‘I Want Him Back’; Matthews Declares Obama Is ‘Still Thrilling to Me,’ Dems Need to Step Up

On Thursday night, it appeared as though MSNBC’s Hardball host Chris Matthews was tired from the long hours covering the 2020 Democratic presidential debates as he observed #TBT with riffs about how Barack Obama and his rise are “still thrilling to me” even though “[t]he only thing I've ever had against Obama is when he recedes from us” because “I want him back.”

During his A-block panel recapping the debates, Matthews declared that he wanted to talk about “the historic nature of Barack Obama running in '08 and ‘12 was so dramatic, I can understand why people who — of color who don't normally vote, think it's all B.S. or whatever showed up because it was so thrilling.”

 

 

Matthews added that not only was he “thrilled” then, but the rise of Obama was “still thrilling to me,” including his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech. Matthews said all that to fret that “you're not always going to have a thrilling, charismatic African-American person of either gender or any background to come on,” so who could capture that in 2020.

Later, Matthews asked presidential historian Jon Meacham about Michael Moore’s MSNBC appearance on Wednesday in which Moore hoped Michelle Obama would join the field because, in Matthews’s words, “she is incredibly positive as a personality, and she's tough on issues.”

Meacham replied as one would expect from a liberal historian and fan of Acela Corridor lefties (click “expand”):

Well, I have no idea. I do know that you and I are on our best day have not exactly gotten 15,000 people at a single book event, maybe close here and there. She is a remarkable cultural and political figure. When she came to Nashville here on her book tour, people were coming down the steps of the Ryman Auditorium after shaking her hand, weeping. It's like they were at Lourdes and I think that's part of what Moore might be getting to is people are looking for a miracle in this, because they see Trump as such a disease. They see him as something that has to be overcome[.]

Going to former Obama aide Ben Rhodes, Matthews hit the accelerator on the crazy train by wondering if “Barack Obama, who has laid back during this primary fight, will he come on like Richard the Lionheart coming back from The Crusades” by “next November, maybe starting in September and really be the lion of the Democratic Party for whoever the nominee is?”

Things got weirder when Matthews had this exchange about missing Obama with The Washington Post’s Robert Costa (click “expand”):

MATTHEWS: The only thing I've ever had against Obama is when he recedes from us, when he goes away. I want him back. Anyway, that's my only problem. Go ahead.

COSTA: The Democratic Party turning its lonely eyes to the Obama family is revealing. It's a testament about how the —

MATTHEWS: Are you Paul Simon? 

COSTA: — it’s a testament —

MATTHEWS: Turn your lonely eyes to them. Go ahead. 

COSTA: — it's a testament to how this party feels about the presidential field. 

Earlier, Matthews told SiriusXM’s Zerlina Maxwell that Biden “was ten times better” on Thursday “than the last time” and “last night, he was twice as good as he was the first time” even though he predicted that Biden won’t even be one of the final two candidates (for that, he picked Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris).

However, he reiterated a point he’s made in the past (like here) that the party could go so far left that, while not a carbon copy, a similar setup to 1972 (click “expand”):

My question is are we in danger? We, I'm on the center left. Are we in danger of doing again what the Democrats did in '72 when they were so thrilled to defeat Richard Daley of Chicago, so thrilled to defeat Tip O’Neill in Boston that they ran a candidate who was not going to beat Dick Nixon. George McGovern was not going to beat Dick Nixon. Everybody knew it. We knew it from the beginning to the end, but they wanted a more important — they wanted to beat the moderates. Did the people on the risk being so determined to get the moderates they commit suicide in the general? Your thoughts. It's an open question because I don't know the answer. 

To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on August 1, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s Hardball
August 1, 2019
7:11 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Zerlina, you know, I watched Biden today. He was ten times better than last time. Last night he was twice as good as he was the first time, but I still think this campaign is going to get down to probably Elizabeth Warren winning in Iowa, and the — her number one challenger in the weeks ahead is going to be Kamala Harris. I just think that. I've just been watching that. I see that pattern, but I think this battle is interesting and my question is are we in danger? We, I'm on the center left. Are we in danger of doing again what the Democrats did in '72 when they were so thrilled to defeat Richard Daley of Chicago, so thrilled to defeat Tip O’Neill in Boston that they ran a candidate who was not going to beat Dick Nixon. George McGovern was not going to beat Dick Nixon. Everybody knew it. We knew it from the beginning to the end, but they wanted a more important — they wanted to beat the moderates. Did the people on the risk being so determined to get the moderates they commit suicide in the general? Your thoughts. It's an open question because I don't know the answer. 

ZERLINA MAXWELL: No, I think it's a good question. I think what's happening right now in the Democratic Party is we're having a robust discussion and many of the issues we were also talking about during the Obama administration like the level of deportations, those were things that progressives were, you know, doing, engaging in activism around at the time. So this is not new and the circular firing squad, yes, is a danger. But I think as long as the candidates are sticking to the policy disagreements and staying away from my personal attacks or challenging someone's integrity or perhaps their motivation for supporting a certain policy, we'll be fine. I think that the key here is turnout. Donald Trump only won by 77,000 votes, Chris, and as you know, Hillary Clinton still won the popular vote. So, the fact of the matter is if we pick a candidate who isn’t going to drive turnout to match those Obama coalition numbers, then we're not going to win, but some — there are candidates —

MATTHEWS: Okay. Can I be blunt with you?

MAXWELL: — but there are candidates that can do that. I believe that Kamala Harris can build that coalition. Elizabeth Warren has been showing signs that she can build a coalition of diverse set of communities, and we don't have to rely on those Midwestern, white, Trump/Obama switch voters. 

MATTHEWS: I understand. Why do I know this fight? I know what's behind this fight. I know it is and I understand it. Let me ask you because the historic nature of Barack Obama running in '08 and ‘12 was so dramatic, I can understand why people who — of color who don't normally vote, think it's all B.S. or whatever showed up because it was so thrilling. I mean, I was thrilled and I think — I get thrilled thinking about what happened in '08. It's still thrilling to me. It was thrilling what he said in '04 up in Boston, Obama, but you're not always going to have a thrilling, charismatic African-American person of either gender or any background to come on and say I'm the candidate for President. Does it take that? Or can Elizabeth Warren running with, say, Buttigieg or something, could they excite the inner city? Could they excite people of color to the degree you're talking about that needs to win?

MAXWELL: Yes because black people care about policies, not just the personality of the politician. Barack Obama is a once-in-a-lifetime politician. There are very few wheel as good at giving speeches at President Obama, but I think Elizabeth Warren is charismatic. Anybody who can argue with me on that point, I mean, I’ll see you outside, because I think Elizabeth Warren is incredibly charismatic and I don't think she gets enough credit for that, frankly. 

MATTHEWS: I think they're waiting outside but that's okay. Let me ask you this. Everybody here can jump on this. Jon, you're the historian. Last night, Michael Moore said something that was outside the ballpark, but sometimes he said those things. Like last time he said Trump's going to win. You got to listen to him. He is pushing Michelle, Michelle Obama. He said Michelle Obama on a book tour, and you've been through book tours, 15,000 people show up to see her and hear her. She is 70 percent. Politicians don't get 70 percent. She is incredibly positive as a personality, and she's tough on issues. She knows history. She is not particularly happy about American history going back, but boy is she popular. Can she jump in this race at this point? Your thoughts. Is that reasonable, what Michael Moore said last night? 

JON MEACHAM: Well, I have no idea. I do know that you and I are on our best day have not exactly gotten 15,000 people at a single book event, maybe close here and there. She is a remarkable cultural and political figure. When she came to Nashville here on her book tour, people were coming down the steps of the Ryman Auditorium after shaking her hand, weeping. It's like they were at Lourdes and I think that's part of what Moore might be getting to is people are looking for a miracle in this, because they see Trump as such a disease. They see him as something that has to be overcome and the other thing that I would just say about Biden, and the excitement factor is Thomas Jefferson once wrote a love letter called “The Head and the Heart” to a woman not his wife. But anyway, it was the argument between the head and the heart and that seems to be what's going on here and the heart of the Democratic Party may be with Warren and Sanders, but the head, I think, is with Vice President Biden. 

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to one of the questions with Ben and it is important to me. I worry about this. Will Barack Obama, who has laid back during this primary fight, will he come on like Richard the Lionheart coming back from The Crusades? Will he come on next November, maybe starting in September and really be the lion of the Democratic Party for whoever the nominee is? Will he? 

BEN RHODES: Yeah, Chris, absolutely he'll be out there, just like he was out there before the midterms in an effective message and I think one thing you can learn from Obama you don't necessarily have to choose between this idea of inspiration and progressive policies versus trying to reach out to people who are in the middle. Barack Obama found a way to do both and the way that he did is he identified progressive policies that help people in their own lives like expanding health care, for instance, but he also rooted a progressive message not in a complete rejection of the past and not in a complete rejection of people on the other side of the political divide. He rooted it in American history, in America’s progressive tradition, in America's founding documents.

MATTHEWS; Yes.

RHODES: I think there is way for the Democratic nominee to straddle this divide and have progressive policies that are quite popular with people, but not present it in way that seems like a complete rejection of the American past and I think Obama holds a lesson for how you can do that. 

MATTHEWS: The only thing I've ever had against Obama is when he recedes from us, when he goes away. I want him back. Anyway, that's my only problem. Go ahead.

ROBERT COSTA: The Democratic Party turning its lonely eyes to the Obama family is revealing. It's a testament about how the —

MATTHEWS: Are you Paul Simon? 

COSTA: — it’s a testament —

MATTHEWS: Turn your lonely eyes to them. Go ahead. 

COSTA: — it's a testament to how this party feels about the presidential field. When you’re on Capitol Hill, they say the leader of this party right now is Speaker Pelosi. The leader for the past eight years during the Obama presidency was obviously President Obama. They want someone to step forward in this presidential field and take control. They have deep respect for President Obama, but who’s going to lead the party in 2019? 

MATTHEWS: We'll see. I think they need a leader to push hope if impeachment is to go anywhere, it needs a strong leader like they had with Tip O’Neill against Nixon. I don't think they believe in it yet, though. We’ll see what the numbers are. We’ll talk about that later tonight. Are the numbers still there? Are they growing there to get to 218 to get rid of this President?

MAXWELL: They are growing. They're growing every minute, Chris. 

MATTHEWS: Well, they are growing, but 218 is the magic number. 

NB Daily 2020 Presidential Liberals & Democrats MSNBC Hardball Video Robert Costa Jon Mecham Chris Matthews Barack Obama Zerlina Maxwell
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