07/06/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Matthews v. Burris: The Tale of the Tape

In his recent interview with Roland Burris, Chris Matthews conducted himself not as a fair-minded journalist but a prosecutor who believes it's okay to conceal exculpatory evidence to win a case.

Like everyone else who has been sucked in by a lynch mob mentality at Burris's expense, Matthews simply ignored that it was completely routine for Robert Blagojevich, brother of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, to have sought a campaign contribution from Burris in a telephone conversation.

Matthews also turned a blind eye to it being only natural for Burris to make sure he didn't anger the governor by too harshly turning down the requested financial support. But acknowledging the normalcy of that conversation would have undercut Matthews' fantastical interpretation that an illicit plan was evident.

It also wouldn't have helped Matthews make his case if he had mentioned that Burris had been avoiding the Blagojevich brothers for some time, which apparently he had been.

Ironically, Matthews is the one who has been exposed as a liar. The loquacious pundit - known for the occasional thrill running up his leg - repeatedly claimed Burris had "promised" to donate his own money to the Blagojevich campaign, and get his firm to hold a fundraiser for the governor. In reality, Burris, after explaining that his firm had considered (past tense) holding a fundraiser but could and would not do so, only said (vaguely, in response to persistent soliciting) he would "personally do something" for the campaign. Matthews nonetheless kept insisting throughout the interview that Burris had said his partner and firm "will" raise funds.

The following excerpts from the Matthews/Burris interview and Burris/Blagojevich conversation, reveals Matthews as more truth-challenged than Burris:

MATTHEWS: "We've just got an FBI tape...which includes...a clear statement by Burris that he will give to the governor's campaign personally and hold a fundraiser to raise more funds under the name of his law partner...Here you are promising personal money...and also promising a blind fundraiser through the law firm using your partner's name...It just seems, Senator, like you're...saying, 'Buddy if I raise you this money, I better well get the seat.' Because I don't know how else to read it...Why did you promise him to go to your law partner and have him, or rather Tim Wright, hold a fundraiser in his name...?"

BURRIS (from the interview): "I did not intend to hold a fundraiser for the governor's brother. We were seeking to placate the governor's brother because at that time, it was my intention not to alienate the governor's brother. That's all."

BURRIS (from his conversation with Robert Blagojevich): "I said I gotta call you...I have not...'Cause I don't know how to deal with this situation...Maybe I can join in one of those events, too...[Business is] terrible...We have no clients renewing for '09. Fred is dying on the vine...And anything I give would be out of my personal funds...because there ain't nothing coming in from the business...I will personally do something...before the 15th of December."

A politician who's really in the process of buying a senate seat, wouldn't expect to accomplish his objective by failing to return the broker's calls, dwelling on why he shouldn't make the deal, and ultimately "agreeing" to do nothing more than make a future campaign donation of unspecified size. So why would any reasonable person conclude that such intermittent and indeterminate communications indicate a major quid pro quo is in the works?

In view of all the outrageous, systemic corruption polluting politics and our culture, it's astounding that so many people see Burris as especially sleazy and are calling for his ouster. What happened between the Blagojevich brothers and Burris is just business as usual, and unless truly incriminating evidence surfaces henceforth, only slightly unsavory.

When Burris testified before the Illinois legislature in January, he knew he was facing lawmakers who wanted to find a way to stop Gov. Blagojevich from appointing anyone to the U.S. Senate, even though Blagojevich was authorized and obligated to make the appointment. Confronted with such an improper and adversarial agenda, it's understandable that Burris would refrain from volunteering information that might be misinterpreted to his detriment.

Now we have Matthews on his high horse railing at Burris for having supposedly committed a grave ethical breach. What a convenient way for a media insider who thrives on incestuous careerism to pretend he would never participate in any sort of pay to play arrangement.

Click here for the audio recording and transcript of the Burris/Blagojevich telephone conversation.

Click here for Burris's testimony before the Illinois House of Representatives Impeachment Committee.

Jeff Norman blogs at