updated 5/12/2005 8:17:15 AM ET 2005-05-12T12:17:15

Guest: Fred Ryan

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  He‘s NBC‘s Washington bureau chief, Tim Russert, the moderator of “Meet the Press” and the author of the best-seller “Big Russ and Me.”

Plus, Washington comes out to honor former first lady Nancy Reagan. 

We‘ll have live reports from the celebration of this much-admired woman. 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  You‘re looking at live pictures outside the Ronald Reagan Building here in Washington, where the powerful and the glamorous come together for a special tribute to former first lady Nancy Reagan.  We‘ll get to that in a moment, along with Tim Russert. 

But, first, a major scare today in Washington, as the White House, the U.S. Capitol, and other government buildings are evacuated after a Cessna flew into restricted airspace. 

For more on both stories, we‘re joined by HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster who is outside the Nancy Reagan tribute and moments ago spoke to the former first lady—David.

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Chris, it was an incredible moment for Nancy Reagan when they had that scare.  She was in the White House visiting with first lady Laura Bush.  Just a few minutes ago, she talked about that experience of having Secret Service agents rushing in, grabbing her, saying to her and the first lady, you‘ve got to go; you‘ve got to go.

Mrs. Reagan then told us that she was then taken to a part of the White House that she had never been to before, obviously, a new bunker that has been built since the Reagans left office in ‘89.  But, in any case, she was whisked to this secure location somewhere underneath the White House.  She and Mrs. Bush were kept there until the all-clear was given and people realized that it was just a Cessna plane that was veering into airspace and that the all-clear was—has been issued. 

So, quite a day for Mrs. Reagan, also for a lot of other guests who have been here, Merv Griffin, Frank Carlucci, Governor Pete Wilson, Mike Wallace.  A lot of them were in Washington today, Chris, when this was happening.  Some of them were downtown, saw people leaving the White House.  Some of them were near the Capitol, saw people running out of the Capitol. 

So, quite a memorable day for a lot of people that came to Washington tonight for this tribute for Nancy Reagan.  As far as the tribute itself, Chris, this is a star-studded sort of gala, as Washington goes.  It is called A Nation Honors Nancy Reagan.  The last time Mrs. Reagan was in the nation‘s capital was for her husband‘s funeral, almost a year ago.  Mrs.  Reagan talked to us a little about that experience and about the experience of coming back here tonight. 


NANCY REAGAN, FORMER FIRST LADY:  Oh, yes, friends and—friends and people I don‘t know.  I‘ve said it before.  The people have been so nice, really so nice.  And it‘s very comforting. 


SHUSTER:  Mrs. Reagan again maintains that the reason that everyone is here tonight, Chris, is because of her husband. 

The people we‘ve spoken with, Merv Griffin, Mike Wallace, Pat Sajak, Pete Wilson, Tony Bennett, who is singing tonight, they all say they are here tonight not for Mr. Reagan, for President Reagan, but for Nancy, for the power and the resolve that she showed, both as first lady, but also while she was taking care of the late president as he was dealing with Alzheimer‘s—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, David Shuster. 

Tim Russert is NBC‘s Washington bureau chief, moderator of “Meet the Press” and the author of the best-selling book “Big Russ and Me,” a remarkable tribute to his father.  It‘s now out in paperback.

Tim, what‘s been the reaction to this book?  Five hundred thousand copies out there. 


Big Russ is unique to me.  And I thought that some people who grew up Irish Catholic, the way we did, would respond.  But the lessons were universal, the whole idea of discipline, accountability, perseverance.  And I had a sense the second day, when I was out in Chicago last year, and people in line said, make it out to big Tom, big Mike, big Irv, big Jose, big Mario.  I said, this is really connecting. 

MATTHEWS:  Big Mario? 


RUSSERT:  This is resonating. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well...

RUSSERT:  And I think people understood that there is this guy in their life who did everything for them, guys who came home from the war, worked two jobs and said, I am now on another mission.  I‘m going to educate my kids.  And I‘m going to do everything I can to possibly do that. 

And they were not very vocal, not very verbal.  It was all by example. 

MATTHEWS:  Why this harmony of similarity of all these guys, your dad, my dad?  When you were talking on “Imus” this morning, I heard you talk about nose to the grindstone.  My dad had a little thing over his desk that said, keep your nose to the grindstone, until all you can think about is your nose. 


MATTHEWS:  I mean, that is exactly his phrase. 

RUSSERT:  Nose to the grindstone and hope for the best. 


RUSSERT:  Hard work and optimism, they should be in conflict, but not with your dad or my dad. 


RUSSERT:  It was, they had two jobs.  Some guys couldn‘t find one. 

That‘s the way they were. 

You know, and I thought back a lot.  Every time I was at a ball game or at a high school event and my dad wasn‘t there, I would say, gee, I wish my dad was here.  But I never, never, never questioned where he was. 

MATTHEWS:  There he is. 

RUSSERT:  Yes.  That‘s Big Russ. 

MATTHEWS:  What is thing that...


RUSSERT:  He was working.

MATTHEWS:  Be an anthropologist here.  Be a sociologist.  I know you don‘t want to be that way on this, because it is so close to you.  Why did these guys like your dad and my dad never complain? 

RUSSERT:  Never whine.  Their glass was two-thirds full, fully appreciative of everything.  What a country.

MATTHEWS:  Is that because they got through the Great Depression? 

RUSSERT:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Everything was better after that.

RUSSERT:  They were all children of the Depression. 


RUSSERT:  And they came home and they saw their mom and dad really straining to keep food on the table. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

RUSSERT:  They became appreciative of everything.

MATTHEWS:  Out of work. 

RUSSERT:  Wearing...


MATTHEWS:  So, any job was better than no job. 

RUSSERT:  Wearing hand-me-down clothes. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

RUSSERT:  My dad would bring my older cousins‘ clothes home to me and say, here, these will fit.  They got plenty of good days left in them.


RUSSERT:  And I would say, dad, I want a pair of new sneakers.  That was unheard of.  And—but, Chris, they are such a special breed.  They are—they have no ego.  My dad is 81.  Dad, looking back, any regrets?  None.  None.

MATTHEWS:  You know, my dad, he is a golfer.  And if he couldn‘t find the golf he wanted to play golf with back in the ‘50s and ‘60s and ‘70s, he would find anybody. 

RUSSERT:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  So, he never complained. 

RUSSERT:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  It was like—it‘s an amazing story.  I‘m just amazed.  They are different than us, because we‘re the complainers.  We‘re the ranters.  We‘re the self—look at our generation.  Look at us.  But there is a little—I will make the case for our generation—a little bit in distinction of this.

You know, they didn‘t complain about some of the bad things either. 

RUSSERT:  No, they weren‘t perfect.  They understood the role of...

MATTHEWS:  The way things were was... 


MATTHEWS:  Accepted.

RUSSERT:  The role of women. 


RUSSERT:  The whole issues of race, absolutely. 

But, you know, inside each of them, they were very good people.  In terms of the macro approach to society, there were a lot of problems.  But my dad, I remember him going out of his way saying to his crews, you‘re working with Bill.  He may be a black guy, but you‘re working with him.  And don‘t tell me anything different. 

He stood up for them because he knew them as a worker. 


MATTHEWS:  You know what got to me in your book?  I‘m sitting reading your book.  And most of the time when I have to read a book for the show, you know, I do a couple chapters and I breeze through the rest of it.  And I‘m sitting outside with my cigar on a Saturday afternoon and I‘m reading and it.  And I‘m crying, because there‘s a scene in there about you and your dad when you‘re out in the truck, the first summer job.

RUSSERT:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And you had the job your dad had on the truck.

RUSSERT:  Right.  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And you were so proud that you had that job. 


RUSSERT:  Well, I overheard a conversation.  He said to me, don‘t embarrass me.  I‘m the garbage man.  He said, my dad, don‘t embarrass me.  And I would dump the cans.  And I would drop a milk carton.  I would pick it up, throw it back in.  And the foreman said, that‘s what I want.  That is what I want, someone who throws his heart and soul into this job who, if you dump something, you pick it up, so the neighbors don‘t call me in city hall and complain.

And I was turning the corner of the truck and I saw my dad‘s car pull up next to Whitey‘s (ph), the two foremen talking.  And I heard Whitey say something.  And I hear my dad say, thanks, Whitey.  That means a lot that you think he‘s a good boy. 


RUSSERT:  Oh, my dad had gotten a compliment from a sanitation foreman.  To him, I had just won a gold medal in the Olympics. 

MATTHEWS:  But you—and you have just pointed out something small, but important, accountability. 

RUSSERT:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Picking up what drops. 

RUSSERT:  Absolutely right.

MATTHEWS:  Because you dropped it. 

RUSSERT:  Chris, when we broke windows or broke glass, my dad would say, hold on.  Go get a shoe box.  Go get me some newspaper.  Get me some masking tape.  Every piece of broken glass was wrapped in paper, sealed with tape, put in a shoe box and resealed. 

MATTHEWS:  For the guys. 

RUSSERT:  Because the guys might cut themselves. 

MATTHEWS:  That was the line.  I‘ve got to look out for the guys.

RUSSERT:  To this day, to this day, broken glass, everything is wrapped.  You‘ve got to protect those guys‘ hands, the garbage men. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, here‘s the toughest one, a big book here, lots of ideas.  And the stories are great.  What‘s the most important thing for a father to be to a son? 

RUSSERT:  To teach your son that he is always, always loved, but never, never entitled.  That‘s the secret... 


MATTHEWS:  That‘s tough these days.

RUSSERT:  That‘s the secret. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s very tough.

RUSSERT:  Your kids, my son.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

RUSSERT:  Grow up in Washington, a life of access, opportunity, privilege, unheard of in our lifetimes.  But we‘ve got to teach them those lessons that BIG RUSS exemplified are important and applicable now as they were in 1955.  That‘s the secret of life.  I have no doubt in my mind.  And that‘s how I‘m going to be judged as a father. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but when you were sitting down when you were 18 or 19 sneaking a beer and your father finds out, your point of view is totally different than it is when you‘re a parent, because, when you‘re a parent and the kid has a beer, you say, well, one, OK, but, you know, I‘m really worried about the habit being formed, especially the Irish.

I‘m worried about getting—developing a habit, getting killed in a car. 

RUSSERT:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t it—how do you put that together, your experience as a kid and experience as a parent, and try to write about it and see both sides?  Or don‘t you want to—can‘t you see both sides anymore? 

RUSSERT:  Well, you know, I didn‘t see it when my dad was lecturing me. 


RUSSERT:  I never thought for a second that he was yelling at me for driving and drinking because he loved me. 



MATTHEWS:  No, that never occurred to me, did it?

RUSSERT:  He didn‘t want me to kill myself and other people. 


RUSSERT:  I thought he was just being mean. 


MATTHEWS:  He‘s saying no.

RUSSERT:  Now you have a kid and you go, ay, yay, yay.


RUSSERT:  You know, the older you get, the smarter your mother and father get. 


RUSSERT:  They really understand things.  And so, I‘ve had to have—tried to have these conversations. 

I think there‘s a real debate about our generation and the level of our parenting.  I think we may be overparenting, and myself included. 

MATTHEWS:  Too focused on micromanaging the games and everything. 

RUSSERT:  You know, a kid strikes out in a game, that‘s OK.  Great ups.  Way to go. 

Wait a minute.  You struck out.  As opposed to bringing him back to the cage and spending an extra half-hour. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it‘s ever possible to tell an 18-year-old kid that his father loves him and he‘s wrong to want to go out and sneak that beer?  Is it possible? 


MATTHEWS:  No, I don‘t think so either.


MATTHEWS:  Because they‘re always going to think, I want my freedom.

RUSSERT:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  I want to go out. 

RUSSERT:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  God, I remember those days. 

Anyway, we‘ll be right back with Tim Russert.  The book is called “Big Russ and Me.”  It is out in paperback now.  It‘s good.  What, 10 bucks? 


MATTHEWS:  You don‘t know? 

RUSSERT:  We can get it.  We can get it. 


MATTHEWS:  Ten bucks, I think, online.

Anyway, live coverage of the tribute to Nancy Reagan is coming up. 

And, tomorrow on HARDBALL, former Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, could Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani race off in the 2008 presidential election?  We‘ll be right back with Tim Russert, author of “Big Russ and Me,” when HARDBALL returns.



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re back with Tim Russert.  He‘s NBC‘s bureau chief in Washington here, of course, moderator of “Meet the Press.”  His big book, “Big Russ and Me,” sold a half-million copies when it was expensive.  Now it‘s your chance to buy it in paperback, a great book for the summer. 

When‘s Father‘s Day? 

RUSSERT:  June 18. 

MATTHEWS:  Perfect book.  You can get it now. 

RUSSERT:  You know, Chris, I‘ve gotten so many letters, tens of thousands of letters from sons and daughters around the country, that I‘m compiling them for another book. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, God, another half-million. 

RUSSERT:  Well, no, it‘s amazing.  The daughters write better than the sons.  I have to be up front about it.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

RUSSERT:  But there are so many different stories about their dads. 

And there‘s a Web site you‘ll see in the book, BigRussandMe.com. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

RUSSERT:  If people want to write about their dads, I would love to hear from them. 

MATTHEWS:  So they‘re going to get in the book, then?

RUSSERT:  Well, there‘s a chance to make their dad famous and themselves and affirm...

MATTHEWS:  And they should sign it, not anonymous. 

RUSSERT:  And affirm their dad‘s life, yes.  There‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Try to mix it up ethnically.  We want some diversity here, too.

RUSSERT:  It doesn‘t matter.  It‘s America. 



Let me ask you about some politics here.  Hillary Clinton.


MATTHEWS:  As a New York state, born and bred. 


MATTHEWS:  Your new senator, Hillary Clinton, is up for reelection this time.  Something is moving, because I‘m—I‘m going to share this surmise with you. 

A couple of weeks ago, certainly a couple months ago, Hillary was off there on the left.  We thought of her with maybe Barbra Streisand, Barbara Boxer, Rob Reiner, Chuck Schumer even.  Now I see her as sort of part of this drift toward the center.  She‘s on Armed Services.  She backed the war.  Her husband is hanging around with the Bushes, articles coming out saying she always was a moderate, strangely timed, a couple of them by  Anna Quindlen of “Newsweek” and Peter Beinart of “The New Republic,” all these articles coming out saying, you know, Hillary always was a moderate.  She was never a woman of the left. 

Is this for real?  Is this to be believed? 

RUSSERT:  Well, she‘s been positioning herself for some time. 

The first sign I got that she was running for president is when she decided to go on the Armed Services Committee of the United States Senate, because she needed that credential.  It‘s interesting.  Probably the—what has happened more than anything else are Republicans being quoted praising Hillary Clinton, Lindsey Graham, a senator from South Carolina. 


MATTHEWS:  Is this to get her up there so they can beat her?

RUSSERT:  I don‘t think so.  I think many of them said, you know, they found her different to work with than they thought she would be. 

And, suddenly, a lot of hard-core Republicans said, wait a minute.  She is moving too quickly, too fast.  Be careful what you wish for.  We need to have someone put the brakes on this.  And these committees have been formed in New York state.  It looks like Richard Nixon‘s son-in-law, Ed Cox, is going to run against her as the Republican candidate, at least raise some money.  And now some of these independent committees, you‘ll start hearing from them.  There‘s a very important lawsuit that has been filed against her former fund raiser. 

MATTHEWS:  Against David Rosen, yes. 

RUSSERT:  So, people now are saying, taking the Hillary threat very, very seriously from the conservative Republican perspective. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think this lawsuit, which is targeted to the guy who ran the fund-raiser for her back in 2000, claiming that the suit, charge—or, actually, it was a criminal action; $800,000 was contributed to the cost of that dinner and never, never registered, never written down. 

RUSSERT:  It is clearly going to receive a lot of coverage now because of the visibility of Hillary Clinton‘s potential candidacy for president. 

You know, it‘s fascinating.  The Republicans I talk to, Chris, two years ago said Hillary Clinton can never be elected president of the United States.  She‘s radioactive, just too controversial.  And now they think a little bit differently, that she has 40 percent of the country dead-set against her.  But what if she is able to energize women in record numbers, particularly younger women?

We always say, well, the youth vote is going to turn out, but it never does.  But what if states like Nevada and Colorado and New Mexico begin to tilt?

MATTHEWS:  Those are your three.

RUSSERT:  Can you put together a scenario with Hillary Clinton winning the Electoral College?  The answer is yes.  Now, is it a long shot?  Is it difficult?  Absolutely.  Is it impossible?  No. 

MATTHEWS:  You mention those states as being pivotal perhaps in the next election in 2008.

But there she is the other day coming out for tougher border enforcement.  That might offend some Hispanic voters, Latino voters.  It may not.  But isn‘t it interesting that she‘s chosen to get tough on that issue?

RUSSERT:  Yes.  I think she understood that it is one that you—there is some down side politically.  But, by and large, Democrats, Republicans choose issues where they think, this will enhance my credentials as a moderate centrist and where else does my base have to go? 

MATTHEWS:  So, the liberals will stick with her.  The Hispanics will stick with her. 

RUSSERT:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  And the conservatives who are worried about illegal immigration will go with her. 

RUSSERT:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  That she‘s championing the cause.

RUSSERT:  Well, and some swing middle-class voters...


RUSSERT:  ... which are the game, might say, you know what?  Maybe I‘ll take a different look at her. 

And the Republicans are going to work overtime to say, there‘s no need to take a different look.  She is what you always thought she is. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you have a hunch that this—if she were the nominee, is to be the nominee in 2008 of the Democratic Party, that this will be the most stirred-up election we‘ve seen in our lifetime emotionally? 

RUSSERT:  Boy, we‘ve had—we‘ve had two amazing ones, 2000, 2004.

MATTHEWS:  I mean stirred up in terms of juices of the public? 

RUSSERT:  Oh, I—I don‘t see—I can‘t see it otherwise. 

And it—it—she is that kind of person.  And you—if you want to raise money as a Republican, you write a letter about Hillary Clinton.  You want to raise money as a Democrat?  You write a letter signed by Hillary Clinton.  That is what it‘s all about.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think she will be able to get over the discrepancy between how charming she can be in person—and you‘ve seen it—I‘ve seen it—how easygoing, and, yet, when she gets behind a mike, there is that—the voice raises.  She gets strident.  Do you see—I‘ll see that.  I will just say that I think that‘s a problem for her still. 

RUSSERT:  I think she has a much different demeanor at an interview table like this.


RUSSERT:  As to a podium in a big hall.  I absolutely do.

MATTHEWS:  She has got to learn the big hall. 

RUSSERT:  Yes.  And it‘s one thing that Bob Dole never learned.  Dole can come on a show like this and be self-effacing and smart and interesting. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

RUSSERT:  And he goes in front of a big room. 

MATTHEWS:  Ted Kennedy was great in the big hall, but when he came on television, it was too much for a lot of people. 

RUSSERT:  Why do you want to be president?  The difficult question posed by Roger Mudd. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that was the Roger Mudd question, a real curve ball. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be right back with Tim Russert, author of “Big Russ and Me.”  It‘s out in paperback.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with NBC News Washington bureau chief and moderator of “Meet the Press,” Tim Russert, whose best-selling book, “Big Russ and Me,” is out in paperback. 

Tim, just following up on this, we have a pretty popular president.  I looked at the polls the other day.  The president bounced up there again about 50 percent.  People oftentimes like him more than some of his program ideas, even with the war.  Does he have a successor? 

RUSSERT:  No.  And it is really interesting. 

This will probably be the first election in 56 years where an incumbent president or a vice president is not on the ticket of either party.  I can sit here and name eight Democrats and eight Republicans who tonight are seriously running for president.  The logical successor for George W. Bush would be Dick Cheney.  He says he will not run. 

MATTHEWS:  Hell no. 

RUSSERT:  Jeb Bush, he says he will not run.  So, who is there?  There‘s Bill Frist.  There‘s John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, George Allen.  And the list goes on and on and on and on.  Democratic side?  Hillary Clinton, of course.  But, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, John Kerry, Evan Bayh, Joe Biden, they‘re all saying, you know what?  It‘s a long sprint over the next three years.  And, if Hillary falters, we‘re here. 

MATTHEWS:  Does a Rudy-Hillary contest cover enough territory ideologically? 

RUSSERT:  Yes, because Rudy would make it that way. 

We all dreamt of that in the Senate race.  And then he got prostate cancer and pulled back. 


RUSSERT:  But I don‘t think Rudy will change his position on gun control or abortion or on gay rights.  But it will be a matter of emphasis, particularly on cultural issue, economic issues and foreign policy and national security issues.  He will be America‘s mayor from September 11 on and not New York‘s mayor dealing with the social issues. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘ll be Winston Churchill running against someone he‘ll try into Clement Atlee. 


MATTHEWS:  That‘s what he‘ll—but that‘s the one I‘m rooting for, because, you know, it is a subway series.  It‘s New York.  It‘s the best speaker in the Republican Party, don‘t you think, Rudy, up there? 

RUSSERT:  Yes.  He‘s got a real presence.  He does.  He does, no doubt about it.

MATTHEWS:  And Hillary, the most clarion call of the Democratic center-left that there is. 

RUSSERT:  In the polling, John McCain runs very, very strong in a general election, because those independent voters move over to him rather comfortably. 

MATTHEWS:  Can you see Bill Clinton running the East Wing of the White House, coming back there and running the recipes and the meals and putting together the dinners? 

RUSSERT:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  As a job full-time? 


RUSSERT:  Absolutely.  Checking the flowers...


MATTHEWS:  I think that‘s the hardest sell there is. 

RUSSERT:  Be firing the White House chef, huh? 


MATTHEWS:  No.  I think it is going to be tough.  Can I come over and talk to Putin?  No, you can‘t. 


MATTHEWS:  Tim, what a book, a hell of a book.  And I really—I really did love every page of it.

RUSSERT:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  And I cried occasionally and laughed, great book.  Tim Russert‘s “Big Russ and Me,” it‘s out there now.  Go grab it.  To read an excerpt of “Big Russ and Me,” log on to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com. 

When we come back, we‘ll have live coverage from the dinner tonight honoring former first lady Nancy Reagan. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Nancy Reagan is making a rare public appearance here tonight in Washington, her first in Washington since Ronald Reagan‘s state funeral last June.  She‘s being honored at a fund-raiser tonight for the Ronald Reagan Foundation.  And, in the next hour, Vice President Cheney is going to pay tribute to the former first lady. 

With me in the studio right now is NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, who covered the Reagan White House.

Well, she is back again, Nancy Reagan.  I think she‘s gotten a lot more credit in the way that she handled her husband‘s demise... 


MATTHEWS:  ... through Alzheimer‘s than anything she ever did in the White House.

MITCHELL:  And, you know, she began turning the mood about her in the early ‘80s, when she did secondhand rose, secondhand clothes, and did that gridiron skit to try to deflect all the criticism about the spending and the borrowed clothes.  And she had a very rough time at first.

And then, of course, we did a series of interviews with her as she was launching her “Just Say No” campaign.  And that really did turn the corner.  But the way she‘s lived her life has been more important than any press releases, than any campaign, the way she was so dedicated to her husband, never leaving his side, basically being his caretaker. 

MATTHEWS:  I mean, right now...

MITCHELL:  Which is so—so much a burden. 

MATTHEWS:  Andrea, I have got to tell you, there‘s a lot of Alzheimer‘s caregivers watching right now.  I know because I talk to them.  And they all know you can‘t fake it. 


MATTHEWS:  Because, when you‘re alone with your partner, that‘s reality.  And that‘s what she‘s faced for all these years. 

MITCHELL:  I know you lived this personally yourself.

MATTHEWS:  With my mom.  And I have to tell you, my dad faced it personally.  I‘ve got to tell you that I have the—the greatest respect for Nancy, what she did for Ronald Reagan.  Imagine being with a man who was president and doesn‘t remember it.  Imagine that. 

MITCHELL:  Well, that is so extraordinary, and for him not to, in the end, remember her.  For the longest time, even while he was suffering, he knew her.  He knew her presence, her touch. 

But she still stayed with him all those years.  She could have gone off.  She could have not only institutionalized him, but she could have gotten nurses into the house to do the job that she did.  But she was basically at his side. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the politics right now and talk about—while we‘re waiting for this—for the vice president to make his remarks tonight. 

A big story, airplane almost hits the Capitol—well, it the doesn‘t almost hit the Capitol.  But all the alarms went off.  What does that tell us about a Cessna, a general aviation flight?  No real danger, but this whole town went nuts.

MITCHELL:  Well, in fact, the White House went to code red for the first time. 

And there are a number of questions that the White House has not yet answered tonight about procedures, about why, for instance, Nancy Reagan and Laura Bush remained in the White House.  They decided to keep them there and take them to as secure a location as possible.  But, at that moment, the motorcade with the vice president was screeching out of West Executive Avenue to get him to a much better location. 

So—and why did you not evacuate some buildings right next door, but evacuate the White House?  Clearly, they felt that this plane, if it were hostile, could be only three or four minutes away and that it might not be as safe to try to move people, including elderly people, quickly out of the grounds, that it was easier to just move them below. 

MATTHEWS:  This sounds a tad mischievous.  And maybe it is.  Why is it always the vice president who gets this treatment? 

MITCHELL:  Cheney‘s the man.

MATTHEWS:  I remember, back in 9/11, he was hauled out of the White House, almost physically carried. 

MITCHELL:  Absolutely.

MITCHELL:  In a chair, carried to some bunker below.

When the president was throwing out the first pitch at, what, Yankee Stadium one night, he‘s off at some undisclosed location, always seeming to get more security protection than even the top guy. 

MITCHELL:  Well, for very good reasons, actually. 

It is the chain of command.  It is preserving the future of the United States government if there were some sort of interruption.  But, in this case, the president was safe because he was on his bike out in the suburbs doing his road bike exercise. 

MATTHEWS:  Are we going to have a vote tomorrow in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the nomination of John Bolton to be U.N. ambassador? 


MITCHELL:  There are some Democrats—Barbara Boxer, we talked to tonight, and a few others—who do want to delay it.  But, at this point, Dick Lugar believes that they have enough votes to pull it together. 


MATTHEWS:  Ten to eight.

MITCHELL:  Ten to eight to pull it together for a vote.

The Democrats could block a vote by boycotting the whole thing.  But, at this point, right now, they‘re still examining what they‘ve been given.  The last documents only went up this afternoon from the State Department.  So, they‘re examining those documents overnight.  And if the Democrats, if Biden, Joe Biden, the leading Democrat in the minority, believes that he doesn‘t have the votes to block it, I think he‘ll let it go, at least to a meeting, go the floor. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Andrea, stay with us tonight.

We‘re waiting for Vice President Dick Cheney to pay tribute to Nancy Reagan at tonight‘s dinner here in Washington.

And, earlier, I spoke with Fred Ryan, who is chairman of the board of trustees for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, about what tonight‘s event means to Nancy Reagan. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re watching this amazing event here in Washington.  This is Nancy Reagan‘s sort of coming out, isn‘t it, after the loss of her husband.

FRED RYAN, FORMER REAGAN WHITE HOUSE AIDE:  It really is.  It‘s the first real public event she‘s done.  She has stayed in California.  She‘s kind of kept a lot time to herself.  She‘s been in touch with friends, but this is the first big gathering.  And there‘s been a lot of enthusiasm about it. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think this is going to pretend a more active life for her, in meeting people, accepting invitations, social and otherwise? 

RYAN:  Well, I know she‘s had a lot of invitations, but she‘s really decide that there is an appropriate period to keep a low profile, to stay at home and to get through the adjustment, overcome the loneliness, to the extent she can. 


RYAN:  But I think she‘s going to start doing a little more public events now. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about her role in the library.  How does she

·         how does she keep the torch lit with you?  Because you‘re the one she lights up, I think. 


RYAN:  She inspires us all. 

She‘s very much involved in the Reagan Library.  It was important to the president.  It was important to her.  And she‘s really gotten involved in it in the new things we‘re doing there.  And she‘s taken a real interest in this Air Force One addition, which is for the dinner tonight.  That‘s where the proceeds are going for this... 


MATTHEWS:  Tell me about that, the Air Force One replica—it is not a replica.  It‘s the real thing.

RYAN:  It is the real Air Force One.  It was used by seven president.  Ronald Reagan flew it more than any other president.  So, when it came out of circulation, it was given to the Reagan Library.  And we‘re building a museum to encompass the—Air Force One.  And people will be able to walk through.

They will see where the president‘s quarters are.  They‘ll see the Secret Service.  They‘ll see how presidents have used it as an important part of global diplomacy.  And we have got to pay for it.  And tonight‘s dinner is going to get us close to it. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, what‘s the cost?  Are you getting it from the government or do you have to pay for it? 

RYAN:  No, it is all privately funded. 


MATTHEWS:  You have to buy it from the government.

RYAN:  Well, the government is loaning us the plane.  But we are building the museum...


MATTHEWS:  Where are you building it?  Right up there in Simi Valley? 

RYAN:  Right next to the presidential library. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I get the feeling—we were talking about this at lunch the other day.  I get the feeling that that could be the real draw for the library. 


MATTHEWS:  The chance to get aboard Air Force One and to see what‘s in there. 

RYAN:  Well, that will certainly bring people.  But these presidential libraries, they all have something that people can‘t see.  They can‘t come to Washington and see an Oval Office.  But they can go to any one of the presidential libraries and see a replica of the Oval Office and certainly at the Reagan Library.  And now they will be able to see not just a replica, but the real Air Force One. 

MATTHEWS:  How big a role does Mrs. Reagan, Nancy Reagan, play in making sure that library is up to snuff?  Does she go out there and say, it‘s getting a little dusty out here; this exhibit can use a little updating?  Or how—how much is she involved in the aesthetics, the notion of what you‘re trying to present out there? 

RYAN:  Well, she‘s a trustee of the library.  And her name is on the library.  And she‘s the type of person who really wants to make things the best they can be. 

So, she‘s actively involved in the exhibits that take place, in the speakers who are invited to the library and, really, everything that happens out there. 

MATTHEWS:  Who are the Democrats involved with the library? 

RYAN:  Oh, a number of Democrats.

MATTHEWS:  Is that too tough a question?

RYAN:  Well, tonight‘s dinner, it is incredible, the Democratic participation. 

We have—not only will they be there tonight, but Senator Reid and Nancy Pelosi are on the committee that invited people to be part of tonight‘s event.  It‘s a fantastic bipartisan tribute to Nancy Reagan. 


RYAN:  I haven‘t seen anything like it. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the diary.  This is a hot story, because I don‘t know the last president to keep a diary, who it might have been.  But tell me about this Reagan diary that‘s been uncovered.  He apparently kept it, what, every single day he was president? 

RYAN:  He did.

MATTHEWS:  In his handwriting? 

RYAN:  And I don‘t—not only do we not know who the last president was, but I don‘t think we‘ll who know the next president will be to keep a diary, because...

MATTHEWS:  Because it might be subpoenaed. 


RYAN:  That‘s right. 


RYAN:  President Reagan, after leaving office in Sacramento, things went by so fast.  The eight years, so much happened.  And it was hard to remember what happened.

So, he and Nancy Reagan decided, once he was elected president, that they were going to keep a daily diary.  Each of them did.  And every day, in their own hand, they entered what happened that day, their reflections on the events of the day, the people they met.  And it was just meant to remind them.  It wasn‘t meant to be published.  But he gave it to the Reagan Library and said, do with this as you see fit. 

And we have decided, in consultation with Nancy, that the best thing to do is to let the American public see it.  So, it will be published.

MATTHEWS:  Did this ever get subpoenaed by the—when they did the Iran-Contra investigation, the Tower commission, and all that stuff? 

RYAN:  It was never subpoenaed.  I believe a couple of dates were reviewed by lawyers to see if there was any relevant entry in there.  But it was never turned over, really, to anyone.

MATTHEWS:  Really? Let me ask you, when is that going to be published? 

RYAN:  Sometime early next year.  There will be—it is five volumes long, because it was literally every day that he was in the White House, he did these entries.  And there will be a short version published and then probably the whole thing cover to cover will be done. 

MATTHEWS:  Have you been through it? 

RYAN:  Yes.  It‘s fascinating. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the most fascinating? 


RYAN:  Oh, it‘s just...


MATTHEWS:  I mean, what do you find in there?  Did you find something in there about his role in all the history that he was part of? 

RYAN:  What really caught my attention was his assessments when he met world leaders, his initial judgments of them, what he thought of them. 

And you could see how the relationship developed and how really good he was at judging character, people like Gorbachev, very early on, sensing that he was somebody he could do business with. 

MATTHEWS:  And Thatcher. 

RYAN:  And Thatcher as well. 

And the other thing in the diary is, it tells the relationship of Nancy and Ronald Reagan.  You read in there, any time she was away on one of her drug trips for “Just Say No” or anything like that, you would see him counting down the days, three more days until Nancy is back.  Two more days until Nancy is back.  You can just see the tremendous bond between the two of them. 

And that was written for his own reading.  It wasn‘t something that was meant to be published.  So, that was really looking into his heart. 

MATTHEWS:  Rate Nancy Reagan as a political figure, how much she knows about politics, how much her—how—how quick she is to assess people, like the president.

RYAN:  Well...


MATTHEWS:  As you point out.  How good is she?


RYAN:  I think she is very good.  I think she knows a lot about politics.  But I think today Nancy Reagan has kind of transcended politics, certainly transcended partisanship.  The outpouring of affection and support for her comes from Democrats, from Republicans, really from all parts. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think if she was part of this newer generation, people in their 40s and 50s today, like Hillary Clinton, that would she have ran for office? 

RYAN:  She is certainly bright enough to.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, times are changing, obviously, pretty rapidly lately. 

RYAN:  Well, I think she‘s certainly bright enough to.  But I think where her huge success, her contribution to the country was in her supporting role for Ronald Reagan.  I think she did that the best, better than really anybody could do.

MATTHEWS:  But she could have been a good president herself, right? 

RYAN:  I would vote for her. 


MATTHEWS:  Hey, thank you, Fred Ryan, head of the Reagan Library. 

He‘s put that library together so well. 

Thank you.  We‘ll see you.

RYAN:  Thank you, Chris. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be back with NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell, as Washington pays tribute to former first lady Nancy Reagan. 

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


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, Washington comes out to honor former first lady Nancy Reagan.  HARDBALL‘s live coverage continues after this.



MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with our special live coverage of the Nancy Reagan tribute dinner with NBC‘s—NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell, who covered the Reagan White House from 1981 to 1988. 

We‘re waiting.  I think, later on tonight, we‘re going to be seeing Dick Cheney talk at that event.  And I‘ll be heading over there later tonight as well, after the show. 

Let me ask you about the biggest fight in Washington in the next 24 hours.  That‘s the nomination fight over John Bolton to be our ambassador to the United Nations.  What‘s the fight really about? 

MITCHELL:  It‘s about distorting intelligence, the accusations that intelligence was distorted in the run-up to the war, that there were no weapons of mass destruction. 

And he is now paying the price for that, because he is accused of distorting intelligence on North Korea, Cuba and Syria, not so much on Iraq, but on these other issues.  So, he‘s not getting credit, the State Department says not getting enough credit for what he accomplished on disarming Libya and protecting other shipments of weapons that were intercepted by various boats that were launched in this nuclear nonproliferation and other nonproliferation initiative of the administration‘s. 

MATTHEWS:  So, it is all about WMD.


MATTHEWS:  And the fact we went to war on that basis and we could never prove there was WMD and therefore somebody has to take the fall. 

MITCHELL:  And the fact that, at this stage, the U.S. credibility is so damaged at the United Nations that he is not the best person to try to persuade the U.N. on Iran, North Korea, other tough issues. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look now. 

We‘re going to—we promised you live coverage.  Well, here it is.  This is live coverage of the Reagan Building here in Washington.  There‘s the former first lady Nancy Reagan, accompanied by the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney.  As I said, he is going to give an address tonight, a tribute to the former first lady.

And I have to tell you that this is a crowd of people, probably mostly Republicans, although the top Democrat in the House, Nancy Pelosi is there.  And Harry Reid, the top Democrat in the Senate, is there tonight, we‘re told.  But, mainly, it‘s a Republican fund-raising event for the Reagan Library out in Simi Valley, California, not far from Los Angeles.

And the goal here, Andrea, is to basically house in a new building Air Force One.  And I do agree with these people in the Reagan Library, especially Fred Ryan.  This is going to be a great draw, a chance to go see what it‘s like to be on Air Force One. 

MITCHELL:  Absolutely. 

And this is—this is 27000, the plane that I rode for so many years during the Reagan years.  And this was plane that actually—let‘s listen to them introducing the former first lady. 

ANNOUNCER:  President‘s own Marine Band, Gunnery Sergeant Kevin Benier (ph). 


MATTHEWS:  ... music, etcetera.  They always open these in Washington with a lot of military fanfare.  It parts of the scene.

MITCHELL:  That plane is the old 707.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MITCHELL:  That Ronald Reagan used throughout his presidency.  And it was before the 747 that has now been used by subsequent presidents.  And that plane is now sitting in California, but it does not have a museum around it. 


MATTHEWS:  Is that the same model that carried Kennedy‘s body back to Washington? 

MITCHELL:  The same model.  It was 26000 was the tail number on the model that brought...

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s talk about some of these other fights.

We all know that there‘s a battle within this administration between a very small cadre of moderates, you might call them, traditional conservatives, people like—that are more like the former George Bush, former President George Bush, Brent Scowcroft, his former national security adviser.  Colin Powell is often associated with that group.

And then there are the hawks, the neoconservatives, if you will, Wolfowitz, in this case, John Bolton, and probably in league with them, Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense.  It‘s interesting to read the papers today.  Jimmy Baker, a classic member of the old school, comes out and endorses the nomination of John Bolton today.  Why?

MITCHELL:  John Bolton worked for Jim Baker.  And so, this endorsement was a “New York Times” op-editorial page column written together, Jim Baker and Ed Meese.  Now, back in the Reagan years, Jim Baker and Ed Meese did not agree on very much. 

MATTHEWS:  And, by the way, we don‘t believe either one of them wrote this column, do we? 



But John Bolton worked for Jim Baker in Florida in 2000.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MITCHELL:  As one of the top lawyers working on the recount. 

And, if you recall some of the footage, you know, the guy with the glasses up on his head looking at the chads. 

MATTHEWS:  The Dennis Franz look-alike.

MITCHELL:  Right. 

If you take a look at that file picture, then you will see John Bolton right behind him.  John Bolton was sitting at that table as they were counting the chads. 

MATTHEWS:  With that big mustache of his.

MITCHELL:  So this is not just...

MATTHEWS:  So, he earned his spurs in battle. 

MITCHELL:  Yes.  He was a political lawyer for the Jimmy Baker group in Florida. 

MATTHEWS:  So, even though James Baker, Colin Powell, Brent Scowcroft, the—President Bush 41, President Bush Sr., are all in what you call the more pragmatic group of the diplomatists, he, in this case, has a personal reason for backing Bolton. 

MITCHELL:  Yes.  And he worked with Bolton.  Bolton did work closely with Jim Baker back then.  But Bolton was put in Colin Powell‘s State Department pretty much as a representative for those conservatives. 

MATTHEWS:  Vote tomorrow in the Foreign Relations Committee.  You think he will be nominated—be confirmed?

MITCHELL:  I think he‘ll get it 10-8 sent to the floor. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Andrea Mitchell.

Stay with us.  Our live coverage of the special Nancy Reagan tribute dinner continues after this.

And don‘t forget to check out Hardblogger, our political blog Web site.  Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL tonight and our live coverage of the dinner honoring Nancy Reagan.

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster is outside the tribute building right now.  In fact, it‘s the Ronald Reagan Building they‘re having the event in tonight. 

David, what can you tell us about the event so far?  Lots of stars going by there. 

SHUSTER:  Well, Chris, that‘s right, a lot of old Reagan hands. 

And just moments ago, for example, Vice President Cheney and former first lady Nancy Reagan, they walked into the H Room here at the Ronald Reagan Building, where there was a thunderous applause of a lot of people who used to work in the Reagan White House.  Frank Carlucci, Charlie Black, former California Governor Pete Wilson is here.  Some of the red-carpet arrivals included the longtime Reagan friends Merv Griffin, Pat Sajak, Mike Wallace, and also a couple of senators, for example, Senator John McCain, Senator Bill Frist.

And there was, Chris, a little bit of news tonight.  As you know and as you have talked so much about, the Senate filibuster fight has gotten so nasty in recent weeks.  And as he was going in tonight, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist seemed to give every indication that a deal may be in the works as far as this fight that threatens to blow up the Senate over judicial nominations.  Watch this. 


SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER:  No, things are going to work out.  The Senate—the Senate pulls together.  Obviously, I feel strongly about the principle of getting an up-or-down vote for each of these nominees from the president.  But I have confidence that the Senate will work its will, all 100 United States senators.  And, hopefully, we will do that next week or the week after that. 

SHUSTER:  Negotiations still continue or at least discussions? 

FRIST:  Oh, yes, absolutely. 

SHUSTER:  So, you haven‘t closed the door on any sort of...


FRIST:  Absolutely not.  No, we‘re going to continue to work together to have a very successful and appropriate resolution. 


SHUSTER:  Now, when we talked to Senator John Warner, who is one of the five Republican that people aren‘t really sure how he is going to go, explained the news to him, he said, listen to the majority leader.

And then Warner went on to say that his Confederate ancestors bombed the Capitol many years ago.  He doesn‘t want to be part of blowing it up or trying to blow it up again, a clear indication that Frist cannot count on Senator John Warner, which may be another reason, Chris, as they do the vote counting, why Frist is feeling some pressure to try to get some resolution to these negotiations with the Democrats—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you, David Shuster over at the Reagan Building for tonight‘s event.

You know, I love John Warner, the way he has played this role here, because he‘s sort of—if somebody were to ask me, what was the Senate like 30 years ago, when it was really the Senate?  John Warner. 

MITCHELL:  Absolutely. 

And John Warner and several of the other veteran senators simply do not want to change these rules.  I think that the signals you‘re seeing from Bill Frist are compromise. 

MATTHEWS:  Compromise. 

And I‘ve heard a rumor today, reading all the wire copy and buzzing around this town, that there‘s—there‘s a good possibility the Democrats will roll and let them have these nominations confirmed by the Senate. 

MITCHELL:  Well, the Democrats also are concerned about their own polling, because Congress is taking a real hit here.  The Democrats risk being seen as obstructionists.  And they‘re trying to decide, for instance, on this Bolton nomination, whether to go to the mat on the Bolton thing.  I mean, they could all boycott the session tomorrow. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, here‘s a possibility.  Could the Democrats actually find their way to intelligence here and do something smart, roll on the appellate judges, these ones that we‘ll never hear from again once they‘re in office?  And that preserves the filibuster for next summer, this coming summer, when they have to take up Supreme Court nominations.  Don‘t they—they don‘t want to have the filibuster blown away now. 

Then they can‘t use it to stop the replacements for Rehnquist or Sandra Day O‘Connor, whoever else steps down. 

MITCHELL:  Exactly. 

And, in Washington, as you know better than anyone else, fights are always about something else.  If the Bolton fight is about the Iraq war and the bad intelligence, this fight over the filibuster is all about the Supreme Court nominations they expect to come. 

MATTHEWS:  Could they pull the trigger on the nuclear option this summer, having not done so this spring on the appellate judges?  Could the Republicans use the breaking up of the filibuster on the Supreme Court nominations? 

MITCHELL:  I think they have realized, with the way things have transpired in the last couple of weeks, that that nuclear option is not gaining them any leverage with the public.  And it—it—they are running right up against the old guard senators like John Warner. 

MATTHEWS:  And Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.  There are people who have devoted their lives to this body who may be more loyal to the Senate than they are to their party, right?

MITCHELL:  Especially as the president, dare we say, becomes more of a lame duck. 

MATTHEWS:  I like talking to you, Andrea. 

MITCHELL:  I love talking to you. 


MATTHEWS:  Anyway. 

MITCHELL:  Invite me back. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, now, the question about Nancy Reagan.

Nancy Reagan apparently, we‘re told by Fred Ryan, who is running the library, is going to  be back in circulation after tonight.  Isn‘t that going to be great? 

MITCHELL:  I think it‘s terrific.

MATTHEWS:  She‘s going to be around town.  She‘s going to be coming to events.  The grieving, I guess, is getting close to over.  She‘ll be up in New York, I‘m sure. 

MITCHELL:  She‘s had a long mourning period.  And she was very fragile. 

Also, you may recall, when she was at the funeral service, she was having cataract problems, vision problems.  You saw those large eyeglasses she wore at the time.  She needed to recover, herself.  She had spent so much time caring for him, she hadn‘t been taking care of herself. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh.  Do you know what happens to people when they‘ve been great caregivers? 


MATTHEWS:  They have this wonderful resiliency after they‘ve done their job, their spiritual duty.  And they lose their spouse, but they come back.  It is an amazing thing to watch.  And I think Nancy may be one of them.

Anyway, thank you, Andrea Mitchell. 

MITCHELL:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News.

Tomorrow on HARDBALL, the fight over John Bolton.  The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to vote tomorrow.  And we‘ll be joined by Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N.  He had the job before.

And coming up next on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith takes on—takes you to Salem, Massachusetts, for a witchcraft controversy.  We‘ve really got to see this one to believe it.  That‘s next on “COUNTDOWN.”



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