‘American Eloquence’; MSNBC Panel Goes Gaga Over Obama Receiving JFK Award

On Sunday night, the thrill inside of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews was alive and well for Barack Obama as he anchored a two-hour special swooning over the “American eloquence” of the President as he received the Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

Following Obama’s remarks at the JFK Library in Boston, Matthews appeared somewhat speechless, telling his fellow liberals masquerading as objective analysts that it was “American eloquence, certainly.”

The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson agreed, swooning how “[h]e is a great speaker” to the point that he jokingly asserted that’s why Obama is commanding $400,000 for speaking engagements. 

Of course, Robinson’s praise only got mushier:

But, no, it’s just politics aside, it is wonderful to hear that man speak. I mean, the eloquence is so impressive. This was basically a speech to my ears about the Affordable Care Act, about health care, and that was the one area of substance that he really went into and he said it is a profile in courage for the freshmen Democratic members of Congress who voted for the ACA to do so knowing that they were risking their political careers.

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Huffington Post Global Editorial Director Howard Fineman added onto the evening’s theme of how similar John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama in a variety of ways.

“I think that when he said that what the Kennedys did best was tell us stories about the best of ourselves, and I think that he said the stories that they told us about ourselves were so important, and inspirational, and Barack Obama is that kind of politician,” Fineman hyped.

Speaking on behalf of all Obama fans, Fineman continued:

As he joke, he wrote his own autobiography before he did anything, and he said in the campaign and literally said we are the change that we have been waiting for and I think the example that he gave in the class, his eloquence, in his smarts, in his the calm, in his leadership gives to a new generation inspiration for inclusion of the kind of community that he wants to build....And that is the inspirational part of what he did and, in many ways, the best part of the presidency. 

Time magazine’s Jay Newton-Small was next, observing how Obama took an indirect shot at President Donald Trump when “he said that politics should be noble, and he talked about how politics and courage in politics in particular was all about self-sacrifice.”

Reupping the Kennedy-Obama comparisons, Newton-Small noticed that another Trump potshot was when “[h]e talked about how John F. Kennedy knew that the job was not ban absence of fear, and any fool could be fearless...but that John F. Kennedy had to be our best selves....he said that JFK made an amazing president because he was resilient, optimistic, courageous, and filed with faith.”

Even Republican strategist and frequent Hardball guest John Brabender was enamored: 

I actually thought that it was a significant speech, and I thought that he was great on tone and tenor. You know, the lines that jumped out to me is when he said courage to listen and find common ground, call out hate not just in others but in ourselves, put partisanship and party aside when your part — when your country and your duty calls. This is a unity speech to many. I thought that he put aside the petty politics that a lot of us don't, and actually came across as the adult the room, and in American politics today, and I have to commend him a little bit for that. 

“Adult in the room?” Are you kidding me? That’s as phony as Obama’s 2004 Democratic National Convention speech that meant nothing in the long run. Obama constantly acted as though he was an outsider simply observing and playing no role in the country growing partisan. Try again, Brabender. 

Saving the most shocking answer for last, former Newsweek editor Evan Thomas was the lone panelist who wasn’t moved by Obama. Despite his infamous past that included referring to Obama as a god, Thomas admitted that it was “a wonderful speech” but a “completely unremarkable speech that nobody will remember.”

Yikes. But wait, there’s more as he doubled down: 

I’m a sucker for the Kennedys. I mean, I love this stuff and I love seeing those old news clips, but I felt — I’m a little tired of it, but I actually thought Obama was a little tired of it. I just don't think he was that engaged. I mean, it was an elegant speech. Yes, it was. He's a wonderful speaker, but I just didn't feel any great lift. 

Here’s the relevant portions of the transcript from MSNBC’s The Profile in Courage Award: Barack Obama on May 7:

MSNBC’s The Profile in Courage Award: Barack Obama
May 7, 2017
9:44 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS MATTHEWS: I’m going to start right across the table. American eloquence certainly. 

EUGENE ROBINSON: Yes, right. He is a great speaker, and, I guess that is why they’re paying $400,000 to make sure that he stays there. But, no, it’s just politics aside, it is wonderful to hear that man speak. I mean, the eloquence is so impressive. This was basically a speech to my ears about the Affordable Care Act, about health care, and that was the one area of substance that he really went into and he said it is a profile in courage for the freshmen Democratic members of Congress who voted for the ACA to do so knowing that they were risking their political careers. Indeed, a lot of them lost the following year in the bids for reelection and he defended it as having established the principle that health care is a right and not a privilege, and so we are listening to see if he would get involved in the present day debate about issues and he did in the case of health care. 

MATTHEWS: I think that you are right. He did establish it as a standard that all parties will have to meet. Nobody thought that would be true until we realize it now. Howard?

HOWARD FINEMAN: As we were talking about before he spoke, I thought health care was the substantive thread, especially because don't forget that Ted Kennedy had run for the presidency based on it in 1980 against Jimmy Carter on health care, but I think he also hit a note that we were talking about beforehand which is the idea of narrative and politics. I think that when he said that what the Kennedys did best was tell us stories about the best of ourselves, and I think that he said the stories that they told us about ourselves were so important, and inspirational, and Barack Obama is that kind of politician. As he joke, he wrote his own autobiography before he did anything, and he said in the campaign and literally said we are the change that we have been waiting for and I think the example that he gave in the class, his eloquence, in his smarts, in his the calm, in his leadership gives to a new generation inspiration for inclusion of the kind of community that he wants to build. Did he build it perfectly himself? Of course not. Is it a jagged — I think he used the term jagged tentative but ultimately forward progress if we try? Yes. And that is the inspirational part of what he did and, in many ways, the best part of the presidency. 

MATTHEWS: Jay?

JAY NEWTON-SMALL: I think, even though he never mentioned Donald Trump by name, he certainly talked about his example.

MATTHEWS: Was there any allusion to him? 

NEWTON-SMALL: Absolutely. In the sense that he said that politics should be noble, and he talked about how politics and courage in politics in particular was all about self-sacrifice. He talked about how John F. Kennedy knew that the job was not ban absence of fear, and any fool could be fearless and I think that was definitely an allusion to Trump, but that John F. Kennedy had to be our best selves. That the best presidents are —

MATTHEWS: Yes, a lot of the plausible ability here. 

NEWTON-SMALL: Yes but he used these words and he said that JFK made an amazing president because he was resilient, optimistic, courageous, and filed with faith. 

MATTHEWS: And we are watching him cradle the ship's lantern. Evan? 

EVAN THOMAS: I thought, just like you did, it is wonderful speech, he’s a great speaker, and he cloaked himself in the mantle of Kennedy. It’s good to be Kennedy and not Trump. While that’s all true. I thought it was completely unremarkable speech that nobody will remember. 

MATTHEWS: Okay. That stuff — I think Brabender may try to out do that. John, what did you think of what you heard? 

JOHN BRABENDER: Well, the only Republican here, and I'm giving the Republican response to the State of the Union or something, but I am going the shock all of you. I actually thought that it was a significant speech, and I thought that he was great on tone and tenor. You know, the lines that jumped out to me is when he said courage to listen and find common ground, call out hate not just in others but in ourselves, put partisanship and party aside when your part — when your country and your duty calls. This is a unity speech to many. I thought that he put aside the petty politics that a lot of us don't, and actually came across as the adult the room, and in American politics today, and I have to commend him a little bit for that. 

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

(....)

9:55 p.m. Eastern

THOMAS: I’m a sucker for the Kennedys. I mean, I love this stuff and I love seeing those old news clips, but I felt — I’m a little tired of it, but I actually thought Obama was a little tired of it. I just don't think he was that engaged. I mean, it was an elegant speech. Yes, it was. He's a wonderful speaker, but I just didn't feel any great lift.

NBDaily Liberals & Democrats MSNBC Other MSNBC Video Government & Press John F. Kennedy Chris Matthews Evan Thomas Howard Fineman Jay Newton-Small Barack Obama Donald Trump John Kennedy
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