updated 8/6/2004 8:59:55 AM ET 2004-08-06T12:59:55

Guest: Gov. George Pataki, James Thompson, Jamie Gorelick, Jim Warren, Lynn Sweet, Jack Germond

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  A terror sting at a New York mosque.  The FBI arrests two men charged with trying to buy a shoulder-fired missile from an FBI informant posing as a terrorist.  Is al Qaeda operating inside this country?  And is the government moving fast enough to protect us?  New York governor George Pataki will be here, along with two 9/11 commissioners.  And a showdown in the heartland.  Candidates Bush and Kerry do battle in key swing states.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Two mosque leaders from Albany, New York, are in federal custody tonight, arrested in an alleged plot to buy a shoulder-fired missile.  Law enforcement officials say the suspects have ties to an al Qaeda-linked group, and court papers filed in the case allege that the missile was to be used to assassinate Pakistan‘s ambassador to the United Nations.

New York governor George Pataki joins us now.  Can you fill us in, Governor, on the nature of this case and why it‘s so important?

GOV. GEORGE PATAKI ®, NEW YORK:  Well, Chris, I think you just outlined it pretty well.  Here we have two individuals, who, if they‘re convicted—and I believe the charges are very serious—have helped illegally launder tens of thousands of dollars to someone they thought was a terrorist operative, so that he could purchase a shoulder-held missile to use against the Pakistani ambassador to the U.N.

This obviously raises—it‘s a crime to be aiding and helping terrorists.  And I‘m just very pleased that the officials, the federal government, the state government, the city government of Albany, all working together, have engaged in this operation for over a year now, and it‘s resulted in these arrests.

MATTHEWS:  Now, let me ask you about the nature of the—how they set it up.  Did the police know that someone was out there shopping for a shoulder-fired weapon to use in this situation?

PATAKI:  Well, I don‘t want to get into the details.  I‘ll leave that to the federal officials.  But they did have contact with these individuals.  The cooperating witness told them he was looking to bring into the country these shoulder-held missiles, as you said, to use against the Pakistani ambassador, and he mentioned a terrorist organization that he was working with.  And they agreed to provide him with the tens of thousands of dollars illegally laundered for that purpose.

MATTHEWS:  In other words, the guy, the agent who had designed this crime, in a sense, was the one who had come up with the idea that the purpose of the money they were going to get in the sting operation was to try to kill the Pakistani ambassador to the U.N.  It was his design.

PATAKI:  That‘s correct.  That‘s correct.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  So that what they did uncover was this financial underpinning of the terrorist networks in the world.  They did uncover people who were willing to pay lots of money to help terrorism against these people in United States.

PATAKI:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this whole problem of New York.  And of course, once again—you know it better than anybody.  Once again, the two great capitals of this country, the political capital here in Washington, the financial capital in New York, have been targeted, at least to the casing level.  People were casing information on the three institutions in New York, CitiCorp, of course, the New York Stock Exchange, the Prudential over in Jersey and then down here, the IMF and the World Bank, all targeted, apparently, for some sort of crime against all those buildings.

At the same time we got this information from the federal authorities, people like Mike Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, and Chuck Schumer, a senator from New York, were up there encouraging people to go to work at those facilities.  What does an average person do, confronted by a warning and an encouragement at the same time?

PATAKI:  Well, I think you do two things.  First of all, is you go about your normal lives.  You don‘t allow the terrorists to make us live in fear and make us change our lives.  You continue to go to work.

And in fact, one of the great things about New York, Chris, is Monday morning, the New York Stock Exchange had more people show up on the floor of the exchange than is normal for a Monday in August because New Yorkers are defiant, and we‘re not going to allow them to scare us into not going about our jobs or living our lives.

The second thing is we need to have community vigilance.  There are those out there who want to engage in further acts, and we need to have the information coming from every source—not just law enforcement, but community leaders and just concerned members of the public.  And you know, in many of these cases that have developed, it has been someone from the community who‘s just come forward and reported suspicious activity to the authorities, and we followed up.

So don‘t let them in any way alter our plans.  Go to the movies.  Go to the beaches.  Go to the restaurants and theaters in New York.  Certainly, go to work.  And send them a message that we‘re strong and we‘re not going to be cowed by mere threats.

MATTHEWS:  But the tricky part is—and this is so sad to even have to talk about it—but if people had received that kind of encouragement before the World Trade Center was attacked, they would have gone to work.  And should they have?

PATAKI:  Sure, they should have.  You know, obviously, in hindsight, we wish the buildings were empty when those attacks occurred.  But you cannot just give in to fear.

You know, I saw the strength of New Yorkers in the minutes and hours and days after September 11, and now, certainly, with threats—we‘re not going to be intimidated by threats.  We‘re going to be vigilant.  We‘re going to be proactive to go after those who would try to engage in further acts.  But we‘re going to go about our lives with the confidence and the belief in our freedoms that we‘re entitled to have as Americans.

MATTHEWS:  You know, we were just up—MSNBC, and I particularly was up there anchoring the coverage of the Democratic convention.  I got to tell you, it‘s a lot of fun.  It may be work for some people.  It‘s fun.  And everybody who goes to any political convention, as you know, has the time of their lives.  It‘s just so much fun.  And it‘s good work to do.  It‘s American democracy in action.

When we get to New York, however, it‘s a much bigger city than Boston.  It‘s much busier.  It‘s more ethnically diverse than any city in the world, probably.  What are your expectations about the dangers facing the delegates, the media, everyone else there?

PATAKI:  I think it‘s going to be the most exciting convention my party has ever had and one the most exciting that this country has ever seen.  And I‘m very optimistic about it.

You know, New York will always be a target, but there is more place that is more secure, that is more proactive, has a better police department and a better effort against those who would engage in further attacks than New York, working with the federal government.  And I‘m just extremely optimistic that everybody who comes—the delegates, the others who just want to enjoy it—are just going to have a tremendous time.  And there‘s no—as you said, there‘s no more exciting place to be than New York.  And I just hope that thousands of people not just come to the convention, but have the time of their lives because that‘s what I‘m fully expecting.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re going to introduce the president on Thursday night, which is an amazing opportunity, just like Max Cleland got to introduce John Kerry.

But let me ask you about the security thing again.  When you go to Madison Square Garden, especially if you go down those escalators coming down from—I forget the—what avenue it is in New York, you‘re going down the stairs, it seems like thousands of people go down the escalators to the trains and to the subways and everything.  So many people there on an average 5:00 o‘clock to 6:00 o‘clock period on an average weekday night.  How do you deal with that thunderous herd of people at the same time you‘re dealing with thousands and thousands of delegates and still keep it safe?

PATAKI:  Well, it is—it‘s 7th Avenue where those escalators are, and it‘s incredibly busy, but it‘s also very exciting.  And the answer to that is for the delegates, for the people going to work not to worry about that.  Leave it to the law enforcement professionals.

The city police department, working with the federal officials, have put in place comprehensive plans to deal with any threats, to deal with those who would try to engage in acts, and to try to keep people‘s routines, daily routines, as normal as possible.  Obviously, with the security concerns and the fact that the convention is going to be there, there are going to be changes.  But they‘re going to be minimized to the extent possible.

And just don‘t even worry about it.  You know, there are the best security professionals, the best police professionals anywhere in the world in New York, and they will do the job.  And you just go about your lives and have the time of your life.  And that‘s what I hope everybody does.

MATTHEWS:  Any chance you‘ll replace Cheney on the ticket?

PATAKI:  No.  The vice president is the vice president and I believe will be the vice president for four more years.

MATTHEWS:  Would you accept it if he stepped down for health reasons?

PATAKI:  It‘s not going to happen, Chris.  The vice president has been a tremendous asset to this country.  His experience and his intelligence and his leadership, I think, have been extremely important in the war against terror and in many other parts of this country‘s life.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I always thought you‘d be a better running mate and maybe even a better VP.  But it‘s nice to have you on the show, Governor George Pataki of New York state, the Empire State.

When we come back: Is the government doing enough to enact the recommendations of the 9/11 commission?  We‘ll be joined by 9/11 commissioners James Thompson and Jamie Gorelick.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  With new fears of terror attacks in the country, the 9/11 commissioners are fanning out across the country to tout their report.  I‘m joined right now by two of the commissioners, Jamie Gorelick, former deputy attorney general, and James Thompson, the famous former governor of Illinois.

Let me ask you, Governor Thompson, about this.  Remember that line from the “Ghostbusters,” “Who‘re you going to call?”  Under your proposed structure for intelligence in this country, who should the president call if he gets nervous about some country and what they might be up to?

JAMES THOMPSON, 9/11 COMMISSIONER:  I think he should be calling the new national director of intelligence, whose office and creation he‘s supported.  I think the president should be able to turn around and talk to one person and say, You‘re in charge.  You‘re responsible.  And the American people and the Congress and I want to know what‘s going on.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s a good principle of accountability in

political campaigns, Jamie.  They always say, Put one person in charge of

press.  If something goes wrong, we know who to yell at.  And it‘s a good

rule because that person—but how can you put one person in charge of all

intelligence-gathering in the world and in the country, when all they got -

·         they‘re calling up a lifeline?  They‘re calling up the CIA director. 

They‘re calling up the FBI director.  Wouldn‘t the president want to talk to the CIA director about what‘s happening in North Korea, rather than this new national intelligence director?

JAMIE GORELICK, 9/11 COMMISSIONER:  Well, there‘s nothing...

THOMPSON:  Well, look what happened...

MATTHEWS:  Let Jamie do this first, Governor.

MATTHEWS:  There‘s no obstacle to the president talking to anyone he wants.  But the principle of accountability doesn‘t just work in campaigns, you know, it works in business and it works in government.  And if you give one person, a national intelligence director, the purse strings, then the individuals who have different responsibilities across 15 agencies right now, they‘re going to sing the same tune and they‘re going to work together.

MATTHEWS:  But how can—Governor, how can a person who‘s working in the White House have his nose down to the country level?  How can he be close enough to the problem area if he‘s sitting in the White House, dealing with a vast bureaucracy underneath him?

THOMPSON:  We‘re not asking for the national intelligence director to direct every operation of every intelligence agency.  Obviously, the agencies who already exist have to go and do the operational work.  But the intelligence should be funneling up through the government and end up on his desk, so he can help coordinate what is the FBI doing, what is the CIA doing, does the FBI know what the CIA is doing?

Look at the Moussaoui case.  I mean, there is a sad example.  Good FBI work in Minneapolis, arresting Moussaoui, an Arab-speaking guy who‘s trying to learn how to fly an airplane.  That report can‘t get past second base in the FBI, but it goes all the way up to the head of the CIA.  He reads it under a headlines that said, “Terrorist tries to learn how to fly.”  Does he pick up the phone and call the head of the FBI?  No.

MATTHEWS:  And you know, George Tenet, the morning of 9/11, was aware that it may well be that guy.  In fact, he said it at breakfast that morning.

Let‘s go to today‘s case.  We‘ve got a guy picked up in Pakistan who has on him a tape that shows...

THOMPSON:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... let me go to Jamie first—has a tape that shows a casing operation of these five financial institutions, from the Stock Exchange in New York to the World Bank down here in Washington.  How would that case have been expedited or been handled more conclusively, more effectively, under your new structure, having a national intelligence director in the White House?

GORELICK:  Well, you need to make sure that the hand-offs occur.  What we saw pre-9/11 is that the CIA had actually picked up two of the leaders of the hijacking team that hurt us so badly on 9/11, but they didn‘t do the hand-off well within the CIA, and they did it not at all to the FBI, so that these people were not followed into the United States.  And those are the sorts of hand-offs that have to happen seamlessly.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what‘s being done now, Governor?  Right now, when you watch this case unfold, where everybody was put on alert at those five financial institutions, the CitiCorp, you know, the Stock Exchange, the World Bank, the IMF, World Bank, all put on full alert this weekend that this is a target of terrorism, potentially, based up on evidence that was created back maybe before 9/11 itself and then updated this January—then we have other information coming in that al Qaeda is active in terms of starting some sort of attack owes.  How would that be better handled under your proposed system than it is being now?

THOMPSON:  Well, it‘s obviously, I think, being handled well now.  But this is only one incident, and it‘s so high-profile that the whole world is watching.  It‘s not only the president and the FBI, the CIA, but most importantly, state and local law enforcement who are providing the security around these institutions.  But high-profile stuff like this doesn‘t always happen.  We need an office to make sure that every lead comes up the pipeline to the top and responsibility can be assigned to the operating agencies.  And we don‘t have that now.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask Jamie about how much clout you guys have.  You‘re out in the country selling this thing.  You‘ve got Lee Hamilton, the Democratic top guy, the No. 2 guy, you got Tom Kean, the former governor of New Jersey, very respected, bipartisan-type people—in fact, nonpartisan types, as far as this is concerned.  They‘re sending out the signal, I think—Tom Kean is—that this is going to be an election issue, whether the president acts on the proposals of the commission.  Is this a threat, that if he doesn‘t do what you guys want him to do, you‘re going to campaign against him?

GORELICK:  I don‘t know if you listened to Jim Thompson, who‘s as good a Republican as you can find and my wonderful colleague on the commission, when we announced the roll-out of our report.  He said, Look, we have put forward proposals that are well thought out, we think, that are fair, and that emanate from the facts that we found.  We try to address the problems that we found.  We don‘t own a lock on wisdom.  But if you have a better idea, put it forward.  If you don‘t, act on this.

We all feel this way.  This is not a partisan issue.

MATTHEWS:  But the president said he wants half the loaf.  He said, Sure, I‘ll creating a national intelligence director.  Sure, I‘ll create a counterterrorism center.  But I‘m not creating a new cabinet post.  I‘m not putting anybody in the White House.  That‘s not what you guys want him to do.  So he‘s saying, I‘ll do half.  Are you satisfied that‘s enough?

GORELICK:  The president has to know that he can‘t create a weak...

MATTHEWS:  Well, he doesn‘t...

GORELICK:  ... national intelligence director.

MATTHEWS:  You say he has to.  Now, what kind of a locution is that? 

What do you mean, he has to know?  He says he disagrees with you guys.

GORELICK:  I am confident that that‘s where we‘ll end up and that we will have his support.

MATTHEWS:  You mean that thing he‘s done now, the half a loaf, is a bargaining position, he‘ll end up taking it all.

GORELICK:  I can‘t ascribe motives, and maybe Jim can, but I think...

MATTHEWS:  This is HARDBALL, Governor!

GORELICK:  I can tell you...

MATTHEWS:  Is the president of the United States going to buckle to the commission, the 9/11 commission, and do what you folks, you bipartisan folks have asked him to do?  Is he going to give you half a loaf and you‘re going to say that‘s enough, or where is this going to end up before the election?

THOMPSON:  You know, you ask questions just like Bob Kerrey does.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPSON:  Slow down for a second.  Slow down and think about it.  The president of the United States...

MATTHEWS:  I have.

THOMPSON:  ... is in office, OK?

MATTHEWS:  Right.

THOMPSON:  And he‘s got the responsibility for all of this.  So he has to proceed in a measured way.  Let‘s see what the hearings in front of the intelligence committees and the armed services committees of the House and Senate produce.  There are going to be 60 versions of this that will ultimately have to be reconciled.  I wouldn‘t want the president to rush right into anybody‘s recommendation, including my own.  He‘s in office.  He‘s got to be responsible.  He‘s got to move in a measured way, and I think he‘s moving in a measured way.

MATTHEWS:  But if he goes in a measured way, he never reaches the goal.  I mean, the problem is the goal you guys have set—all of you unanimously—is he needs to have somebody with budgetary control—in other words, real bureaucratic control—over the whole array of intelligence agencies, or this thing isn‘t going to work.  And he says, Well, I‘m not going to do that.  Isn‘t that a central disagreement?

THOMPSON:  No.  Yes.  At the moment, we may disagree, but the Congress has yet to be heard from.  People who head the current agencies are yet to be heard from.  The CIA, for example, is saying, Wait a second.  We‘re right in the midst of this war on terrorism, let‘s be cautious here.  So the president‘s got to take all these viewpoints into consideration.  Bush is not a dogmatic guy.  He‘s changed his position before.  And I think he‘s waiting to hear what the country and what the Congress has to say.

MATTHEWS:  Is this like a striptease, he does it slowly for greater effect, Jamie?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, why—if he sees the truth of what you guys are selling, which is you need a centralized command, he would have bought it by now.  Why does he need to be sold more by the Congress?  They have their own constitutional responsibilities.

GORELICK:  Look, I can‘t get inside...

THOMPSON:  Because they...

GORELICK:  I can‘t get inside his head or his deliberations.  All I know is we have spoken very clearly with one voice, and we say this person needs to have strength.  And we cannot have a weak national intelligence director.  It‘s worse than nothing.

MATTHEWS:  Well, so far, Kerry‘s come down completely on your side, the president half-way on your side.  It‘ll be interesting if they meet somewhere at the three-quarter mark.  More with the 9/11 commissioners.  We‘re talking about how to make our country stronger against terrorism.

Jim Thompson, the former governor of Illinois, Jamie Gorelick, the former deputy attorney general, both will be joining us to talk about the current crisis now affecting these big financial targets.  Ahead, Democratic senatorial candidate Barack Obama may get some competition from former presidential candidate Alan Keyes.  A look at the Illinois Senate race, if there is one, later.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with 9/11 commissioners Jim Thompson and Jamie Gorelick.

Governor Thompson, it is such a tricky business for the president and for Tom Ridge, the homeland security boss, to try to announce a very tricky situation.  What‘s the right way for the president and his homeland security boss, or his national intelligence director, if that becomes a new post, to tell the country that we have five targets here, these financial institutions like the World Bank and the Stock Exchange, without scaring the hell out of people?

THOMPSON:  Well, to begin with, they should scare the hell out of people because it was, you know, inattention and the absolute ignorance of the American people at September 11 and before that was in part responsible for what happened that day.  Terrorism wasn‘t an issue in the 2000 presidential campaign.  Nobody was talking about it.

I think the right way is exactly what the president did last week, to bring in local law enforcement, like Commissioner Kelly in New York, to bring in the mayors, and to say, Hey, this is what we know.  If he hadn‘t done that, imagine the uproar.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  I know what you‘re going to say.  Go ahead, Governor.  I‘m sorry.  I know what you‘re going to say.  What if they hadn‘t—if they hadn‘t told us and there was an explosion?

THOMPSON:  Right.  And something happened.

MATTHEWS:  But what about when Mike Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, says—rings the bell at the Stock Exchange, says, Come on in, it‘s safe to come in here.  And Chuck Schumer‘s out there in the streets in front of CitiCorp or somewhere, saying, Come to work today.  Two different messages.  Be scared you‘re going to get blown to bits, possibly, and come to work. 

What are people supposed to do, Jamie?

GORELICK:  You know, Chris, I‘m getting this question, and I‘m sure Jim is, in these outreach efforts we‘re making around the country.  People are really confused, and it‘s very hard to get your mind around both.  I think that the challenge for Tom Ridge and for the government as a whole is to use the precious currency they have of the trust of the American people to be meticulously honest and transparent, to the extent that they can consistent with our safety, and so people know and can begin to calibrate how to react to their own because if they lose that trust, then people are going to ignore the warnings.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

GORELICK:  And that would be terrible.

MATTHEWS:  Well said.  Thank you very much, Jamie Gorelick and Governor Jim Thompson, both of the 9/11 commission, campaigning in the country for truth and justice and warning us we‘d better get our act together.

Up next, we‘ll get an update from the battleground state of Ohio.  Plus, the latest on that Illinois Senate race—what a strange race—which could pit State Senator Barack Obama against former presidential candidate Alan Keyes.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on HARDBALL, President Bush and John Kerry crisscross the Midwest looking for votes in key battleground states.  We‘ll get the latest on the race.  Plus, veteran political columnist Jack Germond is going to be here.

But, first, the latest headlines. 

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL, 89 days left until the election. 

Let‘s get the facts.  President Bush and Senator Kerry are campaigning in key Midwestern states.  Kerry is in Missouri and the president is in Michigan and Ohio.  By the way, no Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio. 

HARDBALL election correspondent David Shuster joins us now from the Ohio State Fair in Columbus—David.

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC ELECTION CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, that‘s right. 

We‘re here on the midway at the Ohio State Fair.  And people we‘ve been talking to today are actually quite proud of the huge role that they‘re going to be playing in this election.  The race in the Buckeye State is awfully tight, and that means the battle here will only intensify. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER (voice-over):  As Air Force One flew over Columbus today, down below on the fairgrounds, voters are getting used to the political twists and turns.  And by the rides...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think he‘s a joke in the office.

SHUSTER:  ... and even by the goat show, passions are running deep. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I like how he—you know, he went over there and did what he had to do. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Bush has got get on the bandwagon and get going. 

I think he‘s waiting a little bit.  But he‘ll get there. 

SHUSTER:  At the puppet theater, they sell Republican-like elephants, but not Democratic donkeys. 

(on camera):  So, donkeys don‘t sell, but elephants will? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One of our bestsellers. 

SHUSTER (voice-over):  Still, both campaigns have a presence here to reach out to the undecideds. 

(on camera):  If you had an opportunity to ask John Kerry anything, what would it be? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I would ask him what he was going to do for our country economically. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There‘s a lot of the schools here in Columbus that are getting budget cuts, and what happens to the kids when they—for school?  Where are they going to get money for education? 

SHUSTER (voice-over):  Looking for a gift from Russia?  The Bush-Cheney booth is next door. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Bush, when are we going to get out of Iraq?  That‘s my question.  I‘d like to get out as soon as possible.  What do you think, sir? 

SHUSTER:  Iraq does seem to be on a lot of Buckeye minds. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I am a Republican, but with the war and everything going around, and we‘ve got our young boys going over there, and I‘ve noticed that death toll, the kids are like 25 and younger. 

SHUSTER:  Other voters cannot stand the Democrats on social issues. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Being a fairly strong conservative and a Christian, some of the—the gay issue, the gay marriage issue, hits home with me. 

SHUSTER:  Out on the midway, some voters who can stomach the fries and flowering onions, said the presidential campaign has already made them sick.  One said the pig race is far cleaner.  And, again, the decisions here at the fair are probably much easier. 

(on camera):  Now, what‘s scarier, the ring of fire, George Bush, or John Kerry? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The ring of fire. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The ring of fire.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER:  Ah, yes, the ring of fire in a state that will produce a blaze of glory for whichever candidate can win this state. 

And, Chris, one of the most interesting things about walking around

and talking to people today is how few undecideds you find, some people who

say they‘re not really that interested, they‘re not going to vote.  But to

actually try and find people who aren‘t really sure, very few here in Ohio

·         Chris.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, David Shuster, at the Ohio State Warren.

I‘m joined right now by Jim Warren, deputy managing editor of “The Chicago Tribune,” and Lynn Sweet.  She‘s the Washington bureau chief for “The Chicago Sun-Times” and just finished a John F. Kennedy fellowship at Harvard, at the Institute of Politics. 

Congratulations.  My wife is going to do the same thing.

LYNN SWEET, “THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES”:  Great.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 

Let‘s go, Jim.  Let‘s talk about this.  You first, Jim.

Why are these candidates, the president and Senator Kerry, actually crisscrossing in states like Iowa now?  Why the focus on just a couple of states? 

JIM WARREN, DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  And probably going to meet at the pig race in Ohio, I think. 

(LAUGHTER)

WARREN:  Isn‘t that a rich metaphor? 

Because I think there‘s a set of assumptions, which may be totally wrong, a set of assumptions that it‘s an absolute deadlock.  There may be a few people in each state they‘ve got to go after, and they will intensely focus on them.  I think that conceivably is methodologically errant and wrong.  I think this may be a lot more fluid.  And I think it could tilt one way or the other much more dramatically than anybody imagines. 

MATTHEWS:  If a country votes like 52-48, sort of a typical election year, if there is such a thing, four-point spread, something like that, does it matter where you campaign, really, or does the water line determine how these states go? 

SWEET:  Well, I think the issue—we have to shift the discussion a little bit from the undecideds, the five or six people who still think they need more information out there.  What this is really about is turning out the base in these close states, Chris.  And that‘s a little different. 

MATTHEWS:  Now?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You can get caught in November by the media and a county fair in August? 

SWEET:  It‘s laying the groundwork.  It‘s getting some kind of organization there. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SWEET:  And these are states that are flooded with ads, that are flooded with all kinds of phone-calling, all the telemarketing that‘s going on. 

And there is a reason why both of these candidates are going so close to each other, because not only is this where the greatest number of undecideds are, though, again, I just think, for people who are still on the fence, I don‘t know what more they want to know.  But it‘s—then, the second part is, these are also places where the campaigns have identified that they have work to do to shore up the base, whatever they perceive as their base vote. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SWEET:  And that‘s a little different than just playing persuasion.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this big race out in Illinois.  You‘ve got this very attractive candidate.  And a lot of people who watched the convention last week really liked this guy, Barack Obama.  His father is Kenyan.  His mother is from Kansas and born American.  Is that good that he deserves to run without an opponent?  That seems to me what is going on now.

WARREN:  No, it‘s absolutely astonishing when you think of what we‘re trying to bring to Iraq.  Here we have a situation where the Republican Party in Illinois—for those who don‘t realize it, the Republican Party in Illinois really ruled for the last 30 years.  And they‘ve imploded largely because of a scandal involving a recent governor, George Ryan. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

WARREN:  The Democrats now control everything. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Tell me about that scandal, the guy who his wife said in a divorce papers that he liked to take her to sex clubs and wanted her to perform in public or something.

WARREN:  Well, the scandal involved the governor, who is now out of power and has been indicted.  That‘s real important. 

(CROSSTALK)

WARREN:  But the reason the Republicans are scurrying around is because a very attractive candidate who could have self-financed his campaign, which I think was a real lure to the Republicans, has taken himself out, leaving the field, at this moment, open to a very solid, distinctly liberal, pragmatic legislator from the south side of Chicago, with also a Kennedy—I should say, Harvard roots, but someone who is anti-death penalty, anti-NAFTA, anti-war in Iraq, but because of a very engaging personality, I think, has somewhat effectively papered over what could be positions and ideology which an effective moderate Republican, I think, could exploit. 

SWEET:  But what‘s interesting in Illinois and why this is a national story is, No. 1, yes, you have a new person on the scene.  And everyone‘s always hungry when there‘s someone who looks new and promising coming up. 

And then you have this wild situation where you have a big state of more than seven million people.  You can‘t find one reasonable Republican who lives in the state who wants to run. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  They were talking about Mike Ditka? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He turned it down.  There were talking about Cindy Crawford at one point.  She showed up on a list. 

SWEET:  Well, now, that wasn‘t serious.

MATTHEWS:  What was that all about?

SWEET:  But they were serious about Mike Ditka.  Bring back the coach. 

Gary Fencik, another great Bears player.  I think if they had more time they would have gone through the Cubs and the Sox rosters, too. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So Barack Obama is going to be a senator from Illinois. 

That‘s a pretty safe bet.

(CROSSTALK)

SWEET:  Alan Keyes is expected on Sunday, just to bring everybody up to speed, to—who lives in Maryland, who is a very—who is a two-time presidential candidate.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So all the Republican who blasted Hillary for shopping for a Senate seat in New York will now support Alan Keyes going from Maryland to Illinois to run. 

SWEET:  Oh, but they say it‘s different, Chris.  Would you like to hear what they say? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SWEET:  Here‘s why it‘s different.  Because Hillary—the Democrats say it‘s different because Hillary really moved in months before an election. 

MATTHEWS:  All right.  Count the days.

(CROSSTALK)

WARREN:  It‘s a fool‘s errand.  I do hope he runs, but I‘m a journalist.  It would be great. 

(CROSSTALK)

WARRENS  It would be wonderful to see if Obama were willing to debate Alan Keyes, who is quite an effective debater.  But Illinois ain‘t the state. 

The Republicans there like moderates.  The party has now sort of been hijacked by a conservative wing, which is real interested in Alan Keyes. 

How big an ego does he have?  He may take it.  As history also suggests, if

there‘s a way he can figure out how to make money out of running

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re talking about Alan Keyes. 

WARREN:  Alan Keyes.

(CROSSTALK)

WARREN:  He took a salary when he ran for Maryland in a disastrous campaign. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know what I like?  Five years ago, five years from now, a liberal African-American guy, same credentials, would have gotten blown away.  This year, he‘s unbeatable.  I love the way things change.

Anyway, thank you, Jim Warren and Lynn Sweet. 

Up next, we‘ll get a report on a state once considered safe for President Bush, Colorado.  Bush still has the edge, but not by much.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, battleground Colorado, a red state John Kerry wants to turn blue.  What will it take to win?

HARDBALL back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Time now for our weekly look at America‘s battleground states.  Colorado was once considered safe for President Bush.  He won there handily in 2000.  But recent polls show the race tightening out in Colorado. 

MSNBC‘s Chris Jansing joins us now from Denver with more—Chris.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hi, Chris. 

Of all the states where candidates are spending time and money, Colorado may be the most shocking.  After all, George Bush won here by almost 9 percent back in 2000, and Republicans have a big registration advantage.  But over the last couple of months, the polls have been narrowing.  There are some fascinating races besides the presidency that may lead to record turnout.  All of this adds up to battleground Colorado. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JANSING (voice-over):  On a beautiful summer night in Colorado Springs, the AAA farm club for the Colorado Rockies paints a picture of Americana. 

The crack of the bat.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

JANSING:  The roar of the crowd. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You‘re a Republican in the making, aren‘t you?

(LAUGHTER)

JANSING:  And a Bush-Cheney 2004 booth. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Voted for him last time.  We‘ll vote for him this time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Right. 

JANSING:  This is the new world of Colorado politics.  Republicans are used to advantages here, 180,000 more registered voters than the Democrats, who come in third to unaffiliated and minor party voters. 

The governor and both U.S. senators are Republicans.  So why are Bush volunteers at baseball games? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One, two, three.  Bush!

CROWD:  Bush!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All right. 

JANSING:  And going door to door in Republican bastions like Colorado Springs. 

FLOYD CIRULI, POLLSTER:  When you start talking about walking precincts, you feel that you‘ve lost all your advantage on the big issues. 

JANSING (on camera):  It‘s that close?

CIRULI:  Right.  Exactly. 

JANSING (voice-over):  Key issue, the war.  It had been working to the president‘s advantage.  There‘s a strong military presence in Colorado.  But casualties and long stays for Guardsmen are weakening public support and energizing the opposition. 

STEVE HARO, KERRY-EDWARDS 2004:  The ground is going to sink two inches from all the efforts that are going to be going on in this state.  It‘s going to be terrific, and we will compete and we will win. 

JANSING:  Chris Gates leads the Democratic Party in Colorado. 

(on camera):  What makes the Kerry campaign think they can win here? 

CHRIS GATES, COLORADO DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN:  Well, I think that it‘s sort of the coming together of a lot of things.  It‘s really like the perfect storm. 

JANSING (voice-over):  Democratic exhibit No. 1, hot state elections that could increase Democratic turnout.  Hispanics, who tend to vote Democratic, are now 17 percent of the population.  And two-time Attorney General Ken Salazar is Hispanic and running for Senate. 

FEDERICO PENA, FORMER CLINTON CABINET MEMBER:  The point of that is that that has energized Democrats to get involved in his campaign and also the Latino vote in Colorado, which will come out to support Salazar, which is going to help Kerry. 

JANSING:  Democratic exhibit No. 2, money.  The Kerry campaign spent $1 million on ads here in a single month. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, KERRY-EDWARDS CAMPAIGN AD)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We are a country of the future.  We‘re a country of optimists.  We‘re the can-do people. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JANSING:  With the promise of more. 

And exhibit No. 3, a long shot, hometown roots. 

KERRY:  I was born, as some of you saw in the film, in Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Colorado. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

JANSING:  Kerry, on the campaign trail in Colorado and at the convention, talking about being born in Colorado, trying to blunt critics. 

SEN. BEN NIGHTHORSE CAMPBELL ®, COLORADO:  John Kerry, the biggest worry, I would think, is that he would be typecast as a Northeast liberal.  And I would imagine a lot of people compare his voting record to Senator Kennedy, which, it may be great for Massachusetts.  And I‘m not denying that.  But it doesn‘t sell well in the American West. 

JANSING:  Democrats will focus on strongholds like Boulder and Denver, where Kerry‘s environmental record will help.  Republicans have the advantage almost everywhere outside the cities.  And they have a tested weapon, the 96-hour plan to get their voters out in the last four days before the election. 

GOV. BILL OWENS ®, COLORADO:  We actually harangue and harass and hopefully whine and beg to get them the polls, because we know that...

JANSING (on camera):  Physically get them there if you need to.

OWENS:  Exactly.  We‘ll drive them to the polls. 

JANSING (voice-over):  So the mayor of Colorado Springs leads the door-knocking. 

LIONEL RIVERA, MAYOR, COLORADO SPRINGS:  Even though we have more registered Republicans in Colorado than Democrats...

JANSING (on camera):  Quite a few more.

RIVERA:  Yes.  If you don‘t get them to the polls, we‘re not going to win. 

JANSING:  And at the ballpark, Republicans keep their ground game going. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Would you like a Bush-Cheney bumper sticker.

(on camera):  So where exactly is the presidential race in Colorado right now?  Well, as one local newspaper columnist put it, it is wildly unpredictable—Chris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Chris Jansing. 

Coming up, veteran political journalist Jack Germond will be here with his take on the race for the White House. 

And if you liked MSNBC‘s convention coverage, watch “After Hours” tonight at 9:00 Eastern with Joe Scarborough and Ron Reagan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Veteran journalist Jack Germond has covered American politics for over four decades, most recently with “The Baltimore Sun.”

Jack, the name of your new book, “Fat Man Fed Up,” a sequel to “Fat Man in the Middle Seat.”  Great writing, as always.  Fine writing.

The American political parties, Democrats and Republicans, about evenly matched right now.  Why was it that when my pal Ron Reagan, who works on this network, went on “The Tonight Show” the other night and Jay Leno said, “What party are you in?” and he said, neither, I‘m independent, why did the audience went wild? 

JACK GERMOND, AUTHOR, “FAT MAN FED UP”:  Because it gives people a warm feeling to think they‘re independent.  They‘re not slaves to some party.  They vote for the man rather than the party, all that stuff.

MATTHEWS:  Would that have worked during the Roosevelt administration or during the Ike years or Kennedy years?  Would people have been that thrilled not to be in a political party?

GERMOND: I think not.  I think the parties are a much worse—much worse odor than they were, even a few years ago. 

MATTHEWS:  What happened? 

GERMOND:  An awful lot of cynicism, people beating up politicians all the time. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it the ads on TV?  Is it the flackery? 

GERMOND:  It‘s the ads on television.  It is the sounds of the voices of—people like Rush Limbaugh make a living out of beating up politicians. 

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s just idea of being at all engaged in the process is bad.

GERMOND:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this terror alert.  Is the skepticism people feel towards politics broad enough now to include anything the president or anybody in the government says about a terror alert? 

GERMOND:  It‘s very close. 

This thing—I was surprised that they weren‘t more candid about it.  They come out there and they say, oh, we have got this terror alert.  Then we find out the material is all eight months or years old. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GERMOND:  And they say—well, now they told us after the fact, they say, well, we had something last Friday that validated it.  If they had did that in the first place, we would have felt a little more confident.  I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, because I‘ve known Tom Ridge a long time and I trust him.

MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s pretty straight. 

GERMOND:  Yes, but I don‘t—he also—he gave a little plug to...

MATTHEWS:  He gave a little ad for the president there. 

GERMOND:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GERMOND:  So they have got to prove themselves.

(CROSSTALK)

GERMOND:  Now we have these two guys in Albany now they have picked up. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, they picked them up today.

GERMOND:  Yes.  That was nothing. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the governor liked it. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the terror alert, about the conventions.  You‘ve just seen—how many conventions have you been to now?

GERMOND:  It‘s been 20-some, 22 or 23. 

MATTHEWS:  What did you think of this one? 

GERMOND:  I thought it was a drag. 

MATTHEWS:  It was a drag.  What about the speech by John Kerry?

GERMOND:  Well, Kerry‘s speech had to do a couple of things.  It did them.

It showed the strength you have to show.  And it also showed—he gave people a little insight into his personality.  You have to have a comfort zone before you vote for somebody. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Do you think he warmed us up? 

GERMOND:  A little bit.  I think so. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the speed?  Everybody said he went too fast.  I think it worked, but a lot of people say, oh, he raced through it to beat the clock for the hour the networks were going to give him. 

GERMOND:  Oh, I don‘t think that‘s the case, no.  I thought it was fine.

It wasn‘t any barn-burner.  You‘re not going to elected on a single speech.  Nobody does.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think this ticket is as strong as it could be?  Would they have been better putting Bob Graham on the ticket and strengthen their national security claim? 

GERMOND:  No. 

I think this ticket they had to take Chris.  I‘ve never seen this

quite like this.  This really bubbled up from the bottom, because the guy -

·         Edwards went out there and he ran a positive campaign.  And not only that, he was smart enough to make clear to people he was running a positive campaign.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, he said it. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You were in the rooms with him out there, like Iowa, places like that.  He was wowing those rooms. 

GERMOND:  Yes, he‘s very good.  Hew‘s very good.

MATTHEWS:  And you were saying to me—we were over talking in the green room.  You said it was the music.

(LAUGHTER)

GERMOND:  Well, it helped, yes.  Yes.  He‘s the guy who provides the pizzazz, the sizzle for this steak.

MATTHEWS:  Can he warm up Kerry enough to win the thing? 

GERMOND:  I think Kerry can win the thing because people don‘t want George Bush anymore. 

MATTHEWS:  Is that percolating near 50 percent yet, do you think, or still around the mid-‘40s? 

GERMOND:  No, I think—I think—I think Bush is a real underdog. 

The real question is, can Bush scare people enough to get elected? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GERMOND:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I was reading the David McCullough book about Truman, reading that incredibly intense whistle-stop campaign, 11, 15 speeches a day.  Dewey didn‘t say anything in that race.  Do you think Kerry runs that risk of just not taking a position on anything, on the war especially? 

GERMOND:  Well, he can‘t say the thing that the far left would want. 

He can‘t say, we‘ll just pull out.  He can‘t do that.

MATTHEWS:  Can he say it was a blunder? 

GERMOND:  Yes, he can say it was blunder. 

MATTHEWS:  He won‘t. 

GERMOND:  I know it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why not? 

GERMOND:  Because he‘s afraid it will hurt him. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, because he wants some of the hawks to vote for him, too.

GERMOND:  Well, he wants not to be seen running around—the other thing is, if he says that now, it will revive the flip-flop. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You mean he voted for the authorization the first time. 

GERMOND:  Yes.  Anybody in Congress votes on both sides of bills all the time. 

MATTHEWS:  This is what you said in your book: “So the impetus among both Democrats and Republicans has been to hide any differences under displays of patriotism and party fervor.”

Well, that was a damn well—that was a preview of what we saw in Boston, patriotism and party fervor, but no substance. 

(CROSSTALK)

GERMOND:  Yes, that‘s absolutely right.

And the public seems to get—the public will accept it.  That doesn‘t mean they‘re going to vote. 

MATTHEWS:  What did you think?  Maybe you hadn‘t read it before I talked to you about it before we went on, but that platform plank that said people of good will can disagree about whether we should have gone to Iraq.  Now, what kind of party platform, a plank is that on the war, to say, we don‘t care which way you go on it, we want your vote? 

GERMOND:  That‘s what I call easy to take, easily readable, I call that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not exactly a ‘68 convention fight, is it?

GERMOND:  No, there‘s no fight at all. 

In fact, you‘ve never seen the Democratic Party as far from—I mean, as undivided.  And that‘s because of the intensity of the feeling against Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GERMOND:  They really want to get rid of him. 

MATTHEWS:  But the polls show that people are more interested in this race by a factor of two than they were in races like the Dukakis race, that they‘re way ahead in terms of—this is August, just the beginning of August.  It feels more like late September to me almost, or mid-September.

GERMOND:  That‘s because they have settled on a nominee so early. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GERMOND:  It really was back in February or so. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the difference between Dems and Republicans.  In your book—were you lighthearted when you said in the book that Democrats are just not as funny as Republicans, they don‘t have a sense of humor, whereas the guys like Limbaugh are really funny, and John Kenneth Galbraith doesn‘t exactly have a sense of humor? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Did you pick him out because he was an easy mark or what? 

GERMOND:  He was an easy mark.

No, I wasn‘t saying generally Democrats weren‘t funny.  I was saying that Democratic far left, those guys are—people like that can very—

And I says the guys.  They aren‘t necessarily men—can be awfully stuffy and smug and self-righteous. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GERMOND:  And I agree with them—I agree with them on issues, but I can‘t stand to be around them.  And I must say, Limbaugh, I can‘t stand Limbaugh.  I think he‘s an egregious fat head, but, once in a while, he‘s funny. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You have raised an issue.  Back when I was a Capitol cop,

about 35 years ago, a patronage cop, which I was always proud to be, the

guys that worked in the Capitol would also say, the liberals were stiff up

·         they high-hatted everybody that worked up there in a blue-collar job.

And the conservatives, who you would think would be the toughest on people, were the nicest to people.  What is that about?  Except Bobby Kennedy.  They said he‘s the only liberal that was nice to anybody that wasn‘t important. 

GERMOND:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Is that too general? 

GERMOND:  Yes, that‘s too general.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was nice to people who weren‘t important.  I know a lot of liberals who are nice to people.  But it‘s one of those things, if the shoe fits, wear it. 

MATTHEWS:  You still won‘t cross a picket line, will you? 

GERMOND:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  Good for you.

Jack Germond.  It‘s got to be like a series here, like, I don‘t know, “James Bond.”  This time, it‘s “Fat Men Fed Up.”  A great writer.  He seems gruff.  He writes fine.  Thank you for being on the show.

Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Our guests include Ben Stein and Bobby Kennedy.  What a duo.

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

END   

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