Matthews rails against "Clinton-centric world"

MSNBC's Chris Matthews launches another seemingly pro-Obama tirade, this one directed at the Clintons.

By Alex Koppelman
Published March 24, 2008 9:32PM (EDT)

Poor Bill Richardson. The governor of New Mexico -- toting his awesome beard -- was being interviewed on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Monday when Chris Matthews suddenly started to get, well, all Chris Matthews-ish. And what we couldn't help noticing was that as Matthews went further and further into what turned out to be a pretty long rant (a transcript is below; video is at the bottom of this post), Richardson seemed to be trying to make himself smaller and smaller, to take himself almost out of the picture.

Matthews' comments:

I think we make a big mistake trying to see things through the eyes of the Clintons, in a kind of Clinton-centric world. There's a larger globe out there of people, 350 million Americans and billions of people around the world.

I think we should look upon these decisions by people like Bill Richardson as important to people like us, instead of how it affects the sensibilities of the Clintons. I think that's a big mistake we've been making for about 20 years.

Let me read you something from the Washington Times today. It's about a woman who was over in Alexandria watching television when you, Governor, made your announcement for Senator Obama.

"I was at the McDonald's on Henry Street at 1:00 p.m. with three little children, and it was exactly the time that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was making his announcement endorsing Barack Obama for president.

"It was dead quiet. Two African-American men were standing around the televisions mounted on the walls, and two Hispanic families seated around me also watched intently. As soon as Richardson endorsed Obama, an African-American woman next to me called her husband and told him what had happened.

"Then one of the two men watching the TV shouted out loud in a tone of wonder and amazement: 'It's going to happen. Obama is going to be the next president!' It was the only moving moment that I've ever experienced with politics."

That is what we should be putting our focus on -- not on the feelings of the Clintons about what people owed them and their sense of entitlement. The American experience that's going on right now in McDonald's and in living rooms around the country, the feeling people have when they see you standing next to Barack Obama with your different backgrounds, I tell you, it's a stunning picture.

It's not important what the politics of the Clinton family is now. It's what's important to the country. And I really think we've got to stop talking about this as if this were a sitcom. We had eight years of the sitcom.

What are the Clintons up to? How do they relate to each other? What do they feel today? It's a sitcom, and it's got to end. We've got to focus on America. We're stuck in Iraq; 4,000 people are dead now because of decisions made by politicians like the Clintons. We've got to focus on what matters and stop this sitcom approach to politics.

It doesn't matter what happened on the phone between Hillary Clinton and Bill Richardson. What matters is what Bill Richardson had to say about the future of the country.

There were, we thought, just a couple of problems with this. First, Matthews commits a bit of a journalistic no-no: Without any independent confirmation, and presumably without doing any reporting of his own, he's trusting a reader e-mail to the Washington Times as if it's the gospel truth. Second, it's not as if Matthews is some totally highbrow journalist with no stains on his hands; he has done plenty of "sitcom" journalism.

But what we liked, perhaps best of all, is Matthews' reaction to a question fill-in host Mika Brzezinski asked him after a commercial break: "Chris, you weren't endorsing Barack Obama there, were you?" Video of his reaction follows.

Matthews' comments:

Brzezinski's question, and Matthews' response:

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama Msnbc War Room