Guest: Michael Brown, Anne Kornblut, Tony Coelho, Robert Bauer, Ben Ginsberg, Robert Byrd
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A special live Sunday night edition of HARDBALL. President Bush headed to Florida to look at the damage done by Hurricane Charley. We‘ll have a live report. Plus, the latest jabs thrown in the political TV ad bouts. And a preview of the Republican Convention in the New York.
Our panel, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan, and Ron Reagan, “The Boston Globe‘s” Anne Kornblut, and Democratic strategist, Tony Coelho. Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. At least 16 people have been killed and thousands left homeless in what has been the most devastating storm to hit Florida since Hurricane Andrew back in 1992. Hurricane Charley ravaged Florida‘s Gulf Coast this weekend and rumbled on a treacherous path across the state, causing $11 billion worth of damages to insured homes and prompting the largest mobilization by FEMA since the September 11 terrorist attacks. Minding for all the heat his father took after a slow response to Hurricane Andrew, President Bush surveyed the wreckage in Florida today and vowed that federal aid would be quick.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There‘s a lot of compassion movement in there, the Red Cross is here, and what I‘m telling you is that—there‘s a lot of help moving into this part of the world. It is going to take a while to rebuild it. But the government‘s job is to help people help rebuild their lives. And that‘s what‘s happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We‘ll talk about hurricane politics with tonight‘s panel. But first, NBC‘s Martin Savidge is in Punta Gorda, Florida. Let‘s hear him now.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Chris. Today was a very big dose of reality for people and for our president as to just what it‘s going to take to fix all the damage that Hurricane Charley did.
As a matter of fact, Mr. Bush arrived around midday today. He was given a tour by air, then he went on the ground, especially through this particular area, meeting with emergency officials, also meeting with victims of the storm. Then he held a news conference.
As you point out, not wanting to give the impression that many people seemed to have had from his father‘s administration back in 1992, that they did not respond fast enough to the devastating disaster of Hurricane Andrew. That, of course then was also an election year.
You pointed out some of the numbers there. There are projections that the cost of this particular storm could go as high as $20 billion. In this particular county, Charlotte County, 80 percent of the homes have been damaged. In the county next door, they say a quarter of a million structures have been damaged.
There are thousands of people that are now without homes. There is over a million people that still don‘t have power, although that is an improvement, because at one point it was close to two million people. Hundreds of people in this city alone lined up for hours just to get ice. Then there is the report just now coming out from the Citrus Group that says that the citrus crop here in the state of Florida, a $9.1 billion industry, have also suffered a devastating blow from this particular hurricane, and that‘s an industry that employs about 90,000 people.
The cleanup was going on today. But there is some good news coming out of the ruins. You pointed it out, it‘s the death toll. It appears now to have stabilized. No longer are there concerns that it could soar, because the search teams have pretty much completed searching all of the buildings that they needed to look into. It was also Sunday; many people here ironically left their devastated homes to go to their devastated houses of worship, to offer up prayers for help and prayers for thanks—
MATTHEWS: Martin, is it worse than Andrew?
SAVIDGE: Well, you know that‘s a very tough equation to make.
Financially, it probably is going to be worse than Andrew, due to the difference in time and other factors.
But when you think back at Andrew and that just straight-line swath of massive devastation. You don‘t find that here. You find pockets of very heavy devastation, spread out around the area. I guess the final outcome of that is still going to be measured over time—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Absolutely amazing, those pictures. Thank you very much, Martin Savage of NBC.
Michael Brown is the undersecretary of homeland security for emergency preparedness and response. He toured some of the areas devastated by Hurricane Charley today. He joins us now by phone. Michael, your assessment of this in terms of just historic bad news from nature. Is this at the top of the list, or where would you put it?
MICHAEL BROWN, UNDERSECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY FOR EMERGENCY
PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE: Chris, I would put it at the top of the list. I thought Martin‘s report there that I was just listening to was pretty darn accurate in terms of the devastation throughout these counties. Governor Bush and I toured those areas today. Of course, the president and I flew around and looked at those. And it‘s just very widespread. And of course, to each individual, the storm is just completely devastating, too.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you how you notch it up in terms of the kind of aid the federal government has committed itself to? Where would you put the amount of money that is going to be headed down there in the next couple of months?
BROWN: You know, Chris, we really have no idea. And I get that question all the time. And we just don‘t know yet, because what we‘re focused on right now is just getting the resources that the state says they need, and which we observed today, into those communities. And then we‘ll start doing the tabulations once we start kind of leveling off and get really into a full recovery mode.
MATTHEWS: So what are the initials things? Are they tents? Is it water? What do you have to get in there just to keep people alive for the next couple of weeks?
BROWN: Well, you‘re absolutely correct. I mean, right now I‘m focused on two things—making certain that we have the right kind of medical teams in here. We have disaster medical teams from all over the country, that are helping a lot of the hospitals that have been devastated that cannot operate or do anything right now, and then we‘re taking care of basic human needs—tents, cots, water, blankets, just some basic clothing. And those are all moving in. Tarps to put over the roofs.
And then we‘ll start looking at housing. I‘ve estimated we‘re probably going to have in excess need of 10,000 temporary homes for people over the next several weeks.
MATTHEWS: There‘s no ideology when it comes to these storms, is there? I mean, some people say I can make it on my own, I don‘t need the government. It seems to me, when something like this happens, everybody suspends those usual philosophical discussions about whether we want to go it alone or need government. Everybody needs government when this happens, right?
BROWN: They need government, they need the volunteer agencies, they need everybody in the country. That‘s what makes the country great is that we all come together in these disasters, whatever causes them, and pull together and help people get back on their feet.
MATTHEWS: How does it work, that you work in an agency that‘s basically now toward—in fact, the turrets of your operation are turned toward terrorist attacks. How do you work within an agency that‘s mainly focused now on terrorism?
BROWN: Chris, think about what we‘ve experienced here. We had to evacuate a million people. We have—you know, thousands of people out of their home. We‘re without power. This could have been caused by a terrorist incident. When I think back to some of the tornado damage I‘ve seen in some of the small communities like Pierce City, Missouri or down in Indiana, where towns are completely wiped out, the system that we have put in place, what we did on September 11 is exactly what we‘re doing here in Florida. The system is the same. And that‘s why we use this all-hazards approach to responding to disasters of any kind.
MATTHEWS: Same approach to acts of God and acts of the devil, I guess. Thank you very much, Michael Brown, director of FEMA.
Let‘s go to the panel right now. The panel will be us with for the whole hour.
Pat Buchanan, sir, it seems to me that this is the kind of role that the federal government, despite the philosophical differences over what role government should play, it seems like everybody wants help when this kind of crisis hits, and they expect the president to be there.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the president‘s chief consoler in chief, griever, and he‘s going to be down there. And we rely on FEMA for major disasters like this.
Chris, this is a golden opportunity for the president. He‘s done the right thing to begin with. But whether—Florida could turn on this issue. What he has got to avoid at all costs is two weeks from now having people grousing in front of television cameras, saying the president came down here, and then they didn‘t do anything. He ought to get every person...
MATTHEWS: Who was attacked for that? Senior Bush.
BUCHANAN: Well, here‘s the—exactly. You cannot have that. And this is an opportunity—and he ought to have all his people down there, working with local people, state people, federal people, and also the local community.
MATTHEWS: And it seems like here is the case again where this Bush is going to try to avoid the mistakes of the other Bush, whether it‘s raising taxes or it‘s a different kind of foreign policy, or whatever.
ANNE KORNBLUT, BOSTON GLOBE: Well, that‘s been the whole template for the entire campaign, whether it‘s energizing the base early on or, like you said, taxes. But I agree with Pat. There is a real opportunity here, as we saw today, for President Bush to go down there and actually repeat the sort of performance he gave after 9/11. He‘s the main guy there, making everyone feel better. But the risks are there. If Florida—if anything goes wrong in the reconstruction, not only President Bush but his brother who is in charge of the state, the name Bush will be even more closely associated with this than his father‘s was in 1992.
MATTHEWS: Tony Coelho, it seems like all politics is local when something happens like this happen.
TONY COELHO, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it sure is, Chris. I can remember, as Pat pointed out so correctly, it‘s not just having a president respond. A lot of them have done that over the years. But what Bill Clinton did is he perfected it. He not only responded, put his arms around the people, but he made sure that FEMA responded two weeks, two months, six months later, so that there was positive feelings about the government‘s role.
The danger here for Mr. Bush, is did he have a group of people really prepared to handle this? Are they more focused on something else and not prepared to handle this? This could boomerang if he doesn‘t have the team ready and the preparation done.
MATTHEWS: Ron Reagan, it seems to me—I go back to my point.
Conservatives always say, I‘ll do it myself, except when they can‘t.
RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, exactly. I would agree with everybody else on the panel that Mr. Bush has avoided the mistake of his father by showing up there right away. I think people expect that. I don‘t know that he‘ll gain a lot of points for that, because as I said, people do expect it, but he avoids the pitfall of not showing up at all and looking heartless.
You know, if I can just broaden this just a bit, we‘re going to see a lot more hurricanes in the next few years. This is what meteorologists are telling us. We‘re coming out of a relatively quiescent cycle, hurricane wise, in the Atlantic, heading into a more active cycle. Global warming will also increase the number and severity of hurricanes.
REAGAN: And it‘s worth asking, what do you say to people who insist on building on, you know, islands that are vulnerable to hurricanes or on shorelines that are vulnerable to this, when they keep getting their house knocked down over and over again and keep coming back to the federal government and saying, you got to build me a new house. It‘s a question of (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
MATTHEWS: The problem is, Ron—Ron, I agree with you. I agree with you. I don‘t want to sound too elitist or too smart, but this is Route 4 we‘re talking about, this is right through Florida. The Tampa, Daytona highway. You can‘t exactly evacuate the peninsula of Florida.
REAGAN: It‘s true.
MATTHEWS: Because they have hurricanes down there. I mean, let‘s be serious. These people made a reasonable calculation that the center of Florida, all the way up near Tampa, was reasonably safe. They weren‘t living in the Keys.
REAGAN: People make the same calculation in the Mississippi flood plain. I‘m just posing the question, I am not saying I have an answer.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a philosophically accurate proposal, but in this case I think they‘re pretty far back from the beach.
REAGAN: That‘s true.
BUCHANAN: Even Robert Novak, my good friend, has got a house down in Fenwick that hangs over the water, and he loves federal flood insurance. That‘s what all these fellows get. And Ron is exactly right. They build their houses right down near the Mississippi River because they got insurance.
MATTHEWS: Sometimes God has to strike out at the Prince of Darkness.
Anyway, thank you. The panel is staying with us. And up next—big money. I shouldn‘t laugh about this. It is a tragedy. But Bob Novak? Come on.
And the battle for the White House, how the candidates are raising cash, even after the campaign finance reform laws that were supposed to clean up this business. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Seventy-nine days to go before the election. Boy, it creeps up on you, and despite the fact that President Bush signed campaign finance reform into law just last year, more money has been raised in this presidential election than ever before. As of late July, President Bush‘s raised more than $226 million, and the Kerry campaign raised more than $185 million. So-called 527 political groups, which have the ability to raise corporate money and union money have thus far collected more than $237 million this cycle. That‘s more than $648 million already spent, and the election is still about three months away.
For more on the political money chase, we‘re joined by two experts, these are the bad guys, two campaign finance experts, Ben Ginsberg, chief outside counsel for the Bush-Cheney campaign. He‘s been around forever. And Bob Bauer has also been around forever—I know these guys—represents numerous Democratic Party organizations, 527s and the Kerry campaign.
Look, Ben, when we see these movies like a bunch of guys who actually never served with—I shouldn‘t say they never actually served with John Kerry, blasting his war record, is that because there‘s money out there to be spent under the new law?
BEN GINSBERG, REPUBLICAN CAMPAIGN LAWYER: Well, there‘s money out there to be spent under the new law, and the truth is the money has moved from the party committees, where it was more reportable...
MATTHEWS: And more accountable.
GINSBERG: ... to outside groups. And more accountable...
MATTHEWS: So the candidate would have to say, my name is George W. Bush and I paid for this, and I authorized this ad. Now, you can scum the other side and don‘t even have to have your face of your candidate on it, right?
GINSBERG: Well, it‘s a question of resources too. The fact of the matter is, that this law has taken money from the political party committees, where you knew what it was going to do, and created a vacuum, and the 527s are filling that vacuum and doing great.
MATTHEWS: Bob—remember back in the—well, you do remember, because I remember, after the horrors of Watergate and all that came with it, we all said now we‘re all going to pay a dollar, checking off our taxes. We still do it April 15, and it doesn‘t mean you pay more taxes, just means $1 -- $2 now is dedicated to these federal funds for the general election.
The idea was that the matching funds in the primary campaigns, you get a dollar for a dollar up to a certain amount, and the money for the general election would get the clement stones out of this business, the big-money guys out of this game. Why didn‘t it work?
ROBERT BAUER, DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN LAWYER: Well, for a variety of reasons. One thing is, not commonly understood, a lot of people have stopped checking off the money. This is a system that has been underfunded, because a large number of taxpayers have decided they actually don‘t want to check the dollars off, and they‘re happy...
MATTHEWS: Even though it‘s cost-free.
MATTHEWS: Even though it‘s cost-free.
BAUER: Even though it‘s cost-free. They think that the people who want to give politically ought to give politically, but they don‘t necessarily want to do the same.
MATTHEWS: Really? Even if it‘s somebody else‘s money (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
BAUER: That‘s correct.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the freedom to go away without—is there a good disclosure law, Bob? Now, if a bunch of people in Texas or anywhere else decided they want to hit the other side, with the ad campaign, just on their own, a bunch of guys get together, at a poker game and say, why don‘t we screw that other side, is it any more accountable now than it was before Watergate? Is there any way now to...
BAUER: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: You have to put your name on it?
BAUER: Absolutely. And as a matter of fact, even the 527s now report under a statute...
MATTHEWS: And is it online? Can I find out who the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
BAUER: Yes, you can find it online, at the Federal Election Commission, also with the Internal Revenue Service, for both political committees and also for so-called 527s.
MATTHEWS: If I want to find out who‘s going after my candidate, can I go online and ask, by zip code, and find out who the people are or what? How‘s the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
GINSBERG: Yeah, you can go on the IRS Web site and pretty much find out for the 527 committees.
GINSBERG: Yeah. The money that‘s not disclosed are tax exempt groups
· labor unions, trade associations, groups like that can still run ads in a defined period of time, and you can‘t see who the donors to those groups are.
MATTHEWS: Why do you guys let the labor unions dedicate money to the other side, the Democratic side, when they are—labor unions were—I think the firemen—the firefighters, for example, there is a huge number of Republican firefighters. It‘s just a culture. Probably they‘re Irish guys. I don‘t know what they are. But they all like to be firefighters, they like—they tend to be Republican.
MATTHEWS: How come—how come—even though that union is very strong for Kerry, that those members who are Republicans don‘t get to say, wait a minute, I don‘t want my money to go to the other guy?
GINSBERG: Well, that‘s one of the things, that‘s one of the reforms that probably long-term is needed. And that sort of democracy within unions...
MATTHEWS: How about giving the stockholders that don‘t want their money—their corporation, whether it‘s IBM, or GE, or anybody else, giving money to the other guy?
GINSBERG: After Sarbanes-Oxley, corporations are much—have much more disclosure and are much more reluctant to engage in that in quite the same way.
MATTHEWS: Because—what‘s the reason? They don‘t want big minority stockholders to know about it?
GINSBERG: Well, it‘s not so much wanting them to know about it; they‘re just more conscious of the corporate governance issues involved.
MATTHEWS: What about the quality of politics, Bob? You‘re an old Democrat, and in fact, you‘re a new Democrat culturally, I suppose, you‘re my age. What do you think about—is politics getting better with all these changes in the laws? Is it cleaner, is it better—more adversarial on the issues, I mean, more about issues? Is it better than it was, or is it the same old sort of stinky business where you can find ways to make money count?
BAUER: Yeah, I don‘t think it‘s a putrid business at all. I think politics is being—is very robust in this country. I think the expenditure of huge sums of money, while it‘s often derided in the media and elsewhere is a mark of people‘s commitment to the political process. They‘re excited, they want to be involved. They‘ll raise, they‘ll spend, and I think that‘s exactly what ought to happen. I don‘t find the total amount of money raised and spent at all shocking, given the stakes...
MATTHEWS: Oh, I agree. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) spends more than that in a week, probably.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the stinky (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ad, like -
· when Bush for example, the way he destroyed John McCain down in South Carolina.
GINSBERG: I‘m not accepting the premise.
MATTHEWS: Well, the idea that you call up a buddy, or somebody calls up a buddy, they call up a buddy, they call up a buddy, so it‘s all this connected, but somewhere along the line your pals find out that they would like to help in your campaign, and they somehow get the idea if they nail the other guy for whatever, they can win without putting any dirt on the candidate‘s face.
GINSBERG: Well, that is to an extent what the system encourages. But as Bob says, and I agree with it, it‘s really all about free speech, being able to present the ideas. People want to get involved. Negative campaigning is not particularly new in this country. If anything makes the system more putrid, it‘s putting so many laws and regulations on it, that people sort of by nature bump up against some of it.
MATTHEWS: But this allows President Bush, who can say, I don‘t have any problem with John Kerry‘s record in the military. I think he did a fine job for our country. Meanwhile, some stinky poo down in Texas is nailing the guy, with these ads trashing all over his military record.
GINSBERG: I appreciate you trying to nail my candidate here...
MATTHEWS: No, no, because I don‘t think—I don‘t think—I didn‘t say—I don‘t mean to say he put them up to it, but he benefits politically, because this third party, this 527 is destroying his opponent.
GINSBERG: Well, look at the primaries. Look in the primaries, all the amount of money, negative ad that have been run against the president by outside 527 groups, that‘s allowed the John Kerry campaign not to have to run his negative—as many negative ads, and that‘s purely a function of this 527 system.
MATTHEWS: Wonderful. Thank you. Thank you, Ben Ginsberg. Thank you, Bob Bauer. Thanks for coming in on a Sunday.
Up next, Pat Buchanan, he‘s coming back. Anne Kornblut, she‘s coming back. Tony Coelho, Ron Reagan. They‘re all coming back, with their reaction to the various ways millions of dollars are now and still pouring into the campaign for the White House. Lots more politics this weekend. Sunday night, stick with us. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the panel. Pat Buchanan, Anne Kornblut, Tony Coelho, and we‘ve got Ron Reagan out on the coast.
According to a new Zogby poll, Senator Kerry leads President Bush by four points right now nationwide, and President Bush‘s job approval rating is still under 50 percent, but it‘s up to three points—up three points from two weeks ago.
Well, Bush is is doing OK, I think. The president‘s job approval, I see it‘s about 47, 52 disapprove. That‘s not too healthy.
Let me go to Ron Reagan about this new ad. Are we going to show the Shuster ad? I thought we were going to show the Shuster—in the next block.
Let me ask you about this—about the campaign. How is it going, Ron?
REAGAN: You mean the campaign, the ads and everything? MATTHEWS: No, the campaign itself. Who‘s winning?
REAGAN: Well, first of all, I wouldn‘t pay any attention to any polls. Anytime that somebody makes a big deal about three points or two points or four points, they‘re within the margin of error there, and it‘s pretty meaningless.
I‘ve been amused in the last week with this jumping on the word “sensitive” by the Republicans. Cheney is using this of course in a lot of his speeches now, talking about how Kerry wants to have a sensitive foreign policy. This is a little like the word French, of course, and it‘s meant to imply that John Kerry is somehow effeminate, or maybe, I don‘t know, gay or something.
MATTHEWS: Right. What else could it mean?
REAGAN: Well, indeed. What else—it‘s very telling, of course, much more revealing of the accuser than the accused in this particular case. And I don‘t know. I think that sort of thing is going to backfire. But they have got a new one coming up now, I‘m sure, and that‘s the voting records in—on the Intelligence Committee.
MATTHEWS: We‘re going to get to that, Ron. Let me go to panel about hardball here, Pat. This going after him on sensitive. Is this a sort of a macho thing, or what? Is there anything deeper to this than that?
BUCHANAN: No, it‘s fairly effective. It was a silly term for Kerry to use about the war on terror, because the real problem is the Democrats are considered weak on that. And last week, Kerry had a bad week, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Yeah, I agree.
BUCHANAN: He came out and said, look, I would have gone to war even if I knew there were no weapons of mass destruction, no connection to 9/11. That‘s the Wolfowitz position. The only reason you take that is if you‘re hurting on the security issue. And Kerry‘s polls must be showing this.
MATTHEWS: That‘s like saying the criminal reaches for a gun and the cops shot him. It‘s the same as if he didn‘t reach for a gun.
BUCHANAN: Yeah, what is—why...
MATTHEWS: It‘s crazy.
BUCHANAN: Why would you go to war if the guy didn‘t do anything...
MATTHEWS: There‘s no danger.
BUCHANAN: ... and there is no weapons?
MATTHEWS: Anyway, our panel stays with us. Up next, the latest campaign ads launched in the battle for the White House. More coming, lots of ads coming, lots of assessment of this campaign.
Also, a real treat, Senator Robert Byrd, the toughest guy on the war there is, tells us about how it violates American principles. He‘s coming on.
MATTHEWS: This half hour on HARDBALL, the latest campaign ads in the battle for the White House. Plus, Senator Robert Byrd‘s scathing critique of the Bush foreign policy, and a preview of the Republican Convention. But first, the latest headlines.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. In the presidential campaign, this was supposed to be a fairly quiet this weekend, with Senator John Kerry on vacation in Idaho, and President Bush touring the hurricane destruction down in Florida. Instead, the political ad war has taken a surprisingly nasty turn. HARDBALL election correspondent David Shuster reports.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL ELECTION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a weekend when the president‘s advertising campaign wanted to match the upbeat feelings of the Olympics, a mistake on Fox News led to the early release of this, a blistering new attack ad, trashing John Kerry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a member of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Kerry was absent for 76 percent of the committee‘s hearings. In the year after the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, Kerry was absent for every single one.
SHUSTER: The Kerry campaign said the Bush team was counting only open hearings, while ignoring hundreds of others. And regarding this..
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He proposed slashing America‘s intelligence budget by $6 billion.
SHUSTER: Democrats said Senator Kerry would have cut just $1 billion as part of a 1994 deficit reduction plan.
Running mate John Edwards is asking the Intelligence Committee to publicly release a variety of documents related to attendance, budgets and the Bush administration.
The dispute over the new Bush attack ad, just weeks after the president vowed he would be staying positive, overshadowed a softer Bush message tied into the Olympics.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And this Olympics, there will be two more free nations, and two fewer terrorist regimes.
SHUSTER: But while the positive ad will be running only in 250 fitness centers in a few swing states, the new attack ad, which officially comes out Monday but was on “Meet the Press,” is part of a much bigger television buy, and will be running in 18 states.
The aggressive approach, according to Republicans, is necessary to match a flurry of hard-hitting ads being aired by the Democrats.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Millions of good jobs lost to plant closures and outsourcing, yet President Bush protects tax breaks, favoring corporations that move their headquarters overseas.
SHUSTER: One organization, known as the Media Fund, says it is trying to fill the void left by John Kerry who is saving his money for later in the fall. The Media Fund‘s latest ad targets the swing state of Ohio.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When President Bush says that he‘s going to help companies outsource jobs, it‘s infuriating.
SHUSTER: The problem is, the president never said that. What he actually said was...
BUSH: Best way to deal with job creation and outsourcing is to make sure our businesses are competitive here at home.
SHUSTER (on camera): The ads on both sides, though, are not designed to be perfectly accurate, just effective. And the Bush campaign and the Democratic Media Fund hounding him, each plan to spend $30 million in ads this month alone.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster.
We‘re back now with more with our panelists, Pat Buchanan, Anne Kornblut of “The Boston Globe,” Tony Coelho and Ron Reagan.
Ron, I saw the new ad, I thought it was pretty good. I guess you‘ve seen it since you‘re at the gym all the time. The new ad about the Olympics. Pat, too, by the way, downstairs. Do they show it downstairs, Pat? You‘re always down there working out. I‘m never there, obviously.
Ron, do you think—I know you‘re not a Republican, you‘re an independent, you‘ve told me that many times privately and publicly. But do you really think we‘re in that morning America kind of halcyon moment we were in in 1984 when your father ran for reelection?
REAGAN: No, no, we‘re certainly not. And it gets harder and harder to pretend you‘re a kinder, gentler, compassionate sort of conservative when you are running ads like this.
We need some sort of ombudsman, I think, a national ombudsman, to sort through all these ads on both sides, really, and tell the American people, you know, what‘s the truth here? Is there any truth to this stuff about Kerry missing all these meetings or Bush doing whatever he did?
MATTHEWS: I go back to my question, Ron. What kind of a bonehead would decide who to vote for president on the base of an ad?
REAGAN: I hope nobody. But there are some boneheads out there, I suppose, or why else would these people be spending millions and millions of dollars on these ads?
MATTHEWS: Pat, you‘re taking offense. Have you got investment in these ads, or what? You obviously believe in the...
BUCHANAN: Whether you like it or not, Willie Horton just hammered Dukakis.
MATTHEWS: That hurt.
BUCHANAN: You remember the hands ad for Jessie Helms?
MATTHEWS: Oh, yeah.
BUCHANAN: A lot of these ads, when you get into the people who are undecided...
MATTHEWS: Yeah, the real ugly ones.
BUCHANAN: Well, you‘re talking about 8 percent who are going to decide this election. They don‘t know too much. You get a hard negative ad hits in there, that can decide this election.
MATTHEWS: That job meant a lot to you, didn‘t it? Remember the...
BUCHANAN: Exactly. That job and...
MATTHEWS: ... affirmative action, it was pretty powerful stuff.
BUCHANAN: And I think it was fair, but it was very powerful.
MATTHEWS: Tony Coelho, you raised a lot of money over the years for these ads. Do they work?
COELHO: Oh, negative ads always work. But I think one of the things that you‘re missing—I haven‘t been able to comment a bit here—but when they use the word “sensitive” against Kerry, George Bush used the word “sensitive” a couple of weeks before that, and nobody seemed to be paying attention to it. So it‘s kind of interesting.
No. 2, what these ads are coming not because of anything else, but if you started looking at the numbers, if you started looking at what‘s happening in Ohio, the numbers against Bush are bad. Kerry has increased his lead in Ohio right now, he has increased his lead in Florida, he‘s increased his lead now over 10 percent in Pennsylvania.
The Bush White House is petrified that what is happening, prior to the convention, is that in these states that they must do well, that they must carry, that the numbers are increasing against them. They are having to come out against Kerry much more aggressive, much more often than they had expected. They were hoping to be able to go into this convention a little more positive. They cannot do it, because they‘re behind right now in the key states. Nationally, it doesn‘t make any difference.
MATTHEWS: I‘ll tell you, you‘ve sprung me into action, and here are some of the exchanges, by the way, between Senator Kerry and Senator Bush (sic) over the use of that very word, sensitive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror, that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side.
BUSH: Now, in terms of, you know, the balance between running down intelligence and bringing people to justice, obviously is—we need to be very sensitive on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What is this? The battle of Blutos? If we use a word like sensitive, are we not Bluto enough? I mean, do you have to be cartoon characters? If a candidate for president or president uses the word sensitive, is that like the magic word?
KORNBLUT: Well, yeah, I mean, I‘ve been surprised that Cheney...
MATTHEWS: This is absurd.
KORNBLUT: ... and actually, you didn‘t show Vice President Cheney, but his comments are even harsher on John Kerry.
MATTHEWS: Oh yeah, he‘s jumping on the guy.
KORNBLUT: He‘s essentially said, what he says in all his speeches, and it‘s almost essentially this, is we don‘t need to be sensitive. We need to crush them. And...
MATTHEWS: This is school yard stuff.
KORNBLUT: You know, it is and it isn‘t.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me—just -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Pat, you start. Pat, you used to be a Republican. Let me ask you this question. When we put troops into Saudi Arabia, the country from which 15 of the 19 hijackers came from, including Mohammed Atta, back after the last Iraq—first Iraq War, and without thinking about it much we kept them in there all those years under Clinton, Clinton is responsible for this, and all that time they‘re taking that as a sacrilege. We the Westerners, the infidels, are putting 10,000 troops into their holy land, and that is one of the main reasons, at least that‘s what they say, for the whole war from the east against the West. Wouldn‘t that have been a smart time to be sensitive and get the troops out of there, instead of starting a terroristic campaign against us?
BUCHANAN: The use of the word being more sensitive to their concerns was exactly right. That‘s Osama bin Laden‘s No. 1 cause of the attack. But the phrase Kerry used, which is so bad, is three words. More sensitive war. And that‘s what Cheney—you take a look at what Cheney did, and he ripped him before all those retired military guys, and they all cheered, and Kerry is on the defensive. He wishes he had never used it, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I agree. Go ahead. Go ahead. Is this a word he uses a lot?
KORNBLUT: Well, not anymore, he doesn‘t.
MATTHEWS: Is this how we‘re going to pick a president in 2004?
KORNBLUT: He‘s defended it, he has defended it since then. He hasn‘t totally backed away from it. I was out with him on Friday, and a person at an event got up and used the word sensitive, and then apologized. And Kerry said, no, no, no, it‘s OK, we can use the word sensitive. But absolutely, coming out of the convention, looking like the warrior hawk veteran that he did, this was a gift to the Bush campaign.
MATTHEWS: I know. It was a bad week, a bad week for John Kerry. And is this going to go down in history books? He dropped two, three points in the polls because he used a word that wasn‘t macho enough?
Anyway, coming up, Senator Robert Byrd—here‘s a guy that doesn‘t say sensitive—on why he says the Bush administration is dangerous for America. Don‘t forget—wait until you catch this guy, Bobby Byrd. He‘s been around forever. He‘s the toughest critic of the war there is, and there is a lot of truth to what he has to say, I think. Anyway, by the way, you catch the whole presidential race on Hardblogger, our election blog Web site. Just go to hardball.msnbc.com. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Senator Robert Byrd is the longest-serving member currently in the U.S. Senate. He has written a new book called “Losing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency,” and boy, is he tough. Senator, you‘re one of the few people, sometimes I think the only voice against this war with Iraq. Why were senators afraid to confront this war?
SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I think many of them felt that they would be accused of being unpatriotic if they opposed it.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think John Kerry voted to authorize this war?
BYRD: I don‘t dispute on that question, but I‘ll tell you this. I think that senators were misled by this administration. That could very well have been the reason that many senators voted against—voted for the resolution authorizing this war.
MATTHEWS: Did they know that writing—and you‘re the expert on legislative language. In writing this legislation, authorizing this war, they gave the president, it seems to me, a blank check.
BYRD: No question about that. They gave to the president a constitutional power that is reserved for the Congress of the United States. They shifted this power to one man, whereas the framers did not believe in one man‘s having this total decision. But believe not in just one body, but two. The Senate and the House. And so the framers must have been spinning in their graves when the Senate of the United States voted to shift this power to declare war to one man, to the president of the United States.
MATTHEWS: Our first flag was the Gadsden flag, named for the senator from South Carolina. The yellow flag in the backdrop with the snake on it, the rattlesnake that said “don‘t tread on me.” That was the nation of American foreign policy—leave us alone, we leave you alone. Is that still our foreign policy?
BYRD: It‘s hard to know what our foreign policy is, except if one thinks about the doctrine of preemption, that seems to be our foreign policy.
BYRD: It‘s a dangerous doctrine. It‘s unconstitutional. It flies in the face of the constitutional power given to the Congress to declare war. These two things are incompatible, one with the other. The Constitution, which says, Congress should have power to declare war, and on the other hand, the Bush doctrine, which says that we will conduct preemptive strikes against any nation that threatens us. I think that‘s a bad doctrine.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you. Do you think that this election coming up in November is going to be a referendum on that doctrine?
BYRD: I think it‘s going to be a referendum, in considerable measure, on that doctrine, the doctrine of preemption. And it‘s a dangerous doctrine. This is a dangerous administration, and an administration which looks with contempt upon the constitutional checks and balances.
MATTHEWS: Let me talk to you about the quote from your book. This is a great quote. You talk about how the president sold the war, to the country. “In one fell swoop, the president has linked Saddam Hussein to September 11, placed him in league with Osama bin Laden, indeed with Hitler, undercut the credibility of the U.N. inspectors, defied the will of the Security Council, and pledged liberation for the people of Iraq.”
That‘s what he did.
BYRD: That‘s what he did. And I think he got that from Karl Rove, who in Austin, Texas, in January of 2002, suggested that the Republican Party take this war on terrorism and use it in the forthcoming election. They said—Karl Rove said the American people would believe that the Republicans will do better by the country when it comes to defense. And he urged that this be a central pillar in the strategy of the Republican Party, so that every time—every time, every time—I saw the president of the United States speak with a backdrop of the National Guard or other military men and women, I remembered Karl Rove‘s admonition, this is the horse that we can ride right through the election.
And so that caused me to question the sincerity of this administration, when it came to using the military and fighting the war on terrorism.
MATTHEWS: Senator, congratulation on your new book. I hope it sells well. It‘s beautifully written, as I told you before the break, before we started. And I wish the Democratic Convention had a spokesman as clear as you, I wish we the Democratic Party had a candidate as clear as you. This would be a great debate this year.
BYRD: Let me just say—give one clear statement which speaks for itself. This is a quotation from Mr. Bush.
BYRD: “I‘m the commander. See? I don‘t need to explain. I do not need to explain why I say things. That‘s the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don‘t feel like I owe anybody an explanation.” What a...
MATTHEWS: When did he say that?
BYRD: He said that in a book by Bob Woodward. That‘s clear. And it‘s also in my book on page 170. I hope that those who read it will see through that, the president who holds himself by that statement, above the American people, above we the people, which are the first three words in the Preamble to the Constitution.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. The name of the book is “Losing America.” The author is Senator Robert Byrd. Thank you, sir.
BYRD: Thank you. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: As the senator said, the book is—whatever your position on the war happens to be, and the country is about evenly split on that, it‘s a beautifully written constitutional argument that the Congress of the United States should not have written any blank check resolution. They should have said, we hereby declared war, or we refuse to declare war, not just let the president decide at his decision, or his whim, if you will, when to go to war.
Let me go to Tony Coelho. Why does Bob Byrd speak as the most bold critic of this administration on the war?
COELHO: Well, he has the comfort, Chris—as you know, he‘s been around for a long time. He has also, I think, been very offended by this administration, because of their lack of regard for the appropriation process, about dealing with the senators on issues, and his—interesting, at the end of his interview with you, he stressed the issue, that this president says he doesn‘t have to explain anything to anybody. I think that comes right to his personal concern, that this president doesn‘t feel like he has to explain his positions to anybody.
MATTHEWS: When will John Kerry explain his position? He still won‘t come out against the war, even while there is no evidence of weapons of mass destruction, which was the premiere reason given by the president to the world, why we had to go to war. Now we can‘t find the weapons. Why doesn‘t this guy, the candidate of the Democratic Party, say you know, if I knew there was no real premiere reason for going to war, I would have to rethink my position. Instead he says, I still would have gone into war. It doesn‘t make any sense. He could say I have to reconsider it, or he could say that‘s hypothetical. But no, he doesn‘t say that. Kerry says, I would have gone to war without a reason for war. I don‘t get it.
COELHO: I think that at the convention, he should have done a better job of answering that question. I‘ve been critical of that, Chris. I think the American people are prepared to turn out George Bush, but I don‘t think John Kerry has answered that question. What are they going to get if they turn him out? And I think that this is something that they‘re struggling with.
COELHO: I think they should have answered it a long time ago.
MATTHEWS: Right. Brand X (ph) is still brand X (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
BUCHANAN: There‘s two audible positions here. One of them is Senator Byrd, who courageously stood up, right when that war was very popular and said, I‘m against it, even though I‘m from West Virginia. The second one is George Bush. He believes in this war, Chris. You and I may not like it. Kerry didn‘t believe in it and gave the president a blank check. That is what is inexcusable.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll come back with the expert from “The Boston Globe.” Anne is going to tell us what Kerry really thinks. We‘ll be right back with the panel. Does John Kerry believe in this war or not? Also, a preview of the big Republican Convention. We‘ll be having a lot of fun, believe it or not, because New York will be a little trickier than Boston. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And George, just one personal request. Go out there and win one for the Gipper.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Read my lips. No new taxes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1992)
BUCHANAN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) war going on in this country. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as the Cold War itself, but this war is for the soul of America. And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton and Clinton are on the other side, and George Bush is on our side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Who says political conventions are boring and predictable? That was our own Pat Buchanan, bringing down the house at the 1992 convention down in steaming Houston. Pat, did you catch any hell from the party for that?
BUCHANAN: Not at all.
MATTHEWS: You weren‘t exactly on message.
BUCHANAN: No. The president of the United States called me. Everybody—that night, George Bush went up 10 points that night. The firestorm didn‘t start until 36 hours later.
MATTHEWS: And what started it?
BUCHANAN: What started it? There were people at that convention that were unhappy. Kerry—I mean, excuse me, Clinton for the first time sent his guys out on “Nightline.” Clinton came out himself. He went down in Florida and spoke, unlike normal. They knew—and Clinton says in his book—the one thing that could have taken him down in that election, the only thing, was the cultural, social issues. The economy, Bush was dead. Sixteen percent...
MATTHEWS: So you‘re arguing, if your voice had been heard in the general election, you would have won against Clinton?
BUCHANAN: Well, the thing is, Wednesday night, when they had all the
· Pat Robertson and all that—that was (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I don‘t think it was well done. But I‘ll tell you, the only way Bush could have won that election is make cultural and social issues. Foreign policy was off the table.
MATTHEWS: Speaking of culture wars, let‘s go to Ron Reagan. Will Michael, your brother, bring down the house in New York speaking about whatever? Is he taking you on head to head on stem cells? Or will he do a flanking motion and go past you, Ron Reagan?
REAGAN: No, I don‘t think he is going to be speaking about stem cells. I spoke to him on the phone just a little while ago, and apparently he‘s going to introduce a video tribute to my father. He told me he was going to speak for about four minutes, and just introduce that package. So I don‘t expect any mention of stem cells, but I‘ll be watching closely.
MATTHEWS: So you won‘t be conjoined twins that night.
REAGAN: No. No. We won‘t.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask Pat about the—Anne, you‘re so quiet! Anne, let me ask you this question. The Democratic Party up in your Boston area had a wonderful conjoining of the street people. People out on the streets, the nice people, who were all around our operation up there, which I had more fun, obviously, everybody could tell than anything else in my life, covering that convention.
They were all Democrats in the streets. Every time I polled the streets, everybody was a Democrat, with like two or three courageous exceptions. When you get to New York...
MATTHEWS: ... God knows what kind of a crowd you‘re going to have out there for a Republican Convention. Won‘t there be a conflict between the street and the hall?
KORNBLUT: Well, everyone hopes that they‘re going to clear out of town like they did in Boston. Everyone I know is going to be allowed to telecommute while they‘re there, but...
MATTHEWS: But the most interesting street people don‘t leave town.
They stay the summer. They own summer places in Long Island.
KORNBLUT: They knew that when they were picking New York. I think
what they‘re most concerned about are the protesters. I mean, all the big
· the cages...
MATTHEWS: OK. Tony, bottom line, was it smart for the Republicans to go to New York for their convention, given 9/11, all kinds of realities in the streets of New York?
COELHO: They thought it was smart then. But I don‘t think it‘s smart today. As a matter of fact, their concern is that they thought they could use 9/11 just by being there. Today, they have to be extremely careful. That‘s why they have Rudy Giuliani coming on to see if Rudy Giuliani can give them the blessing of 9/11 without the president and the party having to step over that line.
MATTHEWS: So maybe it will be like W.C. Fields. All things considered, I would rather be in Philadelphia.
Anyway, thank you, Ron Reagan, Pat Buchanan, Tony Coelho, Anne Kornblut. Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Right now, a special edition of “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”
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