updated 8/31/2004 11:02:10 AM ET 2004-08-31T15:02:10

Guests: David Gergen, Christie Todd Whitman, Bo Derek, Jon Meacham, J.C. Watts, Chuck Hagel, Olympia Snowe

RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Picking up on something David said, too. I remember when we were in Boston, and all of us—many of us anyway—were sitting around talking about what a mistake it would be for the Democrats to bash Bush, and now we‘re sitting here talking about what a mistake it was to...

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER:  Well, remember, by Wednesday or Thursday night in Boston, we were beginning to say, you know, this has gone—they‘ve been so light on him, so soft, that they‘re giving him an opening...


GERGEN:  ... and, boy, the Republicans, I think, are seizing it tonight.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, David, from being in fights—I‘ve been against you a number of years.  Whenever you avoid fighting, it looks like you‘re afraid to fight.  It looks like you‘ve got something to hide, you don‘t want to tussle.  When anyone says let‘s not talk about our personal lives, it‘s always like, whoa, let‘s talk—somebody wants not to talk about their personal lives, you know.

Governor, you‘ve been through this more than we have.

CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN ®, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR:  I have been through it a lot, and these are two extraordinarily strong people with a great deal of credibility on the issues on which they‘re speaking.  So the message for the president‘s going to be very important.

And to have them speaking as strongly as they do and pointing out the differences, pointing out what leads them to say they are supporting George Bush is going to give them a big boost.

MATTHEWS:  Is—Governor, is the biggest shortage here tonight the lack of a helmsman?  Clearly, the Republican Party, for better or worse—and politically perhaps for the better—they have a helmsman.  They‘ve got a guy calling the shots.

Just like the Democrats once had Bobby Kennedy and Hamilton Jordan and James Carville, there‘s clearly someone calling the shots in the Republican back room, and his name is Karl Rove.  Do the Democrats have anyone like him, male, female, whatever?

Is there anybody out there who is the—nobody—who would be Kerry‘s brain if you were going to knock Kerry?

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, Kerry is Kerry‘s brain, and I‘ve covered him a long time.  He always has a big council of advisers.  There are a lot of cooks in the Kerry kitchen.

The Bush team has been together from the moment George Bush began running for governor in the ‘90s.  It‘s the same people around him, the same people—in terms of helmsman, they‘re going to emphasize Bush‘s solitary leadership on Thursday night, having him alone, a conscious contrast to Kerry, who had a “We-are-the-world” tableau up there with him in Boston, you know, all the Swift Boat Veterans, all the people in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) behind him and so on.

That‘s very conscious symbolism on the Bush campaign‘s part.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that was a real smart move, wasn‘t it?  Let‘s talk about my war record for three months.

You know, Ron, it seems to me choreographer plays a big part of this.  The first night tonight we‘re going to see people who are really—it‘s almost like a bullfight, one of those rituals.  You know, you stick the—the picador puts the picks in, you know.  Tonight, they‘re putting to put those picks into John Kerry, aren‘t they?

REAGAN:  They are.  They‘re not reluctant about that.  They scream like bloody murder when somebody does it to them and accuse them of all sorts of terrible things, but they turn around, they‘ve got no compunction about doing this to people, and John McCain, among other people, ought to know that because he suffered from that in 2000.

MATTHEWS:  He isn‘t complaining tonight.

REAGAN:  He‘s not complaining tonight, and that‘s—that‘s a big plus.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Howard, you remember when we were covering just a couple of months ago—or a month-and-a-half ago—let me be precise—when the word was in the streets, the political thinking that John McCain might accept the Democratic nomination for vice president.  Was he using the media?  Was he using the Democrats to cook their goose?

FINEMAN:  No, I don‘t think so.  I think McCain was faced with a decision of how far he wanted to go down that road, and he looked farther down that road and said no, in part because John McCain very fervently believes that the Iraq decision was the right decision.

Leave the politics out of it for a minute, John McCain is a hard-liner on the war in Iraq.  That‘s the part of the Bush presidency that John McCain is most supportive of.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to have...

FINEMAN:  That‘s true.  That‘s the way it is.

MATTHEWS:  No, I‘ve been warned through my ear that we‘re about to get something special coming out here at the Republican Convention.  One of the little novelties of tonight‘s program is going to be something from “Saturday Night Live.”

The style—it will be in the style of—and here I‘m getting this information—Phil Harris is going to be the—the person who‘s going to go on there is the former (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and he‘s going to give us a little taste of “Saturday Night Live” Republican style.  It may not be quite as...

FINEMAN:  Isn‘t that an oxymoron?

MATTHEWS:  I knew you‘d say that.  Well, your father was in show business, and he‘s a Republican, and there is an overlap.

REAGAN:  It‘s true.  It‘s true.  John Ashcroft sings.  Well, OK.  So he...


MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think that‘s exactly show business.  That‘s gospel.

But, anyway, let me ask you—let‘s keep this conversation going.  It seems to me that what you‘re seeing here is the development of a phalanx, a Roman army, troops get together, they form a shell, and then nobody gets through it.

David, the statistics I learned today about Republican support for Bush are daunting.  This party—you always hear anecdotes about some Republican friend of yours, like, you know, is going to vote for Bush—vote for Kerry.  It doesn‘t seem like that‘s showing up in the numbers.

GERGEN:  No, I don‘t think so.  The sense one has here tonight, in my judgment, is that John Kerry and the Democrats had a chance to make their charge, and they came and they charged hard, but they fell a little short of where they wanted to be, and these Republicans now are making their charge.  They started a couple of weeks ago.

They come in here with a great deal of confidence, and I think they‘re uniting behind their candidate in a way that‘s very powerful and they think may push them ahead, that they think they still could get the bounce that Kerry didn‘t get.  They could come out of here 5 percent...

MATTHEWS:  Stick your neck out.  Stick your neck out.  What do you think?

GERGEN:  I think that they‘ve got a—I think they‘ve got a chance because I think that they‘re—they can be so much on the offense because they‘re not having to be defensive about their record.

Kerry didn‘t put them on the defensive about their record at his own convention, so they‘re giving you a clean—they‘re not having to defend the loss of jobs, they‘re not having to defend the loss of health care, they‘re not having to defend the increase in poverty.

They can say we‘re terrific and we‘re going straight forward, and they can do it with a straight face and a lot of confidence, and a lot of Americans are going to watch that and say these guys have got their act together.

MATTHEWS:  So you think maybe, Howard—you‘re always courageous.  Do you think they might come out of here with a 5-point bounce?

FINEMAN:  Which, by the standards of this year, would be huge.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s huge~!

FINEMAN:  It would be huge, but this is...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s more than three-quarters of the undecideds, is what it would be.

FINEMAN:  This is a bounce—this is a bounce on concrete, you know. 

It doesn‘t bounce real high.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I mean, you‘ve only got 8 points that‘s out there.

FINEMAN:  Yes, they think...

MATTHEWS:  These polls...

FINEMAN:  They think that...


MATTHEWS:  ... they win.

FINEMAN:  They think that Kerry left the future open, talking about the future open, and they have counted the number of words in which Kerry discussed his Senate record in his speech in Boston and they noticed how short it was.

MATTHEWS:  How short it was?

FINEMAN:  Well, like—I don‘t know -- 92 words.  They‘re going to expand that like an accordion.  They‘re going to go after every vote, every conflict, all the way down the line.  That‘s going to be a part of the thematics.  Plus, George Bush‘s proposals...

GERGEN:  Yes, but look at Bill Frist when he‘s with you tonight.


REAGAN:  ... George Bush will use to describe his business career.

FINEMAN:  But he didn‘t...


FINEMAN:  But he wasn‘t—yes.  John Kerry has been a senator for almost 20 years.  I agree.  You get to be judged on what you want to be judged on.  You get to be judged on what you want to be judged on.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the Republican Party record, without going overboard with our hospitality here.  We live in a part of the country, New Jersey, your state, that can‘t elect a Republican to the Senate and probably not a president in electoral votes.

New York‘s the same way.  Connecticut‘s the same way.  Pennsylvania may be within reach.  But why is this part of the country adamantly opposed to Bush?

WHITMAN:  I really think we‘re going to have a chance.  I think you‘re going to see some changes in the East.  I don‘t think you‘re going to win New York.  New Jersey, we lost by 16 points, but what‘s happening to the Democrat Party in our state right now is opening up an opportunity for contrast on leadership.

MATTHEWS:  The McGreevey factor?

WHITMAN:  Yes.  Well, all the corruption about that surrounds him. 

It‘s not about his sexual preferences, about the corruption.

MATTHEWS:  That was a cover-up, right?

WHITMAN:  It was.  It was.  It was the feint.

GERGEN:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  I want to well you.  That‘s only in New Jersey, can that be a cover-up.

GERGEN:  But, you know, the whole time we‘ve talked about how hard it is for concrete to bounce, what I can‘t figure out is why Pennsylvania has gone from almost 9 points up for Kerry to 1 point up for Kerry.

FINEMAN:  Culture.  Culture.

MATTHEWS:  You believe it‘s culture.  It‘s not economic...

GERGEN:  Well,, that means there‘s more fluidity in this than we thought.

MATTHEWS:  It means that Teresa and John don‘t quite sell in Franklin County.

I want to thank the panel, Christie Todd Whitman, Ron Reagan, Howard Fineman, and David Gergen.

Down on the convention podium, tonight‘s proceedings are getting started with a “Saturday Night Live”-style parody.  Good friends, I should say.  It‘s a video by comedian Phil Harris.  Let‘s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Ladies and gentlemen, I‘m sorry.  I apologize. 

I‘m sorry, Mr. Harris.

Yes.  Sure.

Mr. Harris, they‘re telling me you have a very important announcement for us. 

PHIL HARRIS, COMEDIAN:  Live from New York, the Republican Convention!

ANNOUNCER:  It‘s the Republican National Convention with Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Senator John McCain, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, First Lady Laura Bush, Senator Zell Miller, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mrs. Lynne Cheney, Vice President Dick Cheney, and very special guest President George W. Bush!

Ladies and gentlemen, Chairman Ed Gillespie.


ED GILLESPIE, RNC CHAIRMAN:  You got to love New York.  Hey, I think I just got that cabdriver‘s vote, by the way.  He loves the president, and I don‘t think the big tip hurt at all.

At this time, we will continue the roll call of the states.  We‘re going to begin with Maine.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get right down to the floor now with NBC‘s Chip Reid

·         Chip.


We‘re trying to get a sense of the mood down here on the floor of the convention after that “Saturday Night Live” skit, and what better way to get a sense of the mood.  Go ahead.

Chris, we‘re trying to get a sense of the mood down here on the floor of this convention, and what better way to get a sense of the mood than to find a bunch of guys in hats.  You can always final personalities under hats at conventions.  That‘s always been my experience.

We start here with Bill Stein (ph).  You are head of Vets for Bush out there in California.  Is that right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m the California coalition chair, you betcha.

REID:  And mood here?  What is it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, I got optimism, and people are excited.  The California delegation is dancing in the aisles over there, and we‘re having a grand time.

REID:  It seems more like a party.

We‘ve got two doctors from Texas here.  I‘m just guessing you‘re from Texas with the hats.  We‘ve got David Tischer (ph), and we‘ve got John Gill (ph) here.  Dancing in aisles—is Texas doing that, or is this more—a little more serious over there in the Texas delegation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, we‘re going to have some seriousness later on, but we‘re having a lot of fun.  We‘ve got a president that needs to be reelected, and we‘re really happy about that.  We‘re proud of the job he‘s doing, and so, of course, we‘re going to be festive.  New York City‘s been great, a great host city.  We‘re having so much fun, but we‘re all about getting George W. Bush reelected.

REID:  Now it‘s been so festive, almost frivolous sometimes down here on the floor, people being silly and fun, but this is deadly serious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It is serious, but we believe America‘s best days are ahead of us, and we have a prescription for America: four more years of George Bush and call me in the morning.

REID:  Do you guys worry?  Do you have a sense in your gut, geez, our

guy might not win, this thing is neck and neck

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re going to work and work and work so America knows what the decision is, and, once they really understand what the choices are, I think America‘s going to choose George W. Bush for four more years.

REID:  And we‘ve got another one here, Chris.  We‘ve got Gordon Peterson of South Dakota.  This is just a wild guess, but I bet you‘ve been to a convention or two before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is my eighth convention in a row.  I‘ve been a delegate or an alternate at all of them.

REID:  In fact, you‘re a state representative.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I am a state representative in South Dakota. 


REID:  And what do you think about John Kerry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  John Kerry?  He was in Vietnam just a little bit after I was.  I was an officer in a—the operations officer of an infantry brigade, the Big Red One, and he was running on a little boat.  I don‘t know whether he‘s right or wrong on that boat thing.

But I tell you one thing, in the Army, we had buck sergeants running fire teams, which is a five-man team.  He had a five-man boat crew and was a lieutenant, and I don‘t think he did—evidently did a very good job because a lot of the people are saying that he didn‘t.

REID:  Hey, what‘s the mood down here real quickly?  Tell—I...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The mood is great.  It is festive.  We know we‘re going to win.  We know we‘ve got a leader there that we can trust, and I think he‘s honest just like his dad.

REID:  OK, fantastic.  It‘s extraordinarily optimistic down here, Chris, but I‘ll tell you it always is on a convention floor.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

Chip who‘s down on the convention floor.

We‘re going to continue to cover every elephant in the parade tonight.

Coming up, “The Cook Report”‘s Charlie Cook, with the pros and cons of the electoral college.  You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Republican National Convention on MSNBC.  We‘re out here in Harold Square.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘re going to nominate Joe Smith.



ANNOUNCER (voice-over):  Vice President Richard Nixon faced an unlikely challenger in 1956 when a delegate from Nebraska nominated the name Joe Smith for the Office of Vice President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But he does exist.  Where does he live?  Where is Joe Smith?


ANNOUNCER:  Desperate for comic relief, NBC Anchor Chet Huntley kept up the buzz.

CHET HUNTLEY, NBC ANCHOR:  A wire from Michigan City, Indiana, that while changing baby‘s diaper, was amazed to hear my nomination for the Office of Vice President.  Will be proud and pleased to accept as soon as I can locate a babysitter.  Signed Mrs. Joe Smith.



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to our live coverage of the Republican Convention up here in New York.

Joining me now is NBC Political Analyst, editor and publisher of “The Cook Political Report” Charlie Cook.

Charlie, it seems to me that this election is either going to be close enough that it‘s all going to be decided by a few states or it‘s basically going to be decided by a big percentage like 52-48, 51-49.  How do you see the election turning out?  Is it going to be a percentage game in the popular vote, or is it going to be like last time when it comes down to a state like Florida?

CHARLIE COOK, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think it‘s going to come down to just a couple of states.  We‘ve 10 states that are within just a point or two one way or the other.

When Senator Kerry was up by 2 or 3 points three weeks ago, he was probably ahead in eight out of the 10 tossups.  Now the president‘s probably ahead in six or seven out of the 10 tossups.

But, you know, every—every just little click up or down that this race goes, it‘s two or three states.

MATTHEWS:  I‘ve looked back over the last 50 years, and I can‘t find a close reelection.  Why do you think this will be close?

COOK:  Oh, I think you have to go back to 1916 to find Woodrow Wilson when a president—an elected incumbent president won a close race.  I think the country is just so evenly divided, there‘s no slack in this race.

MATTHEWS:  Have you noticed—can you go by the president‘s travels and Kerry‘s travels to see where the close states are?

COOK:  Yes.  I mean, you can see, but there are some strange ones that are getting thrown in.  You know,  Kerry and Edwards—he‘ll go to Louisiana or Arkansas or Tennessee, and I don‘t quite understand that.

I understand why they would go to North Carolina because it‘s Edwards‘ home state, but the—you know, each side—they‘re trying to show that they‘re competitive in more states than they probably really are, but it‘s like 10, 15 where the action really is.

MATTHEWS:  If we have another one of these babies where they pop during the electoral vote going different directions, are we going to junk the electoral college?

COOK:  I don‘t think so.  I don‘t think the small states would ever go for it, and, while you could certainly make a case for it, the small states should have to go along with it.  This is the only way they can get attention.

I mean, you‘ve got, I think, what $11 million, $12 million has already been spent in Nevada.  That would never happen in a popular vote election.  So why should Nevada ratify a constitutional amendment?

MATTHEWS:  Excuse me.  A little cosmetic effort here right now.  That‘s the Bush twins, very attractive young ladies.  They‘re all graduates of college now.  Both.  And they are going to be active in this campaign.

Let me ask you about the question.  Last time around, Al Gore, who‘s now almost a forgotten American—he‘s completely gone.  He did get 600,000 votes more than the president.  That seems to—I thought that at the time, if we had a real discrepancy where the electoral college went one way and the popular vote—the people would say forget the electoral vote.  What explains it?  Is it the small states?

COOK:  I think that‘s it, but, I mean, I would have—I would have agreed with you, but the controversy over Florida just so overshadowed everything else that we never really had a discussion about whether it‘s really kosher to have a popular vote going one way and the electoral college the other.  It was a discussion that never took place.

MATTHEWS:  Are we going to have about 35 states to 40 states that are never going to see a presidential candidate because they don‘t really matter?  I mean, I‘ve lived all my life in states that have already made up their mind before I voted.  I‘ve never lived in a close state.

COOK:  You‘re right, but this number—it moves a little bit.  I mean, Colorado wasn‘t on the map four or eight years ago.  Nevada Democrats didn‘t used to be competitive.  These things move around.  Minnesota—

President Bush has a—you know, a decent chance of winning Minnesota.  He has a great chance of picking up Wisconsin.  So the map does move from time to time.

MATTHEWS:  There was a Republican strategy back when Lee Atwater was alive that basically cut the heart out of the other side—I mean, this is really hardball politics - by getting a state that you know that they know they need because then they‘ve got no hope.  I think, for a whole, there was Michigan.  Is Pennsylvania the heart they want to cut out of the Democratic body?

COOK:  Well, you and I heard Matt Dowd, the chief strategist of the Bush campaign, say this morning that two out of the three—Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania—whoever wins two out of three of those is most likely going to be president.

But you can construct a little back door for the president.  Let‘s say he picked off Wisconsin and Iowa in only one of those two big three, then there is a little bit of a back door.  But, you know, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida—those—each of those is just critically important.

MATTHEWS:  The last three weeks of this campaign after the debates are over and everything is—all the back and forth between the candidates is basically over, does the president, George W. Bush, control the field?

He simply has to campaign day and night in those key states, and he really is unobstructed at that point.  That‘s what I think is his advantage.  What do you think?

COOK:  Well, except that news events—I mean, we don‘t know what‘s going to be in the news, what kind of jobs report‘s going to come out, what‘s the casualty rate in Iraq, that sort of thing.  I mean, when you look at President Bush going up and down, oftentimes, it connects to economic events and the casualty rate and what‘s on the front page of the papers.

MATTHEWS:  Charlie Cook, I‘ve got to bump you aside because I‘ve got a 10 coming in here right now.  It‘s Bo Derek.  Thank you very much.

Charlie Cook, my colleague.

Thank you.  We‘re here right now at Harold Square in the heart of Manhattan, and we‘re joined right now by actress and activist Bo Derek!  Bo Derek.


MATTHEWS:  You must be all alone.  I mean, it‘s great having you here.  Let me ask you, Bo, why are you—I hate to be so primitive about this, but you come from Hollywood.  Why are you a Republican?

DEREK:  It‘s just me.  I‘m for more personal freedom, smaller government.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s it?

DEREK:  That‘s it.

MATTHEWS:  Where do you stand on this war on terrorism?

DEREK:  OK.  I truly believe it‘s the right way to go.  I think it‘s long-term.  I don‘t think it‘s immediate.  I think that when this is all over, there will be an example of democracy and that in the long run that will stop the cycle of hatred.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think going to Iraq was an essential part of the war on terror?

DEREK:  I do.  I think how else do we stop the cycle of hatred.  I don‘t think putting money there—we‘ve been putting money there for years and years and years, lots and lots of money into that region.  It hasn‘t done any good.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the convention last time or the election last time.  You were out there for Bush last time.  That‘s when I met you the first time.  And you were out there campaigning in Florida.  Weren‘t you down there the last weekend?

DEREK:  I was there the last three days, five -- 15 cities.

MATTHEWS:  This is what I love about politics, the fact that you can smell a problem.  The Republicans smelled a problem right near the election last time in Florida.  You were down there.  Giuliani was down there.  Wayne Newton was down there.  Everybody was down there.  Ricky Martin.  Was he down there?  I don‘t know.  Everybody seemed to be down there.  Did you sense that last time was going to be as close as it was?

DEREK:  Oh, yes.  I did think it was going to be that close.  You could tell.  The polls were showing it.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you—are you a blue-plate special partisan, or do you—are you like a cafeteria Republican who picks out certain things you like and you don‘t like other things, and I want to hear right now what you don‘t like.

DEREK:  OK.  Well, for instance, I‘m pro-choice, but there are more pro-choice Republicans than pro-life Republicans.  So I‘m a majority.

MATTHEWS:  Have you read your party platform tonight.

DEREK:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Why is it pro-life?

DEREK:  That‘s my cafeteria part.

MATTHEWS:  What about—I‘m going to now enlarge your list of—what was that great movie?  “Five Easy Pieces.”

DEREK:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  And he wanted the—he wanted to make the—what did he call it—the substitutions, and the waitress said no substitutions.  But you think the Republican Party allows for substitutions?

DEREK:  Of course, it does.  That‘s why they have all these speakers tonight.  That‘s why I‘m here.  It is a big tent party.  I saw a “Hermaphrodites-Are-People-Too” sign today.  I thought they should just come on in.

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think they‘re going to make the platform, do you?

Let me ask you about an issue of health research.  I mean, we‘ve got diseases today like Alzheimer‘s.  I lost my mom that way.  So many people here have lost people to Alzheimer‘s.  How many people here have lost somebody from Alzheimer‘s?  What, are you immune?

DEREK:  I—no, I lost...

MATTHEWS:  How many people have lost somebody from Parkinson‘s?

DEREK:  I have.

MATTHEWS:  Do you guys call home ever?  I‘m just kidding.

How about—how about diabetes?  Any diabetics here?  Diabetics here?

DEREK:  I lost my stepfather to Parkinson‘s, yes.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what about the party‘s position that basically you can have some research but only in those existing lines of stem cells?

DEREK:  So far, from what I understand, that‘s all that‘s needed.  It doesn‘t stop private research.  It‘s not—they‘re not—people have the assump—have the opinion that they‘re stopping research.  They aren‘t.  It‘s still...

MATTHEWS:  But isn‘t the federal government the main source of funding for these—for these advanced—you know, this—it doesn‘t pay, a lot of this research.  It doesn‘t yield a commercial advantage for the drug companies, and they have to make these—don‘t they need the federal support for something like stem cell?

DEREK:  They‘re getting federal support, and there are these stem—these lines, and they haven‘t used them up yet.

MATTHEWS:  If you weren‘t a Republican, would you be for stem cell research without obstruction?

DEREK:  I don‘t know enough about it, and, from what I understand, proteins are showing great promise right now.

MATTHEWS:  How about gun control?  Where do you stand on that?

DEREK:  I‘m not for gun control.  Certain—yes, I want background checks and things like that, but it is our right.

MATTHEWS:  Are you for the Brady bill?

DEREK:  You know, that‘s the problem, isn‘t it?  I‘m—I‘ll be a cafeteria on that, too.

MATTHEWS:  I like this.  We are slicing and dicing Bo Derek here tonight and finding out where she stands.  She‘s about a 95 percent Republican.

Anyway, thank you, Bo Derek.  It‘s great to see you again.

When we come back, we‘re going to bring in our panel and check back in on the convention floor.  You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Republican National Convention here at Harold Square in New York City.

And there‘s Bo Derek walking away with her sister.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is Governor Jim Thompson of Illinois wearing a button.  Put down the sign.  It says “Reagan,” and then he‘s added “Ford.”  Do they have a deal?

ANNOUNCER (voice-over):  The convention rumor mill went into overdrive in 1980 when word hit the floor that Ronald Reagan‘s running mate would be former President Gerald Ford.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is it your understanding that the deal has been struck between Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s my understanding.

ANNOUNCER:  With delegates buzzing that the pairing was a done deal, Reagan himself took to the convention podium and set the record straight.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF The UNITED STATES:  I am recommending to this convention that tomorrow when the session reconvenes that George Bush be nominated for Vice President of the United States.



MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to the convention floor with White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett.  One of the big gets for the night, Chris.  There you are.


MATTHEWS:  Now we have a mike problem.  We‘re going to keep going back and forth until we get good sound there from the floor.  We‘ll get Bartlett back in a minute because Jansing has this guy nailed for the night.

I‘m joined right now by my new panel, NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell, former Republican Congressman J.C. Watts of Oklahoma City, Joe Scarborough hosts “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” and “AFTER HOURS” here on MSNBC, and “Newsweek”‘s Jon Meacham.

Let me ask you, Jon, about history.  You‘re a history buff as well as being an editor at “Newsweek.”  All the hoopla—and there‘s going to be a lot of it this week—and all the good speeches—we‘ve already seen some written up already—can that change the forces of an election?

If people don‘t want to be in Iraq, are they going to keep a president who wants to be in Iraq?  If they don‘t like the direction of the economy, will they keep a president who‘s good on the economy?  How do these factors play into the hoopla here?

JON MEACHAM, “NEWSWEEK”:  If they believe that George Bush is a strong leader and they still believe that there is a threat out there, wherever—whatever nation it may come from, whether it comes from a regime or not, then, yes, I think it can.  The work of the evening, obviously, is to connect George W. Bush to the great war leaders of the modern era.  You‘re going to hear about Churchill protecting power against public opinion.  You‘re gong to hear about Franklin Roosevelt‘s sense of destiny.  You‘re going to hear about Franklin Roosevelt‘s sense of destiny.  You‘re going to hear about Ronald Reagan‘s buoyant optimism against the Iron Curtain. 

Clearly, they want to add George W. Bush to that pantheon.  And they‘re



MATTHEWS:  But Iraq was a popular cause when he first started it.  It wasn‘t like Churchill speaking against the Nazis. 

MEACHAM:  That‘s not the way the Republican Party sees it.  They think that all of us and “The New York Times” are against them. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, they are right about “The New York Times.”  And they

may be right about all of us.  But the American people have supported this

·         haven‘t they, Mr. Watts, Congressman, haven‘t the Republican—the people of this Republic have supported the president on this war from the outset.

J.C. WATTS, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN:  Well, I think the Republicans obviously have.  But I think the American people, Chris, I think there‘s a standard that a challenger has to meet against an incumbent president. 

And I don‘t think John Kerry has met that standard to say we‘re going to vote for him.  But President Bush in terms of this war and what‘s going on in Iraq, you notice whenever he‘s gone on “Meet the Press,” whenever he‘s had a major press conference, whenever he‘s had a major speech, his numbers have always moved forward in a positive way, because he‘s there reassuring the American people, telling them what his plans are, what the mission is, what the cause is, kind of getting them focused again. 

I think that is what he does on Thursday.  And if does that, it will be interesting to see what might happen concerning the balance of this election. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go right now to Chris Jansing, who is on the floor with the White House communications director, who knows all about what we‘re talking about, Dan Bartlett—Chris. 

JANSING:  He does, indeed.  Thanks very much.

They were talking about the war in Iraq, so let me ask you about some controversy created by the president.  Matt Lauer asked him if the war on terror was winnable and he said—quote—“I don‘t think you can win it.”  John Kerry came out.  He said it‘s winnable.  John Edwards says the president‘s statement was tantamount to an admission, a concession of defeat to the terrorists.  What do you say?

DAN BARTLETT, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR:  I don‘t think anybody who has heard President Bush here in America or around the world thinks that President Bush believes we can‘t win this war.  Of course he believes we can win this war.

And there‘s a “TIME” magazine article out today that speaks to this very point.  What President Bush was talking about is that, in the context of this interview, there is not going to be a conventional surrender by this unconventional enemy we face.  There‘s not going to be a treaty signed by al Qaeda.  What we need to do is address the root causes of terrorism.  But President Bush understands we can win this war.

And if Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards want to have this debate about who‘s best to lead this war and to lead our country in the face of terrorism, we‘re more than happy to have the debate, because I think what the public has seen over the course of this August recess and coming out other Democratic National Convention is that John Kerry has not been able to speak clearly on these issues. 


JANSING:  But polls also show, Dan, that the American people think that they‘re not safer, in fact, the U.S. is more vulnerable to terrorism since the United States went to war in Iraq. 

BARTLETT:  Well, actually, the 9/11 Commission said we are safer, but not yet safe.  And President Bush completely agrees with that assessment.

If we don‘t stay on offense, if we don‘t continue to find those enemies before they hurt us, we won‘t win this war on terror.  And President Bush firmly believes that.  And that‘s why this election is so important, because it‘s important for the American people to understand who is best to lead us forward, because we are not a country that is safe from terror.

And President Bush is going to continue to fight the terror on offense, fight this war on offense, because we can either face them there in Iraq or Afghanistan or other parts of the world or we can face them here at home.  So President Bush welcomes this debate.  If Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards want to have this debate, we are more than happy to have it. 

JANSING:  Now, the good news for the president is that five national polls show that he is gaining ground on John Kerry, but those polls also shows it is still a statistical dead heat.  You were telling me you are going back to Washington on Wednesday, do some final touches with the president on his speech Thursday night.  How important is what he says to the nation as he heads forward to November 2? 

BARTLETT:  Well, we are entering into a critical juncture of this campaign.  President Bush gets a unique opportunity afforded to a nominee to speak to the country about his plans for the next four years. 

He‘s going to talk about his plans to continue this economic recovery.  He‘s going to talk about his new plans to help people better afford health care, make sure that our children have the best education in out country, as we should expect, and how we‘re going to win this war on terror.  So Thursday marks an important opportunity for President Bush to speak about his vision for the next four years. 

He‘s excited about it.  Talked to him on the campaign trail today.  He said the crowds are big, very exciting.  They‘re rallying around an important message that he‘s delivering to the American people.  And on Thursday, he gets a unique opportunity to deliver it to the American people.

Dan Bartlett, White House communications director, thanks. 

BARTLETT:  Thanks for having me.

JANSING:  Travel safe back and forth to Washington and New York.  We appreciate it—Chris, back to you. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Chris Jansing and Dan Bartlett.

NBC‘s Chip Reid is also on the floor, and he‘s with Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska—Chip.

REID:  Hi, Chris. 

I am joined by Senator Chuck Hagel right now.

Senator, I think we may have Senator McCain coming—coming—excuse me, the vice president coming in right now. 



MATTHEWS:  That‘s the vice president and his wife, Lynne Cheney, coming into the hall and taking their seats tonight in what I imagine to be the VIP section.

And, of course, let‘s go back right now to Chris Jansing, who is talking to Chuck Hagel—Chip Reid, who is talking to Chuck Hagel—Chip.

REID:  Chris, I am joined by Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. 

And Chuck Hagel may be in a very good position to give us a sense of what he believes John McCain is doing tonight, because, first of all, you‘re a good friend of John McCain.  You also are one of the Republicans in the Senate frequently referred to as a maverick.  You are on the Intelligence Committee, Foreign Relations.  Give us an idea of what you think John McCain is going to do tonight. 

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL ®, NEBRASKA:  Well, John McCain believes in his country.  He loves his country.  He has always put his country first. 

And I believe he will talk in terms of the larger context of the challenges that faces America today, that face the world.  And leadership, courage are the foundation that are going to pull this country and the world through a very difficult next few years.  I think he‘ll talk about that and why it‘s important the we reelect George Bush.

REID:  Do you think he had a hard time getting to this point?  Because, obviously, feelings were very bitter between those two once upon a time. 

HAGEL:  John doesn‘t let that stuff simmer.  He lets go.  Here‘s a guy who served five and a half years in a North Vietnamese prison camp.  And you let it go.  You have to let it go.  The differences between Bush and McCain, those were over the 2000 election.

REID:  Really quickly, you were wounded in Vietnam.  Have you had a problem with the criticism of John Kerry recently and his Vietnam service? 

HAGEL:  Well, I wish we would get beyond that.  Those who served in Vietnam honorably—John Kerry did—we should thank him for his service.  Those who served like President Bush in the National Guard, thank him for his service and move on. 

REID:  OK.  Great.  Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, thank you very much.


REID:  And now I‘m going to toss to my colleague Campbell Brown, who is with Senator Olympia Snowe. 


I‘m here with Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine.

And the president‘s chief political strategist, Karl Rove, was just here in this corner of the Garden a moment ago working the people here.  And you spoke with him quite a bit for a few minutes.  You and he have not necessarily agreed on everything, you being one of the more moderate senators.  But as national security and the issues that we‘re going to hear discussed tonight, are—is that what‘s uniting the GOP during this convention? 

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE ®, MAINE:  I don‘t think there‘s any doubt about that in these transformational times, because the Republican Party has always stressed a strong national defense.

But in these—this high-threat environment, obviously, national security has become paramount.  And that is one of the issues that I think bridges any—the differences within the Republican Party and what we could be united without question.  And this president has provided strong leadership.

BROWN:  What do you expect to hear from former Mayor Giuliani and Senator John McCain tonight as they try to make the case that his leadership has been strong and crucial during this time? 

SNOWE:  Well, I think Rudy Giuliani, certainly, as the former mayor of New York during that horrific event on 9/11 and being able to talk about his experiences—and what defines America is the way in which we respond to the times and to any era or threats of war, and as we did in this time when it was an attack on our homeland, the first major attack since Pearl Harbor. 

And McCain, John McCain, has his obviously own background serving in Vietnam and his leadership in the Senate on the defense issues.  I think that they bring a breadth of experience on these questions that I think will give credibility to the positions and the leadership and testimony to the leadership of the president. 

BROWN:  Do you run the risk of, as Democrats have suggested, politicizing these crucial issues by making it such a central theme during the convention? 

SNOWE:  No, I don‘t, because I don‘t think that is what is all about.  It‘s a question of what kind of leadership we want for the future.  And I don‘t think that we can in any way overlook September 11 and what it meant for America and what it means the future. 

It‘s etched in our consciousness. And it‘s incumbent upon presidential candidates and president to always tell the American people how they would respond to protect America from any such threats in the future.

BROWN:  Senator Olympia Snowe, thank you for your time tonight. 

And, let‘s Chris, back to you.  I know—and Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine.

Myrah Kirkwood, by the way, of Michigan, of the Michigan delegation, is reading tonight, in a very few moments, from former Gerald Ford.  And that will be followed by a tribute to the 38th president of the United States, a very popular fellow, by the way, and not too controversial either in either party.  Let‘s listen to that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  All right.  I understand you have a very special letter from our very special 38th president, President Gerald Ford. 

MYRAH KIRKWOOD, MICHIGAN DELEGATE:  I do.  And I‘m going to read it to you.

“Dear friends, fellow Republicans and fellow Americans, believe me, there is nowhere I‘d rather be tonight than with you in New York.  I‘ve attended every Republican Convention since 1940, except one.  I had to skip 1944 on account of World War II.  But time marches on.  And once you hit 91, you have to cut back a little.  Tonight, Betty and I will have to make do with C-SPAN.  But believe me, we will both be with you in spirit as you rally behind our commander in chief. 

“George Bush has led America through perilous times with calm, consistent courage and has the vision, decisiveness and compassion to build an America future that‘s safer, healthier and richer in opportunity for all our people.  God bless him.  God bless you all in this great undertaking—

Jerry Ford.”


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And we‘ve got some very special video for you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Next up is some great music from Austin, Texas. 

Ladies and gentlemen, Dexter Freebish.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back to the panel right now. 

Let me go Andrea Mitchell, because there was an interesting firefight in the campaign today involving the president and what he said about the war in Iraq and what his opponent, John Kerry, had to say. 

Fill us in, Andrea.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, the president, in his interview with Matt Lauer, said that you could not absolutely win the war on terror. 

Now, we just heard Dan Bartlett in his interview with Chris Jansing trying to put that in—quote—“context,” a little bit of spin there.  But the Democrats really had a problem in their rapid response.  It took John Edwards to respond to it in his speech today.  The only response from John Kerry, vacationing at his home in Nantucket, was while he was out wind-surfing.  And the image on network television was of John Kerry in—for those of us who aren‘t up on Nantucket—sort of silly looking bathing trunks wind-surfing, which is a rather expensive, not middle...

MATTHEWS:  Was he wearing Nantucket red? 

MITCHELL:  It was Nantucket sort of blue and white flowers, I think.


MITCHELL:  And it‘s a very expensive sport.  This is not a middle American sport.

MATTHEWS:  You have to be totally objective here.  What is wrong with him appearing wind-surfing?  No, no, let‘s go to somebody who is not objective.

MITCHELL:  Wait.  First of all, it‘s very expensive.  And when asked the question, he sort of shouted, absolutely.  In other words, you can win the war on terror. 

But one wonders.  I know there‘s a tradition of candidates not being there and competing with an opponent‘s party convention.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, why did he do it?

MITCHELL:  But he‘s going to appear on Wednesday at the VFW.  Or, rather, he‘s going to make a speech on Wednesday.

I don‘t know why he did it in that context.  It seems that they‘re missing an opportunity to punch back. 

MATTHEWS:  Joe, are we going to see him line skating through Central Park, like John Kennedy JR.? 


I think, over the past three weeks, the Kerry camp has had some difficulties responding, as Andrea said, quickly.  This morning, it would have been so easy, after seeing the “Today” interview, saying, George Bush comes up, says, we can‘t win this war on terror, if I were John Kerry, I would send somebody out to say, what happened to the party of Ronald Reagan?  What happened to the people that believed that they could take down the Soviet Union? 

This sounds like somebody preaching detente—I mean, I was shocked by the defeatist sound.  And it was a mistake.  The president made a mistake when said, we can‘t win this war on terror, a very clear opening for John Kerry to say, that‘s pessimistic.  We believe we can do better.  That‘s what this campaign is about.

MATTHEWS:  How do you win the war?  I think it‘s an argument he could make. 

We‘re going to come back. 


MITCHELL:  But it‘s too nuanced.  It‘s the kind of thing George Bush doesn‘t do. 

MATTHEWS:  Look, there‘s still wars of terrorism in Spain, in Ireland, in South Asia.  It never ends.  These wars don‘t end like V.J. Day or V Day.

SCARBOROUGH:  But going back to Ronald Reagan, 1980, he campaigned in 1980, said something that nobody has said in quite some time.  And that is, we can beat communists.  We can bring the wall down. 


SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s been what Republicans have been good at.  George Bush bumbled the ball today, fumbled it, and John Kerry was wind-surfing. 


We‘re expecting to see former President and Mrs. Bush, Barbara Bush, enter the convention hall in just a moment.  That ought to be a rouser. 

And we‘ll have much more with our panel here at Herald Square at 34th and Broadway in the heart of Manhattan.

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Republican National Convention. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Beautiful shot.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re covering every elephant in the parade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... used to play for the great troops of the United States.  And to—and to the men and women who fight for democracy and freedom, we dedicate this song. 



MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the panel. 

Joe Scarborough has joined us right now, my colleague.

Joe, you were really venting a moment ago about the quality of the leadership of this campaign.  What‘s on and what‘s off? 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m sorry.  I was vetting about what?

MATTHEWS:  The party, how well the leadership of both campaigns are going right now. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, again, you talk—and I think we‘ve all had the same experience—you talk to the Bush people, who weren‘t so confident six weeks ago.  And the question they‘re privately asking you is, who is running?  Who is running the Kerry campaign?

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Why are they not responding to these attacks? 

And we were just talking among ourselves.  We‘re all hearing the same thing.  And I‘m shocked, because, usually, as you know, Chris, it takes being knocked down one time to bring a new team in.  John Kerry was knocked down in December, had a remarkable comeback.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Remarkable return in Iowa.  And you said, this guy is battled tested.  He‘s ready to run against Karl Rove. 

What we‘re looking at right now is a campaign that is looking a lot more like Michael Dukakis‘ 1988 campaign than the campaign we saw John Kerry run in January. 

MATTHEWS:  Joe, here‘s the former president.  Boy, he looks great, doesn‘t he? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Boy, unbelievable.

MATTHEWS:  Look at that guy.  He‘s the former president, 41, they call him in the family.  That‘s George Herbert Walker Bush and Barbara Bush.  Of course, she‘s a tough cookie.



MITCHELL:  Eighty-one.

MATTHEWS:  They‘re moving through that hall. 

MEACHAM:  God, they look so good.

MATTHEWS:  They are good.  This guy looks like...

MEACHAM:  He should be wind-surfing.


MATTHEWS:  Running well.

MATTHEWS:  Interesting thing, Joe, isn‘t it, because, in the Republican Party, he‘s getting a fond reception there, of course, as the elder statesman.  But there is kind of a delicate fact here, how he is introduced, right, his political image?

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, certainly.  He was never—And George W. Bush learned from his father‘s loss in 1992 not just by sitting back, but George W. Bush was always determined that he would never be seen the Northeast elitist.  He would never the guy that was knocked around by the conservative base in West Texas. 

George W. Bush, from his first congressional campaign, was determined to go to the right of where his father was perceived to be.  And I think he‘s been pretty effective in doing it.  Certainly, nobody has accused George W. Bush of being the moderate wing that conservative wing of the base called his father.


MEACHAM:  But there‘s an intersection of these two points, because

George Herbert Walker Bush has a lot more in common with John Kerry than

either man would want to admit at the moment, but the way


MATTHEWS:  Connect those dots. 

MEACHAM:  They‘re both internationalists, men of nuance.  That man saluting right there was a Phi Beta Kappa in economics from Yale. 

As we used to say in the South, George W. Bush was Phi Beta Kegga.


MEACHAM:  So they‘re very different men.  But what‘s fascinating is that the reason that man became president was, he had Lee Atwater and he was willing to respond rapidly, in the way Joe has talked about. 

MATTHEWS:  We are going to have everybody back on the panel, J.C., And everyone else.

Let‘s go to the podium right now for actor/activist—he was here last night and friend of this program—Ron Silver.  He‘s about to speak. 

RON SILVER, ACTOR:  I would like to thank the president and the Republican Party for holding this event in my home hometown. 


... my father‘s hometown, my grandfather‘s birthplace, and my great grandfather‘s hometown.


Just over 1,000 days ago, 2,605 of my neighbors were murdered at the World Trade Center—men, women and children—as they began their day on a brilliantly clear New York autumn morning, less than four miles from where I am now standing.

We will never forget.  We will never forgive.  We will never excuse.


At the end of World War II, General Douglas MacArthur, the supreme allied commander of the South Pacific, said, “It is my earnest hope, indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past, a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance and justice.”

The hope he expressed then remains relevant today.


We are again engaged in a war that will define the future of humankind.  Responding to attacks on our soil, America has led a coalition of countries against extremists who want to destroy us, our children, our way of life, and our values.


This is a war we did not seek.  This is a war waged against us. This is a war in which we had to respond.


History shows that we are not imperialists, but we are fighters for freedom and democracy.


Even though I‘m a well-recognized liberal on many issues confronting our society today, I find it ironic that many human rights advocates and outspoken members of my own entertainment community are often on the front lines to protest repression—for which I applaud them—but they‘re usually the first ones to oppose any use of force to take care of these horrors that they catalogue repeatedly.


Under the unwavering leadership of President Bush, the cause of freedom and democracy is being advanced by the courageous men and women serving in our armed services.


The president is doing exactly the right thing.


And that is why we need this president, this time.


I am very grateful for the chance to speak tonight to express my support for our commander in chief, for our brave troops and for the vital cause which they have undertaken.

General Dwight Eisenhower‘s statement of 60 years ago is true today: 

“United in this determination and with unshakable faith in the cause for which we fight, we will, with God‘s help, go forward to our greatest victory.”

Thank you very much.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the first woman veteran in American history elected to Congress and a distinguished graduate of the United States Air Force Academy.

MATTHEWS:  That was actor and activist Ron Silver.  He‘ll be with us every night at midnight here at Herald Square for “AFTER HOURS” with Joe—

I wish I was with him—he is unbelievable—right here on MSNBC. 

We‘re awaiting the big speeches tonight by John McCain, another HARDBALL regular and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a hometown favorite here. 

And let‘s go back to the panel. 

God, who do I start with?

J.C. Watts, let me ask you about this party.  Ron Silver, he got the best hand so far and he‘s a Dem. 

WATTS:  Hey, that‘s the way it goes, man.



WATTS:  Zell Miller, Ron Silver.  Zell Miller is going to speak. 


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