I’m having a hard time understanding Chris Matthews lately. On the one hand, in the past couple of months, his Sunday program has been by far the most balanced of the broadcast network political talk shows save “The McLaughlin Group.” Yet, something odd happens when he steps on the soundstage of MSNBC to host “Hardball” – his ultra-left, San Francisco Chronicle columnist side emerges…and then some.
Tuesday’s installment was a perfect example. In fact, Matthews’ San Francisco liberal side came out so strongly that he should be ashamed of his performance. First, he spent much of the hour gushing over former president Bill Clinton’s “passing of the torch” to his wife at Coretta Scott King’s funeral. Then, he actually compared bloggers to Danish cartoonists. Finally, during a discussion concerning King’s funeral, he didn’t have the spine to suggest to his guests what likely the majority of Americans are thinking: A funeral is not the right forum for a former American president to be condemning the policies of the current president, especially in his presence.
The installment began with Matthews stating: “A dramatic day in politics on the Democratic side. Bill Clinton used the Coretta Scott King funeral to pass the presidential torch to wife Hillary.” Then, after speaking with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) about his spat with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Matthews brought on correspondent David Shuster who couldn’t have been less impartial if he tried: “And, Chris, it was a rather forgettable speech that the president himself, President Bush, gave to sort of kick this off, but you could feel sort of the electricity, the energy in the room.” He continued: “But to have Joseph -- to have Lowery go in there and talk about ‘weapons of misdirection’ with the president sitting right behind him -- and you could see the president. And then to have Jimmy Carter make reference to Katrina and then walk right by President Bush -- the two didn`t exchange hands.” And continued, ad nauseum: “And then on top of that, to have the incredible political theater of President Clinton and his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and the president talks about the current president, the past president and somebody shouts out and the future president, didn`t pick up very well on camera, but it was just electric political theater. It was unbelievable.” Yes, David, it was unbelievable to watch you gush over America’s current president being insulted and degraded at a funeral by a former president.
Next, as the discussion moved to the Danish cartoons that have started riots in various parts of the world, Matthews actually said this:
“Let me ask you this. We have a blogging situation out in this country where people basically through their own ingenuity and their own wit are able to develop messages based on their own personal reporting and editing that they can send anywhere. They are their own editors. What happens when bloggers sending stuff out without even the institution of a newspaper or TV station behind them and that incites a riot? How do we avoid this?”
Chris, get a grip. Bloggers aren’t going to start riots unless all you mainstream media representatives get together to demonstrate against the truth.
Finally, as the discussion moved to King’s funeral, and the players changed, Colbert King of The Washington Post said the following: “This wasn`t a funeral, this was a speaking. And that`s what you had.” Uh, no Colbert, this WAS a funeral. He continued:
“And every president stood up there was probably walked off the stage and said, ‘How did I do?’ And in this case, Jimmy Carter was vintage Jimmy Carter. He took a shot at George Bush and he took a shot at him on the question of wiretaps, because he mentioned the wiretapping.”
Matthews' response? “Of course that`s hot because J. Edgar Hoover was wiretapping Dr. King and feeding all the dirty to LBJ, you know?”
EXCUSE ME? That’s 40 years ago, Chris. Though Carter was referring to those wiretaps, he was clearly alluding to terrorist surveillance, making a statement in front of the current president, and playing to the audience. Did you miss that?
After National Review columnist Kate O’Beirne injected some sanity by stating the obvious, namely, that this was, indeed, a funeral, and that using this forum as a Democratic convention was in extraordinarily poor taste, Matthews actually asked, “Was there something inaccurate in what they said, either he or Dr. Lowery?”
EXCUSE ME? What does that have to do with anything? This was a funeral, Chris. Did you miss that?
After a break, Matthews asked the following of the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Cynthia Tucker:
“I want to give Cynthia a chance to get in here on Jimmy Carter. You know, he was tough. He went after this president on Katrina and the faces in the crowd, largely African-American, who were so abused, we could argue, by the fact that nobody came to help him, give them water. They were dying down there.
“He also went back over this whole question of wiretapping, which is still a hot issue in the black community, the fact that Martin Luther King, the great man of all times, was wiretapped. He was spooked on. You know, J. Edgar Hoover was looking in the window at him. L.B.J. was getting the transcriptions and stuff. What was your reaction?”
“Well, obviously, the crowd assembled in that sanctuary loved it and it should be expected of Jimmy Carter. He has been a somewhat pointed critic of President Bush for years now, and he`s made his feelings about the war in Iraq very clear.
“But also, I thought he brought up the wiretapping as diplomatically as the subject could be broached. It happens that the Kings have very bad memories -- and many people associated with the Civil Rights Movement -- of domestic wiretapping, and it is very similar to the issue on the table today.”
EXCUSE ME? Hoover wiretapping the King’s is like the NSA listening in on conversations between terrorists and people living in America? Are you serious?
Then, the gushing over the Clintons began:
MATTHEWS: You get the homer on this, but this is where the former president, Bill Clinton, today passed the torch, we believe, to his wife as the next president. Let`s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m honored to be here with my president and my former presidents and when --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your future president.
MATTHEWS: President Bush got it.
KING: Yes, he got it. Bill Clinton was received like a rock star today. And he delivered. He is -- he knows that audience, he knows the crowd, he did it all by the way without a text. It was just extemporaneous and he knew how to connect, not only the audience in a non-political way, he also, most dramatic thing, said that`s a woman there. He humanized her.
MATTHEWS: In the coffin.
KING: He took away the celebrity status, he talked about her as a woman, as a mother.
MATTHEWS: It was a magic moment. Let`s listen.
Tucker chimed in:
“Chris, I thought that there were a couple of things about Bill Clinton that were very noticeable. One is that he is among a very rare group of Southern White politicians who know how to preach in a black church. And again, as Colbert said, he did it without a text. But he also called on Black Atlantans to contribute money to The King Center, which is deteriorating, and it struck me as remarkable that a White man could come into that sanctuary and tell Black people that and be applauded.”
The last speaker at this funeral that Matthews addressed to the panel was none other than…the current president. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that this would be Chris’ pecking order.