He calls it Hardball, but again tonight Chris Matthews showed he's a softy when it comes to Barack Obama. Chris was crestfallen when NBC News political director Chuck Todd laid out the case, chapter and verse, that political payback, even revenge, explained Sen. Bob Casey's endorsement of Obama as much or more than the "spiritual" reasons Chris so wanted to believe in.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Chuck, I didn’t expect this guy. He’s a very cautious U.S. senator in his first year, his first term, and what did he do? Almost a spiritual announcement he made today: I’ve got to be for Barack.
View video here.
Todd tossed Matthews a bone, but the pragmatic political director quickly reverted to form, drawing upon his encyclopedic knowledge of modern political history to demonstrate that not-so-exalted emotions lay behind the endorsement.
CHUCK TODD: He did and in fact Obama emphasized that he actually didn’t work Casey over. If you knew the intricacies of Pennsylvania politics, you knew that Obama would have a shot at it. Wherever Rendell [a Clinton supporter] is, you would assume the Caseys are on the other side.
MATTHEWS: Why? Explain that?
TODD: Well, they had their, they ran against each other for governor in 2002, a very nasty primary fight, one that I think the Caseys as a family haven’t gotten over. Ed Rendell ran against Casey’s father in a race for governor 20 years earlier in a campaign that Casey, Sr. won, so it was a little bit of Rendell payback. But then we forget also the late Bob Casey, the Clintons kept him off of the ’92 convention [because of Casey’s pro-life position], then he protested and didn’t go to the ’96 convention. So there’s certainly enough reason for Casey not to be for Clinton. [Obama] needed something. He hadn’t gotten one major endorsement.
The deflated Chris complained.
MATTHEWS: You are so political. Well anyway, Gene [Robinson of WaPo], the more spiritual aspect of this – and you [Todd] go into the political analysis.
Chuck reminded Matthews of what the show is ostensibly about.
TODD: Aw, geez. Where are we? Are we on Hardball? Or are we on –
MATTHEWS: Like we heard this before like Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri said my kids talked me into it. You know, we heard this from Caroline Kennedy her kids talked her into it [shades of Chris’ old boss Jimmy Carter whose daughter Amy told him nuclear weapons were the most important issue]. Could this be another generational, somewhat of a spiritual arising here, encouraging a guy to do something that's not necessarily in the area of political revenge, as you describe it?
Even the genial Gene Robinson couldn’t help teasing Matthews for going soft.
EUGENE ROBINSON: It could be. And we've seen the phenomenon of young people who have a different experience of race and less baggage about race and who are really energized by Obama's message. But what I want to talk about is Chris Matthews getting spiritual about Pennsylvania politics!
At the end of the video clip I’ve included for your delectation a bit more of Casey’s endorsement remarks. Have a listen and see if it doesn’t sound like one of Rush Limbaugh’s parody Obama commercials. Gauzy fluff about "change," “hope,” “new politics” and “healing” that is certified, guaranteed, 100% substance-free.