Guests: David Gergen, Christie Todd Whitman, Dorothy Rogers, Gigi Bolt, Bill Frist, Karyn Frist
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to be your president for four more years to make our economy stronger. I want to be your president for four more years to make our future brighter and better for every one of our citizens. I want to be your president for four more years to make our country safer!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kerry! Kerry! Kerry!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kerry! Kerry! Kerry!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kerry! Kerry! Kerry!
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews, with MSNBC‘s continuous coverage of the Republican convention here in New York. The city‘s cooling off right now. It was hot today. It feels great right now, I guess because I have a fan right down here. But it‘s a hell of a city. We‘re right at the heart of New York, on Broadway and 34th. Remember the movie “Miracle on 34th Street”? We‘re right across from Macy‘s, right behind me here. The convention hall‘s just a few blocks away. In fact, it‘s one block away from us right now.
And of course, the people out here represent all points of view. This is the many faces of Benetton out in the streets here tonight, Republicans and Democrats. Anyway, it‘s a great place. Give my regards to Broadway, remember me to Herald Square. We‘re at Herald Square.
I want to thank the 34th Street Partnership, by the way, who made it possible for MSNBC, our network, to originate here all this week. We‘re going to be here through Friday night, right through last night and then the next night of the convention.
It‘s showtime tonight, and the Republicans are going to lead off with a normally Democratic activist, Ron Silver, followed by Senator John McCain, and then, of course, the big star of the night, the former mayor of New York, the hero of 9/11, Rudy Giuliani.
Joining me on the stage right now at Herald Square, former Bush cabinet member Christie Todd Whitman—she was, of course, governor of New Jersey for two terms—MSNBC‘s Ron Reagan, Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, and former presidential adviser David Gergen.
But first let‘s go to the convention floor. NBC‘s Brian Williams is at the podium—Brian.
I can‘t hear him. I can‘t hear him, so we‘re going to get back to him in just a moment.
David, it seems to me—I will now be my callous self and say that it seems to me the way to make some noise in this country is to show up at the other convention.
MATTHEWS: You know, when Ron showed up, even though he‘s not a Democrat, it was such a big deal at the Democratic convention. Now we got Ron—we got Zell Miller. Is this the way it goes in politics now, a switch?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Everybody‘s a switch hitter these days...
MATTHEWS: ... more than that way!
GERGEN: We may not want to go there too far, right?
MATTHEWS: We‘re already too far!
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go back to the political—speaking of a man who has served for presidents...
GERGEN: All right.
MATTHEWS: OK, David?
GERGEN: Well, you know, I think that the Democrats are out here in force. The protesters are out in force. And so far, their demonstrations have been reasonably peaceful. I think they‘ve underscored—I don‘t think they‘ve—I think that this has been so far reasonably good for the protesters. If this gets violent, if they get disruptive...
MATTHEWS: But they have been very...
GERGEN: So far, they‘ve been very respectful. If it goes the other way, then it‘s going to come back and backfire. But so far, I think they‘ve been very wise. And the police have been very good here in New York, much, much better than, say, Chicago in ‘68, when the police were part of the confrontation.
MATTHEWS: I‘m sorry. What about my point, though, that having Ron speak, having—it‘s a different thing. It‘s escalated now. They have Zell Miller, a man elected a couple times as governor, as senator from Georgia, and who‘s really made his name with one party and has been brought to the party—to the party politically by one party, to now show up at the Republican convention? Is that—does that make the case, or is that like dragging in the wet cat? I mean, I...
GERGEN: Oh, we never think of Ron Reagan as a wet cat!
GERGEN: Come on!
MATTHEWS: I‘m talking about Zell Miller.
GERGEN: Yes. Yes. But Zell Miller? Listen, in a convention setting which is so highly scripted and so—everything is so predictable, you need a little something which has a little—a little sex appeal. It has a little pizzazz to it. And so what are you—we used to do entertainers. Now entertainers are everywhere, and so we‘ve...
MATTHEWS: But let‘s go back because, Howard, this thing about Zell Miller and Ron Silver, to some extent, it really started when you had the switch of John Connally of Texas...
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”: Yes.
MATTHEWS: ... who was Kennedy‘s secretary of the Navy, and he shows up as the Republican—at Democrats for Nixon in ‘72.
FINEMAN: Well, my sense of this is that having Ron Reagan at the Democratic convention and Zell Miller at the Republican convention is not designed so much to get people from the other party to come over, it‘s to reassure the people within the parties that they‘re OK, that they are representing all of America.
FINEMAN: It‘s more of a self-help kind of thing. Look, we‘ve got a Reagan at our convention.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask Ron...
FINEMAN: Look, we‘ve got a Southern Democrat at our convention.
MATTHEWS: Ron, we have an exhibit here. It‘s you.
MATTHEWS: You are our Exhibit A. Did you feel yourself a reassuring figure to the Democratic stronghold?
RONALD REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Boy, I never really thought about it that way. You know, Pete Wilson was interviewed on the floor of the convention today, and I saw him, and he was asked somewhat this same question about the moderate Republicans that are being featured, like our friend, Governor Whitman here. And he said, Well, you know, both parties do that. They try and put their best foot forward, which suggested that the moderate Republicans are the best foot of the Republican Party.
MATTHEWS: But that‘s not what he meant.
REAGAN: No, probably not, but I‘m going to interpret it that way.
MATTHEWS: But in the case...
REAGAN: The worst foot would be the Rick Santorums and Tom DeLays.
MATTHEWS: I mean, in the case of Pete Williams (SIC), who is a moderate Republican, he probably means that.
REAGAN: Yes, I think he probably does. I think he probably does.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask Christie Todd Whitman. You have always been a Republican. You have never—I always point to people who switch parties as the ones who get into trouble. John Lindsay was always far more interesting as a Republican than when he became just another liberal Democrat. I always compare it to a woman in a bikini. It‘s kind of interesting, right? I mean, if you‘re going to be a Republican liberal, it makes it kind of interesting. Once you switch, you‘re just another liberal Democrat. Same with Connally, just another Southern Republican. If you stay with your party, you‘re kind of interesting.
Doesn‘t that make a point to you? Don‘t you buy that argument? In other words, loyalty, dance with the one that brung you...
CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN ®, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Yes. No, and...
REAGAN: Remember he‘s the host, too, so...
WHITMAN: ... have to agree with him from time to time. I will agree with him on this one. No, I do. And it‘s a little bit what we were talking about earlier, about leadership and steadiness in leadership. Somebody who‘s all over the lot, who professes to believe deeply in the principles of party, and then all of a sudden, Oh, no, I‘m tossing it out to go with another party—people have second thoughts about it.
GERGEN: Well, but yes and no. One of your great political heroes, Winston Churchill, as you‘ll recall, he switched parties twice.
MATTHEWS: And he said?
GERGEN: Well, he—he...
MATTHEWS: He said, Anybody can rat. It takes somebody special to re-rat.
MATTHEWS: Which Matt Dale (ph), I just read today in “The Times,” went from being a Republican to a conservative Democrat back to being a Republican.
FINEMAN: The reason why the Republicans here love having Zell Miller up here is that Zell Miller, as a conservative Southern Democrat, introduced Bill Clinton at the Democratic convention in 1992. So they love the...
REAGAN: Isn‘t that a lot of inside baseball stuff? I mean, we sit around and talk about that stuff, but what about the general public? What does it really mean to them to have...
WHITMAN: But they‘re going to be reminded of it. Believe me, they‘re going to be reminded of it over and over again.
MATTHEWS: You mean Zell Miller‘s not a household name?
MATTHEWS: Maybe it will be after this week. Let‘s to go to NBC‘s Brian Williams, who is a household name. He‘s at the podium at Madison Square Garden—Brian.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Well, let‘s see if you can hear me this time. Can you hear me now?
MATTHEWS: I can. You‘re excellent. I can hear you.
WILLIAMS: Excellent. OK, let‘s talk about 9/11, Chris, the point I was going to make earlier. A lot of people a few months ago thought this might have become a third rail, that it originally seemed like such a good idea to have this convention in New York, but people keep coming back to the notion that, really, the election may very well be about 9/11 and all its tangents. So look at tonight. You have Rudolph Giuliani, who will talk, obviously, about the suffering in this city and the days after that. You have John McCain, who will talk about this president as a war-time president, despite all the ideological differences between these two men, and, say, the draft platform agreed to across town here at the Javits Center.
Between the two speakers tonight, we should note, there will be several 9/11 moments. We will hear “Amazing Grace.” We will hear, we‘ve learned, from several of the 9/11 widows. Potential for a third rail, yes, if anyone sees it as being used to excess. But so much of this campaign, so much of this presidency obviously defined by 9/11. And this president‘s message is going to be, I wake up every morning and think of ways to keep this country safe.
There is no better way to hammer that home than starting with what we‘re going to see tonight—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, you can see that, Brian, in all the polls. The NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll just last week, the president‘s weak on foreign policy—at least, he‘s not—He is not in a majority position on that. He‘s not in a majority position on the economy. But when you look at terrorism, he is in a strong majority position on that.
And I guess the question to you is, when people hear the word terrorism, do they hear Iraq, or do they hear 9/11 in New York?
WILLIAMS: Well, in New York, they hear 9/11. In fact, as we were approaching Madison Square Garden today, I was walking with a retired NYPD police lieutenant. It was evocative of one thing: frozen streets, flashing lights. There was quiet in the middle of New York City because of the frozen zone around this building that we all know so well and come here regularly for sporting events. And it all brought back downtown Manhattan in those days after 9/11.
You say terrorism to a New Yorker, someone from the tri-state area, they think 9/11. They do not think Iraq.
MATTHEWS: What do you think about the fact of holding the convention
not just in New York city, but having it in this part of Manhattan, at 34th
Street right where you have the confluence—you‘ve been in that situation
· I know I‘ve been—where it‘s raining out and you‘re rushing to get on that escalator off 7th Avenue. And it seems like there‘s 100,000 people trying to get down that escalator. How‘s that going to affect traffic in this city this week?
WILLIAMS: Well, and Penn Station just below us. You know, as a kid on the Jersey shore, this was the artery. As the son of a commuter for 40 years, my dad came down to the Jersey shoreline, which ended right below here, and worked just two blocks from this building. This was a part of life in New York.
And traffic so far—New Yorkers have taken the cue. Those who can afford it have gone to points east, north, south and west. The city so far today was very light. David Gergen mentioned the protests so far. That‘s the wild card for the rest of this week. We will see how New York deals with this. So far, this is not Boston—remember the frozen zone they created throughout so much of that city—but there is nothing moving right outside Madison Square Garden.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, NBC‘s Brian Williams.
We‘re joined right now by the anchor of the “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS,” Tom Brokaw, and NBC News‘s Washington bureau chief and moderator of “MEET THE PRESS” Tim Russert.
Tom and Tim, I guess New York has become a player itself in this convention.
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Well, I think that‘s fair to say. Especially when the president is trying to emphasize his strong leadership in the war on terror, there is no more symbolic target of terror than New York City and the lower skyline. Vice President Cheney referred to that yesterday, what‘s missing from that skyline, he said, as he made his opening remarks at Ellis Island. They‘ll also be surrounded by New York City cops and security officials. I wouldn‘t be surprised if, in the course of this week, the president finds a way to pose with some of them at some point because the most arresting photo of his presidential tenure really has been when he came up here to 9/11 and stood with that fireman with his hand over his shoulder and said, “The rest of the world can hear you.”
Tim, what do you think?
TIM RUSSERT, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”: Yes, Tom, there‘s no way George Bush is going to win the electoral votes of New York state, but this is the backdrop that he wants and desperately needs. As Chris was saying earlier, on the economy, on Iraq, a majority of the American people now disapprove of the president‘s handling of those issues. But they do approve of his handling of terrorism. September 11 is that reminder. Three years ago, almost to the day, we went through that as a country, and George Bush united the nation and got us through it. Rudy Giuliani, John McCain will say tonight, word after word, he‘s a strong, resolute leader.
Bottom line, you may not agree with him. You may even disagree with him. But you know where he stands, and he‘s particularly good in a crisis and why change commander-in-chiefs right now? That‘s the whole purpose, and while we have the landscape of New York behind George Bush.
BROKAW: And I think that Mayor Mike Bloomberg obviously hopes that these Republican delegates will be spending a lot more money here than he‘s having to spend on security and that the federal government, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, will look a little more kindly on the city of New York when it comes to doling out some dollars for beefing up security here. So this could be a win-win situation for the city of New York and maybe even for the president, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... Giuliani and McCain certainly the star power here tonight and tomorrow. Giuliani and McCain tonight, Schwarzenegger tomorrow night. What role will these headliners play at this convention?
BROKAW: Well, I think that they‘re going to make this a warmer, friendlier convention for those people who are looking in. If they‘re out there and they‘re not aligned strongly with either party, they‘re going to look at Rudy Giuliani, who is still called “America‘s mayor.” He goes around the country making speeches, drawing record crowds wherever he is. John McCain has extraordinarily high numbers for a man who‘s a senator from the state of Arizona. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a big star before he became the governor of California.
So if you have those three in your corner and you‘re trying to reach those swing voters, they‘ll help. They can‘t carry him across the line, but I think it‘ll help soften the edges of the conservative delegates who are here on the floor. And they are very conservative, and that‘s reflected in their platform, Tim.
RUSSERT: Absolutely. George Bush has united his party. He now needs to recruit those undecided handful of voters. And Rudy Giuliani and John McCain and Arnold Schwarzenegger are basically saying to them, It‘s OK that you disagree with the president on abortion, gay rights, stem cell research, gun control, because the most important issue in this campaign is none of those, it‘s terrorism and leadership. And that‘s why we‘re for George Bush. We‘re independent-minded, and you independent swing voters, come with us and get behind our guy.
BROKAW: And of course, Chris, there may be some ulterior motive for these people, as well. They may want to be positioning themselves for being at the podium on the last night of the convention four years from now.
MATTHEWS: That‘s right. I heard somebody today—Fred Thompson, the senator—former senator from Tennessee, who‘s now in “Law and Order” on NBC, referred today as the ticket. He called it Giuliani and McCain, what people are calling the ticket here in New York. Is this a preview of coming attractions, or is this convention more what Hillary Clinton says it is, a Potemkin village?
BROKAW: Well, I do think it‘s a combination of the two. I mean, Hillary Clinton will use that kind of language because she‘s going to be part of the Democratic Party‘s attack group here this week . But for John McCain, who will be 72 years old four years from now, he‘s not dismissing it out of hand when people come talk to him about it. Rudy Giuliani has had political ambitions since he‘s been able to breathe. But if he‘s going to do well nationally, he may have to take on the woman to whom you just referred. Tim, you were talking to her about it yesterday.
RUSSERT: But John McCain, Rudy Giuliani know, in order to win the Republican nomination, they need to appeal to the Republican base. John McCain tried to win the nomination in 2000 by having independent crossovers. He went to South Carolina and found out there is a Republican Party that votes for conservative Republican candidates. He hopes to ingratiate himself to that conservative base by helping George Bush. And Rudy Giuliani the same. He‘s figuring, I‘m the mayor of America. Here‘s my chance for 2008. I am a conservative in the biggest sense of the word, even though this may disagree with me on social issues, when it come to conservatism, terrorism and standing by George Bush, I‘m a conservative Republican because I worked for Ronald Reagan (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
BROKAW: Well, as you know, Chris, these conventions are not just about this week or this election. They really are about positioning yourself for the future. So I think we‘ll see a fair amount of that this week, as well.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert.
One thing is sure, the Bush Republican Party is the only game in town this year. The speakers tonight, actor/activist Ron Silver, Senator John McCain of Arizona, and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s coverage of the Republican national convention live from, as you can hear, Herald Square in the heart of Broadway. You can hear the traffic and the fire engines right here on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Republican convention. NBC‘s Chip Reid is down on the convention floor as we speak—
CHIP REID, NBC CORRESPONDENT: ... joined by Gigi Bolt. She is the delegate whip from the Florida delegation. And by the way, this is her first time on TV, but she talks so beautifully, I just had to get her on. Look—and let me tell you—let me do a little demographic exercise here. Single woman, single mother, 25 years old, student, big city, Miami. Some people would say, Oh, she must be a Democrat. Not only a Republican, a very conservative Republican.
GIGI BOLT, FLORIDA DELEGATE: Yes, sir, I am.
REID: And you are a big Rudy Giuliani fan in spite—tell me about Rudy.
BOLT: I am. I am. I think he‘s done a great job with New York City
· I mean, from what I‘ve heard. I‘ve read a lot of articles on him, read books on him. I read his book, and I think that he‘s done a good job with the city. I might disagree on some social issues with him because I‘m a social conservative, but he‘s a good leader and he cares a lot about his city. And that to me is what is important.
REID: We were talking earlier that on issues like gay rights, gay marriage and abortion, you may disagree with him, but—and some people think that people down here will be kind of chafing in their seats and saying, Why do we have these people who disagree with us on these fundamental issues up there giving these important prime-time speeches? You don‘t have a problem with that.
BOLT: I don‘t because we‘re all here for one reason, and that‘s to make sure that President Bush gets reelected. That is the most important concern here for everybody. And you know, that‘s part of living in this country. I mean, nobody agrees 100 percent on anything. You don‘t agree 100 percent with a candidate. You don‘t agree 100 percent with your neighbor. You don‘t agree 100 percent with the person who sit next to you in church. But that‘s the point of being here. We‘re all Republicans. We all care about a great cause, and we all care about our country and making sure that we have a good leader to be our president.
REID: I told you you‘d be great! See that? Future governor, Gigi Bolt. Chris, back to you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Chip. NBC‘s Campbell Brown is also on the floor. She joins us now—Campbell.
CAMPBELL BROWN, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Chris. I‘m with Dorothy Rogers, who is from the Texas delegation and appears to have coordinated her outfit for this evening with the other members of the Texas delegation.
DOROTHY ROGERS, TEXAS DELEGATE: We‘re all wearing the same outfits.
BROWN: Cowboy hats, your George Bush pins that you have had for years because you are a long-time supporter of this president.
ROGERS: Yes, I am.
BROWN: You worked for his father, right?
ROGERS: Yes, I did.
BROWN: Now, tell me what you think about—there‘s the controversy, a little bit of controversy over the fact that many of the people who are taking the podium this week disagree with the president on some of the more divisive issues, like gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research.
ROGERS: Well, I guess everybody has the right to their opinion. I really think that that‘s what makes America great, is that we all have a right to express our opinion and to say what we believe. So you know, I guess—I guess they‘re entitled, just like the protesters. I guess they‘re entitled to their opinion, too.
BROWN: Tonight we‘re going to hear a lot about the 9/11 tragedy and the president‘s handling of the war on terrorism and how he responded to the attacks. Do you think that is the key issue for you, national security, going into this? Or is it the economy?
ROGERS: For me personally, it‘s our national security. I think that we‘re very fortunate to have Bush as our president when all that happened. I think he took a very decisive role in it and has done a good job on it.
BROWN: You support the war in Iraq.
ROGERS: Yes, do i.
BROWN: What did you think of the president‘s comments this week that there had been some miscalculations relating to the war?
ROGERS: Well, I think you have to rely on some of his people that maybe gave him some false information and that kind of stuff. I think his intentions were good. I think that they‘re a much better nation for being free now. I know that they have a lot—women can—are going to be able to vote and that kind of stuff. And I think we‘re right to be there.
BROWN: Dorothy Rogers, it‘s good to talk to you. Have a good time this week.
ROGERS: Thank you.
BROWN: Go back to you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, Campbell.
Let me talk about this New York world we‘re in right now. We‘ve been hearing the buses go by, guys, and there‘s no doubt—this is not a fake backdrop. This is really Herald Square at 34th and Broad way. We are right out in the city, like we were in Boston. Boston‘s a much mellower city.
I want to ask each member of our panel to talk about how New York is different already in its feel from—well, you weren‘t in Boston, were you.
MATTHEWS: Well, from your history, what do you think the difference between these cities is? Because I think there‘s a vast temperamental difference.
WHITMAN: Oh, yes. I mean, there‘s nothing like the edge of New York.
There‘s nothing like New York. There‘s so much going on all the time. Boston is a wonderful city. I went to college just outside of it. But there‘s an edge to New York. There‘s an aggressiveness to New York. But there‘s a welcomingness. I mean, it‘s—I will say I think the cops have done a fabulous job, are doing a fabulous job right now and will throughout the convention. But it‘s a unique city. There‘s no question about it. And being here brings some attention to it and shows really how well we have recovered since 9/11.
MATTHEWS: OK. Doesn‘t it make you feel better to know that 10,000 guys with guns are protecting you personally?
MATTHEWS: Because that‘s why you feel secure!
WHITMAN: No, because I‘m paying for it.
MATTHEWS: Ron, you‘ve been everywhere. You‘ve worked out here. You‘ve been a professional up here in the theater business. New York, Boston—big difference?
REAGAN: Yes, there is a big difference. I agree with what Governor Whitman said that, you know, there is an edge to New York. There‘s an aggressiveness, a loudness to New York, as we hear the buses going by. But part of the interesting thing...
MATTHEWS: Is that why people talk loud in New York?
REAGAN: Yes, yelling over the buses. But part of the interesting thing, in Boston, of course, the Democrats were home. You know, Boston is a Democratic city, like New York is. But here we have people like we just saw on television, the woman with the very large cowboy hat, plunked down into the middle of Manhattan, which has got to be like dropping somebody onto Mars for these people.
REAGAN: Can you imagine her walking by a—you know, an ad for “The Vagina Monologues” or something and just freaking out!
MATTHEWS: I think meeting you might freak her out!
MATTHEWS: Let me to go Howard.
FINEMAN: I lived here going to graduate school, and one thing I learned about New York is that it magnifies everything. If you‘re up, if the people you‘re with are up, you‘re on top of the world. If you‘re down, you‘re really down.
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t this a Sinatra lyric?
FINEMAN: No, no, no. But it magnifies everything.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree.
FINEMAN: And if George Bush can make it here, he can make it anywhere.
MATTHEWS: You know that lyric.
FINEMAN: Well, it‘s true.
MATTHEWS: And that part of it, David, too, I think, is part of the thing here to prove that he can walk the streets of New York with support. He may not be everybody‘s cup of tea, but he‘s a national leader.
GERGEN: Well, I think, originally, when they decided to come here, they thought they actually had a shot at winning New York. Let‘s not kid ourselves. When this was all done, this was after 9/11, and politics have changed. Now it‘s changed back to its normal state. And I think it is more of what you say. You know, he finds a certain sort of—he likes doing this. He likes to walk into the lions‘ den.
But as we sit here tonight, I have to tell you that beyond the vitality of New York and the wonders of New York, which it‘s a wonderful city, you can‘t help but think that, you know, these cops just a few days ago broke up a plot to blow up the subway right beneath where we‘re sitting. And you think about that subway station—it‘s immediately beneath where we‘re sitting tonight—you realize that this is a—this is a—it‘s a different feel from Boston.
FINEMAN: That tempered the demonstration on Sunday. I was out there with a lot of those people. They remembered 9/11, too. In addition to the police support, the other reason why that was largely peaceful is that the people here remember 9/11. I think there would have been not bigger demonstrations but perhaps more emotional ones in another city. You come here to New York, everybody—protester and supporter of Bush alike—remembers 9/11.
MATTHEWS: There‘s a solemnity.
FINEMAN: There‘s a solemnity to it, yes.
MATTHEWS: I remember the sound of the saxophone on the subway—I‘ll never forget it—in that mournful weeks after 9/11 here.
REAGAN: Just to lighten it up a little bit, it‘s worth mentioning that George Bush might like to walk into the lions‘ den, but apparently, he doesn‘t like to spend the night in the lions‘ den.
REAGAN: He jets right out.
MATTHEWS: The president‘s going to a swing state—not a swinger state—Pennsylvania, that very night. He‘s going to try to get to Scranton. Good luck, Mr. President.
When we come back, Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader of the United States Senate.
You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Republican national convention on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to New York‘s Herald Square and HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Republican National Convention.
Tonight, we‘re going to hear speeches from Senator John McCain, the former New York mayor, the very popular Rudolph Giuliani.
Right now, we‘re joined by the Senate majority leader of the United States Senate, Bill Frist of Tennessee.
CROWD: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MATTHEWS: Well, how about a couple minutes for the guy here?
SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, golly. Here we go.
MATTHEWS: Senator Frist, it seems to me that you have got some real stars here in New York, but the biggest star at this convention is New York itself.
B. FRIST: Chris, people love New York City. It‘s great to bring people here. We‘ve got real people in, as well as the great stars. All the great rock stars are here, in terms of the people who the American people know broadly.
But we also have a lot real people here. I was with 100 delegates from the great state of Tennessee earlier tonight, who brought their ideas. I worked on the Republican platform with 110 delegates, two from every state, putting the president‘s ideas, the ideas of really a very diverse group, down on paper for the first time. Four years ago, we were here—not here. We were in Philadelphia.
The war had not occurred. We hadn‘t had the recession. We didn‘t even have stem cells around at the time. For the first time, this platform put that down on paper. I‘m very proud of that platform. It was approved today. A great city that we‘re in. It captures the dynamism of America.
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘re a medical doctor, as well as a senator and a politician. Give me a sense in layman‘s language on what is the position of the Republican Party on the issue of health research.
B. FRIST: Well, I‘m going to be talking tomorrow night. The president of the United States has doubled the funding for the National Institutes of Health. That‘s where the cure is for heart disease, my own field, cancer, lung disease, Alzheimer‘s, Parkinson‘s will come. He has doubled that funding.
It‘s really incredible. A lot of attention to stem cells. I‘ll mention that a little bit tomorrow night in my talk. The president of the United States has no ban on stem cells. It is shameless the way the Democrats have said that Republicans or this president has banned stem cells. This is the first president to fund, publicly fund federal—we‘re using funding for stem cells, embryonic stem cells.
I‘ll talk about that tomorrow night.
MATTHEWS: What does the term banned then refer to?
B. FRIST: I don‘t know what ban is.
Basically, I think it is the Democrats shamelessly, I think, criticizing this president, who has doubled funding for research in this country, who has put $200 million into stem cells. There is no ban on stem cell research today. What the president has said is that human embryos, which is biologically human, which is fully differentiated, which is living, deserves moral respect.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the lineup. We have got some real superstar headliners here. You have got Arnold Schwarzenegger tomorrow night, who is probably the biggest celebrity and one of the biggest in the world. You have got Giuliani, who the city loves here and the country loves.
And McCain, who some people he is the most popular—despite the difficulty you guys have working with the guy, he is one of the most popular Republicans in the country.
B. FRIST: As majority leader in the Senate, I‘m with John McCain every day. Tell me about it.
He is a great American. And I think, just if you look at the lineup here for the next few hours, you have Giuliani coming in with John McCain, two great American leaders, leaders that really typify what this city has gone through, what this nation has gone through with September the 11th. And that larger picture of the war on terror, I think we‘re going to hear a lot about that tonight.
MATTHEWS: Is it representative of the president‘s Cabinet, however? You‘ve got pretty conservative people, with Tom DeLay of Texas, the majority leader of the House. Yourself, you‘re a conservative. I wouldn‘t call you an arch conservative, but you‘re a conservative.
Do you think the people that are here at the convention are representative of the party? No surprise, Hillary Clinton, one of your other colleagues, said today that it is a Potemkin village. Is it?
B. FRIST: Well, you know, I think, John McCain, is he conservative or not? He is conservative. He is very conservative. He is pro-life. People have this image of John and I think maybe of the Republican Party being way off to the right, so conservative that there‘s not an open door.
John McCain is pro-life, physically, strongly conservative, a strong supporter of the president in the war on terror. So people using his of an example of not typifying the Republican Party, he does typify the Republican Party.
And then the platform, let me just add real quickly that if you look at the last page of the platform that summarizes the overall document we put out, we are the party of the open door. We are the party that says diversity is strength in our party and not a weakness. That‘s not what you heard from the Democrats. We‘ll be moving America forward. We‘ll be looking to the future. The Democrats look to the past.
MATTHEWS: Your party platform was drafted just this past week on the issue of marriage. And it is pretty strong for traditional marriage. Does that square with the people on the platform, with people like Giuliani, who are pretty much generally gay rights, people like Bloomberg, certainly overwhelmingly pro-gay rights. And I think Schwarzenegger is, too, although he does use terms like girly man.
MATTHEWS: But I‘m just kidding. That‘s not what he means, because he‘s called me a girly man and I don‘t think he means that.
But, that said, is there a discrepancy between your platform and your people on the platform?
B. FRIST: You know, I don‘t think—I don‘t think so.
What the platform says is that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. What you see the United States Senate having done is just elevate it to a national discussion. And that‘s what we want to do, to be able to have the discussion about basic values in this country. I think the platform typifies the soul of the Republican Party, right where the Republican Party is.
At the same time, we welcome people of diverse views. We welcome those views to come to the table. It‘s an open door party. And, again, you‘re going to see that in the platform that‘s been released today.
MATTHEWS: Everybody figures that the Democratic ticket next time will probably be, if the Republicans win the election this time, which looks pretty plausible right now. To be totally bipartisan about it, it‘s plausible either guy could win.
But if Hillary runs on the other side, your party will have to put up somebody pretty strong, yourself, Pataki, Giuliani, McCain. Would you be the strongest candidate because you‘re from this part—you‘re not from this part of the country?
B. FRIST: You know, everybody is focused on this election. They‘re focused on President Bush. Once President Bush is reelected, our goal is to move America forward over the next four years. That‘s really what we‘re concentrating on today.
I will say, there are a lot of great leaders and they‘re going to be laid out on this platform one by one over the next several days for America to see. Everybody is focused on getting President Bush reelected and moving America forward, not as the Democrats are doing, holding America back.
MATTHEWS: Bob Dole had a hard time running for president as majority leader of his party in the Senate. Can you do it?
B. FRIST: I don‘t intend—I don‘t have plans
MATTHEWS: That was a trick question. That was a trick question.
B. FRIST: You‘re looking. You‘re searching.
MATTHEWS: I‘m searching.
B. FRIST: President Bush, No. 1, get him reelected and then spend the next four years...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
B. FRIST: ... moving America forward, moving America forward, instead of holding it back.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Dick Cheney.
The president was kidding today, saying, I didn‘t pick him on the basis of his looks. I don‘t know why Cheney keeps taking that stuff. But I guess he refers to the fact that Edwards is more of a lightweight. Is that what he‘s saying? He‘s a good-looking, but he doesn‘t have the gravitas of Dick Cheney?
B. FRIST: I want to be careful what I say. Tomorrow night, you will see this issue of being a trial lawyer, a personal injury trial lawyer.
Right now, I think John Kerry, we pretty much know that he‘s focused on the past, not moving America forward. If you look at John Edwards, what John Kerry is, is a personal injury trial lawyer. That speaks volumes to the American people. It speaks volumes to those people who focus on health care.
MATTHEWS: If John Kerry cares most about the issue of national security, especially security against terrorism, was he picking the right V.P.?
B. FRIST: Well first, let me say, John Kerry has served nobly in the past. And, again, I know all the swift boat and all the discussion. Finally, we‘re moving on, but he served nobly in the past.
What I would ask John Kerry to do—and, again, I‘m speaking from the United States Senate—is tell us about your record in the United States Senate for the last eight years or the last four years. We know what President Bush‘s record is. He had a vision. He had an agenda. It was on education. It was on health care. It was on fighting the war on terror. It was on cutting taxes.
He has those accomplishments. What has John Kerry done in the last four years in my own body, the United States Senate? And then let‘s project ahead. We‘re going to hear what President Bush is going to do.
B. FRIST: We haven‘t heard what John Kerry would do.
MATTHEWS: Howard Fineman, who is on our panel tonight, told me he has come to believe, based upon his reporting lately, today and before, that the Republican strategy in the fall will not be the focus on the past and the war records and all the sort of thing, which could be troubling eventually for the Republicans, but to focus really intently, like a laser, on John Kerry‘s Senate voting record. Is that what you believe will be the case and should be the case?
B. FRIST: I don‘t know. And I‘m not close to the campaign.
If I were the campaign adviser, I would say, John Kerry, what is your agenda for the future? We haven‘t heard that. No. 2, what have you done for Americans in the United States Senate? Were you elected to be a leader? Have you led? Where have you been? What legislation have you sponsored? How have you voted? I think that in itself will show that he‘s going to be holding back, voting against judges, voting against nominees, voting against prescription drugs, voting against the Defense of Marriage Act, voting against what would move America forward, voting against tax cuts.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s meet your family over here. Don‘t you have your family with you?
Karyn, Karyn, come over here.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Karyn. Bring your boys over here. This is the—these are the Frist boys and Karyn. And just to show it‘s a family affair here, introduce your family.
B. FRIST: Karyn Frist, Karyn Frist, originally out of Lubbock, Texas, Nashville, Tennessee, Jonathan Frist right now living in Washington. He really loves Tennessee.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
B. FRIST: And right here, Harrison Frist, now in college up in the Northeast somewhere.
MATTHEWS: You guys all—are you allowed to say what party you‘re in?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republican.
MATTHEWS: Did you give it much thought?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
MATTHEWS: You‘re a Republican. Why are you a Republican?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I‘m smart.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Are you a republican as well?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am. I am.
MATTHEWS: Who would you like to see be the next president after President Bush is reelected?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No comment there.
MATTHEWS: Who would you like to see as the next president? You can be papa‘s little boy tonight with the right answer here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don‘t know. We‘ll see what we can do.
MATTHEWS: You guys are all so sheepish for such political people.
Karyn, Mrs. Frist, would you like to see your husband president someday?
KARYN FRIST, WIFE OF SENATOR BILL FRIST: He would be a great president. I‘m not sure if I want my husband to be president, but it will be a Republican, irregardless of who it is.
MATTHEWS: You guys are so careful.
This speech this week, the president‘s speech, I‘ve understood he is going to talk about the theme of this campaign is that Kerry can‘t make a decision, that the president of the United States can make decisions. He‘s sort of a Harry Truman. He doesn‘t always the right decision, but he does have the guts to make it. Talk about that theme, if you want to.
B. FRIST: I think people will look at his voting record. And people haven‘t done that. It‘s been fascinating that we‘ve had the whole Democratic Convention. We‘ve had a month since then, which really wasn‘t a very good month, I think, for John Kerry.
The focus has been on what happened 30 years ago. The American people are concerned about their own security, worried about themselves, their finances. Are they going to have a job? Are they going to have health care? Are their kids going to get appropriate education as they work to the future? President Bush is spelling out that agenda. It will be done over the next three days. It will be done Thursday night. Where is John Kerry? What is his agenda?
And that‘s going to be the challenge for John Kerry. And then once people look at that voting record, they‘re going to see that he has been absent. He hasn‘t been there. Prescription drugs, something which every senior and every individual with disability depends on today, the most powerful tool in American medicine, where was John Kerry? The only thing he led was the filibuster against passing prescription drugs for 40 million seniors and individuals with disabilities.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
B. FRIST: When people look at that, they‘re going to say, come on, where was John Kerry? We‘re behind President George W. Bush.
MATTHEWS: Loaded for bear, Senator Bill Frist and his family.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Thank you for coming. Thank you, buddy. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
And coming up, we‘ll be back to the convention floor for the national anthem. And, of course, in just over two hours, Senator John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. Before that, Ron Silver, usually a Democrat, going to speak for the president tonight.
We‘ll be back with our panel when our live coverage of the Republican National Convention continues from Herald Square with all the people of New York.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to New York. We‘re here in New York, of course, with HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Republican Convention out here in Herald Square.
But what you‘re watching right now is a beauty shot, as we call it in television, of the Jumbotron, what is showing. There it is at Times Square. Everybody in our crowd has now made the big time. They‘re all on Times Square tonight. They‘ve all made to it Broadway. And we‘re here at Broadway at center of New York. We‘re here in Herald Square, about eight blocks south of the Jumbotron.
And NBC News White House correspondent David Gregory is in the Michigan—is in Michigan right now, traveling with President Bush.
I want to cut to that right now. Let‘s to go David out in Michigan.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Chris.
The president just wrapped up his rally here. He‘s making his way toward the convention in New York. And he‘ll do it by moving around some battleground states, as he‘s been doing really since last Thursday. He‘s at Wayne county, Michigan. This is a county that he lost big four years ago. But being here today for this rally this evening really sums up what he is after all this week, both on the campaign trail here and in New York.
And that is that outreach to undecided voters, not just independent voters, but real undecideds, people who may not even vote, but who the president believes are more moderate and who he is trying to reach with the convention lineup that you‘ve been talking about. So this is the kind of event that the president loves. It‘s a very personal event, a chance for him to get close to the people he‘s trying to attract to his side, talking about a lot of the same themes that you‘ll hear him talk about on Thursday.
But, on Thursday, we expect him, really for the first time in a more detailed way, Chris, to start looking ahead to a second term. His top advisers believe that one of the things Kerry did not do at the Democratic Convention is really lay out a vision and give people a reason to vote for him, other than kind of personal characteristics. Everybody knows this president. Most people have an opinion about him. Now they need to be given a reason, in the White House‘s view, to vote for him for another four years.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about some more basic electioneering. Tell me about the crowds. Are they being ginned up, bigger crowds? Or is just getting closer to the election? Or are these crowds smaller than they look? They look pretty strong.
GREGORY: Well, this crowd here, they looked OK. But let‘s remember where we are. I was in—just outside Toledo, Ohio, on Saturday, where they had 20,000 strong. That was a much more Republican county.
But I must tell you something, that George W. Bush is really at his best when he‘s at these kinds of rallies. Yes, he can rise to the occasion to give a big speech. But he‘s his most personable. He‘s his most approachable, his most real when he‘s in this kind of format. He feeds off the crowd. He likes to see people close up. He likes to move around and shake hands. He‘s a real retail politician.
And one of the things that Democrats close to John Kerry, as well as Republicans, say repeatedly is that, if this thing is still deadlocked in the final sprint, that George W. Bush is as good as they come at going down the stretch as a politician who can really feed off the energy of these kinds of crowds and bring it home. It is also worth pointing out, I think, Chris, people don‘t realize it.
He come here to Taylor, Michigan. It‘s the Detroit market, television market, a very large market. They‘re carrying his speech live. It is unfiltered. It is the entire stump speech. And that‘s what they‘re counting on, that they‘re not really out here for us, for the national news media. They‘re here for local coverage and to motivate these crowds, because they know, at the end of the day, getting their people out to vote, as well as attracting the smaller percentage of independent swing voters, is what makes the difference.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, David Gregory, who is with the president in Michigan.
Let‘s go to the panel, especially Governor Whitman.
You‘ve been elected a couple of times in a big state governorship.
How important is this retail of the last month or so of a campaign?
WHITMAN: Oh, you can never underestimate it. It‘s critical, because, especially in a campaign like this, where you‘re looking at those undecided voters—because they talk. People will talk. The people who have seen the president, have felt his empathy, have actually touched his hand and seen—it is marvelous in this kind of a situation.
MATTHEWS: Word of mouth.
WHITMAN: The word of mouth gets out here. And after that small group, everybody has heard the speeches. It is very difficult, except in their—situations such as the convention to actually speak directly to the people. This is very smart, being able to get out there and get the local media deal directly.
MATTHEWS: Ron, it seems to me that all this is in the timing. The debates will be over with three weeks or so before the election. That is a clear running room for the president.
REAGAN: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: He will have whatever scar tissue he‘s got to carry from the debates, should he pick up any. And it‘s all his.
REAGAN: Yes. It‘s true.
And it‘s not just that you actually meet out on the campaign trail and slap on the back and hug and kiss and all the kind of stuff. It is people watching that on television. People vote—most people, I think, vote on a sort of gut level, visceral thing. They‘re not really weighing the issues so much. And when they see somebody wade into a crowd like that and pal around with people and look natural, that comes off very well.
And, on the other hand, if they see somebody standing back and looking cold and aloof, that doesn‘t help.
MATTHEWS: This brings up a Kerry problem.
FINEMAN: Well, the Bush
The Bush people are patting themselves on the back that this race is as close as it is right now. By historical standards, Kerry should have been way ahead after his convention. He wasn‘t. And George Bush hasn‘t talked about a second term yet. And they haven‘t yet really gone after Kerry‘s Senate record.
FINEMAN: So they‘ve got two bullets in their chamber that they
haven‘t used yet. That‘s why they‘re upbeat strategically next
MATTHEWS: Senator Frist started to shoot those bullets tonight.
FINEMAN: Well, sure. He was saying—and that‘s just the beginning. And if they do it on national ads, they will also do it in direct mail targeted to individual groups on each vote that Kerry took over the last 20 years.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the personal, Governor.
My brother Jim, who was on last night, he‘s a delegate from Pennsylvania. And he is a—I guess a moderate Republican. He offered a cosmetic assessment of Kerry‘s problem. He said he can‘t be elected president. He looks like a tree.
WHITMAN: Well, others would say he looks like Abraham Lincoln.
WHITMAN: He‘s tall and gangly.
I think the thing that is going to defeat him is asking the public to finish the sentence, John Kerry wants to be president because—and if he doesn‘t deliver on that because, it is all over. And he hasn‘t thus far.
MATTHEWS: OK, we‘re now watching the formal beginning of all the proceedings tonight. There‘s Congresswoman Pryce. She‘s bringing the call -- this is very important, of course, in the times we live in, the Pledge of Allegiance, the national anthem. Wouldn‘t normally be such an emotional moment. But here we are in New York.
REP. DEBORAH PRYCE ®, OHIO: The second session of the 38th Republican National Convention is about to begin.
Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats.
The 38th Republican National Convention, second session, is here by called to order.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
PRYCE: Would everyone please rise for the presentation of the colors?
Ladies and gentlemen, the colors will be presented by the New York City Police Department colors team.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
PRYCE: Let‘s give them a warm Republican welcome!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
PRYCE: Please remain standing for the Pledge of Allegiance, the national anthem, and the invocation.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Joseph Repya, a retired Army colonel, Reserve lieutenant colonel, and the co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney ‘04 Minnesota Veterans, to lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
JOSEPH REPYA, CHAIRMAN, BUSH-CHENEY ‘04 MINNESOTA VETERANS: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
REPYA: Thank you.
PRYCE: From Detroit, Michigan, a wonderful young lady, 13-year-old Olivia Lalewitz, to sing our national anthem.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(OLIVIA LALEWITZ SINGS NATIONAL ANTHEM)
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
PRYCE: Wasn‘t that just beautiful?
Thank you, Olivia.
And, ladies and gentlemen, Imam Pasha.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back tonight with our panel, David Gergen, Howard Fineman, Ron Reagan and Christy Todd Whitman.
Let me ask you all about this tonight. It seems to me tonight is going to be the marshal call to arm. I have been looking through a speech I cannot quote, but I can certainly read it ahead of time.
And David is laughing. These speeches are tough. The McCain speech is coming tonight. It is going to be the first of the two big ones tonight. It‘s definitely about the president‘s strength, isn‘t it?
GERGEN: Absolutely. And it is a very different tone from what we saw in Boston, where there was an intentional effort, and I think, in retrospect, a mistake by the Democrats, to have a very pro-Kerry and avoid Bush bashing. And here, they‘re going to build up the president, as they should. But they‘re taking a lot of hard shots at John Kerry.
They have no hesitation about tearing down the other side. And the Democrats, I must say, in retrospect, look like they gave him an open field to do that.
MATTHEWS: Howard, I think the implication is going to be tonight, based upon various observations I‘ve made, including the stuff that was put out for use last night by the two big speakers tonight, they‘re going to make it clear, from their perspective, it is a choice between a party and a leader who will fight for their country‘s defense and one that won‘t.
First of all, George Bush couldn‘t ask for stronger support than he‘s going to get tonight from John McCain and Rudy Giuliani on the war. They‘ll define it as an almost life-and-death struggle between freedom and tyranny, between certitude and uncertainty, strength and uncertainty, very, very strong language and very tough on John Kerry.
MATTHEWS: And they will not distinguish between war on terrorism generally defined...
MATTHEWS: And the war in Iraq.
FINEMAN: Not only will they...
MATTHEWS: That will be, it seems to me, a policy decision. Don‘t single out Iraq. Suggest that it is all part of one war.
FINEMAN: They‘re going to do that in strong terms defending Iraq.
They‘re going to do it very strongly, because, also Kerry gave them the
license to do it by his statements of the other
MATTHEWS: That he would have supported a war even if there had not been, to his knowledge, weapons of mass destruction.
FINEMAN: They‘re going to drive it tonight very hard.
REAGAN: Well, a very strong speech, as Howard said, by John McCain, a man who is not overly fond of George W. Bush personally.
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