updated 10/5/2004 12:09:36 PM ET 2004-10-05T16:09:36

Guest: Karl Vick, Bob Woodward, Joe Lockhart, David Boies, Ben Ginsberg

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight: The horse race tightens, as polls show most voters believe John Kerry beat President Bush in round one in the presidential debates.  Tomorrow night, the vice presidential candidates debate in Ohio, as Senator John Edwards squares off against Vice President Dick Cheney.  Can he keep up the momentum heading into Kerry‘s second showdown with President Bush this Friday night?  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews.  Twenty-nine days before the election now, and new polls show John Kerry has pulled even with President Bush.  We‘ll have a look at the latest poll numbers and preview tomorrow night‘s big vice presidential debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards just a bit later.

But first: Two massive car bombs exploded in Baghdad today, and U.S.  troops engaged in heavy clash with Shi‘ite rebels in Sadr City.

“Washington Post” reporter Karl Vick is in Baghdad—Karl.

KARL VICK, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Yes, it was another rough day here.  The—one of the car bombs was right outside a hotel used by Western contractors and probably some government officials who stay in it.  It was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a pair of trucks that were just coming out and killed at least a couple of people.  I‘m not sure if they were Americans or other foreign nationals.  I think they worked for a defense contractor.  And then a bunch of Iraqis on the street also died.

The second bomb actually was detonated earlier, but it was in the morning and blew up an Iraqi national guard recruiting station, and probably about 15 people died there and maybe 70 wounded.  It was pretty bad.  It was right outside the Green Zone.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the battling in Sadr City.  What is going on?  I thought Muqtada al Sadr, the young rebel there, the young rebel cleric, was talking this weekend about joining the political process and abandoning the militia—military activity.

VICK:  Well, was he talking, or were his aides talking?  He‘s somewhat mercurial and inconstant himself, but he‘s surrounded by lieutenants who have differing agendas.  Some prefer the military route and want to see armed opposition to the Americans.  Others say, No, let‘s join the political process.  You can get different stories from different aides on different days.

MATTHEWS:  Well, given his inattentive to making the decision, what‘s the United States decision?  Are beginning a big push throughout the country, Samarra, and of course, now going into Sadr City?  Are we moving both on the Sunni and the Shia fronts?

VICK:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what you see with Muqtada al Sadr, you know, since August, when we were fighting him in Najaf, is pretty much constant military pressure.  They only get what they want from him—that is, the Iraqi government and the Americans who back them—by continuing to bring the fight to him, and that‘s what they‘re doing in Sadr City.  The Americans (UNINTELLIGIBLE) armor throughout that slum, but they really only patrol on foot or in Humvees in the—I think it‘s the northern part.  Meanwhile, yes, there is this big offensive in Samarra.  There was one in this town in the far north, Talafar.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you know, the Iraqis are letting Fallujah know that it‘s teed up and that can happen to them if they don‘t straighten up and join the process, as well.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, thank you very much, Karl Vick of “The Washington Post” in Baghdad.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward is author of the book, “Plan of Attack,” which has just been released in paperback.  Bob, congratulations once again.

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, “PLAN OF ATTACK”:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Another fabulous book.  Let me ask you about what you hear about U.S. policy toward Iraq, since you wrote about going in there.  Are we going to stay in there after the election?  Is that the plan?  Or are these rumors?  Bob—Bob—what‘s his name—Novak has put out that word that we‘re going to pull out, no matter what happens in the election.

WOODWARD:  Well, we‘ll have to see.  It will be decided by the new president, and it may be Bush, may not be Bush.  You can look at the situation and say that‘s where the momentum is going.

MATTHEWS:  To pull out.

WOODWARD:  Yes.  In some form, but hopefully, with dignity, and hopefully, with a plan.

MATTHEWS:  The president has said in one of the rare moments when he‘s admitted that he didn‘t have a perfect vision of what was going to happen after our attack there last year, that he miscalculated about the strength of the resistance.  He said the reason was because we were so successful in the initial military campaign that there was all kinds of remnants of the Ba‘athist regime of Saddam Hussein floating around, and they‘ve all come out to attack us.  Do you think they had any idea of the nationalistic fervor of the Iraqis that would face us after the defeat of Saddam?

WOODWARD:  Probably not.  And what happened, in this kind of excavation, microscopic look at Bush‘s decision over 16 months, you see that everyone‘s focused on the war.  That‘s the big deal.  Show me the military plan.  Is it going to be up the middle?  Is there going to be a northern option?  How many troops are there?  And war is the big unknowable, and bad things could have happened.  So all the attention, all the upper executive attention, went there—the president, Cheney, Rumsfeld.  And the aftermath was thought, Well, you know, that will just be a matter of occupying and fixing it.  And it did not.  They put the No. 3 person at the Pentagon, Doug Feith, in charge of this, and...

MATTHEWS:  Not the right guy.

(CROSSTALK)

WOODWARD:  ... although a lot of people felt that.

(CROSSTALK)

WOODWARD:  Tommy Franks called him something that we can‘t say on the air.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this.  The one lesson we learned from

·         well, I guess we learned several, depending on who you are, from Vietnam was, after you stay in the country a number of years, nationalism works against you.  They—they just—people—it‘s like tissue rejection by the body.  You don‘t want a foreigner in your country, no matter what their intentions were when you went in.

WOODWARD:  Occupation becomes the disease, becomes the problem.

MATTHEWS:  Didn‘t our people at the top, the planners like Doug Feith, acknowledge that after a matter of months, the people of Iraq would want us gone, they wouldn‘t want us there maybe in the first place?

WOODWARD:  I don‘t think they thought it through.  And all of the evidence available is they thought the occupation was going to be two or three years.  That‘s what Bremer, who went in after Jay Garner—that‘s what he thought.  That‘s what all the planning was built around.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think they have a plan now for how we dig ourselves out of the sand, all the quicksand over there?

WOODWARD:  Well, they say they do, and I think the plan is called crisis management.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

WOODWARD:  How do you deal with the problem of the day or the problem of the week?

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about Dick Cheney, a fascinating guy.  He‘s debating John Edwards tomorrow night.

WOODWARD:  I noticed, yes.

MATTHEWS:  He is fascinating.  I‘ve watched him over the years.  When I was in politics, I watched him at close hand.  He‘s one of the toughest hardballers there is on this planet.  What do you think he‘s going to be like, given—what will his defense of the war be, do you believe, tomorrow night against John Edwards?

WOODWARD:  I think it‘ll be the context of, Well, Senator Edwards, you just had to vote about whether to give the president the authority to go to war.

MATTHEWS:  Which you did.

WOODWARD:  Which he did.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

WOODWARD:  The president had to make that decision.  And that‘s a momentous decision, and when you sit in that chair, when you sit around the table in the Situation Room of the White House, it is your responsibility.  And after 9/11, you had to look at threats, and Saddam was a threat, and the president decided to do it and he will defend it.

But I—you know, I agree with you about Cheney.  He‘s the toughest guy.  I remember a very confrontational conversation we had about eight years ago, nine years ago.  He was thinking of running for president.  He decided not to in the ‘90s.  And I was going to put it in a book I was doing on the ‘96 election that one of the reasons was he had a daughter who was gay.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

WOODWARD:  And I...

MATTHEWS:  She hadn‘t come out then.

WOODWARD:  Not at all.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

WOODWARD:  And he called me, and he just yelled at me and said, You are going to—you have no right to do this, and really put me to the wall.  Interestingly enough, got me thinking about it, and I did not put it specifically in the book.  But I saw that—the power of this Mr. Calm becoming Mr. Uncalm.  And as I emphasize in the road to war in Iraq, he was the steam—roller force—big, powerful, slow-moving.  And the president acknowledged, he said, Look, Dick Cheney was a persistent advocate for dealing with the Saddam Hussein problem.

MATTHEWS:  How tough will he be if John Edwards pursues the Halliburton attack?

WOODWARD:  I don‘t know.  You know, he‘s not going to go...

MATTHEWS:  Will he defend his relationship with Halliburton or will he counterattack?

WOODWARD:  You know, I‘m sure he will defend it.  But he has a very mild manner, also.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

WOODWARD:  He can be tough, and I suspect, as they‘ve gone—in fact, remember the Joe Lieberman-Cheney...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

WOODWARD:  ... debate in 2000.  He was very effective and very cool, very relaxed, very matter-of-fact and, you know, never took that iron fist out.  And I suspect if he does, in this case, you know, a lot of people may like it, and a lot of people may not.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I bet he says something very avuncular, like, Senator Edwards—as if he just met him—you had a reputation...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, You had a reputation for doing a lot of your homework.  Well, I think, in this case, you should do a little more study because—and then throw at Edwards something that Edwards hadn‘t gotten in his briefing and use it as a moment of righteous indignation and bring the crowd with him.

WOODWARD:  You know...

MATTHEWS:  He has to do something like that.  There has to be the counterattack.

WOODWARD:  It doesn‘t have to be.  I mean, all kinds of things can happen in the chemistry of these.  They are miniature dramas.  And you don‘t know—it seems it‘s bouncing this way.  It may bounce another way.  In the first Kerry-Bush debate, I was shocked that Bush had this peevish, kind of, I‘m unhappy—he really out-Gored Gore, to a certain extent...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

WOODWARD:  ... in showing his discomfort with criticism.

MATTHEWS:  The war—will this be the issue of the campaign?  You‘ve written about it again in the paperback edition of “Plan of Attack.”  Is this decision by the president to go to war with Iraq, apart from the war on terror—is this decision, which I think is unique to him—in fact, I think it‘s his signature policy decision.

WOODWARD:  I agree.

MATTHEWS:  No other president probably would have done it.  Do you agree with that?

WOODWARD:  I mean, you don‘t know.  But I mean, Bush is very aware of its importance.  And in fact, at one of these secret meetings, he said, I would like to be a two-term president, but if I‘m a one-term president because of this decision, so be it.  It‘s the issue that defines the country, defines him.  And in many ways, it‘s a moral issue.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  And I think...

WOODWARD:  How do we define our power?

MATTHEWS:  And I think to the world, the American reelection of President Bush will be seen as an American people popular endorsement of the president‘s war policy, if we reelect him.  And if not, it‘ll be seen as rejection of it, right?

WOODWARD:  It‘s certainly the case.  I mean, it should be about this.  You know, for once, we‘ve got the campaign off Vietnam and National Guard and swift boat records, and now we‘re on to something that truly matters.  And not only does it define who we are to the world, it defines who we are to ourselves.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you were in that war, right?

WOODWARD:  Yes, in Vietnam.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We‘ll be right back with Bob Woodward when we come back.  And later, Kerry campaign adviser Joe Lockhart on this presidential race, and the new polls showing Kerry has erased President Bush‘s leads in just about all the polls.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:   Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re back with Bob Woodward.

Bob, this—you were just telling me—we just had a great conversation in what we call the Green Room here, which I want to you tell us about because a lot of people thought that this election would become more and more about Iraq, and it certainly has.  This debate last week was all about Iraq.  And I think it‘s in the back of everyone‘s minds.  You tell me—tell me about that event you just went to in Cleveland that gave you a lot—an epiphany about Iraq and this election.

WOODWARD:  Cleveland Town Hall a week ago, a thousand people there.  And so I took a poll, and it‘s 50/50 -- 50 percent for Bush, 50 percent for Kerry.  And then I asked about the war, and it was 3 to 1 against the war.  Now, think about that.  That means 250 people there are voting for Bush and don‘t like the war.

It means a couple of things.  Kerry is not—now, this is before the debate.  He has not made the sale.  They don‘t like the war.  And the way I phrased it, you really had to not like the war, that you thought it was unnecessary or unwise, but you‘re going to vote for Bush anyway.  And at the same time, you can see John Kerry going to that audience, which, obviously, is much larger, people who are going to vote for the president who don‘t like the war, and say, Look, this is the alternative.  And he started that argument, I believe, only started it at the debate.  And if he succeeds, he‘ll win.  If he fails, he loses.

MATTHEWS:  If he turn this into a referendum on whether we should have gone to Iraq or not, he can win.

WOODWARD:  He might.  If he‘s able—I would argue he has not yet made the convincing case of colossal misjudgment, that he has to go through the decisions the president made.  The president made hundreds of decisions.  I have isolated about 50 or 60 that were really critical.  And the question becomes, if John Kerry were commander-in-chief, what would he do at each of those steps along the path?  And if he makes a case on that, people may say, Hey, this is the commander-in-chief we want.  If he does not, he may not make that case.

MATTHEWS:  You know, it‘s interesting because both sides benefit from the same intelligence, the same polling, the same focus groups.  And what you‘ve just said is astounding to a lot of people watching right now, that half the people who are going to vote for President Bush don‘t agree with him on that—what he would call his signature issue.

But what was so interesting about the Republican convention, which I

was watching every minute of in New York, was very little reference by the

Republican people on the platform, all the big guys, about Iraq.  They said

·         they said strong fight against terrorism, good response to 9/11, good conviction and character on the part of the president.  You didn‘t hear any sales pitch for, We had to go to Iraq, I‘m glad we did.

WOODWARD:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s something you heard very little of, I should say.

WOODWARD:  That‘s correct.  And then again, look at the Karl Rove playbook, where...

MATTHEWS:  He‘s the president‘s top political adviser.

WOODWARD:  Yes.  And Rove‘s playbook, which three months before the war, I account—recount in the book how Rove went down to Crawford right after Christmas and got out his PowerPoint presentation on his laptop computer and said, This is the persona that you are going to run on, the campaign‘s going to be built around.  And the first notion, the first idea, big idea was “strong leader.”

MATTHEWS:  Right.

WOODWARD:  Well, that‘s what they‘ve been running on.

MATTHEWS:  Character and strength.  Not so much policy.

WOODWARD:  No.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

WOODWARD:  It‘s strong, it‘s, I won‘t give up, no one‘s going to push me around.

MATTHEWS:  The latest Gallup poll, I believe it is, says that 89 percent of the American people believe that President Bush should change policies if he‘s reelected.  Something like 58 percent, 60 percent almost, 3 out of 5, say there should be dramatic changes.  Do you expect in his second term—you‘re an expert at this.  I‘m setting you up right now.  Do you think there‘ll be major changes at State?  Powell is leaving.  Is Rumsfeld going to stay?  Are the sub- cabinet people of great influence going to stay like Wolfowitz, et cetera?

WOODWARD:  You know, the answer is, I have no flying idea.  And I think some of those people themselves don‘t.  They don‘t know whether they‘d be asked to stay.  You hear people who recount conversations from Powell and Rumsfeld saying contradictory things, that they want to leave, that they want to stay.

MATTHEWS:  OK...

WOODWARD:  So we don‘t know.  My sense, and this is just a sense, about Bush, having spent all of these hours questioning him about, you know, Iraq and the war on terror and so forth, that at the convention, the moderate face—McCain, Giuliani—was not just a show.  But I suspect if there‘s a second Bush term, it will be much like the second Reagan term.  Remember, Reagan raised taxes in his second term.  He made a deal with the Soviet Union and Gorbachev.  So there was a turn.

MATTHEWS:  A sense it‘s possible...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, it‘s interesting because...

WOODWARD:  It wasn‘t a synthesis.  It was a real turn and change.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a powerful interpretation because a lot of people want to know what the president‘s learned through all these months of war and disappointment and disillusion.  A lot of the plans were laid based upon false intel.  He knows it all.  He knows everything we know.  Anyway, thank—right?  He knows everything you know, and that‘s a lot.  Bob Woodward, “Plan of Attack,” out on paperback.  A great buy.  Amazing, this guy.

Up next, a preview of tomorrow‘s debate between Vice President Dick Cheney and vice presidential challenger John Edwards.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:   Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Perhaps no administration official arouses passions, both for and against, as much as Dick Cheney does.  He‘s arguably the most powerful vice president in history, and Tuesday night, he‘ll face a man who built a fearsome reputation as a courtroom lawyer.

HARDBALL election correspondent David Shuster has a preview of tomorrow night‘s vice presidential debate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  It should indeed be a compelling match-up, the somber experience of Dick Cheney...

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Folks, I‘m very, very proud to have had the privilege of serving alongside this president.

SHUSTER:  ... versus the energetic optimism of John Edwards.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  John and I believe to our core that tomorrow can be better than today.

SHUSTER:  But both campaigns say the debate will not be about the running mates.  They maintain the vice presidential nominees will be slugging it out over Senator Kerry and President Bush.

EDWARDS:  It is time for George Bush to come down from fantasyland, come back to Planet Earth, where all of us live every day.

CHENEY:  Senator Kerry has given every indication that he lacks the resolve, the determination and the conviction to prevail in the conflict we face.

SHUSTER:  Republican strategists say that in addition to portraying Senator Kerry as wavering, Mr. Cheney will talk up President Bush as steadfast and principled.

CHENEY:  George W. Bush is a leader with firm convictions, who speaks his mind and keeps his word.  He acts with patience and calm and moral seriousness.

SHUSTER:  Democrats say John Kerry, following the first debate, doesn‘t need as much of a boost from his running mate, so Edwards is expected to go on the attack, hitting the Bush administration for the problems in Iraq and for economic challenges here at home.  During the primary debates, Edwards spoke about factories shutting down in personal terms.

EDWARDS:  I‘ve seen mills close.  I‘ve seen what it does to communities.  I‘ve seen what it does to families.

SHUSTER:  The sit-down format of Tuesday‘s session is similar to what Vice President Cheney faced four years ago.

CHENEY:  There are important issues out there that need to be resolved and...

SHUSTER:  But one line in that debate may be used against him.

CHENEY:  ... and spent the last five years running a company, Global Concern, and we‘ve been out in the private sector, building a business, hiring people, creating jobs.  I‘ve got a different perspective on Washington than I had when I was there in the past.

SHUSTER:  Halliburton, for its overbilling, is now a source of Republican embarrassment.  Democrats expect Edwards to mention Halliburton repeatedly and to remind voters of this statement the vice president made before the Iraq war.

CHENEY:  No, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.

SHUSTER (on camera):  The fact is that Vice President Cheney, as the incumbent, will have to defend more ground than his challenger.  But there‘s also huge pressure on John Edwards.  Edwards has never faced this type of format before, and he‘s trying to keep the Democrats‘ momentum going.

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster.

Up next, Kerry campaign senior adviser Joe Lockhart on the tightening poll numbers and tomorrow‘s debate between the vice presidential candidates.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on HARDBALL, with 29 days until the election, polls show the presidential race is even steven.  Joe Lockhart of the Kerry campaign will join us along with longtime Bush attorney Ben Ginsburg. 

But first let‘s check in with the MSNBC news desk.

(NEWSBREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  The post-debate polls are in and John Kerry appears to have helped himself mightily in Thursday night‘s debate.  I‘m joined by Joe Lockhart, adviser to the Kerry-Edwards campaign.  He‘s at Kerry headquarters.  How would you quantify the impact of last Thursday‘s debate between your candidate, John Kerry, and the president? 

JOE LOCKHART, KERRY CAMPAIGN SR. ADVISER:  I think it is hard to put into numbers.  I think the polls are ranging from a small within the margin lead for Kerry to a small within the margin lead for Bush.  I think much more important is—are two things.  One is that John Kerry got up on the stage there and showed a lot of Americans that he has what it takes to be commander-in-chief.  Secondly, the Bush campaign has run this campaign by trying to create a caricature of John Kerry.  He stood up there and showed the American public that it is just not true.  And Bush had no comeback to that.  He was planning to run against the guy he created.  It didn‘t work out that way. 

MATTHEWS:  Can your campaign keep the focus on the incumbent, starting tomorrow night, with Dick Cheney? 

LOCKHART:  Absolutely.  I think that was the other big lesson of the debate which is when you‘re running 30-second ads and misleading speeches, that the agenda is whatever you decide.  When you get up with a moderator or a town hall, the focus is exactly where it should be:  on the president‘s record.  That‘s why we have these presidential elections.  The more it‘s on the president‘s record, both domestically and on foreign policy, the better off we are. 

MATTHEWS:  You know how we were kids and we played Cowboys and Indians or whatever and somebody would shoot somebody, and somebody would say I‘m it.  You got me.  And then there was always a kid that would never say you never got me.  Dick Cheney has the ability to never say you hit me.  No W.M.D.s, he won‘t admit it.  No connection to al Qaeda, 9/11?  He won‘t admit it.  The Iraqis weren‘t glad to see us, he won‘t admit it.  How do you debate a guy that at no point will he accept the fact he‘s just been hit hard. 

LOCKHART:  It is a disease that runs through White House.  The president still can‘t think of a mistake he‘s made.  We think the list is too long to spend any more time on.  You‘re right.  He sort of sits there stony faced and sort of assumes the public won‘t hold him accountable.  And as long as he says it, it must be true.  It‘s not true.  Look at the issue of al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.  Dick Cheney is the only guy in the world who is still going around and saying that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11.  It is an absurd notion.  It is shameful, the misleading he has done with the American people.  And you know what, when he sits down with that debate, he‘s going to have to own up to that. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s look at the latest “USA Today”/Gallup poll, CNN poll.  The candidates are tied, a dead even at 49 percent.  We‘ve also got—you mentioned there‘s another poll here, the Pew poll that shows the president a bit ahead.  Four points ahead.  Let me ask you about Friday night.  Because I‘m fascinated with Friday night coming up.  It is big casino.  They‘re going to be in front of real American.  Will the president have an advantage because of his ability to connect with those people?  They‘ll be able to cheer him, they‘re called the soft Bush supporters in the audience.  It won‘t be silence like it was last Thursday night.  Does that help the president? 

LOCKHART:  I think there are two schools on this.  The first is that they had the ability to dictate which one we did first.  They argued that the foreign policy debate should be first because that was his strength.  And the first one was the most important.  It didn‘t work out so well for them.  I do think that the president has some advantage here.  He‘s been doing these town halls, albeit with just handpicked Republicans, for a year getting ready for this.  I wouldn‘t undersell John Kerry here.  He‘s been also out talking to people for the last year and a half.  I think it will be a very interesting debate.  A very different challenge than the first one.  When you boil it all down, it comes down to can Bush defend his record?  Can Cheney defend his record?  And the first evidence is in that says they can‘t. 

MATTHEWS:  There‘s another element in play.  You know this better than I do, Joe, working in politics so many years, you know this.  The Zogby poll question.  The new one.  If your car was broken down on the side of the road, who do you think would be more likely to stop and help you?  Kerry, 32 percent of the people thought he‘d stop and help them, 40 percent think that President Bush would stop and help them.  Aren‘t Democrats supposed to be the more caring and considerate of the two candidates? 

LOCKHART:  Well, I think the presidential motorcade going by isn‘t that likely to stop and help. 

MATTHEWS:  You can‘t get off that easy, Joe.  The American people have a sense that George Bush, this could be fairly or not, cares about them. 

LOCKHART:  Listen.  I think if you look at the numbers on the issues that people care about.  I mean, I understand the connection with the people.  It really wasn‘t there on Thursday night of last week.  We talk about connection with people.  They‘re worried about jobs and health care.  They‘re worried about the economy overall.  They‘re worried about energy independence.  Every single one of those issues, if you go to the “USA Today” poll, you‘ll find an advantage for Kerry.  I think one of the issues that really helped us in the debate Thursday night, and I think on Friday, too, is the public gets to see John Kerry unfiltered.  It is not in a 30-second ad.  It‘s not in some news piece that‘s doing the back and forth of the day on the campaign.  They get to see him as who he is.  And that‘s really an advantage for us.  It really worked out for us last week.  I think it will help us this week. 

MATTHEWS:  I want you to do some previewing in the two events.  The first event tomorrow night in Cleveland.  That‘s the vice-presidential debate which can be very hot.  Then Friday night, the town hall style meeting where people from both the soft Bush coalition and the soft Kerry group will both be able to ask questions in a big public meeting.  There will be applause, won‘t there, Friday night?  Can people applaud? 

LOCKHART:  I‘m not sure that they‘re allowed to or not allowed to but they‘ll probably applaud what they like on both sides. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think they‘re going to applaud it, when John Edwards

·         they won‘t be able to applaud.  Let‘s talk about Tuesday night first of all.  Halliburton.  Will the vice-presidential contender, the senator from North Carolina raise that issue with the vice president? 

LOCKHART:  He is certainly going to raise it because it is one of the scandals of this administration. 

MATTHEWS:  Scandals? 

LOCKHART:  The vice president told the country that he wasn‘t getting compensation from Halliburton any longer, he had no connection to it and it turns out he‘s getting $2 million.  In my neighborhood, that‘s still a lot of money. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure it is.  But didn‘t he take out an insurance policy to guarantee at that level of income so he would get no matter what did he, in order to ensure—he wouldn‘t try to pull any strings to help his old company?

LOCKHART:  When the vice president says I‘ve got no connection with the company, people don‘t think that no matter what policy he has, that $2 million is just a piece of change.  He was not straight with us on that.  He will have to defend how his former company now is involved in a grand jury investigation, scandalous behavior over in Iraq, and if he has a good explanation, I think John Edwards will accept it and we‘ll move on.  If he doesn‘t, we‘ll stay on it. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the vice president has pulled any strings on behalf of his old company as vice president?

LOCKHART:  The problem with the vice president is he doesn‘t answer any questions.  He is very secretive.  He doesn‘t go out and he‘s not open with the American public.  The vice president is still running around saying that Saddam Hussein was behind al Qaeda and 9/11.  You can understand that we‘re a little skeptical about some of his explanations. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think you‘ll still face an electoral college problem in your campaign even if the popular vote runs even and gets ahead in places like Missouri and West Virginia? 

LOCKHART:  I think the map looks pretty good for us.  I think we‘re running better in the battleground states than we are nationally.  Because we‘ve concentrated more effort there both in the visits and the advertising.  I think the map looks good and I think if you look at the map as the state by state numbers are coming in over this week, it is getting better and better and our opportunities are expanding not contracting.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thanks for joining us on HARDBALL tonight.  Joe Lockhart, spokesman and top adviser in the Kerry campaign. 

Our coverage of the vice presidential debate begins tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern.  Another big night for us.  Coming up, more on the tightening of the presidential race with MSNBC contributor Ben Ginsburg, a longtime legal adviser to President Bush.  And David Boyce who was an attorney for Al Gore as you recall during the 2000 recount in Florida.

And this Wednesday night at 9:00 Eastern join Tom Brokaw and myself for a special encore presentation and this really good.  Picking our president‘s secrets of the great debates.

Tom and I look back at the greatest moments in debate history and bring you the inside stories that you didn‘t know.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADM. JAMES STOCKDALE (RET.), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  Who am I?  Why am I here?  I‘m not a politician.  Everybody knows that.  So don‘t expect me to use the language of the Washington insider. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I guess adding to the unfairness is the fact that Jim Stockdale, the former P.O.W. who was a hero for our country, was given one week‘s notice he was going to be on that stage.  He had never had a single policy discussion with the presidential candidate Ross Perot.  So he didn‘t know what the party line.  And he had rehearse with list son‘s camcorder. 

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  And the whole thing was a kind of a Monty Python operation, the whole Ross Perot was.  You didn‘t know where Ross would land next. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Picking our presidents, what a great hour.  And it‘s all must see TV for all the political out there, including me.  Tune in Wednesday night, noon Eastern. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Joining me right now is Ben Ginsberg, Republican election lawyer and MSNBC contributor and attorney, David Boies.  These two men were warriors on opposing teams in the 2000 elections in the Florida recount, Mr.  Ginsberg, for Bush campaign, and Mr. Boies for the Gore campaign. 

Before we get to voter issue, let me ask you what you thought of Joe Lockhart‘s presentation the last segment. 

BEN GINSBERG, REPUBLICAN ELECTION ATTORNEY:  Well, I always—I always admire the professional spin masters and the way they come at this and the way they sort of try to set the expectations in a certain way.  I think the debate tomorrow night is going to be a fascinating contrast of styles.  It really is going to be the experience of Dick Cheney vs. the in experience of John Edwards. 

MATTHEWS:  Neither guy is likely to say good point, well made. 

Neither guy is going to score the point for the other guy, right. 

GINSBERG:  The (UNINTELLIGIBLE) points will be fun to keep track of.

MATTHEWS:  Why aren‘t they shaking lands? 

GINSBERG:  I‘m not sure I know the answer to that. 

MATTHEWS:  That was the strangest debate rule I‘ve ever seen. 

Let me start off with Mr. Boies.  It looks to me, looking at the polling coming out of the first week, is that we could well have another hellish scenario here.  We could have a popular vote going to one candidate, perhaps to most likely to John Kerry.  And the electoral vote going the second time in a row to the president.  That would create much more consternation, wouldn‘t it in this country?

DAVID BOIES, FMR. GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY FOR FLORIDA RECOUNT:  I think it would.  And I think it would certainly be unfortunate.  I think, most people in the United States, like most people in the world, think that the person elected ought to be the person most people voted for.  But given the fact that we have an electoral college, I think it could very well come down to Florida, just like it did last time. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think, Ben, what‘s your gut? 

Some people on your side have said Pennsylvania which sound to me like you‘re going to pick up some states and maybe lose some. 

GINSBERG:  I think we‘re fighting for the most part on states that Gore won, my personal pick is Wisconsin.  That‘s the heart breaker. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree with you.  That‘s the toughest one.  That‘s were you could take the heart out of the Democrats, because they can‘t win without Wisconsin, right, unless they pick up Colorado and Florida. 

GINSBERG:  Or it could be Minnesota, which is the other... 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the old Lee Atwater strategy, grab the other guy‘s heart, pull it out and show it to him, right. 

GINSBERG:  Yes.  If it worked for Lee Atwater, that is well put.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask but some problems.  It seems nobody solved the problem, David, you first, of overseas voting.  You hear a lot about Democrats overseas, I‘m sure there were Republicans overseas. 

How do service people on ships right now, or in Iraq, how do they get a post mark on their ballot so that they can be counted and not have people counted who decide to vote after the election? 

BOIES:  I think that‘s, a real problem.  Now, there are ways to do it,

because even if can‘t get a post mark, you can get it date, for example, at

·         on your ship or at your base.  But I think of the real dilemmas, is how do you make sure that everybody who is abroad can vote.  Yet at the same time make sure have what you did have last time, with a lot of people voting late or voting improperly. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, captains can marry people traditionally, why can‘t they be notary publics and sign off,Ben? 

GINSBERG:  Well, they probably could do that. 

MATTHEWS:  But a signature and date on something, and say this guy voted.  Now, I have it in my pocket and I‘m going to mail it. 

GINSBERG:  Part of the difficulty you‘ve got is that each state has its own requirements for when—when it‘s going to accept absentee votes and when they‘ll actually still have them as valid.  So, that gets a little tricky sometimes. 

MATTHEWS:  But last time around, Joe Lieberman, drove his running mate wild, by issuing a statement on an interview program right?  We‘ll accept all ballots from military people, regardless of what‘s the dates are on them, right. 

GINSBERG:  We agreed with him 100 percent. 

MATTHEWS:  You guys agreed with him, but it killed—you assumed that in those days, and it may still be true that most military ballots are Republican.

GINSBERG:  And recent polls shows about 4-1 amongst active duty military supporting the president. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you concerned David about this problem in Florida.  I hate to bring up Florida again, but I will, where apparently down there some of the counties have this requirement that you have to state your citizenship, you have to check off American on your registration form when you register to vote.  It turns out that 4,000 residents, I guess they‘re newly registrants, people have been urged—hadn‘t be voting before to register, didn‘t check that off and therefore, they can‘t vote and they‘re finding that out now. 

BOIES:  I think that‘s a real problem.  I think one of the issues that we‘ve had in Florida is a variety of attempts to keep people who are really qualified to vote from really voting.  And I think that‘s—you mentioned one of them, but it is only one of the examples. 

GINSBERG:  The way this system works, the legislature has a bunch of prescriptions on the requirements that have to be met to vote.  This form which was passed on or at least both parties will the ability to pass it on, it includes that.  And so for one reason or another, that form went into place.  You certainly have to be a citizen to participate in the elections.  And so the legislate you are and elected officials believe that‘s an important requirement. 

MATTHEWS:  Is this another one of these “Teresa (ph) Report” things where it is a Democrat that screws things up and it ends up hurting the Democrats? 

BOIES:  It wasn‘t a Democrat that screwed it up here.  It was—it‘s not an Democratic legislature in...

MATTHEWS:  In Orange County. 

BOIES:  Yes.  Right. 

GINSBERG:  Well, it was passed by the Florida legislate, but the form is that of the county which is controlled by Democrats. 

MATTHEWS:  Who is responsible for requiring this check off of American citizenship that wasn‘t honored by so many registrants. 

GINSBERG:  Well, it‘s a legislative mandate. 

BOIES:  It‘s a legislative mandate...

GINSBERG:  But it‘s formed—but the form itself is prepared by...

(CROSSTALK)

BOIES:  And the legislature has been controlled, both houses, by Republicans. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, before we go, I want to talk about more of this political and legal stuff.  David, do you have confidence in these voting machines that are basically like ATMs? 

BOIES:  I think the voting machines, the electronic voting machines, that do not have a paper trail are a potential disaster.  There is no excuse for having those kinds of machines in place.  They only create problems.  You have machines in Florida and elsewhere that are electronic, optical character recognition machines that have a paper trail.  Those could have been installed.  They should have been installed.  The fact that you have these machines that are so susceptible of error, and there‘s no way to check them I think is a terrible mistake. 

MATTHEWS:  This is what everybody wanted.  We all thought this was the solution last time around.  Don‘t have all these chads, have this electronic, state-of-the-art equipment.

BOIES:  But the state-of-the-art—the state-of-the-art equipment

that everybody wanted last time was the kind of equipment that you had in

Volusia County, which was optical character recognition machines.  You use

·         color in—like taking a standardized test.  It‘s recorded

electronically, but you still have the paper trail. 

MATTHEWS:  I got you.  Like an SAT, yeah.

GINSBERG:  Look, any machine that people have faith in is the right kind of machine to have.  Let‘s remember that the old lever machines that people voted on for 70 years without complaints of the validity of the vote had no paper trail on them at all. 

The fact of the matter is that these machines need the confidence of the people.  Paper trails, even if you have them, doesn‘t insure that the paper trail is not reflecting garbage in, garbage out. 

So we‘re going to have a lot of interesting issues, probably because of the attention on Florida on all machine systems. 

MATTHEWS:  Is the biggest problem in elections corruption or incompetence? 

GINSBERG:  Incompetence. 

BOIES:  Incompetence.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that‘s true?  OK.  I‘m glad to see that‘s changed from my growing up days in Philly. 

Anyway, we‘re coming back with more—the old days—Ben Ginsberg and David Boies.  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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Ben Ginsberg and David Boies.  David, I‘ve been reading this wonderful book about the four trials in which John Edwards succeeded in his litigation.  He is a smart lawyer, he has great sympathy for the underdog.  He goes after—he knows how to go after the man who is most respected in town, usually a doctor.  How is that going to work tomorrow night against the vice president? 

BOIES:  Well, I think it will help him.  I think the vice president is obviously a very accomplished debater, but I think Mr. Edwards will acquit himself well. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he could use the same sort of approach of David against Goliath, of fairness, of going against the establishment which seemed to have been his favorite method? 

BOIES:  Well, I think there are two messages.  I think one is going against the establishment, and there Halliburton gives him a perfect target, because he‘s able to associate the vice president directly with Halliburton, and he‘s able to portray Halliburton as really one of the clear wrongdoers in a very important area.  

The second thing that he‘s very good at, and every trial lawyer has to be, is confronting a witness when the witness is simply not telling the truth.  And when you have the vice president trying to be still saying it was al Qaeda in Iraq, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11, that‘s the kind of statement that a trial lawyer loves to get, because what you can do is you take that and you totally destroy the person‘s credibility. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there ever a moment in your trial history, you‘re one of the best in the country, David, where the witness is cracked, the hostile witness has cracked, like in Perry Mason, where they say, all right, you got me, I can‘t take it anymore?  And they stand up and they always—it‘s usually right at the end of a “Perry Mason”—does anybody in the history of your courtroom experience ever stand up and say, OK, you got me, I‘m a bad guy? 

BOIES:  They never stand up, but maybe once or twice in about 35 years they‘ve admitted that I got them. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I know one guy that will not admit it.  His name is Richard Cheney. 

Let me ask you about tomorrow night.  Richard Cheney must be—I‘m sure you know about this—in the prep for him, he must be sure the word Halliburton will pop.  What do you think he‘ll respond? 

GINSBERG:  Well, I think he‘s going to respond with the defense of the truth, which is sort of counter to the things Joe Lockhart was talking about in the previous segment.

MATTHEWS:  OK, give me a preview.

GINSBERG:  Well, he‘s going to say, look, I did an insurance policy, the truth is I acted honorably with Halliburton...

MATTHEWS:  His insurance policy basically said I will get a certain amount of money no matter what happens with that company‘s profits, therefore I will be immune from any attempts to tinker with it. 

GINSBERG:  So this is lies and distortions by the Kerry campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the memo from the Corps of Engineers that said we checked with the vice president‘s office on letting this contract, is he going to have a problem? 

GINSBERG:  Look, there‘s (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- no, it‘s not going to be a problem. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s not going to be a problem?  Why not? 

GINSBERG:  There was never any substance to it, and he never came back. 

BOIES:  Of course, it‘s going to be a problem. 

GINSBERG:  He‘s going to—he is going to steer this debate back to what the strengths are, which is his experience as a vice president back to his early days as a chief of staff, versus John Edwards, a first-term senator, who frankly didn‘t win a lot of primaries for a reason. 

But I have a question for David Boies, if I could.  David, does it affect a real trial lawyer, and you‘re a great one, to not actually be able to stand up while you‘re asking questions? 

MATTHEWS:  Because the rules say they have to sit together, like you‘re at the Metropolitan Club having a drink, that‘s what it looks like.  Gwen Ifill joining them in the middle, I should say. 

BOIES:  I think every trial lawyer would rather be on their feet.  I‘d rather be on my feet when I‘m talking right here.  But I think that John Edwards will do fine, fine sitting down.  In part because he‘s got a lot of facts.  I mean, to say that the document from the Corps of Engineers doesn‘t mean anything I don‘t think is realistic.  This is a piece of evidence, this is hard evidence, and when you try to walk away from that... 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s prima facie.  Anyway, thank you very much, Ben Ginsberg and David Boies. 

Tomorrow we‘re live in Cleveland for the vice-presidential debate between—this is going to be great tomorrow night—Dick Cheney and John Edwards.  Talk about asymmetric warfare.  Our coverage begins at 7:00 Eastern, the debate‘s at 9:00.  Right now, it‘s time for the COUNTDOWN with Keith. 

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

END   

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