Matthews: "[I]t's a hard thing for someone like Barack Obama" to express a "gut sense of Americanism"

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

MSNBC's Chris Matthews criticized Sen. Barack Obama's expression of patriotism, asserting that Obama "thank[s] America" because he "got certain things from it," rather than, Matthews claimed, "express[ing]" "that gut sense of Americanism," which, Matthews said, is "a hard thing for someone like Barack Obama ... to express." He also purported to distinguish Obama from "regular" Americans, saying: "People that don't have anything, including beautiful families and Ivy League degrees, know what they got. They're Americans."

In a June 4 appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Hardball host Chris Matthews criticized Sen. Barack Obama's expression of patriotism, asserting that Obama "thank[s] America" because he "got certain things from it," rather than, Matthews claimed, "express[ing]" "that gut sense of Americanism," which, Matthews said, is "a hard thing for someone like Barack Obama, as sophisticated as he is ... to express." Responding to host Joe Scarborough's question on how Obama can connect with "the regular soddy buster guy," Matthews said, "[O]ne thing you don't do is you don't do what he does. You don't thank America for giving you what you got." Matthews then likened Obama to a child thanking his parents: "You don't thank them for giving you a nice school and education. You thank them because they're your parents. ... You love your country -- it's called patriotism."

Matthews went on to say: "And that gut sense of Americanism is deeper than the values we share. It's deeper than democracy. It's deeper than opportunity or freedom. It gets down to your sense of connection. And I think ... it's a hard thing for someone like Barack Obama, as sophisticated as he is ... to express that." Again purporting to distinguish Obama from "regular" Americans, Matthews said: "People that don't have anything, including beautiful families and Ivy League degrees, know what they got. They're Americans."

Matthews also asserted that Obama's "background doesn't include that struggling middle-class experience." As Media Matters for America documented in response to similar comments Matthews made the evening before during MSNBC's election coverage, Obama's autobiography, Dreams from My Father (Crown, 1995), contradicts Matthews' statement that Obama's "background doesn't include that struggling middle-class experience."

As Media Matters has also documented, Matthews has a history of purporting to identify actions by or characteristics of Obama that he has suggested demonstrate that he is not a "regular guy," including playing pool, ordering "weird" beverages like orange juice, and his bowling skills.

From the June 4 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

SCARBOROUGH: So, does all of that follow him into the fall or does he figure out a way to pick up these Hillary Democrats?

MATTHEWS: I think he's got a huge challenge and I don't know if he can meet it. John Kerry couldn't do it. Paul Tsongas couldn't do it. Al Gore couldn't do it.

SCARBOROUGH: How does he do it?

MATTHEWS: It's the connection with the regular person.

SCARBOROUGH: How does he do it? What does he need to do?

MATTHEWS: It is Ronald Reagan -- probably didn't hang out with regular people for 40, 50 years once he got to Hollywood, but he knew how to connect with the regular person. Nixon, in his own way, could connect with the resentments of the regular person.

SCARBOROUGH: They did. So, how --

MATTHEWS: Sometimes, elite liberal Democrats have a problem connecting with the regular soddy buster guy who's got to work his butt off just to pay the bills.

SCARBOROUGH: They do.

MATTHEWS: They leap from poor to rich and skip 80 percent of the country.

SCARBOROUGH: The two guys that --

MATTHEWS: And by the way, his background doesn't include that struggling middle-class experience: tuition bills --

SCARBOROUGH: The two guys --

PAT BUCHANAN (MSNBC analyst): Jack Kennedy and FDR -- both were patricians. Jack Kennedy rolled through West Virginia.

MATTHEWS: And he knew how to do it.

BUCHANAN: FDR of course --

MATTHEWS: He knew how to do it.

BUCHANAN: -- was a Hudson Valley patroon or whatever you want to call it, and he did it.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, Pat, Hillary's worth $100 million --

BUCHANAN: And Hillary's done it.

SCARBOROUGH: -- but she knows how to do it.

BUCHANAN: Hillary is one person that did it.

SCARBOROUGH: So, the question is: How does he do it? Bill Clinton did it. Jimmy Carter --

MATTHEWS: OK, one thing you don't do is you don't do what he does. You don't thank America for giving you what you got, like, I got all these degrees, I got all these advantages, so I thank America. Love of country is not because you got certain things from it. It's not a transaction. You don't thank people for giving you stuff. It's like loving your parents. You don't thank them for giving you a nice school and education. You thank them because they're your parents. They're your parents. You love your country -- it's called patriotism. It's love of fatherland, of country.

I will tell this story I told last night. When I was a Capitol policeman -- my first job on the Hill. It was a patronage job. I hung out with this guy from West Virginia, Leroy Taylor, a real country guy. He had been an MP. He was double-dipper. He was working as a Capitol cop. And he called me aside one time. We would sit around and smoke together, talk about everything together. He said, "You know, Chris," because he figured out I was a college kid, he was right. He said, "Chris, you know why the little guy" -- he meant like himself, the little guy, the guy with not a lot going for him -- "you know why he loves this country? Because it's all he's got." That is so deep. When the guy is broke, and he's hanging around, he loses his wife, his family, everything is going wrong in his life, everything -- not his fault, some things are. And he's got one thing when he gets up in the morning: He's got his country.

BUCHANAN: All right, Chris --

MATTHEWS: And that gut sense of Americanism is deeper than the values we share. It's deeper than democracy. It's deeper than opportunity or freedom. It gets down to your sense of connection. And I think --

SCARBOROUGH: Connects him with the country.

MATTHEWS: -- it's a hard thing for someone like Barack Obama, as sophisticated as he is --

BUCHANAN: You're exactly right.

SCARBOROUGH: I think you're right.

MATTHEWS: -- to express that.

SCARBOROUGH: I think you're right.

BUCHANAN: It goes beyond ideology and philosophy and all that stuff.

MATTHEWS: Right. It's gut.

BUCHANAN: But does Barack Obama, and do Michele and Barack have it?

MATTHEWS: If they have it, they better show it. And I'm not talking about whether he's a good American, because I'm sure he fights for his country, do all the right things. It's this sort of gut thing, that the average guy in Northeast Philly gets, a woman gets -- in Scranton they get it. People that don't have anything, including beautiful families and Ivy League degrees, know what they got. They're Americans.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Chris Matthews
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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