Matthews Gets Touchy About Attacks on His Old Boss Jimmy Carter

June 10th, 2008 7:46 PM

Chris Matthews was not happy and seemed overly sensitive when John McCain compared Barack Obama to his old boss Jimmy Carter. On Tuesday night's "Hardball," after Matthews played a clip of McCain saying Obama was running for "Carter's second" term, he declared "I don't like it," and tried to write the attack off by saying not enough voters "even remembered voting for the guy."

The following exchanges occurred throughout the June 10 edition of "Hardball":

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: Look John McCain has a more complicated task because he's got to try to discredit Obama but also say he's not gonna be like George Bush either. And I think the difficulty of this task is highlighted by, you look at the examples, Barack Obama is saying John McCain would be George Bush's third term and McCain comes back with Jimmy Carter. Well you know there are a lot of voters out there saying, "And who was Jimmy Carter exactly?" They don't remember that.


HARWOOD: It's a long, a lot of water under the dam since Jimmy Carter was president.

MATTHEWS: I was trying to think Pat [Buchanan], Pat, you know, Pat. 28 years ago Jimmy Carter left office and I'm trying to think about people, somebody said you have to be, have to be 50, you gotta be 50, at least, to have even remembered voting for the guy.


MATTHEWS: Are you old enough, are, are you old enough to remember the 1980 race? I remember it quite well.

HEIDI HARRIS, TALK SHOW HOST: Oh thank you for that!

MATTHEWS ON HOW DEMS SHOULD TIE MCCAIN TO BUSH: I was working in the White House. Well I just remember how brilliant Reagan was and his people like Jimmy Baker. They just blamed Jimmy Carter for everything that was wrong in the world. If inflation was going up because of the commodity price spike in the world – it was Carter's fault. Everything was Carter's fault. The inflation was his fault, the interest rates his fault, the Iranian hostages were his fault. Don't you think the Democrats are stupid not to play that game?


HARRIS: Well I think it's true that Jimmy Carter was at fault for all of those things but secondly--



JOHN MCCAIN: We've got to get spending under control and we've got to become independent of foreign oil. Senator Obama says that I'm running for Bush's third term. It seems to me he's running for Jimmy Carter's second.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to "Hardball" and the "Politics Fix." Tonight's roundtable: Jill Zuckman of the "Chicago Tribune," Michael Crowley of "The New Republic" magazine and MSNBC senior campaign correspondent, Tucker Carlson. We've got everything here tonight. What a nice, diverse group. Let's talk about this amazing decision. I don't like it. But it's amazing decision. Tucker, you first, because you always surprise me, colleague, and that is, was it smart to say, this isn't about continuing the policies of George W. Bush? It's about whether to return to the policies of Jimmy Carter. Is a smart switcheroo?

TUCKER CARLSON: Well it's resonant for people over a certain age. For a lot of people, though, Jimmy Carter evokes images of Habitat for Humanity and hammer swinging, right? Or controversies about his latest book. I think Jimmy Carter may be a figure of history for a lot of people. Seems to me McCain would be better served tying Democrats and Obama, in particular, to their longtime suggestion about raising gasoline prices.


JILL ZUCKMAN, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The reason I like the Carter second term theme, just as an attack mechanism, is because it, it does appeal to voters of a certain age. I mean, it means something to them. And those–

MATTHEWS: You mean beat Carter again? Let's go back and kill him one more time.

ZUCKMAN: Those are the people who go to vote. The twenty-somethings, they don't care about him. The older people, just remember what, all those horrible things that happened during Carter's term.

MATTHEWS: You know, Michael, you're younger, but I gotta tell you something. All through the '60s, the Democrats will still run against Hoover! 28 years before that, they were dragging that carcass out again and beating the Hell out of it again. Will it work this time for the ‘Rs'?