Matthews Blasts Trump’s ‘Cheap Shot’ Letter; Speculates About ‘Something’ Bad Happening

Though not as hyperbolic or inconsolable as CNN and MSNBC were earlier in the day, Thursday’s Hardball still featured host Chris Matthews revolting over the President’s last-minute decision to cancel Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s overseas trip, dubbing it a “cheap shot” letter that “doesn’t look good for the country.” 

Beyond that, Matthews speculated without evidence about what would happen “if something goes wrong” with government workers furloughed and stressed. That’s the sort of thing the CNN firefighters would scold a Fox News host for doing, but this is MSNBC, so it’s fine.

 

 

Matthews started kvetching four minutes in, complaining to MSNBC analyst and former Obama official Ben Rhodes that Pelosi’s trip was “[h]ardly a pleasure trip for the Paris Air Show or something like that” since “[t]hey weren't bringing their spouses with them” and the trip was “a real CODEL verses a junket.” 

The MSNBC pundit added moments later that Trump’s escalation was a “cheap shot” that made Democrats “look like fools” and “stupid” “sitting in the Capitol at the driveway basically trying to figure out what’s coming next.”

Of course, the man who bragged about misleading his liberal minions in the press about the Iran deal asserted that the Obama administration would never have done such a thing in this position. Okay, whatever, Ben.

Matthews replied that “[i]t looks bad” and, all told, “this doesn't look good for our country.” Sure, but a country not securing its border isn’t exactly a great image to put forth either.

Later, Matthews told former Republican David Jolly:

[T]he Congress seems to have lost some of its class since you’ve been there. I don’t know what to make of this. I think Pelosi looked smart yesterday. I think the president looks a little cheap today. Clearly, this looks like Carry On government, some old British comedy. You know, it doesn't look good for our country. 

Surprisingly, Jolly didn’t waste his entire comment period blasting Trump, instead using a both sides approach to the shutdown, stating in part: “There comes a point in which your low in medium and intensity voters look at Washington and say they're all a bunch of children, they’re behaving like idiots. I think this is that week.”

As for Matthews dabbling in scare tactics, he wondered aloud to U.S. Virgin Islands House Delegate Stacey Plaskett:

Let me ask you, Congressman, who gets blamed if something goes wrong? Government has a lot of responsibilities over safety, security, over food safety, all kinds of things, airplane travel. We have air traffic controllers, federal employees, we got all those people under stress now financially, in addition to the stress that comes with being a air traffic controller or TSA officer or anyone. 

The end of the segment featured an interesting debate between Matthews and Rhodes, with Matthews sticking up for at least some securing of the border. Here’s part of it (click “expand”):

MATTHEWS: But you do believe in border security and you don't believe in open borders. These are the statements out of the party all the time. You're not for letting the wall just fall down not to have a border. So what's the right way to police a border? What’s the Democratic way to do it?

PLASKETT: Well, we’ve also given 1.6 billion already that we've authorized, right?

MATTHEWS: And, Ben, what’s the right way to do the whole thing so we stop talking about the border for the next 300 years? 

RHODES: I think the point here, Chris, is there is not a crisis there. Actually, border crossings are way down over the last decade.

MATTHEWS: I know that but that’s only because that's only because of the cycle. What are we going to do so we stop arguing about this?

RHODES: You take the bill that already passed the senate unanimously and has now passed the Houses. You pass that, you reopen the government, then you have a negotiation on how much to put to new border security, to technology, to the Coast Guard, to different approaches to securing the border. What you don't do is have a President that's chosen to manufacture a crisis...and is holding 800,000 workers hostage. Let’s get those people paid again, get them back to work and have a discussion like rational adults about how we're going to fund border security.

To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on January 17, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s Hardball
January 17, 2019
7:04 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Ben, you know the facts here. Lot of these facts must be jumping out at you like the nature of this CODEL, the fact it was going to Afghanistan. Hardly a pleasure trip for the Paris Air Show or something like that. They weren't bringing their spouses with them. You know — you know a real CODEL verses a junket. This was not a junket. 

BEN RHODES: No, absolutely not, Chris. I mean, this is actually an insult to the American taxpayer because Congress has to fund to the tune of billions of dollars our efforts in Afghanistan and Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, it's part of her job to go there on front lines, to get those briefings from generals as she makes decisions because she holds the power of the purse in congress and so what President Trump is doing here is not canceling a photo op, it’s canceling a really critical part of her responsibilities as Speaker of the House to check in with our men and women on the frontlines too, show our support for them, but also to try to understand the nature of the war in Afghanistan and to pull the plug is deeply irresponsible and abuse of his powers as commander-in-chief. 

MATTHEWS: Let’s talk about the cheap shot part of it. They were in the bus heading to Joint Base Edward — Andrews. He made them look like fools sitting in the capitol at the driveway basically trying to figure out what’s coming next. He caught them in the act as if they were sneaking out of town and made them look stupid. I mean, it clearly, well, it looked like a political dirty trick to me. Your thoughts?

RHODES: Yeah, absolutely, Chris. I mean, I’m trying — when we were in office, we would never, ever have thought of interfering with a congressional delegation, particularly one to a war zone that's critically important. All kinds of Republican critics traveled to war zones while President Obama was in office and he thought that was an important property of their responsibilities. I'm trying to imagine the discussion in the White House where they decide “oh, we have to get Pelosi back for what she did” and someone is scouring the schedule and somehow thinks it's a good idea to embarrass Speaker of the House and to deny our troops that expression of support from the third ranking person in line to the presidency in our system. It's really sophomoric and it sends a horrible message to the world watching the shutdown and thinking, “what’s going on in the United States of America?” And now they see the President of the United States literally blocking the Speaker of the House and the Representatives from going to Afghanistan. 

MATTHEWS: It looks bad. Anyway, the White House insisted Trump's letter was not a response to Pelosi's State of the Union letter yesterday and indeed, his letter did not mention Pelosi’s call for a delay in the State of the Union. Politico reports that day-long lapse in response was intentional. Quoting a white House official who said: “Trump decided to hit back ‘on his terms and timeline.’ Deciding to wait more than a day to respond, the official said. ‘Why does it merit an immediate or serious response? — [COUGHS] — excuse me. “It's her suggestion.” Well, Pelosi said this morning her concerns were not about security capabilities for the event. Here she goes. 

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: They're professionals. They trained for this. They should be paid for this. [SCREEN WIPE] The date of the state of the union is not a sacred date, it's not constitutionally required. It's not any President’s birthday. It’s not anything. It is a date that we agreed to. 

MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, this doesn't look good for our country.

(....)

7:08 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS [ON MCCARTHY]: The piety of this guy. Anyway —

DEMOCRATIC DELEGATE STACEY PLASKETT (V.I.): The one thing I was saying is just the hypocrisy of that is there has been Republican CODELs in the same time period in which we —

MATTHEWS: Trump's been to Iraq during this shutdown. 

PLASKETT:  — during the shutdown, the President has been in war zones. Republicans have gone on CODELs. The Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, did not stop them from going on CODELs which she could have done by calling us and making sure that we stay in. So this is totally partisan on their part. 

MATTHEWS: Well, one of the President’s top allies in the U.S. Senate blasted both the president and the Speaker of the House. In his statement today, Lindsey Graham wrote: “One sophomoric response does not deserve another. Speaker Pelosi's threat to cancel the State of the Union,” well, she's not canceling it, “is very irresponsible and blatantly political. President Trump denying Speaker Pelosi military travel to visit our troops in Afghanistan, our allies in Egypt, and NATO is also inappropriate.” David, what do you make of this? It’s — the Congress seems to have lost some of its class since you’ve been there. I don’t know what to make of this. I think Pelosi looked smart yesterday. I think the president looks a little cheap today. Clearly, this looks like Carry On government, some old British comedy. You know, it doesn't look good for our country. 

DAVID JOLLY: Look, Pelosi's decision yesterday had a bit of a historic impact, if you will. It's a big deal to postpone a state of the union. Donald Trump's decision today did look petty, but I would say this, Chris. You know, I've been involved with Congress for the last 25 years worth of government shutdowns, starting in 1995. There comes a point in which your low in medium and intensity voters look at Washington and say they're all a bunch of children, they’re behaving like idiots. I tink this is that week. You know, there is no urgency to the State of the Union address, nor is there urgency to Speaker Pelosi’s trip to Afghanistan. There simply is not. She can wait until February to go to Afghanistan. Donald Trump can wait until February to give the State of the Union address. The urgency is around reopening the government and, at some point, people stop looking at the two parties and they just say they're all behaving like children. Get to work and solve this. Settle your differences. We get you don't like each other. We don’t pay you to like each other. We pay you to solve problems. I think this is the turning point this week for the American people. 

(....)

7:11 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: Your paper reported today that he says I'm getting crushed. He seems to have acknowledged to Mick Mulvaney, according to your paper's reporting, he told his chief of staff ‘hey, we're losing this thing.’

PLASKETT: Well, I think —

MATTHEWS: Let me go to — just to Peter first them go ahead.

PETER BAKER: I apologize. I think he miscalculated in the sense that he thought he could pressure Nancy Pelosi into — into caving in earlier than we have seen. You know, that there would have been a relatively quick shutdown and once the Speaker — new Speaker came in and took power, they'd come to a deal. She’s not done that. Both sides now are locked into their position. Neither side is moving and, you know, there doesn't seem any imperative to move at this point.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Congressman, who gets blamed if something goes wrong? Government has a lot of responsibilities over safety, security, over food safety, all kinds of things, airplane travel. We have air traffic controllers, federal employees, we got all those people under stress now financially, in addition to the stress that comes with being a air traffic controller or TSA officer or anyone. 

(....)

7:14 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: But you do believe in border security and you don't believe in open borders. These are the statements out of the party all the time. You're not for letting the wall just fall down not to have a border. So what's the right way to police a border? What’s the Democratic way to do it?

PLASKETT: Well, we’ve also given 1.6 billion already that we've authorized, right?

MATTHEWS: And, Ben, what’s the right way to do the whole thing so we stop talking about the border for the next 300 years? 

RHODES: I think the point here, Chris, is there is not a crisis there. Actually, border crossings are way down over the last decade.

MATTHEWS: I know that but that’s only because that's only because of the cycle. What are we going to do so we stop arguing about this?

RHODES: You take the bill that already passed the senate unanimously and has now passed the Houses. You pass that, you reopen the government, then you have a negotiation on how much to put to new border security, to technology, to the Coast Guard, to different approaches to securing the border. What you don't do is have a president that's chosen to manufacture a crisis to keep a political promise that he said originally was going to be paid for by Mexico and is holding 800,000 workers hostage. Let’s get those people paid again, get them back to work and have a discussion like rational adults about how we're going to fund border security. You don't take the funding for the entire government and make that hostage, especially when the American people voted for divided government. They voted to have a Democratic House of Representatives. Donald Trump had two years with Republicans in charge of both chambers and didn't pass this funding for the wall. So people can see this for what it is. It's a political stunt. We need get it out of the way, get the government open and then have this discussion about border security and I think Democrats can say to Donald Trump, “look, we're willing to compromise but we’re not willing to compromise on the backs of the 800,000 Americans.”

MATTHEWS: Okay. You’re a strong advocate, Ben Rhoades. Thank you for that. Well analyzed and well presented and I mean that. And U.S. Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands. I love that place. Peter Baker, Ben Rhodes, and, of course, David jolly and who have I forgotten? No one. 

NBDaily Government shutdown Foreign Policy Egypt Afghanistan Europe Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats MSNBC Hardball Video Government & Press Chris Matthews Peter Baker Donald Trump Ben Rhodes Nancy Pelosi
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