LET’S PLAY DUMBBELL: What Matthews said and did in real time!


Part 2—The things the guild won’t tell you: The spittle-flecked host of the cable show Hardball has come a long way, baby!

Last Friday, the analysts came out of their chairs as Chris Matthews praised Hillary Clinton's political brilliance back in the 1990s. Let’s recall what Christopher said to one of his silent enablers.

Michael Tomasky was saying that it’s the Democrats’ job to connect with working-class voters who vote Republican. Matthews broke in to say this:
MATTHEWS (4/4/14): But you know who’s doing that, and not to sell them too hard because they don’t need help, is the Clintons.

Bill Clinton was so—and so Hillary Clinton, when they were working together as a team, back in the 90s—they were so sharp that they would say, “We’re not going to let you divide the country on culture.” They made a point of separating themselves from the far left—Sister Souljah. They weren’t part of those rap songs, that rap music. They said, “We’re not part of that.” And they caused some trouble with Jesse Jackson over that fight.

But they also said, “We’re for people that work hard and play by the rules. We’re for people on abortion rights.” They wanted it to be “safe, legal and rare.”

TOMASKY: Correct.

MATTHEWS: They didn’t say “outlawed”—safe, legal and rare. So they were able to cut it across and say, “You can be culturally middle of the road, or even conservative a bit, and vote Democrat because we’re not against you.” They made that—they were very good politicians to make that point.
We tend to agree with Matthews’ assessment. But like the analysts, we could also recall the things he actually said in real time.

Was Matthews saying these things about Hillary Clinton back in the 1990s? Was he praising her as a very good politician? Saying that she was “so sharp?”

Things were very different then. As of the late 1990s, Matthews was trashing Hillary Clinton is the crudest and dumbest possible ways, on a fairly regular basis. During this same period, he spent two years insulting and lying about Candidate Gore, doing everything in his power to send George Bush to the White House.

Today, most Hardball viewers don’t know such things, in part because folk like Tomasky have always agreed that they must never be told.

Presumably, some Hardball viewers wouldn’t care what Matthews said and did in the past, just so long as their spittle-flecked host stuck to acceptable scripts today.

That said, we thought it might be useful to recall the sorts of things Matthews said and did in real time. Let’s consider a Hardball program from December 1999, when Hillary Clinton had just announced that she would run for the Senate in New York.

At the time, it looked like Clinton would be running against Rudy Giuliani, one of Matthews’ tough-guy favorites. The Clintons had just purchased their home in Chappaqua, New York.

That brings us to the Hardball program of Friday, December 3, 1999.

In the early days of that week, Matthews frothed and foamed, helping invent a fateful false claim: Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal! That foundational piece of disinformation established the “GORE LIAR” theme for good.

The theme was nailed into its final form that very week. In the end, it sent Bush to the White House.

Matthews’ programs on this topic had been little short of obscene— deeply insulting, baldly dishonest. Now, for a bit of a Friday night break, he invited Andrea Mitchell to help him explain what a great politician Hillary Clinton was. So sharp!

Matthews had a rather strange way of conveying this point. After a bit of opening patter, this was the first substantive exchange:
MATTHEWS (12/3/99): Tell me about her new guy, Bill DeBlasio. What's his story here, campaign manager announced today; is that a big plus or—

MITCHELL: Oh, it's a big plus. He is, you know, strong. He had been at HUD most recently working for, you know, Andrew Cuomo, but he knows New York. He was a big factor in the 1996 Clinton numbers in New York. The main problem, though, is that Hillary Clinton is her own campaign manager. There is no one who is strong enough, powerful enough, to tell her when she's wrong, tell her when she's making a mistake. And just think of the powerful behind-the-scenes whispers that you have to hold back. You've got Harold Ickes, you've got her old friend, Susan Thomases, you've got some really big players, Mandy Grunwald. How do you break through all of that as the campaign manager if he doesn't have a long-standing relationship with, with Hillary?

MATTHEWS: Can Mandy, who's been on this program before and who I respect, is she capable of walking in to seeing Mrs. Clinton and saying, “Mrs. Clinton, you don't—you don't have a clue sometimes, and you say some of the stupidest things? What are you doing—doing this thing with Crowley the other night, or going after this pro-life guy? You're getting everybody confused about you here.” Can anybody talk to her—

MITCHELL: Crowley's a Queens Democrat that she went and rallied for.

MATTHEWS: Yeah, and a pro-life guy. Is there any way, anybody, anybody that's ever walked up to Hillary Clinton and says, “You're all wet?”


MATTHEWS: Or isn't she—you know, that's what she has in common with her husband. Because remember Eli Segal, the guy who was gonna be chief of staff, and he went in and told Clinton, “You need a guy like me because you've blown it a lot of times.” And he says, “You're out of here.” These Clintons don't like being corrected.

MITCHELL: And Hillary Clinton is the only person who could go into Bill Clinton and tell him that.

MATTHEWS: Well, because she had—she had the blackmail. She could get him out of there in three seconds.
Perhaps you’re not spotting the love so far! In this passage, Matthews has said that Hillary Clinton had the power to correct President Clinton because she could blackmail him about his sexual affairs.

He has also said that she was “all wet” when she wasn’t doctrinaire on a matter of abortion rights. (Compare that to what he said last week.) And, as always, he has told his viewers that “these Clintons don’t like being corrected.”

That passage is the polar opposite of Matthews’ encomium last week. But as the pair of magpies continued, so did their tedious, low-IQ carping and their petty, overt disrespect:
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about DeBlasio. I mean, it seems to me New York ethnic politics—there's almost a redundancy; New York is ethnic politics. Putting an Italian guy in there—is that an important thing for her? Is that what she's thinking?

MITCHELL: It's not just that he's Italian, it's that he knows New York politics. She has still not persuaded New Yorkers that she's a New Yorker. And, in fact, every time she tries to—

MATTHEWS: Well, she isn't. She isn't! I hate to break it to you, she hasn't lived a night in that house yet.

MITCHELL: She hasn't moved out there. She hasn't spent—she doesn't have a stick of furniture in that house. It's no joke when Judith Hope, the state chairman, said, you know, she should just put a cot in there and, and move in there.

MATTHEWS: But this is—this is the technical fun of this thing, and why it's a fun race to cover. She has to go out and either buy furniture, which, you know, for a serious person like her, takes a long time to get the thing right. She's not just going to let some—

MITCHELL: She's going to hire a decorator. Come on.

MATTHEWS: Well, all right, she brings in a big-time decorator. That's a story in itself. That's all over “Suzie” in New York's gossip columns. She hired a guy for $10,000 a week to pick out what chairs to buy.

MITCHELL: Just so you remember, she hired this Arkansas lady to do the White House. So she's not exactly a fancy furniture type.

MATTHEWS: Well, then she— If she rents the furniture that's another give-away, she ain't staying if she loses, right?
In that exchange, you see mockery aimed at Clinton both for being too high (she hired a decorator) and for being too low (she hired a decorator from Arkansas). And you see the central conceit of all the insults Matthews ever directed at Hillary Clinton:

Hillary Clinton’s “a serious person,” he mockingly said. A bit later, we’ll help you flesh out the meaning of that remark.

Later in their colloquy, Matthews and Mitchell discussed the reasons why Giuliani was going to win. And they toyed with one of the million invented stories people like Matthews were always aiming at the Clintons.

After a commercial break, Matthews started with videotape of the politically moronic Hillary Clinton. She was expressing sympathy for the homeless:
HILLARY CLINTON (videotape): No violent or dangerous person should be on our streets threatening themselves or our community, but we don't help matters by throwing them out of shelters onto the street or putting them into a revolving door jail time where they go in and out and are on the streets again. The goal should be treating such people and, where necessary, putting them into situations where they can be treated effectively.

MATTHEWS: Boy, you've got a tough job being an objective reporter in a race like this. I don't even have to try. Here's a woman complaining about homelessness and how they're being treated when she hasn't even checked into her shelter yet.

MITCHELL: She's a—

MATTHEWS: This woman doesn't even have a home in New York.

MITCHELL: She empathized. She's a homeless person.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! The mockery was undisguised, on the part of both Matthews and Mitchell. As they continued, these very bad people—these consummate frauds—explained why Rudy was going to win the race:
MITCHELL (continuing directly): A lot of people in New York think that that is actually a good issue for Rudy Giuliani, that Hillary Clinton— This is the first time she's striking back at Rudy, the first time she's taking him on in this speech about the homeless, but that, actually—that that's not a good issue for her. And, in fact, a lot of the reason why he is now nine points up in the latest poll, the Marist Poll, is that a lot of traditionally liberal New Yorkers really are liking the fact that he's been a tough mayor, has cleaned up the city—


MITCHELL: —has reduced crime, and takes credit for all the things that are somewhat sort of a, you know, spillover from the good economy; and that that's one of the reasons why he is winning the Jewish vote which he— You know, if she can't win the Jewish vote, she cannot win the state.

MATTHEWS: That's, that's the heart of the Democratic Party, yeah.

MITCHELL: That's just pure mathematics. I was talking to a big, you know, Jewish fund-raiser, big Democratic political guy just yesterday in New York—

MATTHEWS: A big macher.

MITCHELL: —and, and he said that, that she's going to lose because—


MITCHELL: —Rudy Giuliani is that, that popular, particularly on issues such as the homeless.
Within a few months, Giuliani was behind in the polls. He left the race in May.

At this point, Matthews went into a long, inane discussion of the way he feels when homeless people ask him for money. As he finished his rumination about the different ways men and women respond to requests, Mitchell again stressed Rudy’s political brilliance. She then slid into the latest invented story about the Clintons’ vast sense of entitlement.

Eventually, Mitchell brilliantly stated the point which defined journalism in the Clinton/Gore era: “It doesn’t matter whether it’s true:”
MATTHEWS: ...And I think people who pay taxes and, and give to church or synagogue or something, say, “Wait a minute, I do a decent job here, and if a person comes up with a particular case, I'm gonna be open to him. But if they're just here to intimidate me—” You know, that's what it's about.

MITCHELL: Well, that's exactly why Rudy Giuliani has sort of the right tempo of New Yorkers. He really gets that. The other big issue is, you know, her motorcade, her Secret Service protection, all of that, which she says—

MATTHEWS: Tell me about the plane, about how when she arrives at Kennedy or La Guardia, everything else has to get out of the way.

MITCHELL: Well, the campaign denies it, you should know that.

MATTHEWS: Right. But the FAA supports that theory because they've enforced it.
MITCHELL: Well, the, the whole point is that—

MATTHEWS: They've told their airports to give her first shot.

MITCHELL: We know that happens for presidential planes.


MITCHELL: It's not been absolutely confirmed that that happens for the first lady's plane, except that airport officials say it's true. The FAA hasn't actually, on the record, said so. And pilots—

I mean, it doesn't matter whether it's true or not. Pilots are telling people who are delayed on the shuttle—and you and I are up and back to New York all the time; we're always delayed on the shuttle—they get on the two-way radio, and they're telling people, “The reason we're delayed is not because US Air screws up or Delta has messed up yet again, it's because Hillary Clinton is coming to New York.” So she's become, you know, the poster child for every airport delay. And right now, holiday season, you know, it is horrendous trying to get in and out of New York.
The story wasn’t true, of course. But then, you probably already knew that.

That said, according to Mitchell, it didn’t matter if the story was true. When planes were delayed, pilots were telling passengers that it was all Hillary’s fault!

You may still be looking for Matthews’ statements about what a great politician Clinton was—so sharp! That speech never occurred this night. Not even during that decade!

Instead, he praised Tip O’Neill’s political sense, making an implied invidious comparison to Clinton. He even managed to insert a comparison to Papa Doc!

At that point, he and Mitchell started complaining about the fact that Hillary Clinton was still getting Secret Service protection. Eventually, Matthews made the trademark comparison to Richard Nixon—the same comparison he crammed into each of his programs last week:
MITCHELL: Well, her explanation for not giving up the Secret Service, the motorcades and not moving into the house yet, is, “I do what the Secret Service tells me, and they haven't checked out the house yet.” There's round-the-clock Secret Service protection at the house in Chappaqua.

MATTHEWS: What takes so long to— They, the president had a party across the house, the street from me a couple months back. They had—they can check out a place in a matter of an hour or so. They bring the dogs in and they sniff for bombs.

MITCHELL: They're putting in bullet-proof glass.

MATTHEWS: Oh, they're doing all that?

MITCHELL: I doubt— I'm sure they're building a little guard house for them. They're probably putting in a perimeter—

MATTHEWS: Just like the Nixons in the old days.

MITCHELL: Oh, you bet.

MATTHEWS: This is San Clemente revisited.
“She has got 25 people in the detail,” the slack-jawed Mitchell disclosed.

These are the sorts of things Matthews said, night after night, back in the 1990s.

Since then, of course, the spittle-flecked shouter has been completely repurposed. He now directs his small, smutty brain to aim dim-witted insults at those in the GOP.

Tomorrow, we’ll show you how dumb it got when he and Joan and Michelle Bernard discussed health care last week—how completely he dumbs the liberal world down. For today, let say this:

This was not an unusual Hardball. Earlier that week, Matthews aimed similar insults and dreck at Candidate Gore as he helped invent a truly fateful false claim: Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal!

(He continued his war against Gore through November 2000, and then on from there.)

As Matthews did these things, Michael Tomasky kept his big trap shut. So did the deeply repellent Joan Walsh. Indeed, she proceeded to kiss Matthews’ ascot for years, worming her obsequious way into cable power.

In all the years which have passed, they have never told the world that this sort of thing ever happened. For that reason, many Hardball viewers have no idea that Matthews has been reinvented.

It’s hard to have a lot of respect for people like Walsh and Tomasky. On the brighter side, they have made their way up in the world by maintaining the standard mandated silence about the work of the guild.

Tomasky may be from West Virginia, but he strolls Park Avenue now! Silence about this repellent past conduct is the way such climbers gain access to corporate money and fame.

The segment we have just reviewed was typical conduct for Matthews. To see him sliming Gore that same week, see chapter 6 of our companion site, How He Got There.

(Truly, that was the week that was, the week which sent Bush to the White House. By agreement of the guild, these matters are never discussed.)

Matthews’ sliming of Hillary Clinton continued on Monday, December 6. Below, you see one of the ways he praised her political brilliance on that particular program.

In this passage, Matthews is ranting about the way she tried to provide universal health coverage. That effort showed us how stupid she is, and how socialistic.

Matthews’ insults were wholly undisguised. This is the actual history:
MATTHEWS (12/6/99): Hillary Clinton got the message wrong [about health care]. The American people want to have health care for people who work for a living. Working families should get a good wage and they should get health care as part of a living income.

She said, “I'm going to give you universal coverage. I want to give every man who gets into this country, legally or illegally, free health care, and they're going to have to thank me for it, and bring flowers to me like I'm Evita.” That's different than giving people workers' rights, or giving them what they go out and work for a living for, including health care.

She didn't want to sell it as a workers' benefit. She wanted to sell it as socialism, because then she could get credit for it. She and the government, like Eleanor Roosevelt, her hero.

SHEEHY: Well, I don't think she wanted to sell it as socialism...
Matthews slimed Clinton relentlessly that night, leaving Gail Sheehy almost speechless at times. Sheehy was especially flummoxed by Matthews’ angry complaints about the way Hillary Clinton doesn’t like to fall down when she goes skiing, an angry complaint he explored at some length.

Or should we say he slimed “Evita,” the moniker he dropped on Clinton's head?

For a shorter review of that astonishing program, click here. For a longer treatment, click this.

(Warning: Hillary blamed for Vince Foster!)

The analysts came out of their chairs last week when they saw Matthews expound about Hillary Clinton’s political brilliance in the 1990s. They haven’t sold their souls to the devil in the pursuit of money and fame. And they remember the actual things this criminal said and did.

It’s hard to have much respect for the fellows and gals who have agreed, through all these years, that this history can’t be discussed.

Go ahead—read those astonishing transcripts. How do you not discuss that?

Alas! No one can be told about this; it’s the basic law of the guild. We the rubes can never be told what Matthews said and did.

Most important of all, we can’t be told the reason why he did this. Joan will die and go to Hell without ever emitting a word.

Tomorrow: Let’s play dumbbell with Joan and Michelle Bernard


  1. doing everything in his power to send George Bush to the White House.

    Later, (directly post-9/11, when Bush had a 90% approval rating) shouting "I VOTED FOR HIM" and praising his sublime masculinity.

  2. In that exchange, you see mockery aimed at Clinton both for being too high (she hired a decorator) and for being too low (she hired a decorator from Arkansas).

    Thanks for what you do, Bob.

  3. Bob, you need to ask yourself: Am I just saying this out of jealousy of TPM? He gets lots of hits and makes money. Think about it for a second. He has "real" analysts while you sit alone.

    1. When was the last time TPM devoted serious time to reminding us what CM said back in 1999? Or whom he almost got killed!

      Has TPM ever described a near intellectual epiphany over Hawking based on a chance encounter with a stranger outside a coffee shop restroom?

      Has Josh Marshall ever corrected anyone who said Al Gore invented the internet since, say 2009? Or pointed out how old Monica Lewisnky was or that she was between gigs as intern and paid staff when she first had the POTUS penis in grasp and gasp?

      Shame on you for settling for second rate up to the moment thrills in your blogging. I'll take decade old renditions of spittle flecked frothing any day over that twaddle.

    2. TPM was not supportive of Hillary Clinton in 2008. It will be interesting to see how they try to walk that back if she runs in 2016.

    3. Why on earth would TPM have to try?

    4. Exactly what would "TPM" need to walk back?

      Does this mean that everybody who supported Obama in 2008 is disqualified from supporting Clinton in 2016?

      What a strange world we live in.

    5. Anon 12:15 is a typical modern progressive. He determines the value of a commentator based whether he is paid well by a profitable enterprise. What a rube.

    6. Paid well by a profitable enterprise, or created a profitable enterprise?

    7. TPM stands for Talking Points Memo -- it refers to the talking points that guide political discourse so that true believers are all on the same page. TPM fell in line behind Obama and persecuted Clinton supporters, in keeping with its name. It will do so with the next candidate whoever that is. If it is Clinton, then TPM will support her and it will be in every respect as much of an about-face as Matthews behavior switching from Bush to Obama.

      A larger issue is whether the left should have its own talking points and party discipline, like the right. Should we be fed a pleasing narrative, a line of bullshit that serves the purposes of those in power on our side, or should a website have an independent voice? During the primaries in 2008, commenters couldn't have independent voices on most blogs, much less the proprietors. That is part of why TDH is highly valued, even when we may disagree with the views expressed from time to time.

    8. Exactly how did TPM persecute Clinton supporters.

    9. Confluence website was founded because Clinton supporters were driven off most of the liberal websites. This occurred by hounding in comments to outright banning. If you were there, you know what happened.

    10. 9:38 Was that supposed to be an answer to the question posed by 9:32? Because it wasn't.

  4. "(Truly, that was the week that was, the week which sent Bush to the White House. By agreement of the guild, these matters are never discussed.)"

    So what are you saying here, Bob? That the election of 2000 was decided and over in December 1999 because Chris Matthews was saying mean things about Al Gore and Hillary Clinton?

    Did you bother to tell your old college roomie in real time that he had absolutely no chance to win? After all, Chris Matthews was agin' him. You could have saved your buddy a whole lot of time and work.

    1. Beginning with his service at Harvard Al took the initiative to ignore Bob Somerby.

  5. I think the most important part of what Somerby says is that Matthews is a bought and paid for mouthpiece of other interests. In 1999 his employers wanted different opinions than they do today. We need to exercise caution in listening to these guys, especially when they are saying things we may like. Behind the words is the lingering question of whose interests are being served when Matthews says this stuff?

    I ask myself the same question about the various, prompt voices mocking Somerby's posts. Whose interests are they serving?

    1. Perhaps you are of such feeble mind that you need Somerby to tell you not to believe what comes out of the mouths of cable talkers? Or perhaps not. We don't know.

    2. 1:18, I too ask myself about the voices defending TDH. Who are they self serving?

  6. Occasionally, I hear Andrea Mitchell described as a liberal. She isn't anything like what I would consider a liberal to be, but hearing this conversation makes that especially clear.

  7. What a telling analysis, Bob.

    1. If I had know this 15 years ago I probably would still not be watching Chris Matthews now.

    2. That makes you kind of irrelevant to this discussion, doesn't it? Do you think critically about the people you do watch? Do you think it is OK for people like Matthews to con others just because you are not among them?

    3. Who is he conning? Oh yes, all those unwashed masses, the "rubes" with "lizard brains" who tune into Hardball by the gazillions every night, and are not nearly as intelligent and discerning as Somerby and his dozen or so remaining merry fans.

      Must be some view while looking down your nose.

    4. Somerby has not called people that -- he has said they have been treated as if they were like that by folks in the media.

    5. Sad that you don't read your Somerby more closely, 6:18.

  8. This post, more than any other, makes it clear we live in unreal time.

    Nothing we say or do matters.

  9. Bob, I would like to comment since your posts are superb but the trolling makes commenting for me too difficult since I would not want to read the trolling comments that come after.

    Banning a couple of trolls, who may well be paid to ruin your work, seems to be in order. The trolls will never stop, but banning immediately works.

    1. Paul Krugman banned a couple of trolls several years ago and there has never been a subsequent problem.

    2. Bob, in any event the post are superb so just go on and do what you wish.

    3. Every time I read comments like these, I feel bad for Bob.

    4. I don't feel bad for Bob because these comments don't diminish what he writes. I feel bad for those who might like to make genuine comments but don't want to wade in the cess pool.

      I don't know whether Somerby reads his comments or not. I do know that his experience doing standup probably taught him what hecklers are about, and his experience teaching has probably inured him to addressing an unreceptive audience. Both hecklers and students can be more hurtful than this group of trolls. I suspect he has learned not to measure the worth of his ideas against the reactions of others. There is a documentary called "Heckler" that shows standups talking about how they deal with hecklers and how they feel about them. After seeing that, I doubt any heckler (troll) would want to continue doing it. I feel the same way about this group -- if these trolls really understood how they are regarded by others they wouldn't do what they do.

    5. 2:28 Banning some books makes people more comfortable too. Burning them gets the some people excited.

  10. The trolls' bitter tears have no effect on TDH, who knows all there is to know about the nature of tribal rubes. They only help solidify his point. And oh, how angry they are that he keeps calling out their rube-running heroes.

    1. I'll never get over the day my Rachel hero was pulled away from her news desk due to the call outs from TDH.

    2. "News desk"..good one!

  11. It would be good to remind Bob what this blog was like in real time.
    Less than a year ago there was much less troll infestation and look at the kind of discussion it allowed on important topics of that real time.

    From April, 2013:


  12. Somerby in real time:

    "Yesterday, we listed some of Rachel Maddow’s errors on last Thursday night’s show, the program of March 27."

    April 5, 2014