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American Morning - Transcript




June 10, 2004 Thursday

Transcript # 061002CN.V74

One man waiting inside when that casket arrived, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, our guest here now in Washington.

Senator, good morning to you and thank you for your time.


HEMMER: Last night, what was that feeling like?

MCCONNELL: Well, for those of us who were foot soldiers in the Reagan revolution 24 years ago, it was extraordinarily gratifying to see the most important conservative president in American history get this kind of reception, not only in California, where it might be expected, but here in the nation's capital.

The numbers of people coming out, the adulation expressed for former President Reagan is really quite gratifying.

HEMMER: Take me back to your home state, Louisville, Kentucky, 1984. He came to your city to make a speech.

What happened?

MCCONNELL: Well, they didn't think I had much of a chance in that election and they had not paid a whole lot of attention to us. This was the night that President Reagan had a poor performance in the debate with Walter Mondale.

HEMMER: It was the same night?

MCCONNELL: The night that people were saying, well, this guy's too old, he won't be able to make it through another term. So it was not one of his finest performances. It was a rally set you at a hotel right after the debate and all we'd been able to do is to get one little line in his-on his cue card to recognize my campaign for the Senate. There I was standing stiffly next to Nancy Reagan, who was clearly in a very bad mood, because she knew he had not done well. And then he proceeded with his cue cards and he said, "And we certainly want my good friend, Mitch O'Donnell, elected to the Senate."

Nobody cared, you know?

HEMMER: Did you think you were doomed at that point.

MCCONNELL: He laughed about it. We all laughed about it. The guy was clearly Teflon. He rarely flubbed his lines. But even when he did, it made no difference and everybody just laughed. And this was classic Reagan.

HEMMER: What do you think he would think now? His body is lying in state here in the Capitol Building, one of only 10 presidents in the history of this country to do that. At one time he said "that big white dome," referring to the Capitol Building, "bulging with new tax revenues." And here he is lying in state there.

MCCONNELL: Well, he had a big impact on this federal government and this is a fitting place for him to be viewed by the public, right in the Capitol. He made an enormous change in the way we operate around here.

HEMMER: It is said that your own governor, Ernie Fletcher, last night, flying in here to the services, caused a bit of a disturbance here with the security situation about 4:30 yesterday afternoon.

Have you talked to him about that at all?

MCCONNELL: I haven't, but all is well that ends well. One thing we learned is we can all get out of the Capitol pretty darned fast.

HEMMER: A good trial run, huh?


HEMMER: Fortunately, in the end, there was no cause for alarm.

MCCONNELL: No. No cause for alarm.

HEMMER: As his plane violated air space here.


HEMMER: But it sent a ripple through here, no doubt.

MCCONNELL: Well, it was a good exercise and it was just a mistake. And we were all relieved that things were OK.

HEMMER: Can I call you Senator O'Donnell for a day?

MCCONNELL: Thank you, Bill.

HEMMER: Thank you.

Good to see you.

MCCONNELL: Good to see you.

HEMMER: Mitch McConnell, Republican senator from Kentucky.

MCCONNELL: Thank you.

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