IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Tuesday, September 2

Guest: Howard Fineman, David Shuster, Todd Harris, Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Roger Simon, Sen. John Ensign, Michelle Bernard

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Back to normalcy.  Keep cool with McCain.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews, live from the Republican national convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.  We‘re here from Rice Park, just blocks away from the Xcel Center.  It‘s a beautiful night here.  And check out Rice Park.  This park‘s seven years older than New York‘s Central Park and features this bronze honoring my favorite author, St. Paul native, of course, F. Scott Fitzgerald.  There he is.  Let‘s take a look at him.  You‘ve got to take a long look at him.  There he is.  Remember that scene, coming back on the train at Christmas?

The theme tonight is: John McCain, the person he is.  And there will be three major speeches tonight, all being covered here on MSNBC.  Fred Thompson, the TV star turned senator turned TV star again, will give Senator McCain‘s biography.  And Senator Joe Lieberman, his friend from the other side of the aisle, will talk about McCain, the person he knows.  This morning, the White House announced that President Bush will then address the convention via remote satellite from Washington.

I‘ll be kicking off MSNBC‘s primetime coverage of the convention with Keith Olbermann at 7:00 PM Eastern tonight.  MSNBC is, as always, the place for politics, and tonight you‘re invited to the biggest political party in the country, the Republican national convention from St. Paul, Minnesota.

We begin with the questions surrounding McCain‘s pick for vice president, and they continue, Alaska governor Sarah Palin.  “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst, and Roger Simon is with

Let‘s go right to the questions about this nominee.  I look at her with surprise because I don‘t know her.  Like so many journalists in Washington who‘ve covering affairs for years, we don‘t know her.  Just to make my point to start you off, one of our producers called Juneau, Alaska, the capital, to see how they pronounced her name when they answered the phone.  That‘s how primitive our reporting is on this.  I take humility pills before I speak further.

But you start, Howard.  Who is Sarah Palin, as we speak?

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Sarah Palin is 44 years old.  She‘s been the governor of Alaska for two years.  She‘s the mother of five kids.  She comes from genuine Alaska, even though she was born in Idaho.  She‘s a moose hunter.  She was a star hockey player.  She was the point guard on the high school basketball team.  She is a Bible-believing Christian who believes that intelligent design should be taught as an alternative parallel to evolution.

MATTHEWS:  What is intelligence design?

FINEMAN:  That‘s the new term for creationism, which believes that God set us in motion here at a certain date, not evolution.  She is very hard core on abortion, allowing, I believe, exceptions—allowing abortion only in the case of the life of the mother.  In other words, if there‘s rape or incest, under the law, you would still have to...

MATTHEWS:  She would outlaw abortion in the state, wherever she was from.

FINEMAN:  Except in the case of the life of the mother, I believe.

MATTHEWS:  So she‘s not just for getting rid of Roe v. Wade...

FINEMAN:  No, no.


FINEMAN:  ... very hard core.  She has been popular.  She‘s an attractive woman, an outdoorswoman, an athlete.  She is the dream candidate of the cultural conservative evangelical base of the Republican Party in terms of her values and her beliefs and her life.  The one problem that she‘s had is that her personal life has gotten kind of interesting, in that her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, it was said this week—they were required to disclose this week, to quell other rumors, that the 17-year-old daughter is pregnant with a child.  She‘s going to marry the father.

It‘s a big, sprawling, complex frontier family from Alaska.  Evangelicals and conservatives love her.  A lot of other people are afraid of her.

MATTHEWS:  Is this the plan that John McCain said would work?  Did he want this focus on the newcomer?

ROGER SIMON, POLITICO.COM:  Well, he didn‘t want this focus.  This has been a shambles.  I mean, everything that Howard said is absolutely accurate.  None of it answers the question, Is she ready from day one to be president of the United States?  Can she answer the 3:00 AM phone call?

MATTHEWS:  Well, how is that question being answered by advocates for this ticket, that she‘s appropriate material for the vice presidency or the presidency?

SIMON:  She has executive experience, she has more experience than Barack Obama, that she has fine qualities.  The problem is that this is the first presidential-level decision that a nominee makes, and this was the decision that John McCain makes.  One of the reasons that campaigns leak names in advance is so the press does their vetting for them.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s take a look at this.  This is, of course, a very popular—well, you see this at checkout counters.  Safeway—that‘s where I see it all the time, “US Weekly.”  We‘ve got a cover of this available, a better picture than I can show you.  But let‘s take a look at this cover.  This is probably not the kind of PR that John McCain envisioned in winning the regular folk, Howard.

FINEMAN:  Yes, that‘s true.  And I have to be...

MATTHEWS:  “Babies lies”?  First of all, is that a fair lead?  Is there any lie here?

FINEMAN:  I‘m wondering about that.  I think what happened was—there were rumors around—for people who haven‘t been following this, there were rumors around in Alaska and elsewhere that somehow, Sarah Palin, who gave birth to her fifth child recently, who is a Down syndrome child—that in fact, she was not the mother, that they were covering up for the fact that the daughter had given birth to the kid.  That is not true., could not biologically be true because, in fact, they were forced to reveal to quell the rumors, the 17-year-old daughter is 5 months...

MATTHEWS:  Is currently pregnant.

FINEMAN:  ... is currently pregnant, 5 months pregnant by a senior hockey star at the high school who—named Levi Johnson, who she‘s now going to marry.

Roger‘s point is that this is not the kind of thing you want to be talking about on the second day of the convention.  Now, I was over at the Texas delegation.  I‘m staying at their hotel.  They‘re having a “life of the life” party.  It‘s all the pro-lifers.  They‘re all gathered there, and they‘re so happy about Sarah Palin, except for this part.  I talked to one of their leaders, who said to me this thing about the pregnant daughter does take some wind out of the sails.  So leaving aside the experience issue, the cultural issue is complicated, even for the evangelicals, by the fact that her daughter is pregnant.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me turn the pillow over on this, as I like to say, as we get another night‘s sleep on this.  Is this possibly a country mouse defending herself against the city mice, like us?  In other words, is there a world view difference here?

First of all, young kids, teenage kids do get pregnant these days when they‘re not married.  It happens.  They make different decisions.  A lot of them get married to the guy who‘s responsible.

SIMON:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  This is the way I grew up—not personally, but this is a familiar milieu, if you ask me, from where I grew up in northeast Philly.  This happens.  It happened more in the days before the pill.  It happened before birth control was common, and perhaps before there was much abortion.  But it is the way people grow up and they deal with situations.  What‘s so wrong with it?

SIMON:  Nothing‘s so...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the knock here?

SIMON:  Nothing‘s so wrong with it happening.  What is wrong is the way the campaign has dealt with it.  If truly she was vetted—and it‘s really hard to believe she was vetted very carefully.  If truly she was vetted, and they knew this, then you have Sarah Palin...

MATTHEWS:  Is this a deal breaker?

SIMON:  I don‘t know.   But you—but if they knew about it, then you have Sarah Palin sit down with—in an interview.  You have her sit down with “People” magazine, pick whoever you want, and say, Look, I want to talk to you about a problem we face in our family...


SIMON:  ... that millions of Americans face.  That‘s the way you do it.  You don‘t do it as a revelation so that two days of a four-day convention, that‘s all people are talking about.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s get off the family affair for a second because

this is a family situation in many families.  This question of her politics

back in the ‘90s, she was apparently aligned with our colleague, Pat Buchanan.  She was one of the “Buchanan brigades,” the pitchfork people.  She was part of that independents movement and that party.  Pat had a different number of party labels back then, but they were all somewhat to the right.

They also have—apparently, she has a leader of that party in Alaska, head of the Alaska Independence Party, who‘s one of those people, and they‘re not uncommon, who believe that we got into World War II under false pretenses, very much haters of Franklin Roosevelt, haters of the war, like Pat did not believe we should have gotten into the war.  You have a guy up there who runs the Alaska Independence Party.  And by the way, the way the word used, “independence,” is not the way we normally use Independence Party.  It‘s Alaska wants independence from the United States.  She was part of a secessionist movement.  Is that a—I mean, she‘s not anymore.  She‘s a regular Republican now.  She was part of a secessionist political party.  Is that a problem?

FINEMAN:  You know, just by accident, I‘ve spent a fair amount of time in Alaska.  And first of all, at least according to the documents put out by the McCain campaign this afternoon, she has been a registered Republican the entire time.  They claim to have all of the registration cards going back to ‘92.

MATTHEWS:  What was the affiliation with Pat‘s movement, then?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think she may have been a Buchanan supporter...

MATTHEWS:  I thought it was two years she was a member of that party.

FINEMAN:  ... a Buchanan supporter.  I mean, but in the context of Alaska...

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute.  Let‘s get the facts straight.  You‘re saying that she was not a member of the Alaska Independence Party for two years??

FINEMAN:  According to the McCain campaign e-mail that I got a couple hours ago, they have all of her registration cards, and she‘s been a registered Republican the entire time.

SIMON:  If she had any relationship at all with this party, it‘s a problem.  The Republican Party was founded by Abraham Lincoln, who went to war over the fact that it is unconstitutional to secede from the United States.  States don‘t get to decide.  She can‘t in any way have been aligned with a secessionist movement.  I mean...


SIMON:  ... mainstream Republican, not a wacky fringe Republican.

MATTHEWS:  ... founder of the Alaskan Independence Party, Joe Vogler, quote, “I‘m an Alaskan, not an American.  I‘ve got no use for America or her damned institutions.”  That‘s something.  I didn‘t know about this vehement independence movement up there.

SIMON:  I don‘t think anyone outside of Alaska did.  The thing is, she has to be seen as a person just like you and me, with a family with regular problems, not as some kind of fringe person who engages in this activity.

FINEMAN:  You know, from what I can see—and I‘ve been in some of those neighborhoods up there.  Anchorage happens to be one of the fastest growing metropolitan neighborhoods in the country.  She is from—she is from the limits of the exurbs of America, OK?  That‘s a part of the country...


FINEMAN:  ... that the Republicans have been doing gangbusters in for the last 15, 20 years.  It‘s the part that Karl Rove focused on.


FINEMAN:  These are people in new suburbs.  She‘s not a secessionist.  She‘s a hard-core cultural conservative, for sure.  But her big problem is not going to be that she might have once said something nice about that guy because...


MATTHEWS:  What is the story here right now?  It seems to me we‘re talking about it.  It‘s the lead piece tonight of our show.  It won‘t (ph) be the lead discussion tonight, I can tell you, throughout election coverage tonight or convention coverage.

But it seems to me that he had a number of usual suspects to pick for VP.  He could have picked Tim Pawlenty, the governor of this state.  He could have picked Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts who ran for president.  He could have picked a number of people.  He didn‘t.  That to me was a decision that he made negatively.  He didn‘t like the cuts of their jibs.  He didn‘t like that offering.  So he went beyond the usual suspects and said, Why don‘t I go up to somebody who I‘ve heard about through the conservative movement, who seems to be a maverick like myself, who seems to have a sort of a Teddy Roosevelt aspect, like I do, and make a leap?

FINEMAN:  That‘s what he did, but he did it without knowing her, essentially.  And you‘re right.  Roger and I have separately been working on reconstructing this.  I think he wanted somebody outside the box to begin with.  That‘s McCain.  You tell him, You have a safe choice and a risky choice, McCain will go for the risky choice every time because it‘s McCain.  He didn‘t want Pawlenty, he didn‘t want Romney because they were boring.  He wanted either Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge almost because he wanted to start a fight and because they‘re outside the box...

MATTHEWS:  But that‘s what a lot of people like about him.

FINEMAN:  The conservatives said, You can‘t have them.  You cannot have Lieberman or Ridge.  You got to do—you got to do...

MATTHEWS:  Howard, we live our lives with people who play their lives safely.  They stay in the pocket.  They never come out of the pocket.  The never scramble.  And when somebody comes along and they scramble—who was the guy from Pittsburgh who was the scrambler?

FINEMAN:  Well, Perry (ph).  He was actually a pocket passer mostly, but that‘s OK.


MATTHEWS:  Fran Tarkenton.  It was Fran Tarkenton...


MATTHEWS:  Somebody just gave me that, and it was Fran Tarkenton and we liked Fran Tarkenton.

FINEMAN:  Right.  Exactly.  Minnesota.

SIMON:  But this tells me that this was a decision made by the campaign and not by John McCain, that he had a list of people he didn‘t want.  The campaign came to him and said, Look, she pushes all these buttons.  And Howard listed all these buttons.  He didn‘t know her.  He first met her in February.  He talked to her on the telephone before he asks her once to be—asks her to be vice president of the United States.

I don‘t think that‘s the way John McCain would usually do something.  Wouldn‘t you sit down with a person and say, Here‘s my philosophy for being president?


SIMON:  What‘s your philosophy for being president?

MATTHEWS:  So your point, and it‘s quite—it‘s quite professional—is if he were going to pick a secretary of defense, he would not have one meeting.  If he were going to pick...

SIMON:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  ... a secretary of state, he would not have one meeting.  If he were going to pick a secretary of the treasury, he would not have one meeting.  But if he‘s going to pick a vice president, he picks it on one meeting.

SIMON:  And it‘s a person he doesn‘t know.

FINEMAN:  And I think my understanding of it is that they had Tim Pawlenty, who‘s basically waiting by the phone...


FINEMAN:  ... on Thursday night...

MATTHEWS:  A few blocks from here.

FINEMAN:  ... yes, Thursday night, saying, We‘ll call you—you know, Don‘t call us, we‘ll call you—that was while he was having the interview with Sarah Palin.


FINEMAN:  That was the one real interview he had with her.

MATTHEWS:  Well, people often play more than one hand of cards at a time.

FINEMAN:  No, no.  I know.  But what I‘m saying is he only had the one

Roger‘s point is he only had the one interview with her.  He only had that one opportunity to talk to her and make this...

MATTHEWS:  OK, big question, gentlemen...

FINEMAN:  ... very fateful decision.


MATTHEWS:  Having watched politics long enough, you know that character can trump a lot of little problems.  Is that still a possibility for her, that when we meet her on the national stage, whether on a “Meet the Press” program or “60 Minutes” kind of interview, when we really get a look at her in terms of a Q&A with a serious journalist, it is possible that her personality and her character will trump all these modest concerns?

FINEMAN:  Well, the simple answer...


SIMON:  Absolutely.  She can do it.  And she has to give a heck of a speech on Wednesday night.  And she should be out here now talking.

MATTHEWS:  Americans root for rookies, all right?  So we don‘t know yet.  But the fact that it‘s a distraction and it‘s in these supermarket covers and they‘re saying things like “lies” and “scandals,” not a good thing, right?  Are we willing to say that?

FINEMAN:  Yes.  That‘s not a good thing.  The way she excites the base from the Republican point of view is...

MATTHEWS:  And this is not exactly what they wanted.  But then again, this may not be fair at all, especially this word.  I haven‘t heard a lie yet.  And I think it‘s maybe unfair.  In fact, it is, until further notice.

Thank you, Howard.  Thank you—I love coming into new worlds, learning new people.  It‘s brand-new.  I mean, I thought I knew all the usual suspects.


MATTHEWS:  And I have to...

FINEMAN:  She is not a usual suspect.

MATTHEWS:  How do you pronounce her name?  I mean, I feel like I‘m getting to be as old as Averill Harriman—I don‘t know Jimmy Carter.  As far as I know, none of my people know Jimmy Carter.

FINEMAN:  And Alaska‘s a great state.  Alaska‘s a...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, it‘s a—Howard, you‘re always ahead of the trail. 

You‘re always out there in front.  Mush, you huskies!


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, a look ahead to tonight‘s convention with the theme, John McCain, the person he is.  And by the way, we know John McCain.  We‘ll ask Senator John Ensign about his take on the governor—on the new governor Palin nomination for vice president.

You‘re watching HARDBALL at the site, or very near it, of the Republican national convention.  It‘s right over here in St. Paul, Minnesota.  What a beautiful city this is—only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We have a lively crowd behind us now.  We‘re live from the Republican national convention in St. Paul.  What beautiful city.  It‘s a real capital city.  It‘s up in the air here, over the Mississippi River, way high in the air.  It has one of the most—it has one of these great old—this looks—behind me, see this thing behind me?  It looks like one of those railroad hotels up in Canada, like the Chateau Frontenac, beautiful building behind me.  It‘s so—it‘s just grand to be up here.  It‘s grand.  There‘s no better word for it.

Senator John Ensign comes from Nevada.  Not “Nev-ahdah,” “Nevadda.”  Let me ask you about Governor Palin.  She‘s a Westerner like yourself, one of the mineral states, mining, you know, the outdoors thing, fur and fishing, the whole routine, all the good stuff.  Is she going to help sell the Republican ticket in Nevada?

SEN. JOHN ENSIGN ®, NEVADA:  Yes, and I think she will throughout the West, having Western values, no question, you know, gun rights, being a hunter, outdoorsman, understanding natural resources, understanding public lands issues.  I think she‘s really going to come and turn people out in high numbers in the West, including my state of Nevada, which as you know, is a swing state.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what about the states the Democrats have been hoping for, some of these real outrider opportunities, like—you hear from the first time in our lives, you and I, Montana might go Democrat, North Dakota.  Does she push back on that?

ENSIGN:  Yes.  First of all, I think the Democrats were dreaming that they were going to get those states.  But there‘s no question I think she helps solidify places that—where the Democrats thought that they might, you know, be able to tilt toward blue out there.  They‘re definitely going to stay in the red column.

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of her family?  I mean, I‘m one of five.  My wife‘s one of five.  It doesn‘t surprise us to be one of five kids, or that...

ENSIGN:  Or one of four.

MATTHEWS:  ... or that they—a mother would choose to deliver knowing that her child suffered from Down syndrome.  I grew up in a community, in Ocean City, New Jersey, where there are so many kids like that.  They took the responsibility of raising those kids with all the challenges.  That doesn‘t surprise me.  How does it strike you out in Nevada?

ENSIGN:  Well, first of all, I‘m a believer that every life is precious, the same as Governor Palin is. 

And—and that‘s the way I remember her statement.  It was a very powerful statement when she delivered that child...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

ENSIGN:  ... that this was just a gift from God that was given to their family, and they were going to treat it—this child that way. 

And everybody that I have known that has had a special-needs child, like a Down syndrome child, that‘s exactly what they see, because they may not be able to go to Harvard someday, but the gift that they bring to a family is really extraordinary.  And to have somebody on the national stage that has a special-needs child like that, I think it actually will help a lot of other families that have special-needs children. 


MATTHEWS:  Are you—are you with her on the issue of abortion rights?  Would you outlaw abortion, not just get rid of Roe v. Wade as a constitutional principle, but outlaw it, make it illegal to have an abortion?  Would you go that far? 

ENSIGN:  You know, I have said for a long time, because of being a federalist, that I wanted to see it go back to the states.  And, you know, most states...

MATTHEWS:  But, in Nevada, would you be for outlawing it—outlawing it in Nevada? 

ENSIGN:  Yes, I would be for outlawing it. 


MATTHEWS:  So, you‘re with her.  OK. 


ENSIGN:  I‘m pro-life.

MATTHEWS:  Is that a position that will sell with the Republican majority, I mean, to win 50 percent of the country?

ENSIGN:  Well, first of all—first of all, you‘re not going to do that.  If the state of Nevada, you would not—it‘s mostly a pro-choice state.  So, you would not do that.  But you asked my personal opinion.  You know, people...

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about the politics, then.

Can she sell as a strong public identity of the Republican Party? 

She‘s now a brand name.  She‘s going to be very well known in two months. 

ENSIGN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  People are going to have a like/dislike attitude to her, one way or the other.  I think people may really like her.  I don‘t know yet.

ENSIGN:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  But will they like that point of view?

ENSIGN:  See, on abortion, Chris, most people—what—most people are not strictly pro-choice or strictly pro-life.  They‘re somewhere in the middle.  In other words, they believe in restrictions on abortion.  And most of the places at the national level, that‘s all we deal with.  Do you federally fund abortion?  Most Americans are against that.

Do you want reasonable restrictions, like—put on partial-birth abortions?  That‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Late-term, yes.

ENSIGN:  On late-terms abortions, on things like that.  That‘s what we deal with at the federal level.

And the vast majority of Americans actually agree with people like myself, that they believe reasonable restrictions should be put on abortion, and not just abortion on demand at any—at any place, at any time, like Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe in. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that it‘s possible that she‘s too far over generally?  For example, she was identified with my colleague Pat Buchanan.  She was one of the pitchforkers.  I mean, she‘s definitely with that movement. 

She apparently was part of the Alaska secessionist movement, the movement up there.  That‘s pretty far over.  I mean, are you with that? 

ENSIGN:  Well, that‘s being denied—that‘s being denied by the McCain campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  The McCain campaign, but...

ENSIGN:  Well, they have showed—they have released her records on registration from the very...


MATTHEWS:  But her identification with Pat has been pretty strong. 

And he ran as an independent.


ENSIGN:  The bottom line is, you have to—we all develop.  Heck, I voted for Jimmy Carter my first time. 


ENSIGN:  OK?  Does that mean that—that I stand with Jimmy Carter? 

Of course not.  We evolve as we age and we mature.

I mean, the great line by Winston Churchill about, if you‘re young and you‘re not a liberal, you don‘t have a heart, and if you‘re older and not a conservative, you don‘t have a brain.  I mean, we evolve.

MATTHEWS:  You can reverse that in some cases, by the way, but I get your point. 


ENSIGN:  The bottom line is, is that we mature.


MATTHEWS:  So, you‘re open to the possibility that she‘s moved around? 

ENSIGN:  We mature.  We learn about the world.  We learn about the world as it is. 


ENSIGN:  And I think that that is exactly what you‘re seeing.

The bottom line is, what has she done in public office?  She‘s been a reformer.  She has definitely been a conservative on fiscal issues, balanced budgets.  And she‘s taken on and shown principle by taking on people in her own party. 

And you have been around Washington long enough, around politics long enough to know that, when you take on people in your own party, you‘re going to—you‘re going to become very unpopular and...


MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m with mavericks, as a person, as an individual who

I love mavericks. 

ENSIGN:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  I have always liked that part about McCain. 

ENSIGN:  And I love that.


MATTHEWS:  And I‘m just wondering whether—whether this establishment, this political world we live in, is going to eat her up.  That‘s the question.

ENSIGN:  I think—I think the American people are going to eat her up. 

MATTHEWS:  They‘re going to like her?

ENSIGN:  In other words, they‘re going to love her.  I think they‘re going to love her. 


Let me ask you about, were you surprised that he reached beyond the usual list? 


MATTHEWS:  I mean, we knew all—you knew all the names. 

ENSIGN:  I actually have been encouraging the McCain campaign, through back channels, that they shouldn‘t go with—with somebody who appeared to be the safe choice. 

I believed this was a year for McCain to take a risk like this.


ENSIGN:  And, certainly, it is a risk.  Is it a risk that will pay off?  We‘re going to have to wait and see.

I will tell you one thing, that, every place across Nevada that I went in the last few days, before I came out here, and coming here, you have not seen this energy level on our side for this campaign...

MATTHEWS:  So, this is good for the polls?

ENSIGN:  ... until—until Sarah Palin, not just—not just for the base, but what it does for us on having a chance to reach even more independents, even more chance for—for soft Republican women, soft Democrat women. 


MATTHEWS:  ... hair out here, don‘t we?  Geez.  I was looking at this.


MATTHEWS:  I‘m just kidding.


ENSIGN:  Nice to see you. 


MATTHEWS:  It‘s great to have you out here, Senator John Ensign of Nevada—not Nevada. 

ENSIGN:  I like that.

MATTHEWS:  Up next, he inspired convention—Republican Conventions for more than 20 years.  Who is he? 

We will tell you when we come back from the Republican National Convention in Minnesota.


MATTHEWS:  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  I‘m back at Rice Park here, where—look at these people here.  Look at this. 


MATTHEWS:  We have got a great crowd here.

Let‘s take a look at—let‘s go look at now one of the heroes of the Republican Party in the modern era. 

It‘s a piece by David Shuster, our own David Shuster.  It‘s a piece on Ronald Reagan. 

Let‘s watch.



DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  His spirit has dominated Republican conventions for decades. 


RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The time is now, my fellow Americans, to recapture our destiny, to take it into our own hands. 


SHUSTER:  Ronald Reagan, the party leader every Republican nominee has mentioned for the last 20 years. 


BOB DOLE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  By the way, I spoke to President Reagan this afternoon.  And I made him a promise that we would win one more for the Gipper. 

Are you ready? 



SHUSTER:  Ronald Reagan began to define the GOP back in 1964 with a dazzling speech on national television on behalf of Barry Goldwater. 


REAGAN:  We will keep in mind and remember that Barry Goldwater has faith in us.  He has faith that you and I have the ability and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny. 


SHUSTER:  In 1976, Reagan lost the Republican nomination to incumbent President Gerald Ford. 

But Reagan was back in 1980 as the GOP‘s presidential nominee. 


REAGAN:  The Carter administration lives in the world of make-believe, every day drawing up a response to that day‘s problems, troubles, regardless of what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow. 


SHUSTER:  Reagan spoke of restoring both America‘s military and economic strength. 


REAGAN:  We‘re taxing ourselves into economic exhaustion and stagnation, crushing our ability and incentive to save, invest and produce.  This must stop.  We must halt this fiscal self-destruction and restore sanity to our economic system. 


SHUSTER:  In a remarkable eight years as president, Reagan cut taxes, strengthened the military, and is credited with ending the Cold War. 


REAGAN:  Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall. 



SHUSTER:  And, along the way, he brought a glow to the Republican brand. 

His final convention speech came in 1992. 


REAGAN:  May all of you as Americans never forget your heroic origins, never fail to seek divine guidance, and never lose your natural God-given optimism.

And, finally, my fellow Americans, may every dawn be a great new beginning for America and every evening bring us closer to that shining city upon a hill. 



MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘re here in Saint Paul, Minnesota. 

Does anybody have a really good Minnesota accent? 



MATTHEWS:  I like that. 

OK.  What do you think about this?  What do you got here?  This looks tough. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is the “Don‘t Believe the Hype” T-shirt from the 

MATTHEWS:  What is the hype?  So, tell me what the hype is? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Everything and everything that comes out of his mouth seems like hype.  I—I just...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I just—I can‘t...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I have seen the acceptance speech that was all fluff, no details, no specifics.

MATTHEWS:  So, John McCain‘s going to give a better one, right? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, most definitely.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go.  Let‘s get—who has another thought?  Any Republican?  Republicans here make...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I‘m a—I‘m a Democrat.

MATTHEWS:  It sounds like that.


MATTHEWS:  OK, who‘s a Republican here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m a Republican. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Here‘s a guy.

What to you think about this convention? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think it‘s a great opportunity to—to jail more of our free press.  I think it‘s an awesome opportunity for somebody like Senator McCain, who‘s a veteran, just to—to continually disrespect veterans, and use his position not to pass legislation that would affect our lives. 


Sir, your thoughts? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am, sir, John Sutherland (ph).  I was on McCain‘s short list for V.P.  




UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... qualified!


MATTHEWS:  This is wild. 

Are you sure?  How did you know? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Here‘s the deal. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey, listen... 


MATTHEWS:  I‘m listening closely. 


Darrell Issa, who‘s my congressman...

MATTHEWS:  Right.  California. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... from Oceanside.

MATTHEWS:  ... sponsored me, OK? 

Now, here‘s what got me on the short list, two things, is my videos on  You have got to type in John Sutherland ‘08. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  All right.  OK. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Those three videos got... 


MATTHEWS:  OK.  We have got to move.


MATTHEWS:  No, you‘re on there. 

Are you a Republican? 


MATTHEWS:  There you are.  You‘re on HARDBALL.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m a Democrat.  But I‘m the...


MATTHEWS:  I want Republicans. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... hotel operator at the Saint Paul Hotel.


MATTHEWS:  I love the Saint Paul Hotel.

You, sir, where are you, sir, politically? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m an MSNBC fan.  I love HARDBALL, Keith Olbermann. 


MATTHEWS:  We love it all. 

Sir, you‘re well-dressed for the occasion. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Theodore Roosevelt at your service

MATTHEWS:  Is John McCain—I see you have a button.  Is he a Teddy Roosevelt Republican? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He is a Teddy Roosevelt Republican through and through, sir. 

MATTHEWS:  Is Sarah—is Sarah Palin?  Is Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, a Teddy Roosevelt Republican?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sarah Palin is a reformer and a maverick, and they will be the next president and vice president of the United States. 



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... of the American people.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Bully for you.

MATTHEWS:  Bully, bully, bully.


MATTHEWS:  Bully, bully.

Madam, are you a Republican?  Are you part of this theme here?  You have got the right T-shirt on.


MATTHEWS:  Obama, OK. 




I like this attitude.  I like this attitude. 



MATTHEWS:  Nice nose ring there. 

Are you with—you don‘t look like a Republican, just guessing, with the nose ring. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re with “TIME” magazine.  And we‘re here...


MATTHEWS:  Oh, you‘re with “TIME.”

What do you mean you‘re with “TIME” magazine?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re here promoting Mark (INAUDIBLE) blog. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s all the news you could need in one place. 

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s great.

Let‘s go on.

I‘m sorry.  Thank you. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m an independent.  I‘m a woman (INAUDIBLE) I‘m here...

MATTHEWS:  How do you stand on the fact that the Republicans have a—for the first time ever a Republican woman winning for vice president?  Does that impress you? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s—it‘s very exciting to have women in any public office, higher office in this country. 

MATTHEWS:  Will this break the glass ceiling, having Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, on this ticket?  Will this be important?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don‘t know that. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the kind of answer I like, because I don‘t know either. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No.  There are women, and then there are women.  I mean, Sarah Palin is a women, but that doesn‘t mean she could be vice president. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re getting a lot of—a lot of nuance here. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, all.  Stick around.  We will be here all night with Keith.  Thank you. 

Say something for Saint Paul.



MATTHEWS:  We will be right back with more HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from the Republican Convention here in Saint Paul, Minnesota. 

We have got a new CBS poll that just came out showing Obama eight points head, 48-40, over John McCain.  The “USA Today”/Gallup—by the way, this is a national poll, a full—a full poll, not one of these daily tracking polls—has him ahead 50-43 right now.  That‘s an interesting poll.  Or is that 42?  I think it‘s 53. 

Anyway, we have got this 53.  And then we have got a Diageo/”Hotline” poll that shows McCain trailing by nine points.  So, it‘s somewhere in that region right now.  It‘s beyond the margin of error, obviously.  That‘s a bump coming out of the convention in Denver. 

No surprise.

Tom, let me ask you about that.  Are you surprised by that bump?  I mean, it clearly is the result of his speech and the Clintons‘ endorsement, it seems to me. 

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  No, I‘m not surprised about it at all. 

In fact, I don‘t think any of these polls mean anything until we get to the debates.  But I think these particular polls, sandwiched in between Obama‘s convention, which, by all measures, was a very successful convention, and now the sort of halting start of ours here in Minnesota, with the Gustav interruptions, I just—I just don‘t think they mean anything. 

I think that we need to wait until we get through this convention.  Let‘s wait until we get into the debates.  Those are the first polls that are really going to mean something. 

Michelle Bernard, I‘m looking at the fact that, for the first time, at least one of the parties has a lead beyond the margin of error. 


MATTHEWS:  And 50 used to be a magic number in my day. 


MATTHEWS:  If you got 50, it meant you‘re winning.


MATTHEWS:  But that‘s just my view of things. 

Your thoughts? 

BERNARD:  It‘s—it‘s been close.  Again, all these polls are always going to be a snapshot in time. 

I actually thought he would have had a little bit of a bigger bump coming out of Thursday night.  His speech was absolutely fantastic.  And the—the endorsement that he got from both Clintons, I thought...


BERNARD:  ... would have—would have bumped him up even a little bit higher. 

But the announcement of Sarah Palin on Friday, I think it has maybe tamped down what we might have seen from Barack Obama coming out of the convention last week. 

I don‘t think we are going to have a really good idea of where the candidates stand until after the end of the Republican Convention.  I think this race is going to be a nail-biter and we will be up very late on November 4. 

HARRIS:  And I do think you have to give credit to the McCain campaign, tactically, for the masterful job they did.

You know, if—if they don‘t win this election, they all have a future in the CIA, the way that they kept that secret until the announcement, tactically, they did a great job—

MATTHEWS:  What secret did they keep? 

HARRIS:  Palin. 


MATTHEWS:  -- secret so well that, as I said in the beginning of the program, one of our producers called up to the capital, to Juneau just to hear how they answer the phone.  People are still arguing whether it‘s Roosevelt or Roosevelt about 50 years later.  We wanted to get it right the first time.  It‘s Palin, Palin.  Not Palin.  Let me ask you about that, because do you think that‘s going to effect the results of these number coming out the next couple weeks?  Will she be such a sparkling new personality on the national stage that people go, yes, yes, I like that ticket?  Or will they say so what? 

BERNARD:  I don‘t know what‘s going to happen, but here‘s what we‘re seeing at the Independent Women‘s Forum.  We‘re seeing so many women writing in and saying that they‘re absolutely thoroughly angry at the fact that the mommy wars have started all over again and it‘s energizing the base of Republican women who feel that Sarah Palin is a perfect feminist.  She has made choices at the women‘s movement fought for.  I think you‘re going to see a lot of Republican women come out and vote for this ticket, even if they had been hesitant before. 

MATTHEWS:  Because of her choice to go to work. 

BERNARD:  Because of her choice to go to work, because of her choice to carry a baby that she knew would be disabled and because we so many women on the left who are saying, geez, how on Earth could she do this. 

MATTHEWS:  Wait.  What are the women are the left saying?  To what? 

BERNARD:  To the fact she is a working mother, that she has a four or five month-old child and she‘s decided that she‘s going to be on John McCain‘s ticket.  And we‘re hearing from a lot of women she should stay home and she should take care of her children.  I think people are upset that the mommy wars have started all over again.  It‘s almost a feeling of can‘t we get along?  Isn‘t this what feminism is about.  I think you‘re going to see women rejuvenated and you‘re going to see not just women on the left, but women in the center and women in the right who are mainstream middle Americans who come out and might vote for this ticket, simply because Palin is being attacked as a mother. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the mommy wars?  What are they?  Are they the wars over whether you have women taking full professional responsibilities, engaging in full competitive environments in the business world, even if they have this extra responsibility that a lot of men don‘t at home? 

BERNARD:  Absolutely, and there are people who feel that, all of a sudden, you lose your motherhood bona fides if you decide to stay at home and take care of your children.  There are people who think you‘re a terrible human being if you decide you‘re going to work outside the home and also have children and be the primary caretaker for your family.  That is the mommy wars, whether or not women can have children and work outside of the homes, as millions of American women do every single day of the week. 

MATTHEWS:  This is a debate for women, among women? 

BERNARD:  It is a debate by and among women and men.  Mostly we see it as an attack by women on the left, who are attacking Sarah Palin because of the decision she‘s made to work, especially with an infant that has Down Syndrome. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get back to the numbers I‘m comfortable with.

HARRIS:  I go out on a lot of limbs on this show.  But—


MATTHEWS:  Hey Todd, let‘s talk over here.  Let‘s talk seriously about these numbers again.  I have noticed—I am well aware of America‘s history on race and very aware of how we have had to progress.  I‘m always rooting for the country to open bigger doors and more doors.  I look at these numbers and I saw a piece in the “New York Times” the other day, I looked at the poll and it said, does this candidate identify with your problems, understand your problems, which is one of those great questions.   Do they get it?  Do they get your problems, whether it‘s jobs or it‘s minimum wage or it‘s child care or this kind of situation?  It‘s overwhelmingly positive for Barack Obama, even though he‘s African-American, from a very interesting background, with a Kenyan father; 65 percent say he gets it.  He understands my challenges. 

When you go back and ask who are you voting for, 48-40.  That‘s good news, bad news.  The good news is they think yes, he‘s the kind of guy, little different name, African name, but he gets it.  But the bad news is, but I‘m still with the other guy.  I haven‘t made my move.  What does that tell you? 

BERNARD:  People are still trying to make a decision. 

MATTHEWS:  Shouldn‘t you vote for the guy that identifies with your problems? 

BERNARD:  Here‘s what I heard getting off the plane Friday night in Washington after we found out that Palin had been nominated by Senator McCain.  What we were hearing from a lot of people was we really loved Barack Obama‘s speech, but he speaks with really big words.  When they listened to Governor Palin speaking, she spoke in very simple, short sentences that a lot of middle Americans felt they could better relate to.  I think that‘s the kind of thing we‘re going to continue to see.  Not Barack Obama as the elitist, but people still trying to figure out if he‘s just like them.  Right now, Sarah Palin, that‘s the image that she fits.

HARRIS:  People are going to be able to relate to Sarah Palin.  There‘s no question.  I think in terms of why people are saying Barack Obama shares my values, but the polls continue to be this place, Barack Obama still has hung around his neck the whole question of yes, his rhetoric sounds great, this changes mantra sounds great.  Does he have the experience to get those reforms done, bring that change about in Washington?  And that‘s what I think is holding him back.  That‘s why in this environment, this election is still so close. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s 72 years old, which his life expectancy—he‘s reasonably healthy.  Everybody has health problems.  Is it a smart move to put someone with that little background of international affairs that close to the presidency?  I mean that is a reasonable question.  Not to where anybody‘s rooting for disaster here, but one of the responsibilities of the person picking a VP is to pick someone able to replace them.  That‘s really the job of VP, if you get down to it.  It‘s not going to funerals, it‘s worrying about the funeral of the boss. 

HARRIS:  It is a fair question.  What the McCain campaign will tell you is in a change election, in an environment like this where people are calling out for change, she has far more experience actually rolling up her sleeves, reforming government, fighting for change in Alaska than Barack Obama does.  He talks about it a lot, but he‘s never accomplished it. 

BERNARD:  That‘s where I differ because it‘s pure domestic policy. 

MATTHEWS:  I hope you differ, because that was pure political salesmanship there.   

BERNARD:  I think it is a question people are going to ask.  Remember, John McCain and the Republican party are running as the party of national security, anti-terrorism, talking about Iran, Iraq.  People are going to question whether or not, you know, Ahmadinejad decides to throw a bomb our way, whether or not something happens to McCain she‘s ready. 

MATTHEWS:  It took us a long time to learn how to pronounce

Ahmadinejad.  Now we‘ve just learned how to pronounce Palin

Anyway, Michelle Bernard, Todd Harris, thank you.  Up next, we‘re

going to go to the crowd here.  I think I‘ve got Joe Scarborough and Mike

Brzezinski joining us for a little tour of the people here, a little mixing

it up with the people of St. Paul.  This is HARDBALL from the Republican

National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, only on MSNBC


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.  I have two famous people here, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, who start their mornings very early.  I have to give you a news bulletin that we have been reporting, what the “New York Times” reported this morning—“New York Times” reported that Governor Palin of Alaska, the nominee for vice president, was a member of the Alaska Independents Party for two years, a member of the part.  The Republican National Committee right here in St. Paul is denying that story.  We‘ll have to see how that develops.  They say she‘s been a registered Republican.  The “New York Times” reported she was part of that independent party for two years.  We‘re going to figure that out as the day goes on.  We‘ll be here all night. 

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR:  If I can say also, the McCain campaign just told me, and they talked about Jake Tapper for ABC—Jake Tapper yesterday put it on his column on that she was a member of the independent party in Alaska, but in fact, she wasn‘t.  They produced all the cards to show she‘s been a lifelong Republican since 1982.  They‘re upset though, the McCain campaign is though, because Tapper updated his blog without put that information out there.  There‘s a lot of misinformation, a lot of false facts flying around now. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll see whether the party, they thought she was a member but she was actually a registered Republican.  There‘s a number of permutations possible there.  Joe, you get up.  Let‘s just talk about the nice stuff.  You get up at that nice restaurant.  What‘s it called?


MATTHEWS:  Which is a great breakfast place for grumpy old men, not everybody grumpy.  We go in the morning.


MATTHEWS:  We still have breakfast together.  You start at 5:00 in the morning central time. 


MATTHEWS:  And you go on till when? 

SCARBOROUGH:  About 10:00 at night. 

MATTHEWS:  If people want a fix, a political fix in the morning, they get up at 5:00 in the morning here and find out what‘s going on. 

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s right, 5:00 here, 4:00 in Denver.  This is actually a bit easier.

BRZEZINSKI:  We‘re sleeping in. 

MATTHEWS:  But you‘re here no.  You have an interesting relationship.  It‘s sort of like—I know you‘re not married or anything—in fact, you‘re marry to separate people, which is very important.  Your sort of on stage marriage is sort of like Tracy and Hepburn.  You‘re like the mosquito and he‘s like the rhino.  You bite him and he reacts.  He decides to pull rank.  You don‘t let him pull rank. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Am I Tracy or Hepburn?

MATTHEWS:  I think we go to the usual quarters there without too much complication.  What do you think?  I‘m just going to ask the crowd.  Let‘s get the crowd involved.  What do you think of Joe and Mika?  I think we ought to look at the crowd here.  First of all, I‘m going to let you, the audience, ask questions of these people right now, the other way. 

Do you have a thought?  Ask him where he stands politically, what he wants to do with his life?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I would love to ask you where you stand politically, because you‘re so Republican, but yet you sometimes seem a little to the left.  Am I right? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Actually, it‘s so funny.  I have people that ten years ago called me a right wing fanatic who are now calling me a liberal, when, in fact, my positions are the same.  It‘s just the Republican party over the past four or five years stopped being a party that believed in fiscal discipline.  It‘s a party that stopped believing in being conservative with the use of troops across the world.  They have stopped being conservative, and I think that‘s the reason why a lot of people have been very, very concerned. 

Seriously, I believe the same thing now that I believed ten years ago.  It‘s just my party is not acting like the party that I came to Congress with in 1995. 

MATTHEWS:  It sounds like there‘s an overlap her between traditional conservatism of William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater, defend the interest of the United States, non of this neo-con stuff, and the beliefs of the Brzezinski family.  Very similar beliefs here. 

BRZEZINSKI:  Actually, the Brzezinski family is very diverse.  We have McCain campaign people and Obama campaign people in our family. 

MATTHEWS:  Where would you be? 

BRZEZINSKI:  Where would I be? 

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t have to tell me.   

BRZEZINSKI:  OK, I was about to answer. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I know you are all objective reporters and so

forth, but do you feel like Palin is the most qualified vice presidential -

MATTHEWS:  Palin, we‘re working on that pronunciation. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, I‘d like to answer that, too.  You just asked is Palin the most qualified?  Obviously, she doesn‘t have the experience that Joe Biden has.  But, at the same time, Barack Obama doesn‘t have the experience that Joe Biden has. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s had a campaign for two years.  Millions of people.  

SCARBOROUGH:  Somebody‘s moaning back there.  Barack Obama came out today and he said, I have the experience.  I built this wonderful campaign.  I have a bigger budget.  The fact of the matter is that if you‘re going to talk about the budget he‘s run since he‘s been running the campaign—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s not the budget, it‘s the people. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Somebody who has been governor of Alaska longer than he‘s been running the campaign with billions of dollars. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just a personal question.  Growing up with your family, talk about statesmen, how was it growing up like that? 

SCARBOROUGH:  A living and breathing hell.  Being Brzezinski, what was it like.

BRZEZINSKI:  It was a great experience and it was very challenging for everybody in the family.  When you see some of these young people going through what some of the candidates kids are going through, being under the microscope, I feel for them, I really do. 

SCARBOROUGH:  During the Camp David Accords—

BRZEZINSKI:  No, let‘s not go there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  She was driving a golf cart—hold on—hold on—and ran over Menachem Begin. 

BRZEZINSKI:  No, I just hit him. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, we have to come back.  What was it like being asked, when you‘re eight years old, so what is your global strategy. 

BRZEZINSKI:  That started at five years old.  We‘ll be right back.  This is Mika Brzezinski.  Get up at 5:00 and watch her.  Get up and watch this guy too.  We‘ll be right back.  “RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE” with David Gregory coming up now.



Transcription Copyright 2008 ASC LLC ( ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED.

No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.

User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s

personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,

nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion

that may infringe upon MSNBC and ASC LLC‘s copyright or other proprietary

rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for

purposes of litigation.>

Watch Hardball each weeknight