updated 10/30/2004 4:18:55 PM ET 2004-10-30T20:18:55

Guest: Charlie Cook, Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, Joe Trippi, Jon Meacham

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight, a new tape from Osama bin Laden locks the presidential race just four days out.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews, and welcome to HARDBALL.  Osama bin Laden reemerges with a videotaped message to the American people.  Bin Laden warned how America could avoid another 9/11 and compared the Bush administration to the oppressive regimes of the Arab world.  Let‘s take a look. 


OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator):  We didn‘t find it difficult to deal with Bush and his administration, because of the resemblance between him and the regimes in our countries.  Half of them are ruled by the armies and half of them are ruled by the sons of the kings. 


MATTHEWS:  With four days to go, how will this influence the election?   Tonight, we‘re joined by Norah O‘Donnell, who is with President Bush, Carl Quintanilla, who is with John Kerry, and Andrea Mitchell with the reaction from Washington.

But first we go to Norah O‘Donnell with the president.  Norah, how are the president‘s people reading this announcement? 

NORAH O‘DONNELL, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, we are told by the president‘s advisers that he was first informed this morning on Air Force One by Dr. Condoleezza Rice about the existence of this tape and the belief that it is authentic.  That was before the president arrived at his first campaign event in New Hampshire.  The president didn‘t talk about it then.  It took him until just over an hour ago to, on the tarmac just outside Air Force One, to say that America will not be intimidated.  Here‘s President Bush.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Let me make this very clear.  Americans will not be intimidated or influenced by an enemy of our country.  I‘m sure Senator Kerry agrees with this.  I also want to say to the American people that we are at war with these terrorists, and I am confident that we will prevail. 


O‘DONNELL:  Now, his advisers are refusing to speculate on the political impact of this tape, as are both candidates‘ strategists.  I mean, clearly, they‘re concerned about overplaying this or overhighlighting it would backfire on any candidate who overplayed the impact of this bin Laden tape. 

But this tape‘s emergence comes just as the president is closing this campaign by reminding voters about the war on terror, about 9/11.  The president earlier today in New Hampshire, just after he was informed about the existence of this tape, was invoking the horrors of 9/11, surrounding himself with the families of the victims of 9/11.  It‘s been part of the president‘s comments, his stump speeches.  All of those things.

So there‘s two ways to look at this.  One, that it benefits the president, because voters do still overwhelmingly trust him more when it has to do with the war on terror, or it could go to Kerry‘s benefit, and the argument that Kerry has made, that Osama bin Laden is still on the loose and is still a threat to America—Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Norah, are the people around the president happy to see the topic shifted so abruptly from Iraq and the difficulties of the war over there back to 9/11? 

O‘DONNELL:  I don‘t think happy would be the word to describe it.  Clearly, this is a group of political advisers saying we‘re scrambling to try to decide how to sort of respond to this.  There‘s certainly the White House team that still has to respond to this, and then there‘s the campaign team.  At this point, nobody wants to overplay it for fear of backfire, do the appropriate, the resolute thing. 

As you know, the president mentioning in his comments, I‘m sure Kerry feel the same way.  These terrorists are after us.  We have to do the right thing. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Norah O‘Donnell with the president.  Now to NBC‘s Carl Quintanilla, who is traveling with the Kerry campaign.  Carl, the same from you, how is the candidate responding to this news today of Osama‘s being alive and having this harsh statement to make about the president? 

CARL QUINTANILLA, NBC NEWS:  Well, it‘s probably—the most telling thing, Chris, right now is that this rally, one of the first big red meat rallies that Kerry has been trying to organize this weekend has been going on for probably half an hour.  There‘s been no mention of Osama bin Laden yet, and we do not expect Kerry to address it again tonight.  He was informed about the tape en route to this event here in Miami earlier this afternoon.  He had just finished giving a campaign speech in West Palm Beach.  And he did have some brief comments for cameras.  Here is what he said.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  In response to this tape of Osama bin Laden, let me just make it clear, crystal clear.  As Americans, we are absolutely united in our determination to hunt down and destroy Osama bin Laden and the terrorists.  They are barbarians.  And I will stop at absolutely nothing to hunt down, capture or kill the terrorists wherever they are, whatever it takes.  Period. 


QUINTANILLA:  Chris, Mike McCurry, one of the key aides to Senator Kerry, just talked to reporters on the plane down here.  And as they arrived at the airport and said, they do not want to make this a big issue.  Part of their strategy these closing days was to sort of graduate to a more aspirational message, take news out of their stump speeches, make their focus on the president more theoretical, the choice between him and John Kerry, and not tie it so much to headlines, which he has done in recent days, you could argue making some headway using the arguments about the missing weapons in Iraq.  Although that hasn‘t really shown up in the poll, some Democrats argue that Kerry had the momentum and was keeping the conversation about the president and his alleged failings in Iraq. 

So right now tonight, the question will be to what extent Kerry plays it.  Obviously, he‘s in a very difficult position.  The latest word we have, Chris, is that they are going to say what they said today and let that stand. 

MATTHEWS:  So they‘re going to play it safe. 

QUINTANILLA:  I think the sense is that the less they say, the better.  They can clearly press ahead with this, but the fear among some Democrats we‘ve talked to is that that automatically sets up the president to position it politically as a showdown between him and bin Laden, as one Democratic strategist put it, at the OK Corral.  That‘s the last thing Kerry needs at this point.

MATTHEWS:  Great.  Tanks very much for that sharp report, Carl Quintanilla.

NBC News foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell joins us right now.  Andrea, the big thing in politics of course is picking the right topic.  This shifts the topic from Iraq, where the candidate, the challenger, John Kerry, was hitting the president hard for alleged mismanagement of the war.  Now it takes it all back to 9/11, the moment of the president‘s greatest heroism. 

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  Absolutely.  And it almost makes it more difficult for John Kerry to use a standard part of his stump speech, when he talks about having his allegation that George Bush let Osama bin Laden get away in Tora Bora.  It is almost difficult now for him to do that, because he would appear to be taking advantage of this new tape. 

It makes it harder for Kerry and it shifts the subject matter back to what George Bush is strongest on.  So the Bush people may not say that they are happy about this, but I‘m sure that they could not be more pleased that this is the subject of the closing days. 

How do you say October surprise?  This is one that could benefit the president.  Hard to say.  We shouldn‘t predict, because it is going to be up to the viewers, up to American citizens as to how they take this.  You could argue that it does bring to mind the fact that Osama bin Laden is still on the loose.  But this kind of threat, relating back to 9/11 and homeland security, would tend to favor the president‘s issues. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Andrea, back in 1961, when Khrushchev was up against President Kennedy, he told him after Kennedy came to office and they met, that he was secretly rooting for him in the ‘60 campaign against Richard Nixon but did him the favor of not saying so publicly. 

By coming out against the president, by trashing him in so many ways in that videotape today, is there any way of knowing whether Osama bin Laden is trying to help Bush get reelected for his own nefarious reasons, or help defeat him for the same reasons? 

MITCHELL:  It‘s so—it is just impossible to say with any degree of accuracy what would be the motivation here.  There‘s no explicit threat.  There could be a coded message.  But there‘s no explicit threat in this, and we‘re told tonight that homeland security officials after studying it, and FBI officials, are not planning at this moment to raise the terror threat level, because they don‘t think that this is a specific threat connected to the election. 

And as you know, Chris, they had gone back over some of the information from sources back last summer, when they did think that there was a preelection threat, and they realized belatedly that those sources were not accurate. 

So they don‘t think this is a specific threat.  They think that he is probably trying to show that he is still out.  He certainly looks well.  This is the first contemporaneous video we‘ve had of bin Laden since December of ‘01, shortly after 9/11.  In that, one arm was hidden.  There was some speculation that he might have been injured in one of the attacks on Afghanistan.  Here, both arms were readily apparent.  He was moving his arms.  He looked healthy. 

MATTHEWS:  What happens to our intelligence once again?  We were told the last time we saw this customer, back in the days before he escaped at Tora Bora, that was the assumption, that he was on the edge of death, that he was—his blood—he had bad blood.  He needed all kinds of medical treatment just to survive.  And here he is looking relatively fit.  Does that mean we blew it again in terms of knowing what we claimed we knew? 

MITCHELL:  Well, not entirely, because there was some intelligence but it was single source.  And in fact, for the last couple of years, they have said that they didn‘t think that that was accurate.  So they have not been suggesting that bin Laden is in any way ill.  There was talk about kidney disease and a limp and war injuries from the 1980s in Afghanistan.  But they‘ve not been saying that lately. 

MATTHEWS:  Any hunch from the pictures so far as to where he is?  Is he in the old northwest territories of India and today‘s Pakistan? 

MITCHELL:  We would suspect it‘s Waziristan, somewhere along those borders.  That‘s what they suspect.  But—that‘s what they suspect is the case.  You could tell that there was no identifiable backdrop.  This was not the case as when he used to walk along a stream or show some boulders and mountains that were then analyzed fairly well by our American intelligence.  We expect that this was also delivered by courier to someone who then delivered it, several layers of couriers to Qatar, to al-Jazeera.  Interesting note.  The U.S. got word of it yesterday from, we believe, a back channel from Qatar, from the government.  The government—apparently, the emir is trying to play ball and we don‘t think this is the complete message.  It looks as though they edited some out. 

MATTHEWS:  And they‘re on our side, aren‘t they, Qatar?

MITCHELL:  They say. 

MATTHEWS:  You never know.  Thank you very much.  Andrea Mitchell.  Up next, Charlie Cook, publisher and editor of “The Cook Report” on how this new videotape message from Osama bin Laden will affect the election. 

As we head to break, we‘re looking at Democracy Plaza.  New York‘s Rockefeller Center, MSNBC election headquarters.  We‘ll be broadcasting there Sunday through election night.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  You‘re looking at a live picture of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger campaigning in Ohio for President George W. Bush.  Let‘s listen up. 


GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, ® CALIFORNIA:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

Let me just tell you, it‘s fantastic for me to be back here in here in Columbus, Ohio.  This is wonderful. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s a case of star power.  Look, he‘s even overwhelming—sometimes it looks like he‘s blocking half the president of the United States there, Arnold Schwarzenegger, with his broad shoulders and happy smile.  There‘s Laura Bush right there, the first lady.  That‘s a star quality picture right there.


MATTHEWS:  There‘s the president of the United States obviously responding to the applause.  It‘s not clear how much is for the president, which I‘m sure a lot of it is.  At it is for the rather startling appearance of this Hollywood figure who is honestly one of the most dramatic figures in the world, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  You can go to any country in the world, whether they speak English or not, they know who this fellow is. 

Let‘s go right now to Charlie Cook for some political assessment on today‘s big news.  That‘s the emergence of this videotape from Osama bin Laden wherein he criticizes the president most.  Charlie, how is this going to affect the last couple of days of this presidential campaign? 

CHARLIE COOK, “THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT”:  Chris, you just have to wonder whether Osama bin Laden may have just made a huge in kind contribution to President Bush‘s re-election campaign bigger than George Soros ever did for John Kerry. 

I can argue this thing either way but the case for it helping John Kerry is fairly anemic.  Yes, you could say that it puts the attention back on the fact that we went into Iraq and went after Saddam Hussein instead of Osama bin Laden.  But I‘ve got to think this helps President Bush a great deal. 

MATTHEWS:  Charlie, let‘s hold off for a second.  Let‘s listen to Arnold Schwarzenegger in Columbus, Ohio.



Ohio is like my second home. 


You know, I won in 1970 right here in Columbus, Ohio, the Mr. World competition.  


And I said to myself that this city and this state is bringing me good luck, I should come back many more times. 


And that‘s exactly what I have done.  I‘ve come back many more times to visit my friends, to do business here, to invest here, to run after-school programs here, and of course for the most important reason of all, to come back here for the last 28 years to run the world championships in body building, the Arnold‘s Classic, right here. 


But today I am here for the most important reason of all.  Today I am here to pump you up.  I‘m here to pump you up. 


I‘m here to pump you up to re-elect President George W. Bush.


This is the heartbeat of America, a place where community is everything.  You work hard, you pay your taxes, and you‘re good neighbors.

All you‘re asking for is a chance, a chance to succeed.  All you‘re asking for is to have the great leadership that keeps America strong.

And this is exactly the kind of leader we have here today with George W. Bush.


George Bush is a man of action.  He has provided action for the people in Ohio, and he has provided action for the people all over America. 

You know, I know that it hasn‘t been easy.  We have gone through a lot.  But I can tell you, there‘s no two ways about it, America is back. 


America is back from the attack on our homeland.  We are back in the attack on our economy, and we are back in the attack on our way of life.  We are back. 


And look where you are today in Ohio with President Bush‘s leadership. 

Today in Ohio, taxes are lower on individuals and small businesses.  Today in Ohio, home ownership is higher than ever before.  Today in Ohio, federal education funding is up.  Today in Ohio, the economy‘s coming back and job and opportunities are being created here every day. 


There‘s optimism here in Ohio, there‘s optimism all over the country because President Bush is leading the way.  He‘s fighting for all of us.


So I ask you, who is fighting for your jobs?  George W. Bush. 

Who is fighting for your schools?  George W. Bush. 

Who is fighting for your families?  George W. Bush. 

That‘s right.  George W. Bush is fighting for all of us. 


And most important...

MATTHEWS:  Charlie Cook, you are all watching this together.  You know, it remind me of the term in Hollywood: high concept.  The same day you‘re attacked by Saddam—rather, Osama bin Laden, you‘re applauded by Arnold Schwarzenegger.  That‘s a pretty good hit for the president. 

COOK:  Yeah, this is like pumping Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about Ohio and all these other states.  Do you think that the economic issue is going to continue to be the dominant question in the Midwest, especially in Ohio? 

COOK:  I think that‘s why John Kerry was doing so much better in Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, in Michigan, you know, in these older industrial, more manufacturing oriented states.  That‘s why John Kerry was doing so much better.  And then when you reach further out in the heartland states, he wasn‘t doing quite as well. 

But this shifts it away from the emphasis away from the economy, away from jobs, away from healthcare, just away from everything that John Kerry needs to be talking about.  So, as I said, I can make the case either way.  But one of them is not very persuasive. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me talk to you about women voters.  Historically going

back to Reagan, you and I know that women have tended Democratic in their

presidential voting.  Will this security question, and the reemergence of

Saddam (sic) in the videotape today help the Republicans—Osama bin Laden

·         kill that again, kill the gender gap? 

COOK:  I‘ve got—just a few weeks ago, we were looking at the president maybe 10 points ahead among men.  And normally a Democrat in that kind of situation, normally it‘s fairly symmetrical.  So, a Democrat would be 10 points ahead among women.  But John Kerry was just breaking even.  And then after the first debate, he popped back up, Kerry popped back up among women.  And you have to wonder whether he‘ll drop back prior to the first debate. 

MATTHEWS:  Because this is fuzzed up the whole question of what is the war on terrorism and removed Iraq from the primary frontal position it was in back to what happened to us on 9/11? 

COOK:  And how does Kerry talk about anything over the next couple days?  What does he say? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s come back and see what we talk about.  Because I want to still understand the full picture of this campaign.  Charlie Cook is going to rejoin us in just a moment.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


SCHWARZENEGGER:  The United States of America, George W. Bush. 



Thanks for coming.  Thank you all for being here. 


Thank you all for coming.  Laura and I are honored so many of you came out to say hello.  You‘ve lifted our spirits. 

I also want to thank Governor Schwarzenegger for coming. 


It‘s such an honor to have him here in Columbus, and campaigning on my behalf.  You know, he and I share some things in common.  We both married well. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Charlie Cook for sticking around.  We‘re going to have to go to break right now.  When we come back, more reaction to the new Osama bin Laden videotape from MSNBC‘s Chris Jansing who is with the president in Columbus, Ohio.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

We‘ve been checking around to see how this new tape from Osama bin Laden could change this presidential election, could change. 

MSNBC‘s Chris Jansing is in Columbus, Ohio, where we just saw the president with Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Chris, what do you hear out there about the connection between the campaign and this reemerged Osama bin Laden? 

CHRIS JANSING, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I had a chance just for a couple of minutes to talk to the senior strategist of the Bush campaign.  Karl Rove. 

And I asked him if we would hear more from the president beyond what he said on the tarmac.  And what he told me was, Kerry has commented, he also made the point that he says Kerry has trashed the president, referring to the comments Kerry has made about Tora Bora and the statements that the president took his eye off the ball when he didn‘t go after Osama bin Laden, that he outsourced the job. 

Further, Karl Rove said, Holbrooke has come out, referring to foreign policy adviser Richard Holbrooke.  Ickes, he said, has already talked about, this referring to another Kerry adviser, Harold Ickes.  And then Rove said to me—quote—“They have politicized it.  They‘ve made it fair game.”

So when I asked him again would the president talk about it, he said the president has made his statement.  He will talk tonight about the war on terror.  He will make comments about Tora Bora, but he will not specifically mention Osama bin Laden.  It is clear, Chris, that the strategy right now is to make George Bush look presidential, the leader in the war on terror. 

They do not want him to look to be the one who is making a political issue about this.  They believe that, if 9/11 is in the forefront, if the issue of who will keep you safer is the referendum in this election, then they come out ahead.  So the strategy, it seems to me in my brief conversation with Karl Rove, let the president be the president, make him look like the leader in the war on terror, and in that sense, they win—


MATTHEWS:  The statement by Karl Rove, who is, of course, the most influential adviser of the president, did you take to it mean, this is fair game now?  We‘re going to be able to talk politically about it?  Or is it a shot at the other side for having done so? 

JANSING:  I took it as a shot at the other side, because he said, they‘ve politicized it.  They‘ve made it fair game. 

So I followed up again, because he hadn‘t really answered my question.  Will the president talk about it?  And he said no.  So my interpretation of that, Chris, was that they‘re going to go after Kerry and his people for trying to make a political issue of it, whereas the president is just there leading the war on terror.  We‘ll see. 

MATTHEWS:  This creates a terrible situation for the challenger, because it seems to me that Karl Rove has his finger on this.  He knows that the American people have only one president at a time.  And that‘s George W. Bush.  We only have one protector at a time.  We have to rally behind the president when we‘re threatened by an enemy, Osama bin Laden.  And he‘s done it again. 

JANSING:  And one of the things that I‘ve noticed repeatedly out on

the campaign trail, Chris, and I‘ve been to every single battleground state

·         I‘ve talked to literally hundreds of people.  When I asked them why are you out working for the president, overwhelmingly, the answer I guess is because he‘s going to protect me.  He‘s going to protect my family.  The campaign knows this.  Their internal polling shows this.  A recent Pew poll showed the president far ahead on being able to fight the war on terror.  They believe that this works to their advantage. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Chris Jansing, who is in Columbia, Ohio, with the president.

We‘re joined now by Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs-Jones of Ohio.

Congresswoman, thank you very much for joining us. 

How do you see these events unfolding today in a political context, the Osama bin Laden tape and now the president and John Kerry‘s reaction to it? 

REP. STEPHANIE TUBBS-JONES (D), OHIO:  Well, I am keeping my people focused. 

And the focus for this election in Ohio is what we‘re doing, what the economy is like.  How are they feeling?  Do they have jobs?  Are their kids in school?  Are they able to pay for housing?  Are the seniors get prescription drug benefits? 

I think that Osama bin Laden will continue to come into the fray as the campaign goes along.  But my focus is on turning out my voters for John Kerry. 

MATTHEWS:  What will be the impact of the arrival of this superstar from Hollywood and now from Sacramento, Arnold Schwarzenegger?  What impact will he have on your constituents or anybody‘s constituents in the state of Ohio? 

TUBBS-JONES:  Well, Arnold Schwarzenegger may bring some Republicans supporters out.  But I‘m not excited about Arnold as a governor, nor was I excited about him as an actor.  So I don‘t think he‘s going to have that significant an impact.  He may draw a few more people.  But in terms of being on issue, I doubt it. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about the economy.  Is it as bad as it was?  Is it a little better?  Is it somewhere in the middle?  How would you describe the Ohio economy? 

TUBBS-JONES:  The Ohio economy is not better.  There are people in a city outside of Cleveland that has an unemployment rate of 14.3 percent.  The people that do have jobs have jobs that are not better, are worse than the jobs they had previously.

They‘re making $10 to $15 less an hour and have no health care benefits, running into people in the city of Cleveland very recently was noted as the city with the greatest poverty rate of any urban city in the country.  And that comes as a result of a loss of jobs.  We‘ve lost 60,000 jobs since George Bush took office.  Our economy is not doing any better.  Our school systems have to pass levies in order to stay open. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you.  I talked about one celebrity a moment ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  What about Bruce Springsteen?  We‘re looking at a picture of him.  He‘s down performing in Florida now.  Did he have any impact on the positive side for your campaign, for the Kerry campaign in Ohio? 

TUBBS-JONES:  I heard someone say earlier today that these types of folks, Bruce Springsteen, Arnold Schwarzenegger, perhaps bring out the people who are not as political as I am, who don‘t pay attention to politics in that sense, but they have the ability to draw people who are kind of on the side, but are voters.  And I think that‘s what Bruce Springsteen will do for John Kerry. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you appalled as a professional to know that half the people of this country believe even now that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that the president is still telling them so?  They‘re so uninformed about the events of the last several months.  Does that bother you?  Is that going to hurt the Kerry ticket? 

TUBBS-JONES:  I don‘t think it is going to hurt the Kerry ticket, but it bothers me that there are people who have blinders on. 

I‘m going to tell you a quick story.  I met a young man on the plane that was in the military.  And I said to him, well, who are you going to vote for?  And he said he was going to vote for George Bush.  I said, well, even after the misrepresentations he‘s made?  He said to me, he‘s a man of faith and I believe him.  I said, well, you‘d better get a life and wake up and understand what really is going on in this country, not be fooled by the belief that George Bush won‘t misrepresent to you. 

MATTHEWS:  But, again, you‘re familiar with the culture of our country.  We have a lot of people who go to church and get their advice and their cultural attitudes about politics from the pulpit.  That doesn‘t surprise you, does it? 

TUBBS-JONES:  It doesn‘t surprise me about that. 

But understand that all people of faith in this country are not Republican.  There are many Democrats who are people of faith.  There are many Jews who are people of faith.  There are many Catholics who are people of faith.  And so I don‘t want you just to go with the Republican Party to believe that all the people of faith believe in Republican or right-wing issues. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Congresswoman, it‘s great having you on this show. 

We haven‘t had you on before.  I wish we would have you on 20 more times. 

Thank you very much, Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs-Jones.

TUBBS-JONES:  Absolutely.  I have lots of issues to discuss. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll have you back.  Don‘t worry.

TUBBS-JONES:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Joe Trippi is an MSNBC political analyst and our connection to the blogging world.  He is our connection, human-wise.  He‘s at Democracy Plaza right now.  And he‘ll be with us throughout our election coverage, right through Tuesday night and on into the morning. 

Joe, what‘s the buzz in the blogging world about this emergence of the bin Laden tape? 

JOE TRIPPI, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Amazingly subdued, Chris. 

What is interesting is both sides of the blogs are basically—let go of the sarcasm, let go of the big rants and are only putting up sort of the official statements of Kerry and Bush and sticking with caution to that.  They know something has changed, but they don‘t know what and they think they may have to wait for some polls to come back.  There‘s real fear about what has changed here.  And they‘re just keeping to that and just pushing the straight story.  It is pretty amazing. 

MATTHEWS:  Is part of it the sort of surprising sideline, glancing blow of it?  A lot of people thought he was dead.  I keep thinking, we‘re forgetting the main story.  He‘s alive now and we know it for sure. 

TRIPPI:  Yes.  And it has got everybody—like I said, they‘re sticking to official statements of the two campaigns. 

This is normally an environment where people are pretty sarcastic.  They‘re spinning jokes and they‘re coming back hard on each other.  That‘s not what is going on, both sides moving to caution and just sticking to the facts, and a lot of them commenting that something has changed, but it is going to take a couple days to figure out which way it changed things.  And there‘s some fear on both sides about which way that might go. 

MATTHEWS:  Headlines:  Blogs Clogged. 

Thank you, Joe Trippi.

Up next—we‘re going right now to Bill Clinton, who is out there campaigning as well right now. 

Let‘s go. 


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And Nevada voted to reelect me and I want you to vote to elect John Kerry in just a few days. 


CLINTON:  I cannot thank you enough for all you did for me.  I want to thank Harry Reid, who has been wonderful to Hillary in the Senate and who warded me to death on every Nevada issue, not just the waste dump, the whole time I was there. 


CLINTON:  And I‘m so glad that finally you have given him an easy reelection, because if ever anybody deserved to be reelected, Harry Reid does. 


CLINTON:  I want to thank Representative Shelley Berkley for being here and for all that she did.  She has two colleagues here, Loretta Sanchez from California and my congressman, Greg Meeks, all the way from New York.  So I thank them for coming. 


CLINTON:  And our candidate for Congress (INAUDIBLE) where are you? 

There you go. 


CLINTON:  And I want to thank my friend, your former governor, Bob Miller, and his wife, Sandy.  They‘ve been great friends to me and they helped me through those two elections. 


CLINTON:  You know, this is a fascinating elections.  We‘re going to have a huge turnout. 


CLINTON:  And we have profound differences.  And I think it is interesting that in this day...


BUSH:  We would have gotten him. 


BUSH:  Before Senator Kerry—before Senator Kerry got into political difficulty and revised his views, he saw our actions in Tora Bora differently. 

In the fall of 2001, on national TV, he said—quote—“I think we have been doing this pretty effectively and we should continue to do it that way.”  Senator Kerry also went on to say about Tora Bora on national TV: “I think we‘ve been smart.  I think the administration leadership has done it well and we are on the right track.”

I couldn‘t have said it better myself. 


MATTHEWS:  That‘s President Bush in Columbus, Ohio. 

As Chris Jansing told us, they were going to take a shot at Kerry.  And he did, saying that Senator Kerry originally agreed with our strategy in Tora Bora and only later criticized the administration for letting Osama bin Laden escape from that part of Afghanistan.

Up next, “Newsweek”‘s managing editor, Jon Meacham, on the Friday night surprises from history.  It‘s not the first time this kind of thing has happened.  And it‘s going to affect the election. 

Let‘s go back.  We‘ll be back with Jon Meacham in just a moment on



MATTHEWS:  Coming up, it‘s the final weekend of the campaign, historically a time for surprises.  How will the new Osama bin Laden tape change this race?

HARDBALL returns after this.


MATTHEWS:  You‘re now looking at a live picture of John Kerry at a rally with Bruce Springsteen in South Florida. 

Joining me right now is “Newsweek” managing editor Jon Meacham.  He‘s also author of “Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship,” one of my favorite books of all times.

Jon, this Osama bin Laden tape, how does this fit in with presidential campaign history? 

JON MEACHAM, “NEWSWEEK”:  It‘s amazing. 

The bin Laden tape absolutely fits into a historically tradition of late-breaking October surprises.  In 1956, Adlai Stevenson accused Eisenhower of poisoning America‘s milk with H-bomb fallout.  In 1968, Lyndon Johnson announced a halt to the bombing in North Vietnam.  Nixon went from being eight points up to two points up in those last hours of that last weekend. 

President Bush‘s father in 1992 had Iran-Contra and Cap Weinberger‘s indictment dropped on him on the Friday before the election, exactly like this.  And, in 2000, there was the DUI arrest falling in these times. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MEACHAM:  So there is always, it seems, a late-breaking story. 

What‘s interesting is the target, if you will, of that has always survived, except for one.  And that was President Bush‘s dad. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about it.  Who do you think the target is this time? 

MEACHAM:  I think the target is Bush, obviously.  I think that bin Laden is taunting us. 

I think it wants—God knows you can‘t get into the mind of Osama bin Laden.  But clearly the timing is political.  It is an attempt...

MATTHEWS:  Is he dumb enough—I hate to be so crude.  Is he dumb enough to think that the American people will dislike their president because he trashes them? 

MEACHAM:  Possibly.  We‘re not dealing with a rational person.  We‘re dealing with a murderer.  We‘re dealing with...

MATTHEWS:  Well, but murderers can be brilliant and stupid.  But this guy is so, it seems to me, culturally misinformed about us, when he was so shrewd in the way they put together 9/11 in a horrible way.

But they understand pilots would go back and help the flight attendants.  They understood a lot about our behavior. 


MEACHAM:  Yes, but that‘s tactics. 

What He didn‘t bet on was how we would rally together after the attacks.  Remember, he thought that September 11 was going to help him in achieving and rallying the Muslim world to his side by showing our decadence and that we would somehow fracture.  And we didn‘t. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s talk more.  We‘ll talk more about that. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to hear more from John Kerry as well and have more with “Newsweek”‘s Jon Meacham. 

Thanks, Jon.  we‘ll be right back with you when HARDBALL comes back.


MATTHEWS:  The Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry, is at a rally in South Florida right now.  Let‘s listen to his words.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  On Tuesday, Spider-Man is going to be reaching into all these buildings, pulling the voters out.  We‘re going to get the voters out and we‘re going to win. 


KERRY:  So, are you ready to move America in a new direction? 


KERRY:  Are you ready to put common sense back into the decisions of our country? 


KERRY:  Are you ready to rebuild America‘s reputation in the world? 


KERRY:  Are you ready to put America back to work? 


KERRY:  Are you ready for new leadership? 


KERRY:  Well, if you do your job over the next four days, on November 2, help is on the way. 


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

MATTHEWS:  That‘s John Kerry, of course, at a rally in South Florida. 

He was joined just a moment ago by Bette Midler. 

We‘re going to go—we‘re going to listen a little bit more to him right now.

KERRY:  I was listening to Bruce before I came out here, not just what he sang.  I was listening to what he said. 

And when he started talking to you about what this is about, about making life better for our children and living up to the promises, so that we take care of folks who are less fortunate, who are sick, give people the doors of opportunity and open them up, that‘s what America is.  We‘re meeting right here at this great amphitheater in the shadow of the Tower of Freedom right over there. 


MATTHEWS:  That‘s John Kerry.

We‘re going to right now to Ron Reagan, who is joining us right now from Democracy Plaza at Rockefeller Center.  And Jon Meacham stays with us from “Newsweek.” 

Ron, what do you think of this amazing confluence of events in the last couple of hours? 

RON REAGAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, it is remarkable. 

First of all, let me just say that if anybody changes their vote one way or the other based on anything Osama bin Laden says, they deserve a big smack.  So it could break either way, of course.  Superficially, it would seem to be advantage Bush.  But, on the other hand, it reminds people that Osama bin Laden and his capture is mission not accomplished. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the predicament?  Talk about the predicament of John Kerry.  I noticed we all did watch him there shift attention to domestic issues, which makes sense.  But can he lay low during a time that the president is standing up to a fight with the man who killed 3,000 Americans? 

REAGAN:  Well, it‘s not a matter of laying low. 

but both these guys have to be very careful.  Neither one of them can afford to be seen as exploiting this bin Laden tape for political gain.  That would be a loss for either one of them.  So I don‘t think you‘ll see either one of them do that. 

MATTHEWS:  Jon, for historical precedent, I was thinking along the lines of what you were saying.  But in my case, it was remembering Richard Nixon running for governor of California in ‘62 right in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  He basically saw it said there‘s no way I‘m going to win this election.  Everybody is going to be paying attention to Kennedy. 

MEACHAM:  Right.  That‘s right. 

But I think that Ron has a good point here.  Whether the principals are saying it or not, the surrogates are going to be saying that, for Bush, the emergence of this tape shows that there‘s still a wolf in the woods that we have to fight, we have to slay.  We have to stay on the offensive. 

And the Kerry folks are going to be saying, look, this is a reminder that Bush did not get the world‘s most dangerous man.  He picked someone else to go after.  And Kerry will keep the focus on bin Laden.  I‘m not sure it will be a convincing argument on that score, but I think that is the best way he can do it. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s certainly popping the boil if he goes that strong.  Boy, that‘s a strong assailant—for him to take.

Anyway, thank you very much, Jon Meacham of “Newsweek” and Ron Reagan, our own analyst. 

That‘s it for HARDBALL.  Beginning on Sunday, join us from MSNBC‘s special election coverage booth at Democracy Plaza. 

For all of us at MSNBC, I‘m Chris Matthews.



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