updated 9/5/2004 4:17:20 AM ET 2004-09-05T08:17:20

Guests: Jim Matthews, George Pataki, Jon Meacham, J.C. Watts, Darrell Hammond

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Well, that was one hell of a speech, wasn‘t it, Jon Meacham? 

JON MEACHAM, “NEWSWEEK”:  I thought it was an A-plus.  I thought it was probably the finest political speech George W. Bush has ever given. 

He has now framed this election as a battle between himself as Henry V and John Kerry as Hamlet.  And the question for the fall is going to be whether he can get to that magical 51 percent. 

C. MATTHEWS:  Joe. 

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”:  I will tell you what. 

I was in Philadelphia.  I saw the president delivered the speech.  He looked stiff.  He looked awkward. 

Tonight, it is without a doubt the best speech that this man has ever given.  He hit all the right notes.  The people that wrote the speech did a fantastic job.  And he delivered it with confidence.  I couldn‘t believe—because, let‘s face it.  This guy is not Winston Churchill.  But I cannot believe that, by the end of the speech—and I have never seen this in a formal address by George Bush—he actually looked relaxed the last 15 minutes and actually looked like he was enjoying himself. 

That does not happen in formal occasions with George W. Bush.  I think it‘s a transcending moment for him, just like that day on the pile on ground zero was. 

C. MATTHEWS:  We‘ll go to J.C. Watts. 

J.C. WATTS, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN:  Chris, I think he—I thought he started slow.  I thought he was a little stiff at the outset.

But, boy, he grew into it.  His confidence grew as the speech went on.  And I thought the last 20 minutes, he just, boy, did all the right things, said the right things, touched all the right bases.  And down the stretch, I thought it was a big success. 

C. MATTHEWS:  Andrea Mitchell. 

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  I think as political theater it was terrific.  And certainly the windup at the end was beautifully poetic.

I thought there was a little bit too much prose in the beginning.  It sounded like State of the Union address, but if he hadn‘t gone through that list of domestic initiatives, we would have criticized him for not having a second-term agenda.  So...

C. MATTHEWS:  Best line?

MITCHELL:  He had no choice.

C. MATTHEWS:  Jon?

MEACHAM:  I ask you to stand with me, because he showed a certain personal leadership.  He said, these are decisions that reach the Oval Office, and only a president can make that decision, which is an implicit criticism of Kerry‘s perceived waffling on different issues. 

C. MATTHEWS:  I thought the best line was a small, throwaway phrase which may find its way to the front pages of many newspapers, you know where I stand.  I like that line. 

SCARBOROUGH:  That is it. 

C. MATTHEWS:  I like that line. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right now tonight at the end of this convention, that is the difference between John Kerry and George Bush, and in the war on terror, in an age of terror and uncertainty, that in the end may make all the difference. 

C. MATTHEWS:  If I were running the front pages of “The New York Times,” or any paper, whatever their political bias, I would give them that line, because I think he deserves it. 

MITCHELL:  Well, the other thing he did was, he defended the decision to go to war against Saddam Hussein.  You might have thought he would back away from this unpopular decision, but he came right out and he laid it out there.  He didn‘t just talk about the war on terror. 

I liked the line where he said, if America shows uncertainty and weakness in this decade, the world will drift towards tragedy.  This will not happen on my watch.

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  Because he was laying out his agenda. 

C. MATTHEWS:  Right.  I thought that was a great line. 

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS:  Andrea, I agree with you.  That line was powerful. 

He said, if America shows uncertainty.  He is clearly talking about his opponent, who has yet to give us a definitive position on the war with Iraq. 

By the way, I must explain the crowd behind us.  It has been very uneven this week trying to predict the politics of this outdoor stand behind me.  It‘s wide open.  There‘s no real selection here.  Tonight, it‘s a bit to the Democratic side, to say the least. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

C. MATTHEWS:  You hear them. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it. 

C. MATTHEWS:  In all fairness, it‘s a free country, and, of course, even at a Republican Convention, Democrats have a thorough right to express themselves. 

MITCHELL:  Chris, let me also say...

C. MATTHEWS:  And we have had, by the way—I want to point this out on behalf of the demonstrators.  This has been a very peaceful week, given the huge numbers of people who have come to New York to protest. 

MITCHELL:  Chris, let me just say also that behind you, where you can‘t see, there are a couple hundred protesters, not the people who are here on our stand, but the people along the street, behind a police barricade.  And so they are also shouting. 

C. MATTHEWS:  I have been listening to them, Andrea.

MEACHAM:  This was a

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS:  Jon Meacham, historian.

By the way, I must again pay tribute to your book, “Franklin and Winston,” which is my favorite book ever about political leadership. 

Go ahead, Jon.

MEACHAM:  Thank you. 

I think there was a certain amount of very Churchillian rhetoric here.  He was talking about me.  He said, I will never relent in defending America, whatever it takes.  He was talking about the storm and strife of the age we have been handed, and he made a definite case for personalized leadership. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And you know what so ironic about that?  You talk about this Churchillian approach where he doesn‘t back down.

John Kerry‘s theme song, Bruce Springsteen song, no surrender, the line, no retreat, no surrender.  The irony is, John Kerry that has been retreating on many issues.  This guy doesn‘t retreat.  He has no apologies.

C. MATTHEWS:  Look at the way—look at the way the president is walking around that unique in-the-round stage there with such confidence.  He is very happy.  I am sure he knows he has had a home run tonight. 

Now, watch this.  We‘re watching that.

Let‘s go down to Chip Reid, who is on the floor.  Chip Reid of NBC is on the floor. 

CHIP REID, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, let me tell you, Chris, up there on—I can see on the stage we have got the Bush families and the Cheney families.

And but you know what?  The balloon drop worked.  They have all come down.  The confetti drop is working quite well.  The Republicans did it again.  They do know how to do balloons and confetti.  And you can see the party on the stage is going strong. 

C. MATTHEWS:  You know, we have just seen the president and his family, Doro Bush, his brothers.  And, as he said, his best friends tonight are his brothers and his sister, Doro Bush and her husband, Bobby Koch a good guy, used to work for the Democrats, actually.  An interesting family. 

We had Neil Bush on earlier tonight.  And, of course, Jeb Bush is down in Florida dealing with what looks like the coming hurricane, which is the second in very recent history to hit that state.  Amazing family. 

I thought it was interesting that he paid tribute to—Jon, to both his mom and his dad.  He didn‘t point to the lineage of a former president, having a son who is a president.

MEACHAM:  Right. 

C. MATTHEWS:  He pointed to the family context. 

MEACHAM:  And the values and the characteristics that he inherited from them. 

I thought possibly one of the most effective rhetorical devices, which I have never heard this man do quite as well, is to make fun of his own weaknesses and therefore turn them into strengths, when he says Schwarzenegger had to correct his English, when he said that swagger was Texan for walking, when he talked about his bluntness and said, pointed up to his mother, which reminded me of his old line, he got his daddy‘s eyes and his momma‘s mouth. 

C. MATTHEWS:  Do you think that‘s—do you think that‘s a strong confession there? 

(LAUGHTER)

C. MATTHEWS:  It looked to me like a salute.  But it was very well handled, I agree with you.  And I think it was very funny, and I think it was nice to talk about the swagger, because that is somewhat off-putting to someone from the North, because if it is Texas, it may not be the most popular attribute. 

(CROSSTALK)

MEACHAM:  He made virtues out of his vices, which is a great

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS:  By the way, I want to give credit to one party.  This is not a biased statement, by any means.  Republicans are better at balloons.  Chip Reid is right.  It‘s a small point.  It‘s a demonstration of the most simple kind of competence. 

MITCHELL:  Well, it started with the Reagan

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS:  Democrats, Andrea, you know, cannot release balloons properly. 

MEACHAM:  It‘s free market balloons.

C. MATTHEWS:  What is this? 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Chris

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS:  Look at how great that is.  It‘s fantastic.  It‘s like turning one of those balls upside down and letting the snow fall.  They know exactly how to do it. 

(CROSSTALK)

MEACHAM:  They‘re privatized balloons.

MITCHELL:  But in 1992 at Madison Square Garden, there was a big confetti drop and they did pull that off.  The Clintonians did it well.

C. MATTHEWS:  No, but Carter‘s people, we—I‘m sorry, I will say we here—could not release balls properly.  I don‘t know what it is.

MITCHELL:  But Bill Clinton got the balloons right. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, the Republicans this week have gotten this convention right.  You said it, Chris.  A lot of people say these conventions don‘t matter.  These guys have been ruthlessly efficient this week.  It‘s remarkable. 

C. MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about a very positive speech with some very clever daggers in it, direct shots against the media, no problem, but it was interesting, direct shots against Hollywood, no problem, direct shots against trial lawyers, no problem.

But wasn‘t it interesting—Jon, you are looking at me—so well placed in an otherwise positive speech? 

MEACHAM:  They were brilliant.  They were like—sort of like Cheney did, these were razor blades in the apple. 

C. MATTHEWS:  Hah!

(LAUGHTER)

MEACHAM:  And they made—and they just absolutely were surgical strikes.  They were cruise missiles that worked.

And, again, it was a very deft speech, I thought, that managed to mix both hardball and poetry with his theology.  You remember...

C. MATTHEWS:  J.C., why is there such animus in the Republican Party -

·         I can understand the concern about the press.  I can understand Hollywood.  But why did so many people seem to have an immediate gut reaction to trial lawyers? 

WATTS:  Well, I think they think that trial lawyers hold up a lot of the things.  And they are a big part of the Democratic constituency.  We have not been able to pass any type of tort reform.  We have not been able to pass health care reform, because the trial lawyers are holding it up. 

MITCHELL:  It‘s a huge

(CROSSTALK)

WATTS:  So he took shots there.

But, Chris, I also want to kind of reiterate something that was said, some of these phrases that the president talked about, never relent, not on my watch.  And then he said, I want you to stand with me, asking for the vote.  That‘s one of the most basic things in politics, to ask for the vote.  I thought he framed it, set it up very well. 

MITCHELL:  Just briefly on the trial lawyers, it is a huge priority of the Chamber of Commerce, of business.

And in fact, some businesses, corporate headquarters are talking about moving out of Mississippi and other states where they don‘t have any kind of control on some of these jury verdicts. 

C. MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go right now to Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert, who are up there in the sky box for their review of what was, by every one of the accounts here, a great speech—Tom and Tim.

TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR:  Well, we were just talking about that. 

What was so clear is that there were kind of two speeches.  It was bifurcated, first the domestic part of it, which I didn‘t think was as strong because we had been talking to Karen Hughes earlier.  And she said they had rewritten that.  They were not happy with the pace of it.  And I think that when you were watching him, he seemed more eager to get to that, to the part that really energized him and energized this hall, the issues about which he feels most passionately, the war on terror and what is going on in Iraq, the sacrifices of the people who are making that war. 

He has staked his presidency and obviously so much more on what‘s going on in Iraq and in Afghanistan.  Karen Hughes sees this as a transformational election, especially for him—Tim. 

TIM RUSSERT, NBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF:  Tom, it‘s very clear that the president was so much more passionate in talking about the war on terror and national security and the role he has to play as commander in chief. 

Chip Reid‘s report from the floor saying the delegates were moved so much more dramatically by that.  And yet he is going to have to deal with the realities of the economy in this country.  Tomorrow at 8:30, we will have those numbers, also intervening events throughout the world. 

But there‘s no doubt about it.  The Republicans had a good convention.  By every national poll, the president is up a few points.  John Kerry tonight at midnight tries to draw a line and return the campaign back to his issues.  We are going to have an extraordinary 60 days, because both these parties—I think tonight really underscored the fact is there are big differences about big issues, and that‘s healthy for all of us, particularly those of us in the media who are trying to cover it and inform our viewers. 

BROKAW:  I can‘t—Chris, I can‘t remember an election since 1968, maybe 1980, when it was Ronald Reagan against Jimmy Carter, but even now, the issues are in some ways more complex than they were then.  And I do get the sense that the country is engaged.  And we will see how they respond. 

C. MATTHEWS:  Tom Brokaw, I get the chance to do something I have wanted to do, but I am sad to say, this will be your last convention covering it in this capacity of anchorman for “Nightly News.” 

BROKAW:  That‘s right. 

C. MATTHEWS:  And I want to say, it‘s a great honor to serve here, to learn a lot, to see you in action on the inside, as well as the outside.  The greatest anchorman of our time is taking leave of this particular role. 

It is so...

Tim, do you want to say something? 

RUSSERT:  Well, Chris, you said it perfectly.  Tom is the best.  And he has been extraordinary.  He has covered every convention since 1968.  He loves politics.  He feels it.  He understands it.  And he communicates it.  And I think the public has been so much enlarged by his understanding of these issues. 

BROKAW:  All right, guys. 

RUSSERT:  No, no, no, no. 

C. MATTHEWS:  OK. 

RUSSERT:  Chris, it‘s very important.  We understand that—guess what, Chris.  If this election is tied in the Electoral College, he can‘t leave. 

(LAUGHTER)

C. MATTHEWS:  OK.  I agree.

And, by the way, I think Tom would be great if he just got a notebook and went out there and became the greatest political reporter of our time as a print guy.  I think he could do that easily if he chose to. 

Tom, thank you very much for letting me work with you.  And congratulations on an amazing career. 

We‘re back tonight.

Andrea, do you want to say anything? 

MITCHELL:  Well, I have always been a member of Tom‘s posse, so it‘s a little hard for me.  I can‘t say goodbye, just au revoir, because Tom is the best.

(CROSSTALK)

WATTS:  Chris, Tom Brokaw was—when I was a senior in college at the University of Oklahoma, he was the host of “The Today Show.”  I don‘t know if he remembers this, but he actually interviewed me as the quarterback of the University of Oklahoma for the Orange Bowl being broadcast on NBC. 

BROKAW:  Now, J.C., and after the election, one of the first weekends that I am going to do after the election, I am coming to Norman for the O.U.-Nebraska game. 

WATTS:  You‘re a great American. 

(LAUGHTER)

BROKAW:  I got an honorary degree this year from Oklahoma. 

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS:  Tom, we can‘t end this yet, because Jon Meacham is here, who has, of course, written this fabulous book about what you have written about, World War II, and in his case, about Churchill and Roosevelt. 

Do you want to speak about Brokaw?

MEACHAM:  Brokaw the historian. 

No one did more to bring back popular history than “The Greatest Generation,” which is just...

WATTS:  That‘s right. 

MEACHAM:  I think probably the best selling, most widely read book about World War II.  It‘s a phrase that has entered the language.  He has coined something that will live forever. 

C. MATTHEWS:  And it sits down there on the Washington Mall, a memorial to the people he saluted, gave them their name, the greatest generation, and probably that memorial wouldn‘t be there without him and Bob Dole and others like him. 

Do you want to have to say—want to say something nice about the press, Joe? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Of course.

Well, Tom Brokaw—I sit around and whine and Republicans whine about how the press is liberal.  Tom Brokaw, though, obviously has always been considered to be the fairest.  It‘s one of the reasons why I sat there and watched Tom Brokaw.  My kids watch him growing up, just like my dad made me watch Walter Cronkite every night, even though he called Cronkite a communist after the Tet Offensive.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  But the great thing about—the greatest thing about Tom Brokaw is—for me personally is—and I just really found out about this firsthand is when I went over to Normandy and I looked at the men that scaled the cliffs 60 years ago on really what was one of America‘s finest hours.

All those men looked at Tom Brokaw like he had scaled the cliffs, too.  I come from a very military area, represented probably more vets and military retirees than anybody else in Congress when I was there.  And I can tell you, Tom Brokaw is a great hero to all of these men.  And I think that‘s about the greatest compliment anybody can have. 

BROKAW:  Well, Chris, let me just say very quickly, I am very grateful for all those very nice remarks.  It‘s time to get back to the business of the day, however.  I really think that we have got a big presidential election coming here.  We‘ve got big speech here tonight.  Thank you all very much.  It‘s been my pleasure.

C. MATTHEWS:  OK.

We are all looking forward to more Tom at the election night count.  I am sure that will be interesting. 

Let me all—ask you this.  Bottom line, do we look tonight at the possibility—we will have to see the polling—the latest Zogby poll has just come in.  It shows a seven-point jump, from five points behind to two points ahead, for the Bush-Cheney ticket.  Is that the big news? 

Jon. 

MEACHAM:  I think it‘s interesting that it‘s the undecideds that moved from 5 to 9 percent.  So I think what‘s interesting is, this week, at least in the early part of the week, moved voters perhaps from leaning toward Kerry-Edwards after their convention to really taking a second look at this, which a lot of us didn‘t think was going to happen. 

And so what the Republicans have done is moved the conversation.  Kerry is going to be speaking in, what, 30 minutes, to really strike back and take the fight both on his own service, his own character, and pointing out that he himself served, when others did not, meaning Bush and Cheney, and the economy. 

C. MATTHEWS:  OK, we are joined right now by George Pataki, the governor of New York, who spoke earlier tonight. 

Governor, you gave a hell of a rousing speech there for the president. 

Did he do what he had to do tonight? 

GOV. GEORGE PATAKI ®, NEW YORK:  No question about it, Chris. 

This president was inspirational.  He showed his strength.  He showed his honesty.  And he showed his compassion for the American people.  I just think he did a phenomenal job. 

C. MATTHEWS:  What do you make of the president‘s clear shots at organizations like “The New York Times,” for example, and Hollywood and trial lawyers?  Why “The New York Times,” sir? 

PATAKI:  Well, I thought it was an appropriate quote. 

Thinking back to when the Marshall Plan was put in place, there were naysayers then.  And it just seems there are too many naysayers now.  That‘s not America.  We believe in ourselves.  We believe in our vision.  We believe in our values of freedom.  And the president expressed that tremendously tonight. 

C. MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the president‘s positive statement. 

I thought the best line was, you know where I stand. 

What was your favorite part of the speech? 

PATAKI:  Oh, I didn‘t pick out a particular part, Chris.  I just loved it.  I thought it was inspirational, moving, strong, and visionary for America and for the world.  And I think the American people are just going to start to sense the George Bush that I have known for years, a wonderful man, a strong leader, a caring man. 

And he is going to be our president for four more years. 

C. MATTHEWS:  Is there any chance he can carry New York? 

PATAKI:  We are going to make the case.  He has been great for America.  He has been great for New York.  We wouldn‘t have been able to rebuild Lower Manhattan if it wasn‘t for the president.  He stood with us in our difficult times. 

It‘s a tough state, but we are going to make the case because I know this president will make the case all over America.  That‘s what‘s in his heart. 

C. MATTHEWS:  You made a tough shot tonight at one of your fellow alumni from Yale, the one that graduated a year ahead of you, John Kerry.  You compared the two records of accomplishment, and you said that President Bush has one, clearly implying that the other fellow has no record of accomplishment.  That‘s a pretty strong indictment. 

PATAKI:  Well, Chris, if you think back, they never mentioned at their convention 20 years of Senator Kerry serving in the U.S. Senate.  And I think there‘s a reason, because what can he point to, other than voting for higher taxes, lower defense, gutting our intelligence?

I think that is appropriate.  I think it is accurate.  And I am just proud of our president. 

C. MATTHEWS:  Well, thank you very much, Governor George Pataki, who introduced the president of the United States tonight in his home state here in New York City. 

I want to thank Joe Scarborough, who is going to leave us for a few minutes to come back, sort of like Dracula, at midnight. 

(LAUGHTER)

C. MATTHEWS:  You will be back.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS:  You will be coming when the moon is high.  You will be back, right?

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s pretty hot right now. 

I am struck, though, by the protesters and the anger.  Remember “The Godfather”?

C. MATTHEWS:  Yes?

SCARBOROUGH:  Where Michael says, never let your enemies make you angry.  That‘s what Bill Clinton did to us Republicans in the ‘90s, and we did a lot of stupid things.  It‘s interesting tonight that‘s what George W.  Bush is doing to Democrats.  And I don‘t think that‘s good news for them. 

C. MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Joe Scarborough.  Thanks for joining us. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thank you. 

C. MATTHEWS:  My great colleague.

Let‘s go right now to Campbell Brown, who is on the floor—Campbell.

CAMPBELL BROWN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hi, Chris.

I am with the Reverend Dan Williams (ph) from Minnesota. 

And give me your general reaction to what you heard tonight. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is exciting.  This is the president that we have known now for four years, a president that is committed to this country, loves his family, loves this country and willing to stand by it. 

BROWN:  There was a seriousness and sort of a somber tone to the speech.  What did you think of that, especially in comparison to some of the more red-meat, get-people-fired-up speeches we heard earlier in the week? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I liked the seriousness, because my son served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  He was in Kuwait and he was in Baghdad.  And I remember September 11 vividly.  And so that was very appropriate. 

There were times where it seemed like the president had water in his eyes, because this is very serious.  The world is resting on his shoulders. 

BROWN:  Reverend Dan Williams, thank you for your time. 

And, Chris, let‘s go back to you. 

C. MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to right now to David Gregory.  He‘s also on the floor of the convention. 

DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Thanks a lot, Chris. 

Here with Mary Ann Spicer (ph), a former teacher, a delegate from Iowa. 

What did you hear that really struck you tonight? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What I heard was, where President Bush sat, he wanted every child to be able to read and write.  He wanted to hold schools accountable.  He wanted to test all children to find out what they really need in terms of help and get them that help they needed. 

GREGORY:  Has he really told the country on accountability in schools, No Child Left Behind, when there‘s criticism about not funding it properly, not giving schools the tools they need to reform? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No Child Left Behind was the first policy that this president put forth.  No one had done anything heretofore.  He is standing up for the schools.  And he said, we will get you the money that you need to make sure that the job gets done. 

GREGORY:  Mary Ann Spicer, thanks very much. 

A lot of enthusiasm, a lot of passion down here on the final night of the convention, Chris. 

C. MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘re back up here with Andrea.  We‘re going to get a report from Frank Luntz later tonight.  And my brother, a Pennsylvania delegate is going to be joining us in a few minutes, too, to give me an inside sense of how happy they are. 

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS:  I got to tell you, Republicans have one advantage.  They are very good at business and they‘re very good at organizing things.  I always believe, if you go to a movie theater, the people who are late are all Democrats.

(LAUGHTER)

C. MATTHEWS:  And that matters now more than ever, because there are fewer Democrats compared to how many Republicans there are.  And the lazy old ways of the Democratic Party, which counted on their superior numbers, isn‘t going to work for them anymore. 

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS:  They‘re up against a competitive number of people with a highly more competitive attitude, I think, about the business of politics. 

MITCHELL:  Since 1980, since the Reagan revolution, if you will, Republicans have learned how to run conventions, how to run campaigns. 

Now, they falter when they don‘t have, as you pointed out several times this week, a candidate who is sunny and optimistic and brings forth feelings of hope and good feelings with Americans.  And you saw President Bush in his speech tonight try to become that person, try to leap the bounds of the serious problems he faces with the economy, with Iraq, and terror. 

C. MATTHEWS:  Who would have thought, J.C.—let‘s talk athletics for a minute.

Who would have thought that the way to show a man of average or smaller stature could grow to the office of the presidency than to have him throwing that strike at Yankee Stadium in October of 2001?  What an enlarging notion to say, here‘s this guy, a regular guy, an amateur, goes out on that ball field and throws a strike.  And everybody who has ever tried to throw an opening pitch knows how hard it is. 

MITCHELL:  Wearing a bulletproof vest. 

C. MATTHEWS:  Wearing a bulletproof vest. 

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS:  That was a way of showing—who thinks of this stuff?

WATTS:  Chris, this competitive spirit, Andrea, I think it‘s only come back in the Republican Party with George W. Bush and his team.  This is a very competitive team.  They are very good at organization. 

I was talking to one of my Democrat operative friends.  About two months ago, I had dinner with her.  And she said that this is the best organized campaign that she has ever seen, Republican or Democrat.  These guys know what they are doing. 

C. MATTHEWS:  Well, the big question is—Karl Rove, who is a tough customer—I have come up against him, and we all have in journalism—he is a tough customer.  Dark or whatever, he is tough. 

The thing is, if he is Bush‘s brain, which is fair enough in terms of this kind of stuff, organizational work, who the hell is Kerry‘s?  And that‘s the question.  Can they match a brain when they don‘t have one themselves?  I mean by that an organizational, strategic thinker.  Is there one in the Kerry campaign? 

MEACHAM:  I think there are those in the Democratic Party.  I think, remember, President Bush...

C. MATTHEWS:  No, is there anybody running the Kerry campaign right now? 

MITCHELL:  Well...

MEACHAM:  Well, I think they are pushing hard.  Lockhart is coming back.  Frum is the poet.  They have got a lot going on. 

C. MATTHEWS:  Who is the leader?  Who is the leader of the band? 

MITCHELL:  John Kerry. 

C. MATTHEWS:  John Kerry. 

MEACHAM:  Kerry.

C. MATTHEWS:  And that‘s a problem, isn‘t it? 

MITCHELL:  Absolutely.  The candidate is trying to run the show. 

Let‘s not run away here, because, remember, President Bush is still a minority president.  He did not get there in a popular vote in 2000.  And he has really got to fight a ground war. 

C. MATTHEWS:  He just picked up seven points. 

MEACHAM:  Precinct by precinct.

But the last time he did this, he went in the last couple of weeks—remember, Don Evans will tell you that he thought it was going to be a very quick night on election night 2000 seven days out.

C. MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MEACHAM:  And then you had the DUI.  You had a lot of things that last

weekend.  It tightened up and he lost the popular vote.  Karl Rove, as a

historian—and he is a very

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS:  OK.  One of the mistakes he made last time...

MEACHAM:  Wants to get to a mandate and wants to get to a majority. 

C. MATTHEWS:  I think one of the mistakes the president made and the reason he didn‘t get a mandate last time, the reason he lost the popular and had all kinds of questions forever about the electoral count is that he had an opportunity the last week, when he had a lead, to go before the American people and close the deal. 

I think tonight was a damn good effort at closing the deal.  I think he never did that last time. 

MITCHELL:  But it‘s early.  The campaign is just starting.  We‘re just approaching Labor Day weekend.  A lot can to happen overseas.  A lot can to happen domestically.  A lot can to happen at 8:30 tomorrow morning with the jobs numbers.  Who knows. 

MEACHAM:  A lot of could happen in the debate. 

MITCHELL:  A lot could happen with the hurricane, the next hurricane affecting the jobs report for next month. 

C. MATTHEWS:  OK, well, that hurricane can play a role in Florida. 

Let‘s go.

WATTS:  Just briefly, as I said earlier, he did one of the most fundamental things in politics, and that‘s to ask for the vote, when he said, I ask you to stand with me. 

C. MATTHEWS:  Closing the deal. 

WATTS:  He closed the deal.  That‘s right. 

C. MATTHEWS:  OK.  And I think it‘s brilliant.  Oh, not brilliant. 

It‘s necessary. 

MEACHAM:  Yes. 

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

GREGORY:  Chris, I was struck by a couple of things in the president‘s speech tonight.

As we travel around the country, I have detected a good deal of anxiety, as well as support for the president‘s leadership, anxiety about Iraq, anxiety about the way this president has made decisions in this war on terror.  And really, for the first time, I heard the president acknowledge that, acknowledge his swagger, acknowledge the fact that he is a divisive, a polarizing public leader, a public person, a president of the United States. 

He was more emotional than I had seen him really since the days after 9/11, when he made the point that these are hard decisions for him.  He is not a gun-toting cowboy.  He wanted to speak to these undecided voters, people who may just now be tuning into politics, and make it very clear that he is the one who has to hug the widows and the parents who have lost kids on the battlefield, and it‘s difficult for him. 

It was a personal side that I believe he wants people to see.              

Now I‘m going to turn it over to my colleague Chip Reid—Chip.

REID:  Thank you, David. 

I am joined by Kendall Unrue (ph) of Colorado.

What was the one thing you wanted to hear him talk about, and did he? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I wanted to hear him talk about the protection of the unborn.  I am a pro-life activist and I work on organizing the platform, making sure that the pro-life plank stays in the platform, because it‘s the heart and soul of the party, and it‘s the way that we can hold our elected officials accountable.  And George W. is a man of faith and he has always been there for us on that issue.

And we have been hearing that theme resonate throughout the week, with Brownback and Senator Dole and... 

REID:  Right, but he only said a place for the unborn.  He didn‘t say constitutional amendment.  He didn‘t spend much time on it.  He moved by it very quickly. 

Were you disappointed? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I am not disappointed, because I know how he crafted that platform.  And I know that he was the driving force behind that platform, to keep the constitutional—the call for the constitutional amendment in the platform.  And...

REID:  You don‘t think that they gave short shrift to the social issues that you care about? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  In fact, just the opposite.  They have energized the base, because all throughout this week, they have addressed our issues in different venues and even here in non-prime time, they certainly addressed issues that we social pro-family conservatives care about. 

REID:  OK, great.  Kendall Unrue, thank you very much. 

And, Chris, she has a question for you.  She wants to know which of the two conventions had more energy? 

Back to you. 

(LAUGHTER)

C. MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Chip.

From my limited expertise on such matters, I clearly think the one that has just ended. 

Right now, my brother, Jim Matthews, my younger brother, a delegate from Pennsylvania, he‘s chairman of the county commissioners of Montgomery County.  He‘s mayor of one of the most interesting counties in this election.

Do you think, Jim, bro, that this speech tonight and the rest of the convention is going to help the Republicans swing those counties around Philadelphia which many people believe will turn Pennsylvania and possibly the election? 

JIM MATTHEWS, CHAIRMAN, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, COUNTY

COMMISSIONERS:  I definitely think so. 

It was a very upbeat convention.  I know, when we came in here, we had some concerns.  But we are very, very pleased at what we are seeing, the response.  We were hoping for a bounce, the proverbial bounce.  We heard that as much as swing voters this week.  I think it was more Olympic than that.  I think it was a hop, skip, and a jump, that Olympic thing. 

I think, at best, I was hoping for a bronze or silver.  We got the gold medal.  And I think the hop was those speakers we had the first two nights.  They were tremendous.  There was a little skip there with the V.P.  and Zell.  But then the big jump was tonight.  I think it was extraordinary.  I thought it was well-delivered. 

The president looked confident.  He looked calm. 

C. MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the fundamentals of this election. 

Iraq is going to continue to yield U.S. casualties.  The blood will continue to flow.  You have got problems with stem cell within your communities in the suburban areas.  You have got the economy, the economic news coming out tomorrow, and again a month from now.  Will these fundamentals be difficult to deal with, even with a great convention? 

J. MATTHEWS:  No question.  I remember listening earlier, or watching today earlier.  Scarborough mentioned a blind spot.  And I think there was a blind spot here intentionally, because of the balance—we have the fine balance between conservative and moderate influences in the party. 

You didn‘t hear a lot about stem cell.  You didn‘t hear a lot about gay marriage.  And they dealt with the fundamentals of terrorism, of reduced taxes, reduced government, the song that all the Republicans want to hear, and the confidence we have in his leadership.  But, yes, stem cell will continue to be an issue until it‘s clarified. 

C. MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at—we‘re watching right now a live shot, move from us right now to Springfield, Ohio.  We are going to watch a picture of the two candidates. 

There they are, still alive, still looking good.  The Democrats are clearly going to try to make a comeback from this powerful week of political activity here in New York City.  I haven‘t seen a more successful convention.  They are going to have to come back from this. 

Did you think the vice president—I want to get you on a little weakness there.  Did the vice president and Senator Miller from Georgia, do you think they missed a beat or they were off-tone or what? 

J. MATTHEWS:  I think Zell missed a beat because—or—I just think his personality, from what I know about him, is a lot more laid-back then he showed.  I think he showed his teeth. 

C. MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s—thank you, Jim. 

Let‘s go right now to Senator John Edwards, the V.P. nominee. 

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  ... be with you tonight on this important, important night, here in Springfield. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

And, you know, it‘s been—it‘s been an amazing thing to watch the Republican Convention for the last week, hasn‘t it? 

(BOOING)

I have come to the conclusion they will say just about anything, won‘t they? 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

The problem is—the problem is—and we have seen over the last few nights, particularly Wednesday night and also some tonight, false—and I emphasize false—negative personal attacks against Senator John Kerry, a great American, a great patriot, somebody that we are all very, very proud of.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

C. MATTHEWS:  The first counterpoint.  That was the first counterpoint from the Democratic nominee. 

This is going to be where the issue is joined on what constitutes fair play.  Did the Republican candidate for vice president, did the Democratic senator from Georgia go too far?  That was the nature of our tussle the other night, I think, right on this broadcast. 

Let‘s go back to Senator Edwards. 

EDWARDS:  ... negative personal attacks. 

The reason we have seen them throughout the Republican Convention, the reason we have seen them tonight is they don‘t have anything to say.  

(APPLAUSE)

They can‘t talk about what has happened over the last four years.

And I want to remind the American people that this candidate four years ago, George Bush, stood at a Republican convention and also spoke to the American people.  And I will never forget it.  He said in criticizing the previous administration, he said, over and over, “They have not led; we will.”

Remember that? 

Well, let me ask you:  Have they led us to more jobs?

AUDIENCE:  No.

EDWARDS:  Have they led us to better health care for our people?

AUDIENCE:  No.

EDWARDS:  Have they led us to cleaner air, cleaner water?

AUDIENCE:  No.

EDWARDS:  Have they led us to better schools and better education for our kids?

AUDIENCE:  No.

EDWARDS:  Now, here‘s the truth, they led us from the edge of greatness to the edge of a cliff, and it‘s time to lead them out of town; that‘s the truth.

(APPLAUSE)

The facts—the problem is—the problem is, I heard the president say tonight, “in my next term,” this is what we‘re going to do.  “In my next term.”

(AUDIENCE BOOS)

They seem to have forgotten they already had a term.

Well, let‘s just look at the facts of what happened during the first term:  5 million Americans lost their health care coverage; 4 million Americans fell into poverty; almost 2 million Americans lost their private sector jobs. 

A typical family in America lost $1,500 in income at the same time their health care costs were going through the roof, their child care costs were going through the roof, their college tuition costs were going through the roof. 

(APPLAUSE)

And the president said—these are just the facts—the president said tonight that he‘s made this a safer world.

The cold hard facts are that we have a mess in Iraq.  Our men and women have served courageously.  We are so proud of our men and women in uniform.

(APPLAUSE)

All of us are.

(APPLAUSE)

And I might add, nobody is prouder, and nobody will stand stronger with our troops than the man who‘s standing behind me, who wore the uniform of the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

We lost more troops in Iraq in August than we lost in July.  We lost more in July than we lost in June. 

On this president‘s watch, Iran has moved forward with their nuclear weapons development program. 

North Korea has gone from one or two nuclear weapons, to six, eight, maybe even 10 nuclear weapons.

The truth of the matter is the facts are overwhelming.  It is clear what has happened.  Why in the world would the American people rehire this man to be their president for another four years?

(APPLAUSE)

We can do better.

John and I are honest and realistic with the America people.  We can‘t turn this around overnight.  We know that.  They put us in a hole. 

But we can do better than we‘re doing now.  

Over time, we can do much better than we‘re doing now. And we can do it with a man who has served this country his entire life, who has led his entire life, who has strength, courage, conviction, the kind of man that will make an extraordinary commander in chief for the United States of America. 

(APPLAUSE)

AUDIENCE:  Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry...

EDWARDS:  Ladies and gentlemen, John Kerry loves his country.  He has served his country his entire life.  He carries shrapnel in his body today from his service of his country 30-something years ago. The men who served on that boat with him in Vietnam, they stand with him today because they saw what he‘s made of. 

I know what he‘s made of.  I know him.  I know what he‘s got inside: 

strength, courage, determination, integrity, the kind of leadership ability that the American people need and deserve in their commander in chief, a lifetime of accomplishment. 

He went on to become a prosecutor protecting people from crime, protecting our neighborhoods from crime, standing up for women who were victims of domestic abuse—a man who went to the United States Senate, and when others stood on the sideline, this man stood up.  He stood up for 100,000 more cops on the street.  He stood up to protect the quality of our air, the quality of our water.

He stood up with John McCain to find out why men were missing from the Vietnam War.

(APPLAUSE)

He stood up for our proud veterans when they needed a champion in the United States Senate.

Ladies and gentlemen, the American people deserve a man who will fight for them, who will wake up every day in the White House, not fighting with other politicians, not poking fun and making fun of other politicians, but fighting for you, fighting for the American people. 

I‘m here to tell you this man is a fighter, he will fight for you, he will fight for the jobs that you so desperately need, he will fight for the health care that you need and you deserve.  He is a fighter, and you are about to see it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the next president of the United States, John Kerry.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Thank you so much.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. 

Boy, what an incredible welcome.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you very much.

Thank you, Springfield.  It is so...

AUDIENCE:  Kerry, Kerry, Kerry...

KERRY:  You guys are great.  Thank you very, very much.

Did I pick a great vice president for the United States of America?

(APPLAUSE)

Let me tell you—let me tell you something about John Edwards. He says he knows me; I know him.  I‘ve watched him.  I‘ve watched this man fight.  I saw him put forward some of the best ideas in the whole campaign. 

And I‘ll tell you something—let me tell you something about him.  This guy understand‘s what‘s happening in Ohio.  He understands what‘s happening in Michigan, in Iowa, and Wisconsin, and Minnesota. He understands what‘s happening with real people in our country that you didn‘t hear so much about in the last few days. 

You‘re heard—because John Edwards in the son of a mill worker. Saw his dad go to work every single day so he could do better.  Saw his mom go to that furniture store and work so that he could do better.  And he, himself, went to that mill and worked his way through college, and he became the first person in his family to graduate from college.  And now he‘s going to be the next vice president of the United States.  And you‘re going to be proud...

(APPLAUSE)

And you‘re going to be proud of a man who represents working people in America, and he‘s going to replace a vice president who represents Halliburton and corporate America.  

We‘re going to put this man in the vice presidency.

(APPLAUSE)

I want to thank—will you all join me in thanking the Graham High School Marching Band for playing tonight and keeping everybody...

(APPLAUSE)

And I also want to thank the Greater Grace Temple Praise Team for performing here tonight.

I‘ve got to tell you, I‘m going to talk about a lot of positions tonight and I‘m going to take important positions, and you‘re going to love them.  But one thing I‘m not going to do, I am not going to pick between the North Panthers and the South Wildcats.

(APPLAUSE)

I just thought I‘d let you know that so that you could see that I‘ve got something going on up here.

(APPLAUSE)

I want you to know that tonight in America something very important in the fabric of our life took place—very, very important—the Red Sox pulled to two and a half games out of the Yankees. Now, I think that that‘s important.

(APPLAUSE)

Now ladies and gentlemen, now that the conventions are over and now that the president has finally finished his speech, I have five words for America:  This is your wake-up call.

(APPLAUSE)

And I want to sum up—let me sum up my response to the president‘s speech in four words:  All hat, no cattle.

But I don‘t know how many of you watched that.  After reading their speeches—I actually didn‘t get to see any television, because I was in an airplane or flying or going somewhere...

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.  But, finally, after reading the speeches, I finally understand what RNC stands for:  Really not compassionate.  No question.

(APPLAUSE)

Let me just tell you, this is the moment that we‘ve all been waiting for.  The conventions are over.  We‘re into September.  Labor Day weekend is coming up.  And real people are looking for real jobs; real people are looking for health care; real people are looking for lives. 

And John Edwards and I believe this election comes down to a very simple choice:  If you believe that this country is going in the right direction and if you believe that you‘re doing better than you were four years ago, then you go vote for George Bush. 

But if you believe, as John and I do, that we‘re headed in the wrong direction and that we can do better and that we can do better for the lives of Americans, then we ask you in this effort to change the direction of our country.

(APPLAUSE)

For four days in New York, instead of talking about the real issues that matter to the American people instead of talking about how we‘re really going to create jobs, and talking about how we really strengthen our economy, how we‘re really going to expand health care, bring down gas prices, change the lives of Americans. 

You know what?  They did everything except talk about that. We‘ve had insults, we‘ve had anger from Republicans.  And I‘ll tell you why.  It‘s exactly what John just said.  Because they can‘t come to you and talk to you about having created jobs since they‘ve lost them. 

They can‘t come to you and talk to you about creating health care since 5 million Americans have lost it.  They can‘t talk to you about standing up and fighting for the American workers.  Their own labor secretary talks about exporting jobs overseas.  They can‘t talk about their record because it is a record of failure.  And so all they do is attack. 

(APPLAUSE)

Tonight, the president told you that he has a plan for our economy.  That‘s exactly what he told you four years ago.  But most Americans that I‘ve been meeting and John‘s been meeting around this country don‘t believe after four years that they‘ve seen that—two months before an election, all of a sudden they don‘t come to you and say, “Look at how we‘ve been fighting.  Look at how far along we are in health care.  Look at how many jobs we‘ve been able to create.” 

Because this is the first president in 11 presidents, the first president since the Great Depression, since Herbert Hoover, who has lost jobs.  And this president in fact is quite proud of the fact that not even failure is going to force him to change course. 

I‘ll tell you what‘s going to force him to change course: You‘re going to force him to change course. 

We‘re going to change course this November.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, you all saw the anger and the distortion of the Republican convention.  For the past week, they have attacked my patriotism and even my fitness to serve as commander in chief.

(AUDIENCE BOOS)

Well, here is my answer to them:  I will not have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and who misled America into Iraq.

(APPLAUSE)

The vice president called me “unfit for office” last night.

(AUDIENCE BOOS)

Well, I‘m going to leave it up to the voters to decide whether five deferments makes someone more qualified than two tours of duty. We‘ll decide about that.

(APPLAUSE)

But let me tell you—let me tell you in no uncertain terms what makes someone unfit for office and unfit for duty:  Misleading our nation into war in Iraq makes you unfit to lead our country.

(APPLAUSE)

Doing nothing while this nation loses millions of jobs makes you unfit to lead this country.

(APPLAUSE)

Letting 45 million Americans go without health care for four years makes you unfit to lead this country.

(APPLAUSE)

Letting the Saudi royal family control the price of oil for Americans makes you unfit to lead this country.

(APPLAUSE)

Handing out billions of dollars in contracts without a bid to Halliburton while you‘re still on the payroll makes you unfit to lead this country.

That, my friends, is the record of George Bush and of Dick Cheney, and that only begins to scratch the surface.  I think that you believe, as John and I do, that it‘s time for us to have a different kind of conversation in this nation of ours.

This president has misled American workers and misled the American people.  And I think all of you out there—you watched our convention—four days.  I want you to just think about what Barack Obama said to our country as he stood up and spoke about one nation and about the positive vision that we offered.

Four years ago George Bush offered America a plan for our economy, but once again, he misled America because he told you four years ago that if we had these great big tax cuts, he was going to create 5.6 million jobs.  He told you that he was going to create 266,000 jobs right here in Ohio.  Ohio lost 230,000 jobs.

Ohio lost 112,000 jobs from the date after the recession ended, after he had promised a new round of a million jobs. 

My friends, it‘s too late two months before an election to come leaping into a convention and make a bunch of promises when you haven‘t even kept the promises that you made before.

(APPLAUSE)

And I‘ll tell you what John Edwards and I know.  I‘ve met workers out here in Ohio who‘ve not only lost their jobs and watched them go overseas, but who‘ve actually had to unbolt the equipment that they worked on and put it in a crate and send it to follow the job that went overseas. 

You didn‘t hear anything about that tonight, but let me tell you something:  When John Edwards and I get in there with your help, we‘re going to take that tax code that you‘re paying for and we‘re going to change what they‘re supporting and encouraging, which is asking you to actually reward those companies that take the jobs overseas.

When John Edwards and I are in there, we‘re not only not going to reward the companies that take the jobs overseas, we‘re going to close that loophole.  No American worker will ever be asked to subsidize the loss of their own job.

(APPLAUSE)

And you know what else we‘re going to do?

We‘re going start to do what America does best.  Every single one of you knows the power of our country comes from our spirit, from the American spirit of ingenuity and creativity, of exploration, of science.

And John and I are going to recommit America to the discovery and the creation of those new jobs that pay you more than the $9,000 less for the jobs that are going overseas. 

We need a president who fights as hard for your jobs as he fights for his own job, and that‘s exactly what we‘re going to do over the course of these next years.

(APPLAUSE)

AUDIENCE:  Kerry, Kerry, Kerry...

KERRY:  We‘ve gone four years—you‘ve gone four years, and all across America as John and I travel with Elizabeth and Teresa, we‘re meeting families who look us in the eye, and say, “I can‘t afford it anymore.  We can‘t get health care.”  There‘s no way to continue to pay the increasing premiums that have gone up 50 percent.  Tuitions have gone up 35 percent.  Gas prices up 31 percent.  And wages—wages have gone down.

I‘ll tell you this:  When I‘m president of the United States, that tax code that belongs to you that‘s 17,000 pages long today, and you don‘t have a page of it, we‘re going to put that back in the scrutiny of all Americans, and we are going to make America‘s workplace fair again so it works for the average American.

(APPLAUSE)

And George Bush talked about health care four years ago.  He talked health care for the last four years—talk, talk and talk.

But the fact is that in the last year, 1.4 million Americans lost their health care.  In the last four years, 5 million Americans have lost their health care.

We‘re now up to 45 million Americans who go to bed at night, worry, don‘t know what to do, pray they won‘t get sick, don‘t know where to turn.  And only John Edwards and John Kerry have put before America a plan that says:  Your family‘s health care is just important as any politician in Washington, D.C.  We‘re going to provide health care to all Americans.

(APPLAUSE)

We‘ve also seen George Bush make America more dependent, not less, on fuel oil that comes from other countries.  God only gave us 3 percent of the world‘s oil reserves, folks.  That didn‘t change during the time George Bush has been president.  And we import 61 percent of our oil.  Yet we‘re still not moving down the road of discovery, which could create millions of new jobs in this country. 

We need to change the president and have a president who understands no young American in uniform should ever be held hostage to America‘s dependence on oil in the Middle East.  We‘re going to liberate ourselves.  We‘re going to make ourselves energy independent.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)  

MATTHEWS:  That‘s Senator John Kerry.

We wanted to give you a taste of that speech tonight, even though it is, of course, the president‘s night, the night of his acceptance of the nomination of the Republican Party.  That was John Edwards, of course, giving that preliminary speech in what was not really a planned event tonight, but became one during the day, responding to the Democratic—responding to the Republican Convention at a campaign stop right now as we speak in Springfield, Ohio. 

We‘re back with the panel.

I want to give everyone a chance to finish up what has been a dramatic week. 

Andrea Mitchell.

MITCHELL:  First of all, just now, we saw both the pluses and minuses of the Kerry-Edwards team trying to punch back. 

Democrats were itching for them to fight back.  They had to reassure their supporters, their contributors and the base that they were able to fight back.  But they did it in a hurried-up fashion.  He didn‘t have a speech.  And he did in this response come out swinging, in that he said that it‘s not that they who are unfit to serve, but it is George Bush and Dick Cheney who are unfit to serve. 

MATTHEWS:  An interesting comparison between a well-organized convention and a catch-up attempt to respond.  Clearly, that was not a prepared speech on the part of Senator John Kerry.

MITCHELL:  And it‘s almost impossible to really compare those two things.

MATTHEWS:  He was putting together notes and trying to keep up. 

J.C. Watts.

WATTS:  Well, Chris, just in closing, I think there really are two futures on the ballot come November 2. 

And I think George Bush laid his future out very well tonight, throughout the course of the week.  John Kerry, here again, I think he‘s giving a campaign speech.  And if you‘re going to be against the other guy‘s proposals, you need to come up with your own.  And I think the American people will continue to see the two futures that they‘re going to be offered.  And we‘ll see what happens on November 2.  I think Bush is positioned very well.

MATTHEWS:  The week for you, Jon.

MEACHAM:  It‘s going to be nasty, brutish and two months long to see what happens here.  We have two very stark choices. 

The president was very eloquent.  He was witty.  He was bold.  John Kerry has come out swinging, trying to put to rest these charges that he is the second Michael Dukakis.  I think, if you think about this historically, there are three examples in our recent memory of close elections at this point, ‘68, ‘76, and ‘80; ‘68 and ‘78, we didn‘t know until late in the night.  And ‘80 broke.

And it could go either way.  But I think it would be a big mistake for the Republicans to come out of New York overconfident. 

MATTHEWS:  I think the big development so far on the Democratic side late tonight was an uptick in the criticism of the war in Iraq by the Democratic nominee.  He‘s been very hesitant to criticize the war, except in the most vague kind of terms.

He said tonight—and we just heard him—misleading our nation into war in Iraq.  Misleading our nation into war in Iraq makes you unfit to lead this nation.  I think that‘s the strongest we have heard from the presidential nominee. 

(CROSSTALK)

MEACHAM:  That‘s clearly a response to what the Republicans did all week, which was to run a merger between the war on terror and the war in Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  And all week successfully.  Take over, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And I‘ve got to say right now, looking at what he did tonight, John Kerry, politics is all about contrast. 

I don‘t know that I would have gotten out there with a 20-, 30-minute speech that rambled around and basically was the same stump speech that he had given before.  I think the thing to do was deliver a five-minute speech talking about your general vision of America.  Get the shot of that crowd there and get them ready to fight. 

Now, I know Chris was talking about the war in Iraq and John Kerry attacking on Iraq.  I think we‘re about to move into a dramatically different phase now.  I think John Kerry, John Edwards are going to try to leave foreign policy behind.  They‘re going to start trying to focus on domestic policies.  They‘re going to talk about health care.  They‘re going to talk about the deficit. 

MITCHELL:  Well, they were tonight.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, exactly.

And they‘re going to

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Domestic policy.  And J.C. will tell you this.  Whenever you start talking domestic policy, Republicans get a little shaky. 

And also notice, remember, earlier this evening, we got the script of George Bush‘s next commercial.  It‘s all about domestic policy.  I think we‘re shifting.  I think this was all preseason.  We fought about the Iraq war.  Kerry understands he‘s given up ground.  And now we‘re going to be talking about domestic issues for the next 60 days. 

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  I think we all should be a bit cautious here, because we had a very strong convention performance by George W. Bush, a very strong speech, except when it came up to adding up either the costs or the specifics of that domestic agenda, which had all the drawbacks of a long State of the Union section of that speech. 

Now we‘re moving into a domestic debate, which will deal with jobs, unemployment, health insurance, Social Security unfinanced.  The Democrats don‘t have tremendously specific answers on that either.  But that‘s where the real debate is.  And that‘s where the Democrats have an advantage because of the feelings of insecurity in this country. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And let me ask you all—and, J.C. go ahead.  But let me ask you this question first.  Do you believe—does anybody up here believe the economy is getting stronger by the day? 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Or do you believe like me that we saw a strong growth over the past six months, but things are starting to slow down again? 

WATTS:  I think it is slowing down, but I think we‘re probably going to see a 3 percent growth for the balance of the year.  I think we‘re going to see some job growth. 

But just to Andrea‘s point, all of those proposals, a lot of those domestic proposals that the president set out tonight in his address, those things have been on the table for a long time. 

MITCHELL:  Exactly. 

WATTS:  Associational health care plans, the education issues that he talked about tonight.

(CROSSTALK)

WATTS:  Reforming—tort reform, his energy proposal. 

Senator Kerry, I do believe, and Senator Edwards will have to answer why they have not been active in trying to help get those things done in the United States Senate. 

(CROSSTALK)

WATTS:  But I‘m saying, again, at some point in time, the American people start to say, OK, J.C., you‘re against Andrea‘s proposals.  What are your own?  And they have yet to come up with anything in those areas.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Jon Meacham, let‘s step back and look at this historically.  Obviously, Winston Churchill saves Western civilization.  About a month or two later, Clement Attlee knocks his head off because he‘s no longer a war president. 

MEACHAM:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Of course, the first George Bush wins the war, gets his head knocked off a year later. 

MEACHAM:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What‘s going to happen here?  Are Americans ready to turn their attention to domestic issues or do they still want to talk about the war on terror, still want to talk about Iraq? 

MEACHAM:  Well, London in 1945 is a very good example, because that was a civilian population under attack and fearing attack.  And they did shift.  They looked inward.  And it‘s a risk for President Bush. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thank you so much.

And now it‘s time to go to—hah! -- Chris Matthews and Darrell Hammond!

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Joe Scarborough. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m going to have a special guest here tonight.  I want to thank the members of my panel tonight.

I want to thank Andrea Mitchell.  I want to thank J.C. Watts.  I want to thank Jonathan Meacham.  I want to thank you, Joe.  And I want to thank everybody that put this show together tonight.  What a show.  The people who put this platform up here and all this technical stuff, so we could broadcast from Herald Square.  I want to thank my director, Mark Greenstein (ph), my producer, executive producer, Timmy Haddeg (ph). 

I want to thank Phil Alongi over at NBC News and everybody over there.  I want to thank, of course, the president of MSNBC, Rick Kaplan, who doesn‘t want to be thanked, but I‘m going to thank him. 

And now our special guest tonight, the man that does me on “Saturday Night Live,” my friend Darrell Hammond. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

DARRELL HAMMOND, ACTOR:  Hello.  Good to see you.  How is it going?

MATTHEWS:  Darrell, what do you think about these two parties as material? 

HAMMOND:  These two parties, Democrat and Republican?

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

HAMMOND:  I think there‘s a lot of fireworks.  It‘s going to be really good.  That‘s what I think. 

MATTHEWS:  Is “Saturday Night Live” going to have rich material coming into the new season here, with George Bush running for reelection, that interesting fellow, Dick Cheney, who you do so well?

HAMMOND:  Yes, I think there will be a lot of material.  I think there‘s a lot of fireworks right now.  Don‘t you? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, what did you think of Bush‘s speech tonight? 

HAMMOND:  I thought, in the early going, he was sort of holding on to the hand railing a little bit, but when he got to the phrase the soft bigotry of low expectations, I thought he really took off and he had some really great moments at the very end talking about the soldiers. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, well, let me ask you about what it was like.  What did it feel like in that hall during all those balloons? 

HAMMOND:  I don‘t know.  I wasn‘t paying attention to the balloons.

What I was paying attention to is, there were times when he would charge through what sounded like an uproar coming from the crowd.  It was so heated in there that he—I think they were on the verge of some sort of riot or something. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

HAMMOND:  And so he had to keep charging through like that. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Thank you very much, Darrell Hammond.  It‘s great having you. 

I am surrounded by demonstrators over here.  You can hear them. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  This a free republic, as we can see once again New York has demonstrated.  It‘s a big city with a big heart.  You can hear all the noise out here.  You hear it from both sides.  We‘ve been hearing Republicans having the night of their life. 

But I have got to tell you, the action on the streets has been pretty dramatic.  It‘s been relatively safe.  There have been some arrests.  A lot of people came to this city from the other side of the aisle politically.  They marched, a lot of people that probably marched back in the war against Vietnam, very much against this war right now. 

By the way, we have got a great show coming up. 

But, first, I want to thank the 34th Street Partnership, who have made it possible for MSNBC to be here at Herald Square. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  And as long as I live and come to New York, which will be the rest of my life, I will come by Herald Square and I‘ll sing, give my regards to Broadway.  Remember me, the Herald Square. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  Right now, our coverage of the Republican National Convention continues with “AFTER HOURS” with Joe Scarborough and Ron Reagan. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

END   

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