Date Night: Chris Matthews Tosses Softballs to Obama
With President Obama’s approval ratings sinking thanks to the failing Obamacare rollout and the unpopular nuclear deal with Iran, Obama broke the media emergency glass to access the MSNBC host Chris Matthews. Matthews, who has compared Obama to Jesus and Henry V, and said that he was “the perfect American,” tossed Obama softball after softball, to which Obama gave stock answer after stock answer.
Matthews began by asking Obama about young people not signing up for health insurance. Obama said they should. Obama then made this stunning statement: “Sometimes on your station, MSNBC, I've been blasted for being too willing to compromise.” This nonsense passed without question from Matthews, who obviously was not in the mood to blast the president with anything but waves of hot love.
Matthews asked a question about National Security Agency surveillance. President Obama defended NSA activities, stating, “The NSA actually does a very good job about not engaging in domestic surveillance, not reading people’s emails.” He then added, wrongly, that outside of American borders, the NSA was “not constrained by laws.”
But that did not prompt a follow-on from Matthews. Instead, Matthews played a clip of John F. Kennedy speaking at American University, obviously attempting to link Obama with JFK. ““How do we get back to that confidence that we can solve our man-made problems and other problems?” Matthews drooled. Obama responded, “I have that confidence,” explaining that America was “on the brink of energy independence,” and stating that America is “still the envy of the world.”
Then Obama turned to the attack, stating that “Congress” is the big problem, since it “spends too much time worrying about the next election and not enough time worrying about the next generation.” Which part of the Congress? Obama explained: “The challenge we’ve got is we’ve got a faction of the Republican Party that sees compromise as a dirty word, that has moved so far to the right that it would be difficult for a Ronald Reagan to win the nomination of the Republican Party at this point.”
Matthews never uttered a word of disagreement. Instead, with all the subtly of a sledgehammer, Matthews goaded Obama on: “You’ve got three and a half more years to deal with this situation.”
And Obama took the bait, stating that in order for big things to happen, he had to have a Congressional majority. “The only thing that’s stopping [progress on issues like immigration] at this point is…a faction in the House Republican Party that is resistant,” Obama stated. He added that he believes that Republicans have “got to be embarrassed.”
Matthews, in full-on history professor mode, then turned to a 1964 poll showing that Americans believed that the federal government did the right thing most of the time. With forlorn hope in his eyes, he asked Obama, “What’s going to arrest that decline in that faith in you doing the right thing?” Obama solemnly intoned, “the cynicism and the skepticism is deep.”
Which brought the interview to the Bash Bush segment. Talking about the glories of the federal government, Obama praised the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Craig Fugate. “He’s really doing a good job, unlike his predecessor,” Matthews agreed, apparently referring to former FEMA head Michael Brown. Obama, picking up on the Bush-bashing, referred back to President Bush’s infamous statement that Brown had done a “heckuva job” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: Fugate, Obama said, was “doing a heckuva job.” That meant, Obama continued, that the federal government was great at doing things, but that the media never covered those wonderful accomplishments – an odd contention given the media’s nonstop coverage of the Obama administration’s handling of Hurricane Sandy just before Election 2012.
But that wasn’t Obama’s point. He wanted to argue that the media wasn’t paying attention to FEMA but was paying attention to the IRS scandal, in which the IRS targeted Tea Party 501(c)(4) organizations. The IRS had targeted those organizations, Obama explained, for “bureaucratic reasons,” and “suddenly everybody is outraged.” Matthews nodded, “501(c)4 law is tricky to begin with.”
Obama continued, “There are a couple million people working for the federal government…Someone at this very moment is screwing something up.” But Obama said that he’d try to rein in all of these nefarious actors: “I have to consistently push…how can we do things better?” He then called for “reorganiziation” of the government, saying that it was designed in 1934-35.
In completing his longwinded answer about why Americans had lost confidence in government, Obama blamed Ronald Reagan, who said government was the problem. That notion, Obama said, was damaging to the country: “Government’s not somebody else. Government’s us.”
Smiling warmly, Matthews then asked, “Let’s talk about the chief executive, you.” He continued, “There’s all kinds of theories about how to be president…There should have been a CEO assigned by you…to oversee the rollout of healthcare.” He finished, “It seemed like there wasn’t a strong, top-down authority structure from you…What is your system?”
Obama said that the failure of Obamacare’s rollout was an outlier. The government, he insisted, had worked beautifully in all of its other aspects under his administration.:“It is important to distinguish between this particular project, where it is obvious that we needed additional controls in place because it didn’t deliver on time the way we wanted, and how we’ve managed incredibly complex problems over the past five years.” Obama then said he’d hold “every cabinet member accountable” – although apparently not Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius – and then laughably added, “I have an open door policy where I want people to be bringing me bad news on time so we can fix things. The challenge I think we have going forward is not so much my personal management style…it actually has to do with what I referred to earlier. We have these big agencies.” That open door policy has meant that according to the White House, Obama was out of the loop on the IRS scandal, the DOJ’s targeting of journalists, the security situation in Libya, and every other scandal undergone by the administration.
Then the interview got truly bad. Matthews read a Twitter question: “What can we do to stop #GOP rigging the vote state by state to disenfranchise our voters & destroy our democracy?”
Without challenging the premise of the question, Matthews then stated, “Everybody knows the game, Republicans often admit the game.” Obama answered by blasting voter ID laws.
Just before the commercial break, Obama wrapped up in typical Obama style: he blamed everyone else. “You may agree with me or disagree with me, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it all ends with me,” he said.
MSNBC then cut to break by playing a segment from Obama’s 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention in a blatant effort to breathe some magic into the wilting commander-in-chief.
Back from break, the awkward date continued. MSNBC played a clip of Obama saying he would run for president in 2007, followed by a clip of a slightly-less-frazzled Matthews, who proclaimed, "This is going to be remembered as a great day in American politics."
Fast forward six years. Matthews hadn’t changed. He proceeded to ask Obama about his newfound focus on income inequality – and then he said that as a Roman Catholic, he found Obama’s redistributionism “So resonant with what the Holy Father…would say.”
Obama then blessed the Pope, stating, “I think Pope Francis is showing himself to be an extraordinarily thoughtful and soulful messenger of peace and justice.”
Finally, Obama turned to the role of government. As it turns out, Obama thinks the government can do virtually everything. Whether “creating the internet” or “curing diseases,” Obama stated, “there are some things we do better together, and we should take pride as a nation in our ability to work in concert.” He said that all of America’s future rested on American buying into the notion of government handling all of our big problems: “In fact the big challenges we have…those are not things that Chris Matthews or Barack Obama can solve for ourselves. By necessity we’re going to have to do those together. If we can at least agree on that…then we can figure out the specific policies and that’s where we can compromise or negotiate.” He then added, as an afterthought, “I won’t compromise” regarding the implementation of Obamacare.
Matthews, thoroughly pleased with how the interview was going, asked President Obama to answer “a little question you might not like to answer”: Hillary or Biden? Obama demurred, but stated that Biden would “go down in history as one of the best vice presidents ever.”
With the interview winding down, Matthews asked Obama the truly substantive question Americans were dying to hear answered: what’s the most important quality in being president? Obama gave his stock answer: “A sense of connection with the American people.” He then compared himself to Lincoln, FDR, Truman, and Kennedy, and added, “The interesting thing about now having been president for five years is it makes you humble as opposed to cockier about what you as an individual can do. You recognize that you’re part of a sweep of history, and your job is to push the boulder up the hill a little bit.”
Matthews finally asked Obama about running for office, praising him to the skies for sticking to politics after losing a Congressional race in 2000. “How many kids here want to go into politics. Are they right?” Matthews asked.
That essay question allowed Obama to wax poetic: “It continues to be a way to serve that I think can be noble. It’s hard. It can be frustrating, you have to have a thick skin.” He then said that he understood why Americans would join a nonprofit or start a business, noting, “We’re not completely government centered.” Then he said that he found it rewarding when people came up to him and said, “My kid’s alive because you passed that healthcare bill.” Really. “It’s pretty hard to get greater satisfaction than that,” he concluded.
The panel of Joy Reid, Howard Fineman, and David Corn then attempted to spin Obama back to the halcyon days of 2007, before he was president, with all three labeling Obama warm, open, and idealistic. Perhaps the only honest moment came from Fineman, who observed that Obama had now moved “from Superman to Sisyphus.”
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013). He is also Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.