updated 2/3/2005 11:49:11 AM ET 2005-02-03T16:49:11

Guest: David Frum, Jon Meacham, Rick Santorum, Orrin Hatch

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Well, Jon, I didn‘t think any words the president spoke, and at that moment when he looked up and watched Janet Norwood give the dogtags of her dead son to that Iraqi woman tonight (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

JON MEACHAM, NEWSWEEK:  A remarkable moment.  The idea that we spend the blood of our sons and daughters to back up the words that the president spoke, I think it was a remarkable speech.  Basically the president of the United States has said once again in this new century that our national mission is nothing less than—and this is what he said—“the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.”  It‘s the largest possible mission.  And you look at a mother and a father who‘ve lost in this case a son to that cause, and it brings both, again, sort of the historical moment and the pure human emotion into sharp focus. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, he said at one point that he didn‘t believe the United States had the right to require any country in the world to become like us, in terms of our form of government.  But yet he went on to say that our policy is aimed towards supporting democracy, and he looked a...he pointed to countries like Syria and Egypt, our closest friend in the Middle East you could argue, besides Israel, and said, I want you to become more democratic.  And then he pointed to Iran and he said, I want the people of that government to basically control events.  The people in a somewhat democratic—only somewhat democratic Iran, to try to regain the power over their government and move it toward a more peaceful direction.  I think that was a nuanced thing that wasn‘t...

MEACHAM:  It was nuance.  It was also, it could be argued, the speech of an American emperor, as though we have reached a point in this country where we will direct the rest of the world in their own destinies and in their own national lives, and that will be very controversial abroad.  If you read the speech carefully, the sentence that seemed to signal Bush‘s humility, that we are not trying to force our views, is actually followed by a paragraph about what our views are and the virtues of those views. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to David Frum, who is joining us now.  He was a speechwriter, of course.  He writes for “The Weekly Standard,” he‘s a journalist, but I guess he earned his fame with his hand in one of these earlier speeches, the State of the Union of 2002, which included the phrase “axis of evil.”  David, what did you think of the speech? 

DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER:  I think it was a magnificent speech.  I thought it was incredibly powerful.  Powerful not—it was shorn of all of the flowery language of the inaugural.  And it derived all of its power from the firmness of its message, backed up by realities like the Iraqi vote, backed up by realities like the truth that he hit home about the Social Security trust fund that the Democrats invoke to explain why they can ignore the Social Security problem for half a century is a myth, that the Social Security trust fund isn‘t there, and the problem begins in 2018, not so very far away. 

It was—it had Bush as Texan.  It was direct, it was clear, and I don‘t know that I would agree with Jon Meacham in describing it as imperial, but it certainly sent a message to America‘s enemies around the world, including ones that the president is naming directly.  Again, Syria, North Korea, Iran, very direct.  The axis of evil and its cadet members.  That the United States is serious and it has proven on a battlefield that with a new consensus, I think, and public opinion behind American military power and this president.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take the words, David, I want (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

·         very powerful words on the world newspapers tomorrow and on world‘s televisions.  “Today Iran remains the world‘s primary state sponsor of terror, pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve.  We are working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up its uranium enrichment program and any plutonium reprocessing and end its support for terror.” 

And this, I thought—I wanted your response to this—“and to the Iranian people, I say tonight, as you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you.”  Interpret that in the regional sense, David? 

FRUM:  Well, that is a remarkable statement.  Because the United States, President Bush said something very like that in 2002.  Then for the past three years, the American position has been, no, we are only concerned about Iran‘s weapons capacity, not its system of government.  And in fact, Richard Armitage, the former deputy secretary of state, even had the amazing audacity to describe Iran as a democracy.  This is a country where, you know, the unelected mullahs decided who can run, who can‘t run.  The judiciary is not subject to any kind of popular control.  The military, the police—and that there was an—a desire—there are people in the U.S.  government who said, leave the Iranian regime alone, so long as it will submit to the IAEA.  Well, it‘s now three years later, clear that this Iranian regime will never submit its weapons. 

MATTHEWS:  What did he mean on that particular point of appealing to the people of Iran? 

FRUM:  What he is saying, is he is putting Iranian democracy back in play for the first time since 2002.  He is not accepting the legitimacy of the mullah regime.  That with this tremendous success in Iraq behind him, he is now looking broadly. 

You know, one of the things that many people have said about Iraq is that if the Shiites in Iraq—if—Iraq is 60 plus percent Shiite—if they—if there is ever a government that is beholden to that Shiite majority, that it would come under the sway of Iran.  The idea that is beginning to break all over the Middle East is that maybe this Shiite majority of Iraq, the democracy—it is not Iran that will sway Iraq, it is Iraq that will sway Iran.  And democracy in Iraq may be the wedge that smashes apart the frozen ice of that terrible regime, terror-sponsoring region in Tehran. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Norah O‘Donnell, I didn‘t sense a direct threat. 

Did you?  To Iran?

NORAH O‘DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  No, but he clearly sent a very strong message following up on his inaugural address, and sending a very clear message to Iran.  But I was struck in particular, this is the first speech since 9/11 where for the most part one of the big headlines that is going to come out of this is domestic issues, and the issue about Social Security, which we have not touched on.  The president tonight challenging Congress to strengthen and solve Social Security, which he said is on the verge of bankruptcy.  We‘ve heard the president talk about this, but this is the first time he said it between tens of millions of people, and the president offering details.

No one over 55 going to see their benefits cut.  That‘s a direct

response to nervous Republicans who say we can‘t do this unless you take

those benefit cuts off the table.  He says, we‘re going to phase in these

personal retirement accounts.  It‘s going to be voluntary.  You don‘t have

to do it.  Taking a lot of the sting out of this.  Republicans very worried

about going into the 2006 elections.  This is all a way for the president -

·         at the same time, he said everything is on the table, which is very significant as they move forward on this debate.

MATTHEWS:  I would expect a lot of newspapers in this country tomorrow to lead with “president says Social Security headed for bankruptcy.”  You know, we are getting a little sophisticated here.  I think—because we have covered it so often in the last several months, but to the weekly papers, to the papers that don‘t cover federal events every day on their front pages, they are telling their people, their older people, for the first time, it‘s not just an argument about how to fix Social Security.  It‘s an argument that it needs fixing in the most drastic terms, Jon? 

MEACHAM:  I think it‘s a two-tiered story, if I were laying out that front page.  I think it is pledged to the AARP members and up that you are off the table.  And going down to the very clear generational appeal the president was making to people his daughter‘s age and younger about these private accounts.  He was not wildly specific about that.  There is much room for argument about the years and the numbers the president has talked about.  But you do have—the president, I thought—and I agree with David, that it was shorn of a lot of the ideology of the inaugural, but what he is really talking about is an ownership society, which has been a phrase he‘s used.  He did not frame it in that way.  This was a more actuarial case than it was an ideological case. 

MATTHEWS:  It wasn‘t a war of our choosing; it was a war of necessity. 

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) Social Security, much different plane here.  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  We are about to embark on a generational political struggle and fight where groups are going to be spending $50 to $100 million on Social Security.  Look at that room, the Republicans stood up and applauded when...

MATTHEWS:  We have somebody joining right now—we don‘t have them joining us right now.  Let me ask you about this—oh, there they are right now. 

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER:  I‘m Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives.

SEN. HARRY REID (R-NV), MINORITY LEADER:  Now that you‘ve heard from the president, I appreciate your taking a few minutes with us as we give our views on how we can live up to the American promise.

I was born and raised in the high desert of Nevada in a tiny town called Searchlight.  My dad was a hard rock miner.  My mom took in wash.  I grew up around people of strong values, even if they rarely talked about them.  They loved their country, worshipped God, never shunned hard work and never asked for special favors. 

My life has been very different from what I imagined growing up, but no matter how far I‘ve traveled, Searchlight is still the place I go back to and still the place I call home.

A few weeks ago, I joined some friends of mine for a bite to eat at The Nugget, Searchlight‘s only restaurant.  We were sitting down in a booth when a young boy, about 10 years old, named Devon, walked up to us.

Carrying a skateboard under his arm, he said, “Senator Reid, when I grow up, I want to be just like you.”

Well, the truth is Devon could probably do a lot better.  But the point still holds, and it‘s this:  No one ever had to tell young Devon to dream big dreams.  No one ever had to teach him that America is a place of possibility.  He knows those things because they‘re borne deep in all Americans.           

In the coming year, I believe we can make sure America lives up to its legacy as a land of opportunity if the president is willing to join hands and build from the center.

It‘s important that we succeed.  It‘s time that America‘s government lived up to the same values as America‘s families.  It‘s time we invested in America‘s future and made sure our people have the skills to compete and thrive in a 21st century economy. 

That‘s what Democrats believe, and that‘s where we stand, and that‘s what we‘ll fight for.

Too many of the president‘s economic policies have left Americans and American companies struggling.  And after we worked so hard to eliminate the deficit, his policies have added trillions to the debt—in effect, a “birth tax” of $36,000 on every child that is born.

We Democrats have a different vision:  spurring research and development in new technologies to help create the jobs of the future; rolling up our sleeves and fighting for today‘s jobs by ending the special tax breaks that encourage big corporations to ship jobs overseas; a trade policy that enforces the rules of the road so that we play to win in the global marketplace instead of sitting by and getting played for fools. 

After World War II, through the Marshall Plan, we rebuilt Europe, and they went from poverty to an economic powerhouse.  Today, we need to invest in our nation‘s future with a Marshall Plan for America to build the infrastructure our economy needs to go—and to grow. 

President Eisenhower did that in the 1950s with interstate highways.  National investment created the Internet in the 1970s.  We need to build the next economy, and we need to start now. 

The 21st century economy holds great promise for our people.  But unless we give all Americans the skills they need to succeed, countries like India and China will be taking our good-paying jobs that should be ours.      

From early childhood education to better elementary and high schools to making college more affordable to training workers so they can get better jobs, Democrats believe every American should have a world-class education and the skills they need in a worldwide economy.

Health-care costs have shot up double digits year after year of the Bush administration, and that‘s costing us jobs, costing us our competitiveness and costing families their peace of mind. 

We need to make health care and prescription drugs affordable so that our families and our small businesses will no longer have to shoulder this dead weight.

Good, new jobs, world-class education, affordable health care—these things matter. 

Unfortunately, much of what the president offered weren‘t real answers.               

You know, today is Groundhog Day.  And what we saw and heard tonight was a little like the movie “Groundhog Day”—the same old ideology that we‘ve heard before, over and over and over again. We can do better.

I want you to know that when we believe the president is on the right track, we won‘t let partisan interests get in the way of what‘s good for our country.  We will be the first in line to work with him. 

But when he gets off-track, we will be there to hold him accountable.

That‘s why we so strongly disagree with the president‘s plan to privatize Social Security. 

Let me share with you why I believe the president‘s plan is so dangerous. 

There‘s a lot we can do to improve Americans‘ retirement security, but it‘s wrong to replace the guaranteed benefit that Americans have earned with a guaranteed benefit cut of up to 40 percent. 

Make no mistake, that‘s exactly what President Bush is proposing.

The Bush plan would take our already record-high $4.3 trillion national debt and put us another $2 trillion in the red.  That‘s an immoral burden to place on the backs of the next generation.                  But maybe most of all, the Bush plan isn‘t really Social Security reform; it‘s more like Social Security roulette. 

Democrats are all for giving Americans more of a say and more choices when it comes to their retirement savings, but that doesn‘t mean taking Social Security‘s guarantee and gambling with it.  And that‘s coming from a senator who represents Las Vegas. 

Sometimes important questions, like Social Security or the economy or education, get reduced to dollars and cents with the competing policies of political parties. 

But really, these are questions about our old-fashioned moral values that don‘t get talked about much in Washington but matter so much to our country. 

Are we willing to do right by our parents and take care of our children?  Do we believe that big corporations with powerful lobbyists should get special favors and that the wealthiest should get special tax breaks?  Or do we believe we are all God‘s children and that each of us should get a fair shot and a say in our future?                  

Will we be able to tell young people, like Devon back in Searchlight, that America is still the land of the open road and that you can travel that open road to the place of your choice?

Even after the president‘s speech, the American people are still asking these questions.  You can be sure that Democrats will continue to offer real answers in the months ahead.

Now, I‘d like to turn things over to my colleague, the great leader of the House Democrats, Nancy Pelosi.

PELOSI:  Thank you, Senator Reid.

Throughout our nation‘s history, hope and optimism have defined the American spirit.  With pride and determination, every generation has passed on a stronger America than the one it inherited.  Our greatest responsibility is to leave our children a world that is a safer and more secure place.

As House Democratic leader, I want to speak with you this evening about an issue of grave concern:  the national security of our country. 

Any discussion of our national security must begin with recognition and respect for our men and women in uniform. 

Whether they are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan or delivering humanitarian aid to the victims of the tsunami in Asia, our troops have the gratitude of every American for their courage, their patriotism and the sacrifice that they are willing to make for our country.

I have seen that sacrifice up close.  I‘ve met with our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I‘ve visited our wounded in military hospitals here and overseas. 

Our troops not only defend us, they inspire us.  They remind us of our responsibility to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.

Because of the courage of our service men and women and the determination of the Iraqi people, Iraq‘s election on Sunday was a significant step toward Iraqis taking their future into their own hands.  Now we must consider our future in Iraq.

We all know that the United States cannot stay in Iraq indefinitely and continue to be viewed as an occupying force, neither should we slip out the back door, falsely declaring victory but leaving chaos.    Despite the best efforts of our troops and their Iraqi counterparts, Iraq still faces a violent and persistent insurgency.

And the chairman of the National Intelligence Council said in January that Iraq is now a magnet for international terrorists.

We have never heard a clear plan from this administration for ending our presence in Iraq.  And we did not hear one tonight. 

Democrats believe a credible plan to bring our troops home and stabilizing Iraq must include three key elements:

First, responsibility for Iraqi security must be transferred to the Iraqis as soon as possible.  This action is long overdue. 

The top priority for the U.S. military should have been for a long time now training the Iraqi army. 

We must not be lulled into a false sense of confidence by the administration‘s claim that a large number of security personnel have been trained.  It simply hasn‘t happened.  But it must.      Second, Iraq‘s economic development must be accelerated. Congress has provided billions of dollars for reconstruction, but little of that money has been spent effectively to put Iraqis to work rebuilding their country. 

Infrastructure improvements in Iraq are more than just projects; they give Iraqis hope for a better future and a stake in achieving it, and they contribute to Iraqi stability.

Third, regional diplomacy must be intensified.  Diplomacy can lessen the political problems in Iraq, take pressure off of our troops and deprive the insurgency of the fuel of anti-Americanism on which it thrives.

If these three steps are taken, the next elections in Iraq, scheduled for December, can be held in a more secure atmosphere, with broader participation and a much smaller American presence.                  Just as we must transfer greater responsibility to the Iraqi people for their own security, we must embrace a renewed commitment to our security here at home. 

It‘s been over three years since the attacks of September 11th. Our hopes and prayers will always be with the 9/11 families, who strengthen our resolve to win the war on terror.  The pain and horror of that day will never be forgotten by any of us, yet the gaps in our security exposed by those attacks remain.

Despite the administration‘s rhetoric, airline cargo still goes uninspected, shipping containers go unscreened, and our railroads and power plants are not secure. 

Police officers and firefighters across America have pleaded for the tools they need to prevent or respond to an attack, but the administration still hasn‘t delivered for our first responders.

The greatest threat to our homeland security are the tons of biological, chemical and even nuclear materials that are unaccounted for or unguarded. 

The president says the right words about the threat, but he has failed to take action commensurate with it.

We can, and we must, keep the world‘s most gruesome weapons out of the world‘s most dangerous hands.  Nothing is more important to our homeland security and, indeed, to the safety of the world.     For three years, the president has failed to put together a comprehensive plan to protect America from terrorism, and we did not hear one tonight. 

As we strive to close the gaps in our security here at home, we must do more to show our great strength as well as our greatness.

We must extend the hand of friendship to our neighbors in Latin America.  We must work to stop the genocide in Sudan.  We must reinvigorate the Middle East peace process.  And we must bring health and hope to people suffering from disease, devastation and the fury of despair.

We are called to do this and more by our faith and our common humanity, and also because these actions will enhance our national security.                 

Democrats are committed to a strong national security that keeps America safe, that wins the war on terror and that never again sends our troops into harm‘s way without the equipment they need.

In our New Partnership for America‘s Future, House Democrats have made a commitment to guarantee a military second to none, to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, to build strong diplomatic alliances, to collect timely and reliable intelligence to keep us safe at home, and to honor our veterans and their families by making sure they have the health care and benefits they have earned.

For those returning from military service, our newest veterans, Democrats are calling for a G.I. bill of rights for the 21st century to guarantee access to education, health care and the opportunity for good jobs.      

And we must protect and defend the American people, and we must also protect and defend our Constitution and the civil liberties contained therein.  That is our oath of office.

A strong and secure America was our parents‘ gift to us.  We owe our children and our grandchildren nothing less.

Thank you.  Goodnight.  And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back.  That was the Democrats‘ response given by the two leaders of both sides of the aisle.  That was, of course, Harry Reid, the Democratic leader from the United States Senate, who‘s from Nevada, and Nancy Pelosi from San Francisco, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives. 

I think nothing said tonight—I‘ll say it again—matches the emotions on display here as we watch, again, let‘s take a look again at that moment when Janet Norwood, the mother of a Marine, a Marine sergeant killed in action, Byron Norwood, and she is giving her son‘s dogtags to an Iraqi woman.  Just watch.  And there is the president watching. 

That is Mrs. Bush, of course.  And if you think about this in nonpolitical, in nonpartisan terms, what we are seeing there is the president, who is totally caught up in a moment that he made happen.  These elections were because of him.  This war was his decision.  This war, as he sees it, to give democracy to another country that has never had it, and there you see the human side of the mother who gave her son in that cause.  I don‘t think you get closer to that. 

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR:  You know, Chris, I was on the floor, right below that scene.  And looking up—and I have sat through eight of these State of the Union addresses.  That—and we all know, there is a lot of pettiness at these State of the Unions of who applauds and when they stand up and sit down.  That was the most electrifying moment that I have seen.  It was a remarkable moment.  There were members of the House of Representatives wiping tears from their eyes.  Just absolutely remarkable. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, we get caught again by the quality of letters sent home.  You know, I‘m sure there is books that will always be written about the son, who is sergeant of the Marines, writing his mom saying, you protected me, now it‘s my turn. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, we are so caught up in an age of nostalgia here.  “Band of Brothers.”  I just absolutely loved it on HBO.  Tom Brokaw writing these incredible books. 

But the e-mails, and they are not letters now, they are e-mails that are sent home.  I get so many of them forwarded to me from people I used to represent in northwest Florida.  And it is amazing, 20-year-old men, 22-year-old women, talking about what they did, talking about fighting in Fallujah, how—one wrote about how a Marine fell down into a stairwell and the three Marines got shot going down trying to retrieve this one Marine.  They weren‘t going to leave him behind.  These are 20-year-old kids. 

MATTHEWS:  Like the ones we saw at Pendleton last weekend.  The one guy who had saved the lives of five guys from a fire, and all his unit started to cheer and amazing stuff.

You know, let me go—let‘s go around here.  Norah, the news tonight, in a more sober, cold-hearted way, Social Security.  The president did not push for a reduction in the basis for giving us benefits.  He did not say we‘re going off the wage system.  We‘re going to on to a cost system.  He said that‘s one of the ideas thrown around by a former Democratic congressman from Minnesota, Tim Penny.  Call it the Penny proposal.  I don‘t think he was exactly grabbing on to it and saying, that‘s my baby.

SCARBOROUGH:  The Penny, Moynihan, Breaux.

MATTHEWS:  So I think he pulled back there, don‘t you think? 

O‘DONNELL:  He did. 

But what he did tonight was challenge Congress in a way that he hasn‘t done before to save and strengthen Social Security; it‘s on the verge of bankruptcy.  And what he did was put down and make clear some specifics that Republicans in Congress have been demanding.  They said, we are not going to put our neck out for you unless you tell us specifically what we are going to fight for. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

O‘DONNELL:  The president did that tonight.  And he did that in a way that responds specifically to some of the polling that has been given to Republican members of Congress about where they‘re vulnerable and how they have to sell this to the American people in order to win the political fight.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s check that with a senior member of the United States Senate, Orrin Hatch of Utah.

Senator Hatch, I read in the president‘s presentation regarding Social Security a clear-cut argument for personal accounts for younger people, a clear-cut promise to older people that their benefits are going to be left alone.  And then I heard him sneak in there, saying—he said on the table one of the options is to change the basis for benefits from wages to prices, according to the proposal of a former Democratic congressman from Minnesota, Tim Penny. 

Is that the president‘s way of pulling back from a proposal? 

SEN. ORRIN HATCH ®, UTAH:  No, I think he basically said that he was willing to listen to Congress and work with us to try and come up with a system that basically gives peace of mind to all of those who are retirees and those who are near-retirees, but also give some generation help for the young people, that—most of whom believe there won‘t be anything there when they retire. 

So, we‘ve got to come up with some ways of solving this.  And I just hope that our Democrat friends are willing to wade into it with us.  So far they don‘t have a plan at all.  That‘s the thing that bugs me about them. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the right-to-life issue, the abortion rights issue.  Very muted comment by the president tonight, sort of endorsing the cultural of life in very general terms, nothing about a constitutional amendment or abortion rights or anything like that. 

HATCH:  He doesn‘t have to go to a constitutional amendment right now because we are gradually winning that battle.  As more and more sonographic efforts are put forward, as more and more people become aware of how human life actually begins to exist in an early part of a mother‘s womb, I think we are starting to win this war on abortion.  I think more and more people are sick of having over a million abortions a year in the United States of America. 

It‘s beyond belief.  But, frankly, I think that, because of him, because of the partial-birth abortion ban statute that brought home to people just how brutal these pro-abortion people, the system really is, I think we‘re making headway on trying to solve that problem.  And I think good people on both sides are starting to come together and saying—look at Hillary Clinton the other day commenting in front of an abortion rights group that, hey, we have got to find a better way of solving these problems. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back on Social Security, because it‘s probably going to be the headline in tomorrow‘s papers.  Do you support President Bush‘s plan for Social Security? 

HATCH:  Well, I don‘t think he really laid out a plan.  He basically threw out a bunch of ideas tonight.  We know that those ideas are things that we are going to have to work with.  And he asked us to work with him. 

I didn‘t think he is saying I‘m going to make a plan and you have got to come with me or else.  He is saying, look, work with me and let‘s try and resolve these problems, because, in 13 years, Social Security starts to go into bankruptcy.  And by 2042, it‘s probably in bankruptcy and might not have enough money to make the payments.

So, if we don‘t start now to solve those problems, they are not going to be solved.  And from our Democratic counterparts, I don‘t hear any suggestions at all.  In fact, they are saying it‘s not a crisis, it‘s not really a problem.  That‘s just crazy.  That‘s pure bunk.

MATTHEWS:  He also called for making the tax cuts of 2001 permanent. 

Would you support that? 

HATCH:  You bet your life, because it‘s because of the tax cuts that we have such a vibrant, buoyant economy right now. 

I don‘t think many economists would deny that.  And if we don‘t make those tax cuts permanent, I think we will have a dive in the economy like you never saw before.  And if that happens, it could really turn us into a very, very difficult country to manage. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the president had enough clarity to his call tonight to make America energy independent?  Do you know what he means by that in terms of the gasoline?  I mean, you go to any major American city and you look at the beltway, the traffic never ends.  People never stop driving.  What are they going to use for fuel if we don‘t get it from overseas? 

HATCH:  Well, he is talking about developing our own resources, but also alternative fuel and alternative-fuel vehicles, something I have been pushing for a number of years here on the Finance Committee and all kinds ever other ways of trying to conserve fuel. 

But there is no question we have got to develop our own natural resources and do it in an environmentally sound way.  And that has been stopped by environmental extremists for the last really 20 years.  I have been here almost 30 years.  And I have to say, we have had to fight every day of our lives to try and get a reasonable energy policy, because any reasonable energy policy has been stopped by really the extremists that seem to control many in the media and many in the Congress. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think—do you think, Senator, we should exploit the gas, the oil up in Alaska? 

HATCH:  Well, there is no question we could drill all of the ANWR, Alaska, around—between 12 and 16 billion barrels of oil on a plot of ground the size of Dulles Airport.  That means it would not even be a pinprick on that vast wilderness up there.  And it‘s nuts not to develop that and put pressure on the Middle East and other suppliers of oil to have that as on option for ourselves. 

The Democrats just toss that off as though, oh, well, we can drill that out in a few weeks.  Well, you can‘t.  We could gradually protect ourselves, give us leverage, give us strength in the fight for energy and, in the end, I think protect our country.  And nothing short of that is going to help us, but we also—he also called for going to nuclear energy, which is about as clean as energy as you can find. 

We do have to find out what you do to neutralize the spent fuel rods, but I think we are going to have to move into those areas if we want to continue to maintain ourselves as the greatest country in the world, because it takes energy to create jobs and opportunities for our people. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you, very much, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. 

Well, I want to run through the panel here and ask about—it was said tonight right after the president‘s State of the Union address, which was a strong speech, a remarkable speech.  David Frum said that.

What do you think, Norah O‘Donnell?  How is it going to be received in a country that—just watching the president all these months, as you have? 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, I think it will be received very well.  It was a very bold speech, and the president reaching for goals that people say perhaps he can‘t achieve, given the political situation. 

But this president says, I always do best by reaching for those goals that seem unattainable.  And somehow he seems to do it.  And people have remarked about his career that he seems like the luckiest man alive, winning in 2000, winning in 2004.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

O‘DONNELL:  He reaches for these great goals and seems to be approved for doing them. 

One of the interesting things I thought when you were talking with Senator Hatch about the culture issues, the culture of life and other things, many evangelicals feel very strongly that they helped get President Bush elected.  They wanted to hear from the president.  A very large group called the Arlington Group, which is a large umbrella group of conservative Christians, wrote Karl Rove letters, has been writing them for over a month, saying, unless you say something about a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in the State of the Union, we‘re not going to help you on Social Security. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Was that enough support?

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.  Yes, I think it will be.  They want him to aggressively campaign for it. 

MATTHEWS:  He didn‘t say that.

O‘DONNELL:  No.  But, in the past, the president has not been as specific here about a constitutional amendment.  It will help them in some way.  They did that here in terms of...

MATTHEWS:  Wasn‘t the argument made—and this is a hot issue with so many people, as we saw all those, more than 10 states passing legislation statewide to say they didn‘t want—they don‘t want same-sex marriage.  And I think most of the country doesn‘t want it, pure and simple.

But wasn‘t the argument made that as long as the U.S. courts held open the possibility the Defense of Marriage Act, which was passed by both houses, signed by Bill Clinton, it would protect each state by being governed by court decisions in other states or in their own state.  They are not confident that will hold? 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, that‘s their position.  The president does feel confident that they may be enough in some ways.  You will see these groups are pushing for it in they say 15 other states similar types of measures in states. 

What‘s important, though, is that the president is laying this out.  And those in Congress, you can bet they are saying up on the Hill, there will be a vote in both houses on this issue this year. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  On a constitutional amendment. 

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.  There‘s not going to probably be a constitutional amendment, because it‘s too hard to get there.  They‘re going to vote on it.

MATTHEWS:  And you also may not need it, you could argue, from the middle, if that‘s your...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Joe, isn‘t that true?  Some people are probably in the middle holding out, we don‘t need a constitutional amendment, because the Defense of Marriage Act will protect states from being told they have to go along with it. 

And you are smiling because you don‘t believe the courts are going to stop this, do you? 

SCARBOROUGH:  No, I‘m smiling because most Republicans are thinking, leave it alone.  The Defense of Marriage Act that we acted on in 1986...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s good enough.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... was sufficient.  We understand you have to play with the evangelicals.  That‘s why I‘m smiling.

This speech, though—and I have got a few of these.  I have saved a few of these.  It‘s what they pass out to members.  And I remember, we would always, when Clinton was giving his speeches, would sort—we would go through it and we would count the number of little proposals, school uniforms and midnight basketball and all this other stuff. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  And I just stood there on the floor saying, this is really a different world.  There is no Dick Morris whispering into this guy‘s ear saying, well, if you say this, 3 percent of the population will like it.  And then you add this.  And it was sort of an aggregate. 

Here, George Bush said we‘re going to transform the Middle East.  There is this line in here, I just couldn‘t believe it.  The goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestinian, living side by side in peace is within reach and America will help them achieve that goal. 

That is radical.  That was in the speech.  Social Security, just absolutely—it‘s a transforming debate.  And we saw Trent Lott before      sort of staggering, do I support it, do I not support it? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  But he did commit. 

SCARBOROUGH:  He did commit. 

After the Democrats booed and hissed, Republicans were on the floor saying, you know, we never once did that to Clinton.  So every time he would talk about Social Security, the roars got a little louder.  And they got behind their president.  This is how Washington works.  The other side boos your guy, you stand up and cheer more loudly. 

MATTHEWS:  There were a lot of little stocking stuffers there, as I recall, tonight.  You say there were none.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  There were a lot around the area of education spending, a lot of commitments for people who are poor.  I thought there were a lot of sort of things that...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, there were conflicts.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  The Mrs. Bush initiative on gangland problems.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  I mean, there‘s some of that.

But up top, especially, there are conflicts.  He says we‘re going to cut spending.  My budget is going to substantially reduce or eliminate more than 150 government programs.  We‘re going to balance the budget, but we‘re going to keep the tax cuts.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re going to transform Social Security.  It may cost $3 trillion.

Then he starts talking about we‘re going to pay for more Pell Grants. 

We‘re going to do this, all the...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, again, the numbers don‘t add up. 

But, again, the headlines, Social Security, and the Republicans are behind it, and Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, we have a fact checker joining us right now, Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a man who is as good as his word, I must say. 

Hi, Senator.  How are you tonight?

SEN. RICK SANTORUM ®, PENNSYLVANIA:  How is my fellow Pennsylvanian? 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m very good tonight.

Let me tell you, Senator, everybody knows we know where you stand, especially on those values questions. 

Were you satisfied with the president‘s remarks tonight, specifically on the issue of marriage and on the issue of life? 

SANTORUM:  Oh, sure, absolutely.  I mean, the president came foursquare that he is for a constitutional amendment because of the activism of our, unfortunately, federal judges. 

And he talked about the culture of life.  You know, one of the most important issue is this embryonic stem cell research.  And he hit the ball out of the park.  And then finally judges, that is the big issue.  And he was very clear to the Democrats that he is going to send up good judges and he expects up-or-down votes. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you expect that the Democrats will use the filibuster this coming session to stop the confirmation of federal judges? 

SANTORUM:  I certainly hope not. 

For 215 years in this country, we didn‘t—it was never done.  And to change the precedence in the Senate is a dramatic thing that can cripple the judiciary if it continues.  I hope that there are enough Democrats who will talk to their leadership and say, this is foolishness.  This is wrong for America.  This is not the prerogative of the Senate to change the Constitution, which basically says majority up-or-down vote. 

And I‘m hopeful that enough either will convince their leader, Harry Reid, to back down or if not join us in returning to the 51-vote standard. 

MATTHEWS:  We read in the last couple of weeks, Senator, about an internal debate within the administration and its supporters about whether to push hard not just for personalized accounts for younger Social Security contributors, people working in their working lives, but also for changing the basis for establishing benefit levels from wages to prices. 

And the way the president did it tonight was, he came out foursquare for personal accounts, but then said a lot of ideas are on the table, including one by former Democratic Congressman from Minnesota Tim Penny, calling for a change in the basis for benefits. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You are laughing.  He has clearly pulled back and taken the political strategy to heart of Newt Gingrich, who says push for reform, don‘t push for lower benefits down the road. 

SANTORUM:  Well, I mean, Tim Penny, Pat Moynihan, John Breaux, the list was long.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Of Democrats.  You guys are trying to nail—to hang...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You are laughing. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  This is the oldest political trick in the world.  You find some conservative Democrat who has left the House and Congress and then you say, you are thinking about using his idea. 

SANTORUM:  Now, wait a minute.  Pat Moynihan is not a conservative Democrat.  No, look, the point was...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

He is safe, though.  He is safe from political retribution right now. 

SANTORUM:  That‘s right. 

The point was that five or six or—seven or eight years ago, when Bill Clinton was looking at this problem, there were a lot of Democrats who saw the idea of personal retirement accounts as something that was an attractive alternative.  And there were a lot of Democrats talking about how we could adjust benefits.

What I have said—I‘m chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee on the Finance Committee.  That‘s ground zero as to where we are going to start this reform process.  And I‘m already reaching out to Democrats.  And what I have said is, we‘re going to put everything on the table.  We can‘t go in with a preconceived notion, this is my plan and this is the way we‘re going to do it.

We‘re going to sit down.  We‘re going to talk about everything.  We are going to try to craft a package that can build consensus and try to get something out of the United States Senate that has some investment component in it.  I think it‘s vital to do that.  I think it‘s really ripping off younger workers if we don‘t do that.  And I‘m hopeful that we can find some bipartisan consensus on some plan that does that. 

MATTHEWS:  Trent Lott, the senator from Mississippi, the former leader of your party—I know you are now in the leadership yourself, head of the Republican Conference.  But he says he will vote for the president‘s Social Security plan. Will you? 

SANTORUM:  Yes.  I mean, I‘m going to vote for a Social Security plan that has a prefunding of investment and ownership and younger workers‘ ability to have that nest egg, to give them that financial security.

I‘m strongly in favor of it.  But I‘m also strongly in favor of finding that bipartisan coalition to get it done in a way that we can all be proud of. 

MATTHEWS:  We got two votes for the president‘s position tonight, you and Trent Lott. 

Let me ask you about something I know a little bit about.  That‘s tort reform.  I have understood from conversations—you have heard them a lot more than I have, Senator—it‘s your position to know that there are so many specialists of medicine in Pennsylvania who are leaving the state because you can‘t get malpractice insurance in those small towns to justify a practice.  And they are heading off to Maryland or somewhere else. 

Tell us about, is this—is this an uphill battle?  Can you beat the trial lawyers, like John Edwards, and all the money they pour into the Democratic coffers? 

SANTORUM:  It‘s going to be very difficult, but I think you saw the reaction from the Republicans.  And the president has pitched this all over the country. 

Obviously, in my state and your area of the state, in the Philadelphia area, this is a huge problem.  We are losing—we are losing our expertise.  We are losing our young doctors.  We were 45th in the country.  Pennsylvania, which has some of the best medical schools in the country, we‘re losing them all to other states.  They won‘t come to Pennsylvania and they won‘t practice there.

And there are other states who are in the same situation.  So, our doctors are pleading for help.  They‘re looking to here in Washington, D.C., and we‘re going to do the best we can.  But I will admit, it‘s a tough road, but it‘s one we have got to try to tackle. 

MATTHEWS:  Terrell Owens, will he play on Sunday? 

SANTORUM:  I hope so.  I hope—at least he is out there to draw some double coverage and maybe open up some things underneath. 

MATTHEWS:  What a smart guy.  Thank you very much, Senator Rick Santorum and, as we say in Philadelphia, and “Iggles” fan. 

SANTORUM:  “Iggles” fan.

MATTHEWS:  “Iggles,” not Eagles, “Iggles.”

SANTORUM:  “Iggles,” yes.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you, Senator Santorum.

Let me go back.  I think there is a lot in here tonight that the newspapers are going to chew over tomorrow and TV tomorrow night, nightly news, etcetera.  And we‘ll be doing it all day on MSNBC, of course, and later into the night. 

What‘s the headline, Joe?  You‘re the politician here.

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s going to be Social Security. 

MATTHEWS:  Bigger than anything?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is the line going to be Social Security headed for bankruptcy, Bush says? 

SCARBOROUGH:  No.

MATTHEWS:  No?

SCARBOROUGH:  Social Security creates ideological divide.

And then they will have a subparagraph on that unbelievably touching moment of the dog tags being delivered from the soldier‘s mom to the Iraqi.  But, no, it‘s Social Security, because that‘s where the California is and that is what will move newspapers. 

MATTHEWS:  You are betting right now as an observer, now that you are in the commentary business and hosting a program.  If you had to put your money on it now, is President Bush going to succeed this year in getting through a program? 

SCARBOROUGH:  He will.  He will succeed, but it‘s not going to look anything like the $2 trillion blueprint that we saw.

MATTHEWS:  Will there be personal accounts?

SCARBOROUGH:  There will be personal accounts.  But, again, you‘re going to probably see some—he‘ll probably get about one-fourth of what he wants.  But something will happen.  This is not a Newt Gingrich Republican.  Karl Rove has already—we always...

MATTHEWS:  You mean he is more careful? 

SCARBOROUGH:  We always faulted Newt Gingrich, because his plan A was always great, but then the Democrats would respond and he never had a plan B. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And Karl Rove, as all of us know, is already working out the end.

MATTHEWS:  Let me talk about that with Norah.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You cover the president.  You know his daily act.  You get up every morning and you keep your focus on him and his people all day long. 

Is this one of those cases where, as Joe suggests, subtly, you don‘t have to win the whole thing and you still come out ahead politically?  For example, it didn‘t hurt the president when he first came in to push for vouchers.  A lot of people like school vouchers. And his brother did the same thing in Florida.  Could it be, not like Hillary, where she lost with her health care plan not only the bill?  She lost her reputation for a while there.  Can the president win even by losing on these fights?

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.

And the reason is, because the principles that the president laid out tonight, the few details that he did, are watered down from what many people wanted them to be.  The White House briefed us today on exactly what is in this plan.  It‘s no longer going to cost several trillion dollars to do this.  They say it‘s only going to cost $800 billion to do it.  It‘s more flexible, more voluntary. 

They have watered down this plan to a great deal today.  And the president is saying everything is now on the table.  That has been the way this president has operated with every piece of legislation.  He is willing to compromise because, at the end of day, he knows he can sit there in the Rose Garden, sign that piece of legislation and declare victory.

MATTHEWS:  What is the minimal thing he has to accomplish in this debate? 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, the most important thing is, he has said in an interview with “The Washington Times” he wants this done in the next five to six months, very important. 

Tomorrow, he embarks on a five-state campaign blitz, red states represented by Democratic senators who are up for reelection or crucial to the fight.  Democratic Leader Harry Reid says no Democrats are going to vote for this plan.  I‘m not sure that he is right.  There are some moderate Democratic senators who may look at this plan now that things have been watered down a bit and that it has sort of pushed off—it‘s voluntary.  It‘s very flexible.

MATTHEWS:  Why does he need Democratic senators?  He‘s got 55 Republicans.

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Well, he has got to make it filibuster proof.  He‘s got to get it to 60.

MATTHEWS:  Oh.  But he can‘t do it as part of the reconciliation process and have a guaranteed vote?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, they know that they need probably close to 60 because other—the Democratic leaders will try and filibuster it.

MATTHEWS:  Will they use reconciliation? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Not on something as big as Social Security.

MATTHEWS:  They can‘t pull that off?

SCARBOROUGH:  But I will tell you this, though.  Again, he does not have to get the whole thing. 

All he wants to do is get part of it.  And we remember, in 2004, John Kerry couldn‘t really attack the president on an education plan that he supported. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  He couldn‘t really attack on Medicare, which they supported, couldn‘t attack on the Patriot Act.  And this is how Karl Rove and the White House and the president have trapped Democrats over the past four years. 

They get about—they put out a bill they can‘t say no to and then they insulate themselves from...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... on social issues.

O‘DONNELL:  Democrats have not provided an alternative to reform. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Absolutely not.

O‘DONNELL:  There is still disagreement about whether it‘s a problem or not.  But most Americans do kind of understand that, along the road, the money will eventually run out.

And Democrats are not providing a feasible reform to extend the life of Social Security.  And with the president still offering and campaigning on this, the Democrats are going to have to do more. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, they may be doing what the Republicans did to Hillary Clinton‘s health care plan, make a point of not offering an alternative, so that there is no compromise, so that it goes down humiliatingly for the first lady.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Actually, there were four.

And I was just going to say, the difference between these Democrats and the Republicans of ‘93 and ‘94 in the majority is, they had an alternative budget from Kasich.  They had alternative health plans.  They had alternative crime bills.  Everything, there was always an alternative.  The Democrats tonight hissed.  They‘ve got nothing right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get everybody else... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We have a lot of people watching right now, I hope.

And I want you all to get a chance right now.  None of this is scientific, but it is in-house.  And we do like to look at it.

We are holding an online vote right now.  So, go to your Web site, our Web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com—you can see it right there, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com—and cast your vote on what you thought of the speech tonight. 

Let‘s go to another guy‘s opinion.  Let‘s go right now to Ron Reagan.

Ron, what did you think of the performance by our president tonight? 

RON REAGAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, it was interesting, pretty good speech, pretty well read. 

I think you are right.  Everybody is right about Social Security being the headline.  I was fascinated that Orrin Hatch on your show just a few minutes ago said that there really is no plan for Social Security.  He hasn‘t seen a plan.  And the president really didn‘t present a plan tonight.  He mentioned, of course, privatization or personalization, if you prefer. 

But it‘s also correct that the Democrats haven‘t offered an alternative plan.  And it would be pretty easy to do.  You could start taxing people, charging Social Security taxes on wages over $90,000, for instance.  You could sunset the tax cuts to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.  That would take care of the long-term problem.  So it would be pretty easy to come up with an alternative to privatization, which the president‘s own people admit won‘t do anything to address the long-term fiscal problems. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Ron, we heard a variety of responses to my request that they tell us where stand on the issue tonight.  I have to always remember—I will make an effort to—that Trent Lott said, I‘m voting for the president‘s plan. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I also heard Rick Santorum, who faces reelection next year, I‘m voting for the president‘s plan. 

Now, I‘m trying to remember some of the other fellows we had on tonight that weren‘t so clear, Orrin Hatch included.  But I think you‘re right.  Hatch saying that there was no plan I think is skipping the point that the president is making a very stark proposal here for personal accounts and he‘s talking about meeting the long-term shortfall of the system, which you have to do by other means than simply have personal accounts. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I want to remind everybody here, there‘s two things that have to happen, a philosophical approach that changes the Social Security notion as it has been practiced since the ‘30s, and, secondly, some fiscal plan for bringing together the costs and benefits of that program, so that there is enough money going in to pay for what we are paying out.  And that‘s the second requirement that it seems like the members don‘t want to address tonight. 

REAGAN:  Yes, that‘s right.  The president is trying to mix apples and oranges.  He has got this scheme about privatization that he wants to do, but it doesn‘t address the fiscal problem.  And he has laid out no plan to address that fiscal problem.  And the people in Congress are no dummies.  They know that. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Lenny Skutnik, the guy who swam across the Potomac in icy water back in the early ‘80s to save the life of some people who went down in that plane crash, that Florida Airlines plane—and he couldn‘t swim, which was most impressive.  He did it by instinct in icy water.  He doggy-paddled out there to save that woman.

REAGAN:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  Was called out and placed up in that visitor‘s gallery, the first lady‘s gallery, by your dad, President Reagan.  And ever since that time, I think presidents have tried with somewhat less effect to recreate a moment of American magic. 

REAGAN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And I think, whoever thought of it, whatever the instincts at work and spontaneity and heart at work tonight, the heart certainly of Janet Norwood was certainly else. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  Yes.  It was.  It was a very emotional scene. 

You could see that Mr. Bush was emotional about it.  You couldn‘t help but look at these two people who have lost their child and feel for them a tremendous sympathy and empathy with them. 

I have to say, I‘m not comfortable using people that are in such duress for—as a political prop.  If it did them some good, if they are happy with it and feel good about it, then I‘m happy for them.  Other than that, the political use of them I would really rather do without.  But it‘s a very touching moment.

MATTHEWS:  But isn‘t it the truth?  But isn‘t it the true story of this gift?  If you think about it in a nonpolitical sense and you think about these service people—we met a lot of them out at Camp Pendleton last week, these young Marines, these guys—most of them are guys who would get into that kind of combat—some women, of course—making a commitment to join a unit, to operate as a unit, to operate without questioning authority, to think in terms of mission and job and training and the environment they are in, and they give this their life. 

REAGAN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  For a cause.  Shouldn‘t that be displayed? 

REAGAN:  Yes. 

There is nothing wrong with that.  And you did a whole show out there at Pendleton, which certainly displayed their courage and the honor that they have.  Again, I‘m just uncomfortable with using people that are in such obvious pain as a political prop.  But, again, if they got something out of it, that‘s the most important thing to me, if they felt satisfied.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think President Bush used this to push his numbers on Social Security reform, just to get his general appeal up a bit a couple points? 

REAGAN:  Well, I don‘t want to speculate on what was in President Bush‘s mind.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How about his handlers? 

REAGAN:  Well, yes, sure. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the P.R. guys around the White House did this to promote the president‘s agenda?

SCARBOROUGH:  No.  Geez.  Come on.

REAGAN:  Well, of course they did.  Oh, sure they did. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, come on.

REAGAN:  Oh, come on, Joe.  What?  They just do this out the sympathy of their hearts?

SCARBOROUGH:  I have got to interrupt here. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And you‘re here.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know what?

The thing is, to look at that picture, to look at the president, to look at these people at this historic moment and to suggest that somebody cynically said, oh, let‘s just put these two people together not because the president believes this in all of his heart...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s just the height of cynicism. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  I don‘t think it‘s all that cynical.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But you know who makes these decisions, the P.R. people around the president. 

REAGAN:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  They make the decision about who sits in the box and where they are seated next to who. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Not with this president. 

REAGAN:  Oh come on, Joe.  Come on.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Ron, why don‘t you underestimate him again for another four years and help him?

I mean, this is—again, this is the height of cynicism.  And what disturbs me is...

REAGAN:  Or realism.

SCARBOROUGH:  If this were a Democratic president who had done the same thing, then...

REAGAN:  I would feel the same way.  I would feel the same way. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ron be saying, it was a wonderful thing.  Wasn‘t it a touching movement?

REAGAN:  I would feel the same, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And that‘s—again, that‘s what I find—it‘s like Jimmy Carter unable to come out and give a statement after the election in Iraq, his people saying, well, the president doesn‘t have any statement, after telling us for months that it was going to be a failure. 

Chris, I just—I think there should be some things that unite this country.  I think there should be some things where Democrats say, you know what?  We are one.  Republicans can come together and say this is something we all understand.  It‘s not a political moment.  It is a moment that unites Americans.  And I would guess that 95 percent of Americans agree. 

MATTHEWS:  I would agree, too.

O‘DONNELL:  I am a uniter, not a divider. 

(LAUGHTER)

O‘DONNELL:  And I think what they—what happened there, honestly, was—they do.  The White House does set up those situations where they put them there, but I think it was very spontaneous, the hug. 

MATTHEWS:  Janet‘s hug, Janet Norwood‘s hug. 

O‘DONNELL:  And it was spontaneous when Janet Norwood‘s—the dog tags of her son were caught on the sleeve of that woman.  She didn‘t hand the dog tags to her.  She was pulling away and they were caught.

And that was a spontaneous moment, where she then had to pull them away.  And it was metaphorical in a way, if you will, that her son‘s dog tags were caught on sleeve of this woman.  And that‘s why that moment, I think, will be something that is talked about for a long time. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

O‘DONNELL:  Watch here.  You see she is hugging.  She‘s holding the dog tags.  And watch it—as she goes to pull away...

REAGAN:  It catches on a button on the sleeve.

O‘DONNELL:  It catches on a button.  And she goes to pull...

MATTHEWS:  I guess the only question is whether that Iraqi woman was prompted to go up and hug Janet Norwood by some staffer.

O‘DONNELL:  Oh, who cares?

MATTHEWS:  Who cares?

REAGAN:  I don‘t know that that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I think some people care. 

REAGAN:  Yes, I don‘t know that—I wouldn‘t go that far.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a question.  It‘s an open question.  I think the emotion was spontaneous. 

REAGAN:  Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a question as to how much P.R. went into that thing. 

REAGAN:  Yes. 

Both things are true.  There is spontaneous emotion there.  And I certainly would honor it. 

And, Joe, you can call it cynicism if you want.  All I‘m saying is, it makes me uncomfortable when people are being used for a reason that is political.  Now, if they got something good out of it, then that‘s more important.  But that is simply an observation on my part. 

(CROSSTALK)

JON MEACHAM, MANAGING EDITOR, “NEWSWEEK”:  But that‘s like saying that most military rituals are for political purposes.  That‘s like saying a flag-draped coffin is for political purpose. 

REAGAN:  No, it‘s... 

(CROSSTALK)

MEACHAM:  No, it is, Ron. 

REAGAN:  No, it‘s not.

MEACHAM:  It‘s like saying that—it is.  It‘s just—I think the idea that that moment was about Social Security poll numbers is absurd. 

REAGAN:  Well, that‘s not what I said.  That‘s not what I... 

(CROSSTALK)

MEACHAM:  I know.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know what I think?

I am asking the question because I live in Washington and have watched these.  And I will bet you, within the next couple of days, what we are speculating about now, we will know more about, which White House staffer takes credit for putting them so close to each other, who might have indicated to the Iraqi woman it would be appropriate at that moment, when the president addressed Ms. Norwood, that she could go up and embrace her. 

You never know how much goes on behind the scenes when everything it seems isn‘t true. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, again, 99 percent of Americans don‘t care. 

MATTHEWS:  That could be. 

REAGAN:  You know, Chris, there was another woman in the audience that wasn‘t highlighted there, Dana Reeve, who is the widow of Christopher Reeve. 

She was there specifically to see whether the president would make any overture as far as embryonic stem cell research was concerned.  We have just learned recently that the stem cell lines that he approved earlier are contaminated and virtually useless.  He didn‘t make that overture.  And I think Dana will probably go home disappointed, but I can‘t say I am surprised by that. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you, Ron Reagan, for joining us tonight. 

REAGAN:  Sure.

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

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