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PROFILES DISCOURAGED! The most remarkable fact about Chris Matthews is the fact that he never gets profiled: // link // print // previous // next //

TIME TO GIVE UP ON THE BOYS OF THE BURBS: It’s time to give up on Kevin and Matt and all the Good Boys of the Village suburbs. Here is Matt, discussing the problems with tough-talking tyro Tim Russert:
YGLESIAS (11/11/07): Garance Franke-Ruta reports last night on the Village's field trip: "The joke last night at the Hotel Fort Des Moines bar is that the last thing you want to do the morning after a potentially-momentum generating speech is go on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, because he’s such a tough questioner." The level of respect most political journalists have for Russert is hard to overstate, as is the extent to which I find it difficult to respect people who respect Russert.

The crux of the matter is this reputation for being a "tough questioner" and the notion that Russert's brand of toughness is worthy of emulation. And it's true that Russert is a tough questioner. Watch any Russert-moderated debate or a typical candidate appearance on Meet The Press and you'll see that he goes way out of the way to put the politician in a tough corner—he'll ask about some unimportant issue that's politically awkward, he'll drag up a quote from five years ago to try to trip you up, he'll ask about stuff your husband said, he'll harp on whatever recent story has most damaged your candidacy—he's tough.
Watch any debate or candidate appearance, Matt says. Russert just goes after everybody! And omigod! As he links to this perfect/complete nonsense, Kevin makes Matt’s point more clear:
DRUM (11/11/07): I'll second Matt Yglesias's takedown today of Tim Russert’s stale and clownish version of gotcha journalism. Russert is a one trick pony whose act got stale a long, long time ago.

I'll just add two things. First, this is not a partisan issue. The gotcha routine, no matter who it comes from, is bad for everyone, both Republicans and Democrats. Second, Russert's schtick perpetuates the idea that the worst possible sin in a politician is displaying even a hint of inconsistency. But you know what? It turns out there are worse things. Obviously politicians should be held accountable for their words, but Russert and his colleagues ought to focus a little more on what's really important and a little less on what somebody said in 1998.
According to Matt and Kevin, Russert performs a stale, stupid version of gotcha journalism. But land o’ goshen, people! He does it to everyone! Matt implies that Russert goes after both parties. Following up, Kevin seems to comes right out and say it—though we’ll admit that his language is framed in such a way that he hasn’t actually said this.

Let’s be plain: It’s virtually impossible to quantify the “partisanship” of someone like Russert. That said: At this point, it’s astounding when liberals go out of their way to say that Russert treats Republicans the same way he treats Democrats. If you want to know how Dems lose elections, just gaze on the way these two fine fellows refuse to fight; refuse to observe; refuse to stand up for your side.

Does Russert treat Republicans the way he treats Dems? By now, that case would be exceptionally hard to make. In Russert’s last public outing, for example, he went after Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton for two solid hours, often with factually bogus assertions. But uh-oh! We showed you how Russert behaved in January 2000, when George Bush was cast in a similar role; there is simply no comparison in the way the tough-talker acted toward Bush (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/2/07). But then, we once compared the way Russert behaved towards Candidates Bush and Gore on Meet the Press during Campaign 2000. And uh-oh! As it turned out, Russert lobbed silly softballs at Bush—then behaved in a stunningly egregious fashion when he got his hour with Gore (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/1/03). His hectoring, badgering interview of Howard Dean in 2003 was another remarkable low point (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/30/03). And by the way: Before Russert’s two-hour whipping of Clinton, what was the one other time he drew criticism for his work in a debate? Of course! It was back in October 2000, when he was widely and harshly criticized for his hectoring conduct toward Hillary Clinton! (Russert has never done a general election debate.) Does Russert treat the two parties the same? It’s hard to prove a claim of this type—but it’s astounding to see liberal leaders act as though they don’t even know that such a question exists. But Matt and Kevin join Paul Waldman in this see-no-evil posture. All three have criticized Russert in recent weeks—without even seeming to know that a question of partisan animus exists. These fine, well-mannered, well-raised young men seem to have their noses buried deep in those Village suburbs.

It’s especially odd to see Matt and Kevin’s twin posts; they appeared just two days after Jamison Foser offered this devastating report on Russert’s recent misbehavior. (Of course, Foser posted this at Media Matters; polite liberal men just don’t go there. Instead, they link to Andrew Sullivan, who is currently having his latest breakdown about the vile Dem front-runner.) Foser discusses Russert’s performance during his two-hour gang-whipping of Clinton—and he notes that a string of Russert’s hostile questions were based on factual “errors.” Our advice: Be sure to note Russert’s blatant misstatement of what Clinton had said at an earlier, AARP debate. (We mentioned this matter in real time, but we couldn’t access the material. Foser ran it down.) Are we still supposed to think that these “errors” by Russert are simply well-intentioned blunders—these kinds of “errors” he makes toward both parties? Sadly, these “errors” seem to follow Russert around—especially when things are on the line. Especially when Dems are the target.

In July 2000, Russert conducted the worst hour we’ve ever seen by a broadcaster, “mistakenly” telling a nation of voters that the Justice Department’s campaign finance task force thought Candidate Gore may have committed crimes. In fact, Russert had been told exactly the opposite just three months earlier, on Meet the Press, by task force member Charles LaBella. (There were only four members of the task force. Two of them, LaBella and Robert Litt, had said, on a long string of shows, that no one ever thought that Gore had committed a crime.) But wouldn’t you know it? Having been told that no one thought Gore had committed a crime, Russert “accidentally” told the nation exactly the opposite! But the nation’s good liberals all kept their traps shut as Russert committed this gruesome offense. And surprise! Seven years later, our well-mannered Stepfords seem to be sure that it’s all a mistake when Russert’s “misstatements” continue. They rush to say what Waldman said: Russert is stupid, but fair.

(In his session with Dean in 2003, Russert began the interview by “mistakenly” claiming that Dean’s teen-aged son had just been “indicted.” Sorry: No big broadcaster starts an interview with an accidental misstatement. Question: Have we ever found Russert making such “errors” where major Republicans are concerned?)

Does Russert treat the two parties the same? It’s amazing to see liberals say so. And please note: The issue which Russert has deceptively flogged for years comes straight from right-wing spin-tanks! He has endlessly forced his irrelevant facts and bogus claims into discussions of Social Security; he continued to do so at the recent debate, completely misstating Clinton’s past remarks on the subject as he did so. Meanwhile, right through this past week, we’ve continued to be amazed at the way Russert keeps misstating the simplest facts about current polls—always understating Clinton’s support. (He did so on Hardball again last week—then on NBC Nightly News.) But ignore all that! The well-mannered lads in the Village suburbs still can’t bring themselves to think that Russert isn’t right down the middle in the way he frames our discourse. They stampede to give the world their message: Russert is stupid but fair.

We give up! You’ll have to hire the shrinks yourselves to understand these liberal leaders—polite, well-mannered, well-adjusted young men who aren’t yet tired of losing. They sat through the two-year trashing of Gore—and refuse to discuss it to this very day. And today? As Russert (and his stable-mates) repeat the conduct which drove the outcome of that disaster, they race to see who can say it most fervently: Russert is annoying but fair.

[Note: Howard Kurtz is also pimping for Tim in this morning’s Post.]

Go ahead: Read Foser’s piece—then read Matt and Kevin. Has Russert been fair down through the years? We can’t imagine why a liberal would want to assert that. But if you want to know why Dems are in trouble in next year’s election, go ahead: Reread these well-mannered boys from the burbs. Even now, they remain eager to look away from the way their world really works. For ourselves, we give up on their lost, worthless souls. We leave them to your intercession.

HOW STUPID IS THE VILLAGE: By the way, how stupid are the Village people? Matt forgot to mention this, but Russert was anything but a tiger when he interviewed Obama yesterday. Best example: The familiar lack of follow-up to Obama’s statements about Kyl-Lieberman. Obama said that Clinton was “talking and acting and voting like [a] George Bush Republican” when she voted yes on Ky-Lieberman. Of course, Dick Durbin is Obama’s top supporter in the senate—and he voted yes on Kyl-Lieberman too! The follow-up was obvious, and was eschewed: “Was Durbin voting like a George Bush Republican?” But this is how Russert behaves when he interviews Republicans—or Dems whom he favors in party primaries. Later this week, we’ll review the embarrassing spectacle he staged on Bradley’s behalf—on November 14, 1999, eight years ago this week.

This has gone on for a very long time. But so what? In the suburbs surrounding the Village, fiery leaders like Matt and Kevin are too weak, too worthless to care.

YOUR CHALLENGE: Readers, you really have to decide now. Was Gore trashed during Campaign 2000? These boys simply never discuss it. Has Russert been tough on both parties? These fellows keep saying he has been. And what about the ludicrous Matthews (see below)? These high-minded gentlemen rarely mention him. Readers, we really have to decide: What is up with these boys from the burbs? What explains their peculiar perspective? Why are they such Pollyannas?

We’ll be discussing these topics all week. What do you think about these fellows? It really is time to decide.

Speial report: Profiles discouraged!

PART 1—THE MOST REMARKABLE THING: On Friday, we posted a brief synopsis of Chris Matthews’ Thursday-night assault on the public discourse (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/9/07). Now, with transcript available (if doctored), let’s revisit the gentleman’s evening:

Hardball [heart] Huckabee: In the past dozen years, has there been a Republican White House candidate to whom Matthews didn’t pander and fawn? (Answer below.) On Thursday’s Hardball, Matthews sponge-bathed Mike Huckabee into the fold. After a lazy succession of softball questions (built around the requisite mockery of Dennis Kucinich), Matthews closed the segment with this warm tongue-bath, having just discussed the prospects of a ticket pairing Huckabee and Giuliani:
MATTHEWS (11/8/07): Well, you may end up on the ticket with him, one way or the other, because that ticket is going to have to be balanced. There's no way Rudy Giuliani isn't going to have to get a running-mate from the Bible Belt. He has to balance off what he's offering. That's just my assessment. It doesn't have to be yours.

But it's an honor to have you on the show. Everybody likes you, Governor Huckabee. We're waiting for those poll numbers to reflect it. Everybody around here seems to like you, and we'll see what that's worth. Anyway, good luck in Iowa. That's where everybody expects you to pull the big upset and come in a strong second to—or maybe first—to Romney. Anyway, thank you, Governor Huckabee, for coming on, former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee.

HUCKABEE: Thank you, Chris.
Astounding—but perfectly typical. “Everybody likes you, Governor Huckabee,” Matthews said to his guest. “We're waiting for those poll numbers to reflect it.” Then, in case Huckabee missed the point, Matthews stated it more clearly: “Everybody around here seems to like you,” he said, “and we'll see what that's worth.” Earlier, disappearing under the table, Matthews made his most remarkable statement. He told this unimpressive former governor of a small southern state that it was “an honor” to have him on his program!

But then, this is the way Matthews has fawned to every major Republican hopeful of the past dozen years—with the possible exception of Romney. Has he fawned to major Democratic pols? Surely, you don’t have to ask. Al Gore “doesn’t seem very American, even,” he once astoundingly told Don Imus. And that’s pretty much been par for the course when it comes to the Clintons, Dean, Gore. Did you hear about John Edwards’ haircut?

Hardball gets personal: Early in the 5 PM (Eastern) hour, Matthews explained an obvious point about his approach to George Bush. He spoke with Debra Saunders and Larry Sabato; the segment has been disappeared at Nexis and at MSNBC—but for once, Matthews told us the truth:
MATTHEWS (11/8/07): You know what I don’t understand about this president? And I tell you, I don’t have the personal dislike for him that a lot of people have, I can tell you that. I don’t go after him personally. Obviously, I think this war is a mistake...
Matthews went on to say that he doesn’t understand why Bush lacks “a sense of tribe.” (Don’t even ask.) But before that, he had told the world the truth—he has never gone after George Bush personally. Translation: Before Matthews dares to criticize Bush, he has to say how much he likes him.

And then, having said that at 5:09 Eastern, Matthews proceeded to spend the hour battering Hillary Clinton around—in a dim-witted, deeply “personal” manner. Once again, he showcased his inane gender loathing—and, of course, his decade-long hatred of all things Clinton/Gore. Yep! For the third time in the week, Matthews spent inordinate amounts of time complaining about the troubling way Clinton claps her hands in public. (Yes—you read that correctly.) When the Financial Times’ Chrystia Freeland politely suggested that Matthews might not want to go after Clinton’s “mannerisms,” Matthews responded as he always has done when challenged by women on his program—with withering sarcasm, followed by invitations to male guests to put the vile lady down. (For Digby’s take on this ugly nonsense, go ahead—just click here.) Once again, Jamison Foser captured the nasty business in Friday’s report at Media Matters. Again, we’ll suggest that you go there to see the inanity Matthews dispensed as he got “personal” with Clinton again.

But then, none of this should be a surprise to any Dem or liberal. Eight years ago this very week, Matthews was doing the same things to Gore, the person we all pretend we admire; he kept trashing Gore as a girlie-man—the ugly sliming of Naomi Wolf was in full swing in the press by this time—and he kept insisting that Dems would be much better off if they would only nominate the far nobler Bradley. (More on these topics all through the week.) Of course, he’d already spend the better part of the year trashing women who dared talk back—Elizabeth Holtzman; Ohio pol Mary Boyle; even Norah O’Donnell, in the good old days when she would speak up, before she got herself Stepfordized, knowing that millions would follow. In short, Matthews’ loathing of women has always been clear—as has his loathing of Big Major Dems. By the way, he also lied about Gore quite a bit. Are you happy with how that turned out?

And it isn’t like nobody noticed. We have discussed this every step of the way, in real time and in the years which have followed. And omigod! In the summer of 2000, the people at Pew went out of their way to comment on Matthews’ behavior toward Gore. In July 2000, they released a study of the pres corps’ coverage of Bush and Gore in the early part of that year—and as they noted the vast disparity in the way the two hopefuls had been covered, they singled out Hardball as a place where Gore was being endlessly trashed. So it isn’t as if this long-standing conduct hasn’t been noticed, or mentioned, or cited. Which brings us to the most remarkable thing we can think of about this nasty man.

What’s the most remarkable thing about Matthews? It isn’t his ugly hatred of women. It isn’t the way he has trashed both Clintons, and Gore, thereby giving the White House to Bush. It isn’t even the crackpot manner in which he expresses his loathings. (“Al Gore doesn’t look like one of us,” he told Imus.) No, the most remarkable thing about Matthews is the fact that he’s never really been profiled, through all the years of his crackpot behavior! Even in our big liberal journals, journalists have mysteriously failed to tell the world about his gruesome misconduct. And isn’t it funny? Some who fail to order those profiles end up as stars on his show!

TOMORROW—PART 2: We married Joan.