Matthews: ‘Troll-Like’ McCain Was ‘Crunched Over,’ Obama ‘Looked Presidential’

During Friday’s post-debate coverage on MSNBC, Chris Matthews portrayed Barack Obama as appearing "more presidential" while he complained that John McCain "was crunched over, almost grumpy in physical manner," as he contended that McCain "may not have been presidential." Matthews also complained that McCain did not look at Obama at all during the debate, a theme which Matthews touched on repeatedly that night. Matthews: "[McCain] may not have been presidential, however. Not once tonight, in an hour and a half, did he look at his opponent. He was crunched over, almost grumpy in his physical manner. I think a lot of people will take that body language as contemptuous of his opponent. They won’t like it. Barack Obama, on the other hand, who kept agreeing with McCain, over and over again, saying I agree with the point you made, I agree with the point you made, looked more presidential, although I believe on points, he gave away too much."

Matthews also characterized McCain as "troll-like" and "grumpy," and asked if Americans "really want to put up with four years of that," and described McCain as seeming "really contemptuous" of Obama. Guest John Heilemann contended that McCain "hates Obama." Matthews: "Do people really want to put up with four years of that? Of sitting there angrily, grumpily, like a codger? Like, like, I don’t want to push it too far, but didn’t he seem really contemptuous of his opponent? Do you want to put up with four years of that?"

Ironically, about 14 minutes after Matthews’s criticism that McCain was "crunched over," former Democratic Congressman and MSNBC political analyst Harold Ford advised Obama to "lean forward a little more." Ford: "One of the things that Senator Obama has probably got to do better going forward here and even in the next debate, is lean forward a little more. It’s funny because, interestingly, because his running mate, Joe Biden, has probably got to lean back just a little bit in his debate with Sarah Palin."

Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Friday, September 26, coverage of the presidential debate from MSNBC:

10:40 p.m.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: What struck me is the stylistic difference. He was very strong. He was very strong, McCain, very practical, very emotional He hit a lot of people as a very practical man tonight. He may not have been presidential, however. Not once tonight, in an hour and a half, did he look at his opponent. He was crunched over, almost grumpy in his physical manner. I think a lot of people will take that body language as contemptuous of his opponent. They won’t like it. Barack Obama, on the other hand, who kept agreeing with McCain, over and over again, saying I agree with the point you made, I agree with the point you made, looked more presidential, although I believe on points, he gave away too much. I want to bring in Andrea Mitchell right now with your thoughts.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Yeah, I think that Barack Obama missed opportunities, on the economic issues, to show more of a connection. He let the debate focus on taxes and budget cuts, rather than on pocketbook issues that are of key concern to not only Democratic voters, but independent voters, swing voters. So I think he could have been punchier on that. He could have tried to tie John McCain more closely to George Bush. On foreign policy, Obama certainly looked as though he were conversant. He had all the facts at his command. But, again, John McCain was dismissive toward him several times, calling him naive – you don’t understand tactics, you don’t understand strategy– trying to diminish him in the eyes of the viewers and, of course, the voters. And I’m not sure whether that was something that people would find offensive, frankly.

MATTHEWS: And that, I think we agree on that. David, back to you. The big question is, will his obvious contempt in both his wording and his body language towards his rival offend people or give him a sense of strength? We’ll have to see.

...

10:54 p.m.

HAROLD FORD: One of the things that Senator Obama has probably got to do better going forward here and even in the next debate, is lean forward a little more. It’s funny because, interestingly, because his running mate, Joe Biden, has probably got to lean back just a little bit in his debate with Sarah Palin.

...

#From a special midnight edition of Hardball:

12:41 p.m.

MATTHEWS: Let’s talk TV values, because in many ways, subconsciously, when you pick a candidate for President, you not only pick him on, not just on issues, but who do you want to listen to for four to eight years? I mean, it really is part of the way we look at these things. Do you think, let’s start with John McCain, do you think he was too troll-like tonight? You know, too much of a troll?

JOHN HEILEMANN, NEW YORK MAGAZINE, LAUGHING: Yeah.

MATTHEWS: Seriously.

HEILEMANN: No, no, I understand.

MATTHEWS: Do people really want to put up with four years of that? Of sitting there angrily, grumpily, like a codger? Like, like, I don’t want to push it too far, but didn’t he seem really contemptuous of his opponent? Do you want to put up with four years of that?

HEILEMANN: He did. He did. And, you know, and he hates, and he hates, and he hates Obama, and maybe ... [PORTION IS DIFFICULT TO HEAR] ... since Obama’s not on the stage, that we won’t have to put up with that anymore.

MATTHEWS: Excuse me. That’s what he thinks of the press.

HEILEMANN: I know. That’s what he thinks of almost anybody who’s not John McCain.

MATTHEWS: Is every press conference going to be like that? A troll-like performance, angry at the world?