Obama Calling Fluke Reminds Chris Matthews of Kennedy Phoning Coretta King

During live coverage of Super Tuesday, MSNBC's Chris Matthews harkened back to a famous historical phone call from then-Senator John F. Kennedy to Coretta King, after her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was arrested, as he suggested that President Barack Obama's recent phone call to Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke would be similarly remembered as important to this year's presidential campaign.

Matthews asserted:

It is extraordinary, it's one of those times in history when something happens, and one of the candidates has the right impulse and the other doesn't. I think the call from the President to Sandra Fluke will be remembered perhaps not as dramatically as the call from President Kennedy, then Senator Kennedy to Mrs. King, to Coretta King after her husband was hauled off into the backwoods of Georgia in shackles, but it will have a character to it that people will remember.

He added:

They'll remember that one President intuitively, impulsively knew the right thing to do was to express sympathy for a woman who was being hounded and humiliated and insulted publicly by a major figure, Rush Limbaugh. The other candidates did not behave so well.

Matthews went on to single out GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney for not being forceful enough in criticizing Rush Limbaugh's controversial comments about Fluke. Below are both video and a transcript of the relevant portion of MSNBC's Tuesday, March 6, coverage of Super Tuesday, which aired shortly after 6:00 p.m.:

RACHEL MADDOW: Chris Matthews, numerically, Ohio is the biggest deal tonight, but what do you think is the most important thing going on in the race now overall, aside from just the-

CHRIS MATTHEWS: It's gender and it's sex. That's the story of this campaign. It is extraordinary, it's one of those times in history when  something happens, and one of the candidates has the right impulse and the other doesn't. I think the call from the President to Sandra Fluke will be remembered perhaps not as dramatically as the call from President Kennedy, then-Senator Kennedy to Mrs. King, to Coretta King after her husband was hauled off into the backwoods of Georgia in shackles, but it will have a character to it that people will remember.

They'll remember that one President intuitively, impulsively knew the right thing to do was to express sympathy for a woman who was being hounded and humiliated and insulted publicly by a major figure, Rush Limbaugh. The other candidates did not behave so well.

I think the most important thing was that Romney did nothing. He waited till Friday night, four days late, and finally responded by saying those weren't the words I would have used. Well, that wasn't the issue. It wasn't vocabulary. It was intent. Rush Limbaugh insulted that woman, degraded her as a woman, went after her in an almost weird way because why did he hate her so much? And the President said I care for her.

The numbers show it. We've got a new NBC poll this week just to bottom line this. Almost 60 percent of the women, if you extrapolate the numbers, are going to go Democrat this year. If that's the case this November, Republicans will have to get well over 60 percent of the men, almost two-thirds of the men, to match that. That requires something really dramatic, and I go back to this guy here in Game Change. They may be forced - not negatively, but positively - to offset this with a woman on their ticket. It could go that far, this negative attack on women.

MADDOW: Before they get to the point where they do get to pick a VP, is there a chance that Romney can make this better with a better apology, a better explanation?

MATTHEWS: I think he has to come to an understanding, and sometimes you can't get it on the second effort. I think sometimes it is the impulse. Nixon never called Mrs. King. They never forgot it. The Blue Bomb, the Reverend knows all about the Blue Bomb, two million circulars went out to every black church in America. The white South never knew about it, but every black person knew about it. Nixon, they called him "No Comment Nixon," remember, Reverend?

REVEREND AL SHARPTON: That's right.

MATTHEWS: "No Comment Nixon." Whereas Kennedy, for whatever impulse,  Sarge Shriver and Harris Wofford and Louie Martin said, "Make the call." And Kennedy says, "Get her on the line." That's the kind of impulse you want from a great leader It's impulse.