updated 9/2/2004 5:42:17 PM ET 2004-09-02T21:42:17

Guests: Susan Molinari, Mike Barnicle, Betsy Walker Field, Debbie Walker Stapleton, Tony Blankley; Ed Rollins, Bill Harris, Lloyd Grove, Elizabeth Spiers

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  And welcome to MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of the Republican National Convention, AFTER HOURS.  Day three for the Republican National Convention.  I‘ll tell you what.  What a night it was.  It brought Bush‘s number two man to the stage, accepting the party‘s nomination and delivering a few body blows to John Kerry and giving the Republican party‘s keynote speech to a Democrat!  That‘s right.  Governor Zell Miller who probably didn‘t win any favors with his party tonight.  I‘m Joe Scarborough. 

RON REAGAN, CO-HOST:  And I‘m Ron Reagan.  I know it‘s been a long day for a lot of you, but a long day for Zell Miller, too.  But now it‘s time to kick back and cut loose because this is AFTER HOURS live from New York‘s Herald Square.  And of course, we‘ve got the talented R.A. Hoenig group here helping us set the party mood. 

(MUSIC)

SCARBOROUGH:  And with the AFTER HOURS party tonight also, we‘ve got actor Ron Silver, Mike Barnicle of “The Boston Herald” and home of course of the Boston Red Sox 3.5 games behind the Yankees, former congresswoman Susan Molinari, now chair of the Century Council, and MSNBC analyst Joe Trippi, who‘s a former campaign manager for Howard Dean.

Susan, let‘s begin with you.  Obvious - oh, we‘ve got Deaniacs in the crowd here.  This is big.  Who would have guessed Howard Dean supporters in New York City!  Can‘t believe it. 

Susan Molinari, you‘ve obviously been to more than a few of these conventions.  In fact, you delivered a speech of your own speech at the 1996 convention.  Talk about tonight.  Sat next to “Newsweek‘s” John Meacham, who said it was one of the most effective convention nights he‘s ever seen.  What was it like inside the convention hall?  And how did these Republicans do?

SUSAN MOLINARI ®, FMR. U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN:  The Republicans were - I mean, the convention hall was absolutely on fire.  I mean, anybody who heard Zell Miller‘s speech saw that he pulled no punches.  He was down to colloquialisms.  You know, I think he had a one line where he said, you know, what does John Kerry want to fight a war with, spitballs?  I mean, you know, he just really sort of got to the heart of the matter.  And the crowd loved it.  It was one of the most white hot speeches I‘ve ever heard given at a convention.

A Democrat I think could get away with giving it compared to a Republican.  And the crowd responded. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What about Dick Cheney?

MOLINARI:  Now, interesting because I think what tonight did  was allow Dick Cheney to take off the Darth Vader mask that the media has put on him that has never existed, and allowed him to be the much more contemplative, more scholarly speaker.  He had a couple good shots.  You know, the one about Senator Kerry sees two Americas and that makes him mutual.  America sees two Senator Kerrys.  And I think he—but I thought he took the tone down, which  he needed to do.  And he did it very effectively from a leadership position. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So Mike Barnicle, are we saying here tonight that Zell Miller made Cheney look good warm and fuzzy?

MIKE BARNICLE, “THE BOSTON HERALD”:  I never thought I‘d see a Republican event where the frame-up worked to the extent that Zell Miller‘s speech,  prior to Dick Cheney‘s speech, made Dick Cheney look like Pope John Paul. 

REAGAN:  Do you think that was?  I mean, do you think going in, that they knew that Zell was going to do that?  Make Dick look fuzzy?

BARNICLE:  Who could know that?

REAGAN:  Yes.

BARNICLE:  I mean, the only thing I could - I kept thinking, what did Kerry and the—did they take his parking place away from him on Capitol Hill?  What did they do to him?

REAGAN:  That was one angry speech. 

BARNICLE:  Wow!  And I mean he looked angry.  It was effective.  It was powerful.  There‘s no doubt about it. 

REAGAN:  In the hall.

BARNICLE:  But the anger on the television set, which is where I saw it, I mean it just—you know, I was a little leery of him coming right through the tube after me. 

REAGAN:  Let‘s—before we go on, let‘s say, we‘ve got a little of the Zell Miller speech.  He said both Senators and Kerry and Kennedy were making America weaker.  Here‘s what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ZELL MILLER (D), GEORGIA:  For more than 20 years, on every one of the great issues of freedom and security, John Kerry has been more wrong, more weak, and more wobbly than any other national figure. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

As a war protestor, Kerry blamed our military.  As a senator, he voted to weaken our military.  And nothing shows that more sadly and more clearly than his vote this year to deny protective armor for our troops in harms way, far away.

George W. Bush understands that we need new strategies to meet new threats.  John Kerry wants to re-fight yesterday‘s war.  President Bush believes we have to fight today‘s war and be ready for tomorrow‘s challenges.

(APPLAUSE)

President Bush is committed to providing the kind of forces it takes to root out terrorists, no matter what spider hole they may hide in or what rock they crawl under.

(APPLAUSE)

George W. Bush wants to grab terrorists by the throat and not let them go to get a better grip.

(APPLAUSE)

For John Kerry, they get a yes, no, maybe, bowl of mush.  They can only encourage our enemies and confuse our friends.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, I love that.

REAGAN:  Joe Trippi, you‘re...

MOLINARI:  He paints a picture, doesn‘t he?

REAGAN:  ...(UNINTELLIGIBLE) you are—you turned up something very interesting.  Zell Miller introduced John Kerry in the year 2001.  Then he didn‘t mention bowl of mush.  What did he say?

JOE TRIPPI, MSNBC ANALYST:  No, no, he said - well first of all, he called him a great leader.  But more importantly, specifically said that John Kerry strengthened and fought to strengthen our nation‘s military.  And this was three years ago that he said this and never mentioned the bowl of mush back then or anything else, which does get to the question, what part - what, did they take his parking space away?  Or what did the Republicans give this guy to get him to show up tonight to do this?  Because something has radically changed from his view of Kerry just three years ago.  We‘re not talking, you know, first - their first year in the Senate together. 

RON SILVER, HOST:  He‘s offered an explanation on Chris‘ show before.  He got very, very disenchanted, if that‘s the word with the Democrats in how they handled Homeland Security.  It went back eight, nine, 10 times.  And Senator Daschle there was, you know, on the front lines of collective bargaining.  That seemed to have sent him off.  But I think Don King should have promoted tonight.  Not Karl Rove.  This was Don King night.

SCARBOROUGH:  It was a Don King night.  And I know though.  And I‘ve just got to say this, because a lot of people are questioning why Zell Miller would do what he did earlier on the panel.  Somebody suggested that the fix was in, and of course, that he was somehow a traitor and a poor character for doing this.

Of course, I reminded him that when it was a certain Vermont senator that switched from the Republican party to the Democratic party, that showed the Jim Jeffords group.

SILVER:  Yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  And well hold on one second.  Let‘s talk about that 2001 statement, though.  I can get you comments that your candidate, Howard Dean, said about John Kerry before John Kerry was a Democratic nominee.  It wasn‘t much kinder than what we heard tonight. 

TRIPPI:  But they‘re in the same party.  I mean...

SCARBOROUGH:  I know Zell Miller and John Kerry...

SCARBOROUGH:  No, no.  Well, I don‘t fault you for your Jeffords comments, but Zell should switch parties then if he feel this strongly.  I mean the Democratic party is not big enough for both of them?

TRIPPI:  No.  The Democratic party may be big enough for both of them, but I think it‘s very dangerous for - I mean, in terms of what Zell‘s doing.  Americans don‘t know who Zell Miller is.  All they know is that there‘s a “D” next to his name.  And they don‘t know what set him off or didn‘t set him off.  And when a Democrat says this, it‘s not  Zell.  It‘s just a Democrat out there.  I think it‘s going to have some effect outside the hall. 

MOLINARI:  It‘s not just the Democrats.  It‘s that people know it.  It‘s someone who was eight years governor, 18 years lieutenant governor in a state where lieutenant governor is a very powerful position.

TRIPPI:  Who just you know...

MOLINARI:  A United States senator when the Democrats really wanted him, even though he was extremely conservative, because he was going to vote for Tom Daschle. 

TRIPPI:  The guy just challenged Chris Matthews to a dual on nationwide television. 

MOLINARI:  Well, you know, there‘s a lot of people who really want...

TRIPPI:  There‘s...

BARNICLE:  No, that‘s going to be on tomorrow night‘s show. 

MOLINARI:  That doesn‘t make him a bad person. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Actually tomorrow night, Barnicle and I are going to challenge each other to go.

REAGAN:  But let me...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I want to ask something though of Ron Silver, because it‘s interesting.

MOLINARI:  Yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘re talking about a Democrat like Zell Miller supporting a Republican.  I‘m telling you, there are a lot of Democrats out there like Ron Silver, very progressive on a lot of issues other than the war on terror that are saying you know what?  I‘m a little more comfortable with George W. Bush than John Kerry.  Let‘s... 

SILVER:  I tell you...

REAGAN:  You‘re not suggesting Zell‘s a social progressive, are you?

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m talking about Ron Silver right now.

SILVER:  You know what I think is going to happen in this election because of 9/11?  What happens in New York City all the time.  I think Joe will back me up on this.  If there‘s an African-American candidate running in this city, the polls are always skewed 8 to 10 percent the wrong way.  Because when you poll everybody, they say of course I‘d vote for an African-American.  Of course I‘m for him.  Of course I‘m that kind of person.

Then they walk into the booth and all of a sudden, the eight points disappear.  I think you‘re going to have a lot of people in this election saying I‘m a Democrat.  I feel good about it.  And then they‘re going to walk into the booth, close that curtain, and they‘re going to say I‘m going to vote for the son of a bitch because I feel safer with him. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now let me ask you this, Ron.

REAGAN:  That‘s true, that‘s true.

SCARBOROUGH:  Ron, did you just come up with that tonight?

SILVER:  What?

SCARBOROUGH:  Did you come up with that tonight?  Because I‘ve heard that by three or four pollsters who are whispering that to me, that people are ashamed to tell pollsters that they‘re voting for George W. Bush.  And I‘m talking about people that run  some of the biggest polling organizations in America.  They really think that some people are going to say I‘m voting for Kerry, but actually going to vote their fear and vote for George W. Bush.

SILVER:  I live in a community that is shameless.  And I hear the same thing.  So I think it‘s going to happen.

TRIPPI:  Well, the other thing that happens, though, it‘s different in a presidential race, is undecideds almost always move to the incumbent president.  It‘s different than what happens in the governor or Senate race, where they are kind of like—already made a decision to move against the incumbent when they‘re undecided. 

In a presidential race, undecideds, most cases move to the commander-in-chief.  They know not the commander-in-chief that - you know, sitting in the wings. 

BARNICLE:  You know, one thing off the cliff that you showed, politics is one thing.  And I think we all understand that there‘s excesses in politics from the podium.  But when Zell Miller says that John Kerry is a war protestor, blamed the American military, he ought to know better than that.  John Kerry did not blame the American military.

REAGAN:  Yes.

BARNICLE:  And that doesn‘t help the dialogue on either side.  The president of the United States was with a group of firemen out in Queens - in Elmhurst, Queens this evening.  And you can see why he does well with large groups of people.  I‘m not talking about crowds.  He‘s a human being.  He‘s a good guy.  You can sense that he‘s a good guy as he‘s talking to those guys out there.  And they sense it.

Kerry has a little bit of difficulty communicating with people on an individual basis, but it doesn‘t mean that we have to demean one guy or the other in this race.  And when Zell Miller says something like that, I think it really ratchets the dialogue of this particular presidential race right now.

REAGAN:  We‘ve got to take a break, but I‘ll give you one line just in parting before we go from Zell Miller.  He says that today‘s Democratic leaders are motivated more by partisan politics than by national security.  That‘s pretty tough personal stuff.  We can talk about it when we come back in just a minute.  Stay tuned, because we have much more unconventional convention coverage ahead.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) the lowdown on the GOP party, as always, this is from two of President Bush‘s cousins, and your phone calls.  That number is 888-MSNBC-USA.  Don‘t go away.  Right back with more of AFTER HOURS live from Herald Square.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know - they show me shots out there, Ron.  You talk about two Americas.  I don‘t care what Republicans say.  There are two Americas.

There‘s one guy down there, he‘s got a T-shirt on...

REAGAN:  Yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  ...that says Jesus was a liberal.  Right next to him is a guy that‘s got a sign that says, “invade Iran now.”  All right?  Let‘s get a shot of that down here.  We‘ve got - here we go.  “Invade Iran now.”  And right next to him, “Jesus was a liberal.”  Yes, you know what?  That‘s what makes America great.  We truly are, you know, a very diverse group.

Now, we‘re joined tonight by two cousins that don‘t have signs or T-shirts on, but they‘re cousins of President Bush.  We got Betsy Walker Field and her twin sister Debbie Walker Stapleton.  Both are delegates at this convention.  Let me begin by asking both of you, how exactly are you related to George W. Bush?

DEBBIE WALKER STAPLETON, PRESIDENT BUSH‘S COUSIN:  Well, my father is President 41, Bush‘s mother‘s brother.  I don‘t know how...

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s get the family bible out here, Betsy. 

STAPLETON:  There are six children.  My father was the youngest of six children.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.

STAPLETON:  And so we‘re the youngest of that generation.  But we‘re also younger than the current president. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Debbie, tell me how the convention went tonight.  And you‘re excited to be there for your cousin. 

STAPLETON:  I was very excited to be there.  I thought it was outstanding.  I thought Zell Miller gave a barn burner of a speech.  And I loved what Dick Cheney had to say.  And it was a special night for all of us. 

REAGAN:  Have you been spending much time with the family while you‘re here?

BETSY WALKER FIELD, PRESIDENT BUSH‘S COUSIN:  Well we had a wonderful family dinner.  Excuse me.  We had a wonderful family dinner tonight where we all got together.  It‘s a great chance to catch up, see everybody, share stories, share our news and just be together to support our president and our wonderful First Lady, Laura. 

REAGAN:  This is tough stuff, this campaigning and the conventions and all.  How is the family feeling?

STAPLETON:  I think we‘re feeling invigorated.  I think this convention has been very important to bring everyone together.  It‘s been hard going all summer long, but now we have a chance to hear the president‘s message tomorrow night.  And that‘s so  important for everyone.  So we‘re very enthusiastic and very excited.  And we can‘t wait for tomorrow night.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.

REAGAN:  And we‘re also—we‘re very grateful that you guys could be with us tonight.  I know you‘ve probably got a lot to do.  And get back to the family business and stuff.  So but thank you for being with us.  Appreciate it. 

STAPLETON:  Thank you, Joe. 

FIELD:  Thank you very much. 

REAGAN:  I‘m Ron, but that‘s OK. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ron, Joe, we‘re united. 

REAGAN:  Tony, you‘re a red meat kind of guy.  What did you make of Zell Miller‘s speech?

TONY BLANKLEY, “THE WASHINGTON TIMES”:  Well, I eat fish, too.  So you know, I thought it was a great speech.  I mean, it was a classic red meat speech.

One of the things it did that a lot of us who follow this stuff closely may not appreciate is, he repeated a lot of the information about Kerry that we know because we follow it every day, but an awful lot of the viewers around the country didn‘t know.  So he was actually putting out a lot of useful information, as well as doing it in a pretty vigorous way. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes...

REAGAN:  I never realized that Kerry wanted to defend the country with spitballs before.  I didn‘t know that. 

BLANKLEY:  So you learned something, too. 

REAGAN:  You know...

SCARBOROUGH:  So you‘ve been educated.

REAGAN:  Yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  Now Tony, as you know...

REAGAN:  Bush, I knew about, but...

SCARBOROUGH:  ...you know what‘s going to be happen.  I mean, you obviously served in politics, Republican politics for some time.  You‘re the editor of “The Washington Times.”  You know starting tomorrow morning, there are going to be a lot of people in the media talking about this mean-spirited address by Zell Miller.  Now it‘s going to scare little kids and puppy dogs and swing voters in middle America.  Do you think that‘s the case?  Is it mean-spirited?

BLANKLEY:  Well...

SCARBOROUGH:  It ain‘t Pat Buchanan‘s speech in 1992?

BLANKLEY:  It is the case...

SCARBOROUGH:  We can say that because Pat‘s not here. 

BLANKLEY:  It is the case that elements of the media will say that.  But I think Republicans are too often intimidated by the fear of being called mean-spirited, not to get their message out.  This is a very tough election season.  And I think that being, pointing out honest negativity about the other candidate—both candidates are going to be doing it.  I think we‘re going to see it get tougher and tougher.  You saw Kerry‘s speech this afternoon at the American Legion.  It was very tough. 

So I think by the end of the next 63 days or whatever it is, anybody who gets turned off by negativity is not going to be voting. 

REAGAN:  Ed Rollins, you‘re a Republican strategist, of course.  Did you think that the Democrats are going to get as tough as Zell Miller did?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, Zell Miller...

REAGAN:  Democrats, I guess I should say. 

ROLLINS:  Zell Miller‘s always been very tough.  He was very tough on President Bush when he gave the Clinton keynote speech several years ago.  I think he articulated very well a lot of the weaknesses of Kerry‘s positions.  And I think he laid it out in a way that probably a Republican couldn‘t do it.

He‘s - and the irony of this is Georgia was the last bastion of the south, the last bastion of the Democratic party in the south.  And he himself was the one who would win when your dad had big victories and everything else.  He‘d still be kind of standing there tall. 

So for him standing up there today, taking these shots at a northeast liberal to me tells me the south is ours.  It‘s very solid. 

REAGAN:  Another irony was that three years ago, as we mentioned before, Zell Miller introduced John Kerry at a function and called him a great leader and said he worked hard to strengthen the military.  What happened the last three years?  What changed Zell‘s mind?

ROLLINS:  Well obviously, he examined the record a little bit more closely in maybe the last three years.  In this time of crisis, I think the—he checked a little bit further.

REAGAN:  No cash payments?

SCARBOROUGH:  No, no, hey...

ROLLINS:  Republicans do not make cash payments to Democrats. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ed, you know, one person that would have never delivered this speech was Ronald Reagan.  Ronald Reagan always talked about having to be the guy to wear the white hat.  And obviously tonight, a lot of people saw the guy with the white hat, the tribute to the man who really transformed this party.  Let‘s take a quick look at what we all saw earlier this evening. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY REAGAN, FMR. FIRST LADY:  I always knew how deeply Ronnie loved America and the American people.  But I was so touched to see how much they loved him in return.  People, all races and from different countries, people we knew and thousands we‘d never met, all anxious to reach out to Ronnie one last time.

Our family‘s sense of loss is immense.  And it‘s difficult to put into words.  From being governor of the largest state in the country, to being president of the United States for eight years, he somehow remained the same wonderful man. 

RONALD REAGAN, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We did more than just pass through.  We got America moving again.  We breathed new life into our economy and put more people to work than ever before in history.  We rebuilt our military strength and brought the world a little closer together in peace. 

But above all, more than anything else, we got America to stand tall again.  And you know, I‘d like to think that maybe that‘s the thing I‘m proudest of.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Ed, what does Ronald Reagan mean to this party?  40 years from now, is it going to be just like Kennedy is to the Democrats?  Are Republicans still going to be looking back and seeing Reagan as the man that moved them forward?

ROLLINS:  I think there‘s no question.  He was your father and obviously you were very blessed to have someone like that.  He was my hero.  I became a Republican because of him.  And I think that the vast majority of young Republicans today, he‘s the inspiration. 

And ironically, this president is following more in tune philosophically with President Reagan than he is with his own father.  So I think he clearly is the backbone of this party.  And he‘ll stand like a giant redwood with five presidencies that failed before him.  Obviously, the president sees a question after him.  In the end of the century, he‘ll be one of the giants of both the last century and this century. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ron, I‘m sorry, I was just going to say, you know, about a year and a half ago, “The New York Times” wrote an article about George W. Bush, called him Reagan‘s son.  And Ed, don‘t take this personally when he answers this question, because you seem to get very agitated when people compare this president to your father on policy grounds.  I‘m not talking personally, but on policy grounds.  Why is that the case?  Why do you think George W.   Bush is not the rightful ideological or personal heir to Ronald Reagan‘s legacy?

REAGAN:  Well, that‘s—I really don‘t take offense when people talk about policy.  You know, they both cut taxes, they both believe in a small military, conservative Republicans.  That‘s fine.

It‘s the personal mantle that I object to.  Ronald Reagan, as I said to Chris Matthews after the tribute, he was a conservative without anger.  And what I see a lot of times in this party, this Republican party now from conservatives like Tom Delay and Rick Santorum and Zell Miller, in fact he‘s not a Republican, but—is anger, is rage, is meanness even.

And there wasn‘t a mean bone in Ronald Reagan‘s body.  And I think the public felt that he was an authentic man.  He was a genuinely nice man. 

BLANKLEY:  I mean I agree with you.  But I don‘t see any meanness in Bush.  There are some Republicans, as there are some Democrats...

REAGAN:  I wasn‘t talking about Bush in that sense, but the party itself, the conservative movement within the party.  And I‘m not quite sure I agree with you about Bush either.  But we‘ll leave that alone for now. 

BLANKLEY:  But Ronald...

SCARBOROUGH:  Tony, go ahead and finish.  Why do you not think that Bush is an angry man?

BLANKLEY:  Well, I just watch him on TV like everyone else.  I don‘t see any anger.  I‘ve seen angry politicians.  I know what they look like.  He doesn‘t seem like an angry politician.

But it‘s also the case that the times sometimes creates the anger.  The Democratic party now is seen as an angry party as the Republicans were in the mid 90‘s.  So sometimes, you know, the atmosphere of anger may permeate more than the individual responsible for it. 

REAGAN:  Mike, you wanted to get in. 

BARNICLE:  What‘s interesting after just that brief clip about your dad, all of us here in the set, and people sitting around the set, when it concluded, people were smiling.  You‘re not smiling when Zell Miller speaks. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know the thing that was amazing, I‘ll let you continue, but I‘m glad you brought that up because I‘m sitting there listening.  And I‘m watching these very personal...

REAGAN:  Which you just have to hate.

SCARBOROUGH:  ...I would hate - I‘d be so self-conscious about that.  But the second Ronald Reagan spoke, it was involuntary.  I started smiling. 

REAGAN:  Sure. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And then when I saw his image on the screen, I almost started laughing.  There was just something about Reagan.  I don‘t know what it was.  Can you remember...

BARNICLE:  Ronald Reagan had an ability to inspire people.  He inspired those of us who worked for him.  He didn‘t give us day to day direction.  Every day we wanted to bust our butts for him because we cared so much for him.

I think he inspired people.  I think that he made this country feel good about itself again.  And that‘s a very unique skill that very few political leaders have. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And Mike, George W. Bush?

BARNICLE:  I think he‘s tough and I think he‘s strong, but I don‘t think he inspires in quite the same way. 

But similar to President Reagan, I think, in some sense.  I understand all the stuff in South Carolina.  I was down there in that primary.  And I sure do understand the swift boat stuff that now emanates out of this particular campaign.

But I can‘t recall George W. Bush ever saying a mean-spirited thing on the campaign trail about his opponent.  Nor can I ever recall Ronald Reagan in runs for governor or president ever saying anything nasty about anybody or anything personal about anybody. 

And I think it‘s a huge uplift in our politics when you have that as a fallback.  Just as a citizen, just as a citizen.  I mean, Zell Miller tonight, we‘ve talked about Zell Miller a little.  And you know, Tony, you were talking about it.  And you know, would it revert back to 1992?  No, it won‘t, because it‘s one politician talking about another politician.  In the voters‘ mind, it is like Iran versus Iraq.  I mean, who‘s the favorite there?  What do you care if it is politicians screaming about each other?

But Reagan and Bush, I think there is one similarity there.  In that the president, the incumbent right now, George W. Bush, he is not a mean guy. 

REAGAN:  No, and I didn‘t say that he was. 

BARNICLE:  No, I know that.  I know that.

REAGAN:  Other people.

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘ve got to get a break.  But briefly, you know, John Kerry also, not a mean guy. 

BARNICLE:  No, not a mean guy.  No. 

ROLLINS:  I‘m not so sure about that.

BARNICLE:  A pretty angry guy.

ROLLINS:  I‘m not so sure there‘s not a mean side to him.  Ronald Reagan was a likable man.  And there was never anyone who was in his presence, Democrat or Republican who...

BARNICLE:  We said mean.  Not likable. 

ROLLINS:  ...didn‘t walk away being kind.  And likable is very important.

I think John Kerry is a guy that doesn‘t have a whole lot of friends even among his colleagues.  People respect him, but he‘s not someone you want to spend the weekend with or a long... 

BARNICLE:  Well, that‘s different. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, we‘ll talk about that in a little bit.  But stay tuned for more of MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of the Republican National Convention AFTER HOURS.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE), the great jazz of R.A. Hoenig.  You can find about their CD, “The Painter.”  Just visit Rahoenig.com.  Don‘t go away.  We‘ll be right back live from Herald Square.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REAGAN:  And the Grand Old Party‘s in New York City this week.  And we‘re having a party of our own, live in Herald Square for MSNBC‘s AFTER HOURS coverage of the Republican convention.  There‘s much more ahead.  Let‘s take a minute to get the latest headlines from the MSNBC news desk.

BILL FITZGERALD, NBC ANCHOR:  Hello, I‘m Bill Fitzgerald with the headlines.  Bombshell developments tonight in the Kobe  Bryant sexual assault case.  The criminal case against Bryant has been dismissed.  In addition, Bryant apologized to his accuser in a statement read by his attorney in court.  We get details now from NBC‘s Mark Mullin at the courthouse in Eagle, Colorado. 

MARK MULLIN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening from Eagle, Colorado.  What an extraordinary set of events which happened today.  Here we are, only about three days away from seating a jury for this rape trial and the D.A. drops all of the charges against Kobe Bryant.

But not only that, but he also stipulated that no future charges could ever be brought against Kobe Bryant as well.  What happened? Well, essentially the D.A. says he made his decision based on the fact that Kobe Bryant‘s accuser simply decided that she did not want to go forward.  She wanted to back out of the case.

Why would this happen? Well, her personal attorney, the accuser‘s civil attorney, got up in court and addressed everyone.  And   basically, he said over the last 14 months, since all of this started, he says that his client, the accuser‘s life has been nothing but hell. 

She‘s been hounded by the paparazzi, which has published photos and all sorts of stories about her.  There has even been a death threat on her.

And also, the prospect of what she would have faced in court would have been really tough for anybody to bear, no matter what.  Those of you who followed this case may have remembered that the defense in this case won a key pre-trial motion, which would have allowed them to interrogate the accuser on part of her sexual history, something that would obviously be very intimidating and humiliating.  And basically, she just decided to bail.

Kobe Bryant, for his part, was not there.  His lawyers were.  Kobe Bryant, we understand had flown back to Los Angeles to be at home and with his family.  However, a statement from Kobe Bryant was released.  I read part of it.

It says, “First I want to apologize directly to the young woman involved in this incident.”  He goes on to say, “although I truly believed this encounter between us was consensual,” Bryant says, “I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way that I did.”  He also said that “I understand that the civil case against me will go forward.”

Those of you also following this case remember probably that the accuser has filed in federal court, a civil case against Kobe  Bryant.  So his legal troubles are not over, but certainly his criminal troubles are.  Back to you. 

FITZGERALD:  All right.  Thanks so much.  NBC‘S Mark Mullen in Eagle, Colorado.

Also tonight, hurricane Frances is roaring through the Caribbean.  The category 4 hurricane is packing sustained winds of 140 miles an hour.  It‘s battering the Turks and Cayucos Islands and is threatening the Bahamas.

Meantime, Florida‘s bracing for its second major hurricane in  just three weeks.  Frances is expected to hit the U.S. mainland sometime between South Florida and the Carolinas possibly by late Friday.  States of emergency have already been declared in Florida and Georgia.  And nearly half a million people have been ordered to evacuate coastal areas in Florida‘s Palm Beach, Broward, and Martin counties.

Now let‘s go back to AFTER HOURS with Joe Scarborough and Ron Reagan.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  I tell you what, some excitement here in Herald Square.  I‘m right around the corner from Madison Square Garden.  Obviously, Republicans very excited about what they saw tonight.  Zell Miller, very, very aggressive.  Going after John Kerry.  Get a lot of people here fairly aggressive, too.  Ron, we‘ve got - I mean this looks like...

REAGAN:  We‘ve got some delegates out here. 

SCARBOROUGH:  ...a pretty split crowd.

REAGAN:  Yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘ve got some John Kerry people.  We‘ve got some signs we can‘t read to you.  But I want to talk to some people who were actually inside the hall.  Let‘s find a delegate here.  Who was inside the hall?

Right here.  And you‘re a Florida delegate.  That‘s very good.  Now tell me what was the highlight of the night?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Highlight of the night was two things.  Zell Miller confirmed that he believes in Bush, his—Bush is inclusive, and Democrats should—and Democrats should work for a Republican, you know. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ll tell you what.  It looks like, you, too, would be willing to challenge some people to duels.

REAGAN:  Probably Chris Matthews.

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘ll move on.  Possibly Chris Matthews. 

REAGAN:  This young woman has a very interesting T-shirt. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I don‘t think we can read that.

REAGAN:  Yes, probably not.

SCARBOROUGH:  If you can keep that up—let‘s go ahead here. 

You want to ask her a question?

REAGAN:  PG-13.  Yes.  So you think virtually anything would be a better president than Mr. Bush?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.  I most certainly do.  I truly believe my T-shirt.  And anyone here that wants to run, I‘ll vote for you over Bush. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, we have another John Kerry supporter here.  I‘m going to be asking you, but I think—let‘s move over here.  We‘ve got another delegate.  What‘s your name? 

BILL HARRIS, DELEGATE:  Bill Harris from Alabama. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, you‘re from Alabama.  OK, there are a lot of people that are talking about Zell Miller‘s address tonight, saying it‘s too angry, that it‘s going to over—turn off the crossover voters, which of course, that‘s what this is all about, after all, getting crossover voters into the Republican column.  That‘s what the Democratic convention was for.  Aren‘t you afraid that Zell Miller may have been going overboard, been a little too angry and scared some of the crossover voters in middle America?

HARRIS:  No, I don‘t because as a veteran who just came back last June from the desert, what Zell Miller said was right on target.  Our men and women are over there fighting for this nation.  Our brothers in arms.  And what they‘re doing, and what the president sent us to do is right.  We‘re liberating two countries.  And thanks to our president having the courage to do what‘s right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, I find it interesting that you—I find it interesting that you were just talking about service that our men and women are giving overseas, and you got booed for that.  I‘m not exactly sure what there is to boo about in our men and women overseas.

You can disagree with the president‘s policies.  But I don‘t think you can boo like this gentleman‘s talking about.  So anyway—that‘s very - well, if you support the troops, if you support the troops, don‘t boo the troops.  You can boo the politicians that send them there.

Let‘s go over - go ahead, Ron. 

REAGAN:  Are there any—hang on a second.  Let‘s talk to some other people.  You with the T-shirt there.

SCARBOROUGH:  You with the T-shirt had a chance to talk. 

REAGAN:  Are there any undecided voters here?  OK, Chuck Springer for president.  Any undecided voters here?  No.  You were until last week?  You are? What convinced you to change?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, basically (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and I saw what happened on 9/11.  And I‘ve been concerned about our security.  I‘ve been concerned about the Iraq War.  And when you listen to what these people are actually saying, there are obvious connections with a whole group of people coming out of Afghanistan and Iraq. 

REAGAN:  All right, I must have missed it, but...

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, he said there‘s a connection.  I tell you what.  We‘re going ahead.  You know, this crowd‘s been great this week.  For the most part, polite.  A couple of rough T-shirts.  That‘s OK.

But coming up, the grand old party knows how to party.  That‘s what they say.  We‘re going to get the lowdown on the GOP social scene when AFTER HOURS returns live from Herald Square in New York City.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back to Herald Square in New York City, where Broadway meets Sixth Avenue.  And of course all day today, Republicans have been walking past Herald Square, filing their way toward Madison Square Garden, trying to get President  George Bush renominated and reelected president of the United  States.

But of course, after the convention has cleared out for the night, there‘s a different type of party.  Not a Republican party or a Democratic party, just a party.  And partying in the city that they say never sleeps.

With us now to talk about that is Lloyd Grove.  He of course writes the “Lowdown” column for “The New York Daily News.”  And Elizabeth Spiers, a contributing writer for “New York” magazine, convention daily.  And joining our panel, Donny Blankley from

“The Washington Times.”  Actually, Tony‘s hanging out—I think Tony‘s at a party right now.

REAGAN:  Who do we got?  All right, Susan Molinari, run...

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, exactly.

MOLINARI:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SILVER:  ....kept Tony in the teleprompter. 

REAGAN:  Tony‘s a prompter.

SCARBOROUGH:  Big party types.  Lloyd, what‘s happening tonight?

LLOYD GROVE, “DAILY NEWS” GOSSIP COLUMNIST:  Well, I just came from the John and Cindy, yet another John and Cindy McCain party, this time with Chipriani (ph).  And I had a lovely chat with John McCain‘s mother.  And I said can I just ask you, how old are you?

And she said I‘m 92 and a half.  And I want to hang on until 2010, if I can, because that‘s when they‘re going to do away with the inheritance tax.  And I don‘t want to pay any death taxes.

And I said, well that sounds—I‘m sure you‘ll hang on.  And I said do you think your son wants to run for president in four years?  And she said well, I‘m surprised that he still wanted to stay in the senate.  But you know, like my husband, John, Johnny‘s the kind of guy who likes to jump out of bed and go to work.

So she‘s a great lady.  And it was really nice to - she‘s the most interesting person I‘ve met all week, I think. 

REAGAN:  I love the fact that she‘s 92 and a half.  Like that half year, when you‘re 92, it makes all the difference. 

MOLINARI:  I guess it does. 

REAGAN:  I can‘t believe it does.

SCARBOROUGH:  Elizabeth, what‘s happening on the party scene tonight?

ELIZABETH SPIERS, “NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE”:  I actually just got back from the same party Lloyd was at.  The first person I ran into was Malachi McCord, whose brother is Frank McCord.

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, yes.

SPIERS:  And he was wearing a white suit and a little button that said beat Bush.  And I said why are you here?  And he said, well,  because they invited me.  And he was having a great time.  And you know, he basically sort of reiterated what a lot of people have said.  And you know, I‘m all for kind of talking it out and meeting the Republicans face to face, which is, as I said, how a lot of New Yorkers feel. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Any celebrities out there?  We‘ve got a grandmother.  And we‘ve got the brother of a very successful author.  How about some A list celebrities?

GROVE:  Well, the photographer for “The Daily News,” Richard Corkry, who tapes celebrities all the time wanted to leave.  He said oh, this is a disaster.  There‘s a better party at the Copa.

He said no, just wait, wait.  Now there were some unnamed network anchor people who were—I won‘t say who, but they were wandering around this party aimlessly looking for someone to feed them or give them something to drink.  And it was like—they were just like part of the crowd.  It was...

REAGAN:  Did they belong to another network, by the way?  Because if they did, you can name them.  Go ahead.

GROVE:  Well, Ron, I‘m not naming them. 

REAGAN:  Are you doing their shows, too?

GROVE:  No, no.  It‘s—we‘d better not go here. 

REAGAN:  All right.,

MOLINARI:  I don‘t want to name drop but I was hanging with Bono. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, that‘s good.  That‘s what we want to hear.  Where was Bono?

MOLINARI:  Bono was at the party for Speaker Hastert, which  was an Irish celebration with the Chieftains were there (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and sang.  And I think that‘s probably why he wanted to come and cheer the Irish performers on.  It was a great afternoon. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Where was that?

MOLINARI:  It was at—where was it?  At the—where was that?

SCARBOROUGH:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

MOLINARI:  No, from Staten Island.

SILVER:  This is pathetic.  Do you go every night saying please tell us what‘s going on at the parties?

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I know, I mean any other big parties coming up this week?

MOLINARI:  Not that we‘ll be at, because we‘ll be here. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly.

GROVE:  Well, tomorrow night, Emma Bloomberg and Emily Pataki are throwing a big party in honor of the Bush twins.  So that‘s the hot party tomorrow. 

REAGAN:  The Bush twins.  Always potential trouble with the Bush twins. 

GROVE:  And where will you be tomorrow night?

REAGAN:  We‘ll be right here.  We‘ll be asking Lloyd about the Bush twin party.  Sure.  Any—can you give as you preview of that?  Will there be...

GROVE:  Well, let‘s hope there‘s not a cash bar there.  I mean with Emma Bloomberg as part of the host committee, I hope not. 

REAGAN:  Yes, you did have a cash bar situation a little while ago. 

GROVE:  Yes, we did in a previous party...

REAGAN:  Yes.  Big no-no.

SCARBOROUGH:  Absolutely tragic.  Now Susan, let‘s move on from parties, to talking about what happened.  Tonight, we had Vice President Cheney talking about how important public education is to achieve the American dream.  And he added this about the economy. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Opportunity also depends on a vibrant, growing economy.  As President Bush and I were sworn into office, our nation was sliding into recession.  And American workers were overburdened with federal taxes.

Then came the events of September 11, which hit our economy very hard.  So President Bush delivered the greatest tax reduction in a generation.  And the results are clear to see.

(APPLAUSE)

Businesses are creating jobs, people are returning to work, mortgage rates are low, and homeownership in this country is at an all time high.  The Bush tax cuts are working. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now Susan...

REAGAN:  I knew that there was some reason why the Bush tax cuts were working.  The net loss of jobs, real wages are down, more people without health insurance, poverty is up, the Bush cuts are working.  They‘re doing...

SILVER:  OK, we got the point.  We got the point.

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me ask you something on the economy.  Of course, when George Bush and Dick Cheney came into office, they had one of the largest surpluses ever.  $150 billion.  As they go into this election, they‘ve got the largest deficit ever.  Almost $500 billion.  The largest national debt ever.  Almost $7.5 trillion.  Have a net loss of jobs.  They really don‘t want to talk about the economy over the next 60 days, do they?

MOLINARI:  Well, I think they do, because what the American people understand is that, you know, they were hit hard.  First of all, as we all know, there‘s an economic lag indicator.  So the economy was starting to bottom out when George Bush was given the oath of office, thanks to Bill Clinton and his tax increases.

After that, we had 9/11, which absorbed an historic amount of money to get New York, homeland security, police officers, first responders to be able to benefit our homeland.  And they have done that extremely successfully.  Can you put a price tag on that?  I don‘t think so.

And now we are at war with an enemy and terrorism, in Afghanistan and in Iraq.  And everyone understands that we are going to delay balancing the budget while we keep our homeland safe.  And I think the majority of Americans would say that‘s the right priorities. 

REAGAN:  Now Susan, if in another four years, real wages are still down, more people are losing their health insurance, there‘s still a net loss of jobs, will you still be able to blame Bill Clinton for that?

MOLINARI:  Under Medicare reform, which the Democrats like to demonize even though some of them did vote for them, you know, more and more Americans will be able to access health insurance if the Democrats stop scaring them and telling them not to apply for their prescription drug cards.  And in fact...

REAGAN:  Well, let‘s hope so, because 43 million people is a lot of people without health insurance.

SCARBOROUGH:  Lloyd, before we go...

MOLINARI:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in a generation.

SCARBOROUGH:  A quick question before we go.  I‘m going to ask you.  Who parties better?  Democrats in Boston or Republicans in New York?

GROVE:  Well, it‘s a toss up really. 

REAGAN:  You can say neither if you want.

GROVE:  Neither.  Can you say neither?

SCARBOROUGH:  You sure can. 

GROVE:  I‘m going to say that. 

REAGAN:  We‘ll say neither.

GROVE:  I‘m going to say neither.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, I‘ll tell you what, while they debate neither or neither, I‘ll tell you, AFTER HOURS with Ron and myself will be back in just a second live from Herald Square in the middle of beautiful New York City.  Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We are live from Herald Square in New York City.  It has been the hub of excitement throughout this entire week.  And of course, tomorrow night, it‘s going to be the big climax to a week of Republican speeches, as this party tries to renominate and reelect George W. Bush.

I want to go to Tony Blankley.  How‘s the Republican party doing?  Let‘s give them a grade through the first three nights. 

BLANKLEY:  Oh, I—they certainly think that they‘re doing very well.  I think so, too.  My sense is if tomorrow night doesn‘t fall flat from disaster, that they can be looking at a four to five point bounce coming out.  They went—coming in with a two or three point advantage.  So they could be looking going into Labor Day, five to seven or eight points ahead.  Much better than anyone would have dreamed three weeks ago. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Mike Barnicle, do you agree with that?

BARNICLE:  I think—I have no idea what the polls or bounce or whatever that‘s going to be.  But I think just from a cosmetic point of view, an organizational point of view, a thrust point of view, you would have to give them an “A”, I would think, certainly compared to the Democrats.

I don‘t know why it is that Republicans are so much better organized than are Democrats.  Is it because Republicans come to politics late out of business?  They sell cars.  Democrats buy cars and 48-month notes and...

MOLINARI:  It‘s way too late for me to try and figure that through. 

BARNICLE:  What is it, Joe?

REAGAN:  You see it in the balloon drops.  Have you ever seen a Democrat balloon drop work?

SILVER:  Wait ‘til you see these balloons.

REAGAN:  Oh, these balloons will drop.

SILVER:  Wait ‘til you see these balloons.

REAGAN:  The Republican balloons always drop. 

BARNICLE:  Why is it that more Republicans seem to smile? Democrats get angry when the balloons drop.  Republicans smile. 

BLANKLEY:  In fairness, I thought the Democrats ran a very solid convention up in Boston.  It was on time.  I mean, there was one balloon problem.  But other than the one balloon problem, I thought it was the best run Democrat convention I‘ve ever seen. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It was a very disciplined convention.  They scrubbed all the words, made sure they were nice.  Little neat, little clean.  You know what?  Maybe that was a mistake.  Susan Molinari, maybe they needed to come out swinging more. 

MOLINARI:  Well, I think they left - I mean they left themselves hugely vulnerable to a lot of what the Republicans have been able to capitalize on.  John Kerry‘s record, for example.  You know, going through votes by votes.  Taking advantage of the fact that there was this gaping hole of about 18 years of public service that Kerry and all his speakers did not refer to.

It left him vulnerable.  It left him vulnerable to the flip flops.  I mean, he had, you know, two lines that were terrifically ineffective during the campaign.  Anybody could see what the Republicans were going to do with John Kerry and his flip flop votes.  He did not protect himself adequately.

And quite frankly, it‘s because he had protect himself on all flanks.  What every speaker has emphasized why George Bush will win is because of 9/11.  The world is a very different place.  And the set of criteria that people had for how they were going to vote for president before 9/11 and now has changed.  And Ron Silver spoke beautifully to that, as did most of our speakers.  Kerry had to try and build with that momentum, but he left a lot of holes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, if you can all stay with us, we‘re going to be right back live from New York City Herald Square.  We‘ll be back on the other side of the hour.  Stick around because there‘s going to be more AFTER HOURS with me and Ronald Reagan.

REAGAN:  Ronald?  Yes, I guess it‘s Ronald.  Ron?  Ron?

END   

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