Terry Jeffrey walked away the winner on Hardball this afternoon. Despite being double-teamed by Chris Matthews and Salon's Joan Walsh, the editor-in-chief of our sister publication CNSNews.com had the others admitting that the Obama admin has gone too far with the cult-of-personality way it's pitched the president's speech to schoolchildren.
But that didn't prevent Matthews and Walsh from unsubtly accusing PBO's opponents of racism, archly claiming that the motive for the opposition to the president is his "background."
TERRY JEFFREY: The Department of Education sent out to all these principals aruond the country and all these teachers recommendations about what they should do before and after the president's --
CHRIS MATTHEWS: OK, read your bill of indictment here.
TERRY JEFFREY: Pre-K through sixth grade, they say, the Secretary of Education is saying this is what they should do. "Teachers can build background knowledge about the President of the United States"--this president--"and his speech by reading books about presidents and Barack Obama." OK, we just had 18 months of saturation media about this guy, Chris. He's a cult of personality to the liberal media. And you're going to make these poor schoolteachers have to read --
Don't miss Matthews' wry smile that comes 53 seconds into the video as Jeffrey is making his case. Chris knows he's a beaten man, and reluctantly invites Walsh to take up the cudgel.
MATTHEWS: I'm going to let Joan Walsh defend the President of the United States in this regard, should she choose to do so. Joan Walsh, it's Friday afternoon, there you go. What do you make of the paper hand-out that went to accompany the president's speech next Tuesday on TV to the schoolkids?
JOAN WALSH: You know what? I'm going to give Terry a point here. I think that that was overreaching, and you and I have talked going back to last year that there sometimes is a tin ear in the people around Obama. They do play into this cult of personality.
A bit later, Jeffrey read out his second count, describing what the Obama admin suggests for older students in preparation for the speech.
JEFFREY: Now we've got through 12th grade, seniors in high school. This is what they say teachers should do to kids as late as senior year in high school: "Teachers may engage students in short readings. Teachers may post in large print around the classroom notable quotes excerpted from Pres. Obama's speeches on education. Now give me a break!"
Eventually Matthews and Walsh tried to mount a counter-attack, predictably playing the race card.
WALSH: You got to the point, Chris. You got to the point. They have vilified this man from day one. They have whipped up an hysteria about him so he's not even human. And they will not extend this man the respect that every single president has gotten. I can't imagine --
The respect every single president has gotten? Like the respect the left gave Pres. Chimp-Hitler-Bush, for example?
MATTHEWS: Joan, you're right, you're right. And the trouble I have in this job, and my nature is, that even though I know the motive behind a lot of this crap being thrown at this president has to do with who he is, where he comes from, his background, his politics, his "background"--I'll just say it that way--
WALSH: Yes, "background."
View the video to hear the intonation, leaving no doubt Matthews and Walsh were using "background" as a synonym for "race."
MATTHEWS: A lot of it is based upon that in terms of motive. But occasionally the clock is right twice a day. And when they are right about a couple of facts I give them a score like you did as we started off tonight. That's the nature of my job.
So that's Chris's problem: he's just too darn fair.
BONUS COVERAGE: Matthews Makes Like Capehart
Not long ago, I noted Jonathan Capehart's total identification with the Obama administration. Appearing on Morning Joe, the WaPo editorialist said "we've got two problems," before revising his remarks: "We. I should say the administration or Democrats have two problems."
Matthews did much the same thing this evening in his show opening spiel.
MATTHEWS: The Obama White House needs to figure out how to confront the right-wing media machine when the President of the United States is called a socialist for trying to make a back-to-school speech to children and the White House doesn't know how to respond! There's a problem there. When are we going to learn how to avoid being tackling dummies--when are they going to learn how to avoid--being tackling dummies for the far right?
Someone cue I Am The Walrus: "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together."