On the April 15 broadcast of NBC-syndicated The Chris Matthews Show, Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial page editor Cynthia Tucker claimed that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is "a real libertarian." Tucker also said that McCain is "an Arizona conservative, not an Alabama conservative," presumably a reference to the late Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ). In the same broadcast, host Chris Matthews continued to praise McCain and repeated his claim that McCain "deserves to be president." He also supported Tucker's assertion that McCain is "a real libertarian." However, both Tucker and Matthews ignored McCain's positions on gay rights and abortion, both of which have conflicted with the principles of libertarianism in the past, as Media Matters for America has documented.
After playing a video clip from the October 19, 2002, edition of NBC's Saturday Night Live, hosted by McCain, in which he portrayed then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, Matthews asked: "Has anybody any question as to why the conservatives don't like this guy? ... [T]here he is lampooning one of their guys, talking about a police state and mocking the Patriot Act and the whole works." Tucker replied: "Well, John McCain ... is a real libertarian. He's an Arizona conservative, not an Alabama conservative. But many conservatives believe you don't criticize within the group. That's why they don't like him." Tucker's characterization of McCain as a "real libertarian" echoes that of Republican strategist Michelle Laxalt, who, as Media Matters documented, said that McCain "matches a lot of the maverick, [former President Ronald] Reagan, [former Sen. Paul] Laxalt [R-NV], individualistic, and civil libertarian in many respects." Like Laxalt, Tucker offered no examples of McCain's purported "libertarian[ism]." McCain has a lifetime score of only 23 percent from the American Civil Liberties Union.
Furthermore, this is not the first time Matthews has claimed that McCain "deserves" to be president. On the January 22 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, Matthews said that McCain "has deserved the presidency. Whether he should be president or not, it's up to the voters. But he's certainly done a lot." Media Matters has documented other examples of Matthews praising McCain. For instance, on the February 13 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, Matthews lauded McCain's "maverick reputation" and "the cut of [his] jib." Matthews has also described McCain as "a firm man" and called him "kind of like a Martin Luther."
From the April 15 broadcast of NBC-syndicated The Chris Matthew's Show:
MITCHELL: I think that the maverick image is yesterday, but there is still -- as Dan and the others have been saying -- there's still a place for him in this campaign. It's not as the maverick. I don't think he can campaign as the maverick when he's embraced the Bush agenda and this unpopular war. But he still can try to reclaim that conservative base.
MATTHEWS: OK, let's be unusually brutal on this show, although I think the guy deserves to be president in terms of all his service to the country, and here we are saying he's yesterday's news. Cynthia, can he make it through to February 5th, when we have this tsunami Tuesday and all these big primaries?
TUCKER: I think he will make it until then, Chris, but he may not come out on the other side.
MATTHEWS: Before we go to break, by the way, John McCain's political stardom has also made him a comedy star, whether he's making appearances with Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jon Stewart, or in a cameo in The Wedding Crashers. But McCain really hit the big time when he hosted Saturday Night Live in 2002. In one particular sketch with a familiar-looking host, he pretended to be hard-nosed Attorney General John Ashcroft:
[begin video clip]
DARRELL HAMMOND (actor impersonating Matthews): Attorney General, we're going to start with you. How do we make this country feel safe again?
McCAIN (impersonating Ashcroft): Chris, security starts with vigilance. As Americans, we will never truly be free until each and every one of us is afraid of being thrown into jail. And thanks to the TIPS program, we've been able to detain tens of thousands of potential American terrorists for months at a time for little or no reason, just like the founding fathers dreamed.
[end of video clip]
MATTHEWS: Has anybody any question as to why the conservatives don't like this guy? Cynthia, there he is lampooning one of their guys, talking about a police state and mocking the Patriot Act and the whole works.
TUCKER: Well, John McCain has -- is a real libertarian. He's an Arizona conservative, not an Alabama conservative. But many conservatives believe you don't criticize within the group. That's why they don't like him.
MATTHEWS: I know, and there he is taking Manhattan by storm.