"Name some of Barack Obama's legislative accomplishments ... if you can"

Chris Matthews goes on the attack against an Obama surrogate.

Published February 20, 2008 3:09PM (EST)

MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews has done little to hide his admiration for Barack Obama -- never mind his distaste for Hillary Clinton -- over the past few weeks. He's said he felt "a thrill going up my leg" listening to Obama speak. He told the New York Observer, "This is bigger than Kennedy. [Obama] comes along, and he seems to have the answers. This is the New Testament," and he called Obama and his wife, Michelle, "one hell of an attractive couple" who "reminded me a bit of Jack Kennedy and Jackie back in '56."

But for a few moments Tuesday night, Matthews changed his tune and went on the attack against Obama and one of his surrogates, Texas state Sen. Kirk Watson, the former mayor of Austin. Matthews went after Watson repeatedly, mercilessly prodding him to name a single legislative accomplishment of Obama's as Clinton supporter Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, could only look on and try not to smile too much. A bit of the exchange:

Matthews: You're a big Barack supporter, right, Senator?

Watson: I am, yes, I am.

Matthews: Well, name some of his legislative accomplishments.

Watson: We, uh ...

Matthews: No, Senator, I want you to name some of Barack Obama's legislative accomplishments tonight, if you can.

Watson: Well, I, you know, what I will talk about is more about what he's offering the American people.

Matthews: No, no, what has he accomplished, sir? You say you support him, sir, you have to give me his accomplishments. You've supported him for president, you're on national television. Name his legislative accomplishments. Barack Obama, sir.

Watson: Well, I'm not going to be able to name specifics.

Matthews: Can you name any? Can you name anything he's accomplished as a congressman?

Watson: No, I'm not going to be able to do that tonight.

Matthews: Well, that's a problem, isn't it?

This isn't the first time a pundit has brought up this question, which will surely become more prominent now that Obama has a real front-runner status in the media. Matthews himself used a similar -- if much, much gentler -- line of questioning last week when interviewing Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, an Obama supporter. Sean Hannity has also asked the question, in more than one instance, of Obama supporters in a focus group convened by pollster Frank Luntz. (None could offer an example of a legislative accomplishment.)

Video of Matthews' grilling of Watson is below.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Alex Koppelman

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