Chris Matthews is a poor excuse for a journalist. He is a hack-- a smug, self-aggrandizing, egomaniacal bully, except when he’s kissing somebody’s butt (in which case he is an insufferable suck up.) I have seen his cruel, post-primary interview with Texas State Senator Kirk Watson half a dozen times. Every time I see it, I want to throw up. This was gotcha journalism at its worst and it did not prove a thing. So the guy couldn’t answer the question. So what? Does that mean there is no answer to the question? No, certainly not. When given an opportunity to answer the same question the following night (prompted by producer pressure on Matthews, no doubt,) Obama’s well-prepared Senate colleague, Claire McCaskill reeled off an impressive list of his legislative accomplishments (which, Matthews should have been well aware of in any case.)
Here is why I think this was especially egregious journalistic behavior:
Pick on somebody your own size, why doncha?
To begin with, the guy was a local politician, brought on the show to talk about the upcoming Democratic primary in that state. I’m sure he was briefed by the NBC staffers about what he was going to be asked and I’d bet all my ranches and cattle that the question he was asked was not on the list. I’ll guarantee you Matthews would never have had the guts to treat a Governor, a Congressman or a U.S. Senator like that. He certainly would not have used the arrogant tone, the righteous indignation or that extremely boorish behavior with anybody he thought was important in the Beltway scheme of things. For years, I have been watching Tweety let his "important" Washington guests get away with the worst kind of political demagoguery without so much as a follow up question. Most guests on his show have a list of talking points a mile long and Matthews, more often than not, lets them recite them unchallenged. But Matthews made this poor guy a whipping boy trying to reinforce the silly meme that the Clintons and the Republicans (including Tweety’s hero, John McCain) have been spewing all over the place: Words don’t matter. Obama’s an empty suit. He’s all talk and no action and blah blah blah. Ridiculous. Talk about empty rhetoric.
Delay of game
Senator Watson was interviewed by remote, so there was an audio delay of several seconds, which made Matthews’ cross-examination all the more inexcusable. This is very confusing for guests, especially when there is cross-talk (come to think of it, when is there not cross talk with Matthews?) In this case the delay had the unfortunate effect of making the Senator look even more like a deer caught in the headlights. The point is that the delay contributes to the sense of confusion and the moderator has an unfair advantage that the audience is unaware of.
What’s good for the goose...
Keith Olbermann got the last laugh moments later, astutely asking Matthews to name one accomplishment of the United States Senate in the last seven years. Matthews ... (you guessed it) had no answer. None. Nada. Zip. Bupkis. Keith could have pressed it but he let him slide, but the clear implication was that he had pressed the thing too far. When Chris smugly answered "That’s why they call it Hardball. Tee-hee-hee." Keith reminded him that this wasn’t Hardball. They were doing the election results.
What an Asshat.