For about seven minutes on Monday's "Morning Joe," Chris Matthews celebrated his President's Day fawning over former President Clinton. Matthews had nothing but praise for the nation's 42nd president in anticipation of the documentary "President of the World" – apparently Clinton's new title – airing at 10 p.m. EST Monday on MSNBC.
"You know, Churchill's huge in this country and he's 70-30 back in England, and Nixon is probably 20-80 here, but in France he's about 60-40. You know, he's 100-0 around the world, Bill Clinton," Matthews remarked. Apparently Clinton is more liked around the globe than Churchill.
"He is, I don't know what IQ, what, 160? I don't know what it is" Matthews rambled, in awe of Clinton's intellect. "He studies economics an hour a day," he added. "He gets up every morning and does, like, a daily office....Somebody asked me the other day what makes him click? I said he won't quit. He doesn't want the lights to go out. It isn't complicated. I don't want to go to sleep, mommy."
Matthews by and large held court for the segment, offering long-winded descriptions of his travels with President Clinton and taking soft questions from the "Morning Joe" panel. Time's Mark Halperin asked how Clinton's brain worked. Co-host Mika Brzezinski, ever a Jimmy Carter fan whose father worked in his administration, asked Matthews to compare Clinton's post-presidency with Carter's.
"I think it's a good story," Matthews remarked. "And I think that nobody else has gotten it, ten years of doing good work." He may have forgotten the coverage Clinton has received for his work. GQ magazine named him one of their Men of the Year for 2007. Esquire magazine granted him a lengthy interview recently where he was able to expound on his humanitarian work of the past decade.
But Matthews is overflowing with optimism and excitement for the documentary – he might even have a thrill up his leg. "I say to people, get out a big popcorn supply. This is one of the best news shows you've ever seen," Matthews blathered. "Pure, positive, optimistic."
MSNBC has been advertising for "President of the World" for weeks. The trailer includes a clip of Matthews telling Clinton "You're like a one-man peace corps" and liberal actor Kevin Spacey describing how a crowd chanted "Peacemaker! Peacemaker!" for Clinton.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on February 21 at 8:23 a.m. EST, is as follows:
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Okay, let's talk about Bill Clinton, a man who has survived – (Crosstalk) – over the past decade –
CHRIS MATTHEWS: I think it's a whole different story to Bill Clinton. It's a whole different story than the eight years we knew Bill Clinton, and the ten years going back to the '88 speech, or 12 years. It's a whole different Clinton. Who would have predicted that he would have left the White House, after Mark Rich, after Monica and all that – and done ten years of really good work around the world – my son was exposed to it about four or five years ago, when he got out of Brown University. And I saw him over there working in Africa with the foundation – there he is, a quartermaster, making sure the drugs don't get stolen by the kleptocracies over there. They make sure the drugs get through to the people.
And so this is real work, and I think it's a good story. And I think that nobody else has gotten it, ten years of doing good work. And I think there's an aspect of Lord Jim to this, there's an aspect of making up for the past.
MIKE BARNICLE: What are the differences between –
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Remember Lord Jim?
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Mm-hmm.
BARNICLE: Yeah. What are the differences between Bill Clinton today and Bill Clinton circa 1996 –
MATTHEWS: I don't know, except who would have predicted there would be no embarrassments, no scandals – let's be honest, people watch him, he's been doing good work, he's been out there traveling around, doing – what's the worst you can say? He enjoys the company of world leaders and celebrities. Baaad.
No, good. Because in every case he gets these guys – I went to the Global Initiative here in New York, last year, and what did they do? You can't walk in the room with Bill Clinton unless putting up your money and say "I'm going to do something good." Put up some money and then do something good, or you don't get in the room. So he's sort of sharing his – well the thing I noticed was we pulled together the footage. I didn't go all around the world with the guy – we don't have that budget at MSNBC, if you haven't noticed. But I did go to Northern Ireland with him, and I gotta tell you something, wherever he goes, he's bigger than the host president. Now that is different than here. And part of it is this – you know, Churchill's huge in this country and he's 70-30 back in England, and Nixon is probably 20-80 here, but in France he's about 60-40. You know, he's 100-0 around the world, Bill Clinton.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: How does his post-presidency compare to Jimmy Carter's?
MATTHEWS: Bigger. Jimmy Carter was a small-businessman, this guy is corporate. Corporate and multi-national. Big time, he knows how to leverage. Carter has to do it himself. I worked for Carter.
BRZEZINSKI: I know. That's why I asked.
MARK HALPERIN: Hillary Clinton once said that when Bill Clinton dies, they should study his brain. What's his brain like today, how active is he? How aware is he? How – what is he like?
MATTHEWS: I'll tell you with Bill Clinton – you're gonna love this. You get up in the morning, and you're in Northern Ireland, and there's like a table, like an MBA meeting, a case studies thing like at Harvard Business with all these cards in front of you with your name on it. These are Protestant guys, most of them I figure. They're all sitting there – not that it matters – and they're all sitting there around the table, looking at him, asking him business advice like he's their guru. Like it's not just macro-general BS – they think he's going to bring back the Kelly Tiger. And he's going to help each one of those businesses, and "What should I do with my business?" How does he know? 'Cause he studies economics an hour a day. Okay, he's that kind of guy.
That, and too, he opens up the Bill Clinton Institute for American Political Studies at the City College in Dublin. That's just another thing, (Unintelligible). That and he does the American-Ireland Forum, which you know Michael, black tie dinner, all the American-Irish and all the Irish over there – all the rich Irish in Dublin – huge fundraiser. That's the beginning of his day. He goes back to his hotel room, puts on his jeans, and his perfect zip-up sweater – by the way, his entire staff dresses exactly the same way – and goes to the Shamboard bar in Dublin, on St. Stevens Square there, and holds court forever. And all these people are lining up to have time with his dance card, and he's there working this incredible room of people, and they've just been invited from all the British Isles to keep up with him. And you know, Doug Ban is making sure they're all there, he gives me my two minutes, we talked about Africa and culture and all this stuff – I don't know how he zeroes in on people, and it's exactly what they might want to talk about – he is, I don't know what IQ, what, 160? I don't know what it is.
BARNICLE: To the point that you just raised, I heard, anecdotally –
MATTHEWS: By the way, it's all in the documentary, what I'm describing –
SCARBOROUGH: Ten O'Clock tonight. On MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Ten O'Clock tonight. It is an hour – I say to people, get out a big popcorn supply. This is one of the best news shows you've ever seen. Pure, positive, optimistic, and I modeled it after – remember that thing years ago, I don't know if you were old enough, Joe, remember "Don't Look Back," the Bob Dylan doc – I modeled it after that.
MIKE BARNICLE: To the point you raised earlier about people sitting around a table in Belfast with the name cards wanting to talk to the President – I heard anecdotally, several months ago, last fall a group of American business leaders in the White House to meet with President Obama, President Clinton is also in the White House on the same day. He joins the meeting, and the American business leaders couldn't wait for President Obama to leave so they could talk to the guy they wanted to talk to, President Clinton, about the economy.
MATTHEWS: He gets up every morning and does like a daily office. (...) It's all – did you read the Journal today, see what's happening with IBM? He does an hour a day, gets up and does his daily office. So he's talking about right now. You know, somebody asked me the other day what makes him click? I said he won't quit. He doesn't want the lights to go out. It isn't complicated. I don't want to go to sleep, mommy.