Matthews says Republicans had "a lot of fun" with contraceptives issue in recovery bill -- but so did Matthews

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

Chris Matthews said that Republicans "got some of their blood thirst going here when they learned that they could score when John Boehner went after the condoms in the -- condoms in the -- in the House version" of the recovery bill, adding that "it was a lot of fun for the Republicans to say contraception shouldn't be one of the pieces of this stimulus package." But Matthews himself also repeatedly raised, criticized, and on at least one occasion misrepresented the section of the bill dealing with contraceptives on Hardball.

During the February 5 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews said that Republicans "got some of their blood thirst going here when they learned that they could score when [House Minority Leader] John Boehner [R-OH] went after the condoms in the -- condoms in the -- in the House version," presumably a reference to a since-removed provision in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that would have made it easier for states to use Medicaid funding for family planning services. Matthews then added: "Now, that may seem like a small part of the bill, but it was a lot of fun for the Republicans to say contraception shouldn't be one of the pieces of this stimulus package." However, it wasn't just Republicans who had "a lot of fun" with the issue -- Matthews himself repeatedly raised, criticized, and on at least one occasion misrepresented the family planning section of the bill on his program, calling it a "ton of money," "a balloon-head solution ... literally balloon-head," "malarkey," and part of "a bag of M&Ms."

Matthews also misrepresented the issue, saying that it would allow Washington to "regulate the number of kids people might be in the mood for."

Examples of Matthews raising the issue of contraceptives in connection with the recovery plan on Hardball include the following:

  • On January 23, Matthews asked Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA): "What is wrong with the Barack package? Is it the sundry nature of some of the spending stuff in it -- like the condoms in there, that stuff?" Bilbray replied, in part: "Remember, what happened is, it's become a grab bag, just like Washington always does. You just use a crisis as an excuse to throw all this stuff in." Matthews responded: "All this contraceptive relief and all that stuff, you think it's just a Christmas tree?" to which Bilbray said, "Christmas -- well, it's not just that. I mean, there's -- there's all kinds of other things."
  • On January 27, Matthews opened his show by misrepresenting the family planning provision in the bill. Matthews stated: "Leading off tonight: Leave the kids out of this. Barack Obama gets Democrats in Congress to drop contraception from his big stimulus bill. It turns out the idea of getting people to have fewer children didn't sell as national policy. Maybe people don't like Washington, which has done such a bang-up job regulating the sharpies on Wall Street, to decide it's now time to regulate the number of kids people might be in the mood for." Matthews later asked Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN): "Lets talk about, Congressman, what you don't want in and what you want in that's not in. What about these contraceptive -- this whole condom thing? The president apparently called [Rep.] Henry Waxman [D-CA], the chair of the committee that put that stuff in, and says, 'Yank it out of there.' Was that a smart move to get that embarrassment out of the bill?" Pence replied: "Well, sure, it was a smart move, and it was especially smart when Republican leader John Boehner raised the issue at the White House on Friday and the American people were outraged over the weekend, Chris. But taking out the couple of hundred million bucks for contraceptives doesn't solve the problem here."
  • On January 28, Matthews said: "Let's give the president some credit here, the new president, Barack Obama. He took out the ton of money in there, a lot of money in here, for contraceptives, condoms." Matthews then added: "I have to tell you, if you want to have -- if you want to have a balloon-head solution -- I mean, literally balloon-head -- put in some condoms into this thing, as -- as some kind of a stimulus package. And he said, 'This is ridiculous.' So he called up Henry Waxman and said, 'Get that stuff out of there.' "
  • On February 2, Matthews said: "You know, when you buy a bag of candy, a bag of M&Ms, you know that everything in there is M&Ms. Just as an example, this stimulus package, nobody knows what's in there. It's not -- there's a little of this, a little of that, a little of this thing. We're finding out little things about Hollywood. We're finding out something about condoms."
  • On February 3, after Newsweek senior editor Jonathan Alter said that the recovery plan "isn't being packaged as well as it could be in PR terms. They should call it a jobs bill," Matthews said: Well, if it is a jobs bill -- if it is one -- if it doesn't have all this malarkey in it, condoms and Hollywood money and this big stuff they put in there."

From the February 5 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL (MSNBC political analyst): There's a real lesson here for health care reform. Republicans will be quiet at first --

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

O'DONNELL: -- but who knows what they will do.

MATTHEWS: Yeah, well, they have got some of their blood thirst going here when they learned that they could score when John Boehner, Jeanne, went after the condoms in the -- condoms in the -- in the House version.

Now, that may seem like a small part of the bill, but it was a lot of fun for the Republicans to say contraception shouldn't be one of the pieces of this stimulus package. Then Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, went on one of the Sunday shows and defended it because it reduces the number of kids and therefore somehow saves the government money. That argument's a little bit off the point here if you're trying to build a consensus, it seems.

Is the issue here size or composition? Lawrence says that they agreed to the size in concept, but, the minute we got to the composition, they started blowing the whistle.

O'DONNELL: Yeah.

JEANNE CUMMINGS (Politico correspondent): That's absolutely it. As they say, devil -- devil in the details. And I -- you know, that -- the contraception plank that was put in here was a gift. That was just a downright gift to give to the Republicans, because they had not figured out how to go up against this very popular president, and they had been hearing from economists saying, "We need something big. You have got to pass something big." Most economists were saying that, both on the left and the right.

And, so, it was a -- it was a conundrum for them. How do they position themselves? And that was a gift. I mean, they -- they -- they couldn't have asked for anything sweeter than to have, you know, contraceptions in the middle of a job stimulus bill.

MATTHEWS: Well, you know, Lawrence, that seems to be the oldest trick -- I forgot it, by the way -- the oldest trick in beating a popular figure, whether it's beating Millicent Fenwick in New Jersey or Bob Taft in Ohio. Don't go after them personally. Don't attack Barack Obama if you're a Republican. Go after contraceptives in the bill. Go after the Hollywood money. Go after the details and the policy. And it makes it sound like, hey, I like Barack Obama, too.

From the January 23 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:

MATTHEWS: And Republican U.S. Congressman Brian Bilbray of California is opposed to the package. I'm going to give you a chance, sirs. What is wrong with the Barack package? Is it the sundry nature of some of the spending stuff in it --

BILBRAY: Well, first, 50 percent --

MATTHEWS: -- like the condoms in there, that stuff?

BILBRAY: That -- that is. But let's start off with 50 percent of it will not do -- will not be spent within two years. So, it doesn't do anything about stimulating the economy now, according to the stated purpose of it. Then, you've got all the other stuff what happened. Remember, what happened is, it's become a grab bag, just like Washington always does. You just use a crisis as an excuse to throw all this stuff in.

MATTHEWS: All this contraceptive relief and all that stuff, you think it's just a Christmas tree?

BILBRAY: Christmas -- well, it's not just that. I mean, there's -- there's all kinds of other things about, let's go after and start subsidizing the states on the Medicare issue and health care and whatever for two years.

From the January 27 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:

MATTHEWS: Barack's plan goes to a vote. Let's play Hardball.

Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews. Leading off tonight: Leave the kids out of this. Barack Obama gets Democrats in Congress to drop contraception from his big stimulus bill. It turns out the idea of getting people to have fewer children didn't sell as national policy. Maybe people don't like Washington, which has done such a bang-up job regulating the sharpies on Wall Street, to decide it's now time to regulate the number of kids people might be in the mood for. Anyway, President Obama went up to Capitol Hill today, the first time since he was inaugurated, to try for some Republican backing of that stimulus package, on which debate begins today and the votes come tomorrow.

[...]

MATTHEWS: Well, let's talk about, Congressman, what you don't want in and what you want in that's not in. What about these contraceptive -- this whole condom thing? The president apparently called Henry Waxman, the chair of the committee that put that stuff in, and says, "Yank it out of there." Was that a smart move to get that embarrassment out of the bill?

PENCE: Well, sure, it was a smart move, and it was especially smart when Republican leader John Boehner raised the issue at the White House on Friday and the American people were outraged over the weekend, Chris. But taking out the couple of hundred million bucks for contraceptives doesn't solve the problem here. What this bill is and what President Obama heard in what was a frank but cordial dialogue on the House side of the Capitol today was, look, this bill is a long litany of liberal pet programs that will have very little to do with actually getting this economy moving again.

From the January 28 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:

MATTHEWS: Yeah. Well, I don't know. Every time I go through a big city, I wonder what's underground, the old sewer systems, the water systems --

JIM CRAMER (CNBC host): Oh --

MATTHEWS: -- as I said, the old subway systems. They're 150, 200 years old. I said, what's down there? It's going to fall in if we don't fix it. Let's fix that now.

CRAMER: I would rather just --

MATTHEWS: Let's put people to work with real jobs that pay 15, 20, 30 an hour, and let them get some double-time and golden time. That would seem to be the smart -- look, what if -- well, let's give the president some credit here, the new president, Barack Obama. He took out the ton of money in there, a lot of money in here, for contraceptives, condoms.

CRAMER: Right.

MATTHEWS: I -- I have to tell you, if you want to have -- if you want to have a balloon-head solution -- I mean, literally balloon-head -- put in some condoms into this thing, as -- as some kind of a stimulus package. And he said, "This is ridiculous." So he called up Henry Waxman and said, "Get that stuff out of there." I don't know. Who put this together? You know, this guy [Rep.] Darrell Issa [R-CA], he's probably a lot more conservative even than you. But he says it's one big earmark, the whole thing.

From the February 2 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:

MATTHEWS: You know, when you buy a bag of candy, a bag of M&Ms, you know that everything in there is M&Ms. Just as an example, this stimulus package, nobody knows what's in there. It's not -- there's a little of this, a little of that, a little of this thing. We're finding out little things about Hollywood. We're finding out something about condoms.

Why didn't they put together a package with clear labels on, say, four or five categories of spending and tax cuts that everybody could sell -- building bridges, broadband, education -- something where they could defend each portion of it? They didn't do that, did they?

From the February 3 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:

ALTER: First of all, Reagan's budget and tax plans were dead on arrival in Congress until he was shot in March of 1981. So Obama's prospects for his program are actually a lot better. This stimulus package is going to pass. But it isn't being packaged as well as it could be in PR terms. They should call it a jobs bill.

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

ALTER: And Rahm Emanuel is trying to say this is about jobs, jobs, jobs.

MATTHEWS: Well, if it is a jobs bill -- if it is one -- if it doesn't have all this malarkey in it, condoms and Hollywood money and this big stuff they put in there --

ALTER: That's what the president got upset about --

MATTHEWS: He's got to get this junk out of there.

ALTER: -- behind closed doors yesterday with the congressional leadership. He threw all the staff out. He -- you know, made them stay in the Cabinet room. He brought the Congressional leadership into the Oval Office, and he said, "Get all that junk out of this bill." Because he's upset about precisely what you were just talking about. He knows --

MATTHEWS: It's hard to sell crap --

ALTER: He knows that it's hurting him.

MATTHEWS: -- especially when we're in trouble. It is.

ALTER: It's a tiny -- it's a tiny percentage of the bill. Tiny.

Posted In
Economy, Health Care, Reproductive Rights
Person
Chris Matthews
Show/Publication
Hardball
Stories/Interests
Economic Recovery Plan
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