After claiming that non-Catholics Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp “come off as Catholics, in a way,” Chris Matthews asked Mike Barnacle, “Is [Sen. John] McCain one of them?” Barnicle replied: “Absolutely. John McCain absolutely comes off as one of them, Irish Catholic working-class hero.” According to the Associated Press, McCain “has long identified himself as an Episcopalian” but now says “he is a Baptist and has been for years.”
On the April 16 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews asked MSNBC political analyst Mike Barnicle: “Let me ask you, Mike Barnicle, [former President Ronald] Reagan seemed like a Catholic, even though he was raised as a Protestant, even though his father was Catholic. In many ways, people like [former Republican vice presidential candidate] Jack Kemp come off as Catholics, in a way. Is [Sen. John] McCain one of them? Is he down the road going to do well in that way?” Barnicle replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. John McCain absolutely comes off as one of them, Irish Catholic working-class hero.” As the Associated Press reported on September 16, 2007, “Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who has long identified himself as an Episcopalian, said this weekend that he is a Baptist and has been for years.”
By contrast, during MSNBC's post-debate coverage of the October 13, 2004, presidential debate, MSNBC contributor Pat Buchanan aired a clip of then-Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry stating, in part, “I went to a church school and I was taught that the two greatest commandments are love the Lord your God with all your mind, your body, and your soul and love your neighbor as yourself.” Buchanan then asked Barnicle: “OK, Mike Barnicle, you and I were raised about the same time, the same way, 1950s Catholics. In truth I mean Kerry speaks very eloquently here but does he not sound a little more like an Episcopalian in a sense?” Barnicle replied: “Oh, absolutely.” Barnicle later added: “Yes. Well, I mean, John Kerry speaks in complete sentences, noun, verb, object, so there's a little parochial school training there.” Barnicle continued: “But obviously the Catholicism that was imbued in him as a child was not the same kind of Catholicism that was imbued in us because the first thing he would have mentioned was the absolute fear of sex that was ground into you as a young Irish Catholic boy.”
From the April 16 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: You know, what's interesting that -- I've obviously paid attention to this for -- all my life, the political nature of the Catholic vote, if you will. The funny thing about the Catholic vote -- this lighting here is a little wacky today. I think we're getting gaslighted here.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you -- remember that phrase? You're going nuts because the lights keep going off.
Let me ask you, Mike Barnicle, you know, Reagan seemed like a Catholic, even though he was raised as a Protestant, even though his father was Catholic. In many ways, people like Jack Kemp come off as Catholics in a way. Is McCain one of them? Is he down the road going to do well in that way?
BARNICLE: Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. John McCain absolutely comes off as one of them, Irish-Catholic working-class hero. But the Irish Catholics, the Catholics in general, Polish Catholics, German Catholics, they've -- they've migrated. It used to be, when I was growing up, we knew who Cardinal Gibbons was. We knew how much of a foundation of the Catholic faith, we thought, was the American labor movement. That's gone now.
BARNICLE: Catholics today are working in hedge funds. They're writing insurance policies, rather than great novels.
MATTHEWS: Name an Irish politician -- name an Irish congressman from a big city. I think there's one left, [Rep.] Bob Brady [D-PA].
BARNICLE: Bob Brady. He was unbelievable the other night, Chris.
MATTHEWS: There used to be six Irish Catholic congressmen from Philadelphia as recently as the 1950s.
BARNICLE: I saw Brady the other night up in --
MATTHEWS: Times have changed, gentlemen. We've lost power in the cities.
From the Nexis transcript of the midnight ET edition of MSNBC's After Hours following the October 13, 2004, presidential debate:
BUCHANAN: All right. Let us know what you thought about tonight's debate. Seventy-two percent of you thought John Kerry, 26 percent of you said the president. As we said, it is unscientific.
You too can vote. Go to joe.msnbc.com. We'll be right back.
[begin video clip]
BOB SCHIEFFER (CBS host and moderator): You were asked before the invasion or after the invasion of Iraq if you had checked with your Dad, and I believe -- I don't remember the quote exactly, but I believe you said you had checked with a higher authority.
I would like to ask you what part does your faith play on your policy decisions?
PRESIDENT BUSH: First, my faith plays a lot -- a big part in my life, and that's when I was answering that question, what I was really saying to the person was that I pray a lot. And I do.
I believe that God wants everybody to be free. That's what I believe. And that's -- part of my foreign policy. In Afghanistan I believe that the freedom there is a gift from the Almighty. And I can't tell you how encouraged I am to see freedom on the march and so my principles that I make decisions on are a part of me and religion is a part of me.
[end video clip]
RON REAGAN (host): All right, everybody settle down. What did you, how did you think that played out? Most people give Bush the advantage on the religion question. I thought Kerry handled his half of his pretty well. We didn't see it there.
BARNICLE: I think they both did. I think Bush appeared in his answer I think closer to who he actually is than maybe in all of the other canned answers and responses.
A bit hesitant, a bit awkward, a bit shy about his faith but you know willing to proceed and give you an answer as to how deeply he felt and how much he prayed and how clearly Democrats would say he ought to pray.
But I think they were both effective. I think it says something about who we are culturally in this the 21st century that politicians seem to be either reluctant to talk about their faith or talk about it in ways that are offensive to the voting public.
BUCHANAN: I thought there was authenticity there too. The very fact that he was hesitant and he was thinking it through as he answered it -- it wasn't some canned response. How do you think -- I guess we've got now coming up Senator Kerry discussed his own faith as well. Let's listen.
KERRY [video clip]: I measure the words of the Bible and we all do. Different people measure different things. The Qur'an, the Torah, or you know, Native Americans who gave me a blessing the other day had their own special sense of connectedness to a higher being.
And people all find their ways to express it. I was taught -- I went to a church school and I was taught that the two greatest commandments are love the Lord your God with all your mind, your body, and your soul and love your neighbor as yourself.
And, frankly, I think we have a lot more loving of our neighbor to do in this country and on this planet.
BUCHANAN: OK, Mike Barnicle, you and I were raised about the same time, the same way, 1950s Catholics. In truth I mean Kerry speaks very eloquently here but does he not sound a little more like an Episcopalian in a sense --
BARNICLE: Oh, absolutely.
BUCHANAN: Whereas Bush sounds like -- you know -- born again.
BARNICLE: Yes, John Kerry speaks in complete sentences. Nouns, verbs, objects.
REAGAN: I'm sorry. I have to go to a break. It's a hard thing to do.
BARNICLE: I have faith in that.
REAGAN: Have faith. We will be back in just a second with Mike's answer. Swear. Swear to God.
BUCHANAN: Welcome back. Welcome back. We want to get back to Mike Barnicle's answer on what did you think of Episcopalian priest statement that he was an altar boy.
BARNICLE: John Kerry. Yes. Well, I mean, John Kerry speaks in complete sentences, noun, verb, object, so there's a little parochial school training there --
BARNICLE: But obviously the Catholicism that was imbued in him as a child was not the same kind of Catholicism that was imbued in us because the first thing he would have mentioned was the absolute fear of sex that was ground into you as a young Irish Catholic boy --
BUCHANAN: Number six.
BARNICLE: Yes, yes. But they both did well on that question.
BUCHANAN: Liz Marlantes, Howard Fineman, and of course --
REAGAN: Mike Barnicle.
BUCHANAN: Mike Barnicle, thank you all for joining us tonight. Don't go away because we've got another whole hour of After Hours debate coming up.
REAGAN: Plus, we'll talk to music legends Daryl Hall and John Oates so don't go away. After Hours will return in just a minute from Arizona State University.