updated 9/2/2004 12:04:59 AM ET 2004-09-02T04:04:59

Guests: Laura Ingraham, David Gergen, Saxby Chambliss, Bill Owens, Jason Read, Duf Sundheim, Terry McAuliffe

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER ®, CALIFORNIA:  And to those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say don‘t be economic girlie men.  The U.S. economy remains the envy of the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews live from Herald Square in the heart of New York with MSNBC‘s nonstop coverage of the Republican National Convention.

Tonight, it‘s fight night at the Garden as the Republicans send out their heavyweights to try to put Democrats on the ropes in the battle for the White House.

Round one: An emotional Technicolor tribute to the late, great champion of modern conservative Republicanism, Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States.  Can the Democrats match the power of the Reagan mantel?

Round two: Senator Zell Miller who earned his political spurs in the segregationist South.  He‘s expected to attack the party—the Democratic Party on which he rose to power in Georgia, the same Democratic Party that nominated and elected him to both the governorship of his state and the United States Senate.

And the main event: Vice President Dick Cheney enters the ring late tonight with fighting words to energize his base and deliver an uppercut, a poignant criticism directly aimed at John Kerry and John Edwards.  But how does this man, low in the opinion polls, a lightning rod for Democratic and media attacks, former CEO of Halliburton, stay in the ring against the relentless onslaught of personal as well as political attack?

MSNBC has this event covered with reports from NBC News Anchor Tom Brokaw and NBC Washington Bureau Chief and moderator of “MEET THE PRESS” Tim Russert, plus our correspondents on the floor and around this city.

And our guests tonight: Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour; Colorado Governor Bill Owens; former Senator Bob Kerrey; Pat Robertson, the founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network; Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and Saxby Chambliss; the chairman of the Democratic National Committee Terry McAuliffe.

Joining me, our panel: radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham, MSNBC contributor Ron Reagan, “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman, former presidential adviser David Gergen, and from the floor, NBC White House Correspondent David Gregory.

But we begin with NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell—Andrea.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, the fight will be right here on this arena here at Madison Square Garden when, as you point out, the tough speeches we are expecting from keynoter Zell Miller.

And, as you know, Zell Miller is not just keynoting this convention, he appeared here once before keynoting the Democratic Convention at Madison Square Garden in 1992.  His change of heart, he says is because the party changed.  He didn‘t.  Of course, the Democrats are going to counterpunch and say that Zell Miller cannot trusted, that he is the true flip-flopper.

Then, of course, Dick Cheney introduced by his wife, Lynne Cheney, she trying to present a softer Dick Cheney, the grandfather of America.  He, of course, will also be joined by three of his adorable four grandchildren.

But Cheney, as you pointed out, does have sort of a mixed record here.  He‘s got a lot of negatives, but, to these conservative delegates, he is an icon.  He has been a formidable fundraiser for the party, and he is the closest, most important adviser to this president on foreign policy.

He‘s going to try to lay out the distinctions, the differences, the choices here in what his top advisers say is an historic context, a moment of great decision.  He‘s going to talk about the kinds of decisions they made on foreign policy.  Of course, Iraq, the most important of all of those.

You‘re also, of course, going to see the Ronald Reagan film tonight.  It is not narrated.  It is all voice, his speeches and, for the first time, Nancy Reagan on camera responding to the emotional farewell, the eulogies, the mourning of the nation for Ronald Reagan.

It is done by Phil Dewsbury (ph), and your colleague up there, David Gergen, will remember Phil.  He did the memorable films of Ronald Reagan for the 1984 convention in Dallas, for the 1988 convention, and also “The Morning in America” reelection campaign advertisements in 1984.

So that is going to be a very emotional moment for this convention and for the rest of the country—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you.

Andrea Mitchell from the floor.

Let‘s go to our panel.  We‘ve got Laura Ingraham, Ron Reagan, Howard Fineman, David Gergen.

Let me ask you all about the big issues tonight.  Let‘s run through the big ones.  I think these are the firestorms tonight.  Let‘s start with the mantel of Ronald Reagan.  A lot of this convention—by the way, the weather here is unbelievable.  I don‘t—I don‘t work outside.  So I don‘t usually pay attention to the things like high-pressure fronts.

But this is what a high-pressure front is like.  It‘s wonderful.  There‘s no humidity.  It‘s about 78.  Fabulous here in New York.  And we can‘t stop the sirens because this is the naked city.

But let‘s go right now, Laura Ingraham, the Reagan mantel.  That‘s really something the Democrats can‘t touch, is it?

LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK-SHOW HOST:  Oh, so many people here started off as Republicans because of Ronald Reagan, people like myself.  In 1987, I went to work for Ronald Reagan right out of college.  He is the reason why I became a conservative.

And delegate after delegate has some type of how-Ronald-Reagan-touched-their-life story, and you‘re going to hear that tonight.  Your correspondents are going to talk to delegates on the floor who are going to invoke Ronald Reagan‘s name, his legacy, what he stood for.

And Ronald Reagan defied the critics every step of the way, the media who said that he couldn‘t get the job done, he was too stupid, he was too old, all of that, the same stuff they‘re saying about George Bush.  It‘s going to be a great time to remember the Gipper.

MATTHEWS:  You know who you‘re sitting next to?

INGRAHAM:  Yes, I do.

MATTHEWS:  Ron, what do you think about the party and the legacy of your dad?

RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, he is to the Republicans, of course, what JFK is to the Democrats.  He‘s an icon.

By the way, I don‘t remember anybody accusing George W. Bush of being too old.

INGRAHAM:  The stupid and doddering and all of that stuff.

REAGAN:  And it‘s a plus for them, of course.  I mean, the Democrats can‘t assume the mantel of Ronald Reagan for very obvious reasons.

There is a potential downside, though.  It‘s subtle.  It‘s sort of internal.  When you see Ronald Reagan on camera and then you get George W.  Bush, the comparison is not terribly flattering.

MATTHEWS:  Does that put you in it a Lloyd Bentsen moment?

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN:  Exactly.  I knew Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush...

MATTHEWS:  I knew it.

REAGAN:  ... is no Ronald Reagan.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I‘ll take you off the skillet for a minute, Ron.

Let‘s go to Howard.  A much more ruthless assessment, please.

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, this...

MATTHEWS:  The power of the Reagan mantel to thwart off enemies...

FINEMAN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  ... from the Republican Party.

FINEMAN:  This is base night.  This is conservative night.  Last night was compassion night.  This is the base.  This is conservative.

MATTHEWS:  Can we be honest?  It was called compassion night.  It was tough as hell.

FINEMAN:  OK.  It was Ronald—but it‘s Ronald Reagan and it‘s the West and the South.  It‘s Dick Cheney we tend to forget who does represent the mountain west, the petroleum club of Casper, Wyoming, and all the others around the country, and it‘s Zell Miller and the South.

And the Republican Party, if you look at the map, is based in the South and the West, and that‘s who this is for, and it‘s an inspiration.  Laura‘s right.  The whole generation of people that I‘ve covered who grew up with Ronald Reagan and are now running things in that hall...

INGRAHAM:  Exactly.

FINEMAN:  ... on George W. Bush‘s behalf—and George Bush ironically is the inheritor of the party that Ronald Reagan built, he really is, and he grew up in the Reagan party which is one reason why he‘s so different from his dad politically.

MATTHEWS:  Is progress still his most important product?

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  Ask Ron about that.

MATTHEWS:  You and me.  We grew up with GE.  So let‘s...

REAGAN:  General Electric.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to David.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER:  Last night, it was striking when Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke, that he said—he talked about the great—and the Republican Party, the great presidents—Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Reagan.  And I think now Reagan has entered that pantheon for so many Republicans.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Nixon snuck his nose in last night.

GERGEN:  Well, yes.  That‘s—well, that‘s what brought him over.

FINEMAN:  He‘s back!

GERGEN:  That was his Laura Ingraham moment, right?

INGRAHAM:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s fine with me.  I think we‘ve got to be honest.  One thing I like about the British people—they don‘t hide their leaders when they didn‘t do too well in the latest poll.

INGRAHAM:  No.

MATTHEWS:  You know, they‘re all at the Westminster Abbey, the good, the bad, the scary.  They‘re all there.  We hide them.  We say, oh, who‘s this.  He only won—he was only on four tickets out of five between 1952 and 1972.

GERGEN:  Only one other man in American history has been on the...

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN:  Yes, but let‘s come back—let‘s come back to Reagan, though.  Reagan is...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a much better position to be in.

GERGEN:  You can stay with Nixon.  We can talk about Nixon, if you want, but the—Reagan is the uniter of the party.  He is the person, as Laura said, who has brought that younger generation along.  Only—I think as—he was like Kennedy and like FDR in touching a younger generation and turning them into, you know, advocates of his view and his legacy.

There‘s no other Republican in the last 40 years, I would say, or more, who has done that.  Eisenhower didn‘t even know why he was a—in my judgment, a very substantial president.  But I do think that the Reagan legacy does not rub off on George W. Bush very much on this election.  I don‘t think that because of Reagan, Bush...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to the floor.

GERGEN:  ... George W. Bush...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to the floor.  David Gregory‘s down there.

And I think, David, we all know that it‘s going to be an eight-minute video, a movie, and I can bet it‘s going to be sentimental and Technicolor.  Ken Duberson (ph) told me he‘s seen it.  He said it‘s fabulous.  What‘s the importance down there on the floor tonight over that big moment of sentiment?

DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  I think it‘s important just as it was, frankly, in 2000.  I mean, you talk about assuming the mantel of Ronald Reagan.  I think it‘s something George W. Bush tried to do even back in Philadelphia in 2000.

I went back through his 2000 convention speech where he makes a couple points.  He talks about the eloquence of action.  He talks about that he would be an administration—would lead an administration that would not just make footnotes but write chapters in the American story.  In other words, big, bold ideas, the repositioning of America in the world.

And then you go past to—you go forward to September 11 and even to this election, and the president‘s making the same sort of claim as Reagan did, that he is in the middle of a titanic struggle and that he‘s staring down history.  He‘s staring done an enemy, and it would be wrong to change horses midstream like that when there‘s more work to do in such a big job.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me—let me bring out the second topic.  You can start here.  Start at your end, David.  The role of the vice president.  He will be officially nominated tonight.  He will give a speech tonight.  How does Dick Cheney weather the criticism, the low poll numbers, the Halliburton connection and remain probably—to many people‘s thinking, probably extremely influential to the point he‘s probably the most powerful vice president ever?

GREGORY:  They are counting on Dick Cheney to be able to win the argument when he says that this is a momentous election, that this is a critical time in our history, that George W. Bush‘s leadership was critical in showing terrorists that we weren‘t soft, in essence preventing another attack, and that we cannot waver now.

He will take the lead in attacking John Kerry as someone whose record shows you that he‘s indecisive and can‘t be trusted.  Maybe he can be trusted as a senator, but not trusted as commander in chief.  That‘s his role.

His liability is that while he‘s always been known as such a smart, articulate man and somebody who can put these arguments into context, the campaign also realizes that, to many Americans, to the very Americans, the undecideds, the independents they‘re trying to reach with this convention, that he‘s got a darker image now, that he is a darker force, and one that creates a lot of anxiety in voters as well, voters who may think that this administration is wrong in their prosecution of the war on terror.

MATTHEWS:  David Gergen, how could a man who‘s so—I don‘t like the word “controversial,” but a man who arouses different reactions so much on the outside have so much clout on the inside?

GERGEN:  Because George W. Bush values his judgment enormously.  He‘s

·         you talk to the president, he‘ll always tell you that this is my single most important adviser, and he—you know, clearly, when he reached out to him four years ago, he wasn‘t look for those three electoral votes in Wyoming.  You know, that wasn‘t—as it turned out, they‘re pretty damn helpful, but he wasn‘t looking for them back then.

He was looking for the man, the experience and the judgment that Cheney brought to it, and I think he has found him all along to be the person, one person he can—who has—who is disinterested, you know, who‘s got no larger agenda than trying to help this president succeed, and I think what Cheney can do tonight most effectively—I don‘t think he is the best advocate on the war.

What I do think he‘s the best advocate on is what—who George W.  Bush is in making decisions, what kind of leadership he shows.  He can bear -- he can be the witness inside because he‘s the one person who‘s been there every time and watched this fellow, and I think on that he has enormous credibility.

FINEMAN:  He was a character witness in the campaign, and it was a measure of George Bush‘s character in 2000 that he had the guts to pick somebody like Dick Cheney to show that he wanted to fill the gaps in his own—that is Bush‘s own knowledge.

So Cheney is still like the uncle.  He is like the grandpa.  He‘s like the adult, the master adult at the party, and he is the prototypical Republican in so many ways, the prototypical business Republican that a lot of people represent here at this convention tonight.

MATTHEWS:  And likewise he is the target for so many of the critics.

FINEMAN:  Right.

REAGAN:  Oh, indeed, and it‘s quite extraordinary when you look at his numbers versus Edwards, let‘s say.  You‘ve seen some of those new numbers where people are asked, you know, would you prefer Edwards or Cheney as president, and I think it‘s 53-42 Edwards.

Now, you know, people say, well, maybe they ought to get rid of Cheney, but how do you get rid of Dick Cheney?  What do you tell the new guy coming in about his job description—oh, by the way, you‘re really going to be in charge?

INGRAHAM:  Well, you know what I find interesting?  I find so fascinating this media discussion about, oh, when is George Bush going to dump Dick Cheney?

Dick Cheney is a liability to the ticket.  Dick Cheney is not only a trusted adviser, he is beloved by conservatives who, if they don‘t turn out on November 2, George Bush will be another Bush loser in the second term.

Dick Cheney has been key for this president in a troubled time, and he‘s been a steady hand.  He might not be the best articulator sometimes of the war on terror, but I think, when he talks, people listen...

REAGAN:  But...

INGRAHAM:  ... and conservatives love him.

REAGAN:  Indispensable?

FINEMAN:  And I think—I...

(CROSSTALK)

INGRAHAM:  ... not running for president.

REAGAN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to be joined by the Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.  He‘s here with us at Herald Square where we‘ve been all week.  He‘s going to tell us about his colleague Zell Miller‘s keynote speech tonight.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  And welcome back to HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Republican National Convention.  We‘re here at Herald Square at 34th and Broadway, out with the people, as you can see.

We‘re joined right now by Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.

Why do southerners use last names for first names?

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS ®, GEORGIA:  Well, it‘s kind of a tradition. 

Mine is a former last name, and it works.  You know, nobody calls me Chambliss.  They call me Saxby.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you a serious question.  Ronald Reagan‘s role tonight—the late Ronald Reagan—it‘s going to—there‘s going to be an eight-minute movie tonight.  We‘re going show it here on MSNBC.  Why is that an important part of the convention?

CHAMBLISS:  Well, I think Howard Fineman is right that the revolution started with Ronald Reagan, and George Bush and every president since him, as well as every Republican, is the beneficiary of what Ronald Reagan started, and, you know, back then, we didn‘t talk about smaller government, lower taxes, more individual rights and freedoms until Ronald Reagan came along, and now you hear all of us talking about it because that‘s what we believed in and that‘s what Ronald Reagan started.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about Dick Cheney, the vice president.  His poll numbers are not grand.  They‘re somewhere about even.  Job approval‘s about even.  He‘s not exactly a pinup boy for a lot of Americans.  Why does he have such clout for a vice president?

CHAMBLISS:  Well, because he has got the experience, he‘s got the training, he‘s got the knowledge, and he‘s got the ability to lead.  There‘s never been a vice president who has been attacked like this vice president has.  That‘s why you‘re seeing his numbers where they are.  But, you know, numbers don‘t make any difference.

When you‘re a principled individual and when you believe in something, when you stand by it and when you‘re prepared to lead in the event that the president calls upon you or in the event, in his case, the people have to call upon you in that position, then he‘s ready to do that.

MATTHEWS:  Are you concerned as a senator with oversight responsibilities that a huge American multi—military industrial complex like Halliburton enjoys these opportunities to make billions of dollars when their former CEO is vice president?  Does it pass your smell test?

CHAMBLISS:  I‘m not concerned about it because there was an

opportunity for a number of companies to bid on the projects that are going

·         ongoing in Iraq, and, frankly, there are not many countries in the—companies in the United States that have the ability to do that.

So, you know, he just happens to be in the position of formerly heading that company up.  It has nothing to do—the fact they‘re getting the contracts has nothing to do with Dick Cheney.  It has everything to do with the rebuilding of Iraq as quickly as we can and in the proper way with professional workers.

MATTHEWS:  You have a colleague, your junior senator—is it senior senator or junior senator?

CHAMBLISS:  He‘s my senior senator.

MATTHEWS:  Senior Senator Zell Miller—he‘s a Democrat.  On the record, he was elected as a Democrat, elected governor as a Democrat.  Tonight, he‘s going to endorse the Republican ticket for president and vice president.  Do you think that‘s an honorable thing to do?

CHAMBLISS:  Well, I think without question it is, and what you‘re going to hear from Zell Miller is the same thing Zell Miller said as a conservative Democratic governor of Georgia, as a conservative Democratic member of our state senate.

He‘s been a conservative all of had his life.  He believes in conservative values.  He‘s going to express those tonight, and he is—will simply say that, you know, the Democratic Party left him.  It may have been after 1992 because there are going to be a lot of darts thrown at him relative to what he had to say in ‘92.

But the fact of the matter is Zell Miller has not changed.  His philosophy hasn‘t moved one bit.  The Democratic Party is what‘s moved.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s hard to make that case, isn‘t it, when you grow up in the South, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt, probably the most liberal president in history, was the hero to the South, when you had people like Hubert Humphrey as your nominee over the years and George McGovern and Mondale and Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton?  Why do you say the Democratic Party has changed, when it‘s been regularly nominating liberals for a century?  What‘s changed?

CHAMBLISS:  Well, you look at our state, though.  You look at the Carl Vincents, the Richard Russells, the Sam Nunns.  Those are not liberals, Chris.  They are strong conservative Democrats out of the same mold that Zell Miller comes from, and, when you have strong conservative values in the South, it kind of rises to the top.

Certainly, there have been liberals in our part of the world, Jimmy Carter being one of them, who was elected to the presidency, but, you know, Zell Miller has not changed the way he has been talking for the last 30 years that he‘s been in office.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s clear.  There have always been conservative Democrats.  They‘re Dixiecrats.  There‘s always been northern liberals, and there‘s always been a coalition, and I just find it hard to believe that all those years of getting elected and nominated by a Democratic Party and benefiting from that party, all of those years knowing that Roosevelt was the standard-bearer of that party and Jack Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey and Lyndon Johnson and all of those liberals, he now discovers at his late age that the Democratic Party is run by liberals.

CHAMBLISS:  Well, the fact of the matter is you look back at John Kennedy.  Was John Kennedy really a liberal?  I mean, John Kennedy proposed a tax-relief package that was not dissimilar to the Ronald Reagan package.  John Kerry is proposing to raise taxes as opposed to reduce taxes.  So it depends on what you‘re talking about relative to conservatives or liberals, and I‘m not sure that John Kennedy in today‘s world would really be the liberal, particularly as you compare him to John Kerry.

But you look at the South.  You look at what‘s happened in the past decade from the standpoint of electing Democrats versus Republicans at the national level, and you can go all the way down to the courthouse level in the South.  You‘ll see more conservatives elected to school boards, city councils, as well as to Congress.

MATTHEWS:  It just seems, Senator, that all my life I‘ve watched people switch to the more popular party in their state.  They never moved to the less popular party.  John Connally became a Republican, as Republicans took over politics in Texas.  John Lindsay switched to the Democratic Party seeing the popularity of the Democratic Party.  Does anyone ever switch to a less popular party and show a profile in courage, or is it always expediency?

CHAMBLISS:  We‘ve got a good example of that in our governor who switched from the Democratic Party where he was president pro tem of our state senate to the Republican Party.

MATTHEWS:  But that‘s the more popular party in your state.

CHAMBLISS:  Well, it may have...

MATTHEWS:  Wasn‘t it an easy switch, an obvious advantage for a guy to move to the more popular party and get elected and become more popular?  Where‘s the guts here?

CHAMBLISS:  Well, we never had a Republican governor since reconstruction until two years ago.  We never had control of the state house.  We‘ve never had control of the state senate.  I don‘t think you can say that that‘s the popular party in our state.

MATTHEWS:  Would you think that—if somebody in your party switched to the other party, would you think they were honorable?

CHAMBLISS:  Well, if that‘s their true feeling, that‘s up to them, and I‘d have respect for them the same as I would have respect for anybody that switches otherwise, if I know that‘s what they believe, and I know what Zell Miller believes.  I know what‘s in his heart.  You‘re going to hear that tonight.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much.

Saxby Chambliss, a good friend of our show.

That was a little bit of “HARDBALL.”  We need it tonight.  Thank you very much, Senator.

We‘re going to have the Governor Bill Owens come over here, another fellow.

Hi, Governor.  Thank you.

You are well known as a personal friend of George W. Bush.  Tell me about him.  What‘s he like as a pal?

GOV. BILL OWENS ®, COLORADO:  Well, I think he‘s a great person, he‘s a great president, and I have known him for a number of years just like so many other people, and I think what you see about George Bush publicly is what he is private.  He‘s very direct.  He has a great sense of humor.  He does what he thinks is right privately and publicly.

MATTHEWS:  How long have you known the president personally?

OWENS:  You know, he probably wouldn‘t remember it, but I first met him in 1970.  I was 20 years old.  He was working on his father‘s U.S.  Senate race in Texas.  I was in college in Texas and actually worked on that same campaign.  I have a picture of the two of us in May of 1970.

MATTHEWS:  People say in writing the biography of George W. Bush—and we should begin to talk about him because he‘s about to be renominated tomorrow night.  It‘s not too early to think about that—that he‘s kind of a figure out of Shakespeare, a Henry V, a guy who led a rather rollicking youth, and then took responsibility for himself and then for his leadership.  Is that the way you know him?

OWENS:  Well, I think his—basically, what you see is what you get. 

He is a very good person.  Rollicking is kind of—I‘m not sure what we...

MATTHEWS:  Is that too nice a word for it?

OWENS:  Well, no.  Actually, I think it‘s probably a little—you know, he—like most kids in college, like most kids afterwards, before he was married, he occasionally went to a party, I would assume.

MATTHEWS:  But he wasn‘t still in college when he‘s in his 40s.

OWENS:  Well, I would—I would just suggest that—I don‘t know if he‘s Shakespearean.  He‘s a good person, and he‘s a great president.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about—are you surprised by the differences between George the 43rd and George the 41st in terms of a different position on taxes and fiscal policy, a different position on the Middle East, a different position on cultural issues?

OWENS:  Well, in many respects, George Bush is a product of where he was born and raised, and he‘s a Texan.  His father was from Connecticut, and so I think what you see is you see a little bit different person.  We‘re all different from our folks.  I know I am.  And in the case of President Bush, he‘s a person whose formative years were in Texas, and I think you see a little bit of that in him even today.

MATTHEWS:  On “DON IMUS” this morning, it was one of those wonderful moments when Don was interviewing George Bush, the first president, 41, as they call each other, and he asked him how did you like it when your son said that we cut and run from Iraq in the first war over there?  He said, well, you haven‘t heard him say it again, have you?

OWENS:  I‘ll bet they had a discussion about that.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask about tonight and Dick Cheney.  How do you see that—we‘ve watched many vice presidents deal with many presidents, and I‘ve watched them all, and there‘s been some strong VPs, maybe Mondale, maybe even more so Al Gore.  I have never seen a vice president who seems to enjoy executive authority.

OWENS:  Well, I—you know, I saw Vice President Gore a very significant part of the Clinton administration, and this vice president is truly a partner with the president.  Obviously, the president is in charge, but Vice President Cheney brought something significant not only to the ticket four years ago, but to this administration.

He is an administrator.  He is—from his days as chief of staff, his days in the U.S. House, his days in the private sector, he‘s a person who has managed and managed well, and I think he, in fact, is doing some management as vice president right now.

MATTHEWS:  Well, as you know from reading the Constitution, there‘s no executive authority granted to the vice president.  He merely serves at the president‘s pleasure.  He does whatever he tells him to do.  He presides over the Senate.  And he takes the office, should it be vacated.

Do you think it‘s all right for a vice president—in this case, Dick Cheney—to be given the authority by the president to decide whether to shoot down an American jetliner, as he was given during the crisis of 9/11?

OWENS:  I do.  I think that the vice president is part of the presidency.  You‘re correct it‘s not mentioned specifically in those terms in the Constitution.  But I think that this is a team.  The president‘s clearly in charge, but, if he has delegated, as he did, that‘s an appropriate delegation of his constitutional...

MATTHEWS:  Well, a hell of a lot of power.

Anyway, thank you.  Great guy to have on.  Thank you for coming down here to Herald Square.

When we come back, we‘ll go down to the convention floor.  Plus, much more with our panel tonight, and they‘re pretty hot tonight, I think.  And we await tonight‘s big speeches from Senator Zell Miller and Vice President Dick Cheney.  Plus, Olympic Gold Medalist Jason Reed will join us here in Herald Square.  He‘s also a New York City firefighter.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Republican convention.  We‘re live at New York‘s Herald Square as you can see as we‘ve been all week.  We‘re joined now by a real hero in this city.  Olympic gold medal-winning rower Jason Read.  He‘s not only a rower, he‘s got the gold.  And he‘s also a firefighter in New York.  You‘re a double hero.  What do you think about this guy?  Double hero. 

(CHEERING & APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  How great do you want to be? 

JASON READ, 2004 OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST:  It‘s just a great feeling to

be able to represent your country at the pinnacle sport at the Olympic

Games.  It‘s such an honor.  Very humbling.  It‘s been surreal since August

22 when we set the world record and won an Olympic gold medal

MATTHEWS:  My daughter gets up around 4:30 every morning in Washington to row.  But let me ask you about your schedule.  How do you fight fires, do your job and train? 

READ:  Well, we train two and three times a day.  So this year I actually didn‘t have as much time to do EMT and firefighter work.  But I am still the chief of the Emerald Valley Rescue Squad and giving back as much as I can to the community when I‘m not training, and when I‘m not working. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this election.  What‘s your interest in the campaign?  What do you think about it?

READ:  I‘m very interested to see where...

MATTHEWS:  Who are you for?  What are you afraid of?  You‘re afraid to go home, to work tonight?  Afraid to go up to your house?  What are you afraid of?  OK, let me ask you this.  Why is this election important? 

READ:  I think it‘s important because we are living in such tumultuous times.  We need to have a leader that‘s willing to protect us and our interests abroad.  And terrorism is at the forefront of the agenda.  And fortunately for us when we were in Athens, the Greeks did a great job with security.  There was never a concern.  I never experienced any anti-American sentiment.  Everyone was very supportive of the whole Olympic Games.  Peace and severe competition and fellowship after the competition was done. 

MATTHEWS:  Where are most of the athletes politically? 

READ:  I would say they‘re for America. 

MATTHEWS:  No.  In this election.  Come on, give me a break here. 

It‘s HARDBALL.  It‘s not “Sports Illustrated.”  Let me ask you a question. 

Are most of the athletes Democrats or Republicans? 

READ:  I would say it‘s about a 50/50 split.  So we have a healthy dialogue. 

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s got the most support?  The Democrats or the Republicans?  You notice I keep asking the same question different ways? 

READ:  I did notice that. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you.  About the war in Iraq.  That‘s the big issue of this election many people think.  What do you think about it? 

READ:  Thank you for asking me.  I think that any time you engage in war, a lot of difficult decisions are made, a lot of the policies need to be massaged.  However my personal experience is when I met with Iraqi athletes and coaches over there, I was astounded to find out that they all love America.  And according to them, it‘s a vocal and violent minority that‘s bringing everyone down over there.  And that stern resolve will help solve some of the problems and that they really appreciate what we‘ve done...

MATTHEWS:  So they‘re glad we came in? 

READ:  Indeed.  Without a doubt. 

MATTHEWS:  Are they optimistic about some kind of more Democratic government? 

READ:  Yes.  They‘re optimistic about an elected government and about the future. 

MATTHEWS:  You like George Bush? 

READ:  I‘m leaning that way.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  When are you going stop leaning and start voting? 

READ:  On November 4. 

MATTHEWS:  No, you can‘t vote—you better vote by the second or you‘re going to lose... 

READ:  November 2. 

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re a leaning Bush guy.  What do you think, if Cheney‘s going to get nominated tonight? 

READ:  I didn‘t know that. 

MATTHEWS:  Savor the idea of Dick Cheney. 

READ:  I saw a feature that he had a few days ago.  It showed a little more of a personal side than most of us have ever seen.  I think he has an extensive background in government service and we‘ll see how things go. 

MATTHEWS:  Jason, it‘s an honor to meet you. 

READ:  My pleasure.

MATTHEWS:  A double hero.  Thank you.  There he is.  Olympic Gold Medalist Jason Read.  NBC‘s—MSNBC‘s Chris Jansing is down on the floor right now—Chris.

CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Thanks very much, Chris.  Well, I‘m here with Duf Sundheim.  He is the head of the Republican party in California.  Of course, tonight a tribute to President Ronald Reagan.  You said certainly last night you felt the legacy of Ronald Reagan in this room. 

DUF SUNDHEIM, CALIFORNIA DELEGATE:  Very much so.  Ronald Reagan is the basis under which this modern day Republican party was formed.  And the parallels between Reagan and Bush are many.  Reagan had the approval rating of 54.  Bush is at 51.  President Reagan had a controversial foreign policy.  Even his own state department didn‘t want him to give the speech about tearing down this wall.  President Bush‘s foreign policy is equally aggressive and equally controversial.  And they both stood for lowering taxes.  So the basis of the current party, Chris, which is now George Bush‘s party is built on Ronald Reagan. 

JANSING:  There are a lot of questions, though, about people like Dick Cheney tonight, front and center.  Conservative wing of the party that will not draw Reagan Democrats and that Reagan Democrats will be needed if the Republicans are going to win this close election.  Do you think that they can be won over? 

SUNDHEIM:  Absolutely.  And I think you‘ve seen it all week.  And it‘s really—ideology is important.  Ideology is the bedrock of any party but what you‘re seeing here with people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain.  These are men of action, these are men of accomplishment.  They go way beyond ideology.  But to the extent there is that underlying ideology the Republican party is showing here that we are the mainstream while the Democrats, now represent the extreme. 

JANSING:  Let‘s talk about a Democrat, Zell Miller.  He‘s going to be giving the keynote tonight.  Very conservative Democrat.  He‘s raised the ire of those who are obviously not happy he‘s become the first Democrat to keynote at a Republican convention.  Insiders in the camp, the Bush camp have told me they think he can help attract those conservative and moderate Democrats.  Can he really, though?  This is a guy who in ‘92 when he gave the Democratic keynote questioned the confidence of George Bush Sr. 

SUNDHEIM:  Well, you know, we talked about Ronald Reagan.  Ronald Reagan at one time was a Democrat.  And what he said is that, “I didn‘t leave the Democrat party, the Democratic party left me.”  And Zell Miller feels exactly the same way.  The level of expenditures for the military had dropped significantly under the Democrats.  Our foreign policy had become much more reactionary. 

So he felt that the Democratic party had left him, had moved to the left.  And we agree.  According to the “National Journal” and Independent Agency, John Kerry has the most liberal voting record of anybody in the U.S. Senate.  And John Kerry isn‘t far behind. 

So we understand why he‘s with us.  It isn‘t so much that he‘s changed as much as the party‘s changed. 

JANSING:  So much about this campaign and all of these key swing states is going to be about not just energizing the base but getting out a large turnout.  How does that happen?  How does this convention and what‘s happening here motivate that? 

SUNDHEIM:  Well, we‘ve been engaged in building the base for the last year and a half.  In California we‘ve registered over 450,000 new Republicans.  We‘ve lowered the registration differential to the narrowest it‘s been since the Depression.  That‘s happening throughout the country.  We have also been very active in developing “get out the vote” techniques.  We had a drive run in California during the recall.  We were able to get out one million more registered Republicans in ‘03 than we did in ‘02. 

JANSING:  Duf, you‘re not suggesting that California is up for grabs here? 

SUNDHEIM:  Frankly, I think we have a shot.  But I‘m saying these type of techniques which we‘re using in California and were used successfully in California, in ‘03, are part of an overall national strategy to make sure that we do get out the vote.  And it was used in ‘02 successfully in Massachusetts, Maryland, Iowa, Hawaii, Georgia.  And I think it will make a difference in ‘04. 

JANSING:  Duf Sundheim, who heads of the Republican Party in California, of course, home to Ronald Reagan, who will be honored tonight here inside Madison Square Garden.

Chris, back to you. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Chris Jansing.  It‘s actually day three still.  But it will be night three of the Republican Convention.  And tonight we‘re comparing both political conventions.  And it‘s going to be fun. 

Senator John Edwards talked to that convention, the Democratic Convention, about something he   called “the two Americas” during his speech at the convention.  And on this Monday night Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of  New York, responded.

Let‘s take a look at that point and counterpoint.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Let me talk about why we need to build one America, because I—like many of you, I saw up close what having two Americas can do to our country.  From the time I was very young I saw the ugly face of segregation and discrimination.  I saw young African-American kids being sent upstairs in movie theaters.  I saw white-only signs on restaurant doors and luncheon counters.  I feel such an enormous personal responsibility when it comes to issues of race and equality and civil rights.  And I‘ve heard some discussions and debates around America   about where and in front of what audiences we ought to talk about race and equality and civil rights.  I have an answer to that question: everywhere. 

RUDY GIULIANI ®, FMR. NEW YORK CITY MAYOR:  My point about John Kerry being inconsistent is best described in his own words not mine.  I quote John Kerry: “I actually did vote for the 87  billion before I voted against it.”

(LAUGHTER)

GIULIANI:  Maybe this explains John Edwards‘ need for two  Americas. 

(LAUGHTER & CHEERING)

GIULIANI:  One where John Kerry can vote for something and another one where he can vote against exactly the same thing. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW:  Let‘s get back to the panel.  You know, there‘s the old comparison between the   hedgehog and the fox.  It seems like John Edwards does one thing, give that same speech over and over again.  And the fox, Mayor Giuliani, knows how to shake him out of the hedgehog.  What do you think of that speech, point-counterpoint there? 

INGRAHAM:  I think the Giuliani point was great.  I think it was actually more powerful, though,  last night, when Arnold said, I‘ve been to Iraq and I talked to the troops.  And the men and women fighting   in uniform don‘t think there are two Americas.  They‘re fighting for one America.  That was a very powerful moment of Arnold‘s speech, building on what Rudy said. 

And then Edwards earlier in the week said, well, you know, I understand they‘re going negative on the two Americas.  And I‘m trying not to sound partisan here, but he sounded a little like childish.  When he said, they‘re being mean to me.  And I think a lot of people said, well, you know, aren‘t we supposed to be one America, isn‘t that the goal here? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m amazed hearing from Laura Ingraham that you don‘t think the sarcastic line was the best because I thought that was the best.  I thought Giuliani‘s two Americas, the way—Howard, you agree.  The way he set it up.  And maybe that‘s why they talk about two Americas... 

FINEMAN:  It was just—it was classic, to use an Arnold Schwarzenegger term, classic.  It just went right to the heart of the critique that they‘re making of John Kerry here all this week.  All the politics, this whole campaign operates on two levels: the issues level and the character level.  And a big theme here is the continuing character attack on Kerry.  They don‘t have to do it in one speech.  They do it in bits and pieces of all the speeches.  And you‘ll hear it from Dick Cheney tonight as well.

MATTHEWS:  Very good. 

GERGEN:  Two quick points.  It‘s striking that the most memorable line from the Democratic Convention did not come from John Kerry but from John Edwards.  That does not say much about how memorable the Kerry speech was.  But secondly, every time...

MATTHEWS:  It also came from his road show. 

GERGEN:  That‘s right.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN:  Every time the Republicans bring it up in this convention, they don‘t respond to two  Americas as an economic proposition; as people getting squeezed in the middle class, as people getting left behind them slide off the economics and they go off to something else like fighting as Arnold did last night. 

He turned it into a question about the fighters.  And the truth is this convention has not dealt—the stunning silence in this convention is about the state of the economy.  A good, shrewd political move in some ways, but I‘ll tell you, there are a lot of Americans, what do you guys think about jobs? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let David finish that.  You‘re saying that every time the issue of economics comes up, Republicans slip back to the position of terrorism.

GERGEN:  Right.  We‘re going to... 

MATTHEWS:  You think they can get away with that on Election Day?

GERGEN:  I think they‘re going to try.  Last night was about compassionate conservatism.  That was the title.  What did we hear about, we hear about being compassionate and making sure your kids are  protected from terrorists.  Tonight is about the “Land of Opportunity.” What are we going to hear about, this is not—we were promised this was going to be a night about economics.  It is not a night about economics, it is a night about terrorism.  It‘s very smart on their part.  But if the Democrats let them get away with it, they deserve to lose the election. 

MATTHEWS:  Howard.

FINEMAN:  What I was trying to say is that the Democrats have let them do this because John Kerry did not use the convention in Boston or any of the times since to lay down the economic critique of   Republican stewardship.  They haven‘t done it.  I keep talking to the Democratic strategists.  They keep saying, we‘re going to do it tomorrow.  We‘re going to do it tomorrow.  We‘re doing it Friday at noon.  You know, come on already.  If you‘re going to do it, because that‘s what people are worried about, your voters are worried, you had better do it fast. 

MATTHEWS:  Laura. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... turn, I‘m sorry.

INGRAHAM:  I think actually Arnold did talk about the economic issue.  But you‘re right in a broad stroke way.  He said, if it weren‘t for America, I wouldn‘t have the family I have, the career I have, any of the opportunities I had.  I think his story was of individual opportunity.  This is the land of dreams.  People come here from all over the world to have economic freedom, religious freedom, all freedom.  I think he actually did address  it.  But you‘re right, not with sort of micro-strategies of this and that point. 

GERGEN:  How about loss of jobs, outsourcing, people losing their health care?

REAGAN:  There is 43 million people without health care, wages down.

INGRAHAM:  Well, they talk about the fact that this economy had been hit and the economy is now expanding.  And what else are they going to say at this point?  The message is going to be laid out by the president, it‘s not going to be laid out by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

REAGAN:  There‘s plenty of ammunition for the Democrats there.  The statistics are not good: real wages are down; health care is a disaster here.  We‘ve got a country the size of France in the middle of   America that has no health insurance... 

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  France is not a good analogy.

(LAUGHTER)

INGRAHAM:  Notice how Ron Reagan goes for France? 

MATTHEWS:  It may that this week—this convention is really a Johnny-one-note.  And the one note is terrorism.  And although it comes in different costuming, different nights, compassion one night,  opportunity the next night, the message the Republicans just go back to is their strong suit.  We can protect you better than the Democrats can.

GREGORY:  And Chris, that‘s the point.  I think that one of the things that the campaign right now is almost giddy about is in that they still feel they‘re ahead on the issue of, does George Bush have a vision, does he have a plan, is he a strong leader? 

And they feel like they‘re at least close in the public‘s mind on the ability to handle the economy.  That‘s not a place that they have been for very long.  But it goes back to a single note convention, which is that we‘re in this place economically because of the larger war on terror, because we were attacked.  And, you know, fighting our way out of it is not only about fighting terrorists but also fighting our way back on the economy.

MATTHEWS:  It reminds me of a Jack Kemp discussion.  I love Jack Kemp, but no matter what you ask... 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:   Gold standard.

MATTHEWS:  No.

INGRAHAM:  Did that discussion ever end?

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t care if it‘s juvenile delinquency, it‘s tax cuts is the answer.  When we come back, we‘ll check in with the other side.  There‘s always ants at a picnic.  The Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe joins us here at Herald Square.  You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Republican National Convention, MSNBC. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The keynoter of the Republican National Convention of 1952, General Douglas MacArthur.

ANNOUNCER (voice-over):  Just hours after General Dwight Eisenhower clinched the Republican nomination, another hero of World War II, General Douglas MacArthur, delivered the convention‘s keynote address.

GEN. DOUGLAS MACARTHUR, U.S. ARMY:  In all of my long life, I have been a member of the Republican Party.

BOB HOPE, ACTOR:  You know, everybody else took a plane or a train to Chicago, not General MacArthur, he waded ashore from Lake Michigan.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Republican Convention.  As you noticed when we went to Boston, it was always the other party person that comes up to offer a counter point to what is being said at the convention.  Up in Boston, we heard from Republicans. 

We‘re going to hear right now, from the leader of the opposition in  this country.  Opposition to the reelection of the president.  Terry McAuliffe is chairman of the Democratic National Committee.  I‘ve got a very hot question to ask you that will zing only onto the wires—the news wires after you answer it. 

Zell Miller says he will be a Democrat to the day he dies.  He‘s here to endorse a Republican candidate for president.  Is he still is Democrat? 

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN:  No, Zell Miller is the Darth Vader of the Democratic Party.  He went to the dark side a long time ago.  He ought to leave the party.  He‘s never gone to the Senate caucus meetings.  He supports Republicans.  He‘s been with George Bush from day one.  Chris, this is about him selling books.  If he left and went over to the Republican Party he wouldn‘t sell any books.  This is a material deal for Zell Miller.  He ought to get out.  Quit selling books and move on. 

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t you tell that to senator—Senator Daschle the leader of your party in the Senate and tell him to skip calling himself a Democrat? 

MCAULIFFE:  I agree.  My message to Tom Daschle and everybody else, Zell Miller, he supports George Bush.  We‘re here, we‘re supporting John Kerry, and if you‘re not with us, then get out and go to the other party where you belong. 

MATTHEWS:  He says he isn‘t leaving, that the part left him.

MCAULIFFE:  It‘s all about him selling books, Chris.  Listen, if he left the party and became a Republican he wouldn‘t sell any more books.  He is zig-zag Zell. He‘s been all over the place. 

MATTHEWS:  Explain. 

MCAULIFFE:  You know, listen, he‘s had a very interesting past.  He was chief of staff for Lester Maddox down in the South.  He was a big Democrat.  Now it‘s a opportune thing for him to become—attack the Democrats.  He won‘t go over there because it‘s not in his material interest.  The man has been all over the map. 

Who cares what Zell Miller says? 

We don‘t care.  He‘s not a Democrat.  He ought to move out into the sunset and go over to the Republican Party. 

MATTHEWS:  Why did you—if you don‘t like turn coats and you don‘t like whatever you call them, switchers, why did you welcome Jim Jeffords into your party caucus with such nobility and enthusiasm? 

MCAULIFFE:  If someone is willing to come to the Democratic Party, and support the principles of the party, we welcome everybody.  Zell Miller, does not support anything that the Democratic Party stands for.  So, if you‘re not with us on principle, you shouldn‘t be there name only, in order to benefit and put money in your pocket. 

Jim Jeffords was disgusted with the right wing tactics of the Republican Party.  He said the Republican Party left them.  They were out of where he was.  He felt as a Republican—as moderate Republican, he said there‘s no room for moderates in the Republican Party, so he left them.  And I would welcome any other Republican who has had it with George Bush and his failed policies come to the Democratic Party.  We will welcome you. 

MATTHEWS:  You—you think that Zell Miller has ever been a regular Democrat? 

MCAULIFFE:  I think in 1992 when he got up on stage and said great things and did the keynote address for Bill Clinton.  I remind you two years ago Zell Miller called, John Kerry a hero.  He said he‘s one of the heroes of our country.  And now he‘s up here saying all these awful things about, John Kerry.  You know, the man can‘t put it together, zig zag Zell.  Who cares, let him go on into the sunset by himself. 

MATTHEWS:  What role will Dick Cheney play in the fight for president. 

MCAULIFFE:  Mr. Halliburton himself, Dick Cheney.  Obviously, he has the least approval rating of any vice president we have had since Spiro Agnew in this country.  So, you know what, let him...

MATTHEWS:  Connected to corruption.  Doing that, just don‘t suggest it, give me a hard connection that he‘s done, that says that he‘s corrupt.  Or he has a special relationship with Halliburton right now.

MCAULIFFE:  First of all, there are at least seven investigations going on, that deal with time he was the CEO, including bribing Nigerian officials when he was the chief operating officer of that company.  He also goes out and says he has no financial interest in Halliburton.  Chris, he has 455,000 stock options, that two and half years ago the stock is worth 8, it‘s worth 28 bucks today, because they got a $7 billion no bid contract from the United States Government that his office knew about and he has benefited financially. 

MATTHEWS:  Will the Heinz Ketchup company get any special advantages if Mrs. Heinz wins the first ladyship? 

MCAULIFFE:  Free ketchup for everyone.  It will be at the White House. 

It will be at the Democratic Party headquarters. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you, Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. 

In our next hour, we‘re going to check in with NBC‘s Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert. 

HARDBALL live coverage of the Republican National Convention continues after this. 

END   

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