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Daily Howler: Eight years ago, just like today, Matthews was picking your candidate
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JUST AS IT EVER WAS! Eight years ago, just like today, Matthews was picking your candidate: // link // print // previous // next //

AN ASTONISHING WORLD: As we told you last week, we’re now seeing a remarkable display of propaganda each evening on Hardball. Chris Matthews is trying to pick your nominee for you—just as he tried to do eight years ago—and the pimping of Obama has reached an astonishing level. Last night, Matthews clowned through his entire program, starting with a remarkable interview with Obama aide David Axelrod. But here’s the way the NBC “journalist” started, right at the top of the program:
MATTHEWS (11/12/07) Can Barack really do it?

Can he catch and pass front-runner Hillary?

Can he be the hero he promised to be?

Let’s play Hardball!
On Hardball, catching and passing Hillary Clinton now explicitly makes you a hero. After the intro music died, Matthews continued his pimping:
MATTHEWS (continuing directly): Good evening, I’m Chris Matthews. Welcome to Hardball.

Tonight, the Barack boom!

Just a few years ago, Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama was an unknown name in politics

Today, let’s face it—he’s the head-liner of the Democratic field.
Matthews continued this way all through the hour. He trashed Democrats in a string of remarkable ways; he shaped his praise of Obama around the notion that only Obama will tell us the truth about the problems with Social Security.

We live in a deeply disordered world, when a multimillionaire plutocrat crackpot like Matthews can drive our discourse in this way—with barely a peep from our liberal organs, whose editors love to guest on his program. We’ll look at that problem all this week (see below). Tomorrow, we’ll likely offer more excerpts from last night’s remarkable program.

But make no mistake: The Team That Welch Built is trying hard to select your nominee for you (again). They’re reciting old RNC scripts as they do. This is an astonishing world.

Special report: Profiles discouraged!

PART 2—JUST AS IT EVER WAS: If you’ve watched Chris Matthews in the past few weeks, you’ve seen familiar, appalling behavior; you’ve seen a Democratic front-runner endlessly trashed for the way she claps her hands. And yes, you read that correctly! Over and over, Matthews has played tape of Hillary Clinton clapping her hands; he has then attacked her, in highly personal ways, for her troubling, “Chinese”-style behavior (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/12/07). But then, Matthews has long been a trasher of Major Dems, as pretty much everybody knows—except readers of liberal journals, of course. With Matthews, this has gone on for a very long time. Indeed, the nonsense he’s aiming at Candidate Clinton neatly tracks the trashing he extended to Candidate Gore from March 1999 on.

Simply put, Matthews’ conduct in the past dozen years has been little short of astounding. But again, we note the most remarkable fact about this highly public nut-case: Right to this day, you’ve never seen a profile of Matthews which even begins to describe or critique the extent of his ludicrous—and repellent—conduct. Not in The Nation; not in Salon; not in The New Republic, or The Prospect, or The Washington Monthly. Nowhere, not even in “liberal” journals, have you even begun to see an accurate profile of this man’s disturbed conduct. All this week, we’re going to ask you: Why do you think that is?

Yep! It’s amazing to see this public nut-case engaged in his fruity conduct again, knowing that, in the past dozen years, no liberal journal has ever bothered to describe or critique this conduct. But uh-oh! Precisely for that reason, some of us may not fully realize how disgraceful—how bizarre—this man’s conduct has been! This morning, let’s return to the fall of 1999, to see how Matthews was conducting himself then. More precisely, let’s watch as Matthews tries to convince the world that Bill Bradley is a man of high character and Al Gore is a “ruthless” man who is willing to do and say anything.

In fairness, Bradley was being laughably puffed all through the mainstream press corps. Everyone knew he was a man of high character—a “straight shooter” with exceptionally high “authenticity” who was wonderfully “comfortable in his own skin.” Just as Obama has been puffed in the past few weeks, Bradley was puffed all though that fall. But to see how foolish the coverage could be, one had to turn—where else?—to Hardball. Many others played the fool about Bradley. But Matthews played the fool best of all.

Yep! Throughout the fall, Matthews and his scripted guests were putting the press corps’ new narrative into place—and every sign, no matter how trivial, showcased Bill Bradley’s great character. Meanwhile, the assessments of Bradley were often accompanied by punishing contrasts with Gore. One man was being mindlessly puffed; the other was being mindlessly trashed. The same dynamic exists today as Matthews presents his mindless displays about Obama and Clinton.

How absurd would Hardball be as the pimping of Bradley unfolded? On September 7, 1999, Howard Fineman appeared on the show to discuss his new profile of Bradley in Newsweek. He found his host in typical form; after playing tape of Gore to open the segment, Matthews compared Gore to a “Chinese poster” (note that weird “Chinese” fetish again) and a “man-like object”—a phrase he would apply to Gore on three separate programs that month. In response, Fineman praised Bradley as a “Boy Scout” and a “sports hero…straight out of central casting,” and as a man who had “spent more time with African-Americans in a work environment, albeit the NBA, than anybody else who’s ever run.” “I think that’s a big appeal,” Matthews gravely judged.

But then, invidious comparison, served up straight, was par for the course now on Hardball. When Fineman returned on September 21, Matthews introduced the segment on presidential politics by comparing Gore, “who’s part of the bathtub ring,” to “this clean-as-a-whistle NBA star, Bill Bradley.” Repeatedly, Gore was called “a man-like object” and “the bathtub ring,” and of course “robotic” (and “Mr. Wizard”). But then, here was Matthews a few weeks later, with Fineman and former Democratic congressman Ben Jones, reviewing tape of another Gore speech, treating the public like wash-rags again:
MATTHEWS (10/12/99): That strikes me as virtual reality. There’s a man—Ben Jones, you were a congressman—where he, he’s reading every word from his script! And then it must say in his script, “Now walk out from behind the lectern and start slashing on—your arms, talking about slashing.” And he did it almost like an automaton, like—that’s what Churchill once said of Molotov, you know, the, the closest thing to a human robot.
To his credit, Jones didn’t seem to know what to say. But on Hardball, the idea that Gore was robotically “scripted” was part of an emerging script, robotically voiced by crackpot Matthews in every conceivable situation. Meanwhile, the Hardball host was highly inventive in fleshing out Bradley’s great character—the same skill he is showing today in his fawning assessments of Obama. On September 7, for example, Matthews had surely set a new world record for ludicrous assessment of character. In this previously-cited exchange with Fineman, Matthews explains why Bradley is so appealing. It’s because of his five o’clock shadow and his receding hairline, the crackpot Hardball host said:
FINEMAN (9/7/99): [Bradley’s] straight out of central casting in the old-fashioned sense: well-credentialed—


FINEMAN: Sports hero—


FINEMAN: Fellowship of Christian Athletes when he was young, the whole nine yards. So what he offers Democrats is a chance to keep the Democrats in the White House.

MATTHEWS: I think that five o’clock shadow, by the way, and the receding hairline are big pluses with men. Just guessing. Just guessing. He looks like a real guy.
Bradley’s hairline and his five o’clock shadow now showed him to be “a real guy.” Within the wider press corps, these traits were added to Bradley’s beat-up car, rumpled clothes and dated neckties as signs of his great authenticity. And for Matthews, Bradley’s hairline was no passing fancy. It arose again when Fineman returned to Hardball two weeks later:
MATTHEWS (9/21/99): I think he’s do, he’s gonna do much better [than Gore] among men. And I think that receding hairline of his is gonna be a lot more popular than Clinton’s Maginot Line hairline, because a lot of guys say they can’t figure out Clinton because he never seems to lose any hair. And look at this guy, Bradley. He looks like a regular guy you’d bump into.
Again, Bradley’s hairline made him “a regular guy.” Two nights later, Matthews went there again, speaking with low-IQ author Peter Maas:
MATTHEWS (9/23/99): Well, what do you make of the guy up there in New York, where you’re at—what do you make of guys like Dollar Bill Bradley, the gritty NBA star that goes out on the court with guys like Russell and Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson? And here’s a gritty, real guy with a receding hairline. He looks like a real guy. He looks like Bruce Willis, not Pierce Brosnan or Mel Gibson. Do you think we’re gonna go back to that era of looking for guys that are real guys?
Luckily, Maas understood what Matthews wanted. “I, they’re—we’re looking for the genuine article, is what we’re looking for,” he compliantly, dumbly replied.

In this conversation, Bradley’s hairline had helped us see that he was a “real guy,” a “regular guy”—“gritty” and “genuine.” In fairness, inane conversations about “authenticity” and character were sweeping through the press at this time—but no one did it dumber than Matthews. Unless it was hapless Tim Russert, of course, who devoted the November 14 Meet the Press to the wonders of Bradley’s high character.

Yep! Given the depth of Jack Welch’s stable, you didn’t have to turn to cable for comical proffers of Bradley’s great character. Indeed, one of the high points in the fall punditry would come on that Meet the Press clown-a-thon. On that day, Bradley was conducting a fund-raising event at Madison Square Garden, featuring teammates from the 1973 New York Knicks. Result? All three Sunday network talk shows booked groups of former NBA stars. With varying degrees of absurdity and irrelevance, the stars waxed about Bradley’s character.

The most comical exchanges occurred on Meet the Press, where Russert led the discussion. In truth, to call Russert’s work this day “embarrassing” would be to engage in major fluffing. In the course of the roughly twenty-minute session, he asked such probing questions as these:
To Dave Debusschere: You were Bill Bradley’s roommate on the road for all those years. What kind of roommate was he?

To Bob Cousy: Is it true, Bob Cousy, that you have spotted in New Hampshire a bumper sticker which says, “Another Celtic fan for Bill Bradley?”

To Cousy: Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, your teammate on the Boston Celtics, says that he still walks around life with Bill Bradley’s hand-print on his back. What does that say about a presidential candidate, who would hold onto his opponent?

To Debusschere: You said the other day something that caught my attention. You said: Maybe the country will now understand we’re not all just a bunch of dumb jocks, that we really do have strong views about people and about our country.
Debusschere gave a stirring reply about the intentions of former athletes. On and on the nonsense went. Surely, one of the silliest moments in Sunday morning TV history came in this exchange with Jerry Lucas:
RUSSERT: Jerry Lucas, you were Bill Bradley’s teammate on the New York Knicks, helped win the 1973 championship. It was said to me the other day by a close friend of Bill Bradley’s that you taught him some memory tricks, some memory games. You are known for memorizing telephone books. It said that Bill Bradley can walk into a room and remember names because of something that Jerry Lucas taught him. True?

LUCAS: Well, I did teach Bill a few things, but Bill taught me a lot of things, too. And, you know, Mr. Bradley has always been a hit in my book and many other people’s as well. He’s always been a winner. And when I say the word “hit,” Tim, since I’m a memory expert, I’m going to teach you and America to remember something. He will be a “hit” as the president, too, and that word “hit” is spelled H-I-T, and to me, that stands for honesty, integrity and trust. And those are the qualities that I remember most from Bill, being a memory expert. And those are the qualities that America needs to remember, too, because he has the qualities to lead this nation in a tremendous way.
In his question, Russert praised Bradley’s ability to memorize names in crowded rooms. In October, of course, Sebastian Mallaby had praised the star in the Washington Post because he doesn’t pay attention to names in such settings. (This showed how “appealingly genuine” Bradley is.) But so it would routinely go as the press corps spun its inane Master Narrative, inventing ways to further the story. Incredibly, even after Lucas’ scripted reply, Russert returned a bit later to the topic of memory, asking Lucas, “How would you rate his intellect, his memory, for retention, for detail?” Lucas fleshed out the key point:
LUCAS: Super. Bill is one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known. I’ve had the opportunity—Bill and I did some unique things when we played. We did a couple of little things that the rest of our teammates didn’t know about to communicate with one another in some very unique ways.
“Like what? Like what?” Russert asked, goggle-eyed. After Lucas said that he and Bradley had used codes on the floor, Russert moved to nail down the story. “Were these audio codes or finger signs or what?” he quickly asked:
LUCAS: Audio codes.

RUSSERT: Audio codes!
So it went, through the lengthy segment, on America’s most storied news program. This complete, utter, screaming nonsense occurred eight years ago this week.

Russert’s performance was an utter embarrassment, the segment a pure infomercial. During the session, we learned that Bradley was intelligent; very intelligent; very, very intelligent; compassionate; bright; and a super-patriot. He was very strong and very concerned—a great leader but also a great listener. Adding to the air of total absurdity, Russert voiced a disclaimer to start the next segment. “You should know,” he told his remaining handful of viewers, “we asked the Al Gore campaign to provide celebrities who would support him. They declined.” So it went as the press corps’ agenda declined into gossip and trivia.

But then, Matthews and Russert were doing the same thing then that they’re doing today. They were trying to select the Democratic nominee—and behaving like fools in the process. Everything seemed to show Bradley’s high character—and everything showed what a slime-ball Gore was. You’re seeing the very same practice enacted today, each evening, on the crackpot show Hardball.

Duh! In those chats about Gore and Bradley, Matthews showcased the same ugly traits he is showing today in his gong-show discussions of Clinton’s hand-clapping. In particular, he showed his unending obsession with inane gender issues; he showed the Archie Bunker soul he has routinely displayed in the trashing of Clinton. Later this week, we’ll watch Matthews as he slimes Naomi Wolf, eight years ago this week. And we’ll watch as he trashes liberal women who dare to disagree with his ludicrous conduct. But then, his disordered gender thinking—and his loathing of women—have always been abundantly clear. But ain’t it strange? For reasons we’ll ask you to ponder this week, this remarkable conduct has never been profiled in any major “progressive” journal! For reasons we can’t begin to grasp, even Matthews’ endless trashing of women has failed to arouse the liberal conscience.

By the way: The press corps showed its standard bad judgment in its scripted assessments of Gore and Bradley’s character. What happened after Campaign 2000—after Matthews’ endless trashing of Gore helped send Bush to the White House? Bradley disappeared into obscurity, never to be seen or heard from again. (He published a book a few months ago; it disappeared with barely a trace.) By contrast, Gore decided to stay and fight—and despite the continuing scorn of the Village, he has transformed the world’s discussion of global warming. But back in the fall of 1999, a crackpot named Matthews could see very clearly that Bradley was the vastly superior man. His five o’clock shadow provided one clue; his hair-line provided yet another. Matthews insults your intelligence the same way now, complaining about Clinton’s vile hand-clapping.

Matthews’ conduct has been astounding for years, as we’ll continue to see all week. But what’s the most remarkable thing about Matthews? It’s the fact that this has barely produced a peep from our “liberal” journals. You’ve never seen this conduct described in anything like a full profile. By some miracle of group erudition, Walsh and vanden Heuvel and Beinart and Tomasky have all known to keep their big traps shut when it comes to this disordered man’s assault on your discourse, your party, your values, your interests. Indeed, Walsh has gone out of her way to praise Matthews’ repellent work, as we’ll see at the end of the week. And isn’t it funny? By complete accident, some of these very same people have ended up as regular guests on Hardball! You should be furious, angry, disturbed at the way they sell you away.

TOMORROW—PART 3: Trashing Gore—and trashing women. More of Matthews’ unprofiled work.

THAT SAME DAY: On that very same Meet the Press, Russert briefly discussed Gore with a panel. At one point, the great man said this:
RUSSERT (11/14/99): Don't forget that Al Gore called—said that Bill Clinton was one of the greatest presidents in history. David Maraniss, that's not something that Al Gore can run away from.
Today, of course, they all insist that Gore should have talked about Clinton much more! In real time, they kicked him sh*tless for the things he said.

Moments later, by the way, Russert noted that Gore was doing better among women in the New Hampshire polls—being careful to mock Gore as he did with his comments about alpha/beta. Jane Mayer replied, perhaps drolly:
RUSSERT: Amongst men and women-look at this gender gap. Bill Bradley wins men 54-38. Al Gore wins women 53-35. So whether he's alpha or beta, Jane Mayer, Al Gore is beating Bill Bradley amongst women in New Hampshire.

MAYER: All right. But maybe the men are the basketball vote. I mean, there certainly seems to be this dynamic of middle-aged guys in the mid-Atlantic states who remember Bill Bradley as a basketball player. And you can't get between them and that candidate.
In fact, Mayer was speaking with one of those dumb-assed men—and he was trying, very hard, to tell you who to pick for your candidate. But then, he’s doing the same thing today. So too, every night, is the un-profiled Chris Matthews.