Matthews "felt sensitive" with Bush: "It's like Santa Claus, and he's always very generous and friendly"

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Recounting his experience at a White House party, MSNBC's Hardball host Chris Matthews said that he "felt sensitive" during his interactions with the president, adding that "[y]ou get your picture taken with him. It's like Santa Claus, and he's always very generous and friendly." During another segment, Matthews also stated: "If [President Bush's] gamble that he can create a democracy in the middle of the Arab world" is successful, "he belongs on Mount Rushmore."

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On the December 16 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, host Chris Matthews recounted his experience at a White House Christmas party the night before. Matthews remarked that he "felt sensitive" during his interactions with the president, adding that "[y]ou get your picture taken with him. It's like Santa Claus, and he's always very generous and friendly." He continued: "I felt like I was too towel-snappy with him," explaining that Bush had noted his "red scarf" and remarked that he looked "preppy."

During another segment, Matthews also stated: "If [President Bush's] gamble that he can create a democracy in the middle of the Arab world" is successful, "he belongs on Mount Rushmore." Matthews made this remark during a discussion of the timing of The New York Times' December 16 report on President Bush's authorization of secret National Security Agency wiretaps of U.S. citizens without court warrants. The Times reported that it held the story for a year after meeting with administration officials who expressed concern it could compromise ongoing investigations and alert terrorists that they may be under surveillance. Matthews questioned his guests, New York Times reporter Anne E. Kornblut and Newsweek chief political correspondent Howard Fineman, regarding the timing of the story, which coincided with positive coverage of the December 15 parliamentary elections in Iraq.

Media Matters for America has previously noted other examples of Matthews gushing about Bush. Matthews has stated that Bush "glimmers" with "sunny nobility," argued that "[e]verybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs," and denounced Bush's critics as "carpers and complainers."

From the December 16 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, which also featured Newsweek's Howard Fineman:

MATTHEWS: So what do you think about your paper running that story the very day of the president's greatest victory? You guys are raining on his parade, the best day of his life.

KORNBLUT: If only we were that organized. No, this is, I think, a really good story. I knew nothing about it.

MATTHEWS: Why today? Why did you break it today?

KORNBLUT: There was room in the paper. I actually -- I honestly have no idea why. I don't think there was any big calculation behind it, if I had to guess.

[...]

FINEMAN: Big picture, big headlines, lots and lots of stories about that marvelous story in Iraq. And my guess -- strictly a guess -- it didn't even occur to the editors of The New York Times as they sat there putting the paper together, that one would be necessarily be seen in the context of the other. I really don't think so, and I think they gave great coverage to Iraq, and I think that the Iraq story out in the country is politically going to mean more than the one about the National Security Agency.

MATTHEWS: Because?

FINEMAN: Because the pictures are positive. They're inspirational. And most important, General Casey said, as a result of the success in Iraq, 12,000 troops are going to begin coming home immediately.

MATTHEWS: By the way, just to rain on that parade -- I'll do it right now -- didn't we know that they were going down to a complement of 138,000 after the election?

FINEMAN: Sure. But he also said that they're going to look to the rather rapid removal of additional troops after that. He's already talking about American troops coming home. And I do think the pictures, to any American, are inspirational, and a reminder to us of how lucky we are as a country. There is no gain say. It's the real deal over there.

MATTHEWS: I was hoping we could come on tonight with purple fingers.

FINEMAN: It's red this time.

MATTHEWS: Red, then.

KORNBLUT: Aren't you going to get a parade of members of Congress now for the next few days who've all gone over and seen it? It strikes me that this is going to be a fairly huge story for days and days to come.

MATTHEWS: Well, it's probably the greatest gamble since Roosevelt backed Britain before World War II. The president deserves credit, if this gamble comes through -- and it's not clear yet. If his gamble that he can create a democracy in the middle of the Arab world and he does it, he belongs on Mount Rushmore.

[...]

MATTHEWS: What comes next, Anne?

KORNBLUT: Well, I mean, I think if -- you know, I think if what you were getting at before is that there were moments of irritation from Bush in this interview or in this day that he's not, you know, getting his due, I think the administration has always taken a much longer view. This is not sort of a one-day story. This, you know -- sure, the pictures were lovely out of Iraq but, you know, they're looking way down the line. They're looking a year, five years. I mean, Bush himself always talks about this in the sweep of history. So I think, you know, in that sense, I actually don't know that the White House is sweating about the one-day coverage of this, of the election.

FINEMAN: Yes, they still would have loved the heck out of it, I can tell you.

MATTHEWS: You know, I felt sensitive. I was with him last night, the president. We all went to see the president. You were there -- went to see the president for our Christmas. You get your picture taken with him. It's like Santa Claus, and he's always very generous and friendly.

FINEMAN: You don't get to sit on his lap.

KORNBLUT: What did you ask him for?

MATTHEWS: And I was wearing a red scarf. And I wanted to look a little bit festive for the occasion, look a little preppy. And he came up to me and said, "Matthews, I didn't know you were that preppy." This is the president of the United States after his biggest victory, and he goes, "I didn't know you were that preppy." And I said, "Well, you know, I went to Holy Cross, but you guys started with all this stuff -- the old guys started with all this stuff," and then he started kidding around. I felt like I was too towel-snappy with him. I felt he deserves a little -- I mean, he deserves a lot of respect for this bet he's making.

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