I've been watching Chris Matthews for a while. I like him. I liked the "thrill up my leg" comment he made during one of Barack Obama's campaign speeches. I like his brash, direct questions and sarcasm when he's interviewing someone he finds frustrating. I like the way he defended his "thrill up my leg" comment to CNN's John King, saying:
Perhaps I shouldn't have said so because I've given a lot of jackasses the chance to talk about it. So I hope you feel satisfied that you raised the most obvious question that is raised by every horse's ass right winger that I ever bump into. Thank you, Steve, for serving up that little soufflé you have been working on since last night sometime when your brain exploded with this idea that you were going to ask me about it.
That my friends is snark from a well-educated man who knows how to verbally defend himself. That's what happens when you have a black belt in character assassination.
What I haven't liked is the pot shots he's taking at Bernie Sanders and the way he feigns ignorance to Bernie Sanders' political leanings. Not because I'm a Sanders supporter, but because Matthews is a journalist and what he's doing is unprofessional.
Early in the campaign, Matthews consistently referred to Sanders as "the Socialist from Ben and Jerry's country up there in Vermont." The eye rolls were obvious, and the lack of interest was palpable. During a recent episode of his "Hardball" show Matthews, asked for an explanation of what a "Democratic Socialist" is -- the term Sanders uses to describe himself. Matthews, who seems to have a personal vendetta with Sanders, read Webster's definition of "Socialism" on the air:
Full Definition of socialism
1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2: a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
3: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done
Chris Matthews is a very well educated guy and has been working in and around politics for decades. If he really doesn't know what it means to be a Democratic Socialist, he has ample access to the resources that could explain it to him. He could ask any of the millions of voters lining up to vote for Sanders or use the full fury of the MSNBC machine and have Sanders on.
But why do that when you can have Hillary Clinton on and feed her a long, rambling leading question chock full of plenty of meaty chunks for her to sink her teeth into:
I'm going to say this bluntly. The only person standing between a confirmed socialist who is calling for political revolution in this country winning the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party, which has always been more moderate than that, is you. So, when you saw that rally last night, the young people all around Senator Sanders, when he yelled "revolution" out there, and they all applauded like mad, do you think that's going to help in the general election or is it what we used to call in the Sixties an NDC candidacy--"November Doesn't Count"--we just want to win the party, we don't care about the general. You seem to be focused on the general. How do you beat a person who comes along in the primaries who says, 'I'm going to give you everything you want: free tuition, more Social Security benefits, no increase in your taxes, free health-care from birth, all of it government-paid.' How do you compete with a revolution? A revolution of promises, really.
HRC didn't disappoint and, after throwing out a few compliments, she got down to the business of skinning the carcass:
I do think we have an obligation to keep people focused on what's at stake. We can't let the Republicans rip away the progress we have made. We can't let them go back to trickle-down economics, repeal the Affordable Care Act. We can't let them stack the Supreme Court for another generation. We've got to get back to the middle. We've got to get back to the big center and solving problems. That's how we make progress in America. I'm proud to be in a line of Democratic presidents who just got in there and fought it out...I know how hard it is, and I totally appreciate how exciting it can be to be involved in a campaign that really just puts out these great big ideas. But I want folks to just stop and think, no matter what age you are, OK, we agree on getting the economy going. We agree on raising income. We agree on combating climate change. We agree on universal health-care. Who has the track record? Who's got things done? Who can actually produce the results you want for you and your family, and for our country?
At one point during an appearance, Matthews went so far as to question Sanders' faith, saying, "He's a Socialist, I assumed he was an atheist."
Matthews has been accused by Bernie Sanders supporters of being blatantly one-sided in favor of Hillary and against Bernie Sanders. So much so that thousands of progressives have signed a petition calling for MSNBC to suspend the host of "Hardball" "because of his constant shilling for Hillary Clinton."
Even Charles Pierce from Esquire, who is an MSNBC contributor, said "This Is Not the Way the Democratic Campaign Should Be Conducted." We'll see how long it is before he's back in front of the camera.
All that said, research by "The Daily Caller" has turned up some evidence that Hillary's biggest donors are backing Matthews' wife, Kathleen Matthews, in a congressional race in Maryland. Many of them don't even live in the same state, much less the same district, that Matthews is seeking to represent.
The article reads:
Many of Matthews' biggest donors have close ties to either the Clinton foundation or the Clintons themselves. As noted by Bloomberg two years ago, 12 families have donated to every single Clinton campaign and charity. Of the 12 families, the two families that have donated the most to the Clintons are both funding Matthews' campaign. Four families from Bloomberg's list of biggest Clinton donors have given to the Matthews' campaign. None of the four live in Maryland, where Matthews is actually running.
If that's the case, Matthews is clearly favoring Clinton and blatantly, as the petition says, shilling for Clinton; and it's a low point for Matthews and MSNBC.
I'm pretty sure Matthews watches "Saturday Night Live," and if he does, he would have seen Bernie Sanders explaining very clearly what Democratic Socialism is. Or, he could have Sanders on his show and hear it from the "self-described Democratic Socialist" horse's mouth (Here's the video of Sanders on SNL). Hell, if he's confused, he could even ask him some questions.
Tony Trupiano and I discussed the Matthews phenomenon on the T&Z Talk podcast Wednesday morning along with the results of the New Hampshire Primary.