Matthews: Bush Family Like the Romanovs, Obama May Join ‘Oratorical Mt. Rushmore’

During Tuesday morning’s inaugural coverage on MSNBC, Chris Matthews twice compared the Bush family to the Romanovs as he contended that the Bushes are now likely to go into hiding because of President Bush’s unpopularity: "It’s going to be like the Romanovs, too, and I mean that. There’s a sense here that they are fallen from grace, that they’re not popular, that the whole family will now go into retreat." Even liberal Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson had to call him out on the exaggeration as it sounds like he says in the background that "it didn’t happen exactly like the Romanovs," referring to the overthrow and execution of the Russian royal family after the Bolshevik communists seized power in 1917.

A few minutes earlier, claiming "this isn’t a partisan statement," Matthews raised the possibility that Obama could give such a good speech that he would join the "oratorical Mount Rushmore" of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy in making memorable inauguration speeches. Matthews: "And it seems like there’s a third opening there for Barack Obama. It’s almost the oratorical Mount Rushmore, that there’s so much open space among those Presidents. And only two stand out. And this isn’t a partisan statement. This is a fact. There’s FDR. There’s JFK. And there may be Barack Obama."

While Bush’s "fall from grace" was being compared to Richard Nixon’s resignation, Olbermann disagreed with Matthews’s contention that Nixon was "trickier" than Bush. Olbermann: "Perhaps, but perhaps not. We could have a three-hour argument about that, too, but it would interfere with the inaugural." But Matthews also belittled Bush as not being a "consequential" President compared to Nixon. Matthews: "[Nixon is] a much greater historic figure than this President. Let’s not even put George W. Bush anywhere in the category of Richard Nixon. Richard Nixon was tragic, and he made terrible mistakes, he did wrong things, but he was a major President."

Again, it was left to the liberal Robinson to come across as the most balanced of the group: "[Nixon] was a more complex and interesting character, but Bush’s presidency was a consequential presidency. He had the war in Iraq, 9/11, it was a consequential presidency."

Below is a transcript of relevant portions of MSNBC’s January 20 inauguration coverage that occurred between 10:44 and 11:00 a.m.:

10:44 a.m.

MICHELLE BERNARD: I wonder what President Bush is thinking when he looks at the crowds that are here in anticipation of the swearing in and really demanding change and saying, you know, change is going to come, that change is here. It’s probably got to be a little bit bittersweet for him as you hear people like-

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Bittersweet, Michelle? Do you think that’s the right, I think they’re going to feel more like the Romanovs today.

...

10:52 a.m.

MATTHEWS: If you look back to the last part of the 18th century, the American inaugural has not always been historic in nature. There’s only been a few for example in the 20th century that really stand out – the 1933 inaugural of Franklin Roosevelt, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," the John F Kennedy inaugural, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," and it seems like there’s a third opening there for Barack Obama. It’s almost the oratorical Mount Rushmore, that there’s so much open space among those Presidents. And only two stand out. And this isn’t a partisan statement. This is a fact. There’s FDR. There’s JFK. And there may be Barack Obama. And I thought it was very interesting. I was looking through this book on Newsweek, that Ethel Kennedy at the funeral of Martin Luther King’s wife, Coretta King, said, leaned over to him and whispered, this is Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert Kennedy, speaking to the young Barack Obama, "The torch is being passed to you." And he said, "A chill went up my spine." I have to tell you, there is an interesting transference here of that torch from the Kennedys to Obama, and it is not a happy thought to some of the Clinton people, but its true. They may be overlooked here. They may be overlooked today.

...

10:59 a.m.

MATTHEWS: Two or three hours from now, we’ll have a brand new President. He will really be the President. Bush will not be President.

RACHEL MADDOW: Bush will be on his way to Waco with Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, which is where he’s going today. Remarkable.

MATTHEWS: You don’t send me flowers anymore. [LAUGHS] No, it’s going to be like the Romanovs, too, and I mean that. There’s a sense here that they are fallen from grace, that they’re not popular, that the whole family will now go into retreat. You have a sense that the former President Bush already-

EUGENE ROBINSON: -happen exactly like the Romanovs-

MATTHEWS: It’s not like the Romanovs in the end, but there’s a sense of retreat here.

KEITH OLBERMANN: Would you not have said, I mean, if we had been on the air in, and thank goodness we were not, the day of Nixon’s resignation, we would have assumed we’d never see any of those people again either the day that Richard Nixon left this city, and yet, even under his circumstances, he reemerged.

MATTHEWS: Well, Nixon was trickier.

OLBERMANN: Perhaps, but perhaps not. We could have a three-hour argument about that, too, but it would interfere with the inaugural.

MATTHEWS: No, he’s a much greater historic figure than this President. Let’s not even put George W. Bush anywhere in the category of Richard Nixon. Richard Nixon was tragic, and he made terrible mistakes, he did wrong things, but he was a major President.

ROBINSON: He was a more complex and interesting character, but Bush’s presidency was a consequential presidency. He had the war in Iraq, 9/11, it was a consequential presidency.