04/05/2006 03:54 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Chris Matthews to DeLay: "I Owe You One."

Last night's "Hardball" with Chris Matthews was anything but, as Chris Matthews lobbed spin-serving softballs to Tom DeLay about his resignation, such as "Do you believe if you were a secular politician who had never expressed his religious faith that you would have been less of a target to the Democrats?" and "Do you believe that in the general judgment, when people are all called before God, that Democrats will be found one thing and Republicans will not?" and, my personal favorite, "So if you did something wrong, you weren't involved in it?" Sheesh.

Funnily enough, that's not the most shocking part of the program. The most shocking part of the program is what wasn't on the air — but was caught on tape. There we see Matthews fawning over DeLay, thanking him for giving him the scoop on his resignation the previous night, dropping his voice conspiratorially to tell him about some hot new focus group information — "great stuff" — about a slew of Democratic candidates, and, at the conclusion of the interview, thanking DeLay yet again, as follows:

MATTHEWS: Thanks. I owe you one. I owe you two — today and last night.

DELAY: (looking pleased) No you don't.


DELAY: I appreciate it.

"I owe you one?" Who is this guy? Is he a legitimate journalist or a party operative? It's one thing to have opinions but it is another thing entirely to blatantly curry favor with ethics-tainted politicians that ought to be under your journalistic scrutiny. We're not even talking softballs here, we're talking White Sox circa 1919.

Matthews has treated DeLay with these kid gloves before: earlier this year when he asked him "Why do these rank and file Democrats make you a target? Why do they hate you?" (let's see, there, Chris, how long you got?) and "How do you tell people down here [in Texas] that have voted for you all these times, that this problem is purely partisan?" and "You're not in this business for the money. You live modestly.... What drives you every day?" Or, just to mix it up a bit, spinning the Abramoff imbroglio on MSNBC: "I'm not sure it's partisan. I'm not sure people are going to see him as part of any Republican culture of corruption. I think Duke Cunningham also was sort of a lone wolf in that department."

The truth is, Matthews has been treating DeLay like he "owes him one" for a while now. Still, to see it put out there, blatantly, right after such a slobberingly positive interview is a shock to anyone who still happens to believe that "Hardball" is about serious news and legitimate political analysis. And it certainly ought to be beyond the pale for anyone who calls themselves a journalist (and Chris Matthews does - see his bio. He's actually an award-winning journalist, and damn well knows better). This kind of pandering is unacceptable for a show that purports to be about journalism — and definitely for one that calls itself "Hardball."

p.s. There is a whole other post to be written on Tom DeLay's comment about Hillary Clinton: "Nothing worse than a woman know-it-all." (To which I and about a zillion other women have this succinct two-word response: TRY ME). Even better, DeLay, why don't you try fellow Republican Bill Napoli? I'm sure he can think of something.