Matthews to Disaffected Left: C'mon Obama Has Pushed the Progressive Policies 'We Were All Taught' in Grad School to Do!

A frustrated Chris Matthews, on Tuesday's Hardball, chided the left for being disappointed in Barack Obama as he essentially told them, he's the best they've got and are going to get. During a segment in which the Salon's Joan Walsh and Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall wondered why Obama and Joe Biden were admonishing their base to stop whining, Matthews took up for Team Obama as he tried to calm down the lefties: "This president has done what we were all taught in graduate school to do, what progressives have believed in from years and years, decades ago...You compensate for the loss of consumer spending and business investment with government spending...No one has had a better idea since the 1930s. Number two, The Wall Street crowd needed governing. They didn't have any, now they've got some. Number three, he's pushed for progressive taxation, he's going after the rich. He's not giving them their tax cut." [audio available here]

At the end of his program, a desperate sounding Matthews listed a bunch of races Democrats still had a chance in,  and then pleaded to the left to unify behind those candidates because "the bad guys are gaining." (video & audio of "Let Me Finish" segment below the fold)

The following exchange was aired on the September 28 edition of Hardball:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: I want to ask you both of you to finish with this thought, a big thought. Here you are a President of the United States with a center-left coalition, with some high thinking, I think, Republicans voting for you, because they wanted to vote for you as a person. They're probably gone, that group. So you got a center-left coalition you gotta work through and get through in Congress, a Congress where it takes 60 votes to get anything done, so you need a very strong center-left coalition to get anything done. In fact you need a super majority, which is almost impossible. How do you promote, prosecute a progressive agenda, win reelection, hold the midterms and do it all, keep your far left happy, keep your middle right happy, to the extent you need it? How do you do all that and be a leader and keep everybody happy? I don't know how you do it. You tell me, Josh.

JOSH MARSHALL, TALKING POINTS MEMO: I think what it comes down to is, you know, Joan was just said that this emotion is a luxury the White House can't afford. The White House is saying to its core, you know core supporters, "This disappointment, this sense of acting out, we can't afford that." I think what it shows is when, when, when a political party is on the ropes, everybody's emotions are running high and you know no one can afford it, but everybody is doing it. And I think it's a time when a leader, the President of the United States in this case, needs to step in and exercise that kind of leadership to get it away from a blame game and get it to pulling everybody together. Because the Democrats frankly can't afford on either side right now to be indulging their feelings of disappointment in either way.

JOAN WALSH, SALON: Right. Chris, I don't, you know, I don't have an answer for it. I don't think you can keep everybody happy. I mean we both know that's impossible. The hope for this president and the hope for the Democratic Party is that these, these reforms that they've put in place, health care reform and financial reform especially, as well as the stimulus, those three things really would make life better for American people in a palpable way. Frankly they haven't yet. Now they haven't for reasons, for, for lots of reasons, but one of them may be that they were too much of a compromise, which they needed to do to get the votes, but still, you need to have Democrats who make a difference for their constituency. And that's the only way to get re-elected and that's the only way to have a long-term Democratic majority. And that, progressives are worried about that. We those things too compromised so that, you know, Wellpoint is saying, "We're not gonna cover kids. Too bad. We're, you know-"

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

WALSH: That we've compromised too much with the corporations and they still hold all the cards. That is an ideological question, it's a very practical, political question. Because if you give away the game to the corporations and then you do not produce change, your base and the rest of the country will be angry for the right reasons.

MATTHEWS: Well the corporations don't think he's given them anything.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: Let me tell you, here's my view, in response to what you both said and I think it's smart, both of you have said, I respect those views from everybody, anybody who's passionate about politics I believe in. But I know this, this president has done what we were all taught in graduate school to do, what progressives have believed in from years and years, decades ago. One, you deal with an economic downfall with Keynesian economics. You compensate for the loss of consumer spending and business investment with government spending. That's what you do. That's what you're supposed to. No one has had a better idea since the 1930s. Number two, The Wall Street crowd needed governing. They didn't have any, now they've got some. Number three, he's pushed for progressive taxation, he's going after the rich. He's not giving them their tax cut. I think on all three - he's put people like Eric Holder in at Justice. He's done a lot of things on the environment, he's tried to do. He has done what a progressive should have tried to do. And we can argue about tone and degree of successful politics and personality, but I don't know how a liberal or progressive can turn their back on this guy and say they've got something better waiting in the closet, 'cause I don't know who that person is!

WALSH: I couldn't agree with you more, Chris.

MATTHEWS: And nobody talking does. Anyway, there ain't nobody out there but this guy, and certainly nobody no more progressive who can win election for sheriff. Anyway, thank you, Josh Marshall -- maybe I'm getting mad -- Josh Marshall and Joan Walsh.

...

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with hope for progressives. There is a decent chance this next month the Democrats can snare victory from the teeth of disaster. Never doubt that disaster looms. If the young voters have something better to do Tuesday, November 2nd, if the progressive activists become passive, if the Democrats fail to embrace the independents, catastrophe looms. The Senate and the House could both be lost. Republicans could gain an iron grip on the Congress roadblocking everything, killing the Obama dream in its bed. So this is the open question - not will it be a tough election for Democrats, but more to the heart of it, will it be the kind of crushing defeat that leads to a year of backbiting, that leads to division and ultimately defeat? Or will it be an election night outcome from which they can recover and ultimately rally? This is why the President is telling Democrats in the Rolling stone interview to buck up and shake off their lethargy. Why his language is getting tougher, why he's saying people if people want to want to take their ball and go home, it means they're not serious in the first place. There are opportunities for success between now and November 2nd. The west coast is looking better for Boxer and Murray. Conway is making a serious run in Kentucky. Giannoulias can beat the flawed candidate the Republicans are running in Illinois. Blumenthal can win in Connecticut if he offers true integrity over the glitz and grit being that's being thrown against him. And Joe Sestak, the veteran Navy admiral can close hard and powerfully like he did in the primary. Look the bad guys are gaining, yes. It's time to hit the metal and drive the freaking car! [audio available here]

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