Matthews: Unlike McCain, Compromising Principles No Problem for Romney

The MSM's McCain mania of 2000, the hysteria of the Straight Talk Express, might be history. But some of the liberal media's infatuation with John McCain clearly lives on. It was on display during today's "Hardball" in Chris Matthews's friendly, respectful interview of McCain. The most telling point came as Matthews suggested that compromising his principles exacts a psychic cost from McCain, whereas Mitt Romney does so without problem. Matthews began by teeing up a very comfortable question for the Senator from Arizona.

View video here.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: On the questions of who's the real Republican, now the issue has come up here with Romney saying he's from the Republican wing of the Republican party. He stole the phrase obviously from Howard Dean, when he was "the Democratic wing of the Democratic party." Is that a fair claim?

JOHN MCCAIN: I don't think so. I think it's very clear that then Governor Romney when he was running in a liberal state supported [Dem] Paul Tsongas for president, he said that he didn't want to go back to the Reagan years, that he was not a Reagan Republican. He contributed to a Democrat candidate in New Hampshire, and he had liberal positions on virtually every issue from abortion to immigration. So, look, we've got to earn the voters' respect, that's what it's all about. We've got to respect the voters before we earn their respect. I don't see how you can make the case when his record is rather clear -- understandably in many ways -- of running as a liberal in a very liberal state.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Senator, when you've had to compromise to get support from some Republican factions that may not normally be with you because you're quite a maverick [yes, Matthews broke out the cliche], you've looked like you've had a tortured look on your face when you've had to do it. You remember what you said about the flag in South Carolina. You didn't really feel happy about that. It doesn't look like Romney has a problem with doing this stuff.
The screencap shows Matthews at the moment he laughs at his own indictment of Romney.
JOHN MCCAIN: I'm sorry you brought it up, because I have to quickly say, what I said about the flag in South Carolina was an act of cowardice on my part.

MATTHEWS: Well, what's he doing? What's Romney doing? He has flipped on everything. Well, I don't want to put the words in my mouth [you just did, Chris.] If he's pro-choice in Massachusetts to get elected, now he's pro-life to win a national Republican referendum, what is he?

MCCAIN: I think that's for the voters to determine, but think we all run on our record. I am a proud, conservative Republican. There are other conservative Republicans in the race. I don't lay claim to the mantle. I do lay claim to the strength of my credentials and knowledge and background on national security issues which I think is the transcendent challenge of our time. Radical Islamic extremism. I'm the most prepared. I believe at least my qualifications I hope have earned me the voters' consideration.

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