We recall when the L-word was Limbaugh: Watching MSNBC has become increasingly painful.
The station churns endless propaganda with its teams of propagandists. It’s often wrong on the simplest facts. For one especially embarrassing episode from Politics Nation, cover the eyes of the kids, then fight your way through this three-part report from PolitiFact.
(One example from that program, uttered by Goldie Taylor: "You know, our national debt is as low as it has been since World War II.” Good God.)
The channel is painful to watch. Even by its own declining standards, we thought Chris Matthews was especially clownish last Friday.
As he started, the irate talker was extremely upset. He was horrified by something Dick Cheney had said:
MATTHEWS (11/15/13): A new low from Dick Cheney. Let’s play Hardball.Needless to say, Chris immediately advanced the idea that Obama was being accused of lying because he’s black. Surely, no white president has ever been accused of lying about something, or has even called a liar!
Good evening. I’m Chris Matthews out in Los Angeles. Let Me Start tonight with this.
The political right in this country has reached a new low, as I said. It has shown from the beginning that President Obama doesn’t deserve the decency accorded other American presidents. His enemies have called him an illegal immigrant, a street corner con artist, a fraud, a Manchurian candidate brought to this country to undermine all we stand for.
Well, now Dick Cheney comes right out and calls him a liar. When a right-wing back-bencher did that four years ago, he was called out for rebuke even by his own party. Well, now what was condemned as historic bad behavior comes snarling out of Dick Cheney’s mouth, and nobody says to shut up.
Well, we can argue, as we do here, about the problems implementing the Affordable Care Act, but is this, calling the president a liar, the new language of American politics, or is it a language specially treated for the country’s first African-American president?
Is this president of a lower caste than those elected to the office before him? Or do those on the right believe he even is the legitimate president of the United States, or that someone like him could be?
For ourselves, we rarely use the L-word; it’s hard to know when someone is lying as opposed to simply being mistaken. But the foolishness was already extremely thick at this point.
One example: Four years ago, Joe Wilson was widely condemned for yelling “You lie” during a State of the Union address. All through the segment, Matthews pretended he didn’t see the distinction.
To be fair, Matthews suggested at one or two points that he was only offended by the idea that politicians would drop an L-bomb on a president. But he made that distinction only intermittently, and he soon threw to regular guest David Corm.
As noted, we think people should stay away from the L-word, as was the norm long ago. That said, Corn was a slightly odd guest for this particular segment. His first book, published in 2004, bore this title:
“The Lies of George W. Bush”
Whatever! David even reinvented the definition of the word “lie” to give that book more punch. We’re not even saying he was wrong to do that, although he plainly was.
That said, the analysts roared at David’s reply to Chris. How odd!
David did the thing his host hates most! He dropped serial L-bombs on Cheney:
CORN: Well, can we just say of all the people to call anyone else a liar, Dick Cheney should not be at the top of that list? I mean if you go back to Iraq—we`ve talked about this over the years—he was the one who said that Saddam Hussein was amassing weapons of mass destruction, no doubt, to use against the United States.We’re not even saying that David was wrong. But just like that, there he was calling a big pol a liar! It’s the very thing Matthews hates!
He kept talking about the lie that Mohammed Atta had met with Iraqi intelligence officials in Prague. He talked about the aluminum tubes. He said there was no doubt there was strong evidence of strong connections between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. He lied repeatedly.
And he really, for all that, should sort of be drummed out of polite society and that of the media. But unfortunately, he’s not. Those lies actually were done, I think, maliciously to get the American public to back a war which they might otherwise not support.
Suddenly, Chris didn’t seem to think the L-bomb was so offensive. But so it goes on this increasingly clownish cable pseudo-news channel.
Corn’s reaction provided a bit of short-term humor. Still, we really had to marvel at Chris. Was he really pretending that Obama is the first Democratic president or vice president to be attacked this way?
Back in the day, President Clinton and Candidate Gore were called liars until they were blue. As we mused, we recalled one of the most significant Hardball programs in history.
It was Thursday night, October 5, 2000. Candidates Bush and Gore had staged their fateful first debate two nights before.
On the night of that first debate, something unusual happened. Matthews was part of a five-member MSNBC panel which judged, unanimously, that Gore had cleaned Bush’s clock.
Even Peggy Noonan said it. Members of The Jack Welch Five searched for explanations for Bush’s gruesome performance. Matthews: “I don’t know whether he's tired tonight. People say he had a cold. People say he goes to bed normally before this time of night at 9:30.”
All five panelists said that Gore had cleaned Bush’s clock. The next night, Wednesday, October 4, Matthews took things one step farther. In a segment with Christopher Hitchens, he marveled at the fact that his colleagues in the press corps were largely refusing to say that Gore cleaned Bush’s clock.
(Matthews: “I couldn’t believe the number of people who chickened out last night. It was clear to me—and I am no fan of either of these guys entirely, and I can certainly say that about the one who I thought won last night, that’s Al Gore. I thought he cleaned the other guy’s clock, and I said so last night, and all four national polls agreed with that. In fact, the one with the largest sample, which was CBS, found a 14-point spread of those who thought that the vice president really leveled the other guy. I don't understand why people are afraid to say so.”)
Matthews had been trashing Candidate Gore in reprehensible ways for two solid years at this point. Suddenly, he was light-years off the reservation. And then, sure enough! On Thursday night, October 5, he reversed himself!
All of a sudden, Matthews said that Bush came across so well in the 15-second clips from the debate that he had pretty much won the debate after all! He began reciting all the standard new attacks on Candidate Gore. And who do you think he brought on the air for a very long segment as his honored guest?
Brother Matthews brought on Brother Limbaugh! Needless to say, the pair took turns dropping L-bombs on Clinton and Gore:
MATTHEWS (10/5/00): Joining me here in the studio, as advertised, is a true American hero and patriot, many millions of listeners believe, talk show host Rush Limbaugh.The L-bomb felt different to Matthews back then.
LIMBAUGH: Great to be here. But you need some new video. You had a 100-pounds-ago video of me.
MATTHEWS: OK, let’s talk about this, if it happens. If Gore wins, how do you explain it? Is it just simply the power of the economy? Because Gore is not exactly, you know, Mr. Congeniality. He's not exactly your idea of the best guy to sit next to you on an airplane.
LIMBAUGH: I would— No, he's not. He’s not somebody that you want to go to a ball game with and chase women afterwards. He's not somebody that you want to go out and have a good time with. He's the guy that irritates you. I think that the explanation for a lot of things that you and I and a lot of people look at and don't understand is prosperity. Prosperity breeds contentment, which can breed laziness...
Bush has to make a case as to why there is a reason to change right now. And there are any number of ways he can go about doing it. I think he is succeeding in doing it. I think he will succeed. I think his performance in the debate as time goes on— You look at what’s happened since this [first] debate. The media's focused on Gore and on what specifically—that he lied, that he made things up. And now they're starting to ask, “Why is he doing it?”
He didn't have to grab Winifred Skinner. He could have gotten a legitimate woman with trouble.
MATTHEWS: This is the woman who went out to collect cans to pay for her—and now has a Winnebago courtesy of the Gore campaign.
LIMBAUGH: He could have gone to a school with a Winnebago and a crew that was paid for by the Democrats. He could have found a school that was in trouble, but he made one up, a school that's not in trouble. People are beginning to ask, “Why does he lie?” And when you start these psychologically—
MATTHEWS: Does anyone care? Clinton lied all of 1998 and it didn't bother anybody.
Matthews interviewed Limbaugh for the first half of the program. He completely abandoned his stance of the previous two nights.
We’ll guess that this astonishing flip was executed at the request of Matthews’ owner, Jack Welch. But whatever the reason might have been, Matthews went back to playing all the familiar old cards:
MATTHEWS: Forget the fact you are on the more conservative side of things than I am. I think we share some reverence for the White House and the presidency in this republic.Chris clambered back on message that night. He made himself right with the team.
MATTHEWS: And when I watched The West Wing last night, which was absolutely spectacular, although they have a liberal point of view for the president, Josiah Bartley, the reverence for the office of the presidency is almost religious. The reverency, reverence for the White House, for the place, is sacred.
How can the American people on Wednesday nights when they watch that show have this unbelievable romance with the office of the presidency and let a guy like Clinton prance through the office?
LIMBAUGH: I don't know.
MATTHEWS: How does that happen?
LIMBAUGH: I don't know.
MATTHEWS: The disconnect doesn't make sense to me.
LIMBAUGH: I don't know that there's a connection there. I haven't seen The West Wing, I have to tell you, so I don't know specifically to what you refer. But I don't think—
MATTHEWS: The romance of the office, that this is where a great man rules.
LIMBAUGH: OK, but they're not watching the show for that reason. For instance, if they were, Clinton would be long gone. If they're watching that show for any reason, it's because it entertains them. They're not associating the reverence for the office that may be in that show with real life. I don't—they can't possibly be, as you point out.
MATTHEWS: That's the problem.
He returned to his Clinton/Gore-hating stance of the previous several years. The L-bombs didn’t faze him.
Matthews let Rush rant for half an hour. The interview aired at 5 PM. It was re-aired by Brian Williams in the 8 PM hour, during the lead-in to that evening’s vice presidential debate.
In other words, Jack Welch’s cable “boy toys” went deep into the bag on that high-profile night.
Just for the record, Clinton and Gore were trashed as liars for years. But Matthews is one of the biggest frauds ever let loose on TV.
Joan and David pretend they don’t know what he did in the bad old days. They do know what he did, of course. It’s just that they’re being paid.
Chris was paid to say those things back in the Jack Welch era. Today, he’s being paid to pretend that the L-word was never uttered before—that it must be happening now because Obama is black!
When we liberals tolerate this sort of thing, we prove again that we’re dead in life. We show why we'll never be up to the task of achieving progressive reforms.
You got scammed by Chris back then. Chris is also scamming you now. David and Joan are along for the ride. The Benjamins help them forget.