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Scarborough Country - Transcript

Location: Washington DC

June 10, 2004 Thursday


TRANSCRIPT: # 061001cb.471


BYLINE: Joe Scarborough; Lawrence O'Donnell

GUESTS: Rep. David Dreier; Morton Blackwell; John Sununu; David Dreier; John Fund; Morton Blackwell; Melissa Giller; Jack Kingston; Lee Greenwood

Let's bring in Jack Kingston right now.

Jack, you actually gave me something that the Republican conference put out. It talks about remembering Ronald Reagan. And I'll tell you what. Ronald Reagan really does give us all an awful lot to remember.

Tell me, what are your thoughts about him tonight? You were there at the service. What was the most touching moment for you?

REP. JACK KINGSTON ®, GEORGIA: I think the fact that so many people really loved Ronald Reagan.

You know, you and I have seen a lot of political figures come and go in this town. And some are talked about and some are hot as firecrackers. But few are loved. And I guess one of the things that really surprised me about Ronald Reagan is the lasting love.

When I went through-I brought my kids up here about 10:30 tonight. People had been standing in line for three hours. They were averaging at that time about 2,700 people an hour. And I asked folks, how long have you been standing in line? Three hours. And none of them were complaining whatsoever. Everybody was: It's worth it. We would stand in line for five hours for this guy.

SCARBOROUGH: And, Jack, let's look. It is 1:20 in the morning, Washington, D.C. time. There are Americans still standing in line.

Again, these aren't-again, we saw the presidents and the prime ministers earlier this evening. We all know, sitting at this table tonight, that that picture right there, more than presidents, more than prime ministers, more than power brokers in Washington, D.C., saying kind things about Ronald Reagan, that's the picture right there that encapsulates Ronald Reagan's greatness, again, middle Americans who may not have had the easiest upbringing, coming out, 1:20 at night, Washington, D.C. time, to file past their hero.

KINGSTON: And, Joe, not only do they have to stand in line all the way from the Botanical Gardens to the Capitol, but they have to park four or five blocks away from that. So these folks are walking through the streets of Washington, D.C. at 1:00 in the morning just to get in line.

SCARBOROUGH: Not always a safe thing to do, Morton, but doesn't that speak to the greatness of Reagan?

BLACKWELL: I think they're probably very well protected. I think Capitol Hill is probably a pretty safe place to be over these few days.

SCARBOROUGH: Yes, it is actually on Capitol Hill. I actually lived on Capitol Hill. And I think there are more police officers per square inch here than anywhere else.

But what was it about Ronald Reagan that would pull people in like this? Again, you have got a guy who was a Hollywood actor and yet he seemed to speak to middle America as well as any president ever.

BLACKWELL: But, Joe, he was a patriot. He was a gentleman. He was a leader. And he was a hero for liberty.

I mean, this is-the achievements that he did, anybody who did a third as much as he did would be considered as having a successful presidency. The man was a phenomenon. And he had a humility about him, the self-deprecating humor, the ability to make almost anybody at ease with him.

I remember, in the spring of '81, when we had the big reconciliation bill coming forward, which had the tax cuts and the spending cuts. Most of the spending cuts were all wrapped up in that reconciliation bill. And we had a Republican Senate. But Tip O'Neill was speaker of the House. And Reagan was getting the majorities time again.

Tip O'Neill came over to visit Reagan in the midst of this time when-and he was sort of shell-shocked, the speaker was, because Reagan was winning the votes in the House. And he came out of this meeting on to the front lawn of the White House just shaking his head. And a reporter went up to him and he said, Mr. Speaker, what is the matter? And Tip O'Neill said, no matter how hard I try, I can't hate that man.


SCARBOROUGH: You know, Lawrence O'Donnell, that reminds me, back when, in the middle of the 1990s, when we were having budget negotiations with Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich would come back and would say, I can't believe this guy. I just-I give him everything and I still walk away feeling guilty about it.

What was it about Ronald Reagan that-and what is it about, let's say, Democratic leaders today and Republican leaders today, what are they lacking? What is the one thing? If you had a candidate, what is the one personality trait that Ronald Reagan had that you would put into your candidate?

O'DONNELL: A willingness to lose, Joe.

I think it is one of the big missing components. You could get Ronald Reagan in a corner in his campaign, get him in the smoke-filled room and say, OK, candidate Reagan, you are not going to win unless you change your position on these two things. And if those two things were taxes and the Soviet Union, if you were to say to him, we want you to modulate your view on those two things, he would say to you, no, I would rather lose if I can't win saying what I think about those things.

And Reagan clearly was someone who knew what he was going to do with his life if he lost an election. You can easily picture what he would do the next day. When you think about some of the other politicians, especially who have come after him, you can't imagine what the day after losing is for them, because their entire lives were about getting the next elective office and saying anything it took to get the next elective office, whether that comes from the left or from the right.

And so that to me is one of the Reagan qualities, that willingness to lose. You don't see that. I'm not sure we've seen it in a major party nominee for president since then.

SCARBOROUGH: Jack Kingston, that's a great point, isn't it? So many politicians come to Washington, D.C. and the second they get here, they're worried about the next election night.

Ronald Reagan was willing to risk it all, to say things that were unpopular. And Americans caught on to that. And, like Lawrence said, that's what made him so successful.

KINGSTON: Joe, when he said, Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall, all the smart guys in the backroom said, don't say that. When he said he was going to go visit the Nazi cemetery, I think something like 300 members of Congress wrote him a letter saying, don't go. And he said, you know what? I've already said I'm going and I'm going to go.

When he called the Soviet Union the evil empire, again, he was denounced by the elitist intelligentsia, but he kept-he stuck to his guns. He did not apologize for what he believed in.

SCARBOROUGH: Yes, that is so important.

And we have Jackie from Tennessee, who wrote in and said this: "Other leaders could take a lesson from him in true responsibility. I recall a sense of humor and faith in our country even in troubling times. His eloquence was priceless. The love he and his wife shared was evident to all and a shining example of what love is. There is only one Gipper, one great communicator."

Jack, has anybody come close to Ronald Reagan that you've seen over the past 20 years?

KINGSTON: No one has.

And I think one of the things that's happened to all of us in this country the last few days is that we have realized that, in the life and times of the great Knute Rockne, which was the George Gipp film, they asked Coach Rockne at one point-some reporter said, this player that you have, is he the greatest you've ever had?

And it wasn't George Gipp they were talking about. And he said, no, when that player comes around, you know it. And I think what has happened to us now, in a way, nationally, we've realized Ronald Reagan was that guy that unified the country. He was the man of the times. He turned around our economy. He defeated the Soviet Union without firing a shot. And he rebuilt the American spirit. And those guys just don't come around but every 50 or every 100 years.

SCARBOROUGH: Yes. And you know what, though? It also, though, there were Democrats that went to school on Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, for one. Bill Clinton watched tapes of Ronald Reagan before he ran for president.

BLACKWELL: Well, they were communication techniques. And I teach them at my Leadership Institute to lots of students every year.

An essential element of Ronald Reagan, though, was that he had a core set of principles and he stuck to them and he didn't shift what his core principles were. And I think it is an example that politicians could observe more carefully. There were people who didn't have the winning personality that Reagan did, but who did have this clear set of principles and stuck to them, like Jesse Helms.

Jesse Helms was returned five terms to the United States Senate. And, primarily, it is because, even though a North Carolinian might disagree with him, they knew where he stood. They knew he was a man of honor. They knew that his word was good. And I think there's room for politicians of that stripe today. And I hope all of this publicity about Reagan will get more principled people to get involved in politics, because principled people can do well.

SCARBOROUGH: You're exactly right.

And I'll tell you what. When I ran for Congress in 1994, I had a lot of people coming up after I got elected, saying, you know, Scarborough, I disagree with you on most issues. I think you're a little bit crazy. But I know that you're telling us what you believe and I know that you're never going to lie to us.

And I think, you know what? Lawrence is right. Morton is right. Jack is right. We need more of that in America. I'm not talking about myself. I am just talking about politicians that risk losing for things that they really believe in.

Well, you know, Ronald Reagan had a singer in Nashville that really believed about-believed in him. That was Lee Greenwood, who wrote the song "Proud to Be An American." He's going to be with us in a minute.


KINGSTON: I was 25 years old in 1990 when he was elected. I had grown up with Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson as president. Ronald Reagan was the first president that my generation could get enthusiastic about, be inspired about and just feel clean slate.

This guy is talking positive things about America. My wife Libby liked him. Always talked about him. One day, I said her, I said, "Libby, I really think you love Ronald Reagan more than you love me."

And she said, "Yes, but I love you more than I love George Bush."

SCARBOROUGH: Lawrence O'Donnell, can you top that one? Your final thoughts on Ronald Reagan?

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: I won't try. Keith Olbermann brought us back to JFK's funeral. And that's where my mind goes in this situation.

I was living in Boston, my family of seven. My father just grabbed us all and put us on a plane and took us down to Washington to attend that funeral, as Americans could do. And in fact, walked into Arlington National Cemetery within reach, almost, of Charles de Gaulle and all these people,

We weren't-well, I didn't know anyone in politics. We didn't know anyone named Kennedy. We were down there to pay our respects. And that's what you see this country doing so well this week.

SCARBOROUGH: You're exactly right. I'll tell you what, my thoughts go back to Ronald Reagan's first inauguration when he went down these same streets as the incoming president of the United States.

He was facing a bad economy. He was facing an ever expanding Soviet Union. And I remember watching in our living room in Pensacola, Florida. I remember my dad watching TV screen.

He said, "If this man lives, he'll be remembered as one of the great presidents we've ever had."

Dad, you were right! Ronald Reagan is remembered that way. That's why we're all here tonight.

I want to thank you our guests for sharing in their memories and their thoughts. And Jack Kingston, your wife's good taste.

Thanks so much for being with us. We're going to have a lot more on Ronald Reagan over the next few days on MSNBC. Have a great night.

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