updated 9/3/2004 1:53:37 PM ET 2004-09-03T17:53:37

Guests: Alan Simpson, Laura Ingraham


RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  People tell me Senator Edwards got picked for his good looks, his sex appeal, his charm and his great hair.  I said, How do you think I got the job?


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  And welcome back to MSNBC‘s coverage of the Republican convention in New York, the miracle on 34th Street.  Tonight, who will President Bush talk to?  Who‘s he reaching out to, the Republican Party base, alienated evangelicals, suburban moderates, Reagan Democrats?  This week, the speakers reached out.  Laura Bush is shoring (ph) suburban moms on security.


LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY:  No American president ever wants to go to war.  Abraham Lincoln didn‘t want to go to war, but he knew saving the union required it.  Franklin Roosevelt didn‘t want to go to war, but he knew defeating tyranny demanded it.  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.


MATTHEWS:  Vice President Cheney to the Reagan Democrats.


CHENEY:  According to a news account last month, people leaving the Democratic convention asked a Boston policeman for directions.  He replied, Leave here and go vote Republican.


MATTHEWS:  California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger selling the Republican Party and the American dream to America‘s newest Americans.


GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER ®, CALIFORNIA:  To my fellow immigrants listening tonight, I want you to know how welcome you are in this party.  We Republicans admire your ambition.  We encourage your dreams.  We believe in your future.


MATTHEWS:  And to alienated evangelicals, Democratic senator Zell Miller.


SEN. ZELL MILLER (D), GEORGIA:  I have knocked on the door of this man‘s soul and found someone home, a God-fearing man with a good heart and a spine of tempered steel!


MATTHEWS:  They know what they‘re doing at this convention.

Let‘s go up to the skybox and the anchor of “NBC Nightly News” Tom Brokaw, and NBC News Washington bureau chief and moderator of “MEET THE PRESS” Tim Russert.  Gentlemen, it seems like there‘s a very great difference in the drama between these two conventions in Boston and New York, a lot more urgency and intensity to this one.

TOM BROKAW, ANCHOR, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”:  Oh, I don‘t think there‘s any question about that.  We didn‘t hear any speech that faintly resembled the speeches that occurred here last night or the night before, with Arnold, when we were in Boston, with the single exception of Bill Clinton, who took on the Republican Party directly.

But the president comes here tonight having to strike a different kind of tone.  It seems obvious, but he‘s got to be presidential.  He can‘t be just the commander-in-chief, the war president.  He has to be a president who‘s also sensitive, to use one of John Kerry‘s favorite phrases, to the needs of women out there because they recognize they still have a big gender gap.  And they‘re going to build this around the framework of security for your family, but talk, as well, about health care, day care, jobs and education, not with any specificity, but to make it clear, he hopes, to those voters out there, especially the women, that he has not removed them from his agenda for a second term, Tim.

TIM RUSSERT, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”:  Tom, when the Democrats met in Boston, the economy, Iraq were first and foremost on people‘s minds.  What this convention did was shift that emphasis back to terrorism, in the generic sense, back to September 11.  And in terms of the president‘s expectation, there‘s a lot of room between Zell Miller and Dick Cheney.  There‘s a broad middle there I think the president can seize upon, as you say, in a presidential way.  But it can‘t be just terrorism tonight.  He has to paint and portray a vision for a second term in order to provide a rationale for his own reelection.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you guys, do you think it‘s possible that the president might take a hit tonight if he tries to ratchet it back from the high voltage of the other nights?

BROKAW:  Oh, I think that we‘ll see someone who really is presidential.  He‘s moderated his tone, as we‘ve seen in these recent interviews when he appeared with Matt Lauer the other day.  He‘s got a folksier style.  They‘re working hard on removing the cockiness from his strut, for example, which drives a lot of Democrats crazy.  He has been willing to say that he probably made some miscalculations in Iraq.  Now, that‘s always a fine line.

I‘m really reminded, Chris, of his father‘s experience.  You remember Dukakis came out of Atlanta with a 17-point lead.  In New Orleans, the Republicans had a very successful convention.  They defined the debate on their terms once again, which is always the key.  They were second to the Democrats.  And they went into the fall with a certain amount of momentum, having, they thought, set the table for the debate that would occur that fall.

RUSSERT:  And Chris, the president knows how high the stakes are tonight.  He did not have a particularly successful State of the Union address earlier this year.  This is his last time to talk directly to the American people without a media filter or being engaged in a debate one on one with John Kerry.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the staging tonight, Tom and Tim, the unusual use of a theater in the round.

BROKAW:  Yes, at first, I thought they were going to have him walk around and talk to the delegates.  And I thought, Boy, that‘s going on to the high board without a net.  But they‘re not going to do that.  It will look different, but he‘ll come out and stand at a fixed podium that will arise out of that stage, and he‘ll look into the Teleprompter and look beyond this hall to those moderate and swing and independent voters.  And then when his speech is over, that podium will go down, and he‘ll be joined on the podium by Mrs. Bush and just Vice President and Mrs. Cheney, as they acknowledge the cheers of the crowd.  Then they‘ll retreat to the back of the stage, where we‘ll have that great family portrait, not just of the immediate members of their personal family but their political family, as well...

By the way, I asked Mrs. Bush if the president would be tempted to sing, “My Way” or “New York, New York.”


BROKAW:  ... and do a little—she said, Do a little soft shoe down the steps?  I don‘t think so.  She said his grandfather was a member of the Whiffenpoofs at Yale, and he can‘t sing a note.

RUSSERT:  For our next number, We‘ll talk about the economy.

BROKAW:  Right.

RUSSERT:  But Chris, as you know, the inspiration of this was Theodore Roosevelt, the man in the arena.  They think that by putting the president out in the middle of the delegates, surrounded by the people, it is a metaphor for his presidency, that he‘s not afraid to go out there and mix it up and take on hard decisions and difficulties, and on and on and on.

Remember, the person responsible for this, who conceived this idea, also conceived the “Mission Accomplished” event.


RUSSERT:  So—but my gut tells me this one is going to work a little better.

MATTHEWS:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) very interesting.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) sitting there.  Anyway, thank you, Tom and Tim.  We‘ll be back with you later tonight.

You know, that‘s interesting, the—who‘s good on theater here?  David Gergen has joined us.  I‘ve got to ask you.  You‘re very good at this sort of political stage management.  And you remember—you‘re teaching it at Harvard now.  Do you think this is too high-risk, to put him out there?  This is tricky, all those teleprompters.  It‘s easy to make it look like he‘s trying too hard to be a celebrity president, rather than just get the message across.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER:  Well, I thought it was high risk, at first, but they have, I was reminded, tried to introduce him to this—the man in the arena, the theater in the round concept several times.  It‘s been very successful on the campaign trail.  So I think they‘re not taking as much of a risk as anybody thinks.  I‘m not sure I would have put the presidential seal on top of that.  I understand why you want to emphasize he‘s president, but everybody knows that.  It has a quality about it—that, to me, was a questionable call, at the very least.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go down to the floor to David Gregory.  David, what do you make of this?  I mean, you can‘t predict success or failure, but how high is the bar for the president to look natural, trying to address an audience that‘s 360 degrees around him?

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  You know, I think in these events, the president is always more awkward than he is out on the campaign trail, where I see him day in and day out and where he feeds off the crowd and he‘s most natural and he‘s got a kind of beam, a glow about him, that he really feeds off the energy.  I think this is different.

And I think as Tom mentioned just a minute ago, you know, this is the house of the converted here.  He‘s going to get a lot of energy here.  There‘s going to be a lot of excitement.  But he‘s speaking beyond this hall, and he‘s got a pretty specific goal in mind in terms of who he‘s talking to.  He wants to get people—his supporters—excited tonight and motivated tonight to get new voters, to get this ground game up and going in a heated way over the next 60 days.

But he realizes, and Karl Rove realizes, that it may be a shrinking pool of undecideds.  Maybe it‘s 6 percent this year.  These are people who do tend to be more moderate.  They don‘t want to hear the Zell Miller message.  They don‘t want the Dick Cheney message.  They don‘t even want to hear from the war president.  They want to hear more from the peace president.  They want to look forward a little bit more.

I spoke to one of his image makers today who said litigating the past four years is important to show that he sticks to his decisions and that he‘s going to be aggressive in the war on terror.  But he‘s also got to show a passion for the next four years and give people a reason to—a new mandate, to give him a mandate that, in fact, some people felt he really didn‘t have four years ago.

MATTHEWS:  Thanks David.  Laura?

LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  For the last several weeks, the president to me has seemed like an athlete in training.  He‘s on the mountain bike.  He‘s doing 18, 19 miles a shot on the mountain bike.  He‘s doing the Stairmaster.  He‘s lifting the weights.  He‘s always been an athlete.  But I‘ve sensed that had something about President Bush has changed in the last several weeks.  I don‘t know if someone sat him down and said, You‘re on the verge of being another Bush, you know, loser here.  Do you want to wake up the day after the election and be where your dad was?  And this guy is competitive.  We forget what a competitive athlete he is.

I got to tell you, I think he‘s going to go out in the middle of that arena, and I think he‘s going to rock it.  I was in Minneapolis with him about two weeks ago.  I emceed an event in St. Paul.  That guy went into that place.  He drove that big Bush-Cheney bus right into the arena.  He walked through a big plank, all the way to the stage.  And that guy connected with every person who was in vision shot with him.  And I got to tell you, I was stunned because I know sometimes he can be a little unsteady in these kind of formal settings.  I‘m telling you, I have big expectations.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think we might hear “Rocky” music tonight?

INGRAHAM:  I don‘t know.  I think it‘s “Taking Care of Business” music.


RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  He‘s athletic, but just to set the record straight, he was actually a cheerleader.  He didn‘t actually play on the field.

INGRAHAM:  Want to put Kerry up against Bush in a road race, bike race?  Kerry falls!  Kerry has a $9,000...

REAGAN:  Well, maybe a wind-surfing race.

INGRAHAM:  Kerry has a $9,000 racing bike, and he manages to fall every time he hits a patch of sand!  Bush falls...

REAGAN:  Well, remember the Segway scooter, though.  Yes.

INGRAHAM:  Yes.  Bush falls, and he manages to finish a 19-mile ride.

REAGAN:  All right.  OK.  The point I wanted to make to you, and I haven‘t heard this yet, and I don‘t know if it was conscious or unconscious, but that stage there and that pile in the middle of the thing evokes the pile downtown that he stood on with the bull horn in his greatest moment.  Now, maybe that was completely unconscious.  Maybe I‘m just making this up.  But it does evoke that.  And again, I don‘t know if it was intentional or not.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think they‘ll have someone in the first row yell out, “We can‘t hear you”?


INGRAHAM:  It might happen.

REAGAN:  Or maybe have him give the speech through a bullhorn.

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  If you get the bullhorn, you‘ll know that Ron is right on that.


MATTHEWS:  The bullhorn goes all the way back to his days in prep school...

FINEMAN:  Yes, that‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  ... of course, when he was a cheerleader.

FINEMAN:  That‘s right.  I‘m...

MATTHEWS:  Not that there‘s anything wrong with that.

INGRAHAM:  Thank you!

FINEMAN:  I think Ron...


FINEMAN:  I think Ron‘s right about that standing on the pile there.  But I also am going to be listening and watching this speech through the eyes of the people I‘ve met in Ohio and Pennsylvania.


FINEMAN:  I‘m going to be in the diner on the Lincoln Highway between Canton and Maslin (ph), with those people in there, looking at George Bush.  They‘re going to want to know what he‘s going to say.  They already are with him on the war.  They‘re with him on the war.  They want to know what he‘s going to say that‘s hopeful, plausible and true-sounding about the economy and jobs.  They‘re with him on the war and with him as an American character.  He‘s won the culture war already with Kerry.  He‘s won that.

GERGEN:  My sense is he‘s not going to go as soft as we were hearing from Tom and Tim.  It strikes me that it‘s much more likely to be classic steel fist with a velvet glove.  And you know, of course, there‘s going to be some things that reach out and are warm.  But underneath this, we all know what the message of this convention is going to be.  He‘s not going to break from the message of this convention.  It is that, We‘re here to protect your kids and your grandkids from terrorism, and we‘ve got to be very tough on this.  And he‘s going to come out and tell us why he thinks he‘s succeeding in the war on terrorism, especially in Iraq, why he thinks he‘s moving forward on the economy, and then use that as a framework...


FINEMAN:  My only point is a lot of that has been—a lot of that heavy lifting has already been carried out...


MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this.  Could it be that that message of strength is a common denominator of all the audiences he‘s trying to reach tonight—the Republican base, the evangelical people in the country, which turned off the politics, the moderate Republican suburbanites and the Reagan Democrats who voted for Reagan and are thinking of going back, perhaps because of the performances this week, to the Republican Party.  Can he reach all those people with protection?

GERGEN:  Yes.  I think he can.

FINEMAN:  I think so.

GERGEN:  I think that‘s...


GERGEN:  ... the central point of the whole convention has been, We‘re going to protect your kids and your grandkids.  I‘m going to do that here at home, but most importantly, the terrorists are coming.  There‘s this continuing threat, and by God, I‘m the guy who can save you from it.

GREGORY:  And you know, Chris, I think there‘s something else.  I think it‘s constancy, as well.  One of the things that‘s different from the war in Afghanistan, if you look at the war in Iraq, is this is something that came out of nowhere in this administration that they put on the agenda.  He went way out there on a limb on that.  The country‘s divided over it.  But I think part of evoking the image of Teddy Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan or even FDR is to basically stand up and be a leader who will make difficult decisions, and engender some bitterness because of it, and still not be willing to budge.  I really do think he wants to get that message across, even if he doesn‘t want to dwell on the—sort of the darker images of maybe even the vice president, in terms of the sort of war that we‘re up against.

MATTHEWS:  And in terms of the gender gap, which still exists—we‘re talking—Laura said it, other people have said it, that women, as well as men, want to see that kind of tough defense of the country.

Coming up: We‘re going to be back to the floor.  Plus, former Wyoming senator Alan Simpson‘s going to join me here at Herald Square.  There he is!

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Republican national convention on MSNBC.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s coverage of the Republican national convention.  As you can hear, we‘re live in New York‘s Herald Square.  And this—once again, the crowd has gone through a sea change.  It‘s very Democrat right now.

NBC‘s Campbell Brown is on the convention floor—Campbell.

CAMPBELL BROWN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hi, Chris.  I‘m here right now with Gentry Collins from the Iowa delegation.  And you are actually filling in for the head of the Iowa delegation, who was called up and sent to Iraq.  And we want to follow up a little bit on the discussion Chris‘s panel was having, which is what do you believe is more important to hear from the president tonight, a defense of the war, or are you more interested in hearing about education, health care and the economy, some of the issues that have been overshadowed by the talk of national security?

GENTRY COLLINS, IOWA DELEGATE:  Well, as you know, Iowa is a swing state.  We‘ve been very, very close.  We remain very close.  And I think Iowans want to hear a little of both.  I think Iowans want to hear how this president is going to keep America safe, as he‘s been doing, how he‘s going to continue prosecuting the war on terror and what his vision is for the next four years domestically.  And I think we‘ll hear that tonight.

BROWN:  The poll numbers are close, 46-46 in the most recent poll I saw, I mean, a complete dead heat.  Do you think some of the speeches last night, the anger you heard from Zell Miller—did that turn people off, those key swing voters he‘s trying to reach?

COLLINS:  No, I don‘t think it did.  And frankly, I don‘t think that we heard anger out of Zell Miller as much as we heard contempt, contempt for his own party.  And I think it‘s well deserved.  I think Zell Miller‘s a great asset for this president, and I think he helps in Iowa.

BROWN:  Gentry Collins, good to talk to you.  Chris, let‘s go back to you.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Campbell Brown.

We‘re joined right now by former U.S. senator, the very popular, actually, Alan Simpson of Wyoming, although he does have an acerbic side.

Let me ask you, Senator, about Dick Cheney.  Dick Cheney gave a tough speech last night, as did Senator Zell Miller, the Democrat from Georgia.  Do you think that‘s the right approach?

ALAN SIMPSON (R-WY), FORMER SENATOR:  Well, I thought Miller was—you know, he was throwing the live meat, the dead meat into the live audience.  And you know, he—he—I think when you have an ex-Marine, you know, that‘s done service and he feels very strongly about the country and patriotism and believes that his party is not meeting that test, I think that‘s where he came from.  I didn‘t think Cheney‘s was tough.  Politics is a contact sport.

MATTHEWS:  Ha!  Ha!  It wasn‘t tough?

SIMPSON:  No.  It‘s a contact—it‘s a contact...

MATTHEWS:  Well...

SIMPSON:  I mean, for the God‘s sake, they‘ve been demonizing Cheney for six months!  What do you think, he‘s going to sit there?  What the hell?  I got a lot of fans here tonight.

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s been demonizing Cheney?

SIMPSON:  Well, I mean, come on.  Everybody, working him over, you know, what—however, this, this, this.


SIMPSON:  Look, how about my fans back here, these (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 

Ask them.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of Cheney?  What do you think of Cheney?


MATTHEWS:  That‘s the first time I ever heard a cheerleader trying to get a negative cheer for his guy.  Let me ask you about the comment made by Zell Miller last night.  He said, Just remember, it‘s not the reporter that fights for freedom of the press, it‘s the soldier.  What‘s the point?  The crowd went nuts.  They loved it.  Why?

SIMPSON:  Because they don‘t love you guys too much, that‘s why!


SIMPSON:  No.  No, you got to remember—no, you know me.  If there‘s any group in America more thin-skinned than politicians, it‘s journalists.

MATTHEWS:  Let me test you.  Suppose he had said last night, It‘s not the politicians that fight for freedom of speech and assembly, it‘s the soldier.

SIMPSON:  Look, that‘s a quote.  He is using a quote that was used at the World War II memorial.  I wouldn‘t make fun of that.

MATTHEWS:  What quote‘s that?  What quote‘s that?

SIMPSON:  That quote—the quote you‘re quoting was a little four-page pamphlet that was passed out at the World War II memorial.


SIMPSON:  And it‘s very patriotic.  It‘s not funny.

MATTHEWS:  But why do you want to call attention to the fact that our freedoms are at the call of the military, when, in fact, the military defends the country and the Constitution, and we owe our freedoms to God and the Constitution that recognizes our freedoms?  We don‘t owe it to the military or anyone else, do we?


SIMPSON:  I didn‘t have anything to do with what he said!  If you‘re asking...

MATTHEWS:  I want to know if you agree with it.

SIMPSON:  I say there‘s a pamphlet that was—I‘m a member of the American Battle Monuments Commission, and that‘s a little offensive to me.

MATTHEWS:  It works.  It works.  It works for me.  I feel bad now.  I feel bad that—I feel bad that I didn‘t know I was offending a pamphlet.  But let me ask you this...


MATTHEWS:  ... because I do love the war—my father—look, a lot of folks were in that war.

SIMPSON:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) these jerks.  That‘ll be...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, don‘t.  He called you jerks!

SIMPSON:  I did.


MATTHEWS:  OK, look—look, let‘s calm—I want talk...


MATTHEWS:  I want to talk to you about somebody you really know a lot about.  That‘s Dick Cheney, the vice president of the United States.  He has taken a lot of fire.  Why do you think he‘s the lightning rod for a president who‘s pretty tough himself?

SIMPSON:  Well, I think a vice president has to be the lightning rod.  You got to have somebody to be the human punching bag.  They work Bush over.  When you have hate in a campaign, you‘ve got pure hate here.  There are people who hate Bush and they hate Cheney.  Cheney is glad to step forward.  I talked to him when the bricks were falling on his head.  I said, How‘re you doing?  He said, Same old crap, and he laughed.


SIMPSON:  He‘s—any guy who‘s been chief of staff of the president of the United States at 34 is not going to listen to any babble from people like this or anywhere in the world.

MATTHEWS:  But these people with all their babble do get to vote.

SIMPSON:  Of course.  Let them vote!  I think it‘s great.  That‘s what it‘s all about.  But I don‘t have to take abuse from them.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry you did.  Did anybody offer any abuse to the senator here?




SIMPSON:  Well, this guy called me a murderer.  That was really sweet.


MATTHEWS:  OK, well I don‘t want to...


MATTHEWS:  I promised you a serious interview.


MATTHEWS:  No, no.  Thank you for coming.  Thank you for coming. 

Although this is the free part of the country.

SIMPSON:  I love it.

MATTHEWS:  This is one place in New York where everybody can speak their mind.

SIMPSON:  I like to do it, too.


MATTHEWS:  OK, let me—let me ask you this about the—the president‘s taking a different tack, the people in the panel mentioned.  I to ask you about this as a political figure, former political figure.  It seems to me the president‘s recognized that people want a little change—big, little, depends on what, how big your interests are.  But he‘s doing things like saying that maybe we miscalculated the occupation in Iraq.  We didn‘t understand how much thunder was still out there with the people.  We won too easily.  He‘s talking about, tonight, apparently, about the people hurt by the economy.  He‘s not defending all the economic policies.  He‘s saying, You know, we still got to work on some things.  Do you think he needs to do that?

SIMPSON:  Well, I think he does, and I think that you‘re going to see a very powerful and provocative piece, probably.  I don‘t think you‘ll find something defensive.  If you want to get into something, which I always like to do, you might just—and he won‘t say it tonight, but the campaign will say it.  What would you do differently, John Kerry?

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Kerry‘s made a mistake by not taking a clear-cut difference in position from the president on the war in Iraq?

SIMPSON:  I do.  And he brought up his own military record, and I think that‘s going to haunt him.  I was in the military for two years.


SIMPSON:  Just a second.  I was in the military for two years in Germany at the end of the Army of Occupation.  I don‘t see how you can serve four months and get three Purple Hearts.


SIMPSON:  If you get the third Purple Heart, you‘re out.  You‘re out.

MATTHEWS:  Why do you—why do you think—not to rip this scab off this again, but how do you think he got the Purple Hearts?

SIMPSON:  I have no idea.  I just say...

MATTHEWS:  Well, why do you question his deserving of them?

SIMPSON:  I‘m saying that with three Purple Hearts, you go home.  Two Purple Hearts, you go home.  That‘s the rule in the military.  It was when I left.


SIMPSON:  Just should not—you know, you got—you either get a Purple Heart, or you go—you go back.  Some guys don‘t get a Purple Heart and stay.  They say, I‘m OK.  I want to go back.  That‘s happened to a lot of people.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Senator, what are you—what‘s the point here?  Are you saying that he doesn‘t deserve the Purple Hearts?

SIMPSON:  I‘m saying in four months of service, it‘s very difficult for this cowboy to understand how you get three Purple Hearts.  Just mark it down.  That‘s all I‘m saying.


SIMPSON:  That‘s all I‘m saying.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it—OK.

SIMPSON:  Got it.

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think he would have inflicted those wounds himself?

SIMPSON:  I do not at all.  I know him well.  I know Teresa.  I know Teresa well.  I know John.  He‘s a good egg.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s the problem with this argument.  What is your point in saying there‘s something bizarre about a guy getting three Purple Hearts, if you think there‘s nothing bizarre about it?

SIMPSON:  Just what I said.  I said it‘s difficult for me, a guy who served for two years, to realize how a person who served four months could get three Purple Hearts.  I‘d like to know—I‘d like to know a little more about that.  I think what you‘re going to find, they‘re going to go into his records, just as they would yours or mine or anybody else‘s.  They‘re going to go into Edwards‘s.  And guess who‘s going to do that?  The media.  They‘re going to pick the leaves off the onion, and they‘re going to go goofy with these two guys in the next two months.

MATTHEWS:  Sounds good to me.  Ha!  Thank you, Senator.  Thank you. 

I‘m serious.  Thank you very much.


MATTHEWS:  That‘s our job.  Thank you, Senator Alan Simpson.

Coming up: We‘re going to check in on the convention floor once again, plus get some more from our panel here at Herald Square.  The miracle on 34th Street continues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!

MATTHEWS:  And later, my interview with former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.  It‘s a big one, as we await President Bush‘s big speech tonight.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the fourth—and I hate to say this—final night of the Republican National Convention here in New York City. 

Hurricane Frances, by the way, is bearing down on Florida‘s Atlantic Coast as I speak and is expected to make landfall late Friday.  That‘s today or early tomorrow morning. 

NBC‘s Chip Reid is on the floor with a Florida delegate.

Chip, what‘s the weather report? 


And let me tell you, I have an amazing confluence here.  This woman, Jennifer Flynn (ph), is right at the center of the three big stories of the day, of the week, of the month.  Her husband is in Iraq.  She‘s here as a delegate to the Republican Convention.  And Hurricane Frances is bearing down on her front door. 

Tell me, first of all, about Hurricane Frances.  You just got off the phone.  You‘re a county commissioner.  Your county is declaring a state of...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘re declaring a state of emergency right now as we speak.  We‘re having a county commission meeting.  Obviously, I am not going to be able to be in attendance, but our commissioners are going to declare a state of emergency. 

REID:  How worried are you? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m concerned.  We‘re a rural county.  And there‘s a lot of mobile homes.  And so obviously, we need to be concerned about senior citizens and people who live in mobile homes. 

REID:  How about your own situation and your family? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My family, they should be very safe, I hope. 

REID:  Who are they? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I have four children, a 12-year-old, a 9-year-old, a 5-year-old, and a 3-year-old.  And my mom and dad are there with them right now.  So...

REID:  Are they evacuating?  What are they going to do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They‘re not going to evacuate.  We have a brick home and I think they‘ll probably be OK.  So we know how to handle hurricanes in Florida.  You go and get in a closet if it gets really bad. 

REID:  Your husband is in Iraq.  He‘s been there since December, you said.  And does he know what‘s going on with the hurricane or that you‘re here? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He knows that I‘m here.  He calls me every night at the convention and listens.  I hold the phone up so he can listen.  And he‘s really excited that I‘m here.  He‘s very worried about the children.  And so I‘m going to go home early.  I‘m going to go home tomorrow morning. 

I was going to stay until Saturday, but we changed our flight. 

REID:  And let‘s get to the convention next. 

What are you hoping to hear tonight from President Bush?  Do you care if he appeals to the base with some red meat or if he goes for the swing voters with something about the economy and health care, something in between?  What are you looking for? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m just looking forward to hearing him speak.  I think he‘s done a good job with the economy, with his tax cuts.  And I know that, in our county, in Columbia County, we‘ve had three new companies come in the last month say they want to come.  So we‘re creating jobs.  And it is because of his economic plan that he has that is bringing jobs to our county. 

REID:  OK.  Well, Jennifer Flynn, good luck, both with your husband coming home safely from Iraq and with your family getting through this hurricane safely and your entire county. 

So, Chris, by the way, about a dozen Florida delegates have already left to go home, missing this big speech because they‘re so worried about what might happen there—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you, Chip Reid.

Let‘s go back to the panel.

David Gergen, the fact that there‘s a hurricane about to hit landfall in Florida Friday night proves once again that events can play a big role.  Beyond the two campaigns, there‘s God‘s work here.  You can argue whether you want whether God is on one side or the other, which I think is probably an inane conclusion.  But you do have a Florida situation where, if the president does well in handling a hurricane and his brother the governor does well, it does help their chances.

GERGEN:  Well, the president I think did get high marks from Florida for the last hurricane that hit on the west coast here just a couple weeks ago.  I was in Florida just about—just after that. 

I can tell you—with the League of Cities—there were an awful lot

of people who were grateful to him for his work there.  But the other thing

·         and I think all of America will be watching now and praying for the people in Florida.  But another event like that is coming tomorrow morning, of course, the economic number on the jobs number. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

GERGEN:  And we haven‘t heard much about jobs in this convention, as we‘ve said.  The president will have to address it tonight. 


MATTHEWS:  Given the political parameters, David, if there‘s a certain number of jobs created, what, 200,000, the party in power takes heart.  If there‘s only about 20,000 created, bad, bad news. 

GERGEN:  I think if it is anything less than 200,000, it is going to be not enough to keep up with the growth in the population force and not helpful news for the president.  He has only has got a couple more job numbers coming out before the election. 

That‘s why I think he has to talk about the economy.  Now, he has got to protect himself to some degree about a man who is looking forward trying to deal with these issues. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

GERGEN:  Because the whole convention has been about terrorism.  And

if we get a bad job number tomorrow


GERGEN:  What were you guys talking about?


MATTHEWS:  Howard, he has only got one more jobs number after tomorrow.  You only get September numbers after this. 

FINEMAN:  Yes, that‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  It is too late to get the—to early to get the October ones. 


MATTHEWS:  And so we‘re going to know how the economy is doing. 

FINEMAN:  This is it.  This is basically it.  This is basically it. 


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

GREGORY:  Well, no, and Howard is making a point.  This is it.

The campaign right now feels only reasonably confident that they are just holding their own.  They‘re still in a very defensive position on the economy.  They know that John Kerry is going to have a built-in advantage.  And they love to make the argument that if he is not far enough ahead on the issue of handling the economy in the voters‘ minds that Bush is OK. 

But all of these events you‘re talking about speak to timing, speak about this elusive bounce out of the convention, the kind of coverage that the president is going to get as he goes to Wisconsin and Iowa and Pennsylvania tomorrow.  This is important. 

If they feel a sense of momentum coming out of this convention, they‘ve got to be able to make that case.  They have got to actually be able to feel and not have it absorbed by events. 

But you talk about the hurricane in Florida.  The president already made a hurry-up trip down when the last hurricane struck.  And there are the tools of incumbency that the president knows how to use in this campaign.  No doubt he‘ll be preparing to use them again. 

FINEMAN:  And, by the way, that‘s why Jeb Bush isn‘t here. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  Jeb Bush has been told by the White House and by his brother, stay there, stay on scene.  You have got a job to do down there.  They‘ll be plenty of time for you to hobnob with the big shots some other time. 



REAGAN:  You can look like a real compassionate conservative when you go down and you stand on another pile and it is a pile of a trailer homes that have been wiped out by a hurricane.  And it is a pretty powerful image. 


INGRAHAM:  I think poor Florida.

The hurricane that they just experienced, the recount, Elian Gonzalez, some of terrorists trained in flight schools.  Florida has been at the center of so many critical problems. 


FINEMAN:  And yet people are flocking there.  People flock there


FINEMAN:  Well, not right now, but it is the new California. 

INGRAHAM:  The stock market was up about 120 points today.  And I was watching CNBC. 

MATTHEWS:  Your reading on why. 

INGRAHAM:  Well, I was watching CNBC and listening to various analysts chime in.  The market seems to want Bush to win. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree completely.

INGRAHAM:  And polls after polls after polls are showing the trends toward Bush. 


GERGEN:  Wait a minute.  Wait a minute.  Let‘s be clear about this. 

I think there‘s no question people in the financial community want President Bush to win.  But this is a market that is down for the year, not up for the year.  This is a market that started at 10,500. 


GERGEN:  And everybody thought it was going to be up to 12,000 by the end of the year.  We‘re still just pooping around in the low tens.  This is not a strong market.   


MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think it has got the guts to go back up to 12,000? 

GERGEN:  We don‘t know.  You‘ve got oil prices


MATTHEWS:  I think it is interesting. 


MATTHEWS:  I‘m going with Laura on this. 

INGRAHAM:  Can I just say


MATTHEWS:  It seem like a whole week of good news for the Republicans translates into a higher stock market.  It‘s because the Republicans think he‘s going to win.

INGRAHAM:  Let me say one thing.  If the market had been down 120 points today, we would be talking about it. 

GERGEN:  Oh, no, we wouldn‘t.

INGRAHAM:  Yes, we would.

GERGEN:  The markets have been up and down all year.


INGRAHAM:  No, it hasn‘t moved 120 points up in how long?  It‘s been a long time. 


GERGEN:  The market has been down significantly during the year.  A lot of people have gotten hit.


GERGEN:  Exactly. 

INGRAHAM:  But the polls matter for Bush in the market today. 

REAGAN:  Howard would like to get a word in edgewise. 

FINEMAN:  Thank you. 


FINEMAN:  Two weeks ago, two weeks ago, the business people I talked to were assuming that Kerry was going to win the election.  They‘re more fickle than anybody. 

INGRAHAM:  Oh, I don‘t know.

FINEMAN:  They‘re now assuming that Bush is going to win the election. 

That‘s from the people I‘ve talked to in the last couple days. 

MATTHEWS:  Therefore, they‘re doing what in terms of their business behavior? 

FINEMAN:  Well, I think they think the tax cuts will stay where they are. 

INGRAHAM:  Exactly. 

FINEMAN:  Which is what they care about most, because that‘s what is going to put money out there for people to keep the recovery going. 


GERGEN:  The price of oil is going to have a lot more to do with the market over the next two or three weeks than whether Bush gets three points up or five points up. 


FINEMAN:  And the oil prices are going down.


MATTHEWS:  I want to ask everybody the same question. 

David, if you taught a class tomorrow on the importance of economic numbers on the eve of an election, would you say that it would be determinate? 

GERGEN:  I‘m sorry.  Would I say...

MATTHEWS:  Will the numbers move the vote?  Will they decide it?  In other words, if you have two months of bad economic news, will that be an overwhelming force? 

GERGEN:  No, it won‘t be an overwhelming force, but could it suppress the Bush rally that I think he‘s going to have after this if he gets a bad number tomorrow. 

I think the more important number is probably going to come a month from now, because it will be right in the midst of the debates. 


GERGEN:  And that is going to get a lot of discussion. 


FINEMAN:  But this will shape things for the next month.  And that‘s why the speech tonight is important.  He has got to get ahead of that number. 

INGRAHAM:  But do you see the brilliance of Karl Rove here and the White House crafting this as a war convention?  The Cold War was Reagan‘s war.  The war on terror is Bush‘s war.  That is going to define his presidency.  And it was brilliantly conceived from beginning to end.  So bad economic news tomorrow might not be as bad. 

FINEMAN:  It still matters.


FINEMAN:  It still matters.

MATTHEWS:  I think there‘s still a distinction here that once we get away from this territory of this convention, the argument in this country that is large in this campaign is not whether we should have fought terrorists or not.  It is whether we should have gone to Iraq or not. 

GERGEN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And it‘s very hard to get your head into that in this context. 


REAGAN:  Oh, I was just going to say on the economy that the economic number aren‘t going to be the hinge that the election swings on.  But the big problem that the Bush campaign has with the economy is that their rhetoric doesn‘t match reality.  They‘re saying, hey, the tax cuts are working.  Everything is moving the way we want it to.  Well, you look the numbers...

INGRAHAM:  Well, economic expansion has been significant.  Economic expansion has been really significant. 

REAGAN:  Well, tell that to people in the middle class.  It‘s not affecting them.


MATTHEWS:  I want to go down to the floor.


MATTHEWS:  David Gregory, you cover the White House.  I want to ask you a question.

The question is this.  When you cover the people at the White House like Karl Rove, the president‘s chief political adviser and the lesser beings that you get to talk to probably more often over there, are they worried about these numbers, these economic numbers? 

GREGORY:  Absolutely, because—I think Laura is right, that a fundamental argument is, we‘re still in the middle of this war.  This is a war presidency.  It‘s a war that goes on and part of that war is that we‘re absorbing the shock from 9/11 that is still sort of making its way through our economy, and whatever upswing we‘re feeling is taking a while to really plant its seeds. 

The difficulty is where you go.  I was in Canton, Ohio, several weeks ago, where there were people who were at a Bush rally saying, look, I‘ve got neighbors down the street who are going to vote for Kerry this time because the factory closings, the Hoover plant laying off people and others in the area.  So it really does—in the states that matter, it is a sense of, are we on the right track or are we not? 

And it goes back to Howard‘s point.  This speech matters.  He has got

to be talking to people giving them some sense that he has got a passion

and a plan to move the economy forward and not just rest on the argument

that we‘re still feeling the shock of 9/11.  It has got to be forward-

looking.  He‘s got to


REAGAN:  The economy is not still reeling from 9/11.  That was three years ago.  There are bigger, broader factors at work here that are overwhelming 9/11. 

INGRAHAM:  Let me just read one line from Bush‘s speech: “Our most fundamental systems, the tax code, health coverage, pensions plans, worker training, were created for the world of yesterday, not tomorrow.  We will transform these systems so that all citizens are equipped, prepared, and thus truly free to make their own choices.”

That‘s a sweeping statement. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, was he passing responsibility there for a bad economy on the program of the 1930s? 

INGRAHAM:  I‘m just—I‘m stunned that this is such a sweeping statement of this is a fundamental change. 

MATTHEWS:  But is that credible?


FINEMAN:  Why are you stunned?  Why are you stunned?  Why are you stunned?  Sweeping is the idea.  It is better than details.  It‘s easier than details. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to come right back and other—we‘re coming back with the panel here at Herald Square.


MATTHEWS:  As we go to break, we compare the way the two conventions, the Democratic Convention in Boston and the one here in New York, pay tribute to 9/11. 

Let‘s take a look.  Three women who lost loved one spoke, followed by a moment of silence.  And at the Democratic Convention back in Boston, a mother who lost a daughter and son-in-law spoke, followed by the beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace.”


HALEEMA SALIE, MOTHER OF SEPTEMBER 11 VICTIM:  My name is Haleema Salie.  On September 11, I lost my daughter Rahma, my son-in-law Micky and my unborn grandchild on American Airlines flight 11. 

Those we lost that day were husbands and wives, children, neighbors, and friends.  We thought we would have them longer.  We thought we had more time.  As the families, we stood in clothes of mourning and wiped our children‘s tears. 

DEENA BURNETT, WIFE OF SEPTEMBER 11 VICTIM:  My name is Deena Burnett.  My husband Tom was a passenger on United Airlines Flight 93.  Tom called me four times from the airplane.  I told him what happened in New York and Washington.  He told me he was putting a plan together to take back the airplane. 


BURNETT:  On his fourth and final call, I asked him what I could do.  He said, pray, Deena.  Just pray.  And then he said, don‘t worry.  We‘re going to do something. 

We now know that what the passengers and crew members did prevented that airplane from hitting its intended target.  What they did...


BURNETT:  What they did was the personification of courage and a testament to the American spirit. 




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to the HARDBALL‘s coverage of the Republican National Convention.  It‘s coming to a close tonight.  But throughout the night, we‘ll be comparing the Republican and Democratic Conventions and how they differed. 

One similarity, both featured outsiders.  For the Republicans, it was the Democratic senator, we know him well now, Zell Miller.  And at the Democratic Convention, it was Ron Reagan. 

Let‘s look at the comparison. 


REAGAN:  A few of you may be surprised to see someone with my last name showing up to speak at a Democratic Convention. 

In a few months, we will face a choice, yes, between two candidates and two parties.  But more than that, we have a chance to take a giant stride forward for the good of all humanity.  We can choose between the future and the past, between reason and ignorance, between true compassion and mere ideology. 

SEN. ZELL MILLER (D), GEORGIA:  In their warped way of thinking, America is the problem, not the solution.  They don‘t believe there‘s any real danger in the world, except that which America brings upon itself through our clumsy and misguided foreign policy. 

It is not their patriotism, it is their judgment that has been so sorely lacking.  They claimed Carter‘s pacifism would lead to peace.  They were wrong.  They claimed Reagan‘s defense buildup would lead to war.  They were wrong.  And no pair has been more wrong more loudly more often than the two senators from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. 



MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with our panel. 

The old question in every political campaign is, do you go hard or do you go soft? 

David Gergen, that fellow just went hard.  Is that smart? 

GERGEN:  He went hate.  He didn‘t go hard.

That was a speech—in contrast to Dick Cheney‘s speech, which was well within the bounds of political discourse.  And it was a tough speech and exactly what he should have delivered. 

Zell Miller‘s speech was a speech of hate.  It was a speech of venom.  There is a man who started his political career with Lester Maddox.  And last night, he imitated Lester Maddox.  Lester Maddox, as we all know, was a segregationist, but he was a man of hate.  Zell Miller is not a segregationist.  He‘s not that at all.

INGRAHAM:  Then why did you mention it, David?  Why are you mentioning that?

GERGEN:  Because I think he speaks from the tradition...

INGRAHAM:  No, you‘re mentioning it because he‘s a Southern conservative and he came there.

And he was...


INGRAHAM:  No, let me finish. 

GERGEN:  OK, go ahead.

INGRAHAM:  Because this Civil Rights Act stuff that‘s been mentioned over the last couple of nights, people in the South reject it.  They think it is hinting that someone might be racist. 

We saw with it Judge Charles Pickering.  They tried to do that to him.  Zell Miller had righteous anger last night.  And righteous anger for a Democrat who was in Georgia, who governed Georgia as lieutenant governor, state party chairman and governor of that state, came to Washington in the U.S. Senate and found a different Democrat arty. 

You better understand that the reason the Democrats have lost the South and lost the heartland is because they lost Zell Miller.  That‘s the reason they‘re the minority party.

GERGEN:  Listen, Laura.  Listen, Laura.  I grew up in the


GERGEN:  Have you had your piece?

MATTHEWS:  His turn.

GERGEN:  I grew up in the South.  I‘ve seen the face of anger.  I‘ve seen the face of hatred.  And I‘m telling you..

INGRAHAM:  He‘s not a hateful man.  You don‘t know Zell Miller. 

GERGEN:  That was a


MATTHEWS:  One at a time.  It‘s David first.  We‘re going to stop this right now. 

It‘s your turn.  Your turn. 

GERGEN:  OK, I just want to say one thing. 

There are lines in politics.  And that speech went over the line.  It is one thing that Dick Cheney did.  I thought it was well within the bounds of political discourse to go after John Kerry on his Senate record.  It is quite another thing, in my judgment, to in effect come—he came very close to saying the Democrats were a treasonous party. 

And when people like Ann Coulter...


MATTHEWS:  Let him finish.  Let him finish.

GERGEN:  I‘m sorry. 

When people like Ann Coulter publish a book called “Treason” and then they accuse the liberals because...


MATTHEWS:  Let him finish!

INGRAHAM:  Chris...

GERGEN:  Well, we can be polite about this. 

It seems to me that, when you go after the Democratic Party as a party that essentially has this manic obsession to pull down your commander in chief, when there is a legitimate argument in this country about whether we should have gone to Iraq or not, when there are legitimate questions on one side or the other, it seems to me that those kinds of questions, especially for someone who only a year and a half ago praised John Kerry, especially for someone who said he is proud...


GERGEN:  It just seems—it seems to me that there are lines, and he went over the line.  And I think it was in the tradition of Lester Maddox, without the segregation. 

MATTHEWS:  Your turn.

INGRAHAM:  I have got to tell you, when Ted Kennedy gave a speech at the Democratic Convention and referred to George the monarch, when we heard Jimmy Carter say, well, at least John Kerry showed up, I don‘t recall the panel on HARDBALL referring to those moments as hateful moments. 

REAGAN:  Well, they weren‘t as hateful as what we heard last night. 

INGRAHAM:  And Zell Miller—and Zell Miller is not a hateful man. 

Zell Miller has proudly served the state of Georgia, is enormously

popular.  He gave a tough speech.  But a tough speech in politics is

sometimes required.  And a tough speech, he gave.  The base of the party

and most Republicans that I have talked to thought that anger, which was

righteous anger, was deserved.  And I think we should be very careful about

the line we cross in what we tell—how we characterize


GERGEN:  But, Laura, for some people, that was—it rallied the base. 

I have no—I understand that. 

INGRAHAM:  He‘s a nice person. 

GERGEN:  But, for a lot of people out there, it was scary.  The word I hear from a lot of Democrats today...

INGRAHAM:  Well, I‘m scared of Al Sharpton. 

GERGEN:  And Al Sharpton‘s speech went over the line, too.  That was a speech that also was a speech of hate. 

INGRAHAM:  People weren‘t dissecting it, though, right?

GERGEN:  They didn‘t put him on as their opening keynote speaker at 10:00 at night. 

INGRAHAM:  Zell Miller‘s speech was a barn-burner, one of the most important political speeches of the last year. 


MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you a question.

It‘s always tricky how far you go back to someone‘s record. 


MATTHEWS:  Is it fair to go back, David, go all the way back to his record of having opposed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts?  Is that too far back to judge a Southerner today? 

GERGEN:  I think a lot of Southerners do change their mind. 

And Zell Miller was a good governor of Georgia.  I don‘t take a word away—I don‘t take a whit away from him.  He was a very good, innovative governor of Georgia.  He has done a lot of good things.  He served this country well as a Marine. 

But all of those things do not allow you, do not give you permission to go out and give a speech in which you basically accuse the other side of being nearly traitorous.  It does not give you permission to say whatever the hell you like. 

INGRAHAM:  Well, you know something? 

When Bob Byrd was a member of the KKK, when he gives anti-war speeches on the Senate floor, he is praised as a man of fiery passion. 


INGRAHAM:  That‘s fine.  But Bob Byrd gets a pass for the KKK.  And somehow Zell Miller is still bleeding for voting against the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  I wish we had the same indignation toward both sides. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Laura Ingraham, Ron Reagan, Howard Fineman, David Gergen.

Coming up in the next hour, my interview with one of President Bush‘s biggest boosters, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. 

And later tonight, President Bush takes the stage.  Big night for the president. 

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



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