Chris Matthews again characterized Sen. John McCain as "a maverick," without providing any justification, adding that "everyone knows he's a solo fighter pilot out there." Matthews also asked Republican strategist Ed Rogers if Rogers's description of Republicans as "a pretty conservative lot, when it gets down to our activists and our workers," would "exclude John McCain."
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On the March 14 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, host Chris Matthews again characterized Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) as "a maverick," adding that "everyone knows he's a solo fighter pilot out there." Matthews also asked Republican strategist Ed Rogers, who served as deputy assistant to former President George H.W. Bush and worked in the Reagan White House in the Office of Political Affairs, if Rogers's description of Republicans as "a pretty conservative lot, when it gets down to our ... activists and our workers," would "exclude John McCain." Media Matters for America has previously noted other examples (here and here), in which Matthews and his guests repeatedly characterized McCain as a "maverick," without providing any justification.
Matthews made his comments during a discussion of the March 9-12 Southern Republican Leadership Conference (SRLC), at which McCain expressed support for President Bush and asked attendees voting in a presidential straw poll to not vote for him but to cast ballots for Bush instead. Matthews's "solo fighter pilot" comment echoed a similar statement made by Cook Political Report editor and publisher Charlie Cook on the March 10 edition of Hardball. In response to Matthews asking if "Republicans don't trust McCain" because of his "lone-gunning," Cook remarked that "the Navy didn't put him in a single-seat fighter for nothing."
From the 7:00 p.m. ET hour of the March 10 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: During the 5 o'clock show, a couple of young people here said -- I said, "Well, if your guy [Senate Majority Leader Bill] Frist [R-TN] doesn't win, would you vote for McCain if he won the nomination?" "No."
COOK: Well, the thing is, this is a party that's despondent. Their president is not doing well. He's disappointed them a little bit. They want to be up about something. And the idea of the 2008 race, all these new contenders, they were getting up for something, and now someone snatches the ball away from them and, as you said a few minutes ago, throws it out of bounds. I mean, so it's a little, "Oh, gosh, why did he do that?" This was going to be fun. Why don't we look forward rather than backwards?
MATTHEWS: Is this, Charlie, why Republicans don't trust McCain?
COOK: Yeah. Yeah.
MATTHEWS: This lone-gunning.
COOK: Well, you know -- look, the Navy didn't put him in a single-seat fighter for nothing. I mean --
MATTHEWS: You are cruel.
MATTHEWS: What was interesting, Ed Rogers, and you're the Republican at this panel here, was that John McCain, who everyone knows is a maverick, and everyone knows he's a solo fighter pilot out there, was the biggest lovey-dovey there was there with the president [Bush did not actually attend the SRLC]. What's the peppermint twins all about here?
ROGERS: In case you didn't notice, that's the maverick position right now. I mean, for better or for worse, everybody running for president right now --
MATTHEWS: -- is running away from (inaudible) --
ROGERS: -- is trying to show their independence and trying to show that they're not just more of the same, but they have some sort of independent bearing and presence. McCain is probably the only person with the self-confidence to not have -- and the credibility to not have -- and the history to not have to do that.
MATTHEWS: You know, a nice big dog comes up against your side and rubs up against you, that's what he was doing this weekend with the president.
MATTHEWS: You know what I saw, Ed, that might concern Republicans? I saw a lot of fundamentalism on politics, hard line on abortion, hard line on gay rights, gay marriage, hard line on immigration, hard line on taxes. I heard a lot of fundamentalism down there that might exclude a lot of the "middle-of-the-roaders" and independents, even against [Sen.] Hillary [Rodham Clinton] [D-NY]. I mean, your party may be making the tent too small.
ROGERS: Chris, you have to have enough time with Republican primary precinct workers if that was -- if that was news to you, that we're a pretty conservative lot, when it gets down to our -- our activists and our workers, no question about it.
MATTHEWS: Does that exclude [former New York Mayor] Rudy [Giuliani], does that exclude John McCain?
ROGERS: I don't think it excludes anybody at this point in time. We've got about 10 months before a front-runner emerges, and so, we'll see.