Guests: Jon Meacham, Tad Devine, Ken Duberstein, Joe Trippi, Ben Ginsberg, Donna Shalala
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Thirty-four days until election day. Two big questions for two strong debaters. Can President Bush convince Americans to stay the course for four more years? Can challenger John Kerry convince voters the course—the Bush course is taking America where it doesn‘t want to go?
Live from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, let‘s play
Good evening, and welcome to MSNBC‘s special coverage of the first presidential debate of 2004. The stakes are total, and tomorrow night for the first time, the candidates must stand side by side to deliver two competing messages to America. In a forum devoted to foreign affairs, we have two candidates with two positions on one war, as the war in Iraq has pushed the bitterness of Vietnam off the front pages. Tomorrow night will give both candidates the opportunity to clearly state their position on America‘s future course in Iraq.
Our guests tonight include Senators Bob Graham of Florida, George Allen of Virginia, Donna Shalala, former Clinton cabinet secretary and now president of the University of Miami, Kerry campaign adviser Tad Devine, former Reagan chief of staff Ken Duberstein and political strategists Joe Trippi, Ben Ginsberg and Richard Wirthlin.
But first, let‘s go to our panel, NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC political contributor Ron Reagan, “Newsweek‘s” Jon Meacham and Joe Scarborough, host of “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” and author of a big book, “Rome Wasn‘t Burnt in a Day.” What a positive thought that was.
Let‘s go to the big question. Tomorrow night is high stakes, the future of American leadership, who will be the next president. But it is also a competition. It involves gamesmanship and high strategy.
What is your sense of Kerry‘s strategy, Andrea Mitchell?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Kerry‘s strategy is to come out, to be tough but respectful—he is going against the president of the United States—but not to give long answers. He has to prove that he can answer things crisply, and I‘m not sure he can do it.
MATTHEWS: Is there a “Reader‘s Digest” version of John Kerry?
MITCHELL: The condensed version. He doesn‘t give it very often.
We‘ve seen him be a great debater against Bill Weld in that campaign...
MATTHEWS: The former governor of Massachusetts.
MITCHELL: ... exactly—when they were running for Senate. But lately, he has not been on point. He has not shown that he can crisply and definitively explain himself in sound bites. He‘s got to talk in sound bites.
MATTHEWS: Ron Reagan?
RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: In an odd way, the rules might actually help Kerry if they force him into brevity. If I were advising him, I‘d be leaving little notecards in his dressing room, in the Green Room, “Brevity, succinctness, clarity” and maybe “smile,” too.
The odd thing about Kerry, though, is that most polls seem to indicate that the majority of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. And tomorrow night, he needs to connect with those people and show them why he‘s the guy to turn that around and take it in the right direction.
MATTHEWS: Does he have to meet, Jon, the doctor‘s prescription: We want change, we want different things going on? Does he have to say, I‘m the prescription?
JON MEACHAM, “NEWSWEEK” MANAGING EDITOR: He absolutely has to because politics is essentially personal, particularly presidential politics. If we‘re going to fire the incumbent, we have to be confident of the guy we want to hire. And I think Kerry has to get over what I think is a kind of intellectual discomfort...
MEACHAM: ... with the sound bite. I would disagree, it‘s not “Reader‘s Digest” in a way that‘s dismissive. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” “There you go again,” “Are you better off than you were four years ago”...
MATTHEWS: I knew a president who used to read “Reader‘s Digest” quite a bit. I have no problem with it...
MATTHEWS: ... Ronald Reagan...
MEACHAM: And I am a big fan of it, too, but you weren‘t saying it that way.
MEACHAM: But the point is that if you cannot express where you want to take us...
MEACHAM: ... you‘re going to point at a hill and say, I‘m going to take you there, in a crisp way, then people won‘t follow you. And there‘s nothing wrong with being crisp and succinct. A sound bite is also a form of leadership.
MATTHEWS: Joe Scarborough?
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”: You know, we‘ve been bombarded by polls over the past several months. We‘ve got the overall poll. It is 6 points? Is it 8 points? Is it 10 points? Missouri, he‘s down by 15 points. Ohio, he‘s down by 8. You know what? There‘s only one poll number right now that matters. It‘s consistent in all national polls. And that is whom do you trust on the issue of the war on terror? It‘s 65 percent George W. Bush in most polls, about 36 percent John Kerry.
I suggest that in the first election after September 11, that is the critical issue. And John Kerry has to do something tomorrow night to change the dynamics because all these other numbers, in the end, don‘t really matter.
SCARBOROUGH: If he‘s losing that key issue in the first election after September 11, 30 down, he‘s not going to win this election.
MEACHAM: If this were a football game, Bush needs to run out the clock. He just needs to take the ball and...
SCARBOROUGH: And it‘s very easy for him to do that. You know, any...
MATTHEWS: How does he do that, Joe?
SCARBOROUGH: No matter what John Kerry says tomorrow night, George W. Bush is going to say, Well, Senator, that‘s an interesting position, but that wasn‘t your position last month. In fact, that wasn‘t your position last year. In fact, that wasn‘t your position when you were running against Howard Dean, until Howard Dean started doing well, then that was your position.
MATTHEWS: ... able to be that sarcastic.
SCARBOROUGH: He doesn‘t—he doesn‘t have to be, as long as he doesn‘t swallow his tongue tomorrow night and he sticks to the script...
MATTHEWS: OK, but...
SCARBOROUGH: ... it‘s going to be hard for John Kerry to get around him.
MITCHELL: What Bush is very good at doing in the debate with Ann Richards and other debates is repeating over and over the same message. And I think the message is going to be, We‘d rather fight them over there in Iraq. Yes, it‘s not going that well. We‘d rather fight them...
SCARBOROUGH: A great message.
MITCHELL: ... over there than fight them back here. As long as he repeats that over and over again—the other thing about John Kerry is he has to be likable. He is stiff. He is not very personable in this kind of setting...
MATTHEWS: No one‘s going to say to John Kerry...
REAGAN: He needs to smile.
MATTHEWS: ... Just be yourself.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Chris...
SCARBOROUGH: Chris, though, you know what? You touched on this before the show. I think, when we look back on this campaign, there‘s usually a sound bite in every campaign -- 1980, “There you go again,” ‘84, “Morning in America”...
MATTHEWS: ... now, Joe?
SCARBOROUGH: No, not at all, because you know what? The sound bites wouldn‘t stick if there weren‘t truth to them. You said it earlier, before we came on. These sound bites, when the history of this campaign‘s written, it‘s going to be, I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it. John Kerry can‘t get around that.
MITCHELL: Well, we may get...
MITCHELL: We may get another sound bite tomorrow night. That‘s the key.
SCARBOROUGH: We‘ll see.
MITCHELL: And if Kerry can come up with the sound bite tomorrow night to replace, I voted for...
MATTHEWS: OK, let me suggest that Kerry plays defense. He waits for the president to offer perhaps a rosy scenario for what‘s happening in Iraq. He sits there and he goes, You know, that‘s not what it is if you‘re a parent of one of these kids who just got killed. That‘s not the way it comes across to the taxpayer. That‘s—something that says, you know, Mr. President, I think you‘re being too optimistic.
REAGAN: Well, he can say, Your own secretary of state, Colin Powell, doesn‘t agree with you.
REAGAN: So what do you say to that, Mr. President?
MATTHEWS: ... ask you a strategic question. Can he play defense? Can John Kerry surprise everybody by going after it, playing his game calmly and just wait for the president to say something that isn‘t quite realistic?
MATTHEWS: Can he do that?
MITCHELL: I think he can do that.
SCARBOROUGH: I don‘t...
MATTHEWS: That might be the winning strategy.
SCARBOROUGH: It‘s not at all.
MEACHAM: I disagree. I think that you cannot—I don‘t think it‘s a winning formula to tell Americans they‘re losing. As a pure political matter, Americans do not want to think that we just lost a thousand lives and we‘re spending our blood and time and treasure in a losing cause.
MITCHELL: But Jon, Americans know that. They see it every night...
SCARBOROUGH: No, they don‘t!
MEACHAM: But Bush is winning. As Joe said, Bush is...
MEACHAM: ... beating Kerry on the issue of who can handle Iraq. It‘s cognitive dissonance, but that‘s the political reality.
MATTHEWS: Well, why—if that‘s the case, why was Ike Eisenhower so successful in ‘52? Why was Richard Nixon so successful in ‘68. They ran against wars.
MATTHEWS: And Ronald Reagan ran against the hostage crisis.
SCARBOROUGH: No, no, no, no, they didn‘t! Big difference.
Eisenhower said, I will go to Korea. There was the brinkmanship strategy. He was sort of nodding and winking to the voters—You elect me, I‘m going to take care of things. Richard Nixon in 1968, same thing.
Here is the problem. The problem, as Pat Buchanan said it last night, in American history, no anti-war candidate has ever won during a time of war. If John Kerry‘s going to win this, he does it two ways. He says, Mr. President, you talk tough. You walk with a swagger. But what happened when you had a chance to get Usama bin Laden in Tora Bora? You let him go. You talk tough. You say you‘re going to win the war in Iraq. You say I‘m too weak on Iraq? You know what? If I were president of the United States, I wouldn‘t have turned Fallujah over to thugs. I would have flattened it. I would have gone in there. I would have gotten Zarqawi. And we would have liberated those people from the thugs that you claimed to liberate...
SCARBOROUGH: That‘s how he wins!
SCARBOROUGH: He will never do it! He will never do it, but that‘s how he wins.
MATTHEWS: ... promised bin Laden dead or alive. Well, you were half right, Mr. President. He‘s alive, and he‘s still planning and plotting against us.
REAGAN: Oh, he can be that tough.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t believe that, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: I think he should be that tough. I think it would do a lot to help the Democratic Party and him, in the long run. I‘m just afraid he won‘t do it.
MEACHAM: Democrats who win presidential elections are the ones who don‘t say, this is why we‘re losing. They say, This is how we‘re going to win.
MATTHEWS: OK. Sounds clear...
MATTHEWS: ... to me.
The panel will be back with their, I have to say, brilliance throughout the night.
And up next, we‘ll hear from both sides (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Tad Devine with the Kerry campaign and former Reagan chief of staff Ken Duberstein, who‘s an adviser now to the Bush campaign.
You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s special coverage of the first presidential debate from the University of Miami on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - 1992)
TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR: This evening will be part debate, part game show, part talk show and all-important, with the election just two weeks from next Tuesday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not even H. Ross Perot and Bill Clinton could hold George Bush‘s attention in the 1992 presidential debate. On two occasions, cameras caught the president looking at his watch. Less then three weeks later, voters decided his time was up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Just moments ago—here‘s the picture, by the way. We‘re showing you the tape of John Kerry, the Democratic challenger, arriving at Fort Lauderdale. He‘s in Florida for the big one tomorrow night. He‘s being greeted, of course, by his supporters. He‘s going to hold a rally there in advance of tomorrow night‘s debate.
Welcome back to our live coverage from the University of Miami, which is going to be the site of tomorrow night‘s debate. We‘re joined right now by Tad Devine, senior adviser to the Kerry-Edwards campaign. In a moment, we‘re going to be joined by Bush campaign adviser Ken Duberstein, who served as chief of staff to President Reagan.
Tad, what‘s your biggest challenge tomorrow night?
TAD DEVINE, KERRY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Well, to make sure that the American people understand that they have a real choice. They don‘t have to have four more years of failed policies. We can go in a new direction. And that‘s what John Kerry‘s going to present.
MATTHEWS: How does he convince the doubtful voter that they don‘t really know him? How does he introduce himself?
DEVINE: I think by speaking directly to them, speaking to the issues, answering the questions and showing people that he has a real plan to get us out of the mess in Iraq. I think that‘s going to be the centerpiece of tomorrow night‘s debate.
MATTHEWS: Are you concerned that the president of the United States deserves a certain level of respect and it‘s kind of hard to hit him in his face as hard as you hit him on the stump?
DEVINE: No. I think, you know, the president does deserve respect because of the office he holds, but his—but John Kerry will challenge the position that president‘s taken. I mean, the president has made a lot of big mistakes, and Iraq is the most conspicuous one, in terms of foreign policy. John Kerry‘s going to challenge him on it. There‘s a different way in Iraq in the future, and there were bad decisions made in the past.
MATTHEWS: These rules are very restrictive. One rule says a candidate cannot question another candidate. Why would you folks agree to that when you‘re talking—what you just described as—you want to challenge the president? Why isn‘t he able to ask him a question?
DEVINE: Chris, we agreed to the rules that the commission
established, and we‘ll be happy to have that kind of debate. The president
has insisted on the most restrictive kind of debate. He wants to get back
to one of those town meetings where—that he has all the time, where if
you don‘t ask the right question, you get dragged out by your hair. But so
· they got as close to that as they could. But listen, John Kerry‘s prepared to debate the issues. I think there‘ll be a good exchange.
MATTHEWS: Can he talk short?
DEVINE: Absolutely. He can talk long!
MATTHEWS: ... knock it down to a “New York Daily News” version of a story?
DEVINE: Absolutely. And he can speak powerfully to the issues. You know, people need to know there‘s a real choice and there‘s a better way, and that‘s what they‘re going to find out tomorrow night.
MATTHEWS: Have you shortened up his answer on where you stand on Iraq?
DEVINE: He—listen, he can—he can deliver that, I think, directly and deliberately.
MATTHEWS: Give us a preview.
DEVINE: No, I‘m not going to give any previews tonight. Let‘s wait...
MATTHEWS: Will it be...
DEVINE: ... until tomorrow.
MATTHEWS: ... the same as before? Will it be nuanced and developmental?
DEVINE: Very little nuance and very direct and powerful on the issues, Chris.
MATTHEWS: How do you deal with presidential sarcasm tomorrow night? This president is very good at sarcasm and ridicule and mocking his opponents. He did it very effectively against Al Gore four years ago. What happens when he turns that negative charm on your guy?
DEVINE: Chris, no one on our side underestimates the president. He‘s won every debate he‘s ever been in. So you know, John Kerry—I disagree with you. Our advice is to John Kerry, Be yourself. And that‘s what the American people want to see.
MATTHEWS: Who‘s smarter, Kerry or Bush?
DEVINE: Well, I think Kerry‘s SATs were higher, OK? I don‘t really know who‘s smarter. We‘ll find out!
MATTHEWS: That may not be relevant. Who‘s smarter?
DEVINE: Well, I think—listen, they‘re both smart. I don‘t underestimate the president. I think, you know, that people have underestimated George Bush‘s entire political career. We don‘t. I know John Kerry doesn‘t. We expect a vigorous debate from the president, but we also expect the president to have to, for the first time, defend his failed policies. That‘s our great advantage in this debate.
MATTHEWS: Will the flashers go off tomorrow night because of John Kerry‘s long-windedness?
DEVINE: I don‘t think so, Chris.
MATTHEWS: They won‘t go off?
DEVINE: We‘ll see. I know that the Bush people desperately want that, OK?
MATTHEWS: They want to make it look like he just ran a toll booth!
DEVINE: They‘re over fighting for it right now, I hear.
MATTHEWS: Why are they so obsessed with those flashers they want to go off?
MATTHEWS: Are they after humiliation here?
DEVINE: Because they‘re running against a stereotype of John Kerry that they tried to create. Listen, John Kerry‘s going to speak powerfully and poignantly to the issues that this nation must confront. And the president‘s going to have to answer for his record. That‘s what tomorrow night‘s about.
MATTHEWS: Are you facing any losses on the right because of the strong position that your candidate‘s taken on the war?
MATTHEWS: Are people like Lieberman and others, who are a bit more hawkish, even Gephardt, getting queasy about this?
DEVINE: No, not at all. I think the Democratic Party‘s united behind his candidacy, and I think—we‘re not just speaking to the base of the Democratic Party. We‘re speaking to swing voters, as well. The president‘s not.
MATTHEWS: Who wins a tie tomorrow night?
DEVINE: Well, I—you know, that remains to be seen.
MATTHEWS: No, seriously. You have to win.
DEVINE: I don‘t think so, Chris. I think this race is much tighter than some of the public polling nationally has seemed, and I think we have...
MATTHEWS: Tighter than 8 points?
DEVINE: ... a very close horse race. Oh, absolutely. I think it‘s practically a dead heat, and I think it will be by the middle of next week.
MATTHEWS: If it‘s a dead heat tomorrow night, who wins?
DEVINE: Well, I think we‘re going to win. I think...
MATTHEWS: No, if it‘s a dead heat, who wins? Doesn‘t the president win with a tie?
DEVINE: No, he...
MATTHEWS: Don‘t you have to beat the champ?
DEVINE: We don‘t because the people who are most interested in seeing this debate are people who dead set against the president. Two-to-one, they think the country‘s going in the wrong direction. And when they see John Kerry and the policies and plans he has—I think he‘s going to speak powerfully and directly to them, and he‘s going to appeal to them.
MATTHEWS: Who‘s the more important performer tomorrow night, the president or Kerry?
MATTHEWS: In terms of what happens. If the president has an off night, is that lethal for him?
DEVINE: I think it‘ll be very lethal for the president. The president right now has nothing but a veneer of horse race. Beneath the surface of this horse race, this country is saying, We‘re going in the wrong direction. We don‘t approve of the job of the president, and we want change. And I think if John Kerry provides that alternative, he‘s going to win this election.
MATTHEWS: How come when I watch pictures of the two candidates campaigning, I see a happy president and a concerned challenger?
DEVINE: Well, I don‘t see that.
MATTHEWS: I mean, Bush is always laughing.
DEVINE: Well, he‘s going to be laughing until November 2, OK? You know, I think the laughs are going to end then, you know? Listen, the president is a very good campaigner. We don‘t underestimate him. We respect his ability as a campaigner. We just think he‘s got a lousy record, he‘s going to have to defend it. It‘s an indefensible record. He‘s going to have to defend...
MATTHEWS: Is there going to be a lot of spin coming around here right after the debate tomorrow night? They‘ve got McCain down here spinning for the president. They‘ve got Rudy Giuliani spinning. Do you think these guys will have any impact, the spinmeisters?
DEVINE: I think they could. And...
MATTHEWS: Will they just say Bush won, if he lost?
DEVINE: I think they‘re going to say Bush won. I think we know what they‘re going to say. They‘re going to say the same thing they say every single day. I think the American people are sick of just hearing the pre-set spin. I think we‘re going to talk about what John Kerry is going to do for this nation. That‘s what people want to hear, and that‘s going to change this election.
MATTHEWS: Why has Edwards disappeared?
DEVINE: He hasn‘t disappeared. He‘s been...
MATTHEWS: Where is he?
DEVINE: He‘s all over the place.
DEVINE: He was on Imus this morning.
MATTHEWS: He‘s on milk cartons!
DEVINE: He‘s everywhere!
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know. He‘s on radio. Is that the new medium of communication, radio?
DEVINE: Listen, he is—he is someone who can campaign in every part of this country. He‘s been campaigning aggressively...
MATTHEWS: Where has he been this part of...
DEVINE: He‘s been enormously effective.
MATTHEWS: I find him very hard to catch on the front pages of the newspapers or on the nightly news.
DEVINE: He‘s done a great job as the candidate for vice president...
MATTHEWS: When‘s the last time he was on the nightly news?
DEVINE: He was on three times last week on the nightly news, OK, sound bites. Maybe you weren‘t listening, but it‘s been very poignant.
MATTHEWS: It must have been during the features part of the news report.
Anyway, thank you very much. Tad, you‘re great.
DEVINE: OK, Chris. Good to be with you.
MATTHEWS: And tough. You‘re great.
When we come back, we‘ll be joined by Bush campaign adviser Ken Duberdog, Duberstein. And don‘t forget the “Horse Race,” our round-up of all the week‘s electioneering, every Friday. It is really fun for political junkies and for others. You can visit “Horse Race,” by the way, on the Internet all week long, horserace.msnbc.com.
MATTHEWS: Ken Duberstein is an adviser to the Bush campaign. He served as chief of staff for President Ronald Reagan. This crowd‘s very excited, as you can tell.
KEN DUBERSTEIN, BUSH-CHENEY ‘04 CAMPAIGN ADVISER: You‘ve got it.
MATTHEWS: This is one heck of a school. We‘re going to have the president, Donna Shalala, on here in a minute.
You know, I have to ask you a question. There‘s been a big rigmarole the last couple of hours because the broadcast networks and the cable networks have apparently decided not to obey the rules of the contract between the two candidates. The contract provides that there be no reaction shots. And of course, we‘ve all—you and I grew up with the famous Nixon reaction shot. And of course, there was the Al Gore sighing. And sometimes the secondary characteristics of a person are more interesting than what they‘re saying.
Do you think it‘s scary for the Bush campaign to have shots on national television tomorrow night of a ticked-off president being brow-beaten by John Kerry?
DUBERSTEIN: I think George Bush tomorrow night is going to be George Bush. John Kerry has to be...
MATTHEWS: Yes, but George Bush...
DUBERSTEIN: ... somebody else.
MATTHEWS: ... is notorious for losing his temper sometimes when reporters ask him obnoxious questions.
DUBERSTEIN: Hey, Chris, there you go again, as Ronald Reagan would say!
MATTHEWS: Well, suppose the candidate of the Democratic Party says something the president finds disrespectful and he shows it in his countenance. Is that going to make people think, Well, wait a minute, this guy‘s not got his head screwed on?
DUBERSTEIN: Continue to underestimate George Bush.
DUBERSTEIN: And it works.
MATTHEWS: Would you like the networks not to show reaction shots of your candidate?
DUBERSTEIN: It‘s OK, as far as I‘m concerned.
MATTHEWS: Well, then, why did he fight so hard to make sure they didn‘t?
DUBERSTEIN: Because it‘s part of the negotiation of 32 pages.
MATTHEWS: Right, but why did your side push to avoid any kind of reaction shots?
DUBERSTEIN: Guess what? No problem whatsoever.
MATTHEWS: But why? What are you hiding?
DUBERSTEIN: Guess what?
MATTHEWS: You‘re hiding his reaction.
DUBERSTEIN: But John Kerry will be the austere, sour, dour John Kerry.
MATTHEWS: OK. Why no questioning of one candidate by another? Why is that important to your campaign strategy?
MATTHEWS: Why is it vital for you not to have the president cross-questioned by his opponent?
DUBERSTEIN: Because I think it‘s speaking directly to the American people, answering the moderator‘s questions...
MATTHEWS: That‘s not a debate.
DUBERSTEIN: ... and going—of course it is because you‘re explaining to the American people...
MATTHEWS: This is a joint interview by Jim Lehrer.
DUBERSTEIN: Guess what?
MATTHEWS: That‘s what it is. Jim Lehrer is interviewing the two candidates. Tell me how it‘s different than that.
DUBERSTEIN: And it is fine because you‘re getting your points across to the American people.
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t they just call it “The Lehrer Hour”?
DUBERSTEIN: And let John Kerry...
MATTHEWS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) answer the question.
DUBERSTEIN: And let John Kerry do his...
MATTHEWS: Do you deny—you‘re a very smart negotiator. You know Washington. Are you here to tell me that the president‘s people did not try to protect him from a rough give-and-take?
DUBERSTEIN: Guess what? They don‘t have to protect George Bush.
MATTHEWS: Why‘d they do it?
DUBERSTEIN: Because George Bush is firm on his policies, steady leadership. He‘s fine, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, why are they protecting him so much?
DUBERSTEIN: Guess what? You got to negotiate your ground rules to make sure everything is fair and square and let it go from there.
MATTHEWS: They‘re treating him like a bubble baby out there!DUBERSTEIN: Guess what?
MATTHEWS: They‘re saying, Don‘t get near the guy, it might hurt him.
He‘s fragile. He‘ll bleed.
DUBERSTEIN: Guess what? Chris...
MATTHEWS: Why‘d they do that?
DUBERSTEIN: Continue to underestimate George Bush.
MATTHEWS: No, I don‘t underestimate him.
DUBERSTEIN: I love it!
MATTHEWS: I think your crowd—I think Jimmy Baker underestimates him. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he said, The president shall not be questioned. The president will not be challenged to a joint pledge. The president will not be approached physically by his opponent. Are they literally afraid that John Kerry will approach him physically? Is that what they‘re afraid of, road rage?
DUBERSTEIN: Oh, no. But let John Kerry lose his temper! Let John Kerry get frustrated. Let John Kerry start explaining...
MATTHEWS: You know, it‘s too bad you weren‘t in the negotiations...
DUBERSTEIN: ... his two Americas.
MATTHEWS: ... Ken, because you wouldn‘t have been so protective of the president. Let me ask you, what‘s the biggest vulnerability of John Kerry tomorrow night?
DUBERSTEIN: John Kerry has to explain why he‘s on both sides of every issue, not just the 19 years in the Senate, but more importantly, why he continues to flip-flop, flip-flop and can‘t hold anything but a nuance. And remember...
MATTHEWS: How can he on both sides of every issue if he‘s got a 100 percent liberal voting record?
DUBERSTEIN: Guess what?
MATTHEWS: Sounds to me like he‘s always on the liberal side.
DUBERSTEIN: And guess what? He‘s also nuanced, which is a French word!
MATTHEWS: Oh, you are—let me ask you about your candidate. Is there a particular message the president has to convey tomorrow night to win this election clear?
DUBERSTEIN: I think there are two things. No. 1, we‘d like to like our president...
MATTHEWS: I say this because we‘re in Florida.
DUBERSTEIN: ... and in fact, George Bush is likable. John Kerry is austere and dour. No. 2, steady leadership and a strong America, not only in Iraq but in terrorism, and also leading the country domestically. I think he can convey that simply by being himself.
MATTHEWS: The polls have shown—and this isn‘t about politics—a continual erosion in confidence about the battle in Iraq, whether we should have gone there or not. You know the poll question: Was it worth going? And that number that says no has gone up to now it‘s past the 50 percent mark in all the polls. If that continues to rise between now and November 2, doesn‘t it bring about a very close election?
DUBERSTEIN: I think we‘ve always said all along it‘s going to be a close election. But what the country, I think, is looking for more than anything else is strong, steady leadership, not one that flip-flops but one that stays on a course and goes forward in his convictions. It‘s nice to have a president who says, This is what I‘m going to do, and goes ahead and does it.
MATTHEWS: Why was Dick Cheney afraid to stand up to John Edwards?
Why did he insist on sitting down during a 90-minute debate?
DUBERSTEIN: Well, it‘s because of hair color.
MATTHEWS: No, why did he want to sit down for 90 minutes?
DUBERSTEIN: Because it‘s easier.
MATTHEWS: I know!
MATTHEWS: You‘re so smart! Thank you, Ken Duberstein. It‘s easier.
What an honest answer.
When we return, we‘re going to talk to former Clinton cabinet secretary Donna Shalala. By the way, your son goes here. I hope he likes it.
DUBERSTEIN: Absolutely (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
MATTHEWS: It‘s very expensive, very—he‘s on camera. We‘re looking at Mr. Duberstein, Jr., the University of Miami. He‘s the kid. And this is the guy paying for it, the host. As Jeffrey‘s (ph) going here, the father‘s paying for it.
More with the debate when we come back. We‘re watching Jeffrey.
Where is he?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERALD FORD, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will put Medicare in an ironclad lock box.
RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am not going to exploit my opponent‘s youth and inexperience.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Donna! Donna! Donna! Donna! Donna! Donna! Donna! Donna!
Donna! Donna! Donna! Donna! Donna!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s live coverage from the University of Miami. Donna Shalala was secretary of health and human services during the Clinton administration. She is now once again a college president, here the president of the University of Miami.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: You must feel like Sally Field here. Everybody likes you.
We are here in Oxford, Ohio, the home of Miami University. Is that right?
DONNA SHALALA, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI: No.
MATTHEWS: Oh, we‘re here at the University of Miami. Thank you.
Let me ask you...
SHALALA: I am in Florida.
MATTHEWS: I know. It‘s fabulous.
Let me ask you about your reading on this state. It was the key state in last year‘s election, the election of President Bush. Do you think it‘s going to be close again?
SHALALA: I think it‘s going to be close again.
But one of the things you have to learn here is because of the hurricanes we‘ve just gone through, the people of Florida are just starting to focus on the campaign. And that‘s why the debate is so important here, because we‘ve been focusing on those hurricanes and on human life.
MATTHEWS: What does living in a hurricane avenue do to a person, living under the stress down here?
SHALALA: I think it...
MATTHEWS: We‘re watching it and hoping and praying for the people to get through it, but it seems like these come one after another now.
SHALALA: Well, at least this year, they‘ve been coming one after another. It makes you insecure. These are things you cannot control and you cannot predict. So...
MATTHEWS: Do you hold school here every day during one of these? Or how do you do it?
SHALALA: We actually had to cancel classes for two days and basically lock up the students.
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MATTHEWS: Right. An amazing place.
Anyway, let me ask you about this election and this debate tomorrow night. How did you afford this? These debates are expensive.
SHALALA: They are expensive.
Actually, our partners are the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida. And I went to them and asked them whether they would be prepared to underwrite the campaign. I did not want to sell tickets the way some people have to individual big donors.
MATTHEWS: Now, what do they get out of it, the tribe?
SHALALA: They get visibility. They get seats in the hall. And they get to make...
MATTHEWS: Will there be product placement?
MATTHEWS: Will be there no adver—just interesting that we have reached a point in our country where we have so much money in campaigning now.
SHALALA: There‘s no advertisement in the hall.
MATTHEWS: But the Miccosukee Tribe are paying for this...
SHALALA: They are paying for it. But they didn‘t ask us for very much. They have a reception area on campus. There are no signs in the hall.
And while they‘re going to get some seats, obviously, it was a civic contribution from them to the University of Miami, but, really, to the people of South Florida and to the people of Florida. There‘s great pride in doing this.
MATTHEWS: Why is it important for your university to go to this effort to host this?
SHALALA: Well, No. 1 is that young people don‘t vote in very large numbers. And we thought it was an opportunity to get students interested. And, after all, this debate and election is about their future. It‘s not really about my future. It‘s about their future.
Let‘s check it out.
How many people here are registered to vote?
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MATTHEWS: You know what? I thought I was in “Lawrence of Arabia” there for a minute with this crowd.
MATTHEWS: I‘m a river to my people. What was that about?
MATTHEWS: How many people are not registered to vote?
SHALALA: We‘ve been running voter registration campaigns. The hall where the debate will take place is a precinct.
MATTHEWS: Can I do this again? This is fun. How many here are for President Bush?
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MATTHEWS: Some of that was...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s Kerry time!
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MATTHEWS: How many here are for the Democratic candidate, John Kerry?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SHALALA: About 50/50.
MATTHEWS: Well, I would say that that was a win for...
CROWD: Kerry! Kerry! Kerry! Kerry! Kerry! Kerry! Kerry!
MATTHEWS: ... for the president. I would call that one for the president, if I were speaker of the House?
SHALALA: These students are registering. And we‘ve been running big registration campaigns. We‘ve had lots of speakers on campus.
SHALALA: And we built a whole educational program.
MATTHEWS: How many think tuition is too high?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: That was too easy.
How many love this place?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: God, I feel like I‘m Pat Buchanan up in here with this stuff.
Anyway, let me ask you this. Let me ask you this. You‘re an educator. You‘re a sports nut. You‘re all those good things for America. Tell the American people watching right now, as an educator, the importance of this election and tomorrow night‘s debate.
SHALALA: Well, I believe this election is really about young people and about their future. It will determine the quality of their jobs in the future, whether they have to fight wars or not in the future and what kind of opportunities there are for everyone in our country and everyone around the world.
This is a very important election. And that‘s why young people are registering on college campuses. They‘re going to vote. We haven‘t told them who to vote for.
SHALALA: We simply have said register.
MATTHEWS: Obviously you haven‘t.
Anyway, thank you, Donna Shalala.
Coming up, Joe Trippi, Ben Ginsberg, Dick Wirthlin, and—are all going to join us with their big thoughts about tomorrow‘s big debate.
And coming on Sunday, join Tom Brokaw and myself for a big night for all political experts and junkies and wanna-bes, “Picking Our Presidents:
Secrets”—and I mean secrets—“of the Great Debates.” We‘ll bring you the drama, the surprises and the story behind these unforgettable political events.
RONALD REAGAN: Next Tuesday, all of you will go to the polls, will stand there in the polling place and make a decision. I think, when you make that decision, it might be well if you would ask yourself, are you better off than you were four years ago?
MATTHEWS: David Gergen and Dick Wirthlin really cooked that one up for Reagan.
TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR: Dick Wirthlin was kind of one of the unknown great tools in the Reagan arsenal. He was a pollster. He had been working with him since 1966. And he in fact, before the debate, went in during the prep period with David Gergen and said these are the issues that the people will care really about and how do we get that into a single question?
BROKAW: And then they came up with that line about, are you better off now than you were four years ago?
MATTHEWS: So make that appointment with us, 10:00 Sunday night, for all the political junkies, an amazing story of the history of debates, “Picking Our Presidents: Secrets of the Great Debates.” That‘s 10:00 Sunday night.
By the way, our coverage continues after this.
MATTHEWS: When we come back, strategists Ben Ginsberg and Joe Trippi preview tomorrow‘s presidential debate. We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s live coverage from the University of Miami.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Joining me right now is Joe Trippi, MSNBC analyst and former Howard Dean campaign manager. Also joining us is Ben Ginsberg, MSNBC contributor, who was a top lawyer in the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign until this August.
Both of you know what it‘s like to be doing this.
I got to start with Ben.
Ben, you‘re an amazing guy. You were part of the whole negotiations over the shape of the table, how the candidates stand, whether they have risers or not, how long they get to talk. Why was there so much detailed negotiation this year?
BEN GINSBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, what I know is really from the 2000 cycle, Chris.
And what happened there was, was that the candidates believed that they could get certain advantages from doing certain things certain ways. All the things that were in the document for 2004 were really the outlines of the documents in 2000, and that went back to ‘96 and ‘92. But each candidate wants to be in an environment where they feel they can get forward their positions, where it looks right for them, where their opponent doesn‘t get too much of an advantage in the way he can answer back.
So negotiators are negotiators and things come to a conclusion eventually.
MATTHEWS: Why do they say a candidate cannot leave his space and go approach the other candidate‘s space, Ben?
GINSBERG: Well, because you get these sort of weird visual confrontations when that happens.
Remember, for example, the New York Senate debate with Rick Lazio and Hillary Clinton. One candidate would hand a pledge to another candidate. What it really does is lead to showboating, as opposed to what the president wanted, which was to be able to have a serious discussion of the issues without sort of phony pledges and bobbing and weaving.
MATTHEWS: What about the proscription on asking the other candidate a question. Why was that important to the president, do you think?
GINSBERG: Well, I think it was important because it can actually be distracting, because any candidate in any debate has a message that he or she wants to get out.
And, again, it goes to grandstanding and showboating, as opposed to just being able to answer the questions in front of you.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to Joe Trippi.
Joe, why do you think the Bush people pushed so hard to limit, to put time limits and then to have these lights go off, almost like when you run a tollbooth on an interstate, that go off when the candidate violates the time limit?
JOE TRIPPI, FORMER HOWARD DEAN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I think they want to try to force Kerry to get his message down to very quick two-minutes things.
Kerry has a way of explaining things in a very nuanced fashion. And for him to get those sound bites down to two minutes for him is much tougher than the president. But also it makes it tougher for there to be any surprises, to be any long exchanges. So I think they want it to be controlled. They didn‘t want any of the movement that happened in the 2000 campaign, the moment when Gore...
MATTHEWS: All right. Did you think, Joe—excuse me.
Joe, do you think they were trying to avoid one of those magic moments of almost equality, when the candidates are mixing it up between each other? Are they trying to avoid a fight that would look like equality and therefore put obviously John Kerry on the same level as the president?
TRIPPI: Exactly. Exactly. That‘s what they‘re trying to do, so that it puts Kerry in a box and keeps him over to the side. And you don‘t get that equal treatment. That‘s what any sitting president tries to do in one of these debates.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s start—let‘s talk a bit about preparation.
Right now in a hotel room, probably two hotel rooms, the president and the Democratic candidate, John Kerry, are being briefed and they‘re going over little cue cards, three-by-five cards, answering dozens of questions. Is there any danger in too good a job in this regard, Joe Trippi?
In 1988, I was part of Congressman Gephardt‘s debate prep team with Paul Begala and a lot of other staffers. Paul Simon had taken the lead and we knew that Gephardt had to go after Simon in that debate. During debate preparation, each one of us had a great line against Paul Simon. Simonomics is Reaganomics. Simonomics is Reaganomics with a bow tie.
And unbeknownst to us, Dick Gephardt was soaking it all in. He went out to that NBC debate and gave every single one of those lines in one of the more vicious attacks in a row that I‘ve ever seen in a debate and demolished Simon. And we were all in the green room cringing because it was so over the top. We just—we had totally overprepared him to go after Paul Simon.
So there is a big danger. Particularly in a general election, Kerry cannot come off with anger. He can‘t cross a line. It‘s very important for him to not go over the top, to not be overprepared.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me go to Ben Ginsberg.
Let‘s talk about the legalities of this. Both candidates have signed a 32-page contract. We talked about that. That contract said you couldn‘t have the cameras roving through the studio taking pictures of the other candidate while the other candidate spoke, so you wouldn‘t get pictures of sighing or crying or whatever the other candidate felt like doing at the time.
It‘s just been announced a couple of hours ago, led by Fox, who is the pool camera tomorrow night, they‘re not going to abide by that rule. Is this something that we have to get used to, that networks simply are not going to go along with rules that say they can‘t move their cameras?
GINSBERG: Well, in 2000, that was part of the debate agreement as well. And much to our horror, the networks all violated it.
And so probably the time that the Bush campaign and the Gore campaign were the most unified was their dislike, really, of the networks and the commission taking cutaway shots, because, after all, you don‘t want somebody shaking his head negatively when your candidate is giving an answer. You don‘t want somebody falling asleep when your candidate is giving an answer.
You don‘t want people nodding approvingly when the other guy is giving an answer. All that can affect the audience. And it‘s arbitrary judgments. Both campaigns really want this to be about their candidates putting forward their views and positions.
MATTHEWS: Do you agree with that, Joe, that it‘s better for the public? Or is it better for the public to be denied the option of seeing the other candidate‘s reaction?
TRIPPI: Well, the other candidate‘s reaction I think the public should be able to see.
But I do agree with Ben that the cutaways to members of the audience falling asleep or not paying attention or nodding in approval, that‘s somebody else making a judgment that that should be broadcast to the American people.
And so, all of a sudden, you‘ve got somebody nodding their head with John Kerry. That‘s not necessarily what‘s really going on.
TRIPPI: So I think both campaigns would—and, as a Democrat, agree that that‘s not something that should be done.
GINSBERG: And I can promise you, Chris, that both campaigns are telling....
MATTHEWS: I‘ve got to go.
GINSBERG: Both campaigns are telling their candidates...
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Ben Ginsberg. Thank you, Ben.
Thank you, Joe Trippi.
We‘ll be back with both of—us throughout our debate coverage.
Thank you, gentlemen.
When we come back, we‘ll come back with our panel here at the University of Miami.
And don‘t forget, you can keep up with the presidential race on Hardblogger, our election blog Web site. Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to our obviously live coverage here at the University of Miami.
We are back with the panel.
You know, this is an interesting question. The American people tomorrow night, they are going to see a somewhat unrestricted look at these debates. The commission and the candidates agreed no roving camera, no look at the audience reaction, no look at the other guy‘s reaction.
Led by Fox, maybe to its credit, I hate to say, they decided to say, to hell with that, we are going to show what we want to show.
Andrea, is that good for the public?
In none of these debates has there ever been audience reaction shots.
So this whole issue is whether the other candidate can be seen, whether...
MATTHEWS: So you don‘t think the networks will abuse this?
MITCHELL: Not at all. It‘s whether you could George Bush looking at his watch in Richmond, Virginia.
MATTHEWS: Nixon sweating.
MITCHELL: Nixon sweating.
MATTHEWS: Al sighing.
MITCHELL: Al sighing, Al Gore sighing.
And the other thing is, Ben Ginsberg was doing a great job for the Republican side, talking about grandstanding and showboating. But, in reality, it‘s journalism to show the whole context, not just a tight box frame of a talking head.
MATTHEWS: You know, when you watch Congress, you know, it‘s all C-SPAN, but it is controlled, that camera, by the Congress.
MATTHEWS: So you never see a roving look at the guy catching a cigarette in the back row or spitting in the petune (ph) or anything like that.
MATTHEWS: You only see the very official speaker.
RON REAGAN: The sadder part of this, though, is the fact that the candidates themselves can‘t interact. And one thing that most people have avoided saying here so far is that the Republican side is the one that is insisting on most of these rules.
MATTHEWS: They don‘t want
RON REAGAN: They don‘t want to mix it up with Kerry.
MATTHEWS: They don‘t want John Kerry to ask a question of the president.
RON REAGAN: That‘s right. They don‘t want them to go at each other there.
MEACHAM: Well, let‘s Just be clear.
SCARBOROUGH: Really, why should they?
MITCHELL: That‘s a real debate. That‘s debating.
REAGAN: Why shouldn‘t the Republicans...
SCARBOROUGH: Why should they? They are ahead.
SCARBOROUGH: Just like when Democrats...
SCARBOROUGH: Listen. Hold on a second. Let‘s not be self-righteous.
Well, let me answer your questions first.
RON REAGAN: Well, I didn‘t ask one.
SCARBOROUGH: The bottom line is (AUDIO GAP) the Democratic Party, if they are ahead, they are going to be doing the same thing. If they have got an incumbent, they are going to be doing the same thing.
MATTHEWS: Have they ever pulled this gag rule?
SCARBOROUGH: Yes. I‘m not saying
MATTHEWS: Clinton fought against Dole.
SCARBOROUGH: He didn‘t need to. I‘m not saying it‘s right. I‘m not saying it‘s right wrong. I‘m just saying this is hardball politics.
MEACHAM: But it‘s not a debate. But let‘s just be honest.
SCARBOROUGH: And you think it‘s pathetic, Ron.
MATTHEWS: I love honesty of this panel.
A few minutes ago, I asked Ken Duberstein why does Cheney want to sit down. And he said because it‘s easier.
MATTHEWS: And I asked this panel, why do they want to stop a guy from asking the other guy a question. Because it‘s safer.
MEACHAM: It‘s uncontrolled.
SCARBOROUGH: But they are ahead. It‘s just like—it‘s the four corners in basketball. You can say that‘s pathetic if you want to.
MEACHAM: Let‘s not call it debate.
MATTHEWS: This separates HARDBALL from all those goo-goo shows out there, where they don‘t tell you the truth.
MATTHEWS: Coming up next hour, Senator Bob Graham of Florida and Senator George Allen of Virginia. Plus, the panel will go ahead and keep this up, honest coverage, tough assessment, candor.
We‘ll be right back.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
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