updated 8/17/2004 9:12:33 AM ET 2004-08-17T13:12:33

Guest: Gen. Wesley Clark, Bernard Kerik, Adam Eidinger, Barbara Comstock, Tad Devine, Matthew Dowd

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight, flexing the clout of an incumbent. 

President Bush announces a plan to bring home roughly 70,000 troops from Europe and Asia, but what about our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan?  Plus, is the FBI trying to intimidate political activists into not protesting at the Republican convention?  And Will Vice President Dick Cheney and Senator John Edwards stand up and deliver the debates?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  With 78 days now to go before the presidential election, President Bush announced a Pentagon redeployment plan that will bring—withdraw up to 70,000 troops from Europe and Asia.  But will it affect soldiers in extended tours in Iraq and Afghanistan?  And how will the plan play with military families and military voters?  HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has the report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL ELECTION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Eleven weeks before the election, and with the support from military families eroding, the president‘s spoke today to veterans in Cincinnati and announced a massive troop withdrawal from Europe and Asia.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Under the plan I‘m announcing today, over the next 10 years, we will bring home about 60,000 to 70,000 uniformed personnel and about 100,000 members and civilian employees.

SHUSTER:  The president said the initiative would give U.S. forces greater flexibility.  But the plan will not start for at least two years.  And while the troops eventually brought home will add up to about a third of the number normally posted overseas, the plan will have no impact on the 160,000 soldiers currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The death toll in Iraq is approaching 1,000, and with Guard units already stretched, the Bush administration is under tremendous political pressure from military families and from John Kerry.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  I will never send American youth—male, female, your daughters, your sons—to fight a war without a plan to twin peace.

SHUSTER:  Traditionally, veterans and members of the military largely support Republican presidential candidates.  But this year, the failure to find banned weapons in Iraq or evidence that Saddam Hussein was in league with al Qaeda, combined with lengthy deployments and proposed cuts and veterans benefits, are all hurting the president.  Even a small shift in the military vote could prove decisive because there are large numbers of military person and he will veterans in swing states like Florida, West Virginia, New Hampshire and New Mexico.

But in the end, the real swing votes could come from Baghdad.  Because of the Iraq occupation, more overseas military ballots will be cast in this election than at any point since the end of the cold war.  On election day in Florida in 2000, Al Gore received 200 more votes than George W. Bush, but only after the overseas ballots were counted, including a few thousand from the military, did Bush emerge with the lead.

(on camera):  This time, both parties have representatives and educational outreach programs overseas to make sure that members of the military are registered and know how and when to vote.  It‘s yet another wild card that could determine this election.

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  General Wesley Clark was a Democratic candidate for president.  He‘s now a John Kerry supporter.  General Clark, is this a way to avoid a draft, by reducing our commitments in Europe and Asia so we can put what we have in terms of forces into the Middle East?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, U.S. ARMY (RET.), KERRY-EDWARDS CAMPAIGN ADVISER: 

Well, I think a lot of the forces in Europe are already in the Middle East, Chris.  They‘re on a rotation schedule.  What this plan gives is a rationale for pulling one brigade from the Korea two-brigade force structure.  So it gives us an additional brigade to throw into Iraq.

I think the plan damages U.S. national security.  I don‘t think it does a thing to offset the kinds of pressures that are leading people to talk about a draft.  And worse than that, in the immediate near future, it undercuts our ability to deal with the North Korean problem and further deepens the split with our traditional allies in Europe.

MATTHEWS:  Is this making us into a Mideast power, rather than a Pacific power and a European power?

CLARK:  Well, it...

MATTHEWS:  It looks like it.  It looks like we‘re shifting our national intent to almost permanent war in the Middle East.

CLARK:  It makes us more of an imperial power and more of a unilateral power because what it does is it pulls away the props of these two alliances and leaves us there to focus on more fighting in Iraq and more trouble in Iraq.  I think it‘s a short-sighted move.  I think it‘s misplaced and actually endangers American security.  It‘s obviously political.

MATTHEWS:  Do you—let me ask but the hard fact of recruitment.  People tell me there‘s a lot more incentives being considered now, if not already being put in play, to try to get people to join.  A military operation which includes an ongoing war in Iraq, which is obviously a let less appetizing to people who don‘t—who would like a military career to go right into your war the first day you‘re into—in the services.

Is there a possibility that we‘re going to face the need for a draft and this is the first symptom of that?

CLARK:  Well, clearly, the administration‘s in trouble.  But on the other hand, they‘re not creating jobs, Chris.  And if you go across middle America and you talk to young people, they are desperate for meaningful work, work that has benefits, work they can take care of a—support a family on.  The armed forces offers that.  If we had the kind of same job environment now that we had during the Clinton presidency, we‘d have great difficulty recruiting for the all-volunteer force.

But the fact is, we‘re still more than a million jobs down from where we were when George Bush took office.  So we‘ve had a net loss of job, a growth in population, and the armed forces are taking up some of that with recruiting.  I think it‘s good for another couple of years.  I think by the time you go back your third and fourth tour on Iraq, if we‘re still losing Americans at current rate, that the families are going to say, No, it‘s not worth it.  Find something else, no matter what the—that you‘re giving up.  And so you won‘t be able to buy an army, at that point.

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think there‘s been less front-page news coverage and nightly news coverage and maybe less even on our network of the war?  I mean, on the war front, if you look at the numbers, the statistics here, we‘ve got over 900 people who‘ve been wounded this summer.  We‘ve got more killed this summer than last summer, when we were the occupying force.  Now we‘re sort of a back-up force for the Iraqi government over there, the interim government.

Why is there less publicity about guys when we—who are getting killed over there now?

CLARK:  Well, I think that, first, the American people have already decided that Iraq‘s sort of a losing proposition, that it wasn‘t worth it.  That‘s the majority view in America now.  And the Bush administration knows that.  They‘re playing down Iraq.  They‘re not putting their spokesman on over there.  You haven‘t seen John Negroponte once on television.  You know, he took Paul Bremer‘s place.  I have never seen him.

And neither have we seen the military.  So we‘re—our military, our administration leaders in Iraq, are doing their best to downplay it and make the Iraqis take the lead.  That‘s not illogical, but what will happen as we go later into this is the American people will then be confronted in October by George Bush saying what a great job he‘s done in Iraq.  It isn‘t so.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, let‘s talk about November 2.  Do you expect that military families will follow the normal, historic tradition of voting Republican?

CLARK:  Oh, I think the military families are going to be split this year.  There‘s tremendous loyalty to the commander-in-chief.  That‘s part of the armed forces, no matter who the commander-in-chief is.  And there was loyalty to Bill Clinton, I might add.

But in this case, what I think military families and service members are increasingly recognizing is that we bit off something without recognizing what it was when we got into Iraq.  And our men and women over there, they‘re doing the best job they can.  I love them.  I admire what they‘re doing.  We‘re doing everything we can do with the circumstances.

I think they will hold the commander-in-chief increasingly accountable for bad judgment.  It was his judgment to go in on, at best, thin evidence, his judgment not to plan for the post-war actions, his judgment to keep the United Nations and our allies from assisting us early on, and his judgment to stand up in front of the world press and say, “Bring ‘em on.”

Well, we‘ve got a fight on our hand over there, and I think the American military families are increasingly recognizing that they‘re going to have to hold the commander-in-chief accountable for it.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, General Wesley Clark.

When we come back, Bush campaign adviser Bernard Kerik will respond to general Clark.  And later: Two weeks to go until the Republican convention in New York.  We‘re all heading there.  And protesters are planning on showing up in full force.  We‘ll get a preview of what they‘re up to.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik served in Iraq as the interim minister of the interior and senior policy adviser to the presidential envoy in Iraq.  He‘s currently an adviser to the Bush-Cheney campaign.

I‘m looking at this campaign, not on a personality, but the directions being sent by this government and the alternative government that Kerry would set up.  Kerry talks about ending our dependence on Middle East oil, basically, getting out of the Middle East militarily because why would we be in there militarily if we‘re not going to defend the oil, because we won‘t to need the oil.  This administration is now saying we‘re going to reduce the troops in Europe and Asia, obviously, to make them available for quick deployment to the Middle East.

Is that the choice the Americans choose right now, between an active military which will be perpetually going back to the Middle East, fighting war after war after war, or a country that gets itself disengaged from the Middle East?  Is that the choice?

BERNARD KERIK, FMR NY CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN

ADVISER:  Honestly, Chris, I think you have to look at the overall picture of what they‘re trying to do post-9/11.  Go to the 9/11 commission report.  There are threats against this country.  They‘re not disappearing.  They‘re not going away.  And we have to defend the country.  In order to do that, I think that‘s a part of the president‘s plan.  Put these people...

MATTHEWS:  A permanent focus on the Middle East for war?

KERIK:  Well, I think a permanent focus on war, not necessarily the Middle East.  But they need rapid deployment.  They need to plan and train, and they need to pull these people out.  I think, over the long run, you‘re going to have a less stations around the globe.  It‘ll be a taxpayer‘s savings if they close down some of these outside bases.  And they‘ll put these people in positions where they can get to the war fastest, wherever that may be.

MATTHEWS:  But al Qaeda was based in Germany before they hit here.

KERIK:  Well, some of al Qaeda.  I mean...

MATTHEWS:  Well, the guys running the show.

KERIK:  Well, some.  You know...

MATTHEWS:  In Hamburg.

KERIK:  They were in Hamburg, but they were in—they were in Florida.  They were in Italy.  They were in Spain.  They were in London.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

KERIK:  They‘re all over the place.  You know, we have to take those cells out.  But we need the ability to deploy our troops as quickly as possible and create a strategic force going forward.

MATTHEWS:  But isn‘t that—it seems to me, the potential there is not that we‘re going to defend ourselves, but we‘re going to be defending down the road Pakistan, if you have a coup there, Musharraf gets shot, or more—just as likely, perhaps, I don‘t know, a Saudi Arabian revolt, where the people in the streets just say, We‘ve had it with this royal family.  Are we going to have to put troops in there?

I‘m worried that we‘re setting ourselves up for a potential to become a Mideast military power in perpetuity.  That‘s what we‘re going to become.

KERIK:  Yes, but I don‘t think that‘s the case, and that‘s not what the president has said.

MATTHEWS:  But we‘re cutting back in Europe, cutting back in Asia for what reason?  To go where?

KERIK:  Basically, to come back to the States and prepare for strategic deployments wherever the war takes us.  That‘s the key.  We don‘t know where it‘s going to be.  It may not be in Saudi Arabia.  It may be in Germany.  It may be in Europe.  We have to go where—it may be in the Far East, for all we know.  We don‘t know yet.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think this administration can politically defend the casualty rate coming out of Iraq this summer?  We have a higher level of KIAs.  We‘ve got almost 100 people killed just in June and July.  We‘re getting close to a thousand people killed over there in the war.  We‘ve got an incredible number—I just saw this number—over 6,000, well over 6,000 wounded in this war so far, in a war that was supposed to be a couple of weeks.  And it was a couple weeks, and all of a sudden, there‘s a “Mission accomplished” flag up on that ship, on that carrier...

KERIK:  You know...

MATTHEWS:  ... and then we‘ve had this hell for the last year.

KERIK:  You have to go back to the September 20, ‘01, speech by the president.  This war wasn‘t going to take a couple weeks.  He said years.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what was the “Mission accomplished” flag for?

KERIK:  The “Mission accomplished” flag was getting into Iraq and taking—taking Saddam.

MATTHEWS:  Was it accurate?

KERIK:  Was it accurate?

MATTHEWS:  What was accurate about it?

KERIK:  Perhaps not.  It‘s not about the accuracy of the—whatever was said on the banner and who put it up there.  And I heard Tommy Franks last week saying it was his decision.  Bottom line is, there‘s a war to be fought.  It‘s going to be fought in Afghanistan, Iraq, and wherever else we have to go to defend our country.

And like I said, the 9/11 commission report—that‘s what the Americans have to go by now.  That was the investigation done.  Look at it.  See what it says.  And it basically says there‘s a threat out there that we have to continue to fight.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the families that have to fight it.  A lot of people joined the reserves, thinking it was a weekend warrior job.  I‘m not knocking it, but that‘s what they thought it was.

KERIK:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  They thought they could give up some of their time, they go give up some of the time from their job.  Now it turns out they‘re deployed over there.  They‘re away from their wives, their husbands, mostly their wives, and they‘re stuck in what‘s been called a back-door draft, where people are getting into situations they never really counted on.

CLARK:  Honestly, Chris, I was there four months in Iraq.  And I‘ve talked to the reserve and the National Guard guys and the active soldiers.  And I listened to the general earlier.  I have to tell you, the president has enormous support in Iraq, enormous support by the military in Iraq.  And I think the families today, what they have to look at, they have to make a decision in voting.  We need a leader that‘s going to defend our country and support our troops.  You cannot put somebody in the White House that votes to send your son or daughter to Iraq and then votes against giving them the money they need to do their job.  And I think that‘s what the soldiers of today are looking...

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe John Kerry voted for this war?

KERIK:  Yes, I do.

MATTHEWS:  He says he voted to authorize the president to go to the U.N. and try to negotiate a situation which would have allowed us not to go to war.

KERIK:  Well, I really think it depends on which time you‘re talking to him, you know, what interview you‘re listening to, dependent on what he said.

MATTHEWS:  When has he ever said he voted for the war?  Tell me the interview.  I want to look it up.

KERIK:  I don‘t know exactly—well, go to gop.com.  There‘s about—there‘s 11 minutes of different interviews.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.  Well, one of them‘s wrong because it has it happening on our show.  And all he said on our show was—he said, I voted for the resolution.  He said, basically, I voted for the resolution...

KERIK:  Well, his personal quotes are there, and you can listen to them.  He says it personally.

MATTHEWS:  He never says he voted for the war.

KERIK:  Well, I‘m not saying in that interview, but I‘m saying in some.

MATTHEWS:  Which one?

KERIK:  Oh, I don‘t know.  I don‘t have that in front of me.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I don‘t think he ever said it.  But anyway, we‘ll look

·         I will continue my search...

KERIK:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  ... Mr. Commissioner, to try to find a place where John Kerry said he voted for the Iraq war.  I think he‘s been careful to draw a fine line—not to make his case for him.  But he is obviously continues to say he voted for the authorization.  Personally, I think he voted for a blank check which allowed the president to go to war.  It doesn‘t matter what he says.

Anyway, thank you very much, Commissioner Bernard Kerik.

Up next, FBI agents are questioning potential protesters of the upcoming Republican convention.  Is this necessary to keep the peace, or is the government really going too far?  Political activist Adam Eidinger and former Justice Department official Barbara Comstock join me.  They‘re going to be arguing about this.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  In an effort to prevent possible violent protests at the Republican national convention, the FBI is taking to knocking on the doors of political demonstrators and questioning them.  Critics claim that the FBI is stomping on their free speech rights, while the FBI says they‘re just trying to prevent disruptions by violent demonstrators.

Joining us right now is Adam Eidinger, a political activist who was arrested at the 2000 Republican convention in Philadelphia I think five times.  He‘s also a Green Party candidate for shadow representative here in the District of Columbia.  And Barbara Comstock is former spokeswoman for the Justice Department.

Thank you, Barbara, for coming in.  And thank you.  Let me ask you, Adam.  You were arrested how many time in Philly?

ADAM EIDINGER, ANTI-BUSH PROTESTER:  Just once in Philadelphia.

MATTHEWS:  On how many counts?

EIDINGER:  On 12 counts, mostly conspiracy charges.  I was convicted on 4, and those charges -- .

MATTHEWS:  You look fairly undangerous.  Is that an insult or what?

EIDINGER:  Thank you.  I appreciate that.

MATTHEWS:  Have you been—OK, undangerous.  Let me ask you about the FBI.  Did they ever come to your house and interview you?

EIDINGER:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  For a prospective crime, looking at what you might do.

EIDINGER:  Yes.  In advance of the World Bank protests in March, 2000...

MATTHEWS:  Were they right?  Were you one of their suspects that turned out to be one of the—what should I say...

EIDINGER:  No, I wasn‘t smashing windows or anything like that.

MATTHEWS:  You didn‘t do anything wrong.

EIDINGER:  In fact, I cooperated with them.  I talked to them.

MATTHEWS:  Did you end up being a perp, as well as a suspect?

EIDINGER:  Well, what they wound up doing is telling me that I‘d be arrested if I went out and hung up posters for the protests, after I had cooperated with them.  So they were really intimidating.

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute.  You were told by the FBI agent, an agent—what‘s name?

EIDINGER:  Neil Trugman (ph).

MATTHEWS:  Neil Trugman told you if you put up posters, you‘re going to be arrested?

EIDINGER:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  For what crime?

EIDINGER:  And it wasn‘t just me.  There were 20 other people.  Oh, the—we were violating the postering law, which was not true, but they were, you know, going to make something up.  It was an intimidation tactic to keep us from promoting the protest.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, they were going to hit—they were going to nail you on a—sort of a public nuisance problem.  They were going to get you for putting posters up where they don‘t belong.

EIDINGER:  Well, I—that‘s not true, but they—we have a right to put them in up Washington, D.C.—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry.  I don‘t want to talk like Bill O‘Reilly.  Do you want to keep...

EIDINGER:  Well, I just wanted to...

MATTHEWS:  I wanted to finish the sentence.  I‘m sorry.

EIDINGER:  Go right ahead.

MATTHEWS:  Should we fear you and your kind...

EIDINGER:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  ... at the Republican convention?

EIDINGER:  Absolutely not.

MATTHEWS:  Will there be bad stuff happening at the Republican convention?  Meaning, will anyone get hurt?  Not lots of noise and yelling and all that stuff, but will anyone get hurt?

EIDINGER:  I think Bush‘s popularity might be hurt with a quarter million protesters in the street, but that‘s about it.

MATTHEWS:  Can you help me here?  Will somebody be hurt?

EIDINGER:  I really don‘t believe there‘s going to be violence at this demonstration.

MATTHEWS:  OK, Barbara, are you worried about it?  You worried about the Republican convention in New York?

BARBARA COMSTOCK, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON:  Well, actually, the FBI did a great job in Boston, and just as the FBI and local and state law enforcement did with the Utah Olympics in 2002 and they did at the G-8 earlier this year and they did with the Democratic convention and international law enforcement does this when you go to Davos for these world conventions...

MATTHEWS:  OK, why was it a big mess in Seattle a couple of years back for the World Trade Organization meetings?  Why was that a particularly mayhem-like situation?

COMSTOCK:  Well, you had some people—I‘m not—I don‘t know all the facts on the crimes that were involved there, but there were clearly criminal actions, a lot of property damage, and there were crimes that were going on.  What the FBI is doing here is they are investigating people and doing voluntary interviews where they have reason to have a predicate to investigate somebody.  So they go—these are voluntary interviews.  If people don‘t want to answer, they don‘t have to answer.  They can close the door.

MATTHEWS:  What do you say to that, Adam?

EIDINGER:  Well, it‘s voluntary, but you‘re intimidated.  When an FBI agent shows up at your house and tells you, We want to talk to you about violence...

MATTHEWS:  Buy you‘re hardened lefties.  You‘re not afraid of that, are you?

COMSTOCK:  Chris, most of these FBI agents are...

EIDINGER:  A lot of people are afraid of them.

COMSTOCK:  ... far more—less intimidating...

MATTHEWS:  No, but people wanting to out in the streets and raise trouble and raise hell wouldn‘t be afraid of an interview, would they?

EIDINGER:  If you‘re 18 or 20 years old and never talked to an FBI agent in your life, and they show up at your house and say, We want to talk to you about violence, you must think...

MATTHEWS:  Are they the kind—excuse me.  I‘m just trying to get the facts here.  Are those the kind of people, suspects, that the FBI would investigate, the 18-year-old kids...

COMSTOCK:  No, what the FBI—no, what the FBI is focusing on is when they have a particular reason to go in—in all these cases they‘re talking about—her—the problem is, they can‘t come out and say, Well, here‘s what we were told by local or international law enforcement about this cell or this individual or people doing whatever.  So you‘re only hearing the one side here.  I don‘t know what the facts are from the FBI—and they can‘t go out and tell.

All they are doing is trying to protect us.  Like, when you had in—the Democratic convention, they had some tips on somebody might be throwing Molotov cocktails at media vans.  They went and investigated the people that might know something about it.  They had leads.  They followed up the tips and the leads.  And if they didn‘t, you‘d be having them—you know, Congress would be attacking them for not following the leads.

If somebody doesn‘t want to answer, they don‘t have to answer.  Now, if there‘s going to be any type of surveillance, any type of subpoenas, they have to go to a judge . They have to go in there with their factual information and evidence and get a court order before they can do anything further.  Otherwise, people are perfectly free to shut the door, and that‘s just—you know, when the press calls you, when the FBI calls, you can voluntarily answer questions, but you don‘t have to.

EIDINGER:  That‘s not true.  They can have local law enforcement go out and do it...

COMSTOCK:  Adam, that is true.

EIDINGER:  ... without a subpoena, and they‘ve been doing that...

COMSTOCK:  I mean, Adam‘s been complaining...

EIDINGER:  ... for the last four years.

COMSTOCK:  ... about the surveillance—the new increased protection measures up on Capitol Hill.  I have two sons that are working on Capitol Hill this summer.  I appreciate that there‘s increased law enforcement at an area we know...

MATTHEWS:  I go through the barrier...

COMSTOCK:  ... that there are—there is...

MATTHEWS:  I go through the dragnet every day.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s fine with me.  I don‘t mind going through it.

COMSTOCK:  He says they should stop it (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, what have you done—what have you done physically at these—at—to get yourself a little rap sheet like this?

EIDINGER:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  What have you don?

EIDINGER:  ... we were actually playing...

MATTHEWS:  What did you do personally?

EIDINGER:  Personally?

MATTHEWS:  What law did you break?

EIDINGER:  I was—there was conspiracy...

MATTHEWS:  No, what law.

EIDINGER:  ... disorderly conduct...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... tell me what you did.

EIDINGER:  Physically, possession of implements of a crime was one of the charges.

MATTHEWS:  What were the implements?

EIDINGER:  A cell phone, a PVC pipe, which was used for protesters to lock themselves together.  And the reason they were doing that is because we were denied permits.  If you‘re told you can‘t come and protest at the Republican national convention in Philadelphia—this was four years ago we‘re talking about...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

EIDINGER:  ... what are you going to do to get your speech out?  You‘re going to create a free speech zone.  That‘s what we did.  We tried to.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

EIDINGER:  All the people who were...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Stay with us.  Adam, come back.  Barbara, come back.  We‘ll be right back.  It‘s an interesting topic because I do believe in free speech.  And a little hell now and then‘s OK...

COMSTOCK:  And you‘re having...

MATTHEWS:  ... as long as nobody gets hurt...

COMSTOCK:  ... a lot of it at the convention.

MATTHEWS:  ... and you don‘t destroy third-party property or anybody‘s property.

We‘ll be back with HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half hour on HARDBALL, the Republican Convention is just two weeks away.  What role will protesters play?  Plus, top strategists from both the Bush and Kerry campaigns on war in Iraq and what to expect in this fall‘s debate.  But first, the latest headlines. 

(NEWSBREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re joined once again by political activist Adam Eidinger.  He is also a Green Party candidate for shadow representative here in Washington, D.C.  And Barbara Comstock, former spokeswoman for the Justice Department. 

Barbara, I was really happy about Boston, because it was nice, the people were nice.  I worried, like I always worry about everything at all levels of possibility.  Al Qaeda, anarchists, drunks, troublemakers.  Nothing really happened.  Is it your gut sense that New York is a different kettle of fish? 

COMSTOCK:  Now, we did—the FBI and local and state law enforcement did all of this.  We‘ve had unprecedented cooperation.  Since 9/11, we‘re all working together to connect the dots.  And we get information, the FBI all gets together. 

I mean, the 9/11 Commission lauded FBI Director Mueller for all the improvements he‘s made in the FBI.  Part of that is sharing the information with state and local, working together.  When you get information, wherever it comes from, domestic—we get a lot of foreign intelligence now where they might come in and say, well, here‘s how a protest went on in Davos, and here—you might want to look at these kinds of things.  These people are coming over here.  You may need to watch out for them. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the demand here.  I‘m sorry, you‘re the supply.  Let me ask you, is there more of a targeting sense for the Republicans, this is a governing party and the more conservative party? 

EIDINGER:  Absolutely.  People think Bush lied to them.  They want to come and protest.  They want this president out of office.  And I think it is a mainstream thing that‘s going to be happening. 

MATTHEWS:  So the Democrats are going to buy.

EIDINGER:  Yes.  They did, this time they did.  They won‘t in four years, if they keep the troops in Iraq, believe me.  Kerry is going to have protests at his inauguration if he doesn‘t change his line on Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Do protesters tend to protest the governing party, the party in power? 

EIDINGER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Is that just a pattern?

EIDINGER:  Yes, yes.

MATTHEWS:  What about New York?  What should I worry about?  Me?

EIDINGER:  I would tell you...

MATTHEWS:  I want to be selfish for a second.  Tell me what‘s going on.

EIDINGER:  Don‘t try to drive—don‘t try to drive in New York. 

There are going to be—I was in New York on February 15, 2002... 

MATTHEWS:  OK, I‘m not going to drive.  I got a job there, though.  Six or seven nights.  We start Friday up there before they—I‘m sorry, we start two Fridays from now up there.  We‘re going to business every night right through the next Friday.  We‘re going to be outside probably.  What do you think? 

EIDINGER:  I think the street is going to be full of people.  I think there is going to be a quarter million people on Sunday, August 29, at least.  Maybe 400,000.

MATTHEWS:  The first Sunday. 

EIDINGER:  The first.

COMSTOCK:  They‘ve consistently overestimated the protesters...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry, how many (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people are going to be dangerous?

COMSTOCK:  ... twelve people recently up at D.C.

EIDINGER:  That‘s not true. 

MATTHEWS:  How many strange people are going to be dangerous who are

going to be there, who actually are going to throw rocks at windows, throw

·         shoot things at people, whatever? 

EIDINGER:  I think there will be a very small number of people who do that... 

MATTHEWS:  It only takes just one.

EIDINGER:  And if they do that, they should be held accountable. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you guys ever have—do you have a—you know, back when I marched against the Pentagon, at least I walked along beside the march in ‘67, I noticed the big pink umbrella around me, the old Socialist Workers Party, the old communist types, they were all there.  Do you actually have meetings to decide who is in the big tent that goes to protest the Republican Convention?  Is there coordinating?

EIDINGER:  Sure.  It‘s called spokescouncil.  And the main group organizing is a group called United for Peace and Justice.  And they‘re not...

MATTHEWS:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

EIDINGER:  They‘re not a communist group, by the way. 

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t let troublemakers in? 

EIDINGER:  It is a very inclusive group.  We‘re united with our dissent.  And that‘s why people are going. 

MATTHEWS:  Is anybody coming armed? 

EIDINGER:  I don‘t think so.  I mean, we‘re—it‘s a nonviolent group. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, it‘s a nonviolent group.

EIDINGER:  Yeah, it‘s a nonviolent protest we‘re trying to have.  It really—what we‘re having problems with is the city of New York is not issuing permits.  And they‘re going to create a more dangerous situation by not issuing permits.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Are you going to have—are you going to have one of these cages again, like they had up in Boston? 

EIDINGER:  It‘s hard to say.  I think around the...

MATTHEWS:  Protest cage they‘re called? 

EIDINGER:  I think there are going to be fences and streets closed all around the convention hall.  But really, we‘re going to be marching up 7th Avenue.  We have a permit to do that.  Marching...

MATTHEWS:  7th Avenue? 

EIDINGER:  7th Avenue.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, that‘s the one that‘s down—I guess down Madison Square Garden, yeah. 

EIDINGER:  Yes.  And marching around Madison Square Garden.  But we want to go to Central Park... 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think they‘re going to let you march past Madison Square Garden.

EIDINGER:  The permits are already issued. 

MATTHEWS:  You can go right down 7th Avenue in front of the convention

·         right in front of Penn Station there?

EIDINGER:  That‘s right.  On Sunday night.  On Sunday day, should I say. 

MATTHEWS:  But (ph) there won‘t be anybody else there. 

Do you think that breaking windows is violence?  Throwing rocks in the windows? 

EIDINGER:  I think it‘s property destruction. 

MATTHEWS:  And where do you stand on it? 

EIDINGER:  Well, I think it‘s a crime, obviously. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, is it part of your movement to do that kind of thing?

EIDINGER:  Well, I‘m not going to be going that.  But if somebody decides to do that, like I said, they‘re breaking the law and should be held accountable, but that doesn‘t justify bringing in a police state and searching every person who gets on the subway. 

COMSTOCK:  There‘s no police state going on here. 

EIDINGER:  What are you talking about?

COMSTOCK:  You‘re maligning the FBI and the local law enforcement who are trying to protect the thousands of people who are going to be up there and trying to bring order, all it is is they‘re doing the planning, like they did in Boston. 

EIDINGER:  They‘re shredding the Constitution of the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  You said something important here.  What—how is the FBI—what provision of the Constitution are they breaking? 

EIDINGER:  The Fourth Amendment. 

COMSTOCK:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE).MATTHEWS:  Freedom from search and seizure, right? 

EIDINGER:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  And in what sense is it search and seizure, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

(CROSSTALK)

EIDINGER:  Well, they‘re regularly searching people to enter public spaces.  To get in the subway, you have to be searched now? 

COMSTOCK:  To take off your shoes?  That‘s a Fourth Amendment violation?  

EIDINGER:  Well, getting on an airplane is a little different.  But we‘re talking about in a city of seven million people... 

MATTHEWS:  Are they going to search everybody who gets on the New York subway? 

EIDINGER:  They‘re going to search people with backpacks, backpacks, who get on the subway.  They‘re doing it up here in Washington, D.C.

COMSTOCK:  Routine stops and checks for security purposes are not a Fourth Amendment violation. 

EIDINGER:  How are they really for security purposes, though?

COMSTOCK:  What case?  What case?  I mean, do you have a case? 

EIDINGER:  Are they just...

COMSTOCK:  I mean, you‘re making up law, and that is absolutely false. 

EIDINGER:  Well...

COMSTOCK:  There are no Fourth Amendment violations here.  And what they‘re talking about is general protection measures, which are going on here. 

MATTHEWS:  By the way, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) got to win a suit, right? 

COMSTOCK:  Yes, they haven‘t won one yet.

MATTHEWS:  No, you win, you win—are you going to win in court? 

EIDINGER:  Well, I‘m not filing a suit dealing with the Fourth Amendment.  I‘m not an attorney. 

(CROSSTALK)

EIDINGER:  But what I‘m trying to say, is my interpretation of the Fourth Amendment...

(CROSSTALK) 

MATTHEWS:  ... around somewhere.

EIDINGER:  Yeah, and they‘re against—they‘re against these searches. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, are they going to sue? 

EIDINGER:  I don‘t know.  We‘ll see.  Hopefully they will. 

MATTHEWS:  Why are you so squirrely about this?  Why wouldn‘t they sue?  You just said they‘re violating the Constitution. 

EIDINGER:  I don‘t work for them, but I hope they do.

MATTHEWS:  You say that your group are being—having their rights violated.  Fourth Amendment rights.

EIDINGER:  We have sued—we have sued to get permits to march in New York City.  And we‘ve lost those suits.  And we‘re appealing now.  But we sued to have a permit... 

MATTHEWS:  OK, what‘s your message?  What‘s your message?  You‘re on television now, what‘s your message?

EIDINGER:  All right.  Thank you.  The main message, as a D.C.  resident is...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s move on to the national stuff.  This is a national show. 

EIDINGER:  All right, well, the national show needs to hear that people in Washington, D.C. are being disenfranchised.  And...

MATTHEWS:  Why do environmentalists care most about that issue, Green Party people? 

EIDINGER:  Well, Green—in D.C., we‘re the Statehood Green Party. 

And we care about it...

MATTHEWS:  What state...

(CROSSTALK)

EIDINGER:  ... because we care about democracy no matter where we live.

What—what state? 

MATTHEWS:  Are you some kind of super environmentalist? 

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) Green Party...

EIDINGER:  Sure.  We don‘t want the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) forest cut down.  This thing that Bush is proposing to do.  We would like to see renewable energy, not more oil energy.  And they‘re not investing in that. 

We also believe that‘s a good way to create jobs in this country.  Wind power, solar power.  We should be investing in that, because these jobs have to be done here in the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

COMSTOCK:  They have a right to go up there and make all those things known.  And they will be heard. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do you have to demonstrate to get that?

EIDINGER:  Well, we have to demonstrate to show the support for the issue.  Also, President Bush has lied to the American public about the war.  That to me is a moral issue.  We are sending people... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So he knew there weren‘t any weapons of mass destruction there?  He knew?  There weren‘t any?

EIDINGER:  I believe he knew there weren‘t any.  I think they exaggerated it. 

MATTHEWS:  How about everybody in the world thought there was, and he knew there weren‘t? 

EIDINGER:  Look, there were a quarter of a million people—and I‘m not exaggerating that number --  a quarter of a million people protested in New York City on February 13, 2002 against the war before it happened. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So let me get this straight, George Bush, by your accounts, is brilliant.  Because he‘s the only guy in the world who knew there were no weapons of mass destruction, and everybody else was wrong.  He was Superman intellect going at work here.  Is that what you‘re saying?  

EIDINGER:  No, I think he was lying to the public... 

MATTHEWS:  But the whole world thought there was WMD. 

EIDINGER:  No, I don‘t think the whole world did think that.  The

U.N...

MATTHEWS:  The French thought they did. 

EIDINGER:  The U.N. didn‘t support the war. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Adam, I do this every night.  The world thought there was. 

Anyway, thank you very much.  A great spokesman.  You‘re very good for some sort of crazed demonstrator.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE), thanks for coming on. 

Thank you, Barbara. 

Once again, coming up, top strategists for the Bush and Kerry campaigns debate John Kerry‘s opinion on the war in Iraq.  That‘s a hot one still.  And don‘t forget, sign up for HARDBALL‘s free daily e-mail briefing.  Just log on to our Web site, hardball.msnbc.com. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Matthew Dowd is a senior strategist with the Bush-Cheney campaign, and Tad Devine is a senior adviser to Kerry-Edwards.  Campaigning in Sioux City, Iowa, on Saturday, President Bush had this to say about his opponent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  And now almost two years after he voted for the war in Iraq, about 220 days after switching positions to declare himself the anti-war candidate, my opponent has found a new nuance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, about 220 days ago, John Kerry was on HARDBALL and I asked him about his views on Iraq.  Let‘s watch that exchange as it actually happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think you belong in that category of candidates who more or less are unhappy with this war?  The way it‘s been fought?  Along with General Clark, along with Howard Dean, and not necessarily in companionship politically on the issue of the war with people like Lieberman, Edwards and Gephardt?  Are you one of the anti-war candidates?

KERRY:  I am.  Yes.  In the sense that I don‘t believe the president took to us war as he should have, yes.  Absolutely.  Do I think this president violated his promises to America?  Yes, I do, Chris.  Was there a way to hold Saddam Hussein accountable?  You bet there was and we should have done it right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Let me to go Tad Devine.  Do you believe that that was an accurate portrayal by the president to say that your candidate declared himself the anti-war candidate in that interview?

TAD DEVINE, SR. ADVISER, KERRY-EDWARDS CAMPAIGN:  No.  It was completely inaccurate, totally misleading and part of a conscious campaign on the part of the president and the vice president to distort the truth and mislead the American people.

MATTHEW:  Let me go to Matt.  Do you believe that your candidate, the president of the United States, accurately reflected in his comment that John Kerry called himself—declared himself the anti-war candidate, is an accurate representative of that dial dialogue between myself and John Kerry?

MATTHEW DOWD, SR. STRATEGIST, BUSH-CHENEY ‘04:  Yes.  Obviously.  The impression John Kerry was trying to leave when he was up against Howard Dean in the primary was he was the anti-war candidate after he voted for the resolution.  That‘s obviously what he was trying to do.  He was trying to leave the impression that he either was the anti-war candidate or was becoming the anti-war candidate.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Matt, let me get back to what the president said in Sioux City, Iowa, last week.  He said that 220 days ago, it seems to me referring to what John Kerry said on our program, that John Kerry declared himself the anti-war candidate.  The question to John Kerry was about whether—let‘s listen to him again.  Let‘s get his words now, John Kerry‘s.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think you belong in that category of candidates who more or less are unhappy with this war?  The way it‘s been fought?  Along with General Clark, along with Howard Dean, and not necessarily in companionship politically on the issue of the war with people like Lieberman, Edwards and Gephardt?  Are you one of the anti-war candidates?

KERRY:  I am.  Yes.  In the sense that I don‘t believe the president took to us war as he should have, yes.  Absolutely.  Do I think this president violated his promises to America?  Yes, I do, Chris.  Was there a way to hold Saddam Hussein accountable?  You bet there was and we should have done it right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to Matt, again, do you think that was a fair representation, what the president said about what John Kerry said to me?

DOWD:  You asked John Kerry a yes or no question.  You said, are you the anti-war candidate?  And at...

MATTHEWS:  No.  I said are you one of those—are you one of the anti-war candidates?

DOWD:  Yes.  And he said, yes, absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  No.  He said, I am, yes, in the sense that I don‘t believe the president took to us war as he should have.

DOWD:  Chris, Chris when you‘re...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that‘s—let me go back to what‘s—let me -

·         Matt.  I want to be perfectly fair here.  Let‘s go back to what you guys have.  Eight million supporters of the president received a videotape.  Now let‘s take look at the part of it.  Here‘s a clip from a video posted on Kerryoniraq.com and produced by the Republican National Committee.  Let‘s take a look at it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Are you one of the anti-war candidates?

KERRY:  I am.  Yes. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW:  Do you think that was a fair cropping of what he had to say?  You cut him off after he said, yes.  And you did not let him continue on to say: “in the sense that I don‘t believe the president took to us war as he should have.”

DOWD:  Yes.  Senator Kerry said, yes, absolutely, he was the anti-war candidate.  So yes, of course it‘s fair.

DEVINE:  Chris, it‘s pathetic.  OK?  And the reason that they‘re doing this is they‘ve got nothing to say about creating jobs, providing health care or dealing with any of the issues that the voters want dealt with in this election.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Matt, are you going to have the president stop saying that John Kerry, on our show, on HARDBALL, because that‘s what he was referring to, clearly, 220 days ago when he said this, are you going to get him to stop saying that John Kerry declared himself the anti-war candidate, which is clearly not what he said because I used the word anti-war candidate and I referred to a number of them?  You say what he said on my show and he didn‘t say that.  That‘s all I‘m asking.

DOWD:  Chris, I would love it if you would play the full 11-minute tape that shows Kerry‘s various positions on the war as it has happened the last two years.  I would be happy for to you to play that tape.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s an argument you‘re making.  I‘m asking you, is the president going to keep saying that something that was said on this show wasn‘t said?

DOWD:  Of course he is.  Why wouldn‘t he, it‘s what Senator Kerry said?

MATTHEWS:  Well, because you might show—why don‘t you show him a tape of the show for 10 seconds so he‘ll get it straight.

DOWD:  People, if they want to sign on to our Web site or the GOP Web site, they can see the 11-minute video and they can judge it for themselves.

MATTHEWS:  But you cut off the full sentence of John Kerry.

DOWD:  Chris, I‘ll let people judge it for themselves to get the full picture.

MATTHEWS:  But you don‘t—you can‘t—you‘re not letting them judge it for themselves because you cut off the tape.  So it only showed the first part of the sentence so they wouldn‘t get to judge it for themselves, right?

DOWD:  No.  We have the whole sense of the tape.  You just showed on it TV.  I think anybody watching this on—tonight on TV would think that Senator Kerry declared himself the anti-war candidate.  I don‘t see how anybody watching wouldn‘t tell that.

MATTHEWS:  Would you like to have your sentences cut down like to a third of their length and let people decide on the first three or four words what you meant by the 20 words?  Let me repeat it again, what he said.  I‘m not going to argue this any further tonight.  I think you guys should consider taking this off your loop.  I think the president ought to be shown this tape so he knows what he‘s talking about, instead of having it fed to him by somebody who doesn‘t show them full sentence.  Here it is.  Let‘s take it in.  Can we show the tape again of John Kerry, what his answer was?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think you belong in that category of candidates who more or less are unhappy with this war?  The way it‘s been fought?  Along with General Clark, along with Howard Dean, and not necessarily in companionship politically on the issue of the war with people like Lieberman, Edwards and Gephardt?  Are you one of the anti-war candidates?

KERRY:  I am.  Yes.  In the sense that I don‘t believe the president took to us war as he should have, yes.  Absolutely.  Do I think this president violated his promises to America?  Yes, I do, Chris.  Was there a way to hold Saddam Hussein accountable?  You bet there was and we should have done it right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Tad, this is being used to show that Kerry is a flip-flopper and whether he is or is not is not my concern.  But my concern is that this show has been used to say that he is.  He voted for the resolution.  Personally, I have a big problem with that.  It was fine.  He clearly voted for the resolution.  The president is saying he voted for the war.  And then the president says after he voted for the war, he said on this show, he declared himself anti-war candidate which he did not do on our show.  Tell me what you think about all this. 

DEVINE:  I think it is a gross distortion.  I think it is part of a pattern.  I think they‘ve spent $100 million trying mislead the American public and I think they‘re doing it because the president‘s policies have failed on the economy, on health, and on securing the nation.  And so as a result, they‘ve resorted to desperate tactics of misleading the American people.  It‘s what the Bush campaign is about and unfortunately, this is the latest example. 

MATTHEWS:  Matt, you‘re laughing.  Go ahead. 

DOWD:  I‘m laughing because this is the same candidate that on national television at his convention said we misled the country in the war.  He said that we took the country to war when we wanted to not because we had to.  In the course of his Democratic primary, I‘m willing to bet you, if you go ask the Democratic primary voters if they thought John Kerry was the anti-war candidate, they would say that he thought he did. 

And now in the aftermath, after the president and we pushed him on it.  He said, of course I voted for the resolution.  I would have voted for it even without the other information he said we needed.  John Kerry knew what he was voting for.  He knew what he was voting for in 1991 when he voted against the resolution to go to war.  So he knows what these resolutions mean.  He said in 1991, it was not to send a message but a vote for war. 

MATTHEWS:  Matt, there‘s a case where I agree with you.  I think that the resolution was a blank check for George Bush to go to war.  I completely agree with you.  What I disagree with you is that you guys have accurately represented what was said on our program.  That‘s what I‘m concerned with.  Let‘s take a look.  By the way, for people out there who want to judge this for themselves, we‘re going to post, using modern technology, that clip of my interview with John Kerry on our Web site so everybody can look at the whole exchange not just the cropped version put up by the Bush people.  Hardball.MSNBC.com.  Check it out for yourself.

What format will a Dick Cheney/John Edwards vice presidential debate take?  We‘re going to walk you down what the debates are going to look like.  Are they going to be warm and fuzzy or stand up like men?  Let‘s talk about that when we come back on HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Matthew Dowd of the Bush campaign and Tad Devine of the Kerry campaign.  Well, you never know what‘s what‘s coming next.  It‘s heating up.  Today Senator Harkin who was a Navy pilot.  He‘s the senator from Iowa.  He slammed Vice President Dick Cheney calling him a coward over Cheney‘s ridiculing of John Kerry‘s assertion that he would fight a more sensitive war on terror. 

Quote—this is Harkin speaking, the senator from Iowa.  “I just outrages me that someone who got five deferments during Vietnam and said he had ‘other priorities‘ at that time would say that... When I hear this coming from Dick Cheney, who was a coward, who would not serve during the Vietnam War, it makes my blood boil.  He‘ll be tough, but he‘ll be tough with someone else‘s kid‘s blood.”

He called him a coward a number of times, Matt.  Your response? 

DOWD:  I think it‘s just outrageous that Tom Harkin, a surrogate for the Kerry campaign, that would do it.  Bill Clinton served the presidency with distinction without having served in Vietnam or in a war.  Ronald Reagan served a presidency with distinction without having served a war or in a world war.  And I think this name-calling is very unfortunate that has to happen in this environment. 

MATTHEWS:  Tad, your turn? 

DEVINE:  Well, first, Chris, I think we just made some history.  We‘ve heard the Bush campaign say that Bill Clinton served the presidency with distinction.  That‘s a breakthrough.  We‘ve turned the corner on that one, I‘ll tell you that.

Now listen, I think we can understand Senator Harkin said something very tough today and I think I know why.  Because this president and this vice president have so polarized this country, have so polarized this campaign, they‘re bringing out the absolute toughest things on both sides.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Tad, let me get something straight here.  Speaking for the Kerry campaign, is Dick Cheney a coward? 

DEVINE:  Chris, Senator Kerry didn‘t say that.  Senator Edwards didn‘t say that.  Senator Harkin said it.  He expressed his opinion and I think the reason so many people feel so strongly in this campaign is what this president and this vice president have done to this country and this campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  You basically—you got a guy, Harkin, calling him a chicken hawk.  One of these guys is very hawkish and (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  He doesn‘t want to go himself.  Is that the charge here you don‘t like, Matt? 

DOWD:  Well, no.  I think the charges—I mean, for somebody to say, to say that somebody that didn‘t serve in a war can‘t make the decisions in the White House is discounting almost half the presidents that have served in this country and the fact that Tad won‘t take it back and allows it to stand I think is unfortunate.

MATTHEWS:  No, I think he was saying that how can a guy who hasn‘t served amid a very serious campaign not to serve through five deferments call a guy who did serve a sissy basically.  All this sensitive talk, what is that about?  When you attack a guy for using the word “sensitive” what are you really doing here, Matt, what‘s the point of this?

DOWD:  The vice president was just repeating what Senator Kerry said and Senator Kerry‘s words is he wanted to fight a more sensitive war on terror. 

MATTHEWS:  What the point of bringing that up?  What‘s the point of jumping on that?  Just tell me what‘s the point.

DOWD:  Basically, there‘s a distinction between what we need to do and what Senator Kerry has laid out as he wants to do.  And I think what the vice president is trying to say in this war on terror we don‘t have time for a lot of nuance, we have to fight the battle overseas where Senator Kerry wants to sort of fight it defensively.

DEVINE:  I think the point is the same point that they made with the distortion from the clip from your show.  You grab a word, you pull it out and mislead the public.  That‘s the whole purpose of their campaign.

MATTHEWS:  I hope we don‘t decide the presidency on nomenclature.  Anyway, thank you, gentlemen.  It‘s been a hot night all around.  Matthew Dowd, thanks for coming.  Tad Devine, thanks for coming.  Join us again tomorrow at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  We‘ll be joined by the man who won the first Gulf War.  You can say that certainly.  Retired General Stormin‘ Norman Schwarzkopf himself is coming here. 

Right now it‘s time—I don‘t think he uses the word “sensitive” but I don‘t think I‘d worry if he did.  Anyway, the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith is coming next.

END   

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