updated 10/28/2004 11:15:42 AM ET 2004-10-28T15:15:42

Guest: John Kerry, Dana Priest, George Carlin

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Can John Kerry use the new focus on Iraq and George W. Bush‘s management of the war to win the presidency?  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I will never relent in defending America...

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  For America, the hope is here, the sun is rising.  Our best days are still to come!

BUSH:  We are on the path to the future, and we‘re not turning back!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews.  This is an extra edition of HARDBALL.

We‘re six days out from the presidential election, and the Zogby daily tracking poll of likely voters shows Senator Kerry has closed the race from a 3-point margin to 1-point margin.  And the ABC News tracking poll has the race 49 Kerry, 48 Bush, same as yesterday.  And according to our own NBC News polling, 26 states are considered solid or leaning toward President Bush.  They comprise 222 electoral votes of the 270 needed to win. Fifteen states and District of Columbia are considered solid or leaning toward Senator Kerry, and they‘re worth 207 electoral votes.  And our polling shows that nine states worth 109 electoral votes are still rated as toss-ups.

Tonight, my exclusive interview with John Kerry in Philadelphia.  But first, let‘s go straight to the reporters on the campaign trail, beginning with NBC News White House correspondent David Gregory.

DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, with the race this close, the White House has concluded this is a subject the president cannot afford to ignore.  Today he lashed out at Senator Kerry for making, quote, “wild charges without the facts.”

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over):  After a dramatic Air Force One flyover in Pennsylvania this morning, Mr. Bush used his first campaign rally of the day for damage control, assuring supporters that the administration is investigating when and how 380 tons of dangerous explosives went missing in Iraq.  The president suggested Saddam‘s regime moved them before the war, arguing the situation would be even more dangerous had Senator Kerry been in the White House.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Saddam Hussein would still be in power.  He would control all those weapons and explosives and could have shared them with our terrorist enemies.

GREGORY:  But even with Saddam gone, there are fears those explosives have fallen into the wrong hands, potentially undermining the president‘s claim that America is safer because of the war.  Senator Kerry in Iowa today sees a political opening with the story.  Though his top advisers have admitted publicly they don‘t know the truth about what happened at the al Qaqaa facility, Kerry cited the missing explosives as one of the president‘s major failures.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  What we‘re seeing is a White House that is dodging and bobbing and weaving in their usual efforts to avoid responsibility.

GREGORY:  As the exchanges between the candidates get more heated, so, too, the fight for battlegrounds like Ohio, where Bush advisers admit their own polls continue to show a dead heat.  Today the president campaigned in Youngstown, heavy union, Democratic territory.  By his side, Georgia Democratic senator Zell Miller, making the campaign‘s most direct appeal yet to Democrats disenchanted with Kerry.

SEN. ZELL MILLER (D), GEORGIA:  Which man will stay on the offensive and never waver and never wobble?  And that man is George W. Bush!

GREGORY:  In a surprise, campaign officials say the president is losing support in Ohio among white men, the foundation of Mr. Bush‘s base.  Aides acknowledged that Kerry‘s made-for-TV hunting trip in the state last week may have had an impact.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Not surprisingly, Bush advisers are confident those men will come back to the president with his emphasis on conservative cultural values, the same values Mr. Bush is promoting tonight during a meeting here in Michigan with African-American clergy supporting his reelection.  Chris, back to you.

MATTHEWS:  Thanks, David.  NBC‘s Carl Quintanilla is traveling with the Kerry campaign in Rochester, Minnesota—Carl.

CARL QUINTANILLA, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Chris.  After several days of attacks, Kerry‘s now said to be keenly aware of the risks in overplaying the weapons issue, careful to avoid charges he‘s politicizing the war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over):  With the weapons issue at his back, John Kerry ventured into Bush territory today, southern Minnesota, courting swing voters for what aides say is the last time.

KERRY:  I don‘t care if a good idea is a Republican idea or a Democrat idea, I just care whether it works for Americans and lifts this country up and makes it stronger.

PHIL RUTHERFORD, MINNESOTA VOTER:  There are 7,500 people in here.  There‘s standing room only outside.  You know, there‘s—someone in this Republican-dominated area is interested in what John Kerry has to say.

QUINTANILLA:  Starting tomorrow, Kerry‘s campaign switches gears, staging larger rallies for the party faithful, with performers like Bruce Springsteen, trying to position Kerry in huge crowds for positive media coverage ahead of the final push this weekend.  Kerry‘s campaign still has some concerns about upper Midwestern states, Wisconsin and Michigan, where they expected to be farther along.  But tonight some national polls show Kerry gaining ground on the president and closing the gap in states where he‘s fallen behind.  For Democrats who say Kerry has the momentum, the next six days can‘t come soon enough.

Carl Quintanilla, NBC News, Rochester, Minnesota.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  I caught up with Democratic candidate John Kerry on the campaign trail in Philadelphia right after President Clinton made his campaign debut in front of an audience of 85,000.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

How‘s President Clinton doing?  You talked to him.

KERRY:  Fabulous.  Great.  He‘s really doing well.  In fact, he‘s energized enough, he‘s going out to several other states.  He‘s not just doing this, he‘s going from here to Nevada.  I think he‘s going to do Colorado.  He‘s going to Florida.  He‘s going to be out there working.

MATTHEWS:  How about Ohio?

KERRY:  I think he may go to Ohio.  I‘m not sure, but I think he may.

MATTHEWS:  But he feels good?  Because a lot of people said...

KERRY:  He feels good.  No, no, no, no.  He really feels good.  He‘s lost a little weight, obviously.  He wants to.  He wants to lose a little more.  And he feels terrific.

MATTHEWS:  Did he give you any big advice for the last week?

KERRY:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Yes?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Did he say, Push Iraq, go domestic?  What‘d he—give me a hint here.  What‘d he tell you to do?

KERRY:  No, he just—you know, he really was very concerned about this ammo dump thing that‘s happened today.  He thinks that that, and I think, that represents the way in which this administration has miscalculated again and again and again in Iraq.  And this is serious because just a small amount of that—I mean, if only a few tons of it fell into the hands of terrorists, it‘s more than enough to blow airplanes out of the sky, buildings to the ground.  It‘s deadly serious.

MATTHEWS:  Is this the source of...

KERRY:  And it‘s so basic.  It‘s so basic to what we should have been doing over there.

MATTHEWS:  Is this the source of all of these IEDs that have been blowing the legs off our guys?

KERRY:  I can‘t tell you that.  I don‘t know the answer to that.  But I can tell you this, that there‘s an awful lot of explosives and weaponry in the hands of insurgents that shouldn‘t be.  And it‘s because we didn‘t do the planning.  We didn‘t do what we need—you know that this ammo dump was put in a second tier of category of protection, below the ministry of oil, below other buildings in Iraq?  And they didn‘t do what was necessary to protect America and our troops.  I think it‘s deadly serious, and so does President Bush.

MATTHEWS:  Was it a failure of the high command of the president himself not to give specific orders to protect that ammo?

KERRY:  I believe that all of those decisions—the president sits and leads the war council.  You sit at that table and you ask your generals and you ask your secretary of defense, Have we made sure?  What‘s the or the of priority?  What are our lists?  Do we have enough troops?  Are we going to be—the fact is, the Army chief of staff said, You need several hundred thousand troops.  He listened to Don Rumsfeld, who was wrong.  He didn‘t listen to the professional military.  I think that‘s a failure of the commander-in-chief.

MATTHEWS:  This president has said—President Bush has said over and over again we‘re going to turn the country over to the Iraqis.  We‘re going to turn security over to the Iraqi security forces.  This horrible event of the weekend, Senator, does that show that the Iraqis are in no shape right now to protect the security of their own outfit?  This was apparently an inside job, it‘s been reported, 50 guys executed on our side, and they were sold out by somebody within the unit, apparently.  What does that tell you?

KERRY:  Well, first of all, we know that the administration has misled Americans about the numbers of troops that are being trained.  Don Rumsfeld said several months ago to Congress there were 200,000.  Then he corrected it to 100,000.  That has now been re-corrected by fact to 22,000.  So they haven‘t been training people adequately.

Secondly, when you train people, you don‘t just leave them in an unprotected status in a state of war, you do what‘s necessary to guarantee that you‘re protecting what you‘re investing in.  They haven‘t done that for the contractors.  They haven‘t done that for the people doing the elections.  And they haven‘t even done it now for the military.

It underscores the utter—look, these aren‘t my words.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

KERRY:  These are Senator Lugar‘s words, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Republican.  He‘s called it “incompetent.”  Senator Hagel has called it “beyond pitiful, beyond embarrassing.  It‘s in the zone of dangerous.”  Now, we can have more of the same with President Bush, or we can move to have somebody who knows what they‘re doing, who knows how to get this training done, who can bring allies back to the table and get this job done.  We have to get this job done.  Make no mistake.

MATTHEWS:  Do you feel you could...

KERRY:  We have to do better.

MATTHEWS:  ... take this job right now?

KERRY:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s all I need.  Thank you, Senator.

KERRY:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Coming up: With tons of explosives missing in Iraq, HARDBALL election correspondent David Shuster takes a look at how the news cycle is influencing both the Bush and the Kerry campaigns.  And Jamie Gangel‘s (ph) interview with Vice President Dick Cheney.

This is an extra edition of HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  The news about those missing explosives in Iraq has both the Bush and Kerry campaigns pivoting, hitting hard and trying to control the headlines.  Here‘s election correspondent David Shuster.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The next president of the United States, John Kerry!

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL ELECTION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  For the third day in a row, John Kerry hammered the Bush administration for the disappearance of 380 tons of explosives in Iraq.  But today Kerry offered a fresh quote from the U.S. commander who led troops to the site early in the war.

KERRY:  I didn‘t know what the place was supposed to be.  This was not our mission, folks.  It was not our focus.  We were just stopping there.  This is what he said.  We were just stopping there on our way to Baghdad.

SHUSTER:  Democrats see a huge final-week opportunity.  The International Atomic Energy Agency says it warned the Bush administration before the war the site was important and needed protection.  This morning, President Bush was forced to respond to the latest charges of poor planning.

BUSH:  Our military‘s now investigating a number of possible scenarios, including that the explosives may have been moved before our troops even arrived at the site.  This investigation is important, and it‘s ongoing.  And a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander-in-chief.

QUINTANILLA:  Still, with Vice President Cheney concluding...

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  John Kerry is playing armchair general, and he‘s not doing a very good job of it.

QUINTANILLA:  ... and Kerry blasting back...

KERRY:  Vice President Cheney, who is becoming the chief minister of disinformation—he echoed that it‘s not the administration‘s fault.

SHUSTER:  ... the Bush campaign decided to try to change the debate.  The campaign gave reporters the president‘s final television commercial two days before the ad starts running.  It refers to 9/11...

BUSH:  These four years have brought moments I could not foresee and will not forget.

QUINTANILLA:  ... and the president praises U.S. troops and their families.

BUSH:  Because of your service and sacrifice, we are defeating the terrorists where they live and plan, and you‘re making America safer.  I will never relent in defending America, whatever it takes!

SHUSTER:  Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, both candidates have been relentless in their baby-kissing efforts.  And to help create a sense of momentum, both campaigns are firing confetti at the end of almost every rally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The president of the United States, George W. Bush!

SHUSTER:  Still, the highly charged atmosphere is on full display.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Four more years!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Four more years!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Four more years!

SHUSTER:  And never mind the protesters hustled out of a Bush rally.  In Broward County, Florida, the election officials are now looking for tens of thousands of absentee ballots that appear to be missing.  Election officials are blaming the Postal Service.  The Postal Service blames the election officials.

In the meantime, chaos at some south Florida sites has forced voters casting early ballots to wait in line as long as three hours.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Then, of course, there are the lawsuits.  Nine have been filed in Florida, and more lawsuits are on the way in Ohio and Colorado.  As one observer noted, if you think the missing Iraqi munitions are explosive, just wait for the legal battle here at home if this election ends up close—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster.  And stay with me because MSNBC‘s Ron Reagan is joining us from beautiful Democracy Plaza, MSNBC election headquarters—Ron.

RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hey, there, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Ron Reagan, let‘s investigate both these charges.  The administration, in its ad for the president, once again asserts that the terrorists live and plan in Iraq, as if, once again, they‘re making the point that we were simply retaliating when we went to war with Iraq for what happened to us 9/11, and that‘s not true.

REAGAN:  Well, that explains the confusion of many Bush voters, perhaps a majority even of Bush voters, or at least a strong minority, who believe still that weapons of mass destruction were found, that Iraq—Saddam‘s Iraq was in league with al Qaeda, perhaps even involved in 9/11.  And as you said, we know that that isn‘t true.

And the implication of this is something serious.  If Bush wins this election, you could say that it‘s due to the fact that a large number of his supporters are, frankly, delusional.  They‘re living in a fantasy world.

MATTHEWS:  Well, they were—they were led to—let‘s go back to David Shuster.  It seems to me that the polling we saw today shows that at least half the people who are voting for the president believe that there‘s WMD in that country, in Iraq, and there was a connection to the attack on 9/11, both not true, apparently, according to all the reports so far from every source.  Is this part of the continuing effort to tie those two things together, David?

SHUSTER:  Yes, it is.  Flat out, it is.  They believe—and if you ask Bush supporters, they believe that Iraq is dangerous, and therefore the president was right to go in.

But Chris, I want to draw your attention to one other thing that‘s in the works today, and that is that one clip that we showed, where the president says, We need a political candidate—a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander-in-chief—I mean, that makes the Democratic case right there, and some Democratic groups are planning on using that as a potential last weekend advertisement against the president.

I mean, that‘s the problem.  You know, the Democrats say the president is making the argument against himself, and yet you have the president‘s own supporters who are saying, Wait a second, Iraq was dangerous, whether they had weapons or not, the president (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s put that shoe on the other foot, though, David.  John Kerry has jumped out here—reading a “New York Times” article.  All of a sudden, he‘s out there lashing at the president because of a “New York Times” article that says that these weapons—these explosives, 380 tons of them, should have been secured by our advancing and arriving troops, when there‘s a question as to whether they were moved before we even got there.  Why is John Kerry jumping to conclusions?

SHUSTER:  Well, John Kerry is suggesting that, yes, that there was a mistake made in not having enough troops to find out back in April of 2003 whether or not those weapons were there.  But again, the president‘s suggesting that John Kerry is somehow denigrating the troops when John Kerry says the troops didn‘t look for these weapons and explosives.  The fact of the matter is, Kerry‘s not denigrating the troops.  He‘s just saying the troops weren‘t told that there might be something there that they be should be looking for.

So I mean, I suppose it‘s a matter of degree.  Democrats are saying that everything that Kerry says is fine, that Kerry is not crossing the line, but that somehow, the president is.

MATTHEWS:  The other day, Ron—President Reagan—President Bush used a—he cited John F. Kennedy, the former president, the late president, for having said, “We should bear any burden,” and then he compared that to how he said that the John Kerry approach was to cut and run.  And then Caroline Kennedy today came out and said, Stop using my father‘s name.

Well, you‘re in a similar situation sometimes.  What do you make of this?

REAGAN:  I know exactly how she feels.  First he was trying to pretend to be my father, and now he‘s trying to pretend to be Caroline‘s father.  And yes, just—back to the munitions just for a second, to pick up on something that David said.  It doesn‘t really matter whether those munitions, which we knew were there just a few days before the war began because they were inspected there—if they were moved just before the war began or moved just after the war began, looted perhaps just after the war began.  It doesn‘t make any difference because no troops were told to go and secure that site.  No troops were told to look for them there.  So really, it‘s irrelevant when they were moved or looted.

MATTHEWS:  Have you noticed, David, that the people coming on television the last couple days keep referring to Monday-morning quarterbacking.

SHUSTER:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  And you know, I think that may be a mistake because it assumes, doesn‘t it, that mistakes were made in the game and it‘s easy to make fun of mistakes after they‘re made.  It also denies the right of the fans to decide who they think should start as quarterback next week.

SHUSTER:  Right.  I mean...

MATTHEWS:  On Monday morning.

SHUSTER:  I mean, it‘s just a charge.  If we‘re not supposed to—the candidates or their supporters are not supposed to do Monday-morning quarterbacking of either President Bush or John Kerry right now, when are they supposed to do it?  I mean, it doesn‘t make any sense.

But again, Chris, one thing that you picked up on with Caroline Kennedy and again with Ron Reagan—the idea that President Bush is now appealing to Democrats, which is the reference why he talked about John Kennedy, he‘s telling Democrats, Come join us, that may signal some trouble for the president because remember, Karl Rove at one point several months ago said the president doesn‘t need Democrats to win this election.  He just needs all of the Republicans to show up.

If the Bush campaign suddenly needs to appeal to some of those Democrats, that could be a sign of trouble for the president.

MATTHEWS:  Well, my sense of the election right now—nobody asked me—is that it was moving more toward Kerry for the last couple days, but I think it may have stalled.  We don‘t know.  This could be an election which is right on the nail come next Tuesday night.

Thank you very much, David Shuster and Ron Reagan.

Up next, NBC‘s Chip Reid on making your vote count.

You‘re watching an extra edition of HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  One of the side concerns facing some voters is whether or not their vote will be counted on election day.  NBC‘s Chip Reid is covering voter problems in Florida.  He joins us now with this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHIP REID, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  This is Chip Reid.  They‘re lining up across the state, early voters determined to make sure that this time, their votes count.  In Palm Beach, they‘re all but wilting in the hot sun.  In Fort Meyers, waits can last for hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I thought I‘d beat the crowds.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) But you know, I want to do my patriotic thing.

REID:  And in Tampa, the lines are out the door and around the block.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This is the third day I‘ve come to check the line, and every day, it‘s been like this, so I decided to wait today.

REID:  In Broward County, there‘s voter outrage over absentee ballots.  Tens of thousands of voters have still not received theirs.  Callers from Broward are already flooding the NBC voter alert line.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I want to know where my ballot is.  I mailed it in three weeks ago, and I still have not received it.

REID:  Meanwhile, Republicans say groups associated with Democrats have engaged in widespread voter registration fraud, especially in urban areas.

MINDY TUCKER FLETCHER, FLORIDA REPUBLICAN PARTY:  We don‘t want dead people to be able to vote, and we don‘t want people who‘ve been registered 59 times to be able to vote.

REID:  But Democrats and voting right groups say Republicans are using exaggerated claims of fraud as an excuse to mount challenges against minority voters.

RALPH NEAS, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY:  They‘re not going into Democratic precincts that are Caucasian, they‘re targeting African-American voters or Latino voters.  That‘s illegal.  That‘s wrong.  That‘s immoral.

REID (on camera):  There are some glimmers of good news in Florida.  For example, there have been relatively few problems with those controversial touchscreen voting machines.

(voice-over):  And while many states are reporting a severe shortage of poll workers...

DEFOREST SOARIES, FEDERAL ELECTION ASSISTANCE COMMISSION:  Florida has no shortage of poll workers primarily because it has such a high rate of retirees in the state.

REID:  Signs of hope amid a long line of worries that Florida could be Florida all over again.

Chip Reid, NBC News, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Chip Red.

Up next: NBC‘s Jamie Gangel‘s exclusive interview with Vice President Dick Cheney.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on HARDBALL, Vice President Dick Cheney on why he says John Kerry is not the man to be commander in chief. 

But, first, let‘s check in with the MSNBC News Desk. 

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to this extra edition of HARDBALL. 

This week, NBC‘s Jamie Gangel landed an exclusive interview with Vice President Dick Cheney. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE GANGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  With just eight days to go, Vice President Cheney is campaigning flat-out.  His job is to energize the Republican base.  Translation:  Go after John Kerry. 

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Tough talk in a 90-minute debate doesn‘t obscure or can‘t be allowed to obscure a 20-year record in the United States Senate, where Senator Kerry has come down virtually on the wrong side of every major defense issue. 

GANGEL:  We caught up with the vice president at a quick stopover in Washington, D.C.

(on camera):   Out on the trail, you are seen as the attack dog against John Kerry. 

D. CHENEY:  No, you don‘t want to believe that, do you? 

GANGEL:  In fact, you‘ve suggested we‘re more likely to be attacked by terrorists if Kerry wins.  Do you really believe that? 

D. CHENEY:  I think if you look at John Kerry‘s record, 20 years in the United States Senate and even before that, he gives no indication that he would in fact pursue that kind of aggressive strategy against the terrorists that the president will.  He said the other day in the New York Times that he wants to get terrorism back to a point where it‘s just a nuisance like illegal gambling or prostitution.  Those are his words. 

GANGEL:  And you think that‘s...

D. CHENEY:  I think that‘s nuts. 

You know, I asked myself, When was terrorism ever just a nuisance?  Was it when they hit the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 and we lost 241 Marines, or maybe when they took down Pan Am 103 over Scotland in 1998. 

I don‘t think there‘s a time ever when terrorism was just a nuisance.  And I think a man who has it in his mind that there‘s some acceptable level of terrorism out there that we can accept, that we can manage to, isn‘t the man to be commander in chief. 

GANGEL:  The flip side is that people say you are fear-mongering, that you are going out there trying to win this election by scaring people.  CHENEY:  Well, I‘m speaking the truth.  There isn‘t anything I just said to you that‘s not fact, except my opinion that he won‘t do it.  But that‘s based on his record. 

GANGEL:  Aren‘t you trying to scare people? 

D. CHENEY:  I am trying to have a debate here about what I think is a very serious proposition.  We‘re not doing our jobs if we don‘t say to the America people, Look, this is a global conflict.  So what am I supposed to do?  Run around the country say, Don‘t worry about it, everything‘s fine, there‘s no threat?  That would be outrageous for me to do that. 

GANGEL:  You know, the criticism that the administration has not admitted when mistakes were made has resonated with some voters. 

D. CHENEY:  Well, Jamie, I don‘t think we were wrong.  On the big issues, I think we got it right, as the president himself has said. 

If I go back and look at what we did in Afghanistan, I think we got it pretty right and did exactly the right thing.  In Iraq, we‘re dealing with a situation somewhat different, but again I think we did exactly the right thing. 

GANGEL:  Right before the war, on Meet the Press you said, We will be greeted as liberators.  Were you wrong? 

D. CHENEY:  Jamie, just because it‘s tough and because it‘s difficult and because force was required doesn‘t mean that it wasn‘t the right thing to do.  I mean, the Iraqis I‘ve talked to, virtually to a man, all reiterate that gratitude they feel to the United States for what we did. 

GANGEL:  Did you think securing the peace would be this hard? 

D. CHENEY:  A couple of things I would argue that I underestimated and I think others did too. 

I think the amount of damage that had been done by Saddam Hussein to the infrastructure in Iraq, the devastation that he had wrought inside his own country was greater than we expected.  I also think that the trauma, the psychological effect of 30 years of oppression on the Iraqi people was greater than I had anticipated.  We clearly have an ongoing insurgency there, but I don‘t see widespread support for that. 

GANGEL:  Senator Kerry is out there saying that there is going to be voter fraud, that you are going to try to suppress African-American voting, privatize Social Security, and you are going to bring back the draft, a January surprise.  You say? 

D. CHENEY:  Not true. 

Anybody who‘s been associated with the all-volunteer force, as I was when I was secretary of defense, knows we have got the best military in the world today.  And nobody wants to go back to the draft.  It makes no sense. 

Social Security, they trot that out every two years.  As long as I have been in politics, when you get down to the end of the campaign, if the Democrats are in trouble, then they say, well, if you elect Republicans, you are going to hurt Social Security.  Not true.  It‘s not going to happen. 

With respect to voter fraud, the things that concern me is, I see a lot of evidence on the other side that in fact they are trying to make these charges that somehow we are doing something to suppress the vote.  We are not. 

GANGEL (voice-over):  As for the other big campaign issue, Iraq, the vice president insisted that, despite criticism of the war, the policy was correct and dismissed report that upcoming elections in Iraq could end up with Islamic fundamentalists in power. 

(on camera):  How will you feel if in the end that‘s where Iraq goes? 

D. CHENEY:  Well, Jamie, you can come up with all kinds of speculative what-ifs and possibilities there. 

I will tell you, once again, that a government in Iraq that has been elected and is representative of the Iraqi people is going to be far preferable to what was there before. 

GANGEL:  Even if it is Islamic fundamentalists? 

D. CHENEY:  Whatever it is, the Iraqi people will make that choice.  And that‘s an important proposition.  But the bottom line is, the world is a far safer, more sane and more secure place because Saddam Hussein is in jail instead of in his palace in Baghdad. 

GANGEL:  After 9/11, your administration had record high approval ratings, 90 percent.  You‘re almost at half that now.  You have a polarized electorate, a virtual dead heat.  How did you lose so much goodwill? 

D. CHENEY:  The United States is carrying out your constitutional obligations and responsibilities to the best of your ability.  And that means making tough decisions.  That means doing sometimes things that are very hard to do, sometimes things that are unpopular. 

If you‘re simply going to play for the polls, there are a lot of ways to do that, but probably you are neglecting your responsibilities as president.  George Bush would never do that.  He doesn‘t govern by the polls, and he shouldn‘t. 

GANGEL (voice-over):  Win or lose, this is Dick Cheney‘s last campaign.  And his family has been with him throughout.  His wife, Lynne, joined us to talk about what it‘s been like. 

(on camera):  The Cheney that made the most news this past week has been your daughter Mary, because John Kerry and John Edwards brought her up.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney‘s daughter, who is a lesbian.

GANGEL:  Sixty-four percent of Americans polled said that they thought that that was inappropriate. 

Vice President Cheney, do you believe it was calculated on their part for political reasons? 

D. CHENEY:  Well, that was the suspicion after they both brought it up, and Mary Beth Cahill, a campaign chairman, immediately after the debate where John Kerry mentioned it on television, said Mary was fair game.  Fair game; that‘s descriptive of an issue not...

LYNNE CHENEY, WIFE OF VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: But not our dear and wonderful daughter.

GANGEL:  How did you react when you heard John Kerry say that?  And how did Mary react to it? 

L. CHENEY:  Oh, I think my reaction was pretty obvious.  Because I was scheduled to go be on television and I expressed my anger.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

L. CHENEY:  You know, the only thing I can conclude is this is not a good man. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

L. CHENEY:  But I think it‘s really time for us, you know, in talking about our family, to talk about our family in terms of everything they do.  And I have wonderful, smart, honorable, bright daughters and terrific grandchildren. 

GANGEL:  Do you think John Kerry should apologize? 

D. CHENEY:  No, I think the matter is behind us now and we‘ve moved on. 

GANGEL:  From here to Election Day, you will be on the road.  John Kerry is bringing out Bill Clinton and Al Gore.  I understand your campaign has Arnold Schwarzenegger...

D. CHENEY:  That‘s right. 

GANGEL:  ... in Ohio.  Who do you like, Elvis or the Terminator? 

D. CHENEY:  I‘ll take the Terminator.

(LAUGHTER)

GANGEL:  Give me a prediction for November 2. 

D. CHENEY:  52-47 Bush. 

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

MATTHEWS:  That was NBC‘s Jamie Gangel.

Coming up, with missing explosives and ongoing fighting, how will the war in Iraq influence the final days leading up the election?

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, “The Washington Post”‘s Dana Priest on how the war in Iraq is influencing the final days of this presidential campaign—when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL on election eve.

John Kerry is focusing his attacks on a large weapons cache that has gone missing in Iraq. 

Dana Priest, national intelligence reporter for “The Washington Post,” joins us now from “The Washington Post” newsroom. 

Dana, what do you make of this story?  Is this a significant fact in the war, that there was 380 tons of materiel that went missing about the time that our troops arrived? 

DANA PRIEST, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, it‘s taken on a huge political significance, coming as it does. 

The White House is accusing “The New York Times” of holding information and running it only so short before the election.  The Kerry campaign has used it to say, look, this is another example.  It‘s a very concrete example of how the Bush administration did not plan for the postwar in Iraq.  And the administration has been now scrambling to figure out, well, did those missing—did those weapons go missing before the invasion or after the invasion, as the Kerry campaign and “The New York Times” in their story allege. 

What we do know is that the International Atomic Energy commission, which had—which inspects in Iraq in nuclear facilities had warned before the war that these facilities did need to be guarded.  And they warned again afterwards, they complained, in fact, right after the war, that the U.S. was not allowing their inspectors in there either to look at them or to guard them. 

So the issue of unguarded depots has been out there.  It‘s been something that many people in the military and in the retired community have criticized them about.  These explosives are used to blow up airplanes and used to blow up the USS Cole.  So it‘s become a very potent symbol for Kerry to take on the administration with. 

And the administration has said Kerry‘s been reckless with the facts, because we don‘t know for sure whether they were taken out before the U.S. invasion or afterwards. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s talk about the human, tangible effect of this kind of weapons cache.  Are these the kinds of explosives that are used to create these IEDs that have dismembered so many of our troops, caused them amputation along the roadside? 

PRIEST:  Well, they certainly could.  They are usually used—in their military application, they can become warheads and missiles.  Some of them can become the detonators for nuclear weapons, because they detonate very quickly. 

And that, of course, is the big concern, that they are used in nuclear triggers to trigger a nuclear explosion, a dirty bomb-type explosion.  And it allows Kerry to paint that kind of disastrous effect of Bush‘s, as he would say, incompetence in planning for the war in guarding these depots.  It is all also the more reason the White House is pushing back very hard on this and saying Senator Kerry doesn‘t even have the facts and how could he make such explosive, pardon the pun, accusations without the facts. 

MATTHEWS:  This is a political question, but a couple of weeks ago, the administration‘s campaign, led very effectively by Dick Cheney, I think, has been making the charge that we are going to face perhaps nuclear attacks of some kind in the future if Kerry‘s elected, obviously bringing down as much as he can any respect for Kerry‘s foreign policy. 

But do you think they may have started early in this and that these sound like droning complaints, rather than fresh complaints at this point?

PRIEST:  Well, I think that they are repetitive.  And Kerry‘s been somewhat effective at batting them down, if you believe his program against terrorism. 

On the other hand, we still have the election threat out there looming, that the administration—we are still at the orange alert.  And the administration does like to remind people in the campaign that that‘s a very real threat.  We reported this week, having pulsed our sources again, that they‘re still, after several weeks, at this elevated status.  There‘s no direct evidence of an election attempt. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

PRIEST:  Not only that, but one of their key CIA sources has been discredited.  So, while they are not standing down and no one is saying this is not real, they don‘t have anything that is specific and their one key source has now been discredited on it. 

MATTHEWS:  This is confounding to those of us who do believe it is a threat.  You as well, I‘m sure.

PRIEST:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Because we saw the case of Spain, where they faced a general election and the people came out after that terrible attack on the train over there right before an election and voted against the government and brought it down. 

The fact that there‘s no al Qaeda effort to try to screw up our election and turn people against the president. 

PRIEST:  You know, when I talk to intelligence officials about that, they really remind me, don‘t use yourself to get into their head.  You have to really think differently. 

In Madrid, there still, after all of these months, is a question about whether they were really trying to disrupt the election or whether the party in power did themselves in in part by accusing the separatist movement in Spain of doing this. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

PRIEST:  And people revolted against that. 

They heard al Qaeda after that talk about the success, but they are not 100 percent sure that what they meant was, we intended to disrupt the election, which, of course, begs the question, who would al Qaeda like to elect, George Bush or John Kerry?  And that‘s not at all clear.  And both sides will say the other guy. 

MATTHEWS:  I can see both results helping them.

Anyway, thank you very much—and hurting them—Dana Priest of “The Washington Post” from “The Post”‘s newsroom.

Coming up, comedian George Carlin, the man we associate with those seven words you can‘t say on television, has a lot to say about the politics of words. 

And don‘t forget, you can keep up with the presidential race on Hardblogger, our election blog Web site.  Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

We‘re joined right now by comedian George Carlin, who is author of the new book, “When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?”

George, what‘s your thought about words these day?  You‘re very famous for a certain seven or eight words—seven words you once mentioned. 

GEORGE CARLIN, COMEDIAN:  Yes, that‘s one branch of interest I expressed at one point. 

But I have always been kind of a—it is sort of a hobby with me, my interest in language.  And this book, I wanted to point this out because it‘s full of a lot of other kind of nonsense and silliness and anger and all of these other various emotions. 

But there are about 60 pages of the book that are on euphemisms alone, euphemisms which are used to shade the truth and kind of retreat from reality.

And I want you to see page 77, because it‘s a three-part thing called “Politician Talk.”  And it is an exercise that‘s written in a descriptive, kind of a narrative way, using all of that Washington language:  I indicated to the president.  He suggested to me that, as I pointed out—all that lawyer talk.  It was a lot of fun writing.  It‘s very precise.  I think you would enjoy it.  It‘s page 77. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do people use what is called Latinate words, rather than good old Anglo-Saxon?  Instead of saying, they said, they indicate, they stipulate, they speculate.  Why are people stepping back, suggest?  Is that they want to get a little distance from what they are saying?

CARLIN:  I think that‘s part of it, yes.  I think that is true. 

And I think the more syllables there are, the more stalling time there is...

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I agree with you. 

CARLIN:  You just...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It also impresses your mother. 

CARLIN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I think,too. 

CARLIN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Like, did you hear him?  He‘s so smart. 

CARLIN:  Yes.  Oh, he knows all of those extra words. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I agree with you about words.  And I do think that politicians use them, because, I mean, all of a sudden, I think we ought to be very careful when we hear new phrases creep into our vocabulary that we have never used before like regime change. 

CARLIN:  Oh, yes.

MATTHEWS:  All of sudden, that appeared a couple years ago with regard to Saddam Hussein.  And the other one is weapons of mass destruction.  That was a sales pitch for the war, obviously. 

CARLIN:  Sure.

Most of these—they are not all euphemisms, per se, but they‘re euphemistic language.  Most of them are employed to soften the truth, just as the Victorians did with white meat and dark meat.  Those terms were invented because they did not like saying, I will have a breast.  I will have a breast thigh.  They said, I will have some white meat.  I will have some dark meat.  That‘s how that began. 

So they are all used to soften reality, which I‘m not a fan of.  And the opening—by the way, on the politician thing, the opening of that piece says, when I hear people talk about term limits, the only terms I would like to limit are the terms that politicians use.  And that was my way into it.  I think you will enjoy it. 

MATTHEWS:  I think you‘re being disingenuous. 

CARLIN:  About? 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just kidding.  That‘s why they are great words. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLIN:  Oh, yes, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  In other words, not you‘re a lying bastard, but you‘re being disingenuous.  I think you‘re being disingenuous. 

CARLIN:  Yes.  Right.  Right.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And I have always wondered, what did that word add to the vocabulary?  It‘s about 80 letters long and it doesn‘t say—I think most people ought to be told, that means you‘re lying. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLIN:  Yes.  They just tiptoe around the unpleasantness.  We don‘t really like to look at unpleasantness, even if it informs us of something important, not—they don‘t care for that. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about celebrities and the endorsements, because it‘s a funny thing that is happening. 

CARLIN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  As you get closer to election, they do emerge.  Some of the real smart guys like Rob Reiner show up.  And, God, they read the paper.  They know all the issues. 

CARLIN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And then some others show up.  What do you make of it?  You know a lot of these people.  Do you think it‘s worth anything?  Or is it just to get attention?  Or do you think they really help? 

CARLIN:  Well, I don‘t think it very much helps. 

I think, in some cases, it probably hurts or could.  If a person were that narrowly undecided, it could possibly hurt.  I don‘t think people are that close to being convinced or persuaded by someone who‘s famous.  But I don‘t really know those folks very well.  I don‘t hang out in show business circles at all.  I never have.  I have very few show business friends.  I have a few what I would think of as acquaintances whom I see when I do an appearance somewhere, and then I don‘t see them at all, because I‘m not social in any way.  I‘m out touring.  I‘m out doing the work. 

Somebody‘s got to do the work, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s talk about Rodney Dangerfield. 

CARLIN:  Oh, Rodney, he‘s just wonderful.  I learned how to do “The Tonight Show” by watching him. 

You don‘t have to make believe it‘s a conversation, I learned.  He sat there and he just would go Vinny Boombatz.  And he would go, Guido‘s clam house and he would do another one.  And Johnny would just—Johnny ate it up.  And Johnny would say, oh, really?  Oh, I didn‘t know. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLIN:  So I learned I didn‘t have to make believe that there was some through-line to my conversation.  It could just be a serious of jokes, and Carson always went for it. 

And I got that from Rodney.  And he‘s one of the funniest.  Here‘s a guy that, based on one simple joke, I do not get any respect or don‘t get no respect, built a very nice career. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, he says things like, I‘m so disrespected, the cat kicks sand on me. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLIN:  He said, I went to the dentist you know.  I told them, I said, what am I going to do about my yellow teeth?  He said, wear a brown tie. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLIN:  That‘s a great joke. 

MATTHEWS:  How about when he talked about—it‘s so crude right now—when he talked about his cemetery plot.  When he bought, they said, there goes the neighborhood. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLIN:  Yes.  Yes.  Yes. 

I mean, just one and you kept coming back for more.  The delivery was what made it work, the delivery, the machine gun, just rapid-fire on you. 

MATTHEWS:  When you‘re watching these debates and you watch these guys try to tell jokes, like Kerry the other night was telling the jokes about saying this is like Tony Soprano saying, give me advice on crime control. 

Don‘t you notice that it‘s kind of wound up and not really well understand by the deliverer?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLIN:  Yes.  It‘s just very strained. 

They are on very foreign territory when they do that.  And that doesn‘t mean everyone should be a raconteur and a great joke-teller.  But they are not comfortable.  Those are not moments for jokes.  If you want to be lighthearted, let it be an ad-lib, an honest sentiment that comes out of you, and it plays as such. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

I remember there was one honest sentiment during of the last debate.  That‘s when John Kerry, who of course married Teresa Heinz Kerry, who is worth about $1 billion, and the president is talking about people marrying up, he said, me more than others. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLIN:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I thought that was a great—good luck with the book. 

CARLIN:  Thank you, sir.

MATTHEWS:  “When Will Jesus Brings the Pork Chops?”  You explained that it offends all three of the great religions emanating from the Mideast and I think it‘s already done that.  But people should buy the book anyway, because you‘re a great guy.

CARLIN:  Thanks.  Thanks very much.

MATTHEWS:  And you‘re a funny guy.

CARLIN:  That‘s nice of you.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, George Carlin. 

CARLIN:  I appreciate being on, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, George Carlin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. 

With the lawsuits already flying, we will talk about which battleground states could be the next Florida. 

Right now, it‘s time for “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”

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

END   

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