updated 2/3/2005 11:52:23 AM ET 2005-02-03T16:52:23

Guest: David Frum, Rick Santorum, Orrin Hatch

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  So, here we go again. 

I want to thank you, Ron Reagan, for joining us.

We are joined right now by the “NBC Nightly News,” Brian Williams, the anchor, along with Tim Russert, NBC‘s Washington bureau chief and moderator of “Meet the Press.” 

Gentlemen, the headlines, Brian, do you think, for tomorrow‘s paper. 

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR:  I think—I think probably most analysts, and notice how craftily I avoid any expression of opinion, most analysts whose opinion I respect, including one to my immediate left, will say that, in many ways, it was an extension of his inauguration. 

Andrea Mitchell had an interesting reaction, saying it was a bit of a walk back in some areas.  And I think his foray into Social Security, the confusion around the issue, I think we are very quickly going to see a lot of Americans going to search engines, their local newspaper, their favorite evening newscast or cable network, looking to sort through it, looking for an exert they respect.  They see this issue coming.

At this point, a discussion of it, at least, and tinkering with it at least is unstoppable.  They are going to be looking for kind of baseline believable answers.  So I think, it‘s that kind of opening.  And I think the president will probably be given by the analysts emotional high points as well tonight for his use of the guests in the presidential box. 

MATTHEWS:  Tim, do you think the regular people out there who have not followed this week by week, like journalists do, will be taken with the president‘s strong words, Social Security headed for bankruptcy? 

TIM RUSSERT, NBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF:  Well, they will certainly have heard that.  And they also heard the no‘s being yelled at by the Democrats, and so they will want to find out a whole lot more. 

It was kind of, in an interesting way, two speeches, Chris.  The passion and emotion of Iraq and that gripping scene of the mother who lost her son embracing the Iraqi voter, that will make an indelible mark in the minds of the Americans and the world.  But there‘s not much Americans can do about Iraq.  Those events will unfold and they will have a dramatic influence and effect upon the president‘s second term, much of it out of his control. 

But, on Social Security, the suspicions between the two parties are so deep.  Democrats believe Social Security is their program, Franklin Roosevelt‘s program, that defined their party for a whole generation.  And now George Bush wants to take it away with a legacy issue called private accounts or personal accounts.  And they are going to fight.  All 45 Democratic senators have said they oppose it. 

The president is going to go tomorrow to Republican states, so-called red states that have Democratic senators.  And the Democrats have already recorded television ads and radio ads and have demonstrators going against the president‘s idea.  This is going to be a huge, robust debate about an issue central to each of these parties.  Who owns Social Security?

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Brian again on this, because of “The Nightly News.”  And you are managing editor of it.  And you have got to make news judgments every afternoon of the week, certainly every weekday.  Is Social Security the kind of debate that television is good at? 

WILLIAMS:  I think, at least on the surface, broad strokes—and I know what you are hinting at. 

And, first of all, demographically, the so-called big three evening newscasts, it‘s no secret, tend to skew toward older Americans, who are vitally interested in this.  You know, we have used the expression, what, 10 times during our coverage tonight.  I imagine it‘s been thrown around your studio.  It is called the third rail of American politics for a good reason.  AARP is respected and feared in Washington as a lobby group for good reason. 

This really, truly could be a Pandora‘s box.  Democrats insist that the Republicans have—quote—“never liked” Social Security at a basic, strands-of-DNA level, since FDR first proposed it as an entitlement program.  So I think we are good at giving thoughtful coverage to the incremental developments in policy, in debate. 

Obviously, as a great man once said who worked for another network, we are a supplement to your good, your best daily newspaper.  And I think that‘s how it should be viewed. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the way that the world will read the president‘s speech tonight on the old axis of evil.  The question before the world right now, perhaps, is Iran. 

Iran has a nuclear program.  The president said tonight they can‘t have one.  He asserted the right to say that another sovereign country faced with a nuclear challenger in that region, Israel, just as Pakistan is threatened historically by India in that region, with a nuclear power, saying they can‘t have this weapons system.  Is he telling the people of Iran, overthrow your government, liberalize it, and stop the nuclear program? 

That‘s a hell of a—it seems to me a strong message to another country. 

WILLIAMS:  Well, as I look at local papers around the country, let me disagree with your premise.  I don‘t think the American people have moved on to the next square on the chessboard.  I think tonight‘s speech helps to reinforce, get that nation out there, helps to foreshadow.

I think the intelligentsia is into the policy nuance, what the president is probably really up to.  I think there could be a little bit of a letdown in terms of how people follow foreign news.  And we discussed this tonight live from Baghdad with Richard Engel.  You can already feel it, thinking, ah, a largely successful election in Baghdad.  Maybe the whole Iraq thing is, if not over, then certainly calming down. 

I bet you next thing that will happen is, we will see a timed drawdown of troops, even though the reality is, the violence has not let up much.  And, Chris, having been back 24 hours, election night, we had two mortars land inside the Green Zone when it was dark and the voting was over.  It will still remain a very dangerous place.  So, I don‘t know that everyone is as engaged, as aware that Iran is the next nation on the scroll to come up and really command our attention. 

MATTHEWS:  But the headlines in Tehran tomorrow will be—and they probably already are—our country warned, Bush warns us, get rid of nuclear program, which is popular among the intelligentsia of that country, the more liberal people. 

WILLIAMS:  If they‘ve been reading their local papers...

MATTHEWS:  And what message is—and what is their reaction going to be? 

WILLIAMS:  If they have been reading their local papers, they know this is not their first mention from this podium.  So, we will have to monitor them to see what their reaction is. 

They have so many problems within their society, not the least of which is the loss of an entire generation to drug abuse.  It‘s an interesting situation, and I am not quite sure what‘s going to tip the balance there. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Tim, I just want to bring this to you that the question of the way the president handled or didn‘t handle the issue of abortion rights, it‘s probably the most divisive issue domestically in the country in terms of values.  And we argue about it among ourselves all the time, how to address it with the law, how to use the law, how not to use the law.  It seems to me the president played it pretty light tonight. 

RUSSERT:  He talks about the culture of life. 

He has said that he never believed that you can change people‘s attitudes on abortion quickly or overnight.  And it would be very difficult to change the laws without changing attitudes.  I don‘t think the president dealt with the whole notion of same-sex marriage.  He has to hit those litmus test issues for his Republican conservative base, but clearly, did not express the kind of activist agenda towards them that he did for Social Security and other things. 

And, Chris, I just want to make one point on Iran, because I think that the president was very forceful in terms of talking about diplomacy, to try to bring about an end to the program, and then said to the next generation of Iranians, we will stand by you, suggesting that, if we can delay the development of that program, perhaps there can be ultimately an evolution or revolution in the Iran.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

RUSSERT:  Buying time, if you will. 

Vice President Cheney said on the “Imus” program a couple of weeks ago, however, that we do not know if the Israelis will be endlessly patient, kind of being good cop/bad cop, and that is something we really have to watch for very carefully. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you.  I think I heard some of that, too.  That‘s great reporting.  Thank you very much.  And welcome back to the country.  It‘s great to see you back home safely, Brian, from the long reporting stint over there. 

WILLIAMS:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  It must have been something else. 

WILLIAMS:  Thanks, Chris. 

WILLIAMS:  Anyway, thank you, Brian Williams.  Thank you, Tim Russert.

NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell joins us right now. 

Andrea, we were trying to get at a couple of these really important things there.  The Iranian front is so important because it deals with nuclear weapons.  Nuclear weapons was the case many people like the vice president made to get us into Iraq, for example.  Is this administration telling the people of Iran, the younger people, the more secular people, get rid of that stupid government of yours, those mullahs, and we can do business? 

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Tim is right and you are right.

But the interesting thing is that the younger people of Iran have actually become more conservative, not less.  There‘s been an interesting shift.  There was a reform movement a couple of years ago, but it really collapsed under the weight of the repression from the totalitarian regime.

And what you are seeing now, as Condoleezza Rice, by the way, leaves in the morning, and I will be traveling with her, for 10 countries.  What she is going to face in Europe is a lot of criticism over our policy on Iran.  They basically think we have been nonplayers, that we have sat it out, while the Europeans have tried to give Iran incentives, some would say bribes, because they are interested in contracts with Iran, but the Europeans want a deal. 

They think the only way to get Iran off this nuclear program is to give it subsidies and help and to engage in trade.  And the U.S. takes a much harder line.  Condi Rice says that, until Iran deals with its terror agenda and its human rights problems, the United States is not going to become involved.  So that is one of the big divisions she is going to face as she tries to patch things up with Europe. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think the reaction from the speech will be in Europe tomorrow morning, and right now, in fact, as they open up their day tomorrow? 

MITCHELL:  Well, two things.  I think that they will hear, those who have an open mind, will hear that he did walk back a bit from the State of the Union address, and that he made the points they have been making in subsequent days, that this is a generational shift toward democracy, that we are not trying to impose our way of government on anyone else. 

So, in that respect, he was much more conciliatory to Europe.  They are very—they‘re going to be very happy about this new commitment—and it is a new commitment—to the Palestinians.  They have now moved way beyond what George Bush was saying right before and after the Palestinian election.  They now have—they now believe that the new leaders in Palestine, in the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, is the real deal, and they are going to reward him with $350 million, the president announced. 

That‘s a combination of accelerated money and added money, so the figure is a little bit on the high end.  But it is some new money, and they are putting that up front.  They think that he really is going to be able to control the security agenda, that he has made this commitment, and that he needs the money for reconstruction.  So, this could be a huge opening.  This could end up being the most important democratic legacy in that part of the world, if George Bush is lucky and if he really is committed.

And the Europeans, of course, have criticized him in the past four years for not really sticking with it, for not being tough enough with Ariel Sharon.  This is a big area, and Condi Rice is going to be pursuing that as well. 

MATTHEWS:  I was so impressed.  He said Palestine.  It sounded like he was talking about full sovereignty, full rights.  They would be members of the United Nations, to have a foreign policy, to have some kind of a military, to have exactly what they have always wanted all their—they say they‘ve always wanted, their own country. 

MITCHELL:  He was the first American president to make that point at the United Nations almost four years ago.

But then, of course, after that first trip by Colin Powell, the White House backed down and sided with Sharon, and they felt that Arafat was not someone they could deal with.  And they may be proved right. 

MATTHEWS:  Sharp stuff.  Thank you very much.  What a team NBC is. 

Thank you very much, Andrea Mitchell, for joining us.

MITCHELL:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  We will be right back in a moment with more analysis from our panel.  They want to hear what you thought about tonight‘s State of the Union. 

Get on that blog or whatever it is you got there in your home, your computer, and make your vote count.  Take part in our live vote on our Web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the State of the Union on

MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world. 

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  To the Iranian people, I say tonight:  As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you. 

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to MSNBC‘s live coverage of the State of the Union. 

We are back with the panel.  We‘ve got David Frum joining us from “The National Review.”  And we‘ve got everybody else here you‘ve got to know, of course, Norah O‘Donnell to my left, White House correspondent for NBC News, and Jon Meacham, managing editor of “Newsweek” magazine, and Joe Scarborough, who, as I said before, has his own sovereign country, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  We want to go to David Frum right now, because he is an expert on the foreign policy piece of the Bush message. 

It‘s interesting, David.  Well, you break it apart.  This tonight is a national event almost up there with the Super Bowl.  I mean, it‘s a big deal, a lot of personality, a lot of national emotion, people showing their personal emotions, like Mrs. Norwood, who lost her son, and certainly Mr.  Norwood as well, lost their Marine sergeant son in the war, and that Iraqi woman embracing Mrs. Norwood for the gift of life.  Talk about the ultimate gift.  Great moments.  The president of the United States taken with that moment. 

You have written these speeches before.  Tell us what they‘ve become.  This is a bigger deal than I remember a State of the Union being 20 or so years ago. 

DAVID FRUM, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR PRESIDENT BUSH:  Well, the stakes are so incredibly high. 

This is a country that is at war and it‘s just—there‘s been a major victory in that war.  I think the mood of the country had been, at least in many quarters, becoming increasingly pessimistic about Iraq and increasingly feeling like the United States had sort of hit its limits and that—and this whole war on terror was going to bog down and not go anywhere. 

And, suddenly, there‘s this tremendous event in Iraq, tremendous demoralization on the part of the terror insurgency, also an awareness of Americans that the president‘s case was right.  Jon Stewart, one of the president‘s most fierce critics, was giving—I saw him on television the other night giving an interview. 

And he asked his guest, do we have to face up to the terrible possibility that the president might have been right about this all along?  And I think a lot of people, as they see how democracy cancels the power of the terror insurgency, think the president has a point.  And when they look at Iran—and, Chris, I am going to disagree with you when you said a minute ago that Iran is sovereign country and entitled to get weapons. 

Iran is a signatory to the Nonproliferation Treaty.  It‘s given its plighted word that it would not acquire the—develop weapons.  That‘s why it was allowed to import nuclear technology that otherwise it would have been a crime to sell in Iran. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, what is the deal?  Which countries are allowed to join the nuclear club?  Pakistan is a member.  Israel is an unofficial member.  South Africa was an unofficial member.  What are the rules? 

FRUM:  Here are the rules. 

There‘s a treaty called the Nonproliferation Treaty.  If you sign that treaty, you are allowed to import nuclear technology, as Iran—Israel has never signed that treaty.  It developed its nuclear weapons on its own outside of the treaty, with a little wink from the United States.  But Iran did sign the treaty, and imported nuclear technology from Russia with everyone‘s knowledge, some of it from some European countries. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FRUM:  And then also from this terrible Pakistani network.  And Iran is now—I mean, it‘s violating its obligations under the treaty, and there are mechanisms under international law, the Security Council.  It‘s supposed to be in force. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FRUM:  And that‘s why Andrea Mitchell is so right when she says the Europeans say use diplomacy.  The problem is, the only diplomacy they know how to offer is offering cream puffs if Iraq complies, but Iraq—sorry, Iraq—Iran has lied and lied again.  And there has to be sticks as well as carrots. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I just can‘t forget the United States built our industrial base through industrial espionage in Britain back in the early 19th century.  I mean, that‘s what we did in the late 18th century.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... countries do break rules.

FRUM:  The cotton gin was not going to kill millions and millions of people. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  I accept the difference.  I accept the difference. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I sometimes wonder about these international laws and how they are honored in the breach and with winks, etcetera, etcetera. 

But let me ask you about the president‘s speech tonight as a speechwriter.  Is it interesting—well, is it interesting that he spent two-thirds of the speech on something you didn‘t carried the emotional impact of the last third? 

FRUM:  Well, the first two-thirds, the Social Security element was tremendously power—I mean, someone said earlier that this was a speech without a lot of extra parts.  I think that‘s really right. 

It‘s true there were some.  But you could really summarize the speech in two or three lines.  It was a tremendously focused and disciplined speech, unlike, by the way, the 2004 State of the Union.  That was sort of a normal State of the Union.  It was a kind of baggy monster with things in it like the steroid stuff that you wonder, why is this here?  It‘s not connected to anything the president intends to do.  In this case, there are a few nods, some values points, but basically, I want do A.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You make us laugh.  You make us laugh, David.  What is a baggy monster? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Is it like this big ugly thing with a hay sack around it or something? 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

FRUM:  It‘s a speech without form.  It was a speech without form.

In 2004, it was kind of formless.  But President Bush has mostly specialized in very focused States of the Union, 2001, 2002, 2003. 

MATTHEWS:  Who did this baby, Mike Gerson?  Who wrote this baby?  Do you know? 

FRUM:  Well, there‘s a new chief speechwriter named Bill McGurn, a former “Wall Street Journal” alumnus, a former “New York Post” editorial writer.  And he‘s a terrific, terrific writer.  And I think he had a big role in this.  Mike Gerson, of course, close adviser to the president, and now has kind of an emeritus role as a counselor. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FRUM:  Karen Hughes I‘m sure was involved.  And so was Dan Bartlett, the president‘s excellent communications adviser. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think it was one of the good ones.  I think it was a powerful speech.  Just—it just—I could tell the whole night it was growing. 

And we will come back with our panel to talk more about it. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the State of the Union. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  The only force powerful enough to stop the rise of tyranny and terror and replace hatred with hope is the force of human freedom. 

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Big night.  Welcome back to MSNBC‘s live coverage of the State of the Union.  We are back with the panel.

And I have got Norah O‘Donnell sitting next to me in winter white. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I learned that—we learned that valuable bit of information on inaugural day, because the first lady had the very same color selection.   

MEACHAM:  Let the word go forth from this time and place.

MATTHEWS:  And we‘ve got Jon Meacham, managing editor of—who has written about my heroes, Churchill and Roosevelt. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  In fact, you make me like Roosevelt more, because he hung out with Churchill.

And you‘ve got—and Joe here, Joe Scarborough from “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY,” who is going to be coming on all night tonight. 

You and Ron are going to go at it tonight, aren‘t you?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve got two hours to fight this out.

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m a uniter—like Norah, I‘m a uniter, not a divider.  It‘s a Southern thing.  You get me on the set with somebody and I can‘t help but be nice, just like Jon Meacham here. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  The righteous indignation of the red states, it‘s about to be seen tonight as midnight. 

I have to say that do think these things are getting—I am excited about the Super Bowl coming up on Sunday with Philadelphia playing the patriots, of course.  And that is a great ritual.  By the way, we‘ve got Paul McCartney this year, just to remind you guys.  He‘s now the symbol of American wholesomeness, after years of drugs and we‘re bigger than Jesus and all that.  Now he‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

MEACHAM:  ... the Anglo-American alliance. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He‘s now the guy who is better than Janet Jackson, despite the fact that Janet‘s brother owns the Beatles albums, all of them, which is one of the great ironies.

MEACHAM:  It‘s problematic.

MATTHEWS:  But I think tonight has become something of an American ritual.  And we know how hard it is, especially Joe and I, to get an audience and to realize that tonight‘s audience, based upon the last three or four years, is probably going to be about 60 million people tonight.

SCARBOROUGH:  But, see...

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s an amazing decision to watch the president of the United States.  We don‘t watch long speeches, but to sit for an hour and watch the president, powerful stuff. 

O‘DONNELL:  The president did start in saying the State of our union is strong and confident.  But he really did not talk about state of our union. 

This was a political speech, a policy speech about what he wants to do for the next four years, just like a campaign-style speech in order to rally people around his goals.  He had to explain there‘s a problem with Social Security, what he is going to do about it, and explain why we went to Iraq and what is the way forward. 

He did not discuss a timetable for leaving Iraq, but he said we will continue and stay with them and train Iraqi security forces.  But you are right.  A president gets very few times when they get 60 million viewers all at once.  And that‘s why he used the full hour to talk about how he plans to be bold in the next four years. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s going on the road, but he was on the road tonight. 

Tonight was when he really hit the road. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.  Right. 

MEACHAM:  It was really the speech of a great nation.  He was taking on global responsibilities. 

MATTHEWS:  You said he was imperial earlier tonight, an emperor. 

MEACHAM:  I think it was a speech of an American emperor. 

MATTHEWS:  What does that mean?

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Is that a good thing? 

MEACHAM:  Well, if you are talking about the...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re pushing democracy, but we‘re doing it as an imperial power?

MEACHAM:  If you talking about the Jeffersonian empire of liberty, yes it is. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I want to thank Joe Scarborough. 

I have to thank you, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I thank you, too.

MATTHEWS:  The throne will be yours.  This throne will be yours in not too long from now, in fact, a half-hour from now.  I want to thank you. 

Anyway, Joe will be back at the top of the hour with Ron Reagan with “AFTER HOURS.”  I love that subversive sound. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  And the rest of the panel is coming back.

You are watching MSNBC‘s live coverage of the State of the Union. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  In any nation, casting your vote is an act of civic responsibility.  For millions of Iraqis, it was also an act of personal courage, and they have earned the respect of us all. 

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Clarity of purpose there. 

Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the State of the Union tonight.  Coming up in 30 minutes, a special edition of “AFTER HOURS” with Joe Scarborough and Ron Reagan.  And they were going at it a bit ago about probably the most emotional moment of the night.

That was when Mrs. Janet Norwood, the mother of a Marine sergeant killed in Iraq, was embraced by a voter from Iraq, another woman of about her age.  It was an amazing moment. 

Right now, HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster joins us from Statuary Hall, the old hall of the House of Representatives—David.

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Chris, we have been trying to get a sense from members of Congress away from the cameras how they really felt about the speech in an effort to try to get them to be a little more frank. 

And what we got, Chris, is a lot of Democrats, in fact, just about every Democrat that I spoke with away from the cameras confessed that this was a very good speech the president gave, that it hit the rights notes, that it was emotional.  The moment of the sharing of the dog tags with the Norwoods and the Iraqi woman was just unbelievable. 

However, the Democrats also said that, as good a speech as it was, they don‘t believe the president has any chance of passing Social Security.  And they pointed out, Chris, to the scene in the chamber, during the president‘s speech, when he was talking about Social Security, most Republicans, of course, were standing up and cheering.  All the Democrats were on their hands.  But there was, Chris, a noticeable minority of Republicans, maybe an eighth, maybe a sixth of the Republicans, who were also on their hands during Social Security.

And when you talk to Republicans, as we did, off camera, away from their talking points, all of them suggest that Social Security is going to be a really, really tough sell, and that the president is starting in a very, very difficult position—Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think those members of Congress you were talking to were thinking about the politics at home, not the big picture on national television, but what it‘s like to sell to a congressional district, who could just as easily say I would rather vote for someone who won‘t cut my Social Security? 

SHUSTER:  And that‘s the difficult thing, Chris, is a lot of the members talked about and said, look, you are entering a time period where, sure, it‘s fine for the president.  He‘s got four years and he doesn‘t have to worry about reelection.  We have to worry about running for reelection in now just a year and a half in the campaigns.

But the other problem, Chris, is that a lot of the details now are—perhaps may start coming out.  And it still gets—the members of Congress told us that you still get to a fundamental point, that even if, ideologically, you believe, as many Republicans do, that Social Security should be privatized, that people should have more control over the future of their Social Security, they also acknowledge that voters get that you have to do something about the fundamental problem of either cutting benefits, raising the retirement age, pumping more money into the system that way, that maybe privatization is a great idea on principle, but it doesn‘t get to the heart of the problem. 

And that‘s where Democrats of course are gleeful that you have got to fix some of those other problems.  But, also, Republicans acknowledge that their voters are pretty smart.  And they say, once we have to start talking about cutting benefits or about raising the retirement age, we make ourselves look incredibly vulnerable for the next round of electioning. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, David Shuster, who is at Statuary Hall, the hall of the old U.S. House of Representatives. 

By the way, that‘s where the British had their little funny vote when they took over the Capitol and burned it back in War of 1812. 

We‘re here with the panel, NBC‘s Norah O‘Donnell, “Newsweek”‘s Jon Meacham.  Former Bush speechwriter David Frum, he‘s also with us.  And we are joined right now by MSNBC‘s Pat Buchanan. 

Pat, what did you make of that emotional moment when those two women embraced? 

PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I heard you talking, Chris.  And I was a communications director.  That was not a rehearsed moment. 

I think Janet—that was one of the most moving things I have seen at a State of the Union address.  That woman is middle America.  Her husband, I thought, was tremendously moving when he reached across and shook hands.  There was nothing—there was nothing rehearsed about that. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s watch it. 

BUCHANAN:  All right. 

MATTHEWS:  I guess the only question is whether the Iraqi woman—no, there he is.  We missed that.  Of course they took...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  I think we are too cynical in this.

MATTHEWS:  She embraced the Iraqi woman. 

BUCHANAN:  I think we are too cynical. 

MATTHEWS:  You mean these things aren‘t staged? 

BUCHANAN:  I mean, obviously, she was up there.  Somebody got that letter and said, Mr. President, there‘s a wonderful example of the heroism and sacrifice in Iraq and how an American family treated it.  Let‘s show the country this vignette.

And they put her there, but you looked at him shaking hands with the Marine.  That was very natural and normal.  That was not rehearsed. 

MATTHEWS:  The reason it would come to some people‘s thought that it might be partially rehearsed, in a sense, that there‘s a selection process now for filling that balcony seating.  So many of the people are seated up there because they represent a particular ethnic group or somebody who is in play politically or some symbolic group that they are trying to grab politically. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  This is done so often, Pat.  You are acting so naive about this. 

BUCHANAN:  The first one—no, the first one was Lenny Skutnik, who pulled a woman out of.... 

MATTHEWS:  He deserved it.  They should have retired the letter with him. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, look, you had the Iraqi woman who voted.  That clearly was sending a message. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  No doubt about it. 

The Afghan I guess woman.  Then you had Mrs. Norwood.  I thought it was wonderful. 

MATTHEWS:  I did, too. 

BUCHANAN:  It‘s about the American Marine who died for a cause he believed in and his country.  And his mother and father are deeply proud of him.  And to bring them there and to say that, and then to have their natural interaction, I thought it was an authentic moment, and I think the whole country will feel that. 

O‘DONNELL:  I think, in many ways, too, Americans know the cost of this war.  They know it in the lives.  They know it in the amputees.  They know it in the cost of this war.  They know what it means. 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think they know it enough.  I don‘t think there‘s enough information on this.

O‘DONNELL:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  We went out to Walter Reed.  I am telling you, the place ain‘t packed with visitors, OK?

And the idea of, so often, you see Johnny march off to war, you don‘t see him march back.  I think there isn‘t enough attention given to the 10,000 wounded in Iraq right now.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You could fill a baseball stadium with the wounded and the amputees.  And I don‘t see those kinds of vivid displays in this country. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And, by the way, even when we go out there, we can‘t get the really bad cases on television, because not even we, as tough reporters as want to be, are ready to show some of the really bad cases.  They‘re not all cases where you lose one leg and it‘s neat and clean and you get a prosthesis.

There are guys that are disfigured.  There‘s guys who are blinded.  There‘s guys with brain damage.  And there‘s guys with all of that.  And so it‘s for real. 

And, Pat, I salute any effort to bring this war home to the American people.  I think it‘s great. 

O‘DONNELL:  That was my point.

BUCHANAN:  Right.  Well, I would just say, I was choked up watching it, I will tell you. 

MEACHAM:  I was, too.  I think after...

BUCHANAN:  I found it very moving, you know?

MEACHAM:  I think after two years of criticism of the president for not engaging enough with the grief, with the coffins, with the funerals, with the pictures, I think that now to somehow spin around, as Churchill once said, with the alacrity of squirrels and criticize him for bringing a mother who gave his son...

MATTHEWS:  A moment there, a moment of skepticism.  When that young man, Byron Norwood, came home, he was most likely one of the coffins we weren‘t allowed to see at Dover.  So there is always that artifice in war, the covering up of the really unpleasant, of the horrible. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It goes on, Pat, all the time.  It‘s management of the news. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, it‘s not—look, when you go to war, a government sends young men to war. 

I believe the government has got an obligation not to destroy home-front morale by showing 5,000 guys shot to pieces on a beach at Normandy. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  If you want to win the war. 

MATTHEWS:  So...

BUCHANAN:  And the president is making a conscious decision.  And so are the military, who love and respect these guys as much or more than anyone.  That‘s their—they are all part of—the Marine Corps goes along with that idea. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, when we were out at Pendleton, I thought it was very important for people to see that we are training young men, mainly men, to go into combat and to recognize the unit they are in and to stop recognizing themselves, to stop thinking of themselves as an ego, an individual, a person with feelings.

And I was told when we first went out there, don‘t ask them questions about how they feel.  They are not navel-gazers.  They don‘t think about themselves. 

BUCHANAN:  All right. 

MATTHEWS:  Ask them about their unit.  Ask them about their training.  Ask them about their job.  Ask them about the environment they are going to face over there.  That‘s what they want to talk about. 

When you teach people to behave in that fashion as a unit, you have a particular responsibility—I said this on Imus the other day—to make sure they don‘t get—their lives aren‘t thrown away.  And I think we have to be careful to make sure that the people always know the cost of war. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We saw it tonight.  I salute the president for putting together that, so that we did see the terrible sense of loss on the face of just one couple.  They will never have that kid back, Byron, again. 

They will have this moment.  They will have the president‘s emotional connection with them, like I couldn‘t believe.

BUCHANAN:  All right. 

MATTHEWS:  But they are not going to get their kid back.  That‘s the cost of war. 

MEACHAM:  But that was the most important thing about doing that, because, for all your—for all the neoconservative theories, for all the theories about war and about diplomacy and the projection of force and the projection of ideas, all of that is critically important, at the end of the day, war is about...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  For these kids. 

MEACHAM:  Just a moment. 

War is about one young man killing another young man.  At the end of the day, that is what war is about.  It‘s a serious thing we do.  And the idea that we send our sons and daughters to do this, we have to do it with gravity and with purpose and recognize... 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Some journalism, though, is profoundly intrusive.  And when you see some woman crying on a lawn who has heard about her son killed and some jackass of a reporter sticking a microphone in her face, saying, what do you think and how does it feel, this wasn‘t it. 

These were people who were proud of what happened.  And they wrote a letter to the president.  And he invited them there.  They could have said no.  And this is obviously a deeply emotional woman.  They said yes.  And he said, I am going to recognize them.  And I thought it was one of the best moments I have seen of the president. 

He looked presidential.  And, frankly, Chris, when you heard those—the Democrats hooting and jeering in a State of the Union, you understand why liberalism is losing the country. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well...

O‘DONNELL:  Woodrow Wilson said you win the war on the battlefield by winning the war for the American mind. 

The president did that tonight in many ways.  That moment between that Iraqi voter and that mother helped the American people understand the cost. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We will be right back with HARDBALL‘s coverage of the State of the Union.  We‘re going to continue in a moment here on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Because marriage is a sacred institution and the foundation of society, it should not be redefined by activist judges.  For the good of families, children and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage. 

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to our coverage of the State of the Union.  We are here with the panel. 

Let‘s go to David Frum, who is also available to us tonight.

David, thanks for joining us again.

What did you think about the president‘s social piece tonight?  You were saying how the speech was well constructed, but there was a sort of separate aside, I guess, to conservatives, about the issue of gay marriage. 

FRUM:  Well, look, the president believes in the social—these social pieces, as you call them, very strongly, and especially the part about embryonic stem cell research, which he—where he took a tremendous risk, against 70 percent, 80 percent of public opinion. 

On the marriage front, this is a tremendously important issue for a lot of people, and tremendously important to me.  And it mattered a lot to me to hear it.  And it was an affirmation the president is with those who defend marriage against transformation by the judiciary.

And I think there‘s been a real sea change, title change here, because it was just a few months ago that people on the traditional side saw defeat after defeat.  You know, judiciaries in Hawaii, and they were overturned, and then Vermont, and then Massachusetts.  And suddenly, suddenly, everything is different. 

Suddenly, the people that want to defend marriage are on the offense, and the people who started the conversation, the people who wanted to change it, are now saying, well, this is completely unnecessary.  Let‘s just let our friends the judges quietly do with it what they will. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

I have heard that the best case—or at least, if you look at it as

pieces, one of the best arguments for some kind of constitutional amendment

to prevent gay marriage, if you are against gay marriage, or same-sex

marriage, is that the courts will inevitably, Pat—I want Pat in on this

·         like Virginia, for example. 

Take Virginia.  You have a custody case involving a gay marriage, a same-sex marriage in Massachusetts involving some situation in Virginia.  Somebody moves.  The other party doesn‘t move.  Inevitably, the state of Maryland—Commonwealth of Virginia, rather—the Commonwealth of Virginia will have to rule on validity of a marriage in Massachusetts.  That‘s the tricky part. 

BUCHANAN:  Here‘s what happens.  Here‘s what happens. 

The homosexual marriage, say, in Massachusetts, a couple from Florida, and they go back to Florida, and Florida says, we don‘t recognize the marriage here.  Under the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution, you have to recognize it.  That‘s so. 

What happens is, it goes all the way up through the appellate courts to the Supreme Court.  And does Florida‘s law and the DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, do they trump the Constitution of the United States?  The answer is no.  The question is...

MATTHEWS:  So you believe it doesn‘t work. 

BUCHANAN:  The question is, does the Supreme Court rule that the full faith and credit clause mean that Florida must recognize Massachusetts‘ gay marriage?  That‘s when it hits the fan, Chris, when it gets up there. 

If the courts, say, in a 6-3 decision says Florida has to recognize this.  But I will tell you, there‘s a bill in the House which has already passed to strip the jurisdiction over DOMA from the Supreme Court, Article 3, Section 2. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But you guys have been trying to do that for years.  And it‘s never happened.

BUCHANAN:  No, no, it passed. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  It was done in the ‘30s.

MATTHEWS:  It has never been reviewed by the courts. 

BUCHANAN:  You guys did it in the ‘30s with labor law, Chris.  Your crowd did it. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Not my crowd.

Let me just ask you, Pat, do you really believe the Supreme Court would accept a restriction of its review rights over law? 

BUCHANAN:  I believe on something where it hasn‘t ruled yet, yes.  But if it were on abortion, no. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree with that, Jon Meacham? 

MEACHAM:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  The Supreme Court would accept the restriction on its authority?

BUCHANAN:  It would dump the issue.

MEACHAM:  I think the O‘Connor court would find a middle way.

MATTHEWS:  A middle way.  Oh, well, you‘ve chicken out.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  We will we get some final thoughts from the panel.  This is still a question of whether the Supreme Court would enforce the full faith and credit clause.

And don‘t forget, take part in our live vote tonight and let us know what you think about the president‘s speech tonight, his State of the Union.  A lot of us thought it was pretty good, but you decide.  Just go to our Web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the panel.

Norah O‘Donnell, the importance of the speech tonight that is newsworthy. 

O‘DONNELL:  On the domestic level, the president challenging Congress to strengthen and save Social Security, laying out more details on his plan, saying no one over 55 will face benefit cuts, saying, for everybody else, they can have a personal retirement account if they want them.  They will be voluntary.  They will be phased in over time, kind of soft, kind of watered down, something probably he could get passed. 

The big challenge, however, is the Democrat senators who say they are going to hold ranks.  They won‘t vote for it.  The president will take his case to the American people tomorrow campaigning in five red states. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Jon Meacham, the historic importance tonight. 

MEACHAM:  I think, if the speech is remembered, it will be remembered less for the domestic side and more for the president‘s recommitment of our strength, our sons, our daughters, to nothing less than the elimination of tyranny in the world, to quote him. 

He said that the road—the road of providence is uneven and unpredictable, but we know where it leads.  It leads to freedom.  That is a secular sermon point about the idea that we are on a journey toward making the word as great a place as it can be, as safe a place as it can be, as a reflection of what the world would be beyond. 

MATTHEWS:  The politics tonight, Pat? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, let me just say...

MATTHEWS:  The ideology, I should ask you about.

BUCHANAN:  Well, let me say, with regard to the inaugural, this was a little more Reagan and a little less Robespierre.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  I think he walked the cat back a little bit from that inaugural address. 

But I agree with Norah.  I think the president of the United States tonight, for the first time, I think he could win this Social Security battle.  I think he came off as someone who was responsible, who is trying to cut back—or trying to repair a program which is a great program we all know is in trouble. 

The Democrats hooting and yelling at him came off as nothing but partisans.  And I think he is going to go down this road.  He could win this battle even if he loses it. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  For the first time—and I know we got wiped out in ‘86 because of what the Democrats did to Reagan in the Senate on Social Security. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, they took nine seats away from him, because the people are responding to what they fear will be a change in the system against their interests. 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go right now to David Frum. 

Your thoughts about the philosophical points of tonight‘s speech. 

FRUM:  This is the double-or-nothing presidency. 

President Bush, having been down often low in the polls through the campaign year, reelected with a tremendously strong position, enhanced majorities in both houses of Congress, campaigning on a strong platform against a united opposition party, wins a second term, wins a majority of the vote, first time since 1988. 

And is he going to retire on that?  A lot of presidents would have been tempted to do so.  No, he has come back in with this second term that he is going for the most dramatic changes on the domestic, and on the foreign side...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

FRUM:  ... serving notice to—he wanted to get out of his commitments?  No, he‘s redoubling his commitments in the Middle East and around the world. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you, David Frum.

FRUM:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s an honor to preside over this panel.  It is.  Everybody thinks I am always kidding.  It‘s hell of an evening.  It‘s hell of an important evening for our country, a lot of an American emotion tonight.

Norah O‘Donnell, Jon Meacham, David Frum, and Patrick Buchanan.

I will be right back tomorrow at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Our guests will include General Wesley Clark and talk show host Bill Maher. 

Right now, it‘s time for “AFTER HOURS” with Joe Scarborough and Ron Reagan.  They will go at it again. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  If you‘ve got children in their 20s, as some of us do, the idea of Social Security collapsing before they retire does not seem like a small matter.  And it should not be a small matter to the United States Congress. 

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH:  In any nation, casting your vote is an act of civic responsibility.  For millions of Iraqis, it was also an act of personal courage, and they have earned the respect of us all. 

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH:  The road of providence is uneven and unpredictable, yet we know where it leads.  It leads to freedom. 

Thank you.  And may God bless America.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

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