Monday, May 30, 2005

On Hardball, Three Guests Gave Conflicting Answers, But Matthews Didn't Notice

JABBS often criticizes Chris Matthews, when the MSNBC host fails to identify conservative spin -- parroting it himself or not playing "hardball" when it comes from his right-skewing panels.

Matthews once lived up to his "hardball" persona. But MSNBC turned rightward after 9/11, canceling the higher-rated Phil Donahue in favor of the lower-rated Joe Scarborough, and adding conservative pundits Tucker Carlson and Monica Crowley. The MSNBC execs saw Fox News' ratings, and knew what to do. Go right, the MSNBC execs told Matthews, and he followed suit.

JABBS isn't suggesting Matthews is a conservative, but he's not a liberal either -- as conservative bloggers insist. Frankly, Matthews is best when he pits equal numbers of liberals vs. conservatives and tears holes in the various arguments. That's playing "hardball," and too often of late, Matthews hasn't been up to the task. His viewers suffer the results.


The gaping holes were evident during the May 25 show, a multi-faceted discussion on the 14 centrist Senators who brokered an end to the Democrats' filibuster of a handful of President Bush's judicial nominees.

One discussion point touched upon by three guests -- Sen. John Warner (R-VA), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), and conservative pundit Tony Blankley -- dealt with the statement in the Constitution that the President seek the advice and consent of the Senate when preparing to nominate judges.

But Warner, Schumer and Blankley offered conflicting opinions of whether recent presidents -- Bush and Clinton -- have followed this constitutional guideline.

Here are the key quotes from Matthews' guests:

WARNER: "And I think our president has been — certainly with this senator, I‘ve had the opportunity to consult with him on judicial nominations. And I think perhaps it will broaden and in such a way that the — if there is a nominee for the Supreme Court, it is my hope and it would be good for the nation it would be a strong bipartisan vote."

Schumer, who wrote a letter to Bush last week urging him to consult with senators of both parties before submitting future judicial nominations, said this:

SCHUMER: "(W)hen President Clinton had to nominate two Supreme Court nominees, he regularly consulted a number of Republicans, including Orrin Hatch. He gave some names to Orrin Hatch and Orrin Hatch said, you‘re going to have trouble with those names. He gave others and Orrin Hatch vetted them and said, choose them. And Orrin Hatch actually ahead of time said that Breyer and Ginsburg would be acceptable choices to the Republican-controlled Senate."

Blankley, during a journalists' roundtable later in the show, said:

BLANKLEY: (T)hat hasn‘t been the practice in the recent past, that Clinton did not seek out our Republican support for Ginsburg before he nominated her, nor did we think he was obliged to."

But Matthews doesn't recognize the contradiction, responding:

MATTHEWS: There would have been a lot of judges on the Supreme Court who never would have gotten there had their names been floated beforehand, Clarence Thomas, perhaps, Robert Bork. Well, he never made it.


A good journalist would have realized the conflcting opinions of presidents seeking advice and consent on judicial nominees. But Matthews is more blowhard than journalist, and rather than play "hardball," he moves on to his next pre-scripted question.

A good journalist would have stepped in and asked Warner whether he knew of any Democrats who had consulted with Bush on judicial nominees, for no doubt he knew that Schumer was next on the show's docket, and that Schumer obviously didn't think Bush was seeking bipartisan advice. I'm guessing that had Matthews asked Warner the question, Warner would have admitted that Bush only consults with those he agrees with -- his fellow conservative Republicans (and Zell Miller).


If Matthews thought Schumer was lying when telling his anecdote about Clinton consulting with Orrin Hatch, he certainly didn't let on. That said, Matthews should have recalled Schumer's anecdote when Blankley contradicted it.

Is it just coincidence that both times Matthews failed to play "hardball" came when he was faced with comments from the right side of the aisle?

Don't think Matthews is prone to accepting conservative spin as fact? Fine. Then he's a lousy journalist. Remember, Matthews knows it's his job to fact-check. As said last month: "Otherwise, people assume, since I sat here and let somebody say something, it must be true."


For what it's worth, Blankley was part of a three-person roundtable that also included conservative New York Post columnist Deborah Orin, and Washington Post international affairs columnist David Ignatius.

Now, conservative bloggers will say that's fair, and likely the MSNBC bigwigs would, too. But go do a Google search of "David Ignatius, liberal," and you won't easily find that label -- from liberal or conservative writers. But for this panel to be fair, you would have to assume Ignatius was a liberal, and Mathews was one, too.

Too often, this is how panels are formed on Hardball. One recent study found the show's panels skewed right by a 3-1 margin. Yes, Matthews has liberals on his show, but if Blankley and Orin are two of the shows' conservative guests, common sense says the third guest should be a liberal pundit, such as Eric Alterman or Katrina vanden Heuvel.

But that wouldn't sit well with the MSNBC bigwigs.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see ... now advise and consent is being re-written to give some kind of nomination power to the Senator of the party not in the Presidency. Give me a freaking break. There is nothing, nada, zip that requires any President to run any nominee past any Senator of either party. This is all just a bunch of blow hard politicians trying to increase their own role in a process that rightfully belongs to the Executive branch.

So, Clinton ran a nominee past Hatch. Congrats. Blankley, via his circle of colleagues, did not have any nominees run past him (probably since he worked in the freaking HOUSE!), and now that means that Matthews is not a liberal because he didn't go after a Republican? If President Bush ran every nominee past Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman, that would qualify as bipartisan advise, no? I see, the President is only supposed to consult those that have vowed to obstruct him at every turn.

10:01 PM  
Anonymous alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...

The point isn't whether Bush should consult with Democrats. That's Schumer's request, but Bush has every right to deny it.

The point is that Matthews was presented with conflicting statements, and as a journalist, he should have the wherewithal to play "hardball" when such conflicts arise.

I don't know if Matthews ia a liberal or a conservative or just confused. But JABBS makes a decent point in suggesting that Matthews failed to play "hardball" when Warner and Blankley spoke.

If you watched the interview, you should know that Matthews also gave Blankley far more time than Orin or Ignatius, including the last word on the topic, unquestioned by Matthews.

10:49 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

anonymous rants "There is nothing, nada, zip that requires any President to run any nominee past any Senator of either party. This is all just a bunch of blow hard politicians trying to increase their own role in a process that rightfully belongs to the Executive branch."

Um, except in Article II, Section 2:
"[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court..."

Maybe anonymous would like to explain how the President can get advice from the Senate without actually speaking to Senators?

9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, a huge problem in this country right now is that the Right does not educate itself before opening its big mouth.
And the Republican sycophants accept the blind spin as truth.

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, those of us on the right are weak, feeble minded, uneducated, and probably lacking in social skills to boot. How silly of us to have our own thoughts. It would all be so much easier to follow the liberal orthodoxy. We should just sit back, read the NY Times, listen to Kos, Willis, and Atrios, and quit trying to think for ourselves. I cannot possibly imagine why any red staters think that liberals are elitist snobs.

11:51 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Or at least read the Constitution. Maybe if Rush were to read it for you?

I really don't care how happily uneducated the Right likes to be, except when they start passing laws to force everyone to act as dumb as they actually are. According to you: my kids must study Jesus in science class, if I were gay I can't have the same legal marriage as you, if my daughter were raped she can't have an abortion, and on,and on...

It's a liberty thing. You'll see that in the Constitution too. And, if you'll read this thread you'll see it started with a patently false claim that there were no requirements that the "President run any nominee past any Senator of either party."

Which makes the previous commenters remark completely apt. Maybe you should read that again before you open your big mouth?

6:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nope. You are still wrong. The Constitution, as you quoted, says the President shall nominate. It does not mention that he should run his potential nominee by the home state Senator, John McCain, or Dick Durbin. The Senate's role is separate, advise and consent. The "moderates" attempted to insert themselves into the process of the nomination, which clearly is not expressed in the Constitution.

3:51 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Now you are at least debating what is the meaning of the law. This is progress.

Not being a Constitutional Scholar I am only basing my interpretation on simple everyday evidence - like the meaning of the word "advice." Follow me...

If one were legally required to get advice regarding a decision, I see two requisites: 1) the person actually asks what the other person thinks; 2) that question is asked before the decision is made.

Now, explain where I'm wrong, but doesn't it follow then that the President actually must, under force of law, "run any nominee past any Senator of either Party"?

5:58 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Oh, and if you are trying to squirm out of the simple wrongness of the original post by retroactively changing it to become "home state senator" or some particular Senator (straw-man anyone?) I would again point out the plain words of our good ol' Constitution, which says advice of "the Senate" - if the Founding Fathers had meant "the Senators of the President's same political party" or "some Senators" or "any Senator" they were smart enough to have written that. But they didn't - they said "the Senate" - so yes, he must actually speak to Senators, and not just Zell and Joe.

6:08 PM  

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