Chris Matthews Wonders If Bush Is Having A Carter-like Malaise Moment Over Katrina

Over the weekend on his syndicated show Chris Matthews compared Bush's performance during Katrina to Jimmy Carter's infamous 'malaise' speech in 1979 and NPR's Ed Gordon cribbed from Jon Stewart when he proclaimed Katrina to be Bush's Monica.  Matthews also suggested Katrina was an opportunity to make good on reparations. All the while Newsweek's Howard Fineman and the New York Times openly questioned Bush's leadership qualities and how it will affect his legacy.

Chris Matthews opened the show with his Carter comparison: 

"First up, loss of faith. This week terror swept through Iraq, the Katrina death toll spiked and gas prices continued to gobble up grocery money. Only 32 percent of Americans now think the country is headed in the right direction, an all-time low for George W. Bush. Only 53 percent are optimistic about the future of the country. That’s down 16 points since July. Does it reek of 1979 when a full 84 percent of the country said they didn’t like the way things were going? Remember this? Jimmy Carter’s famous ‘malaise’ speech."

The conversation turned to Bush's leadership skills and then quickly to race:Matthews: "And suddenly talking like Lyndon Johnson this week with all these programs and spending. It was almost like reparations. Ed, what did you think? The, the leadership issue has always been his strong suit. Even people who don’t agree with George Bush on the war or on tax policy say, ‘Yeah but he seems like a leader.’ His number this week, I just checked it in the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll is just as low as it was before 9/11."

[Jimmy Carter: "It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation."]

Matthews: "Howard we’re at war in Iraq and it’s gone very bad this last week with all the terrorist attacks from al Qaeda. We have a situation in the south of this country that may cost this country $200 billion in additional borrowing. Are the American people worried about the future?"

Howard Fineman, Newsweek: "I think they’ve suddenly begun to worry whether the President of the United States has the leadership ability and the hands-on knowledge to bridge all of these problems that you’re discussing. I think what’s happened to Katrina is that it’s retroactively undercut confidence in George Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq. People are looking at the lack of command, they’re looking at the lack of knowledge of details and they’re saying, ‘Wait a minute if that happened with this crisis here what was really the case in Iraq?’"

Ed Gordon, NPR: "Yeah but let’s be careful with it. I think a lot of people said, particularly after 9/11, he looks like a leader doesn’t necessarily seem like a leader and you talked about how America looks to him but black America, Chris, as you know and we see it in the polls, always saw this as a precarious position where we were headed and certainly Katrina just blew it over."

Bumiller added Katrina has foiled Karl Rove's plans:

"The divide on race and poverty that this has exposed is, I don’t necessarily think is good for the Republicans or good for President Bush. I mean it has, because we all know Karl Rove is trying very hard to make some inroads among black conservative voters. They were, you know, creeping at the edges. This has blown it apart."

10 minutes into the show Matthews asked the panel to reflect on what effect Katrina will have on the rest of his term:

Matthews: "Will George Bush be haunted by New Orleans to the last day of his presidency?"

Lisa Daniels, MSNBC: "Absolutely not. He’s actually gonna doe better because there are such low expectations. You’re all writing him off in Newsweek, he’s gone!"

Matthews: "Okay Ed, will he be haunted to the last day of his presidency?"

Gordon: "I don’t know about haunted but it will certainly, it, it will be like Clinton and Lewinsky. It’ll be front and center."

Bumiller: "Of course he’ll be haunted by it, of course."

Matthews: "Katrina and Monica, huh? Never made that connection, go ahead."

Fineman: "Okay he gave a speech in front of an Andrew Jackson statue the other night. There’s not gonna, there’s not gonna be a George Bush statue in that square. I don’t think, Lisa, we’ll see."

Then Matthews actually came at Ed Gordon from the left when he re-opened the reparations debate during the predictions segment of the show:

Ed Gordon: "What you’re going to see as we continue to look at the race issue is a collection of civil rights leaders and African-American politicians grouped together and push the race issue to make sure that it does not move to the back-burner and they’re really gonna bring heat to the White House."

Matthews: "This is almost reparations opportunity isn’t it?"

Gordon: "I don’t know that I’d take it that far but it’s..."

Matthews: "A chance for 40 acres and a mule after, after reconstruction it never got, had never got done."

Gordon: "Well we were all supposed to get the 40 acres and a mule not just the folks in Louisiana but it’s a good opportunity."