Chris Matthews has a seemingly endless list of obsessions. Along with Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann the MSNBC host is fascinated by trains, especially fast ones, and on Monday night's Hardball he called on Barack Obama, in his State of the Union Address, to push for high speed rail as a solution to America's economic woes. Matthews complained that in the area of "fast railroads" the French, Italians, Chinese, Japanese and Koreans are "so far ahead of us" and then implored: "Is this president really gonna shove that throttle forward tomorrow night and say 'Let's join the world in getting around?'"
This isn't the first time Matthews has looked enviously at other countries and their faster trains as an inspiration for creating jobs in America, as back in 2009 he whined to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter: "The Europeans seem to have fast trains that go 300 miles and hour and we're chugging along with Amtrak and Acela and we're still flying around short distances...Why can't this federal government use the power of the, the workforce we have out there, put 'em all to work and build a train system in this country of fast rail so we can – and this sounds so pathetic – catch up to Europe and Japan! Why don't we do that?! Catch up to the other major countries!"
(video, audio and transcript after the jump)
On Monday night, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter stoked Matthews' most recent high speed rail rant by claiming GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's opposition to more stimulus spending was "at odds with 200 years of American history" and even Abraham Lincoln before concluding: "Right now it seems like the Republican Party doesn't really believe in investing in the future...it's really a problem for the future of the country."
The following is the relevant exchange was aired on the January 24 edition of Hardball:
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Mitch McConnell teed it up correctly. He said Democrats call it investment, Republican call it wasteful liberal spending. The problem with McConnell's position is that he's at odds with 200 years of American history, where starting with Alexander Hamilton, through Henry Clay, Abraham Lincoln - his big thing was internal improvements. Building railroads, canals. That's infrastructure. Right now it seems like the Republican Party doesn't really believe in investing in the future in these capital programs and it's really a problem for the future of the country.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: It's so awful. They are so awful. Look I'm gonna say this. They are so awful and the Democrats are just as bad. Because look if they hadn't built the railroads this country wouldn't be, there wouldn't have been a Manifest Destiny without the rails. If Ike hadn't built, with a Democratic Congress, a highway there wouldn't be a 95 going to Florida. They're wouldn't be a 70 and 80 crossing the country. You wouldn't be able to see the America and the U.S.A. – you wouldn't be able – in your Chevrolet. It wouldn't happen. We would be riding around in county roads trying to figure out how to get from here to there in some crappy little road somewhere. And today we have superhighways. Eisenhower did that. I just wonder why we don't have what the French have, fast railroads. We don't have anything like that, the Italians have them. Not knocking the Italians but they are so far ahead of us, I was just over there. The Chinese, the Japanese, the Koreans, all have fast rail, they all have infrastructure and we're diddling around here [John] Heilemann. Is this president really gonna shove that, that throttle, forward tomorrow night and say "Let's join the world in getting around?" Are we gonna catch up?
—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here