Matthews to Democrat: What Percentage of Republicans Would You Put In the 'Nut Bag?'

Chris Matthews, on Monday's Hardball, brought on his own personal congressman, Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen, to review how his party was going to distinguish themselves from the GOP in the midterms with Matthews asking the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee head if they were focusing on all the "crazy" Republicans, or in other words "nut collecting." Matthews, after playing a clip of Barack Obama singling out Republicans Joe Barton, John Boehner and Roy Blunt, also reminded Van Hollen the President missed another "crazy" person with "B" name as he proclaimed: "If you're going out looking for nuts, it would seem like you'd put [Michele Bachmann] in your basket." Matthews even tried to pin down Van Hollen by demanding: "What percentage of the Republican Party would you put in the nut bag right now?"

The following exchange was aired on the July 12 edition of Hardball:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Okay let's take a look. Here's the President. He's got a new tack out there, by the way. For a long time, after a year and a half in office, he never mentioned the opponent. He was like a Chicago pol. There is no Republican Party. Now he's starting to name names. He's advertising your opposition. Just like you advertised the Republicans and what they would do if they got in. Here he is advertising what the Republicans, he's using names like Boehner, these curse words. Boehner! What's the other guy's name?

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Boehner and Barton?

MATTHEWS: Barton! Boehner, Barton and Blunt, Blunt. He's got em, all these B's. Let's take a look – BP of course – here he is in Missouri. Let's listen.

(Begin clip)

BARACK OBAMA: You may have read the top Republican on the House Energy committee, Mr. Barton publicly apologizing to BP...Does anybody here think BP should get an apology? Mr. Barton did. He called this a tragedy. This, this, this fund that we have set up to compensate fishermen and small business owners throughout the Gulf. That's not the tragedy. The tragedy is, is if they didn't get compensated. So this is the leadership that we've gotten from Barton and Boehner and Blunt. Sometimes I wonder if, if that no button is just stuck in, in, in, in Congress.

(End clip)

MATTHEWS: Well, there you heard it. Barton and Boehner and Blunt. I love the names. Here he is, let's take a look. Here he is Gibbs, the spokesman for the President, on Sunday underlying that this is, what you just heard is going to be the spiel from now until Election Day this November. Let's listen.

(Begin clip)

ROBERT GIBBS: Joe Barton started his congressional testimony of the CEO of BP by apologizing not to the people in the Gulf, but to the CEO. I think that's a perfect window, not into what people are thinking but the way they would govern. Joe Barton, John Boehner, those are the types of things you'll hear a lot, I think both from the President and I think local candidates about what you'd get if the Republicans were to gain control.

(End clip)

MATTHEWS: You guys are out there nut collecting, aren't you? I mean you, you, the Democrats have, we've had a tough economy in this country, everybody's had a hard time. A lot of people have, maybe not the oil companies. So you're going around looking for nuts. Like, you know, Barton is crazy enough to side with BP in the worst catastrophe. Another one, Bachman. You haven't gotten the other "B" here. If you're going out looking for nuts, it would seem like you'd put her in your basket. You haven't gotten to her yet. She wants to investigate you guys for anti-American activities.

VAN HOLLEN: Well look what's surprising Chris is not what they claim to do-

MATTHEWS: You love these nuts don't you?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, they have told us what they're gonna do. They have forecast exactly what they're gonna do. Joe Barton has always been on the side of the big oil companies and he said it publicly. They've been on the side of the big insurance companies in fighting health care reform-

MATTHEWS: Who's the guy that yelled out in the State of Union, "You lie?"

VAN HOLLEN: That was Joe, that was Joe Wilson.

MATTHEWS: Where do they get these guys from?

VAN HOLLEN: But, but that's the point. See people need to focus on the fact that if you were to hand over control over to the House, these are the guys who are gonna be running the policy and there the same guys that created the problems.

MATTHEWS: What percentage of the Republican Party, right now, as it has changed in our life -- you're a bit younger than me -- has moved to the right? What percentage of the Republican Party would you put in the nut bag right now? The party that, not just conservatives, but people that are just really crazy out there, even beyond the tea partiers?

VAN HOLLEN: Let me, let me just say-

MATTHEWS: You don't want to give me a percentage.

VAN HOLLEN: No, no but the out of the mainstream caucus-

MATTHEWS: Okay.

VAN HOLLEN: -of the Republican Party in the House is the largest caucus in the House by far. Which is why you had these situations where you have these right wing-

MATTHEWS: Do they talk like this on the floor? Do you actually hear them talking among themselves, talking like this? "Isn't BP great?"

VAN HOLLEN: Well usually, no usually they're a little more circumspect. Which is why it's, you know, something when, when Joe Barton gets out and publicly makes these statements.

MATTHEWS: Okay, okay.

VAN HOLLEN: But it's important that people understand what these guys really do.

MATTHEWS: Okay you know usually when you vote, a regular person votes with their gut. They walk in there, they vote with their money too but mainly they're gonna go "I don't like the way things are going." They go in and vote against incumbents. That's called a referendum. Now you guys are trying to change that gut instinct to "No don't go in there and vote with your gut" because that will screw your party. "Go in there and go, now which party is the worst? Let's make sure I don't have the worst party at least. So the Democrats have not exactly been a great success yet but the Republicans are far worse." Right? How do you get people to change the question from "Yes or no? Do I like things the way they are or not like the way things are?" to "Let me think Democrats versus Republicans?" How do you get people to think like that? Because clearly you're trying to get them to think like that, Gibbs is trying to do it. And the President is trying to get us to think like that? Choice not referendum. How do you change it like that?

VAN HOLLEN: Well because people, at the end of the day, have a choice between two candidates? Right? And so it's not-

MATTHEWS: But they don't think like that, usually. They usually go yes or no?

VAN HOLLEN: No what we've said, though is it's not just about us. It's us versus them. What differences do you have between the parties on these issues that are critical to Americans? And if we can get people to focus on the fact that, you know, John Boehner describes the situation-

MATTHEWS: So this the frying pan into the fire kind of thing?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, this is, this is let's have a real debate on the issues.

MATTHEWS: I think it's great.

VAN HOLLEN: And what's interesting is what they've told us they're gonna do-

MATTHEWS: I think it's great you're finally advertising your opponents. Because [guys] like Boehner, and Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor and Jon Kyl have been getting a free ride in this country for months now. They just sit back like Burgers on Main Street, waiting for you guys to blow it. Then they get all the votes.

VAN HOLLEN: Well they get to sit on the sidelines. They get to whine, they get to carp. And now we're saying put up, let's see what you guys are saying you're gonna do.

MATTHEWS: You have an interesting choice that you're making for the American voters if they choose to make a choice, and not just go "nyah." Anyway, thank you Chris Van Hollen, who happens to be my congressman.

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