updated 10/6/2004 4:55:20 PM ET 2004-10-06T20:55:20

Guest: Patrick Leahy, Jesse Jackson, Lindsey Graham, Jon Meacham

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  And welcome to MSNBC‘s special coverage of the first and only vice presidential debate.

We want to extend a special welcome to those of you joining us right now from NBC News. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  We‘re live from the campus of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, surrounded by the people who make up this great swing state of Ohio. 

We want those of you at home to take part in our discussion.  Join us online and cast your vote for who you thought won the debate tonight.  Go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.  And we will give you results later on. 

This hour, we‘ll have reports from the NBC News team, including NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw and NBC News Washington bureau chief and the moderator of “Meet the Press,” Tim Russert, plus, NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC‘s Chris Jansing from the spin room, and HARDBALL‘s election correspondent, David Shuster, with a post-debate analysis by the numbers, just like last week. 

But, first, joining me first on stage right here, NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell, Ron Reagan, MSNBC‘s political analyst, the managing editor of “Newsweek,” Jon Meacham, and Joe Scarborough, host of “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” and “AFTER HOURS.”

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” sounds more wholesome than “AFTER

HOURS.” 

(LAUGHTER)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”:  It‘s not.

MATTHEWS:  They‘re both great shows.

I am stunned.  I wish everybody would show an equal exclamation point after their thoughts here tonight.  Dick Cheney was prepared.  He was loaded for bear tonight.  He was out on a hunting trip looking for squirrel. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  And he found squirrel.  Does anybody share that?  Because I think the newspapers are going to share that tomorrow.  He had tremendous ammunition at his disposal, tremendous opposition research on the absentee ratings of both candidates on the Democratic ticket.  He was able to defend, almost, almost, his position as former CEO of Halliburton.

But on every other topic, he seemed like he was in to hit home runs and he did so. 

Joe Scarborough. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, no doubt about it. 

And, again, I will go back to what I said before the debate.  This guy, Dick Cheney, is so comfortable in his own skin.  There aren‘t a lot of people that, when you ask him a question, will stand there and...

JON MEACHAM, “NEWSWEEK”:  Like George Bush. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Look down for a second, and look, and basically say, I cannot believe I am going to have to educate this little kid on how government really works. 

But there was almost a contempt.  And, again, it wasn‘t an arrogance. 

It was almost like, I can‘t believe he doesn‘t get this. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Dick Cheney, from the very beginning, went after this

guy.  He had his facts right.  He delivered it very well.  And, again, you

have Dick Cheney next to John Edwards.  I don‘t think, again, it was so

much John Edwards‘ weakness as it was Dick Cheney‘s

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... gravitas. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me suggest something.  I want to argue with that. 

I think last week, we all sat around this table Thursday night and we looked at the reaction shots of the president to what John Kerry was saying, and he looked ticked off.  He had the pursed lips.  He has that sort of petulance.  Tonight, I saw something different.  I saw a guy who looked like he kept getting slapped. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  His look slapped all night, like, where did that come from?

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  No doubt about it.  At times, there were some slaps at him. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go right now to some experts.  “NBC Nightly News” anchor, Tom Brokaw, and NBC News Washington bureau chief and moderator of “Meet the Press,” Tim Russert, join us right now.

Gentlemen, what did you think? 

TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR:  Well, I think that it‘s always premature for us to make a decision about who won the debate, Chris.  I know that it‘s part of the sporting moment after the debate, but people really will decide in the next couple of days, and they will piece it together with last week and what they see again on Friday night.

But I absolutely agree.  And I was not surprised by this, having covered him for more than 30 years now, that Dick Cheney was extremely well prepared.  And earlier on NBC here, I compared him to George Foreman.  He kind of shuffles across the ring and then he unleashes a powerful right hand.  He had any number of memorable lines:  You couldn‘t stand up to Howard Dean.  How can you stand up to terror?

He doesn‘t believe that John Kerry has conviction to carry through on the war on terror.  He said, you were for the war when the headlines were good.  You were against it when the polls were bad. 

Those are not only memorable lines, but those are sound bites that are going to get repeated again and again, Tim.

TIM RUSSERT, NBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF:  I thought Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican from South Carolina, had a very interesting point, Tom.

He said that last Thursday was not George Bush‘s best night. 

BROKAW:  Right. 

RUSSERT:  And they were very much afraid that if this debate went the same way as last Thursday‘s, there would be an extraordinary momentum for the Kerry-Edwards ticket going into Friday. 

They do believe that tonight they blunted some of that momentum, because Dick Cheney was able to rally the Republican base, at least, by putting forward a very instructive and heartfelt case for the Bush-Cheney administration.  I think John Edwards, when he said, you are not being straight on Iraq, was trying to frame this campaign on Iraq, and Dick Cheney kept saying, it‘s broader than Iraq.  It‘s the war on terror.  And if you want to win the war on terror, you have got to reelect George Bush. 

And then when he turned to John Edwards and basically said to him, you know what, you are a young man in too much of a hurry.  I never met you before in my life until you walked on the stage tonight, it was basically saying to the American people, you may disagree with me, but I am steady and I am resolute, and I have a lot of experience, and you don‘t have to worry about the government if I am a heartbeat away. 

BROKAW:  And here‘s the tough part, and I think that this is where Senator Edwards, to his credit, performed very well tonight.  He stayed after the case that you have got an empty portfolio that you are defending here, that you are not being straight with the American people.  It is more of the same. 

And he cited what Paul Bremer was saying this week about needing more troops.  He cited the question about Don Rumsfeld raising about al Qaeda and the terror—and the ties between Saddam Hussein and what‘s going on in Iraq.  So I think that really becomes, then, the issue for them.  Dick Cheney put up a formidable defense of the administration, and turned it into an offense whenever he could.  But then the question will become, in the minds of the American public, all right, do we want more of the same?  Is it going well now?  Is it going in the direction that we need to?

RUSSERT:  “And does a long resume mean good judgment?”—quote, unquote—John Edwards. 

BROKAW:  Right. 

RUSSERT:  I think the sound bite that we will hear from Edwards over and over again is, you are not being straight with the American people on Iraq.  The sound bite we are going to hear from Dick Cheney is saying, you can‘t win the war on terror without George Bush, and if you can‘t stand up to Howard Dean, how can you stand up to al Qaeda?

BROKAW:  Yes, but I have felt, Chris, I think, especially for the last month or so, is that this is a campaign that is really being driven by events on the ground in Iraq, on the ground in Afghanistan, in the economy here, much more than it was earlier than that coming out of the Republican Convention, in which they really were able to frame the debate.

But now I do think that these issues that are unfolding across this country and across the Middle East are driving this debate in a way that the political strategists no longer have the control that they did just a short time ago. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Tom and Tim, for all those months last year and a good part of this year, most of us looked upon John Edwards as a man who supported the war much more emphatically than John Kerry, who was somewhat hard to read at times. 

Did it seem to you that he was making a brief for something, hard opposition to the war, that was new to him, and he could have basically taken the other side, given a few differences in headlines? 

BROKAW:  No, I think in fairness to them, what they are saying is that we would prosecute this war in a new way and a better fashion.  That‘s what they are saying. 

Whether they can do that I think is really problematic.  As Gwen Ifill pointed out, the French and Germans are saying, hey, we are not sending any troops over there.  And you don‘t see anybody at the U.N. Security Council saying, I just can‘t wait for John Kerry to get elected, so we can get on board in Iraq with you. 

I really do think that they are overpromising what they can do with the international community, but that is the foundation of their argument, that you got us into the wrong war at the wrong time in the wrong place, that it should have been in Afghanistan, but now that you are in this war, we think that there are better ways of managing it. 

You can make that case rhetorically.  It‘s much tougher to make it practically on the ground in Iraq or at the U.N. or certainly in the heart of Europe. 

RUSSERT:  I think, Chris, that John Edwards will rally the Democratic base because he kept defending John Kerry, which is something that Democrats want the V.P. nominee to do.  He will also win points with the Democratic base for going after Halliburton, for going after health care, for going after Iraq over and over again. 

But for the Republicans, they very much needed Dick Cheney to stand up and fight tonight for their president and for their ticket.  And he did just that.  I do not know how the swing independent voters are going to come down on this.  And I think they may wait and reserve judgment until Friday, and, as Tom said, for the events to play out over the next month. 

MATTHEWS:  What did you think, Tom and Tim, about the manner in which the vice president did not really refer that often to the president?  It wasn‘t sort of the prime minister role he often takes. 

He wasn‘t saying, my president said this.  The president said that. 

He was almost overlooked. 

BROKAW:  Well, it‘s one of the strengths of Cheney is his ability to exude self-confidence without overstating it. 

He is not a chest-beater.  He is not a table-thumper.  He sits down.  I was trying to think of what the metaphor might be.  He reminded me of the school principal who calls you into the office and he sits there and he has got all the answers.  You can go after him as much as you want to, but ultimately he has the authority.  And he knows how to express that.  He has been through it before.  He has seen all the tricks. 

They have come after him in a lot of different ways, and he has almost

always got an answer.  And what Democrats—it makes them crazy, I know, a

lot of the time—but his sentences also parse.  He is articulate when it

comes to the position of the administration.  Whether or not it all adds up

for Democrats is a whole

(CROSSTALK)

RUSSERT:  I think, Chris, Dick Cheney could audition for the lead role in “The Apprentice” if Donald Trump ever gets tired. 

BROKAW:  That‘s right. 

RUSSERT:  I‘m sorry, Senator, you‘re fired.

BROKAW:  Right.  Right. 

RUSSERT:  You just don‘t measure up. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Is there anything, lastly tonight, Tom and Tim, that the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party has to clean up for John Edwards this Friday night? 

BROKAW:  No.  I think what they are going to have to deal with is this whole business about do you have the conviction to carry through the war on terror, and are you demeaning Iraqi people by not including them in the casualty count, and he will have to find a way of dealing with that. 

But the big issue that they will continue to come after them on is that we can‘t trust you with the security of this country, and you don‘t have the conviction to carry through with all of that, and you were for the war when the headlines were good and you are against it when they were bad.  And if you can‘t stand up to Howard Dean, how are you going to stand up to terrorists?  So he is going to have to show real backbone again on Friday night. 

This is a package deal.  We don‘t vote just on these two guys that we saw here tonight.  They get twinned with the presidential candidates, so this is prologue to what happens on Friday night in Saint Louis, and then next week, as you know, in Tempe. 

RUSSERT:  Chris, I think the bigger spotlight on Friday will be on George Bush.  He needs a good debate performance. 

BROKAW:  Right. 

RUSSERT:  Republicans want that.  Swing independent voters who are undecided want that.  He has to go out, much like Ronald Reagan in 1980, after a dismal first debate, go out on the second debate and make an emphatic case that he should in this case remain as commander in chief and president of the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  That was against Fritz Mondale.  Right. 

Thank you, Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina joins us now from Washington. 

Senator Graham, what did you think tonight about your vice president? 

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  I am glad I don‘t have to debate him. 

(LAUGHTER)

GRAHAM:  I have never met a person in my life—and I am a lawyer, too—and John Edwards is a talented guy—more comfortable with who he is and what he believes and can explain himself as well in 90 seconds or 30 seconds as Dick Cheney. 

I think this may go down in history as the best example of how you take someone‘s attack and turn it on him.  The line about freedom is the best antidote to terror just kind of sums it all up to me.  He looked over at Senator Edwards and said, when you attack Prime Minister Allawi and you criticize him and your people call him a puppet, you are hurting the cause. 

When you demean the fact that the Iraqis are dying in droves for their own freedom, you are demeaning the cause.  When you look at Afghanistan and you don‘t see positive movement, you are too pessimistic to win this war, that there are good things going on.  And he is the most gifted—I can‘t do the guy justice.  It is clear to me that he is the most qualified vice president that I have ever known in my lifetime, and he is in the right job at the right time.  And I am glad he in there.  And I have nothing against Senator Edwards, but he didn‘t measure up tonight. 

MATTHEWS:  Can you imagine that a U.S. senator, one of your colleagues, and the presiding officer of the U.S. Senate, the vice president of the United States, can be so ungregarious that they never met each other? 

GRAHAM:  I can tell you, Dick Cheney comes every Tuesday.  I see him in our policy meetings.  Pat Leahy knows he is in the Senate.  I can only tell you that. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Do you really believe, honestly—I am asking you a tough question. 

GRAHAM:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe these two gentlemen have never met before? 

GRAHAM:  I have been on Judiciary Committee, and I have seen John Edwards at one meeting. 

John has been out campaigning for president for about two and a half to three years.  That‘s the way you play the game, I guess, but he has been AWOL on a lot of votes.  He is never there.  John Kerry is never there.  That‘s just a fact.  But the point of tonight is that you saw a guy, Dick Cheney, who has been around the block in the world leadership role for a long time, and it came through that that matters. 

Leadership is what this election is about.  It‘s not about a particular issue.  The only reason I think we are leading now is that President Bush is way ahead of Senator Kerry on the issue of leadership. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I guess that we are hearing now—I am getting through my ear the news, Senator Graham, that the vice president of the United States has in fact encountered the senator from North Carolina at a prayer breakfast.  We got that from Elizabeth Edwards, but apparently they never met in any business setting.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  So we‘re getting qualifications on this already. 

GRAHAM:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Senator Graham, about...

GRAHAM:  It‘s good to pray. 

MATTHEWS:  ... the whole question of Halliburton, about Halliburton—speaking of prayer. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that the candidate of your party, the vice president, did well in defending himself against charges that his company had done bad things in terms of trading, trying to trade with Iran? 

GRAHAM:  Yes, I think the vice president did a very good job of defending himself against the personal attacks that have been levied by Senator Lautenberg, this idea of having a financial interest in Halliburton. 

The vice president went so far out of his way to do this right that it‘s really something that people should know.  He does have deferred compensation coming from the company.  But that was started in 1999, before he ever was elected.  He has an insurance policy that will pay him regardless of how Halliburton performs, and his stock options have been assigned to charity. 

This idea that Dick Cheney is a crook and that he is a bad guy is not going to stick. 

MATTHEWS:  But, in the last debate, the one with Joe Lieberman, Dick Cheney said that he didn‘t make any money from the government when he was head of Halliburton.  Halliburton does huge billion, multibillion dollar business with the federal government.  How can he defend the truth of that statement? 

GRAHAM:  Well, I think the record of Halliburton speaks for itself.  It‘s one of the biggest companies in the world.  And it‘s well positioned to deliver services and, at times, has done a very poor job.

And I don‘t think—anything the vice president has done with Halliburton is a matter of public record, and this idea that he is somehow a crook being associated with the company is not going to stick. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  It‘s great having you, as always, a favorite of our show, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.  

MSNBC‘s Chris Jansing is in once again that spin room, this time with the Reverend Jesse Jackson—Chris.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC CORRESPONDENT:   Thanks very much, Chris. 

Well, few people know how to turn a phrase as well as the Reverend Jesse Jackson. 

Thanks very much for joining us. 

REV. JESSE JACKSON, FOUNDER, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION:  Yes. 

JANSING:  But Dick Cheney turned some pretty good phrases himself when he asked, how can you stand up to al Qaeda, John Kerry, when you can‘t stand up to Howard Dean?  And he questioned John Edwards‘ record in the Senate, no-shows.  And he said, I never met with you before tonight in my life. 

Did Dick Cheney score some big points for the Bush team? 

JACKSON:  I don‘t think those were the points that mattered in the sense that the first issue is that Cheney could not defend our policy in Afghanistan.  We left Afghanistan.  The head—is the head of Kabul.  The warlords control the hills, where the drugs are.  That‘s where troops are dying. 

Those are real questions.  We have left bin Laden to the warlords, many of them on his payroll, and gone to Iraq, where 1,000 Americans have been killed, soldiers killed, 7,000 injured, hundreds of billions dollars spent.  And now we are sinking deeper into the sand of Iraq.  And, of course, on the domestic economy, they cannot justify the net loss of jobs in every state.  So I thought the three big questions were our behavior in Afghanistan and Iraq and our domestic economy. 

JANSING:  And yet more Americans—let‘s take those first two issues

·         believe that the president is better prepared to defend America and the war on terror.

               

He has appealed to soccer moms, and done pretty well with it, the president has, backed up by the vice president tonight. 

JACKSON:  You know, he was doing much better until people could see him face to face with John Kerry last week.  Most Americans did not realize that, when you swear in a head in Afghanistan, it was just Kabul.  And warlords control the drug fields. 

We gave the Taliban $70 million the March before we were hit 9/11 as our anti-drug ally.  They have not reduced producing poppy seed.  It was that they had a bad crop season.  So now we have Kabul.  The warlords have the rest of Afghanistan.  So the more people realize the fact that we are not controlling Afghanistan—and they keep saying 10 million people can vote.  Yes, but the countryside belongs to the warlords.  And that‘s apparently where bin Laden is.  We have no coalition troops to get him, because it‘s under his control, it seems. 

JANSING:  You mention the other topic being key, the economy.  We are standing in a state that‘s lost 230,000 manufacturing jobs under George Bush.  We‘re in the city with the highest poverty rate in the country, and yet all of the most recent polls show the president leading here.  What‘s the message, then, that John Kerry is not getting out?  Is it that the American people have not connected with him yet? 

JACKSON:  It may be issue of connection.

But the fact is, there is a net loss of jobs.  There is a—those who make $1 million or more, they got rebates.  They got subsidy.  Working people got a tax cut and a job cut and a benefit cut and a rise in health costs and a rise in tuition.  Those facts beginning to dawn on people now.

There are 33 counties in this state and Appalachia.  In Appalachia, a coal miner dies every six hours from black lung disease.  They have lost 34 steel mills.  Children are riding to schools 2 ½ hours one way each day.  When asked what about inner-city Cleveland, Mr. Cheney took a pass. 

And, at the end, he seemed to simply have just become exhausted.  He had nothing to say about the drug crisis.  The emphasis on the drug crisis, these overcrowded jails, these kids have these overcrowded jails, same-sex sex, same-cell sex, drug sex.  And they come out and they spread it.  So we have this big numbers for the world, but there‘s no sensitivity to the crisis expanding here at home. 

(CROSSTALK)

JACKSON:  And I thought that the last piece missed, they did not discuss voter suppression.  Voter suppression may be the single determinant come November 2.  Voter suppression is a big deal.

JANSING:  And I think a lot of people are going to be talking about that in the days to come. 

Reverend Jesse Jackson, pleasure talking to you.  Thanks very much.

JACKSON:  Thank you. 

JANSING:  Somebody who knows a little bit about debating and running for president as well—Chris, back to you. 

MATTHEWS:  And thank you, Chris.  And thank you to Reverend Jesse Jackson. 

NBC‘s Brian Williams joins us now with a look at the accuracy of some of those statements we heard in tonight‘s debate—Brian.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR:  And, Chris, we will begin with what may be a metaphor for the nation‘s attention span.  Look at what‘s going on behind us, if you hear the construction noise.  They are taking the eagle down.  The entire room is breaking down, curtains, cameras, everything.  It all flies to Saint Louis after this, where it will be used again. 

So much was said tonight.  How do you separate facts from assertions, gray areas, things like, did the two men meet?  We have narrowed down some of these subject matters.  And you are right.  We watched tonight with our own experts by our side checking these facts as they came out.  And the first exchange we are going to show you came during the second round of questions. 

What you are about to see is Vice President Dick Cheney, who Senator Edwards charged tonight has repeatedly linked Iraq to the 9/11 attacks.  This was the vice president tonight in his own defense. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The senator has got his facts wrong.  I have not suggested there‘s a connection between Iraq and 9/11. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  But here is the vice president on “Meet the Press,” one year ago, September 14, 2003.  He was asked to define success in Iraq. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS”) 

CHENEY:  We will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists, who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  So Vice President Cheney from tonight‘s debate and from “Meet the Press” just over a year ago.  Later in the debate, the subject of Halliburton came up, the huge contracting firm formerly headed by Vice President Cheney. 

They have received, as you know, hundreds of millions in federal funds for work they have performed in Iraq.  And along came the following charge from Senator Edwards tonight regarding just how Halliburton was awarded a lucrative contract to perform work in Iraq. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We also thought it was wrong to have a $20 billion fund out of which $7.5 billion was going to go to a no-bid contract for Halliburton, the vice president‘s former company.  It was wrong then.  It‘s wrong now. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Now, those words right there, no-bid contract, was the charge, and Senator Edwards used that same phrase, as you heard many times tonight.  The truth is, more like nobody else could bid on that contract, because nobody else could do that exact work. 

According to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, Halliburton in this case was the only company able to be—quote—“in a position to provide the services within the required time, given the urgency of the need on the ground in Iraq.”

And an area where facts can be used either way, tonight, the vice president and Senator Edwards used the same figure differently, and both may be correct at the same time.  It has to do with who bears the burden of the casualties in Iraq.  This was Senator Edwards‘ argument.  He says the U.S. has borne 90 percent of the casualties.  That figure only refers to coalition forces.  The vice president says that isn‘t the case, because he factors in casualties among Iraqi forces. 

He took a dig, as you heard, at Senator Edwards for not including the native Iraqis in his figuring.  The difference here merely how each man uses the available statistics from Iraq.

So, Chris, long after we are torn down here tonight and the eagle behind us flies to Saint Louis to the South, they will be arguing over who was right and who was wrong in this room—Chris, back to you. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Brian Williams.  Great report. 

Joining me now from the spin room, Senator Pat Leahy, Democrat from Vermont. 

Senator Leahy, you have got to clear up this.  You are a member of the Senate and great and longstanding.  You are there all the time.  You were there tussling it up with the vice president that infamous day.  Is it possible for a senator to have never met the presiding officer of the Senate? 

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT:  Well, you know, the vice president does come up every Tuesday, as he says. 

But unlike all vice presidents before him, he only meets with Republicans.  He does not meet with Democrats.  He only goes and meets with Republicans on Tuesday.  We Democrats watch this entourage of 20 or 30 cars, sirens wailing up to Capitol Hill, and he goes in to meet with the Republicans, which is his choice.  It‘s too bad.  You know, there‘s still 49 in the Democratic Caucus that would love to see the presiding officer now and then. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you, if he only shows up for the Republican Caucus, how did he manage to offer you that encomium that he offered you that infamous day up near the chair? 

LEAHY:  Well, you know, you are going to have to ask him about that.  I came here tonight to watch John Edwards.  I thought he did an absolutely superb job. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you about tonight. 

Let me ask you about something that is very hot.  And I thought Brian Williams did a great job of digging up that “Meet the Press” clip.  It seems to me, this administration has been brilliant in suggesting, without saying so, a connection between 9/11 and the decision to go to Iraq.  And if you can‘t find direct quotes to that effect, you can certainly sense that that was the way in which it was presented. 

How do you look at this?  Was the war with Iraq sold to U.S. as justice for 9/11 or wasn‘t it? 

LEAHY:  I‘m sorry. 

No, the war in Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.  Afghanistan has something to do with 9/11.  Osama bin Laden has something to do with 9/11.  Our failed effort to find him and his forces in Afghanistan has nothing to do with 9/11. 

I think you saw the vice president, here‘s a chance to clear up a lot of the mistakes they have made during the past four years.  He made no effort to at all.  I think it was very, very defensive.  I think he was extremely defensive.  This is an administration that came in promising to unite the country, not divide it.  They end up with a more divided country than ever before. 

They squandered the largest surplus any administration ever inherited, turned it into the biggest deficit.  They have to go into the Social Security trust fund to do it.  They sent troops into Iraq, pretending it was because of 9/11, now having to admit that it wasn‘t.  And even Ambassador Bremer, who was a man on the ground, admits today they didn‘t send in enough troops.  They didn‘t have a plan to win the peace.  They had no idea what they would do once they got in there. 

This has been an administration that has had mistake after mistake.  And the vice president with his attacks or talk about things 20 or 30 years ago, did absolutely nothing to cover up the mistakes.  Also, one of the things is, you never learn from a mistake if you don‘t admit it.  He has a lot of mistakes to admit.  I got the impression tonight he is never, ever going to admit them. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you if you will clarify something for your party and your ticket.  Does the Democratic Party, the Democratic ticket for president and vice president believe going into Iraq was a blunder? 

LEAHY:  Well, you know, everybody is going to have to ask that question on their own. 

I was opposed to going in there.  I strongly supported going into Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden was.  I wish we had kept the troops there.  I have said over and over again, if we went into Iraq, we ought to go in with the number of troops we wanted.  But you know what happens.  This administration does not want to hear any dissent from anybody.  They don‘t want to hear it internally in their own administration.  They don‘t want to hear it outside. 

You see how they react when they do have it.  General Shinseki told, the Army, chief of staff, they needed to have more people there.  What did they do?  They just pushed him off—they pushed him out of his command. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Senator Patrick Leahy. 

LEAHY:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Of Vermont.

When we come back, we‘ll take a look at the debate by the numbers. 

What were the key themes and the buzz words for each candidate tonight?  David Shuster is so good at this.  He‘s going to count up all the words tonight and tell us what they mean.

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the vice presidential debate on MSNBC.    

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the vice presidential debate.  We‘re here at Case Western Reserve University.

We want to bring you one of the dramatic moments of the debate right now.  Here it is.  This is the one we will relive for years to come. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  The reason they keep trying to attack Halliburton is because they want to obscure their own record. 

And Senator, frankly, you have a record in the Senate that‘s not very distinguished.  You‘ve missed 33 out of 36 meetings in the Judiciary Committee, almost 70 percent of the meetings of the Intelligence Committee. 

You‘ve missed a lot of key votes:  on tax policy, on energy, on Medicare reform. 

Your hometown newspaper has taken to calling you Senator Gone.  You‘ve got one of the worst attendance records in the United States Senate. 

Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer.  I‘m up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they‘re in session. 

The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

MATTHEWS:  Unbelievable. 

You know, Tom Brokaw, just a couple of minutes ago, I thought did a wonderful job of portraying what we just saw in sort of schoolboy terms.  He said it was like being called into the principal‘s office and being told your shortcomings and being told in a way that‘s final, that there is no appeal to. 

And I thought it was—he just said, by the way, the senator from North Carolina did not deny that, any of those particulars. 

MITCHELL:  And notice that this was in response to an attack regarding Halliburton. 

He chose not to answer that, because Halliburton has a very mixed record.  It‘s not as bad as what Edwards and the Democrats are claiming, but it has had some problems in Iraq, obviously.  But he chose to simply ignore it.  He in fact didn‘t use his time to respond to it.  He simply went on the attack. 

I thought he really steamrolled John Edwards on a lot of things where, a lot of issues regarding Iraq where he doesn‘t really have such a great brief, because, as Edwards was trying to point out at the very beginning of the debate, Paul Bremer, Don Rumsfeld, others within and without the administration, are now questioning the very premise of the war, and of course the weapons of mass destruction, which has not been found.

But Edwards did not, I think, make as much as he could have of that, and there did seem to be a stature gap.  Dick Cheney is one of the most efficiently tough and calculating characters that any of us have ever seen in politics.  And what he also tried to do, and I think effectively tonight, was warm himself up a little bit.

MATTHEWS:  He did.

MITCHELL:  A little bit of talking about his biography. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me just give—check on something.  NBC News has

learned that, after the debate, Senator Edwards‘ wife, Elizabeth, told Vice

President Cheney that he had, in fact, met her husband at a national prayer

breakfast.  I am not sure that‘s going to soften the wound

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s still going to be a question that you raised of stature and his ability to almost take him to task, to simply say, I have looked at your application here for vice president, and I have found it—I don‘t think I will bring your name up to the president for final consideration. 

MEACHAM:  Right.  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  You have not made the first cut, John. 

(CROSSTALK)

MEACHAM:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think?

MEACHAM:  I think that‘s right.  I think that‘s exactly right. 

And I think we only hire vice presidents, really for one thing.  And that‘s for the unthinkable and the unspeakable. 

MATTHEWS:  Dallas. 

MEACHAM:  We want a president in Dallas.  We want a Ford during Watergate, a man has been in the House more than 30 years.  We want someone like George Bush flying back from Texas to take the country back from Al Haig in March of 1981 when President Reagan was shot.  And we want a man like Dick Cheney, who handled things pretty well.

MATTHEWS:  Well, how did George H. Walker Bush get away with Dan Quayle, then?  How did he manage to win despite a man of no great stature as his running mate?

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  He lost reelection. 

MATTHEWS:  You think it hurt him?

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  Absolutely.

MEACHAM:  It absolutely did.  One of the biggest—exactly.  “Newsweek” had a great story in those days about how that was a big drag on the ticket.  They wanted to put Powell on and they couldn‘t do it. 

MATTHEWS:  And we also have the diary of the president, who said, I made a big mistake, but I can‘t admit it. 

MEACHAM:  Right.  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go right now to HARDBALL election correspondent David Shuster, who is going to give us the numbers, numbers, numbers on tonight‘s debate—David.

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC ELECTION CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Chris, for everybody keeping track and keeping score at home, there were 20 total questions tonight, five of them about Iraq, three about al Qaeda, terrorism, or homeland security.  There were two about gay marriage, two about lawsuit or tort reform.  There were two questions about the vice presidency and the credentials required, one about Iran, poverty, fiscal responsibility, AIDS, and bringing the country together. 

Both vice presidential nominees tonight used some key words, some buzz words or phrases that they went back to repeatedly. 

Here, for example, Vice President Cheney. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  Let‘s look at what we know about Mr. Zarqawi.  We know he was running a terrorist camp, training terrorists in Afghanistan prior to 9/11.  We know that, when we went into Afghanistan, that he then migrated to Baghdad.  He set up shop in Baghdad, where he oversaw the poisons facility up at Khurmal, where the terrorists were developing ricin and other deadly substances to use.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Now, you heard the vice president mention the word terrorism there.  That was his key word of the night.  The vice president used the word terrorism or terrorists 31 times. 

He mentioned John Kerry, either by John Kerry or Senator Kerry, 15 times, by our count.  He used the word wrong to describe Kerry and Edwards 12 times.  He talked about taxes, mentioning the word taxes nine times, and used the word security eight times. 

Now, John Edwards also had some key buzz words and phrases, a little bit different than Vice President Cheney. 

Here is Senator Edwards. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS:  First, we‘re going to actually tell the American people the truth.  We‘re going to tell them the truth about what‘s happening.

We‘re not going to suggest to them that things are going well in Iraq or anyplace else when, in fact, they‘re not.

We‘re going to make sure that the American people know the truth about why we are using force and what the explanation for it is.

And it‘s not just the American people.  We‘re also going to make sure that we tell the world the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  The truth, well, John Edwards, according to our count, used that word 11 times.  He referred to President Bush by name seven times, although he often throughout the night said they, referring to Bush and Cheney. 

Halliburton—we had wondered how many times he would invoke Halliburton.  He did it six times, although he did it four times in a string of two minutes.  The key word for John Edwards tonight, Iraq.  He invoked the name Iraq 25 times, by our count.  He used the word plan, talking about the Kerry-Edwards plan, or we have a plan, 13 times.  And you heard him talk so often in the last half-hour, Chris, about health care, wanting to talk about health care.  He used the words health care, by our count, 14 times—Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  David, thank you very much. 

Just moments ago, Senator John Edwards had this to say about Dick Cheney‘s remark tonight they had never met before. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS:  The vice president said that the first time I met Senator Edwards was tonight, when we walked on the stage.  

(BOOING)

EDWARDS:  Well, I guess he forgot the time we sat next to each other for a couple of hours about three years ago.  I guess he forgot the time we were there for the swearing-in of another senator, so my wife, Elizabeth, reminded him on the stage. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s it.  That wasn‘t very edifying, was it? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, Ben Ginsberg joins us right now.

Ben, is there a perception in the Republican ranks tonight that you scored a victory such as the one that John Kerry scored last Thursday in the presidential debate? 

BEN GINSBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Yes, there absolutely is.  The Bush folks are incredibly enthusiastic about the results of tonight‘s debate.  They think the vice president was strong not only on foreign affairs, where his perceived strength is, but also domestic matters. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the whole fight over Iraq.  I had a hard time figuring out what was the point.  Of course, Dick Cheney supports the war with Iraq.  What do you think the position was of the challenger?  Is he opposing the war with Iraq or what?  What was he doing there? 

GINSBERG:  Well, it‘s a little hard to tell.  I think what they are trying to do is sort of shamelessly play on the fact the situation has turned a bit unfortunate and trying to mask the overriding fact that there‘s not really a consistent plan out of the Kerry forces. 

I mean, John Edwards is an experienced trial lawyer.  He could not make the case that he and John Kerry have a plan to deal with Iraq, even although they know we should be there. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the issue of the Halliburton connection?  Do you think any points were scored by the challenger there? 

GINSBERG:  No.  I mean, it looked like it was his safety net, sort of his lifeline.  Whenever he got in trouble, didn‘t know how to answer a question, he would sort of revert to a Halliburton charge, which I thought the vice president basically refuted. 

It‘s certainly a subject that‘s been pored over in the press for a number of years now, with no points scored.  It really was his lifeline. 

MATTHEWS:  Did the vice president directly deny that Halliburton had tried to trade with Iran when it was under international sanction? 

GINSBERG:  Well, I think what he said...

MATTHEWS:  I didn‘t hear it.

GINSBERG:  ... was that the situation was—the situation was entirely different, was the point I think he was making, and that the charge and the analogy really wasn‘t accurate and didn‘t have any direct bearing and relevance. 

MATTHEWS:  How so is it different?  GINSBERG:  I‘m sorry? 

MATTHEWS:  How was it different?  Iran was under international sanction, and Halliburton, under the leadership of Dick Cheney, wanted to do business with them.  What is different?  What is the complication here? 

GINSBERG:  Well—well, the difference is, is that if you are a CEO, that‘s a different situation from being the vice president of the United States, and you have a different audience. 

But what was going on with Iran, back several years ago, was an attempt to bring it into the international community in a way that it would be more productive and hopefully a good neighbor.  That is something that a CEO can see and ask for that‘s different from a government official trying to make policy. 

MATTHEWS:  Finally, and I think most—the greatest difficulty here is Brian Williams did dig up the tape of the vice president saying on “Meet the Press” that the reason we went to Iraq is because it‘s at the very base of the war on terrorism, which has attacked us on 9/11 and other occurrences.  Why would he deny that tonight, that very assertion? 

GINSBERG:  Well, I think sometimes when the bright lights are on, the statements are not always precise. 

I mean, it‘s the same reason, in effect, that John Edwards couldn‘t answer the question, didn‘t answer the question, even although he had two minutes, of would you have removed Saddam Hussein from power or would he still be there.  He just didn‘t answer that question. 

MATTHEWS:  But you are not answering mine.  Why would the vice president deny something that‘s on the public record?  We have got the tape to show it.  He has connected 9/11 to Saddam Hussein.  He has said it.  We have it on tape, and he denied it tonight.  That‘s not honest, is it? 

GINSBERG:  Well, I think that sometimes in the public debate like that, Chris, you hear a question that‘s different from the one that‘s actually posed.  The vice president is not going to try and mislead anyone.  If there‘s a tape that shows it differently, then that‘s all the more reason not to try and obfuscate and lie about it. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Ben, you help me get the story straight right now.  Was Iraq involved with 9/11? 

GINSBERG:  As far as we know, there were certainly insinuations in the 9/11 Commission report that there were.  As for the absolute truth of the matter...

MATTHEWS:  No, there weren‘t.  No, there weren‘t.  No, there were not. 

I‘m sorry, Ben.  I have got to correct you here. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  There‘s no evidence of any direct connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.  There is no such evidence.  And that‘s why this is a hot issue in this debate. 

GINSBERG:  Well, Chris, that‘s a fair follow-up question to ask the vice president. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Excuse me.

If this country knew that Saddam Hussein had a role in attacking us 9/11, there would be no debate over the Iraq war.  And you know that, right?  Tell me I am right. 

GINSBERG:  Sure.  But that‘s...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

GINSBERG:  No, you are absolutely right about that point. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

We are arguing over the facts, because the facts are unclear, but in some cases, you have to go with the fact that you can‘t find evidence.  You have to admit you haven‘t been able to find evidence, and the vice president has yet to do that. 

He tonight denied he ever asserted a connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.  We showed the tape thanks to the reporting of Brian Williams and the engineers went back and the producers went back and found that tape.  The only reason we know tonight that the vice president asserted a connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 is we at NBC dug up the tape.  He couldn‘t dig up the memory.  And that is a problem.  Even if he won the debate tonight, he is not accurate on that one. 

Ben, stay with us.  We are going to ask you some more questions about this when we come back. 

GINSBERG:  Great. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be right back.  We‘re going to be talking about what the people out there online think about who won tonight.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the vice presidential debate. 

All night long tonight, we have asked you to tell us who you thought won tonight‘s debate.  Our online vote is up and running.  And so far, more than 480,000 people, half a million people, have voted online; 69 percent, just about seven out of 10, say John Edwards was the winner, despite everything they heard here.  We should remind you that these results are not scientific, and that the political parties are aware of them and out pushing people through e-mail to get out and vote in these elections that we are even holding here today.  This is called get out the vote. 

Anyway, let‘s go back—let me go back to Andrea and to Jon.

So maybe it will turn out that all the scientific polls find something different than a lot of us thought tonight.  I do think it‘s wonderful that we have the ability to go back and get tape, and after all the back and forth on an evening like this that has certain theatricality to it, you go back and check the facts. 

It‘s been my perception that one of the strongest reasons this administration was able to bring the country to a war football was the sense it was like Pearl Harbor and we were attacking back the people that attacked us.  How many times did we hear reference to Pearl Harbor?  You can‘t Pearl Harbor and not mean revenge. 

MEACHAM:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Jon.

MEACHAM:  Exactly right.

And there‘s a great covenant, really, I think in modern democracies, which is, if you tell it to us straight, we will do what it takes.  Churchill had a great line that the British people could face any misfortune as long as they were convinced that those who were in charge of their affairs were not deceiving them or themselves dwelling in a fool‘s paradise.

And one of the central charges against the Bush-Cheney administration on the march to war in Iraq, not the march to war in Afghanistan, But the march to war in Iraq, has been that either they were slightly misleading us, slightly microwaving the intelligence are, or perhaps, worse yet, they believed it themselves and convinced themselves of a reality that might not exactly comport with the truth.

And that‘s what that tape showed, compared to what Cheney said tonight.

MITCHELL:  If you a step back and look at where we are in this campaign, John Kerry, after last week‘s debate, managed to close the stature gap on commander in chief with George Bush.

And tonight that gap, I think, may have been reopened, not because Dick Cheney had better facts at his disposal, simply because he presented them better and because there really was a gap in experience and age between these two debaters.  And so we don‘t know...

MATTHEWS:  Was that gap so severe, so dramatic, that it brings, it casts doubt on the judgment of John Kerry in selecting John Edwards? 

MITCHELL:  Well, that‘s going to be something that we have to let this all sink in and take a look at down the road, but we don‘t know yet. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me make a big point here.  It‘s not that we think, or people think tonight that John Edwards had a—quote—“bad night.”

MITCHELL:  Absolutely not. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not like last week, with the president. 

MITCHELL:  Exactly. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He may have had a bad night, because I, by the way, am among those who think that he will do very well with an audience, with an audience this Friday.

It‘s the sense that he was maybe not ready for this. 

MITCHELL:  And not prepared. 

MATTHEWS:  I mean not ready for this, bigger than that, like not ready to be vice president of the United States. 

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  Not ready for prime time.

But, you know, we are turning to domestic issues with the Friday night debate, as well as this town meeting format.  And John Edwards‘ appeal on economic issues and on the problems that people here in Ohio and in important swing states may have more resonance than we realize here tonight.  I think we have to let it sink in a little bit. 

MATTHEWS:  Weren‘t you surprised he didn‘t bring the real argument to the president on two fronts?  Domestically, the real challenge in this country is not the unemployment rate.  It‘s about what it is when people get elected, about 5.5 points.  It‘s the fact that people who were working for good incomes are now working for seven bucks an hour. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, this is big issue with people. 

MITCHELL:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  The elite don‘t get this.  The regular guys out there looking for second jobs to stay up all night to make 35 bucks before taxes. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s a fact.  He didn‘t dramatize that. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And in states like Ohio, he didn‘t do it.

MITCHELL:  He spoke about the fact that incomes are down, when, in fact, a majority of people‘s incomes are not down.

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  But there‘s a larger gap between... 

MATTHEWS:  He didn‘t make a

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... case. 

MITCHELL:  Exactly. 

MEACHAM:  That‘s right. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... case of unemployment.  It‘s underemployment.  It‘s the failure to get a job that provides for a family, a decent wage.  He never talked about that. 

MITCHELL:  It‘s low-wage jobs.

MEACHAM:  But that‘s Edwards‘ strength.  And that‘s why I think that...

MATTHEWS:  Why didn‘t he show it? 

MEACHAM:  I am not sure.  I think

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It was his only night, John. 

MEACHAM:  I know.  But he was so focused on trying to play ball on the

commander in chief question that he

(CROSSTALK)  

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Did they task him with the wrong mission tonight?  Did the Kerry people, giving him his mission, send him out to a mission to disconnect, to decouple Iraq from the war on terror?  And was he not sophisticated enough to make the philosophical case? 

MEACHAM:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I thought he kept saying the same things over and over again.

MITCHELL:  Yes. 

MEACHAM:  I think that‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  But he didn‘t get it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He didn‘t even seem to know why he was saying it. 

(CROSSTALK)

MEACHAM:  I think what Andrea says is right.  He was not fighting on his home field advantage, which is the two Americas.

MITCHELL:  Let me give you an example. 

MATTHEWS:  But he was for the war, gang.

MITCHELL:  Let me give you just one quick example. 

Dick Cheney spoke about Zarqawi and ricin and germ weapons when Saddam Hussein was in power.  If Edwards has had his facts at his disposal, that was outside the range of Saddam‘s territory.  It was up in the north. 

MATTHEWS:  That was up in—that was the Kurds.

MITCHELL:  A little point, but he could have come right back at him. 

MEACHAM:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  It was a self-governing area.

Anyway, thank you.  Great. 

MITCHELL:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  You guys do everything, Andrea Mitchell, NBC News foreign correspondent, and Jon Meacham, editor of “Newsweek.”  And also Ben Ginsberg, who has been—he will be coming back later tonight with a different host, Joe Scarborough. 

We will talk to that great crowd in a couple of minutes, who has been with us all night long here at Case Western.  We are going to go down and see them just after these commercials. 

You are watching HARDBALL‘s coverage of the vice presidential debate live on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the vice presidential debate. 

Joining me right now is the president of Case Western Reserve University, Dr. Edward Hundert, and two students, Sarah David (ph)  and Ken Nesmith, who participated in a unique campus debate. 

Tell me about what it‘s like to host a big event like this today, Dr.

Hundert. 

rMD+BO_

rMD-BO_ DR. EDWARD HUNDERT, PRESIDENT, CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY:  This has been an absolute thrill.  We feel like the real winner of this debate has been Case Western Reserve and everybody in America who got to participate in it with us. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you know you had so many lefties and right-wingers on your campus.

HUNDERT:  I knew...

MATTHEWS:  They‘ve all been here tonight.  I have been listening to them all night.

HUNDERT:  Our students are fantastic.  And they have been wonderful hosts for everyone.  All of the guests from our peer universities, like MIT and Johns Hopkins, who sent students to the national debate last night, we have really turned this into a great civics lesson for the whole community.  It‘s been great.

MATTHEWS:  Ken, what issues are big with your group? 

KEN NESMITH, CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY STUDENT:  Well, I think national security has got to be the biggest issue that is most important to us, the president‘s war on terror. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re a republican. 

NESMITH:  I am absolutely a Republican. 

MATTHEWS:  How did I guess? 

NESMITH:  How did you guess? 

Well, I am very reasonable. 

(LAUGHTER)

NESMITH:  But I think domestic policy is also very important, especially.  And we were a little bit upset that it was missed tonight.  We didn‘t hear questions on Social Security, no questions directly on health care. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me Sarah.  Excuse me.  Let me go to Sarah David.

What are the big issues with you, sir—I mean Ms. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I would also agree that national security is a huge issue for the Democrats and for people my age, because it‘s going to be our generation that are going to have to be fighting the terrorists.  In addition, the economy.  In about four years, all of us are going to have to get jobs, so who is in office is very important to the economy right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think we should have gone to Iraq? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think...

MATTHEWS:  Yes or no?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think because...

MATTHEWS:  Because we can only do—either go to war or not go to war, yes or no. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Given the intelligence we knew, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Should we have gone to war if we knew what was going on over there? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  Should we have gone to war with Iraq? 

NESMITH:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Why? 

NESMITH:  It was the right choice after... 

MATTHEWS:  No.  Tell me why it was the right choice. 

NESMITH:  We exhausted every other option in dealing with Saddam Hussein.  He was an international threat to terrorism.  The world acknowledged that.

MATTHEWS:  He was a threat to terrorism? 

NESMITH:  Pardon me.  He was a terrorist threat to the world.  And...

MATTHEWS:  Was he a terrorist? 

NESMITH:  He supported terrorists.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Which terrorists did he support? 

NESMITH:  Abu Nidal, al Qaeda. 

MATTHEWS:  He supported al Qaeda? 

NESMITH:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  What evidence, because the vice president couldn‘t come up with any tonight.  Tell us what you got. 

NESMITH:  The 9/11 Commission concluded that Saddam Hussein supported al Qaeda for the last 15 years. 

MATTHEWS:  No.  Did it have any connection to 9/11? 

NESMITH:  No connection to 9/11, but connection to al Qaeda. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We will be back.

Anyway, thank you.  You have got some very interesting people here. 

HUNDERT:  We have great people here at Case.  And thank you for being here, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a great school.  It‘s a great school. 

And they didn‘t choose the weather to come up here either.  They chose a good school.  It‘s great to be here. 

Anyway, thank you very much, Sarah, Sarah David, Ken Nesmith, and Dr.

Edward Hundert, the president of this great University. 

I want to thank Case Western Reserve University for the great crowd we got here tonight.  They were here all night.  Sometimes, they were here too much. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  They were loud and they were wonderful. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, the next debate is—we‘re going to Saint Louis on Friday for the second presidential debate between George W. Bush and John Kerry.  And we will be there during and after the debate.  We are beginning our coverage Thursday night.  Thursday and Friday, we will be there. 

Right now, stay tuned for “AFTER HOURS” with Ron Reagan and Joe Scarborough. 

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

END   

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