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Discussing former Sen. Fred Thompson's (R-TN) potential presidential bid on the March 29 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews added Thompson to the list of white, male, Republican presidential hopefuls whose purported presidential bearing and prospects he has touted. Matthews asserted that Thompson "looks like a movie star" and that "people like movie stars," adding, "Maybe we will get Harrison Ford next time." Matthews' comments were part of a discussion in which Matthews, Bloomberg columnist Margaret Carlson and MSNBC contributor Pat Buchanan gushed over Thompson. Matthews said of him: "[I]f there ever was a guy that looked like the daddy party, the Republican." Matthews also described an interview he had with Thompson during Thompson's Senate campaign and said, "This is when you fall in love with politicians."
Carlson said that Thompson "does look like the dad" and that "[h]e's handsome, he's charming, he sounds like a president, he looks like a president." She added that "not having the hunger, not being willing to do anything could help him." Carlson continued "he's smart. He's articulate. He knows his lines. He can hit his mark." Carlson added, "The theme song of Republicans should be 'Some Day My Prince Will Come,' and they're waiting and they're hoping. And so Fred Thompson is not late at all. His moment is here." Later, Carlson listed more of Thompson's superficial attributes, including "the red pickup truck" and "the aura," to which she added the more substantive claim, "He's smart. He has experience."
As noted by the weblogs Eschaton (written by Media Matters Senior Fellow Duncan Black) and The Daily Howler, Carlson heaped praise on Thompson without disclosing her friendship with him. According to a source quoted in a April 27, 2000, New York Post article headlined "They Get Their Thrill on the Hill," "Margaret and Fred dated for a little bit, but it fell into a 'buddy' thing." A May 22, 2000, Weekly Wire article quoted Thompson referring to "my friend Margaret Carlson."
Matthews asserted on Hardball: "I notice it used to be you had to look like an anchorman to get the presidency. You needed to have a big thick head of hair." Buchanan added that Thompson "looks like a big truck driver" and "[l]ooks like a Teamster, sure ... a Southern guy, a Teamster. He's in from Tennessee." Buchanan concluded: "He's perfectly positioned." In another exchange, Matthews asked the panel, "You put him up against [Sen.] Hillary [Rodham Clinton (D-NY)] in the general election, who wins?" Buchanan responded "he wins," to which Carlson quickly added, "Agreed."
Media Matters has noted other instances when Matthews or his panel have gushed over the purported presidential attributes of contenders in 2008 -- all white, all male, and all Republican:
- On the May 2, 2006 edition of Hardball, Matthews said of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), "He looks like president to me."
- On the November 19, 2006, edition of the NBC-syndicated Chris Matthews Show, Matthews and his panel gushed over McCain, calling him "passionate," "a smart hawk," and "kind of like Martin Luther." On the March 29 Hardball, Matthews stated, "John McCain certainly deserves to be president, based on his contribution to this country over the years."
- On the January 19 edition of Hardball, Matthews said of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: "He has the perfect chin, the perfect hair, he looks right."
- On the February 13 edition of Hardball, Matthews said that Romney has "got a great chin, I've noticed," and wondered, "[D]oes that mean he might not have a glass jaw?"
However, Media Matters also noted that on the July 18, 2006, edition of NBC's The Tonight Show, where Matthews predicted a Giuliani victory in 2008, he also asserted: "I hope the American people take the next election very seriously and don't just vote partisan or personality or who has the happiest smile, but picks the person that makes us feel the safest."
The weblog The Horse's Mouth noted other portions of Matthews' interview with Buchanan and Carlson.
From the March 29 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: Here's Fred Thompson going in there. You know, John McCain certainly deserves to be president, based on his contribution to this country over the years, but he ran once. How many chances do you get? And in comes Fred Thompson, looking like the daddy party, if there ever was a guy that looked like the daddy party, the Republican. Can he win this thing?
CARLSON: He does look like the dad. He has everything that Pat says. He's handsome, he's charming, he sounds like a president, he looks like a president, but Pat says he might not have the fire in the belly. That could help him -- not having the hunger, not being willing to do anything -- could help him.
MATTHEWS: Gene McCarthy didn't have the fire in the belly. He did all right up there.
BUCHANAN: He was as tough as he could be. He was a tough guy.
CARLSON: It could help him. It could help him. And, you know, he's smart. He's articulate. He knows his lines. He can hit his mark.
BUCHANAN: I don't think he could wait --
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you this. We're having debates. MSNBC is going to have debates coming up within a month or so. They're going to have debates around the country. Is the season still open for him to get in, right now?
MATTHEWS: You think his door is open now?
BUCHANAN: I think his door is open now, yes.
MATTHEWS: Some day he will come along -- so it's Gershwin. Do you think he's coming now?
MATTHEWS: OK. I notice it used to be you had to look like an anchorman to get the in presidency. You needed to have a big thick head of hair. And he and Giuliani and McCain --
MATTHEWS: With a semi behind him.
BUCHANAN: Looks like a Teamster, sure, a Teamster with -- a Southern guy, a Teamster. He's in from Tennessee. He's perfectly positioned, I think, but the question is, does he get in and does he -- really ready to do battle? Iowa, those things are very hard to do, Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK, you put him up against Hillary in the general election, who wins?
BUCHANAN: He wins.
MATTHEWS: Margaret Carlson!
CARLSON: Yes -- no, I --
MATTHEWS: This is treason. Margaret, sisterhood! The sisterhood's at stake here. You're saying it -- you said it so quick.
CARLSON: No, everyone -- everyone --
BUCHANAN: Al [Gore] was on the phone.
MATTHEWS: Billie Jean [King] is on the phone. Billie Jean endorsed [Clinton] the other day.
MATTHEWS: You know what I like about him? I interviewed him when he was running for the Senate. He was the underdog out in Tennessee, in Nashville. I said, "What hotel are you staying in?" He said, "What hotel are you staying at?" Some local -- we were both at, like, three-star hotels. He comes over, meets me for breakfast, no entourage, not another single person with him. This is when you fall in love with politicians. Maybe it's rehearsed, but -- and I said, well -- I'm doing a column in those days. I said, "What about your divorce?" And he -- "You want me to write about that?" You know, he says, "I prefer you wouldn't." I mean, I just like the fact that he has a little, you know, unhappiness in his past, maybe some, you know, some misbehavior problems, but he just says, you know, "I'd rather you didn't."
MATTHEWS: The new McCain. [unintelligible] John Lieber, are you watching? Margaret Carlson said that. We don't need a new model, we got a McCain!
MATTHEWS: Ronald Reagan was right. All the other guys are wrong. Pat Brown [whom Reagan defeated in the 1966 California gubernatorial election] was wrong. Everybody was wrong. People like real movie stars. And even though he's not big-time, he looks like a movie star. He's not just some guy that gets his picture in the paper. Thank you very much. Maybe -- maybe we'll get Harrison Ford next time.