Matthews: Obama Needs to 'Nationalize' Oil Industry!

Last week an agitated Chris Matthews tried to hold Dick Cheney accountable for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and this week Matthews is demanding action from President Obama, as the Hardball host pushed the President to nationalize the oil industry to solve the problem. On Monday's Hardball a visibly angry Matthews demanded Obama go after BP: "Why doesn't the President go in there, nationalize an industry and get the job done for the people?" and pointed out that in China they would have a much harsher response to BP: "They execute people for this. Major industrial leaders that commit crimes like this." 

Matthews even took aim at the entire capitalist system, as over video of the oil slick, he sarcastically mocked: "Everybody says 'Capitalism is great. Unbridled free enterprise is great.' Look at it! This is great, isn't it?!" [audio available here]

The following Matthews outbursts were aired on the May 17 edition of Hardball:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Welcome back to Hardball. We continue to see more fallout over that disastrous rig explosion, an oil leak, down in the Gulf of Mexico. The chief electronics technician on the Deep Water Horizon rig told 60 Minutes that there were known problems in the blowup preventer in the weeks leading up to the accident. An Associated Press investigation shows that the Minerals Management Service didn't live up to its own inspection policy and today the top government official who overseas offshore oil drilling for the Minerals Management Service announced his retirement. So how much fault lies with the BP and the other companies associated with the rig and how much blame lies with the Minerals Management Service of government for lax oversight. Kate Sheppard sits with me now. She's an environmental reporter for Mother Jones and Abrahm Lustgarden is with Propublica.

Abrahm let me ask you this question first of all. I have a hunch that the reason they don't want to fix this mess down there is because they would admit who did it, if they fix it. Nobody is, if this was a nuclear bomb ready to go off we'd be down there. I am so...I don't even want to talk about it, I get so mad at this oil company. Why aren't they fixing it? First of all.

ABRAHAM LUSTGARDEN, PROPUBLICA: Well I think they're doing the best they can, honestly. I mean drilling at the bottom and operating at the bottom of the ocean or 5000 feet down, maximizes the, the technological capabilities of the oil industry. It's been likened to space exploration and I think it's quite similar. So at this point, they may, they may want to hide blame, but at this point I don't think there's much motivation, not to fix the problem if they know how to do that.

MATTHEWS: Really? You know, I have a suspicion I'll go back to it again. I don't think they're doing their best. I don't think the government is doing its best. Why doesn't the President go in there, nationalize an industry and get the job done for the people? There's a national interest in this, not just a BP interest. We're letting BP fix a national problem.

...

MATTHEWS OVER VIDEO OF OIL SPILL: In China, it's a more brutal society, a more brutal society, Kate, but they execute people for this. Major industrial leaders that commit crimes like this. Failure like this. This is a serious, serious problem. It is not over. It continues to destroy a part of our planet basically. Part of our habitat, our American habitat. And everybody just sits and watches television every night. "And so that's interesting." And you see guys are still drawing their paychecks, still making their profits. The oil industry has been ballooning in profits this year and nobody is doing anything about it except - what are we Vatican observers now? We just watch? It is maddening that our government is - Everybody says "Capitalism is great. Unbridled free enterprise is great." Look at it! This is great, isn't it?!

...

MATTHEWS: Back in 1973, I investigated the oil pipeline industry on land. 220,000 miles of pipeline. One inspector for the federal government because the federal government believed in self-regulation. Industry self-regulation. It looks to me the way we're looking at this, you guys, is that we still count on the industry to prevent the problem and to fix it. Is that the way we look at it as a government? As a country?

...

MATTHEWS: Okay when's it gonna stop? When is the President blow the whistle? When they fill up the Gulf of Mexico with oil? When is the President gonna say we are no longer watching and waiting and seeing how BP is doing?

...

MATTHEWS: Maybe we should take the BP executives and the board down there a mile and have them sit down there until they fix it. Maybe they'll come up with something. The idleness of the mind here. They have all the money in the world and all the brains in the world to make the money on the oil, ballooning profits now for a quarter, after quarter. Ballooning profits. We're just seeing, watching it. And now we're watching them take their time solving this. But, you're, you're very compliant here for environmental watchdogs, Kate. I don't understand you guys. You, you seem to understand their predicament. It's a mile down. Well they went down a mile to get the oil.

...

MATTHEWS: Well millions of people in the American right who sit around say there's no such thing as mankind destroying his environment through climate change or whatever. There's an example of what we're doing right now. We can destroy our habitat on this planet and it's the only one we've got.

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