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MSNBC Hardball-Transcript

Location: Washington, DC

MSNBC June 8, 2004 Tuesday


June 8, 2004 Tuesday


BYLINE: Chris Matthews; David Shuster; David Gregory

GUESTS: Sean McCormick; Richard Allen; Dana Rohrabacher; Martin Anderson; Theodore McCarrick

The U.N. unanimously approves a resolution endorsing the new Iraqi government. At the G-8 meeting, leaders tighten nuclear regulations. Reagan's national security adviser shares his memories of the former president.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A country in mourning prepare to say farewell to the chief as Washington readies itself to host Ronald Reagan's state funeral, the country's first since Lyndon Johnson.

Inside the Reagan revolution with its closest friends and advisers, Richard Allen, Martin Anderson, and U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, remembering Reagan.


MATTHEWS: We're joined right now by two of President Reagan's former aides. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher served as special assistant and speechwriter during the Reagan administration.

And joining us by phone is Martin Anderson, who was a domestic and economic policy adviser from '81 to '82. He co-editor of the book "Reagan: A Life in Letters."

Let me start with Martin Anderson.

Mr. Anderson, what is the enduring Reagan legacy? What works today that he taught us?

MARTIN ANDERSON, FORMER REAGAN DOMESTIC ADVISER: I think what it is, it is what is called Reaganomics, but not many people know what Reaganomics is.

It is not just cutting taxes. It is not-especially not cutting taxes to raise money. We used to call it the four pillars. It's very simple. One, you control spending. Two, you keep tax rates low. Three, you have reasonable regulation that is not excessive on the people. And, fourth, very importantly, you have a strong system for keeping a sound dollar-for keeping a sound dollar. You have a safe, predictable monetary policy. Each one of those four are critical. And that together makes Reaganomics.

MATTHEWS: What was the impact on the economy of the higher deficits that David mentioned?

ANDERSON: Well, those higher deficits, let me say one thing. In the Reagan campaign, he always said one thing at the end. If there ever is a choice between doing what is right for national security and running a deficit, I will run the deficit.

And that is what happened. We get into a situation where, when he was running for election, there were large, increasing surpluses. And he proposed these tax cuts. Then, when he got in there, the deficits started to rise. All the economists were wrong, probably as usual. And called in the top experts of the country, called in Alan Greenspan and Arthur Burns and Milton Friedman and all those people.

And they all said, the best thing now is to go ahead with the tax cuts. He deliberately did that, knowing what would happen, and continued to spend the right money on national security. And I will say, in conclusion, he could have not spent what was necessary on missile defense and all those other things and we probably would have lost the Cold War. And that would have been intolerable.

MATTHEWS: Let me try that by Congressman Rohrabacher.

Congressman Rohrabacher, during the Reagan era, of course, we had rising deficits. We had tax cuts. We had regulatory reform. We had tax cuts. We had defense increases. During the Clinton administration, we had balanced budgets, thanks to the president, and of course to Newt Gingrich's Congress. But we had a balanced budget. Now we're back into a Republican administration and we have deficits again. Isn't a conservative someone who believes in balanced budgets? And, if so, why do the Democrats have balanced budgets and the Republicans have deficits?

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, let me note-I'll start off by noting the deficit under Ronald Reagan, I think it is unfair to say that he increased the deficit. The fact is that, had Ronald Reagan's policies not been put into place and the increase in the deficit would have continued as it was right before he took over, instead, we would have had much larger deficits and we would have had high inflation and high employment-unemployment at the same time.

So Ronald Reagan's deficits I do not believe were out of line in terms of what would have happened had his policies not been put in place. Now, it is true we did not cut spending programs, as some conservatives would like to. And that's where your report in the beginning is wrong. Marty Anderson should be able to tell us. What we did is not slash all of these programs. We got control of the growth of the programs.


ROHRABACHER: And then we reignited the growth of the economy. So we got control of the growth of the programs and then the economy grew. That way, we were able to have a reduction in the size of government as compared to the overall economy of the nation, which was what our goal was.

And this idea that we were slashing in a very ruthless way or heartless way was just not the case.

MATTHEWS: No, I don't think so either. In fact, I think the deficits of-what I want to ask you about is why did we have deficits under Republicans and balanced budgets under Democrats? It seems so ironic.


ROHRABACHER: Well, it is clear in one thing, that we had deficits under Reagan, I believe, because the president was making an investment in peace. He knew that, if we spent this money for defense now, that later on, we wouldn't have to spend it because we could bring peace to the world, which is exactly what happened, which permitted, of course, Clinton, the Clinton administration to cut defense spending and balance the budget.

Now this president is faced with another international crisis and we are making an investment in long-term peace. And, hopefully, after we are successful in overcoming this horrendous challenge of radical Islam, we will be able to not have to spend so much Money on defense again.


MATTHEWS: Marty, I want to you respond. Did we in fact cut spending, domestic social spending, under Reagan or not?


Well, we did not cut it as much as we like. If you look at the numbers, domestic spending increased substantially. But the-look, the reason why what you say-and it is funny, except that you can balance the budget-and this is the way the Democrats do-by reducing national security, spending on national security, and increasing taxes.


ANDERSON: That's not the way conservatives would like to see the budget balanced.


ANDERSON: That was the key here, because what Reagan was doing was spending what he thought was necessary on national security and at the same time reducing taxes to stimulate the economy. And it worked.

Look, it's like a person that says, I want to buy a house. They're $300,000. Should I save until I've got the $300,000 and I'm 72 years old? Or should I buy the house and pay it off?


MATTHEWS: Well, you're talking to me. You borrow the money.



MATTHEWS: You borrow the money. I just didn't think that's what you called conservatism, that's all. I'm all for borrowing the money, getting the mortgage and buying the biggest house you can. But how can you call that conservatism?

ANDERSON: But, Chris, we're talking about an investment in peace.


ANDERSON: And when Ronald Reagan invested this money in national defense...


ANDERSON: ... it wasn't because we liked to see all this hardware being bought by the federal government.


ANDERSON: It's because it was going to bring about a more peaceful world.


ANDERSON: And then we wouldn't to have spend so much money, which is exactly what happened. Clinton wouldn't have been able to balance the budget during his years unless it was for Reagan's defense policies in the years before.

MATTHEWS: Well, this isn't the Clinton corner on this show, if you haven't noticed the last couple years.

Let me ask tell you about-you know what's interesting. I want to ask you all about working for the president, because you notice people smoking there in the Cabinet Room? Boy, have times changed.

We are coming right back. More with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California and Martin Anderson, and later, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington. What a good man. You'll like him. He'll be coming here with his memories of President Reagan.

You're watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Coming up, more memories of Ronald Reagan from Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Martin Anderson. Plus, Theodore McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington, on Friday's funeral service at the National Cathedral.



MICHAEL DEAVER, FORMER REAGAN AIDE: I think it was that day in 1981 in January when we came off the inaugural stand. And we went into the Oval Office, and just the two of us. And he sat behind the desk and put his hands on top of the desk. And he looked over at me and he said, have you got goosebumps? And, I mean, he knew where he had come from. And he knew how sacred this spot was to him.


MATTHEWS: That's longtime Reagan aide and my pal Michael Deaver in an exclusive interview with NBC's Tom Brokaw. What an interview that must be.

We're back with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Martin Anderson.

Dana, let me ask you about what it is like to work for a guy. I was a speechwriter for a president. You were certainly one for a great, successful president. Did he ever say, this is malarkey; I can't use this? Did he ever come back and say, this isn't me? How did it work when you were submitting ideas?


ROHRABACHER: Well, first of all, let me discuss, as mentioned, about the first time I went into the Oval Office as a speechwriter for the president. I had worked in both of his campaigns, along with Marty Anderson.

And I was ushered into the Oval Office with Maury Masang (ph), who was a speechwriting, and two or three researchers, happening to be young ladies. And the first time you're in the Oval Office, there he is. And he was looking at us and we were looking at him. And time was passing. And, boy,I said we're wasting time. So I immediately sat down and everybody started getting out their pens.

And I leaned over to President Reagan and I said, Mr. President, is this like it is in England, that you can't sit down until the king sits down? And Reagan goes, well, no, Dana, but I usually wait for the ladies to sit down first.


MATTHEWS: That took command of the situation.

ROHRABACHER: Yes, it is. And, look, he was a great writer. He was a fine writer himself.

MATTHEWS: Did he blue-pencil your stuff? How did it work?

ROHRABACHER: Well, in the beginning, he edited a lot. I never wrote a speech for anybody before I wrote for Ronald Reagan.


ROHRABACHER: And he taught us the things that he wanted in the speech. Be positive. Talk about solutions. Don't talk about-mention problems, but don't mention them unless you have got solutions. Say things that will inspire people to-and activate them. And he had a list of about 13 things. And he taught us how to do it.

And always, always tell a little funny story. And...


ROHRABACHER: But he knew how to inspire the people of the United States and communicate what he believed. He wasn't just a great communicator. He was a great leader, because he had a set of ideas that he wanted to put into practice. And he helped us learn how to communicate and to write.

MATTHEWS: You know how it was running for Jimmy Carter? Different.

Anyway, let's to go Martin Anderson.


MATTHEWS: Sir, did you ever have a fight with President Reagan. I'm sorry. We're going to have to come back with more. Thank you very much, Martin Anderson, for joining us here, Dana Rohrabacher, U.S. congressman from California.

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