Something truly shocking happened on Sunday's "The Chris Matthews Show": three out of four of his guests said the current anti-government sentiment sweeping the nation is not because Barack Obama is black, and that the news media are actually responsible for exacerbating the suggestion that protesters are racist.
There was even some consensus that the same kind of dissent would be happening if Hillary Clinton was president.
On the flipside, and not at all surprising, Matthews not only didn't agree, but seemed rather disappointed by this viewpoint being expressed (video available here, partial transcript below the fold):
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Rick, you've just got a big cover out this week in Time magazine about this paranoid streak in American history. We've written about it, learned about it for years. Is it part right now, part of it is this white attitude towards a black president? Is it that stark?
RICHARD STENGEL, TIME MANAGING EDITOR: You know, I start from the viewpoint that lots and lots of racists voted for Barack Obama. I don't, I can't tell you what is in people's minds and heart. I do believe that the reaction that's going on now would happen to a white president who's trying to do some of the same things that Barack Obama is doing. But I do think also that us dwelling on it, and I agree with Obama about this, is actually not good for the public discourse. It's not good for America. We basically have to move on from this kind of discussion and deal with him as he is, as President. And by the way, remember once upon a time we worried about the fact that people couldn't criticize Barack Obama because he's black. We're passed that now.
Fascinating comment by Stengel. After all, maybe it's time for the media to stop bringing race into every discussion about this president. Maybe then he'll just be President and not a black president.
But Matthews wasn't buying it, and continued to pan the water looking for the dirt he was craving:
MATTHEWS: Let's take a look at this sign, I want Kathleen to go to this, "I Want My Country Back." That was last weekend in Nashville. Would that have happened with another Democratic president? I want my country back?
KATHLEEN PARKER, WASHINGTON POST: I think so, Chris, and I so agree with what Rick said. I mean, of course there is a racial element any time you have this conversation there's going to be a certain percentage. But, by the way, in January 75 percent of voters approved of Barack Obama, and they didn't, that percentage didn't suddenly become racists. So, there's something else at work, and when they say, "I want my country back," they're talking about this great anxiety that's widespread about the rapid growth of government, the growing debt and deficits, you know, this healthcare program that's so huge and incomprehensible to most. So, when they want their country back, they're not saying, "We want white America back." I don't think, I think that's a stretch. They're saying, "We want to remain a constitutionally sound country." And they're in doubt about that.
0 for 2. Care to make it a hat-trick, Chris?
MATTHEWS: This existential question is about should he be president, that this rage we're seeing and these rallies, you think it would be there with Hillary if she were president?
DAVID BROOKS, NEW YORK TIMES: Yeah, I do. I mean, what Rush and Glenn Beck are doing, that's just race-baiting. 100 percent, that's race-baiting. But if you take a longer view what we're seeing now is what we've seen before in American history with Father Coughlin, William Jennings Bryan, with Andrew Jackson, Huey Long. It's a populist uprising of mostly rural people who think the moral backbone of this country comes from people who work with their hands, who are extremely suspicious when you get government power fusing with banking power which is a lot of what they've seen over the past few weeks. And so there, there, they would be upset if Washington merged with Wall Street the auto industry, the energy sector, the health care industry, and if a bunch of what they saw as overeducated people were leading the country. They'd be upset whether it was Hillary, whether it was John Kerry or whether it was Barack Obama whether it was anybody.
0 for 3. Finally, Matthews got the answer he was looking for:
HELENE COOPER, NEW YORK TIMES: I disagree with you guys, I think race plays as huge part of what we're seeing. I'm looking at, you know, the, the, what you just described about the rural, the rural south and rural people who were afraid, I mean you didn't see that when George Bush was in power and he's the ultimate elitist.
Not surprisingly, Matthews was pleased: "By the way, by the way, Helene, I'm with you."
For the record, the Matthews Meter was evenly split on this, so he's not alone.