Chris Matthews, on Monday's Hardball, took after Rush Limbaugh for his use of the words "regime" and "junta" in talking about Barack Obama's presidency. After playing a clip of the talk radio host making fun of Matthews, for making fun of Limbaugh's use of the word regime, the Hardball host and his panelists charged Limbaugh and his listeners of trying to de-legitimize the President and accused them of racism. MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe even went as far to insist the opposition to the President is all about "his color." Matthews also went on to hysterically claim Limbaugh's listeners are only tuning in because they're "mad at their kids" for supporting Obama.
MATTHEWS: But could it be that these people who are listening to him on the radio are just mad at the kids? Because their kids disagree with them! The kids don't think this guy is illegitimate. The kids want the health care bill! The kids voted for him!
The following exchange was aired on the April 5 edition of Hardball:
(After clip of Barack Obama talking about Rush Limbaugh with CBS's Harry Smith)
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Talk about product placement. Rush Limbaugh responded this weekend with what we call the "Dick Cheney method." In other words he put out an e-mail this time to Politico. Quote: "I think the President is trying to distract me, to get me talking about me, on my show instead of talking about him and the regime's agenda. But it won't work. I'm wise to their tactics. I know that a majority of Americans are angry at the regime and the Democrats' constant attempts at character assassination of their opposition. They want no part of engaging us in the arena of ideas. They seek instead to discredit and marginalize us, it's gotten old." end quote. So who stands to gain or lose by this running chat? Eugene Robinson is a Washington Post columnist, a Pulitzer prize winner of course and MSNBC political analyst as well. And Richard Wolffe is an MSNBC analyst and author of Renegade. Gentlemen, you first Gene, it seems to me that the President, let's start, with who started this. Naming the names of somebody in the media, no matter how prominent they are, is unusual for a president. There he did it.
EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST: It is. Yes he did it and I think he's made the calculation that, that these are pretty good opponents to have. It sharpens the contradictions as it were and, and I think, you know, he'd be happy to be running against Rush Limbaugh and running against Glenn Beck and running against Sarah Palin for that more that matter.
MATTHEWS: Well the dittoheads, and they're self-described, it's a term they use to show their allegiance to - it's an unusual term for independent-minded Americans.
RICHARD WOLFFE: Are you suggesting it's a regime?
MATTHEWS: Well I don't know, but they do love this guy. He's a fantastic entertainer. He is a man of the right and he says things most, a lot of people don't disagree with, but a lot of people do. So here he is talking about regime, he's talking about junta today.
WOLFFE: Where do you think he's going with this?
MATTHEWS: Well what do you think? I have my comment coming at the end of the show.
WOLFFE: Well it's been great for his ratings, that's true. The White House, I was talking to some White House officials about this, they see this as a sort of matter of self defense. The President's got to stand up for himself. Obviously, here he was asked a question so it was prompted. They're not going out of their way to make it as a campaign as maybe some like Rahm Emanuel will try to make it a little bit of an issue before. But it's about self-defense. He's got to stand up for himself because the stuff they're saying, in the White House's view and frankly in any reasonable person's view is extreme.
MATTHEWS: It seems to me that there's a cake they're baking on the right and very effectively. And all the ingredients are socialist, the de-legitimizing of people, the Birthers who say he's not really an American. The attempt to talk, takeovers, all these terms seem foreign and use-
ROBINSON: "I want my country back."
MATTHEWS: "My country back." You know it seems like they're baking a cake so the people get this idea. "He's not one of us."
ROBINSON: "He's not one of us and he's not legitimate. And you know the use of the word regime for example.
MATTHEWS: Junta today!
MATTHEWS: That's the military guys, the cabal. Oh he used it today. Well here he is because I think maybe I had a small part in this, I humbly admit. A small part. Here he is the President [sic] reacting today to something moi said on Friday night. I am so small in this debate. Here he is with a word, he's upping the grade here. Here he is. Let's listen to Rush Limbaugh.
RUSH LIMBAUGH: Chris, if you don't like regime, I'll call him a junta. You know, whatever? They're governing against the will of the people. It simply doesn't matter. Back room deals. Bribes. Unconstitutionality in order to get legislation passed. Legislation the vast majority of American people don't want. It's a regime.
MATTHEWS: Regime is a word that means foreign. The word we got used to in this country, by the way, from the Bush team. I once called it "a Bush regime" and I'll pay for that as long as I live. But the fact is the idea of foreign regime change, if there was a phrase that got into our head before that last word, there's something to be taken down. Saddam Hussein is a regime. It's a use of a word with this whole confection they're putting together. "The guy's a foreigner!"
MATTHEWS: "He's the enemy of the country."
WOLFFE: Well I think they mean in the French sense, right? "He's a foreigner, he's a dictator, he's a tyrant."
MATTHEWS: "He's a junta leader!"
WOLFFE: And there's an ideological element to it. But Chris I don't want you to get distracted here. Because you know, you gotta, you, don't let his character assassination come after you. You have to stick with it! It is, it is, it is, it's more than a confection. It's an organized system that they're trying to place on this White House to say that they're undemocratic and, yes, there is a foreign element to it which you've gotta, you've gotta be honest about, has got something to do with the President's color. There's no two ways about it. It's his color, it's his name, the foreign nature of it and the ideological piece of it. He didn't even sign up to a public option. Excuse me? What kind of junta would do that?
MATTHEWS: You know I liked, I know. Look I'm gonna talk about it later so I don't give away my commentary which I'm already telegraphing guys. And I think you know where I'm going with this.
MATTHEWS: But I think, I think there's wonderful things about America, that institutionalize the fact that we accept he's not just a political leader or even head of an administration or chief executive or commander in chief but he is head of the country. He is representative of our republic. Our president is special. When he comes through a room, you hold your kids up to see the President. When the baseball season starts, the old American sport of baseball, the President's there to throw it out, to throw out the first pitch. It's an institutionalizing of something better than politics. It's our unity. And when you start calling him a regime or – look here he is at the game today – you start referring to him as a junta or regime, you're basically saying he's even in the office officially. He's somehow an interloper, a junta leader, a military coup leader.
ROBINSON: Right. The President is the head of state.
MATTHEWS: But they don't accept that!
ROBINSON: They're different from being just the head of government.
ROBINSON: You know? There's, we don't make that separation.
MATTHEWS: He's our temporary monarch. We elect him or dump him out of office, but while he's there, he represents our country.
ROBINSON: We play Hail to the Chief when he comes into the room, you know? And, and this is an attempt to deny that. To say that's not true about this president.
ROBINSON: Does it have something to do with his color, by the way? I think so. I think so.
MATTHEWS: Well let me ask you. What other reason? Well, I don't, I never get, I don't know. I was about to say something that's not true. I never get into motive. I do get into motive. But here's the question. What reason do they have for saying - here's the bill of particulars. "Backroom deals." Is that new in American politics?
WOLFFE: I believe that's part of Congress.
MATTHEWS: "Bribes?" It's a crime. It ain't new and I don't think he's guilty of that. "Unconstitutionality in order to get the legislation passed." He went through the regular order. They passed the health care bill with 60 senators. They had 60 senators for a while there with Ted Kennedy.
WOLFFE: If I'm not mistaken the filibuster isn't in the Constitution anyway. So-
MATTHEWS: Well but they did get the 60 votes they needed. They used reconciliation to tweak it a little bit. Nobody's challenged them on the way they did it! They didn't do this "deemed to have passed" number they were talking of doing. They did do it legally.
ROBINSON: They passed the legislation the way it says in the Constitution. You pass the legislation.
MATTHEWS: So what has he done that's made him foreigner? Back room deals? I think they go back, way back. I think the, we cut a deal about putting the capital in Washington. That was a deal.
WOLFFE: I've done interviews conservative talk radio hosts where they're convinced that the birth certificate fabricated. You know this is, this is mainstream!
MATTHEWS: Because they think he's born in Kenya or Indonesia?
MATTHEWS: Or where?
WOLFFE: No Kenya, wherever. Kenya.
ROBINSON: Kenya mostly but-
WOLFFE: "The serial numbers are blacked out." You know it doesn't matter what it is. They cannot accept the result of the election. That it wasn't even close, okay? This is a guy who won Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia, he's a Democrat. And, and this whole idea of de-legitimizing him. I think it speaks to their own problems of dealing with the election.
MATTHEWS: Well let me just tell you. I may be, not the oldest guy here, I think you and I are about the same. I think we're older than you. But if you talk about your kids today, they don't know what we're talking about. They don't understand this way Limbaugh is talking.
WOLFFE: No, I don't think so.
MATTHEWS: They think, they think he's one of us. There's no question about it. And this talk about "If you're out, you're black, if you're white you're in." That's old talk. That's your grandparents talking.
WOLFFE: Well it's that and it's, and it's his name and it's his father and it's all mixed up in some jumble of rumor. I mean this, this started in the campaign.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the Limbaugh audience, not to knock anybody that listens to the radio because he is a great entertainer and he's, he's a smart guy about what he is doing, which is what he's doing. But could it be that these people who are listening to him on the radio are just mad at the kids? Because their kids disagree with them! The kids don't think this guy is illegitimate. The kids want the health care bill! The kids voted for him!
ROBINSON: I think some of them, I think some of them are mad at a lot of things. At maybe the kids too.
MATTHEWS: Their, their boss? Their wives. I have a whole theory. I believe that Rush Limbaugh is basically a support group for traveling sales men. The boss keeps giving them a higher quota. He's screwing them. The wife doesn't appreciate what he does, how hard he works. The only person who roots for them every day is Rush Limbaugh. Every day he says "You're great! Those damn feminazis are out there. You're great!" Rush, you're a genius. You are brilliant as a support group. You ought to be a social worker. Anyway, Richard Wolffe thank you. Eugene Robinson.