On last night's Hardball Chris Matthews invited on Rolling Stone Editor Eric Bates to promote their Bush-bashing issue imploring him: "Eric, let me ask you about the cover, because it is gonna come out and you’re on to push it, and I want you to push it. " Bates responded in kind stating Bush has: "...domestic policies that have, have trashed the economy and resulted in a dramatic shift of wealth," and declaring "so far [Bush] ranks right down there with James Buchanan, Herbert Hoover and Andrew Johnson."
The following are the exchanges between Matthews and Bates:
Matthews: "And Rolling Stone’s cover this month, I must warn you, if you’re a Republican or a middle-of-the-roader. Look at this. This is a tough one. What does it say? ‘The Worst President in History.’ Can we have that thought explained a bit, Eric. You, you wrote this piece."
Eric Bates, Rolling Stone, National Affairs Editor: "No, I didn’t write it. We had Sean Wilentz, who’s a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a historian..."
Matthews: "Oh he’s a historian. Go ahead, go ahead."Bates: "...assess Bush’s presidency from a historical perspective and really found that it looks like he’s headed for what Wilentz calls ‘a colossal historical disgrace.’ Can’t predict what’s gonna happen in the next two years but so far ranks right down there with James Buchanan, Herbert Hoover and Andrew Johnson."
To his credit Matthews pointed out Wilentz's bias: "But wasn’t Wilentz the guy who defended Clinton and Monica right to the last day, till the last dog died, so to speak? Wasn’t he a complete partisan on the Clinton administration’s misconduct?"
Bates: "He’s, he has his political perspective, but he’s also a historian and he looks at this from a historical perspective."Matthews: "So Clinton was a success and Bush is a disaster?"
Bates: "Well Clinton didn’t have the opportunity to be as big a disaster as Bush has proved to be, I think, is more the point."
In a later segment Matthews made a hard sell of the issue in a way that must've put a smile on the face of the magazine's publisher Jann Wenner:
Matthews: "Eric, let me ask you about the cover, because it is gonna come out and you’re on to push it, and I want you to push it. This guy, is the President, let me ask you, trying to save himself by these staff changes and is he savable?"
Bates: "I think he is trying to save himself, but I think that this isn’t gonna do anything. You know, the question you asked before about Rumsfeld, this isn’t a regime change, this is a channel change. It’s designed to change the conversation away from Rumsfeld. Now we’re talking about Rove, we’re talking about McClellan. What happened to the discussion about the generals and Rumsfeld’s resignation? If you really want to make a change, you have to acknowledge that you’ve made mistakes, and we’ve got a president who isn’t willing or able to do that."
Bates: "That’s right and that’s the overriding issue..."
Matthews: "Yeah but he’s not gonna do that!"
Bates: "...but you also have, but you also have domestic policies that have, have trashed the economy and resulted in a dramatic shift of wealth. You’ve got mishandling of the major..."
Matthews: "Do you think he’s trashed the economy or he’s just shifted the wealth to the big taxpayers who get the biggest tax breaks?"
Bates: "Well I think that, that does trash the economy and I think real wages are at a, you know are not keeping up with inflation and you’re seeing poor families suffering, the gas prices you mentioned earlier having an effect."
Bates: "He’s mishandled the biggest natural disaster in American history.
Bates: "Well I think you have to look at his domestic policy as a whole. He’s been very single-minded as he has been in Iraq. It’s been tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts."
Matthews: "Yeah I know, well that’s his religion, you’re right, you’re dead right. I can’t wait to read it. I love the big covers you guys do in Rolling Stone."
"Matthews: "But why, you put all the blame, or your author does, and I can see there is blame to hand out, but how do you blame all of that on President Bush? Wages haven’t kept up. The job of getting wages higher is collective bargaining and negotiations. Why do you blame the President for that?"
Matthews: "But isn’t that the problem? Eric, I mean, we argue about this all the time and I’ll continue to do so, because the most profound decision of this administration is singular. It’s not complicated. It’s not multifaceted. It was the decision after 9/11 not to continue to track down al Qaeda and bin Laden at all costs in a total, you know, a total effort, but to shift attention down to the old problem of Iraq. And that decision, I would suggest, you respond to this, is the single and the signature issue of this administration. And the President cannot say, ‘I made a profound error because he’s admitting his administration is a disaster if he does, doesn’t he?"
Apparently Matthews couldn't wait to get his hands on a copy of the Bush-bashing issue as he signed off: "Anyway, thank you Norah O’Donnell, thank you Howard Fineman. Thank you Eric Bates, good luck with that cover. I’ll buy a copy."