Promising viewers "straight talk" from McCain, Matthews instead provided forum to bash Obama

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Chris Matthews promised viewers "straight talk" from Sen. John McCain, but instead provided a friendly forum for McCain to attack fellow Sen. Barack Obama, at one point calling McCain's criticism of Obama "brilliantly angry."

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On the February 7 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews promised viewers "straight talk" from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), but instead provided a friendly forum for McCain to attack fellow Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). McCain and Obama recently exchanged correspondence over congressional efforts on lobbying reform.

Matthews directed the following set of "hardball" questions and statements to McCain:

  • What was your original relationship with Senator Obama on congressional reform?
  • Did he, well, welsh on the deal?
  • Did he welsh on the deal? Did he double-cross you by going partisan after promising to go bipartisan with you, senator?
  • Let me ask you about the original [letter from Obama to McCain]. It seems to me looking at the exchange of letters between yourself and Senator Obama, the Democratic senator from Illinois, that you initially put together a bipartisan effort and then he withdrew from the deal and went back and said -- and then told you in no uncertain terms, "I'm not dealing with you anymore in a bipartisan fashion, I'm going off and going to do this as a Democrat."
  • Do you stand by your letter back to Senator Obama?
  • Well, let's take a look at it [McCain's letter to Obama] because I think the people will learn a lot from this about -- I know you're being nice now, but the way in which Obama treated you. The first line of the letter -- I thought we were going to see this on prompter here -- "I'd like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform legislation were sincere." You're basically saying what here?
  • Well, I concluded -- more here. "I concluded your professed concern for the public interest was genuine and admirable. Thank you for disabusing me of such notions." You're saying to the guy," I thought you were a gentleman and a civil servant and now you're obviously not."
  • Let me ask you, I know I love to do this -- you know, Senator, I have to do this now. Ken Mehlman, the chairman of your party, has gone after [Sen.] Hillary [Rodham] Clinton [D-NY] for being angry, as if there's something wrong with it. This is the letter of a very sophisticated, angry senator. What's wrong with being angry?
  • Well, this letter is brilliantly angry.
  • You know, I worked on the Hill for many years, and I used to notice there was a big difference between the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate was bipartisan by its nature. It was people that found common ground where they could and didn't waste a lot of time. The House of Representatives was mainly about taking party positions and seeing who won. Do you think that Obama is behaving like a House member here rather than a senator?
  • OK, we're hoping to get Senator Obama to come on and talk about how you're going to work together. But are you -- have you any confidence now that he will join your bipartisan effort?
  • That letter that you sent, and we were beginning to -- I'm not going to quote any further from it. I think we caught the gist or tone of it. Senator, do you stand by this letter?
  • OK, great.

From the February 7 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: On the Republican side, popular John McCain whacked Democratic Senator Barack Obama as "self-interested," "posturing" and "disingenuous." My kind of day. Let's play Hardball.

[...]

Good evening, I'm Chris Matthews. Welcome to Hardball. The biggest political story in Washington tonight is the battle between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama. In a blistering letter, Senator McCain accused Obama of "using the ethics reform issue for self-interested partisan posturing" and apologized for thinking Obama was sincere. This is the first time any prominent national politician has publicly criticized superstar Obama. Why did Senator McCain go after the freshman senator? We'll get the straight talk from Senator McCain himself in just a moment, but one of the lessons here might be: Don't mess with John McCain.

[...]

MATTHEWS: But first, Senator John McCain. Senator McCain, are you with us?

McCAIN: Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thank you for joining us. What was your original relationship with Senator Obama on congressional reform?

McCAIN: Well, my relationship is fine with him. We had a difference of viewpoints because he sent me a letter that basically said that he wasn't, as I read it, wasn't going to be -- we weren't going to work together, and he'd been at a meeting with me and the chairman and ranking member, Senator [Susan] Collins [R-ME], Senator [Joseph I.] Lieberman [D-CT], as we worked towards lobbying reform, which we have to do, and then I received a letter that basically said that he wasn't going to do that. Actually, I didn't receive the letter before I got press reports, and so I responded with a little straight talk.

MATTHEWS: Did he, well, welsh on the deal?

McCAIN: Say that again.

MATTHEWS: Did he welsh on the deal? Did he double-cross you by going partisan after promising to go bipartisan with you, senator?

McCAIN: You know, I'm sorry, it's garbled, Chris, you're going to have to try to repair it, because I'm, you're, you're garbled.

[...]

MATTHEWS: We'll go right back now to Senator John McCain. Senator McCain, can you hear me now?

McCAIN: All right.

MATTHEWS: Can you hear me now, senator?

McCAIN: Yes, I do.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the original. It seems to me looking at the exchange of letters between yourself and Senator Obama, the Democratic senator from Illinois, that you initially put together a bipartisan effort and then he withdrew from the deal and went back and said -- and then told you in no uncertain terms, "I'm not dealing with you anymore in a bipartisan fashion, I'm going off and going to do this as a Democrat."

McCAIN: Well, I had a conversation with Senator Obama, and he said that was not his intention, but the way I read the letter, after I heard from the press that it was on its way, that indeed that was the case, including touting Senator [Harry] Reid's [D-NV] proposal, which has no Republican sponsors and will not, and we all know that we have to work together and so I responded and Senator Obama and I had a conversation, and we agreed to move on.

MATTHEWS: Do you stand by your letter back to Senator Obama?

McCAIN: Sure.

MATTHEWS: Well, let's take a look at it because I think the people will learn a lot from this about -- I know you're being nice now, but the way in which Obama treated you. The first line of the letter -- I thought we were going to see this on prompter here -- "I'd like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform legislation were sincere." You're basically saying what here?

McCAIN: I'm saying that I believed that his efforts were sincere at the time. The letter that I received contradicted that, at least my reading of it -- and I don't know how you read it any other way -- and so therefore I -- that's exactly what I said. It was a little straight talk, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Well, I concluded -- more here. "I concluded your professed concern for the public interest was genuine and admirable. Thank you for disabusing me of such notions." You're saying to the guy," I thought you were a gentleman and a civil servant and now you're obviously not."

McCAIN: Well, I thought it was pretty well written; didn't you?

MATTHEWS: I think it was tough. Let me ask you, I know I love to do this -- you know, Senator, I have to do this now. Ken Mehlman, the chairman of your party, has gone after Hillary Clinton for being angry, as if there's something wrong with it. This is the letter of a very sophisticated, angry senator. What's wrong with being angry?

McCAIN: I'm not angry. I --

MATTHEWS: Well, this letter is brilliantly angry.

McCAIN: Well, I wasn't angry when I wrote it. Look, I wrote the letter because I was very disappointed in the letter that I received from Sen. Obama and was told to me by the press. Look, this is a pressing issue. We have to move forward in a bipartisan fashion. You know and I know that if -- the only way you resolve one of these issues is in a bipartisan fashion, and so that's why I felt strongly about it. In the room were Sen. Collins, the chairperson of the oversight committee and Sen. Lieberman and we had all agreed to move forward with her committee as quickly as possible, and there was reference in the letter to a task force, that frankly we had committed to moving forward with the committee process.

MATTHEWS: You know, I worked on the Hill for many years, and I used to notice there was a big difference between the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate was bipartisan by its nature. It was people that found common ground where they could and didn't waste a lot of time. The House of Representatives was mainly about taking party positions and seeing who won. Do you think that Obama is behaving like a House member here rather than a senator?

McCAIN: I hope not. I hope that he made a mistake and we can move forward, and I continue to work with Joe Lieberman and many other senators because they realize that we've got to get work done on a bipartisan basis. Have times changed? Of course, they have changed and for the worse.

MATTHEWS: OK, we're hoping to get Senator Obama to come on and talk about how you're going to work together. But are you -- have you any confidence now that he will join your bipartisan effort?

McCAIN: Well, I hope so. We have agreed to move forward and that's what's important at this point, and we've probably provided enough entertainment for a while.

MATTHEWS: That letter that you sent, and we were beginning to -- I'm not going to quote any further from it. I think we caught the gist or tone of it. Senator, do you stand by this letter?

McCAIN: Sure.

MATTHEWS: OK, great.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Chris Matthews
Show/Publication
Hardball
Stories/Interests
Attacks on Progressives, Propaganda/Noise Machine, Barack Obama, John McCain, 2008 Elections
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