Discussing the victory speeches of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) during MSNBC's special election coverage on November 7, co-anchor Chris Matthews told Republican pollster Frank Luntz that Clinton gave a “barn-burner speech, which is harder to give for a woman; it can grate on some men when they listen to it -- fingernails on a blackboard.” Matthews then noted that Pelosi, who will likely be elected House speaker now that the Democrats have gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives, will “have to do the good fight with the president over issues” such as the minimum wage and prescription drugs. He then asked: “How does she do it without screaming? How does she do it without becoming grating?” Matthews later returned to criticizing Clinton, when, during a conversation with co-anchor Keith Olbermann and with a clip of Clinton's victory event playing in the background, Matthews stated that Clinton's “clapping” was “not appealing” and that “it's Chinese or something,” as Salon.com's weblog The War Room noted. Matthews added that former President Bill Clinton, who was standing behind Sen. Clinton at the podium, was a “gigantic guy behind her and he's just there,” adding: “It's a strange sight.”
Earlier, during a discussion with Cook Political Report editor and publisher Charlie Cook about the victory of Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat -- the first Muslim elected to Congress -- Matthews stated that Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) “middle name is Hussein” and suggested that “that'll be interesting down the road.” Cook responded that he “didn't know that.” Matthews laughed and said: “Well, now you do.” In addition, while reporting that Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee had lost his re-election bid in Rhode Island to Sen.-elect Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, Matthews described Chafee and Republican Rep. Anne Northup, who lost her re-election race in Kentucky to Democrat John Yarmuth, as “innocents” who lost because of the unpopularity of the Iraq war. Matthews declared: “Just like Anne Northup, we're seeing innocents going down in this war over the war.”
From MSNBC's November 7 special election coverage:
MATTHEWS: This is a case where a guy lost because of the war. According to our projections, Lincoln Chafee, very much against the war, but a Republican at a time and in a place -- Rhode Island -- where Republicans are very unpopular, has apparently lost his race for re-election to Sheldon Whitehouse.
There's only one issue in this battle. Sheldon Whitehouse was against the war; Lincoln Chafee is a Republican in a state in which George W. Bush enjoys an approval rating of 23 percent. He is the least popular in that state of any other states. It killed Chafee. Just like Anne Northup, we're seeing innocents going down in this war over the war, and I think that one we'll add now to the list.
MATTHEWS: Charlie, what about this new election here? Have you followed this election of this fellow, Keith Ellison? He's the first Muslim to be elected to Congress. He's not obviously -- his name, Keith Ellison, suggests to me he's from this part of the world, but the fact that he's a Muslim is interesting.
COOK: It is, and it made for, you know, kind of an interesting undercurrent watching that race, and, you know, it wasn't one of the top-of-the-radar-screen ones because Democrats were expected to hold onto that one.
But, you know, it certainly made for some interesting stories, and you kind of kept waiting for that race to kind of turn really ugly and it never did -- unlike just about every other race in this country it seems.
MATTHEWS: You know, it's interesting that Barack Obama's middle name is Hussein. That'll be interesting down the road, won't it?
COOK: You stumped me. I didn't know that, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, now you do.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Frank Luntz. Frank, you were talking about smooth transitions and I was thinking how hard it is for a woman to take on a job that's always been held by men. And it is so hard.
We were watching Hillary Clinton earlier tonight; she was giving a campaign barn-burner speech, which is harder to give for a woman; it can grate on some men when they listen to it -- fingernails on a blackboard, perhaps.
Now, here's Nancy Pelosi who has to do the good fight against the president over issues like minimum wage and reforming -- perhaps -- prescription drugs, so that people can afford drugs and get them in a program that's easy to understand. All kinds of things like that she'll have to go head-to-head with this president. How does she do it without screaming? How does she do it without becoming grating?
MATTHEWS: I have to tell you, Keith, a lot of this has nothing to do with politics, it has to do with -- it seems to me -- temperament. And I should be the last one to say this, but there are certain people that carry weight with them when they speak, and one part of that is to be able to modulate.
MATTHEWS: And one way that Jimmy Carter, back in the old days, was able to be elected president, literally out of nowhere, was not to have these tub-thumping election night performances like we've just seen here, but use the opportunity when you win to sit down in a hotel room on a couch and talk to a Tom Brokaw, a Brian Williams, a Tim Russert, one of us, and talk about where you're taking the country.
Don't go before the crowd. Don't beat the tub like Nancy had to do -- she was OK tonight -- but Hillary was giving one of those tub-thumpers.
MATTHEWS: Nobody wants to join in on one of those except the people in the room. They're not really made-for-television events, they're for the room.
OLBERMANN: As [Democratic National Committee chairman] Howard Dean learned to his dismay three years ago.
MATTHEWS: Exactly. And then, after Howard Dean did it, Hillary Clinton went and did it again tonight. Yelling to keep up with a loud crowd. It's not talking to the American people.
I wish they'd go into a hotel room: “I'll talk to the crowd later. I want to talk to the American people now.”
OLBERMANN: Though you can dismiss the entertainment field for whatever it's worth, but when they go and do publicity for it, there are not press conferences. There's a series of 16 one-on-one interviews in a room and you just run the interviewers in and out, like, you know, waiters showing up at a restaurant.
MATTHEWS: Then it becomes a conversation with the person watching the TV show.
MATTHEWS: Instead, it's a yelling match among -- and that clapping. I just don't get it. It's not appealing. It's Chinese or something. I mean, what is this applauding yourself thing all about? I don't -- I don't get it. And then, of course, him [President Clinton] playing Lothar behind her, like he's the -- she's the Phantom -- this gigantic guy behind her and he's just there. It's a strange sight.
OLBERMANN: No, I think -- I --
MATTHEWS: It's a very strange sight. We've got some results. No more punditry for a minute or two.