updated 9/30/2004 11:14:28 AM ET 2004-09-30T15:14:28

Guests: Mick Foley, John Bradshaw Layfield, Luke Kosar, Scott Wacholtz, Dick Wirthlin, Jon Meacham, George Allen, Bob Graham

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Governor Reagan, again, was against such a proposal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Governor?

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  There you go again.

GERALD FORD, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. 

JIMMY CARTER, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I had a discussion with my daughter Amy the other day.

BERNARD SHAW, MODERATOR:  Governor, if Kitty Dukakis...

WILLIAM J. CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  In my state, when people lose their jobs, it‘s a good chance I know them by their names.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I will put Medicare in an ironclad lock box.

RONALD REAGAN:  Are you better off than you were four years ago? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews at the University of Miami. 

As you can tell, we are welcoming everyone here, or they are welcoming us.  We‘ve got the big first presidential debate tomorrow night.  It is going to be decisive, based on history.  The guy who wins the debates wins the election.  It just always happens that way.  The guy who loses, loses the election. 

It‘s going to be a big night tomorrow night, and anybody who cares about this election, which should be everybody, and certainly everybody watching this show, has got to see tomorrow night.  We‘ve got a lot coming, because who knows.

Let‘s talk about some of the stakes, U.S. policy in Iraq.  Depending on who wins, I assume we‘ll have different policies.

Let‘s talk about that for a minute with Senator Bob Graham of Florida.  He‘s a former chairman of the Intelligence Committee.  And Also senator George Allen of Virginia, who is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.  He‘s also chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.  It‘s his job to win more seats for the Republicans. 

Let me ask you, Senator Graham, right now, it‘s been said by some of the Republican officialdom that to criticize our war policy in Iraq is somehow inappropriate.  What do you think? 

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA:  I believe that it is in the very best tradition of American politics to criticize the activities, the policies of the leadership, the political leadership.  That is no indictment of the soldiers who are actually fighting the war.  It happened during the Civil War.  It happened during the First World War and the Second World War and several times during Vietnam. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree with that, Senator Allen, that it‘s fair game to argue a war during a war, if that‘s when the election is held? 

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN ®, VIRGINIA:  It depends on how it‘s done and the timing of it. 

Certain senators, like Senator Daschle, making remarks right on the

eve of war as troops are getting deployed, I have always heard a saying

that, in times of war, politics end at the water‘s edge.  And of course,

people have the right

(CROSSTALK)

ALLEN:  They have a right to say whatever they want.  But folks ought to recognize the impact of some of these statements and be responsible in making those criticisms. 

MATTHEWS:  As we went to war this time, it was hard to get honest information from anybody in the world.  There was bad intel floating all around the world, so the judgments that people made at the highest level and those of the average citizen weren‘t well-founded. 

During the course of the war, there was argument made while our troops were facing hot military combat we shouldn‘t criticize the war. 

Senator Allen, when do you debate a war if you don‘t debate it now? 

When do you get around to debating foreign policy? 

ALLEN:  Well, you debate foreign policy when we actually have the resolution.  And clearly, people can have their debates.

MATTHEWS:  Can‘t the American people—don‘t the American people get to vote or just senators?  Don‘t the American people get to vote on this war? 

(CROSSTALK)

ALLEN:  I would like to be able to answer your question.  The question...

MATTHEWS:  There it is. 

ALLEN:  ... of course is whether or not senators should vote.  Obviously, senators vote on these matters.  You are elected to exercise your judgment.  Clearly, there can be debates. 

There were debates on whether or not to fund supporting our troops with more body armor and supporting benefits for our troops.  We had a vote on that.  It was a big debate.  John Kerry voted against funding that body armor.  There were other debates and issues, Homeland Security, other foreign policy issues such as Cuba.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

ALLEN:  Whether it‘s talking about the security in Israel, all of those are important foreign policy issues.  But on those issues, John Kerry has taken several positions on each and every one of those that I listed. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you hit all the talking points, Senator, but the question obtains right now, when do the American people get to vote on the war?  You say we can‘t have a debate on the war now. 

ALLEN:  I didn‘t say...

MATTHEWS:  When do we get to debate it?

ALLEN:  Come on, don‘t put—don‘t put words in my mouth, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

ALLEN:  What I said is that we ought to be responsible...

MATTHEWS:  Can the American people debate this war right now? 

ALLEN:  Of course we can debate the war, and we ought to debate the policy of the war and what our strategic plans are. 

And President Bush is once again going to lay out his very firm, logical resolve in what we are doing in trying to bring democracy, for example, in the key battlefront in this war on terrorism, in Iraq, is what we want to do, and bring elections for the first time ever to the people of Iraq, where they have their own government, rather than a dictatorship. 

And so, sure, Senator Kerry will have his views, whatever views they may be, by tomorrow night.  But, nevertheless, that‘s a debate.  That‘s fine.  But it ought to be respectful.  Please, you know why I care about this?  Whenever there‘s an answer about whether this was worth it, I think of those young men, many of them young men, some women, in Walter Reed Hospital.  They are in their beds.  They have lost a leg.  They have lost a arm, maybe two legs.

And they are watching these answers by our leaders on that little TV in their bed, and I am wondering what‘s going through their minds as people are saying things in the midst of campaigns.  Their mother may be with them.  Their wife might be with them.  These people have sacrificed a great deal for our security and our freedom.  I appreciate that, and I think that some of tone and logic...

MATTHEWS:  Well, how do you...

ALLEN:  ... ought to be viewed through the eyes of these very brave soldiers. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Senator Graham.

It seems to me that the Republican side is saying that it‘s somehow hurtful to the people who are fighting the war to debate the war.  We are trying to bring democracy to Iraq.  Can‘t we have it? 

GRAHAM:  Absolutely. 

If we give up our basic rights, our freedom of speech, our freedom of religion, our freedom of press in order to fight a war, then what are we fighting about, if it‘s not to protect those very freedoms?  Why shouldn‘t the people of America, not just those of us who get elected, have a chance to cast a ballot on what direction they believe America should go in the world?  I think it is a central issue, and it‘s one where the American people should establish our basic national direction. 

MATTHEWS:  What would you say—to answer Senator Allen‘s very hard question there, what do you say to the guy who has lost a leg or an arm or both, who has got brain damage, and he is sitting in Walter Reed right now?  We have had the program from over there.  What do you say to him if you are a Democrat and you are trying to take the presidency away from the commander in chief? 

How do you do that in a way that doesn‘t hurt that guy further? 

GRAHAM:  I would say to that young man or woman—and I have met with many of them over the past two years.  I would say, don‘t you want to be part of deciding the kind of world that your children and your grandchildren as well as you and your wife will live in?  Do you want us to deny to you the right to have a voice and to have your voice heard? 

I don‘t believe very many of those men and women who are at Walter Reed or the VA Hospital in Miami want to give up their basic American rights. 

(CROSSTALK)

ALLEN:  Chris, I don‘t think there‘s any debate as to whether or not we ought to have an election, and obviously elections are decided based on the people determining who they think should be their leader, whether in the Senate, whether it‘s president, whether it‘s the governor or any other office. 

And debates on foreign policy, domestic issues all are fine.  I just

would hope that, in the midst of politics, folks would just be responsible,

state what their position is, what they would do better.  And I think what

·         the reason President Bush will do well is, he will be himself in this debate.  He has a clarity of purpose.  He has a strategic plan.  There will be adaptations, but we are going to move forward. 

And that‘s why I think the people of—whether it‘s Florida or anywhere else in the United States, will have comfort in President Bush winning this war against terrorism. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think this—I‘m sorry.  We only have 30 seconds, Senators.  I want to ask you both, are you comfortable if this election becomes a referendum on whether we should have gone to war in Iraq?

Senator Graham first. 

GRAHAM:  I think it will be that and more. 

I think it will be what direction should we take in the war, when will we restart the war against the real terrorists who killed 3,000 Americans just three years ago.  Those are the questions that Americans will have a chance to take a position on, on November the 2nd

MATTHEWS:  Same question, Senator Allen. 

ALLEN:  I think it‘s a question of who do you trust as commander in chief, as a leader as we advance the United States‘ interests and our security in the war on terrorism. 

It will also be on a variety of other issues, jobs, economic growth.  Republicans and President Bush are for less taxation, less litigation, less regulation, and for more innovation, energy security in this country, and judges getting fair treatment on the bench for nominations.  Those will be the key issues.

But, clearly, in the midst of a war on terrorism, it‘s who do you trust to lead us and to persevere with the resolve and clarity of purpose to secure this nation and prevail in the war on terrorism. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much. 

ALLEN:  President Bush has a record.  So does Senator Kerry.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Senator Allen.

Thank you.  Senator Graham. 

My only point, as a commentator here, is I think we have gotten through debates over war in the Civil War, in 1944 in the middle of the Second World War, certainly at the end of the Korean War, during the Vietnam War.  A heated debate is a great role model for the world.  And the tougher the talk, the clearer the debate, I think the better. 

Anyway, coming up, who will win tomorrow night‘s debates?  Dick Wirthlin, who coached Ronald Reagan in his presidential debates, is going to give us some inside look at that question. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s special coverage live from the University of Miami on MSNBC. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY TREWHITT, MODERATOR:  Is there any doubt in your mind that you would be able to function in such circumstances? 

RONALD REAGAN:  Not at all, Mr. Trewhitt.  And I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign.  I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent‘s youth and inexperience.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, strategist Dick Wirthlin joins us.  He‘s a Reagan adviser.  He helped coach the president, President Reagan, in his debates.  And he is going to tell us what both candidates need to do, an inside scoop from a real insider. 

HARDBALL back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s unbelievable.  This is a loud crowd here.  And they all seem to stop when I start talking.  I like that. 

Joining me right now is Dick Wirthlin, who‘s former President Ronald Reagan‘s strategist.  He was a—he‘s a great pollster, author of the new book “The Greatest Communicator: What Ronald Reagan Taught Me About Politics, Leadership, and Life.”

Dick, thanks for joining us. 

Let me—let‘s all take a look at a piece of tape here.  This is Ronald Reagan, the challenger, going up against President Jimmy Carter in 1980. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

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? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that line of yours, Dick Wirthlin, it was the president‘s line.  Apparently you guys, you and David Gergen, advised him to use it.  Tell us about it. 

DICK WIRTHLIN, FORMER REAGAN ADVISER:  Well, we felt, and I think it still holds, that the question that the voter who is undecided or soft-supporting takes into the voting booth will oftentimes determine how that vote goes. 

And that debate opportunity allowed us the platform to pose that question, which we knew the answer for.  At that time, almost twice as many people thought the country had seriously gotten off on the wrong track, and they did not consider themselves better off, so that was a good closer, and we feel it could have had some influence on the election. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the brilliance of that ad was, it blamed everything that had gone wrong in the world for four years on Jimmy Carter, oil price spikes, everything going on in that part of the world, the hostage crisis, everything that went wrong globally was Carter‘s fault, right? 

WIRTHLIN:  Well, I am sure that the buck stops at the Oval Office, and sometimes it stops there. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the brilliance of your line. 

WIRTHLIN:  In an unfair way, but that, again, was the way that line was leveraged. 

MATTHEWS:  How did Ronald Reagan respond when you advisers came up with a proposal like that?  Did he say, good, I think that will work, or was it, I want to think of this myself or do it my way?  Was he open to coaching like that? 

WIRTHLIN:  He was.  And then there were times when he told us, don‘t worry about that.  I have got—I know exactly how I will handle it. 

As you may remember, the age issue surfaced very, very dramatically, and we talked to him at length about how that might be handled, and he just sat back in his chair and smiled and he said, fellows, I know exactly how I am going to handle that line.  None of us knew what he was going to say about the age issue until the night of the debate, and, of course, he hit that one right out of the ballpark with... 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s watch him hit the homer. 

Here it is.  Here‘s Ronald Reagan, 1984. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN:  I will not make age an issue of this campaign.  I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent‘s youth and inexperience.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, we‘ve got Ron Reagan here. 

Ron, you know, Roger Ailes agrees with that in his book.  He says that that was your dad‘s line. 

RON REAGAN, NBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Yes, it was. 

MATTHEWS:  He brought it in there.  Had you ever heard him use it before or... 

RON REAGAN:  Actually, I was back there in 1984 for that debate.  I came there to be with my dad.  And he let some of us know that that‘s what he was going to do beforehand.  He didn‘t tell Dick Wirthlin, but...

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And he knew it was going to come up. 

RON REAGAN:  Yes.  Yes. 

It was obvious after the first debate, where he had an off night and did look kind of old, that that was going to come up, sure.  So he was ready for it. 

MATTHEWS:  Why would a fellow like him have that line stored up?  I mean, why was that in his archives? 

RON REAGAN:  He sort of liked making jokes about his age.  He knew that he was the oldest elected president at that point.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

RON REAGAN:  But he was also very proud of the fact that he was a rather youthful 70-some-odd years or so. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s for sure.

RON REAGAN:  And so he liked to kind of play with that notion.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He had every hair.  He had every hair he was born with. 

That‘s for sure. 

RON REAGAN:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go back to Dick Wirthlin.

Dick, let‘s move this forward to this debate tomorrow night.  If you were advising the president, would you go for a draw and take it easy or would you go for a knockout? 

WIRTHLIN:  The problem with the draw is that you are walking a very narrow line.  I wouldn‘t necessarily go for a knockout, but I would leverage what the perceptual strengths already are.

Namely, people do believe that this president is strong, that he is—people are more comfortable with him on the security issue, which is a huge issue, and I think that to go for a three-base hit could have some dangers in it. 

MATTHEWS:  Does he have John Kerry boxed?  You know, the more I watch this campaign, the more I hear the Republicans successfully using certain phrases that are almost inarguable from the other side. 

For example, the administration and its supporters refer to all our potential enemies in the world, anyone who doesn‘t like us in the Arab world, as a terrorist.  They could be Baathists.  They could be disgruntled nationalists in Iraq or wherever else.  They are all put under the same label, terrorists.  And, therefore, the terrorists attacked us on 9/11.  We are hitting them back.  It makes it very easy to make that argument.  Is that something that‘s unbeatable from the other side, that locution? 

WIRTHLIN:  It‘s difficult to counterargue it. 

And I think, again, it‘s dealing to the position of strength that the president now holds. 

Again, if the question that the voter takes into the voting booth is, which of the two candidates will more assure security for me and my family, that could well turn the election.  And, at this moment, it appears that Bush has the upper hand on that particular dimension of the campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you.  It‘s great having you on, Dick Wirthlin, a real veteran, a real pro. 

When we come back, our panel will take a look at the debate records, the performance records of both candidates, Bush and Kerry, how well they have done in past debates.  What‘s their track record?

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s live coverage from the University of Miami on the eve of the first presidential debate on MSNBC. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That‘s an elephant on that guy‘s shoulders we are looking at right now, a nice gigantic shape of elephant.  Look at the guy.  That‘s pretty heavy. 

We‘re back at the University of Miami.  And we are talking about tomorrow night‘s debate with a great panel. 

We are going to start looking now at the track record of these candidates and how good they shape up, based on how well they have performed in the past.  And, of course, we‘ve got a good track sheet on both of them.

Let‘s start with the president of the United States.  Let‘s take a look at how well he handled, in his way, Al Gore in the last debate four years ago. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  He talks about numbers.  I am beginning to think not only did he invent the Internet, but he invented the calculator.  It‘s fuzzy math.  It‘s just trying to scare people in the voting booth. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, fuzzy math, I mean, that‘s what—I was thinking, that would drive me crazy, if somebody said, because what he‘s saying, it‘s not fuzzy. 

Andrea, what‘s the counterpunch? 

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  There isn‘t a counterpunch. 

MATTHEWS:  And he did it, apparently, 10 or 15 times. 

MITCHELL:  Oh, he did it over and over and over again.  And that‘s the game plan for George Bush tomorrow night, is to go over and over and over again. 

MATTHEWS:  So what‘s the example, what‘s the parallel to the fuzzy math this time? 

MITCHELL:  Eighty-seven billion dollars. 

MATTHEWS:  You can‘t make up your mind. 

MITCHELL:  You can‘t make up your mind.  And I do think...

MATTHEWS:  Flip-flop. 

MITCHELL:  Getting back to something we talked about earlier, once in four years is not too much to ask to have a civics lesson, where the candidates could actually go at each other and talk to each other.  I really strongly believe...

MATTHEWS:  Joe disagrees. 

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”:  No, no, no, no, no, I don‘t disagree. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I am so sorry that I tried to inject a little political reality into this panel. 

(LAUGHTER)

MITCHELL:  I‘m talking civics here.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  Well, listen, I love civics too. 

In fact, after the show tonight, I am going to go out and hand

textbooks to all these students.  I am just telling you how it works.  As

you know, when people getting behind closed doors, as shocking as it may

be, when Democrats have the advantage, sometimes they use it.  When

Republicans have the advantage, sometimes they

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  I want to ask Ron how Ron liked the answer that you gave. 

I want to ask Ron, did you like the answer Joe gave to you? 

RON REAGAN:  Joe gave my answer. 

You know, I agree with Joe to a certain extent, but I also agree with you.  There should be civics and there is politics. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You flip-flopper. 

RON REAGAN:  I am a flip-flopper.  I‘m a flip-flopper.

(CROSSTALK) 

JON MEACHAM, “NEWSWEEK”:  Here we are at the League of Women voters gathering. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly.  I‘m just telling you how it works. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... lurched into a very important conflict here. 

Until 1976, candidates, especially incumbents, who had the advantage, could simply say, I am not going to debate.  Lyndon Johnson, they didn‘t have to have gag rules and time limits.  Lyndon Johnson said, I am not going to debate Goldwater in 197 -- when was it, ‘72?  In ‘68, Nixon was ahead of Humphrey.  I am not going to debate him.

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  In ‘72, Nixon went ahead—was ahead of McGovern.  He said, I‘m not going to debate him.

It took until 1976, when both candidates were about even, Joe, so, in other words, it took their self-interest to begin these debates. 

Let me put it to you.  Should a presidential candidate who has the advantage be able to say I am not going to debate? 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, again, I can‘t believe I am having to explain this to you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  In a realpolitik world.

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, I cannot believe we are actually having this conversation. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  As an American—I am not arguing with you—as an American, yes, I want these presidential candidates to be able to ask each other questions.  I want to have catfights.  I think we should have no moderator, seriously.  And I think you have two candidates questioning each other.  That‘s what I would like. 

If, though, I were consultant for a Democratic candidate who were an incumbent who had a 15-point lead on the key issue, I would say, let‘s try to stay as far away from this thing as possible.  If they want us to debate, let‘s try to control it as much as possible.  We are going to give you three sound bites.  You ground them into Americans‘ heads when they go in the voting booth. 

Now, if that shocks anybody, I am sorry.  That‘s the reality. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry.  Let‘s move ahead. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, no.  Wait, wait, wait.  You say you like my candor.

MATTHEWS:  I do.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, I like your candor, too.  But is this shocking, what I‘m saying to you?

MATTHEWS:  No.  I think it‘s unusual. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  I‘m telling the truth. 

MATTHEWS:  In a goo-goo world—Joe Scarborough, in goo-goo world, truth is hard to take, all right.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s go right now to the—let‘s watch President Bush debating Ann Richards.  And it is extremely difficult, as you just demonstrated, to argue with a woman.  Let‘s go here in Ann Richards.

(LAUGHTER)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  And I hope people in Texas understand that there are big differences between Governor Richards and me.  I am the conservative candidate.  She is the liberal candidate. 

One difference that we didn‘t discuss tonight, of course, is President Clinton.  She will work hard to see him reelected in 1996.  I, of course, will not.  I hope Texans understand—I hope Texans understand that I know that governors and governments do not create prosperity and jobs.  Jobs are created in the private sector by entrepreneurs and small business people and dreamers.  And the role of government is to create an environment which they will flourish. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, I have to say, Joe, that sounded like Ronald Reagan.  It sounded more like Reagan than George Bush Sr. right there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  A couple interesting things about that.  That George W.

Bush sounded more confident in 1994 than he has over the past four years. 

MATTHEWS:  Why? 

SCARBOROUGH:  I don‘t—you know, I think he got so beaten up in 2000. 

Remember the recount? 

MEACHAM:  Whoa.

SCARBOROUGH:  When the cameras came in—I am not saying by the press.  I am just saying by the process. 

I don‘t think he was ready for prime time.  And I think it set him on the back on his heels.  And I will tell you something else interesting about that.  I have underestimated George W. Bush, as everybody else has, but it‘s always important to remember that he took apart Ann Richards.  He has it in him, when he is comfortable, when he is in a zone—he was in a zone that night—he is an incredible debater. 

When he is not, when he‘s talking at a press conference, he seems at wit‘s end.  So it depends which Bush shows up tomorrow night. 

RON REAGAN:  He needs a structured format. 

MEACHAM:  Yes.  The Bush who is going to show up is going to say that we should fight terrorists over there, so we don‘t fight them here.  He‘s going to repeat the same four things in this generation that he repeated against Richards. 

And I think one of the reasons he seemed so much younger and better back in Texas is, he had less to worry about.  This is a man who is a war president in the most complicated struggle we have probably ever been in.  So, of course, he is going to have a lot more going on and a lot of more information coming in. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MEACHAM:  On a human level, he has had a very difficult task.  And let‘s also remember that this man has only been, by his own admission, leading a very grown-up, adult serious life for 18 years. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you saying he is getting to be introspective, like everyone else, and worrying occasionally? 

MEACHAM:  One prays that he worries. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Because I think he has been a happy guy until he got this terribly difficult job.  And I mean it.

MEACHAM:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Can you imagine any of us trying to be president?

MITCHELL:  But I think if you look at George Bush right now out on the campaign trail, Joe, I think he is back in the zone. 

SCARBOROUGH:  He is.

MITCHELL:  He has got his shirt sleeves rolled up.  He is enjoying this campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  He also knows how to roll up sleeves.

SCARBOROUGH:  He is.

MATTHEWS:  Kerry doesn‘t know how to roll up sleeves. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  When we come back, we‘ll take a look at Senator Kerry‘s track record.  It‘s interesting as well, and a very winning track record itself. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s live coverage from the University of Miami. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORD:  There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. 

GORE:  I will put Medicare in an ironclad lock box. 

RONALD REAGAN:  I am not going to exploit my opponent‘s youth and inexperience. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  We are back with the panel.

And right now, we want to take a look at Senator Kerry‘s track record as a debater.  Here‘s Senator Kerry debating Governor Bill Weld in the 1996 Senate race in Massachusetts. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  No, Governor.  You said you supported the addition to the defense budget.  And the addition is building more B-2 bombers. 

BILL WELD ®, MASSACHUSETTS SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  No.

KERRY:  In addition to which...

WELD:  No.  I don‘t support that.  I don‘t support your $7 billion proposed cut.  And I think that what Shalikashvili asked for in Congress the first time was not as much as they needed for research and development. 

(CROSSTALK)

KERRY:  Well, now you are switching...

WELD:  And that is very important to Massachusetts

(CROSSTALK)

KERRY:  Well, now you are switching your position.  Governor, you switched your positions faster than your friend Dick Morris.  This is amazing. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We are right back now.

Well, what do you guys think? 

Do you think, Ron, he has got the stuff? 

RON REAGAN:  That was a pretty good line, that Dick Morris line.

We were just talking earlier about whether Kerry should break the rules.  They‘ve got all these rules.  There‘s all these constrictions.

MITCHELL:  Go for it.

RON REAGAN:  To some extent, I think he ought to go for it.  And I think he ought to directly address Bush on some level. 

MATTHEWS:  What happens when he is interrupted by Jim Lehrer, who says, Senator, you signed onto these rules?

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  He says, the war is too important.  This issue is too important.  We need to discuss this. 

RON REAGAN:  And Bush looks like he‘s running.

MEACHAM:  Yes.  And if you are the president of the United States and

you‘re not answering a direct question and you‘re being saved by Jim

Lehrer, that‘s just not a good position for the commander in chief

(CROSSTALK)  

MATTHEWS:  Would you take that leap, Joe, if you were the challenger behind by almost double-digit numbers? 

SCARBOROUGH:  If I were John Kerry, I would say, you know what?  We signed agreement.  I am going to abide by the rule.  Mr. President, I am not going to ask you the question, why did you have Osama bin Laden in your grip and let him go?  Why did you allow al-Zarqawi to take over Fallujah?  Why did you pull our troops out, Mr. President?  I am not going to ask you that question, because you wanted us to sign agreement where I didn‘t have to ask you that question. 

I would also lay out about every other question I wanted to float in the air.  I would ask him three of the toughest questions, and then say, I am not going to ask you those questions, Mr. President.

MITCHELL:  Good strategy. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But I am going to be answering them in the coming weeks. 

MEACHAM:  The only down side to being too aggressive is like the joke about when Lazio went over to Hillary and it looked like Ricky Ricardo going over to Lucy, saying, why did you go over budget again in the house? 

MITCHELL:  Right.  I was there in the hall.  We all just took a deep breath.  It was so clear that the debate was over.

RON REAGAN:  Yes.  You can‘t seem like an ankle-biter.

MATTHEWS:  Just looking ahead, do you think there‘s going to be those moments tomorrow night, during a 90-debate, when there is an issue of the rules, that it‘s going to come up?  They are going to say—where Jim Lehrer is going to have to be cop or they‘re going to challenge Lehrer?  Do you expect that to happen? 

MEACHAM:  I think so.  I think it usually does.  In fact, I remember one Bush-Gore thing where Lehrer is trying to enforce, and he says, well, these were your rules, gentlemen. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You have got to remember this, though, talking about civics.  Americans expect their presidential candidates to act presidential. 

Nothing hurt Al Gore more than sighing during George Bush‘s allotted time.  They want that space, just like you said, the Clinton-Lazio debate.  They think people should be respectful.  Americans look at this as really a sacred political moment, event.  He needs to be very careful about that. 

So while I would ask the rhetorical questions and say, I am not going to break the rules, I would be very careful not to be seen by the American people as actually breaking those rules and having Jim Lehrer come in and to referee, saying, Senator Kerry...

RON REAGAN:  Tone is important. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, tone is so important. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at a debate during the primaries between John Kerry and Howard Dean. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY:  I have laid out a very specific plan.  Governor Dean has no plan for actually balancing the budget or reducing the deficit.  And I would like to know if he still intends to reduce the rate of growth in Medicare as one of the ways in which he is going to balance the budget? 

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Look at the big picture. 

We‘ve done a great job on health insurance. 

KERRY:  But you still haven‘t answered my question. 

DEAN:  We‘ve done a great job on kids.

KERRY:  You still haven‘t answered my question. 

DEAN:  And Tom Beaumont wrote in “The Des Moines Register” weeks ago that Medicare is off the table. 

KERRY:  Do you intend to slow the rate of growth in Medicare?  Because you said you were going to do that. 

DEAN:  Well, what I intend to do in Medicare is to increase reimbursements for states like Iowa and Vermont, which are 50th and 49th respectively.

KERRY:  Are you going to slow the rate of growth, Governor, yes or no?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We are back.  Does anybody want to give an assessment here of the wuss quality of John Kerry now?  Where are we at?

RON REAGAN:  Can I just say one thing?  Because I saw it the first time on your show last night.  I had not seen the new orange John Kerry. 

(LAUGHTER)

RON REAGAN:  And I noticed—it may just seem like humor, but if he shows up looking like one of those orange peanuts you get in an Easter basket, it‘s over.  He cannot be orange. 

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  In that clip...

MEACHAM:  Good point. 

MITCHELL:  What was really interesting in that clip is that John Kerry dominated, even though he was by remote.  He wasn‘t even on site.  And yet he still managed to dominate that moment with Howard Dean.  I am not sure you can do that with the president of the United States.  You can‘t cross that line. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You can‘t do it.

And let me tell you what I think John Kerry‘s biggest problem over the past couple of weeks have been.  He has fallen behind.  His numbers have been going down.  And when you just look at him, even with the volume down, he looks angry.  Now, I personally think he has a reason to be angry.  He was a Vietnam War hero.  He has been vilified.  He was the guy that went.  Bush was the guy that stayed at home. 

And I think he is angry about it.  Tomorrow night, he can‘t look like he looked in that debate.  He can‘t look like he looked in the Weld debate.  Sunshine somehow has to emanate from him.  It‘s hard for him to do that.

MATTHEWS:  Do you see the flop sweat?   Does anybody see flop sweat, Kerry thinking he‘s losing?

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  He had it in his speech in Boston. 

(CROSSTALK) 

MEACHAM:  But, arguably, this is the most important set of debates in 44 years. 

MATTHEWS:  And the first one is the most. 

MEACHAM:  Exactly. 

(CROSSTALK)

And just to take a step back, this is an essential, essential time;

1,000 Americans have died in a war; 3,000 innocents have been murdered.  How we are going to go forward here is hugely important.  And for all the games and the stylistic points, people I think are really hungry for a serious meal about how they are going to go forward.

And the reason we are all talking about Kerry as the underdog is, strangely, for a very smart guy, he has still not differentiated himself from Bush in all these months. 

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  And the interesting thing, in talking to Democratic debate coaches, is that they are not sure that he has got it down. 

They tell you, we have told him you‘ve got to keep it short.  We‘ve told you, you‘ve got to get to the point.  But they are not sure he can do it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And isn‘t it ironic that here we have a challenger, he‘s coming in tomorrow night, and most Americans, on these important issues, Americans know where George Bush stands?

Now, at least half of them don‘t like where George Bush stands, but here we are, this late in the campaign.  We are almost in October.  They still don‘t know where the challenger stands.  And I am afraid if you are a John Kerry supporter, time is running out.  It‘s one until midnight tomorrow night. 

(CROSSTALK)

RON REAGAN:  It‘s got to be tomorrow night.  It‘s got to be tomorrow night.

MATTHEWS:  Well, we are out of time now, but we are all going to be watching and back here tomorrow, Andrea Mitchell, Ron Reagan, Jon Meacham, and Joe Scarborough. 

I‘ll be right back in a moment. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  Scott Wacholtz, you‘re head of the young Republicans. 

SCOTT WACHOLTZ, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI COLLEGE REPUBLICANS: 

Head of the College Republicans, yes.

MATTHEWS:  And, Luke Kosar, you‘re head of the Democrats. 

LUKE KOSAR, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI YOUNG DEMOCRATS:  That‘s right, young Democrats. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about—why are you are a Republican? 

WACHOLTZ:  Well, I have been Republican for about 25 years, because Republicans stand for a strong defense, a strong America.  And that‘s why I‘m a Republican.

MATTHEWS:  Why are you a Democrat, Luke?

KOSAR:  I am a Democrat because the Democratic Party stands for helping people out, giving them a ladder to climb up.  That way, we can all prosper and we can all be great in this nation. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  Are you—are you a Republican primarily because of foreign policy and security issues? 

WACHOLTZ:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you a Democrat primarily because of social and economic issues? 

KOSAR:  Half and half. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why didn‘t you mention security when I asked you the question? 

KOSAR:  Because I didn‘t—you wanted me to keep my answers short, so...

MATTHEWS:  But comprehensive. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you—let me ask you, what do you think the Democrats‘ position is vis-a-vis the Republican issue on security?  How are you different, being a Democrat, than the president is? 

KOSAR:  Because we are not going to waste all our resources and go it alone.  The isolationist stance that Bush is pretty much pursuing is going to ruin the country in the end. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  Scott...

(BOOING)

MATTHEWS:  Let him answer. 

Scott.

WACHOLTZ:  I think we need to get away from the rhetoric of the 1930s, just like the policies of the Democrats are like the policies of the 1930s. 

MATTHEWS:  What was the rhetoric of the 1930s? 

WACHOLTZ:  Isolationism, just what he is talking about.  We are not isolationists.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I thought the Republicans were the isolationists in the ‘30s. 

WACHOLTZ:  Well, they might have been in the ‘30s, but we need to move away from that, like the Republican Party did. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who has the most votes on this campus? 

Scott.

WACHOLTZ:  I think I do. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

CROWD:  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry! 

Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry!  Kerry! 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Earlier in the evening—let me—let me ask you about people your age, because it‘s always a question. 

The seniors in Florida vote about 100 percent.  Everybody knows the people who come down here to retire vote every time, right?  When are the students, who do have a stake in the future of Social Security and programs like that, when are you folks going to vote as healthily as the older voters? 

KOSAR:  Well, on November 2 this year. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  Is that true? 

WACHOLTZ:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do young people, who have plenty of time on their hands, not vote as much as older people? 

WACHOLTZ:  Well, when there‘s so much to do at the grove, why would they bother voting? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m serious, because you have many weeks to register, many months to register.  You have all day Election Day to vote.  If you can‘t vote here, you can vote absentee.  Why don‘t people take a half-hour out of their lives to be citizens? 

WACHOLTZ:  I have been asking that for the 35 years I have been alive.  I have no idea why.  All I can say, if by now, after everything that‘s gone on for this debate, around this debate, if people on this campus don‘t vote, that it‘s like leading a horse to water. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And we will vote. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think a draft would wake people up?  Would a draft wake up young people? 

WACHOLTZ:  There‘s not going to be a draft. 

MATTHEWS:  If there was a draft, would people vote more heavily? 

WACHOLTZ:  Probably. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree with that? 

KOSAR:  Well, honestly

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree with that?

KOSAR:  Oh, you want me to answer that question?

MATTHEWS:  If you had a draft hanging over you, would you consider in your age group elections to be more vital, more important? 

KOSAR:  Most likely, it would be like... 

MATTHEWS:  Do you want to see the draft come back? 

WACHOLTZ:  Absolutely not. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you want to see the draft come back? 

KOSAR:  Of course not. 

MATTHEWS:  Why did you say of course not? 

KOSAR:  Because who wants the draft? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it‘s fair that...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Who wants to go fight in Iraq? 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it‘s fair that people are—and you saw the movie “Fahrenheit 9/11.”   

KOSAR:  Yes, I did. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you see in that movie the effort to draft people, or to get people to join the Army based on economic circumstances, and to basically go after people who aren‘t at college, like you guys?  They aren‘t at a great campus like this.  They are hanging around shopping malls.  So they go up to them and they see these kids and they recruit them based upon promises.

They get to be in music.  They get to follow their career.  Why do you kids get to avoid military combat?  Why do you support a war you don‘t want to fight in? 

WACHOLTZ:  I was in the Marine Corps for six and a half years. 

MATTHEWS:  Good for you.  You‘re covered. 

(CROSSTALK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  what about you?

By the way, touche. 

Tell me, do you think most kids here who are Republicans would like to go in the military and support the war? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ROTC!

WACHOLTZ:  I think, after they get their college degree, it‘s a possibility. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think—a possibility.

Do you notice there‘s hypocrites about people—or what‘s called chicken hawks, who support wars for other people to fight? 

WACHOLTZ:  Sure.  But that‘s been throughout history.  It‘s not unique

·         that‘s not unique to the Republican Party.  There‘s lots of Democrats like that, too. 

MATTHEWS:  But they don‘t support the war, do they? 

WACHOLTZ:  A lot of Democrats support the war. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think people you know support the war, but don‘t want to fight it?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You say John Kerry didn‘t fight in a war?

WACHOLTZ:  No, that John Kerry supported the war. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Democrats out there are hiding from the war they are supporting? 

KOSAR:  Hiding from the war they‘re supporting?

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

KOSAR:  No.  We are out here talking about exactly how we feel. 

MATTHEWS:  Great, you are against it and you‘re not fighting in it. 

Anyway, thank you.

We are going to be back.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be back in a minute with more HARDBALL. 

We‘ll come back with a smackdown in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We are back with a couple of big-time wrestlers that are going to come join us.  Here they come right now. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  Mick Foley and John “Bradshaw” Layfield.

Let me ask you, Mick, first of all, you are out there trying to—what are you doing to—trying to get this crowd, this age group to vote? 

MICK FOLEY, PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER:  Well, a lot of people just happened to come by. 

We were having a great political debate, Mr. Layfield and myself.  And I think a lot of people here just hopped on over from the debate.  We had the same benefit that the president does.  And no disrespect to the president, but the bar is set awful low for him when it comes to debates.

And I think, in our case, it was set even lower.  And we thought it would be easier to surpass.  And we came off a debate, and I think we did a good job of talking about issues that concern the 18-to-30-year-olds. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it true that the president is very good at setting a very low expectations game? 

JOHN “BRADSHAW” LAYFIELD, PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER:  I think he tries to completely.  Right now, they are talking about what a great debater that John Kerry is.  He is the best in the world. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is that what you wrestlers do?  You wrestlers are always out gaming each other before the fights, right?

LAYFIELD:  Absolutely. 

(CROSSTALK)

FOLEY:  Well, you know, Bradshaw was trying the same thing on me.  He was, like, what am I doing in here?  I‘m up against Nick Foley.  He‘s a best-selling author.  What am I doing?

Now, I have got to tell you, I contacted the Kerry-Edwards campaign to get a little more information on President Bush‘s education record.  And they‘re like, now, just remember, President Bush has never a lost debate.  He beat Ann Richards. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FOLEY:  He beat

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t you like it, in the old-time wrestling, when they use to say, he has got a foreign object in his hand?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  All right, what will the foreign object be in Bush‘s hand tomorrow night, and it‘s his surprise weapon? 

LAYFIELD:  You know, I don‘t know what would happen if John Kerry and George Bush got in a wrestling match.  I do know that John Kerry would probably get a few Purple Hearts out of it.  

(BOOING)

MATTHEWS:  Oh.  Oh.  Oh.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this.  I want you guys to—I want you guys

·         I want you to be handlers right now.  I want you to play, guys, corner men right now for these two wrestlers tomorrow night. 

President Bush, what has he got to do? 

FOLEY:  President Bush has to come across like he is moderately intelligent, which he is.  Unfortunately for John Kerry, he has got to show the nation that he is likable.  Now, voting for the president shouldn‘t be about...

MATTHEWS:  Were you damning him with faint praise?

FOLEY:  No, no, no.  I‘m saying...

MATTHEWS:  Moderately intelligent?  Is that the best you can do? 

FOLEY:  I think he is very intelligent.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

FOLEY:  I think he fools a lot of us into thinking he is not intelligent.  And that‘s the game he wants to play. 

Unfortunately, for President Kerry, it‘s a popularity contest.  And he has got to apparently come across to America like the kind of guy you would like to have a beer with.  Now, Bush looks like the kind of guy you would like to have a beer with.  But then when you find out he is bringing along Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney, you say, ah, let me bring Kerry on.  I think I‘d rather talk to him.

MATTHEWS:  OK, what is your advice to your candidate tomorrow night? 

How do you corner-man him right now? 

LAYFIELD:  I would run on his record.  I would run on his record, that we have had the greatest economic growth in over 19 years, the fact that we haven‘t had a terrorist attack since 9/11.  And there‘s a very good reason for that.  Run on the record.

And I would expose the fact that the reason John Kerry wants to run on his Vietnam service is because in 20 years of being in the Senate, he has not introduced one specific piece of legislation. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you say to the kid out there—or not a kid, a young adult who is 20 years old, 25 years old, he is able to vote legally.  He‘s citizen of the United States, but he says I am too busy? 

LAYFIELD:  I tell them, this is your future. 

You know, all of this right now, 70 percent of people under 30 are what our military is made of; 40 percent of the uninsured are under 30.  The privatization of Social Security, this is the future of America. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

LAYFIELD:  They have got to take hold of it now.  They are going to get America in about 20 years.  They need to start voting on issues right now that are pertinent to them.  If they are too busy, they are too busy for their future. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What should John Kerry say to young people to get them to vote? 

FOLEY:  I think he should point out Bush‘s record. 

I think he point out that President Bush began his presidency with record surpluses.  Now we‘re into record deficits.  You know he is not going to cut back on the military.  You know he‘s not going to rescind the tax breaks for the wealthy.  It‘s going to be social programs stripped to the bone.  And it‘s going to be our core Americans who end up paying for it. 

MATTHEWS:  Who would win a wrestling match between Bush and Kerry? 

LAYFIELD:  I think George Bush might.  I really do.  Kerry is a big windsurfer.  George is a big hunter.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Oh, a little shot there. 

LAYFIELD:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  A little shot at windsurfing. 

FOLEY:  I think at least...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

FOLEY:  I think Senator Kerry would enter the ring.  He wouldn‘t ask his dad to pull strings to get him the heck out of there.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Hey, Mick.  Hey, it‘s great.  Mick and Bradshaw, thank you guys. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Wrestling, it‘s the future. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, tomorrow night, we‘ll be back with an amazing show. 

We are coming back early in the evening at 6:00 tomorrow night.  We will be here all night again.  It‘s going to just like a convention night.  I hope to see everybody here on debate night, the most important night until election night. 

We‘ll see you tomorrow night.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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

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