Chris Matthews is widely known for his hasty--and often erroneous--conclusions about the conservatives he criticizes on his show. He has wondered if Rush Limbaugh really believes what he says and supported claims that Joe Stack is somehow tied to the "radical right".
During last night's "Hardball", he did it again. Matthews quoted former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich completely out of context to make it seem as if he had called Obama a socialist without having any idea what the word means.
In fact, Gingrich knows exactly what the word means, and spent considerable time clarifying and qualifying his statement. These additional remarks, however, were left out of Matthews's report in his attempt to delegitimize Gingrich's argument without actually addressing it.
Matthews showed a clip of Gingrich on "The O'Reilly Factor" from Monday night saying, "of course" Obama is a socialist. "I don't think that President Obama has met a government program he didn't love and didn't want to dramatically expand." After the clip aired, Matthews said,
...a socialist, according to Webster's Dictionary, not Newt Gingrich, is someone who advocates the ownership and operation of the means of production and distribution by society or the community, rather than by private individuals, with all members of society or the community sharing in the work and the product.
So, by that definition, Barack Obama wants the government to own and run the American economy. If you believe that, you believe Newt Gingrich.
Matthews apparently was too busy ridiculing Gingrich to play this clip from his interview with O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: You believe that Barack Obama, the president of the United States, has the same mindset as a Fidel Castro?
GINGRICH: No, no, no.
O'REILLY: That he wants to seize private property?
GINGRICH: No, no, no.
O'REILLY: That he wants the government to regulate everybody's life? Do you really believe that?
GINGRICH: Wait, wait, wait. You just took a big jump. Fidel Castro is a totalitarian Communist. I don't believe that President Obama in any way is like Fidel Castro.
But I do believe he is an exactly in the tradition of the French Socialists or the Italian Socialists or the German Socialists. I think he'd have been very comfortable in the social Democratic party in Germany. I think he would have been very comfortable in the pre-Tony Blair Labor Party in Great Britain. I think he represents a strain of left-wing big government. Government is smart. You're stupid. Government should decide everything. You're not capable of it.
And let's look at his policies. Listen to his rhetoric. This is somebody who really does believe that if you're in private enterprise and you go out and you work hard, you're somehow doing bad things. You know, he proposed, for example, that they're going to have the student loans paid off if you go to work for government, but not if you go out and found your own small business. Now that's not dramatically anti-business?…
[Y]ou had private property and you had private businesses in Germany under the Social Democratic Party, in Great Britain under the Labor Party, in France under the Socialists, in Italy under the Socialists. It's a mixed economy. But if you're asking the question does he think the overwhelming dominance should be government, and does he think government is smarter than the rest of us, the answer's yes.
Matthews's disingenuous misrepresentation of Gingrich's statement earned him a flunking grade in journalism 101 from The Hill newspaper.
He has every right to take on Gingrich's claim that Obama is a socialist--folks on the right have certainly done so--but he should at least refrain from misrepresenting such statements by quoting them out of context.