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MSNBC Hardball Transcript

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September 5, 2003 Friday

HEADLINE: HARDBALL for September 5, 2003

BYLINE: Chris Matthews; Andrea Mitchell

GUESTS: John McCain; Al Sharpton; Bob Dornan; Randall Hamud; Mario Cuomo

HIGHLIGHT:
France and Germany criticize the U.S.-drafted U.N. resolution on rebuilding Iraq. Then, interview with Al Sharpton. Finally, should illegal aliens in California be allowed to have state-issued driver's licenses?

BODY:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's what I comment. We have become good friends in this process. He's a lot of fun.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think he just got stuck. He was trying to get here, and the truth is, this could happened to any of us.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I miss him. He is my buddy, and I wish he was here. I always enjoy talking to him, and he is a great American.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Those were some of the presidential candidates reacting to the missing of Reverend Al Sharpton at last night's debate—the democratic debate in New Mexico. Here's the Reverend Sharpton to tell us what he didn't get a chance to talk about last night. Reverend Sharpton, what happened to your plane last night? What happened to you missing that big debate in Albuquerque?

REV. AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I sat on a runway in La Guardia airport in New York, for three hours. And when we got to Atlanta, the connection was gone. We tried to get a private plane over in Mercury Aviation, and because of the weather, we just could not get out. So we missed that debate. I've made most of all the debates all summer. There was one we missed, but I more than make up for it in the coming debates starting Tuesday in Baltimore.

MATTHEWS: Well, this will make you all the more exciting entry into that debate, having missed this one. Let me ask you about, who do you think won last night in your absence? Who came off the best?

SHARPTON: Well, I don't know. I think that it's hard to say. I think everyone was probably effective. I think that it was wise that particularly, with the first official DNC sanctioned debate, that everyone focused on the president. But I think as we go forward, we're going to have to show how we distinguish from one another and how we defeat the president.

Before we go to the general election, we have to deal with there's a convention. And why are we, as a party, not in a position that we ought to be, from the White House to the majority of the Congress. And I think some of those issues are going to have to be flushed out to make us effective in beating George Bush next year.

MATTHEWS: Well, as you said, attacking President Bush seemed to be last night's theme. Let's take a look, Reverend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president has to leave and he is not leading. He is a miserable failure on this issue.

EDWARDS: The president goes around the country speaking Spanish. The only Spanish he speaks when it comes to jobs is hasta la vista.

KUCINICH: People like the president use code words like quotas to try to frighten people into thinking they'll lose their jobs to somebody who is a member of the minority community. And for that reason alone, the president ought to go back to Crawford, Texas, with a one-way bus ticket.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the only jobs created in the United States of America by George Bush are the nine of us running for president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, Reverend Sharpton, what sets you apart from these other candidates is that you make that stuff up right on the spot and they come in with it already written for them.

SHARPTON: Well, I think also that we have got to deal with the expansion of the party. One of the things that I would have talked about is the need to have a more inclusive party. We've got to bring numbers in. I've been spending a lot of time, for example, Chris, in South Carolina where we lost—the Democrats lost the governor's race by 40,000 votes.

We find that over 400,000 African-Americans alone are unregistered. You have to register these people. But, in order to turn them out, you have to turn them on. We need to talk about things. I was surprised there wasn't more discussion about Proposition 54, which is on the ballot in California. Clearly we need to stop the recall. Clearly we need to stop Schwarzenegger who is nothing but Pete Wilson with biceps.

But, I think we also need to talk about the issues that will make those that have not come out, not registered, not participate, come out. If we go back to the field with the same lineup we had in 2002 when we lost the Senate and the House, we are going to get the same results. We need an honest discussion and an honest debate about that.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about your situation in South Carolina. Have you got Congressman Jim Clyburn backing you yet?

SHARPTON: I'm not going for endorsements. I've been in and out of South Carolina some 14 or 15 times. I'm not asking for endorsements. I'm going straight to the voters. I think that every candidate must do that. We all have our share of endorsements. But, I think we put a lot of stock into people giving endorsements rather than going to the people and letting the people hear the message...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, wouldn't you like to have the endorsement of the most respected African-American political leader in the state of South Carolina?

SHARPTON: Absolutely. I would love to have everyone's endorsement. But, as you know in New York, when I've run for office, I've not gotten a lot of endorsements and was able to win those districts when I didn't have the prominent officials in the American-American community with me. I think that when you talk to the people, the people make their judgments for themselves. Would I like to have every one's endorsement? Fine. Will that stop me? No way.

MATTHEWS: Half the voters, the registered voters of South Carolina and the Democratic side are American-American. Yet—and you being the only African-American candidate—and yet, John Edwards is leading down there. How do you explain that in the polling?

SHARPTON: Well, that's one poll. I mean, you get different polls, different places. I think the only poll that is going to matter in South Carolina is February 3. I think, also, the same day as Alabama, Missouri - we have a major education problem in Missouri. I'm on my way there this Sunday and Monday. So I think that a lot of people will be surprised. If you look at every time we've had a race, the pollsters have been way off. I think a lot of national pollsters will be out of business after the Sharpton campaign.

MATTHEWS: When can we expect to you win a primary, sir? When will you win one, Reverend?

SHARPTON: I'm not going to make that prediction. I'll make this prediction. And that is that I will come on and you'll be saying, my god, you did a lot better than I thought, and I will be inviting and you Mrs. Matthews to the White House. And it won't be for a tour as a guide.

MATTHEWS: You are going to beat the spread. That's good enough. Anyway. If you beat the spread, I'll be rooting for you. Thank you very much, the Reverend Al Sharpton.

SHARPTON: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: . running for president on the Democratic side.

Content and programming copyright 2003 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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