Matthews Theme of the Night: Is it about Palin's 'Brain Power?'

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During the 7pm edition of Thursday’s "Hardball," Chris Matthews repeatedly asked his guests if Sarah Palin's "brain" was up to the task for tonight's vice presidential debate. Matthews even managed to go where a Democratic Congresswoman wouldn't, when he asked Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz: "Is this about her brain power?" To which, even the Florida Democrat balked: "It’s really not nice to suggest that there's something wrong with her brain power."

However Matthews didn't let Schultz's hesitancy stop him from questioning the Republican vice presidential nominee's intelligence as he asked these series of questions about Palin to Schultz:     Mp3 Here

Well do you think cute will beat brains?

Do you think she'd do better on the questions on "Jeopardy" or the interview they do during a halftime?

Congressman how much would you, how much would you like to be debating her tonight?

Then a little later on in the program, during a segment with the Politico's Mike Allen and New York magazine's John Heilemann, Matthews worried Palin's perceived lack of intellectual curiosity was "scary."

I think John McCain, his judgment is on trial tonight. And she may well win it tonight with charm and smarts and political perspicacity and know how to work around the questions. But I still, I'm stunned with her inability to answer these general knowledge questions, that most people who read the paper can answer. I don't know why she's afraid to answer them. Maybe it's her bad training. My suspicion is that she has the same lack of intellectual curiosity that the President of the United States has right now and that is scary!

The following exchanges occurred on the October 2, edition of "Hardball":

MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is an Obama supporter. Congresswoman let me ask you tonight. You're a politician and you're on this show a lot so let me ask you the same question I've asked everybody. What's the test for Sarah Palin tonight? Is it brains? Is it knowledge? Is it personality? Is it politics? Is it credibility? Is it ideology or is it simply composure in a difficult night? Try to pick one of these: brains, knowledge, personality, politics, credibility, ideology or composure? What's it about tonight?

[REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ]

MATTHEWS: Is this about her brain power?

SCHULTZ: No I mean, you know, it's, it's really not nice to suggest that there's something wrong with her brain power. This is about some, whether or not she is ready to be President of the United States. That's the only responsibility of a vice presidential candidate Chris. Are you ready? I mean you're one, one heartbeat away from the presidency. Ready means does she have the knowledge? Does she have a grasp of the depth of the job? Does she have the, the, the information that, that she can draw from? All of those things are gonna be incredibly important criteria to judge whether or not this is a person that should be one heartbeat away from the presidency and thus far Sarah Palin has not demonstrated she has any of those things, not even very much of a command of the, of the facts or the issues that are necessary for someone who is going to be the Vice President of the United States, potentially. So I think she's really got a tall order tonight. But she's demonstrated in previous debates that she rises to the challenge and like I said the bar is kind of low. So it's, this is gonna be a test of wills and because of the format she's gonna have an opportunity to really kind of get in those short answers that she seems to be good at and use a lot of quips and, and cute, cute remarks that might endear her to an audience. So this is not gonna be a cakewalk for Joe Biden, at all.

MATTHEWS: Well do you think cute will beat brains?

[SCHULTZ]

MATTHEWS: Do you think she'd do better on the questions on "Jeopardy" or the interview they do during a halftime?

[AUDIBLE GROANS FROM CROWD]

[SCHULTZ]

MATTHEWS: Congressman how much would you, how much would you like to be debating her tonight?

SCHULTZ: You know I, I, I, it's extremely tempting. It would be, it would be an exciting opportunity but Joe Biden-

MATTHEWS: I think you're right.

SCHULTZ: -is gonna be ready and I think he'll do just fine. But I'm chomping at the bit, I have to admit.

MATTHEWS: I think I got you blushing. I think I got you to blush Congresswoman, because you know you'd be dying to be in there.

Segment with Politico's Mike Allen and New York's John Heilemann:

MATTHEWS: Let me, let me ask you this. I know this is so uncool to ask this question, that's why I keep asking it. It seems to me if you show all the responses to Katie Couric's questions, especially, some of them Charlie Gibson's, what has grabbed people is not the answer she gave but where she seemed to not have answer. That long pause and that difficult use of words without thoughts, where you just started, like we did in a test in school.

MIKE ALLEN, POLITICO: Just fill up the blue book.

MATTHEWS: Is it, tonight, about brains? Is that what people are worried about? That the judgment of John McCain was to pick someone just for cultural reasons, geographic, gender reasons, but wasn't really a person who knew what they were talking about? Is that what it's about tonight? Yes or no?

...

MATTHEWS: She had no familiarity with the role of the vice presidency in the Katie Couric interview tonight. She couldn't name one vice president and what they'd done well as vice president. She wasn't able to talk about any Supreme Court decision. Not able to talk about what newspaper she reads. What question is an easy one for her! Tell me what the easy question is, and then they can ask it!

...

MATTHEWS: Let me get back to this. What should a Vice President of the United States know? What should a person who's up for the job, what is the minimal intellectual requirement? Give me a sense of it. It is some sense of American history? Some sense of the history of the job of vice president? Some sense of the Constitution of the United States? Those are the questions Katie Couric put to her. These are citizenship questions! These are questions you ask somebody just applying to become a U.S. citizen! Tell me what, what the, what the courts do in this country! Tell me, you know, these are basics!

...

MATTHEWS: I think John McCain, his judgment is on trial tonight. And she may well win it tonight with charm and smarts and political perspicacity and know how to work around the questions. But I still, I'm stunned with her inability to answer these general knowledge questions, that most people who read the paper can answer. I don't know why she's afraid to answer them. Maybe it's her bad training. My suspicion is that she has the same lack of intellectual curiosity that the President of the United States has right now and that is scary!

 

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