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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Sept. 1

Read the transcript to the 11 p.m. Et show

Guests: Zell Miller, Bob Taft, J.C. Watts, Jon Meacham

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Well, it was a hell of a speech by the vice president of the United States.  It gathered speed.  It was a bit dull at the beginning, and, boy, it took on a powerful turn about halfway through, with, of course, his indictment of John Kerry being the foremost statement of the evening tonight. 

I thought he had kind of a Jack Webb quality, just the facts, ma‘am, no rhetoric, just a powerful indictment of John Kerry‘s record in opposing defense spending over the years—Andrea. 

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, he used a stiletto.  If Zell Miller‘s speech was a red meat speech, in fact, a raw meat speech, which, in fact, misstates a lot of Kerry‘s record, but draws very tough conclusions, he just really stuck that knife in, did Dick Cheney, in speaking of the two Americas, and it‘s mutual, because there are two John Kerrys. 

MATTHEWS:  “Senator Kerry doesn‘t appear to understand how the world has changed.  He talks about leading a more sensitive war on terror, as though al Qaeda will be impressed with our softer side.  He declared at the Democratic Convention he will forcefully defend America after we have been attacked.  We, fellow Americans, have already been attacked.  And faced with an enemy who seeks the deadliest weapons to use against us, we cannot wait for the next attack”—Jon.

JON MEACHAM, MANAGING EDITOR FOR “NEWSWEEK”:  If I taught at the Kennedy School, I would take these two speeches as urtext of partisan rhetoric.

I think it was a brilliant tactical night, one of the most brilliant in the age of television.  These were two concise, rather devastating rhetorical hits at John Kerry.  And there was just—they did not miss a base.  They did not miss anything that they could hit. 


J.C. WATTS, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN:  You know, Chris, I think the vice president delivered several pretty good lines. 

And Jon said—made a great comment down the stretch.  He said, Congressman, he‘s kind of spiking the ball now. 


MEACHAM:  There should be a mercy rule.

WATTS:  Yes. 


WATTS:  There should be a mercy rule.  But he made a lot of good ones.

But the one I like here: “A senator can be wrong for 20 years without consequence to the nation,” talking about Senator Kerry, “but a president, a president always casts the deciding vote.”

I think he just methodically went through there and, in a poised way, just dissected Senator Kerry. 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  And is this the agenda now for the fall? 



We are three days into this convention, and we have been talking all year about how this election is going to be about George W. Bush.  The Republicans, with their ad campaigns, the third-party attacks, this convention, three nights into this convention, this convention remains about John Kerry. 

I can‘t remember a major presidential election where you have an incumbent that makes the central focus of their convention about the other guy, about the challenger.  It is a radical departure from politics as usual.  And what does it say about what they think George Bush has done over the past four years, and, more importantly, what the American people think of George Bush? 


MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry.  Let‘s go down to David Gregory, who is down the floor—David Gregory.

DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, I am here with Governor Taft of Ohio, who was front and center for Zell Miller and Dick Cheney. 

How do these speeches, particularly the vice president‘s, resonate in all-important Ohio? 

GOV. BOB TAFT ®, OHIO:  I thought they were very powerful speeches. 

Both remind us that we are electing a commander in chief. 

This is a dangerous time in our nation‘s history.  The war on terrorism needs strong leadership, and the case was made this evening for the reelection of George W. Bush on that count. 

GREGORY:  In a state like Ohio, where undecided voters, swing voters, are arguably more important than any other state, there is anxiety about Iraq, about the decisions this administration made.  If you are an undecided voter at home, what did you hear tonight that made a difference? 

TAFT:  Well, I think, first of all, if you are a veteran at home, tonight, you are going to be more likely to vote for George W. Bush, because we understood tonight that our freedom and our security comes with a price. 

You need strength in the world to protect Americans.  Ohioans are concerned above all about the security of their families. 

GREGORY:  Governor Taft from Ohio, thank you very much—Chris, back to you. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Gregory. 

NBC‘s Campbell Brown is also on the floor.  She joins us now—


CAMPBELL BROWN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, with Congressman Johnny Isakson, the overwhelming favorite to replace retiring Zell Miller. 

Tell us what you thought about the speech tonight, first Zell Miller, and then we‘ll get to Cheney. 

REP. JOHNNY ISAKSON ®, GEORGIA:  Well, I‘ll tell you, Zell and I ran against each other in 1990.  I served under him as state school board chairman.  I‘ve served with him in the United States Senate.  He has never been better than he was tonight. 

BROWN:  It was a red meat speech, though, really intended to rile this crowd.  Was there too much anger in it, given the moderate speeches, the moderates who have taken that podium prior to him? 

ISAKSON:  Zell Miller said it in relation to his family and his children‘s security, and his grandchildren.  His anger was not anger at the people, but his anger was determination at beating terror. 

BROWN:  Thanks for your time tonight. 

And, Chris, let‘s go back to you.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Campbell.

Let‘s go up to the sky box now to the anchor of “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS,” Tom Brokaw, and NBC News Washington bureau chief and moderator of “Meet the Press,” Tim Russert.

Tom, what did you think of the speeches?

TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR:  Well, let‘s begin with Zell Miller. 

This is a crowd that is -- 95 percent of the people here are for the war in Iraq, so he had a house audience.  There‘s no question about that, but we had John McCain on the air shortly afterwards.  And it was plain that Senator McCain was quite uncomfortable with Zell Miller‘s choice of language and tone.  And he said—John McCain said to me that he believed that John Kerry is qualified to be commander in chief. 

He said, we are not enemies.  We are friends, Republicans and Democrats, and that‘s the face that we have to turn to the world.  So I think there is a question about whether Zell Miller went too far here tonight, the language was just too harsh. 

Dick Cheney, obviously, was rolling out his position as the attack dog for the Republican ticket, although he did it in those avuncular terms, that kind of wry humor that he has.  And we will be hearing more about that, raising the United Nations, a sensitive war on terror, a commander in chief who doesn‘t support, he says, his troops in combat—Tim. 

TIM RUSSERT, NBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF:  Tom, the question is, will Zell Miller‘s comments attract the so-called Bubba vote that Democrats, Republicans call it down South, particularly in north Florida, or will it turn off swing, independent voters or proportionally women who don‘t like negative attacks, because it was very, very personal?

On the other hand, the contrasting style of the vice president, lines like John Kerry‘s liveliest disagreement is with himself, a sense of humor to it, while all the while giving a pretty good poke. 

I think the theme, however, is one that John Kerry is going to have to deal with, and that is whether or not he has a vision as commander in chief and the United States‘ position in the world that he can articulate in a way that people can listen to and not be seen as weak on defense.  It‘s doable, but it‘s difficult. 

BROKAW:  Chris, I thought the two best lines for the vice president, one was, John Kerry says that he sees two Americas, and the feeling is mutual.  America sees two John Kerrys.  It‘s that kind of flip-flopping that they want to talk about. 

The other one is that both these candidates tonight talked about something that John Kerry did not talk about in his acceptance speech in Boston.  And that is his Senate record.  I think he gave something like 120 words to his Senate record altogether.  So we will be hearing about flip-flopping, about his Senate record, and about those two votes on Iraq, which the Republicans feel one cancels out the other. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thanks very much, Tom and Tim. 

We have got Zell Miller joining us in just about 10 minutes right now.  We are going to be hearing from him, from other correspondents from the floor continually tonight, as we get toward midnight. 

It seems to me that the question here is tone. 


MATTHEWS:  I also want to raise a preliminary point with you, Andrea, and anyone else who wants to get into this. 

Could the Democratic Party have been snookered, snookered by the media, by the pooh-bahs of opinion, who suggested the way to fight this election was not really to fight it, but to be nice?  They gave a convention which lacked any zip, any spit, any fire.  And now they are coming up with an assault that‘s so deadly, it‘s as if somebody dropped the atom bomb on the Democratic Party. 

That attack about Ted Kennedy and John Kerry was personal.  Nobody is going to step back and say it wasn‘t.  The idea that this guy is going to shoot spitballs in defense of country that he risked his life to defend some years ago is a personal attack on the guy.  This is serious business.  I want to ask everybody, did Democrats make a mistake in not shooting at their opponents? 


SCARBOROUGH:  They were personal attacks.  They were personal, but effective attacks, just like Lee Atwater‘s attacks in 1988 were personal but effective against Michael Dukakis.  The answer is yes.

But I want to follow up on what Jon Meacham said earlier this evening.  And that is, the Democrats‘ biggest problem seems to be that they are terribly conflicted whenever they talk about issues of national defense.  They are not exactly sure what they are supposed to do.  Is John Kerry supposed to be the war hero or the anti-war protester that fought to end the war?  Is he supposed to be strong on defense or is he supposed to be the peacemaker that goes to the United Nations and brings us all together? 

They are terribly conflicted.  And the Republicans see that weakness, and they are just pounding the hell out of him because of it. 


MEACHAM:  Chris, it also depends on what swing voters we‘re talking about. 

Last night, we talked about the four or five million evangelical, charismatic Christians, who would be, I think, reached by the Miller-Cheney arguments.  We are not necessarily talking about soccer moms.  We‘re talking about a different election, a different dynamic than we have had in a long, long time.  And even Cheney‘s attempt to sort of salute Kerry was like an apple with a razor blade in it. 

He said Kerry speaks often of his service in Vietnam, and we honor him for it.  And it was just a brilliant line.  And I think that whatever the merits on what they said about Kerry tonight—and there‘s a lot to argue about—as pure political tactics, we have now had two conventions about John Kerry, the Democrats‘ and this one. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 


MATTHEWS:  J.C. first.

WATTS:  The Democrats are conflicted because, early on, the Republicans defined John Kerry.  And John Kerry gave Republicans 20 years worth of voting records to define him. 

And so, right now, they are really struggling.  And 60 days out from the election, they are struggling with a real identity problem.  They are trying to figure out, who are we?  Where do we go in the home stretch of this thing?

MATTHEWS:  I think, as we speak, they are. 


ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  I think they were two very different speeches.  Now, they worked together, but I do have some questions about whether the tone of Zell Miller‘s speech was just too tough.  I mean, was it too hot?


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s start with a piece of poll data.  And we can argue whether pollsters are right or not, but please assume they are for this moment.  The president is very good on terrorism.  His numbers are solidly a majority position.  He has got a problem in the economy.  What else is new?

On the issue of the Iraq war, the war that was by most people‘s estimates a decision by the president, hard or not to make, but it was his decision—and a lot of people believe that John Kerry would not have taken us to war, no matter what he says.  Do people who have a problem right at that cutting edge, the 50 percentile mark, who have a problem with this decision to go to war in Iraq, who think it was too aggressive, are they going to be recruited to the Republican ranks by the two speeches we heard tonight? 


MITCHELL:  They might be recruited by Dick Cheney saying this was a war that had to be fought.  It was not discretionary. 

They won‘t be recruited, I don‘t think, by Zell Miller, because I think, for those undecided voters who are more ambivalent, I think it was too hot. 


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go right now to the floor.  We have to interrupt again.  Let‘s go down to the floor, to the action, to David Gregory—


GREGORY:  Chris, I was watching on the jumbo screen here.  It was the teleprompter. 

And the words I saw underlined more often than not in both speeches, indecision and confusion.  Those are the labels that they want to wrap around John Kerry‘s neck in the final stretch of this campaign, that, as a senator, he was a flip-flopper, that he was weak on national security.  They want to put aside his Vietnam record, make him indecisive and confused on issues of national security, somebody you can‘t trust to be commander in chief. 

I was speaking to the governor of New Hampshire, to Governor Nelson (sic), who was saying particularly about Zell Miller‘s speech, that, yes, it might have been tough.  It even seemed over the top.  But it‘s the kind of thing that‘s really going to motivate not just the base, but the workers in these states, in these swing states that have to get out that vote.  That‘s what is going to decide the election.  Those kinds of speeches have got people pumped now. 

It‘s 60 days.  It‘s the ground game that matters as much as the big ideas now, Chris.  

MATTHEWS:  Well, thank you, David. 

Let‘s take a look right now at some of Zell Miller‘s red meat tonight. 

What a speech. 


SEN. ZELL MILLER (D), GEORGIA:  In their warped way of thinking, America is the problem, not the solution.  They don‘t believe there is any real danger in the world except that which America brings upon itself through our clumsy and misguided foreign policy. 

It is not their patriotism, it is their judgment that has been so sorely lacking. 

They claimed Carter‘s pacifism would lead to peace.  They were wrong. 

They claimed Reagan‘s defense buildup would lead to war.  They were wrong. 

And no pair has been more wrong, more loudly, more often than the two Senators from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. 



MATTHEWS:  It reminds me of “Moby Dick” and the captain.  We are going to get that white whale.  I mean, I just—that‘s a Jeremiah, Jon. 

MEACHAM:  Yes, it absolutely is.

MATTHEWS:  That is a strong, almost biblical injunction to save the country from John Kerry. 


MEACHAM:  Zell Miller preached a very dark, very tough sermon tonight.  And it was about George Bush as savior.  There was nothing apologetic about it.  We heard in both speeches, the stakes could not be higher.  The safety of the country could not in more danger.

And I am trusting—both men talked about how they were trusting their families to the care of George Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  I am telling you, I think it‘s going to exact a response from John Kerry. 

My own hunch, having watched politicians for a long time, if he doesn‘t come back and show—I hate to be sexist—his manhood and come back and say, how dare somebody accuse me of not caring about our troops, of not caring about this country, of accusing my of using spitballs to defend us, to mock my valor and my commitment, this is so personal, if he lets somebody write his speech tomorrow, he is making a big mistake. 


SCARBOROUGH:  But, Chris, that‘s the problem with John Kerry‘s campaign over the past month. 

Had I been a war hero like John Kerry, had I served my country in Vietnam when my opponent decided to stay at home, I would have been offended a month ago.  This guy has been given 1,000 reasons to be offended, 1,000 reasons to go out and strike back, 1,000 reasons to be aggressive and put his finger out and say, how dare you.

He hasn‘t done it.  If he is not going to do it when they attack his war record...

MATTHEWS:  I know. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Why would he do it because of a convention speech? 


MATTHEWS:  The best time for him to play defense and to counterattack was three months ago. 


MATTHEWS:  The second best time is tomorrow morning. 



MATTHEWS:  He has to do it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  He has got to do it after the convention.  You are right. 

WATTS:  But, also, let me remind you, as I said, I think John Kerry has given plenty of fodder for them to go at to create this image that he is soft on defense, that he‘s soft on this. 

He got 20 years of a voting record.  He has defended and he has never come out and denounced Michael Moore.

MATTHEWS:  But, J.C...

WATTS:  That said the president is a thug, he‘s a liar, he‘s a killer. 


WATTS:  Does that not matter? 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, appeal to your expertise.  You voted on appropriations.  You know that a lot of these appropriations fights are about negotiation.  You vote against certain amendments.  You vote for certain amendments.  Sometimes you vote against them when it‘s an 80-20 vote in the Senate or a 300-100 vote in the House.

And you do it for positioning and you do it to win the argument.  To say that everybody voted the way a certain vote, as if that‘s the bottom line on their position, makes a mistake, doesn‘t it?

WATTS:  Chris, why would you vote against $87 billion?  The Iraq package was $87 billion. 

MATTHEWS:  Because it wasn‘t—because the vote was overwhelming, and the only reason he did it was to make a point.  He didn‘t like the occupation and the way it was going. 

WATTS:  Well, what point?  Eighty-seven?  That‘s not the one to make

that point on.  And at the same


MATTHEWS:  That‘s a tactical dispute.


WATTS:  But at the same time


MATTHEWS:  You‘re right.  You‘re right, J.C.  He blew it. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Now, where he blew it was when he—no, where he blew it, though, it wasn‘t the vote that is killing him.  It‘s when he said on camera, I voted for it first before I voted against it. 


MATTHEWS:  Let me go to the guy who made the charge.


MATTHEWS:  Joe Scarborough, thank you.

Let me go now to the—go right now.  We‘re going to joined right now as we speak, and stop speaking, with Zell Miller, the man who made the speech.

Senator, thank you.  You have...


MATTHEWS:  Well, don‘t listen to them.  Don‘t listen to those people. 

We want to hear from you, Senator. 

Senator, let me ask you. 

MATTHEWS:  I want to ask you about the most powerful line in your speech.  And it had so many. 

“No pair has been more wrong, more loudly, more often than the two Senators from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry.”

Do you believe that John Kerry and Ted Kennedy really only believe in defending America with spitballs? 

MILLER:  Well, I certainly don‘t believe they want to defend America by putting the kind of armor and the kind of equipment that we have got to have out there for our troops.  I mean, nothing could be clearer than that, than what John Kerry did when he voted against that $87 billion in appropriations, that would have provided protective armor for our troops and armored vehicles. 

MATTHEWS:  All right, let me ask you.  Senator, you are the expert.  Many times, as a conservative Republican, you have had to come out on the floor and obey party whips and vote against big appropriations passed by the Democrats when they were in power. 

You weren‘t against feeding poor people.  You weren‘t against Social Security.  You weren‘t against a lot of programs that, because of the nature of parliamentary procedure and combat, you had to vote against the whole package.  Didn‘t you many times vote against whole packages of spending, when you would have gladly gone for a smaller package? 

MILLER:  Well, I didn‘t make speeches about them and I didn‘t put them in my platform. 

Right here is what John Kerry put out as far as his U.S. Senate platform, was, he was talking about he wanted to cancel the M.X. missile, the B-1 bomber, the anti-satellite system.  This is not voting for something that was in a big bill. 


MATTHEWS:  Which of those systems was effective in either Afghanistan

or Iraq?  The M.X. certainly wasn‘t, thank God, nor was the other


MILLER:  Look, this is front and—wait, this is front and back, and it‘s two pages.  I have got more documentation here than they have got in the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress. 


MILLER:  I knew you was going to be coming with all of that stuff. 

And I knew that these people from the Kerry campaign would be coming with all this kind of stuff. 

That‘s just baloney.  Look at the record.  A man‘s record is what he is. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree. 


MILLER:  A man‘s campaign rhetoric—what? 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just asking you, Senator, do you mean to say—I know there‘s rhetoric in campaigns.  I just want to know, do you mean to say that you really believe that John Kerry and Ted Kennedy do not believe in defending the country? 

MILLER:  Well, look at their votes. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just asking you to bottom-line it for me.

MILLER:  Wait a minute.  I said I didn‘t question their patriotism. 

MATTHEWS:  No.  Do you believe that they don‘t believe in defending the country?

MILLER:  I question their judgment. 


MATTHEWS:  Do you believe they want to defend the country? 

MILLER:  Look, I applaud what John Kerry did as far as volunteering to go to Vietnam.  I applaud what he did when he volunteered for combat.  I admire that, and I respect that.  And I acknowledge that.  I have said that many, many times. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 


MILLER:  But I think his record is atrocious. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you, when Democrats come out, as they often do, liberal Democrats, and attack conservatives, and say they want to starve little kids, they want to get rid of education, they want to kill the old people...

MILLER:  I am not saying that.  Wait a minute. 

MATTHEWS:  That kind of rhetoric is not educational, is it? 

MILLER:  Wait a minute. 

Now, this is your program.  And I am a guest on your program.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, sir.

MILLER:  And so I want to try to be as nice as I possibly can to you.  I wish I was over there, where I could get a little closer up into your face.

MILLER:  But I don‘t have to stand here and listen to that kind of stuff.  I didn‘t say anything about not feeding poor kids.  What are you doing? 

MATTHEWS:  No, I‘m saying that when you said tonight—I just want you to...

MILLER:  Well, you are saying a bunch of baloney that didn‘t have

anything to do with what I said up there on the


MILLER:  No, no.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Do you believe now—do you believe, Senator, truthfully, that John Kerry wants to defend the country with spitballs?  Do you believe that? 

MILLER:  That was a metaphor, wasn‘t it?  Do you know what a metaphor is? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you mean by a metaphor?

MILLER:  Wait a minute.  He certainly does not want to defend the country with the B-1 bomber or the B-2 bomber or the Harrier jet or the Apache helicopter or all those other things that I mentioned.  And there were even more of them in here. 

You‘ve got to quit taking these Democratic talking points and using what they are saying to you.

MATTHEWS:  No, I am using your talking points and asking you if you really believe them. 

MILLER:  Well, use John Kerry‘s talking points from the—from what he has had to say on the floor of the Senate, where he talked about them being occupiers, where he put out this whenever he was running for the U.S.  Senate about what he wanted to cancel.  Cancel to me means to do away with. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what did you mean by the following.

MILLER:  I think we ought to cancel this interview. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I don‘t mean...


MATTHEWS:  Well, that would be my loss, Senator.  That would be my loss. 

Let me ask you about this, because I think you have a view on the role of reporters in the world.  You have said and it has often been said so truthfully that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press.  Was there not...

MILLER:  Do you believe that? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, of course it‘s true. 

MILLER:  Do you believe that? 

MATTHEWS:  But it‘s a statement that nobody would have challenged.  Why did you make it?  It seems like no one would deny what you said.  So what‘s your point? 

MILLER:  Well, it evidently got a rise out of you.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think it‘s a


MILLER:  Because you are a reporter. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s right. 

MILLER:  You didn‘t have anything to do with freedom of the press. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you could argue it was not nurses who defended the freedom of nursing.  Why did you single out freedom of the press to say it was the soldiers that defended it and not the reporters?  We all know that.  Why did you say it? 

MILLER:  Well, because I thought it needed to be said at this particular time, because I wanted to come on...

MATTHEWS:  Because you could get an applause line against the media at a conservative convention.

MILLER:  No, I said it because it was—you‘re hopeless.  I wish I was over there. 


MILLER:  In fact, I wish that we lived in—I wish we lived in the



MATTHEWS:  I‘ve got to warn you, we are in a tough part of town over here. 

MATTHEWS:  But I do recommend you come over, because I like you. 

Let me tell you this. 

MILLER:  Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  If a Republican Senator broke ranks and—all right, I‘m sorry.

A Republican Senator broke ranks and came over and spoke for the Democrats, would you respect him? 

MILLER:  Yes, of course I would. 


MILLER:  I have seen that happen from time to time.  Look, I believe...


MATTHEWS:  What does Jim Jeffords say to you?

MILLER:  Wait a minute.


MATTHEWS:  Jim Jeffords switched parties after getting elected.

MILLER:  If you‘re going to ask a question...

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s a tough question.  It takes a few words. 

MILLER:  Get out of my face. 

MILLER:  If you are going to ask me a question, step back and let me answer. 


MATTHEWS:  Senator, please.

MILLER:  You know, I wish we...

MILLER:  I wish we lived in the day where you could challenge a person to a duel. 

MILLER:  Now, that would be pretty good. 

Don‘t ask me—don‘t pull that...


MATTHEWS:  Can you can come over?  I need you, Senator.  Please come over.

MILLER:  Wait a minute.  Don‘t pull that kind of stuff on me, like you did that young lady when you had her there, browbeating her to death.  I am not her.  I am not her.


MATTHEWS:  Let me tell you, she was suggesting that John Kerry purposely shot himself to win a medal.  And I was trying to correct the record.

MILLER:  You get in my face, I am going to get back in your face. 


MILLER:  The only reason you are doing it is because you are standing way over there in Herald Square. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator, Senator, can I speak softly to you?  I would really like you to...

MILLER:  What?  No, no, no, because you won‘t give me a chance to answer.  You ask these questions and then you just talk over what I am trying to answer, just like you did that woman the other day. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Senator...

MILLER:  I don‘t know why I even came on this program. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I am glad you did. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this about John Kerry‘s war record. 

MILLER:  Well, are you going to shut up after you ask me? 

MILLER:  Or are you going to give me a chance to answer it? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, sir. 

MATTHEWS:  I am going to give you a chance to answer. 

You used very strong words tonight about the Democratic candidate, much stronger than you are using with me.  And they will be remembered a lot longer than anything you say to me now.  So I am not really worried about what you say now, except that this country was promised unity after the last election by the president that you are supporting.  And he urged the country to come together.  Do you think you helped that cause tonight? 

MILLER:  I think I helped the cause of trying to tell the American people why John Kerry is unfit for the presidency and why we need to keep George W. Bush in as the president, because it‘s the way that we can keep this nation more secure and my family more safe. 

MATTHEWS:  Did I ask you about your role in the Democratic Party, because you have caused such a hit tonight, because you are a man of the Democratic Party?  Long before this election, you had to watch as a Southern conservative the nomination by your party of people like George McGovern, Fritz Mondale, Jimmy Carter, liberal after liberal after liberal, including Mike Dukakis, perhaps the most liberal of them all.  What caused you to cross the aisle tonight? 

MILLER:  By coming to Washington and seeing firsthand what a mess it is and how far out the Senate Democrats are. 

They are off the chart as far as being with the mainstream of America.  I think the straw that broke the camel‘s back was the homeland security measure, when, time after time, John Kerry and the Democrats put collective bargaining above homeland security.  That did it for me. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that did it for Max Cleland as well, didn‘t it? 

MILLER:  It surely did.  And probably Jean Carnahan.

And nobody is to blame, except—well, they are to blame because they voted that way.  But who is really to blame is Tom Daschle for insisting that they do it 11 times over a four-months period.  It was dumb. 

MATTHEWS:  And, well, you could argue that it was politically dumb of Max Cleland to support the labor unions in Georgia against what looked like the national interests.  My question is, is it good for America to impugn that vote as a vote against the security of this country? 

MILLER:  That vote was not impugned.  He did not get defeated because of that ad that you like to talk about.  You can‘t vote with Tom Daschle 85 percent of the time and be expected to be able to be reelected in Georgia.  You know that much about Georgia and the South. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, sir, I also know the—and I completely agree with the need to get reelected as a statesman.  Jefferson said the first order of a statesman was to get elected. 

I am just wondering if you think tonight‘s speech and advertisements that show people like Max Cleland standing next to Saddam Hussein are helping bring this country together? 

MILLER:  That didn‘t have anything to do with Max Cleland‘s defeat. 

We have already—we have already beat that dog to death. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe the war did that, too. 

But thank you very much for coming here tonight.  I hope we can have a more civil conversation in closer terms.  I would love you to come tonight.  In fact, you can meet with Joe Scarborough, who will probably be nicer to you. 

MATTHEWS:  But we will both try to get the truth out of the conversation. 

And I feel bad that you are upset with me, Senator.  I have never had this kind of a fight with you before. 

MILLER:  I know it.

MATTHEWS:  I think you misheard me.  But please come over tomorrow night.  We‘ve got a convention ending.

And, by the way, you will help our ratings tremendously if you come over tomorrow night, because everybody thinks you are going to beat me up.

MATTHEWS:  But since somebody tried to do that last night, I don‘t think it‘s going to be a surprise. 

WATTS:  Hey, Chris, can I say


MATTHEWS:  J.C. Watts wants to talk to you, Senator.

MILLER:  All right. 

WATTS:  Hey, Senator, this is J.C. Watts. 

MILLER:  Hey, J.C.

WATTS:  You can put your feet under my dinner table any day of the week. 


MILLER:  Thank you.  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I guess everybody loves the senator. 

MILLER:  Good to be with you.

MATTHEWS:  Hey, it‘s great having you on.  Let‘s be friends.  Let‘s be friends. 

MILLER:  See you later. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 

Well, that was unexpected turn of events. 


MATTHEWS:  I simply wanted him to say again in the vernacular what he said on that stage.  And I think we all agreed here, didn‘t we?  Stick by me here.


MATTHEWS:  Didn‘t we all agree those were strong words? 

WATTS:  Well, I think they were strong words.

But, Chris, I think you got a good feel of the political process, but let me tell you, when the senator—you really were trying to have the Senator answer what you were—there was no hidden agenda in what you were asking. 

MATTHEWS:  No, but I do know that you know parliamentary procedure better than I do. 

WATTS:  Right.  Right. 


MATTHEWS:  You often vote directly against a large appropriation when you clearly would have voted for a smaller one.  It‘s the way the game is played. 

WATTS:  But let me tell you something.

When we have this movie , this filmmaker, that says worse things about the president of the United States than he says about Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden or the terrorists, and then the Senator has to come on any show...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

WATTS:  ... or talk to any reporter and go through that, he kind of feels like there is a double standard.  I‘m not saying that there is. 


WATTS:  Because I know exactly what you were asking him there. 

MITCHELL:  He was asking him just about his words from the speech.  We



WATTS:  No, you didn‘t. 

But I am saying, the senator understands all these other things that are out there in the echo chamber about what is being said about the president, what is being said about him. 


MITCHELL:  One of the things in the speech was, John Kerry wants to refight yesterday‘s war. 

Now, John Kerry isn‘t the one right now attacking himself on Vietnam.  I mean, this sort of—this speech—and I think, Chris, appropriately was questioning him as to whether he was throwing up straw men.  In the senator‘s defense, Chris, I think, with all the noise of the buses that are taking the delegates that are now leaving...

MATTHEWS:  I love that sound. 


MITCHELL:  Well, that sound makes it very hard if you‘re over in the hall. 

MATTHEWS:  Can I make noncontroversial statements like, I love the sound of buses? 


MEACHAM:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t know.


MEACHAM:  Only if they are hybrid buses. 


MITCHELL:  I think he may have misunderstood the analogy you were drawing. 

MATTHEWS:  I think he couldn‘t hear me. 


MATTHEWS:  I was trying to defend conservatives tonight, which probably they don‘t need defending. 

But, oftentimes, there are debates over Social Security.  And every time a Republican, for example, tries to reform Social Security, somebody from the left says, you are trying to destroy Social Security, when they are simply trying to reform it.  Every time somebody tries to cut back on school lunches or Head Start or any kind of Social Security, they are accused of being killers of old ladies and killers of kids. 

I tried to explain to him that the rhetoric of complete destruction of other side‘s point of view is not helpful. 

MITCHELL:  Right.  I don‘t think he understood that. 


MEACHAM:  You made history tonight, because this was the first presidential—the first presidential politics issuing a challenge for a duel since Andrew Jackson wanted to hang John C. Calhoun. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, no, no.  I did not invite him to a duel. 

MEACHAM:  No, he did.  He did.

MITCHELL:  He did.




MEACHAM:  He said he wished we lived in an age when you could duel. 

And Andrew Jackson carried two bullets in him his whole life and wanted to



WATTS:  I want to sell the popcorn and Coke.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I do


WATTS:  I want to sell popcorn and Coke at that door. 


MEACHAM:  I‘ll do it.

MATTHEWS:  I think he wanted to have a conversation in closer quarters.  Sort of a Joe Lieberman-Dick Cheney sit-down schmooze, I think he wanted.

Hey, look, we got to come back.  We‘ve got—well, we‘re going to come back.  We‘re going to have pollster Frank Luntz to settle the situation here and his focus group of Ohio voters—maybe they decided between the other arguments tonight—anyway, to see what they are saying about the speeches tonight by Senator Zell Miller and Vice President Dick Cheney.

We‘re going to have some news for you tonight.  What do people out there think about what we all heard tonight?

You‘re watching HARDBALL.  What a name for the show tonight.  Live coverage of the Republican National Convention on MSNBC.

MEACHAM:  That was great.



MATTHEWS:  The senior senator from Georgia visited us tonight. 

There‘s still time, Senator (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I mean that seriously.  I think it‘s great to have the nerve to come back and meet so—I think there was a miscommunication. 

Just to clear this up, I was trying to point out that, having worked on Capitol Hill for so many years, I know that these are debates that occur.  And they seem so black and white.  And what happens is, you establish, you take a position against a defend spending bill, for example, and you end up losing 80-20, and you make your point for maybe your local press.  And you also may be trying to negotiate some amendment which fails.  And if you are a conservative, you try to cut down on the ag bill, perhaps, or the school lunch program or something, and you will say, I don‘t want to spend $100 billion.

I‘ll spend maybe 80, so you vote against the $100 billion‘s final passage.  So you end up looking like Scrooge if you are conservative, and you end up looking like Bella Abzug if you‘re a Democrat, a real old-time lefty liberal.  So it does give you kind of an unclear picture.  I tried to draw that out of him.

I think when he goes back and starts reading what I said, instead of checking on the latest blog site, he will learn a lot more about what‘s going on here. 


MATTHEWS:  Just a thought there, Senator. 

But it seems to me, while looking at—Norah is just laughing at my predicament.  You are enjoying this so much. 

NORAH O‘DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  I have just shown up here. 

MATTHEWS:  Norah O‘Donnell, Norah O‘Donnell.


O‘DONNELL:  I have been in the heartland with the president. 

MATTHEWS:  Tell us something that we don‘t know.  Tell me about the president‘s ride in here. 


MATTHEWS:  Coming in with the president.  We saw you fly in at JFK. 

What kind of mood is there on that plane? 

O‘DONNELL:  I think they feel good. 

I mean, obviously, they planned this to be a late convention, so they could get a late bounce heading into the final 60 days.  They feel good.  The polls show that John Kerry has lost a lot of his—any bounce that he had or any momentum that he had, so they feel good about that. 

But I was struck in listening to Zell Miller and Cheney tonight, this is a campaign that doesn‘t just want to win.  They want to destroy opposition, and they want a mandate.  And while that hasn‘t been something that they talked about or really can talk about at this point, it‘s something that they, before this whole campaign started, before the Democrats had picked someone, this is a president who didn‘t come into office with a mandate.  They tried to create a mandate through legislative action and try to get some...


MATTHEWS:  Excuse me. 

What was John McCain‘s role the other night when he came in rolling through the convention hall, saying we‘ve got to learn how to argue with each other without questioning each other‘s legitimacy, patriotism; we‘ve got to be calmer and treat each other as friends and that whole mood?  Who was he preaching to?  The Democrats.


O‘DONNELL:  There are clearly two different messages.


O‘DONNELL:  There were messages of moderation and the message of meat today, where they were throwing the meat out. 

And I think part of this whole thing we talk about, the media says, well, they are putting a more softer side on this, a more compassionate side and all that kind of stuff.  That‘s important.  But if you look at where we have gone with the president, the places we have traveled with the president, they are not so concerned about swing voters.  Why?  Because there‘s this many swing voters left.  There aren‘t that many there. 

MATTHEWS:  They‘re trying to shake loose the Democrats.

O‘DONNELL:  They are going to places where there are already strong Republican turnout.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

O‘DONNELL:  That they won 2-1, they are trying to get it 2.5-1.  They are trying to crank up those people and bring them to the polls. 


MATTHEWS:  Tell me again.  Tell me again.  I want you to finish the thought.  Tell me again why they‘re going to Scranton tomorrow night, right from here. 

MITCHELL:  Because they—they‘re competitive in Pennsylvania. 

MATTHEWS:  But what do you know on the plane?

O‘DONNELL:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a Democratic area. 

O‘DONNELL:  It is a Democratic area.  It also happens to have more bars in Scranton than anywhere else in the country. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, if your name wasn‘t O‘Donnell, I would say that was an ethnic slur, because it‘s an entirely Irish town.  But it has a lot of bars. 



MITCHELL:  Those are conservative Democrats.  You know, that‘s the Bob Casey area.  Those are conservative Democrats who are winnable for this president among people who are concerned about national defense if, as Norah says, they can persuade...


O‘DONNELL:  For them, it‘s also is that—is that they are reachable people.  And it‘s also somewhat of a tactical move for them to say, they are going to the same place that John Kerry went to.  It‘s this tit for tat.  They follow him around sometimes to places he went, and they get a lot of coverage for doing that. 


MITCHELL:  One teeny little thing.

Talking about Pennsylvania, the AFL-CIO endorsed Arlen Specter today.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MITCHELL:  So that means that labor is going to have divided loyalties.  That is important. 

MATTHEWS:  True.  And he earned that rating, because he‘s about 100 percent COPE rating in voting.

WATTS:  And let me ask, Chris, are we having identity crisis of

reporting?  Now, the first two nights, we were talking, oh, this is



MITCHELL:  That was Monday.  That was Tuesday. 

WATTS:  We had Arnold Schwarzenegger.  We had John McCain.  And these guys really don‘t represent the party.  And now, man, they‘re red meat guys and it‘s too tough. 

MEACHAM:  You‘re not suggesting that this convention was choreographed to make several different points on different nights, are you, Congressman?



WATTS:  We‘ve got a 380 here tonight.  The first two nights, we were talking about, oh, there‘s John McCain and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudy Giuliani. 


MEACHAM:  I think Norah‘s point is exactly right and sheds a light on a very important political difference that‘s happened in the last 50 years, which is that Republicans are street fighters. 

They wear Brooks Brothers suits and they have better cotton in their shirts, but, damn it, they are better at it in actual hand-to-hand combat.  And the Democrats, for all sorts of very important governance reasons, to go to what you and Andrew Jackson Jr. were talking about with Senator Miller.


MEACHAM:  And what John Kerry, who makes very intellectually honest, but often politically difficult statements, they see complexity where the Republicans don‘t mind, and they are going to hammer it and hammer it and hammer it. 

MITCHELL:  Jon, who did George W. Bush work side by side with in the 1988 election?  Lee Atwater. 

MEACHAM:  Atwater, right. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MITCHELL:  That‘s exactly who


MEACHAM:  And there‘s no Carville of this campaign. 


WATTS:  And let me tell you something. 


WATTS:  In this business, you better have some alley cats on your team.  This is a physical kind of—this is a physical business.

MITCHELL:  Well, they‘ve got them.

MEACHAM:  Oklahoma alley cats. 

MATTHEWS:  We saw some tonight.


MATTHEWS:  Excuse me.

We are joined right now by pollster Frank Luntz.  He‘s in Cincinnati, Ohio, with a group of Ohio voters who watched tonight‘s speeches, both of them. 

Frank, your ruling by your group?

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER:  Chris, it‘s been a very interesting reaction.

Even though the focus of tonight was supposed to be Dick Cheney, actually, it was Senator Miller who had an even more favorable reaction from them.

In fact, let‘s do a show of hands.  How many of you thought that Zell Miller‘s speech was stronger than Dick Cheney‘s?

LUNTZ:  I want you to give me a word or phrase to describer Zell Miller‘s speech.

Kim (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Fantastic.  Very upbeat.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Focused on the family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Powerful, but one-sided.




LUNTZ:  Now, you all are swing voters.  And you said to me to get in here that you‘ve not decided who you vote for.

Zell Miller‘s speech was very partisan and very strong.  And yet most of you had a favorable reaction to it.  Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He was a Democrat.


LUNTZ:  He‘s a Democrat.  And what does that mean to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, he was sharing some of the impressions that the Republicans have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And he seemed like the person next door.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s how strongly he feels about these current issues.

LUNTZ:  So the fact that he is a Democrat gives him more credibility?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And a Marine, ex-Marine.


LUNTZ:  And why does that matter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Because he‘s more in tune with what‘s going on in the issues and how all that is going on behind the scenes and where he is, being from the Democratic Party and being a military guy.

LUNTZ:  You didn‘t feel that he was overboard?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, I don‘t think he was.  I think he was dead on, but it was so much more convincing coming from a Democrat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think he was totally overboard, because his whole focus was on terrorism and why we should all be afraid.                 

Now, we asked you to use these dials.  Let me borrow one.

Chris, they used these dials to indicate whether or not they agreed with what they were hearing.  Zell Miller focused a lot on what John Kerry had voted for and what he had voted against.

In the segment that you are about to see, the red lines represent Republicans.  The green independents and Democrats.  The higher that you see the lines climb over here, the better the response.  Watch the reaction when Zell Miller talks about John Kerry‘s voting record on defense. 


MILLER:  I could go on and on and on.  Against the Patriot missile that shot down Saddam Hussein‘s Scud missiles over Israel, against the Aegis air defense cruiser, against the Strategic Defense Initiative, against the Trident, missile, against, against, against. 

AUDIENCE:  Against, against, against!

MILLER:  This is the man who wants to be the commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces? 


MILLER:  U.S. forces armed with what?  Spitballs? 



LUNTZ:  Spitballs, U.S. armed with spitballs.  I listened.  You laughed at that. 


LUNTZ:  Your reaction. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, I did laugh at it because from what he was describing, Kerry is not going to support the military, that if we were attacked, that‘s about all we would have left. 

LUNTZ:  Kim? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I agree.  Spitballs.  There‘s no support of the military.  It‘s very expensive to purchase all of these items, and John Kerry voted against expanding our horizons in the military fields. 

LUNTZ:  But, Barbara (ph), you don‘t agree. 


LUNTZ:  Why not? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think it‘s ludicrous to refer to something so significant as spitballs.  I think that Kerry is somebody who actually was in an operation, who actually fought and who actually had experience in the military, and I have not been able to personally find anything where it is that he was against anything in terms of the U.S. military. 

LUNTZ:  Now, you also heard from Vice President Cheney.  And he talked about John Kerry‘s record and where John Kerry stands on some of the issues.  And, in particular, he focused on 9/11 and the reaction to terrorism.  And, again, you had a very dramatic response to what the vice president had to say. 

Let‘s take a look and then we will talk about it. 


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Even in this post-9/11 period, Senator Kerry doesn‘t appear to understand how the world has changed.  He talks about leading a more sensitive war on terror.


CHENEY:  As though al Qaeda will be impressed with our softer side. 



CHENEY:  He declared at the Democratic Convention that he will forcefully defend America after we have been attacked.  My fellow Americans, we have already been attacked. 



LUNTZ:  That‘s a remarkable response.  That‘s a response from almost all of you. 

I know that you weren‘t supportive of the speech, but I even think you agree with that statement. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, we were attacked, but I just don‘t necessarily agree with the people we went after following 9/11. 

LUNTZ:  Douglas (ph). 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think it was pretty poignant.  I think we have to do something.  It‘s a fight in our backyard or theirs. 

LUNTZ:  Now, explain to me, when he attacks Kerry using the phrase fighting a sensitive war on terror, how do you react to that? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t think you could be sensitive with terrorists.  You have got to be firm.  You have got to show what you are going to do when something happens. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But the whole term sensitivity was taken out of context.  I don‘t think that that is what was intended in Kerry‘s speech about that. 

LUNTZ:  You are the youngest person in this room.  This is your first time voting for president. 

LUNTZ:  Yes. 

LUNTZ:  When the vice president talks about Kerry talking about sensitive, your reaction to that? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think that Kerry has consistently proving with his voting for the military and voting not for certain weapons, I think he has been consistent about being sensitive to a war on terror.  And, in this day and age, we have to be very powerful and we have to be very strong against terrorists. 

LUNTZ:  For you, sensitive is a negative term. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, sensitive—I think the way he used it, the way Dick Cheney used it, the vice president, was very, very much necessary. 

LUNTZ:  Patricia, agree or disagree? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I agree.  I think it was very poignantly put. 

LUNTZ:  There‘s one other segment that I want to show you all.  And it also relates to the principle of prevention.  And, again, you had a very sharp reaction.  Let‘s take a look and you will explain why. 


CHENEY:  We are faced with an enemy who seeks the deadliest of weapons to use against us, and we cannot wait until the next attack. 


CHENEY:  We must do everything we can to prevent it, and that includes the use of military force. 



LUNTZ:  Again, you had a very sharp reaction, even up to the point of military force.  But then some of the Democrats and independents started to react a little bit more negatively to it. 

John (ph), your reaction to that clip. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I agree that you have to have a military force of some sort, but I think the question is, how are you going to use it?  That really wasn‘t addressed here. 

LUNTZ:  Did Dick Cheney go too far? 


LUNTZ:  Why not? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, because I, remember many years back, if someone had stood up to Hitler back in the ‘30s, 70 million people wouldn‘t have been killed in that Second World War. 

LUNTZ:  Daniel (ph), did Dick Cheney go too far? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, I don‘t think so.  I think that he took a good position on being strong and being decisive about it.  And that‘s what I want to see.  I don‘t want to see a bunch of wobbling. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He was very focused. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don‘t think he went too far.  He was defending their position.  How could he—he had to say that or he would have been waffling. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, but he is not trying to appease everybody. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don‘t think he‘s trying to appease anybody. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He is trying to defend preemptive strike. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And I think that we set a very, very dangerous precedent doing that. 


LUNTZ:  Reactions? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think Cheney went too far, though, in saying what he said, because he just painted the one picture of fear.  He tried to instill fear in the American public and to make Kerry seem too sensitive. 

LUNTZ:  Last question.  Show of hands very quickly.  How many of you are now more likely than when you walked in here to vote for Bush-Cheney because of what you saw tonight?  Raise your hands.  Three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11 out of 17. 

Chris, it‘s a pretty good showing.  We are over here. 


LUNTZ:  Chris, it‘s a pretty good showing for Dick Cheney tonight. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Frank Luntz.

Well, we saw that applause lines do achieve their goal.  And the question is, did they achieve a lasting goal?  I know, speaking for myself, I am in love with the cleverly turned phrase and, in fact, if it‘s sort of funny, but it‘s always a little bit out of context.  The best humor denies a bit of the information.  And that‘s why it‘s so delightful to listen to.

The question is, John, do you think that the applause line readings we just got from Frank are indicative of how people are going to turn their heads on probably the most important election of their lives over the next two months? 

MEACHAM:  It‘s part of a mosaic. 

I think everything is going to be dwarfed by what the president says

tomorrow and then by what happens in the debates.  But what clearly is

going on here is that Bush-Cheney is going at the base, at the base, at the

base.  And I wonder if we are going to wake up on November 3 and realize,

as Norah was saying, that these eight undecided voters weren‘t what was on

their minds, that it was more about turning out people who already  


MATTHEWS:  Excuse me, the dog that didn‘t bark tonight, you didn‘t hear a really long argument for why we had to go to Iraq or a lot about the war on terrorism.


MATTHEWS:  And the vice president chose to win—to march on the line where he is most successful.  In every poll we read, it says the president is trusted on terrorism.  The war in Iraq remains controversial. 

O‘DONNELL:  Privately, advisers will admit that, if this election were a referendum on the president, they would lose.  But they know because it‘s a comparison between two candidates that they have a good shot, though when you were asking about those catchphrases, the simple messages, of course they matter.  And, of course, they are the kind of things that people turn at work the next day and say, hey, did you hear what Cheney said last night? 

He said that John Kerry is for the softer side of—and is sensitive on the war on terror.  I must say that also having been on the road for so long, too, people know the phrases.  And they repeat them when the president says them.  He actually voted for the $87 billion before he voted against it.  People know that and they communicate that to their friends. 


MATTHEWS:  I wish we had a second vote on the ballot, “Should we have gone to war with Iraq?” and ended this argument.  That would a great vote.

We‘ll be right back with more with our panel here at Herald Square at 34th and Broadway,.

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Republican National Convention on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to Herald Square and HARDBALL‘s very live coverage of the Republican Convention. 

We‘re here with the panel.  And I‘m going to give you each 45 seconds tonight.  I want a policy and political assessment of the two great speeches heard tonight.  And throw in a little tonal estimate as well.  Were they the right tone?


MITCHELL:  I still think that—and especially because of what John McCain apparently said to Tom Brokaw earlier—that the Zell Miller speech may have been too tough.  It was really a brim fire—firestone and brim fire—brimstone, rather, speech, when maybe what was called for was a tough policy speech, but one that could be a little bit more accessible to women who haven‘t yet decided.

MATTHEWS:  It was an Old Testament speech by a New Testament president.

MITCHELL:  Yes.  Yes. 

WATTS:  Let me give you a policy assessment—a political, policy...

MATTHEWS:  Make it, sir.

WATTS:  The left is tone-deaf about values the way the right is tone-deaf about poor people‘s issues. 

MATTHEWS:  Was tonight about values? 

WATTS:  I think it was.  I think they framed it. 


MATTHEWS:  I think it was about firepower. 


MATTHEWS:  And you know it was about firepower. 

WATTS:  We‘ve got to have it.

MITCHELL:  And spitballs.

MEACHAM:  I think this was a corporate merger of two wars, the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq.  They want to talk about war.  They don‘t want to talk about where it is. 

And I think to link the Reagan bit to the end of it is, when Reagan said in the great speech in 1964, you and I have a rendezvous with destiny, this is our last chance.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MEACHAM:  This is the spirit in which they‘re prosecuting ahead.  And we‘re going to hear it again and again and again.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Great.  Thank you. 

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Miller said what Dick Cheney really wanted to say, but, instead, Dick Cheney was sort of more steady.  And he didn‘t upstage the president, which I...




MATTHEWS:  We have got to go.  What a night it‘s been. 


MATTHEWS:  I want to thank the panel, Andrea Mitchell, J.C. Watts, Jon Meacham, and Andrea—and, Norah O‘Donnell, who came in late, and also Zell Miller.

Please come back tomorrow night.  You‘re my favorite panelists. 

I want to thank the 34th Street Partnership, who have made it possible for MSNBC to originate here at Herald Square at 34th and Broadway. 

We‘ll be right back tomorrow for the final night of the convention, when President Bush speaks.  And we‘ll be joined by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. 

Right now, our coverage of the Republican National Convention continues with “AFTER HOURS” with Joe Scarborough and Ron Reagan. 

See you tomorrow.


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