updated 8/3/2004 9:48:43 AM ET 2004-08-03T13:48:43

Guest: Chuck Todd, Frances Townsend, Sean “P. Diddy” Comb

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Once again, the threat of terror grips the country.  Again, the twin targets, New York and Washington.  The president confirms that al Qaeda has some of this country‘s most powerful financial centers in its crosshairs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We are a nation in danger.  We‘re doing everything we can in our power to confront the danger.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Plus: How will al Qaeda threats affect the race for the presidency?  Tonight, from one of those target cities, Washington, the politics of terror.  Should the Democrats fear fear itself?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews, here at the Washington harbor (ph), at the Sequoia Restaurant in Washington, D.C.

“Alarming information” is how the Bush administration characterized intelligence that al Qaeda operatives were casing the biggest financial targets in the U.S. for possible attacks even before the attacks of 9/11.

Let‘s go right now to Chuck Todd of the Washington—of the national political “Hotline.”  You know, it‘s a strange time because when you hear these reports like this Sunday, yesterday, from Secretary Ridge, Homeland Security Secretary Ridge, and from the president himself, there‘s always the buzz of, What‘s the timing about?  Why this?  Why now?  Why Sunday?  Is that something that‘s going on in American politics now, suspicion of every report from the government?

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, “THE HOTLINE”:  Well, Howard Dean was the first one to jump on that.  He said it yesterday on a Sunday show.  And he may have been the wrong messenger for that for Democrats to get that out because the Republicans easily are able to just sort of stomp on it.  Then they had Joe Lieberman saying, Oh, no, they wouldn‘t do that.  John Kerry even said, Oh—they can‘t imagine anybody doing that.  So it‘s not the best person to have be bringing up that—those conspiracy theories.  But these conspiracy theories about these terror alerts on the Democratic side have been around for a while.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know the old Roosevelt expression, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” during the Great Depression.  I wonder if that is almost true right now, that the very fear itself could be driving up the Republican vote, intentionally or not.  People are saying, Oh, my God.  I‘m scared.  I‘d better vote for the president.

TODD:  I‘ve seen in it focus groups, people saying they‘re unhappy with this presidency, unhappy with the direction of the country.  You ask them what happens if there‘s an attack on this country?  They said, Rally around the president.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s try to check in with our young group of people.  As you can see, fairly obviously...

(CHEERS)

MATTHEWS:  This being the nation‘s capital, and also its political capital, there are a young people here who are very interested in this presidential campaign.  So I want to ask you all—let‘s go to the Kerry people first.  Were you worried this morning coming into work, to your jobs?  Yes or no.  Let me hear you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No!

MATTHEWS:  No.  No.  No.  Were the Bush people worried coming in to work?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No!

MATTHEWS:  Well, you all live—we‘re about, what, a 15-minute walk from the World Bank and the IMF.  It‘s close enough that if it blew up, we‘d feel it here.  Why aren‘t you afraid, if there‘s a warning?  Has anybody got a thought about what—if there is a warning and you‘re warned not—basically—in other words, you‘re warned—how many times do I have to say it?  You‘re warned that these buildings might be targets of terror attacks, and yet no one seems to be worried about it.  Isn‘t that a disconnect problem?  Anybody want to venture an opinion about that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  You, sir.  You, sir.  What is...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  There‘s so much security, you think...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  So everybody thinks—they think they‘re being well protected.  Everybody—is there a partisan—how many Democrats here for Kerry think we‘re being well protected?  How many Republicans think we‘re being well protected?

(CHEERS)

MATTHEWS:  OK, how many—how many Kerry people here in Washington, D.C., young kids, young adults—how many of you are—believe that you‘re not being well protected and why?  Does anybody want to venture?  In other words, if there‘s a warning and you‘re not afraid, then how can you not feel that you‘re well protected?  There is a disconnect in your thinking.  If you‘re not being well protected, you should be worried.  Why aren‘t you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, actually, I am a little bit worried because when we get these warnings, they don‘t tell us anything that we can actually do about it.  That‘s why we (UNINTELLIGIBLE) They haven‘t given us any action...

MATTHEWS:  So you don‘t have a plan B.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, there‘s—what can I do?

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s a good point.

Let‘s go right now—we‘re going to go to Frances Townsend.  She‘s assistant to the president, homeland security adviser to the president.  Frances, thanks for joining us.

FRANCES TOWNSEND, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  You know, this is a big—tell us what—these are young adults working in Washington.  Some are with Kerry.  Some are with the president‘s campaign.  They‘re a pretty clean-cut-looking group of people.  They don‘t look too scary or too scared.  Let me ask you, what should they do when they get up in the morning or they go to bed with a warning from the president himself—Washington, D.C., the IMF, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank just within a short walk of here, as you know.  It‘s near the White House.  What should they do?

TOWNSEND:  Well, look, it‘s not that all of Washington, D.C., is on—has been raised to an orange alert.  It is the financial sector.  And we did that in a very focused, targeted way so that we wouldn‘t disrupt the entire city.  The fact is that we know—we have specific intelligence that those targets are of interest to al Qaeda.  And we hope that the people at those locations will pay particular attention to security and to their surroundings and people that they see in those buildings.

MATTHEWS:  But what does that mean?  If they see somebody looks of Middle Eastern descent?  I mean, what are they supposed to do—who looks like they‘re carrying a package.  I mean, what, literally, are they supposed to look for?  I don‘t want to be, you know, too brusque about this, but what can a regular person do without offending somebody that might be helpful to authorities?

TOWNSEND:  No, this isn‘t about just talking about Middle Eastern men.  The answer is, if you saw somebody taking pictures of the World Bank or the IMF, would that seem like a normal tourist attraction to you?  I don‘t think so.  And you‘d want to report that to the security officials.  If you saw somebody walking around the World Bank or the IMF building that didn‘t have an identity badge or didn‘t have a reason to be there, you‘d want to tell security officials.  It‘s that sort of alertness, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  But let me ask you this.  According to the report that came out yesterday, the casing part of this job is already done.

TOWNSEND:  No, it...

MATTHEWS:  It was done before 9/11.

TOWNSEND:  That‘s right.  But if you saw people trying to—walking in with backpacks, for example—remember what we learned in the Madrid bombing, with backpack bombs.  If you saw somebody walking around in a place they didn‘t belong, loitering, lingering, you‘d want to ask questions and you‘d want to report to it security.

MATTHEWS:  But you recognize the problem.  The World Bank is the most international institution in Washington.  People from every background, every ethnic group in the world are walking around, and a lot are probably carrying schoolbags or attache cases or whatever.  How do you know what to do?

TOWNSEND:  No.  Well, the answer is—you know, particularly at security screening points at places like the World Bank or the IMF, what we wanted to do is alert security official so they‘re doing a real good job at doing screening when people enter the buildings.

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s not that we should be afraid of particular individuals because of their ethnic look or whatever.  It‘s not that we should focus on people carrying particular baggage.  It‘s that we should be simply counting on the effectiveness of the people checking at those buildings.

TOWNSEND:  That‘s right.  We ought to be counting on the effectiveness of those people, and we ought to be helping them, to the extent we can.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Let‘s talk about some of these bigger targets.  Here in Washington, we have the World Bank.  I‘m sure a lot of people who live in this town walk past the World Bank a million time and don‘t know that it‘s the World Bank, first of all.  It‘s not like the Capitol building or the White House, that everybody recognizes.  Up in New York, you‘ve got the CitiCorp building.  You‘ve got the stock exchange.  Aren‘t those huge areas to cover?  It‘s not just people working in the buildings, it‘s people around them.  Aren‘t they also in danger?

TOWNSEND:  No.  That‘s absolutely right, which is why you go public with the specific information that you‘ve got.  You also hope that, you know, you will get—you will push the bad guys away from the target, and you will make another opportunity for to you intercept them.

MATTHEWS:  Should we go to work on a regular basis in this country when our building has been declared a target of al Qaeda?

TOWNSEND:  No.  We should absolutely to go work on a regular basis and go about our daily lives.  The fact of the matter is, that‘s the very thing al Qaeda would like to see you do.  They‘d like to see you not go to work.  They‘d like to disrupt our economy.  We refuse to bend to that.  We refuse to give them that.

MATTHEWS:  Well, we got a bunch of young folks here.  They‘re all working for both campaigns, both for Kerry and for Bush.  I don‘t see any Nader people around.

(CHEERS)

MATTHEWS:  Frances—well, let me—let me ask them.  You just heard Frances Townsend, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes!

MATTHEWS:  Do you have any more clarity now than you had before she started?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.

MATTHEWS:  Well, this is a problem of communication.  We‘ve got young adults here, and they really don‘t know what to do now.  So try again, if you could, Fran.  Tell these people what they and other people they know in Washington should do when they‘re confronted with a terrorist threat.

TOWNSEND:  The fact is...

MATTHEWS:  What should they do?

TOWNSEND:  Look, the answer is, what we want to do is, we don‘t want to disrupt people‘s daily lives.  We want people to go about their business.  We want them to enjoy Washington harbor and all of Washington.  The fact is, what we want them to do is to be alert and to help security officials to do their jobs better and more effectively.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s talk about your work at the White House.  The president‘s agreed to a couple pieces of the report of the 9/11 commission.  He‘s going to create a counterterrorism center.  He‘s also going to create an office of national intelligence director.  Will that national intelligence director be the person who briefs him, or what will that person‘s role be, as opposed to the role of the CIA director, traditionally?

TOWNSEND:  What the national intelligence director will do, will take what is currently the director of central intelligence‘s responsibilities to manage the whole community—that is, the 15 agencies that comprise the whole intelligence community.  The national director for intelligence will take responsibility for the management, the integration, the prioritization of work within that community and the integration of the budget.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what would—who would—if the president is nervous about something he reads the paper or gets a sort of hunch about something he developed during a day, and he wants to know what‘s going on, who would he call?

TOWNSEND:  The person who will be the primary intelligence adviser to the president will be this new national director of intelligence.

MATTHEWS:  But that person, if he says, What‘s going on with Pakistan?  What the hell are those people up to over there?  Are they building—are they pushing this nuclear piece?  If he calls that person, doesn‘t that person say, Well, let me get the other guy on the line?  Doesn‘t it create just one more level of layer?

TOWNSEND:  No.  In fact, Chris, to be honest with you, if he calls just one person in the intelligence community, he gets one person‘s answer.  The idea here is to get one person who can integrate the views of all 15 intelligence collectors.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s the challenge.  If I‘m a president of the United States, or I‘m anything like one, I would say, I hear there‘s a problem in Pakistan.  What‘s Musharraf up to?  Is he leaning away from us?  Is he playing games with us?  Who would you call?  Would you call the guy who‘s the new national intelligence director or the CIA director?

TOWNSEND:  The good news, if you‘re asking a question about Musharraf, you would hear what a strong ally he is in the war on terror, and you‘d get...

MATTHEWS:  No, no, no, no.  Who would...

TOWNSEND:  ... that answer from your national...

MATTHEWS:  ... you call to—who would he get that from, you?

TOWNSEND:  The national intelligence director.

MATTHEWS:  And how would he get it?  How would he be ready to respond?

TOWNSEND:  The fact is, he‘ll have the analytic resources and the staff to be able to pull that answer together for the president.

MATTHEWS:  But you know what I‘m getting at.  The president of the United States needs counselors.  He needs people around him, in the room with him, who he can talk to and trust their hunches.  How does he have a person whose hunch he can trust, if it‘s a her or a he, if that person has to get on the phone, I got a lifeline here.  I got to call up somebody over at Langley who‘s going to tell me right answer.  Isn‘t that a little odd?  He has to call another person to get the answer?

TOWNSEND:  If you want to—in your example, Chris, if you wanted the answer on Pakistan, you wouldn‘t just call the director of the CIA right now.  You‘d need the CIA, you‘d need the secretary of defense, you‘d need the secretary of state.  The fact of the matter is, the president now has one person to go look to to integrate the views of all those people and bring him an integrated picture.

MATTHEWS:  All right.  Oh, so—OK.  It sounds to me like the president has to send word in advance, I want to know some information about Pakistan.  I‘ll call you tonight at 10:00, because he can‘t get that instantaneously without a conference call, is what you‘re saying.

TOWNSEND:  Chris, that‘s not fair.  The fact is, the national intelligence director...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m trying to figure this out!

TOWNSEND:  No, but the national director will have the analytic resources to have the answer there at his fingertips.

MATTHEWS:  Even if—OK, that‘s the answer.  Thank you.  Thanks for that.  It‘s the person in charge, the person with the info, the person with the instinct is one person worldwide for the president of the United States.  Thank you very much, Frances Townsend.

When we come back, NBC News‘s David Gregory and Andrea Mitchell will be here to join us with more on the terrorist threat and the politics (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Washington harbor in D.C.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:   (UNINTELLIGIBLE) here at the Washington harbor.  We‘re along the Potomac River.  It‘s a beautiful view along here.

The president of the United States, of course, has given us something to think about.  He‘s created a national intelligence director, and he‘s also created a counterintelligence center.

We‘ve got joining us right now chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News Andrea Mitchell.  We‘ve also got the White House chief correspondent David Gregory.  And we‘ve also got Chuck Todd of the political “Hotline.”

Let me go to you, David.  What I was trying to get at with Fran Townsend, who‘s the president‘s assistant for national security (SIC), is the same problem you have with this great guy, Tom Ridge.  Everybody likes Tom Ridge.  But it seems to me if the president wants to go on—want to find out what‘s something going on with a criminal investigation of a spy or a criminal investigation of some saboteur or a terrorist, he won‘t call Tom Ridge.  He‘ll go right to the heart of it and call Ashcroft at Justice.  You‘ll always go one level deep, if you‘re a smart bureaucrat.  You put a guy up there or a woman up there in the White House or near the White House and say, You‘re going to be the over-boss, but that person‘s not going to know what‘s on in the FBI, what‘s really going in on DIA at the Defense Department.  How do you deal with this layering?

DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, two points.  One, when they created the Department of Homeland Security, the idea was that a terrorist attack occurs, he gets on the line and calls Tom Ridge, and he says, What‘s happening within our government?  How are we cooperating?  That‘s one person.

In this instance, let‘s say we‘re preparing to invade Iraq and we want to know the current status of his nuclear weapons program.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

GREGORY:  You call this national intelligence director, who can kind of balance some of the other advice that you‘re getting in the field from the CIA, from Defense Department intelligence agencies.  So that, in theory, it‘s one person who‘s got—really doesn‘t have a dog in the fight except to give a clean channel to the president of the United States.

The practical problem is, how do you get to that point where the president feels secure enough in that one person that he doesn‘t just call the CIA director?  The truth is, I think, in reality, there‘s going to be a lot of phone calls still made.  But the idea is that you got one person who puts it all together, so that the president doesn‘t to have worry that he‘s getting a biased opinion from one agency.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Well, I‘ve learned at my old age that advice comes with agenda.  And finding this person, male or female, that doesn‘t got a dog in the fight, as you put it, isn‘t a hard-line hawk or a dove or a—first of all, would it be somebody from Secretary Powell‘s office, his pal, or somebody from Dick Cheney‘s, the VP‘s office, who was more hawkish?  How would you know?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: 

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) couple of problems.  First, the 9/11 commission recommended that the person who has this new job hires everybody else in the intelligence community and has the budget control.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

MITCHELL:  That‘s not what George Bush opted for.  The 9/11 commission also recommended something that was really controversial, was that this would be in the office of the White House.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

MITCHELL:  And critics said that that would be too political.  So the president, listening to Dick Cheney and others—as David reported on “NIGHTLY NEWS” tonight, there were critics who didn‘t want this, critics quite close to him who felt this was not the right move, and George Bush did it anyway under a lot of political pressure.  So he opted to keep it out of the White House and not give this person budget authority.  So that raises the question, How much control, how much power will this person really have?

MATTHEWS:  And the president of the United States will give tremendous bureaucratic power to the people he trusts the most, the defense secretary, the secretary of state, the vice president.  It seems like they‘re going to have all the clout, David.

GREGORY:  Well, they are—they‘re still going to have the clout.  But look, you‘ve still got power players in the administration, within the White House, who have the president‘s ear.  But even one White House official said to me today, Look, this is, hopefully, an office that doesn‘t give undue weight to one point of view.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

GREGORY:  So if there‘s dissent within the government, they‘ll report it straight.  Maybe you get a less—a more unvarnished view of the intelligence.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s the most optimistic thing I‘ve heard in 24 hours.

We‘ll be right back with our panel in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, amidst all this revelry, the latest terror alert comes just 92 days before the presidential election, which is coming, as you can hear, as both campaigns are struggling—both campaigns, the Kerry and the Bush campaign, struggling to stay on top of a story that may be out of their hands.  “HARDBALL” election correspondent David Shuster join us now with the latest—David.

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL ELECTION CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, it was apparent today that the timing of this alert has had an impact on both campaigns, and apparent simply because of the way they scrambled and the fact that this issue does bring with it some tremendous political pressures.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over):  In the wake of the new threat alerts and with the 9/11 commission recommendations still hanging over his administration, the president announced today he is embracing a national intelligence czar and a counterterrorism center.

BUSH:  The new center will coordinate and monitor counterterrorism plans and activities of all government agencies and departments to insure effective joint action and that our efforts are unified in priority and purpose.

SHUSTER:  The decision means the president is overriding many of his top advisers, who worried about a new layer of bureaucracy.  But Mr. Bush said this was the best step for a nation that remains in danger.

BUSH:  The elevation of the threat level in New York and New Jersey and Washington, D.C., is a serious reminder, a solemn reminder of the threat we continue to face.

SHUSTER:  That new threat also forced the Kerry campaign to readjust.  Grand Rapids, Michigan, is not known for being a terrorism target, and this was supposed to be a day when Kerry focused on the economy.  Instead, he met with firefighters and accused the president of foot dragging.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  And here we are today, almost three years after September 11, we still don‘t have a national director of intelligence.

SHUSTER:  But Kerry‘s remarks came before the president‘s.  So an hour later, the Democratic nominee held an unscheduled news conference and asked President Bush to call Congress back from its recess to begin working on the changes.

KERRY:  We cannot afford reluctance in the protection of our country. 

We need leadership, we need to move forward, and we need to act now.

SHUSTER:  Homeland security has taken center stage in the presidential campaign, and both candidates have been highlighting their credentials, Kerry with references to his military service...

KERRY:  I will defend this nation as president, just as I defended it as a young man.

SHUSTER:  ... and President Bush with the reminders that he is the commander-in-chief.

BUSH:  Listen, my job is to take a look at what I think is right and to build on that which we‘ve already done.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER:  Well, what the news has done is force both campaigns to demonstrate their ability to change gears quickly.  And once again, terrorism is on center stage, and again it‘s an issue that could have a dramatic impact on this campaign and a dramatic impact that both campaigns say could cut both ways—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thanks, David.

Should the Democrats fear fear itself?  Is fear hurting the Democratic cause, Andrea?

MITCHELL:  Fear is hurting the Democratic cause because they—people will rally around the president, given this terror threat.  That‘s at least one analysis.

MATTHEWS:  Is the real skepticism out there just political skepticism?  Is there really—do the people really down in the world outside of this city, or even in this city, think that there might be games being played here?

GREGORY:  I think that there are people who are not normally for the administration who think there may be games being played.  I think there‘s fear generally, but I think that fear extends to...

MATTHEWS:  How about skepticism?

GREGORY:  Well, I think skepticism.  But I think where the fear is, even among undecided voters, perhaps, is of the administration and some of the things they‘ll do in the face of terror alerts.

MATTHEWS:  Is there a Michael Moore factor running in the country right now?

TODD:  I don‘t think so.  I think people—Democrats forget, people, particularly in the middle, believe their government.  They believe their president.  They may not agree with him, but they believe their president.

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s not a crying wolf situation?

TODD:  Well, that‘s what—the only thing they got to be careful of. 

How many times are they going to go up and down and up and down?  I guess they‘re lucky Washington and New York are not in battleground states.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I got to thank everybody.  Thank you, Chuck Todd. 

Thank you, Andrea Mitchell.  Thank you, David Gregory.

More with our panel when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half-hour, getting out the youth vote.  Music producer Sean “P. Diddy” Combs talks about reaching out to the hip-hop generation of voters. 

But, first, the latest headlines right now.

(NEWS BREAK)

CROWD:   Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry! 

Kerry! 

(CROSSTALK)

CROWD:  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!  

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re live from the Washington -

·         right behind me is the Potomac River at the Sequoia Restaurant, usually a big hangout on Thursday  and Friday night.  We‘re here on a Monday night with our panel, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell and Chuck Todd, the editor in chief of “The Hotline.”  And joining me now is MSNBC‘s Chris Jansing. 

But before we go to the professionals, let‘s go to the politically active.  They‘re all here. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  By the way, if you look out at in the distance, this is the most political spot in Washington.  There‘s the beautiful Potomac River.  But in the distance on the left is the Watergate Building, made infamous by the break-in at the Democratic National Committee in 1972. 

But to the right of it, there‘s Nixon‘s old rival, John F. Kennedy, and his center right there for the performing arts. 

(CHEERING)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s one of the great political spots in Washington.  We brought all these people out here tonight from both camps, I see, and they‘re well advertising themselves, Veterans For Bush, Kerry-Edwards, all integrated here.  And we have got more Bushies here and then we got more Kerry people. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  This is the middle of the campaign.  We‘re about three months before the actual election, not too early to ask about the big issue of security and terrorism. 

And I want to ask you all, as I get each one of you, first of all, do any of you people feel, despite the announcement of yesterday by the president and the homeland security secretary, Mr. Ridge, that this city could possibly be hit just a few blocks from here at the World Bank Building and the International Monetary Fund?  How many feel afraid of possibly being blown up? 

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Not with Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Not with Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Not with Bush.

MATTHEWS:  So you feel safe because of the president, the president.

(BOOING)

CROWD:  No!

MATTHEWS:  But do you people—my honest belief, that a group of people here are partisan enough not to be afraid because their president is in office and you‘re partisan to believe that you are in trouble because your guy isn‘t in charge. 

Answer the question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I feel safer knowing that John Kerry is going to be coming into office in November. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  What a...

(BOOING)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what we call spin. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what‘s called spin. 

Do you feel safer because President Bush is president? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Of course. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you feel unsafe if President Kerry were to be president? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, of course. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Why?  Why would you be scared?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Simply because my president is proactive and stable and secure and...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think going to Iraq makes us safer or it makes more people mad at us and therefore recruits more terrorists against us? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Much safer. 

MATTHEWS:  So President Mubarak... 

(BOOING)

MATTHEWS:  That cries out for a response. 

What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think, once Kerry...

MATTHEWS:  Are we—more enemies in the world, more potential terrorists? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  More enemies.  We‘ve ruined international relations across the globe. 

MATTHEWS:  How many people believe we have more Arab friends in the world for having gone to war with Iraq? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No way.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do we have more friends in the Arab world than we used to? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No!

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  We have more Arab friends?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Absolutely. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How many of you believe that?  How many of you believe—how many of you believe that we have more Arab friends, more friends in the world generally for having to go to war with Iraq?  It is an open question.  How many think we do?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I do.  Yes, absolutely. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No way.

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think so? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.  I...

MATTHEWS:  Do any Bush people think we don‘t have more friends because we went to war?  Is this the party line?  I know the party line?  Is that party line with you?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Does everybody have the party line?  Did you get it written out on the typewriter this morning or what? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We have nine million Afghanis who can now vote. 

And they‘re our friends of

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think—speaking of the Arab world, do you think the Arab world is more open to U.S. interests and influence than they were before the war? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s kind of a loaded question. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s a question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And it‘s impossible to answer that question in a couple of seconds. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t like the answer you‘ll be forced to give.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There are nine million Afghanis who can now vote. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There will be millions and millions of Iraqis who can vote in the next year that weren‘t able to do so before.  That‘s a very important fact. 

MATTHEWS:  And you think that will be better for our interests in the world?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  How does it help the United States?  How does it make us safer? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We formed solid allies that share the same values that we do. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let her speak.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That‘s the best foundation on which to build coalitions, absolutely. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Spread out democracy around the world.  You just spread out the message of democracy, the message of freedom around the world. 

MATTHEWS:  And that will help us alleviate the desire of young Arabs to kill themselves?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s really not about that. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what is it about, then? 

MATTHEWS:  The -- 9/11 was people who wanted to kill themselves to hurt us.  How do you stop that tendency? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, you‘re thinking about extremists. 

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re not thinking about the general populace. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And pretty much that‘s what you have got to get out there.  Once you got a message of freedom, you start educating people.  You start showing them populism and things like that.  And that‘s exactly what is going to happen. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well said. 

MATTHEWS:  Anybody want to say that again or disagree with that? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Terrorists can‘t thrive in a democracy.  And that‘s what we‘ve created in Iraq, because we‘re creating a democracy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Absolutely.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What we have created so far is a lot of mayhem.  What we need to do—we haven‘t done the hard work of creating a democracy yet.  That‘s what President Kerry will do.  He‘s not going to cut and run.  He‘s going to win the peace in Iraq.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  How many people—how many people for Kerry?  How many of the Kerry people here would like us not to cut and run, but to try to carry on the effort to create democracy in Iraq?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Absolutely!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s not a choice between coming home from Iraq and saying we made a mistake and staying there.  That‘s not the choice. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.  We need to finish the job that unfortunately this president took us into. 

MATTHEWS:  So what is the election about if you‘re both going to try to finish the job? 

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s about bringing America back to what it was, a country full of civil rights and peace and freedom. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And working on it every day.  No more presidential vacations. 

MATTHEWS:  Can you people get out of these chairs?  These people are smart.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  I know.  Great group.  Thank you.  Stick around.  You know your stuff, obviously.  I‘m not being condescending.  You do. 

OK, we‘ll be back with the pros and see if they do as well.  More HARDBALL coming back.

Thank you. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, what happened to the Kerry bounce?  We‘ll ask the panel why Kerry‘s poll numbers didn‘t jump after the convention and whether it matters—when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

The youth vote.  Well, in fact, that is the youth vote.  Listen to them.  This is the youth vote.  In the election cycle, they have a big role to play.  And both politicians and celebrities are pouring money and resources into getting these young people to the polls.

We asked HARDBALL special correspondent Ron Reagan to find out what young people think about the candidates and the issues that are important to them and to the celebrities trying get them to vote, also about how young people are getting involved. 

Here‘s the report from Ron Reagan. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m only 23 right now.  But, in a few years, I plan on having a family.  And I want everyone to be safe and I really want to enjoy life with them. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think everyone is really scared about graduating and getting jobs, especially like last year, when everything happened, and even this year coming up.  It‘s not really that good. 

RON REAGAN, NBC CONTRIBUTOR:  But a lot of people in your age group don‘t vote.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes. 

REAGAN:  They‘re the lowest percentage voting group in the country. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.  I would agree, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Because we‘re busy!

REAGAN:  What is that about?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think that there‘s probably a lot of cynicism.  I think there are people that don‘t believe that their vote actually counts. 

DAVID KING, HARVARD UNIVERSITY:  America‘s young people are growing up in homes in which their parents tend not to vote.  So the campaigns need to reach out to them and say, genuinely, you are important.  We‘re going to help you find out how to get involved in this democracy.  Democracy is not just for old people.  It is for the next generation as well.

REAGAN (voice-over):  Celebrities of all stripes are trying to reach the 18-to-30-year-old voting demographic.  From movie stars to singers to wrestlers, they‘re making the pitch that young people are to be taken seriously. 

CHRIS NOWINSKI, WWE SMACK DOWN YOUR VOTE:  I think the candidates to connect with this young demographic really need to be—treat young voters in a credible and respectable way.  I think they need to realize that we are not interested in what kind of underwear they wear.  We‘re not interested in what kind of computer they use.  That stuff keeps coming up.  That is not what is going to get young people to the polls. 

VANESSA CARLTON, SINGER/SONGWRITER:  I am here hoping that someone sees me, some 18-year-old kid or 20-year-old kid sees me and sees that this is an important issue for me to be here and it should be important for them to register and vote. 

SEAN “P. DIDDY” COMBS, VOTE OR DIE:  A lot of politicians, they don‘t understand why they can‘t motivate youth voters or minority voters.  Because they‘re not speaking their language.  They‘re not speaking to any of their issues. 

REAGAN:  So Citizen Change Vote or Die. 

COMBS:  Yes. 

REAGAN:  That‘s quite an ultimatum.  You‘re serious about this. 

(CROSSTALK)

COMBS:  It is dramatic.  This, the voting process, people have died for us to have the chance to vote, to have the right to vote.  And we need to treat it with that amount of respect.

And when you vote somebody into office, you‘re putting your life and the lives of your families in their hands.  So we have the outreach to make a lot of things cool and hot and relevant and sexy.  And we‘re going to make the voting process relevant and urgent to young people.

REAGAN:  What are the politics of the hip-hop world?  Is it very diverse or does it tend to be sort of monolithic, everybody is kind of on the same page?

COMBS:  You know, the beauty about the hip-hop world is that they just want honesty.  They want the truth.  We can handle whatever you give us.  Just tell us the truth. 

If things aren‘t going to get better for 10 years, tell us that.  We‘re going to make it.  Hip-hop culture is not just black.  It is whites living in poverty, Latinos, Asians.  Poverty now has no prejudice. 

REAGAN:  You‘ve been in touch with the Democratic Party.  Of course, here you are. 

COMBS:  Yes.  Yes. 

REAGAN:  Are you going to the Republican Convention? 

COMBS:  Yes.  I‘m going to the Republican Convention, too. 

REAGAN:  Have the two parties responded in different ways or... 

COMBS:  Yes.  Yes. 

I have had a meeting with Ed Gillespie, and he‘s been very supportive.  He‘s invited me there.  And, also, the Democratic Party has been very supportive.  I‘m not working with either party, strictly nonpartisan.  My focus is not even on Senator Kerry and President Bush.  It‘s really on young people and motivating them and energizing them, and also minorities, the forgotten ones.  Nobody deals with their issues and makes changes. 

REAGAN:  Now, are you selling these T-shirts? 

COMBS:  Yes.  Yes. 

And all the proceeds goes toward Citizen Change, which is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. 

REAGAN:  Yes.  Are you putting your own money into this as well? 

COMBS:  Yes.  I‘m definitely putting my money where my mouth is. 

REAGAN:  Yes. 

COMBS:  I‘m putting a lot, more than I expected.  This political thing is costing a lot of money. 

(LAUGHTER)

COMBS:  So I‘ve put more than I expected, my own money up. 

REAGAN:  What‘s your own voting record?  When was the last time you voted?

COMBS:  I‘m definitely from this community of disenfranchised voters.  The first time that I voted was in 2000.  And before then and since then, I‘ve educated myself more and understood the appreciation and the respect I should have for the voting process. 

REAGAN:  Yes. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  That was HARDBALL special correspondent Ron Reagan talking to P. Diddy Combs.

Let me ask you about this, Andrea, this—well, let‘s go—I‘m sorry.  We have to go to Chris. 

You‘ve just been out there.  You‘ve been out in the battleground states.  Does this celebrity kick do anything for anybody? 

CHRIS JANSING, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  It does some. 

I think that there are young people who never thought about voting

before who listen to P. Diddy, who listen to Ben Affleck, who listen to

people who

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  In other words, terrorism doesn‘t mean much to you, but if P. Diddy or Ben Affleck tell you to do it, you‘re going to do it. 

(CROSSTALK)

JANSING:  I don‘t know that terrorism—what surprised me going into the battleground states is that, exponentially, since January, it is a growing talking point on people in the streets.  They‘re worried about it.  There‘s a sense of unease. 

I go to rural Nevada and they say to me, you know what?  I don‘t think I‘m going to be hit, but I have got an aunt in New York or I have got an uncle in Washington or I just don‘t like the idea that they can get us again. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, what about the economics of this, Chris, on that same point?  You know, if you know your dad is out there looking for a job and he can‘t get more than $7 an hour, he‘s killing himself, that gets to the kitchen table.  That gets to the heart of the family. 

Are kids, young people this age, aware of the fact of the pressure on some of their families? 

JANSING:  They‘re coming out of college.  They‘re the ones who are going to mom and dad saying, can I have $20 and...

MATTHEWS:  They ain‘t got it.

JANSING:  And if mom and dad aren‘t working, they don‘t have the $20 anymore. 

MATTHEWS:  So they feel it. 

JANSING:  Absolutely.  Kids...

MATTHEWS:  The weird times. 

Andrea, this whole question of terrorism and the politics, do you think voters really—this year, we asked two different group of people.  The Dems said they‘re afraid because they have got the wrong president as president.  The Republicans here said, no problem.  We got the right president. 

They actually go to bed safe, these kids.  These kids go to bed worried.  It‘s hard to believe the politics is that invasive.  Do you think it is? 

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I think it is and I think that, for the undecided voters, this is becoming the key issue. 

Now, the one area where John Kerry seemed to pick up during his convention—he didn‘t get much of a bounce, but he did get more people viewing him as credible and more people supporting him strongly on the subject of terror, which was the big credibility gap that he had.  So that strength was really important.  And the other question is, why did George Bush do what he did today? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, why did he cut the loaf in half and say I‘m going to give you the counterterrorism center; I‘m going to give you the national intelligence director, but I‘m not giving you a Cabinet-level official in the White House?

MITCHELL:  He ignored the recommendations of Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld

and his acting CIA director in going as far as he did.  But he had

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They said don‘t do anything. 

MITCHELL:  He had to go somewhat...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MITCHELL:  ... because John Kerry had already embraced all the

recommendations.  And his bet is that people will not watch closely, that

the 9/11

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, they are watching. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Because, as you pointed out during the break, the 9/11 Commission has a lot of clout. 

Your review the news—you review the news for “The Hotline.”  Are people out there going to say, wait a minute; if it was good commission report, why are you giving half of it; why not go all the way? 

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “THE HOTLINE”:  I think the White House has misread the power of this 9/11 Commission a long time. 

MATTHEWS:  Because they‘re nonpartisan, first of all.

TODD:  They have a lot of credibility.  They have a lot of credibility with media outlets.  And I‘m not just talking about media outlets here, the editorial pages, the local news outlets. 

MATTHEWS:  And they‘re traveling.

TODD:  They‘re traveling.  They‘re stumping the country.  Doing the half a loaf could become a big P.R. problem. 

(CROSSTALK)

JANSING:  You go into an airport bookstore and people are buying the 9/11 report. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t that interesting?  It‘s right out front.

TODD:  It sold out.  I couldn‘t get a copy.

MITCHELL:  And I go to people and I say to them, why are you buying it?  And I‘m surprised at the number of people who are undecided.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Remember the “Ghostbusters”?  Who are you going to call?  Who are you going to call?  They‘re going to the commission, not to the president. 

MITCHELL:  The leaders of the commission today did not criticize what the president did.  I think he can finesse this half a loaf.  I really do.  I think he will at least be viewed as having embraced the essential recommendations of this report.

TODD:  It depends on who he appoints.  TODD:  It depends on who he appoints.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It used to be, if you said the word economy, it helped you with the Democrats.  If you said the word budget, it helped you with the Republicans, because they used to be seen as clearly more fiscally responsible.  Today, it‘s a little more mixed, obviously.

When you say the word terrorism, it seems to me, it always helps President Bush.  When you say Iraq, it‘s a mixed bag.  Is it just lingo? 

TODD:  It is a little lingo.  I think that, when you see these polls, you see terrorism up there and then you see war in Iraq.  The other thing is security. 

Security was the one I think is the mixed bag.  When people say Iraq, they‘re for the Democrats.  When people say terrorism, they‘re for the Republicans.  It‘s the security which is sort of the swing lingo I think in this whole...

MATTHEWS:  So security means all things to all people. 

TODD:  All things to all people.  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  So it doesn‘t hurt one—what about the terror alerts?  Bottom line before we end this segment, when people feel a terror alert, I mean, regular, nonpartisan people, not like these young people here, who get totally involved and head-shrunk about this whole thing, but regular people.  Do they think more conservative, more Republican and more right-wing when they‘re afraid? 

TODD:  Absolutely.  And they don‘t want to change.  They hate—they don‘t want to change presidents, because they think there‘s too much going on. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you smell that out there? 

JANSING:  A sense of unease.  That‘s the word

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do they like the horse they‘re on or they just want any horse they‘re on? 

(CROSSTALK)

JANSING:  Well, I‘ll tell you what it is.  There‘s a lot of people out there on the ground who are running these ground games.  And it makes them very nervous because they don‘t know, if something happens, how it is going to play.  That‘s the one thing they can‘t control.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, and people say, if it happens late—if you are thinking about horrors—if there‘s a horror story close to the election, it clearly helps the incumbent.  If there‘s a horror story early in October or September, lots of time to argue about whose fault it was.  Different reaction.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway coming up next, our political panel looks at all the new polls.  Boy, are they tricky, no big bounce out of Boston.  More about that and why it didn‘t happen and whether it matters at all.  I think it matters a lot.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  HARDBALL live from the Sequoia Restaurant in Georgetown, right on the Potomac River.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with our panel out on the Georgetown waterfront.

As I said, one of the great shots here is the Kennedy Center behind me and the Nixon—the Nixon renowned Watergate right next to it. 

You know, it seems like the polls are showing no bounce from the Democratic Convention.  A “Washington Post” showed it as among a six point among likely voters, a number that is about half the average.  I‘m sorry.  Six points, right.  “Newsweek” has got the smallest bounce in history.  And the CBS/NBC/AP, the “USA Today”/CNN/Gallup polls, both those polls show no bounce whatever.  So it is no bounce. 

Now, the Republicans did a brilliant job on this thing of setting up the Kerry campaign to try produce a 15-point bounce.  Who is right here?  Should there have been a 15-point bounce and they failed or is that just clever strategy to say so? 

TODD:  Clever strategy.  Matthew Dowd deserves a prize.  He did a great job writing that memorandum.  But the bounce came in March. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you proud of spin? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  God, it used to be people were proud of the truth.  Now they‘re just proud of spin. 

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  But there is a bounce.  It is on the handling—it is on the handling of different issues. 

The “Washington Post”/ABC poll, on the issue of handling terrorism, the last poll two weeks ago, Bush had an 18-point -- 18-point...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

TODD:  ... advantage on that over Kerry.  Now he has got a three-point advantage. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

TODD:  On the issue of being the commander in chief, who is better qualified to be commander in chief, Kerry now leads Bush.  That‘s a bounce. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Andrea, if what we‘re seeing here is true, that, on the issues, the Democrats are picking up strength, relative to the Republican, especially on security issues, as we call them, how come he is not picking up?  Is it a personality deficiency with Kerry? 

MITCHELL:  You don‘t have enough undecided voters.  Right now, it is so divided that you had a very small cohort of perhaps 10 percent to even appeal to for a bounce.  So we were talking the other night when we were back in Boston, you and I, that maybe he would get five points, which is within the margin of error. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  There‘s only so many people that are willing to bounce. 

MITCHELL:  But what they did achieve—and it is not spin—is what he Chuck was just talking about.  They improved his standing on those key issue of strength and commander in chief.  And they increased his margin of those who support him, supporting him strongly. 

Now they‘re just about dead-even, Bush on Kerry on their supporters being committed to their candidates. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you can argue now that Kerry is in good position if Bush does something wrong in October.  But he hasn‘t won the people over in terms of charm.  He has simply made himself credible as an alternative if they want an alternative, right?

MITCHELL:  And Bush has a great opportunity now with his convention coming up to really jump ahead. 

MATTHEWS:  I think they have got to start looking at the moderate suburban Republicans.

Chris, what do you see out there in terms of bounce or no bounce and why there wasn‘t one? 

JANSING:  Well, we‘re talking about the smallest number of true swing voters that we‘ve ever seen before.  If I go into a battleground state and I talk to a pollster, the top pollster in every state I go to, he‘ll say to me, 11 percent is what my poll says.  But I‘m telling you, it is really 7. 

MATTHEWS:  Undecided.

JANSING:  Because the 4 our percent really are leaning one way or another.  We‘re talking about the smallest group. 

I was in one of the battleground states and I said to the local guy who had been writing in the newspaper for 30 years, where are these swing voters?  And he said, it is three guys in a cul-de-sac down the street. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

Is anybody here undecided? 

Hah!  That‘s Washington. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, Andrea Mitchell, Chuck Todd and Chris Jansing. 

Stay tuned to MSNBC because, tonight at 9:00, we have a special edition of HARDBALL looking at the politics of terrorism.  Andrea Mitchell will be back. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  Pete Williams will be here to give us the latest on the terror threat.  We‘ll have some representatives of both campaigns.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway—and don‘t miss HARDBALL special correspondent Ronald Reagan on “The Tonight Show.”  Who‘s on?  Ron Reagan is on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” tonight.

So we‘ll see you back here in an hour following Keith, 9:00. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

END   

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