updated 11/5/2004 10:27:10 AM ET 2004-11-05T15:27:10

Guest: Kay Bailey Hutchison, C. Boyden Gray, Deborah Orin, Michael Isikoff, Harold Ford, Ed Rogers

PETE WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  President Bush meets the press for the first time since his re-election and lays out his vision for the next four years.  I‘m Pete Williams and this is HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Pete Williams.  Chris Matthews is on assignment tonight.  With the election decided, the post mortem begins.  Who made the mistakes?  Who made the brilliant decisions?  And what do Republican wins in the House and Senate mean for Congress? 

Plus, Yasser Arafat who is being treated at a Paris hospital, is reported to be in dire condition, near death.  Joining me now from Austin, Texas, is Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.  Senator, good evening.  I‘m sure you‘re excited about the election returns. 

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON ®, TEXAS:  Thank you, Pete.  I‘m very excited.  We can hardly wipe the smiles from our faces in Texas because it was a clear victory for the president and we‘re very pleased. 

WILLIAMS:  We‘ll get to that in just a moment but let‘s talk a little about Yasser Arafat.  How do you believe his death, there doesn‘t seem to be any question it will affect U.S. policy.  How will it change it? 

HUTCHISON:  I think this is a real opportunity.  Because I think Yasser Arafat has really stood in the way of progress in the road map to peace.  I think now, I really think we have a chance to work with the moderate leaders there in the Palestinian Authority.  I met with those leaders in August of last year in Ramallah.  And I‘m convinced that they really do want a Palestinian state with an education system, with jobs, with an economy, just like everybody in the world does.  And I think Yasser Arafat was standing in the way of progress and I think we have a chance now to really, really see a different and maybe with what Prime Minister Sharon is doing in Gaza, maybe there‘s a chance for a window. 

WILLIAMS:  Senator, how, though, does United States connect back up with the Palestinians after putting them on hold, basically, for two years? 

HUTCHISON:  Well, I think the United States made their position very clear.  That they weren‘t going to deal with a terrorist organization or people who were doing suicide bombs.  And I think the key here is that we need to see that we will have a chance for a nonviolent stand-off, where you don‘t have suicide bombs and you have a peaceful time, and I think try to build up the trust.  But the leaders in the Palestinian Authority that we met with, the former prime minister Abbas, very much wanted to have the road map for peace.  They want a Palestinian state that can live next to Israel in peace. 

WILLIAMS:  Is there any danger, though, that the devil you know is better than the devil you don‘t know?  In that the successor to Arafat could be somebody even more radical? 

HUTCHISON:  It could be.  There is that chance.  But I also think that with the moderates who do want to have a peaceful state, who do want to see an economy and jobs in their country, I believe they have a chance to prevail.  We don‘t know which side will win.  Clearly there would be a struggle probably.  But I think if the moderates with whom we have been dealing can get control and get the faith of the people, that there is a different way of life possible in the Palestinian state.  I am very hopeful that this would be a potential, especially at the time when the Knesset has just voted to take the settlers out of the Gaza Strip.  I think it is a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) time in history for this particular area. 

WILLIAMS:  All right, Senator.  You‘re in a capital, Austin.  There was a different capital on the mind of the president today.  Political capital.  Here‘s a little of what he said at his news conference today. 


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I earned capital in the campaign, political capital.  And now I intend to spend it.  It is my style.  That‘s what happened after the 2000 election.  I earned some capital.  And I‘ve earned capital in this election and I‘m going to spend it for what I‘ve told the people I would spend it on which is—you‘ve heard the agenda.  Social Security, tax reform, moving this economy forward, education, fighting and winning the war on terror. 


WILLIAMS:  Senator, if he spends it on that, is there any left? 

HUTCHISON:  Absolutely.  I think spending capital builds more.  I think that‘s the mark of a leader.  Someone who sits in the job and doesn‘t do anything is someone who is going to lose capital fast.  I think he got a majority vote from the people.  He has that mandate and I think he is going to move forward and I think he will have the support of the people to do that. 

WILLIAMS:  Where do you hope he will come to the Hill with that capital and want to spend it first? 

HUTCHISON: I think he will always have uppermost in his mind, the war on terror and making sure that no one misunderstands that we‘re going to protect the American people, that we are going to win the war on terror and that we will not shrink from that responsibility. 

WILLIAMS:  To get away from this capital metaphor a little bit before it weighs us both down too much, let me ask you a practical question here.  One of the things you‘re going to have to confront in the next Congress is renewing the USA Patriot Act which as you know has been quite controversial.  Even some conservatives in the Congress are wary of parts of it.  That will be a big test for the administration.  How have things changed with the election on the Patriot Act or have they changed at all? 

HUTCHISON:  I don‘t think they‘ve changed.  I think that the president and Congress will want to maintain the capability for law enforcement and particularly the capability to get to terrorist cells through the Patriot Act.  If there are parts of the Patriot Act that need to be refined, certainly Congress will do that.  But the Patriot Act gave us a lot of capabilities in technological advances and keeping up with those technological advances that have been very helpful in our intelligence gathering.  It‘s a very unusual situation that you have terrorists in your own midst.  And we need to be able to catch people who would hurt Americans and harm Americans.  I think the president‘s leadership is one of the reasons that we haven‘t had another terrorist attack since 9/11.  And I think maintaining vigilance is the way we assure that we won‘t. 

WILLIAMS:  One difference that will be evident in the next Congress is that Tom Daschle won‘t there from South Dakota, the Democratic leader in the Senate.  How will the Senate be different with him gone?  Or will someone else just pick up where he left off? 

HUTCHISON:  I don‘t think so.  I think the Democrats see that obstructionist techniques didn‘t work.  That they lost ground in the Senate.  And I would think that they are smart enough to realize that they lost for a reason.  And it was because the obstructionist tactics were known.  And they were not appreciated.  I believe the Democrats might, in fact, I think we might have a chance to change the tenure in Washington if the Democrats will work with us, sort of like LBJ and Everett Dirksen did.  If you have to disagree, you agree to disagree but you go to the finish line.  And if you can come to common ground, you do that.  But you don‘t just hold things up so there‘s no progress at all. 

WILLIAMS:  We‘ve got Boyden Gray coming up here in just a minute, a former White House counsel, I‘m going to talk to him about judicial nominees.  But do you think that the extra votes you have and the message to Tom Daschle is don‘t try to filibuster our judicial nominees?  Or will the Democrats continue to do that? 

HUTCHISON:  I would be surprised.  I think it would be a real mistake if the Democrats continue to stonewall the president‘s nominees.  In the circuit court judges and the future Supreme Court judges, people want a vote.  They want it on the floor, debated.  Maybe there will be a lot of no votes.  But we have in the constitution, a 51-vote mandate.  That is what the constitution envisions for a confirmation of judges.  We‘ve had a 60-vote threshold in the Senate because of these filibusters.  And this is the first time in the history of our country that we have had filibusters of federal judges in this manner.  I don‘t think it worked.  I think the Democrats will see that and I hope they will allow us to have a debate and vote with a 51-vote majority. 

WILLIAMS:  Senator, thank you very much.  Not even HARDBALL has taken that Texas smile off tonight.  Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison from Austin.  Thank you.

Coming up, see Boyden Gray, the White House counsel to President Bush‘s father on the future of the Justice Department and how the Supreme Court could change in its second Bush term.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


WILLIAMS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  President Bush met with his cabinet today and will soon begin process of deciding who stays and who goes in the second term. 

There‘s not much question, Attorney General Ashcroft will be leaving. 

He‘s made it no secret that the job is exhausting and he‘d like to move on. 

Who will replace him?  What will the new cabinet look like? 

C. Boyden Gray is a Bush family friend.  He served as White House counsel to President Bush‘s father.  He‘s with us now.  Mr. Gray, thanks very much. 

Let me ask you first of all, because there‘s so much importance to what‘s going on in the Middle East, DO you think with Yasser Arafat gone, that the Bush administration will now be more engaged in trying to find Middle East peace? 


It does depend, in part, on what the Palestinians do when they replace him.  But Arafat was a warrior.  He was a former terrorist.  He was not about to talk peace.  I think this is a great opportunity for the Bush administration, if the Palestinians get their act together and put someone in the U.S. government can deal with. 

WILLIAMS:  Ok.  Let‘s talk about something you were very involved in as White House Counsel, and that‘s the future of the courts.  There‘s no question, I think, both liberal and conservative legal scholars agree that in the next 4 years, the federal court, certainly the U.S. Supreme Court will probably shift to the right, assuming there are going to be some vacancies on the Supreme Court.  It seem likely there will be at least one,  maybe two, maybe three.  Let me get your prediction first of all.  Do you think there will be more than one vacancy on the Supreme Court in the next 4 years? 

GRAY:  I think there could be two or three vacancies, perhaps even more.  Health is an unpredictable thing.  You just can‘t tell.  You can‘t predict.  So, it would be foolhardy for me to make a prediction.  But there could be as many as three or four. 

WILLIAMS:  OK.  What do you think are the likely scenarios?  The Bush administration could say let‘s not have a big fight in the Senate.  Let‘s send up moderate nominees.  Or it could say, look at the election returns, that‘s a mandate for us to send up someone who is going to be a conservative.  What do you think will happen? 

GRAY:  Well, I think given the mandate, given the increase in the Senate, given the defeat of Daschle where judicial obstructionism, frustrating the president‘s nominees was an issue, and helped defeat him, I think the president has every reason to think he can continue to nominate people of the kind he has nominated the last four years. 

Which by the way, are in the same mold as those nominated by his father and before him by President Reagan.  So there‘s reason to think why President Bush should change his approach. 

WILLIAMS:  But will we see a huge confirmation fight here?  Will the Democrats be able to filibuster people they consider too conservative? 

GRAY:  The Democrats who filibustered 10 of President Bush‘s nominees.  Nominees who are highly qualified, have the highest AVA rating.  Who have sterling records.  And there‘s every indication that they will try to filibuster anybody in the same mold. 

WILLIAMS:  Indeed.  Can‘t you say that these filibusters over the lower court nominees were a marker, a warning.  Don‘t try this with the Supreme Court. 

GRAY:  I think that‘s exactly right.  They were sending down, sending a signal and a marker that this is what they‘re going to do.  But I think the president and the Senate, Senator Frist, the majority leader, I‘m not going to speak for either of them.  I think they will have the votes to change the rules if the Democrats insist on changing the constitution which is what they‘re doing when they say the president has to have 60 votes in order to get a nominee confirmed.  That‘s not what the constitution says.  I don‘t think the president, frankly, will tolerate it if he doesn‘t have to. 

WILLIAMS:  Do you think Bush administration wants to see Roe versus Wade overturned? 

GRAY:  Gosh, you know, I don‘t think you can really discuss nominees in that context.  Because the president has made it very, very clear, he does not have a litmus test.  He will not have litmus tests.  And nominees themselves, when questioned about specific issues, whatever it is, cannot answer. 

Remember what Lincoln said, we dare not ask a nominee for his views and he should not answer.  But if he does, we should despise him for it.  Because what is at stake is the integrity and the independence of the judiciary. 

So, I think to look at it in that way is just a wrong thing.  It‘s equally wrong to say, of course, the president should shy away from nominating someone who the Democrats think is pro-life.  I think that‘s even worse.

WILLIAMS:  Didn‘t many voters go to the polls on Tuesday with that in mind? 

GRAY:  Many went into the polls thinking the president would nominate someone who is pro-life.  But I don‘t think the nominee can say on interrogation at a hearing how he or she would rule.  I think the nominee, because it is a case that might come before him or her, that nominee will have to duck the question as nominees have historically and traditionally in the past. 

WILLIAMS:  Can we assume that if the Bush administration say, gets two more nominees, or maybe three, because Rehnquist is a conservative and if he leaves, he is replace a conservative, you don‘t have much of a change.  But just the mere fact that they get two more votes, does that mean Roe versus Wade is history? 

GRAY:  Well no.  I understand that the Chief Justice Rehnquist is a member of the conservative wing, if you will.  And so is Justice O‘Connor, not that she‘s going to retire.  We know what she‘s going to do, but she‘s been the one most frequently rumored.  Those two are in the conservative wing.  To be replaced by conservatives of an equal stripe seems to me to be the kind of thing that won‘t change the ballots on the court. 

And so when you‘re talking about replacing the chief justice, if he were to be the first, there wouldn‘t a change in the make-up.  I still think, however, the Democrats will try to block and will try to lay down that they have the right to force the Senate and the president to meet a 60-vote hurdle, which I think is unconstitutional, and I think the Senate and the president should not accept that if they don‘t have to. 

WILLIAMS:  And when the battle happens, Mr. Gray I hope you‘ll come back.  Thank you very much.  C. Boyden Gray, former White House counsel. 

Up next, HARDBALL post election correspondent David Shuster looks at the winners and losers of the 2004 election.  You are watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


WILLIAMS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We know about the high profile winners and losers.  But what about the less obvious ones?  HARDBALL‘s post election correspondent David Shuster clues us in. 


DAVID SHUSTER, ELECTION CORRESPONDENT:  While President Bush is the most obvious winner...

BUSH:  I earned capital in the campaign.  Political capital.  Now I intend to spend it. 

SHUSTER:   Other Republicans are also winners.  Karl Rove, the president‘s top strategist built a winning campaign around the religious right.  Tom DeLay slice and diced the state of Texas and redistricted four Democratic Congressmen into oblivion.  The Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist blew off protocol to campaign against Tom Daschle leader.  Daschle Lost, giving Frist a bigger GOP majority. 

And for the first time since 1918, the Boston Red Sox won the world series and pitcher Kurt Schilling took the mound for the president.  So did John McCain, who buried the hatchet from four years ago and set himself up for a run in 2008. 

Stephen Moore‘s Club for Growth was a winner. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sometime he‘s for welfare reform, sometimes he‘s against it. 

SHUSTER:  The Club poured more money into independent ads than any other Republican organization. 

JON STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  I don‘t know how to say this, I miss voter fraud. 

SHUSTER:  The sense of humor of John Steward, of course, was a winner.  And Mike Moore and a winner and a loser.  He pocketed $200 million on “Fahrenheit 9/11,” but the harsh documentary was not enough to derail President Bush.  George Soros was also not enough.  The wealthy financier dumped $20 million into groups opposed to the president.  That effort was a loser.  Another loser was P. Diddy, his young hip hop voters turned out in large numbers but it was still below average compared to other age groups. 

The networks election days polls were big losers, especially in Ohio and Florida.  And CBS news continues to be a loser.  Ratings are down and many viewers are still angry at Dan Rather for his sloppiness with the Bush national guard documents.  And Mayor Gavin Newsome, while a winner in San Francisco, prompted a losing Democratic issue nationwide.  Scenes like these sparked 11 states to put gay marriage on the ballot.  The ban passed in all 11 states, including Ohio, where the religious right turned out in record numbers, giving the election to President Bush. 

SHUSTER, (on camera):  But for every winner and loser in this campaign, who was up and who was down will change.  Because especially in this city, the next political power struggle is always just ahead. 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 


WILLIAMS:  And When We come back, what‘s next for the Democratic Party after the big losses this election?  You are watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 




BUSH:  I want to be your president for four more years to make our country brighter and better for every one of our citizens.  I am proud that our country remains the hope of the oppressed and the greatest force for good on this earth. 


WILLIAMS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Deborah Orin is the Washington bureau chief of “The New York Post” and Michael Isikoff is “Newsweek”‘s dogged investigative correspondent.  “Newsweek,” by the way, has published a special edition.  They come out every four years full of the behind-the-scenes insights to campaign 2004. 

And, Deborah, let‘s get some insights. 

You wrote this morning that George Bush is capable of bridging a cultural divide that John Kerry can‘t seem to bridge.  What is that cultural divide and what is it about George Bush that allows him to reach across to those folks? 

DEBORAH ORIN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “THE NEW YORK POST”:  Well, I think part of it is, very simply, George Bush doesn‘t look down on them. 

And I think that one of John Kerry‘s biggest problems was that out in mainstream America, real people got the sense that John Kerry not only didn‘t think like them, but sort of looked down on them.  You have in places like Manhattan a liberal media and intellectual heavily Democratic establishment which is so convinced it is right that it regards anybody who disagrees with it as bigoted, stupid, dumb or whatever. 

And the American people got the joke.  And they didn‘t buy it. 


WILLIAMS:  So, if we talk about a divided America, that‘s part of the division? 

ORIN:  I think that‘s part of the division. 

I think that part of the problem, you know, during the campaign, the Kerry campaign did not respond to the ads by the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth because “The New York Times” was telling them those ads didn‘t matter.  Unfortunately for the Kerry campaign, out in majority America, those ads did matter. 

And out in majority America, people looked at those ads and they saw a host of people who served in Vietnam with John Kerry who, regardless of whether you believe the charges they made, the fundamental message was, we know this guy and we don‘t like him and we don‘t trust him. 

WILLIAMS:  Let me ask you about some of the exit polling.  As you know, this is something that people have made a big deal about, the fact that, when you asked voters what the most important issue was, whether it‘s the economy, terrorism, they said, no, moral values, 22 percent.  Are you surprised that that has come as a surprise? 

ORIN:  No, I‘m not.  I think it does come as a surprise again in the center of the liberal elite that is the intellectual foundation of the Democratic Party, because that elite has a kind of postmodern sensibility, where values are something you laugh about.  It‘s the sort of Michael Moore-ization of the Democratic Party. 

And I think a lot of people in that part of the Democratic Party woke up yesterday and discovered that they had been talking to themselves and that a lot of people out there quite simply don‘t care what they think.  And I think it came as a shock. 

WILLIAMS:  Michael, let‘s look ahead at the next four years.  And, obviously, the big challenge for the Bush administration, among the biggest, will be Iraq.  What should we be looking for as key decision points now in the coming months? 

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, “NEWSWEEK”:  Oh, coming days, the strike on Fallujah. 

There‘s been a lot of anticipation, expectation it could come within a matter of days or, at the latest, weeks.  And this is going to be a key breakpoint in the battle for—in the postwar battle over Iraq.  The expectations are even among people optimistic at the Pentagon that the Marines are going to take very severe casualties. 

The stakes are enormous here.  You have a major part of the Sunni Triangle that is in control by our adversaries in Iraq, Islamic militants, many of them affiliated with Zarqawi.  And the elections that are planned for Iraq in January cannot be held unless the stranglehold that Zarqawi and his friends have on Fallujah is broken. 

But it is going to come at an enormous cost, and not just in the lives of Marines and Iraqi soldiers, but also in public perceptions, because, if many Iraqi civilians die, as they well may, then that is going to set back once again U.S. efforts.  The public perception of that, carried on Al-Jazeera, carried throughout the Arab world, the cost can be very high there, too. 

So there are big problems that are facing President Bush in this—in the coming weeks and months that—irregardless of the election triumph that he has won. 

WILLIAMS:  Michael, looking ahead at some other things, one of the questions the president is going to have to decide is, apparently, who his next attorney general will be.  John Ashcroft hasn‘t really made a big secret that he would like to step down.  It‘s an exhausting job, a whole new job since 9/11.  You used to cover the Justice Department for “The Washington Post.”  What sort of an attorney general should we expect to see and how do the election results change that dynamic? 

ISIKOFF:  Well, they may not change them very much, although there are some people close to Ashcroft who actually think, well, he may look at the election returns.  Although everybody expects that he will leave and he has been thinking about leaving for some time, he could look at the election returns and say, hey, I help the president.  This is a vindication of the kind of values talk that I have exemplified here. 

And maybe he wants to stick around.  I don‘t think that‘s going to happen.  I think he is going to leave.  The names being that are talked about, you‘ve all heard before, Pete.  Marc Racicot, the Republican National Committee chairman, former governor of Montana, was offered the job before the first time around and turned it down, because he wanted to lobby.  Maybe now he might be interested.

Al Gonzales, the White House counsel, is believed to have expressed some interest in having the job.  He would be at the top of a short list. 

WILLIAMS:  Give us one more. 

ISIKOFF:  Larry Thompson, the former deputy attorney general, well liked, well regarded, now at PepsiCo, may want to come back. 

WILLIAMS:  Deborah, the Democrats also have to look forward in what they‘re going to now.  Is the Democratic Party itself polarized?  Do they have their own divides to bridge? 

ORIN:  Oh, they have very serious divides to bridge. 

For starters, you have a push coming now by the Howard Dean wing, the left wing of the Democratic Party, which thinks it should be given a chance now.  We were told that John Kerry was more electable.  Well, guess what?  He wasn‘t.  Now it‘s our turn. 

I‘m told that, for example, Howard Dean genuinely would like to become Democratic national chairman.  If there is one thing that could make it harder for the Democratic Party to reach out to the red states and the conservative-values-oriented rural voters, that would be it.  So that‘s part of it.  You also have sort of competing centers of power. 

Obviously, everybody is talking about Hillary Clinton.  When does Hillary‘s 2008 campaign start?  And you have also another push from the more moderate centrist group, notably, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, who won a huge reelection victory, I think 62 percent of the vote, while Democrats were losing seats in other conservative states, and there is a group around him that would like to see him as a more centrist, more moderate, both think tank for the future of the Democratic Party, but also potentially a 2008 candidate. 

WILLIAMS:  And is there a figure there that can do what George Bush can do, reach out to all these people? 

ORIN:  Not so far, no. 

I also hear even in New York from some Democrats that, when you look back at what happened in this election, you do have to ask yourself pretty seriously, is Hillary Clinton really electable on a national basis?  And that‘s something the party is going to have to start asking itself. 

WILLIAMS:  And I hope you come back again and talk to us some more about it.  Deborah Orin, thank you, from “The New York Post.”  Michael Isikoff, from “Newsweek.”

Up next, what‘s ahead for the Democrats after Tuesday‘s big election defeats?  We‘re coming back with Congressman Harold Ford, Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, and Republican strategist Ed Rogers.

And, don‘t forget, sign up for HARDBALL‘s daily e-mail briefing.  Just log on to the Web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.


WILLIAMS:  Coming up, after stunning losses Tuesday night, where do the Democrats go from here? 

HARDBALL is back after this.



BUSH:  We must work to move America forward.  I want to be your president for four more years to make our country safer. 



WILLIAMS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Now that President Bush has won with 51 percent of the popular vote—and here is the final total, 59 million votes—what does he have a mandate to do?  And what will he have to do to work with the Democrats? 

Jerry Brown is the mayor of Oakland, California, former governor of California.  Congressman Harold Ford Jr. is a Democrat from Tennessee.  And Ed Rogers, how did he get in here? 


WILLIAMS:  He‘s a Republican strategist and a former...


ED ROGERS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT:  ... the first President Bush.

WILLIAMS:  We‘re not quite reflecting the election returns here, with a 2-1 Democratic majority on this panel.

But let me ask you, first of all, Congressman Ford, could it that be there are just more Republicans than there are Democrats? 

REP. HAROLD FORD (D), TENNESSEE:  Well, I wouldn‘t go that far. 

But I will say that Democrats, we ran a spirited race.  And there are a lot of lessons we can learn from this race.  I think one or two things we have to be mindful of and pivot from right away is that, first, that these campaigns, particularly presidential races, are about personal choices for people.  And issues dealing with character and trust and how a candidate connects is almost as important as the specific policy promises and goals and ideas that a candidate puts forward. 

I think the second issue is this issue that keeps coming up since the election regarding values and morality.  And my party has to come to grips with the fact that no party has a lock on morals or values or moral values, for, if they did, one would have to assume that reducing the minimum wage or denying overtime pay or reducing environmental standards, which some of my friends in the Republican Party in Washington have done, would be the moral thing to do.  We know it‘s not. 


WILLIAMS:  But do you think that‘s what voters meant when they were talking about moral values? 

FORD:  No, I don‘t. 

I think that my party has to get—and that is what I wanted to finish with—my party has to get more comfortable with talking about our faith and talking about family and our country and how all of it influences how and what we introduce as legislation and how it even influences our vision for the future. 

I‘m a Southerner.  I grew up going to church every Sunday and Sunday school and going to vacation Bible study.  I‘m used to being in that setting.  As a matter of fact, that setting is me.  And when I talk to my colleagues in the Congress, particularly Democrat ones, I try to explain to them, when I hear George Bush talking, sometimes, my Democratic friends hear not so coherent of a speech or someone who is wishy-washy or perhaps speaking in simple terms.

But I hear something a little different.  There‘s a chord he touches with me.  I don‘t believe in his ideas, but he does touch me.  And I think a lot of American, whether they agree with him or not, they believe there‘s something in his core that makes what he‘s saying believable and makes him trustworthy.  And my party has to come to grips with that, because I think we are right on the key issues, from education, to health care, to national security, to intelligence reform.

But many Americans aren‘t listening because they think our values agenda is inconsistent with theirs.  So those are the two things I think we have to focus on as a party going forward.  And it is something we can fix.  This is not unusual.  The Republicans face this after ‘64, Democrats again in ‘88.  We turned it around in ‘92.  And I think it‘s something we can solve between now and the next presidential race.  But we have to confront it honestly and seriously if we‘re solve it.

WILLIAMS:  Jerry Brown, I can call you Governor.  I can call you Mr.

Mayor, proof that you have proven that Democrats can get elected. 

But what—on a national scene—you‘ve done very well in California.  But, on a national scene, what are the winning issues for Democrats?  We know what the losing issues are.  What are the winners for you nationally? 

JERRY BROWN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Well, I think the winner is as the position as the party out of power. 

This was a difficult race, with a commander in chief in the midst of a war and fighting terrorism.  And he was fairly eloquent, and Kerry did get a bit convoluted at times.  So. look, it is one state.  If Ohio went the other way, we might be talking about President Kerry. 

The big question here is, for America, how to get out of Iraq with honor and not leaving a trail of blood and chaos.  And, two, the president just said he is going to fix Social Security.  Well, that‘s a $51 trillion in today‘s money the difference between what we‘re promising and what the government is going to collect.  We have got big issues out there, the oil dependency.  The world is going through a global greenhouse restriction regime—so I would say, stay the course, yes, respond to values, to morality, to tradition. 

I was in a seminary, a Christian seminary for four years.  I understand that.  I went to parochial schools.  But the issue here now is the stewardship of America‘s position in the world as it is exposed in Iraq.  And how is he going to handle that?  I don‘t know that Kerry knew.  I never heard it, if he did.  I don‘t know that the president—as Americans, we have got to wish our president well. 

But, as the opposition, we‘re there to provide that alternative.  And between Social Security and the morass of Iraq and Bush having no one to blame—it‘s not like Bill Clinton, who can could, it‘s the Republican Congress, it‘s Newt Gingrich.  It‘s all Bush.  He has got all power.  He has all responsibility.  But he has a daunting challenge that I haven‘t heard any Democrat tell us how to deal with. 

So the ball is in his court.  I wish him well.  But, if he screws up, you‘re going to have Nancy Pelosi as the next speaker and you‘re going to have a very energized Democratic Party that is not going away. 


WILLIAMS:  Ed Rogers, is it music to your ears to hear Jerry Brown say stay the course? 


ROGERS:  Well, I think by any standard, more of the same out of the Democrat Party is bad for the Democrats and good for the Republicans. 

I mean, the president‘s victory, adding to majorities in the House and the Senate, was broad.  It was pretty deep.  And it‘s very clear that the purist leftist message was rejected.  And I think my friend Harold Ford should take what he just said and he should join the Republican Party, where he would be welcome, he would be powerful, and he would be at peace with what he really believes. 

And the Democrats should do nothing more than have a focus group with Zell Miller.  He wrote a book about this, that the Democrats are no longer a national party, that he was an activist Democrat and at peace with the party until he came to Washington and saw what it was really like.  And he said, these people aren‘t here to solve our nation‘s problems.  This isn‘t working. 

And it is reflected—his lesson is reflected in the vote returns of last Tuesday. 

BROWN:  You know, I just have to say—can I just interject?


BROWN:  This reminds me of what Lyndon Johnson‘s friends said after the tremendous defeat of Barry Goldwater.  And yet, four years later, the Republicans are in power here. 

Remember, Bush is committed to putting on justices that will overrule Roe v. Wade.  He is committed to solving a Social Security mess that neither party, neither party, not Democrat or Republican, has had the courage to tackle.  If he does it, and if he does everything he‘s saying, well, he should—he should be given a third term. 



BROWN:  But I‘m just telling you that we‘re—it‘s not that easy. 

And I think...

ROGERS:  Governor Brown should run for DNC chairman.  And I hope he gets elected. 


WILLIAMS:  We‘re going to come back.

BROWN:  Listen, I just bucked my own party on a weakening of our three strikes bill.  And with the governor and myself on a nonpartisan basis, we won.  So I‘m not saying go to some left-wing extreme.  I‘m just saying that Bush has taken on the mantle.  And it‘s—I think, as Americans, we need a national unity party to help him.  But if he fails, well, there‘s always another opportunity for the Democrats. 

WILLIAMS:  They‘re just getting warmed up. 

We‘ll be right back with Congressman Harold Ford, Mayor Jerry Brown and Ed Rogers.

And don‘t forget to check out Hardblogger, our election blog Web site. 

Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.


WILLIAMS:  Back now with Harold Ford, Jerry Brown and Ed Rogers.

Congressman Ford, let me start with you again. 

I read today that in many places in America, in many precincts, the John Kerry vote was actually less than the vote for Democratic candidates for the House and Senate, that there were absolutely no coattails, whatever the reverse of coattails is, lead weights or whatever it is. 

But can you disassociate the Kerry vote and say that‘s not really relevant to what we‘re doing here in Congress or is it a message that you have to change what you‘re doing in Congress? 

FORD:  Well, John Kerry got a lot of votes, I think some 54 million votes he got.  And, at this point, it is really not relevant to look back.  It is more important to look to where do we go and how do we address these issues.  He also got over 48 percent of the vote.  I know the president got 51 percent and three-and-a-half-million vote margin compared to the narrow margin, as a matter of fact, that he lost four years ago.

WILLIAMS:  So you are saying there‘s no lesson here for Democrats, then? 

FORD:  Oh, no.  I‘m saying—but you pout it just in the context of John Kerry.  There‘s clearly a lesson for Democrats.  My friend Ed Rogers offered the invitation to join the Republican Party. 

ROGERS:  Please.

FORD:  I humbly turn it down. 


ROGERS:  Now, wait.  Hold back on that.  Hold back.


FORD:  I think my party is well suited and situated to adjust to the new circumstances in this new landscape. 

ROGERS:  They have left you, Harold.

FORD:  But what we‘re going to have to do I think in a lot of ways is think about how we articulate things, how we convey our concerns. 

I think most Americans are where we are on education and health care. 

They are where we are on job creation and national security, in light of—

I should say from the standpoint of bringing more countries to our side in the war on Iraq and educating more kids and lowering the cost of health care premiums.  But we have to figure out how to connect with them, how to gain that trust and that confidence as we talk about the specific policy issues. 


WILLIAMS:  So it‘s not what you stand for?  It is just how you say it?

FORD:  Oh, no.  I think it is a lot what you stand for.  But you‘re not allowed to explain what you stand for unless people think that you‘re decent, that you have got a core, and that you have a kind of decision-making process that can be trusted. 

And, unfortunately, my party, we face a deficit on that at this moment.  And we kid ourselves if we say we don‘t.  We can no longer be a national party—it is hard to be a national party if you cast aside the southern and central parts of this nation.  You simply can‘t do it.  And, I might add, the Republicans won‘t last as a national party if they cast off the coasts and the rest of the country. 

In 2004, George Bush did a better job than we did.  We have to accept that.  Does that mean that we‘re wrong on the issues?  By no means.  But what it does mean is that our party has to reposition itself as we articulate things and even offer some new ideas, along the lines of what Jerry Brown and others have talked about, particularly as it relates to Social Security and some of the entitlement programs. 

WILLIAMS:  Ed Rogers...

ROGERS:  Yes. 

WILLIAMS:  You‘ve been very—you‘ve been very generous here about offering Congressman Ford a position in your party.  So give him a little advice. 


WILLIAMS:  Who is his best candidate for 2008? 

ROGERS:  His best candidate in 2008 is on the Republican side. 


WILLIAMS:  Well, who among the Democrats, though? 

ROGERS:  Well, I‘ll tell you what. 

We know what a Democrat winning candidate looks like.  It looks like Jimmy Carter.  It looks like Bill Clinton.  It does not look like John Kerry.  It does not look like Walter Mondale.  It does not look like Hillary Clinton. 

WILLIAMS:  All right, thank you, Congressman Harold Ford, Mayor Jerry Brown and Ed Rogers. 

HARDBALL returns tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern. 

I‘m Pete Williams, substituting for Chris Matthews tonight.  Thank you for joining us.



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