Chris Matthews Show Panelists Say Obama More Conservative Than Radical

Over the weekend, on his syndicated "The Chris Matthews Show," Chris Matthews asked his media panel if Barack Obama was governing as "more clearly a radical like FDR was, or more like a true conservative?" The latter part of the question -- the rather absurd proposition of Obama being a conservative -- actually drew a couple of affirmatives from the panel.

The USA Today's Joan Biskupic responded she thought the President was being more conservative, at least in his judicial nods, "If you look at what he's doing, not just with his Supreme Court choice but his appeals court choices. None of them have really caused a big problem. You probably couldn't name one of those appellate judges off the top of your head. They're sort of middle-of-the-road folks. Not taking a page from Ronald Reagan in terms of seeking lightning rods."

The New York Times' Helene Cooper agreed with Biskupic as she declared: I think conservative. I think a lot of the underlying things that he's been, has been doing, for instance, Guantanamo. He's announced that he's gonna shut down Guantanamo but he's retained the ability to do renditions and a lot of the other Bush era type policies...that the left, the left really criticized."

For his part Dan Rather straddled the fence: "Well we know he's studying FDR. So he'll try to do some of both. Conservative, insofar he wants to keep those things preserving and holding on to but wants to be known as a bold, transforming president at the same time on a few things."

Only NBC News' Pete Williams offered the one clear, contrarian opinion on the panel: "I think you can't say he's conservative in the, in the ability to which he's willing to let the government get involved in private industry. When the, in the automobile industry, in the banking industry. That is a huge departure from true conservatism."

The following exchanges were aired on the July 12 edition of "The Chris Matthews Show":

CHRIS MATTHEWS TEASING SEGMENT: Anyway when we come back the big question of this week, nearly six months into his presidency is Barack Obama more clearly a radical like FDR was, or more like a true conservative? Be right back.

...

MATTHEWS: Barack Obama has been president for nearly six months now and our big question today, does his temperament strike you as more like a radical like FDR who changed everything, who wanted radical change or like a true conservative who wants to basically find a smooth course and retain what's valuable? Joan?

JOAN BISKUPIC, USA TODAY: I think much more of the latter if you look at what he's doing, not just with his Supreme Court choice but his appeals court choices. None of them have really caused a big problem. You probably couldn't name one of those appellate judges off the top of your head. They're sort of middle-of-the-road folks. Not taking a page from Ronald Reagan in terms of seeking lightning rods.

MATTHEWS: Dan Rather?

DAN RATHER, HDNET: Well we know he's studying FDR. So he'll try to do some of both. Conservative, insofar he wants to keep those things preserving and holding on to but wants to be known as a bold, transforming president at the same time on a few things.

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

RATHER: Such as health care and moving the country to new policies concerning energy.

MATTHEWS: Helene?

HELEN COOPER: I think conservative. I think a lot of the underlying things that he's been, has been doing, for instance, Guantanamo. He's announced that he's gonna shut down Guantanamo but he's retained the ability to do renditions and a lot of the other Bush era type policies-

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

COOPER: -that the left, the left really criticized. I think underneath you are seeing somebody who wants this country, you know, to, who thinks the fundamentals of this country are, are where, where-

MATTHEWS: Smooth sailing. Pete?

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: I think you can't say he's conservative in the, in the ability to which he's willing to let the government get involved in private industry. When the, in the automobile industry, in the banking industry. That is a huge departure from true conservatism.

MATTHEWS: Wow, thanks for a great roundtable. A lot of thinking here.

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