Appearing on Thursday's 1pm hour of MSNBC News Live, "Hardball" host Chris Matthews couldn't resist taking a few swipes at Rush Limbaugh. After anchor Peter Alexander played a clip of the conservative talk show host discussing the New York Times story on Senator John McCain, Matthews irritably claimed, "Rush Limbaugh is irrelevant here. Irrelevant. He doesn't know anything more than what he read in the New York Times."
The radio clip, which was from Thursday's edition of Limbaugh's program, featured the host urging the GOP presidential candidate to learn a lesson from the front-page New York Times story speculating about a improper relationship with a D.C. lobbyist. Matthews's apparent annoyance at Limbaugh might have something to do with being mentioned in the clip. At one point during the monologue, Limbaugh asserted, "[McCain] has thought Chris Matthews and these other people in the drive-by media are his friends. They aren't."
Immediately upon returning from the clip, Alexander described Limbaugh as "going off" on the subject. Matthews quickly retorted, "Right. Well, going off is correct. It's a good phrase. You've captured him." He then followed that up with a trademark Matthews snort.
The question must be asked, however, if Limbaugh is "irrelevant," why has much of the media spent the last few weeks focusing on whether or not the talk show giant's opposition could derail McCain's campaign?
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 1:06pm on February 21, follows:
PETER ALEXANDER: Just a short time ago, with all those ifs understood, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh weighed in on this, as we noted on the national radio program. Let's take a listen, though to what he just said.
RUSH LIMBAUGH: I refuse to get mad when something I have predicted is going to happen, happens. I refuse to get mad when something I know is true is true. It's a total waste of energy. The important question for John McCain today is, is he going to learn the right lesson from this? And what is the lesson? The lesson is, liberals are to be defeated. You cannot walk across the aisle with them. You cannot reach across the aisle. You cannot welcome their media members on your bus and get all cozy with them and expect eternal love from them. You are a Republican. Whether you're a conservative Republican or not, you are a Republican. And at some point, the people you cozy up to, either to do legislation or to get cozy media stories, are going to turn on you. They are snakes. And if the right lesson is not learned from this, then it will have proved to be of no value. It's a great opportunity here for Senator McCain to learn the right lesson. Understand who his friends are and who his enemies are. And he's had that backwards for way too long. He has thought the New York Times is his friend. He has thought Chris Matthews and these other people in the drive-by media are his friends. They aren't. That's the lesson, today. And if you want to get mad, you know, Senator McCain says that he's disappointed here in the New York Times. Of course. I'm sure he's disappointed. The question is, is he surprised?
ALEXANDER: Well, that was Rush Limbaugh on the Rush Limbaugh show, Chris, as you just heard him going off for nearly two minutes, which he'll do for much of the day.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Right. Well, going off is correct. It's a good phrase. You've captured him. [Laughs]
ALEXANDER: But I guess the question is, for the conservatives, is it potentially an asset for John McCain? If it proves to be all the ifs and there are no facts to this, other than this is the impression of his staff members, is this perhaps an asset to John McCain, who is trying to invite in the conservatives to his, what is viewed as a much more moderate campaign?
MATTHEWS: I suppose. But, you know, the big story here is the journalism involved and whether this is a true story or not. And when Bill Keller of the New York Times says the story speaks for itself, well, if that's the case, the story here is that John McCain had an affair with a lobbyist and did favors her. And that is a problem for him if that's true. If it's not true, it's not a problem for him. It's a problem for the New York Times. Rush Limbaugh is irrelevant here. Irrelevant. He doesn't know anything more than what he read in the New York Times. [Laughs] Ironically.
Audio available here (240 kB | 1:09)