In just one segment, on Tuesday's Hardball, host Chris Matthews managed to hypocritically use violent "gun play" language, attack Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin and even likened the Tea Party to the Muslim Brotherhood. Matthews, who made many absurd pronouncements on tonight's show, saved his zaniest comment for the Tea Party as he actually compared their potential primary challenges of Republicans to the Muslim Brotherhood going after Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, as he asked GOP strategist John Feehery: "So the Muslim Brotherhood has a parallel role here with the Tea Party, they're the ones who keep you honest and decide whether you've stayed too long?"
Before that charge, Matthews, who has frequently condemned Sarah Palin for her use of "gun play" language, used his own violent imagery to depict a struggle between the GOP and the Tea Party. In a teaser, Matthews claimed "the Tea Party is out for scalps" and then in the ensuing segment questioned if, by joining with the Tea Party, the GOP was "dancing while they shoot at their feet here?"
Matthews also went after some of his favorite targets, Bachmann and Palin, as he accused the Minnesota Congresswoman of "strange behavior" and applauded his Republican guest for thinking the former Alaska governor wasn't "worth anything."
(video, audio and transcript after the break)
The following teaser and full segment were aired on the February 1 edition of Hardball:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Up next the Tea Party has all the excitement on the Right and mainstream Republicans are getting scared because the Tea Party is out for scalps. They are going around, well I'm making a reference to the Boston Tea Party, but they were just pretending. They're going out apparently to unseat three long time Republican senators. Catch these names. Snowe of Maine, Lugar of Indiana, Hatch of Utah. Look out, they're coming to get you. You're watching Hardball, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to Hardball. The New York Times reported over the weekend that Olympia Snowe of Maine, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Richard Lugar of Indiana may all be challenged by the right, by the Tea Party right. Should the establishment GOP be afraid? Well John Feehery is a Republican consultant, was communications director for former Speaker Denny Hastert and Mark Penn is a Democratic consultant who advised Bill and Hillary Clinton both. Gentlemen, thank you.
I'm looking at this strange behavior by Sal Russo. He was pretty strange on this show trying to defend Michele Bachmann which he couldn't do on her, well lack of knowledge of history which was pretty scary. But here he is, he was interviewed by the National Review Online about whether the Tea Party would go after Orrin Hatch of Utah. He's a pretty conservative guy. Russo responded, "Yeah, you know, Orrin is a Reagan conservative. As far as I'm concerned that's as good as it gets, but hours later, Sal Russo's boss, Amy Kremer the chairman of the Tea Party Express e-mailed National Review, quote, to clarify, saying quote, "What Mr. Russo was getting at is that we will continue to approach each race with a sense of the greater perspective and understand the Reagan principle that our 20 percent enemy is still 80 percent our friend. There is great excitement and energy amongst Utah Tea Party activists about the prospects for a constitutional candidate to step forward and offer an alternative to Senator Hatch in 2012. If and when that should happen we here at the Tea Party Express will evaluate those candidates." Well that's a step back from "Orrin's okay" from Sal Russo. Is your party jittery to the point of doing, sort of hot-footing this issue, John Feehry? Do they? Like in the old cowboy movies. Are they dancing while they shoot at their feet here?
JOHN FEEHERY: Well I think anybody who's been in the Senate for quite a while ought to make sure they get home and listen to their constituents, and listen to all aspects of the party and make sure-
MATTHEWS: Why are you treating Orrin Hatch like Mubarak?
FEEHERY: Well I think Orrin Hatch is a great senator. I think he's been here for, in Washington, for a while. I think he's gonna get reelected, I think he's gonna win the primary. But I think, like any good senator, he gets the wake-up call from the last election. He's going back and talking to his constituents. I think Dick Lugar is doing the same thing, and Olympia Snowe is doing the same thing. You gotta get back home and talk to your constituents and make sure that you are hearing what they're saying and making sure your messages work with them.
MATTHEWS: So the Muslim Brotherhood has a parallel role here with the Tea Party, they're the ones who keep you honest and decide whether you've stayed too long? Whether you've got a Sell By date looming?
FEEHERY: You know Chris, you, you were in Congress for a long time. I served in Congress for a while. I've seen as many times where members of Congress lose touch with their constituents...
MATTHEWS: So the Tea Party is the constituency? That's the new constituency?
FEEHERY: No, no, no. I think, I think you've got to make sure you have a majority coalition. It's not just about the Tea Party. It's about, it's about the Republican Party. I really believe that.
MATTHEWS: Mark, let me talk about these guys who out there speaking for the people. They don't get elected. Guys like Sal Russo and Glenn Beck, and these guys are out there saying they speak for the people. And I'm looking at the strange behavior by Bachmann, lately, saying that the, what the Founding Fathers got rid of, got rid of slavery, when they got started. Boy a lot of African-American people came up to me and said "Well I was surprised by that news, very surprised." There's some craziness out there on the right and the fact that these war-hooping nut bags – some of them -- are deciding who the senators should be, should make the Democrats feel, like yourself, centrist Democrats feel pretty happy. Because you're trying to move the Democratic Party to the center, while the Republican Party is flaming off to the right.
MARK PENN: Well I think that's right. I think the Tea Party did significant damage, they can do significant damage to the Republican Party, particularly in small states like Utah, where an organizing difference could, an organizing effort could make a huge difference in the outcome of a low turnout situation. I think that's what you saw in Delaware. So it, look it could well happen. I think the bad news is that if the country is looking for bipartisanship, if it's looking for compromise, the Tea Party and their impact on the primaries may well hold back Republicans from doing the right thing and make the country more divided. And that would be an unfortunate effect, but the electoral effect for Democrats long term is quite good, because the Tea Party represents only a minority of the country.
MATTHEWS: What do you make, how does your party square this thing? I mean John, you hang around with these people. Is, is, are people like Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck are these people, are they, are they deciding who's kosher and who isn't? I'm looking at Bachmann going after, who was it? Bachmann went after Chaffetz. You know Chaffetz went after Bachmann because she went after somebody else.
FEEHERY: You know Chris, there's always gonna be discussions within the Republican Party. You always have folks who are a little bit more controversial than other folks. I do believe though that the Republicans are all moving in the right direction. Which is they want to cut spending, and getting the fiscal house back in order. And no matter where you are in the caucus, everybody agrees on that. I was up in Eric Cantor's office the other day. His top priority is cut spending, create jobs. So I think that's where all the Republicans are. And you'll have some folks say some things that are kind of, kind of kookie every once in a while. But you had that on the left, you had that on the right. And I don't think, if you look at the Tea Party class, you know there are 55 of the members who had previous political experience. These are really, actually smart members of Congress and they're gonna do a good job for their constituents.
MATTHEWS: Do you think Sarah Palin would make a great president?
MATTHEWS: Well you know, you're the only - I remember now, you're not elected. Because all the elected Republicans are scared to say that.
FEEHERY: Well I don't think she would make a great president. I wouldn't support her.
MATTHEWS: Okay, Mark isn't that a problem for these guys? You ask them a simple question like that, the elected Republicans and they're all petrified of this woman. They're petrified of this former governor of Alaska. What kind of situation is that for a political party?
PENN: Well I think most Republicans kind of dance around this subject, so it was refreshing to hear somebody say he wouldn't support her for president. Exactly, as you said, look the Republicans fear the Tea Party in the primaries, because in the primaries, they can be destructive to the, to even their long-term elected officials. And in the general election, last time, you saw the Republicans close ranks and support the Tea Party full tilt.
MATTHEWS: Mark, you're getting real smart or else I'm starting to agree with you on things. But I've been reading you today. You're really good. Thank you, Mark Penn. Moving the Democrats to where they have to be to win. John Feehery trying to defend the indefensible. When we return let me finish - I'm just kidding. John you're a good guy. I know you don't really think Palin is worth anything.
—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here