Saturday, November 19, 2011

Chris Matthews Lets the Dogs Out

Chris Matthews recently wrote a book of mythology history of the Kennedy Administration. He's been using this book to no end lately, trying to school our current President in how he should behave, presidentially speaking ... because, you know, Chris should know (nudge nudge wink wink).

I don't know how many invitations Chris has been getting from the usual suspects to plug his book, but I do know that he actually called radio talkshow host Larry Elder to ask that he be interviewed about the book. Elder obliged and did his homework. He read the book and did some extensive research into what various actual historians (and not political hack commentators) have to say about some of the points Matthews raises in the book and, in the course of the interview, actually challenged him. You can listen to the interview in full here.

It's actually embarrassing. I know Elder is a conservative, from the genuinely libertarian (but not Randian sort) branch of the Republican party; but he actually did what a good journalist should be doing all the time. He read the material on which he would be interviewing, found holes, researched these fallacies with reputable historians, and challenged Matthews, accordingly.

Matthews is supposedly a professional journalist, who now identifies himself as Left of centre, but that's debatable. The meltdown, however, was phenomenal; if anything, it emphasized Matthews's weakness, not only as a factual journalist, but also as a professional anything.

This morning, MSNBC's bimbo Alex Witt relayed a recent interview she had with Matthews concerning his book, which has been raising some hackles, to say the least. Here's the portion of the interview which is the most disconcerting. As usual, it's about Matthews's recent conversion to viewing the current President as a pejorative force. Listen carefully, and let me know if the dogs barking in the background bother you at all ...

The brilliant Joy-Ann Reid, in my opinion, one of the best political commentators in the business today presented an analysis of this portion of the interview, after her Twitter time line went tits up in the wake of what Matthews said. I defer to Joy-Ann's better understanding of matters political, but this is the rare occasion in which I have to disagree with her on several points raised.

Apparently, scores of people took umbrage, not only at Matthews's negative demeanor during the interview (which was, indeed, almost bruisingly defensive), but also on some of the coded language Tweety used, which many people thought had racial undertones. The most specific incident occurred near the end of this portion, where Matthews offers up the opinion that the Obamas just aren't happy in the White House. Here is the actual quote, and you can judge for yourself:-

And Mrs. Obama — she’s an amazing asset. But what has she done, obesity? How bout connecting with the American people bout being Americans? I don’t think she’s … I don’t think she’s happy. I don’t think they like being in the White House. and the American people can tell that. They don’t seem thrilled at the fact that the American people have selected them as our first family. I don’t sense the gratitude, the happiness level. the thrill of being president. Bill Clinton loved being president every minute and you knew it. … and that’s what the American people like. they like knowing their president’s happy.

First of all, I am white. Secondly, I am a woman. Thirdly, and most importantly, I am a Southerner. Got that? A white, Southern woman read that remark, and before reading it, I heard it in the interview. Immediately I did, dogs started barking in my brain.

Here is where Joy-Ann and I part ways in opinion. She saw nothing racist at all in this statement, even admonishing African-Americans not to flag everything as racist because a white person said it; I, on the other hand, heard dog whistles. In fact, I heard dog whistles throughout this interview.

Yes, I did sense the subtle undercurrent in Chris's "gratitude" comment. The tone of his voice said what his words didn't: Here we have this sullen black family, giving themselves airs, and showing reluctance at interacting with the American people, when they should bloody well be grateful for our giving them the opportunity to live in the White House.

You know, more than anything, I've seen both the Obamas taking it to the people and connecting just fine; and Mrs Obama has done significantly more than just "tackle obesity" (which is a big problem in the United States). She's done a lot of quiet work behind the scenes supporting military families. Maybe Chris would have preferred she raid the treasury of tax funds to re-decorate the White House from top to bottom in period antiques and patronise French fashion houses like Jacqueline Kennedy did, or maybe she should take one step further in emulating her and have an affair with a film star - you know, someone like Denzel Washington or George Clooney. They're both Democrats and have won Oscars, to boot.

One of the questions Alex Witt leveled at Matthews positively dripped with dog whistles in what was implied, what was left unsaid, and Matthews obligingly rose to the bait, leaving something not spoken hanging pendulously over the discourse:-

ALEX WITT: You say nations die or thrive on the ability and judgment of their leaders to stir them at perilous times. does Barack Obama have that ability, to pass the proper judgment, to properly analyze and to stir this nation at dire times?
CHRIS MATTHEWS: He has great analytical ability, clearly he has made the right judgments in his executive leadership. he has moved us very effectively in defense, in fighting terrorism. … I’m not sure he’s able to move the country. he had that ability as a candidate, and then the day he was inaugurated, with the Mall filled with people, African-Americans and everyone else, he sent us all home … it was the worst mistake of his presidency. The day he got inaugurated, he sent us all home and said, ‘thank you now watch how smart I am.’

That’s the worst kind of notion of the presidency. The presidency is not about being smart. Most of our great presidents have not been all that brilliant. Kennedy wasn’t brilliant, Roosevelt certainly wasn’t brilliant, Truman wasn’t; but what they did is they led the American people … they led us! This is so simple. If I could say one thing to Barack Obama, it’s ‘stop showing us how smart you are and lead us!’ Ask us to do something. Pull us behind you. Enlist us in the service or our country. Ask us to do something. There is no Peace Corps, there is no special forces. There is no 50 mile hikes. There’s no moon program. There’s nothing to root for. What are we trying to do in this administration? Why does he want a second term, would he tell us? What is he going to do in a second term, more of this? Is this it? Is this as good as it gets? Where we going? We gonna do something in a second term?

He’s yet to tell us. He has not said one thing about what he’d do in a second term. He never tells us what he’s going to do with reforming our healthcare systems: Medicare, Medicaid … how he’s going to reform Social Security. Is he going to deal with long term debt? how? Is he going to reform the tax system? How? Just tell us. Why are we in this fight with him? Just tell us, commander, give us our orders and tell us where we’re going. Give us the mission. And he hasn’t done it.

This response is filled to the brim with coded language. Simply put, Matthews thinks the President is uppity. He's deriding this guy's intelligence, and he's sending out a spin that's anything but what the President asked us to do in his inaugural address. And he has asked the American people, repeatedly, to do something; the problem is, this man inherited a shitstorm which has been brewing for 30 years, and people, Matthews, now, included, although he should know better, expect a Magic Negro to wave a wand and restore us to the plastic prosperity we were made to believe was real for the past three decades.

People need to realise that Bagger Vance didn't really exist, and neither does Barack, the Magic Negro.

The President speaks to adults, when we are really a nation of stunted adolescents. He asks us to do things spoiled brats normally wouldn't want to do - make sacrifices. He speaks directly to the American people, when he can't bridge the intransigence of a Congress, the majority of whom should be primaried, and asks that citizens contact their representatives. This is really what we're supposed to do. After all, we elect these people to represent us.

When the President broached healthcare reform, he saddled Congress with the task. That's actually what Congress is supposed to do: legislate. Or maybe Chris has forgotten what happened when the last Democratic President sent the First Lady to Capitol Hill with a fully written draft of healthcare legislation, with the message to "pass it." A Democratic Congress handed him his ass.

And Chris wants the President to be happy? Seriously? He steps out for a two-hour round of golf on a Saturday afternoon, and he's criticized. The family go on holiday in August, and they're told they're being frivolous. Yet, according to Chris, Americans want to see a happy President - like Reagan, like Clinton ... like Dubya Bush. That's right. Like Bill Clinton, another one of Chris's man crushes, who revelled in being President. The man who Chris once gushed was "President of the World."

So how many people remember when Chris Matthews was amongst the most vociferous critics of Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky period? Well, Media Matters remembers.

And how many people remember that Chris Matthews, who calls himself a Democrat, not only voted for Dubya Bush twice, he became the biggest Bush cheerleader at MSNBC, right up until 2007, when the Democrats retook Congress and Bush's Lame Duck period well and truly set in. In other words, when it was safe and fashionable to jump on the anti-Bush bandwagon, Chris did so, and he was one of the last to claim a seat. Huffington, Ed Schultz, Cenk and Markos Moulitsas all booked passage in 2005. Still there was room for Chris.

But back to Clinton, who now sends Chris into such paroxyms of political orgasms to the extent that Matthews still refers to him as "the President," cop this little exchange from late 2000, when a much younger Matthews was cosying up to Libertarian P J O'Rourke. Listen as Matthews describes Clinton as a "conniver" and someone "without class," whilst Bush is someone viewed positively:-

Succinctly, Matthews is shallow. He's a Gone-with-the-Wind political commentator in more ways than one. Firstly, whichever way the political wind blows, Matthews leans with it, and he's chosen to follow the trendies on the Professional Left in pushing the meme of Obama's inadequacy. That meme's become a mineswell of new coded language: "the President is just like Bush," "he doesn't follow Democratic principles," "he's a tool of Wall Street," all replace "community schools" and "enforced busing" from another age and "nigger" from still another.

Gabriel Sherman, writing in New York Magazine last year, brilliantly charts the chameleon and opportunistic nature of Matthews, the "journalist", coupled with professional jealousy of the pettiest type:-

Tim Russert, then NBC News’s Washington bureau chief and moderator of Meet the Press, was an Olympian figure inside NBC News, an information hub, a kingmaker, and the scorekeeper to official Washington. To Russert, the rise of a freewheeling cable channel attached to NBC News was worrisome. In response to Chris Matthews’s relentless attacks on the Clintons following the Lewinsky scandal, the White House had threatened to pull guests off Meet the Press. Congressmen would complain, too. “Then Tim would call Andy Lack or Tom Brokaw and say, ‘What the hell?’ ” the executive recalls. Brokaw would often call Griffin and tell him to rein in Matthews. Around this time, G.E. CEO Immelt confronted NBC News head Neal Shapiro. “MSNBC is a dot on the side of a pool ball,” Immelt told Shapiro, “but it’s embarrassing. I don’t like being No. 3.” And with the surge in patriotism following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, NBC CEO Bob Wright told Shapiro that MSNBC should try and outflank Fox on the right. “We have to be more conservative then they are,” Wright told Shapiro pointedly. Swirling graphics of the American flag soon became a fixture on the network along with the tagline “America’s News Channel.”

And nobody became a bigger flag waver for the news media and a bigger champion of Bush than Chris Matthews. Chris, in fact, became a veritable culler of liberal voices at MSNBC in the wake of the 9/11 agenda, as Sherman notes in his dispensing of Phil Donahue:-

Despite the network’s emphasis on flag waving, MSNBC showed how little it understood the Fox model when, with Griffin as MSNBC’s prime time head, it hired the liberal Phil Donahue, who’d been Griffin’s childhood idol, out of retirement in April 2002 to anchor an 8 p.m. prime-time talk show that would challenge O’Reilly. The show debuted with the highest ratings ever for an MSNBC program, attracting more than a million viewers in its first night. But within a month, the audience was cut in half. At the same time, executives expressed increasing unease about his vocal opposition to the looming war in Iraq. At a time when red-meat patriotism prevailed, Donahue booked antiwar guests like Michael Moore, Rosie O’Donnell, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins. Soon the Donahue problem threatened Griffin’s job. In a tense phone conversation, Shapiro told MSNBC president Erik Sorenson to fire Griffin, but Sorenson pushed back.

“I’m not going to do that,” he told Shapiro. “No. 1: Phil’s been loyal to me for a long time. I don’t think it’s right. And No. 2: We’re short-handed. We have all this talent, and he’s the one who’s managing it.”

As a compromise, Griffin’s job was spared but he was stripped of responsibility for the show. The new producer insisted on a precise numerical balance between liberals and conservatives. Donahue’s problems only increased when Chris Matthews let it be known that he wanted Donahue off the air. Matthews was a rising force at the network, with a reported salary of $5 million. He cultivated former G.E. CEO Jack Welch and had the ear of NBC CEO Bob Wright (the two summered together on Nantucket). Matthews saw himself as MSNBC’s biggest star, and he was upset that the network was pumping significant resources into Donahue’s show. In the fall of 2002, U.S. News & World Report ran a gossip item that had Matthews saying over lunch in Washington that if Donahue stays on the air, he could bring down the network.

After the item was published, Matthews showed up at Donahue’s office and apologized. “He didn’t deny it,” Donahue remembers.
With the war looming, Sorenson and Griffin decided to take him off the air to make way for 24/7 war coverage. (Matthews told me he had nothing to do with the decision.) For Griffin, the firing of his childhood idol was a painful experience. “The guy that got me into TV probably hates my guts, and I wish he didn’t because I love the guy,” Griffin says.

Oh, and Media Matters, yet again, pointedly remembers the more than numerous occasions between 2001 and 2007 that Matthews, on MSNBC, went out of his way to praise, not only Bush, but the Republicans in general. You can watch Matthews have a giggle with a sober (as in he looks less orange) John Boehner and trash Hillary Clinton here

In case you don't have the time or inclination to click on the link, here's a summary of the interview, from March 2006:-

On the March 6 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews interviewed newly elected House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and KT McFarland, a candidate for the Republican nomination to challenge Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) in New York's 2006 U.S. Senate race. But rather than asking his Republican guests "hardball" questions, Matthews repeatedly praised them, remarking that he was "proud" of Boehner and "can see this man's greatness," and describing McFarland as a "delightful candidate" who will "probably do very well in this uphill battle as the underdog." Matthews also used his interview with Boehner as a platform to attack Clinton, claiming that "people will say" she is "Dukakis in a dress" -- a reference to unsuccessful 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis -- and pushing Boehner, unsuccessfully, to call her a "socialist."

And here's where Chris calls Bush a wise man and likens him to Atticus Finch (also another fictitious character). Or how about this one from 2005, when Matthews praised not only Bush, but Cheney and derided Democrats as carpers and complainers?

Here's an even funnier one. Consider this: in late 2005, when people had finally woken up to the asshat George W Bush was, when Bush's ratings were spiralling downward into the lower forties, Matthews and news bimbo Norah O'Donnell (then with MSNBC) gushed about how everyone really really really really REALLY liked Bush and how great he was at connecting with the people.

Like ... duh ... seriously, and this is the same man who shits on Barack Obama's similar-but-not-as-low ratings, pushing the emphasis that he's unpopular. And here's one where Matthews compares Bush to Santa Claus, "always happy and generous."

But, of course, Matthews's shining glory moment was the Mission Accomplished-Bush-in-a-codpiece one he shared with no less than Ann Coulter.

Do you get my point about Chris?

He's been looking for an excuse to dump Obama since the Professional Left and his fellow Celtic BFF Bill Maher began the wanton criticism and lies in earnest; now that it appears that Mitt Romney just may secure the GOP nomination eventually,Chris won't have to marvel at forgetting the President is black, because he won't be black (he hopes). He's sly enough to realise that it's easier to blame the black guy and to prey on his demographic's short-term memory of Bubba Clinton presiding over a healthy economy (and cutting welfare and signin NAFTA and repealing Glass-Steagall) and they mythical hero, John Kennedy, who really accomplished little short of nothing in his two-and-a-bit years in office.

What the hell, they were white; and that's the real dog whistle I'm hearing Chris Matthews blow, repeatedly. Others hear it too, and if this President is defeated, part of the blame for imparting deliberate misinformation must lie with Chris Matthews's own particular brandn of blow job.


  1. Tweeted! A must read! Thanks, again, Emilia.

  2. Thank you, Emilia. I needed this tonight. I was so angry with CM that I became physically ill.

    I appreciate the history and the perspective. It helped a lot.

  3. this is an absolutely wonderful post. you are so on point...

    thank you
    thank you
    thank you

  4. Excellent piece. Your information and timeline just confirmed what I already suspected - Chris Matthews is a narrow-minded ignorant windbag,who shape shifts to suit his own purposes. He showed his a$$ today and that will not be forgotten.

  5. Magnificent Emilia, just magnificent. Thank you.


  6. Ah, my dear, you are thoroughly and completely spot-on as usual! I love the way you research your positions.

    Thank you

  7. Simply beautiful! Thank You!

  8. A-MEN!!!

    I hope this gets wider dissemination. It gives perfect voice to my gut!

  9. Thank you. You hit the nail on the head about what alot of us have been saying about Matthews for awhile now. You always gave Joy some history about Matthews. See when alot of us comment after Alex interview with Matthews we all heard the dog whistle but it is ashame that some in the media dont have the guts to call it what it is. They are scared to but enough is enough time to cl them out & stop being afraid. If we can sit here and call GOP out on the dog whistling we need to have the guts to call out the PL dog whistles. Again Thank you for the truth.

  10. I faithfully watch Chris Mathew "HardBall" I try to watch at 4 & repeat at 6 Central Time but after watching Alex Witt this morning.....I'm done. And this would probably shock my family but it will be long time before I watch him. He's ignorant and arrogant to the point that hopefully he would join his brothers and other members of his family......and switch as a Republican. Thanks to the writer of this article you was right on point.

  11. thank you thank you for writing this. Mr. Matthews is stuck in the 20th century. I say let him stay there.

  12. I too am done with Matthews...have put up with his BS for many years for the occasional lucid and left of center hat tip, but his "interview" with Witt was a bridge too far for me. I have never in my life seen a more disgusting display of book shilling than these past few weeks, built on, I guess, the thesis that Pres. Obama is no Kennedy...geez, never thought anyone could make me begin to dislike JFK! Matthews has managed that feat. Oh, and thank you for this article...well done, bravo!

  13. Never will watch Chris Matthews again, he's shown his true color.

  14. Gwen Iffil was asked about her BIAS for then Sen Obama while moderating a VP debate between Biden and Palin in 2008. No person of color would be tolerated to question out loud, a Bush or a Clinton in such manner. None.

    Yet No one dare to question the Obvious racial and disparaging, bigoted tones these middle aged white men, like Matthews bestow on pres Obama. And Matthews has the gull to run a promo attacking TBGOPers on their questioning of this president's Americana?

    212-664-4444, call MSNBC and register your displeasure to this type of bigotry.