updated 8/11/2004 9:32:11 AM ET 2004-08-11T13:32:11

Guest: Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Rep. Ellen Tauscher, Steve McMahon, Rick Davis, Vaughn Ververs, Dana Priest

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight, reaction to the president‘s announcement he wants Congressman Goss of Florida as his new CIA director.  Is this the Bush administration‘s declaration of war on the CIA?  Plus, political science.  Will stem cell research be the issue the Democrats need to win the suburban vote?  And two for the road, more candidate kanoodling.  First Kerry-Edwards, now Bush-McCain.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  In the face of a heightened terrorist threat and on the heels of two critical reports on the intelligence community, President Bush nominated Congressman Porter Goss, a former CIA intelligence officer, to head the Central Intelligence Agency.  HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has more.


DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Facing pressure to fill a vacancy at the top of the CIA, the president stepped into the Rose Garden with Porter Goss, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, and described him as a reformer.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Porter Goss is a leader with strong experience in intelligence and the fight against terrorism.  He knows the CIA inside and out.

SHUSTER:  He‘s also somebody who is against making large-scale changes to the intelligence community.  And he has the rush to embrace an intelligence czar overseeing the CIA director could cause more harm than good.  It‘s a position at odds with the 9/11 commission and most Democrats, and it could make for a bruising confirmation battle, as Goss seemed to recognize this morning.


And I look forward to the challenges of the future.  I also look forward to the confirmation process with the Senate.  As a member right now on the Hill, I know the value of that and the importance of that.

SHUSTER:  Goss, age 65, does bring a unique background.  The Yale graduate served as a CIA case officer for nine years and worked in Miami during the Cuban missile crisis.  In the 1970s, health problems forced him out of the agency.  He then started a weekly newspaper in Florida, became Sanibel Island‘s first mayor, and in 1988, ran for Congress and won.  Since then, he has focused on veterans‘ issue, the environment and national security.

GOSS:  We did not vote against the community, and we did not short change the community in the global war on terrorism.

SHUSTER:  If confirmed, Porter Goss would be only the second member of Congress to serve as CIA director.  The first was the president‘s father, George Bush.

(on camera):  But Democrats, mindful of Goss‘s sharp criticism recently of John Kerry, say he is too political for the job.  And with the Democrats already hounding the Bush administration over its reluctance to embrace all of the 9/11 recommendations, Goss‘s confirmation hearing will be anything but routine.

I‘m David shuster for HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  Republican senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.  Senator Saxby, what do you think of this appointment?

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  Chris, I think it‘s a great appointment by the president.  Porter Goss, as you just heard, brings a very unique perspective with a background that‘s wide-ranging in the intelligence community.

And there‘s one thing that hasn‘t been pointed out that‘s critically important.  We‘re in the middle of a war.  The intelligence-gathering aspect is the most critical part of that war.  Porter Goss, because of his experience in the intelligence community, knows all the players around the world.  He can pick up the phone and call any one of the intelligence chiefs of our allies and say, This is Porter calling, and he‘ll have his phone call answered.  They have a trusting relationship.

And I think Porter‘s an excellent choice by the president.  It‘ll be difficult.  That‘s part of the debate process.  But at the end of the day, I‘m confident Porter will be confirmed.

MATTHEWS:  Does he need the trust of the other side politically in this country, the Democrats on Capitol Hill?

CHAMBLISS:  I think he does.  And I think Porter has earned their respect over the years.  Sure, he‘s an elected Republican official.  He‘s an advocate for his policies.  But he‘s done his advocating in a very respectful way.  And there are some who will be critical of him and try it politicize this, but I think that‘s wrong.  I think this is an opportunity for both sides to come together and do what‘s in the best interests of the intelligence community, thus what‘s in the best interests of the American people.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s the question, Senator, whether the president has done so in this case because I‘ve grown up with—as you have, with a very bipartisan, even nonpartisan approach to the CIA directorship.  You had—Ike had Alan Dulles, who was John Foster Dulles‘s brother.  But Alan Dulles was kept on by John F. Kennedy, who replaced him with a Republican.  George Tenet was appointed by Clinton.  He was held over by President Bush.  That bipartisanship seems to be gone now with Porter Goss, who‘s an out-and-out hawk on the war, a Bush supporter, a critic of John Kerry‘s policies.  I mean, how can you call him in any way consistent with the tradition of nonpartisanship?

CHAMBLISS:  Well, certainly, President Bush 41 was—I don‘t think you consider him nonpartisan, as such.  And he did an excellent job—

MATTHEWS:  Well, he went to Jimmy Carter—

CHAMBLISS:  --as the director of the CIA.

MATTHEWS:  No, but he—he was following in that tradition.  He went to Jimmy Carter in 1976 and asked to be kept on.  I mean, there was that tradition.  I mean, Carter didn‘t keep the tradition up, either, because he didn‘t keep him.  But there was a long-term tradition.

CHAMBLISS:  The fact of the matter is that everything in Washington right now is political.  I don‘t care who the president would have nominated, there would have been cries from the other side that it was a political appointment.  So you know, we have to take this in perspective if where we are in today‘s world and the election process.  And Chairman Goss knows and understands that this is an administration appointment.  He is responsible to the president.


CHAMBLISS:  He serves at the pleasure of the president.  And he‘s got to have the—give advice and consent to the president but follow the direction of the administration.

MATTHEWS:  If Kerry wins the election, is there any likelihood at all that he would keep on someone as partisan as Mr. Goss?

CHAMBLISS:  Well, that‘s something that—if that unfortunate thing should happen, we‘d have to deal with it.  But you know, we‘re at a critical juncture in the war on terrorism.  We need stability.  We need some leadership in place.  And while John McLaughlin‘s a great guy and a good friend and has been a great asset to the CIA, we need somebody that we know is going to be there for some period of time in a permanent capacity.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re absolute politically, Senator.  You must know that by making this appointment now, in mid-August, that the president will now face confirmation hearings between now and the election which will be opening up a can of worms about 9/11 and the lack of preparedness for that, in terms of the CIA‘s role.  It‘ll bring up—open up another can of worms with regard to the bad intel, you could argue, with regard to the Iraq war, about weapons of mass destruction that haven‘t been found yet.

Is this an opportune time?  I know you say there‘s an urgency to get a DCI in place, but doesn‘t this give an opportunity to the other side, Jay Rockefeller, the ranking member on your committee, to just raise hell between now and election day?

CHAMBLISS:  Unfortunately, Chris, the scenario you just laid out‘s going to be followed anyway because we‘re going to have the hearings and debate on the 9/11 commission recommendations.  And we should.  And I think that all ought to be a part of the confirmation process of Chairman Goss.  And let‘s lay it out.  Let‘s find out what his ideas really are.  And let‘s find out what he thinks about reforms, for example.  I think I know, and I think he‘s willing to be very reasonable.  And at the end of the day, I think there are going to be a number of Republicans who are going to recognize that we‘ve got to make wholesale changes.


CHAMBLISS:  Now, that‘s not being partisan, but it‘s a way that we can join together in a bipartisan way to make those major changes.

MATTHEWS:  Does Porter Goss know that he will possibly, if there is reform, report to someone higher in the intelligence committee, a national intelligence director?

CHAMBLISS:  I haven‘t asked him about that, obviously, but he‘s got to realize that the role of the director of the CIA is going to change.  We‘re going to have a director of national intelligence.  The exact role of that person will dictate what the role of the director of the CIA is.  Now, I think the president was very careful today.  Depending on what the outcome of these reforms are, it may be that this position evolves into the director of national intelligence.  I don‘t know the answer to that, but I think it gives us the opportunity to debate this, and Congress in a bipartisan way can make that decision, along with the administration.  And it may be that the director of the CIA evolves into the director of national intelligence.

MATTHEWS:  You mean he may end up being the top guy.

CHAMBLISS:  Yeah.  He may be the top guy.  I mean, there will always be two positions, but at this point in time, he may evolve into the top person.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, great.  Thanks for having—thanks for having you on—I mean, thank you for coming on, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia—


CHAMBLISS:  Always good to be with you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  --Senate Intelligence Committee.

When we come back, Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher—she‘s a Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee—reacts to the nomination of Porter Goss as CIA director.  Plus, “The Washington Post‘s“ Dana Priest on what to expect from the Goss confirmation hearings.  And by the way, I want to know what she thinks the agency people are going to think of this guy.  And later, HARDBALL‘s “Ad Watch“ team rates the latest bunch of campaign commercials.  You‘ll get to see them all free.  We get to run them through everybody.  You‘ll know all the ads by the end of the night, the end of this show.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher of California is a Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.  Congresswoman, what did you make of the decision by the president to appoint Porter Goss the new CIA director?

REP. ELLEN TAUSCHER (D-CA), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE:  I was surprised.  I was surprised it was today, when all the Democrats came back to work on some 9/11 commission hearings.  But you know, I think the president has the right to make the nomination.  You know, this is a very turbulent time for the CIA, and it‘s a country under threat.  So it‘s important that we go through hearing process and the confirmation process in the Senate.  And we‘ll see how it all turns out.

MATTHEWS:  What advantages are there in picking a new director when the proposition on the table is whether to create a new national intelligence director on top of the CIA director?  Isn‘t that the more important post?

TAUSCHER:  Yeah.  I‘m afraid that this is a little bit about getting the wrong job nominated today.  I would have much preferred if the president had come out with a very strong, nonpartisan, highly integrity person for the national intelligence director.  And you know, we have a good deputy right now in the CIA, and I think it‘s important that we take a little bit of the politics out of things and really concentrate on following the 9/11 commission report and doing the things that we can to implement that, while we have the window open to do it.

MATTHEWS:  Well, the 9/11 commission report calls for a cabinet-level national intelligence director posted inside the White House.  This looks like a long way from that.

TAUSCHER:  Well, not only is it a long way from that, but the president has only got it about half right in his agreement to create a national intelligence director.  What he wants to do is a little bit like his first idea for Tom Ridge, which was to be an adviser and not confirmed by the Senate, have no budget authority, and frankly, feckless.  I can remember, we used to have—Senator Joe Lieberman and I used to have “Give Tom Ridge a real job“ kind of press conferences.  And finally, the White House agreed to create a Department of Homeland Security.

What the White House needs to concentrate on is getting this right, and they‘ve already wasted too much time only getting it half right.  We need someone that‘s appointed by the president, confirmed by the Senate, but has cabinet-level status and real budget authority, so that they‘re not running around trying to borrow a seat on an airplane or borrow three or four people.  They need to have real accountability because we also need to have someone we can hold responsible, and we haven‘t had that so far.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, though, we‘ve all watched this battle between the bureaucracy of the CIA or the White House hawks, the vice president‘s hawks, the Defense Department hawks.  They‘re always trying to do battle with the people inside the CIA.  Is the appointment of Porter Goss, the congressman, really an attempt by the White House to get control of the CIA, to basically put a lid on it, so that it‘s—that it really commands the culture and structure of that organization?

TAUSCHER:  You know, I think that we have so many good people in the CIA, and they‘ve been without George Tenet now for about a month.  But John McLaughlin, who is the deputy, is a very good man.  I think that they‘re moving forward.

But I think that the key thing for us to do is to look at these 9/11 commission recommendations and be unambiguous and be strong about moving as quickly as possible before the entrenched bureaucracy tries to figure out how to unwind what we want to do and acts.  And that‘s, unfortunately, not what the White House did today.  Unfortunately, the White House did something else that may be important to them, but I don‘t think that this is—what they‘re doing, nominating Porter Goss, is the most important thing.  It‘s getting a national intelligence director, getting someone that can get on board very quickly, someone that can put these reforms in and begin to work against the bureaucracy both in the Pentagon and in the CIA and the other intelligence agencies because they just basically want to keep the status quo.

MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman, I got to ask you about another hot issue today.  The president‘s wife was out yesterday and called for, basically, a lack of optimism.  She said we better be very—somewhat pessimistic about the chances of using stem cell research to try to solve diseases like Alzheimer‘s and Parkinson‘s and diabetes.  What did you think was the political impact of her making kind of a pessimistic claim that we shouldn‘t expect too much of this research?

TAUSCHER:  Well, look, I think Mrs. Bush is a great mom and, obviously, a great wife.  And I think that she is someone who is beloved by the American people, as most first ladies are.  But I will tell you that I think she stepped far afield from her normal background.  I think she‘s a very well educated person.  I leave this to the scientists, and the science is pretty strong on this.

We can move forward on stem cell research.  We should do it.  There‘s a lot of promise out there for lots of different people with many different diseases.  And I think that we need to be cautious, obviously, and we need to be smart about these investments, and we have to be monitoring them very closely.  But I think that this is something that is better left to the scientists, and I think the scientists are for it.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Mrs. Bush was misused by the White House handlers and sent out there, basically, as almost a suicide bomber to take the heat for a very difficult position?

TAUSCHER:  Look, you know, she‘s allowed to speak her mind, as every other American is.  And whether she was speaking of her own position or whether she was actually reading off the notes from the White House, I can‘t tell you.  But I tell you this.  I think she‘s a nice lady.  I think that she‘s a strong person.  And I think that she‘s been a great mom.  And I think that that‘s really all I have to say about that.


TAUSCHER:  I think we need to leave this to the scientists.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher of California.

When we come back, “The Washington Post‘s” Dana Priest on the politics behind Porter Goss‘s nomination.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  “The Washington Post‘s” Dana Priest is an authority on the intelligence community.  She‘s also an MSNBC military and intelligence analyst.

Dana, how many cans of worms will this open, this appointment of Porter Goss?


ANALYST:  Oh, many, many.  A whole cupboard full, in fact.  The Democrats are lukewarm on it.  They‘re not opposing it.  And in fact, Senator Graham, who led the Senate Intelligence Committee, is supporting it very enthusiastically.  However, there are some other very powerful senators, Democrats—Levin, Rockefeller and others—who are saying the real question here is not Porter Goss, but it‘s what he will make of reform and what the administration really wants out of reform, and that‘s the real issue, so we‘re going to focus on that.

MATTHEWS:  What about his partisanship, the fact that he‘s an active politician, the fact that, you know, if you go back to—all the way back to World War II at the OSS, with Wild Bill Bill Donavan and Alan Dulles after that, there was a long tradition of nonpartisanship in this post?  Is that gone?

PRIEST:  No, not necessarily.  George Bush I was also a politician, and he was the director.  The problem with Porter Goss, though, is he really—

MATTHEWS:  Yeah, but I just want—


MATTHEWS:  Just to make a point—George Bush, Sr., tried to stay on with Jimmy Carter.  I mean, he thought of it as a nonpartisan post.

PRIEST:  Right.  Well, and Porter Goss might be able to stay on with John Kerry, if Kerry were to be elected.  And the reason is that for many years, Goss worked quietly in a bipartisan manner.  It‘s only really in the last six months that he‘s become overtly partisan.  And he‘s always been the one that said, Now, we shouldn‘t work in a polarized way, and yet he has become a polarized figure.

You remember the Senate inquiry on Iraq produced this very scathing, detailed report on the agency, the FBI‘s failures in Iraq, in particular.  The House committee that he chairs and that was supposed to do the same sort of report is become a completely dysfunctional committee under his leadership.  And one of the reasons is that he and Jane Harman, the vice chair, can no longer get along, and he just threw up his hands and decided not to do a report at all.  So some people will make that into the fact that he has become very partisan.

He‘s also been an attack dog against John Kerry recently, in a way that he had not before.  And especially since his name got floated as a potential nominee for this position, he seemed to become even more partisan.  And some people say he was trying to please the White House, and other people say he‘s trying to nix his own nomination because he really did make people angry.

MATTHEWS:  All during the build-up to the war and through the war with Iraq, and continuing, I assume, there‘s been a conflict between the bureaucrats, the people in the CIA, who didn‘t think there was a case for war, and those in the administration, especially the vice president‘s office and the Defense Department, who thought there was a clear-cut case for war.  Is that rift going to continue and grow, now that the administration‘s got their man as head of CIA?

PRIEST:  Well, Porter Goss never parted with the administration over this.  In fact, the—

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I mean.  They got a White House guy, basically, over there to seal the action on the other side and to shut down or to put the lid on the opposition to the president within the CIA now.

PRIEST:  Well, I don‘t think he‘ll necessarily—the opposition from the CIA has not been very loud on that issue lately.  They have been cringing over the sort of critique that they‘ve taken, and they‘ve fought back with George Tenet and McLaughlin saying he supports the changes that they‘ve already made.

What I think they‘re hoping for is someone who will come in—and actually, Porter Goss could do this—and be a constructive force for reform.  Goss has his own reform plan on the table.  It is not a paper tiger.  It actually is some reform.  It would take some power away from the Defense Department and give it to the CIA director.

Now, will he maintain that position and urge George Bush to do the same?  He also—his inquiry into 9/11, which was part of the Senate and House joint inquiry, made a lot of key recommendations that are being talked about today.  Will he back away from those, or will he use his position to push with the president, to push some of those major reforms?

MATTHEWS:  Jay Rockefeller does not want Porter Goss to be head of the CIA, to be DCI.  Won‘t he get a lot of under-the-table help in that regard from the agency?

PRIEST:  Oh, I don‘t really think necessarily.  I mean, they can only do so much because porter Goss‘s record is out there to see.  He is not like President Bush, like I talked about before.  His record on reform, his record on the the statements on the war before and after, those are all to be seen.  So he is what he is.  And as I said, he was seen as more bipartisan before, much more partisan now.  And what will he do with that?

Another thing that did he during the very first alerts that we had after 9/11--


PRIEST:  --is he was sort of a truth teller.  He said on the record, which many people would say not on the record, as a Republican, What are they doing?


PRIEST:  They‘re not making this clear.  They‘re making us scared.  Yes, it‘s a real threat.  We need to treat it seriously, but really, get your act together.  And so he gets respect for that, and he is clearly respected by many people in the agency.  Having been a case officer, they think he understands them.  And when did he criticize them, which he did a year-and-a-half ago, some people were taken—took offense at that, but he knew what he was talking about.  And he had some credibility that others don‘t have in that regard.

MATTHEWS:  Dana Priest.  Dana, I can‘t wait to read “The Post“ tomorrow.  Thank you very much, Dana Priest.

Up next, we‘ll dissect the latest campaign ads in the battle for the White House with Rick Davis and Steve McMahaon.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  This half hour on HARDBALL, ad watch.  Media strategists from both sides of the aisle rate the latest round of campaign ads in the battle for the White House.

And later, President Bush ridicules John Kerry over his stance on the war in Iraq.  But first, the latest headlines.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

With 84 days now to go until the presidential election, the ad wars are fierce.  The Kerry campaign has essentially stopped advertising this month, an advantage the Bush campaign was looking forward to.  But outside Democratic groups outspent the Bush-Cheney campaign by nearly twice as much in the first week of August.  We‘ll look at some of these ads with Republican Strategist Rick Davis and Democratic strategist—I love that word, strategist—Steve McMahon. 

Let take a look at the newest ad for the Bush-Cheney campaign. 


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m George W. Bush and I approved this message. 

One of the most important parts of a reform agenda is to encourage people to own something, own their own home, own their own business, own their own health care plan or own a piece of their retirement, reforms that trust the people, reforms that say government must stand on the side of people, because, I understand, if you own something, you have a vital stake in the future of America. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m for ownership. 


MATTHEWS:  What‘s the edge there, Rick? 


MATTHEWS:  I mean, where do the Democrats disagree with that? 

RICK DAVIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  No, I think it is actually something that George Bush wants.  And that is, he wants this mantle of reform.  It is not a coincidence that he‘s traveling with John McCain this week, when this ad airs. 


DAVIS:  Remember, I have got a reform agenda. 

When was the last time you heard that? 

MATTHEWS:  When he was running against John McCain. 

DAVIS:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

DAVIS:  And so I think that, look, you have got to have a plan for the future.  What is the future economically?  You are not going to talk about tax cuts.  You are not going to talk about reducing spending.  You have got to talk about what is in it for the voter.  The owner wants to own more things, want to own a home.  He wants to have a portable life insurance policy.

He wants to be able to be a vested interest that isn‘t part of the government.  And that‘s what this is all about. 

MATTHEWS:  I just wonder what programs are being debated that affect that. 

DAVIS:  Well, think about portability of health insurance. 

Right now, you go and get a job...

MATTHEWS:  OK, so this is a progressive.  This is forward-looking. 

DAVIS:  Sure, very forward-looking. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s interesting that it‘s not a bragging ad.  It‘s more of a promissory note. 

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  You know what he didn‘t mention... 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m serious.  It wasn‘t about, look what we did. 

DAVIS:  Right. 

MCMAHON:  Well, they can‘t talk about, look what we did.


MATTHEWS:  They can do that.

MCMAHON:  Because look what they did.


MATTHEWS:  Well, they won the battle of Afghanistan.  They got a tax cut through.


DAVIS:  ... is at historic levels.


MCMAHON:  That look liked a Fannie Mae ad to me.


MCMAHON:  We used to actually own something.  We used to actually own a prosperous future. 

But then George Bush put a mortgage on it.  So now our grandchildren will be paying for the rest of their lives and perhaps their grandchildren paying?  For what?  For a war in Iraq that we shouldn‘t have been in? 


MATTHEWS:  Can I ask you a question, before you go any further with these ads?  What bonehead would vote for a president based upon a TV ad? 


MATTHEWS:  After four years of Bush, don‘t you sort of decide, I like the guy or I don‘t like the guy, I trust him or I don‘t?  Oh, I just saw an ad.  I want to reconsider that guy.  Who is that person, Steve McMahon?


MATTHEWS:  Who would actually reconsider a presidential candidate after an ad?


MATTHEWS:  Like a Tyco ad.


MCMAHON:  I have to defend the profession.  Advertising is very effective.  It is the most effective way of talking to voters. 

But I will say this; $250 million or so has been spent so far actually chasing 8 or 8 percent of the population.  And they‘re notoriously late deciders.  And they are going to be late deciders.


MATTHEWS:  Aren‘t they sort of like the girls in high school that everybody couldn‘t catch? 


MATTHEWS:  They would stand on the street corners and tease guys.  But the bottom line is, they don‘t want to be caught. 

MCMAHON:  They break against the incumbent.

MATTHEWS:  When do they do this?  It is August. 


MCMAHON:  It could be October. 


MATTHEWS:  The could—they will wait until...

MCMAHON:  But, historically, just


MATTHEWS:  The election is the second day of November.


DAVIS:  You don‘t have as many undecided voters today as you normally do.  Where did they go?  They‘ve already broken part of the way. 


Let‘s look at the DNC ad.  I‘m talking about girls here.  I shouldn‘t be doing that.  Let‘s go to the DNC ad.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I defended this country as a young man.  And I will defend it as president.  We need a strong military and we need strong alliances.  And then we will be able to tell the terrorists, you will lose and we will win.  The future doesn‘t belong to fear.  It belongs to freedom. 

The Democratic National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertisement.


MATTHEWS:  Who made that ad, Leni Riefenstahl? 


MATTHEWS:  You know what I‘m talking about, a lot of flags.  But why do you want to advertise a convention that produced no bounce? 

MCMAHON:  Well, actually, you know what?  If you look at what was going on before the convention, Kerry had a lead in the internals on every domestic policy issue that there was, from education to health care to jobs to taxes, where Republicans normally have an advantage. 

That convention was all about addressing commander in chief.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  So he looked like a commander in chief. 

MCMAHON:  And the strength in the war against terrorism.  He looked like it.  And the polling data afterward indicates that the internals on those two dimensions moved dramatically. 


MATTHEWS:  Where did you score in the convention? 

MCMAHON:  He scored on commander in chief.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MCMAHON:  And he scored on who would be an effective combatant in the war against terrorism. 


MATTHEWS:  Why do you think that worked?  Why did that sort of flag display and very good speech, why did it work?

MCMAHON:  Because it made him look tough.  It make him look strong.

MATTHEWS:  Like a leader.

MCMAHON:  It made him look like he was going to stand up to the terrorists.  And it reminded people that he served and some people didn‘t.  And many of the people who are now criticizing didn‘t serve.  In fact, some of them maybe ran. 


DAVIS:  Well, you have got to remember, too, he‘s playing on our side of the table now. 

MATTHEWS:  Security.

DAVIS:  When he took the convention opportunity, he said, look, I‘m going to make it all about national security and terrorism.  Basically, what he said was, I‘m going to take the fight to what the base of the Republican Party is all about.  He‘s not going to get that base. 

Frankly, it‘s a nice effort to try and paint himself as something that he‘s not. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, suppose he gets a lot of women voters and a lot of poor people, a lot of people that are out of work and then he gets these people. 

DAVIS:  Well, he‘s not going to get those voters by talking about his strong military...


MCMAHON:  The evidence right now, though, does suggest that he‘s—in “The Washington Post” poll, he moved ahead of the president on commander in chief and gaining on terrorism. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s to the issue, because I think your party is now

·         rather, independent campaigns are very tough on your side.

Here‘s one put out by a group of veterans called Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, very anti-Kerry ad.  Let‘s see if it is effective.  It is about claiming that he lied about his service in Vietnam, very strong ad.


SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If you have any question about what John Kerry‘s made of.  Just spend three minutes with the men who served with him. 

AL FRENCH, ENSIGN, 2 BRONZE STARS:  I served with John Kerry


served with John Kerry. 

GEORGE ELLIOTT, LIEUTENANT COMMANDER, 2 BRONZE STARS:  John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam. 

FRENCH:  He is lying about his record. 


I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart because I treated him for that injury. 

VAN O‘DELL, GUNNERS MATE, 2ND CLASS:  John Kerry lied to get his Bronze Star.  I know.  I was there.  I saw what happened. 

JACK CHENOWETH, LIEUTENANT J.G., NAVY COMMENDATION MEDAL:  His account of what happened and what actually happened are the difference between night and day. 


John Kerry has not been honest. 

ADRIAN LONSDALE, COMMANDER, LEGION OF MERIT, BRONZE STAR:  And he lacks the capacity to lead. 

LARRY THURLOW, LIEUTENANT J.G., BRONZE STAR:  When the chips were down, you could not count on John Kerry.  ELDER:  Kerry is no war hero. 

GRANT HIBBARD, LIEUTENANT COMMANDER, 2 BRONZE STARS:  He betrayed all his shipmates.  He lied before the Senate. 

SHELTON WHITE, LIEUTENANT, 2 BRONZE STARS:  John Kerry betrayed the men and women he served with in Vietnam. 

JOE PONDER, GUNNER‘S MATE 3RD CLASS, PURPLE HEART:  He dishonored his country.  He most certainly did. 

BOB HILDRETH, LIEUTENANT, BRONZE STAR, PURPLE HEART:  I served with John Kerry.  John Kerry cannot be trusted. 

NARRATOR:  Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is responsible for the content of this advertisement. 


MATTHEWS:  Is that just a bunch of Republicans that are jealous of Kerry? 

MCMAHON:  Yes, it is. 


MCMAHON:  And it is people with bad—it is people with bad...

MATTHEWS:  He has got all his hair.  He‘s rich. 


MCMAHON:  It‘s people with bad memories and bad partisan


MATTHEWS:  I‘m just curious.  Can your party stand by the accuracy? 


MATTHEWS:  If those guys are telling the truth...

DAVIS:  You, can‘t stand by it.  This is the Willie Horton of 2004, because it does two things.  It puts an issue out there. 

MATTHEWS:  Willie Horton was a Shroud of Turin picture of an African-American guy which frightened people about a possible rapist getting out and getting their woman or whatever. 


MATTHEWS:  It was about the starkest, bloodiest ad you could put out in American politics.  But nobody in the Bush campaign ever said yank it. 


DAVIS:  No.  George Bush himself said, I think they ought to take this ad down.  Now, nobody in the campaign did. 

MCMAHON:  Did he say that out loud?


MATTHEWS:  I am a reporter.  I called the woman running the so-called American Security Council. 


MATTHEWS:  Which financed that ad.  And I said, did you ever get a call from Jim Baker or anybody in the Bush campaign saying take down that ad?  And she said no.

DAVIS:  Right. 


DAVIS:  But exactly the same parallel, exactly the same parallel. 


MCMAHON:  Has anybody at the Bush campaign


MCMAHON:  ... about this ad?

MATTHEWS:  Has anybody at the Bush


DAVIS:  No. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, by the way, if those guys are telling the truth, we ought to know it.  If they aren‘t telling the truth, the ads should be yanked, probably. 


DAVIS:  And that‘s up to the lawyers that who dealing with the stations.  Let the stations handle this.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m impressed when the doctor who says I treated him for his Purple Heart say he doesn‘t deserve it.  That impresses me.


DAVIS:  You‘re putting symbols out here that cut at the grain of what people are talking about, which is why it has this Willie Horton impact. 


DAVIS:  Here‘s a guy who has claimed to be a hero.  And he may be spinning that.


MATTHEWS:  And I think it is a fair target, though, because if a guy says he is a war hero and he is not Audie Murphy or anything like it, the other side should represent that fact, if it‘s true. 

DAVIS:  There is the back side of the speech at the convention.  If

you put your record on display


MATTHEWS:  Bottom line, before we go to commercial, how do we find out?  I guess print reporters are going to have to do it, and TV reporters.  We are going to have to go in there and find out what is the truth. 


MATTHEWS:  Because neither side is going to admit, hey, you‘re right. 

We should not have ran that ad. 

MCMAHON:  Start with this little bit of truth.  The person who treated

him, who says he treated him, the records don‘t indicate that he treated

him at all.  It was a different doctor.  The notion that anybody


MATTHEWS:  Is that for real? 

MCMAHON:  Yes, that‘s for real.

MATTHEWS:  You swear that to be true? 

MCMAHON:  Yes, I swear that to be true.


MATTHEWS:  Do you swear the whole truth? 


MCMAHON:  The notion that anybody associated with this president,

anybody supporting this president


MATTHEWS:  I‘ve never done this before.


DAVIS:  Here come the judge.

MATTHEWS:  Here come—no.  If that‘s true, then the ad is full of it. 


MCMAHON:  ... anybody would another to invite a comparison between John Kerry and a guy who didn‘t show up in Alabama for National Guard duty?


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s come back and talk about the ads.  I think we‘ve got a truth squad here.


MATTHEWS:  It‘s very impressive to sit next to you guys, because if you‘re telling the truth and he‘s backing you up, we‘re getting somewhere. 

We‘ll be back with Steve McMahon and Rick Davis.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, more ads from the Bush and Kerry campaigns. 

Then later, John McCain joins President Bush on the campaign trail.

HARDBALL back after this.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Democratic strategist Steve McMahon and Republican strategist Rick Davis.

Take a look at the latest ad from the Democratic National Committee. 


NARRATOR:  Millions of good jobs lost to plant closures and outsourcing.  Yet President Bush protects tax breaks favoring corporations that move their headquarters overseas.  America can do better.  John Kerry‘s plan, end job-killing tax loopholes and provide incentives to companies who create good jobs here, because John Kerry believes we should export American products, not American jobs. 

The Democratic National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertisement. 


MATTHEWS:  Rick, is there a tax break that encourages people to shift jobs overseas? 

DAVIS:  No, it is a total scam. 

And, frankly, what you have got to look at is


MCMAHON:  It gives them a tax break for moving jobs overseas.

DAVIS:  What is the difference between these guys?  Are we really saying that, in public policy, protectionism is going to protect American jobs and trade will kill American jobs?  Because that‘s—if that‘s the Kerry platform, that needs to be explained. 

MCMAHON:  Are we really, though, Rick, that flipping cheeseburgers is a substitute for making steel? 


MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s not exactly what he said.


MATTHEWS:  Steve, is there a tax law that encourages American businesses to shift jobs overseas? 

MCMAHON:  There‘s one that rewards American businesses if you do it.

MATTHEWS:  What does it do?

MCMAHON:  It basically enables you to write off and deduct the cost of keeping those jobs overseas in a way that exceeds what you can do by keeping them here in America. 

DAVIS:  I want John Kerry to identify the companies that have exported the job overseas by using this tax cut and claim that they‘re that good American companies. 


MATTHEWS:  The fact of the matter, what he has going for him is there are a lot of job moving overseas. 


MATTHEWS:  Here an ad from the Bush campaign that talks about terrorism and the economy. 


BUSH:  I‘m George W. Bush and I approved this message. 

NARRATOR:  The last few years have tested America in many ways.  But together, we‘re rising to the challenge, standing up against terrorism and working to grow our economy.  What gives us optimism and hope?  Freedom, faith, families, and sacrifice.  President Bush, moving America forward. 


MATTHEWS:  I would argue the Democrats have more kids than Republicans. 


MATTHEWS:  Just making some ethnic assumptions here. 


DAVIS:  Now, that is a broad-based attack.

MATTHEWS:  I know it.  I think I‘m right.  But why do you guys have the argument that you have kids and families and Democrats don‘t? 

DAVIS:  First of all, it is not about having kids and families.  It is what are you doing for the kids and families? 



DAVIS:  And this is the point the administration is making.  We‘re a family-friendly administration.  And this is an ad that is targeted toward the base of our party, faith, family.  These are important symbolism to encourage turnout.

MATTHEWS:  Are the Democrats against faith?  Are the Democrats against faith?


DAVIS:  Oh, I think the Democrats have been against faith in the past. 

MATTHEWS:  How so?

DAVIS:  I think that one of the reasons you‘ve seen them


MCMAHON:  Because we don‘t want to post the Ten Commandments in the courthouse? 

DAVIS:  Well, they don‘t want to post the Ten Commandments in the courthouse.  They want a separation...

MATTHEWS:  Well, do you want post the Ten Commandments in the courthouse? 

DAVIS:  No.  But the Republican Party doesn‘t campaign against it. 


MCMAHON:  I haven‘t noticed any ads being run on...

DAVIS:  And it is the liberal constituencies—it is the liberal constituencies on the Democratic Party that have tried to divorce religion and faith from anything we do in our country, whether it‘s in our schools or in our government.  And I don‘t think there‘s anybody who really believes that you have to have that kind of gulf between faith and the execution of government.

MATTHEWS:  Well, they have Sharpton and you have Falwell.


MATTHEWS:  You both got reverends working this business.

Let‘s go.  I have got to get in a fact here.  The Media Fund, an independent group that supports Kerry, is airing five ads in battleground states.  Take a look at one of these in Iraq. 


NARRATOR:  Five years old and the whole world is in front of her.  But there‘s something she should be very worried about, the cost of the Iraq war.  George Bush went in alone, so it cost us $79 billion, then another $87 billion, now $25 billion more.  And she‘s going to pay for it.  George Bush is financing the war with huge deficits and our children will be stuck with the bill. 

The Media Fund is responsible for the content of this advertisement. 


MATTHEWS:  Wow.  What do you think of that one?  A little strong.

DAVIS:  Well, that is about as cheap a shot as you‘re going to have. 

First of all, we got a recession inherited from the Clinton administration. 

MCMAHON:  Oh, come on.

DAVIS:  That George Bush didn‘t ever create.

Two, we had 9/11 that put us even further into that recession that George Bush didn‘t create.  And the money that was spent that has created this deficit has done two things.  It has put the economy back on track and it‘s protected our soldiers in the field.  What is the option?  Let the recession continue and leave our guys unprotected. 

MATTHEWS:  I think Bush is better than his ads and I think Kerry‘s ads are better than Kerry.  So I don‘t understand this fight.  Clearly, Kerry‘s ads are much better.  Bush is much better than his ads.  That‘s my view.  That‘s my decision. 

Anyway, thank you.

MCMAHON:  It‘s your show.  So there you go.


MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  No, it‘s generally agreed upon.


MATTHEWS:  Rick Davis, thank you.

DAVIS:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Steve McMahon.

Coming up, President Bush ridiculed John Kerry on Iraq today.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

NBC News White House correspondent Norah O‘Donnell is traveling with President Bush in Florida.  And Vaughn Ververs is the editor of “The Hotline.”

Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry was challenged by President Bush to say whether he still would have voted in 2002 to give the president authority to attack Iraq. 


KERRY:  Yes, I would have voted for the authority.  I believe it was the right authority for a president to have. 


MATTHEWS:  Today, President Bush ridiculed Kerry‘s response. 


BUSH:  After months of questioning my motives and even my credibility, Senator Kerry now agrees with me that, even though we have not found the stockpile of weapons we all believe we‘re there, knowing everything we know today, he would have voted to go into Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power. 


BUSH:  I want to thank Senator Kerry for clearing that up. 



MATTHEWS:  Norah, what was—there certainly was a trace of sarcasm in the president‘s remarks today.

NORAH O‘DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  That‘s right, the president clearly today ridiculing Senator Kerry‘s comments, saying he‘s offered a new nuance on his position on Iraq. 

The Bush campaign was very happy to sort of ad this line into the president‘s speech today, because they believe it shows one more example of Kerry‘s nuance or of him being a flip-flopper.  And the whole importance of all of this is not only the issue just about Iraq and the war and the senator‘s position on it, but also because the president‘s campaign believes fundamentally, strategically, that this race is going to be about attributes and values, in terms of how voters judge a candidate.

And they believe on those two—on several attributes, like who who‘s a strong leader, who is a steady leader, who keeps to their positions, that the president does well in those sorts of things.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

O‘DONNELL:  So they think this is an ample opportunity to sort of ridicule, joke, call out Senator Kerry. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

Vaughn, you cover “The Hotline.”  Or you edit it.  It seems to me, you‘ve got all the hit—I have never heard—this doesn‘t seem like news to me.  I‘ve always thought Kerry was sticking to his guns in saying I was right to vote for the authorization, whatever happened later.

VAUGHN VERVERS, EDITOR, “THE HOTLINE”:  Well, almost every time John Kerry says something on this subject, it‘s new, because it sort of evolves over time. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, is it? 

VERVERS:  It is a little bit.

MATTHEWS:  How is this new?

VERVERS:  It‘s sort of, in knowing what we know today. 

I think what the White House and what Republicans really want to get John Kerry to do is say, is if you were in the Oval Office, if you were president, knowing what we knew today, would we be in a war in Iraq?  Would you have sat in the Oval Office and said go?

MATTHEWS:  But he didn‘t say that.

VERVERS:  No, he didn‘t say that.

MATTHEWS:  He never said that.

VERVERS:  And that‘s what they get him on.

MATTHEWS:  Are they trying to get people to believe, stupidly, that Kerry would have taken us to war on the same schedule they took us to war on? 

VERVERS:  I think what they‘re trying to get him to do is say that he wouldn‘t have.


VERVERS:  Or, one way or the other, to get him on a position, so that they can turn around. 



O‘DONNELL:  And something to point out, too, about the president‘s joke today about Senator Kerry.  He said Senator Kerry would have voted to go to war.  Senator Kerry did not vote to go to war.  Senator Kerry voted to authorize to give the president the authority to go to war if he needed to. 

And that‘s a distinction that‘s worth pointing out and certainly one that the Democrats would point out in this case.  And the point that Senator Kerry has made while campaigning is, he would have voted to authorize, but he would have done going to war if needed to and certainly carrying it out in a much different way. 


MATTHEWS:  And he certainly stresses that with his liberal supporters.  He says all the time, I never voted for the war.  I voted for the president to make the right decision and he didn‘t make it.

VERVERS:  And this is one of the reasons that the White House keeps going back after him on this, because we hear something new every time.

We heard earlier last week about, you‘re darn right I might have gone to war.  Every time he gets asked in a different way, it seems to have a little bit of a different nuance, little bit of a different answer.  He needs to just come out and make it pretty clear to people. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘re talking about a clever move by the president.  Let‘s talk about one that may not be so clever.

Norah, I don‘t know what you make of it down there on campaign trail with the president, but what do they think down there was the brilliance or the intelligence behind having the first lady go out the other day and basically dump on the prospects for stem cell research, basically saying, people watching television like right now who are caregivers of somebody with Parkinson‘s sitting next to them or diabetes or Alzheimer‘s, perhaps the worst of them all, and telling them, oh, by the way, the one hope you had for stem cell research isn‘t getting anywhere.  So don‘t worry about it.  Who told her to say that? 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, as you know, it was the three-year anniversary of this decision. 

The president‘s advisers knew that they were going to get hit hard by

the Democrats on the president‘s decision three years ago to limit federal

funding for stem cell research.  So they believed that they would send out

their most effective messenger for the president.  And that‘s the first

lady of the United States, Laura Bush, who said, now, wait a minute.  We

don‘t know that stem cell research, we don‘t know that that‘s going to cure

Alzheimer‘s and other diseases.  We‘re just in the early stages.  The



MATTHEWS:  Who‘s the first lady arguing with?  Ron Reagan went before the Democratic Convention and 10 million people and said Alzheimer‘s would probably be last on the list of diseases to be cured by stem cell research.  Who is she arguing with? 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, it was clearly a veiled response to Ron Reagan and Nancy Reagan in many ways, too. 

And it is worth pointing out two things.  One, Ron Reagan‘s speech at the Democratic National Convention was watched only second to Senator Kerry‘s speeches.  A lot of people tuned in to hear Ron Reagan speak. 

The second thing is the polls.  A new survey out just yesterday shows an overwhelming majority support expanding stem cell research.  A majority of Republicans support expanding stem cell research.  So, clearly, it is a difficult issue for the president.  They went to the first lady to defend the president‘s position.  He cannot be seen as flip-flopping on this issue, because that‘s not what the president does.  They want him to stick to his guns on this issue.

MATTHEWS:  Vaughn, I can‘t wait to pick up the paper tomorrow, because I can predict to you something now.  The Alzheimer‘s foundations, the fund raisers for Parkinson‘s, people like Michael J. Fox, Christopher Reeve, the Hollywood stars who are afflicted by these diseases, are going to be all over the place saying, why did the first lady stamp on the hopes of people like us? 

VERVERS:  Well, I think it probably was a mistake for them to use the first lady to do this.  They should have found another surrogate, even get Tommy Thompson out there, the secretary of health and human services, to sort of deliver that message. 


VERVERS:  Look, this is an example of where Bush is actually in one place more equivocal than John Kerry is, in a sense.


VERVERS:  He‘s trying to really straddle the line, cut the difference up the middle. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

VERVERS:  And it‘s almost an impossible task for him.

I really do think that this highlights a problem for him overall in this fact that he‘s got a base in his party that won‘t let him stray from some of these issues. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

VERVERS:  Kerry‘s base is letting him stray on everything from the war to abortion.


MATTHEWS:  I‘ll tell you, Kerry is not—Kerry will be a Gila monster on this issue of stem cell research.  Once she put her foot on this yesterday, she‘s going to have a hard time pulling it out, the first lady. 

VERVERS:  And it‘s kind of—this is allowing Kerry to really make inroads on the middle ground of swing voters that both these candidates are after.


MATTHEWS:  It‘s going to be no way to treat a lady, I‘ll tell you, when they‘re done with her. 

Anyway, thank you, Norah O‘Donnell, on the road with the president. 

Vaughn Ververs, thank you, sir, for joining us.

Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.

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


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