Matthews Compares Flake to Cronkite; Speech Was ‘Straight From a Great Novel or Movie’

Though he wasn’t able to out-do CNN in the gushiness department, MSNBC’s Hardball host Chris Matthews gave it his best shot on Tuesday by proclaiming the blistering anti-Trump speech by Republican Senator Jeff Flake (Ariz.) as something “straight from a great novel or movie.”

Matthews praised Flake in the same vein as he did on August 1 when Flake was out touring his book that stole its title from Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative.

 

 

“It is a rare political — it is rare in the political world where you witness a moment straight from a great novel or movie. Today, I saw the junior Senator from Arizona stand in that chamber and deliver an indictment of Donald Trump worthy of advise and consent on Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” Matthews proclaimed at the top of Tuesday’s show.

Matthews soldiered on by providing a breathless summary of Flake’s speech that also announced he wouldn’t be seeking reelection in 2018:

He accused the President of coarsening the country’s democracy to the extent it endangers our democracy. He said Donald Trump is not only hurting the country by his presence in the White House, but that he will continue to do so as long as he is there. That it’s now clear he will never change. Republicans have to decide, therefore, that to fight their leader, serve him, or leave all together and that’s finally what Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona announced today. In a moving speech on the Senate floor, the Arizona Senator told his colleagues he didn’t think there was a place for him in the current Republican Party — Donald Trump’s party. 

Speaking to former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, Matthews argued that Republicans have “two choices” with one being “a sycophant and act like you're a member of the cabinet” and a “toady” like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

He added that “the other way is to walk,” paraphrasing a quote from “Napoleon saying the only victory in love is to walk away.”

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Matthews wasn’t alone. USA Today’s Susan Page declared:

But it seems to me this is unbelievable. This is remarkable. Have you ever seen anything like this? Not only where you have a war between a President and the senators from his own party, but where the whole rest of the party is standing on the sidelines, doing their best to stare at the grounds hoping no one notices they are there.

She also put forth a head-scratching line of thought, noting that Flake’s speech wasn’t about “the Vietnam War” or a “divide over the Civil Rights struggle” but “over character....tone...tactics, and so this party is being ripped apart.”

At the end of Hardball, Matthews also brought up the Vietnam War, comparing Flake to Walter Cronkite in his famous 1968 observation that the war in Vietnam was unwinnable:

I knew when I heard the young senator's words that I was hearing an echo. It was another time of personal epiphany, when a distinguished journalist, Walter Cronkite, realized after a reporting trip to South Vietnam that things were not going to change, that what we faced in that war was what we would be facing for years on end. We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds, for it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. A stalemate is a perfect term for this country’s current political condition. Trump dominates the Republican Party but cannot get anything done with it. Nothing is getting past, nothing is changing. 

Matthews compared the countyr’s current political scene to the movie Groundhog Day in that each day begins the same way with everyone awaiting the latest Trump tweets going after “a foreign leader,” “a fellow Republican,” “a woman or a minority.” 

With that in mind, Matthews trumpeted Flake, fellow Arizona GOP Senator John McCain, and moderate Pennsylvania Congressman Charlie Dent (Pa.) as examples of people who have seen the light and denounced Trump.

“We have a man in the White House controlling the levers of power, including the nuclear power, that these intelligent, patriotic lawmakers do not see fit to be there,” Matthews concluded.

The voluminous praise for Flake were made possible by Hardball advertisers Honda, Humana, Match.com, and Vista Print.

Here’s the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on October 24:

MSNBC’s Hardball
October 24, 2017
7:00 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Breaking Point]

CHRIS MATTHEWS: It is a rare political — it is rare in the political world where you witness a moment straight from a great novel or movie. Today, I saw the junior Senator from Arizona stand in that chamber and deliver an indictment of Donald Trump worthy of advise and consent on Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. He accused the President of coarsening the country’s democracy to the extent it endangers our democracy. He said Donald Trump is not only hurting the country by his presence in the White House, but that he will continue to do so as long as he is there. That it’s now clear he will never change. Republicans have to decide, therefore, that to fight their leader, serve him, or leave all together and that’s finally what Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona announced today. In a moving speech on the Senate floor, the Arizona Senator told his colleagues he didn’t think there was a place for him in the current Republican Party — Donald Trump’s party. 

(....)

7:06 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS [TO MICHAEL STEELE]: Well, it seems to me fellow colleagues here that the Republican Party has two choices if you’re a member of it. You can be a sycophant and act like you're a member of the cabinet and we also know those obnoxious pictures of the people sort of bowing to the President, the members of the senate felt they needed to do. By the way, Mitch McConnell does act more and more like a toady. I respect him, but now he’s just going to just a sheer toady. He walks around next to the president like he's serving him, Michael, your party, and then, of course, now the other way is to walk. Remember one of the toughest lines I ever heard was Napoleon saying the only victory in love is to walk away. If you really love the Republican Party now, it seems like that what’s you do. You quit. It's so ironic and sick. 

(....)

7:08 p.m. Eastern

SUSAN PAGE: But it seems to me this is unbelievable. This is remarkable. Have you ever seen anything like this? Not only where you have a war between a President and the senators from his own party, but where the whole rest of the party is standing on the sidelines, doing their best to stare at the grounds hoping no one notices they are there.

(....)

7:11 p.m. Eastern

PAGE: You know, what strikes me is it was totally — it was not ideological. There was no debate over the Vietnam War. There was no divide over the civil rights struggle. 

MATTHEWS: It was over character.

PAGE: It was over character, it was over tone, it was over tactics and so this party is being ripped apart just over those things. Not over what the party stands for. 

(....)

7:58 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: Trump Watch. Tuesday October 24th, 2017. “We have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner, a return to civility behind it. We know better than that. By now, we all know better than that.” With those words today, Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican of Arizona, announced that he could not seek renomination in a party dominated by Donald Trump. I knew when I heard the young senator's words that I was hearing an echo. It was another time of personal epiphany, when a distinguished journalist, Walter Cronkite, realized after a reporting trip to South Vietnam that things were not going to change, that what we faced in that war was what we would be facing for years on end. We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds, for it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. A stalemate is a perfect term for this country’s current political condition. Trump dominates the Republican Party but cannot get anything done with it. Nothing is getting past, nothing is changing. We awake each morning as if in the movie Groundhog Day. We learned that Trump has, once again, marked the morning with another tweet, another personal insult at a foreign leader, at a fellow Republican, at woman or a minority. The targets differ but not the nature. What the Senator from Arizona announced in his retirement speech today, the coarseness of our leadership, the compromise of our moral authority as the stability of entire world is routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters and it's not going to change. Senator John McCain has seen that. Senator Corker has seen that. U.S. Congressman Charlie Dent has seen that. Senator Flake has now has seen it. We have a man in the White House controlling the levers of power, including the nuclear power, that these intelligent, patriotic lawmakers do not see fit to be there.


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