updated 9/2/2004 5:24:01 PM ET 2004-09-02T21:24:01

Guests: J.C. Watts, Jon Meacham, Ken Duberstein

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY:  No American president ever wants to go to war.  And my husband didn‘t want to go to war.  But he knew the safety and security of America and the world depended on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  And welcome back to HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Republican national convention up here in New York.  We‘re here at Herald Square at 34th and Broadway.

And we‘re expecting fireworks on the podium tonight—and I mean it -

·         when Democrat senator Zell Miller turns his back on his party‘s candidate to deliver the keynote address for the Republicans.  And closing out the night, vice president Dick Cheney.  That‘s going to be a whopper.

Our panel is here, NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell, former U.S. Congressman J.C.  Watts of Oklahoma, “Newsweek‘s” Jon Meacham and MSNBC‘s Joe Scarborough, my colleague.

But right now, let‘s go to the skybox and the anchor of the “NBC Nightly News,” Tom Brokaw, and NBC News Washington bureau chief and moderator of “MEET THE PRESS” Tim Russert.

We‘re about to see tonight, Tom and Tim, what I‘ve been told by Ken Duberstein is a dramatic presentation, a video presentation on the life and career of Ronald Reagan.  Is this one of those times where the other party has to simply take it, they can‘t match what the other side is offering?

TOM BROKAW, ANCHOR, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”:  Oh, I don‘t think there‘s any question about that.  But the Democrats had their moment in Boston when they brought on former president Bill Clinton, who made that very compelling appearance on the opening night of the convention, reminding them of the eight years when he was in office.  This is a long-standing tradition at these political conventions.

There is no more iconic figure in life or in death in the Republican Party than Ronald Reagan.  And we were talking about this earlier.  He has generations of young conservatives and Republicans who came into the political system and into the idea of elective politics because of who he was and what he stood for.

TIM RUSSERT, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”:  You know, Chris, it‘s interesting.  In Boston, the few times that they put John Kennedy‘s face and voice on the screen, it brought the convention floor to a halt.  And I was surprised that, frankly, more wasn‘t done in Boston to remember John Kennedy and the extraordinary impact and influence he had on people of our generation.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the role of Vice President Cheney.  There‘s certainly no tougher nut—Tim, you‘ve had him on “MEET THE PRESS” so many times, a tough nut, a tough man, a hard man in politics.  How‘s he going to do?  Is there any way we can judge the asymmetric warfare he‘s going to engage in with young John Edwards when the debate comes later this month?

BROKAW:  I think it‘s going to be really a fascinating match-up.  Edwards has got great skills honed over the years in courtrooms.  He‘s a younger guy who appeals to a whole different generation than Dick Cheney does.  But you have to remember how effective Cheney was four years ago, when he went against Joe Lieberman.  I always thought the Democrats had underestimated Cheney going into that debate, and his avuncular and thoughtful style, very good use of the language in Washington.  He‘s not a spellbinder, but he‘s articulate, and his sentences always parse.  They have a beginning, middle and end.

Now, where he‘s going to be open in that debate, obviously, are the claims that he made before the United States went into Iraq.  But we‘re told that he‘s already preparing for that debate, knowing that this is going to be a tough one because he‘s got a record that they can go through and pick out the claims that he made about Saddam Hussein and the perils that he posed to the world.

RUSSERT:  You could almost hear Dick Cheney saying, Now, John, if you had been at the committee meeting, you would have known.

BROKAW:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Hah!

RUSSERT:  On the other hand, Chris, there are some Democrats who are licking their chops, thinking that John Edwards‘s ability as a lawyer can turn that debate into the people versus Halliburton.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

RUSSERT:  It‘s going to be quite interesting to watch—two distinct styles, personalities and ages.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about Zell Miller, who‘s is a man who‘s been in the Democratic Party for an awful long time.  He‘s been a candidate whose candidacy has been fought for by people like James Carville.  He owes a lot to the Democratic Party and its consultants and the people who give money to the Democratic Party when they run for office, the candidates.  How‘s he going to do tonight, especially in light of the fact that he had come up politically in the old segregation South and he was loyal to many of those old issues?

BROKAW:  Well, I don‘t think that that‘s going to be his charge here tonight.  His charge is to say that, The party has abandoned me, and he‘ll be taking on John Kerry.  And his constituency tonight, the people that he‘ll be appealing to, will be those white male voters across the South who may be registered in the Democratic Party, as well, and are looking for a reason to come over to the Bush side this time.

As you know, the Republican strategy in the South has been very effective.  Now, a lot of those states have been hit hard by the economy, and so on, but John Kerry—pardon me, Zell Miller, just as Arnold Schwarzenegger did last night, gives those folks reason to say, You know, if it‘s good enough for Zell, maybe it‘s good enough for me, as well.

RUSSERT:  They hope, Chris, that Zell Miller also will resonate with the conservative Democrats in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, the kind of folks who will—grew up with John Kennedy‘s tough foreign policy stance and suddenly give pause when they hear a Democrat attacking a fellow Democrat.  To people in Washington, Zell Miller is old hat in terms of his criticisms of his own party, but tonight in primetime television, this will be the first time that many Americans will have been exposed to his message.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, Tom and Tim.  Thanks for joining us.  We‘ll be back later.

Let me ask you—let‘s get back to this heated discussion we had over

gender and the role of first spouses.  My point is, after four years, it

seems to me you ought to be able to judge the track record of any incumbent

-- in business, a firefighter, a general—and you shouldn‘t have to go

for the sappier treatment of the issue.  Why do you need to get a character

reference from someone after you‘ve already hired the person and have seen

them do the job?  Jon?

JON MEACHAM, “NEWSWEEK” MANAGING EDITOR:  I agree on the Laura question.  I think it is important for people to have a sense of what it‘s going to be like in that house.  It‘s the one part of American politics that‘s quite monarchial.  It‘s very Shakespearean.  These are family units and these are people.  These guys are men before they‘re monuments.  It was important to understand Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt‘s relationship.  It was important to understand Nancy and Ronald Reagan‘s.  It‘s more important for us now for Teresa Heinz Kerry and John Kerry...

MATTHEWS:  But I keep saying why—why was it important for us to understand the relationship...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... for 20 years because he cheated on her.  Is that important for us to know that?

MEACHAM:  Here you go.  In 1940 -- here...

MATTHEWS:  Why do we have to know that?

MEACHAM:  I‘m going to tell you that.  Because Winston Churchill and

Clementine Churchill, a subject near and dear to your heart, in 1940, when

·         after Churchill became prime minister, he was being such a son of a bitch to all of his staff—he was being completely—he had all—the weight of the world is on his shoulders, the only person who could talk to him was Clementine Churchill.

MATTHEWS:  She could calm him down.

MEACHAM:  She wrote him a letter, saying, You have—you now have all authority, you can sack anyone except the king and the archbishop, so take it easy.  And that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know where I read that letter?

MEACHAM:  Where‘d you read that letter?

MATTHEWS:  Your book.

(CROSSTALK)

J.C. WATTS (R-OK), FORMER CONGRESSMAN:  Would it matter—you know, Chris, you say we hire him, and after four years, we ought to know the character and know the decision-making process, and so forth.  Would it matter after four years if the spouse came out and said, J.C.‘s a jerk, Andrea‘s a jerk?

MEACHAM:  Yes, it would...

RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  That would be a story.

WATTS:  But that wouldn‘t matter.  I think—you know, we think it may not have any impact on us, but I think, you know, in the end, we‘re saying, OK, that pillow talk...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

WATTS:  They sleep together every night.  You know, they eat together every night.  And what...

(CROSSTALK)

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  Did it matter...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... Hillary come out and told you and say, I‘ve got this guy under control, you would have still voted for him?

MITCHELL:  Did it matter that Nancy Reagan suggested that Ronald Reagan talk to Gorbachev?  It matters.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

MITCHELL:  Policy influence comes from spouses.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”:  And also, on a personal level—I mean, people just understand.  Chris, you look—you need to go somewhere?

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think I have to go.

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, it looks like you got to go, and I was just—I was hoping to make a great point.

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.  Go ahead.

SCARBOROUGH:  No, you go.

MATTHEWS:  I haven‘t been yelled at yet.  Go ahead.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Finish your thought.

SCARBOROUGH:  My thought is, when I was in Congress, when I‘m in business, whatever I‘m doing, a lot of times, when I can‘t figure out who the husband is, when I‘m in social situations, I always turn and look at the wife.  And I know that if I think the husband may be an SOB or if I don‘t think I can trust him, I sit there and I talk to the wife for a while.  And if I trust the wife, if I think she‘s a person of good character, then I give the husband the benefit of the doubt.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me give you some advice.  If you think the guy‘s an SOB, don‘t wait four years to ask the wife if he‘s an SOB or not.

Coming up, Michael Reagan will take to the podium for a tribute to his father, President Ronald Reagan.  And we‘ll be joined by our own Ron Reagan.  He‘s here with us at Herald Square.

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 national convention here in New York.  In just a moment, Michael Reagan‘s going to take to the podium for a tribute to his father.

I‘m standing next to Ron Reagan, who is part of our program these days.  He‘s one of my colleagues.

As you watched a couple minutes ago, I‘m trying to shake things up around here by raising the question, after four years in office, why we ask the CEO‘s wife to tell us that he‘s a great guy.  It‘s clear the presidency of the United States involves more than a job description.  It involves moving into something called the White House and living there as a family.  And it‘s clear that the American people take that role of the family, especially the spouse, as extremely seriously.  And of course, that‘s where Bill Clinton got into trouble because he thought it was some job where, Well, I got this job at 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue.  I go there at 8:00 in the morning, I come back at 7:00 or 8:00 at night.  I put in a full day, and then I go live in an apartment somewhere on Georgetown.

Well, of course, we don‘t look at it that way.  We look at it as a family situation.  It‘s our own Republican, Democratic form of monarchy because we elect a family, not just a president.  But in this case, I think we have to look at the fact that there is, in fact, an incipient campaign here.  It‘s a campaign between first ladies.  Both of them have played large political roles, not roles as first ladies, but as campaigners.

And I think it‘s very important to understand that we ought to understand how to judge a president of the United States‘ performance after four years without sentiment.  We have to do it ruthlessly, and what‘s in the interest of the country, and not let this become some competition as to who would be the most delightful first lady.  I think the stakes are too high for that.

Anyway, Michael Reagan‘s at the podium to pay tribute to his father. 

Let‘s listen.

MICHAEL REAGAN, SON OF PRESIDENT REAGAN:  I knew if I waited long enough, the Republican Party would rock, and it‘s rocking tonight. It‘s good to be here.

My fellow Republicans, good evening to you, each and every one of you.  I am truly the luckiest man in the world. I am lucky for so many, many reasons.

First of all, I‘m lucky because my mother, my father, my birth- mother and my birth-father all had something in common. You know what it was? They were all pro-life.

(APPLAUSE)

And they were pro-adoption.

(APPLAUSE)

Because they were, I stand before you tonight as Michael Edward Reagan.

(APPLAUSE)

I‘ve come tonight to honor my father, not to politicize his name.

REAGAN: I‘m here to introduce a video tribute to my father, Ronald Reagan, who was not just a great leader, but also a great dad.

But first of all, on behalf of the Reagan family, I‘d like to take a moment to thank everyone here and everyone at home across America for all you did during the week that we laid my father to rest.

(APPLAUSE)

It was your faith, it was your love, it was your support that truly sustained each member of our family. So many of you stood in all-night vigils, stopped your cars and trucks, waved your flags or just placed your hands on your heart as our cars drove by.

One gentleman, by the name of Jorge Ponce-Rodriguez, left his passport with a message to our family there at the library in Simi Valley. He said, because of President Reagan, “my family and I were able to achieve the American dream. God bless Ronald Reagan.”

(APPLAUSE)

Why did my father—why did he evoke such an incredible gratitude and goodwill?

Was it his personality? His sunny optimism? His humor? That twinkle in his eye?

REAGAN: Was it the fact that he was a great communicator? Or was it all of that and something more?

Ronald Reagan, you see, did not break the back of Soviet tyranny and then and ignite the most powerful economy in our history with just funny stories and beautiful words. He wasn‘t just a great communicator. You see, my father communicated great ideas. Where did these ideas come from?

(APPLAUSE)

Where did they come from? They came from his beliefs. He believed, as Thomas Jefferson said—and remember Thomas and my dad played together as children...

(LAUGHTER)

... that God who gave us life, and he did give us life, also gave us liberty at the same time. My father believed that God had a plan for his life and for every life and for the life of our nation.

(APPLAUSE)

He believed America was placed between the oceans to be a beacon of freedom for the whole world, the place where man was not beholden to government, but in fact government was beholden to man.

(APPLAUSE)

And because of him, we are that “Shining City on a Hill,” and we shine a little bit brighter tonight.

(APPLAUSE)

He believed the founders‘ limitations on government helped create the freest, most prosperous nation ever known. Finally, he believed freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. With the blessings of liberty, we have responsibilities to defend it.

(APPLAUSE)

Today, the USS Ronald Reagan sits in a berth in San Diego, California, with 5,000 men and women for just that purpose.

(APPLAUSE)

Throughout his life, his belief in you and me and the American people never ever wavered.

And finally, in his farewell letter, he wrote: “As I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life, I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.”

(APPLAUSE)

With pride, ladies and gentleman, I present to you a video tribute of the 40th president of the United States, my dad, Ronald Wilson Reagan.

(APPLAUSE)

(RONALD REAGAN VIDEO TRIBUTE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.  What a moving tribute!  I‘m Joanna De La Torre (ph), today in the California delegation.  And accompanying me is the chairman of the Reagan Library and his two beautiful daughters, Mr. Fred Ryan (ph).  Mr. Ryan, I understand this is the world premiere of the Reagan tribute.  What did you think?

FRED RYAN, REAGAN LIBRARY CHAIRMAN:  Well, I liked it, and from the sounds of it, everybody here liked it.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It is apparent that everybody was very moved.  I understand that people might want copies of this.  How will they obtain them? 

RYAN:  Yes. 

We got a lot of calls from people right after the funeral saying, what can I do to have something to remember this by?  What can I have for my children?  So the Reagan Library has produced a video.  It‘s premiering tonight.  And it‘s available for people to buy at the ReaganLibrary.com.  If you go to ReaganLibrary.com on the Internet, you can buy a copy of this. 

And it‘s got—it‘s much longer and it has got a lot more on it. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The world mourned this 40th president.  There was no barriers.  There was no Democrats.  There was no Republicans.  We wish Mrs. Reagan was here with us tonight.  I heard you had a little conference call with her today.  What happened? 

RYAN:  Well I spoke to her just a few minutes ago.  And she has been watching this convention every night and enjoying it.  In fact, she‘s watching right now.  And...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)  

RYAN:  And she said she has been so touched by the wonderfully outpouring of affection and support and respect given have given her since the president passed. 

And she just asked if we could send her very best wishes to everyone here and her thanks for what they‘re doing. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Can you tell me the most memorable experience that you‘ve had alongside the Reagans?

RYAN:  Well, I think, watching this video, we all have memories of things.

But being with him when he went to Berlin and watch the Berlin Wall come down was something I won‘t forget.  I don‘t think anybody will ever forget. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thank you so much.  And thank you to Mr. Reagan.

MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘re back here with Ron Reagan. 

God, you have your own mike. 

RON REAGAN, NBC CONTRIBUTOR:  I have my own—we have our own mikes. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.What did you think of the movie? 

RON REAGAN:  Oh, I thought it was beautiful.  I expected it to be.  My father couldn‘t take a bad picture. 

(LAUGHTER)

RON REAGAN:  And there‘s lots of great footage to have there.

And I was glad that my brother got to do that.  You could tell how much it meant to him.  And I‘m happy for him that he got to do that. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you guys talk back and forth about your various presentations, you up in Boston, he here? 

RON REAGAN:  No.  I spoke to him a little bit about this.  I asked him what it was all about.  He told me that he was doing the tribute.  He didn‘t say too much to me about mine.  We agree to disagree about embryonic stem cell research. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  When did you guys go separate ways politically, I‘m curious, Michael and Ron? 

RON REAGAN:  I was probably 12. 

(LAUGHTER)

RON REAGAN:  Which would make him maybe 22.  I don‘t know. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  And what was it that first distinguished your thinking? 

RON REAGAN:  Well, Michael, as you might expect, idolized his father. 

And I was, of course, very fond of my father, too.

But, you know, children have two different experiences with parents.  There are some children that want to emulate the parent by following in their footsteps, and other kids who, while they admire the qualities of the parent, don‘t necessarily have to put their footsteps in exactly the same places all the time. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

Could this pattern—I hate to use this word—be normal? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Where the oldest son is more like a member of the ruling triumvirate or whatever of the family and the second son comes along and just has to be a rebel? 

RON REAGAN:  I don‘t know if I had to be.  Maybe it‘s just in my nature, I suppose.  Maybe it is normal, though, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about—when you watch a movie like that, do you—are you able to say—well, it‘s so emotional a question, but I love you buddy, so I‘m going to ask you the question.  What‘s it like to just pull out the personal from the political?

RON REAGAN:  Well, for me, there really only is the personal. 

I mean, I recognize that there is a political aspect to all of this, but, you know, when I see that, I just see my dad.  It‘s just a little video about my dad. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  It‘s one of those things like the movie “Cabaret,” if you could see him as I can?

RON REAGAN:  Yes. 

(LAUGHTER)

RON REAGAN:  And I know the Republicans have been trying to assume the mantle of Ronald Reagan.  And George W. Bush, too. 

And I guess I would just remind them that I think one thing that distinguished my father‘s conservatism—and he obviously was a conservative—is that it was conservatism without anger.  There was no meanness.  There was no rage.  In his personal life and in his political life, he treated people the same, whether they were black, white, gay, straight, anything.  There was no rancor there.  And that‘s what made it effective.  And that is what made it an easy sell to the American people. 

MATTHEWS:  What did he think of the other side, the Democratic side?  If he were watching these two conventions—and I‘m sure he would be, because he probably loved politics, as well as caring about the issues—what would he thought of a guy like Kerry? 

RON REAGAN:  Oh, I think he would have admired Kerry for his service in Vietnam.  He would have disagreed with him on various issues, you know, a little like with Tip O‘Neill.

The deal was that they would beat each other‘s brains out all day long.  But 5:00 rolled around.  They would go have a beer.  He didn‘t see the other side as the enemy.  They were just well-meaning people who had the wrong idea about things. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘ve got to ask this, because politics today has gotten very acerbic.

RON REAGAN:  Yes, it has.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s gotten to the point where some parties won‘t even show their main fighters.  They‘re not really ready for prime time, they‘re so tough looking.

RON REAGAN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And so they don‘t even bring them to their conventions, because they don‘t want regular people to see their fighters. 

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

RON REAGAN:  Yes, it‘s true.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, like nobody was hiding Ronald Reagan. 

RON REAGAN:  No, nobody was hiding Ronald Reagan. 

Ronald Reagan wasn‘t imitating anybody.  He wasn‘t trying to assume somebody else‘s mantle.  He was very much himself all the time on stage, off stage, same guy, very comfortable in his own skin and supremely confident and at ease with himself. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about somebody I like, your mom, OK? 

The role

(CROSSTALK) 

RON REAGAN:  Your lunch partner, occasionally.

MATTHEWS:  My lunch partner.

RON REAGAN:  By the way, she said to say hello.  I forgot to tell you.

MATTHEWS:  I will say hello back. 

Let me ask you this.  The role of the first lady.  I was making a narrow point a few minutes ago.  And I hear everybody is upset about it.  I said, after four years of a presidency, when you really get to judge the male, the president, the wife‘s character witness may be nice, but it‘s really not relevant, because, clearly, you got a good look at this guy for four years and you should make that judgment, like you would in business.

RON REAGAN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  But the role of the first lady is always awesome itself.  It‘s not just someone who is the shoulder to lean on when things are tough and to go home to at night.  It‘s your key adviser. 

Can a first lady, given your experience with your mom and dad, play a big role on the world stage?  I think your mom, knowing her just as much as I know her, really wanted your dad to be a peacemaker in the end. 

RON REAGAN:  Yes, she did.  Yes, she did. 

MATTHEWS:  Explain.  And how did she play that role? 

RON REAGAN:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  We‘re talking about Reykjavik.  We‘re talking about the deal with Gorbachev.  We‘re talking about how he got past the Cold War. 

RON REAGAN:  Well, behind the scenes, of course, she wasn‘t somebody to put herself forward and let everybody know what she was saying, but she would—you know, she would whisper in his ear at night.  And, yes, she did want him to be a peacemaker.  He wanted to be a peacemaker. 

He hated the idea of war.  His nightmare was that there would be a nuclear conflagration with the Soviet Union or China or somebody else.  But she understood that his legacy—and she thinks about his legacy—would be a much greater one if he was seen as somebody who brought peace and not somebody who looked for war.

MATTHEWS:  And so with...

RON REAGAN:  And so she urged him in that direction. 

MATTHEWS:  When—this is so pivotal, because it‘s so personal.  When your mom and your dad, after years of hating communism—and maybe your mom and dad hated it for 50 years, early, back to the late ‘40s, right, when he fought the unions, the lefty unions. 

When they heard there was a guy named Gorbachev, a guy who was open to the future and maybe a communist, but he saw how the world had changed and how he had to change, that personal chemical connection with that guy, explain it, because I think she played a big role in that.

RON REAGAN:  Well, I think she did. 

But my father and Gorbachev hit it off, to put it that way.  My father was a guy who reacted to people viscerally.  He wanted to form a personal connection.  He was frustrated as hell with the Soviet Union, because, as he said, they kept dying on him. 

MATTHEWS:  The leaders.

(LAUGHTER)

RON REAGAN:  You know, Brezhnev and Chernenko and Andropov.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  His only way of meeting them was with a casket, right?

RON REAGAN:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

RON REAGAN:  And so finally he got this guy who was young enough to survive more than three months and, you know, was kind of in his right mind and everything and a guy who was savvy enough to realize that, in many ways, my father was right about the Soviet Union. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

RON REAGAN:  It was an ossified, dying empire.

And a man who wanted to move the Soviet Union into the 20th and eventually the 21st century.  And he knew that he could deal with him.  And they went to—went to Switzerland.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

RON REAGAN:  And sat down by that fireplace for—God, I was standing right outside that bath house, you know, the pool house where they met.

MATTHEWS:  And it changed history. 

RON REAGAN:  And it changed history. 

I remember them—everybody was looking at their watch. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know what I liked about your mom?  Because I don‘t think she liked Raisa Gorbachev too much, but she don‘t let that—because she was arrogant commie bastard, you know what I mean?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  And the fact is that she wouldn‘t stop giving your mom lectures, right?

RON REAGAN:  It‘s true. 

When she came to the White House, she had obviously studied up on the history of the White House, showed up early and met with the press.  And it was to really give a lecture on the history of the White House to my mother and embarrass her. 

(LAUGHTER)

RON REAGAN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I know your mom.  But your mom, that‘s really a good statement about her patriotism.  And I know she‘s watching now.  And I mean that.  If you can put up with Raisa Gorbachev...

RON REAGAN:  You can put up with anything.

MATTHEWS:  ... enough to end the Cold War, you really want the Cold War over with. 

(LAUGHTER)

RON REAGAN:  If you can put up with Raisa Gorbachev, you can put up with, I don‘t know, Tom DeLay and Rick Santorum maybe. 

MATTHEWS:  God.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Boy, I have to say...

RON REAGAN:  That was way out of left field. 

MATTHEWS:  Tom DeLay is no more visible at this convention than Raisa Gorbachev.

RON REAGAN:  Than Raisa Gorbachev is.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, Ron, stay right with us right here.

NBC‘s Campbell Brown is on the convention floor with Ken Duberstein, who was of course chief of staff to President Reagan toward the end of his presidency—Campbell Brown.

CAMPBELL BROWN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  That‘s right, Chris.  I‘m here with Ken.

And we were watching the film that aired just a few moments ago.  And you had already seen it before tonight, but that was the first moment I recall since the convention began where the hall really did get quiet and you got one of those sort of tingly moments.  What was your reaction?

KEN DUBERSTEIN, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT:  Well, I told Chris the other night that this was a three-handkerchief seven minutes.  And I really think it was.

It brought back the tingles, but also the fond memories of Ronald Reagan, that cheerful optimist, that can-do spirit.  And so what you heard in the hallway and on TV was the essential Ronald Reagan, whether it was the Berlin Wall or getting something done with Congress, and the love of the Republican Party and frankly I think now the whole American people for our beloved Ronald Reagan.  He made a difference. 

BROWN:  Are you surprised he‘s not playing a bigger role here, that the spirit of Ronald Reagan hasn‘t come up during this convention more often? 

DUBERSTEIN:  Well, you know, I just saw all those signs that say “Win one more for the Gipper,” so in fact he really is here.  And he is the heart and soul of the Republican Party. 

I am fond of saying that George W.‘s last name may be Bush, but his heart belongs to Ronald Reagan. 

BROWN:  Ron Reagan was just talking with Chris a moment ago.  And I know you couldn‘t hear all of the interview, but Ron, describing his father, said he was a conservative, but without anger. 

Is there too much anger being voiced here when you hear the kind of criticism we‘re expecting from Zell Miller, from Vice President Dick Cheney tonight of John Kerry? 

DUBERSTEIN:  Well, I think what you got with Ronald Reagan was sunny optimism.  It was conservatism without anger.  He‘ll point out the difference.  And President Reagan was very willing always to point out the contrast.

And I think what you‘re hearing at the convention is the contrast, but essentially it is our platform that is optimism, which is the Reagan-Bush platform. 

BROWN:  Ken, real quick, let me ask you about Vice President Cheney, who is taking the stage.  And according to a lot of people around him and close to him, he is feeling some heat as being a bit of a drag on the ticket, given some of the poll numbers, and is spending a lot of time—spent a lot of time preparing for this speech tonight and prepping for the debates, which are—or debate he will have with John Edwards on October 5. 

What are you expecting for that debate?  Which, we all remember the Lieberman-Cheney debate as one of the more interesting of 2000. 

DUBERSTEIN:  Well, what I expect is that Dick Cheney will prevail for a very simple reason.  John Edwards is the sizzle, but Dick Cheney is the steak.  That will make the difference with the American people. 

This is no time for just cuteness.  This is time for serious leadership and stable leadership.  And I think that‘s not only George W., but it‘s also Dick Cheney. 

BROWN:  Ken Duberstein, always good to talk to you.  A debate we will be looking forward to.

Chris, let‘s go back to you. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you, Campbell.

I‘m here for a couple more moments with Ron. 

What do you people think of this guy, Ron Reagan, here? 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ron!  Ron!  Ron!  Ron!  Ron!  Ron!  Ron! 

RON REAGAN:  There‘s got to be something who hates me out there. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, you‘ve obviously become a figure in your own right. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m trying to talk like your father.

RON REAGAN:  Much thanks to you, I guess. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I mean, do you think that—do you like him because he‘s an independent or because he‘s great on television? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Both. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Both.  Both.

I think we‘ve created a monster here. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, it‘s great being on with you, Ron. 

RON REAGAN:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  And do you have any final thoughts about Reagan lovers out there? 

RON REAGAN:  Well, listen, I would echo Michael‘s sentiment about that. 

All the people who came out during my father‘s funeral meant so much to us.  It helped us kind of stay out of ourselves and get through that whole week, which was a difficult week and a very public week.  And thank you to everybody.  I‘ve gotten hundreds of letters and I can‘t answer them all and I feel bad about it.

But I just want to say a blanket thank you to everybody out there who sent condolences.  It was really very kind of you. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s great to have you here. 

Let‘s go back. 

Thank you, Ron Reagan. 

When we come back, we‘ll be back with our panel.  Plus, presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, he‘s going to join us to explain once again where we stand in history.

We‘re awaiting the keynote address tonight from Democratic Senator Zell Miller, the big Democrat talking tonight. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Republican National Convention up here in New York on Broadway and 34th

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN:  I hereby and proudly move on behalf of my fellow Californians that this convention declare itself as unanimously and united behind the candidate Richard Nixon as the next president of the United States.  And I so move. 

ANNOUNCER:  California Governor Ronald Reagan gracefully ended his first run at the White House in 1968 when he appeared on the convention floor in support of Richard Nixon.  Though Nixon went on to claim the White House, Reagan had laid claim to the Republican heart. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Republican National Convention up here in New York. 

In just a few minutes, Senator Zell Miller, the Democratic senator from Georgia—he‘s the senior Democratic senator in that state, the Peach State—will deliver—I think he‘s going to throw a few tomatoes at the Democrats tonight.  He‘s of course giving the keynote address to this convention.

And later, Vice President Dick Cheney.  That‘s going to be a major moment.  Cheney has a way of speaking I would say with authority. 

We‘re back with the panel. 

We‘re joined right now by presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, who is an NBC News analyst. 

And there he is. 

Doug, this history.  Do we have a precedent for a member of a party going to the other convention and basically wasting his party‘s standard bearer and going for the other guy? 

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, NBC ANALYST:  Nothing quite like this. 

Of course, there have been Democrats like George Wallace, who created his own independent party.  And remember Strom Thurmond back in 1948 went and became a Dixiecrat and then later became a Republican.  But Zell Miller is somebody who before has supported people like Max Cleland in Georgia, supported people even like John Kerry.  But he‘s taken an abrupt turn to the right and is become a kind of stalking horse for the GOP right now.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the role of the vice president, Dick Cheney in this case. 

You know, back in ‘56, I wrote about it.  You know about it.  The Democrats couldn‘t beat Dwight Eisenhower, the war hero who had beaten Hitler in Europe.  They couldn‘t beat him in ‘56, so they tore into Nixon all the time, his running mate.  And people like Bobby Kennedy would say, who was traveling with Adlai Stevenson, would say, what a waste of time.  People like Nixon more than they do Adlai Stevenson. 

Do you think there‘s any precedent for brining down a presidency by nailing the veep?

BRINKLEY:  Well, that‘s an interesting analogy.

Nixon would be the only one, because Ike, when Nixon ran for president in 1960, as you know, Chris, Ike didn‘t get behind Nixon as much as he should.  But Dick Cheney has been willing to be, as “New York Times” writer Maureen Dowd says, the Darth Vader of the Republican Party, the person people don‘t like. 

When John Kerry was traveling through Iowa or New Hampshire and beyond, the biggest applause he got was when he would mention Halliburton.  And it seems to be even when you walk the streets here of New York and talk to protesters, the name Dick Cheney makes them very angry.  He doesn‘t seem to mind.  He‘d rather take the lightning, he‘d rather take the punches than the president.  And in that way, he‘s a very loyal vice president and that‘s the most important thing you can say about him. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the shot taken often by critics of this administration that George Bush is not really calling the shots, that Dick Cheney is? 

BRINKLEY:  Well, you always hear that. 

But, as you know with Dwight Eisenhower, they used to say that he didn‘t do anything but golf.  And when documents come later, you realize that they are quite hands-on.  I think George W. Bush took a page from Ronald Reagan and realizes that he‘s essentially the master of ceremony and he has to surround himself with good people.  And Cheney has a long career. 

I hear a lot of analysts talk about what a bad politician or how much he doesn‘t like it.  And sometimes they forget he won six consecutive congressional races out in Wyoming and he was the only congressman there for a while.  And he has had a great career.  His resume is impeccable.  He‘s marched through the Nixon White House.  Of course, he was Gerald Ford‘s chief of staff. 

But most importantly in his speech tonight is foreign policy and reminding people not just about his resume, but it‘s things that are history-changing.  And I think where John Kerry is vulnerable from a Dick Cheney attack is Kerry‘s Senate record and particularly his vote against the Iraq war.  And I think Cheney, of course who was the secretary of defense for the first President Bush, executed that war brilliantly.

And I think that will be one of the key things to come out of his speech. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s not dance past that electoral history of Cheney‘s, because isn‘t it fair to say, Douglass, that for a Republican to get reelected in Wyoming is about as difficult as it is for a Democrat to get reelected in the Bronx? 

BRINKLEY:  Yes, that‘s true, but he went on to become the—in the House, the great leader in Congress, so he had to have political skills, Chris, to become the whip, meaning people in his party liked him.  Other politicians liked him. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.   

BRINKLEY:  He has more political skills than I think people realize.  It‘s just that I think power and money interest him more than retail politics. 

You know, when his car apparently came through here in New York, he doesn‘t like to get out or wave to people too much.  But he‘s trying to present himself a little kinder here, as the grandfather and the father.  He came earlier in the convention.  And I think he‘s going to try to show people a little bit of the gentler side, along with the fact that he understands history from Franklin Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan to George W.  Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, it‘s great having you on, Doug Brinkley, as always.  Thanks for joining us from a few hundred yards behind me here at Herald Square. 

BRINKLEY:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to—you‘re eager to talk here. 

MITCHELL:  Well, you know, Dick Cheney was the whip, as Doug was just saying.  And John Tower was nominated to be the defense secretary, former Senator from Texas John Tower.

And he got in trouble and Sam Nunn and others in the Senate killed the nomination.  And Dick Cheney was the compromise choice by acclimation.  He zipped through his confirmation hearing back in 1989 because he was so popular, so well respected by people on both sides. 

And I think when we were talking earlier about the Iraq issue, I don‘t know whether George Bush would have gone to war if Dick Cheney had not been arguing forcefully for it.  I don‘t think that Dick Cheney would have listened to anyone else in the Cabinet the way he listened—excuse me, that George Bush would have listened to anyone else in the Cabinet the way he listens to Dick Cheney.  Dick Cheney is his absolute closest adviser. 

MATTHEWS:  And bigger than that, he was in many ways almost his viceroy in selection of the secretary of defense.

MITCHELL:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  And thereby the selection of a lot of tough deputies at the Defense Department. 

It‘s hard to imagine Cheney‘s absence from this whole pastiche.  All the power guys, all the hawks in the administration really indirectly owe their positions to Dick Cheney, rather than the president, probably.  Well, in a couple cases , the president knew people, like Wolfowitz. 

MITCHELL:  In fact, in the National Security Council structure, there‘s a deputies committee.  That‘s the committee where all the action is.  They decide what goes up to the top leaders and what stays down. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MITCHELL:  Everyone in that deputies committee, with the exception of Rich Armitage at the State Department, once worked for Dick Cheney over at the Pentagon. 

MATTHEWS:  Powerful man. 

MEACHAM:  I have sort of a pop culture analogy here that goes to the Dick Cheney as prince of darkness theme. 

I think he‘s like Colonel Jessup in a few good men, the Jack Nicholson part, where he says, down in some part of you where you don‘t want to talk about it, you want me on that wall.  You want me defending you.

SCARBOROUGH:  You need me on that wall.

(CROSSTALK)

MEACHAM:  And you don‘t want—and I don‘t want to be questioned by the people whom I warm with the blanket of freedom the means by which I provide that blanket. 

MITCHELL:  That‘s a great analogy.

MATTHEWS:  But is that a democratic statement? 

MEACHAM:  This is the daddy convention.  This is the daddy party. 

It‘s Democratic upper-case D or lower-case? 

MATTHEWS:  Lower-case. 

MEACHAM:  Yes, ultimately.  Well, it‘s Straussian.  And it goes to the neocon point, where he‘s actually moved into this very hard-right ideology. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I think—Joe, you and I know the Congress and how they‘re often judged. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Try to help me on this.  Help me, Joe, here. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I will help you. 

MATTHEWS:  Please help me.

A lot of people judge people by appearance in Washington, as well as other—if you dress cowboy and you look a little tough, well, you‘re tough.  And so somebody like Tom DeLay looks tough.  And he‘s tough.

But then there‘s other guys who dress with the button-down collars and they have sort of mellifluous voice and their wife is a writer or something, like Cheney.  And because of his manner, people assuming for many years, he was something of a moderate Republican.  I think he‘s always been tough, very conservative and very tough. 

SCARBOROUGH:  He‘s always been tough, but he has not been Darth Vader, this image that has evolved in mainstream media and by people that write books about lying liars who lie all the time because they‘re liars.

It‘s not the Dick Cheney that people, that Washington insiders have known.  I think there‘s a very telling point.  David Stockman wrote a book 20 years ago talking about the triumph of politics when the Reagan administration turned their back on fiscal sanity, allowed the deficits to go up.  David Stockman said the minute the Reagan revolution died was when Dick Cheney quietly spoke to the White House and said, you‘ve gone as far as you can go.  You guys have pushed the envelope too much. 

MATTHEWS:  When was that, Joe? 

SCARBOROUGH:  When?  It was of course—as you know, like all good Republicans, Ronald Reagan cut taxes.  And then, when it was time to pay for it, he went back and tried to do the spending cuts.  The Republicans in Congress didn‘t want to follow with the spending cuts.

But the point is this.  David Stockman said they were all sitting around this table in the White House.  The second Dick Cheney, this congressman, spoke up quietly and said, there‘s not the political will in the House to pass it, the revolution is dead, David Stockman went back, told Ronald Reagan it‘s all over.  And he did that not because Dick Cheney was a right-wing ideologue.  He did it because Republicans, Democrats, people that worked behind the scenes had a great respect for Dick Cheney. 

Again, this guy was chief of staff of the White House when he was 34 years old.  He is not a right-wing ideologue.  He does, though, see himself...

MEACHAM:  Two different Dick Cheneys.

SCARBOROUGH:  He sees himself, though, working with a wartime president.  And he sees it as his job protecting Americans in the war on terror.  He is not this fire-breathing ideologue that he‘s been made out to be. 

(CROSSTALK)

MEACHAM:  ... the key question about the last three years, which is what happened to that Dick Cheney? 

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s called September 11. 

MEACHAM:  Exactly. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly. 

(CROSSTALK)

MEACHAM:  But that‘s exactly right, but that is still a different Dick

Cheney and you have to deal with that.  You can‘t just go back to

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me support something you said, Joe. 

J.C., jump in here. 

The man has a command presence.  And you‘ll see it tonight.  And he has an amazing ability to offer opinion as if it‘s fact with the confidence of a person who is a referee, rather than a rival for a political victory. 

For example, when he would go on Sunday programs like “Meet the Press” and he would say with tremendous authority that we have a nuclear threat coming our way from Saddam Hussein, and he would say it different ways, that moved a lot of people in the press. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It did. 

MATTHEWS:  Just a minute.

Like people that I know, it moved a lot of them to say, how can we criticize a war or even be skeptical about the need for a war if they have nuclear weapons?  He had that power. 

MITCHELL:  He believed it. 

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  He absolutely believed it, and probably still does believe it. 

MATTHEWS:  He believed they had a nuclear capability?

MITCHELL:  That they were reaching a nuclear capability, that that was a threat.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that was a profound belief.  Because he believed that, this country believed it, and that‘s how much power Dick Cheney has.  And probably the president believed him after he had done the intelligence. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on.  Hold on.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  J.C. first.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.

WATTS:  Well, first, let me say, David said earlier in an earlier segment that President Bush said in his 2000 convention speech he was a different George Bush then than he was today.  That‘s due to September 11.  September 11 has changed the world. 

Dick Cheney is very well prepared.  He‘s very well organized.  He‘s very methodical.  You know, this impression that people have of him—I‘ve been with Dick Cheney.  I was his congressman, actually, for a time when he was with Halliburton, when I had a facility in my district. 

Dick Cheney is not this renegade Darth Vader that he‘s come to be known as by the Democrats.  He has great command from Republicans and Democrats when he was in the House.  They nixed John Tower.  Dick Cheney becomes the compromise candidate.  Democrats signed off on him.  He became the secretary of defense.  So this guy is very well prepared.  He‘s very well organized.

And those are the kind of people as president you want to have around. 

He just happens to be the vice president of the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  Does anyone disagree with that view? 

MITCHELL:  His competence and his experience is what brought him the credentials where George W. Bush wanted him to be his vice president.  

I remember traveling with him to the Persian Gulf.  I was representing all of the television networks back in 1990.  And he had to go to the Gulf and try to persuade all of these sheiks and emirs and all the leaders...

MATTHEWS:  I know that.

MITCHELL:  ... to commit American bases.

MATTHEWS:  I know that story.  It was a wonderful story.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Apparently, what he did was, he went to see the people in the royal family in the Saudi kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

MITCHELL:  And Qatar and Bahrain.

MATTHEWS:  And he said to them, you‘ll notice that the royal family of Kuwait are now living in your hotels.  Which hotels will you be living in?

That was a fairly forceful argument.

MEACHAM:  But as a purely political matter, you can‘t get away from

the dark Dick Cheney, which is why he‘s being seen with his family

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media Inc. (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,