Come on.  Who wants to play? 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

SHUSTER:  All right. 

Lauren (ph), what did you think?  What did you think of the convention, your first convention?  What did you think?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It was really inspiring.  It was fantastic.  And the positivity and the energy just blew me away. 

(CROSSTALK)

SHUSTER:  OK.  What did you think of the convention?  What‘s your name?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My name is Calima Thomas (ph). 

SHUSTER:  Calima.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I thought it was great.  I would love to have this convention in my hometown. 

SHUSTER:  This is not your hometown?

(LAUGHTER)

SHUSTER:  All right, well, let‘s go on. 

What did you think of the convention?  What‘s your name?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m Stephanie (ph).  I don‘t know what I thought.  I‘m here to Dispatch at dusk tomorrow. 

(CROSSTALK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

SHUSTER:  All right, what‘s your name?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Bridgette (ph).  We came all the way from the Wisconsin on a road trip with my best friend to see Dispatch.

SHUSTER:  Yay, Dispatch!

I don‘t know what Dispatch is, Chris.  Sorry.

What‘s your name? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Flo. 

SHUSTER:  Flo.  OK.

Flo, what do you think of the convention?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I want to know how Kerry did CPR on the hamster. 

SHUSTER:  How did Kerry CPR on the hamster?  Anybody know? 

All right, what‘s your name?  What‘s your name? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Peggy (ph). 

SHUSTER:  Peggy, what did you think of the convention?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, it was good, yes.  I watched it on TV. 

SHUSTER:  What was the best part?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I wasn‘t there. 

What?  Oh, the best part were the daughters, his daughters speaking. 

SHUSTER:  The daughters.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No, I enjoyed them. 

SHUSTER:  All right. 

Gail (ph), what did you think of the convention? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, I was a delegate. 

(CROSSTALK)

SHUSTER:  Oh, we can‘t talk to you.  You‘re a delegate.  We want real people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was wonderful.  It was run very well.  It was wonderful.

(CROSSTALK)

SHUSTER:  Anybody have any problems with the convention?  What—did anybody not like the convention?  Oh, come on, there has got to be—what about the parking?  What about the parties?  What about the Secret Service? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why did they cage the protesters?  Why did they cage the protesters? 

SHUSTER:  Why did they cage the protesters?  Excellent question.  Why do you think they caged the protesters? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was a mess.  I think they were a little scared. 

They were scared.  But everyone was peaceful.  It was really sweet. 

Everyone was peaceful.

SHUSTER:  All right, anybody going to New York for the convention? 

Anybody going to New York?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No.

SHUSTER:  No.  Is everyone glad that the convention is over? 

CROWD:  Yes!

SHUSTER:  Yes, we‘re glad the convention is over. 

(LAUGHTER)

SHUSTER:  By the way, Chris, I don‘t know if you can see, but we have got a break-dance group behind us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Transformers.

SHUSTER:  The Transformers.

If you guys will separate, these are the Transformers, the New York City Transformers.  It‘s a break-dance group that has been performing.  What this.

They are starting to warm up.  There you go. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

SHUSTER:  Now, the reason—the reason, Chris, that we‘re showing you the Transformers is because we try to get a gauge as to what was the impact of the convention on business.  And the Transformers...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  David, you are much better than those break-dancers.  Go out and do that stuff.  I know you are better than those guys.

SHUSTER:  Hey, I can do that.

MATTHEWS:  Thanks for joining us. 

SHUSTER:  Anyway, the Transformers—all right.

MATTHEWS:  Great.

SHUSTER:  The Transformers said, Chris, that business was a wash, not much better, not much worse than any other week. 

MATTHEWS:  It was a great week.

SHUSTER:  There you have it. 

MATTHEWS:  It was a great week.  Thank you, David. 

This has been a great week for HARDBALL for all of us.  We have covered the convention for six hours a night.  And we‘ve heard from a lot of different people from the podium and also talking to them personally.  And all through the Democratic Party, we heard a lot of different voices, maybe some unity at the end, but a lot of people getting together in this town.  And Boston never looked better. 

Let‘s take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to Faneuil Hall.

Joining me now is U.S. Congressman from New York Charles Rangel,

You know, Congressman Rangel—remember that building, 1960, John Kennedy, the night before the election.  You remember that?  He spoke from there. 

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK:  This is an historic site.  This is where the revolution began, and God knows, come November, this is where we regain our country. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that your mom is someone who people take to immediately or she‘s like coffee?  I think she‘s more like coffee.  I can‘t live without coffee, but my first taste of coffee was tough.  But, you know, I really like it. 

How many think that the firefighters were the real heroes of 9/11? 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

RON REAGAN, NBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Yes.  Now as successful as your movie is, do you think that that will mean that next election cycle, people on both sides, Republican and Democrat will say we need to hire a Michael Moore, have him do an attack documentary on the other guy and see if that turn the election.  Is that a possibility? 

MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER:  It‘s impossible for the right to do that, for the Republicans to do that because they‘re not funny.  You see...

Question on the table.  How many thought the speech was an A tonight? 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  When you saw Arnold Schwarzenegger get elected governor of California last year rather handily, in a big surprise entry into politics, a man that wasn‘t even born in this country, did you have a little tingle that said, Maybe me someday, governor, senator, president? 

BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR:  Well, I thought, at least, you know, if I did get elected, nobody could accuse me of being the worst actor who ever got elected to public office. 

MATTHEWS:  What does this say, “Run Against Bush”?  Are you guys partisan or what? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, we‘re not partisan. 

MATTHEWS:  It says, “Run Against Bush.”  What are you talking about?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Give me a break.  I can read the thing.

Give me some heartland celebrities you‘re going to be putting up on the platform. 

ED GILLESPIE, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN:  Well, Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, which is a battleground state.  He is a strong Republican. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Touche.  You got me on that one.  You nailed me there.  Ed, you came back strong with that one. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I‘ll tell you, I never thought that I was going to be so wrong about something.  Give me a break.  Rick Santorum is as big as—

Arnold Schwarzenegger is known by every kid in the world.  And Rudolph Giuliani is probably the most respected Churchillian coming out of 9/11.  And you said Rick Santorum? 

When you saw Arnold Schwarzenegger get elected governor of California last year rather handily, in a big surprise entry into politics, a man that wasn‘t even born in this country, did you have a little tingle that said, Maybe me someday, governor, senator, president? 

AFFLECK:  Well, I thought, at least, you know, if I did get elected, nobody could accuse me of being the worst actor who ever got elected to public office. 

MATTHEWS:  You got a lot of young people excited about politics. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yeah!

MATTHEWS:  What do you feel about that? 

HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR:  I think, you know, all you have to do to get young people excited about politics is tell them the truth. 

MATTHEWS:  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?

AL SHARPTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think that there are a lot of disaffected voters, a lot of voters that feel disenfranchised that people like me can be very key toward trying to appeal to them. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you Richard Dreyfuss?  I‘m sorry.  You look like “Mr.

Holland‘s Opus” right here to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Usually, I‘m told I look like Sipowicz. 

Why don‘t these Democrats, like Edwards and Kerry and Mrs. Clinton,

Senator Clinton, say they shouldn‘t have given a blank check to the

president?  Why don‘t you ask your own people, your leaders

(CROSSTALK)    

RUSSELL SIMMONS, HIP-HOP SUMMIT ACTION NETWORK:  I‘m not—don‘t say leaders.

MATTHEWS:  The candidates.

SIMMONS:  First of all, my effort to register voters is a nonpartisan effort.  I want whoever is in office to respect young people and kids with greater vision than the old people who have already messed things up. 

MATTHEWS:  How many people are for Kerry for president? 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

AL FRANKEN, COMEDIAN:  Let me ask you something.  Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” funny guy?  No, but you would want him to be president. 

MATTHEWS:  I have heard through the grapevine, through my producers who work with me, that you can do me. 

AFFLECK:  Not as well as Darrell Hammond, but:  All right, Ben Affleck, you‘re on the show.  What do you know?  You‘re an actor.  You are an idiot.  Tell us, what are you here for?  What have you got?  I‘m sitting with David Gergen on the staff with four presidents.  What do you know, why am I talking to you?  Go ahead answer. 

How is that?  Is that all right. 

MATTHEWS:  I think that was Howard Cosell, but nice try. 

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

MATTHEWS:  Was that me? 

We‘re looking forward to going to the Republican Convention in New York, because we want to find out what people think about this election.  There is so much interest.  And we‘re going to ask all the questions. 

Join us again Monday night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Our guests include hip-hop producer and political activist P. Diddy.

Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.

END   

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

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,