Chris Matthews Hungers For Karl Rove's Scalp

Talking like a Democratic congressman eager to get Karl Rove's scalp, Chris Matthews seemed to be urging Democrats to grill the President's adviser on the "witness chair." On this morning's Today show, analyzing Rove's announcement that he'll be resigning at the end of the month, the host of MSNBC's "Hardball," declared: "Well you have to wonder about his exposure now because he's used executive privilege to protect himself from Pat Leahy on the Judiciary committee and Congressman Henry Waxman, both hot to trot to get him in a witness chair."

Matthews then continued the charge (ht TV Newser) over on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" as he issued marching orders to his producers to book Leahy and Waxman on tonight's "Hardball": "If our producers are listening, what I really want tonight is, I really want Pat Leahy and Henry Waxman tonight."

First up, on the "Today" show, Matthews regurgitated the following fantasy of Rove-haters everywhere:

Matthews: "Well you have to wonder about his exposure now because he's used executive privilege to protect himself from Pat Leahy on the Judiciary committee and Congressman Henry Waxman, both hot to trot to get him in a witness chair. I think Henry Waxman is gonna go after him now. He's not involved in any criminal proceeding with, like Scooter Libby is. He can't claim he's in the appellate process. He's exposed now, it seems to me, on the leak case. In terms of the eight U.S. Attorneys that were fired, I think he's also exposed there, not having the White House position any more."

Then, just a few minutes after his "Today" appearance Matthews made the following declaration on "Morning Joe":

Chris Matthews: "No, I think you’re gonna see Henry Waxman, watch him today on the House committee, he’s chairman. He's got a hot subpoena ready for this guy. You gotta bet on the, on the, on the, the CIA leak case. And the other guy, even hotter, I think, Pat Leahy on the Judiciary committee of the Senate. Really, has already issued a subpoena for this guy. What happens when you’re no longer a White House staffer? Are you still able to use executive privilege? It’s an interesting question. I’m not sure it’s been tested. I think it’ll be tested again, severely. It’s gonna be hot stuff today. It will be Hardball tonight, I gotta tell you. What I want to do is, if our producers are listening, what I really want tonight is, I really want Pat Leahy and Henry Waxman tonight."

For her part, "Today" co-host Meredith Vieira couldn't resist recalling the left's favorite, Bush-bellittling nickname for Rove, "Bush's Brain," when she teased the Matthews segment. The following is the brief teaser by Vieira and substitute-host David Gregory, followed by the full Matthews interview as it occurred on the August 13th, "Today" show:

David Gregory: "Big news out of the White House. Karl Rove is calling it quits now after a long run at the White House. Arguably the most influential adviser in White House history, at least in modern times. He was called, 'The Architect,' by the President when he was reelected. Also been a big target for criticism by Democrats as well."

Vieira: "Also called 'Bush's Brain.'"

Gregory: "Yeah."

...

Gregory: "Chris Matthews is host of Hardball on MSNBC, of course, as well as The Chris Matthews Show. Chris, good morning."

Chris Matthews: "Good morning, David."

Gregory: "Well, so Karl Rove says it's simply time to leave. He's obviously been there a long time now, well into the second term. But he's also being pursued, as you know, by congressional investigators, by Democrats. So what do you make of the timing of his departure and the departure itself?"

Matthews: "Well you have to wonder about his exposure now because he's used executive privilege to protect himself from Pat Leahy on the Judiciary committee and Congressman Henry Waxman, both hot to trot to get him in a witness chair. I think Henry Waxman is gonna go after him now. He's not involved in any criminal proceeding with, like Scooter Libby is. He can't claim he's in the appellate process. He's exposed now, it seems to me, on the leak case. In terms of the eight U.S. Attorneys that were fired, I think he's also exposed there, not having the White House position any more."

Gregory: "But can he be compelled to testify now, out of office, in a different way?"

Matthews: "Well you gotta bet they're gonna try."

Gregory: "Right."

Matthews: "And you gotta bet they're gonna have a better chance now with the courts. This guy is the Democrats' Moby Dick. They've been after this guy for years."

Gregory: "Right."

Matthews: "They blame him for Bush's election. They believe he got a guy elected to the presidency who didn't have the brains to get there on his own. They believe he, he forced the election of 2002, the congressional election, on the war on Iraq and won the election of 2004 the same way, using evangelicals. They blame Rove for every problem they've had."

Gregory: "For, for almost, well and as a matter of fact he told Paul Gigot, in the Wall Street Journal today, that 'I'm a myth. There's The Mark of Rove. I read about some of the things I'm supposed to have done and I have to try not to laugh.' So what do you think is 'The Mark of Rove?' Both the good and the bad?"

Matthews: "Am I, am I being asked this question by the chief White House correspondent of NBC News?"

[Laughter]

Matthews: "You know as well as I do that mark is a handprint. It's a fingerprint. He is a strong mind. He had a lot to do with developing that 2000 election whereby George Bush, a relative unknown, was able to come in and win the presidency, basically by exploiting the Monica mess. He was also brilliant, I believe, in orchestrating that vote by the Congress, right before the 2002 congressional elections, that forced them to back the President on the war or take defeat. He was brilliant in able to bring the evangelical vote out. Look how, how many people he brought to the polls in 2004 that never voted in their lives before. Look at what he did in, in Ohio and the way he held things together there and won that state. He's a smart guy."

Gregory: "Right, right."

Matthews: "A big loss for the White House."

Gregory: "And he says Hillary Clinton is gonna be the Democrats'' nominee but calls her 'fatally flawed.'"

Matthews: "Well, we'll see."

[Laughter]

Matthews: "He may be right, he may be wrong. That's why we cover these elections."

Gregory: "Exactly right. Chris Matthews with Hardball and The Chris Matthews Show. Chris, thanks a lot."

Matthews: "Thank you."

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.