updated 10/15/2004 10:30:57 AM ET 2004-10-15T14:30:57

Guests: Debra Saunders, Katrina Vanden Heuvel

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The debates are history.  I‘m out here in Iowa with John Edwards.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m out here in Iowa, as I said, with John Edwards covering his campaign bus.  You know, last knight was the 4th of the debates.  Six hours of debates between the candidates for president and vice president: 4 and a half for the presidential candidates, another hour and a half for the VP‘s. 

It‘s have to believe that anybody hasn‘t heard something they think is important being discussed and debated.  And now they know what side they‘re on.  So, it‘s up to the voters now.  And some 2 and a half weeks of sprinting between the 2 campaigns trying to win the last undecided voters.

One of the hot issues last night in the debates was the issues of gay marriage.  It‘s a new issue for American politics, or maybe an old issue in 10 or 20 years, but it‘s a hot one right now.  And some people on the Cheney, especially the vice president‘s wife Lynne, believe that John Kerry fouled them last night by bringing up the sexual identity of their lesbian daughter mary.

Let‘s take a look at what the vice presidential candidate on the Democratic side had say when I asked him about that today on his bus.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Vice President Cheney says he‘s an angry father because John Kerry brought up his daughter‘s sexuality the other night in the debate. What‘s your reaction?

EDWARDS:  My reaction is that John Kerry—remember, Dick Cheney and Lynne Cheney have brought it up right here in Iowa, where we are today and all that John Kerry was saying was that he respects, as I said in my own debate, and he thanked me for it, I might add.  We respect the way they dealt with this in their own family.  And it should not be an issue that‘s used to the divide the country as George Bush is doing.

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t it unusual for a politician for any kind—any candidate to bring up another candidate‘s member of their family?  I mean, for you to introduce it as you did in the debate originally—as John Kerry introduced—isn‘t that a little strange, to bring up somebody else‘s family member?

EDWARDS:  Well, only in this case because Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne had themselves brought it up. I mean, having watched the entire 2000 debate with Lieberman, he brought it up himself and talked about what it meant for him and his family.  And he had talked about it, I think, a few weeks before my debate with him.  And I think actually Gwen Ifill referenced his family‘s situation in her question to the two of us. 

So it has been talked about a fair amount on the campaign trail and in the 2000 debates.  We thought it—especially since we were both just expressing our respect and admiration for the way they‘ve dealt with it.

MATTHEWS:  Well, somebody said that a gentleman is somebody that doesn‘t unnecessarily or unintentionally hurt someone else‘s feelings.  You obviously got them angry.  Lynne Cheney last night got very angry, coming up on the stage saying John Kerry is not a good man.  I mean, she was quite vociferous on this topic, indicted him for being a bad guy.  Do you think that was real or do you think she was calling a foul when there wasn‘t a foul?

EDWARDS:  I don‘t have a way of getting inside their heads about this.  And I don‘t think this should become some political football going back and forth...

MATTHEWS:  Is that what they‘re doing?  Because both of them are speaking out on this now, Lynne Cheney last now and now the vice president today.  They obviously want to keep it going.

EDWARDS:  Well, John Kerry is a good man.  I know him very well.  And the American people have seen him in these three debates.  And I think both the way he talks about it and I hope at least the way I talked about it in our debate expressed our own personal admiration for the way their family‘s dealt with this.

MATTHEWS:  Your wife, Elizabeth, said this morning that she thinks they might be ashamed of their daughter sexuality and that‘s why their so sensitive.

EDWARDS:  I have no way of knowing how they feel about it. They do talk about it openly.  And you know at the vice-presidential debate in Cleveland they had their daughter sitting on the front row and they—I had the pleasure of meeting—I don‘t think I had met her before, although I had met the vice president before then.

I think that the simple answer to this is we both admire the way they‘ve dealt with their family and with their children.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it hurts the vice president and the president to have a gay family member on the ticket, in other words, to be related to someone like that in certain conservative areas in this country?

EDWARDS:  No. I don‘t, especially when they‘re as forthright as they have been about it.  No, I don‘t think it hurts them.

MATTHEWS:  What did you make of the president‘s allowing the fact that becoming a gay person, male or female, may be a possible matter of choice?  Did that surprise you?

EDWARDS:  It surprised me and I think it‘s wrong about that.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think he‘s talking about?

EDWARDS:  I don‘t know what he‘s talking about.  I don‘t understand if he‘s suggesting that people decide that they want to be homosexual rather than heterosexual.  That‘s not the truth.  And I don‘t know if that‘s what he was saying or not.

MATTHEWS:  Do you feel like asking the president:  When did you choose?

(LAUGHTER)

EDWARDS:  No, I think that‘s the kind of question you would ask...

MATTHEWS:  Well obviously you‘re above my caliber.  Let me ask you about the vice president.  When you had your debate with him, that got pretty hot.

EDWARDS:  Yes, it did.  Should have.

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that?  Why was it so angry?

EDWARDS:  Well, I don‘t know if it was angry.  I think it was very, very tough.  It should have been very, very tough. 

I mean, we have people dying in Iraq.  We have people who have lost their jobs here at home.  The health care system is in crisis.  And they‘ve made all of this worse. 

And I thought it was very important for this vice president and this president to be held accountable for their failures, what they‘ve done and what it‘s cost the American people.  And I thought it was important for us to have a very, very tough debate, for them to be held responsible.

MATTHEWS:  But we all saw the Sunday punch administered at you by the vice president.  It was obviously prepared.  He said, “I‘ve never met you before.”  That was almost like saying—well let me ask you:  Did that bother you when he said you had never met before?

EDWARDS:  Well it was obviously false.

MATTHEWS:  Well why did he say it?

EDWARDS:  We had met before.  I don‘t know why he said it.  I don‘t know—it‘s a little hard for me to believe that he would have set that in front of 40-something million people knowing it wasn‘t true and it could easily be proven it wasn‘t true...

MATTHEWS:  Well, there would be a motive.  He wanted to say you‘re a nobody.

EDWARDS:  Yes, but it was false. 

MATTHEWS:  A nobody, in other words, you are of such little account, such a new kid on the block that he never even saw you around there.  It is an old political trick, you know, “I never met the guy.”  Why would you think he...

EDWARDS:  You think he‘s foolish enough to think that it wouldn‘t be obvious within an hour of the debate being over that what he said was not true?

MATTHEWS:  Do you feel like he tagged you?  Because you couldn‘t quickly recall that you had spent an hour and a half at the prayer breakfast.

EDWARDS:  Oh, no, I don‘t think he tagged me at all.  Here‘s what I believe.  I believe that when we have people dying on the ground in Iraq, when we have Americans who don‘t have health care, Americans who don‘t have a decent job, all of that has happened on their watch, I didn‘t think taking important, valuable time in a debate between the two of us about whether we‘ve met before was worth as much time as talking about what the vice president has been saying about Iraq.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you if it‘s relevant in this case.  Let‘s talk about Iraq.  During your debate—it was a hell of a debate—the vice president said never suggested a connection between Iraq and 9/11 and yet we have all this video tape, from “Meet the Press” especially, three or four times he said there was a meeting in Prague between Iraqi intelligence before, with Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker, clearly suggesting a relationship. 

Why do you think the president or the vice president said something that‘s clearly contradictable by the video tape?

EDWARDS:  I think it‘s a pattern.  It‘s been a pattern for this vice president to say things that are calculated to mislead.  I don‘t think it‘s an accident I think that has been a pattern. 

MATTHEWS:  So he‘s dishonest?

EDWARDS:  When he says to the American people in that debate as he did, and remember, he was responding to me, I said, “You are the one that has suggested that some connection between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein,” and he said, “Well, I‘ve never said that, I‘ve never suggested that.” 

It‘s just false.  Not true.

MATTHEWS:  You think he forgot all the times he suggested it?

EDWARDS:  No, of course he didn‘t forget.  I think it has been very carefully calibrated to keep moving the line each time he talks about it and it becomes more and more obvious to the American people that there is no connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.

MATTHEWS:  Does the videotape say he is dishonest?

EDWARDS:  They videotape says that what he has been saying is not true.  That‘s the way I look at it.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about this moving the line that you talked about.  In the beginning he said there was weapons of mass destruction, as did many people.  And you believed them because there was the evidence apparent to the country.  He also suggested many times—this is on video tape from “Meet the Press”—that there was a possible connection between Saddam Hussein‘s intelligence operation and Mohamed Atta leading the horror of 9/11. 

Now he says that we attacked Iraq because it was the closest possible nexus between the terrorist states and the terrorists.  In other words, round up the usual suspect.  Do you think that‘s grounds for a war?

EDWARDS:  I think that...

MATTHEWS:  Is it grounds for war to say that somebody...

EDWARDS:  Let me ask you a question.  I think if you look at that in the context of North Korea, very, very dangerous, having nuclear weapons—we know they have nuclear capability.  Iran has moved far along in their nuclear weapons program under this president‘s and this vice president‘s watch. 

The reality is with the three countries that George Bush said were the Axis of Evil, we invaded the country that didn‘t have nuclear capabilities.  So I think the facts of the matter, things have gotten much worse in terms of the possibility of nuclear weapons getting in the hands of terrorists on their watch.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re here in Iowa.  More with my interview with John Edwards, especially his attack on Halliburton and the vice president‘s roel with that corporation when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This is HARDBALL in Iowa, with Democratic vice presidential nominee, John Edwards.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Looks take a look at what John Edwards, the Democratic vice presidential candidate said about Halliburton, which is the corporation run for many years by Dick Cheney.  And especially Cheney‘s role with that firm before and after he became vice president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  A couple of questions.  You raised the issue of Halliburton.  Senator Kerry raised it again in the second debate, I believe.  What did Cheney do wrong, the vice president, actually do wrong in moving from being CEO of Halliburton and becoming vice president?  If you could point to something nobody else should do again, what is it?

EDWARDS:  The vice president allowed as part of his administration Halliburton to get no-bid contracts when he had just left Halliburton to become the vice president of the United States.

MATTHEWS:  How did he do that?  Did he call up somebody and say—he called the Defense Department, the Pentagon and say:  Give this contract to Halliburton?  What did he actually do?

EDWARDS:  Well the first thing they said was they had nothing to do with this and they had a memo or an e-mail that was released indicated that there was some...

MATTHEWS:  Corps of Engineers had run something by the V.P.‘s office.

EDWARDS:  Some coordination of some kind.  The bottom line is this should not have been allowed to happen because at a minimum it creates the appearance of impropriety.

MATTHEWS:  But you know this better than I do.  Isn‘t Halliburton the only corporation of that size that can handle these kinds of jobs in Iraq?

EDWARDS:  Then why would you not let it out for bid?  If that‘s true then they certainly could have won a bidding process.  It creates—and particularly given the history of Halliburton—and I think the history is relevant—the history in itself doesn‘t resolve the issue, but it‘s relevant. 

I mean, Halliburton has filed all this false financial information—millions of dollars—done business with Iran and Libya which I talked about in the debate. 

Turns out now they are under investigation not only for overcharging the American people under the American people under the contract in Iraq, they are also under investigation for possible bribing foreign officials. 

I mean, Halliburton has a long and very sordid history.  And the idea that when Dick Cheney, who is CEO and left there to become vice president and then they got a no-bid contract, that‘s wrong.

MATTHEWS:  Is he unethical?

EDWARDS:  Dick Cheney?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

EDWARDS:  I do not think Halliburton should have been allowed to get this no-bid contract.

MATTHEWS:  Well, was that his call?

EDWARDS:  I don‘t know what he had to do with it.  He claims he has nothing to do with it.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just trying to find a rule here for future vice presidents, including yourself.  What should be the rule?

EDWARDS:  The rule should be that if a company that you are CEO of and have an ongoing relationship with, if that company is trying to get government work, taxpayer-funded work, the minimum they should have to go through is a bidding process and to compete so that we know that it‘s on the up and up.

MATTHEWS:  You have now raised two questions—or you have answered two questions regarding Dick Cheney‘s character.  One is he offers contradictory statements about his position on Iraq denying past positions which are on videotape.  You also said he has raised questions of appearance with regard to his continued relationship with Halliburton. 

How does that add up in terms of his character?  All of that?

EDWARDS:  It‘s symptomatic of what this administration has done.  They claim they are for capitalism.  What they are really for is crony capitalism, making sure that the people who are they friends, who have taken care of them in the past get taken care of.  That‘s not the way this country is supposed to work.

MATTHEWS:  There was an interesting moment in your debate with the vice president where he tried to sidle up to you in terms of background.  He wasn‘t going to let you be the poor kid and him the rich kid.  Remember that?

EDWARDS:  I do.

MATTHEWS:  And he talked about how you both had sort of rough-scrabble backgrounds, OK.  How did you go on different routes?  Think back now.  You went and became the guy who loved to prosecute the big shots.  I mean, I read half your book, and it‘s all about taking on big hospitals, influential people, big shots...

EDWARDS:  And you didn‘t finish?

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s still good.  I like it.  But the fact is you seem to have been the guy that had that sort of maverick, “I‘m going to take on the big shots.”  He became a big shot. 

What‘s the difference between you and Dick Cheney?

EDWARDS:  The difference is that what he‘s done is he has gotten away from being on the side of average Americans and has become on the side of big drug companies, big insurance companies, big oil companies.  

And that costs the American people.  This is not some abstract thing: 

rising health care costs, rising gasoline prices, oil prices going through the roof. 

You can‘t be on the side of big insurance companies, big drug companies, big oil companies and then be on the side of the American people.  It doesn‘t work.  And they have shown over and over and over which side they are on.  We‘re on the other side.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think, just to end up on the daughter thing, the Mary Cheney thing, do you think what he‘s doing is what they do in—you know in basketball, you‘re a basketball fan, when a player causes a foul and it‘s not really a foul, they fall down and act like they‘ve been hit—do you think the Cheneys are doing that?  With both of them doing it the last 24 hours, do you think they‘re calling a phony foul?

EDWARDS:  Oh, no.  I have no idea what...

MATTHEWS:  But you say it‘s not a legitimate call, though. 

EDWARDS:  I think that what they‘re saying about John Kerry is absolutely not true.  John Kerry is a good man...

MATTHEWS:  So it wasn‘t a foul?  It was not a foul for him to bring up the daughter, Mary Cheney, in the debate last night?

EDWARDS:  No, of course not.  He was just putting a personal face...

MATTHEWS:  Then it‘s wrong for them to bring it up and...

(CROSSTALK)

EDWARDS:  Don‘t interrupt me.  Let me finish.

MATTHEWS:  Sorry.

EDWARDS:  What I‘m saying is, John Kerry brought it up for the purpose of putting a personal face on an issue that has been used to divide this country.  And they themselves have brought it up.  So I think he, at least in his mind—and I can tell you, I thought the same thing—there‘s nothing inappropriate about it. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  I‘ll be back with more of my interview with John Edwards from Iowa.  This is HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  War with Iraq, was it a blunder?  He‘s what John Edwards thinks now. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the war.  This one of the three—I want to go to the three big issues that everybody is talking about.  On “Meet The Press” the other day, in response to Tim Russert, you said, yes, it was the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Do you think after knowing all you know now about no connection to 9/11, no WMD, no immediate threat to the United States, the decision to go to war when we did was a blunder?

EDWARDS:  You mean knowing everything we know now?

MATTHEWS:  Sure, perfect knowledge and hindsight, was it a blunder to go to war?

EDWARDS:  I want to make sure I‘m following this.

MATTHEWS:  Well, the world is looking at us as if...

EDWARDS:  But it‘s a hypothetical question, so I want to make sure I‘ve got the facts.  So it‘s no weapons of mass destruction, no connection with September 11th, and what else did you say?

MATTHEWS:  Well, there is a lot of things.  There was the prediction that we would be welcomed by people who would love us being there.  There was a prediction that Iraqi oil would pay for the cost of the $87 billion and everything else.  All those predictions were positive and rosy and they turned out all to be wrong.

EDWARDS:  I think it diverted our attention from Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, the people who attacked us, and they‘ve created a haven for terrorists, which I don‘t think existed before the invasion.

MATTHEWS:  Did they have an itchy trigger finger?  Was the administration wrong to move as fast as it did?

EDWARDS:  They were.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you about the economy.  One thing I haven‘t heard in a debate, watching all the debates and watching all the campaign speeches we get back in Washington and the newspapers, I haven‘t heard really good personal empathy for the guy out there who‘s working one job and maybe making $25,000 or $30,000 a year, because his family needs things and his wife is already working.  And he has to go out and work all night for $7 an hour because they‘re the only jobs you can grab. 

Why don‘t you guys talk about that?

EDWARDS:  We should talk about it more... 

MATTHEWS:  All you talk about is unemployment rates.

EDWARDS:  That‘s a completely fair criticism, I think.  I think we should talk about it more.  We do out on the campaign trail.  It gets kind of hard when you‘ve got 90 seconds or two minutes in a debate.

MATTHEWS:  Well, how will you fix that if you get a chance now?  How are you going to fix the fact of the guy having to do two jobs and be exhausted all the time?

EDWARDS:  We‘re going to help him by, first of all, helping him with what he‘s spending money on, health care, bringing down the cost of health care. 

If he‘s got a child, he‘s having to pay for child care, we‘re going to help with that, give him a tax break to help him pay for that. 

If you‘ve got a kid that wants to go to college, we‘re going to help with that. 

You know, if he‘s working overtime, he might be one of the people who had his overtime pay cut by the new Bush overtime rules.  I mean, this...

MATTHEWS:  But how does he get his wages up?  I mean, isn‘t that what most guys and women are looking for?  They work 40, 50 hours, some 60 hours a week and it just doesn‘t make it. 

EDWARDS:  The way you get wages up is you create competition in the labor market.  Right now we‘ve got exactly the opposite of what we need.  We‘ve got way more people who want to work than jobs.  The result of that is there is no competition in the labor market.  We need employers to be competing for workers.  And what that does is drive wages up.  It‘s what happened in the 1990s.  It‘s what we need to do again.

MATTHEWS:  Two-and-a-half weeks from now, Senator Edwards, John Edwards, are you ready to be vice president?

EDWARDS:  Yes, sir. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you ready to be president should you have to?

EDWARDS:  If necessary, yes.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, sir.

EDWARDS:  Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  The debates are over.  Where does the presidential campaign go from here.  This is Chris Matthews in Iowa on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  Hi, everyone.  I‘m Milissa Rehberger with the headlines.  Two suicide bombers were able to penetrate Baghdad‘s heavily fortified Green Zone for the first time.  They detonated their explosives in a market in a cafe.  The State Department says at least five people were killed, including at least three American contractors. 

All seven crew members were killed when a 747 cargo plane crashed moments after take-off in Nova Scotia, Canada.  The plane was heading for Spain.  The cause of the crash is under investigation. 

The judge in Michael Jackson‘s child molestation case has refused to throw out the indictment against the entertainer.  The defense accused the prosecution of misconduct and insufficient evidence. 

And last night‘s final presidential debate was watched by an estimated 51.2 million viewers.  That‘s 11 million short of the first debate but almost five million more viewers than the second.  Last night‘s debate was also watched by more than triple the viewership of the baseball playoffs.  Those are your headlines at this hour.  Back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS:  The debates are over.  All four of them.  That‘s three presidential debates, that‘s four and a half hours of debating time plus another hour and a half of debating time between the vice presidential candidates.  People know an awful lot of about these candidates and they‘ve got 2 ½ weeks to make up their minds, to come up with their final answer.  Who to vote for, Kerry or the president? 

Let‘s go right now to Deborah Saunders of the “San Francisco Chronicle” and to Katrina Vandel Heuvel who is editor of “The Nation.”  Deborah, last night, the polls once again showed that John Kerry won.  The objective polls have come in and shows Kerry winning the third straight debate.  What does that mean to the election?

DEBRA SAUNDERS, “SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE”:  I don‘t know that it means a lot.  We know that John Kerry is a better debater.  We know that George Bush often speaks in sentences and not paragraphs.  The question is, you know, we‘re not electing a debate president.  We‘re looking for who the next leader is going to be.  And I don‘t think we know yet. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me to go Katrina. 

Your views about—just talk about the polling. 

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, “THE NATION”:  Sure. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m always amazed by the polling myself.  Sometime, like last Friday night, I thought the president got the best of John Kerry.  The people in the polling didn‘t see it that way. 

What do you—how do you interpret the fact that people keep saying Kerry wins every time? 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Yes, polling is a strange art, particularly in these days. 

But I think what has happened, Chris, is that these four debates, but the three, changed—have transformed the race and the dynamic of the race.  So it became less a referendum on the challenger and his character and it has become a referendum on the incumbent and a failed record, I would argue, and that‘s what we‘re looking at. 

And people had a chance, finally, unfiltered without all the spin and the character assassination ads, to look at John Kerry and they found in him a plausible alternative.  And combined with the polls, which I think are real, showing a majority of the country feel the country is on the wrong track, I think that‘s a very potent combination. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Debra, it is clear that, in the polling, John Kerry has not dominated the president in the one-on-ones.  When you ask who are you for in the election, it is still very close. 

Is this like in boxing where you have to defeat the champ?  In other words, by failing to defeat him and knock him out in this last attempt last night, is Kerry now going to fade behind the president as he takes over the news? 

SAUNDERS:  Well, I think one of John Kerry‘s problems is that he voted for the war resolution in Iraq and yet a good deal of—a number of Democrats are opposed to the war there.  And I don‘t know that he‘s done anything to make them feel that he‘s necessarily going to get out. 

You know, he was talking more anti-war before.  I think he has done better in the polls and in the debates as he sounds more muscular. 

(CROSSTALK)

SAUNDERS:  When he sounds more muscular, I think he gets swing voters looking at him, but his base has got to be scratching their heads and wondering, why are we for this guy?  We‘re against the war and John Kerry is now going to be tougher and send more troops in? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Your argument, Debra, is that the liberals, the people who are against the war who are more dovish, think the war was a mistake, are not satisfied that Kerry is with them.  Is that what you‘re saying? 

SAUNDERS:  I think that not being George Bush may not be enough. 

(CROSSTALK)

VANDEN HEUVEL:  I think that‘s wrong, I have to say.

I think what‘s happened is, yes, “The Nation,” which I edit, was against the war.  I was against the war.  There was a lot of Democrats, the majority, the base was against the war.  But what we‘re seeing now is more and more discontent in the country, because the rationales for war have been demolished, not by “The Nation,” but by the 9/11 Commission, by Rumsfeld and Powell and others now saying there was no connection between al Qaeda and the attack—al Qaeda and Iraq, that we were not attacked on 9/11 by Iraq. 

But, Chris, what amazes me in terms of the truth squadding in this country is that Vice President Cheney—and I don‘t know if you talked about this in your interview with John Edwards—continues to go out and talk about the link between al Qaeda and Iraq. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s ironic, Katrina, because he denied that.  He denied ever suggesting any connection between Iraq and 9/11 during the national debate with John Edwards. 

He denied ever making such a statement.  And you‘re right.  I did talk about it. 

(CROSSTALK)

VANDEN HEUVEL:  He‘s on “Meet the Press.”  He‘s on “Meet the Press.”

The thing that amazed, that interested me last night was they had Giuliani, Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, out there spinning for President Bush, because the desire to conflate, to link 911 and the war in Iraq is fierce, because that is their winning card.  And they‘re going to play it all the way. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go right now—excuse me.  Excuse me, both of you.

I have got to go right now to a package by David Shuster, our election correspondent, to talk about last night‘s debate, show us some of the highlights and what they seem to mean for the next 2 ½ weeks.  Let‘s watch David‘s piece.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC ELECTION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Trying to better their odds in yet another battleground, both candidates today headed to Las Vegas.  President Bush spoke at a rally. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Nevada will be a part of a great nationwide victory on November the 2nd

SHUSTER:  John Kerry addressed the AARP. 

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Best bet today is single-deck blackjack.  Worst bet, Bush health care plan. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

SHUSTER:  Polls after the final debate indicated John Kerry did slightly better than the president. 

KERRY:  One percent of America got $89 billion last year in a tax cut.  But people working hard, playing by the rules, trying to take care of their kids, family values that we‘re supposed to value so much in America, I‘m tired of politicians who talk about family values and don‘t value families. 

BUSH:  You know, there‘s a main stream in American politics and you sit right on the far left bank.

SHUSTER:  Although both candidates hit hard...

BUSH:  A plan is not a litany of complaints. 

SHUSTER:  ... Democrats are now preparing television ads trashing the president‘s credibility in the war on terror because of this exchange. 

KERRY:  this president was asked, “Where is Osama bin Laden?” He said, “I don‘t know.  I don‘t really think about him very much.  I‘m not that concerned.”

BUSH:  Gosh, I just don‘t think I ever said I‘m not worried about Osama bin Laden.  It‘s kind of one of those exaggerations. 

SHUSTER:  No, it was not an exaggeration.  Two years ago, the president stated:

BUSH:  I don‘t know where he is.  I repeat what I said.  I truly am not that concerned about him. 

SHUSTER:  Meanwhile, Republicans say John Kerry crossed the line after the president was asked:

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS:  Do you believe homosexuality is a choice? 

BUSH:  You know, Bob, I don‘t know.  I just don‘t know. 

KERRY:  I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney‘s daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she‘s being who she was, she‘s being who she was born as. 

LYNNE CHENEY, WIFE OF VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY:  This is not a good man. 

SHUSTER:  A seething Lynne Cheney spoke at a post-debate rally. 

L. CHENEY:  And, of course, I am speaking as a mom and a pretty indignant mom.  This is not a good man.  What a cheap and tawdry political trick.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Senator Kerry was out of line to even bring my daughter into it.  I thought that was totally inappropriate.  And, frankly, I was surprised that he would do something like that. 

SHUSTER (on camera):  Late today, John Kerry tried to tamp down the controversy by stating he was trying to say something positive about the way strong families deal with this issue.  In any case, it is an issue that underscores the strong feelings and raw emotions of both sides, as both campaigns begin to barrel down the homestretch. 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Debra, what do you make of the president denying that he ever said I‘m not that really concerned about Saddam Hussein and it turns out he did say exactly that?  How do you make out that?

SAUNDERS:  I think we call that a gaffe, Chris.  I think it was a mistake.  I remember him saying it.  When he said that he hadn‘t said it, I was surprised. 

But here‘s the thing.  People do know that George Bush does care about getting Osama bin Laden.  And so while it is a gaffe for him to say I never said that, basically, he had a point when he said, this is an issue that means something to me. 

Can I say something about what Katrina said before

(CROSSTALK)  

MATTHEWS:  But wait a minute.  Let‘s go back to—let‘s come back to the particular point of the president.  Why do you think the president ever said to a country that had been really hurt badly by Osama bin Laden that he really wasn‘t that concerned about catching him?  Why would he say it initially?  That‘s the question I have got. 

SAUNDERS:  The administration...

MATTHEWS:  To the country that was hurt by Osama bin Laden. 

SAUNDERS:  The administration has gone through periods of saying—look, they say that the war on terror is not just against al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.  It is against terrorists that could hurt the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SAUNDERS:  That you can cut off the head of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and you still have al Qaeda.  So this is not something new.  It is just when you want to take that one sentence alone, it looks as though he is being overly nonchalant and that‘s really not who he is.  And we know why he said what he said. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  I guess he looked to me like

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Katrina, then back to you. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  He was in denial. 

I mean, Chris, how can a president deny what he said when it is on video?  It is on television.  It has been shown to millions of Americans.  I think it is just—it‘s part of a larger denial of reality.  And I think he was on to Iraq, Chris, at that point, which is why he wasn‘t that fixed on Osama bin Laden.  It is the great diversion that we‘ve heard a lot about in these debates, the great diversion.

MATTHEWS:  Well, he might have said it...

(CROSSTALK)

VANDEN HEUVEL:  ... unnecessary war. 

MATTHEWS:  Katrina, he might have said it because John Kerry sort of gussied up that phrase a bit.  He didn‘t just quote him directly in saying I‘m really not that concerned.  There was some prelude words there he did to make it sound more dramatic. 

Let me go back.  What did you want to say earlier, Debra?  You had a thought.  And I want to let you finish it?

SAUNDERS:  I mean, you want to talk about denial, the 9/11 report did find a nexus between Iraq and al Qaeda.  It didn‘t find that there was direct linkage between 9/11 and al Qaeda, but it did find a link. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SAUNDERS:  And the administration, if you look at the Duelfer report, had reasons to fear that Osama bin—that Saddam Hussein, if things kept going as they continued, would have WMD, would have a missile system to deliver it and would work with terrorists.  It wasn‘t—it was his job to make sure that didn‘t happen.  I think George Bush is right about that. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But, also, just to keep it clean here, Dick Cheney made a very clear direct suggestion a number of times on “Meet the Press” that there was a meeting between Iraqi intelligence and Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker, in the months before the attack. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  It‘s been discredited. 

MATTHEWS:  Clearly suggesting a connection to the attack. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Not to the relationship between the two of them.

Let me ask you about this sexual matter here.  Do you think that John Kerry committed a foul last night and John Edwards before him in bringing up the sexual identity of Mary Cheney?  Who wants to take that one on? 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  I—you know, I think, Chris, that John Edwards handled Mary Cheney far more gracefully than John Kerry last night.  I think the important thing is that President Bush wants to enshrine discrimination in our Constitution, an unusual, un-American thing. 

But for John Kerry, it seemed too frontal to me.  I would rather he had used another L. word, not the word he used. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  But perhaps he could have talked about labor and how labor has contributed to increasing people‘s well-being. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  He used the word lesbian.  There‘s nothing wrong with that word. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Yes, but it‘s the context.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to Debra.

Your thoughts on this.  Do you think there was a foul committed?  Because Mrs. Cheney thinks that her family was abused.  So does the vice president.  Do you agree?

SAUNDERS:  Look, I live in San Francisco.  Did I have a problem with John Kerry noting that Mary Cheney is a lesbian?  No, I didn‘t.  I don‘t think he said anything untoward. 

I think if he said Mary Cheney would tell you it was a choice, that might have angered a few people, but I didn‘t think that he was out of line.  Now, I live in a city where that wouldn‘t be considered out of line.  I don‘t think being a lesbian is a bad thing.  And I don‘t think he did anything wrong. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  It just seems odd, because John Kerry

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Excuse me, Debra.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  But John Kerry is such a prosecutor.  John Kerry is such a prosecutor.

MATTHEWS:  Debra—I want to go back to Debra. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Yes.  Sorry. 

MATTHEWS:  Debra, in the gay community in San Francisco, which is obviously a very important part of that community out there, do they believe that the word choice is even a relevant conversation? 

SAUNDERS:  Well, yes. 

I mean, it is something that people don‘t talk about a lot.  Why are people gay?  And people in the gay community have different views on it.  We heard John Kerry‘s view on it.  And I don‘t—anyway, I didn‘t think it was wrong for John Kerry to bring it up.  I didn‘t think he brought it up in a cheap way.  I understand why Mrs. Cheney said it, because she wants to make some political points and make him look bad.  And this is a campaign. 

But

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How did the president look to you—how did the president look to you when he said he wasn‘t sure whether it was a matter of choice or not on orientation? 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  But, I mean, it was part—last night, Chris, what struck me so much about Bush was, well, he seemed more comfortable in his own skin, though at times, he looked like a Stepford husband.  They told him not to smirk or frown. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  But he dodged and ducked so many questions, from this one about choice, and choice, Roe vs. Wade, affirmative action.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Minimum wage.  And it just seemed like he was programmed in a way to speak to things he wasn‘t being asked about. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

SAUNDERS:  I think a lot of people aren‘t sure, Chris, and I think George Bush is like a lot of people and I don‘t think that answer hurt him at all. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I think a lot of people argue about the more narrow issue of nurture vs. nature, not so much an explicit choice, as how you were brought up.

Anyway, we‘re going to come back with both of you, Katrina Vanden Heuvel and Debra Saunders, and talk about this debate last night.  I think it really did open a lot of issues for the next 2 ½ weeks, in fact, the last 2 ½ weeks of this incredibly close campaign for president and vice president.

Back with more HARDBALL with Katrina and Debra.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  More with Katrina and Debra when we come back and talk more about the debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

We‘re out here in Onawa, Iowa, population 3,000.  We‘ve been following John Edwards‘ campaign bus through this part of the country.  And we‘re talking to Debra Saunders, who is a columnist with “The San Francisco Chronicle,” and also to Katrina Vanden Heuvel, who is editor of “The Nation” magazine.

So much of last night‘s debate seemed to be a battle of topics.  Get your topic up and you win.  Get the other guy‘s topic up and you lose.  Abortion rights was talked about last night. 

Katrina, could you tell the president‘s position on abortion rights throughout the debate?  Could you figure out where he came down after all the talk? 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Last night, again, as I said, on that question, he was kind of dodge and duck. 

In the second debate, he sent out some coded signal by referring to the Dred Scott decision in the 19th century.  I think it was a coded signal to the anti-choice community that he was not going to let them down.  But what struck me was that, Chris, on every issue, Kerry could have said, there you go again or—because Bush had been there, done that. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Four years ago, he promised fiscal responsibility, tax cuts for the middle class, more accessible health care. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Staggering list of failed policies in that regard. 

MATTHEWS:  What struck me is that he never really came down and said he is pro-life in the sense of meaning something.  He didn‘t come out for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion or to leave it up to the states.  He didn‘t come out and say I‘m going to pick judges who are going to overturn Roe vs. Wade.  He seemed to play around the edges of the issue.  Yet he is enjoying the support of the Catholic hierarchy on this issue. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  They‘re pro-life.  They want to outlaw abortion.  And yet he doesn‘t seem to be taking their position, but he is benefiting from their opposition to a Catholic being elected president as a pro-choicer.  It seems like he is benefiting by hedging. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Well, I thought Kerry was effective, I have to say, for the first time, talking about his faith.  And I thought he was better than in the second debate, where he didn‘t seem to speak as personally and articulately. 

And I think he really challenged the Catholic bishops to expand their definition of what a good Catholic means.  He talked about poverty and war, just war, issues that I think a lot of lay Catholics will relate to, because they don‘t like being dictated to by the Catholic bishops on these issues.  But you know more about it than I do.  You know more about it than I do.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I do.  It‘s a complicated question.  I do maybe, because it‘s a complicated question. 

Debra, your thoughts on this, how well the president handled this very difficult issue. 

SAUNDERS:  Well, look, everybody knows that George Bush is pro-life. 

So I don‘t think that he feels he has to announce it. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, what does that mean, though?  What does that mean?

SAUNDERS:  Look.  He‘s a Republican.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What is he going to do about it? 

SAUNDERS:  What can he do about it?  We know what the Supreme Court ha ruled. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, then what is—he could say he is pro-Santa Claus. 

What does it mean here?  If it means...

SAUNDERS:  What it means...

MATTHEWS:  ... pro-life in regard to abortion rights, it means you‘re going to outlaw abortion.  And he‘s not making any move to outlaw it. 

SAUNDERS:  Well, wait a minute.  He‘s not king.  We have

(CROSSTALK)

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Some people think he is.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

SAUNDERS:  Well, some people think he is Hitler, right? 

But the truth is, this is a nation of laws.  We have Roe vs. Wade.  We have other abortion laws on the books.  And he is not going to try to go around the democratic system that he understands just to change things to make them to his liking.  So, as he said before, he signed a partial-birth abortion bill. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SAUNDERS:  And that was something that I thought Kerry‘s answer on the debate before was pretty silly about. 

People—this debate isn‘t happening in a vacuum.  People know where Bush stands on abortion.  And they know what he can do and what he can‘t do. 

(CROSSTALK)

SAUNDERS:  And so I don‘t know what more you thought he should have done. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, here‘s the question.  If you‘re a 25-year-old woman, a 35-year-old woman, or whatever, a pro-choice male, whatever, what difference does it make between these candidates to you?  If they are not going to change the law, why are we even talking about it?  If the law is the way it is and it‘s going to stay that way, why are we even talking about it? 

(CROSSTALK)

VANDEN HEUVEL:  You know that he would appoint justices like Scalia and Thomas.  And would you change the court not for four years, but for 40 years.  And the demographic situation upon us makes this the most important year in terms of the court.  Rehnquist is 80. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Some of the more liberal—so I think that is crucial. 

And the interesting thing to me was how flip-flopper was not to be found last night.  I don‘t know if you noticed that.  It suddenly become the tax-and-spend liberal. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Liberal. 

And, in fact, Kerry is really mainstream.  He is not out of the mainstream. 

(LAUGHTER)

VANDEN HEUVEL:  No, he is on a range of issues.

SAUNDERS:  I‘m sorry.  I‘m sorry. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Increasing the minimum wage, retirement security, pay equity for women, choice.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Debra? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Debra Saunders, I don‘t have any more time.

But, Debra, please come back.  Debra Saunders, you‘re a great guest on this show.  Please come back and give us your views and analysis the next time. 

Of course, the same with Katrina Vanden Heuvel.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Editor of “The Nation” magazine.

In fact, I used to be with “The San Francisco Chronicle,” of course.

Debra, it‘s great to have you on. 

Let‘s come back here.  We‘re going to talk some of the people out here in Onawa, Iowa, population 3,000, nothing wrong with that.  It‘s a nice small town.  We‘re going to talk to the people about what they think about these issues we‘ve been talking about throughout this program, and also about the visit of John Edwards right here this afternoon. 

I‘ll be back in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re out here at Adeler Brothers (ph) Diner in Onawa, Iowa.  It‘s a population of 3,000 people. 

But the most important thing about the Adeler Brothers Diner, where I sit right now at the counter, he‘s created the Eskimo pie.  So don‘t brag until you‘ve done something this big.

OK, let‘s talk about last night‘s debate.  Everybody should of watched

·         everybody watch last night‘s debate in Tempe, Arizona?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, I did not.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, you‘re last in this conversation.

Let‘s go to Jody (ph).

Jody, what did you think about last night.  First of all, who won? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, John Kerry did.  But I don‘t think there‘s any question about that. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re with the polls.  The polls say John Kerry.  Of course, the poll always say John Kerry wins all these debates.  Let me ask you about the issues out here.  What is the biggest issue to you in this campaign?  It‘s over in 2 ½ weeks. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  In this area where we live, it is jobs.  It‘s the economy.  A lot of people are unemployed around here.  A lot of people don‘t have health care.  And this is Iowa.  We‘re a truthful community.  And Bush has lied too many times. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you a Democrat? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, I am a Democrat. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, I‘m just getting. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this.  Ronald Reagan asked a great question. 

Are you better off than you were four years ago? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No, I am not. 

MATTHEWS:  Is the community better off than it was four years ago? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No, it is not. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s go to Dennis (ph).  Hold that mike for Dennis and give it to Dennis.

Dennis, answer the same questions.  What‘s the most important issue to you and this area tonight? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, jobs.  A lot of us are looking for ways to keep our children here at home after we educate them.  So we need an economic base to build on. 

MATTHEWS:  Where do they go when they split?  When people go to a big city, where do they go? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Most of them will go off to college and then...

MATTHEWS:  Chicago? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, Sunbelt. 

MATTHEWS:  Sunbelt, they go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Phoenix, go back down to Tempe.  I actually spent 25 years in Arizona. 

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re trying to keep the place it was when you grew up here. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, keep the small-town values.  But we do need to develop an economic base to continue to survive. 

MATTHEWS:  If you were president tomorrow morning and you had all the clout of the federal government and the federal budget, what would you do for Onawa right here in Iowa? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I would continue with develop the alternative fuels.  We have the wind energy sources here in western Iowa, continue the biotech development. 

MATTHEWS:  So create new jobs. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, creating a new jobs.  Yet we need to stabilize farm income and keep our family farms intact. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get some other ideas here.

Chuck Layton (ph), what‘s your view?  Same question, because I don‘t think there‘s any other question for America.  Tip O‘Neill once said all politics is local.  And I guess the question is, what good can either presidential candidate do for Onawa? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I‘m sort of insulated.  I‘m a pastor.  And my folks would probably tell you that I have the cushiest job in town. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But I see a lot of folks really worried about where their next paycheck is going to come from, where their kids are going to get their...

MATTHEWS:  More than they used to? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, I think so.  I think so.

MATTHEWS:  You mean times aren‘t as confident as they were before? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, I don‘t believe they are. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think changed? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, you know, this isn‘t something that‘s happened just in the last couple years, I think even since the ‘80s.  But...

MATTHEWS:  Is this globalization, free trade? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We—yes, we around here are really—I think a lot of us are pretty upset about the idea that our jobs are going overseas. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

Let me go to Burt McCannis (ph). 

Your thoughts about this election. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I really haven‘t picked a candidate. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you want to hear now?  We‘ve had six hours of debates right now, 4 ½ between the presidentials and an hour and a half between the V.P.s  Are you just not paying attention? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  You said you didn‘t watch last night.  Whose fault is this? 

Hah!

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It is just like a soap opera.  If you watch the last 10 minutes, you have got it all. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I know.  Let me ask you this.  What is going to decide your vote when you go in that booth? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I‘m

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is it a cultural stuff, gay marriage, abortion, that kind of thing?  Is it guns?  Is it jobs?  Or is it foreign policy, Iraq, that kind of thing? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, foreign policy, guns is probably going to have more to do with what I vote than anything else. 

MATTHEWS:  It sounds like you‘re a Republican. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, I‘m not. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you for or against guns? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m for guns. 

MATTHEWS:  How about for or against the Iraq war? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, yes and no.  They did a good thing getting Saddam out of there, but now let‘s get our troops out of there. 

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t like being stuck in there. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.

MATTHEWS:  You sound like a lot of people. 

Anyway, I want to thank you all, Chuck.  I want to thank Burt, Jody, Dennis for those thoughts, because they are real and they‘re going to decide this election.  By the way, Iowa is up for grabs, a big close one, a big battleground. 

So good night from Onawa, Iowa.  Tomorrow night, it‘s THE HORSERACE again.  It is every Friday.  And on Monday, Jimmy Carter.

Now, the “COUNTDOWN” coming up 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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