Saturday, May 14, 2005

The Alternate Universe of Chris Matthews

Is Chris Matthews a liberal? Conservatives say, "Look at his resume," and point with glee at his work with Tip O'Neill and Jimmy Carter.

But JABBS readers know better. They know that what really matters is what comes out of Matthews' mouth night-in and night-out. (Click here to read JABBS' five-part series.)

People who believe Matthews is a liberal also believe Ann Coulter "is more likely to offer jokes than fury," J.D. Guckert is a legitimate journalist, and George W. Bush is a "progressive" on the environment.

For if Chris Matthews was such a liberal, why would he rant about Sen. Hillary Clinton's possible guilt by association with regard to a crooked fund-raiser, when the trial judge, and even the case's prosecutor, had made it clear that she was completely innocent.

When it comes to former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Clinton (D-NY), guilt-by-association is a hallmark of the loony right -- the forces who in the 1990s, with money from loony right billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, undertook the "Arkansas Project," to go after every half-baked rumor about the Clintons. Guilt-by-association was what fueled numerous books by the loony right -- books based on rumors and half-truths which upon further investigation proved false, no matter how many times Gary Aldrich, Carl Limbacher or R. Emmet Tyrell Jr., bring them up.


Before the fund-raiser, David F. Rosen, went on trial, prosecutor Peter R. Zeidenberg exonerated Clinton. "You will hear no evidence that Hillary Clinton was involved in any way, shape or form," he told the jury in Federal District Court.

U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz said: "This isn't a trial about Senator Clinton. Senator Clinton has no stake in this trial as a party or a principal."

Zeidenberg said Rosen tried to keep Clinton's campaign from discovering how much money was donated to cover the costs of the August 2000 star-studded event at the heart of this criminal case. The reason: Rosen was afraid he would be fired.

Rosen is facing three counts of causing false statements to be filed to the Federal Election Commission, all involving the costs of the gala, a concert and dinner with President and Mrs. Clinton.


The court case began on May 11, but "insiders" like Matthews should have known in advance -- it wasn't a secret -- that the prosecution was not going after Sen. Clinton.

But that didn't stop Matthews from doing his best Sean Hannity imitation on May 10, throwing out lots of -- for lack of a better term -- conservative spin on the pending trial.

Matthews spoke with Washington Times editorial page editor Tony Blankley and Time contributing editor Margaret Carlson. We have to assume, yet again, that Matthews was uninterested in having a representative of the liberal press -- someone from the Nation, for example -- as part of the discussion. What would have made sense, of course, would be to have Blankley up against Joe Conason or Gene Lyons, each of which have written books about right-wing attacks against the Clintons.

In what world is Matthews considered a liberal? Conservatives look at Matthews' resume and declare him a liberal, forgetting that he once said on the air that he "hated" Hillary Clinton, or that he once told Trent Lott, again on air, that Lott was representative of his audience.

Matthews made it clear how he felt from the start:

MATTHEWS: It‘s a long way from here to 2008 and Hillary running for president, having a major investigation of a fund-raiser where it looks like somebody gave her an extra $800,000 secretly. And, sure, her claim is that she didn‘t know about it. And this guy is on trial for knowing about it. Where does it put her?

Scoff, scoff. The "liberal" has spoken, right conservatives?

Amazingly, Blankley offered an out for Clinton, only to have Matthews raise that guilt-by-association cloud again:

BLANKLEY: But it would amaze — it would amaze me if Hillary personally got on the phone and transacted any of these deals or if she personally e-mailed any comments about the $800,000. Whatever this town may suspect, because she‘s a micromanager, she might know, I would be amazed if there‘s any evidence directly. And, at the worst, it would be her word against Rosen‘s. And tie goes to the big shot.

MATTHEWS: So, it‘s not—you‘re saying—and I‘m asking this open-mindedly—it‘s unfair to suspect that, when she goes to a fund-raiser that costs over $1 million to put on, to think it was done for well less than half than that? She could reasonably assume it was just an economy evening?

BLANKLEY: Well, look, what you can reasonably assume. The point is, in law, you have to have evidence. I would be amazed if there‘s any evidence. Therefore, politically, I don‘t think this is a big deal. Now, if there‘s evidence, that‘s another matter.

MATTHEWS: Well, why does Tom DeLay get in trouble because somebody used the wrong credit card on some trip he went on and he wasn‘t aware of whose credit card paid for the trip?

BLANKLEY: As you understand, that‘s the way—that‘s the way this town works. A conservative Republican is going to get it from the media. And a Hillary is not. We know that.

MATTHEWS: You really mean it‘s that bad?

BLANKLEY: I really mean that. Yes.


Yes, Matthews sure is a "liberal." After Blankley, the conservative, twice offers that Clinton is innocent, Matthews segues into another Hannity trick: comparing apples to oranges.

Is it fair to compare a Clinton fund-raiser to the actions of Rep. DeLay (R-TX)? Of course not.

Did someone "use the wrong credit card"? That would suggest an innocent action by DeLay. In fact, according to an April 24 story in the Washington Post, DeLay's airfare for trips to England and Scotland in 2000 was charged to an American Express card issued to Jack Abramoff, a Washington lobbyist at the center of a federal criminal and tax probe.

DeLay's expenses during the same trip for food, phone calls and other items at a golf course hotel in Scotland were billed to a different credit card also used on the trip by a second registered Washington lobbyist, Edwin A. Buckham, according to receipts documenting that portion of the trip.

House ethics rules bar lawmakers from accepting travel and related expenses from registered lobbyists. DeLay has said that his expenses on this trip were paid by a nonprofit organization and that the financial arrangements for it were proper. But the evidence suggests DeLay was lying.

Is that the equivalent of Clinton's situation, where she has been exonerated by the trial judge and the prosecutor? Or course not. And certainly Matthews, the "liberal" and Washington insider, knew that. But that doesn't stop him from throwing out a conservative spin line to the masses.


One other line caught my eye as complete conservative spin.

BLANKLEY: Scandals about Hillary doesn‘t grab the media the way scandals about DeLay grab the...

Amazingly, Carlson didn't come to Clinton's defense. I wonder how that jells with the conservative belief that Time is a liberal publication, even after it made Coulter a cover-girl.

CARLSON: Oh, no. I think scandals about Hillary really grab the media. I just think it‘s — when it is campaign finance reform, it doesn‘t work as well as a trip on a golf course.


The idea that Tom DeLay has received more media attention than Hillary Clinton is another conservative spin line. To assume that, one has to buy into the whole concept of "liberal media bias" among the mainstream press.

The truth is, DeLay has been subject to multiple Congressional investigations -- led by both Democrats and Republicans -- having been charged with alllowng lobbyists pay for travel expenses, funnelling money from political action committees to his wife and daughter, having corporations donate to his campaign, and a host of other charges.

Those who suggest DeLay has been a victim of Democratic witch hunts probably haven't talked with Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO), who the Republican leadership had removed from the House Ethics Committee earlier this year because Hefley wasn't willing to overlook DeLay's various charges.

Clinton has been subject to multiple witch-hunts, including the "Arkansas Project" and mutliple "Whitewater" investigations -- all of which have found the Clintons innocent. The loony right rumored she was responsible for "murdering" White House attorney Vince Foster, even after his 1993 death was ruled a suicide via several investigations, including one conducted by Kenneth Starr.

But the "poor Tom DeLay" line dovetails nicely with the conservative myth of "liberal media bias," and the conservative dream that Hillary Clinton will be found guilty of something.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the point here...are you trying to compare Hillary and Delay (or try to prove they arent comparable) simply because it came up in a typical cable television talkfest. These arent news shows, they are like reality shows. I saw that episode and Carleson did jump in to say Hillary gets a beating from the press.

Look, i cannot stand Delay; think he is everything wrong with politics. I do not like Hillary either. Until any evidence comes out against her, I will assume she did nothing wrong. However, considering she is running for president (although i hope not), you expect the conservatives to put that issue out there. I would expect no less of the dems in the reverse situation.

Now to the point here. Matthews a far leftist....not a chance. Is he far way. He is a centrist and in my opinion, that makes him worth listening to. He will spin both ways, depending on the story and yes,his personal views of the person involved get in his way (like with Hillary)--yes he isnt perfect. He overtalks, shouts over guests...but compared to the slop offered by the typical left and right wing commentators on these shows, Matthews is often one of the best.

Matthews actually represents most people in this country. the ones without the organized voice, the ones that will eventually be brought back to power......the centrists! Enough with the left whining that Bush is the devil and everything he does is somehow the evil machinations of his family, rove and anyone else in their crosshairs(cheney, saudis, halliburton, osama). Stop sounding so angry and babyish and look professional, offering concise and well thought out ideas. Enough with the right as well--these bible over consitution, power saturated miscreants, people who vote against gay marriage and go home to get some from their secret gay lover. I am so tired of american politics--its pathetic. where are the voices of reason--the centrists--that can work using ideas from both sides to make this a better country.

and since this is a media blog (BTW bloggers here conveniently try to shut down sometimes interesting viewpoints under the guise of, "this is a media blog", when other times it spends significant space discussing non media items, all depending on which view is being expressed-but that is another issue altogether), lets discuss one of the biggest issues: why the media spends all its time playing to the lowest common denominator rather than talking to true news. sschiavo, the runaway bride, michael jackson, blake, peterson, the missing kid cases, teachers and their students.....i am sickened.

as Bill Maher, an unlikely source of reason, said, i thought the newsshows were supposed to make important things interesting to the public. Not making unimportant things that the public feeds into the primary focus.

The so called media political bias is a joke compared to the overall media malaise-shows that call themselves news.

5:05 PM  
Anonymous rob of wilmington, del. said...

I agree with some of what you say, above commenter, but two points in defense of David's post.

1) I don't think David thinks Matthews is a conservative. But conservatives brand Matthews a liberal, and David has clearly tried several times to show how ridiculous that claim is.

2) David wasn't comparing Clinton to DeLay. He was talking about how stupid it was for Matthews to throw out the conservative spin point comparing Clinton to DeLay.

Matthews would be a much better host if he would skip spin altogether -- left and right. I'm guessing he talks to a lot of right- and left-wingers, and picks up their language and spin points, then uses that language and spin points on guests from the opposite ideological view. That makes sense in theory, but when Matthews allows spin points to replace fact, Hardball becomes a joke.

6:29 PM  
Blogger David Drake said...

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6:06 PM  

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