Cable pratfalls: Cable host Matthews clueless again!


Big Ed answers Ezra's question: Over the years, we’ve often been struck by Chris Matthews’ lack of preparation. Remember when he kept saying that Obama’s mother was “Islamic?”

It happened in December 2007—after nine months of campaigning by Obama! For a surprising time, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/21/07.

Last night, Chris was at it again. He played tape of something Mitch McConnell said in the Senate last Thursday. Then, he commenced to bungling:
MATTHEWS (12/12/12): Let’s listen to what he said last week on tape.

MCCONNELL (videotape): For months, the president’s been saying all he wants is to raise taxes on the top 2 percent so he can tackle the debt and the deficit. However, yesterday, he finally revealed that’s not really his true intent. By demanding the power to raise the debt limit whenever he wants by as much as he wants, he showed what he’s really after is assuming unprecedented power to spend taxpayer dollars without any limit at all.

MATTHEWS: Chip, is that accurate, what he just said that? I think the president means, “How about a ceasefire the next time this thing comes around in two months?” He’s not going to get a law that gets rid of the debt ceiling requirement. It’s a law that Congress passed years ago that says they’ve got to raise it every time they have to borrow more money.

He’s—I don’t think he's asking to get rid of the law. He’s simply saying, “Next time around, guys, let’s not have another stop-the-government game, another hostage situation.”

How do you read what McConnell said there? I think he misrepresented the president.
Good God, that’s awful. As everyone else in Matthews’ business must know, Obama did advance a proposal in recent weeks which would have changed the way the debt limit provision works. That’s what McConnell was talking about in the videotape Matthews showed.

Rosalind Helderman handled the play-by-playin last Friday’s Washington Post:
HELDERMAN (12/7/12): In an opening bid last week, Obama called for essentially shifting the responsibility for raising the debt ceiling from Congress to the president. Obama’s proposal was modeled on one originally crafted by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) last year, which allowed the president to raise the debt ceiling unless Congress rejected the action by a two-thirds vote.

But McConnell’s proposal was good only through this year and was never meant to be permanent. Many Republicans have been angered by what they see as a White House attempt to give the president unlimited borrowing power.

“Look: The only way we ever cut spending around here is by using the debate over the debt limit to do it. Now the president wants to remove that spur to cut altogether. It gets in the way of his spending plans,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday. “I assure you: It’s not going to happen.”

On Thursday, McConnell proposed an immediate vote on the issue, wagering that many Democrats would resist granting the president such powers. Instead, Democrats huddled and called McConnell’s bluff. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) emerged to announce that they were prepared to proceed with an up-or-down vote on the idea. McConnell then essentially announced a filibuster of the very vote he had suggested, noting that nearly all votes of consequence in the Senate require a 60-vote threshold.
This got a lot of attention on MSNBC because of McConnell’s self-filibuster. Last night, Matthews seemed to have no ideas what McConnell had even been talking about. And yes, this occurred on Matthews’ own show. The presentation of that videotape should not have been a surprise.

Here’s the good news: Given the way cable works, no one corrected Matthews’ blunder. Chip Saltsman and Gene Robinson talked around their host’s latest lapse.

A bit later, we were struck by the way Ed Schultz handled the Michigan “right-to-work” story. Yesterday, we noted the trouble a labor official had when Ezra Klein asked her why it’s OK to make a worker pay union dues even if he doesn't approve of the union (click here).

If progressives hope to attack the new Michigan law, this question is likely to come up. Last night, Schultz explained the situation in a way which tends to heighten the sense that such a requirement may be unfair.

Schultz spoke with former Ohio governor Ted Strickland:
SCHULTZ (12/12/12): The big political picture here is, governor, they [the Republicans] are after the Rust Belt.


SCHULTZ: If they can break the backs of the unions and their infrastructure of funding and pass laws to make it so people don’t have to pay dues, this, of course, is going to break the backs of the Democrats in those state. Or is that a bridge too far?

STRICKLAND: Well, I don’t think it's a bridge too far. Ed, this Michigan governor is intellectually dishonest. He is not speaking the truth. This is an attack upon organized labor. It's an attack upon the middle class. And he is doing this at the behest of the Tea Party right wing elements within his party. He absolutely was dishonest with the people of Michigan. He said this was not a part of his political priority.

SCHULTZ: But they’re going to the money in the Democrats. They’re going right to the heart and soul of what supports the social networking—

STRICKLAND: Absolutely.

SCHULTZ: —and the knocking on the doors and making the phone calls and the get-out-the-vote effort that really makes a difference in elections. Mayor, what about this? You know, the front page of the Detroit Free Press says that this fight isn’t over. What does that mean? How are you going to fight this new law?
We're not saying that Schultz was wrong. But if progressives plan to fight the Michigan law, they will have to answer the question Klein posed on Tuesday night: Why is it OK make someone pay union dues if he doesn’t like the union?

According to Schultz, those union dues are really important because they help Democrats win elections! This struck us as a very bad way to answer that question from Klein.


  1. The misunderstanding or misrepresentation by the media about the debt ceiling is taking it for granted that Republicans really care about deficits or debts. If Romney had been elected, would Republicans even have pretended to balk at raising the ceiling?

  2. I think you are being rather unfair to the Ed Show, which did indeed provide an answer, actually the answer, to Ezra's question. The answer is that a) you don't have to join the union but that b) you do have to pay for the services the union provides for you even if you don't join it. All employees are deriving the benefit of having the union negotiate for them so they should have to pay for that benefit.

  3. That darn Ed Schultz, telling the truth!

  4. Why is it a good idea without collateral consequences to guarantee unions' income regardless of performance?