The always hyperbolic presidential historian Jon Meacham made an appearance on MSNBC’s Hardball Tuesday, where he weighed in on Donald Trump and the impeachment process. After attacking the President as a racist, Meacham proceeded to trash the entire country as racist dating all the way back to its founding. In addition, the historian compared the testimony of diplomat William Taylor that took place earlier in the day to the testimony of Richard Nixon’s White House Counsel John Dean during the Watergate hearings.
Meacham declared, “This is a country that was founded to…and in many ways, protected slavery as an institution.” Meacham also accused Trump of trying to “undo what minimal progress we’ve made to actually become a more perfect union all for his own personal benefit.”
Before introducing the author, host Chris Matthews accused the President of making a “racist reference” by claiming that the only reason Joe Biden “did well as Vice President” was because “he knew how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.” According to Matthews, Trump’s statement was “subjugating a white guy to a black guy.” Perhaps it never occurred to Matthews that Trump meant to insult Biden, not Obama.
Later, Meacham attempted to draw parallels to Watergate by comparing the testimony of diplomat William Taylor as part of the House Democrats’ “impeachment inquiry” to the testimony of Richard Nixon’s White House Counsel John Dean during the hearings that brought down America’s 37th President. According to Meacham, “this is like when John Dean testified in 1973…This is like when the smoking gun tape came out, the transcript which remember and you know well it wasn’t until the very end of a 26-month process that Republicans finally abandoned Nixon.”
Meacham spent the rest of his appearance on Hardball scolding people who dared to question the testimony of Taylor: “there’s a great moral and constitutional test confronting the Republican Party at this hour, which is are you going to believe the testimony of a career civil servant who has no conceivable agenda that I could detect…and has laid out a classic test of whether we believe in the rule of law and we honor the framers?” With a detectable snark in his voice, Meacham asked “Why is it that conservatives are so in love with the Federalist Papers except when it comes to this?”
A transcript of the relevant portion of Tuesday’s edition of Hardball is below. Click “expand” to read more.
Hardball With Chris Matthews
CHRIS MATTHEWS: This past week when I was out with my operation, I’m watching television and I watch him speaking at that Minnesota rally for an hour and a half that Fox gave full time to and he’s talking about how the only reason he…he did well as Vice President is he knew how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass. That is the most racist reference. It was subjugating…subjugating a white guy to a black guy. You knew exactly what he was doing…
CORNELL BELCHER: Yes.
MATTHEWS: …for his audience.
MATTHEWS: It was chillingly horrible.
BELCHER: …and when you’re telling…
MATTHEWS: And now this.
BELCHER: …and when you’re telling, you know, women of color who are elected to Congress to go back to…to…to…to their countries, you’re race baiting. This is what he constantly does.
MATTHEWS: Whatever countries they might be. Yeah.
BELCHER: And…and the problem is historically, Chris, it…it has not been a disqualifier to…to the majority of white voters. I do get a sense that that is beginning to change where especially white college educated women, they talk about what’s going on in this country and the…and the division and how… how this is…this can’t continue because…because of the future of their children. I am beginning to get a sense that white people finally are beginning to have some skin in the racism game.
MATTHEWS: I want to bring in Jon Meacham, presidential historian. Hey Jon, thanks for coming in because you’re good on this subject from being from the south, from Suwanee, and you know all about this going back to the days of Andrew Jackson, populism and racism, Trump is a…he always goes back to square one and plays the card. He did it again today; calling himself a victim of a lynching.
JON MEACHAM: He absolutely went to an ancient and troubling trope when he was in trouble. This is a guy who rose to power on the birther conspiracy. He has ridden this terrible American instinct, and it is an American instinct. We do all we can to suppress it, to redeem ourselves from it, but as Fitzgerald wrote, “we’re always born ceaselessly back into it.” And until we confront it, until we talk about it and call it for what it is, we’re going to keep being pushed back into it. This is a country that was founded to…and in many ways, protected slavery is as an institution and for then a century after Appomattox, we enforced apartheid in my part of the world and it’s only been gone and so far as it’s been gone for half a century, just over half a century. And so, this is all the day before yesterday. And what the President has done is tried to undo what minimal progress we’ve made to actually become a more perfect union all for his own personal benefit.
MATTHEWS: Jonathan, do you think he’s that majestic at changing the conversation or he’s just erratic, and he is a bit of a racist?
MATTHEWS: A bit of.
MEACHAM: …both. Yes and yes, unquestionably. I…look, this is in a very important in day not only in this era but arguably in American history. This is like when John Dean testified…
MATTHEWS: Yeah, I agree.
MEACHAM: …in 1973. This is like when the smoking gun tape came out, the transcript which remember and you know well it wasn’t until the very end of the…of a 26-month process that Republicans finally abandoned Nixon. So, there’s a great moral and constitutional test confronting the Republican Party at this hour, which is are you going to believe the testimony of a career civil servant who has no conceivable agenda that I could detect…
MEACHAM: …and has laid out a classic test of…of whether we believe in the rule of law and we honor the Framers? Why is it that conservatives are so in love with the Federalist Papers except when it comes to this? Can someone explain that to me?
MATTHEWS: You know, unelected bureaucrats, you know…
MATTHEWS: …you know, like…
MATTHEWS: …General MacArthur.
MATTHEWS: …General MacArthur. I mean, a lot of people are unelected, it doesn’t make them bad.