MSNBC: ‘Impressed’ by ‘Intellectual’ Obama, ‘I Love to Think with Him’

Shortly after President Obama’s Monday press conference, during a special abbreviated edition of Countdown, MSNBC's Chris Matthews effused that he was "very impressed with [Obama's] amazing ability," opining that the President was "at his best intellectually." After reciting one of Obama’s answers, Matthews further gushed: "What a mind he has, and I love his ability to do it on television. I love to think with him."

Keith Olbermann also alluded to his perception of Obama being "intellectual" as the MSNBC host put down President Bush’s past performances. After referring to a Woody Allen joke about people’s standards being lowered over time, the MSNBC host continued: "This is an entirely different experience for anybody who really perhaps only knew in their young lives President Bush ... This news conference in which a President will answer a multi-part question with a series of four different answers, all of them absolutely common sense and also intellectual and will take seven minutes to answer them. Is he going to adjust to where people were with George Bush’s, kind of, more truncated performance, or is he anticipating the democracy to be participatory and people are going to go in there ... is he going to demand of, you know, citizens, to go along with him and listen for the whole seven minutes?"

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the discussion which aired at about 9:05 p.m. on Monday, February 9, on MSNBC:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: I think our breed looked pretty good tonight. I think the press looked very good tonight. I think they asked great questions. I loved, I would be very impressed with the press tonight. I think Mara Liasson’s questions, Jake Tapper’s questions, Chuck’s questions were very sound. I thought they asked interesting questions. They covered a range of American topics – from the stimulus package to the situation in Afghanistan, the Pakistan border, even to the question of A-Rod, they were asking questions that most people want answers to. So I think the press looked very good tonight.

Secondly, I thought the President showed his analytical mind. I think there is a challenge to the presidency right now. These are complicated issues. We want to hear the President’s mind working. We don’t just want to just hear his final decision, his bottom line. That’s useless to us. We want to know how he gets there. How does this decision to push this stimulus package get us down the road to a turned around economy? How’s it, he tried to explain that. He said we’re trying to stop the downward cycle, the downward spiral. We’re trying to put money in people’s pockets, we’re trying to loosen up the credit markets. We’re trying to get public works going out there to get jobs created. He said the benchmark, the metric he should be judged by in the first instance is three to four million new jobs. After that, certainly the credit markets loosening up. And after that, the housing situation stabilized.

He was very precise, and I was very impressed with his amazing ability standing in front of the American people on a road block – by the way, you couldn’t find a channel hardly he wasn’t on tonight – a road block of American intention, and he was at his best intellectually. I thought it was a great example of how his mind works. And I think we’re going to have to know that the next four years, how’s he thinking on this thing?

KEITH OLBERMANN: And there was nothing cut out. "At this particular moment, with the private sector so weakened by this recession, the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back to life," that is a pretty strong statement. You just hit on something here that’s almost, it’s half a question of style points and half a question that evokes the old Woody Allen joke about how people’s standards have been lowered systematically by television over the last 50 years. This is an entirely different experience for anybody who really perhaps only knew in their young lives President Bush, and didn’t know anything before that. This news conference in which a President will answer a multi-part question with a series of four different answers, all of them absolutely common sense-

MATTHEWS: Right.

OLBERMANN: -and also intellectual and will take seven minutes to answer them. Is this-

MATTHEWS: Right.

OLBERMANN: -is he going to adjust to where people were with George Bush’s, kind of, more truncated performance, or is he anticipating the democracy to be participatory and people are going to go in there – and, believe me, I’m the last person to criticize anybody for being expansive on television – but is he going to demand of, you know, citizens, to go along with him and listen for the whole seven minutes?"

MATTHEWS: Well, he’s asking us to touch on all the points and agree when he does that it’s worthwhile to do so. I think it was the difference in the old quiz shows between the $64,000 question when there was a multi-part question. By the way, some of that was rigged, obviously, but a multi-part question which required knowledge in a number of areas and you had to put it together as opposed to Jeopardy where you quickly give an answer. I think he showed his ability to go around the room with a flashlight to the question you put. You ask a question which is a holistic question. He goes, "Well, let me look at this part, that part." He does, what a mind he has, and I love his ability to do it on television. I love to think with him. I think the more we get through this thicket of economic quandary right now, the more we’re going to need to hear how our President’s going at it, and he showed us tonight.