Hardball host Chris Matthews on Wednesday lied about Ronald Reagan's position on taxes in order to justify his bizarre assertion that the late President would consider the current Republican stance on the debt ceiling to be "economic terrorism."
Matthews, who did no fact checking, played a clip provided by the Congressional Progressive Caucus from a September 26 1987 Reagan radio address. In the brief snippet, Reagan was heard asserting that the "United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations."
The left-wing anchor disingenuously spun the famous Republican's words as a future warning against GOP "terrorists": "There he is saying these brinkmanship this trickery around the time of a deadline just to get your way, is sort of economic terrorism." Listening to more at the address, however, debunks Matthews' Democratic talking points.
Reagan also insisted, "You don't need more taxes to balance the budget. Congress needs the discipline to stop spending more, and that can be done with the passage of a constitutional amendment to balance the budget."
At the beginning of the segment, Matthews highlighted a clip of Reagan noting on October 22, 1987, "Well, I am going to meet with leaders of the Senate because it is high time to bring down the deficit, which the Graham/Rudman/Hollings bill is supposed to do for us, towards a balanced budget."
Even though the clip included no reference to taxes, Matthews crowed: "That was, of course, the great Ronald Reagan in his own words back in October of 1987 about raising taxes to deal with the ballooning deficit. Sound familiar? Well today, many Democrats in Congress have picked up on Reagan's comments about raising taxes and are using the most revered of Republican' s words against his own party."
Yet, in that same press conference, here's what Reagan actually said about taxes:
RONALD REAGAN: But let me also point something out that I think all of us ought to understand: why I feel so strongly about the tax situation and resorting to taxes to curb a deficit, when they'll do nothing of the kind. In all these years or these 59 months of expansion, our tax revenues - now I believe that this expansion we're having is largely due to the tax cuts that we implemented early in our Administration. But for all this period of time, the percentage of revenues is about - well it's about 19 percent, every year, of the gross national product.
Now, the gross national product has been increasing in size quite sizably. So that if we're getting revenues that are still 19 percent of that larger gross national product than the smaller, it would indicate that the revenues are sufficient.
Reagan added, "I will say this, with regard to taxes or sources of revenue: we must not do something that has an adverse effect - effect - on the economy."
Clearly, the host distorted the President's words.
Matthews teased the segment by wondering, "Would Reagan even be a Republican today?"
Liberal guest Joan Walsh continued the Democratic talking points, absurdly claiming, "This President, President Obama, who I don't always agree with, either, is actually the Reagan figure here."
Reagan may have compromised on some issues, but to try and portray him as somehow alien or separate from tax-opposed conservatives of today is absurd.
In the last three weeks, Matthews has three times compared the Republicans to terrorists and once said they were the "Wahhabis of American government."
A transcript of the July 20 segment, which aired at 5:20pm EDT, follows:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Coming up, by the way, what would Ronald Reagan make of this fight over the debt ceiling? He signed 18 debt ceiling hikes as President, agreed to multiple increases of taxes over his presidency. Would Reagan even be a Republican today?
MATTHEWS: Joan, I want to respond to this. Here's a video the Democratic caucus has put out on its website right now in which Reagan talks about increasing the debt ceiling. It's very pertinent.
RONALD REAGAN: Congress consistently brings the government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility. This brinkmanship threatens the holders of government bonds, of those who rely on Social Security and veterans benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket. Instability would occur in financial markets and the federal deficit would soar. The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations. It means we have a well-earned representation for reliability and credibility, two things that set us apart from much of the world.
MATTHEWS: Well, Joan, that sounds like ship to shore more than anything else. [The audio on the Reagan clip was now.] It sounded like Reagan underwater there. But, you got his point. There he is saying these brinkmanship this trickery around the time of a deadline just to get your way, is sort of economic terrorism.
JOAN WALSH: Well, right. Well, Reagan was very much a conservative, and I didn't agree with him on much, but he was a pragmatist and a compromiser. And the fact of the matter is, Chris, I heard my friend Michael talk about the Constitution and the Tea Party likes to talk about the Constitution and the founders, but the fact is the Founders didn't agree on very much at all. The Founders argued about a lot of things. And they created a system in which we had to talk to one another and had to compromise. This President, President Obama, who I don't always agree with, either, is actually the Reagan figure here. He is the person saying, you know what? I'm going to disappoint some folks. [Michael Steele starts laughing.] Please don't laugh at me, Michael. I didn't laugh at you.