Which Chris Matthews will interview McCain?

››› ››› RYAN CHIACHIERE

Chris Matthews purports to be "tough" and "blunt" on his show, but he has been effusive on the subject of Sen. John McCain. Matthews recently asked how people could "still think [McCain is] a straight-talk maverick when he's been in league with the president," yet he repeatedly refers to McCain as a "maverick." So, the question is: Which Chris Matthews will show up for his one-hour interview with McCain on the April 15 edition of Hardball?

MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews purports to be "tough" and "blunt" on his show, but he has been effusive on the subject of Sen. John McCain. Matthews recently asked how people could "still think [McCain is] a straight-talk maverick when he's been in league with the president," yet Matthews himself repeatedly refers to McCain as a "maverick." Matthews once praised McCain's "candor" and "honesty" just days after criticizing him for a lack of candor in denying the accuracy of a quote during a presidential debate. On his April 14 show, Matthews described McCain as a "tough customer," who is "always ... at his most impressive the harder the questions," and asked guests John Heilemann, New York Magazine contributing editor, and Chuck Todd, NBC News political director, to send him questions in preparation for his hour-long April 15 Hardball interview with McCain. But Matthews' track record on the subject of McCain raises the following question: Which Chris Matthews will show up for the interview with McCain -- the Chris Matthews who boasts a "tough, fearless," and "blunt" television program or the one who conducts himself as if, in his own words, he "loves McCain"?

  • One Chris Matthews claimed during the January 17 edition of Hardball that his show is "tough, fearless," and "blunt," yet the other, on the July 10, 2007, edition of Hardball, had described having to report on problems in McCain's campaign as the "worst part of my job." On several occasions, that same Matthews has asserted that McCain "deserves to be president" and "deserve[s] the presidency."
  • One Chris Matthews, on the January 29 edition of Hardball, praised McCain's "candor" and "honest[y]" about his knowledge of economics, while the other, just days earlier, during MSNBC's January 24 post-debate coverage of the Republican presidential debate, had noted what he said was McCain's lack of "candor" in denying the accuracy of a quote in which McCain claimed he knows "a lot less about economics" than "military and foreign policy issues." That second Chris Matthews asked of Newsweek's Howard Fineman: "Howard, the 'Straight Talk Express': Did it stall tonight? Was it derailed by his denial of a quote that's on the record?"
  • One Chris Matthews asked, during the April 13 edition of the NBC-syndicated The Chris Matthews Show, how people could "still think he's a straight-talk maverick when he's been in league with the president," while the other referred to McCain as a "maverick" during at least four Hardball broadcasts in the month of March alone.
  • One Chris Matthews said during a discussion of universal health care on the October 3, 2007, edition of Hardball, "Either you're going to pay for this stuff or stop talking about it," adding in reference to leading Democratic presidential candidates, "Why don't they put up their money where their mouth is, and say, 'We're for national health, and damn it, we're going to pay for it. We're going to cut something here. We're going to raise taxes here. It's going to add up.' Why don't they say that?" The other Matthews referred to McCain as a "deficit hawk[]" on the February 4 edition of Hardball, despite McCain's support for extending Bush's tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and opposition to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
  • One Chris Matthews asserted, on the September 21, 2006, edition of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning, "[E]very column I've written from the day they started talking about Iraq has been against it," adding, "I have been a voice out there against this bullshit war from the beginning." While discussing McCain's call for sending additional U.S. troops to Iraq during the November 20, 2006, edition of Hardball, the other Matthews claimed: "[H]e's kind of like a Martin Luther. He's going back and reforming and finding the pure conservative movement. No extra spending, no earmarks, and a very clear idea of going after the enemy like we had right on -- remember when the president was at the rubble on -- right after 9-11 -- that sense of purity and toughness." During the March 23, 2008, edition of The Chris Matthews Show, that same Matthews said of McCain's recent trip to the Middle East: "John McCain was in the Middle East showing off his foreign policy credentials."

From the April 14 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

HEILEMANN: The problem for him is that he is on the wrong side of the public on this issue and has been for quite a long time, as he is also on the wrong side of the public on the question of the economy. And so, the question right now -- I totally agree with Chuck that McCain's -- the reservoir of good feeling toward him from 2000 is very much there. But as David Shuster pointed out, the John McCain of 2008 is very different from the John McCain of 2000, and the Democrats haven't had a chance to start making that case yet, and when they do, things are going to get a lot more difficult for him on both the foreign policy question and the economic question.

MATTHEWS: Well, Chuck and John, send me some questions on email tonight. I'll need them tomorrow at five in the afternoon; I've got to go up against this guy. He is a tough customer. We've had town meetings with him before. He's always, I must say, at his most impressive the harder the questions. So, maybe it'll be a good night for everybody to watch.

From the April 13 edition of NBC-syndicated The Chris Matthews Show:

MATTHEWS: What he's doing, you're saying, is being bigger than the neoconservative movement: "I have more concerns than just terrorism, and at the same time not offending the different branches." Clarence, can he do this? Can he thread this needle we're talking about here, among the people who are ideologically with the president -- part of the Bush doctrine, if you will -- and those moderate Republicans, in the 'burbs, wherever they are, who are looking for something really different?

CLARENCE PAGE (Chicago Tribune columnist): Well, he seems to be pulling it off remarkably well, partly because of the force of his personality and his lack of conventional charisma. People relate to him well and they feel like, well, he is a straight-talker and a guy who really does look at both sides and at least will tell you what he really feels.

MATTHEWS: Why does that survive, that image of the straight-talk guy, after he went back and made up with the religious, the televangelists and those guys, [Pat] Robertson and [Jerry] Falwell? He made some other comments that -- he hugged Bush.

PAGE: Right.

MATTHEWS: How come they forgive him? They still think he's a straight-talk maverick when he's been in league with the president.

From the October 3, 2007, edition of Hardball:

MATTHEWS: All I know is this: that I think that we need a national health care system, and the Democrats say --

PAT BUCHANAN (MSNBC analyst): We got a good one.

MATTHEWS: -- they're for one. But when it comes time to try to create one, they don't even have the guts to finance it. If we're going to have a 200,000 -- or $200 billion health care program like Hillary [Clinton] and the others are talking about, you've got to be willing to finance it. And if all they're going to do is this chiseling number of saying, "Someday, I'll pay this -- raise the cigarette tax" -- that's not exactly a profile in courage, Rachel [Maddow, Air America host].

Either you're going to pay for this stuff or stop talking about it. Hillary and Barack [Obama] and [John] Edwards are all talking about national health care. And all they can think of is some chiseling little cigarette tax they know they'll never pass. Why don't they put up their money where their mouth is, and say, "We're for national health and damn it, we're going to pay for it. We're going to cut something here. We're going to raise taxes here. It's going to add up." Why don't they say that?

From the February 4 edition of Hardball:

MATTHEWS: And now the Hardball "Big Number."

I don't have to tell you that the economy is a key election issue this year. In fact, the president's new budget projects that the deficit will rise to near-record levels this year.

So, how much is the present annual federal spending total? How much is the government going to spend under President Bush? In what he sent to Congress today, $3.1 trillion -- the first budget to ever crack $3 trillion in government spending.

I see an opening for the deficit hawks, like John McCain, on this issue. Anyway, 3.1, that's our number, and a trillion dollars is added to it.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Chris Matthews
Show/Publication
Hardball
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