Poor Chris Matthews was stuck today being the only voice of sanity on a Republican National Convention Morning Joe panel. While RNC Chairman Reince Priebus let his smug lies fly unfettered and the panel played both sides do it, Chris Matthews called Priebus out on Romney’s blatant race card playing via Romney’s inaccurate Welfare to Work ads and the birther joke.
Of the Romney birther joke, Matthews said, “That cheap shot about ‘I don’t have a problem with my birth certificate’ was awful. That was an embarrassment to your party. Welfare to work, everyone’s pointed out it’s dishonest… You start talking about work requirements and everyone knows what game you’re playing (audience claps). Everybody knows what game you’re playing; it’s the race card.”
Watch a clip here via MSNBC:
Matthews said, “That cheap shot about ‘I don’t have a problem with my birth certificate’ was awful. It is an embarrassment to your party to play that card. This stuff about getting rid of the work requirement for welfare is dishonest.
Reince Priebus fought back with the Cheney contempt sneer and a dismissive (if telling) giggle.
Chris was having none of that, “You can play your games and giggle about it, but the fact is your side is playing that card. You start talking about work requirements and everyone knows what game you’re playing (audience claps). Everybody knows what game you’re playing; it’s the race card.” Audience still clapping.
Matthews, “Yeah if your name is Romney you’re well born and you went to prep school, yeah brag about it. And this guy has an African name and he’s gotta live with it. Who was born on third base?”
Ouch. That one hurt. The crosstalk got too loud to hear Matthews, who was making the point that Obama is the one who rose from nothing, not Romney who was born on third base, so for Romney to be mocking Obama about coming up from nothing, to mock him about his name and ethnicity, is arrogant.
The panel acted shocked and asked Chris if he thinks Mitt Romney is playing the race card, to which Chris shot back, “There’s no doubt he’s playing the race card.”
Even though Matthews explained the Welfare to Work aspect (a historic dog whistle) and the birther nod to racism, Mika and Joe acted like they’ve never heard of the Republican Southern Strategy before by claiming that Romney is an awkward joker (true enough, but how could a birther joke be anything other than ‘awkward’? Why did he say it?).
Reince smirked and doubled down on condescending with, “We’ve gotten to the place in politics that any moment of levity is totally frowned upon by guys like you just so you can push your brand.” This was rich coming from Reince Priebus, who as RNC Chair is on the show for one reason — to push the Republican brand, whereas Chris Matthews is not a party chairman. Notice the false conflation of having an ideology with having an agenda, coming from the guy who is on the show to push his agenda.
Reince said nothing except to imply that Mitt Romney’s “levity” shouldn’t be examined for racism when it takes aim at the Republican-generated conspiracy regarding the President’s birth certificate — the ‘how dare you’ defense.
Chris asked, “What’s the joke?”
Reince couldn’t answer.
“Chris continued, “It just seems funny that the first joke he’s ever played is the birth certificate.”
This episode of Morning Joe was worth watching for the Matthews truth telling moment, but in order to get to that point, we had to wade through twenty minutes of what amounted to a commercial for the Republican Party, in which they were allowed to spin and lie their way into Happy Land.
Republicans were helped by the panel in this mission, as the panel played Very Important Insiders who get that “both sides do it”, as if balance in calling out alleged lies equals the truth.
The narrative they all settled on in how-to-sell-this-election-as-a-horse-race is that Romney might have the knowledge to turn the economy around but the voters don’t like him, whereas they like Obama but Obama doesn’t know how to fix the economy. This of course plays right into the Republicans’ attempt to paint themselves as the party of serious people, but even Mika pointed out that this serious party has yet to offer us any specifics about their plans. The “trust us, we’re wonks because we have Republican Representative Paul Ryan who bases policy on a fictional novel aimed at teenage boys” only works with the crowd who doesn’t read much.
Here’s an irony for you: These people call themselves insiders, and then spend all of their time pretending they don’t know what really went down on the inside.
Obama has been trying to fix the economy, but the Republicans who won in 2010 by running on jobs then got into office and focused on two things: “debt” (as in, denying debt, not solving it) and abortion.
When they say debt, Republicans mean not paying off the bills from their guy. When the Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling in order to pay off our creditors, they inflicted serious damage on this nation’s credit rating and thus our ability to borrow and thus our economy. The Republican Party can hardly claim to be the party of fiscal responsibility when they voted to not pay off our creditors. Wall Street was warning them at the time that even having a debate about not paying our creditors was lethal to our economy, but the Republicans proudly pulled that trigger.
Republicans pretended like the debt ceiling was something you do when you want to create MORE debt, when in fact, it is an act of agreeing to pay off your debt. The panel acts like they don’t know where that debt came from (two wars left off of the budget by Bush didn’t help).
The Republicans refused to pass any of the President’s jobs bills until he broke them down into itty bitty parts and even then, after much pressure given their misleading “party of the troops” branding, the only one they voted yes on was the Veterans’ Jobs Bill.
And guess whose employment went up? That’s right. The veterans. Wouldn’t it have been nice if all Americans had gotten the same treatment from Republicans?
So it’s not that Obama doesn’t know how to fix it. It’s that Republicans are obstructing the economy in order to paint the president as a failure. This is hardly a secret. They told us they were going to do this. Mitch McConnell told us that their one goal was to make Obama a one term president.
To this end, they have refused additional stimulus, even though they all participated in the Obama stimulus and the Bush stimulus plans. They let our credit rating take a hit. They left without addressing things like the Post Office and the Violence Against Women Act, but they had time to push a mountain of legislation redefining rape and removing a woman’s rights over her own body.
Chris Matthews spoke the truth, and for that he was subjected to being labeled a partisan hack, while all of the other allegedly smart pundits pretended they had never heard of the Southern Strategy. The audience clapped when Matthews spoke the truth – a moment that should have alerted the media that the public is hungry for some honesty.
But we aren’t going to get it from this media. What we are going to get is bland Brothers and Sisters with their faux tans and silly jokes about socks smiling into the camera as they tell us that there really isn’t any evil in the world, nothing to worry about, shiny ball celebrity!
I realize they have to bland it up for “mainstream” but they don’t have to roll over and play dead. Not one of them pushed back on Priebus’ lies about Medicare. Mika threw him a bone by bringing up Todd Akin after Priebus wound his way through the Romney Medicare lies, instead of pointing out that the President did not raid Medicare or steal from it; but rather, Obama cut fraud and abuse to the Republicans’ corporate friends — the same people Romney wants to empower with his VP’s privatization of Medicare scheme.
Chris Matthews had his moment in the sun when he called it as it is. The people loved it, the corporate media hated it and the Super Smart Pundit types played Balanced by pretending they have never heard of Southern Strategy, they missed Romney’s “Anglo Saxon” moment, they missed the entire birther movement of the last four years and Sarah Palin never existed in 2008. Racism, they gasp? How dare you!
Of course, Joe’s answer to this is the Republican stand by – their go to statement is that there is no racism because we elected a black man. To which I respond, you (Republicans) did not elect him, so how does that prove your point?
Joe is right, some of the country is not racist. But some of it is. Republicans are not all racists, but racists are mostly Republican. This is hardly an accident or a shock. Republicans have a long history of using the Southern Strategy to deliberately to stoke racial fears in order to win elections.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.