It Was as Bad as You’d Think: Check Out Highlights from MSNBC’s Rabid Beto Town Hall

Imagine your worst expectations for MSNBC’s Hardball giving Democratic Congressman and Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke his own town hall Tuesday at the University of Houston. Sadly, whatever came to mind probably couldn’t match reality. All told, the hour-long event featured comparisons between O’Rourke and Bobby Kennedy, questions about supporting the liberal media, and even his sleep habits.

And, most notably, there was nary a question or mention by host Chris Matthews or any of the audience members about O’Rourke’s drunk driving incident or recent news about his father’s financial dealings. 

 

 

The show began with an epically stupid, movie-like trailer in which MSNBC’s voice-over narrator declared: “One week from today Americans head to the polls for an historic election that will determine the balance of power in Congress...It will either create a check on President Trump's power or embolden him...And it could all come down to Texas.” Okay, sure, bro.

He added that the Democratic Party’s “rising star” “has caught fire” by “raising tons of cash and running neck-and-neck in a state that hasn't elected a Democratic senator for a quarter of a century” which could be “a step to a White House run in 2020.” If by 'neck-and-neck' you mean consistently down in the polls since day one, sure.

O’Rourke was then introduced before a packed auditorium with help from the school’s marching band and, with that, Matthews was off and running by first wondering “how much is this President responsible for the atmospherics” of the mail bombs and synagogue shooting.

Matthews followed up with questions about whether America “would be different” if Trump behaved like Bobby Kennedy the night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and more Kennedy comparisons with platitudes from current Congressman Joe Kennedy (D-MA).

After a discussion on the President’s proposal to alter citizenship, the first student questioner inquired about “how you're going to address the issue of militarizing the border,” which set a tone for the evening that O’Rourke wouldn’t be challenged.

Matthews rambled on about the Gang of Eight immigration bill before the audience questions resumed. The next two were about bipartisanship and gun control (click “expand”):

BOLA: Hello, Representative O’Rourke. So how — considering the hyper-partisan political atmosphere in Congress, how do you feel you would conduct yourself among members of your own party and of the other party as well? 

(....)

RACHEL CLARK: Hi, Representative O’Rourke. Can't wait until we can call you Senator O’Rourke. [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE] Whew! What's your stance on the Second Amendment and how do you think Texas can tackle the epidemic of mass shootings and gun violence we see happening across the nation especially in terms of minority people who are particularly affected by this?

Professor Summer Harlow followed with this love note to the liberal media: “I'm wondering given the anti-media, anti-free press rhetoric that is so prevalent right now, what would you do as U.S. Senator to ensure that the press is protected, journalists are protected and that they can continue to serve as watchdogs for democracy?”

Matthews later gushed that “the head of our network that a lot of people in the country don't know you as well as these people know you, so I have to help you introduce you now to the world a little” and so again he pointed to RFK since they share a same first and middle name.

After O’Rourke refused to admit ever having regretted voting for anyone and stated his opposition to the war in Iraq, audience questions resumed on education, climate change, abortion, and Republicans (click “expand”):

“ALEX”: I have a question about education and how you plan on making it more affordable for lower income families.

(....)

“DARBY”: Following the recent U.N. Report that we only have 12 years to reverse the effects of climate change, what will you do as senator to ensure the sustainability of our planet?

(....)

PATRICIA RUNNING: My question is about what is your plan to make sure women will continue to have the right to choose what happens to their own bodies? 

(....)

RYAN LOPEZ: Thank you, sir. I'm a proud Democrat with Republican co-workers, friends and families who are on the fence about voting for candidates outside their party. I failed to convince them but maybe you can. What would you tell a moderate conservative to have them join Team Beto?

It wouldn’t be a college town hall with a Democrat if there wasn’t an LGBTQ question, so that served as the question prior to what was perhaps the softest softball question that would give Jeff Zeleny a run for his money. 

Student Matilda Dao asked in the penultimate question (as the final one dealt with “Queen Taylor Swift” endorsing Democrats): “I was just wondering, how many hours of sleep do you get per night?”

As our friends at The Washington Times noted, Matthews’s final question was undoubtedly the toughest question of the night and it dealt with what Matthews observed was their party becoming one of “people with educations, with a culture of, kind of, elitism in some cases” and not “working people.”

To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on October 30, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s Hardball
October 30, 2018
7:00 p.m. Eastern

NARRATOR: One week from today Americans head to the polls for an historic election that will determine the balance of power in Congress. 

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm not on the ballot but in a certain way I'm on the ballot. 

NARRATOR: It will either create a check on President Trump's power or embolden him. 

TRUMP: I'm really looking to make America great again. 

NARRATOR: And it could all come down to Texas.

REPUBLICAN SENATOR TED CRUZ: Do we defend freedom or do we give in to tyranny? 

NARRATOR: Ted Cruz has the backing of his former, bitter rival. 

TRUMP: He's not lying Ted anymore. He's beautiful Ted. 

NARRATOR: But Democratic upstart Beto O’Rourke has caught fire.

BETO O’ROURKE: I cannot think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up or take a knee for your rights.

NARRATOR: Raising tons of cash and running neck-and-neck —

O’ROURKE: He’s dishonest. It’s why the President called him lying Ted and it's why the nickname stuck.

NARRATOR: — in a state that hasn't elected a Democratic senator for a quarter of a century. Tonight, the rising star of the party takes center stage. 

O’ROURKE: You have inspired me. 

NARRATOR: What are his plans for Texas? 

O’ROURKE: The least insured state in the country could take the lead on guaranteed, high-quality, universal health care. 

NARRATOR: Can he pull off an upset in the Lone Star State? 

O’ROURKE: We the people of Texas are making something extraordinary happen. 

NARRATOR: And is this all a step to a White House run in 2020?

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

CHRIS MATTHEWS: From the Hardball College Tour with Beto O’Rourke live from the university of Houston, let's play Hardball.

[UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON MARCHING BAND PLAYING] [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

MATTHEWS: Beto. 

O’ROURKE: How are you?

MATTHEWS: Beto O’Rourke. 

O’ROURKE: Yeah! 

MATTHEWS: Whose house? 

CROWD: Cougs house!

MATTHEWS: Whose house? 

CROWD: Cougs house!

O’ROURKE: That’s right.

MATTHEWS: Did you learn that? That's how we talk here at the University of Houston. I want to get to a lot of people where you come from, how you got your nickname, and all — nickname — but let's talk about the news tonight and what's happened this past week. Some people see a connection between the President's rhetoric about invasions and things like that and the horrors of last week, by the horrors I mean the bombs being dropped in the media doorstep, I'm talking about two African-American guys being shot dead, I'm talking about the attack on that synagogue in Pittsburgh. The atmospherics, how much is this President responsible for the atmospherics? 

(....)

7:04 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: We’ve seen leaders in times of great stress in this country and horror and tragedy. Bobby Kennedy, for example, after Dr. King was killed, that night he walked into Indianapolis and he talked to a black community and he appealed to them to understand common humanity, to try to get past this. Do you think if Trump acted like that the country would be different? Can he act like that? Is he capable of it personally? 

(....)

7:05 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: I just talked on the phone an hour ago to Congressman Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts, the grandson of Robert Kennedy and he said what separates you from other politicians he knows is that you basically don't worry about polls, you don't ask about opinion surveys, you don't check out how people are — where their heads are going. He said, you have a faith in the goodness of the American people. Explain. To do the right thing. 

(....)

7:06 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: You know, over the weekend the President had an opportunity to do something like that. We had the horror at that synagogue. 11 people killed. A religious killing really is what it was. It was like out of the middle ages kind of or the worst part of the 20th century. The President went right out on the stump, right on stirring things up again, blaming everything on a Congresswoman from California or Nancy Pelosi, getting the — why do you think he thinks that's a winner? Because he must think that's going to do something for him. Stirring it up. 

(....)

7:09 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: You mentioned Harry Truman who was the first President to integrate U.S. military services. He really did have the guts to do the right things, he brought all the units together — all the groups together, races. This President is talking about getting rid of the 14th Amendment effectively. He wants to get rid of birth right citizenship, so if you were born in this country, under his hope decree, you won't make an American. What do you make of that? That’s — today he's talking about that. 

O’ROURKE: Interesting that he drops this proposal with a week to go until the November 6th election. 

MATTHEWS: Who he's playing to? 

(....)

7:10 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: And on the record for the record you oppose amending the United States Constitution, removing the 14th Amendment and the birth right citizenship? 

(....)

7:10 p.m. Eastern

ANDREA OROZCO: Hi, Congressman O’Rourke. It’s a pleasure to be here before you. As one border native to another, I'd just like to ask you how you're going to address the issue of militarizing the border. 

(....)

7:12 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: Thank you. I want to follow with that be a lot because a lot on both sides of the immigration issue have been very passionate, but I want direction here. In 2013 the United States Senate did said something remarkable. They passed a comprehensive bill on immigration. It had opportunities for a path to citizenship. It was rigorous but it was real. It was doable for a person who’s not documented. They also had enforcement on it, e-verify. You couldn’t hire people illegally. It really was a comprehensive bill and because of that, I think — or 12 Republicans supported it, people like John McCain and Corker and Ted Kennedy on the Democratic side. It had a good bipartisan — what did the Republicans do? The speaker of the house refused to bring it up as a vote.

O’ROURKE: That's right.

MATTHEWS: Had that bill come up in the House of Representatives where you were serving, would you have voted for it? 

O’ROURKE: I would have worked with my colleagues to improve it so I could have voted for it. 

MATTHEWS: What didn't you like about it?

(....)

7:13 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: By the way, I got to challenge the President. You are the expert on this. This thing about bringing 5,000 soldiers, the soldiers have no authorization to be engaged with Border Patrol. What are they going to do down there? They’re not going to let them shoot anybody like they’re talk — they say they won’t or “oh, we won't shoot anybody now.” What are they doing there?

(....)

7:19 p.m. Eastern

BOLA: Hello, Representative O’Rourke. So how — considering the hyper-partisan political atmosphere in Congress, how do you feel you would conduct yourself among members of your own party and of the other party as well? 

(....)

7:20 p.m. Eastern

RACHEL CLARK: Hi, Representative O’Rourke. Can't wait until we can call you Senator O’Rourke. [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE] Whew! What's your stance on the Second Amendment and how do you think Texas can tackle the epidemic of mass shootings and gun violence we see happening across the nation especially in terms of minority people who are particularly affected by this?

(....)

7:22 p.m. Eastern

SUMMER HARLOW: I'm wondering given the anti-media, anti-free press rhetoric that is so prevalent right now, what would you do as U.S. Senator to ensure that the press is protected, journalists are protected and that they can continue to serve as watchdogs for democracy? 

(....)

7:28 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: I was reminded by the head of our network that a lot of people in the country don't know you as well as these people know you, so I have to help you introduce you now to the world a little. Your name is Robert Francis O’Rourke. How come? Was that Bobby Kennedy? Was that an inspiration? Robert Francis? 

(....)

7:29 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: You know, I want to ask you something about your opponent in this race and the President. President trump has called, let me get this straight because I've wrote this down. He's called Ted Cruz a maniac, unstable and a liar, okay? Senator Cruz has called President Trump a sniveling coward and a braggadocios buffoon. Where are you on this? 

O’ROURKE: That is — that is colorful language. You know, I’m staying focused on Texas.

MATTHEWS: You don't have an opinion on either side of this? 

O’ROURKE: No and from the beginning we decided we wouldn't run against anybody and we wouldn’t anything. We wouldn’t run against another political party. We wanted to run for the future. 

MATTHEWS: Well, Trump is running against you and he calls you “a total lightweight” and you “will never be allowed to turn Texas into Venezuela.” Oh, I know that was on your plan. 

O’ROURKE: There goes that plan, yeah. 

MATTHEWS: What do you make of a President of the United States who stoops low enough to go after a Senate candidate, he's called other people low I.Q., Lyin’ Ted, you know, Low Energy — Low Energy Jeb. 

O’ROURKE: Right. 

MATTHEWS: Yours is total lightweight. How do you feel for that? Does it weigh well on you? 

(....)

[PUSHED HIM TO NAME WHERE HE’D WORK WITH TRUMP]

(....)

7:33 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: You know, a lot of students here are students, so you get to vote at 18, so a lot got to vote the first time when they were sophomores and even as freshmen maybe and they'll get to vote again before they're out of school. You've been voting since you were 18. Did you ever make a mistake? Did you ever vote for the wrong person? Think. 

O’ROURKE: Yeah. You know, I —

MATTHEWS: You're perfect in your voting record? 

O’ROURKE: Yeah. Well —

MATTHEWS: I had problems with some of my votes. You don't have any problems? 

(....)

7:34 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: Do you think going into the war in Iraq was a mistake? 

O’ROURKE: Yes. 

MATTHEWS: Thank you. That's all I need to know. Thank you. 

(.....)

7:38 p.m. Eastern

“ALEX”: I have a question about education and how you plan on making it more affordable for lower income families. 

(....)

7:39 p.m. Eastern

“DARBY”: Following the recent U.N. Report that we only have 12 years to reverse the effects of climate change, what will you do as senator to ensure the sustainability of our planet?

(....)

7:41 p.m. Eastern

PATRICIA RUNNING: My question is about what is your plan to make sure women will continue to have the right to choose what happens to their own bodies? 

(....)

7:42 p.m. Eastern

RYAN LOPEZ: Thank you, sir. I'm a proud Democrat with Republican co-workers, friends and families who are on the fence about voting for candidates outside their party. I failed to convince them but maybe you can. What would you tell a moderate conservative to have them join Team Beto?

(....)

7:43 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: Congressman, do you — do you have any — you’ve been serving for a number of years, how many — what's it like to deal with the other side of the aisle now? Do you have, first of all, honest real friends on the other side of the aisle? Republican congress people. 

(....)

7:49 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: You know, not every question is serious and this one is only serious to, well, Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz said — when he was at law school refused to study with anyone who didn't go to the following schools. He wouldn’t study — if they hadn't gone to Harvard, Yale or Princeton he wouldn't study with them at law school because they were below his I.Q., I guess. You went to Columbia. How do you like being treated as a safety school? What do you make of this guy? 

(....)

7:50 p.m. Eastern

ERICA REY: How invested are you of protecting the rights of LGBTQ citizens especially at a time when even the legitimacy of transgender identities is being denied by few in power. 

(....)

7:51 p.m. Eastern

MATILDA DAO: I was just wondering, how many hours of sleep do you get per night?

(....)

7:56 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: I want to ask you about the Democratic Party today and what’s going on with it. The latest polling by NBC and Wall Street Journal shows that a majority, 52 percent of people went to college and graduated are Republicans and a majority of people, again, 52 percent, the people who didn't get to go to college and graduate, are Republicans. Now what happened to that cultural, that class shift? When I was growing up for most of my life, the Democratic Party was proudly the party of working people, the people that didn't get the breaks. Now the Democratic Party seems to be reflective of people with educations, with a culture of, kind of, elitism in some cases. What went wrong? What needs to be corrected if it does? 

(....)

7:58 p.m. Eastern

ANDREW JOHNSON: What I want to know from you is what do you think about celebrities who are talking about politics lately like how Queen Taylor Swift talked about how people should be voting and how she supported Phil Bredesen in Tennessee?

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